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Archive for the ‘Guerlain’ Category

Pamplelune was composed in 1999 by then-in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent (also responsible for one of my favorite comfort fragrances, Shalimar Light), as part of the simple and lovely first round of Aqua Allegoria fragrances. Pamplelune and Herba Fresca are the only fragrances that remain in production from that first release of these Guerlains With Training Wheels, both deservedly so. Pamplelune, despite having lost that first blush of newness, is still getting press – and wear – among fragrance fans.

Here, in part, is what Luca Turin of Perfumes: The Guide had to say about it:

“… without question the best grapefruit fragrance ever, and has that magical quality, typical of perfectly conceived and executed fragrances, of being much more than the sum of its parts… Laurent married grapefruit… with an intensely pink floral accord and somehow gave it durability and that elusive quality of radiance: the ability to project an accurate image of itself at a distance. A sunny masterpiece.”

I ran across this description in P:TG and promptly dismissed it. I don’t really care for citrus scents. They smell fine, but they tend to bore me to tears, and the phrase “a good citrus,” strikes me as having the same appeal as “a good car chase film.” Sure, there are people that like that sort of thing, but I am not one of them.  It turns out, though, that grapefruit might be an exception for me, as in Pamplelune and in Moschino Funny!

I first smelled Pamplelune at the Duty Free shop in the Rome airport. I was already covered in Lolita Lempicka Si Lolita and Chanel No. 19 EdP, so I figured that if it bored me I’d still have other things to smell. However, Pamplelune surprised me: I was pleased that, first, I’d found a citrus fragrance that didn’t for once bore me silly, and second, that didn’t disappear at Minute 34. I had already bought a set of four Aqua Allegoria minis in Malta intending to bring them back home as souvenirs for various relatives: Flora Nymphea to my mother, who likes soapy-clean scents; Bouquet Numero 1, a citrus-fresh floral, to The CEO’s mother; Herba Fresca to The CEO’s sister J who loves fresh gardeny unisex smells, and Pamplelune to his other sister E, who used to wear Dune and had been looking for some lighter summer fragrances. E reported to me later that she really enjoys the happy, light-hearted cast of Pamplelune.

If you go to Basenotes or Makeup Alley or Fragrantica and read what’s written about Pamplelune, you will find widely divergent reviews. Some of them are as enthusiastic as the encomium written by Luca Turin in P:TG, and some of them condemn Pamplelune as being quite possibly the worst thing the reviewer has ever smelled, ever. The aromachemical making the difference seems to be the sulfur compound in grapefruit: to some people it smells quite strongly of sweaty body odor, and to some it smells unmistakeably of cat urine.

I had warned E about Pamplelune before she put it on. “Try it before you take the bottle with you,” I said. “Some people say it smells unpleasant, and if you don’t like it I’ll give you something else. I like it, but your nose might perceive it quite differently.” To her it smells of lemons, oranges and flowers. No locker room, and no incontinent cats.

I have lived with a cat in my house for most of my 43 years, excluding only my college years and the year I lived in my own apartment. Mr. Deedee, an orange cat, was succeeded by Smoky, the gray one. Then Midnight, who was exceedingly grouchy with everyone except my mom (who fed him) and my sister (who was a baby). Then Mittens, a tall tabby cat, came to live with us, and he was mostly my sister’s cat – she could hold him and ask for a kiss, and he’d lick her cheek. I found Callie, the stray calico, when I was a teenager and brought her home. Mittens and Callie were still with my parents when I moved out, Mittens living to the age of 14 before developing a brain tumor and Callie finally succumbing to old age when she was 17. Meanwhile, my brother brought home Buju, a chunky gray girl; when my grandmother’s beloved dog died, I brought her Herschel, a white-and-gray kitten from the litter that was born in the backseat of our neighbor’s car. Later, my parents took in Rosie, an enormous calico that I like to call “Meatloaf,” when her owner had to move into an apartment. And during the year that E lived with The CEO and me after we were married, her cat Tiger lived with us too.

The CEO, who had grown up with cats like Smoky and Morris and Dwayne (so named because he’d been found as a kitten in, yes, a dwainpipe), brought home two kittens he’d found starving and crying their heads off in a barn, with no sign of a mama cat anywhere. The black one he called Lucky, as a sort of joke that turned out not to be so funny when she crossed the street unwisely and was hit by a car. The small fluffy tabby with a bottlebrush tail we named Silvia, after a delicately feminine character in a Scott Turow novel. Silvia would place one tiny white paw on the side of the bowl of kitten chow and eat one kibble at a time, while Lucky planted both front feet right in the bowl and plowed in. Silvia, now old enough to vote and rather thin, is still with us.

So. I know the smell of cat pee, yes? Yes, indeed. I do. And despite the fact that an open cup of peach-flavored yogurt abandoned on the kitchen table often causes me to sniff suspiciously and check the litter box, I don’t smell any cat pee in Pamplelune.

What I smell in Pamplelune is bright citruses, mostly grapefruit but also an intense orange peel, followed by a floral note that I thought at first was orange blossom but now think must be neroli, because it does not go soapy and flat on me the way orange blossom usually does. Rather, it’s sparkling and has a happy feeling to it. The citrus phase by itself lasts almost twenty minutes on me, which is remarkably long for citrus, in my experience. The citrus+floral phase lasts a much longer time, perhaps an hour, before the citrus drops out altogether and the florals take over. I smell quite a lot of rose in Pamplelune along with the neroli (orange blossom?), and it is a classic, perfumey scent at this stage. Eventually, I smell the quiet woody base, which includes a faint, unsweetened hint of vanilla as well as a dry, herbal patchouli that does not send me screaming the way patchouli can. The whole fragrance is attractive and pleasant, shifting gears without a hitch throughout. My mini bottle is a dabber, and when I dab, the scent lasts about three and a half to four hours – extraordinarily long for an eau de toilette on my skin – while sprayed, it lasts about five or five and a half hours. It is not particularly loud, but it does have rather a nice gentle waft, well within my three-foot radius preferred wafting distance.

