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Archive for the ‘White floral’ Category

Perfume Review: Amouage Honour Woman

Date released: 2011

Perfumer: Alexandra Carlin and Violaine Collas

Sample provenance: sample purchased from Aedes.com, 2012

Sub-category: Summer-weight white floral with tuberose

The following never happened. But it could have…

Mals was having an amazing day. She was walking down a city street, the heels of her new brown leather boots tapping on the sidewalk, shopping bags swinging by her side. She was musing to herself that the cashmere sweater she’d found on sale was just perfect – simple, classic, a lovely soft shade of gray-blue. And the boots! Will wonders never cease? The boots were perfect, too. Butter-soft, the right heel, they fit her ankles, and they didn’t make her feet ache. She’d worn them out of the store. And that tablecloth, that was a wonderful find for $10… White linen with drawn-thread work, just the size for her harvest maple table, guaranteed resistant to the tiniest food stain, machine washable. Perfect.

A storefront caught her eye: The Dream Perfumery, lettered in a clean but flowing script above the door. Her eyebrows went up, and she dodged across the lanes of oncoming walkers to have a closer look. The building itself seemed to be made of marble, and the interior was softly lit. The heavy glass door swung open when she put her hand up to it, and then she realized that someone inside had opened it for her.

Thank you,” she said in faint surprise to the young woman holding the door.

Oh, do come in,” the young woman said. “Lovely day, isn’t it? I’m Graciela, and we’re so pleased you stopped by.”

Mals blinked. This was not what the kind of treatment to which she was accustomed. And the inside of the shop was absolutely luxe, with a whisper-soft carpet and walls hung with fabric in rich colors. It smelled of many mingled scents, as a perfume shop should.

(more…)

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I had long dismissed Elizabeth Taylor’s fragrances as being too big and bombastic for me, based on my reaction to her first fragrance, Passion. Passion was a big old honkin’ oriental, and given my usual reaction to that genre, it’s not surprising that I absolutely hated it then (and still hate it now).

Liz as a young woman was so stunningly beautiful, and so perfectly aligned with the standards of feminine beauty in her prime, that I was never surprised at her celebrity. She was also a very competent actor, in contrast to the many models who turn to acting as a career but retain their “stand there and look pretty” skills instead of learning to portray emotion. By the time she began to release fragrances under her own label, she had a Former Star status in my mind, having not appeared in film for several years, and having gained weight and married a politician. (The then-Mrs. Warner was once an attendee at a party some staunch Republican neighbors of ours threw, back in… oh, 1980 or ’81, I think. Think of that: Elizabeth Taylor, on my block! I never laid eyes on her, though.) White Diamonds, composed in Sophia Grojsman’s inimitable, bosomy feminine style, was released in 1991. But it was so much of the era of Dynasty and Dallas, all dress-up“fancy”, that I felt it would definitely not fit my sense of style. I avoided it, as best I could: I often smelled it on older ladies, the kind of woman who will dress up in her nicest Alfred Dunner pantsuit and add Sarah Coventry jewelry before getting her hair set and then going to the grocery store! In short, it was for my grandmother. It was definitely Not Me.

But when Angela at Now Smell This reviewed White Diamonds back in the spring of 2011 and found it better than she had expected, I determined for myself that I’d find a way to test it somehow. Ebay is my usual go-to source for small portions of fragrances that aren’t new, and this was no exception. I snagged a 5ml bottle of White Diamonds parfum, in box, for $4.

I opened the bottle and took a sniff, and instantly recognized it. Yes: big white floral with a buncha stuff in there, the olfactory equivalent of a red sequined cocktail dress with shoulder pads, worn with high matching red heels, teased hair, and way too much jewelry, not to mention scads of blue eyeshadow and blood-red lips and nails. It is Obviously Dressy and a little Over the Top, perfectly in keeping with its decadently luxurious name. It’s White Diamonds, plural – not your engagement ring solitaire, not the single diamond on a slender gold chain.

