Archive for the ‘Mary Greenwell’ Category

Remember when The CEO gave me carte blanche to pick out a new fragrance as an anniversary gift? (Wasn’t that sweet of him? Yeah, I think so too.) It’s been two months now – almost three – and several fragrances have been tested, and still no decision on anything from The CEO. I agreed to let him pick out something with me, and I wasn’t getting one “pick.”

I remember that sometime about… gosh, let me think… maybe 15 years ago, I asked him if there was a particular fragrance he liked, so that I might start wearing something he would enjoy. “Well, there was one that A– [an old girlfriend] used to wear, called [Karl Lagerfeld] Chloe. I liked that.”

I used to wear Chloe!” I exclaimed. “I liked it in high school, but I don’t think I could wear it now. Too bound up with high school memories.” Absolutely true. But also, A– was something of a snob. I knew her, of course, since we were all at Governor’s School together. I never liked her, and you could not pay me to wear a fragrance that might remind The CEO of her. “Anything else?”

He shrugged. “I don’t really know any other ones,” he said, apologetically. And we left it there. For an anniversary he bought me a bottle of Elizabeth Arden True Love, which I thought was a sweet gesture, even if I didn’t absolutely love the smell. It was pleasant, and I wore it for a few years, until the bottle was nearly empty and no longer smelled right. (I did not know then about the importance of keeping fragrance out of direct sunlight.) I didn’t buy another fragrance until a few years later, when I picked up the original version of Victoria’s Secret Pink – a fresh, green peony floral. I wore that for at least three years, until it too was gone and I started doing wacky things like googling for “perfume review.” Which led me to Now Smell This. The rest, as they say, is history.

Finally I started the active selection phase. “What do you think about this one?” I asked, of LeLong pour Femme – of which I already have a 15ml decant, but I figured if he really likes one I already have, there’s no need to get more.

It’s very nice,” he said.

Just nice?” I asked, double-checking. He nodded. “Well, which one do you like best?”

Well, I haven’t knocked anything off the list yet. You mean I’m supposed to rank them?”

Yes. Yes, exactly. Tell me which one you like best,” I said.

What, you can’t get all of them for $75?” he wanted to know, eyebrows together. I told him no. “Am I supposed to be telling you what I smell in there? What if I’m wrong? I know Gaze is getting good at this, but I’m not.”

Oh, no,” I assured him. “You don’t have to tell me what it smells like – just thumbs down or thumbs up.”

Well, that I can do happily,” he told me.

So I started the sniffage in earnest, testing new fragrances as well as scents of which I already own at least decants. As the days went past, I got the following comments and recommendations:

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse: “That’s definitely good. You can buy that.” Yeeeah. Like I’ve got $135 to throw around.

Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique: “I like that. It’s flowery, but it’s also just – okay, it doesn’t smell exactly like flowers, it’s just that you smell good.” Yeeeeah. Like I’ve got $225 to throw around. Well, at least he’s got good taste.

DSH Chypre: “Ugh. No.” I actually love this stuff – for myself, not for him – so I managed to scrounge another couple of samples, of this and of its inspiration, Coty Chypre. It isn’t pretty by any means, but it’s compelling.

SSS Jour Ensoleille: “Pretty. Lots of flowers.” Me: Really? I smell hay in there. And honey. You smell the honey? The CEO: “Uh, no. Just flowers. Where do you come up with this stuff? Hay? No. I mean, it’s pretty. But it’s just flowery.” I am still thinking about this one because I love how rich and languorous it smells, but it’s not currently in the rotation at Sonoma Scent Studio. It can wait, and it’s rich so maybe a sample or two will do me anyway.

Lancome Tresor: “Eh. It’s okay, I guess.” That’s really a No, if you ask me.

Penhaligon’s Violetta: “Uh, not that. It’s weird. It smells like holistic medicine.” What a shame – I really like Violetta.

Tauer Perfumes Zeta: First, he stared at me nonplussed. “This?” Yep. “Well, it’s flowery,” he said doubtfully. “I don’t know. It smells okay, it’s just sort of – well, boring.” I concur. This is the rare Tauer that I don’t either really like or really hate. I can’t even muster an opinion about it.