The notes for Pamplelune, according to Fragrantica, include lemon, orange, bergamot, blackcurrant, petitgrain, sandalwood, patchouli, and vanilla. There is no orange blossom or neroli listed, nor rose, but neither is grapefruit specifically listed. (I’d swear there’s rose.) Also, I think there might be just a little bit of musk, as a longevity extender.  The entire fragrance has a cheerful, smiling face without that relentlessly perky clenched-teeth airline hostess perma-grin, and I find it both uplifting and easy to relax in.

It might be that the blackcurrant+citrus combination creates the grapefruit effect, and since these are topnotes that might be affected by skin acidity, I do recommend that anyone interested in Pamplelune try it before buying it. But do try it, won’t you? If it works on you, you won’t regret it.

Bottle image and notes list from Fragrantica.  I note that Fragrantica also claims Jean-Paul Guerlain to be the nose for this fragrance, but I don’t think I’m buying that.  Cat image is from cat-lovers-only.com (because Silvia is camera-shy!)  Grapefruit image from Wikipedia.

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By which I mean “the so-called big city,” with exaggerated finger air quotes and nudges and winks and elbows to the ribs, and it’s only big city if you live in Podunksville, as I currently do. This afternoon, I dropped off the rest of my family at the minor league ballpark and headed off for some mall sniffies. I enjoy revisiting the place where I grew up. Roanoke, VA is not big. Nor is it particularly citified, although it does contain several places I wouldn’t dare to drive through at night – especially not in my minivan with its “Virginia – Farming since 1614” license tags. But compared to where I live now, it’s “big city.”

Roanoke is approximately 50 miles from my house, and a good thousand feet lower in elevation. Consequently, it’s on average a good five degrees cooler here. Today, it was 93 F in Roanoke, and humid. The other thing about Roanoke is that it’s a valley surrounded by mountains, and the mountains hold the heat/humidity/air pollution in, so it can get really, really muggy. It was so today, with the mountains blue and hazy, and the air nearly wet enough to wring out.

Roanoke is where The CEO went once a year when he was a kid, to buy school shoes. His mother would bundle him and his sisters into the Plymouth in August, and they’d drive downtown to Thom McAn and buy one pair of leather shoes for each child. (Digression: Remember those days? I do. But I have weird feet, and my mother took me to Julien’s instead because they sold “corrective instep” Stride-Rite shoes. My first pair of school shoes I can see in my mind’s eye right now: dark red leather lace-up shoes, with a leather sunburst applique starting where the laces began and pointing toward the toe. I loved them. In first grade I owned a pair exactly the same, except in dark blue. I wore skirts to school, or corduroy pants, and was probably in third grade before I even owned a pair of jeans… I don’t think any of my children have ever worn anything other than sneakers to school. Ever. EVER.) The Thom McAn store downtown closed seventeen years ago. But Julien’s is still a going concern, catering to people with unusual footwear needs.

 

"Cross Creek Mall" from Wikimedia Commons

And there’s a mall; it contains a Sears, a Belk, a JCPenney, and a Macy’s. Belk and Macy’s have fragrance counters (oddly, Belk has a larger selection of men’s fragrances than Macy’s does). Bath & Body Works, where I’d gone to restock my sister’s bathroom shelves with Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla body products, is closer to Macy’s. So I went a-merrily sniffing down the aisles at Macy’s.

The revelation: I’ve been spoiled by niche and indie perfumery. I’ve come to expect that the scents I plan to drop cash on be mostly natural-smelling, coherent, free of nasty chemical surprises, and interesting. That combination is difficult to find in many mainstream fragrances.

So the sniffery goes like this: I walk into Macy’s, right past the big display of Thierry Mugler Angel, the fancy lopsided star bottles. There’s no “fragrance counter” here, rather a little stand for the register and miscellaneous stuff the SA’s need, and several tall freestanding shelves, upon which are placed the stock of the fragrance department. These are the fragrances I see on the shelves:

Beyonce Heat and Heat Wave

Burberry Brit, Touch, and Gold

Bvlgari Omnia, Omnia Green Jade, Omnia Amethyste, and Blv II

Calvin Klein Eternity, Euphoria, Obsession, Beauty, and cKOne

Chanel No. 5 (in edt, edp and parfum as well as body products), Allure, Chance, Chance Eau Fraiche, Chance Eau Tendre, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle

Christian Dior J’Adore and L’eau Cologne Florale

Coach Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum, Coach Poppy

Dolce et Gabbana original Dolce et Gabbana, Light Blue, The One, and Rose The One

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist and Be Delicious

Ed Hardy Hearts and Daggers, Love & Luck, and something else I don’t remember now

Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue and Mediterranean

Gucci Flora, Guilty, and Gucci Eau de Parfum

Guerlain Shalimar (only the EdT)

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey, L’Eau d’Issey Florale

Jessica Simpson Fancy, Fancy Love, and Fancy Nights, as well as the new I Fancy You

Juicy Couture original Juicy Couture, Viva la Juicy, and Couture Couture

Katy Perry Purr

Lancome Tresor, Tresor in Love, Poeme, Magie Noire, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Miracle

Marc Jacobs Lola and Daisy, and Daisy Eau So Fresh (gag me with a plastic SPOON, words cannot possibly express how much I hate that name, even though I still have a fondness for Daisy)

Paloma Picasso

Paris Hilton Siren, Just Me, and CanCan

Prescriptives Calyx

Queen Latifah Queen and Queen of Hearts

Ralph Lauren Romance and Romance Always Yours

Thierry Mugler Angel, Angel Innocent, Alien, and Cologne

YSL Parisienne and Opium

It’s been, oh, ten months or so since the last time I was in Macy’s fragrance department, and it was surprising to see what was missing: L’Air du Temps, Poison, Dior Addict, and Be Delicious Fresh Blossom, all of which I’d seen on my last visit.

