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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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Orange blossom image from theflowerexpert.com

Oh-kay.

Okay, okay, okay. Okay, all right?

I surrender. There. I said it. Are you happy that I have turned into a cheese-eating surrender monkey*?

No? That’s not good enough?

(heavy sigh) Okay, but I’m only going to say this once.

Idon’thateorangeblossomanymore.

(* No, no, I like the French.  And I love cheese, too.  Everything is fine.)

See, I used to hate orange blossom. Well, not so much hate it as be horribly bored by it. Orange blossom still has a tendency to go all soapy on me, and I really intensely hate the idea of buying perfume, only to smell like hygiene products. NO. THANKS.

There are tons of perfectly lovely orange blossom fragrances out there that people love and that are adorably orange blossomy and smell very nice. Except on me. The following are just examples of Orange Blossom scents that went straight to Nice Floral French-Milled Soap on me:   AG Eau du Ciel (it smells like sheets freshly dried in the sun in the backyard, which is a wonderful smell but I prefer it as a linen spray), Bvlgari pour Femme, Jo Malone Orange Blossom, John Varvatos Artisan, L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, SSS Femme Jolie, Caron Narcisse Noir (reformulated), Hermes 24, Faubourg.

Even Robert Piguet Fracas and Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, with all their tuberose and va-va-voom, luxurious, sexy qualities, seem nearly dominated by as much about orange blossom as tuberose to my nose, and they veer somewhat soapy on my skin. (AHA! The answer to the question of why on earth my mother, who deemed most white florals “too mature” for a teenager, let me go out of the house wearing Chloe: on me, it smells like floral soap. Mystery solved.)

Then this past fall, I tried Elie Saab Le Parfum, and I really enjoyed the tender, smiling orange blossom in the topnotes. Huh, I said to myself. Maybe it just didn’t have time to go soapy since the OB lifted off so fast. And in the middle of my Serge Lutens self-challenge (oh, yeah, that’s ongoing and I have more Lutens reactions to post at some point), I found that I enjoyed the unabashedly-floral Fleurs d’Oranger. Pretty, I said to myself. Of course, there is a bunch of tuberose in that one, too.

And Donna, who reviews at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, and who is the one perfume blogger who might have the greatest amount of preferences in common with mine**, loved Sweet Redemption. (For the record, Donna loves green chypres, and I don’t. But we’re both suckers for Big Diva Roses, violets, lilies, muguet, Big White Florals, gentle floral chypres, and bosomy florientals as well as a number of truly-vintage fragrances, so we’ve got a lot of overlap.

** Other bloggers with whom I share some preferences are Musette at Perfume Posse and Abigail at I Smell Therefore I am.)

Aaaaand there was a drawing at Perfume Posse for a handful of By Kilian samples, which Musette kindly sent to me… they arrived just before Christmas. I sniffed Rose Oud and thought it pleasant, but I was busy with Christmas stuff and vainly attempting to write reviews of Prada Candy and Bottega Veneta (which I have yet to actually write!). So I set them aside until I could get some time, and promptly forgot about them. Oops. So when I mentioned on my “Year 2011 in Fragrance Review” post that I didn’t get to try Sweet Redemption, she reminded me that she’d sent me a packet and that one should have been in there. It was.

Not to mention that way back in October, I “liked” By Kilian on Facebook, and the company had promised to send a set of samples to anyone doing so before a certain date. I hadn’t received them, had almost forgotten about them and had concluded that I had missed the deadline after all… and then they showed up on the very last day of the year.

Sweet Redemption was the one I seized out of that envelope from France and sprayed on immediately. My eyes rolled back in my head with WOW.

When I was first married and had leisure time, I spent a goodly amount of it with Ruth Levy Beranbaum’s wonderful book The Cake Bible, making cakes and frostings and custards and jams and confections I’d never even heard of before, including sugared blossoms such as violets and rose petals and lilacs. I suspect that orange blossoms are too thick-petaled and waxy to respond well to the sugaring treatment, but I know that orange blossom water is commonly used in delicacies across the world, and it’s not a stretch to imagine an orange blossom I’d like to eat. Sweet Redemption opens up with an accord that is as close to a delicate, tender, sugared orange blossom as I could possibly imagine. It’s romantic and sweet and gorgeous and I just want to wipe happy tears from my eyes with my white lace-trimmed handkerchief as I smell it.

It’s also fairly fruity. My youngest child sniffed me and, confused, asked if I was wearing Jell-O. I was confused myself, wondering where this grapey smell was coming from since By Kilian seems to pride itself on high-quality raw materials. The grape effect seems to be engendered by methyl anthranilate, mentioned by Luca Turin in his P:TG review of Giorgio and explained further by Denyse at Grain de Musc in her review of Sweet Redemption as being an aromachemical that is naturally produced by orange blossoms and tuberose. This aromachemical is frequently added to grape-flavored items such as Kool-Aid and Jell-O to enhance the grapiness, thus leading Americans to perceive it as being a synthetic smell (see my review of I Profumo di Firenze Tuberosa d’Autonno).

After this stage, there enters a hint of floral bitterness that reminds me just a bit of marigolds, and perhaps of the bitter inner pith of orange peel. It’s something of a surprise in a fragrance that up to this point has been sweet as little baby kittens; I like it. It makes me think of the Mediterranean tradition of giving sugared almonds at a wedding reception – although there’s no almond at all in the smell, its combination of bitter and sweet, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” makes me emotional.  I’m guessing that it’s the bitter orange leaf and myrrh that give this bitter effect to the sweet orange blossom.

As the scent develops, I pick up a spicy note underneath the orange blossom. Eventually, there is a lovely accord of orange blossom and resiny, vanillic benzoin, with that kind of sweet myrrh that I like. There is not a single trace of soap anywhere. Instead, it’s almost a gourmand floral. It makes me think of Honore des Pres Vamp a NY, that tuberose-spice-vanilla delight that, despite being made of all-natural ingredients, caused a fair number of people to exclaim, “Bubble gum! Root beer!” I’d hesitate to say that the two are built on the same structure. Vamp a NY is a lot more radiant and outspoken than Sweet Redemption, and Vamp is a good bit more weighted toward the vanilla-tolu balsam end, while Sweet Redemption stays floral longer and heads for benzoin instead of tolu. All the same, it’s perhaps not surprising that I love both of them.

