Archive for December, 2009

I’ve tried.  Believe me, I’ve tried – mostly because people love these, and they’re willing to say how much they love these, and why.  Anything a fellow perfumista loves has got to be worthy of at least some attention – and I will admit that I generally did not find these scents boring.  All of them have some personality, which is probably why they’re not mainstream mall fodder.  But like anything unusual, opinions are going to differ.  These were the scents I tried, hoping for the nirvana that many people experience with them, but found utter FAILURE:

1) Mitsouko. La Grande Dame herself, beloved of many (most?) serious perfumistas, who mourn the latest reformulation and who haunt eBay like Dementors, looking for vintage parfum. I’ve tried edt. Vintage edt. I’ve tried edp from two different bottles. Thirteen tests.  I’ve dabbed, I’ve sprayed.  Now, I haven’t tried the parfum, but that’s because it’s impossible to find. Also because I don’t think it would do any good: Mitsy hates me. Sure, it’s tailored and melancholy and autumnal; sure, it would make great armor (if it didn’t pinch so much). But here’s the thing: I don’t think it smells good. Maybe it’s that lactonic peach, which I haven’t really liked in anything that contains it, or maybe it’s the oakmoss, which I tend to find the epitome of standoffish. Aldehydes I don’t mind, but Oakmoss = Unfriendly, in my lexicon. The only part of Mitsouko that I like is that warm amberish bit in the drydown, the labdanum, and that’s just because it’s labdanum and it smells good on its own.

2) POTL Luctor et Emergo. Salty cherry. Play-doh. The smell of preschoolers with sticky fingers. Gah. How do people get “comfort scent” out of this? It just smells like dirty work to me. (I suspect that the concept of “comfort scent” must be highly personal. My own comfort scents include Serge Lutens’ La Myrrhe, which smells cold and disjointed to most people, Annick Goutal Petite Cherie, which apparently smells like wet dog and powdery rose to some noses, and the J-P Guerlain version of Shalimar Light, the blue version that is widely regarded to be inferior to the Mathilde Laurent original version.)

3) Insolence edp. Holy Screaming Meemies, Batman! I don’t get “swirling bits of L’Heure Bleue,” I get a gang of shrieking parrots the size of Big Bird. Kill.Me.Now. If I’m ever kidnapped and tortured, Insolence would do the job.

4) Joy. Seriously, I don’t GET it. It’s pretty for five minutes, particularly in the edt, with all those fresh green notes. Then it’s well-worn underdrawers, Ho panties, and slut bloomers. I don’t smell jasmine and rose, as I do in Chanel No. 5 parfum. No, I have to get postcoital ladyparts. In case I have to explain here, that is not what I wish to smell like.  In public.  I should make it clear that I have tried edt, vintage edt, edp, and vintage parfum; sadly, all are far too X rated for me to wear.  Jasmine does this to me from time to time.

5) Chanel Cuir de Russie. “Leather luxury”? “Fancy leather upholstery”? No. NO. What I got out of that was full-on, 3D realistic, cattle working pens. Dust, iodine, dusty fur, raw cowhide (I live on a cattle farm, remember?) followed by the dustiest, powderiest, siltiest dry-mouth iris ever. Made me thirsty, all three times I tried it. I’m DONE with it.

6) Frederic Malle Une Rose. Now look here, I love me some Dark Roses, from C&S Dark Rose to the Montale oud-rose combos to Rose de Nuit, with many others in between. But this is a beautiful, voluptuous, velvety rose gone insane: Lucy Westenra in Dracula (the book, obviously), licking blood from her lips, or Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies, beauty corrupted and twisted, poisoned and savaged, love-lies-bleeding.

7) Chergui. Yet another one I thought I’d adore. Narcissus? Spice? Hay? Tobacco? The notes are right up my alley, and like Une Rose, this one just misses. Turns out I don’t want sweetish spices in my dusty-sweet hay, and unlike Une Rose, Chergui bored me. Then it annoyed me, because it could have been perfect.

8) 100% Love. Okay, I get the idea: chocolate, strawberries, and roses, Valentine’s Day in a bottle. I’ll admit it’s very interesting to sniff, and I sprayed it several times just to smell it happen in 3D: choco-berry-rose-chouli, whee! But no way do I want this anywhere near my skin.

9) Chanel No. 22. I like many of the classic Chanels, as well as several of the Les Exclusifs, and aldehydes are rarely a problem for me. In fact, it’s not the aldehydes that bother me here. It’s the unrelenting sugariness. Two hours into it, my teeth start decaying. You could call No. 22 superior to No. 5 all you want, but I’d still say you were wrong.

10) Bois de Paradis. Nine tests: the citrusy opening is always wrong on me; I nearly tore my hair out trying to figure out if it smells more like mint or like turpentine. (Either way, it’s not nice.) Then there’s that blueberry. And before I can even smell much in the way of woods, I get this very very sweet, caramelly amber. The effect is of eating blueberry pancakes with maple syrup at a wooden table, close to where someone has recently cleaned the floor with Pine-Sol. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds pretty good,” then clearly I don’t want out of my perfume what you want out of your perfume.