Moschino Funny!: “Nice and light. Very clean.” That was a trick question – I bought a bottle last fall for $18.

Moschino L’Eau Cheap and Chic: “That smells like something you clean the floor with.”  Yes, it does.

Mary Greenwell Plum: “Very nice. Flowers and something else, kind of a throwback thing? It’s pretty. Very dressy.” I love this stuff, and my decants (thanks, Vanessa!) are rapidly disappearing. I would have asked for a bottle for Christmas, but the retail outlet that handles distribution in the UK – House of Fraser – does not ship to the US.

Nobile 1942 Chypre: “I guess it’s okay. Kind of boring, actually.” It bored me too.

Michael Storer Stephanie: “It’s… really sweet. I don’t know. No, I don’t like it all that much. It kind of bites my nose.” It’s the pepper. Some people don’t like that.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme: Full disclosure – this thing gets me all hot and bothered, which The CEO is fully in favor of. So despite the fact that he finds it just “okay,” in terms of actual smell, this one gets two snaps up and a circle. However I have a 10ml decant, and a full bottle’s out of my price range ($165 for 70ml, I think), and maybe this thing is a little dangerous so I don’t need a full bottle… incidentally, Elena at Perfume Shrine says that this fragrance was originally a bespoke perfume composed for Catherine Deneuve, who after it was completed agreed to let MFK market it. I have never smelled the floral-chypre-to-die-for, discontinued, Deneuve perfume, but if it smelled anything like Lumiere Noire, it must have been wonderful.

Penhaligon’s Amaranthine: “I like it. It’s sort of milky. Very calm.” (See, there is a reason I can wear it to church – it’s milky and calm. No sweaty thighs on me. I have a small decant, thanks to Joe A.)

Guerlain Idylle edt: “That’s pretty. Have I smelled that before?” Yes. I didn’t like the EdP original – I mean, I really hated the EdP.  However, the EdT I found in the Philadelphia Duty Free shop, on the way to Malta in the spring.  So I tested it, and it stayed nice for several hours. However, I already swapped for a decant of it (thanks, Karin!).

Vamp a NY: “I don’t like that. It’s really sweet. Sort of weird.” I have a decant – and I love the Vamp, so I’ll just have to wear it when he’s not around.

Guerlain Pamplelune: “That’s pretty. Smells like… lemons. And flowers. I like it.” I like it too, so I swapped for a mini bottle.

Guerlain Samsara EdT (modern): “That’s sort of nice. Is it cheap? It smells sort of cheap. But nice. Vanilla.”

Chanel No. 19 EdP: “That’s rather pretty, actually. Different.” I asked if he was sure, because he’d smelled my vintage EdT (bought on eBay for cheap!) and disliked it. The EdP is softer and rosier, but it’s recognizably No. 19. “I didn’t like it before? Hm. I don’t know why, because it’s pretty.”

Chloe Love, Chloe: “That is perfectly disgusting.” It’s probably my skin, but I concur. It was extremely unpleasant. Gaze actually recoiled from my arm in horror.

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar: “That’s pleasant. But merely pleasant.” Yeah, that was my take too.

So it actually turns out that I had plenty of green lights and a few reds, but nothing that had lit up The CEO’s pinball machine, except Amoureuse (and Citizen Queen, but that’s another story). And then I managed to swap for a partial bottle of Amoureuse, so I have that now. And I made another last-ditch effort at determining his preferences.

I asked, “So do you have a favorite of all the fragrances I’ve been testing? Is there anything you really, really like?”

He considered. “Well, to be honest, I think I like the one you bought in Rome the best. I really like that one.” So he likes Ferre 20? I like that one, too. Guess I should wear it more often – I’ve been saving it for dates.

The upshot of all this testing was that I stopped waffling around and thinking up things for him to test. I bought a bottle of Mary Greenwell Plum, which I’ve been lusting for for more than six months, since the first time I smelled it. Plum has become something of a fallback fragrance for me, not exactly a signature because I wear so many different things, but the always-right, versatile, Feels Like Me fragrance. It is not yet available in the US, although the word was that it was supposed to hit US distribution by June of 2011. I bought it on eBay, from a seller in the UK.