The By Kilian website does not actually list Sweet Redemption on its L’Oeuvre Noire section, much less give its detailed notes formula (that I made fun of in my review of Beyond Love), but you can find it in the “shop online” section. From what I read at LuckyScent, the PR release for Sweet Redemption is fully as florid as those for the rest of the house’s scents and just as confusing, so I’ll provide you with a list of fragrance notes and completely ignore the mentions of Baudelaire and Jim Morrison. (No, this is good: I have nothing to say about Baudelaire, and my thoughts on Jim Morrison are unhelpful. Be thankful I’m not writing about them.) Notes for Sweet Redemption, from Bois de Jasmin blog: bergamot, broom flower, orange blossom, bitter orange leaf, cinnamon, vanilla, myrrh, opoponax, benzoin. 

This scent was composed by Calice Becker, who also did Beyond Love and a number of the other By Kilians.  I’m getting quite fond of Ms. Becker’s compositions; they seem clear and full of light and air, never heavy, not overdone, but not evanescent or stark.  Favorite Becker-authored scents include the first Ines de la Fressange and Cuir de Lancome.

I documented my feelings on the pricey-packaging By Kilians in my review of Beyond Love, but in a nutshell: I’m not a packaging gal. I don’t buy anything for the pretty bottle, much less a fancy-pants bottle in a satin-lined box with a key, for heaven’s sake! However, the quality of Beyond Love is stellar, and I have no qualms about buying a decant of something expensive that I really love. Can I really complain about a 50 ml refill bottle of, say, Beyond Love, at $150, when I think Guerlain Vega is glorious, and it retails at 100 ml for $325? Not that I own a bottle of either, but I do have a small decant of Vega, and I’m starting to think I need a bit of Sweet Redemption. Hmmmm. I do have a birthday coming up… 10mls of Sweet Redemption would be a lovely present.

Other reviews of Sweet Redemption: Donna at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Jessica at Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Mark at CaFleureBon, Olfactoria’s Travels, The Non-Blonde, Scent of the Day, Daly Beauty, ScentSate.  I had read Donna’s, Jessica’s, and Victoria’s (BdJ) reviews before testing and discovered the others later; reviews are generally good, although not everyone loved it. 

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I knew very little about Harvey Prince when I received an email from a PR representative, offering a giveaway on this blog. Right away, I went to the Harvey Prince website to scout around a bit.

The website says that HP was founded by two brothers who didn’t want perfume to be “overwhelming, overpriced, and full of toxic chemicals,” and after composing a fragrance found inspiration in the person of their mother. The website also points out that certain smells have certain effects on our mental processes, and that each of the Harvey Prince scents have been created to take advantage of these olfactory receptor-to-brain linkages in order to affect behavior and perception.

While I am not opposed, in theory, to this version of aromatherapy, some squinty-eyed part of me is rather skeptical. Does this sort of thing actually work, I wonder? And whether or not, as reported by scientific study, men actually become, um, interested in a woman smelling of lavender and pumpkin pie, will these scents actually smell good?

Because I have to say, I don’t think I want to throw this Man Bait lavender-pumpkin-pie scent out there on my skin and having guys follow me home. I’m quite certain The CEO would not approve. Sure, I’ll try it on him and see what he says. Or does. (I may actually report the results, depending.)

I’ll also point out that although the website claims that the Harvey Prince fragrances are hypoallergenic, and do not contain “parabens, phthalates, PCBs, BPAs, GMOs, sulfates or other toxic chemicals,” these do not seem to be all-natural perfumes as that category of fragrance is usually defined. They do not smell like the natural fragrances from independent perfumers that I have worn before, coming far closer to smelling like mainstream perfume house releases. And to be honest, the marketing research is so all-pervasive that the “no synthetics” spiel comes across as a ploy to appeal to customers who like the idea of their fragrance being different than all those accessible scents that just anybody can buy at Walgreen’s, or at Macy’s.

But I put aside my skepticism to test these scents and judge as dispassionately as I could how they actually smell, and whether I would buy them for myself. The results were mixed; I’ll explain.

The six samples sent to me so kindly by Harvey Prince were:

Ageless. Meant to make the wearer seem younger, “smell as young as you feel.” Notes: pink graefruit, pomegranate, mango, jasmine, tuberose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood.

I have been unable to ascertain whether Ageless is a version – reformulated or not – of the fragrance Ageless Fantasy by Harvey Prince, which Luca Turin called “pear-melon version of Tommy Girl,” in Perfumes: The Guide. However, since Ageless Fantasy is described in the same terms as Ageless, as being able to make the wearer seem approximately eight years younger, I have to assume that the two are at least related in some way.

Pink grapefruit and mango are supposedly antidotes to that “old age” smell that skin gives off as certain fatty acids break down. Oh-kay. Seems that grandmother-smell has a basis in scientific fact, and the Harvey Prince claim could be true. It just seems to me that it wouldn’t necessarily work on fairly young people; for example, it’s not likely to make a 32-year-old woman smell as if she’s really 24. If you’re 70 and you wanted to smell 60, that might make a difference.

But enough of the scientific angle (which I can’t prove or disprove on my own): what does it smell like? I offered sniffs from the bottle to my teenage daughter and son (the tween-age son refused), without any context. Gaze said “shampoo” immediately, and then – because he’s a sweetie – added, “nice shampoo.” Bookworm, who’d been in another room and hadn’t heard her brother’s comment, sniffed and said, definitively, “shower gel.”