On skin, it goes like this: some soapy aldehydes and a luscious, almost overripe peach, as well as an immediate hit of tuberose and jasmine/orange blossom. It reminds me just a bit of my old Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, though White Diamonds is even more in-your-face than Chloe was. It smells rich and soft and blatantly feminine. There is a noticeably spicy carnation in there, as well as a rose note. Sometimes, though not always, I can pick up on a strange ashtray smell, which I at first thought my memory was adding in, but have since smelled in a few other fragrances as well (vintage Chanel Cristalle edt, and Ysatis). It can smell a little… dirty… like post-coital sheets, perhaps from the influence of narcissus. Eventually WD settles into a soft, plushy floral-musk drydown, with tiny hints of wood and moss, that retains its luxurious character. The whole experience lasts about nine hours on me, which is nearly unheard of! It stays comfortable and pleasant throughout. I’ve heard it called “soapy,” but it’s not nearly as soapy as most orange blossom fragrances seem to veer on my skin. Instead, the tuberose and narcissus seem to pull it toward “cosy” instead.

Notes for White Diamonds, according to Fragrantica: aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, orange, lily, carnation, cinnamon, violet, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, narcissus, tuberose, orris root, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood.

The parfum is softer and less radiant than I remember smelling on most of those ladies of my grandmother’s age when WD was new. And if they’re selling this mini bottle at about $12 retail, there’s no way that the ingredients are top-notch, but I do smell what I think is at least a bit of natural tuberose in there. The entire thing is soft and floral and cooshy (a little like Liz’ famous curves?), and I think most men, even ones that regularly wear women’s fragrances, would feel uncomfortable in it, given its cultural connotations of femininity. White Diamonds does feel a little dated and definitely not of the current era. But oddly, for all the long list of notes and the jam-packed overripeness it can sometimes give off, it’s actually pretty. It is not young and innocent, but it is pretty. My teenage daughter, who’s notably sensitive to skank, wrinkled her nose, but my sons and husband all commented on it smelling nice on me. Unasked! That’s a fairly high endorsement.

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I did not remember smelling the original Oscar de la Renta way back in the 80s, when it was relatively new, but it did smell sort of familiar when I managed to get hold of a used miniature bottle for a few dollars on ebay. It smelled like a tuberose-rich white floral on one of those kitchen-sink bases that you used to get in your average department-store floral – less mossy than Chloe, less civet-dirty than Ysatis, but a rich floral-woody-oriental all the same. It is actually a contemporary of Chloe’s, being released just two years later, and the two run fairly congruently along the lines of their notes lists. (I have a strong preference for Chloe as being cleaner and more ladylike, but you might attribute that preference to the fact that I wore Chloe for more than a decade.)

Oscar was composed by Jean-Louis Sieuzac, who also authored some of the most famous fragrances of the 70s and 80s: Dune, Fahrenheit, Bel Ami, Opium. Its notes list:  (Top) orange blossom, basil, coriander, galbanum, peach, gardenia, (Heart) ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose, rose, rosemary, cyclamen, lavender, orchid, (Base) opoponax, carnation, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, amber.

Oscar also has a distinctively “ashtray” note that I’ve found in only a few other fragrances: Cristalle edt and Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds. Presumably this ashtray note pops up other places (Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarette, perhaps? I haven’t smelled it), but I don’t know what causes it, and I don’t tend to find it in fragrances that list a tobacco note. In any case, Tania Sanchez mentions it in her review in P:TG as well.

The current version of… Oscar… is complicated but flat, zipping from a tobacco-tinged tuberose top note to a nondescript woody oriental that reminds me of the way my clothes used to smell the morning after a big night out – clinging remnants of perfume and stale cigarette smoke. Ysatis was a better, plusher version of this kind of thing, although I hear that Oscar was a big, impressive tuberose once. It isn’t now.”

I haven’t smelled the modern iteration of Oscar, and I can only go on the (slightly-age-damaged) bottle of vintage parfum I have on hand. The first whiff is of nail polish remover – fairly common in older perfumes, and nothing serious to worry about. It seems to be related to the breakdown of aldehydes, and is usually out of the way in ten to fifteen minutes. I don’t smell any herbs or galbanum when I put on this Oscar, or perhaps they’re buried under the heavy florals. Vintage Oscar is indeed a big, impressive white-floral composition, on that complicated base that I mentioned earlier. What comes through most in the base is woods and amber, sweet and insistent. Along with the tuberose, there is a pile of orange blossom and jasmine. There is also quite a bit of heliotrope, and the combination makes me think fleetingly of L’Heure Bleue, though it’s less seamless than L’HB, and the ashtray cast dirties the whole thing up.

