Archive for the ‘Seasonal picks’ Category

Summer Picks, 2011

Summer Meadow, Windows 7 wallpaper from snegidhi.com. My summer did not look like this!

Well, as the season winds down, I have to note that it’s been one weird summer. First the weather was sort of chilly and wet, and then it zoomed all of a sudden into hot and dry, and then it went into miserably hot and miserably humid, and stuck there. Worse, none of the fragrances I usually look forward to wearing in the summer have been hitting the spot for me.

If you look at last summer’s picks, zero out of five of them would make this year’s list: Silences feels too mean, Fleur de Matin and Rose d’Ete feel too light, (the first) Ines de la Fressange and Vamp a NY seem too sweet. I did wear Rose d’Ete and Vamp a few times, but I wasn’t all that happy in them this year; they just seemed inadequate.

I have gone back over older Scent Diaries back to June – which isn’t Official Summer but feels like it – to pinpoint what I’ve been wearing when I haven’t been testing things. Here are the fragrances that I wore most often:

Mary Greenwell Plum

DSH Chypre oil

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur

DelRae Amoureuse

Vintage Coty Emeraude PdT and Shalimar Light (tie, for cosy bedtime wear)

Cuir de Lancome

See what I mean by weird? None of my usual lightweight summery florals, no galbanum-greenies, no aldehydies. I don’t think I’d say that my taste is changing; I still like those light florals and galbanumy greens and aldehydic florals. They have just seemed inappropriate for our weather, and I’ve been craving darker, heavier items.

If I try to analyze what has been on the “crave list,” I’m coming up with this: chypre, amber, and Big White Floral. Excepting the BWFs, that is not my normal summer mode. I can’t figure it. Plum is a white-floral modern chypre with a fleeting fruity top, Amoureuse is primarily a white floral with some green and spice, Voile de Fleur is straight-up white floral, and both Emeraude and Shalimar Light are lightweight orientals. Cuir de Lancome is as much floral as it is leather, and it’s the only leather I own, so I suppose it’s technically a chypre. DSH Chypre is, duh, a chypre, with some bitter citrus, background florals, and the classic oakmoss-patchouli-labdanum character.

(Incidentally, every single person in my family besides me hates Chypre. I don’t care.)

On the other hand, I have not suddenly discovered a love for citrusy cologne-type things, so that is at least some reassurance that I have not been taken by the alien pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

It’s the end of August. School has already started for Bookworm, at the magnet school for science, and the county begins classes on Thursday. A month from now, Bookworm will be eligible for her real (not learner’s) driver’s license. Although September 21 might mark the official end of summer, summer’s already on its way out. Temperatures this morning were in the 50sF, and there’s a lightening of the humidity over the past week or so. The first high school football game will be Friday, and it will still be too hot for the band to wear their wool uniforms, but they’ll be there in the stands, playing Stand Up and Cheer, and Jai-Ho, and Seven Nation Army.

Summer’s nearly over. Leaves are turning yellow, grass is starting to die, the mountains are losing that smoky blue haze…is it still summer where you are?

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Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, wonder where the birdies is?

They’re here.  Robins and cardinals and sparrows, oh my… the trees are full of them.  And our grass has greened up, and my daffodils and hyacinths are blooming.  So is our neighbor’s enormous forsythia bush.  My tulips are budding out, too.  It’s time.

I don’t know quite why it is, but in spring I seem to long for floral verisimilitude in my fragrances, in a way that might strike me as too straightforward during most of the rest of the year.  In September I might be thinking, “Okay, yeah, this smells like jasmine (or rose, or carnation, or whatever)… jasmine jasmine jasmine, big whoop, who cares, I need something more interesting to smell,” but in March and April, gimme them flowers straight off the stem!  There is often a wistfulness, a gentle simplicity or a nostalgic feel to many of my spring choices.  Basically, I just want to Smell Pretty.  I have a right to smell like flowers if I want to, and if you insist, we’ll take it outside and I’ll just get medieval on your hiney.

