Archive for May, 2010

Happy Birthday Bookworm!

Happy birthday to my sweet daughter, my first baby!  I’m so proud of you, butterfly girl.  Love love love you.

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Monday, May 24: Intermittent rain.  Thank goodness I finished raking the cut grass off the lawn yesterday.  Tested Hors la Monde Lady Shiloh this morning and found it just dreadful.  Headachy.  Hideous.  I don’t know what’s getting to me in there… the jasmine? the powdery violet?  I didn’t even make it an hour before scrubbing.  After I washed that off as best I could, I couldn’t find anything else in my purse except Keiko Mecheri Mogador, which is often too much the Romantic Naif to suit me.  Usually it seems like a mixed rose-jasmine scent, but today I’m getting more rose than usual out of it.  Also some melon, of all things, but it’s still very nice.  And although it’s not listed (the official notes include three different types of roses and jasmine, and that’s all), I smell something fresh-floral in there too.  Freesia?  LotV? I think freesia.

Tuesday, May 25:  More intermittent rain.  Gaze’s baseball game was called off – it poured down in town (four miles away) and soaked the ballfields, but we only got a sprinkle at home.  The CEO was moving cattle from one field to another when a fence post came out of the ground and dumped a 12-foot metal gate onto his shoulder, pushing him into the creek.  He’s got a bruise on his shoulder… and a dead cell phone, of course.  SOTD: Guerlain Rose Barbare, thanks to Daisy.  I had been so looking forward to this.  A rose chypre? Honeyed red roses? Rose in amber?  All those glowing descriptions encouraged me to try it, and I couldn’t wait.  It opens up with a lovely deep rose, framed in patchouli thorns, and then takes a sharp left turn into… oh dear… shaving cream.  BLAST. IT.  I mean, shaving cream smells good… on a man

Wednesday, May 26: Sunny and warm.  Today I’m testing the great-granddaddy of all irises, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist.  I kind of like it.  I’m not swooning and trying to get my hot little hands on a decant ASAP the way I did with La Myrrhe, but it’s… nice.  I particularly liked the carroty opening.  And there’s no Musty Basement Accord, either.  Huh.  SOTA: Silences.  Feels like silk satin (the real thing, not polyester “satin,”), in that beautiful changeable color that shifts from periwinkle to moss green, depending on the light. 

Thursday, May 27:  Hot. Humid.  Welcome to summer in the southern US.  SOTD: Cerruti 1881,  nice tart citrus-herbal rose.  Made some updates to the Bouquet of Roses feature, since I’ve tested several rose scents since it was originally posted.   Of course it rained late this afternoon, but I headed in one direction with one baseball player, and The CEO went the other way with the other baseball player.  SOTE: Guerlain Vega, which is sort of a Guerlain-does-No.5 fragrance, no bad thing in itself.  Review of this one and vintage Coty L’Aimant, another aldehydic floral, coming soon.

Friday, May 28: A little cooler today, but still 82F.  Wearing Tocadilly again (reviewed 5/28).

Saturday, May 29:  Hot.  Humid.  Cleaned the house, made a cake, waited for Bookworm to call with results from the regional track meet.  SOTD: Vega again.  It goes sort of oddly with Windex and shorts, but hey, my Saturday mornings I clean bathrooms, and that’s the way it is. 

Bookworm finally called about three, right before her visiting aunt from Atlanta showed up to see the boys.  Her relay team had to either come in third or qualify with a fast time in order to go to the state meet – and it didn’t happen.  They’d come in fourth in the district meet, and finished fifth at regionals, which just demonstrates how good our school’s athletic district is for distance running.  When The CEO (who used to run cross country) compared times from regions across the state, he declared that according to those recorded times, our district is hands-down the toughest in the state. 

Sunday, May 30: Hot and humid again… summer, here we go.  Bookworm is 15 today.   The honeysuckle is out in full force, so I picked up my little decant of Annick Goutal Eau de Camille.  It’s a little more like traditional cologne (i.e., citrusy) than I prefer, but the brief honeysuckle note is lovely, and I like the green stuff too.  Of course, it wears off quickly, so my scent of the afternoon was Hanae Mori Haute Couture, with its smiling fizzy jasmine. 

My extended family likes to celebrate holidays by having cookouts or potluck picnics at the shelter at the Methodist church in town, so that’s where we headed after church.  As always, there was too much delicious stuff.  (No one brought corn pudding!  What’s the world coming to? I suppose everybody thought someone else was bringing it.)  We served Bookworm’s German chocolate birthday cake there instead of at our house so her grandfather (The CEO’s dad) wouldn’t have to negotiate getting in and out of the car another time – he’s 85 and uses a wheelchair these days.  And my grandmother came for the meal; she has Alzheimer’s and I don’t think she recognized anyone there except my dad and his oldest sister, but it was wonderful to see her.  She went into a care home last month, and they’re discouraging visits until she settles in.  My sister and nephew were visiting too – probably one of the last times I’ll see her before she moves to join her husband at Fort Hood next month. 

My thanks to Bob for serving our country in the military.  Thanks also to my dad, a Navy veteran.   Thanks to Terry Plunk, who gave all.  Thanks to all those who served in the past, who are serving now, who will serve in the future.  Thanks to their families.  May God bless you all.