The Clinique fragrances are an aisle or two over: Happy, Happy Heart, Happy for Men, and Aromatics Elixir.

Also, there’s a whoooooollle long counter full of Estee Lauder, with testers for every single flankered thing: Estee. Beyond Paradise, BP Blue, BP Men. Pleasures, Pleasures Sheer, Pleasures Intense, Pleasures Exotic. White Linen, Pure White Linen, PWL Light Breeze, PWL Pink Coral. Beautiful, Beautiful Sheer, Beautiful Love. Cinnabar. Youth Dew. Knowing. Azuree. Bronze Goddess, BG Soleil. Private Collection, the original only. Tuscany per Donna. Intuition. Spellbound. Dazzling Silver. Sensuous and Sensuous Noir. (No Dazzling Gold or Youth Dew Amber Nude or Alliage or PC Tuberose Gardenia, though.) I had a nice conversation with the older lady staffing the Lauder counter: she was surprised that I knew what the bottle for Cinnabar looked like, even as I mentioned that I was smelling it because I wanted to know if I still hated it. She likes Estee and Beyond Paradise, herself.

 

Macy's from Wikimedia Commons

The young man who was so enthusiastic about perfume and helpful to me on two prior visits to Macy’s wasn’t working this afternoon, but there were several SA’s floating around, with offers of help. “Are you looking for anything in particular, ma’am?” And when I said no thanks, I was just browsing and smelling, each one smiled and told me things like, “Oh, enjoy!” or “Feel free to sniff, and if I can get you anything or answer any questions, please just wave at me.” Maybe it’s just in Really Big Cities that the SA’s are snobby… The Belk SA’s are clueless but very pleasant. (I know nobody trains those poor people adequately. I spent a summer and two Christmas breaks from college running a cash register at Sears, and nobody ever told me a dang thing about what I was selling, whether it was lingerie, women’s wear, or children’s wear. Or belts. I once had a customer scream at me because I asked her in which department she had found a belt which had no tag, so I could find out how much to charge for it.)

I sniffed nearly everything. I’ve already smelled the Juicy Couture things, and I think they’re hideous. Ditto Cashmere Mist, ugh. The Ed Hardy packaging just annoys me, so I didn’t pick up any of those, either. I was shocked that there were a lot of testers missing. I didn’t ask about them, so I suppose it’s possible that the SA’s had hidden them, but the testers were AWOL for several things I’d have loved to have smelled: the original Dolce et Gabbana, Paloma Picasso (do I hate it as much as I used to?), Mugler Cologne (does it really smell like steam?), and that new Justin Bieber thingy. Actually, I’m not surprised that the tester for the Bieb’s fragrance was under wraps; they ought to have one chained to the counter.

What I made an effort to smell were largely scents I’ve not intentionally sniffed before: Angel Innocent (chemical custard), Fancy Nights (which would have been better with less restraint – it should have been a big trashy thing, I’d have liked it more), I Fancy You (glorified shampoo), Beauty (rather nice, an inoffensive lily scent with a nice woody cast), and Euphoria (berry-candy-vanilla, somehow not as good as the superbly-trashy Dark Kiss at Bath and Body Works). Also, I laid nostrils on some Lauders I’d not tried, and even that thing that Musette over at the Posse calls Aromatics of Dooooooom (yes, I find Aromatics Elixir hideous). Azuree is just ashtray-nasty, and Spellbound is not as sweet (“cloying” as PTG calls it) as I’d thought, but still it’s fairly synthetic-icky. I also smelled Poeme, which I was unfamiliar with – and I have to say that I was happier not knowing what it smelled like. Tresor in Love was not dreadful, but not interesting either.

And I sniffed some old enemies as well: Opium, Obsession, Youth Dew, White Linen. Obsession seems lighter, and so does Opium, but I still hate them. White Linen still smells to me as if it should have been named Mildewed Laundry: sour, squinty-eyed, suspicious. (Mind you, I like aldehydes!) I resmelled Private Collection, and actually sprayed it on skin. It is wonderful for all of an hour, and then it tries to kill me with that Lauder base. Surprisingly, Cinnabar smells rather nice to me now, very cinnamon-spicy and sweet and warm, but that Lauder balsamic thing is in there so it was also a complete bust.

Youth Dew I still despise to the depths of my being, so I suppose the world can go on turning. If I ever mention on the blog that I like Youth Dew, somebody is going to have to come down here and check my body for signs of alien invasion.

 

Collection of panterachik at Fragrantica.com

There is very little available at the mall that is rich, distinctive, and wonderful-smelling. It’s depressing as heck. Aside from Shalimar and Chanel No. 5 (and okaaaaay, fiiiine, toss some of the Estee Lauders in there too if you like), it’s kind of a desert. Way too many fragrances smell like other fragrances: Gucci Guilty smells an awful lot like Coco Mademoiselle; Coach EdP smells sort of like Calvin Klein Beauty. Worse, too many fragrances simply do not smell good.

I came home and put on some vintage Caron Parfum Sacre, and I felt better. I sniffed my Mary Greenwell Plum, and my Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and felt better still. I sniffed my DSH Oeillets Rouges and felt positively euphoric.

Perfumery is not dead, no matter the state of the mall.

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Encouraged by a mention of this fragrance in a comment on a fragrance blog – which one I can’t remember – I bought a tester bottle, unsniffed, on eBay two summers ago. I was pleased with the result and I have worn it fairly frequently, but there’s still a lot in this pretty disc bottle. It is, as the name suggests, a very summery potion. However, it is not one of those light citrusy things designed to cool off the wearer. Rather, it’s very floral and spicy, with a sweet golden drydown that seems to encourage thoughts of warm, suntanned skin, and I find myself enjoying it as the summer days tail off into autumn.

