Eiderdown Press
Musings about Perfume and Life
Suzanne’s Perfume Journal
Click on Links to Previous Posts, below

A Conversation on Arabie

A Package from Christos: Greek Sandals & Oud Cuir d'Arabie

A Package from Ines

A Package from Lavanya

A More Affordable Olfactionary

A Week of Wearing What I Like

Amouage Dia (pour femme)

Amouage Dia (pour homme)

Amouage Epic Woman

Amouage Gold

Amouage Interlude Man

Amouage Jubilation 25 

Amouage Lyric Woman

Amouage Memoir Woman

Amouage Opus I

Amouage Opus III

Amouage Opus IV

Amouage Opus V

Amouage Opus VI

Amouage Tribute

Amouage Ubar

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche

Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

Annick Goutal Sables

April Aromatics Calling All Angels

April Aromatics Bohemian Spice

April Aromatics Jasmina 

April Aromatics Nectar of Love

April Aromatics Rose L'Orange

Aroma M Geisha Green

Aroma M Geisha Rouge

Arquiste Anima Dulcis

Arquiste Boutonniere no. 7

At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)

At the Moment (Contemplating Change & Habit Rouge)

At the Moment (Marron Chic & Paris)

At the Moment (More Midsummer Delights/Epic/Geisha Noire)

At the Moment (Saki & Lubin Idole edt)

At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante)

At the Moment (Spring Pretties/Un Air de Samsara)

At the Moment (Summery Things...Love Coconut)

At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)

Ava Luxe Café Noir

Beatnik Emptiness Incense

Best of 2009

Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory

Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

Bond No. 9 Little Italy

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum

Breath of God

Byredo Green

By Kilian Amber Oud

By Kilian Forbidden Games and In the City of Sin

Calyx by Prescriptives

Canturi by Stefano Canturi

Capote, Truman & Evening in Paris

Carner Barcelona D600

Caron Aimez-Moi

Caron French Cancan

Caron Parfum Sacre

Caron Tabac Blond

Caron Tubereuse

Caron Yatagan

Cartier II L'Heure Convoitee

Cartier IV L'Heure Fougueuse

Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

Chanel Bel Respiro

Chanel Chance

Chanel Coco

Chanel Coromandel

Chanel Cuir de Russie

Chanel Egoiste

Chanel No. 5 (vintage)

Chanel No. 22

Chantecaille Petales

Chantilly Dusting Powder

Clive Christian C for Women

Comme des Garcons Daphne

Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca

Comme des Garcons Series 7 Sweet Nomad Tea

Costes by Costes

Coty Ambre Antique

Coty Chypre

Coty Paris

Creature by Kerosene

Creed Acqua Fiorentina

Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed Virgin Island Water

DSH Perfumes Bancha Extreme

DSH Perfumes Quinacridone Violet 

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame

Deneuve

Devilscent Project

Dior Diorissimo (vintage)

Donna Karan Black Cashmere

EnVoyage Vents Ardents

EnVoyage Zelda

Estee Lauder Private Collection

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

Etat Libre d'Orange Rien, Rossy de Palma & Noel au Balcon

Faberge Woodhue Cologne

Favorite Fall Fragrances

Fendi Uomo

Fragrances for Sweden

Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum

Frederic Malle Angeliques Sous La Pluie

Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras

Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Frederic Malle Noir Epices

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady

Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Frederic Malle Une Rose

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel

Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present & Future

Gone Fishin'

Gucci Eau de Parfum

Gucci L'Arte di Gucci

Gucci Pour Homme

Guerlain Angelique Noire

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia

Guerlain Aroma Allegoria Exaltant

Guerlain Attrape Coeur

Guerlain Chamade

Guerlain Encens Mythique d'Orient

Guerlain Jicky

Guerlain Mayotte

Guerlain Parure

Guerlain Samsara Parfum

Guerlain Un Air de Samsara

Guerlain Vega

Guerlain Vetiver (vintage)

Guy Laroche J'ai Ose (vintage)

Happy Solstice

Hermes 24, Faubourg

Hermes Caleche (vintage)