Oscar seems rather bad-tempered to me, with a Bette Davis “Jezebel” don’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude. Again, it might be that my vintage parfum is to blame here, but the odd thing about this haughty fragrance is that it seems right that it’s haughty. It’s not quite the thin, couture-clad woman smoking a cigarette in a holder and walking an ocelot on a jeweled leash sort of Erte-illustration haughtiness that you get from your big rose chypres, but it’s a sort of “I pay my pool boy more in a week than you’ll earn this year, sweetie” condescending haughtiness that doesn’t feel very much like me: a plush limo, a lady-that-lunches. It is fairly dated, in a way that probably would bring up the dreaded “old lady” appellation, and I’m guessing that your average man would feel uncomfortable wearing it.

The parfum does last well, about six hours, but without the big sillage I expected. I’ll bet the EdP is a sillage bomb, though. I bought my partially-used mini bottle on eBay for about $4, but new bottles range from $30 for a 30ml bottle of EdT at online discounters, to $85 for a 100ml bottle of EdT or $104 for a quart-ounce of parfum  in a department store. It’s easily available, and there are also miniatures and body products (lotion, etc.) associated.

See other reviews of Oscar de la Renta perfume at Basenotes and Fragrantica

From blog comments and reviews, I’d heard that Esprit d’Oscar was an updated, easy-listening version of the original white floral beast, and that it was very pleasant. I was happy to run across a sample in a swap (thanks, AnnS!) and even happier to find that Esprit is so attractive and wearable. It was composed by the team of Frank Voelkl and Ann Gottlieb, and released this year (2011).  The notes list for Esprit d’Oscar includes bergamot, lemon, citron, jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, musk, heliotrope, tonka bean, and vetiver.

Esprit begins with some lovely citrus notes, under which I smell a lot of white florals. It does away with the ashtray note and a good bit of the ballast of Oscar, and opts to highlight orange blossom over tuberose. Both are clearly present, but it’s a clean, pretty orange blossom that is in focus here. In fact, what with the orange blossom and heliotrope, Esprit smells, for a time, even more like L’Heure Bleue than the original Oscar does. The other big change, aside from the general lightening of the formula, is the use of a creamy, face-powder smoothness that reminds me a little bit of Love, Chloe and Dior New Look 1947. I really like this sort of thing, particularly in conjunction with the white floral blend in Esprit d’Oscar, and I’m not surprised that several perfume bloggers have found Esprit congenial.

Of course, it’s a truism that if there’s orange blossom in a particular fragrance, it tends to smell of soap to me. I truly think that there is something about the interaction of orange blossom and my skin that creates the illusion of soap. Every time I wear something heavy on the OB, I’ll ask family members, individually, what they think, and invariably I’ll get the answer, “That smells like soap.” Sometimes the response is positive, as it is with Esprit d’Oscar: my husband, when asked, said, “That’s nice and clean. Very pleasant. Honestly, it smells like you just showered with one of those fancy soaps.”

Thing is, I don’t actually use fancy soaps. I always buy shower gel of some kind or other, because our water is very hard (calcium carbonate) and soap leaves impossible-to-eradicate scum in the showers. The shower gels always lack that creamy sort of smell that I think of as being classic soap.

The longer Esprit is on, the more musk I smell. It’s a clean sort of musk, but of the variety I call “skin,” as opposed to “laundry.” A quick drugstore reference, if I’m not making sense to you here: “skin” musk is Jovan Musk for Women, or, duh, Parfums de Coeur Skin Musk. These are warm, gentle perfumes that smell like clean skin, and since Jovan Musk was one of my mother’s everyday fragrances when I was a kid, skin-musk scents tend to strike me as being warm, clean, and comforting. “Laundry” musk is easily smellable in Jovan White Musk, which smells like harsh industrial soap to me, that nasty chemical stuff they use in hospital laundries. I happen to like musk, as long as it doesn’t encroach on what I call “goaty” musk. (Ever smell a goat up close? Do yourself a favor, and don’t. I like goats, but the smell is fairly beastly. Maybe I just like the idea of goats. Ahem. We’re leaving the goat pen behind. No dallying with Muscs Koublai Khan or Smell Bent Commando, now. Press onward.)