The main accord is carnation and ylang-ylang, on a warm oriental base. The notes list includes, according to Fragrantica, bergamot, mint, pear, jasmine, lily, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang, iris, heliotrope and vanilla.

The vanilla is apparent from the beginning, although I wouldn’t call Terracotta VdE a vanilla fragrance; it is clearly a Guerlain. The carnation comes forward pretty quickly, and if I sniff hard I can smell the lily, both flowers that I’ve always loved for their spicy and floral aspects. Ylang-ylang is present too, with a creamy-sweet angle that seems to soften the clove of the carnation. I struggled to pick out the iris, but once I stopped trying to smell it and began focusing on the satiny quality iris often gives to a composition, I found it. The iris serves to keep the fragrance from being way too sweet – it is sweet, as you might expect with the vanilla and heliotrope in the base, but not gourmand. Or, rather, as Luca Turin says in Perfumes: The Guide of the classic Guerlains¹, it smells of food and of other inedible smells, in this case of old school tanning lotions. The heliotrope is noticeable, but not a powdery cherry thing like the stuff that bangs you over the head in, say, Serge Lutens’ dreadful Louve; it’s delicate and almondy. I also tend to think there must be a little bit of musk in this scent, because it often smells like skin at the end of a long day, not like body odor but just, you know, skin, after it’s been going through the day.

The effect, overall, is of a beach blanket on which a young swimsuit-clad couple are embracing. You smell the suntan lotion, the vanilla milkshake they were sharing, and the young man’s Old Spice aftershave, as well as the sunshine on the couple’s warm, salty, tanned skin. Think Beach Blanket Bingo, lose the goofy music, and you’d be halfway there.

TVd’E doesn’t smell quite so retro, but it doesn’t smell modern, either. There are echoes of L’Heure Bleue in it (the clove, the heliotrope) and definitely of Old Spice, a fragrance my father wore for decades. Some reviews on Fragrantica mention a clay or baked earth aspect, which I can’t pick out specifically, but which doesn’t seem out of place in my experience with this scent.

This fragrance was a limited edition. Octavian of 1000Fragrances says that Guerlain’s 1910 creation, Quand Vient l’Ete (When the Summer Comes), was the inspiration for this scent, or rather that Mathilde Laurent, then the house parfumeur for Guerlain, streamlined Quand Vient l’Ete to create Terracotta Voile d’Ete. I’ve read other reviews² that compare the newer rerelease of Quand Vient l’Ete to it, with some commenters preferring Terracotta Voile d’Ete. Someone (Denyse at Grain de Musc?) claims that Quand Vient l’Ete is the edp version of Terracotta Voiled’Ete, which seems a logical conclusion, but I don’t have confirmation of that.

I like the first radiant burst of the floral notes best, since it’s chock full of the spicy florals that I love. However, after an hour, the fragrance settles down and pulls in closer to the skin as the vanilla-heliotrope-musk-iris base develops. From then on, it becomes fairly quiet and close to the skin, with little radiance. It is an eau de toilette, and wears like one; it is nearly gone in about three hours. Like L’Heure Bleue, it blooms in the heat and smells rich and interesting. I sometimes wish it would be either all sillage-y like the first stage, or all quiet like the second (to be honest, the top notes of bergamot and mint zip past me in about thirty seconds and I don’t really consider them part of the overall character of the scent). Since people are accustomed to smelling Old Spice on men, I think Tvd’E would be perfectly acceptable as a man’s scent. Guys, try it out.

Terracotta Voile d’Ete was a real bargain at $24 for a 100ml bottle, and I imagine I’ll be wearing it for summers to come. Sadly, as stocks have become depleted following its discontinuation, I notice that prices have gone up for this fragrance, and the bottles are now selling at about $45 a pop. It’s still a reasonable price to pay for such an unexpected summer scent.

Other reviews of Terracotta Voile d’Ete: Denyse at Grain de Musc, Pyramus at One Thousand Scents.  Also at Basenotes, MakeupAlley, and Fragrantica.

¹ In the review of Elixir Charnel Gourmand Coquin:

The trick of the old Guerlain gourmands was to smell like the sum total of a large household in which dinner, among other things, was being prepared. Thus did Mitsouko smell of floor wax as well as peaches, and Shalimar of fence-paint creosote as well as vanilla.

² Typically in comments on blog reviews of Quand Vient l’Ete.  I won’t list those reviews here, but if you want them, Now Smell This has a great search feature.

Top image from Fragrantica.  Lower image from Ruffled (a blog about weddings).

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I love my mom.

Obviously, there are many reasons, but one of them is that she knows what interests me and tries to encourage me in those directions. Recently, she gave me a 1 oz. bottle of Guerlain Samsara EdT, thinking that I’d enjoy it. In my hometown, a small city about 50 miles away from where I now live, there’s an Elizabeth Arden warehouse, and a couple of times a year, the warehouse has terrific sales on makeup, skincare items, and perfume.

Mom had asked me a couple of times last year what she could get me at the warehouse sale. At the time I was stocked up on lipsticks and EA’s warehouse didn’t have the kind of foundation I like. And I checked the website twice to see if there was anything, anything at all, in the way of perfume that I’d like to have.

Nothin’. Really. I said as much. Mom looked disappointed. She’d given my sister a bottle of Alfred Sung Shi, which both Mom and A liked and called it “nice and light, like fresh water.” Uhhh, yeah. Water… well, maybe watered-down window cleaner, if you ask me. Bleargh. Though I didn’t say so to either of them. (Digression: Mom and A, if you are reading this blog, either of you, you’d better tell me now so I don’t embarrass you in the future. Hmmm?)

During a recent visit to my parents’ house, Mom pulled me into the spare bedroom – once my brother’s – and told me, “I got you this at the warehouse sale. I hope you like it. It’s Guerlain – I think you like that, don’t you?”   The price sticker was still on it, in case I hated it: $18.00.  You did good, Mom.