Hermes Eau des Merveilles

Hermes Hiris

Hermes Iris Ukiyoe

Hermes L'Ambre des Merveilles

Histoires de Parfums 1740

Histoires de Parfums 1828

Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette

Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine

Hometown Portrait, State College, PA

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

House of Matriarch Carmine

How I Store Decants

Il Profumo Cannabis

In Memory (w/mention of Lanvin Arpege)

Jacomo #02

Jacomo #09 (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Jean Patou Joy

Jean Patou 1000

Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense

Jo Malone Sweet Milk Cologne 

Juliet by Juliet Stewart

Kai Eau de Parfum

Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant

Kenzo Summer

Lancome Magie Noire (vintage) 

Lanvin Via Lanvin (vintage) 

L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse

L'Artisan Parfumeur Orchidee Blanche 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer

L'Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l'Aube

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two

La Via del Profumo Balsamo Della Mecca

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe

La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project

La Via del Profumo Sharif

La Via del Profumo Tawaf

Le Labo Gaiac 10

Le Labo Iris 39

Le Labo Patchouli 24

Le Labo Poivre 23

Little Lists

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate

M. Micallef Vanille Orient

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir

Maison Martin Margiela (untitled) eau de parfum

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau des Iles

Message In A Bottle 

Michael Storer Winter Star

Miller Harris L'Air de Rien

Miscellany

Missoni (original) by Missoni

Molinard Habanita

Mona Di Orio Nuit Noire

Mona Di Orio Oud

Mona Di Orio Vanille

Montale Black Aoud

Montale Boise Vanille

Montale Intense Tiare

Montale Patchouli Leaves

Montale Red Aoud

More Roses (rose cookie recipe)

My Heart Has Skipped a Beat (summer smells)

My Perfumes Have Theme Songs

Nasomatto China White

Neila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps

Nez a Nez Ambre a Sade

Northern Exposure "A Dash of Chanel No. 5"

Odin 04 Petrana (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline

Omar Sharif Pour Femme

Oriscent Pure Oud Oils

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

Oscar de la Renta Oscar for Men

O Tannenbaum Joint Blog Project

Parfum d'Empire Azemour

Parfum d'Empire Cuir Ottoman

Parfum d'Empire Equistrius

Parfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs

Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba

Parfumerie Generale Indochine

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique

Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

Parfums Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars

Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir

Paris, je t'aime

Pascal Morabito Or Black 

Perfume Quotes - The English Patient

Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue

Pretty Perfume Bottles 

Prince Matchabelli Aviance Cologne (vintage) 

Profumum Roma Acqua Viva

Profumum Roma D'Ambrosia

Puredistance I

Puredistance Antonia

Puredistance BLACK

Puredistance M

Puredistance Opardu

Puredistance WHITE

Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk

Ramon Monegal Cuirelle

Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa

Recipe for Socca

Regina Harris Amber Vanilla Perfume Oil

Regina Harris Frankincense-Myrrh-Rose Maroc Perfume Oil

Robert Piguet Fracas

Robert Piguet Visa

Rochas Mystere 

Rome Vacation Photos

Sammarco Perfumes Bond-T

San Francisco Holiday

Sarah Horowitz Parfums' Joy Comes From Within & Beauty Comes From Within

Scented Reading

Scents of the Mediterranean

Scentuous Reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Serge Lutens Arabie

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

Serge Lutens Boxeuses

Serge Lutens Chêne

Serge Lutens Chergui

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque

Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan

Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle

Serge Lutens Un Lys

Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental

Slumberhouse Rume

Smell Bent Florist's Fridge

Snow Days

Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure

Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)

SoOud Ouris Parfum Nectar

S-Perfume 100% Love {More}

Stone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)

Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric Rain

Sweden Is For Lovers

Swiss Arabian Nouf

T is for Taxes

Tauer Perfumes: Incense Extrême, Incense Rosé, Lonestar Memories, & Reverie au Jardin

Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Bechdel Test

The Diary of a Nose, Book Review

The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit

The Intimacy of Scent

Thoughts of a Perfume Collector

Tightly

Tokyo Milk Ex Libris

Unlocking an Unknown: Webber Parfum 6T

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Bed of Roses

Venimus Vidimus Vicimus, or How 3 Perfume Bloggers and a Husband Took Rome

Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj

Vero Profumo Mito

Viktoria Minya Eau de Hongrie

Viktoria Minya Hedonist

Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb

What I’m Lovin’ Now

Xerjoff Mamluk

YOSH Perfumes Ginger Ciao

Yves Saint Laurent Nu

Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy 

All I Am - A Redhead

A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)

Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)


Ars Aromatica

Australian Perfume Junkies

Beauty on the Outside
 

Bloody Frida

Bois de Jasmin

Bonkers About Perfume

Ca Fleure Bon

ChickenFreak's Obsessions

EauMG

Eyeliner on a Cat

Fragrance Bouquet

From Top to Bottom - Perfume Patter

Giovanni Sammarco (artisanal perfumer) blog

Grain de Musc

I Smell Therefore I Am

Kafkaesque

Katie Puckrik Smells

Memory of Scent

Muse in Wooden Shoes 

Nathan Branch

Natural Perfumery by Salaam

Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume

Notes From Josephine

Notes From the Ledge

Now Smell This

Oh, True Apothecary! 

Olfactarama 

Olfactoria's Travels 

Parfumistans blogg

PereDePierre 

Perfume Posse

Perfume Shrine

Perfume-Smellin' Things

Purple Paper Planes

Redolent of Spices

Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic

Scented Salamander

Scents of Place

Scents of Self

Smelly Blog

Sorcery of Scent 

Sweet Diva

The Alembicated Genie 

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

The Fragrant Man

The French Exit 

The Non-Blonde
 

The Perfume Magpie

The Scented Hound 

The Sounds of Scent


The Vintage Perfume Vault
 

This Blog Really Stinks 

Undina's Looking Glass 

WAFT by Carol 

Yesterday's Perfume


Taking a Break from Perfume to Contemplate the Bechdel Test

On one of our recent morning discussions before he left for work, my husband told me about the Bechdel Test – a theoretical test that feminists use to gauge how well women are represented in the movies, as the prevailing thought is that too many movies exercise gender bias, either portraying its female characters as the stereotypical weaker sex who are man-dependent (the implication being that the thoughts and motivations of these characters largely revolve around the romantic endeavors of winning a man and keeping him, or of getting over the heartbreak of losing him) or not portraying women at all, except maybe as some background character who is very minor in terms of the story. As such, the Bechdel Test has become the measure of whether a film merits watching, for those who champion women’s rights, and it’s a very simple test (which makes sense considering it originated from a comic strip), stating that for a movie to pass it must have these three things:

1)     Two females (preferably named),

2)     Who talk to each other,

3)     About something other than a man.

Ah, that puts a whole lot of movies on the “fail” side, doesn’t it? The majority of them is the feeling of my husband and another gentleman, his close friend and colleague, who were discussing the Bechdel Test at work a day or two before he brought the subject home to me. In their opinion, movies generally portray women as being one-dimensional rather than as complex, capable individuals with rich and varied interests. Upon hearing my husband voice their shared concern that women deserve better representation, I suppose my own response should have been a solid “Bravo!”

Except that it wasn’t.

I came away feeling that, inherent with their belief that women in the movies are too often portrayed as needy romantics, any woman who avidly watches such films might just as well place herself in the same category. That would be the logical assumption, yes? And because I do love movies in which romance and relationships figure heavily, my sensitivity button was pushed, albeit not right away. My initial response upon hearing about the Bechdel Test was to paraphrase a quote from my favorite Anne Tyler novel, The Accidental Tourist. This quote requires some context: It comes from a minor character named Rose (sister to the main character), who has spent her entire adult life taking care of her brothers and now has a chance to break free from her spinsterhood, but who fears she is about to be thwarted by them. In actuality, Rose’s brothers aren’t trying to thwart her and only trying to prevent her from accidentally poisoning her new beau (warning him not to eat the Thanksgiving turkey she has painstakingly cooked at a salmonella-inducing temperature) but when she breaks down and accuses them of trying to drive him off, her speech strikes me as being every bit as true as it is humorous. “You three wasted your chances and now you want me to waste mine, but I won’t do it,” she tells them defiantly, declaring:

“I can see what’s what. Just listen to any song on the radio; look at any soap opera. Love is what it’s all about. On soap operas everything revolves around love. A new person comes to town and right away the question is, who’s he going to love? Who’s going to love him back? Who’ll lose her mind with jealousy? Who’s going to ruin her life? And you want to make me miss it?”