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I ran across the mention of this one back when I was doing that post on lilac scents, and since I couldn’t find a sample anywhere, I went ahead and sprang for a small 1 oz bottle at an online discounter.  Helg at Perfume Shrine loves this thing – here’s her review – and mentions it in comments to a post on wisteria notes by Octavian at 1000 Fragrances.  At the time I bought Tocadilly, my neighbor’s lilac and wisteria bushes were merrily blooming, and I was stopping my car in her driveway every day,  just to have a good sniff (thanks, Debbie!).

Despite the dire warnings of March at Perfume Posse, who calls herself a victim of that Perfume Shrine review, I yanked Tocadilly out of that garish box and sprayed it on.  Lavishly.  Which is not like me, but I had been terribly disappointed by the utter evanescence of En Passant the previous week, and I was determined to actually smell a lilac perfume before the lilac blooms fell.

Tocadilly, with notes of cucumber, lilac, coconut, hyacinth, jasmine and sandalwood, is actually very pleasant.  It is only like En Passant for a very brief moment in the opening, when I smell that watery-cucumbery note over the lilac, and then Tocadilly’s other components settle in.  Where En Passant is transparent and light as air, Tocadilly is clean but more opaque, like the frosted glass of its bottle.  The fragrance is quite congruent with the colors used in the packaging – lavender, blue and green, and although I still hate the cap as much as I hate it on That Slut Tocade, the colors are just right and the bottle feels wonderful in my hand.  There isn’t much relation to Tocade, by the way, other than a tiny tiny hint of Tocade’s smoky vanilla way down in the base of Tocadilly, and a similar light-hearted, “just for fun,” attitude.

If I hoover my wrist, I can detect a pretty lilac note that – miraculously! – does not make me think of air freshener, and a quiet jasmine.  There is also something else vaguely floral which I can only assume is the wisteria note (glycine).  The effect is of very muted, light florals with an aqueous cast.  Helg mentions pear in her review, but I don’t smell that note which I love so much in Goutal’s Petite Cherie.  I don’t smell Calone in there either, but I tend to like Calone in small quantities anyway, having missed the Calone Overdose Years in Perfumedom.  If you are sensitive to watery notes, you’ll probably want to give Tocadilly a miss.  I suspect this watery cast is what many perfumistas, being tired of the plethora of marine fragrances, dislike about it.  There’s also a faintly spicy flavor to the florals here, an almost clovey-anisey angle that I smell in live lilac and hyacinth blossoms.

In the base, and wafting up through the misty florals, is a milky, powdery musk.  I don’t smell the kind of oily sweet coconut I associate with suntan oil and pina coladas, but I am sure the coconut note is providing this smooth milky quality.  There’s also a light woody vanilla note; if there’s real sandalwood in there, I’ll eat my straw hat, but whatever synthetic sandalwood Tocadilly uses, it’s gentle and soft.  Most notable to me about the base is the quality of the musk.  It isn’t listed in the notes, but trust me, it’s there, and it seems to be the same kind of musk that I like so much in Gres Cabaret: cushiony and comfortable while managing never to make me think of detergent.  I have a special dislike for the flat harshness of “laundry musk,” which ruined Ineke’s lilac fragrance After My Own Heart for me, but Tocadilly’s musk I find very pleasant.

The general effect of Tocadilly is of a garden full of lilac and wisteria blooms, just after a rain, when the air is full of moisture and the wafting odors of the blossoms.  I like it very much.  It’s refreshing and gentle, and I have enjoyed wearing it to work several times this spring.  An informal poll indicates that my family, friends and coworkers find it attractive, with no one disliking it.  The descriptions ranged from “flowery” to “clean and fresh.”  Taz said “not bad,” an accolade from him, and Gaze said it was “not very exciting, but nice anyway.”  (I have high hopes for that boy’s tastes.) 

Lasting power is fairly good for an eau de toilette, probably due to that pillowy musk.  I get about four to five hours’ worth of ride, with the gentle type of sillage I like best.  Tocadilly’s getting hard to find, but it was well worth the $19 I paid for my small bottle.  I’ll be wearing it frequently.

Top image of Tocadilly via fragrantica.  Lower image is lilacs-clouds from JeremyOK at flickr.

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It’s me.

Isn’t it?

I mean, it has to be. No one else is complaining.

It’s me.

There is either something about my skin, or something about my nose, that turns perfectly nice fragrances into the smell of shaving cream. I ranted about this phenomenon way back in the fall, and I’m not going to rant again, but I just don’t get it.

It happened again today.

You might already know of my love for rose chypres, given how I natter on about L’Arte di Gucci and PdE Eau Suave and Ungaro Diva and how wonderful Knowing parfum was for two hours before the Evil Lauder Base sent its throttling tendrils up to nauseate me. I even liked Rose de Nuit pretty well, although its weird chewy texture sort of freaked me out. You know how certain types of cheeses and dried-up marshmallows (don’t ask me how I know this) just squeak in your teeth when you bite them? Rose de Nuit squeaks.