Samsara EdT, image from Sephora

Uh, edit here.  Looks like putting that photo in took out an entire paragraph, and I did not notice.  Aarrgh.  I’ll put it back now.

Digression: Look, I’m just going to say it:  Guerlain is not for everybody.  It might be THE perfume house with the most noticeable family resemblance among its perfumes, Chanel’s gorgeous luxury iris notwithstanding, but not every fragrance fanatic is going to like every single Guerlain scent.  In fact, it’s long been a pet theory of mine that most Guerlainophiles are going to fall either into the Shalimar camp or the Mitsouko camp, and while it’s possible to like both, it’s rare to absolutely-love both. 

Please notice that I did not even bring up Jicky (which I hate) or Apres l’Ondee (which is gorgeous but emotionally taxing for me) or L’Heure Bleue (which sometimes seems beautiful and sometimes boringly one-dimensional). Those just complicate the concept, so I’m pulling a Research-Faculty fast one on the options and ignoring them in favor of my elegant theory¹…

and where my so-called elegant theory touches on my mother’s preferences, it’s probably safe for me to say that if you offered her a bottle of any Guerlain she wanted, any one at all, she’d dither between Vega and Vetiver pour elle, and whichever one she wound up picking would languish on her dresser, while her Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue and her Chanel No. 5 and her Jovan Musk for Women would be the ones she actually wore. My take on the matter is that Guerlains are too rich and vanillic, and too “obvious,” to suit her taste, and she really prefers the tailored chic and the reserve of Chanel.

I have no earthly idea whether my sister would find a Guerlain she liked at all. Based on her love of Coco Mademoiselle, I’m guessing she might find a kindred spirit in Idylle – modern, not too heavy, light florals over a woody-patchouli base. Thing is, although I’m not going to suggest it, I think she could totally and completely rock some Mitsouko, with that dark-and-mysterious and Do Not Mess With Me vibe it has. Even with all of that, it’s still very… old-fashioned… and A might find it too, too much. End digression.

I was unfamiliar with Samsara before cracking open that shiny red box. It might have been ubiquitous in certain places in the late 80s/early 90s, before the Attack of the Clean Fragrances began, headed up by cKOne and L’Eau d’Issey (which really were everywhere, as I remember), but to my knowledge I really had never smelled it. I’d heard a lot about it: Samsara is loud, Samsara hits you over the head with fake sandalwood, Samsara smells trashy, Samsara was the beginning of the end for Guerlain… that sort of thing. I sniffed from the bottle and had to agree. I said to myself, “It smells fake. And sweet. And loud. Gah, the Eighties are aliiiive…”

And I figured that since there were very few serious blogger reviews, I might as well write one. So then I thought, Well, if I’m going to review, I actually have to wear it several times. I never, ever, write a review based on a fragrance I have only smelled on a test strip or only worn on skin once. My minimum is three times. And even though it’s been hot and humid here – not ideal weather for a floral oriental – I figured I could manage to wear Samsara in air conditioning.

And I read up on it: the user reviews at Makeup Alley and Basenotes and Fragrantica, which tend to be split between “sexy, elegant, sophisticated, complicated, my signature scent” reviews and “huge flaming mess, way too sweet, only fit for helmet-haired automatons” reviews. The blogger reviews I found tended to be noncommittal. Angela at Now Smell This called the modern EdT wearable, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin compared vintage parfum to modern and found the modern less rich but not totally ruined, Barbara at Yesterday’s Perfume found vintage EdT unbalanced and (the kiss of death!) boring.  Dane at Pere de Pierre called it “stylish, eccentric, genius” as well as “too loud and in-your-face.”  There’s also a mini-review of Samsara EdT by March at Perfume Posse, in which she said that it’s pretty much all jasmine on her, no sandalwood, very linear, and very Not Her.

Samsara ad from coleurparfum.com

And, of course, I had to check Perfumes: The Guide, which devotes several paragraphs to Samsara. I’ll condense a bit here, but I’ll say this review/history by Tania Sanchez (Hey, Elisa! I double-checked this time!) is one of my favorites, even though I disagree on the ickiness of Samoas:

As with Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the case of Samsara is fascinating first because it was so bad, second because it was so big, and third because it was happening to a beloved franchise. Samsara… is a fragrance in which the things that had always gone right [for Guerlain] were tainted by the things that have gone wrong since… What Guerlain wanted was something modern, and by modern, they meant something you could smell a quarter mile away… [Samsara] is, in every sense but one, a Guerlain in the classic style, with top-notch, rich jasmine and ylang-ylang playing the full, vast white-floral chord from banana to licorice and grass, and tons of the delectably complex burnt-sugar amber we loved so much in Attrape-Coeur: in other words, high quality materials working in concert to provide a lovely plush effect. Except for that sandalwood. I’m told that Samsara used to feature quite a bit of excellent real sandalwood from India as well as the pottery-shattering synthetic polysantol for which it is infamous: a smell so thundering you can almost hear it coming if you put your ear to the ground. Mysore sandalwood is now all but unattainable… so Samsara seems to have gotten only more synthetic. Sadly, beyond the beautiful florals lurks an indigestibly heavy, artificial praline-and-coconut confection, like those evil cookies the Girl Scouts sell called Samoas… Samsara felt to many like an irreversible break with tradition, confirmed by the subsequent (awful) releases of Mahora and Champs-Elysees.

I’m with Tania on that amber being the best part about Attrape-Coeur. I’m also with her on Mahora, which I thought was gorgeous for six hours, a big tuberose-y tropical thing that eventually went so inexplicably nasty that I truly thought I was going to toss my cookies (no, not the Samoas).

I was expecting Samsara to be this huuuuuge jasmine-sandalwood oriental thing, big enough to fill a stadium. I was fully and completely expecting to hate its guts. While I like sandalwood very much (my favorite sandalwood scents: Chanel Bois des Iles, Lanvin Arpege, Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, and a small vial of New Caledonian santalum album essential oil), jasmine can be very, very difficult for me, since it tends to take over a scent and also because jasmine grandiflorum – the traditional French jasmine in Jean Patou Joy – can go really skanky on me. So I sprayed one half-hearted spritz on my wrist, cringing away from myself as I did it.