(Mind you, I don’t insist that everyone should smell like flowers.  I just take objection to those who sneer at me for wanting to do so.)

Ahem.  My Spring Picks list:

1) LilacsDSH Perfumes White Lilac (on the Essense Oils part of the website), or Soivohle Lilacs & HeliotropeFrederic Malle En Passant is lovely but very fleeting on me, and the stunning, tenderly green Jean Patou Vacances is nigh impossible to come by.  Check out this longer list of lilac fragrances.

2) Lilies of the Valley.  I love LotV, or muguet, in the spring, but well-made fragrances containing it are getting difficult to find, due to the restrictions on the allergenic aromamaterial hydroxycitronellal.  The classic to beat is Diorissimo… but I suggest not buying the version currently being sold; it’s thin and harsh.  (Elena at Perfume Shrine has an excellent post on dating Diorissimo packaging, in case you go looking for vintage, while keeping in mind that this fragrance does not seem to age well.)  Other excellent muguet scents:  the older, discontinued version of Kenzo Parfum d’Ete (still available on eBay, in the upright, frosted, veined leaf bottle), vintage Coty Muguet de Bois, Annick Goutal Le Muguet, Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc.  Or you can go for the complex and truly-wonderful Tauer Perfumes Carillon pour un Ange, with its earthy undertones.  Here’s a link to Victoria’s muguet list at Bois de Jasmin, too. 

3) Violets.  I seem always to want violets in spring and in fall.  A few favorites: the classic, slightly melancholy Guerlain Apres l’Ondee, the “old books”-violet-vanilla of Caron Aimez-Moi, and the simple, leaf-and-blossom Penhaligon’s Violetta.   I also enjoy Annick Goutal’s La Violette and Les Nez’ wonderfully-quirky, silvery-frosty-green The Unicorn Spell.  Also, Balmain Jolie Madame – but should it go here, or in the next category?

4) Greenies.  Never really “out of season” for me, but they come into their own in spring.  And I should clarify that for me, Greenies means Floral Green or Herbal Green fragrances, not Green Chypres like Bandit or Niki de Saint Phalle, which still intimidate the heck out of me.  My favorites include Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, Guerlain Chamade (the current version is still lovely, and unlike many other classic Guerlains, all concentrations are wearable for me), Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet, and Jacomo Silences.   The current version of Kenzo Parfum d’Ete, in the lay-down, smooth clear glass leaf bottle, is really nice too, very refreshing.  There’s also Chanel No. 19 (my very favorite version is vintage EdT, but I smelled the modern EdP recently, and liked its gentler, more rosy cast), and the Jolie Madame I mentioned above in the Violets category.

I notice that I tend to group my seasonal picks into categories, as I did just now, but I think the spring list is always longest.  This is perhaps my favorite time of year, and I love that there are so many things to wear that make me happy in this season.  In fact, I really enjoy the seasonal shifts of the area where I live, and I look forward to changing my roster of fragrances as each season rolls around.

Feel free to comment on what you like to wear in spring.  Or whether you rotate your fragrances according to the weather – I know, a lot of people live in places where that’s a silly idea – or even whether you tend to think of your perfumes in groups, as apparently I do.

Photos of flowers from Wikimedia Commons; photos of columbine leaves from Flowers.vg.  Top image is Spring Garden by Vera Kratochvil at Public Domain Pictures.

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I’ve been trying to do a Seasonal Picks post four times a year since I started blogging, and this is the first time I haven’t really kept on top of the concept.  Why do I care about the Seasonals? Well, I do live in a place that has four distinct seasons, and it’s true that weather plays an enormous role in my scent selections.  Too, I look forward to wearing certain fragrances at certain times of the year. 