So I was thrilled to receive a swap parcel with a sample vial of Guerlain Rose Barbare, from the niche-y L’Art et la Matiere line (as always, please ‘scuse the lack of diacriticals). Word on this one went like this: “ambery rose,” “dark thorny rose,” “modern chypre with rose,” “Mitsouko with rose instead of peach.” And I thought, “Ooooh, a rose Mitsouko, maybe I’d like that. And look, it’s composed by Francis Kurkdjian, he of the stunning, sexy, modern rose chypre Lumiere Noire Pour Femme!”

Guerlain’s description of Rose Barbare: “a heady, incisive Ottoman rose (aldehydes) over a modern structure of honey-chypree notes”.  You’d think they’d be more forthcoming, instead of insulting potential customers by not bothering to tell them what’s in it, but no. That’s all you get in the way of notes: rose, aldehydes, honey, and chypre (bergamot, labdanum, patchouli and something mossy-ish, I’m guessing, in the manner of modern chypres).

I dabbed Rose Barbare onto my wrists Tuesday afternoon and went to pick up Bookworm from track practice, a twenty-minute trip. And things started out well: clearly a beautiful high quality rose ingredient here, framed in some nice green stuff that seems to be mostly patchouli of the kind I tolerate well, all grassy and herbal. But within fifteen minutes, I was getting shaving cream. And it stayed shaving cream for the next five hours, too.

There’s no getting around it: it’s shaving cream. I stuck my wrist under Gaze’s nose and asked what he smelled.  Separately, I asked Bookworm.  They both identified it immediately, without any hints.  And let me be perfectly honest here, I think shaving cream smells great. It’s a smell I find extremely pleasant on a man. Fougeres tend to remind me of shaving cream – I assume that’s a trickle-down effect, by the way: a body care product picking up the smell of fine fragrance. And I don’t want to belabor the point here when other scent bloggers have addressed the issue of gender in fragrance so well and thoroughly,1 but I don’t want to smell like shaving cream! It’s a smell so clearly identified with men in my mind that wearing it on my person feels like wearing men’s underwear when I’m not one: clearly it doesn’t fit me. It chafes.

There are other accords that bother me: the cloying yet dusty Coco-Opium-Cinnabar-Youth Dew-Stetson-Tabu tolu balsam + patchouli accord; the depressing soapiness of orange blossom; the flat, chemical cleaning-products accord I sometimes get from linden and/or muguet notes; the musty-basement thing I can’t quite pin down, but seems related to carrot seed, or iris, or powdery violet; and whatever it is in that dang Lauder base, and in SSS Vintage Rose, that makes me want to toss my cookies. It’s only ToluPatch and Lauder that are bad enough to force me to scrub – the others I struggle through rather than washing off.

I’m not a big fan of citrus, classical colognes, or what Robin at NST calls “wood pudding scents,” (search there for more info) either, but that’s a boredom issue, not a sanity issue.

It’s only the dreaded shaving cream accord that rouses my righteous ire this way, and I think that’s because I tend to avoid the other accords, which is pretty easy. It says “Lauder” right there on the bottle. Ergo, avoid. No prob. The scent description says “balsamic oriental”? I know it’s not for me. The fragrance is focused on OB or linden or iris? Probably not gonna be my bag, I won’t bother with it. There are too many other scents I want to try anyway, I’m probably not missing much.

But shaving cream accord? There’s no warning for that. It always strikes out of flippin’ nowhere. In so-called feminine scents. There I am, all happy in a green garden full of rose bushes, and then suddenly I’m trapped in the enormous stadium-size nightmare barbershop maze. Grrrrrrrr. Before testing, I read five perfume blog reviews of Rose Barbare, with comments, as well as about 40 brief reviews on Fragrantica and Basenotes, and nowhere was there a complete list of the notes (I guess Guerlain didn’t release them) or a description of RB as being even vaguely fougere-y.

The short list of suspects for Shaving Cream Accord (hereafter, SCA) are as follows: lavender, coumarin, and/or opoponax. I think further testing is in order – but if you happen to have any insights to share, I’d be ever so grateful.

A few other reviews of Rose Barbare:  Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Aromascope, Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and Perfume Shrine.  See? Nobody says “shaving cream.”  Curses.  It’s me.

Top image is Barbershop pole from felixtcat at flickr; lower image is Rose Barbare from fragrantica.

1See this post and comments, and the follow-up post, at Grain de Musc and this one at Left Coast Nose, at minimum, for serious discussion on the subject that I frankly don’t have the cojones to address here. (Ha ha. Little gender humor there… of course, it’s a pun, which some people call the lowest form of humor.)

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Emeraude Sample Winners!

Inexplicably, Taz refused me permission to use his baseball helmet for the draw.  He was also “too busy,” reading his Encyclopedia Brown books, to help me pull names out of the helmet, or a hat, or a bowl.

But Bookworm agreed to help me.  We printed names on a piece of paper, cut them out, folded them up tiny, and placed them in my favorite pink depression glass bowl, an Anchor Hocking Manhattan berry bowl that used to belong to my grandmother.  It’s a pattern from 1938, not 1921 (Emeraude’s date of release), but it just looked right.  Then we placed a bottle of Emeraude PdT and the three samples into the bowl with the entries and waved our hands over the bowl, saying, “Emeraude mojo! Emeraude mojo!  Emeraude mojo!”