But it didn’t overwhelm me. I sniffed closer. Hmmm. It smelled oddly familiar – not in the sense of “Hey, I’ve smelled this before,” but in the sense of “Wait, this reminds me of something I wore when I was younger!” I sniffed again. Was that rose? Yeah, rose, which I hadn’t expected. And ambery vanilla. And, oh yes, there’s the sandalwood. The jasmine in Samsara smells to me not like the green, clean kind I tend to enjoy, and not like the Ho Panties stuff in Joy, but like the very tropical and sweet jasmine sambac. Which I happen to like, by the way. The other thing that surprised me was that it was not, in fact, all that loud. After that one spritz worked out okay, I started spritzing twice during wearings. And then I went brave and did three spritzes – and I was still not radiating past my three-foot radius.

Well, okay. Maybe a four-foot radius with three spritzes.  But only briefly.

So: tropical jasmine and ylang, rose, vanilla and sandalwood, very sweet and very radiant, and, truth be told, a little on the trashy side. And what Samsara reminds me of is a scent I wore in my last year of college: Revlon Xia Xi’ang, a half-ounce of which I must have paid all of $10 for at the drugstore. To be honest, I am sure Xia Xi’ang smelled exactly as if it cost all of $10 for half an ounce, but I liked it. And I rather like Samsara, although perhaps I like it because it smells sort of trashy and obvious and cheap and big-haired.

Revlon Xia Xi'ang, from Fragrantica

Notes for Samsara: bergamot, lemon, ylang-ylang, green notes, peach, jasmine, iris, narcissus, violet, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean, amber, musk.  The notes for Xia Xi’ang are much simpler, which makes sense for a drugstore cheapie, but similar enough that now I understand why I immediately picked up on the resemblance: tangerine, lemon, gardenia, rose, sandalwood, vanilla oakmoss.  Citrus, tropical white florals, rose, vanilla, sandalwood, and there you go:  Samsara is a lot like Xia Xi’ang on a (slightly) better budget.  (Notes for both from Fragrantica.)

Another edit, because I’ve been thinking about this: Xia Xi’ang, while ubiquitous in the drugstore for a couple of years, disappeared pretty rapidly.  I don’t know why.  I did look for it on ebay several months ago, when I was going through a stage of wondering whether the fragrances I loved in my younger years were good or cheap dreck.  And guess what?  Half-ounce bottles of Xia Xi’ang cologne, the same bottle I owned for $10, are now available on ebay, from $35 to $60.  Yes, really.  I’m not sure what this indicates – was it really that good a scent, or was it just loved that much?  If it was loved that much, why was it discontinued – raw mats scarcity?  Or was it just Loved That Much by only a few people?  Puzzling.  As a matter of fact, thanks to ebay, I’ve found that most of my earlier fragrance standards really were pretty good, even if they were drugstore cheapies: Chloe, Cachet, Emeraude, VS Victoria…

However, a puzzling fact is that the Samsara EdT is only big-sillage for about an hour on me, after which it does an Alice-in-Wonderland shrink right down to something vanilla-ish and only smellable within half an inch of my arm. This phenomenon was confirmed by four different people I came upon after two hours of wear, so I don’t think it’s nose fatigue. Freaky, right? Especially when I read accounts of one spritz lasting twelve hours and Samsara’s unassailable, unavoidable presence on skin. I begin to wonder whether there was something off about this particular batch which might account for its being found at Elizabeth Arden’s discount warehouse. Insufficient maceration? Messed-up formula?

I’ll point out that I have not attempted any other formulas of Samsara, whether vintage EdT, or EdP or parfum of any age. That probably would make a huge difference in my perception. I hear rumors of “peach” and “iris” in others’ comments about this fragrance, and I’m not getting either out of my little bottle of EdT. Too, the longevity and sillage of a higher concentration might be more what I was expecting.

I’ll also point out that this is not the first time I have found a Guerlain fragrance that smells cheap: Terracotta Voile d’Ete, which was a limited edition and which smells to me a lot like a girlier Old Spice with a beachy, suntan-oil angle, seems similarly cheap to me. I like both fragrances, which probably says a lot about my personal tastes. Or maybe not. There’s nothing that says that you can’t enjoy an ethereal sorbet (Apres l’Ondee) on Monday, a rich crème brulee (Shalimar) on Tuesday, and a sloppy sundae-in-a-waffle-cone (Samsara) on Wednesday, right?

¹Okay, okay: I’ll apply my Shalimar-or-Mitsouko theory to my own tastes. So which am I? Neither, actually. If I had to pick one of the two, it would be Shalimar, though I do not love it the way I love Shalimar Light. This is, of course, the ultimate sarcastic take on hardcore academic types: my theory doesn’t apply to myself, because I’m special. And I cannot be quantified like the rest of you poor saps, so there, ha ha HA. (“A census taker once tried to quantify me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”)

To be honest, if I had to pick one Guerlain for the rest of my life, I’d take a bottle of Vega myself, thanks. For preference, I’d rather have the gorgeous original reissue bottle, though I wouldn’t say no to a fresh, full bee bottle if the older one was unavailable.

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I smelled L’Heure Bleue first, not long after I’d smelled the ethereally beautiful Apres L’Ondee, and not long after I’d rediscovered lovely older versions of Coty Emeraude.  I’d run across a mention of it in a book, and just had to find out what the heroine’s perfume smelled like.  I didn’t know, at the time, any of its history.

I hated it.  I called it “Hell’s Medicine Cabinet.”  Mind you, I tend to like medicinal smells – witness my love of clove and mint, and my utter-swoon immediate love of Serge Lutens’ famously medicinal La Myrrhe, and my toe-curling happiness when I crack open the tin of Porter’s Liniment Salve.  But I thought L’Heure Bleue’s combination of anise, bergamot and coriander was jarring and unpleasant.