Last year, I posted my Winter Picks in January, mid-way through the season.  This year, I thought I’d wait until the end of the season and look back at what I actually wore over the cold months.  (I knew those Scent Diaries would come in handy for something…)  At least, it appears to be the end of the season here in the Virginia mountains, although I wouldn’t put it past Mother Nature to zap us with another snow in March.  The air is warmer, and it feels as if the earth is beginning to stretch and wake up: spring is, if not here yet, just around the corner.

Winter 2010-11 looks a lot like 2009-10 – not exactly the same fragrances, but the categories were very similar.  This past winter I wore the following:

Teo Cabanel AlahineOf course.  A repeat from last year’s list. It still smells like Christmas; it still smells like joy and golden bells.  I still love it. 

Mary Greenwell Plum: New this year, and one of the few year-round fragrances I have.  Elegant yet friendly, weightless but with presence.  I love this one too.

Woody and/or spicy fragrances: Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, Chanel Bois des Iles, Givenchy Organza Indecence. These are all repeats of last year’s choices, too. 

Dark Roses: another repeat category.  Amouage Lyric Woman, Gres Cabaret, Caron Parfum Sacre.  I wore Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady several times before deciding it wasn’t “me,” but it was entirely appropriate for winter.

Tuberose scents: this category wasn’t on the list last year, but it should have been, given all the tuberose reviews I did last January and February!  I wore several different tuberose-heavy fragrances this winter, including Honore des Pres Vamp a NY and Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, as well as many many samples.

And a category new to the list this year, Aldehydes.   I’ve always liked them, but it seems I was drawn to them over the winter just as much as I was this past summer.  I notice my decant collection is quite heavy on aldehydes: Chanel No. 5 parfum and Eau Premiere, Guerlain Vega, Le Labo Aldehydes 44, Serge Lutens La Myrrhe, Lancome Climat, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, Mariella Burani, Ulric de Varens pour elle

Anybody else notice going in a new direction with your fragrances choices over the past winter?  Feel free to share what your Most Valuable Perfume was over the chilly months.

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Fall Picks, 2010

I wanted to wait a while and keep track of not just what works well in the autumn, but what I’ve actually been wearing, bar the scents I’ve worn for test or review.   I knew Scent Diary would be good for something besides my running off at the mouth… So here it is the last week of October, and since I may be incommunicado for a large portion of November, working on my novel for NaNoWriMo, let’s talk fall scents now.  My picks for 2009 are here.

Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea – especially in the evenings.  Still a sexy-man bomb.  Still a wonderful amalgam of sunny afternoons, faint whiffs of tobacco smoke, earthy forest floors, dry leaves, a worn bomber jacket and the warm skin of one’s beloved.  Gorgeous.  See here for an earlier post on this one.

SSS Champagne de Bois – sparkly sandalwood-and-spices.  Warm, delicious, and cheerful.  (Hey, two SSS fragrances making the list.  Way to go, Laurie!)  Here’s a link to my review of CdB along with Chanel Bois des Iles.

Smell Bent Onea sleeper hit for me.  I’d ordered a small bottle unsniffed, because I thought I’d like it, plus a few other samples from Smell Bent.  Turned out this was the only one I really enjoy start-to-finish; it’s a lot like Dzing! without the animal hide/dung that makes Dzing! so (fascinatingly) impossible for me to wear.  Old books, spices, dry vanilla.  Yum.  Comfort with a side of edgy weirdness.  Brief review here.

 Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fetemagic in a bottle.  In the spring, the florals strike me as being more noticeable, but in cooler weather, I tend to notice the lovely base, which is a gorgeous marriage of cool patchouli and moss to warm woods, hay and narcissus.  Makes me think of dappled sunlight through leaves.   Here’s my review of LTdF compared to Guerlain Chamade.

Cuir de Lancome – still the epitome of “Mother’s good leather purse, with her No. 5-scented hanky inside.” I should go get another bottle right now, because it’s out of production and the only leather scent, other than vintage Jolie Madame, that I really like.  When I want it, nothing else will do.  Really, there’s no excuse for not stocking up while I can.  I really don’t see this kind of thing coming back into style.  (Besides, The CEO likes it.)  Review here.