Yes, I sniped. No, I’m not sorry. I looked at how much it costs to buy a bottle at the House of Fraser website (£60), checked with Yahoo! Finance as to how many dollars that is (way too many) and then bid a maximum of £60 with the snipe site. That was how much I was willing to put into it, and I bid that amount. It turned out that my bid was the highest, and the final sale was at about £41 ($63), so including the shipping, I paid about $78. I know it costs a lot to ship the bottle because of that darn heavy gold-plated cap, which I could not possibly care less about. I just wanted the magic juice.

And it came in the mail, about 10 days ago, and it is perfect. Cute pink box, pleasant-to-hold rectangular bottle, ridiculously heavy cap, wonderful smell: perfect.   Thanks very much, CEO.  Rotsa ruv, as Scooby Doo would say…


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I recently got in on a split of this scent, without having sniffed it.  I’d read the description at Now Smell This, and the person offering to host a split shared this favorable review of it, and the Magic Words were mentioned: “a true chypre.”  Gasp! Can it be… oakmoss?!?  Really?  People, myself included, jumped on it like a duck on a Junebug.

It’s not that I have all that much love for old-fashioned chypres.  I don’t dig the citrus ones, and the leather ones, like Bandit, sort of skeer me.  I do not do well with fruity chypres – as you might remember, Mitsouko hates me, and YSL Champagne/aka Yvresse and Givenchy So Pretty made me nauseous.  (Distinction here: I wouldn’t call them nauseating in themselves, but something about fruity chypres in general, while smelling fairly nice, make me feel queasy.  I don’t know why.)  The green chypres are iffy for me as well, often seeming unfriendly and standoffish. 

But the floral chypre genre has been rich for me.   I usually love floral chypres, from the original Victoria’s Secret fragrance, Victoria – a floral chypre alive with bergamot, rose, jasmine, moss, and sandalwood – through the changeling “green floral/floral chypre” Chanel No. 19, and on through the gorgeous, aquiline, dark-rose chypre L’Arte di Gucci, from the shy prettiness of Houbigant Demi-Jour with its violets, roses and moss, to the stunning complexity of Jolie Madame, a mossy suede handbag stuffed with violets and gardenias.  I even love the “modern chypre” 31 Rue Cambon (that luscious amber, sigh).

So I had high hopes for Plum.  The week my small decant arrived, I had been wearing 31 Rue Cambon, and had been spraying Coco Mademoiselle (which is classified as a floral chypre, although it’s heavier on patchouli and woods than on the classic oakmoss-labdanum base) on handkerchiefs while writing my NaNoWriMo novel.

At first spritz of Plum, my immediate thought was, Modern chypre!  A lot friendlier than the old classics, and with the smiling fruity topnotes that seem de rigueur these days.  My second thought was, Nope, I’m wrong, there really is oakmoss in there, and this is just… extremely pretty. 

My third thought was, I could wear this for the rest of my life.  The backstory, according to this Vogue article, is that Ms. Greenwell, a high-end makeup artist in the UK whom I’d never heard of before hearing of the fragrance, wanted to create a fragrance as a finishing touch to a woman’s look.  Ms. Greenwell has long been a proponent of natural, understated makeup intended to make women look less artificial, with an emphasis on natural-looking pink lips and defined but understated eye makeup.  It’s a look that I like very much, and which tends to be very flattering – with the right colors, of course – to just about everyone.  Ms. Greenwell states that she’s always felt that fragrance was the last step in a woman’s toilette, and that shes always made sure that the models or actresses or celebrities whose makeup she’s done have a spritz of something to complete the look and make them feel beautiful.  Apparently the name was chosen before the fragrance was, and it’s not so much like plum as it is a sheer veil of beauty, relaxed and without drama, but complex and balanced.