It was only later, when a swap friend sent me a sample of L’Heure Bleue that was a much darker color than the sample I’d tried before, that I realized I’d sniffed the Eau de Toilette.  The penny dropped: I frequently have difficulty appreciating EdT concentrations of classic Guerlains.  Not always, of course: the aforementioned Apres L’Ondee comes to mind, and so does Chamade, also Vega – but Mitsouko and Shalimar EdTs are complete disasters for me.

It turned out to be parfum my friend had sent me, and it was a totally different beast: soft, plush, rich, warm, strange, aloof yet friendly, like a stray cat who has deigned to have its chin scratched by a stranger.  It was an eye-opening experience.  “So this is what they’re talking about,” I pondered.  “Not the EdT.”  I went straight to ebay and looked for a bottle of parfum – and found one.  Modern, 1 ounce, slightly-used, missing its paper label, being sold for cheap by a woman who needed cash, post-divorce.  The impression I got was that her ex-husband had given it to her, and now she couldn’t get it out of the house fast enough!

Understandable: L’Heure Bleue is nothing if not memorable, immediately identifiable at the faintest whiff of sillage.  It’s not the kind of fragrance that one could wear casually; as a signature scent, it is both quirky and comforting, melancholy and romantic.   Its name, The Blue Hour, refers to twilight, with more connotations of romance and melancholy.

Even in parfum, the opening is a bit bumpy.  It’s aromatic and medicinal in a way that I remember from visiting hospitals as a kid in the 1970s, and still not very pleasant.  However, in the parfum, the coriander seems to drop out quickly, leaving anise and clove singing a close harmony.  The clove note becomes more floral and carnationlike in just a few moments, and then there’s that orange blossom.  I am not a huge orange blossom fan, as it often has a “milled soap” angle for me.  There is a hint of that in L’HB, but then the rose and heliotrope pop up, and it veers sweet and woody and almost almond-pastry-like.  I do notice that in hot weather, the anise note seems to be prominent throughout the development, and I like that a lot.  In winter, it’s very much Floral Bearclaw, with  lots of orange blossom and almond, and I find it less interesting in the winter.

L’Heure Bleue is the kind of fragrance that, if you loved it, could haunt your memory all your life.  Sadly, I do not love it.  I admire it.

My bottle of L’Origan came from eBay, in a little satin-lined leatherette case.  The packaging seems to be that used by Coty in the 1940s through (possibly) the early 1960s, so I’m not sure how old this bottle is.  The cap is a bit tarnished, and the liquid is definitely darker and more orange than pictured here (probably due to the aging of the jasmine and/or the orange blossom).  But the box, and the rubber (plastic?) stopper under the cap, seem to have protected the fragrance fairly well.

Of course, it is vintage, and although in fairly good shape, it is not very long-lasting (two and a half to three hours, compared to L’Heure Bleue’s five hours on my skin).  There is a slight mustiness in the topnotes, as well, and the woody parts of the base seem very dry, with cedar dominating the sandalwood.  I smell a sharp clove note, as well as some rose and jasmine with the orange blossom.  But where I sniff L’Heure Bleue’s drydown and think, “Eh, almond pastry,” I keep bringing my L’Origan-wearing wrist to my nose.  There is a soft benzoin-tonka-vanilla angle, the same sort of thing I love so much in Mariella Burani, but the woods tend to dominate it, and perhaps I’m picking up on a bit of incense as well.

As others more knowledgeable than I am have pointed out (see Denyse’s review at Grain de Musc here, or Octavian’s at 1000 Fragrances here), Jacques Guerlain seemed to take each one of Francois Coty’s groundbreaking scents and develop the ideas further: adding the rich peach note of Persicol to the structure of Chypre and creating Mitsouko, or adding a brighter citrus note, a more sharply delineated jasmine, and that genius hint of tar to the Emeraude structure to create Shalimar.   Clearly, L’Heure Bleue admits kinship to the older L’Origan, one of the first “soft,” Oriental Florals.  What’s the difference in notes and development?

I’m still not sure.  In fact, LHB seems less descended from L’O than tangentially related.  The anise and heliotrope notes hark back to Guerlain’s own Apres l’Ondee, while much of the structure – orange blossom, eugenol (clove) and ambery vanilla – seems to dovetail with that of L’O.  L’Origan, though, has what seems to me to be a darker cast; it’s less melancholy, more mysterious.  There seems to be more clove in L’O, more aromatic and herbal details, and it seems rather drier to me,  just to mention a few differences.    Halfway through the development, L’O has gone  right to the edge of a mossy kind of bitterness that makes me wonder if there’s vetiver in there, whereas L’HB  has veered toward vanilla and heliotrope.

As Denyse of Grain de Musc points out, the Coty fragrances have a tendency toward crudity, where their Guerlain counterparts are smooth and seamless.  And yet, and yet… I love (vintage) Emeraude with all my heart, while finding Shalimar a little over-the-top.  And L’Heure Bleue has very little emotional impact on me at all, while L’Origan stirs me.  Maybe it’s just me – or perhaps it’s that my L’Origan is vintage and my L’Heure Bleue is not.  The first time I opened that little bottle of L’Origan, I was bowled over by its sheer beauty.  L’HB never did that to me, not even in parfum. L’HB was a stray cat, L’O was a Siberian tiger lounging in the sun: powerful, beautiful, and potentially dangerous.

Notes for each fragrance from Fragrantica.

L’Origan: Bergamot, orange, coriander, pepper, peach, nutmeg, clove, carnation, violet, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, benzoin, incense, cedar, musk, sandalwood, vanilla, coumarin (tonka bean), civet.  Fragrantica reviews here.   See also Victoria’s review at Bois de Jasmin, and this lovely one at Memory and Desire.

