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Amouage Interlude Man
Amouage Opus III
Amouage Opus VAmouage Opus VI
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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 NoirCarner 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
Devilscent ProjectGucci 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
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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
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The Sounds of Scent
The Vintage Perfume Vault
This Blog Really Stinks
Undina's Looking Glass
WAFT by Carol
Perfume and a Movie: Le Labo Iris 39 and Stealing Beauty
I have a tiny dab sample of Le Labo Iris 39 that Undina gave me when I visited her in San Francisco. She’d given me lots of samples, most of which wouldn’t be sniffed until I came home, but I remember uncapping the vial of Iris 39 while sitting in her closet going through her stuff and being utterly riveted – similar to a man’s reaction at catching sight of a beautiful girl. Here’s the kind of beauty that jerks your head around, double-take fashion, as if you’d been driving down an ordinary street and suddenly spied a stunning creature completely out of her element in a small town like yours. (Unless your small town happens to be a romantic village in the South of France or the scenic hills of Tuscany). I’ve uncapped this vial quite a few times in the past couple months, and my reaction is always the same, so I was surprised by mini-reviews at LuckyScent, where several people claimed they couldn’t deal with the top notes of Iris 39. To me, its top notes are utterly arresting – so floral and green and cosmetic that this scent strikes me as one of the most überly feminine perfumes I’ve ever smelled, and yet it’s a very specific vision of beauty: the green notes, achieved in part by lime, are refreshingly energetic and youthful (in the dewy and radiant sense of the word), while the iris accord makes it smell as if it has a cosmopolitan chic-ness and sense of reserve that might seem in contrast to the former description. I sniff it and instantly see the actress Liv Tyler playing the role of Lucy in the 1996, Bernardo Bertolucci-directed film, Stealing Beauty.
Remember that film? You’re not alone if you don’t. According to Wikipedia, it met with mixed reviews and has only a 53% rating at the movie database Rotten Tomatoes, which I mention because I have the same reaction to Stealing Beauty as I have to the perfume that reminds me of it. I find it so exquisitely lovely in every regard (meaning, in ways that go beyond the film’s lush scenery) that I can’t understand a person not liking it. How can that be possible? I want to say – and on the heels of saying so, convince myself that it’s necessary for me to couple it to a perfume review aimed at converting other people into loving it and, by extension, into loving Le Labo Iris 39, too. :-)
And in truth, doing so needn’t be a wordy enterprise, because Stealing Beauty and Le Labo Iris 39 have this in common: they are not grandly unfolding affairs. Both have a decided sense of elevated beauty and lushness about them that becomes immediately apparent (there is no prelude or prologue or waiting around for effervescent top notes to burn off) and yet there is something svelte about their storylines that makes the audience (the viewer, the wearer) more acutely aware of their beauty. When watching Stealing Beauty, the story line might be slim but it’s not flimsy: it’s a coming-of-age recollection of that one perfect, almost mystical summer when a beautiful girl is on the cusp of womanhood, divining its mysteries and entering its fold. Watching Lucy, you become Lucy – you are reminded of that line from Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date” – and you understand that you are watching a moment captured from the narrative of time and held in suspension, like a jewel plucked from a tiara and held admiringly in one’s hand, separate from life’s other crowning achievements.
In the film, Liv Tyler plays an American teenager named Lucy who is visiting the Tuscan villa where her poet mother once lived with the people who live there now, a small community of artists who are each other’s family, either literally or figuratively. Lucy has visited once before, a couple years prior, but now she has arrived after her mother’s suicide for a vacation in which she will reunite with her mother’s friends while modeling for the sculptor husband of the couple who own the villa. Almost as soon as she arrives she causes a bit of a stir: both her beauty and the fact that she’s a virgin arouse the attention of at least a couple of the males in residence, but Lucy isn’t the kind of wild child who is out to seduce. She is refreshingly candid and open-minded, yet keeps her own counsel and values a certain amount of privacy. While in Italy, she is secretly pursuing her own small quests, one of which is to figure out who her true father is, for she is savvy enough to know that it isn’t the man who has been raising her in America. The other is to rekindle a relationship with a boy she fell in love with on her last visit, whose kiss and whose letters are lodged in her heart. Lucy wouldn’t mind losing her virginity – however, not simply for the sake of losing it and not to just anyone. Aware that others are watching and waiting for her to do so, she demonstrates a slyness and a well-developed mind of her own as she waits for the boy who truly matters.