Plum starts off with fruit, but not the Jolly Rancher variety – it’s tart, mouth-puckering fruit with lots of citrus in the mix.  I do not actually smell plum in it, or at least not the plum note I liked so much in Natori, J’Adore L’Absolu, and Black Orchid Voile de Fleur.  I get very little peach, and what I do get is quite tangy.  There’s a lot of lemon, and I can pick out the blackcurrant quite easily.  The chypre base is immediately apparent underneath, although it is nowhere near as assertive as a lot of chypres; it’s very definitely the floral variety.   

After half an hour or so, Plum has glided into its floral phase, which I find really beautiful.  It’s heavy on the white floral notes – the gardenia and tuberose are quite noticeable – but I would not call it a straight-up white floral, as the rose is identifiable as well.  People who don’t like florals are likely to find this stage too sweet; however, this is my favorite part. 

When the drydown takes over, it is quite light compared to the classic chypre.  Oakmoss is definitely present, as are patchouli and amber, but they are well blended with no one element standing out.  I smell a lot of woody notes in the mix, which might be another reason I’d call Plum a modern chypre – it’s gentle and has none of the ferocity that, say, Bandit or Paloma Picasso has.  This phase throws very little sillage, as far as I can tell, and it wears like a lovely secret I’m hugging to myself. 

Plum is an eau de parfum, but it’s on the lighter side and wears more like an eau de toilette on me, four hours’ worth of wear from two to three goodly spritzes.  It strikes me as being fairly weightless, in that it’s been light but noticeable in the freezing (16-24F) weather we’ve been having over the last couple of weeks, but that it would not be at all too heavy a scent for summer.  There are very few scents I would wear all year round – Mariella Burani, Iris Poudre, No. 5 parfum, Eau Premiere – and I’d add Plum to the list.  A good number of people who’ve tried it have called it “very dressy,” “perfumey,” and “a big frock scent,” but I would, and have, happily worn it as a day scent.  To be sure, I’m not terribly interested in casual, not-too-perfumey fragrances, and rarely find anything too perfumey for my taste (exceptions? Amouage Gold and Dia, which I found absolutely huuuuuuge, though I love Ubar and Lyric). 

I wore Plum several times, racking my brain for the name of the scent it was reminding me of, before it finally occurred to me: Victoria’s Secret Victoria, which no one seems to remember these days, much less mention how beautiful it was.  It’s long discontinued, and I think I know why (leaving aside the question of the deterioration of the quality of Victoria’s Secret merchandise, as compared to its 1980s iteration): it did not age well.  I bought a small bottle of it on ebay two summers ago, hoping it would smell as I remembered.  Alas, it had gone off: the topnotes smelled like nail polish remover and maple syrup, and while the heart still smelled recognizably like Victoria, the syrupy sweetness never left.  So I thought I’d try for another bottle, hoping that it would be in better shape.  It wasn’t.  I had one more go, thinking that of course those pretty ribbed-glass tapered laydown bottles would have lain on dressers, soaking up light damage, and that I’d have better luck with a nondescript cylindrical bottle in a “tester” box.  Alas, again no.  I can “smell through” the nail polish and syrup to the effortless grace Victoria once had, with simplicity and elegance in equal parts, but the scent as it exists now is damaged.  Sadly, I notice that my bottles have deteriorated further since I bought them, with more maple-syrupy notes than before. 

Plum shares that feeling of effortless grace, the kind that makes me want to be a better person.  It feels both comfortable and uplifting, a second skin of warmth and happiness that reaches out a friendly hand to those around me.  It has captivated me, and my decant is rapidly dwindling.  I want a bottle.

Notes and info for Plum:  Composed by Francois Robert, fourth-generation perfumer.  “Plum, a contemporary chypre, blends top notes of peach, blackcurrant, plum, bergamot, and lemon.  Harmonious heart notes of gardenia, tuberose, orange flower absolute, rose absolute and jasmine absolute.  Followed by delicious drydown of precious woods, sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, amber and white musks.   (from House of Fraser)

Exclusive to House of Fraser in the UK.  Sold in 7.5 ml, 50ml, and 100ml; also in 3 gram solid.

A few other reviews:  The Scent Critic and Katie Chutzpah, as well as a brief mention toward the bottom of this post at Bonkers about Perfume.

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