The overall effect of Esprit d’Oscar is pretty and clean and perfumey, but at the same time, it seems vastly more unisex than Oscar. It’s very easy to wear, and I doubt you’d offend anyone if you were drenched in the stuff, so it might make a great gift, and I think it’s a perfect office, or “wallpaper” scent, the kind that hangs around like a veil and smells pleasant without drawing notice to itself. The clean angle and the skin musk take it out of that dated, heavy-floral realm that Oscar is now situated in.

Esprit d’Oscar is an eau de parfum and lasts pretty well on my skin, probably due to the musk. I usually get about four to five hours, dabbed moderately. It might last even longer sprayed, but I have a dabber sample (now mostly used and enjoyed). It’s available at certain department stores from $78 for a 50ml bottle, and $98 for a 100ml one. I don’t yet see any body products or miniatures in production, but if it sells well, as it should, those will probably be produced.

See other reviews of Esprit d’Oscar here: Angela at Now Smell ThisBrian at I Smell Therefore I Am, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  (As always, if you know of other reviews, please share!) 

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Stephanie bottle, from Michael Storer website

I think I first saw a mention of Stephanie from Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, shortly after I first saw her mention Michael Storer in a review of Monk. Monk still doesn’t sound like my kind of thing, but Stephanie sounded right up my alley.

Perfume Review: Michael Storer Stephanie

Date released:2007

Perfumer: Michael Storer

Sample provenance: bottle split, 2011

Sub-category: Lush white floral with tuberose

I still don’t know much about Michael Storer, except that he has a website and sells several fragrances which are not exactly hot topics on the perfume blog circuit but are generally well-regarded. The webside tag says, “Niche fragrances for the individualist.” I’m down with that, I suppose. Besides Stephanie, the other feminine fragrances are Yvette and Genviève (what, all Michael’s women are French?); also available are Kadota and Winter Star, described as unisex, and two masculines called Djin and Monk. The website explains that after many years spent in the fashion industry, Mr. Storer began making perfumes, and that his philosophy of fragrance leads him to create scents which are somewhat linear so that the “signature accord,” so to speak, the central character, is what sticks around.

To read about each fragrance, you click on the bottle in the photo, whereupon you immediately get a brief flash of a black-and-white arty nude or partially-clad body, rolling through to a description of the fragrance notes. (Can it be a coincidence that the images of women are soft-focus and fuzzy, while the images of men are stunningly crisp and clear? No matter.)

As far as I can tell, the fragrances are all eau de parfum, and priced at about $85 for a 2-ounce bottle: a good deal compared to a lot of niche fragrances.

 

White Gardenia, from Wikimedia Commons

Stephanie is described as being a gorgeous, accurate recreation of the headspace of a gardenia flower. The notes listed, with the admission that it’s an incomplete list, are: pink pepper, black pepper, galbanum, angelica root, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose, and chrysanthemum for a green finish. I love gardenias – sweet and floral and swoony and sort of weird, too – and I think Mr. Storer has done a lovely job with this scent, although I admit that it doesn’t smell distinctively gardenia to me. In practical terms, gardenia absolute is extremely rare, produced in minuscule, ridiculously expensive quantities, and any “gardenia” scent on the market is pretty much going to be custom-built out of tuberose. Which is fine with me, really.

In my opinion, rather than being strictly gardenia, Stephanie is a straight-up, no-twists, white floral. She (I know, a cheap and easy anthropomorphization – sorry) reaches out and grabs a handful of your shirtfront and pulls you close, where you fall deeply under her spell.

Well, you have to like white flowers to fall under the spell, but still.

I smell the spiky-sharp green of galbanum and chrysanthemum right away, but it doesn’t last long before we are into white floral territory. I can pick out tuberose and the jasmine sambac, and I think there must be a honkin’ dose of orange blossom in here as well, because there is a faintly soapy aspect to the scent. I smell the black pepper, too, which is fine, I like that, and it just adds a little counterpoint to the sweetness of the florals, which is indeed pretty sweet. Underneath the florals is a quiet, unobtrusive base of wood – cedar, maybe? – and musk.