Looking back, I realize it wasn’t the best quote to use for this particular discourse due to its reference to soap operas. Yet that anachronistic reference is why the quote is so memorable to me: it’s both kitschy and real. Love is what makes the world go round, and it is through our relationships that we define ourselves: the kind of people we are, the boundaries we set in a relationship, the limits we transcend (in good or bad ways) to support or hold onto another person. We see our light, our places of deep darkness, our ability or inability to change, cooperate, to put our foot down or maybe to lift it for once. In the case of Rose in The Accidental Tourist, what’s fascinating is seeing the ways in which love to a truly good man expands her world but cannot break the slavish devotion and odd living arrangement she has with her brothers. Equally fascinating is seeing how her husband, a far more worldly man than she, is affected by their love – the accommodations he makes such that they can remain married while she tries to wean herself from this codependency. They are minor characters in this novel and the movie based on it; there is more to glean about what it means to be fully human—to love, lose, hurt, fail and fall in love again (to live again after the profoundest of losses)—through an examination of its main characters, whose romantic story plays out in such a way that it becomes an examination of how family and the social circles we belong to affect our choices.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test? As Rhett Butler would say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Which brings me to my next point: Gone with the Wind. Would this epic portrayal of the antebellum South and the Civil War’s effect on it have had the impact it did if Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley Wilkes and Melanie were out of the picture? Would it have been a better novel and a better film if Scarlett never cinched up her corset, lusted after Ashley and married unsuspecting men she didn’t love instead, doing from the outset what she did midway through the story, which was to go out and grub in the fields to try to save Tara? I realize that historical fiction might not apply to the Bechdel Test* because such stories pre-date women winning their rights, not to mention the women’s lib movement, but I do think there is a point to be made here. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. These are just a handful of classic novels that have been made and remade into films, and not only is a love affair central to each one, but consider how many of these were authored by men. The level of passion, the obsessive nature of the romances in these works! They are proof that relationship drama is a subject every bit as compelling to men as it is to women. The greatest writers of our time weren’t writing such books to capitalize on the reading proclivities of women: these are serious and often rigorous works in which other themes – political, cultural, social, psychological – are explored alongside and in connection with the love stories at their core. And yet the love story is the central, beating pulse of these works and not a metaphor in service to a greater theme. Read any one of them and see how true it rings to the nature of romantic love in its various permutations, from naïve infatuation to deepest obsession and every stage in between.

What then of the films we can’t really call films? (In other words, the films that aren't classics or serious works. If we’re going to judge things, then we’d better call those entertaining little numbers by their popular name: “movies”.) Thanks to the Internet, I watch a lot of films and I watch a lot of movies, too, and I’m quite sure that many of the latter not only fail the Bechdel Test but offer up as much intellectual nutrition as a packet of jujubes. And yet, sometimes I can go a long way on a little sugar rush, and that’s the way I feel about movies like The Holiday, Bridget Jones’s Diary, He’s Just Not That Into You, Return to Me and Only You. With their formulas of love lost and found, these movies offer up comfortingly familiar portraits of human nature. They’re a reminder of the sorrows and joys we all share at some point in our lives, and seeing them on the screen allows me to laugh out loud at my foibles (which bear no small resemblance to Bridget Jones’s embarrassing moments); remember what the true rewards of life are (the first kiss, the hour-long phone call, the time I was running with my cross country team and a certain guy doubled back and held my hand to help me up the toughest hill on the course); as well as to realize that there is an ideal in love that’s worth reaching for, even if it doesn’t come with the sexy bells and whistles and happily-ever-after assuredness of movie love. I will admit that watching romantic movies sometimes makes me wistful, wishing I could go back in time and experience the moonstruck stage of “new love” again, and that kind of yearning isn’t useful. But it is a reminder to treat my longtime partner well – to flirt and keep some sweet playfulness between the two of us – as well as a reminder of some other important things too: mainly, that while I enjoy a great degree of solitude, life is better when it's shared, whether as part of a couple or with friends that cheer or commiserate with you on the sidelines, just as they do in the movies. Romantic movies almost always feature two things that are very true to life and worth remembering: the first is the friend who is always there as a sounding board and source of comfort; the second is the dream person who comes along when you’ve given up on ever finding him or her. Life is never over when you think it is, a pool of unexpected surprises ebbs and flows the entire length of our lives. I know this is true, and I only have to think about my maternal grandfather in the final years of his life when, twice widowed, he met a woman whom he fell head over heels in love with, enjoying her companionship for many years.