L’Heure Bleue: Anise, coriander, neroli, bergamot, lemon, carnation, orchid, jasmine, violet, clove, orange blossom, rose, heliotrope, iris, sandalwood, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, tonka bean.  Fragrantica reviews here.  See also:  Kevin’s review at Now Smell This, Donna’s review of the parfum at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and The Non-Blonde’s review, as well as this one at For the Love of Perfume.

Photo of wrestlers from Wikimedia Commons.  L’Origan ad from ebay seller adlibrary.  Other photos mine.  (Since my L’HB bottle had lost its sticker before it came to me, I added one.  It’s too big, and probably the wrong color – so sue me! At least you can tell what it is now, in case you’re not familiar with the inverted  heart stopper.)

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Vega, named for that bright star in the constellation Lyra , was composed by Jacques Guerlain and released in 1936.  It was reorchestrated by Jean-Paul Guerlain and rereleased in 2006.  It is an aldehydic floral with notes of rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, iris, and sandalwood.  I’ll go ahead and say what you’re already thinking: Yes, you’re right.  It is indeed Chanel’s iconic No. 5, done up Guerlain style.

Okay, okay, it isn’t exactly No. 5.  The aldehydes have much less of that brilliant glare of sunshine-on-snow than No. 5’s do; the jasmine is sweeter and more prominent than No.5’s, and the ylang more buttery.  Iris is not the cool, chic Chanel style here, it’s more of the satin ribbon tying the bouquet together, and to be honest I don’t smell a lot of sandalwood in Vega.  The sandalwood is present, but to my nose is utterly eclipsed by that dirty-sweet Guerlinade that I like so much in L’Heure Bleue parfum: woody vanilla, with musk, amber, and tonka, as well as whatever-it-is in Guerlinade that reminds me of cat fur.   The opening is a little soapy, particularly near the skin, but the waft in the air has a juicy, peachy sweetness to it that I like very much.  It’s a happy sort of smell for me – it smells like perfume and it smells like flowers, and after awhile it smells like vanilla.  Gaze gave this one two thumbs up:  “Smells like Nana,” he said.  “Except, you know, it’s sort of fruity.”  The floral blend (rose-jasmine-ylang) is so beautiful that it’s been used in hundreds and hundreds of fragrances, which is why this trio of floral notes is a true classic. 

So, basically… um… fine, I’ll say it again.  Vega is No. 5, Guerlain style.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Vega is a lot like No. 5 with her hair down, lounging on the mussed bed and considering a cigarette; No. 5 sitting on the deck in the sunshine with a lemonade, with her top button undone, laughing and dabbing sweat away from her temples and cleavage; No. 5 at home after she’s wrestled her four kids into bed and read stories and given kisses and fed the dog and collapsed on the couch to have her feet rubbed by her adoring husband.  No high heels, no uncomfortable couture party dress with underwear armor, no diamonds: Vega is beautiful and relaxed and really, really friendly.

Mind you, I think No. 5 is absolutely wonderful, and one of the things I like best about it is that it can be appropriate for all kinds of situations, from fried-chicken picnics to the opera (um, applied discreetly, of course. Dabbed from the parfum bottle is best).  Vega is similarly versatile.  And to me, No. 5 is the comforting, welcome smell of my mother.  Yet for years I found it too cold and a bit harsh, like those TV studio lights that can wash out facial tones.  It’s only within the last year that I’ve begun to appreciate its  bouquet-on-a-marble-stand perfection, and learned that I truly love its sandalwood-iris-musk base.  Had I smelled Vega first, I’d have fallen for it immediately.  Most of the things that people tend to find challenging about No. 5 have been softened in Vega, and I’d bet if No. 5 is hard for you to deal with you might do better with Vega.

Now for the bad news: Vega is hard to find.  Really, really hard to find.  Right now on ebay there are two 4.2 oz tester bottles, being sold at $400 a pop, and one bee bottle of the same size (125ml) for $350.  The Guerlain website lists it in a 60ml bottle in the “exclusive fragrances” line.  I managed to jump in on a bottle split, and I have a 5ml decant that is rapidly disappearing.  That’s the other part of the bad news: Vega is EdT concentration, and it’s got standard EdT lasting power – about three hours on me.  I have recently begun following the “spray until wet” technique for lightweight scents and getting better staying power from them, but I cannot do this with Vega.  Spray Until Wet leads to aldehyde headaches, even though Vega’s aldehydes are fairly gentle for an aldehydic floral.  Therefore, I’m stuck with reapplying every three hours if I want to keep smelling Vega, which I do.

Oddly, nobody seems to be talking about this one in recent days.  Fragrantica doesn’t even list it.  Nobody mentions, “Oh, I’m wearing Vega today,” at the lazy weekend polls at Now Smell This.  Or maybe it isn’t so odd: Vega isn’t new, it’s pricey, it was released four years ago, it’s a boutique exclusive and hard to find.  Also, lovers of aldehydic florals have plenty else to wear: No. 5,  No. 22, Liu, Chamade, Caron Nocturnes, Divine L’Ame Soeur, White Linen and Pure White Linen, L’Interdit, Le Dix, Arpege, My Sin, Climat, L’Aimant, Calandre, Rive Gauche, Je Reviens, Madame Rochas…  the list is long.  I’m finding that with few exceptions (the Lauders, of course, and the sugary disaster of No. 22 on me), I really love aldehydic florals.  You’ll be seeing more reviews of these sparkly gems here as time goes on.   

Other reviews: Bois de Jasmin, Patty at Perfume Posse, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Victoria’s Own.  Brief but telling description of Vega in Angela’s post at Now Smell This.

Top image of the Vega bottle is from the blog Victoria’s Own.  (Isn’t that gorgeous? The bottle is really beautiful.)  The vintage Vega ad is from Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  It doesn’t really get across the soft, approachable smiling nature of Vega, but the rays of light fit very well.

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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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