And I concur: a functional fragrance meant for use in a personal care product. Oh, it’s rather pleasant – fruity but not sweet, floral but not overpowering, fresh and clean and minimal in a modern just-out-of-the-shower, won’t-offend-anyone-on-the-city-bus kind of way. And it does smell young, completely innocent, as if someone had lifted 40% of the top- and heartnotes out of Marc Jacobs’ Daisy. On skin, the waft as I move my hands about or sniff two inches from my wrist is actually very pleasant. Smelled closer to, with nose to wrist, the scent is considerably less pleasant: very chemical, with lab-created jasmine and woody notes and something that reminds me of the cucumber-melon kind of shower gel that everybody loved so much in the 1990s. (Also: tuberose, my foot! I’d bet the farm that this thing has not been within six hundred miles of an actual tuberose flower.  But there speaks the tuberose fan, for what it’s worth.)

Eau Flirt. Meant to attract the passionate attention of men; “this perfume flirts for you.” It’s also described as “seductive, sparkling, wicked.” Notes: lavender, pumpkin pie, citrus, jasmine, freesia, ylang-ylang, nutmeg, cinnamon, ambers. This is the fragrance that garnered mentions in the New York Times and Cosmopolitan. Also, according to Harvey Prince, as reported on the CBS Early Show, Eau Flirt was “the clear victor versus a popular, classic Chanel perfume” in a “blind smell test among men.”

My assumption is that the “popular, classic Chanel” is No. 5. But which version – edt, edp, or parfum? It matters. And did the men undergoing the sniff test smell the fragrances immediately after spraying? On skin, or on a card? I’m going out on a limb here to say that most people, 85 years after No. 5’s debut, are going to prefer light-and-fresh citrus topnotes to the overdose of aldehydes that No. 5 is so famous for. Aldehydes are difficult – and I adore them, but I know that most people don’t. This may be the reason that Chanel updated No. 5 to create Eau Premiere, by adding a lot of citrus, more soft rose, and a big slug of friendly warm musk. Would the test results have been different if the men had smelled the perfumes after two hours? I’m betting they would. And would Eau Flirt have beaten Eau Premiere? There’s no way to tell unless someone does that study.

I’m also betting that the public at large doesn’t know that the way a perfume smells in the first two minutes isn’t the way it smells after two hours. (No. 5 is truly lovely in its heart-to-drydown phase.) As for the specific appeal to men, I can only say that The CEO shrugged with indifference. It didn’t appeal to me much, either, being a sort of “bottomless” fragrance with very little base, just a faint soft ambery sweetness. But then I’m not much of a lavender fan, either, and I found these light florals very insipid.

According to my offspring (offered sniffs from the bottle, independently and at different times of day), Bookworm found it “boring and sort of… weird. Like it’s falling apart.” Gaze, on the other hand, said, “Oh, I like that one. I really do. Can I smell it again?” And he may be a small guy, but he’s definitely a guy, so maybe there’s something to this theory – not that every man will find Eau Flirt magnetic, but at least a few do.

Eau Fling. Meant to attract and excite men; “a modern-day love potion.” Notes: lavender, blackcurrant, plum, raspberry, apple, jasmine, nutmeg, cinnamon, musk, rare woods. I think this is another one of those lavender-pumpkin pie nexus fragrances, but I like it a great deal better than Eau Flirt.

It is fairly fruity on the open, but Fling is darker than Flirt, and I think the dark fruits transition better to the spicy notes. From the spices, it moves on to a generically woody base that is warm and comfortable. It lasts longer than the two HP fragrances I tried earlier, settling down for a good four hours on skin.

Gaze said he found Fling pleasant but had a strong preference for Flirt; Bookworm liked Fling better and so did I. The CEO commented that it made him think of the smell of the hair salon at first, and then it calmed down and became more snuggly. He was noncommittal on whether he liked it.

Coupling. Meant to engage the romantic, sensual interest of a man. This fragrance seems to have been based on a Glamour magazine poll looking at the kinds of fragrances that turn men on. The winning smells were “the clean, fresh scents of gardenia, freesia and cucumber, and sophisticated, spicy scents of patchouli, cinnamon, amber, and nutmeg.” Coupling, according to Harvey Prince, combines both [clean/fresh and sophisticated/spicy].

This one, judged strictly from the notes, looked like a train wreck to me. Notes: gardenia, cucumber, pumpkin, nutmeg, jasmine, marigold, patchouli, vanilla. I mean, if you asked me my favorite things to eat, you’d get (at various times) some combination or other of “caramel, parmesan cheese, broccoli, cinnamon rolls, mushrooms, Jonagold apples, tilapia, Mom’s beef-vegetable soup, tomato sandwich on white bread with plenty of mayo and freshly ground black pepper. And cheesecake.” But all at once? That’s just wrong.

But if you served me a meal of several courses that included my favorite foods – starting with a bowl of soup, adding that ‘mater sammich and some grilled tilapia with mushrooms and broccoli, and finishing up with either the cheesecake or the apples and cinnamon rolls, it might make sense.

That’s what Coupling does. (Thank goodness.) You start off with a cucumber note that gradually segues into a light white-floral heart, not too sweet and heady, and then Coupling slides into a white-floral/spice accord that I like a lot. Eventually it goes (“clean”) patchouli-vanilla, and that sticks around for several hours.

The CEO’s verdict was “Nice. I like it. It’s kind of faint, and I like most of your other stuff more, but it smells nice.” I agree. This one might be my favorite of the six Harvey Prince scents I sampled.

Eau de Lite. This is meant as a diet aid. Yes, you read that correctly. Eau de Lite is supposed to be “positive reinforcement for your weight loss goals,” and looking at the notes, I couldn’t see how this could possibly smell anything other than unappetizing: peppermint, green apple, vanilla, spearmint, fennel, jasmine, rose, sandalwood.

I’m right. The entire thing smells inedible, in a rehab-clinic, antiseptic sort of way, chilly and not pleasant at all. Sure, it might keep you from using your teeth to tear into that emergency package of Ho-Hos you keep in your desk, but it would probably keep all your coworkers within smell range from enjoying their lunches, too. Like most of the other HP fragrances, it’s light and unobtrusive, and if you want to be able to actually smell yourself, you have to apply generously. It might be better, if you truly want Diet Armor, to carry the roll-on bottle with you and sniff it whenever you have cravings. I would be suspicious of anyone who wanted to smell like this throughout the day.

