A More Affordable Olfactionary
Amouage Interlude Man
Amouage Opus III
Amouage Opus VAmouage Opus VI
Amouage TributeAnnick Goutal Encens Flamboyant
Annick Goutal Heure ExquiseAnnick Goutal Petite Cherie
Annick Goutal Sables
April Aromatics Calling All Angels
April Aromatics Bohemian SpiceApril Aromatics Jasmina
At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)
At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante) At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)
Ava Luxe Café Noir
Carner Barcelona D600
Caron Aimez-MoiChantilly Dusting Powder
Clive Christian C for WomenComme des Garcons Daphne
Comme des Garcons LUXE ChampacaCostes by Costes
Creed Virgin Island WaterDeneuve
Gucci Eau de Parfum Gucci L'Arte di Gucci Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia
Guerlain Samsara Parfum
How I Store Decants
Il Profumo Cannabis
Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant
Kenzo SummerLa Via del Profumo Hindu Kush
La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe
La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project
Montale Black AoudNeila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Nez a Nez Ambre a SadeOmar Sharif Pour Femme
Oriscent Pure Oud OilsParfum d'Empire Azemour
Parfum d'Empire Cuir OttomanParfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs Parfumerie Generale Indochine
Parfums de Nicolai SacrebleuParfums Retro Grand Cuir
Paris, je t'aime
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk
Robert Piguet Fracas
Serge Lutens Borneo 1834
Serge Lutens Boxeuses
Serge Lutens Un Lys Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette
Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)
SoOud Ouris Parfum NectarStone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)
Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric RainThe Diary of a Nose, Book Review
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris
Vero Profumo Mito Viktoria Minya Hedonist
Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb
Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy
All I Am - A Redhead
A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)
Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)
Australian Perfume Junkies
Beauty on the Outside
Bois de Jasmin
Bonkers About Perfume
Ca Fleure Bon
Eyeliner on a Cat
From Top to Bottom - Perfume Patter
Giovanni Sammarco (artisanal perfumer) blog
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
Katie Puckrik Smells
Memory of Scent
Muse in Wooden Shoes
Natural Perfumery by Salaam
Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume
Notes From Josephine
Notes From the Ledge
Now Smell This
Oh, True Apothecary!
Purple Paper Planes
Redolent of Spices
Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic
Scents of Place
Scents of Self
Sorcery of Scent
The Alembicated Genie
The Candy Perfume Boy
The Fragrant Man
The French Exit
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
A Rose By Any Other Name . . .
Guerlain Encens Mythique d'Orient
Sometimes, or maybe often, it’s the simple things that rivet my attention. This doesn’t mean I eschew opulence—quite the opposite. I thoroughly enjoy the thrill and awe of all kinds of opulent gestures: the feeling of jaw-dropping wonder at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, for instance, that allows one to see what superlatives man is capable of in that rare intersection where extraordinarily fine detail is carried out on the grandest of scales. Or an opulent perfume with layers of undulating accords that shimmer and swish like the tiered fringes of a 1920s flapper dress (again coupling the notion of fine detail with a bolder concept like movement). Opulence is, for me, an occasion to expand my world and understand potential, in its fullest sense, while simplicity is like a poem: intimate, deeply personal, the most immediate and straight-forward route to the heart. Simplicity can be homespun, but simplicity is also the measure of elegance: it’s a very concise statement of beauty.
I’ve been thinking about these things—simplicity versus opulence, poetry versus the epic novel—because while I need and crave both ends of the spectrum, this has been a year in which I particularly crave simplicity, especially in terms of perfume. And the perfume I’ve been wearing rather steadily this past month has been Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient, which, despite its opulent-sounding name, is an elegantly simple-smelling composition. The aroma-materials used to create this perfume certainly smell rich and expensive—and for all I know, its formulation could be very complex—but in terms of how it comes across to my nose, it is streamlined and deft. I smell a dewy rose gliding over silky greenery, at first, and soon afterwards, the rose and the greenery are joined by a touch of something that smells like myrrh to me (though myrrh isn’t listed in the notes), slightly medicinal and bittersweet, a cross between evergreen boughs and cherried syrup. Then there emerges a soft touch of a marzipan-like almond that reminds me of heliotrope (also not listed), and a cosmetic iris that toggles between the scent of suede leather and talc. A sleek rose-oriental—that’s how it wears for hours on my skin, until its far drydown and slow dissolve on a tender sandalwood-like base.