It sort of tickles me that it was an iris-centric perfume that whispered Lucy’s name in my ear. Iris-centric perfumes strike me as intellectual, as they are often cool and ethereal fragrances that seem to be keeping something in reserve (they are not effusive and emotive, in other words, although iris does also happen to be a note that has two sides, often segueing on the skin to become powdery and cosmetic). Even so, many iris soliflores tread too far in a stand-offish direction for me to equate them with Lucy, who is as glowingly warm and romantic in comportment as she is secretive and selective in thought. Which brings me to my point and one of the defining elements of Le Labo Iris 39: thanks to the accompaniment of zingy lime and sultry ginger, Iris 39 is that rare iris perfume that vibrates in a way that makes me see it as having warmth and a summery, Italian-sunlight kind of loveliness to it. Though it doesn’t have a pyramidal unfolding on the skin, its complexity lies in the facets it embraces while maintaining its distinctly iris sensibility. How many iris perfumes can you think of that smell as youthfully siren-like (thanks to its green notes), sensuous (thanks to the discernible nectar of creamy ylang-ylang), warm and energetic (on account of ginger), and yet svelte, cosmetic and sophisticated in the way of iris (and violet, which is an aromamaterial that underscores the character of iris)?
The promotional list of notes for Iris 39 includes iris, lime, patchouli, rose, ylang-ylang, musk, violet, ginger, cardamom and civet, and while it’s certainly an abbreviated list (the “39” in its name indicates, as part of Le Labo’s naming theme, the number of aroma-materials used in the composition), it pretty much represents how this fragrance smells. I can’t say I really notice the patchouli, and the civet doesn’t come off as smelling animalic to me (at least not most days that I’ve worn it) but it does achieve an oily-smelling richness that anchors Iris 39 and gives it a sense of depth and presence, adding a womanly vibe that is taut rather than blowsy or pillowy. If I were to come up with a single sentence to describe Iris 39 in purely olfactory terms (no anthropomorphizing), the best I could say is that it smells like a mixed bouquet of pastoral greens and heady tropical blooms that have been gathered into the fold of something cosmetic, as if their stems were wrapped up in a woman’s silk scarf bearing traces of the face powder she dusted on her throat earlier on a summer’s day.
* * *
In Stealing Beauty, one of life’s more exquisite coming-of-age moments is given even greater poignancy as it’s viewed through the lens of a rarefied environment: one that is worldly and free-thinking while, at the same time, intimate and secluded – and secluded not just anywhere, but in one of the most breathtaking places on earth. In sentiment if (almost certainly) not in circumstance, it echoes our own experience: the heightened way we felt when it was our summer of love, so to speak. That is its magic—recalling that feeling!—and that is the magic of Le Labo Iris 39: its ability to recall the amplified sense of worldliness, uncommon beauty, and private containment that is ours at life’s ecliptic turning points.
Le Labo Iris 39 eau de parfum can be purchased from LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $160. My review is based on a sample gifted to me by fellow perfume blogger Undina.
Images: film stills of actress Liv Tyler as Lucy in the 1996, Bernardo Bertolucci-directed film Stealing Beauty (which can be found at various places on the Internet); bottle image of Le Labo Iris 39 is from Luckyscent.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/7/2014.
Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense: Sea Foam, Deeper than You'd Think
I am not a cologne person—and by that I mean “cologne” as it was traditionally used in perfumery to describe tonic fragrances that are the antidote to summer heat, thanks to their uplifting amounts of citrus and herbal-aromatic briskness. Don’t get me wrong: I love those smells—there is a bottle of Crabtree & Evelyn Hungary Water that I bought purely for the beauty of its rosemary note—but it sits on my dresser mainly as a decoration because it lasts less than half an hour on my skin. For many people, that’s the beauty of colognes: by virtue of their alfresco natures, they are meant to be applied often, and a cologne composed with natural citrus notes is so lithe and lively that one truly wants to indulge.
And yet, somehow I never do. Being at home every day, it would be easy enough for me to run upstairs and spray on some more cologne or, better yet, keep a bottle in my fridge, but for some reason, even that seems like too much bother. I think the real reason for my aversion, though, comes down to taste: while I appreciate the sparkling effervescence of colognes, perfume refreshment is not what I’m after. Even in a summer swelter, I prefer complex perfumes that unfold on the skin—and colognes composed largely of volatile top notes don’t unfold much. I want the full story, “the whole enchilada” of an undulating perfume, with all its secrets, to entertain me for hours.
Except, of course, when there is an exception.