I think it’s beautiful. Stephanie’s floral notes seem to be mostly natural; I don’t get any of that astringent-yet-too-sweet quality that pops up with synthetic tuberose. And like most tuberose scents, it lasts a good long time on me, though with much quieter sillage after the first hour or so. I usually get about six hours from two spritzes (one wrist, smeared to the other, and base of throat), which is pretty good longevity for me.

Is it better than some of the other gardenia fragrances I’ve tried? Not sure. It’s not nearly as diffusive and long-lived as Estee Lauder’s pretty-pretty Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and it’s not as green as the tropical Kai. However, it didn’t feel like the throwback scent that PCTG did to me, and it seemed better blended than Kai. Stephanie is swoony, a lovely tropical vacation in a bottle, and I know I’ll enjoy wearing my small decant.

Quality: A

Grab-scale score: 8.

Short description: Lush white floral.

Cost: $$

Earns compliments? Yes.

Scent presence: Moderate, with moderate sillage. Lasts about six hours with two spritzes.

Review report: Abigail at ISTIA, Sweet Diva, Scent Signals

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Lilies for Easter

The Easter Lily 

The Easter Lily, also known by its Latin name Lilium longiflorum, has become the traditional Easter flower. With all the different flowers available in the spring garden, it is this beautiful white flower that has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter: purity, life and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning triumphant to Jerusalem.

The Easter Connection

According to Biblical scholars, the Easter Lily was found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas is said to have betrayed Jesus. Legend tells that white lilies miraculously sprung up from the ground where drops of Jesus’ sweat and tears fell during his last hours.  The Easter Lily also has close associations with Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. In early religious paintings, the Archangel Gabriel is pictured extending a branch of white lilies to Mary, symbolizing that she had become the virgin mother to the savior.    Today, many churches use large bouquets of lilies to adorn their altars and crosses during the Easter season.               – from holiday.net

Lilies were always a big part of Easter celebrations when I was a child – our church used those big white ones all over the sanctuary, and sometimes my mother would have one in the house – and the church we attended previously used them near the pulpit.  You could donate an Easter lily in honor or in remembrance of loved ones, and there they’d be on Easter morning, lined up on the dais and on the rail in front of the choir loft, trumpeting fragrance in dizzying waves.  They smelled wonderful, but every Easter Sunday, I’d be sniffly and unable to breathe by halfway through the service, with three dozen lilies all clustered less than ten feet from my face.

The church we attend now is different.  For one thing, we meet  in the middle school auditorium because we don’t have a building.  For another, dress is very casual; it’s common for people to show up in jeans.  I’m singing with the praise band, and I’ll probably wind up wearing jeans along with all of them.  In some ways I miss having a new Easter dress and an orchid corsage, the way I always had as a kid.   I miss not singing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”  And I do miss those lilies, symbols of purity and joy and new life, pollen machines or not.

I’ll be wearing the smell of lilies, in any case, and thinking about purity and joy and new life.  Lily perfumes never make me sneeze, and I never associate lilies with funerals.  No, for me lilies are Easter.

There are some lovely fragrances featuring lilies – here’s a short list of soliflores and lily-centered scents:

Serge Lutens Un Lys – Lovely soliflore.  Notes: lily, vanilla, musk.   It’s pretty but doesn’t make any emotional impact on me.  Robin of Now Smell This likes it much better than I do: her review is here.  Victoria of Bois de Jasmin reviews it here

Frederic Malle Lys Mediterranee – This is beautiful; it’s mostly lilies, but with a waft of salty breeze, and a hint of floral aqueousness from water lily.  I have a sample that I enjoy very much.  Notes: sea water, ginger, lily, angelica, orange blossom, lotus, vanilla, musk.  Bois de Jasmin review here.   Review of several lily scents, including Lys Mediterranee, by Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things here.

Donna Karan Gold – This is what I’ll wear.  It’s discontinued (what a shame!), and I got my 1oz bottle of edp on ebay for $8.  Notes: lily, acacia, cloves, jasmine, amber, patchouli.  Very spicy, yet satiny-cool.  Robin at NST reviews it here, and Victoria of BdJ here.  Also, For the Love of Perfume here.