That’s pretty much all I smell and that’s all I need. Does it matter that I can’t detect the aldehydes, frankincense or the expensive ambergris that this perfume contains? Does it matter that its composition reminds me of other perfumes in my perfume wardrobe which revolve around a similar set of notes and share a similar spirit?
The answer to both questions is no. I find when I’m wearing Encens Mythique, I am often thinking of its similarity to Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, but at the same time I’m also weighing the differences between the two. And contemplating them together in this way makes me smile because they are like elegant poems that could have been written by two poets playing around with the same words and sharing a theme, yet there are different shadings, different phrasings, different points of view that make each poem unique, even if both seem to be playing echo and refrain to the same chorus.
Stanely Kunitz, who at the age of 95 was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, once wrote: “Every new poem is like finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their coupling.” When I was wearing Encens Mythique this week and thinking about how to write about it—how to differentiate it from several other perfumes I’ve reviewed that, while not identical, are in the same vein—his comment kept running through my mind. Firstly, because Encens Mythique d’Orient and the others (Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Le Labo Iris 39, Parfum d’Empire 3 Fleurs, Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine, and DSH Vert pour Madame) are all elegantly svelte affairs that truly do remind me of poems.
Secondly, because I just realized how I tend to gravitate towards perfumes that contain three main accords (greens, roses and iris), and somehow this combination of accords can be arranged in seemingly infinite ways I never tire of. Greens, dewy roses, and cosmetic irises are so romantic, they never tire of their canoodling—to paraphrase Kunitz. I can happily imagine owning a bottle of any and all perfumes they end up in. Yet here is where personal taste really comes into play: I can’t say the same thing about accords like wood, leather and amber, much as I love a good many of those. (I complain about duplication if I smell too many dry, smoky wood perfumes that seem to be variations on the same theme.) Why is it I feel such an affinity to the aforementioned favorite accords such that if I were trying to decide whether to plunk down money today on a bottle of Encens Mythique d’Orient or Heure Exquise or any of a number of similar scents (of this caliber), I would be a bit tortured in the process, weighing all my options?
* * *
After Thanksgiving ended, I placed my puffin figurines and the two Japanese maple leafs back on my kitchen shelf, juxtaposed next to some seashells, a little crystal I found on a hike in the woods, and a leaf that I have deemed the world’s tiniest oak leaf—just as they’d been before. They have a different poetic effect there, not nearly as potent as when they were arranged on my table with its sky-blue tablecloth and candles. On my kitchen shelf, they are simply a visual poem that reminds me of what I love about the earth. I could arrange them somewhat differently somewhere else in the house—maybe with a favorite scarf or piece of jewelry—and they would take on a different meaning. That’s the analogy I’ll use to justify falling in love with Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient. It’s not that it’s a striking new form of olfactory verse, but rather that it’s written in a sonnet form I favor, another exquisite paean to the notions of beauty, love and romance. That’s pretty much what greens and dewy roses and cosmetic irises always speak of, isn’t it?
Well, don’t feel compelled to answer. Poetry is as personal as it is universal, and there are days when I’d like to think those florals are only talking to me.
Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient eau de parfum is described in more opulent terms on the Guerlain website, where its actual* notes are listed as:
Top notes: rose, aldehyde, saffron note.
Heart notes: pink pepper, vetiver, patchouli.
Base notes: forest floor notes, ambergris, frankincense.
*Some notes I perceive and mention in my review aren’t listed, so take what I say with a grain of salt. The company describes the perfume as follows: “An ethereal frankincense leaves only a fleeting mark on this fragrance, while rose imprints its fiery accents. But the endless sweetness and exceptional depth come from authentic and majestic ambergris of New Zealand, specially selected by Thierry Wasser for this fragrance. An enigmatic opus to sing the praises of a world devoted to eternity.”
Encens Mythique d'Orient is available from the Guerlain boutiques and SaksFifthAvenue.com, where a 75-ml (2.5 oz) bottle is currently priced at $275. My review is based on a decant I received from my blogging friend (and almost-but-not-quite scent twin) Undina.
Photo of the vase of roses stolen from the website Familyholiday.net.
Photo of Guerlain Encens Mythique d'Orient bottle stolen from Guerlain.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 12/5/2014.
Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa: A Beautiful Way to Fly
I wasn’t awake to see the first winter snowflakes swirling in the air this past weekend, but my sister told me they’d arrived and it’s not surprising. I probably should steer my perfume writing accordingly, towards the discussion of a cozy comfort scent or a big oriental that goes great with cashmere, but one of the most beautiful perfumes I’ve sampled recently is Spanish perfumer Ramon Monegal’s creation Pure Mariposa (the full name is Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus, as it was created exclusively for that upscale department store), and it draws its inspiration from the butterfly (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish). The name couldn’t be more fitting: this perfume’s white floral heart has a tangerine-like nectar about it which imparts a sense of color, lift and delight while, at the same time, vibrates against a mossy chypre-like base. By virtue of its name and the fact that it’s a shimmery floral perfume, Pure Mariposa might strike one as the perfect scent for spring and summer, but this is not an airy butterfly scent in the way that L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons is, for instance, with its white florals rendered wispy and fine. I happen to love that one too—it also is well-named, focusing more on the chase of something that is diaphanous and elusive, whereas Ramon Monegal’s perfume offers up a different point-of-view. To me, it’s a statement about being such a creature.
Butterflies in autumn shades of black, orange and olive green are pictured on the retail, carded sample of Pure Mariposa, and though whimsical in terms of their rendering, at least one of them is meant to resemble the Monarch butterfly—again, a perfect match to the perfume. Pure Mariposa has enough olfactory weight to remind one of those late-summer butterflies and their incredible migrations (Monarchs in the eastern part of the United States migrate as far south as Mexico and can cover 50 to 100 miles per day before reaching their destination). Likewise, Pure Mariposa is full of floral fluidity, but its olfactory wings rest on a frame that has an impressive tensile strength. At the end of the review, I’ll provide the perfumer’s full list of notes for this fragrance, and hopefully before then, I’ll have described its flight pattern on my skin. First, though, here’s a list of the things this perfume makes me think of when I’m wearing it:
To a large degree, Pure Mariposa is an orange blossom perfume (at least to my nose), and though orange blossoms don’t smell like oranges, there is either a phantom or real note of orange that accompanies the perfume, not just in the fleeting top-notes stage, but into its very heart. It’s a brisk and bitter orange note that reminds me of an Orangina when it first hits the skin, but as the orange blossom and accompanying white florals develop and come to the fore, it begins to smell more like the scent of a tangerine, lighter and sweeter. (It reminds me of bigarade, the “bitter orange” fruit which produces an essential oil that is surprisingly juicy smelling.) The combination of the two—the orange blossom bouquet and the piquant orange citrus note—very nicely translates into the idea of a butterfly: to my nose, these notes always smell as if they hover at least two octaves above other notes in the olfactory scale. Combined, they signal a state of sunlit, soaring joy.
If I didn’t have a note list, I’d have figured Pure Mariposa’s white-floral accord as largely consisting of orange blossom and jasmine, but the perfumer doesn’t list jasmine among the notes and identifies the other florals (besides orange blossom) as being tuberose, gardenia and orchid. Such an accord would normally play out with a certain amount of indolic headiness, but Pure Mariposa is not indolic, carnal or even what I would call heady. Though uplifting and joyous, the florals never soar out of the stratosphere, becalmed as they are by a base that adds enough bitter greenery, cool moss and amber weightiness to pull this nectar down to cloud level, ensuring that the perfume is naturally buoyant rather than perky or excitable. Of course, perfumistas who don’t care for the high-pitched floral sweetness of orange blossom probably aren’t going to be won over by Pure Mariposa, but those who are fans of the note have something to celebrate. Here is an orange blossom-heavy perfume that truly has a pyramidal development on the skin (I don’t know about you, but I find many orange blossom perfumes to be rather linear). It is a slow development (a gradual unfolding)—one that gradually takes place over three or four hours—but the floaty bouquet eventually transitions to a base that has a good dose of sandalwood in it. Not the super-fatted and vanillic sandalwood which so often provides a cushion to oriental perfumes, but a lightly creamy sandalwood with a smoky edge … a lean sandalwood, more woody than creamy, sometimes smelling as if it’s attended by a tendril of frankincense. It doesn’t make itself known until several hours into wear time, but when it arrives, it’s a lovely surprise—as if the white petals of Pure Mariposa have drifted down from the sky and found a resting place on a weathered branch of tree. It conjures images of the butterflies arriving in the half-parched Mexican landscape where they’ll take their respite from winter.