These are the reassurances of the frothy romantic movies that, whether they pass or fail the Bechdel Test, probably wouldn’t rate well on the feminist’s watch list. They are often formulaic, but like most clichés, they speak of enduring truths. That said, for those who don’t share my enthusiasm and are wondering, like my husband and his friend, why there aren’t more films portraying women in the full, complex, light they deserve, can I suggest that you put aside the Bechdel Test, poke around the movie streaming sites and take heart? There are many films featuring women of every age and type in roles of impressive ingenuity and strength; I believe it to be so just from doing a quick survey of the movies I’ve watched online over the past six months: The Imitation Game with Keira Knightley playing a code breaker during World War II; Annette Benning very competently handling both the management of a Hilton hotel and Al Pacino, its rock-star guest, in Danny Collins; Sandra Bullock as an astronaut single-handedly piloting a space capsule back to Earth in Gravity; Melissa McCarthy single-parenting her son in St. Vincent; Lake Bell as a vocal coach who wins a voice-over gig for a blockbuster movie in In A World: Carey Mulligan running a large sheep farm, in 1860s England, in the remake of Far from the Madding Crowd; Kate Winslet as a garden designer during Louis XIV’s rule of France who lands a contract to design a fountain garden and outdoor ballroom at Versailles in A Little Chaos; and Keira Knightley again, this time making a music album her own way in Begin Again. I could go on and on – this represents only a small sample of the movies I’ve recently watched in which women are portrayed as leading ladies who lead in the feminist sense of the word, with confidence, determination, creativity and, most importantly, with a sense of independence they rarely have to declare because they already own it.


*Apparently historical fiction is applied to the Bechdel Test (you can see the full list of movies at BechdelTest.com). After writing this piece I was astonished to learn that Gone with the Wind passes the Bechdel test based on one conversation in which Scarlett is asked by Melanie (whom Scarlett hates since Melanie is married to Scarlett’s dream man, Ashley Wilkes) if she will look after her baby if she dies during childbirth, and Scarlett agrees. This (as the dialogue that gives the movie it's passing mark) strikes me as more than a little ironic; go figure!

Anyway, of the handful of historical films I’ve mentioned here, Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago and Wuthering Heights fail the test, while Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Far from the Madding Crowd and Lady Chatterley’s Lover all pass.


Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/24/2015.
_______________________________________________________________________


Ramon Monegal Cuirelle: Sueded Enchantment

I’d forgotten that my friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead) had sent me a decant of Ramon Monegal Cuirelle, and though I had worn it once or twice when she initially sent it last year, enough time had passed that I’d forgotten what to expect from it (apparently), as reacquainting myself with it has been a surprise. Firstly because the name Cuirelle had me expecting a full-on leather scent – which it decidedly isn’t – and secondly because it’s the exact sort of perfume I’ve been craving over the last year: the soft kind. Cuirelle is a delicate, gourmand-like approximation of suede leather, and if I were allotted only one sentence to describe it, I’d draw a verbal picture of a beautiful young woman in suede go-go boots eating a slice of pineapple-upside-down cake somewhere sunny and spring-like. It’s an Enchanted April kind of scent: a scent that puts one in mind of Lady Caroline Dester luxuriating in the Italian countryside when the temperatures are warming up, and everything is in bloom, but it’s not sultry yet. The ocean is down a winding path, more or less a stone’s throw away, and Lady Caroline is in the polite company of her English traveling companions, so naturally some kind of polite, fruit dessert is involved. Why pineapple-upside-down cake? I include it as part of my description because five or ten minutes after application, attendant with the smell of suede leather, delicate florals and ocean mist, there is a whiff of pineapple (an imagined pineapple, as there is no fruit listed among Cuirelle's notes) in an accord that also smells brown-sugared and creamy. Equally fitting with the vibe I get from this perfume, there's a warm whimsicality to said dessert. It’s casual and unfussy and the kind of thing one might be served in the countryside, far away from the city and its patisserie shops. Cuirelle shares that appeal: elegant, loose-limbed and relaxed, it’s a fragrance that strikes me as feminine and pretty (perhaps its name is a combination of cuir, the French word for leather, and elle, the French word for “she”?), and not overly dramatic or serious. Any perfume that smells softly of leather, and softly of tropical fruit and dessert, is a perfume that must be said to have a sense of levity or humor about it. If the perfume was deeper, either in terms of its leather or its fruit, it would be a different matter, but this one isn’t balanced that way.