Eau de Crème. This is, as you might guess without even knowing anything about it other than its name, a gourmand. Gourmands are always iffy for me anyway, and the only true gourmand scents I like are the original Hanae Mori(Cotton candy! Berries! Almond! Vanilla! FUN! Where’s the Tilt-a-Whirl?), Prada Candy (Whee, I’m wearing CARAMEL!) and the extremely-strange, I-don’t-know-why-I-like-it, Jeux de Peau by Serge Lutens (Burnt-sugar palmier pastries! I feel like a child, but a sophisticated European one! I need an espresso!).

This one, however, is a bit of a mess. The Harvey Prince PR on Eau de Crème says that it’s based on a scientific study that found “ice cream’s allure resides in its unique combination of taste and texture: the creamy sensations brought about by its tantalizing transformation from icy solid to melt-in-your-mouth bliss.” Notes: citrus, passion fruit, rum raisin, vanilla, patchouli, chocolate.

The tart citrus-like topnotes mixed with the extreme sticky sweetness of fudge and rum raisin creates a bizarre effect that reminds me of being six years old and carsick. It makes me want to tell the story of my late father-in-law, his sick daughter, and the glass of tomato juice. (Don’t worry, I won’t actually tell it.) My least favorite of the bunch, and considering my reaction to Eau de Lite, that should tell you something.

Other scents, not included in my sampler pack, that the website offers:

Submariner (for men): “Aquatic notes of Bermudian island spice and vibrant South Pacific tonka bean inspire vigor and vitality.” Notes: citrus, nutmeg, amber, tonka, blonde woods.

Yogini: “the fragrance that calms the mind, soothes the soul, and frees the spirit.” Notes: sandalwood, golden amber, sensual incense, Egyptian myrrh, pink grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, lily of the valley, star jasmine, rose petals, ylang-ylang, cardamom, madagascar vanilla.

Let’s Tryst Again (unisex): “a smoky unisex fragrance for that special rendezvous.” Notes: pepper, fennel, jasmine, rose, balsamic, amber, sandalwood, tonka.

Nightshift: “created for the night-blooming, fun and flirty female.” Notes: night jasmine, night phlox, moonflower, evening primrose, bergamot, mimosa, honeysuckle, vanilla, musk.

What’s really nice about the Harvey Prince fragrances is that they are offered in small 8.8 ml bottles, for a quite reasonable price: about $21 for the roll-on, $26 for the spray.  The $60 “holiday set,” sent to me from Harvey Prince, contains six small bottles, and seems like a bargain.   Check it out here.

Harvey Prince has kindly offered a giveaway drawing of a 1.7 oz (50ml) bottle of Eau Flirt.  To enter, please follow my blog and “like” Harvey Prince on Facebook.  For extra entries, you may follow Harvey Prince on Twitter, or mention this giveaway in a tweet or blog post.  (Please delineate which extra options you’ll be adding, if any, in your comment.)

The drawing will be open from Tuesday, Dec. 27 through Friday, January 6, at 11:59 pm EST.  Good luck to you!  The draw is now closed.

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Image from Amazon.com

O Tannenbaum!   As Christmas approaches, Muse in Wooden Shoes wishes you and yours a happy holiday season.

This post is part of a joint blogging project concerning wood-focused fragrances, in honor of the approaching holiday. Bloggers were to review or discuss three perfumes highlighting woody notes. I’m not a woody kind of gal – regular readers know that I love green fragrances and florals of all stripes, from white floral to floral oriental and floral chypre – so I looked on the project as an opportunity to educate myself with a few woody fragrances.

Woody scents can vary from dry to sweet, from austere to lush, and I took a scattershot approach, picking one well-known agarwood-sandalwood scent, one highlighting oak, one focused on pine and spruce notes, and a backup scent composed of rosewood.

10 Corso Como

This fragrance is from the house of Italian designer Carla Sozzani, and was composed more than a decade ago by nose Olivier Gillotin. It’s pretty famous for being a sandalwood-rich scent, but I hear it’s been reformulated due to the drastic shortage of real sandalwood.

This one opens up with the unmistakeably plastic-bandage accord of agarwood (oud), which I admit to liking a lot. Due to time-and-space limitations – and in all honesty, limitations on my knowledge of the subject – I’m not going to get into a discussion of how there are many different grades of oud, including at least one synthetic one in wide usage, and big variations in smell. This one is nice, and that’s all I’m going to say about it. For use as a yardstick, my take on the Montale ouds is that I tend to like the rose-oud combos and could even wish for a bit more oud in them, as they usually go “10 minutes of Band-aid, half an hour of something indefinably gorgeous, and then three hours of insistent rose.” (Except for Montale White Aoud, which starts out with the Band-aid and the indefinably gorgeous and then goes into “two hours of insistent rose-vanilla, followed by several nerve-wracking hours of the dreaded Youth Dew accord.” Because of the Youth Dew bit, I don’t love White Aoud, but I like everything up until then.)

After five to ten minutes of that beautifully medicinal oudy thing, 10 Corso Como settles into a sweet, rich sandalwood. And there it stays for four hours, eventually shedding a little of its sweetness and becoming drier, but staying warm and friendly and approachable. I don’t smell much else other than oud, sandalwood, and vetiver, although I think there might be a bit of rose in there somewhere. It’s not identifiably floral.

How you feel about it depends very much on how you feel about sandalwood. I like it myself, but my favorite sandalwood fragrances remain Tableau de Parfums Miriam, SSS Champagne de Bois, and vintage Arpege parfum, with the current version of Bois des Iles running just behind. All of those have both aldehydes and prominent floral notes, and it’s not difficult to see where my preferences tend to lie. 10 Corso Como is very comfortable and attractive, and I enjoy it very much. It’s easily wearable by either gender.

My sample is a boxed manufacturer’s sample purchased from The Perfumed Court, and I don’t know how old it is. However, it is a manufacturer’s sample, which leads me to believe that it might be an older one. I’m not sure that 10 Corso Como still smells like this, which is a shame because it’s lovely. On the other hand, it’s on the sweet side and I would have liked it to be a little drier, a little bit more oud-y. I have heard the reformulation is still very nice.