Bookworm pulled entries out of the bowl one by one and handed them to me to read.

The winners of the Emeraude samples are:

1. Marte

2. Denise Cooper

3. Odonata9

Congratulations!  Please contact me via email (in the About Me section) to give me your mailing addresses.

If you didn’t win, I’m sorry.  Wish I could send everybody a sample!  (I’ll mention again that ebay is often reasonable. Hint hint.)

Images from ebay.

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Scent Diary, May 17-23

Monday, May 17:  RAIN.  Which we need, badly, but it’s making The CEO like a caged animal.  Well, okay, a caged animal that does laundry but isn’t happy about it.  SOTD: Apres l’Ondee.  The last time I wore this, the sun was shining, and the disconnect felt just… wrong.  Today, it’s gorgeous.

Tuesday, May 18:  RAIN AGAIN.  More caged-animal.  The upside? No baseball games, and we’re actually all eating dinner at the table together.  Wearing Apres l’Ondee again. 

Wednesday, May 19:  A relatively clear day, and comfortable at 72F.  When I left the house, heading out to drop kids off at school and then go to work, The CEO was also leaving, on the (ancient) John Deere 3020 tricycle tractor.  A few hours later, the Caller ID on my work phone showed my home number, so I answered.

“Hi!  Hope you’re having a good day,” The CEO said.  “But actually, I need to talk to Brad.  The 3020 won’t start.”   But you were driving it this morning, I said.  “Yep.  I’ve started it three separate times today, and it was fine.  But the fourth time it wouldn’t start at all.  So I need Brad.”

Brad’s the store manager, and he and The CEO went to high school together.  If you need oil, or filters, or windshield wipers, or auto paint, or nuts, bolts, GOJO, a radiator, brake rotors, or the like, you can talk to Tim, Charlie, Robyn, Jimmy, or Pat.  If you have problems with your vehicle and you don’t know how to address them, you talk to Brad. 

I knew this would be a tough day for The CEO…  I confess that I hate it when college lets out for the summer and he’s farming full-time – he gets really grouchy.  Especially when things go wrong.  Which they always, always do: equipment breaks down, it rains when he’s not expecting it to, it doesn’t rain when he needs it to, heifers jump fences and break their legs…

SOTD: vintage Coty Emeraude.  I love this stuff, and never regret putting it on.  It’s one of those rare orientals that you can wear in warm weather without getting asphyxiated.

Thursday, May 20:  Lovely weather!  80F, sunny, breezy.  I reached for my (cheap!) new 1oz bottle of Rochas Tocadilly.  Look, nobody is ever gonna call this thing genius, but I’m finding it very wearable.

One warrantied starter and two new batteries later (not to mention $219.85, what’s $219.85 between friends?), the tractor is running again, thanks to Brad. 

Decanted some samples for a split and got a little Alahine on my hands, so I spritzed a little before putting the bottle away again for fall.  Gosh, I love Alahine.

Friday, May 21:  80F again and sunny.  In a hurry leaving for work, I grabbed the readily-available Tocadilly.  Review of this one coming soon.

Bookworm’s 4 x 800 meter relay team ran a personal record and qualified for the regional track meet!  They came in fourth in the district, actually, but their time was good enough for regionals.  This happens to be the toughest district in the state for distance runners, and I’m proud of these girls for hanging in there. 

And Gaze got a hit at his baseball game!  It’s been a good sports night for my crew.

Saturday, May 22: 70F and cloudy.  I finally got my lawnmower back after its two weeks in the shop… something about the kill switch being out of whack.  The mowing job took twice as long as usual, because the grass was just ridiculous.  Then I took Taz to his game (and who, I’d like to know, was dumb enough to pick white shirts for the team uniforms? They play on dirt.  Red dirt.  DUH), which was called on account of pouring rain.  We all got wet, but Taz was soaked to the skin by the time the officials decided, “Hey, this isn’t gonna stop.  Guess we’d better get the kids out of the downpour.”

SOTD: Ines de la Fressange, the 1999 Calice Becker version – another really nice fruity floral done right.

Sunday, May 23: Beautiful weather, 78F and sunny.  After church, we raked the yard, which we hardly ever do normally – but if we’d left the clippings on the ground this time, the grass would die under them.  We have a 6 cubic-foot wheelbarrow, and we filled it, I’m not kidding here, fourteen times.  SOTD: Hanae Mori Haute Couture.

Will be doing the drawing for the vintage Emeraude samples tomorrow.

Image is Nan Nan’s Collection from Jocelyn Bassler at flickr.

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It’s difficult for me to write a review of a fragrance that is special to me. Emeraude was the first perfume I ever loved. I still love it. I’m a little worried that the magic could wear off and it could become ordinary for me. But this is a lovely thing, and if I had my way, everyone would smell it – everyone.

I first encountered Emeraude at the drugstore sometime around 1984, and instantly thought it the most beautiful perfume I’d ever smelled. Soft and aromatic and floral at the same time, it was so well-blended that I could never have told you what was in it. At the time, I was about halfway through my bottle of original Chloe, that big flirty white floral bomb, and I was only really familiar with my Chloe, my mom’s No. 5, my grandmother’s Avon Cotillion – which I thought was hideous – and Opium, my personal scent nightmare. Emeraude was like nothing else in my world.