And that’s precisely what Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense is for me. Aptly named cologne, this fragrance has all the substance of sea foam. Does it last long? No. The “intense” modifier in its name is appropriate, as it fares better than citrus colognes, but I get about four hours of wear if I’m inside my air-conditioned house and two hours if I’m outside in the heat. Does it have much sillage? Not on me—not after the first ten minutes—although it wafts nicely when my husband wears it, thanks to the hair on his arms. So, why do I love it? Well, have I ever mentioned the utter charm of sea foam? To me, that’s what Saffron Cologne Intense smells like: the scent of the sea—the fine and frothy edge of it—on a warm sunlit day, caught in a waffle cone. It is not a gourmand fragrance, but it has a gourmand edge: a silky slip of an amber accord that is just vanillic enough to cradle the saffron note. And what a true and beautiful saffron note it is! Saffron is often described as smelling like dried hay, yet to my nose a good saffron note smells warm and iodine-like: a concentration of summer sunlight on sea water; a bit of dried kelp, with its vegetal, briny and medicinal odours. That in and of itself might not sound appealing, but it is compelling—and when such a saffron note comes to rest on a lightly sweet and creamy base, it becomes intoxicating. Saffron Cologne Intense isn’t a child-like scent (it smells great on a man’s skin), but it is a scent that takes the most direct path to childhood memories: it is the seashore—that intense pull that the ocean exerts on a child’s psyche that is imprinted over and over again, at the start of every vacation when the ocean first comes into view. Such that by the time you’re an adult, the moment you exit the Garden State Parkway to embark on your beach town at the Jersey shore, the scent of water you can’t (yet) see has you leaning out your car window to breathe it in.
The list of notes the Jo Malone company reveals for this fragrance is brief—incense, pink pepper, pale woods and saffron—and I’m on board with that brevity. I can’t detect the incense in Saffron Cologne Intense, but I’m not unhappy about it. For once, I’m satisfied with simplicity and immediacy. (OK, there are some other simple fragrances that charm me as well, but there aren’t many).
While most colognes smell brisk and one thinks of them in cooling terms, the interesting thing about Saffron Cologne Intense is that it evokes a sense of warmth. It’s a very delicate warmth—a warmth not achieved by throbbing spice, or smoky wood, or liqueur richness—and though I’m not sure what to attribute this warmth to (except to note that saffron strikes me as a warm smell), the fact that it is achieved with sheerness makes this one of those rare fragrances, like Hermes L’Ambre des Merveilles, that sort of fascinates one in the way that a pashmina shawl fascinates. How can it be so gossamer and so warm?, one wonders. The overall composition seems too frothy to convey the scent of ocean water that has been heated by the sun, but its base of pale woods—which to me smells like a combination of Australian sandalwood and something lightly almondy and vanillic, like tonka bean—tenderly cocoons the saffron and draws out its warmth. Though I would not call this a gourmand perfume, it does have enough sweetness that it sometimes presents a gourmand facet, recalling a very thin cookie, like a sand tart, infused with saffron.
A fragrance friend recently pointed out that Saffron Cologne Intense is similar in spirit to Bottega Veneta eau de parfum, a perfume I described as smelling like suede, ocean air and sea-foam taffy. And thinking on that some, I realize how deeply riveted I am by anything that smells of a combination of sea air and confection (as witnessed also in my review of Micallef Vanille Orient). The marriage of the two creates a yin-yang dynamic in which a sense of majestic awe (the ocean) somehow dwells in the same place where there is a feeling of contentment, represented by the confectionery part of the fragrance. It’s a romantic ideal, really—this notion that it might be possible to lead a life in which the quest for what is grand and exotic and larger-than-life can coincide with the sweet steadiness of a tame existence.
And perhaps because I know that if such an ideal could be achieved, it would be a constantly churning, push-pull relationship at best, when I do get a whiff of it, it makes me feel wistful. I think of a song I love by Neal Casal—White Fence Round House—and the lyrics:
My eyes fall open with the first light,
Make my way down to the ocean burning blue.
Each day I'm cast a little farther,
Each day the current pulls me closer down to you.
kind of tug I feel when I’m wearing Saffron Cologne Intense. The
casting out, the coming home, and the ways we attempt to “sweeten the
distance” (to borrow another line from Casal).
Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense is currently priced at $145 for a 100-ml bottle and can be purchased at most fine department stores (as well as the Jo Malone website). My review is based on a complimentary sample I received on a visit to Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. (Which I requested after smelling this fragrance on my friend Undina – it was gorgeous on her!)
Images: film still of Neal Casal (top) and dancer Emily Corney (middle) from the video for Casal's song "White Fence Round House" is from the cinematographer's website (todd-bell.com). The video was shot by Todd Bell and directed by Piper Ferguson. The Jo Malone bottle image is from Fragrantica.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 6/12/2014.