Notes, from Now Smell This: Rose, geranium, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, and Malay oud-wood oil. Other notes lists I’ve seen include frankincense.

Napa Valley Cielo

Cielo,” in Spanish, can mean “sky,” or “heaven,” and I’m not sure which is meant by the title of this fragrance, from a company located in the Napa Valley in California, which is famous for its wines and its lovely landscape. This scent, according to The Perfumed Court, has an oak wood note and is described as being “lovely and distinctive, evocative of Napa Valley vineyards.” I enjoy Serge Lutens’ oaky Chene and the beautiful oakwood opening of Sonoma Scent Studio’s To Dream, so I picked Cielo as a fragrance to highlight for this project for its oak note.

Notes: Sweet daphne, grape leaf, honeysuckle, fig leaf, honey, oak, and sandalwood.

Cielo opens up with a turpentiney-pinewood-celery-varnish accord that smells like anything but perfume. Actually, it doesn’t just “open up” with that, but it stays in that zone on my skin for hooooouuuuurs, not morphing into anything else, and I’m a little puzzled as to why this thing was bottled in the first place. It doesn’t smell like oak, it doesn’t smell like forest or wood or anything other than turpentine. It’s possible that it reacts badly to my skin; however, I didn’t like it on paper, either. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to smell like this at all. For what it’s worth, I do not enjoy scents with fig leaf, and I imagine that’s the issue here.

FAIL. And since this one was such a disaster, I’m going to move on to another scent.

DSH Perfumes Festive

Festive is one of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ holiday offerings – in years past she’s offered one new creation each holiday season. I’m not sure whether she’s still doing that or not, but past holiday scents have included Ma Folie de Noel, Winter White, Marzipan, Three Kings, and many others. I had intended to review December, with its notes of “aromatic wood” and “pine cone accord,” but when push came to shove I couldn’t find my sample. However, in the scramble through my DSH samples, I found Festive, which I remembered liking, so I pulled it out instead. Glad I did!

Festive was actually the first holiday release, if I’m reading the website correctly, and includes notes of bergamot, bitter orange, spice notes, fir needle, spruce, incense, and sandalwood. My sample is oil format, which of course doesn’t radiate far but sticks around a fairly long time. I never smell the carrier oil in any of Dawn’s oil samples, and the oil absorbs quickly into the skin so I don’t feel greasy.

This scent opens up with a relaxed, smiling citrus-pine accord that could go wrong and smell like cleaning products, but doesn’t. I’m not a big citrus fan, and if you’re looking for that kind of thing you’ll be disappointed; the citrus here is muted and reminds me of dried orange peel rather than big bright lemony bergamot. Instead, you get an invigorating hint of the way your house, decorated for Christmas, might smell right after you’ve brought in a fresh-cut fir tree. Traditionally, people in this area used to cut fresh cedars (which, here, are something like overgrown weeds) and although cedars are prickly, dry out easily and leave plenty of dropped needles behind, for the first week or so they can make a house smell truly wonderful.

Gradually, Festive’s lovely dried orange peel-and-Christmas tree smell gains some well-blended spicy notes before settling into a sandalwood and amber accord, rich without being too sweet. It lasts for about four hours on me when dabbed sparingly, and it’s a very snuggly sort of scent.

I just heard from Dawn yesterday that she’ll be offering home fragrances in some of her scents. Festive would be terrific as a room spray. It’s aromatic in a coniferous-spice way without smacking you over the head like so many so-called “pine” home scents do. It’s nice on skin, too.

Abdes Salaam Attar Rosewood

I like rosewood. It’s a note found in several beloved fragrances, including Annick Goutal Eau du Ciel, Caron Parfum Sacre, (vintage) Coty Emeraude, Diorissimo, Chanel Cristalle, and the first Ines de la Fressange.

Unlike many woody notes, which are most prominent in basenotes, rosewood has a bright, aromatic presence that seems most noticeable in the top notes of a perfume. It contains linalool (the distinctive aroma of lavender) and is related to geraniol; it has a lot of the sunny chipper quality of good rose oil. There are many varieties of rosewood, but Brazilian rosewood is the varietal most commonly used in perfumery.

This scent called Rosewood seems fairly linear; it does start with a highly aromatic, almost piercing character. I am not sure whether it is a composition or straight-up rosewood: I could swear I smell geranium and rose as well as sandalwood and perhaps a little bit of vanilla as the fragrance develops. It lasts about two and a half or three hours, eventually settling into a quiet woody hum before lifting off my skin completely.

I’m a little puzzled about the origin of this particular fragrance. The Perfumed Court lists it as “SCENTS OF AROMATIC RESINS – Rosewood,” but nothing under that name is to be found at profumo.it (the Abdes Salaam Attar website). There is a listing for Scents of Aromatic Resins, but it is a kit for the amateur perfumer and does not include rosewood. It may now be discontinued, or it may be the diluted natural oil of rosewood sold in the Aromatherapy section. The information on the profumo.it website about essence of rosewood says, “Its aroma is calming and antistress; its aroma is harmonizing and stimulant. Therefore it is used in perfumery as an element able to tie ingredients with big differences between them and to smooth the angles of one composition.”  Well, whatever this sample vial I have is, whether single ingredient or composition, it’s interesting and pleasant.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tannenbaum project, and please check out my blogging partners’ posts here:

All I am….is a redhead
Another Perfume Blog
Beauty, Bacon, Bunnies
Beauty on the Outside
Daly Beauty
EauMG
Eyeliner on a cat
Fragrant Reviews
Olfactoria’s Travels
Parfumieren
Redolent of Spices
Scent of the Day
Suzanne’s Perfume Journal
The Candy Perfume Boy
Undina’s Looking Glass

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I’ve been looking forward to this one for months now. I’ve been a fan of Brian Pera’s writings on I Smell Therefore I Am for a couple of years now. I’m a fan of Tauer Perfumes, too. As I’ve said before, the scents either don’t work at all for me, or they work beautifully and make me feel a little like I’m flying. Even the Tauers I don’t enjoy are well-made and solid and have distinctive personalities of their own. Furthermore, I am a big fan of aldehydic florals, so when I heard that Brian’s A Woman’s Picture project (see Evelyn Avenue website) would include a collaboration with Andy Tauer, and that one of the associated fragrances would be an aldehydic floral, I was thrilled.