And (in the smug, naive manner of teenagers everywhere), I loved the ads for it, too: “I love only one man. I wear only one fragrance – Emeraude.” 

This was the bottle of Emeraude that I owned – eau de cologne in a lime green color, in a slightly-curved rectangular bottle with a white top.  My mother disliked it, finding it “too mature” for a teenage girl.  But a boyfriend gave me a small half-ounce bottle, and I kept it on my dresser and wore it and loved it until it went bad from a couple of years’ worth of light and heat damage.  And then the next time I went to smell it at the drugstore, some time in the early 90’s, it smelled different to me.  It smelled like itself – sort of – but sharper and thinner.  It didn’t make me sigh with pleasure, so I thought that my tastes must have changed.  I just put it back on the shelf and gave it no further thought.

Until I read a mini-review of the vintage on the Posse (link at bottom of page), in which March described Emeraude as soft and rich.  Yes, I said to myself.  Yes, ebay.  Yes, I’ll go look.  I bid on a half-ounce bottle of parfum de toilette that looks 70’s-era to me.  It smelled even better than I’d remembered.  I went on an extended Emeraude quest last summer, eventually hunting down and dragging home six bottles.  (Um, yeah, you read that correctly: six bottles.  Two teeny bottles of parfum, one half-ounce bottle of 1950’s edt, two half-ounce bottles of pdt, and one stunning FOUR-ounce bottle of pdt.  I told you, I love this stuff.)

I will make the observation that unlike many vintage fragrances, vintage orientals tend to survive the years largely intact, although sometimes they can go faint.  All of the pdt bottles I own smell fabulous, which the two parfums, which are in pretty, decorative bottles and presumably spent some time on display on dressers, are actually less strong, and less long-lasting, than the pdt bottles.

Since you knew this was coming anyway, I’ll give you the usual caveats regarding vintage bottles, particularly those on ebay: YOUR BOTTLE MAY VARY.  You never know the conditions under which a particular bottle was stored – was it kept in Aunt Sadie’s bedroom closet, in a box up on the shelf, away from light, until she bought her assisted-living condo and downsized her possessions? Or did it spend twenty years sitting out on Aunt Louise’s windowsill because “it was so pretty”?  Has it been sitting in the window of the thrift shop, catching the light, until an ebay seller snapped it up and listed it for sale at a 400% markup?  You just don’t know. 

Ahem.  So on to the important stuff: how’s it smell? 

When I first put it on (all my vintage bottles are splash-type,  not spray), I dab one drop on each wrist and one at the base of my throat.  Then I attempt to dissect what I’m smelling, which is a little like trying to diagram Shakespeare’s poetry in that it’s not only difficult, but rather pointless when it comes to describing Emeraude’s appeal.  What is immediately apparent is the citrus.  There’s a huge ton of bergamot, intense but somehow creamy, possibly because of all the vanilla in the base. This is the big-sillage phase, and it only lasts about 20 minutes before quieting and settling down onto skin.   

The heart of the fragrance gradually comes into play, and it consists of rich florals that are so well-blended it’s difficult to pick out any specific note except jasmine.  This blend seems very classical, and under the citrus vanilla, it reminds me of quite a number of familiar fragrances – No. 5’s rose-jasmine-ylang center comes to mind, and so does Alahine’s. The heart phase, which seems to stay always underneath the citrus-vanilla veil that characterizes Emeraude to me, lasts about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

Eventually it slides into its beautiful base. Emeraude is, particularly in its drydown, extremely soft. There is an element of powder from the benzoin, and the smooth sweet blend of vanilla and sandalwood.  I can’t pick out opoponax or (thank goodness, because a lot of orientals are ruined for me by this) patchouli.  The whole base is satin-smooth like scented talc, but is also mysteriously creamy, plush, and sweet and seems to melt into my skin and stay.  And stay, and stay… I typically get about eight to ten hours out of those three drops of Emeraude, which is excellent staying power for me. 

Here are the notes for Emeraude:  Lemon, bergamot, orange, tarragon, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, Brazilian rosewood, vanilla, sandalwood, benzoin, patchouli, opoponax, and amber.   

What Emeraude feels like: velvet the color of soft moss, like “Miss Ellen’s portieres” at Tara, the ones Scarlett made a dress out of.  It feels like a heavy, weighty formal gown made of heavy cream satin, with green ribbon trim.  It feels soft and plushy and bosomy, womanly and quietly sexy, but not flirty or coy or predatory.  It feels comfortable.  For all that heavy, smooth weight, it is surprisingly wearable in the summer because its sillage seems to stay rather close to the skin, once the big bergamot blast has settled.  It’s one of my favorites, and I’d probably take it to the desert island (heat or no) if I were ever forced there.