A couple of these I do wonder if I ever might change my mind about. No. 22, Une Rose, Chergui… those have the feel of scents that were close to love. Maybe it’s my head that needs to change. Maybe more exposure would help.

At the same time, there are enough fragrances that I do really, really love, to think that I need not bother to force anything. If any of those three fall into my lap at some point in the future, particularly at no cost to me, I’d probably manage to fall in love with them. The rest? It is a relief to officially give up on them. Whew.

Top image is from failblog.org.  (This pic was funnier than the “Baby Head Cemetery” one I had up earlier, and gets across the idea of “close but not quite” better, too.)  Middle image is Angry Parrot by Dave Womach at flickr. Lower image is Vampire Girl by *favole* at flickr.

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Dear Scent Diary, December 23-29

Wednesday, Dec. 23: Chanel Bois des Iles, Les Exclusifs edt decant.  Family party (well, minus my brother and his wife and the New Universe) at my parents’ house. Dinner was ham and turkey with all the usual side dishes; it was delicious.  Nobody cooks classic food better than my mom.  It turned out to be Chanel Day, with Mom in her new (vintage via eBay) No. 5 parfum, my sister in her Coco Mlle., and me in BdI.  Sadly, I was the only person who thought I smelled great, but I did smell great.

Thursday, Dec. 24: Guerlain L’Heure Bleue parfum.  I like L’HB in parfum, though definitely not in edt, where it resembles the medicine cabinet of some evil apothecary.  All the same, I continue to wonder why Perfumes: The Guide includes it in the Top Ten list.  It smells good, and it reminds me of… of… of precisely nothing.  It does not clutch at the heartstrings.  It never brings vivid pictures to my mind.  I mean, honestly, I don’t even like Mitsouko, and even I think it’s a better perfume than L’Heure Bleue.  Wearing it, I smell sort of like almond pastries, but not really. Why do I own it? It Was Ridiculously Cheap – a slightly-used bottle, missing its front label and being sold by a rejected wife facing divorce, whose husband had given it to her.  (I did get a sample of the real deal from TPC, just to check.  It’s legit.)  Why did I put this on again? Oh yeah – Christmas, almond bear claws… I think I actually like this better in the summer: more anise, less pastry.

Friday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day: my new, lovely bottle of Teo Cabanel Alahine, which I reviewed a few weeks ago as I was falling in love with my sample.  The parfum is beautiful, but extremely spendy, and I actually prefer the sparkle of the edp (lucky me!).  I kid you not, this is what joy smells like.

Saturday, Dec. 26:  Morning test scent was Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, a sample I’ve been saving up for some time.  It was still cold today but not frigid; the snow that’s been clogging our streets for a week did melt somewhat. The crystal-clear air made me think of the air inside a refrigerator, and that made me think of a description of Carnal Flower I read somewhere (Donna’s, at Perfume-Smellin’ Things? I think so), so I dabbed some on.  Review of this one coming soon, probably next week or the week after.  Baked a pumpkin pie, thirty yeast rolls, and that sweet potato souffle’ casserole that went over so well at Thanksgiving.  Also made a bunch of country green beans (actually that should be, “I cooked up a mess o’ country green beans”) and a tossed salad – twelve people for dinner at my in-laws’ house.  In the afternoon, I put on some more Alahine.  Someday I may get to the point where I don’t feel unreasonably, outrageously, happy when I wear Alahine.  But I devoutly hope not.

Sunday, Dec. 27: Took the extremely crunchy cedar tree down this morning, as it was becoming quite the fire hazard.  We typically cut a cedar around the 15th of December, and then take it down New Year’s Day, but I could tell this one wasn’t going to make it another day.  We probably swept up a couple of gallons’ worth of dead needles – still green, but totally dead.  Eeek.  It’s a good thing we weren’t all charred to cinders in our beds. In any case, I wanted something very floral, so tried a new layering combo with some samples: DSH Perfumes’ La Fleuriste (her version of JAR Golconda – very florist-case carnation) and Parfum d’Empire 3 Fleurs (rose, tuberose, and jasmine).  It’s pretty.  It’s not sending me into ecstasy, but it’s pretty.  After that wore off, I was still feelin’ some tuberose, so I grabbed a quick spritz of Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose.  Yeah, you can be snobby and turn it down, but I like it.  It’s no Fracas, it’s no Carnal Flower, it’s no DSH Tubereuse, but it’s a nice (cheap) warm tuberose with a woody drydown.