Mariella Burani – very much a comfort scent since it reminds me of my mother, and an any-occasion scent as well.  It’s a friendlier version of No. 5, and I love the lightly-powdery drydown.  Review here.

Others that I’ve worn occasionally, and which have been perfect on the rare occasions we’ve actually had fall weather so far: vintage Lancome Magie Noire (review here).  In fact, the only time Magie Noire seems right to me is on a blustery, rainy fall day.  And I only wear it when I’m going to be by myself, because a) it’s pretty loud, even a drop at a time, and b) it’s actually sort of… stinky, or at least my little bottle of vintage EdT is.  It’s bitter and earthy and witchy, herbal in a magic-cauldron sort of way.  It is not cosy in the least, and The CEO hates it. I have also enjoyed occasional squidges of Teo Cabanel Alahine (review here) and the lovely but discontinued (booo!) Guerlain Shalimar Light (review here), especially before bedtime.  I find them very cozy to sleep in.  I’ve also been wearing a number of violet scents, partly because of the Week of Violets review series, but also because I like violets in the fall: Laura Tonatto Eleanora Duse, Berdoues Violettes Divine, Aimez-Moi, CDG Stephen Jones, SSS Voile de Violette, Balmain Jolie Madame, Annick Goutal La Violette, Penhaligon’s Violetta, Soivohle Violets & Rainwater.

How about you – what scents are you turning to with enjoyment this autumn?

Photo is Autumn River by Evgeni Dinev at freedigitalphotos.net.  Here’s a link to the photographer’s portfolio.

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So it’s the height of summer. Boy, is it ever summer around here! Hot, muggy, lots of wasps and ripe tomatoes… Here are five things I’m enjoying in this weather:

  1. Smooth and CoolingJacomo Silences.  I hated it the first time I tried it last fall, finding it “screechy” and “frightening.” Since this past spring, it has become a must. This fragrance is all texture and color to me – a beautiful, smooth silk satin that stays cool in the heat. It’s a changeable color, too: that beautiful shifting shade, from icy-green galbanum through soft pink rose and purple-gray iris root to a beautiful mossy green.
  2. Light and RefreshingMiller Harris Fleur de Matin. A little wisp of a scent that somehow manages to stay crisp a long time, with galbanum, citrus, jasmine and honeysuckle, and some herbs.
  3. Fruity Cocktail, complete with little pink paper umbrella Ines de la Fressange, the first one in the octagonal bottle with silver lid (not the gold leaf bottle). This one always reminds me of mimosas and fuzzy navels and cheese straws, consumed with friends wearing either big hairbows and tea dresses or khakis and striped ties, amid juicy gossip. Aldehydes, citrus, tangy peach, rose, violet, sandalwood and musk, very girly. Basically, it’s a Brunch Party On the Lawn with the University Singers, and it just smells good.
  4. Fun and FrivolousHonore des Pres Vamp a NY. Sometimes you just want a root beer float, my friends. Vamp is just the ticket: root beer, spices, a big friendly tuberose, and vanilla. As open and uncomplicated a scent as I’ve ever come across, trashy but wonderful. Goes great with popcorn, by the way.
  5. Happiness is a Rose GardenParfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete. This one smells just like yellow roses to me, my very favorite, plus a bit of Golden Delicious apple. Another simple and friendly scent that sweetens my days.

I know you’re wondering, Where are the woody citruses? The colognes? All we see here are florals – rose and jasmine and tuberose. Don’t you wear anything else?

Well… no. I just don’t do cologne. The closest I come to cologne is the aforementioned Fleur de Matin. Or maybe Moschino Funny!, a happy grapefruit-rose-tea thing that is sprightly and uplifting. Or possibly, maybe, if the planets align and I’m in the right mood, Eau Sauvage. I’ve come to realize that I always seem to feel like I’m wearing someone else’s underpants when I try to wear cologne. It’s Just Not Me. And I’ve come to terms with that.