A word on concentrations and formulations:  Emeraude has throughout its life been released as parfum, eau de cologne, eau de toilette, and parfum de toilette.  While the vintage edc and edt smell nice, they tend to be rather faint.  The two small bottles of parfum that I own are also quite ethereally light, possibly due to light damage.  My favorite concentration is the pdt – I haven’t been disappointed with any of the samples I’ve smelled of it – it is rich and lasting, without overwhelming anyone.  The pdt was last produced, as far as I can tell, in the late 1970s/ very early 1980s.  I recommend the 1960s-1970s pdt in the gold crown-topped bottle (see image #5).  However, I have not sampled proper vintage parfum that smells as it should, so if you can find that, it might be the way to go.  Edit: Forgot to mention color.  The oldest stuff has usually lost its green tint and turned a light amber color, like weakish iced tea (okay, fine, I’m a Southerner, I just assume everybody knows what that looks like, and if you don’t, I’m sorry).  See image #3 above.  The PdT is usually a soft mossy-green color, like really good virgin olive oil.  See image #5 again.  Anything the color of neon sour-apple candy?  To be avoided, in my opinion.   The 80’s EdC was not hideous, so if the only thing you can find on ebay is in the rectangular-ish bottle with the wide white top, check the color.  If it’s peridot green (image #6) as opposed to Green Apple Jolly Rancher green (image #2), it might be okay.  The bottle has not changed since then, but the color has grown more garish

Emeraude was reformulated sometime in the 1980s, and has been retooled since then.  There may be reformulations I’m unaware of, which is not unusual for such an old fragrance.  I’ll be honest with you: leave the current version on the drugstore shelf.  It’s thin and sharp, stiletto-y, nothing like its former bosomy, creamy self.  Luca Turin says of Emeraude that it was the second oriental fragrance (the first, he says, was created for the original Parfums de Rosine company, and its formula has been lost) and “arguably best,” but that it has been ruined.  I concur. 

A large number of people comment on (vintage) Emeraude that it’s “just like Shalimar, only softer.”  I’d disagree, at least in part.  Certainly I see why people make the observation, because Shalimar and Emeraude share some DNA: a bright citrus top, a classical floral heart, a rich, powdery-creamy vanilla base.  There’s no question in my mind that Shalimar is a further exploration of the structure of Emeraude.  The differences, as I notice them?  Shalimar’s citrus is more tart, a bit more lemony.  Instead of Emeraude’s soft rose-jasmine heart, I smell mostly jasmine, full and luxurious in Shalimar.  And the base contains noticeable patchouli as well as the famous vanilla – once the “impure” De Laure vanilla, now recreated with a bit of birch tar –  that Guerlain uses to such startling effect .  I’ll venture to say that perhaps Shalimar is the better perfume.  It is more adventurous, more contrasted, more surprising and complex.  That touch of tar in the base – that’s genius.  It’s shocking.  It’s art in a way that Emeraude is not.

And yet, I do not love Shalimar.  I find it difficult to wear, unless the weather is just right; it seems to be perfect in the fall, when there is a hint of woodsmoke in the air and the promise of rain.  I find it impossible to wear in any concentration lower than parfum de toilette.  But Emeraude is forgiving and soft, plush as kitten’s fur and friendly as my favorite sweater.  Perhaps it’s telling that I’d a thousand times rather have Shalimar Light than the original – all the difficult parts of Shalimar were planed away, and the whole thing sanded down to a finish with a texture like suede.  If you love Shalimar, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to find Emeraude unchallenging and perhaps a bit dull.  

Francois Coty’s insistence on keeping his perfumes available at a low price made it possible for a lot of women to own Emeraude.  Which is lucky for us, because a fair number of those Emeraude bottles, packed away in someone’s underwear drawer still in the boxes, are popping up on ebay and in thrift stores all the time.  Also luckily, Emeraude seems to age well. 

Reminder: if you are interested in entering the drawing for a sample of vintage Emeraude PdT, please leave a comment on this post, before midnight (Eastern Daylight Savings Time) on Sunday, May 23, 2010. 

I could not find a full review of vintage Emeraude on any of the perfume blogs I frequent.  There’s a brief one from March and a separate brief one from Musette at Perfume Posse; another brief mention of it in this review of L’Origan at Grain de Musc (Warning: the accompanying illustration, an art nude by Kees van Dongen, may not be suitable for the workplace), and a mention of it in this review of Parfumerie Generale Felanilla at 1000Fragrances.  Also, here’s a very brief mention among other Coty scents in this post at Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  And here is a short history at Perfume ProjectsEdit:  I had forgotten this lovely review at Yesterday’s Perfume and overlooked it when I went hunting for blog reviews.  (So sorry, Barbara!)

Images from top to bottom, all via ebay:  1945 ad from omar; 1980s Emeraude EdC from millersproducts; pre-1960s Emeraude from stubbinaeros; pre-1950s Emeraude from pickapaper; Emeraude PdT from jockeycreek; 1985 ad from xantha. 

Luca Turin quote from p. 65 of the original Perfumes: The Guide.

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Sample giveaway drawing!

I’m still working on a review and history of Coty’s Emeraude, one of my favorite scents ever.  Trouble is, there’s so much to say that I’m not done yet. 

I had planned to offer a drawing for samples at the end of that post, but I’m going to go ahead and open up the drawing here and post the review later today, or early tomorrow morning.  I have three 1ml samples of vintage Emeraude parfum de toilette up for grabs.  Edit: still way busy here, what with baseball games and track meets.  Review SOON.

