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 Angelique Noire 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
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 Rain
The Diary of a Nose, Book Review
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris
Vero Profumo Mito Viktoria Minya Eau de Hongrie
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 Cow Jumped Over the Moon
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
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.
"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.
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.
* * *
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.
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.
Like Taking Tea with an Asian Beauty: Puredistance WHITE
I should probably state this right off the bat, so as not to confuse:
WHITE, the new perfume from the luxury perfume house Puredistance, is
neither a jasmine perfume nor a tea perfume. Nonetheless, the first time
I smelled it, my immediate comparison was to two specific teas:
jasmine, with its leaves wound into pearls that unfurl like anemones as
they steep, until one’s cup is filled with an infusion that resembles a
delicate perfume more than actual tea; and white tea, which is often
accompanied by notes of vanilla, coconut or lychee, such that it smells
dessert-like, but softly so. “This is a perfume that would appeal to the
tea connoisseur,” I said to myself (and thought of my friend Ann of
Perfume Posse). “Especially to someone who appreciates very fine nuances
of aroma.” You wouldn’t think that person would be me but you’d be
I’ve been sampling WHITE off and on now for over a month, and my perception hasn’t changed. Its scent sweeps me off to a country I’ve never been to – China – where I’m being served jasmine tea in a beautiful setting by an equally beautiful Chinese woman. Or maybe I’m in Japan or Viet Nam or some other part of the part of the Orient – it really doesn’t matter. The feeling is one of pared-down elegance that I rightly or wrongly equate with Asian beauty and Asian art, although “pared-down” isn’t quite right. What I really mean is beauty that has a sense of precision, an understanding of form, and a feeling of alignment. WHITE is a fragrance meant to convey happiness, and it achieves this by being fine-boned, focused and centering to the mind rather than (in the western way) eclectic, loping and full of itself. Not that there is anything wrong with the latter: when it comes to happiness, the reckless Bohemian approach can be exhilarating – and so, too, perfumes with an uninhibited sense of joie de vivre. I know, because I own a good number of such perfumes, but over the past year I’ve been favoring fragrances that take a poetic and reined-in approach; it is simply where my mood has been. WHITE evokes happiness by way of its elegant and ethereal olfactory strokes that speak of contentment rather than of the dizzying, electrifying joys of freedom.
Composed around notes of rose de mai, tonka bean, iris, sandalwood, bergamot, musk, vetiver and patchouli, WHITE starts off smelling floral and feminine, reminiscent of honeyed jasmine blossoms suspended in a delicately aqueous and green-tinged accord, which is why it reminds me of jasmine tea and not just of the flower itself. As jasmine is noticeably absent from the notes list, I wonder if the effect is due to the Rose de Mai – described by Wikipedia as having a scent that is “clear and sweet, with notes of honey” – in combo with the coolness of iris? Whatever accounts for it, this opening stage of the perfume not only has the aroma of a floral tea but is as gently stimulating as that beverage. It taps the pleasure center of the brain in a way that elicits a feeling of joy that is pure (innocently pure, as there is nothing indolic or strumpet-like about this bouquet), calm and very “present.” The warmth of its bouquet reminds me of sunlight, an uplifting and golden smell that makes me feel like a cat basking in the sunlight of a window. WHITE is not as high-soaring a perfume as, for instance, Jean Patou Joy is with its operatic amounts of soprano-like jasmine and rose. WHITE’s floralcy is softer and anchored by a humid botanical element that verges on the aquatic (but only verges). I often develop crushes on perfumes expressing a dewy, almost minty form of greenness in their opening notes, and there is a hint of that here too, lending youthfulness while secretly working as a ballast that keeps WHITE from being too excitable. It is as if WHITE’S humidity has trapped an innocent bloom in its balmy embrace and both want to stay there and talk for awhile.
And luckily they can, because WHITE’s top-notes stage doesn’t burn off quickly. In fact, it’s probably not accurate to reference the perfume pyramid in regard to WHITE, because its floral accord is evident almost as soon as the perfume hits the skin and is the heart and soul of the perfume. Somewhere around twenty minutes of wear, it’s engaged by the slow-developing scent of tonka bean and sandalwood: an irresistible, dry marshmallow version of a vanillic base. Tonka and sandalwood impart creaminess to WHITE, and in this composition they do so in a way that is tender and discreet; like fine pearls of tapioca, they add starch to the perfume in a way that is in keeping with WHITE’s organic nature. This fragrance development doesn’t alter the floral nature of the perfume, but it does change the scent of its bouquet, which now smells less like jasmine tea and more like the marriage of white tea and vanilla. At this stage the fragrance’s florals and botanicals are absorbed in this luscious, foamy base that increases the perfume’s sense of containment. The conversation between the notes in this perfume has gotten cozier – and fluffier – as if there is also shared laughter.
Overall, WHITE is a perfume of gentle enchantment: it never loses its elegant manners, it keeps up its charming dialogue for a long
time, and it wears both its heart and its name on its pristinely clean
sleeve. Here it should be noted that it achieves these things partly due
to a good dose of white musk, which depending on how one feels about
musk will ultimately determine how one feels about this perfume. White
musks aren’t all the same and neither are the compositions that employ
them. This is important to keep in mind because, in my own case, there
are many such perfumes I don’t care for, and then there are perfumes
like Le Labo Gaiac 10 and Guerlain Lys Soleia, which contain a lot
of white musk, that I find utterly captivating. It comes down to the
overall fragrance composition and how well musk fits into it (not to
mention whether I can smell it at all, because there are some musk
scents to which I’m anosmic). In Puredistance WHITE, the musk is an
important and well-integrated component, firstly because its fixative
property extends the longevity of the delicate florals and their
marshmallow base; secondly, because I suspect musk’s diffusive
properties might also account for the softness of the bouquet, its
ability to entertain the nuances that it does; and thirdly, because it
does smell mildly soapy at times – mostly in its far drydown where it
concludes with a laundry-fresh linens smell – extending the idea that
WHITE is, well, white. Clean, innocent of heart, good-mannered. If WHITE
could come to life, she would probably end her part of the long and
lingering conversation by checking her watch and letting you know that
she must be off to the drycleaners before they close.
Puredistance WHITE is a pure perfume extrait (with 38% perfume oil, a very rich amount) composed by perfumer Antoine Lie with notes of Rose de Mai from France, Tonka bean absolute from Venezuela, Orris absolute from Italy, Sandalwood from Mysore, Bergamot from Italy, Musk, Vetiver from Haiti and Patchouli from Indonesia. It can be purchased from the Puredistance website where a 17.5 ml. flacon is currently priced at $170. This perfume officially launched just this week, so it should also soon be available in the US at LuckyScent.com, which carries the rest of the Puredistance line.
My review is based on a sample I received from the company.
Photo of beautiful Asian woman can be found various places on Internet; photographer unknown by me.
Photo of Puredistance WHITE flacon and box is from the Puredistance website, linked above.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 4/28/2015.