Monday, Dec. 28: Back to work. Very cold, sunny but windy.  Tested sample of SSS Winter Woods.  This feels like somebody took a chunk out of Tabac Aurea and bottled it… pleasant but boring, I say.  Read March’s partial review of her Lancome La Collection set, and now I’m lemming Climat like you wouldn’t believe.   Oh, heck, I have given up on liking this Winter Woods thing… I’m going to go spritz some vintage Emeraude pdt on top.  That’s more like it.

Tuesday, Dec. 29:  The dishwasher has chosen this week to start not cleaning dishes, and with five people in the house all day (three children home from school, The CEO home from Virginia Tech until the second week of Jan.), we’re piling up a lot of dishes.  Repair guy scheduled for January 14; will I make it to then?  Tested SSS Femme Jolie this morning, which I’ve heard described as a version of Feminite du Bois, and… no.  Just no.  Remember my shaving cream rant? ‘Nuff said.  SOTE: Bulgari Black.  I don’t wear this often enough, but it is some Seriously Good Stuff.

Image is L’air du temps RICCI RICCI CHANEL Delice de Cartier FACTICE by parfumgott at flickr.

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This has got to be the single weirdest perfume neurosis I have: if it’s got monstah sillage, I’m going to hate it.  Period. 

Every so often, I’ll run across comments from other perfume aficionados saying that they love scents that leave a trail, or that their very favorite perfumes enter the room before they do, or that they simply adore being surrounded by a cloud of good-smelling stuff.  Someone on fragrantica just posted this query last week: “I must confess I adore tail-y fragrances. I love to leave a lingering hint of my presence in the room or when I walk by. Which perfumes in your opinion have the best sillage? Merci!”

That’s when I start feeling like an alien, because I have the opposite perspective.  (Interestingly, I just came across a post by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, visiting this same issue, where she talks about not understanding perfumistas who don’t like sillage.  Maybe we notice the view that’s not our own first.  Maybe I’m not as alone as I thought.)

It’s not that I adore the quiet, “please ignore me i’m not wearing perfume” e.e. cummings-type scents.  I don’t.  (My sister, who typically wears gentle applications of Coco Mlle.* and smells lovely in it, was gifted with Alfred Sung Shi for Christmas.  She encouraged me to smell it and asked what I thought.  Aquatic Calone-y synthetic mess was what I thought, but what I said was, “It smells like water to me.”  She smiled with triumph, saying, “Yes, exactly!  It’s so nice and light.  And look, the bottle looks like a drop of water.”  I was wearing two three-hours-old spritzes of Bois des Iles, the Les Exclusifs version, which smells a bit thin to me compared to the old stuff, and which at that stage was little more than a faint spicy woodiness; she found it “heavy.”  Good grief, woman, I was thinking, it’s twenty degrees Fahrenheit outside.  Why would you want “light”?)

*Side note re Coco Mad: I’m not fond of it in a bottle; I don’t like it on my skin; it’s fairly ubiquitous; even if it weren’t my sister’s favorite, I wouldn’t wear it if a bottle fell from the sky.  But she smells great in it; it’s very floral on her with none of the gender-bending harshness it usually offers.  Actually, on her it smells like a day-old application of one of the vintage classic tailored florals: Eau de Arpege, maybe, or an old version of Jolie Madame: sternly beautiful. 

And I do have wonderful experiences in “loud” tuberose scents — that’s probably the one note I really want to luxuriate in — like Balenciaga Michelle, but I like to wear them when I’m going to be alone all day.   Tatiana parfum is beautiful. Fracas does not eat my head if I dab it.  Carnal Flower is ethereal, not carnal, and I might love it best of all the tuberose scents I’ve tried.

I think I’ll just have to admit I’m a freak.  All the classic big-sillage perfumes, to be honest, sort of terrify me.  Opium-Cinnabar-Obsession, known to me as the Axis of Evil, head the list.  YSL Paris I can take, but only if it’s applied lightly.  Youth Dew? KILL ME NOW. Insolence edp almost did kill me (see below).  Amarige, LouLou, Paloma Picasso, Narciso Rodriguez for her, Samsara, Angel…

I absolutely hate walking around trailing fumes like some noxious walking toxic waste dump. Hate it hate it – it’s as if I’ve got toilet paper stuck to my shoe: embarrassing and socially inept.  Worse, for me big sillage is like those I’m-naked-in-public dreams — way too personal for words. People across the room do not need to know what sort of mood I’m in.

I like to be smellable within a three-foot radius, as a wisp of “Mmm, something smells good,” if I move.  I like for my husband to tuck his nose into my neck in order to smell me.  I like to be, well, polite, having had way too many movies/concerts/journeys ruined by someone else’s perfume mugging me via my nostrils.  Probably, too, my years ‘n years of choral singing has inhibited me with regard to putting on large doses of scent.