The rules:

Post a comment here before midnight, Sunday evening, May 23.  (That would be midnight my time, Eastern Daylight Savings Time.)

Samples will be sent when I’m able to do it.  I hope that will be within a month, if not sooner.

Yes, even people living outside the US of A are eligible.

Good luck!


Image is from roadrunner08070 at ebay.  The bottle sampled for the drawing is from the same era, but in the parfum de toilette concentration.

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Just the other day I baked a cake. Nothing special, nothing fancy, no occasion for celebration – just a plain yellow cake from a boxed mix, frosted with chocolate icing from a can that I kicked up a little with some cocoa powder, vanilla flavoring, and a little confectioner’s sugar, for the stiffer texture I prefer. In deference to Taz’ Homer Simpson-like obsession with sprinkles, I added some of those.

C’mon… give a girl a break, willya? My days of making cakes from scratch1 ended at about the time Bookworm was born. Too busy. My copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible, pages once stained with my efforts, languishes unused on the cookbook shelf, and every so often I give it a longing glance. Chocolate Domingo Cake… White Lilac Nostalgia… Chocolate Truffle Cake with Intense Raspberry Jewel Sauce (okay, fine, I admit to making the raspberry sauce every couple of years or so, but it’s very time-consuming to get all of those little seeds out of the sieve)… Perfect Pound Cake… dacquoise, Italian meringue icing, chocolate leaves, crème anglaise, spun sugar threads…

Maybe someday. Every one of those recipes is delicious and exquisite, and every one of them takes forever to make. Which is why I’m making cakes from mixes these days, and thus the plain cake from the box. Its humble origins notwithstanding, it filled the whole house with the gorgeous smell of vanilla, sugar, and baked goods.

Which made me think of my sister. This is the girl who used to wear Vanilla Fields and Brown Sugar & Fig, and still loves the Aromatherapy Lavender-Vanilla line of body products at Bath & Body Works. She told me once that she enjoys wearing vanilla scents because the smell inspires her husband to hug her, saying, “You smell like cake! Um, I mean… uh, sexy cake, honey!” She’d rather wear Coco Mademoiselle for herself, but her hubby likes the vanilla ones.

If gentlemen prefer blondes2, do they also prefer vanilla? There are probably hundreds of discussion threads on the fragrance forums (Perfume of Life, Basenotes, Makeup Alley, Fragrantica) nattering on about which perfumes men find attractive on women. Having read a fair number of these discussions, I can tell you that – at least among men of Generation X and younger – vanilla is, apparently, a huge draw for straight men. Women (and men) mention everything from Aquolina Pink Sugar to Angel to Shalimar, with side excursions into Jessica Simpson’s Fancy, B&BW Warm Brown Sugar, and a whole slew of Comptoir Sud Pacifique fragrances.

They might be wrong about vanilla’s man-pulling abilities. But it does make me give fervent thanks that I’m not actively looking for a may-yinn 3 at the moment (got one, thanks for asking, although I might sell him cheap4 if he doesn’t stop leaving the toilet seat up), because I’ve never been all that interested in smelling like cake. Even, um, I mean, sexy cake.

Mind you, I really like vanilla. Give me a choice between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and I’ll take vanilla every time. Plain doughnut versus chocolate, or raspberry-filled? I’ll thumb-wrestle you for the plain!

It’s just that most of my “vanilla” fragrances are really “vanilla-and-something inedible” fragrances: Shalimar Light is vanilla, lemon, and a hint of asphalt. That Slut Tocade is vanilla, rose, and nightclub smoke. Vanille Tonka is vanilla, carnations, limes, Dr. Pepper, and frankincense, a giggly Cuba Libre party in a bottle. Organza Indecence is probably the closest to “sexy cake” that I own – but along with its vanilla, orange, and spice, it contains some woods and a dusty patchouli that takes it right out of the bakery case. Havana Vanille is tobacco, rum, spice, and vanilla liqueur so clear and sweet and boozy that you think of pirates in tropical waters, not of Mom’s coffee cake.

There’s no sexy cake in my fragrance wardrobe, and I’m okay with that. To each her own.

How about you? Do you:

A) believe that men are attracted to the smell of vanilla cupcakes on women, assuming that you care about such matters?

B) own any Sexy Cake or other vanilla scents? Which ones?

As always, please feel free to tell me I’m a nutcase.

Images from top to bottom are: Vanilla cake vanilla buttercream from ladybugluggage; 3 vanilla cupcakes with vanilla sea salt from chockylit; and Vanilla beans from kendiala, all at Flickr. Image of my sister and her glorious hair from my sister’s collection. My sister has a small child of her own, so for safety reasons I’m not naming her.

1 When The CEO was a kid, he misheard his mother saying she’d made a cake “from scratch” as “from scraps.” They fed the dog table scraps, so for at least a couple of years, he was unduly impressed by what he thought was his mother’s magical ability to turn refuse into dessert.

2 Clearly, my brother-in-law is indifferent to blondes. My sister is blessed with the most glorious wavy red hair – in fact, it’s not red, it’s more a coppery bronze. It’s stunning hair. But no one will ever mistake her for Marilyn Monroe.

3 If this doesn’t make sense to you, try saying it the way Ru-Paul would. You know, not just a man, but a manly man who has bedroom potential.