Thanks to a very generous giveaway instigated by Andy Tauer and A Woman’s Picture, and hosted by Now Smell This, I won a full bottle of Miriam.  Miriam is now available at Lucky Scent, at $160 for 50ml plus a copy of the Miriam segment of the film and some other goodies.  I’ll just say now, I have rarely been so pleased to receive a box of perfume in the mail! Just look at this gorgeous packaging, will you?

Look at all these goodies! Complete with handwritten note from Andy Tauer, too.

I admit to enjoying a nice bottle, but I have never bought a bottle simply because it’s pretty. (Hey, if that’s what you like, more power to you. I’m not judging.) But I squealed like an excited little girl, opening Miriam last week. The pretty box holds an insert with a lovely jacquard-like pattern, die-cut to fit the Miriam bottle, as well as a DVD of a portion of the film and a notepad  the Miriam booklet (duh, I hadn’t gotten the chance to open it yet). There are silver strings and a frosted glass cap, and pretty pink stickers, and a simulacrum of an old-fashioned cut-paper silhouette, and the whole thing is so intricate and adorable that it could have been any Christmas present hand-wrapped personally for me by my artist sister, for whom such things are Serious Business.  Also, the liquid is a very soft yellow-green, one of my favorite colors.

I have not yet viewed the entire DVD. I have seen clips from the Miram segment, and also from some of the other segments that make up the ongoing A Woman’s Picture project, and they have all been moving, thoughtful pieces. Briefly, though, the Miriam segment focuses on Miriam Masterson, a middle-aged woman whose career is in jeopardy, whose relationship with her layabout boyfriend is deteriorating, and whose mother, with whom she has a complicated and painful relationship, is in a nursing home as her mind and health fails. All of Miriam’s anchors have been lost, and a storm is approaching.

What drew me to the fragrance, in particular, was the notes. Regular readers know that I lurve me some aldehydes, and when someone as talented as Andy Tauer does a vintage-inspired aldehydic floral – well, I wanna smell it. The official notes list for Miriam includes aldehydes, bergamot, sweet orange, violet blossom, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, violet leaf, vanilla, orris root, sandalwood and Ambrox.  From the Evelyn Avenue website, here is the inspiration for Miriam:

The dream of a hug, the vivid bitter sweet memory of her perfume,
her hair shining golden in the morning sun, so fine,
the violets from the garden in her hand,
freshly picked with the dew pearls dropping one after the other,
the green May roses on the table, lasting forever.
It is a dream of days long gone, with a smile on my lips.

Miriam is undoubtedly a Tauer fragrance, despite its being something of a departure from Andy’s usual style. The Ambrox (something of a signature note for Andy) is definitely noticeable in the first few minutes, and although it’s more muted than you might expect, it’s a little thread of Andy running through the composition, with its sweet-salty-rich chord. Up top, there are the aldehydes and a light-hearted citrus note. I’ll make a prediction that if you don’t like aldehydes, you certainly won’t like Miriam; the aldehydes are sweet, and both powdery and candle-smoke-y. Soon I notice the beautiful rose and jasmine heart, very classic and reminiscent of 1940s feminine perfumes, and the violet flower seems to drift in and out. As the fragrance develops, the sandalwood and vanilla become prominent. I don’t smell iris on its own, but I often notice that orris root seems to disappear into rich floral scents, contributing mostly a satiny texture and keeping sweeter elements like vanilla or amber from being too sweet, in much the same way that adding a small amount of salt to batter makes the flavors blend well. The sandalwood in this, according to Andy’s blog, is a mixture of real Mysore and Australian, and it is the most delightful part of the fragrance for me.

Andy Tauer has been quoted as suggesting that Miriam is “slightly provocative,” and “not naughty, but bold,” a fragrance in the tradition of the grand parfums of the 1940s and ’50s.  I don’t find it bold or provocative in the least – rather, it strikes me as being very soft and cloudlike.

Miriam lasts quite well on me, typically about five hours with a very gentle waft. It is recognizably perfumey in that “Mmm, somebody’s wearing nice perfume” sort of way, as opposed to the “Something smells nice” sort of way that has drifted in and out of fashion since the stripped-down, anti-perfume perfumes of the early 1990. I like that. The CEO likes it too, and mentioned that smelling it reminds him of his college years, going to the department store to pick out Christmas fragrance gifts for his then-girlfriends (none of whom were me). It didn’t remind him of any scent in particular, but the general perfumeyness of Miriam resembled the air in the department store, and recalled for him the pleasant excitement of good, “feminine” smells.

I will admit to being surprised that there isn’t any oakmoss in Miriam, not even a little bit, because Miriam’s mother’s fragrance purportedly contains it. But it seems that Miriam, the fragrance, is more based on Miriam, the character: it is nostalgic, soft and powdery atop a strong, comforting base. It is on the sweet side, with the aldehydes, sandalwood and vanilla contributing to that facet, but it’s a rich woody sweetness rather than a sugary overdose. There seems always to be a gentle wistfulness about rose-and-violet scents, and Miriam is very wistful.

The mother of a young friend of mine died suddenly about six months ago, and there is a certain stricken wistfulness I’ve seen on his face at unguarded moments, particularly if I’ve been playing with my younger son in the friend’s presence. Taz loves to roughhouse and be physical; it’s a primary avenue of affection for him, and I try to indulge it. Taz won’t always be eleven, asking for “mommy hugs.” I keep wishing I could offer that kind of affection to my young friend, and I hope that sometime soon he’ll feel able to accept it.

Miriam the fragrance conjures images of motherhood for me – partly due to the film, partly due to the fact that my own mother, with whom I have a good relationship, has frequently been so comfortable in aldehydic scents, and partly due to the wistfulness in my young friend’s face over the past few weeks. Wearing Miriam feels bittersweet and emotional, tender and wrenching and beautiful. It smells like a memory of love to me, and I will cherish it.