Stay cool…

Image is from foxandfeathers at Flickr.

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Looks like I posted my “choices for spring” list too soon (4/5/10).  Here’s a link in case you missed it the first time:

Spring Picks, 2010

I’ve been enjoying making the blog rounds and seeing what’s on everyone else’s lists.  Feel free to share what you’ve been wearing this spring, if you like!

Image is Spring Colors (If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant) from ~XANE~[AWAY] at flickr.com.

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Spring Picks, 2010

Spring is finally here.  My daffodils and hyacinths are blooming, and so are the cherry trees, both wild and cultivated, white and pink.  There are baby calves bounding through the fields (if you’ve ever seen them run, you know where the phrase “kick up your heels” comes from), and I’ve even seen a few rabbits.  And the light!  The light has that golden, poured-lemonade quality that engenders happiness.

Goodbye to orientals and heavy vanillas, goodbye to tobacco and leather scents.  I’ve packed them away in the bedside cabinet to await chilly weather. 

A few scents I love for spring:

It’s the perfect time for lily and lily of the valley, so I love to wear Diorissimo, the old Kenzo Parfum d’Ete (1992 version in the frosted-glass upright leaf bottle), and Donna Karan Gold.  Nothing else says spring quite like cool, pristine white flowers.

Green scents come into their own in this season.  I wear quite a few of these.  Chanel No. 19, Silences, Le Temps d’une Fete, Chamade, and Crown Bouquet are favorites.

I also think it’s the perfect time for violet scents.  Who doesn’t love these tiny flowers poking their heads shyly through heart-shaped leaves?  Violet can be a little difficult for me — either dusty-powdery or candied — but  for violet soliflores I like Penhaligon’s Violetta and Annick Goutal La Violette.  The Penhaligon’s is a little greener, and the Goutal a little more rosy, but they’re both gentle and attractive.  Les Nez’ The Unicorn Spell is lovely, too. A few violets-in-composition scents that I like: Caron Aimez-Moi (violet, anise, and vanilla) and the incomparable Apres l’Ondee (violet, heliotrope, and ethereal melancholy magic).

Edit, April 30:  I’ll add lilac scents as well, since I’ve been craving them over the last couple of weeks.  Favorites: Jean Patou Vacances (of which I only have a tiny sample), Frederic Malle En Passant, and DSH Perfumes White Lilac.  Technically, Vacances is a lilacs-in-a-green-setting composition, not a soliflore, and I suppose En Passant is as well.  Another lilac composition I love is the gorgeous, satiny LeLong Pour Femme – lilacs and orchids.

Image is Spring Garden from nomm de photo at flickr.com.

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Winter Picks 2010

So everybody else is doing their Top 10 Winter lists… I’m just presenting a few scents that I reach for in cold weather.

Teo Cabanel Alahine – I continue to insist that this is happiness in a bottle.

I always have a Dark Rose on hand, like Caron Parfum Sacre or Amouage Lyric Woman. Dark Roses like these seem particularly lovely in cold weather.  Both of these have a beautiful translucent rose, some cool, deep incense, and the warmth of woods.

Chanel Bois des Iles – warm, woody, elegant.  Acceptable substitute:  SSS Champagne de Bois is a remarkably similar fragrance, and it’s reasonably priced, which is a blessing in these times when that 200ml bottle of Les Exclusifs runs $210, and the parfum is both difficult to obtain and horrendously expensive.  It may not have all the cachet of the Chanel (oh, that Chanel iris!), but Champagne de Bois is beautiful, and my second favorite in the Sonoma Scent Studio Line.

Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka – totally unserious, totally joy-making.  Wearing it is like drinking Heritage Dr. Pepper (made with, gasp, sugar! the utter decadence of it!) – always a treat.  This one makes me giddy: aromatic lime and tangerine, spicy-floral carnation, a rummy vanilla, the smoky tang of frankincense.  This was my very first decant purchase, and I just love it all to pieces. 

There are days when I need the promise of spring, and that’s when I want to wear a lovely Chilly Floral, like Diorissimo or Lancome Climat or (yeah, like I own this!) Frederic Malle Carnal Flower.   I love the cool florist-freshness I get out of them – I can almost feel the silky petals against my face.  Please note: I’d actually love to own some Carnal Flower.  Send me all your spare stash…

Other stuff I’m enjoying: Floral orientals like Amaranthine and Ubar and LeLong pour Femme, spicefests like Organza Indecence and Mauboussin, and the occasional dab of Shalimar.  Oh, yes, and tuberose… (at this stage, my tuberose choices would be Beyond Love or Carnal Flower – but I haven’t tried everything yet.)

Image is Barn in Winter by James Jordan at flickr.

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Five for Fall, 2009

Inspired by the Fall Picks posts on many perfume blogs this week, I’m doing my own. And I was going to make it Ten Picks, but since I’m hoping to be doing this again next year, I’ll keep the list short so I can explore different scents in 2010.

I love fall. Love it, love it. The temperature’s generally comfortable. The sunshine (when we get it) is a golden shade we never see in any other season. The wind is bracing rather than icy. The trees change colors; hickory nuts and black walnuts drop onto the drive. Squirrels and chipmunks are busybusybusy. Woodsmoke begins to fill the crisp air, and there’s frost on the ground in the mornings. More than that, autumn has always been for me a time of new beginnings. Feelings rise up in me and can’t be quashed – or forgotten.

For those warm golden days when the sun pours warm cider over distant tweed hills: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea. To me, it smells of dry leaves, pipe tobacco, fresh hay, a worn leather bomber jacket, and the warm skin of one’s sweetheart, and an aromatic mossy forest floor, with spiced cider wafting by from somewhere in the distance.

For cold rainy days when you just want a sweater (and a good raincoat!), I want Givenchy Organza Indecence. This is spice cake eaten near a bonfire, so that you smell the spice and vanilla just as much as you smell the smoke and the wood. Cozy, it sticks fairly close to my skin and only wafts gently when I move. I like that.

For romantic evenings, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if casts a spell, with its peppery rose and saffron creaminess. It is delightful, sensual, and a bit dreamy, as if it can’t quite keep the memory of stars out of its head.

For dreary days, when the sun is slow to wake and the sky remains gray, I love Lanvin Arpege. I have a small bottle of the reformulated EdP, and also a tiny bottle of vintage extrait. I really, really wish there were some way to merge the top and heart notes of the reformulation with the drydown of the vintage – the new stuff just disappears when it gets past its harmonic floral heart, but the basenotes of the old are symphonic and jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with creamy sandalwood and crisp vetiver. The middle stage of development in the original is so rich it feels almost decayed. Of course, that effect still seems to fit with leaf mould on the ground and the richness of fruit that ripens in the fall.

For anytime I need a close-to-the-skin veil of loveliness, I would want to wear Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. I still haven’t smelled the original Black Orchid, but VdF has plenty of personality, and I think the original would, um, scare me. VdF races through plum and very smooth florals (ylang and gardenia, prominently) through cinnamon and woods to a very creamy, luxuriously feminine ending. It’s like a bowl of Feminite du Bois with milk poured over, and it doesn’t disappear on me like Feminite du Bois.

Others I’m enjoying: Lancome Magie Noire, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon, Amouage Lyric, Gres Cabaret, and Shalimar Light.  It might soon be cold enough to break out the Bal a Versailles, too.

Image is Fall in Forest from nancymeowdrew at flickr; it was taken in Virginia in 1991.  This is very much what fall looks like around here.

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