* * *
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” James Taylor once said in a song, and sung in his dreamy style, that advice sounds simple. A relaxed posture, an appreciation for spontaneity, an acceptance that everything is subject to change: I imagine these traits as part of the secret that allows one to go “sliding down, gliding down” through the ride of life. Yet I’d bet good money that those who do it best also possess a quietly steely will—a determination to show up and do the work that helps them navigate the currents and not simply be blown about. At any rate, I was thinking about these things when I was wearing Pure Mariposa, and I suppose it’s why I really like this perfume. It is both lithe and strong.
The Quaking Aspen has a long telescope of trunk; the cheerful waitress rises at dawn, wears sturdy shoes and stores a revolving roster of faces and menu choices in her memory banks. Daisies probably have secrets to their persistence and the orioles no doubt have spent millennia perfecting their acrobatic flight skills, but I don’t know much about either. What I do know is that all possess an upbeat and easy-going demeanor—a graceful way of moving through the world—that flies over a core of strength more felt than seen. Pure Mariposa is composed on a similar structure: it’s one of those perfumes I admire for its sunny nature, breezy beauty and intelligent design.
Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus eau de parfum is described on my carded, retail sample as having notes of tuberose, gardenia, orchid, orange blossom, oak moss, sandalwood, ozone, amber and musk. (I just saw that the notes on the Neiman Marcus website for this perfume are different and more numerous—and include three different citrus notes as well as jasmine.) It is currently priced at $200 for 50-ml. I received my sample as part of a birthday fragrance package from my dear blogging friend, Ann, of Perfume Posse.
On the subject of butterflies: In September, we saw far less Monarchs here than we normally do, yet thanks to blogging friends, butterflies came my way. Thank you, Ann, for the Pure Mariposa perfume, and thank you, Sigrun, for the butterfly nail tattoos! (Using a laser printer, Sigrun can create all kinds of nail tattoos; she sent me tattoos of Portuguese tiles in pretty colors, as well as many other designs.)
Photo of the woman examining butterfly stolen from Themakingofkiastorm.blogspot.com.
Photo of Pure Mariposa bottle stolen from Fragrantica.com. Photo of nail tattoos is my own.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 11/7/2014.
I often think my interest in seeking out new perfumes has reached its natural conclusion, and then something will happen that snaps me back, like a yo-yo, to perfume’s obsessive hold over me. It happened last week in the form of a cold—a cold I thought I’d licked but which proved otherwise when I sampled a perfume I’d never tried before. I was intent on trying Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras—something about being sick usually puts me in a state of mind where I want to smell the oddball scents, or maybe being sick simply reminded me of Dans Tes Bras, because one of the most compelling reviews I’d ever read of it likened it to “a really cute nosebleed.” What does that smell like? I wondered. If you could draw a picture of it, what would it look like? My brain having finally surfaced from its groggy, cold-induced state was itching to know. First I had this picture in my head of the characters Lena and Barry in Punch Drunk Love (due to their endearingly macabre pillow talk), and then a few other visions that seemed more normal (like how when you really love someone, there is something cute about them even when they’re not well and perhaps having a nosebleed). So after thinking on this some, I found my recently acquired sample of Dans Tes Bras, applied several sprays, and then … nothing. Not a thing! I could smell my supper cooking for the first time in days, but I couldn’t smell Dans Tes Bras and this made me panic a little. For no other reason than I thought I was anosmic to it on a day when smelling it seemed essential.
Essential to what, you might ask. Essential to experiencing life again, I guess.