Perfumes: The Guide called Insolence edp “monumentally skillful” and reminiscent of L’Heure Bleue, which I like very much, so I had to try it.  Can I just say, MISTAKE?  I spritzed one measly little spritz, my usual practice when sampling, and immediately wanted to cut my hand off at the wrist.  Immediately.  It was Loud.  It was Extremely Loud.  I kept walking about the house turning lights and electronics off, just to get some peace.  I mean, I actually experienced it as being auditory hell.  I put earplugs in.  I suffered for about half an hour before deciding to be kind to myself by getting out the unscented deodorant and the Tide.  In the meantime, more and more analogies came to mind:

  • When I was in college, I had a friend who shared an apartment with four other guys.  Cisco the Architecture Student was a workaholic who frequently slept at the A-School while working on a project.  Unfortunately, his door would be locked when his alarm clock went off at six a.m. — loud and nonstop.  BEEP  BEEP  BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP, into infinity, or until Cisco came home at four p.m. and turned it off.  You could not be in the apartment and not hear that cursed alarm.  Insolence!
  • I have a nightmare of being lost in a huge parking lot, unable to find my own car.  Then suddenly, every single car alarm in the entire parking lot begins to shriek, over and over and over.  Insolence!
  • If you ever read one of those companion books to the Harry Potter series — Bookworm is a fan — called Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, purportedly one of Harry’s textbooks, you will come across the description of a magical tropical bird called a Fwooper, which has brightly colored feathers and which is not recommended as a pet, as its incessant singing causes insanity.  Insolence!

On the other hand, one of the loveliest scented experiences I’ve ever had was when I put on two healthy dabs of what I thought was No. 5 cologne.  It was actually vintage parfum, with much of its aldehydic oomph muted, probably by age (which is what fooled me into thinking it must be cologne) — and when the florals came out to play, I felt as if I were trailing a gorgeously-scented cloud.

And for that vintage Magie Noire edt, one drop is plenty.  Two drops is Gloriously Too Much, and I’d never wear that in company.  Magie Noire is best outside in chilly fall weather, anyway, in my opinion.

31 Rue Cambon can put out some lovely, refined sillage; the one time anyone ever complimented my perfume at work I was wearing it.  It might have been because usually people can’t smell me.  (The compliment?  “That’s nice perfume. Sort of flowery, isn’t it?”)

So, okay, I like some sillage.  But I think my optimum sillage level is probably lower than that of many perfume fans.  Please weigh in with your opinion: am I totally off my nut?  Just a little too sensitive?  The soul of sensible? 

The image is Incandescent Fumes by Debmalya Mukherjee at flickr.

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Now that I’ve sung along to “For unto us” – NOW, it’s Christmas.

Blessings of the day to you and yours. I’ll be wearing Alahine (big grin)!

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Jessye Norman – Gesu Bambino

This is my mother’s favorite Christmas music. I first learned to play it as a teenager, in order to accompany her; later, I sang it myself at candlelight Christmas Eve services.

Here’s Jessye’s tender, evocative version of the Pietro Yon piece. Enjoy your Christmas Eve!

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Tuesday, Dec. 15: Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka. I adore this scent – it makes me so happy. Instant good mood. I had nearly forgotten about it, actually, and then I put on my green sweater, the one that’s the color of apple leaves in summer, a little too blue to be spring green. I’d worn VT the last time I wore this sweater, and the turtleneck smelled faintly of it. It made me smile, so I reached for the decant bottle. I was cheerful all day.

Wednesday, Dec. 16: Caron Parfum Sacré. Weather chilly. Every time I wear PS, I think – gosh, why don’t I just live in this stuff? It’s a cashmere sweater. It’s gorgeous. (And cheap, wink wink.)

Thursday, Dec. 17: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. (I hate typing that out. It’s such a stupid name.) Weather chilly; VdF is plum and edgy white flowers – beautiful, but they’re wearing Goth eye makeup or something – and then a milky-woody drydown that makes up for keeping me wondering when those white flowers were going to plunge in their stiletto. Wait. That sounds as if I don’t really like this stuff; I do. It’s just, well, edgy.

Friday, Dec. 18: Dior Dolce Vita in parfum. Weather cold and sort of itchy, pre-snow. It began to snow about 3pm and didn’t stop all night. The weather guys were saying 18 inches, but we only got about 9 or 10. DV was gorgeous, all fruit liqueur and creamy ylang and woods.

Saturday, Dec. 19: an unplanned perfume-less day. I slept late (snow will do that to you), got up and cleaned house. By the time I had my shower in the afternoon, I didn’t feel like wearing any scent.

Sunday, Dec. 20: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if and Caron Parfum Sacré, for comparison testing. Also for pleasure, as I love both. Weather still cold, with snow on the ground, but we had a beautiful fire in the fireplace. No church due to snow; we stayed home and I wrapped presents.