Cynthia Rowley (for Avon) Flower – Notes: freesia, citrus, violet leaf, lily, water lily, jasmine, cashmere wood, vanilla, sandalwood.  I have a small bottle of this.  It is pretty, and higher-pitched than many of the other scents on the list.  Like many of the Avon scents (I grew up on them), it does smell a bit cheap.  Having said that, I think this would be a terrific scent for a young girl.  No blog reviews available.

Annick Goutal Des Lys – I have not smelled this limited edition scent, but I am sure it’s just as uncomplicatedly pretty as the other scents in the Goutal soliflore line.  Notes: lily, ivy, cassis.  Angela at Now Smell This reviewed this scent, here.

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Lys Carmin –   Notes: cinnamon, pink pepper, lily.  Review from Patty of Perfume Posse here and from March at PP, here

Cacharel Anais Anais – I haven’t smelled this in years, but my mother used to wear it.  It’s a rich composition, but clean-smelling and focused on lily.  Notes: galbanum, citruses, honeysuckle, lavender, orange blossom, hyacinth, black currant, lily, jasmine, carnation, tuberose, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss, vetiver, incense, cedar.  Reviews here:  Donna at PST, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am.

Tocca Stella – Another composition I haven’t smelled.  Described as being mostly citrus-lily in reviews on fragrance forums.  Notes:  orange, freesia, lily, orchid, sandalwood, musk.  Reviews:  Victoria’s Own, Blogdorf Goodman.

I wish you a wonderful, meaningful Easter: He is risen.  He is risen indeed. 

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It’s Donna’s fault. 

You know Donna, right?  She writes, beautifully, for Perfume Smellin’ Things, and also writes a column on perfume for The Portland Examiner.   She’s also probably the perfume blogger whose taste I most closely share; if she likes something, chances are very good that I will enjoy it as well.

A couple of months ago, she posted a link on Facebook to a listing for a white floral fragrance being sold at $80 for 100ml on Amazon and asked if anyone knew anything at all about it, because Donna (who describes herself as the White Floral Queen) was intrigued by the description.  No one knew anything other than what the Amazon listing itself stated, which was this:

A radiant, fresh, floral orchid fragance, with a transparent, green and light bouquet aspect, which remains over a long period.     Top notes of Bergamot, Wild flowers and Orange Flower; Heart notes of Orchid, Jasmine and Tuberose; Core notes of Heliotrope, Sandalwood and Musk.

Blue Orchid from cristinabertrand.com

But the description intrigued me, too.  I’m not a huge orange blossom fan, but I am a sucker for orchid and tuberose, particularly together.  $80 seemed a little steep for something I’d never heard of before, so I thought I’d go check ebay to see if  it might be available at a discount… and I found one: a listing in Florida, Buy It Now, brand new in box, 100ml for the princely sum of $8, plus $4 shipping, $12 total. 

I bought it, unsniffed.  I figured that if it turned out to be good, I could split the bottle with Donna, and if not – well, what’s $12 for a nice room spray?  Time passed, the box arrived, I was busy and put the box away until such time that I would be free to test it… and promptly forgot where I put it.  In the meantime, Donna found another bottle for cheap.

(You ever do that?  I’m not as organized as I’d like to be.  Sometimes I’ll buy Christmas presents in August and then have to do the mad search on December 22… have never lost anything, but have occasionally misplaced things for six months.  Oopsie.)

And then last week, I found it.  In the pantry, of all places.  (Why there?  Who knows?)  So I opened the box and spritzed – and was pleasantly surprised: it’s nice.  It’s very nice, as a matter of fact, and for once the ad copy manages to be both accurate and attractive.  It is a fresh white floral without a hint of modern fruitiness, and it is indeed transparent and light but remains on skin for a long time.  (I myself would not call it “green,” but I suspect that my standards of greenness are probably at a higher threshold than those of most people.)