A few other reviews of Miriam: Carol at WAFTThe Non-BlondeMarina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things,  Perfume Shrine.  Here’s a post from Andy’s blog, with some of his thoughts concerning Miriam, too. 

And one more thing:  I also won a sample of Miriam via the drawing at The Non-Blonde, but wasn’t able to get hold of Gaia to request her to consider redrawing for it, so I’ll offer a draw here to one commenter, and my immense thanks to Gaia.  Draw will be open, as the original was, to US residents, from the time of posting until midnight Eastern Standard Time Friday, November 4, 2011  Draw is now closed. 

(I will post the winner of the Pandora sample on Wednesday.)  All photos mine.

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I have to blame Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am for this decant. 

See, Le Labo annoys me no end.  They really do.  They have this quasi-scientific packaging, they fill and label your individual bottle upon order as if this is a desirable thing, and they name their fragrances in this strange, quasi-scientific way that turns out to be misleading, as in Tubereuse 40 being a citrus cologne instead of a tuberose fragrance.  Grr.  Also, they have these certain fragrances available only in certain cities, and they won’t sell them online or by phone order.  To get Aldehyde 44, you have to go to Dallas and buy a bottle.  This strikes me as unnecessarily exclusionary in that country-club, “you don’t belong” sort of way, which burns my shorts because I am pretty well bought in to the whole American ideal of all [humans] being created equal (which, I know, isn’t actually borne out in practice, but I still believe in it as an ideal).  I am not likely to make a trip to Dallas any time in the near future, unless I have to connect through the airport on a trip to visit my sister in Fort Hood, TX, which is also not likely.

Also-also, Le Labo makes a big deal out of being French, as in, “We are French, and you are not.  You can buy our ridiculously-priced French perfume, but it will not make you French.  Ha ha ha ha!”  On top of all this snobbery and floofery to do with misleading names and ugly packaging and city exclusives and Frenchiness, the Le Labo fragrances are ridiculously priced.  Did I mention the ridiculous price schedule?  It’s ridiculous.  As in, you can currently buy a 100 ml bottle of one of the city exclusives (assuming you can travel to the appropriate city) for the whopping total, before tax, of $440 USD. 

So the fact that I purchased a 5ml split portion* can be ascribed directly to Abigail’s review of Aldehyde 44, because I would absolutely never have done it if she hadn’t activated my acquisitiveness glands.  I think the phrase that did me in was this: “OH MY GAWWWWWWWWD.”  *at a price somewhat lower, about $3.60 per ml – still ridiculous, but manageable in small amounts.

The notes for Aldehyde 44 include aldehydes (duh), neroli, tuberose absolute, narcissus absolute, jasmine sambac, vanilla, musks and woods.  Aldehyde 44 was composed by Yann Vasnier and released in 2006.  I am a total sucker for narcissus.  Ditto aldehydes, ditto tuberose.  Although I’m not a jasmine fan, I like tropical jasmine sambac much better than traditional-French-perfumery jasmine grandiflorum.  So of course, of course, I had to try it.

Aldehyde 44 starts out with a blast of, you guessed it, aldehydes.  I do not recommend huffing your recently-spritzed wrist up close, unless you want an aldehyde headache – I had to warn Gaze “Not too close!” when he sniffed me this morning – but within a few minutes, the blast is gone.  What’s surprising to me about this fragrance is that unlike most other aldehydies, there’s not an aldehyde-heavy opening quickly transitioned to something else that usually smells completely different

You look at the classic aldehydic floral fragrances like Arpege or, say, Balenciaga Le Dix, and they only start out with aldehydes.  Arpege, to me, is all about the rich, almost composty florals followed by a wonderful sandalwood.  Chanel No. 5 is aldehydes followed by rich florals and a beautiful woody-musky drydown.  Robert Piguet Baghari (the reformulation, at least) is aldehydes followed by a delightful orange-and-wood accord.

But Aldehyde 44 seems to keep its aldehydic character throughout.  I was expecting the aldehydes to slide into a sweet white-floral bomb, but they don’t.  Instead, I get just a vague white-floral veil, light and pretty and uncomplicated, still with that sparkly champagne-bubble character of the aldehydes.  I’d swear that there is a little bit of rose in this scent, too, a pretty woody rose.  After several hours, I smell a hint of vanilla and lots of dry wood, and at this point it reminds me to a small degree of Baghari.  The aldehydes are never very powdery, as often happens; rather, they keep their sparkly quality.  Even in the far drydown, six hours after application (a stunningly long time for an edp to last on me), I seem to still get sparkly, white fairy light aldehydes.  The transitions are so smooth with this fragrance, I can’t pinpoint when it’s moved from opening to floral to woods.

The whole thing is pretty and light and fairly dry, not as sweet as I’d expected.  My one complaint is that it wears too close to the skin and doesn’t project much, even in warm weather.  In fact, when I’ve worn Aldehyde 44 in the summer, it has shrunk down to skin and disappeared too soon, very forgettable, which is close to unforgivable in a scent that costs as much as this one does.  It is lovely, but not as assertive as I’d like – and you might remember that I am not a big sillage fan!  All the same, I’m glad I have this small portion, and I’ll be wearing it happily until it’s gone.

And then I’ll wear my Guerlain Vega, which is also gorgeous, more warm and friendly, and slightly less expensive.

(This review interrupted for a public service announcement: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAZ!!)

If you’ve been reading and cursing your bad luck at not living in or near Dallas, you should know this: in a special promotional program, samples of the Le Labo city exclusives will be available at the Le Labo website during the months of October and November 2011, at $10 per 1.5ml spray sample (shipping included).  Bottles will be available for purchase at LuckyScent in November, with samples available from now through the end of November.

Other reviews, most of them favorable: Bois de Jasmin, Tom at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Marina at PST (not favorable),  Aromascope, The Non-Blonde.  In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin first slyly pokes fun at Le Labo (yay!) and then calls Aldehyde 44 a “mini-White Linen.”  (Thing is, I don’t like White Linen…)

Fragrance image from Lucky Scent. 