Monday, Dec. 21: Shalimar Lite (Blue Juice), with a dab of vintage Shalimar pdt. I find that this combo approximates the effect of the original Shalimar Eau Legere, except that it lacks the lovely, lovely jasmine of said original SEL. (And I’m not even a jasmine fan!) I’m actually not in the mood for this often – Shalimar can get a little TarNilla Godzilla on me – but it’s terrific when there’s woodsmoke in the air, as there was that cold morning.

Tuesday, Dec. 22: Mauboussin. Still quite cold, though warmer than any day since last Thursday. I think Mauboussin is upscale fruitcake, with really good dense cream cheese icing, in a bottle. It smells great. I only have a mini, and I keep dithering on whether I need some. I probably don’t, with all the similar things I own.

I didn’t test anything new this week, which I blame on my general pre-Christmas busy-ness.  I’ll be getting back to testing samples in January.  The scent I did wear this week were good choices for the weather, no kudos to me – cold weather and orientals/florientals just go together. Duh. But I’m really, really looking forward to Friday, when I can OPEN MY ALAHINE!!!

Image is Perfume Bottles by WoOd5tOck at flickr.  Somebody sure likes their Intuition…

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I’m planning on making this a recurring feature, in which I document the fragrances I wore and/or tested during the week, including the circumstances and whether they were right for the occasion or not.  To be blunt, my Excel file is getting really bloated, and I’m not keeping track of samples very well at the moment. 
Then, too, I figure this ought to be an easy way to oversee which bottles are getting used, and which aren’t. 
I’ll start back a week ago, because I had an epiphany, and didn’t blog about it because I didn’t think it was worth a whole post.  Turns out I changed my mind.  Last Sunday and Monday, the 13th and 14th, my community chorus held its winter concerts.  They went well, no major screwups.  (Hey, you can’t count on that.  Last concert, two separate soloists went totally off the rails: one skipped a portion of her solo, which you might not have noticed unless you were familiar with it – the accompanist picked up where she was, and there was no big hole; the other got completely lost and there were several measures of either silence or wrong notes.  Weird, the stuff that happens to amateur vocalists.  Both of those ladies had been just fine in rehearsal.)  I was fortunate this year to be picked for a solo, and for those (few) of you who wanted to know how it went – it was fine, and Monday I’d say was even pretty, although I don’t think I ever did it justice.  I was afraid of screwing it up and never really relaxed, which is sort of a metaphor for life, right?  You can overthink things.  Anyway, I think Mozart’s music is like whipped cream: perfect to start with, sheer heaven if you do it right, but even bad whipped cream is better than no whipped cream.
Here is the lovely voice of Lucia Popp with the Ambrosian Singers Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Laudate Dominum.  Please click on it to enjoy it – c’mon, it’s Mozart.  It’s beautiful.  You should never turn down beauty, unless you’re in a hurry because somebody is bleeding.  (Oh, and I could only dream of sounding like Lucia Popp.  Sigh.)
My epiphany: I’ve been singing with choral groups since I was five.  (My mother made me.  That’s definitely a story for another post.)  One of the cardinal rules for choral singing, along with Always Have a Pencil and Never Chew Gum During Rehearsal, is Please Don’t Wear Perfume to the Concert.  Last week, I Broke The Rule.  (Gasp!) There are people who break rules all the time – a few months ago, The CEO decided to turn left at a red light, because, as he said, “We’re late for church, and nobody’s coming toward us for half a mile, you can see that far,” – but I’m not one of them.  Breaking rules for no good reason gives me hives.  (I gave The CEO down the road for that one, especially since the kids were in the car – let’s all chastise him together now: bad, bad CEO.  Bad Example.)
But I was really stressed.  I’ve had this cold for seven weeks now, off and on, and while it’s not really hindering my daily life – it’s winter, nobody’s freaking out over my tissue use – I haven’t been what I’d call In Good Voice since about September.  And I was dreading the possibility of screwing up Mozart, which is a crime against humanity, or at least a crime against the ears of humanity.  So, I confess, I broke the rule, and snuck a spritz of Mariella Burani.  Just one, in the cleavage, so I could lower my chin and catch a tiny breeze of it if I needed it.  MB is a comfort scent for me – it’s vaguely reminiscent of Chanel No. 5, which is what my mother wore when I was a child, although it’s far quieter and less immediately recognizable to the noses of many.  The low sillage and the metaphysical hand of Mom on my shoulder made it just right.
You know what?  Nobody noticed.  And later, it occurred to me that the whole perfume ban probably came about primarily because of those killah sillage monsters of the 80’s.  Which I wouldn’t wear to a concert, so I think I’m safe.  And I had a great time singing and smelling Mariella.
Image is Some Perfume Bottles by parfumgott at flickr.  I don’t know whose collection it is, but I’m envious.  Check out the vintage Dior in houndstooth, and those Goutals in the gorgeous butterfly boules.  There’s also J’Adore and Ungaro Diva, both in pretty bottles, and I recognize at the right front a vintage bottle of Nina Ricci, probably L’Air du Temps.