Wild Daisies, from cristinabertrand.com

I was right to be a little bit leery of the bergamot/orange flower combination: the first fifteen minutes do contain a hint of the back-of-the-throat Tang Dust Effect that I dislike.  There’s also a hint of a “fresh floral” note that’s a bit chemical; it may be a peony or freesia note.  However,  once that’s over, Cristina Bertrand #3 does become a quiet, yet radiant, soft accord of white flowers.  I can pick out all three of the featured florals, and they smell like natural materials to me: mostly tuberose and a nice fresh (non-indolic) jasmine, with the creamy-satiny effect that orchid seems to impart.  I also seem to be getting just a little bit of lily of the valley as well, though it’s not listed.  The drydown is  mostly a bit of quiet musk, not too laundry-esque, and pleasant woodsy notes.  I do not get any heliotrope at all.  It is somewhat linear, but in an attractive, relaxed fashion; this is one of those fragrances that is Simply Pretty.

#3 does last a fairly long time – five to six hours on me, on the far side of average for an eau de parfum.  I like it a lot, and I imagine I’ll be getting some wear out of it on warm days.    The bottle is simple but attractive: a squared rectangle of glass, with a frosted  plastic cap and a sticker depicting one of Bertrand’s paintings, called Blue Orchid.   I’m not sure I’d have associated this particular piece with this fragrance; I’d have picked “Wild Daisies” (pictured above).  There’s a gentle innocence to #3 that would not be out of place on a young girl, and yet I do not find it to be too young for me.  If my mother liked white florals, it would be fine on her too.

I did a little research on Cristina Bertrand: she’s an artist who was born in Spain, lived for 20 years in the US, and has done several projects in China.  She has done a set of illustrations for the I Ching, a philosophical/religious document that is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and thought.  From Wikipedia: ” [The I Ching] centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.”  Her art, which seems to be primitive (don’t quote me on this – I didn’t check it with my art-historian sister), focuses on Miami, California, and Spain, particularly on landscapes and flowers.  Ms.  Bertrand has also created a line of jewelry, fragrances, and scarves based on her depictions of flowers. 

Viejas en la catedral (Old Ladies in the cathedral), from cristinabertrand.com

It is somewhat odd that I cannot find any mention of #3 on the Cristina Bertrand website.  There are three fragrances, each based on a painting of a flower or plant: Blue Orchid and White Jasmine for women, and Red Bamboo.  Blue Orchid, although the bottle and list of notes are different, uses the same painting, and the description starts with the same sentence as the one for #3:  “A radiant, fresh, floral fragrance with a transparent, green and light bouquet. Ideal for wearing all day.”  I suspect that #3 may have been an early prototype, or a fragrance that was discontinued and retooled into Blue Orchid.  All the fragrances now referenced on the website seem to be in 50ml bottles, and are only sold in China, apparently.  There is a business listing for Cristina Bertrand in Miami, and I wonder if my bottle came from there.   

I blame Donna… for finding mention of this graceful fragrance.  Thanks, Donna!

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Manoumalia was composed in 2009 by Sandrine Videault, in an homage to the island of Wallis in the South Pacific.  Ms. Videault lives on the island of New Caledonia, not far from Wallis. The Wallisians have a richly perfumed heritage – not only those gorgeously scented tropical flowers used in leis and floral bracelets, but also sandalwood dust used as a hair coloring agent and curcuma (related to turmeric) as makeup.  Ms. Videault also comments, in this article by Helg at Perfume Shrine, that Wallisians often wash their hands in classic French perfume, favoring old-style chypres, ambers, and white florals.  Indeed, the composition of tuitui perfume includes L.T. Piver’s Pompeiia, a 1907 French fragrance.

The name makes references to “manou,” a tribute gift, and Malia, the Wallisian woman that shared the scented traditions of her island with Ms. Videault.

Of the Les Nez line, I’ve only tried this one and The Unicorn Spell.  I liked TUS, with its notes of raw green bean and violet, and its silvery aura, very much, but I know that the Les Nez fragrances are widely divergent from each other, and I wasn’t expecting anything like TUS from Manoumalia.  What I was expecting was a rich and luscious tropical white floral.  My tropical experiences are fairly limited – I’ve only been to Hawaii once, for five days.  We spent three days in Honolulu, Oahu, visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial and the University of Hawaii as well as the touristy but beautiful beach at Waikiki, and then hopped over to the Big Island of Hawaii, staying in a little mom-and-pop hotel in Hilo and visiting Volcanoes National Park and the observatory at Mauna Loa.   I sniffed every flower I could get my nose on (plumeria, wild ginger, orchids); I smelled bus exhaust and suntan oil and rummy drinks and sulfurous volcanic fumes and lots of green plants.  That’s the extent of my tropical experiences, and while I enjoyed them very much, the fragrances that have recalled Hawaii to me, so far, have been Ormonde Jayne Frangipani and Maoli Colonia Dulce.