My only reservation about this analogy is that it might lead you to assume that Cuirelle has a retro, vintage-y composition when in fact it’s modern. Modern in the sense of uncluttered and not overly cosmetic. As such, kindly replace any thoughts of leather gloves and flapper regalia with an imagined remake of Enchanted April, in which Lady Caroline is wearing suede leather boots in a pastel shade like violet, since there is something sexy about this perfume without it ever coming close to being over the top. And imagine, too, that we are at the stage where the magic of the month-long stay at San Salvatore has had its curative effect on the women in attendance there (Enchanted April is actually a story of four women of different backgrounds who experience a profound shift of values while embracing the natural beauty of this paradise) leaving Lady Caroline at peace, able to accomplish what she set out to do: To leave behind the trappings of her own physical beauty. Not the fact of her pulchritude nor the enjoyment of beautiful things, but the way her beauty and wealth have shackled her into leading a superficial existence. If this statement seems at odds with my asking you to imagine her in sexy suede boots, then recall (if you’ve seen the film or read the novel) that Lady Caroline doesn’t ditch her beautiful clothes and stop bathing during her stay at San Salvatore. At the conclusion of Enchanted April, she is as exquisite as she is at its start, only all the more so because now she’s operating from a soulful level. Similarly, Cuirelle strikes that rare balance, whether one is talking perfume or talking about character (which is how I think of perfumes), between the politely mannered and the assertively confident. Whenever I find this combination, I conclude that a high degree of intelligence is in attendance, as it’s a fine balance to pull off.

"Strength and texture. Not the essence of leather, but an interpretation of it. Cat-like flexibility and musk sublimated with shades of honey and incense and balanced with green Cedar and Vetyver grass,” is how the Ramon Monegal advertising blurb describes Cuirelle, and to a large degree, I concur.

While the word “strength” is not one that comes to mind for this scent in terms of its actual smell, it fits it conceptually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I did compare Cuirelle to Lady Caroline, who does indeed possess a “cat-like flexibility” that is a statement of strength. And in terms of texture, it’s truly there, if you spend time examining this perfume in the close manner that perfumistas do when they are trying to parse notes. Doesn’t matter that I guessed the notes for Cuirelle all wrong (to me, it smells like suede achieved via an accord of iris, heliotrope and jasmine – notes that would also account for its fruity nature – and a veil of chypre notes that might include bergamot, saffron, oakmoss and patchouli). Doesn’t matter that I can’t detect the actual notes that Ramon Monegal lists for Cuirelle, those being olibanum, Indonesian patchouli leaf, bourbon vetiver, Virginian cedar, cinnamon and beeswax. What matters is that this incredibly suave perfume, when studied closely, has depth. Reiterating what I mentioned at the start, for me its textures are the combined whiffs of suede leather, sea air, vague florals that merge to become a tropical pineapple, married to a base accord that is too delicate to be called rum-like, but which nevertheless echoes the butter-rum scent of a pineapple-upside-down cake.

Wearing it yesterday, I got an unsolicited compliment on it from my hairdresser, which surprised me considering Cuirelle's languid nature. It does have some sillage, but for the most part it’s a perfume that acts a bit like Lady Caroline when she first embarks on her Italian holiday. It’s content to keep its own company and to grin at passers-by like a Cheshire cat.

 

Ramon Monegal Cuirelle eau de parfum can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $185. My review is based on a decant of Cuirelle I received from my blogging friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead), whose luscious review can be found here. (Ines, if you’re reading this, I can’t believe how similarly we characterize this perfume. I just re-read your review for the first time since you originally posted it, and it hits on the same themes as mine. Thanks for introducing this to me!)