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In my Pepper post of a few days ago, I promised reviews of these two scents. (I also promised a review of Lumiere Noire pour femme, but that one’s going to take me awhile; it’s very complex and I need some more time to process it.) It also occurs to me right now that there’s a pretty famous Peppered Rose I haven’t smelled: The Different Company’s Rose Poivree – notorious for its first version smelling like a sweaty jockstrap. Apparently it’s been reformulated for polite society – but no sample has come my way as of yet. Ta’if and Parfum Sacré are two favorite scents of mine; they share a spiciness and a warm, winey rose. I tend to associate them in my head for that shared spicy rose, but of course during the side-by-side test I confirm for myself that they’re different.

This is good. How else could I justify having both? Actually, I own only a decant of Ta’if, which is by far the more expensive of the two, and which I obtained in a swap with dear Daisy the Enabler. Parfum Sacré I have only worn in eau de parfum, as the extrait is no longer made and is both hard to find and ridiculously expensive. Just yesterday, an eBay auction for a 7.5ml bottle of Parfum Sacré extrait sold for just under $150. Yes, $150, for a quarter-ounce! No matter how gorgeous it is – and it’s reputed to be The Bee’s Knees – I can’t afford that. Good thing that the edp is wonderful. I have heard that it’s been reformulated as well and is thinner than the original. My bottle, which came from an online discounter in Feb. 2008, must be old stock. It smells just like the samples that came from The Posh Peasant and a swap friend who bought her bottle in 1998: wonderful.

Today’s experiment was to wear Ta’if on my left wrist, Parfum Sacré on my right. Here are the notes for each:
Ta’if: Pink Pepper, Saffron, Dates, Rose Oil, Freesia, Orange Flower Absolute, Jasmine, Broom, Amber
Parfum Sacré: Lemon, Pepper, Mace, Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Rose, Jasmine, Rosewood, Vanilla, Myrrh, Civet, Cedarwood

The similarities are apparent – pepper, spicy notes, orange blossom, rose, and jasmine are congruent. At the beginning, each scent is strongly peppery and spicy. (And yes, I know that pink pepper is a dried berry, not a true peppercorn. It smells like “fruity black pepper” to me. I like it. Kwitcher whining.)

Ta’if smells quite peppery to me at the start, and it takes a few moments for the saffron to show up. I like that saffron note, whatever aromachemical it is – saffron seems creamy and smooth to me in perfume, and it’s a texture I enjoy. But very soon the dates come to the fore, and for several hours Ta’if is all about creamy saffron, the sweet dried-fruit character of dates, and that beautiful rose. Bookworm likes Ta’if; it’s probably the sweetness she finds appealing. There in the heart of the fragrance, there’s a fresh floral presence which could be the orange flower but is probably freesia, since freesia has a cool, dewy, florist-case quality that my brain calls “fresh.” This is such a pretty fragrance. I wouldn’t call it girly – but gosh, neither would I term it Edgy, as Luca Turin seems to imply in his review of it in Perfumes: The Guide: ‘Wear it when the desert wind blows, as Raymond Chandler put it, “one of those hot dry Santa Anas that … make your nerves jump and your skin itch…”’ Good grief. Wonder how he got Edgy out of the not-quite-gourmand saffron+dates+rose, which I consider the true character of Ta’if, and which lasts for a good three-four hours on me. As the drydown continues, it gets a little less pleasant; the amber is not my favorite type (labdanum cistus), and there’s nothing else in the base with anything near the rich sweetness of the heart. However, by the time the drydown arrives, the fragrance is nearly gone. There is a dreaminess about Ta’if, a head-in-the-stars sort of innocence about it.

On the other hand (literally!), Parfum Sacré begins with very “kitcheny” notes – it’s primarily lemon pepper, both aromatic and a little dusty. Just as I begin to think, “Well, if there’s lemon pepper, I must be cooking fish tonight,” the nutmeggy mace and the cardamom come in, hand in hand with that beautiful winey rose PS shares with Ta’if, and it’s not kitcheny anymore. I smell a good bit more orange blossom in PS than I do in Ta’if, but PS is still largely a rose fragrance in my mind. Oddly, Bookworm smells only pepper and wood in PS, no rose at all, while I get mostly rose and incense. The wood is there, of course, and I sometimes think of Dolce Vita when I wear Parfum Sacré, but I smell a great deal of myrrh too. There is supposedly vanilla in there, and civet, but I am not conscious of smelling them. The drydown of PS is beautiful; it is rich and mysterious and layered. Parfum Sacré is one of those rare fragrances that I wear for comfort, but which also seems very sensual to me. I think of phrases like “the eternal feminine” in connection with PS.  When I wear it, I feel very feminine: both very motherly, and very… well, interested in doing what women do in order to become mothers. It also has that magical quality of melting into the skin, becoming part of me instead of being simply a scent I wear.  It was one of the first scents I fell in love with over the past year, and every time I have worn it since, I’ve been glad I bought it.