Notes for Manoumalia: fagraea, tiare, ylang-ylang, sandalwood dust, vetiver, amber.  I’m not a huge vetiver fan, but I do love a tropical floral.  White flowers make me sigh with pleasure, and I get on well with sandalwood (who doesn’t?) and amber.  I was enticed by the Perfumes: The Guide review that calls Manoumalia “soft as lips, caressing like a sea breeze, and as lush as a sunset,” and by several blog reviews that praised its uncliched tropical angle, its contrast between big white flowers and earthy darkness.   Helg at Perfume Shrine calls it “kiss-me-stupid beautiful.”  How could I resist?

And then, a few weeks ago, there was a mention of it on Perfume Posse (Musette started it, in the comments, about 2/3 of the way down the page).  I knew my sample had been languishing in the “to test” basket until I could have time to devote to it, but in the comments, Musette described it as “powdery grease,” and that was so far from the other descriptions I’d read, I had to go and put it on, hoping I’d get “beautiful” instead. 

Was it the power of suggestion?  Was I simply looking for “powdery grease” instead of “soft as lips”?  I still don’t know.

Because I really didn’t get either.  That is, there is a powdery aspect to Manoumalia that I have to assume comes from the sandalwood dust, or possibly the vetiver.  It’s not exactly unpleasant, but the dusty bit reminds me of my great-aunt.  And there are gorgeous white flowers in there, too – sweet, luscious, lolling tropical flowers.  What I wasn’t expecting was a meaty, fleshy, almost bloody angle that knocked me sideways.

As you might remember, I got “rotting raw chicken” plus camphor out of the acknowledged-to-be-difficult opening of Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle.  The camphor didn’t throw me, and neither did the really lovely, shiny tuberose that followed.  But the misfortune of having cleaned my fridge that week just ruined TC for me, because of the two lonely pieces of raw chicken that had gotten lost in the back of the fridge.  Ugh.  I gave TC several wearings, hoping to get past that garbagey note.  Alas.  No hope.

Manoumalia probably contains some tuberose – fagraea and tiare being flowers that, like lily of the valley, don’t actually yield scented oil and therefore require reconstruction via other means.  I suppose it’s possible that I’m getting this meatiness out of some part of the white floral composition.  What it really reminds me of – WARNING, this is about to get icky, so if you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph – is that post-partum discharge called lochia that contains blood, mucus, and placental tissue.  It smells sweetish and fleshy in a not-totally-disgusting but utterly-memorable sort of way.  Give birth once and you’ll remember the smell for the rest of your life.

So what I’m getting from Manoumalia is this mixture of tropical flowers, earthy wood, and… lochia.  While I recognize that for some people, the hint of decay just makes Manoumalia realistic and reminiscent of the tropics, for me it’s completely unwearable.   I asked my children and husband what they thought of this fragrance, and they said, “Nice.  Flowers.  Pretty.  We like it.”  Huh, I said.  You don’t smell anything weird?  Anything… odd?  Anything that doesn’t smell just like flowers?   “Nope.  Nice, pretty flowers.  We like it.”

So it’s me.  But if I’m the one wearing it, and I’m the one getting “fleshy” out of it, it’s my perception that counts.  It’s perfectly understandable to find a particular scent well-done and interesting, and yet not enjoy it.  That’s my position on Manoumalia: it’s well-done, and I don’t  like it. 

Like most tuberose scents, it does last well and project nicely.  I typically get four to five hours of service from two spritzes.  Compared to other niche fragrances, it’s not unreasonably priced (though I admit that if I liked it, I’d only own a decant, as it’s out of my league) at $105 for 50ml.

Links:  Article on fagraea at West Hawaii Today; review at Perfume Shrine; Grain de Musc; Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things; Tom at PST; Abigail at I Smell Therefore I AmLegerdenez; March at Perfume Posse (read the comments on this one, they’re instructive); Olfactarama.

Photo of Manoumalia from LuckyScent; photo of fagraea from WildSingapore.

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