Luckily it was only the remnants of illness that kept me from smelling Dans Tes Bras (and not my anosmia to certain musk-based perfumes, which I originally feared was the case). A few days later, after applying one big spritz to the fleshiest portion of my upper arm, voila! There it was in all its strangeness. It’s progression on my skin went like this: At the start, a weird though not unpleasant scent resembling a combo of starchy banana, the ink cartridge from a copy machine and violets. Five minutes later, the development of something delicately powdery and vanillic, as if it’s about to pretty itself up, even though it never truly does. It’s more accurate to say that Dans Tes Bras entertains a notion of pulchritude (a tendril of vanillic powder is always present) as it continues to offer up a mix of industrial- and natural-smelling aromas, the variety of which bears the stamp of Steampunk (or a simplistic version of Steampunk, if such a thing is possible). In addition to the aforementioned odors, Dans Tes Bras exudes whiffs of metal and ozone and hints of mushroom, as well as the growing medium for mushrooms—an oddly-cool dirt smell that is lacking in true earthiness, such that I’m tempted to call it ghost dirt. And at its center, occupying a lot of territory in Dans Tes Bras, there’s an accord that resembles Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. It’s a defining accord, one that inspires affection as it nostalgically evokes the bath-time rituals of youth or recalls the scent of a child’s scalp (a favorite smell for many women). To me, it’s what puts the “cute” in the “cute nosebleed” description that the other reviewer (Victoria of EauMG) ascribed to this scent. Not because it makes one think of kids, but because it is an olfactory form of shorthand linking one to the feeling of affection. (Different from “love,” affection, by my definition, refers to the pure and uncomplicated feeling of being naturally drawn to a person or thing. It inspires the word cute—a descriptor I consider ageless, which is why I might apply it to a kitten, in one breath, and a good-looking guy in his 50s, in the other).
It’s obvious that perfumer Maurice Roucel took a very thoughtful approach to this composition as he attempted (in his own words) “to communicate both seduction and generosity” in a fragrance meant to convey the feeling of being in a loved one’s embrace (Dans Tes Bras is French for “In Your Arms”). That said, while Dans Tes Bras is compelling to me as a study of perfume—I love the beauty of the attempt, I love the odd elements that make it an intrigue and not simply a copy of other “skin scents”—it doesn’t hang together for me as a whole. Even though my cold is gone and I can now smell Dans Tes Bras, I feel anosmic to it unless I’m actively parsing its notes. From afar, it becomes amorphous—its individual components unable to fuse into anything that has olfactory weight or distinguishable presence to my nose. Its fragrance profile as whole becomes indeterminate.
Smelling it up close and with an analytic mind, it's intriguing and what I’d call the work of a genius. Smelling it afar: forgettable and almost non-existent. So would I ever purchase this scent?
Hmmm. Concurrent with sampling of Dans Tes Bras, I happened to be reading Michael Ondaatje’s novel Divisadero—a work containing elements that leave my reading mind besotted: the poetic rendering of its prose; the tender way Ondaatje peels back the layers of his characters to reveal truths that are as universal as they are deeply personal. And yet I felt disappointed near the end of it, as Divisadero never gels as a novel. It’s written in an elliptical style, with characters whose lives and motivations are revealed in the same way an evening landscape in summer is illuminated by heat lightning: in brief strokes which dazzle but don’t grant much in the way of purchase. Lacking a true narrative that takes the reader on some kind of journey from one distinctive plane to another, Divisadero will likely vanish from my memory a year from now, whereas Ondaatje’s The English Patient will exist for me ad infinitum—certain passages always humming in my brain, making me reach for it whenever I’m in wont of a story that charts a course through the strange desert that is love.
Still. I’ve read a whole bunch of books this year, most of them with dependable story lines, and almost none of them as satiating on an emotional and intellectual level as Divisadero. And while I am far luckier in the perfume department (thanks to samples that come by way of friends who know my tastes), Dans Tes Bras is one of the most fascinating scents I’ve ever studied. Neither is what I think they set out to be: Divisadero, by its end, reads more like a contemplation on the writing life, its motivation and muses, its rewards and privations and quiet way of shaping a life; and Dans Tes Bras was certainly not conceived as an exercise or study in olfactory creation, yet it smells more like an homage to the art of perfumery than like perfumery’s end product. Both will pass from my memory sooner rather than later, but in the vast ocean of things I consume regularly, these are the two things that recently gave me sustenance.
Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras eau de parfum was created by perfumer Maurice Roucel, with notes of Cashmeran, sandalwood, musk, patchouli, salicylates, incense, heliotrope and violet. It can be purchased from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle website and boutiques (or at Barneys New York), where it is currently priced at $180 for a 50-ml bottle or $265 for a 100-ml bottle. My review is based on a sample I acquired from Barneys.
Photo of the couple embracing can be found at various Internet sites; photographer unknown by me.
Photo of Dans Tes Bras bottle is from the Frederic Malle website, where it can be purchased.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 10/7/2014.