Summing up in a few words:
Ta’if is a rich, sweet rose, with saffron and dried fruit, idealistic and young at heart.  I love it.
Parfum Sacré is a rich, warm rose, with pepper and wood and incense, emphatically womanly.  I love it deeply.

Top image: Rose Bouquet Well-Defended by bartholmy at flickr.
Second image is from ormondejayne.com.
Third image is from fragrancenet.com.

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So I’ve been reading Julie and Julia: A Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell, lately, and I have this whole gigantor list of things I want to say about it, but it’s difficult to know where to start.  Also, I know that I’m going to tick somebody off, because not everything I have to say is positive.  (No, I haven’t seen the movie yet.  Yes, I know I’m about three years behind everybody else in reading this thing, but – hey, I have a life, you  know.)

I’m going to come at this from an oblique angle and talk about one of the things that bugs me most about the book: the language.  It is, shall we say, Not Suitable For Public Consumption.  Bookworm asked if she could read it, and I had to say no.  (She’s fourteen, and easily shocked.  I’ll never forget the time I picked up The Godfather from my high school library, not knowing what my 16-year-old self was in for, and about six pages into the thing got slapped in the face with a raucous sex scene.  I nearly swallowed my tongue.  Not that Julie and Julia is that bad, but it does have some adult themes.)

And last night, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was on TCM, so after the kids went to bed, The CEO and I watched the whole movie – straight through, no cuts, no commercial breaks, and definitely no editing-for-TV.  If you’ve ever seen the thing, you’ll know that for the first five minutes or so, nobody says anything other than one swear word, over and over.  Charles (Hugh Grant) wakes up late for his friend’s wedding, says, “BLEEP!”  Shows his housemate Scarlett what time it is, and she says, “BLEEP!”  And of course they’ve got that “the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get” thing going on, where hurrying just makes everything more difficult, so every few minutes something else goes wrong.  Formal clothes are a problem, BLEEP.  The car won’t start, BLEEP.  They take the wrong turn, BLEEP. They get to the church just as the bride’s car drives up, BLEEP.  Charles, the best man, has forgotten the rings, BLEEP.

As much as it embarrasses me to admit this, I find it hysterically funny.

If you’ve ever seen it on network TV, where it’s been edited for language (and some adult content), the word dubbed in for the F-bomb used in the original is “bugger.”  Yep.  Bugger.  A lot of Americans have no idea what that word is, other than it’s something British people swear with and it’s not considered offensive here.  In case you don’t know what it means, I’ll post a link and you can go check it out here.  Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Is that not worse than the F-word?  I thought so.  I still think it’s bizarre that somehow “bugger” was an acceptable substitute to the FCC.

Back to Julie and Julia: it too is hysterically funny in parts.  I read a bit or two to the kids over the breakfast table, editing on the fly.  They laughed.  Really hard.  Which brings me to my point: if you do a Find and Replace with all the swear words in the book, and it’s still funny, why did it need the swear words? 

If you do the same thing with “Four Weddings,” it’s not funny.  Your exercise is to imagine Charles’ and Scarlett’s dreadful morning with a different word expressing frustration.  I like “blast,” for its plosive and sibilant consonants and quasi-British sound. Or Winnie-the-Pooh’s favorite, “bother.”  Try “dang,” “darn,” or “shoot.”  Here goes:
              Charles, waking, sees his alarm clock.  “BLAST!”
              Scarlett is woken by Charles, and sees how late it is.  “BLAST!”
              Charles’ suspenders won’t cooperate.  “BLAST!”
See?  Not funny.  Okay, maybe the FCC was right.  “Bugger” is funny, and maybe nobody but me cares what it really means.

Julie Powell, at one point in the book, remarks that during her year of blogging about cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, some of her blog readers complained about the language she used.  Her comment:  “…Somebody I don’t know from Adam takes the trouble to lament the fact that I use the word f**king so much; people who object to my choice of language always use a lot of asterisks.”  Ms. Powell certainly doesn’t use the asterisks.  Oh, no.  And she doesn’t limit herself to the use of “f**king,” either.  If you’re interested, you can go and read her blog.  She began posting Aug. 25, 2002, and by the 29th, there’s the first of the many swear words.

I will use the asterisks.  Call me hypocritical and prissy, call me a right-wingnut, I don’t give a — ahem, I mean, I don’t care.  (Little blogger sarcasm there, please forgive me for that.)  My take on this is that if she feels free to display these offensive, or  potentially offensive, words buck naked on her stage, I can certainly feel free to give them some darn underwear on mine.  Plain white cotton, because it might be boring, but it won’t scare your grandmother.

So why is it that the swear word in “Four Weddings…” makes the difference between Funny and Not Funny, but Julie and Julia is Funny, swear words or no?  My opinion is that spoken swear words seem spontaneous, and written words were chosen consciously.