Image, top of page, of actress Polly Walker (playing Lady Caroline Dester) and Joan Plowright (as Mrs. Fisher) is from the 1992 film, Mike Newell-directed film,  Enchanted April, based on the novel of the same name. Middle image is also of Polly Walker playing Lady Caroline.  Bottle image is from Luckyscent.com.

Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/2/2015.
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Guerlain Angélique Noire: Singular

In the first week of April, before Lavender died, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross received a good-luck charm from Martha. It was a simple pebble, an ounce at most. Smooth to the touch, it was a milky white color with flecks of orange and violet, oval-shaped, like a miniature egg. In the accompanying letter, Martha wrote that she had found the pebble on the Jersey shoreline, precisely where the land touched water at high tide, where things came together but also separated. It was this separate-but-together quality, she wrote, that had inspired her to pick up the pebble and to carry it in her breast pocket for several days, where it seemed weightless, and then to send it through the mail, by air, as a token of her truest feelings for him. Lieutenant Cross found this romantic. But he wondered what her truest feelings were, exactly, and what she meant by separate-but-together. He wondered how the tides and waves had come into play on that afternoon along the Jersey shoreline when Martha saw the pebble and bent down to rescue it from geology. He imagined bare feet. Martha was a poet, with the poet's sensibilities, and her feet would be brown and bare, the toenails unpainted, the eyes chilly and somber like the ocean in March, and though it was painful, he wondered who had been with her that afternoon. He imagined a pair of shadows moving along the strip of sand where things came together but also separated. It was phantom jealousy, he knew, but he couldn't help himself. He loved her so much. On the march, through the hot days of early April, he carried the pebble in his mouth, turning it with his tongue, tasting sea salt and moisture. His mind wandered. He had difficulty keeping his attention on the war. On occasion he would yell at his men to spread out the column, to keep their eyes open, but then he would slip away into daydreams, just pretending, walking barefoot along the Jersey shore, with Martha, carrying nothing. He would feel himself rising. Sun and waves and gentle winds, all love and lightness.

The above excerpt is from Tim O’Brien’s award-winning book, The Things They Carried, a novel-in-stories about the Vietnam War. I’m not sure any other author has ever written so poignantly about that war, and though all of the stories in the books are mesmerizing, the title story, from which this passage is taken, gets my vote as the most poignant and the most mesmerizing, not only for what it says but by how it is written. The bulk of the story is a series of lists of what the soldiers carried or “humped” across the war-strewn jungle landscape of that country: lists of everyday necessity items like P-38 can openers, mosquito repellent, C-rations and water canteens; lists of the guns and grenades and ammunition, the ponchos and jackets and gear. Lists of the items that kept them occupied in the downtime (tobacco, playing cards, pencils, stationery and stamps for the letters they wrote home), as well as the intangible items they carried too – their “emotional baggage” (fears, superstitions and private shames). O’Brien lists the weight, in pounds, of some of the items they carry, and, by placing that in the reader’s mind, the lists themselves acquire weight. Ticked off in a matter-of-fact style, the lists are both unsentimental and personal (“Henry Dobbins carried his girlfriend’s pantyhose wrapped around his neck as a comforter”), and by some literary sleight-of-hand, achieve two things at once: they function as a shorthand narrative of what an army “grunt,” or infantry man, did during the war, and at the same time, they lend the story its crushing heaviness. The reader feels the stacking effect of these burdens, and the sense that each soldier is carrying them mostly alone, his only community being his small band of army brothers.

Yet for a story to have emotional impact, in addition to dark weightiness it must also have a sense of light – the light that one wants to believe in, that could just as easily slip away. So, in between the lists of the things they carried there is a loosely woven story: a rumination by Lieutenant Jimmy Cross on the college girl he fell in love with, Martha. A girl who sends him letters (and the pebble) but who is too cool and noncommittal to be considered his sweetheart. Because Martha is aloof in person yet poetic in her communiqués – sending him this stone which she carried next to her bosom, which she describes in terms that could lead a young soldier to hope for a future with her, as well as to question that hope – she becomes a distraction. A phantom lover. A burden so infinitely tender it would not seem to be a burden at all, until the day that it is; until the day that Lieutenant Cross feels that it has kept him from performing his duties and decides he can’t carry it anymore.