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This fragrance, frequently deemed the most striking and original of the six “Les Exclusifs de Chanel” released in 2007, has been reviewed by many, many perfume bloggers… but not by me. Robin at Now Smell This reviewed it in the context of the Exclusifs collection; Victoria at Bois de Jasmin reviewed it as a stand-alone. Denyse at Grain de Musc reviewed it as reminding her of Great Chypres We Have Known, several in succession (and so, famously, did Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: The Guide, in a small difference of opinion from Luca Turin). Recently, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am reviewed it as fulfilling a brief that simply said “elegance” and “the most Chanel of all the Chanels.”

Looks like it’s my turn. I’m reviewing it from the perspective of having heard that 31 RC, as I’ll call it, was “good,” and as a newbie to perfume, I should try it. Dear Daisy sent me a sample, and I had to agree: it is good. Shortly thereafter I got in on a bottle split, and own a sadly-depleted 10ml decant.*  Incidentally, the Les Exclusifs were originally only available in 200ml bottles, selling at about $210, but have recently been made available in 75ml bottles, at $110.

31 Rue Cambon, named for the apartment which Coco Chanel kept Much has been made of 31 RC being the “no-oakmoss chypre,” or the first “modern chypre.” I should probably mention that I’m not one of those people who throws tantrums about my chypres having their teeth pulled. (I know, I know, it hurts to lose the things you love, and if the use of rose in perfumes were suddenly restricted the way oakmoss has been, you’d better bet I’d be pitching seventeen kinds of hissy fit.) But then, I only love chypres if they are heavily floral, and I’m not all that bothered by less oakmoss. I’ve always said, if a fragrance has that bitter edge to it, even if it has less oakmoss than a “proper” chypre should, it’s a chypre in my book. If you’re a big fan of the bitter greenies like Bandit – or Diorella, even – 31 Rue Cambon will not seem like much of a chypre to you.

And in point of fact, it doesn’t seem like all that much of a chypre to me. I would classify it alongside Guerlain’s lovely (and discontinued, grrrr) Attrape-Coeur and my darling Teo Cabanel Alahine as a Floral Amber.

Notes for 31 Rue Cambon, cobbled from reviews and the Chanel website: bergamot, jasmine, iris, patchouli, labdanum. This is surely not a complete list; the fragrance is far more complex than that, and I suspect that the amber note is not straight-up labdanum but rather the Ambre 83 base that Luca Turin mentions as being the centerpiece of Attrape-Coeur. It is, however, a list that mentions every note discernible to me.   Some reviewers mention pepper, but I don’t pick up on it.

Now that I’ve gotten the “to chypre or not to chypre” discussion out of the way, what’s 31 RC actually like? It starts off with bright citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot, with just a tiny hint of bitter-green, and for just a moment or two I think of Chanel Cristalle, that classic citrus chypre (which, for the record, I do not love). After the first five minutes, I’m already smelling amber underneath the citrus. It’s the same rich, plush-but-not-too-sweet amber note that you get with those other floral- amber fragrances I already mentioned, and which I also smell in Mitsouko (another chypre I don’t love). 31 Rue Cambon seems to slide effortlessly from citrus into jasmine, and from there into gorgeous satiny iris, but everything always underpinned with the soft amber. There is a bare hint of patchouli in the base, but – thank goodness – it’s the aged, green/herbal kind, and merely a suggestion anyway, not enough to bludgeon me. The fragrance is seamless in its transitions, and even after the citrus and jasmine are gone, they have left an impression on my brain, so that even the far drydown carries with it a suggestion of the way 31 RC smelled from the beginning.

The entire scent is a perfect model of elegance – clean lines, nothing sticking out, nothing overemphasized. It’s not the crisp elegance of a perfectly-pressed white blouse or the stern perfection of a tight chignon with not a hair out of place, however. It’s far more comfortable and effortless than crisp and restrained, and it imparts a graceful, smiling demeanor. When I wear it, I feel rich – and, somehow, nicer.

31 RC is thick, like a full chord, and yet somehow airy and weightless. This is a quality it seems to share with Chanel No. 5 – it’s lushly sensual, and at the same time it is never too much. The seamlessness, the tactile satin effect, make it very easy to wear despite its fullness.

The one quibble I have with 31 RC is the same one that most people have with it: it’s a little too light. Chanel needs a parfum concentration of this. I keep seeing the prediction that they’re working on a parfum and it’ll be released any moment, but we’re now four years (almost five!) into the life of this scent, and there is no parfum available, nor any definite announcement of one coming to the market. Which makes me wonder if the balance goes off somehow when you try to strengthen the mixture. This makes me a little sad: I love Bois des Iles, too, but it’s so fleeting that the Les Exclusifs EdT just frustrates me. Knowing that the parfum is available, even if I can’t afford it, makes me feel a little better. 31 Rue Cambon does have a slightly stronger presence than Bois des Iles, and it does last for close to four hours on me, twice as long as BdI, but I have to snorfle my wrist to smell it for that last hour.

That said, I still think 31 RC is wonderful. “Distilled elegance” sounds about right to me as a short descriptor. I think I’m always going to want to have a small amount on hand, for wear when I feel I might need a reminder that I’m a worthy human being.

A few other reviews, besides the ones linked in the first paragraph (and I do mean a few – there are dozens more!):  Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things calls 31RC “austere, yet opulent,” and I’d agree wholeheartedly.  Dane at Pere de PierreAbigail at ISTIAThe Non-BlondeFor the Love of Perfume1000 Scents.  

* Here’s some further information on bottle splits (scroll down into the post), in case you’re not familiar with this wonderful opportunity for owning small amounts of full bottles you can’t afford. In my case, there are a lot of scents I’d love to own, but can’t swing $200 a pop; sometimes I don’t even want a whole bottle, and 5 or 10 ml is the perfect amount. Splits are the way to go, if possible. Robin at NST has more information, too.

Image of 31 Rue Cambon bottle from Fragrantica.  Image of Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker ca. 1957 from The Recessionista.

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