Okay, okay, I acknowledge that “Four Weddings…” had to have had a written script.  Fine.  But they were going after real-life verisimilitude.  And never mind that for your mouth to shoot off an obscenity, you had at one point have had to learn said obscenity.  The book of James, chapter 3, says that the tongue is a fire, and that no one can tame the tongue (but that we should learn to control it!). 

It’s a far different, and easier, thing to control the words that come from my keyboard.  I’m just sayin’.  I’ll have more to say about Julie and Julia soon.

The image is from a German DVD version of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” from imdb.com.

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Pepper is one of those seasonings everybody always has on hand. It’s a basic – a staple, if you will, although when I label the pantry shelf where I keep things like flour, sugar, and Life cereal “STAPLES,” The CEO is wont to snicker and ask where I keep the rubber bands and copy paper.
Ha ha. Very funny.
I always have pepper in the house, with a backup supply in the pantry.  The reason is my youngest child: Taz, aka The Picky One. Although each one of my children has grown up with the very same parents, the very same parenting style, and the very same on-site sous chef (that would be me, in case you’re wondering), I have one child who will eat practically anything*, one child who is deeply suspicious of new things but can be convinced to try many of them**, and one child who resists any food that isn’t his favorite with the will and cunning and ferocity of the Mossad, less the garroting skill. Which, incidentally, he may decide to pick up on his own, so I’m limiting his TV time to be on the safe side.
At one point, I realized Taz, then a preschooler, was subsisting on a menu that included only the following: Cheerios. American cheese. Goldfish crackers. Chicken breast nuggets. Milk. Red food (Jell-O, ketchup, and red apples, which must nevertheless be peeled and thinly sliced before he ate them).
At later stages, he added foods like plain meats and tilapia baked with parmesan cheese, broccoli, green beans, peas, fries, mandarin oranges, Mini-Wheats, gummy fruit snacks, and quesadillas. Of course, nearly all these foods – bar the fruit and cereal – absolutely must be covered with ketchup.
Or freshly ground black pepper. He’ll settle for the pre-ground cheapie kind if he must, but he really likes the kind that has to be mauled before it can be eaten. (Am I reading too much into that, or is his testosterone level just that high?) Taz adores a buttered roll liberally sprinkled with black pepper – sprinkled, I mean, to the degree that the surface looks a little bit like our gravel road.
I myself love pepper — pepper on salad, on beef, on salmon… One of the single most delicious things I have ever eaten, ever, was fresh ripe strawberries tossed with a little sugar and a profligate dusting of cracked black pepper. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s synergy; the three of them together are amazing. Pepper smells hot and alive, almost like it might be vibrating inside your nasal cavities. Another favorite pepper recipe involves rubbing a mixture of salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin onto a pork tenderloin before roasting. Easy-delicious. Even Taz eats it!
I love pepper in my perfume, too. (Pink pepper is another item entirely, and that’s a subject for a future post.) Two of my favorite scents involve pepper and rose, and I’ve mentioned them before: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if and Caron Parfum Sacré. Another gorgeous rose scent, Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire pour femme, has pepper listed in its notes. Other peppery scents I like include Annick Goutal’s odd little scent Mandragore, perfume blog fave and sadly-discontinued Fendi Theorema, Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, and DSH Perfumes’ absolutely-gorgeous, wish-I-could-afford-it Oeillets Rouges. Then there’s Frederick Malle Noir Épices, which I haven’t smelled yet but am hoping to find a sample of in my mailbox sometime in the next month or two.  And the ridiculously-expensive Caron Poivre, which I think I’d looooove but haven’t come across yet.
I’m thinking of doing a side-by-side-by-side comparison with the three peppery rose scents soon: Ta’if, Parfum Sacré, and Lumiere Noire. To be honest, it was only when I went searching through my Excel file looking for any pepper fragrances I might have missed that I realized Lumiere Noire has pepper. That one’s all about rose and narcissus doing their naughty tango, or so I remember, and perhaps I’d better wear it again on its own instead. I don’t think it takes prisoners; it would probably eat Ta’if and PS for breakfast, and I’d be swoony and weak-kneed but no closer to a good compare-and-contrast description.
Coming soon to a blog near you: full-length reviews of the three peppery rose scents.
Top image is Yellow Pepper Mill by deardaisycottage; bottom one is Peppercorns by bazzinator, both at flickr.
*Bookworm will eat just about anything that’s on your standard American menu, particularly vegetables, but doesn’t like beets or brussels sprouts (both of which I really enjoy).
** Gaze tends to turn down sauces, and things cooked in them, unless the sauce is tomato-based, or Rachel Ray’s lovely Orange-Thyme sauce for pork or chicken. He also does not care for beets or brussels sprouts, and, inexplicably, dislikes mashed potatoes and cheese – I’m thinking of having his DNA tested to make sure he’s my kid.

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