I have thought about this story, about this stone and the two people who carry it separately yet together, for a long time. Now I can finally put a perfume to it – something I knew I would eventually do. Every time I read or think about The Things They Carried, this pebble has weight to me; I imagine how it felt, tasted and smelled.

Guerlain Angélique Noire is the olfactory version of the pebble (and of the young woman who slipped it into her pocket for several days before slipping it into a letter). Angélique Noire is a vanilla perfume, and yet it is the poet’s vanilla scent: more enigmatic than effusive, more dreamy than direct. Though the name would suggest that it smells primarily of the angelica flower, one only has to sniff the atomizer of whatever vessel is holding this fragrance (the bottle, or, in my case, a sample vial) to know that vanilla is its overriding theme. Sniffing it in such a way (from the atomizer, before applying it on skin), it seems to promise an experience akin to sniffing a pricey bottle of vanilla extract used for baking. What a surprise, then, to spray it on and discover that this vanilla lands on the skin as if surrounded by sea mist, vegetation and suede leather, and that it continues in this vein. For almost the duration of its wear. Angélique Noire is an elegantly-vegetal vanilla perfume that is more cool than warm – or in other words, a vanilla perfume largely informed by the angelica plant: a plant with a juniper-like scent reminiscent of crisp air and the kind of greens that grow densely in the shade. On its own, angelica has a fern-and-pine, mineral water-and-air, gin-like smell. In Angélique Noire, where it is grafted onto a dominant vanilla accord, the melding of the two has a tempering effect on both the angelica and the vanilla. As such, the angelica note is not as brisk and tonic as it appears in other perfumes (like Frederic Malle Angéliques sous la Pluie), but a softer and more amorphous form of cool. It smells like a very pretty form of dill – like the dill and sugar brine that is used for gravlax (minus the actual gravlax, of course). And the vanilla is not the liqueur-like confectioner’s vanilla I expected when sniffing the atomizer, but a vanilla that is more teasing and ambiguous.

The collision of the two accords creates a fragrance that is softly complex – a fragrance that has a true alfresco nature (reminding me of the sea pebble) yet is married to a sweet-and-creamy something that might best be filed under the descriptor of “longing” (reminding me of Martha). It is a fairly linear perfume that doesn’t change much over the duration of its wear, and I am fine with that, finding complexity, instead, in the interplay between the two main accords. While the overall effect is a cool vanilla scent, the rub between the two produces some warm facets – an inky, iodine-like smell that reminds me of the sea; a hint of rum-like sweetness – both of them as subtle as these other facets: A mineral-like scent reminiscent of fresh gravel spread on a road. Suede leather that plays hide-and-seek. And a chill, slightly perfumey herbalness that recalls the kind of herbs used in brines – capers and dill, sweetly refreshing and weedy – rather than the savory herbs one more commonly finds in a garden. Altogether, they make Angélique Noire a vanilla scent that can’t be pinned down. It’s elegant in the way that perfumes from the Guerlain house always are, but it’s got a restless, outdoor spirit. It’s a perfume for the person who quietly follows the beat of her or his own drum, who seems to enjoy solitude and separateness more than togetherness, yet who is dreamy, rather than prickly, in this regard.

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In The Things They Carried, along with the pebble Martha sent him, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried her letters that were always signed “Love, Martha” even though her letters never spoke of real love or of the war. Without the weight of commitment, she would seem to be an easy thing to carry – a “Gentle on My Mind” kind of girl – but sometimes it’s the softest straw that breaks the camel’s back.

 

Guerlain Angélique Noire eau de parfum has top notes of bergamot, angelica seeds, pink pepper, and pear; heart notes of sambac jasmine and caraway; and base notes of angelica root, vanilla and cedar wood. It can be purchased from Bergdorfgoodman.com, where a 75-ml bottle is currently $260. My review is based on a sample I received from my blogging friend, Undina.

The Things They Carried, copyright © 1990 by Tim O'Brien (Originally published by Houghton Mifflin and reprinted in paperback by Broadway Books, a division of Random House New York, 1998, page 8)


Photo of woman with windswept hair can be found various places on Internet; photographer unknown by me.

 

Posted by
Suzanne
Keller, 5/30/2015.

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