4 He does laundry, windows, and the occasional decent backrub. But he snores, and he’s obsessed with Republicans and geography. Make me an offer good enough to induce me to discount 18 pretty good years, and we’ll talk…

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Monday, May 10: Yep, it’s the traditional chilly May Tenth Cold Spell.  Brrr.  SOTD: nothing.  I know, that’s terrible.  It’s been quite busy around here, I left for work late, I didn’t get around to snagging a sample out of my purse, I… I just didn’t.  On the other hand, it’s nice to have a scent-free day once in a while; it makes me appreciate the scented ones more.

Tuesday, May 11: Rainy and chilly again, 60F.  SOTD: PdN Le Temps d’une Fete.  Which I love.  Which you all probably know by now that I love.  One of the nicest things about it is that it has a nice balance between cool and warm, so that it is a fragrance that could be worn all year round.  I seem to love it less in winter, when I want ambery-spicy-woody things, but no matter.  It does stand up to cold, probably because there’s a good slug of sandalwood and a bit of nice, green, aged-to-smooth patchouli in there. 

Wednesday, May 12:  A little warmer, thank goodness.  SOTD: Givenchy III.  Which I admit, philistine that I am, that I find to be just hideous.  I’m thinking Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera. I am fairly annoyed at its champion Luca Turin.  What GIII smells like to me is the bottom part of vintage Jolie Madame, sans the florals that make JM wearable for me, or possibly the bottom half of L’Arte di Gucci, without the gorgeous neon rose.  Yeah-yeah-fine, so the list of notes for GIII includes lovely things like rose and hyacinth… I don’t smell them.  All I get is patchouli, oakmoss, something herbal (coriander? sage?), and some dirty leather and castoreum.  Gah.  More confirmation that I need a lot of florals in my chypres to make them palatable for me.

SOTE: Balmain Ivoire.  Took the boys to baseball practice/scrimmage, finished up the review of Amoureuse that’s been languishing incomplete on my laptop, and snagged a pizza for supper.  (Hey, no kvetching about balanced diets; we had green beans and apples too.)  As we were leaving the ballpark, I passed two elderly women and an older man coming in together, clearly there to watch a grandchild’s baseball practice.  The women were wearing, I’m not kidding here, pink polyester pantsuits, and one of them was wafting some killah Opium sillage.  I had to chuckle.  Especially since I was going in the opposite direction as the tsunami of Opium…

Thursday, May 13: In the low 80s F today, but cloudy.  SOTD: MH Jasmin Vert, probably the last of this lovely little sample.  I’ve enjoyed it immensely yet don’t feel compelled to make a purchase, and maybe that’s what I ought to be shooting for anyway – the ability to smell something and enjoy it, and feel no avarice toward it.   Very Zen, that.  Which is not very much Me, to be honest; I tend to feel too much responsibility for stuff.

And my boss gave all employees a “business was great in April” $50 bonus this week, which I wasn’t expecting (nice guy, my boss).  I think half of it will be set aside for an Aedes gift certificate – for me, natch, because I am saving up for a purchase of Septimanie Pavillons des Fleurs… I think.   OTOH, I do not need more perfume.  (I do not need more perfume, I do not need more perfume… repeat mantra as needed, Mals…)

Friday, May 14: Hot and sticky today – it was 72F at 9:15 this morning, and gonna get hotter. The cool iris-y satin of  Silences is just right.  The mercury eventually got up to 89F.

Saturday, May 15:  Hot again.  We spent most of the day at the local “sports complex,” which is also a park.  There’s an outdoor pool which opens the last weekend of May, four baseball/softball fields, three basketball courts, two tennis courts, and three soccer fields, and a paved half-mile track that runs around the baseball fields.  There’s also a gazebo,  two large sheltered picnic areas, charcoal grills, a really nice playground, a wooded area that the Boy Scouts use for their campfires, some dirt hiking trails, and a sandy area for horseshoes.  Not to mention that there are (this is so important!) three small buildings containing toilets.  Taz had a practice and Gaze had a doubleheader, both games of which his team lost… badly.  Gaze managed to steal three bases* in one inning, and yet did not score.

*If the catcher doesn’t catch the last strike – if it goes past him and lands in the dirt, and he has to scramble around and catch it, the batter is allowed to run to first base.  Gaze struck out, but the catcher didn’t catch the ball, so Gaze took off for first and beat the throw, because he is a speedy little dude.  Then he stole second, and then third… and got stranded there when the next two batters struck out as well.  Sigh.  It’s going to be a long season.

SOTD: AG Grand Amour edt, which I bought unsniffed at an online discounter and now rather regret, even though it was very cheap.  I wonder if my bottle wasn’t kept well, because it starts out just lovely, reminiscent of Chamade – and then goes extremely faint.  I’ve been satisfied with my other purchases from this seller, so maybe it’s just me. 

Sunday, May 16: Muggy.  Warm.  Then in the afternoon we finally got some rain, which we desperately needed.  SOTD: Crown Bouquet, which has yet to disappoint me.  I’m so glad I bought that one unsniffed!

Image is Anna’s Perfume Collection from perfumolatrasvip at Flickr.

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