Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

I have a collector’s brain; I have always enjoyed building a collection of things that interest me and learning about them. Over the years, that has mostly manifested itself in my gardening (sometimes to the detriment of orderly design); I have to discipline myself to plant groupings of plants, not just plant one of everything. Sometimes it all comes together really well, as when my husband cleared two areas of underbrush so we could plant two small groves of almost two dozen Japanese maples I had been growing in pots.

Since I started studying, not just wearing, fragrance three years ago, I’ve built up quite a collection, but it doesn’t have a lot of coherence to it yet; I’m still in the “let me try everything” learning stage, lol. But one way I have tried to inject some structure into my collection is to try as many as possible of the fragrances given five stars in Turin and Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” One of those is Issey Miyake’s Le Feu d’Issey, created by Jacques Cavallier in 1998, which was discontinued several years ago. Here is their summary:

The surprise effect of Le Feu d’Issey is total. Smelling it is like pressing the play button on a frantic video clip of unconnected objects that fly past one’s nose at warp speed: fresh baguette, lime peel, clean wet linen, shower soap, hot stone, salty skin, even a fleeting touch of vitamin B pills, and no doubt a few other UFOs that this reviewer failed to catch the first few times. Whoever did this has that rarest of qualities in perfumery, a sense of humor. Bravo to those who did not recoil in horror at something so original and agreed to bottle it and sell it, but shame, also, since they lost their nerve and discontinued it before it caught on. Whether you wear it or not, if you can find it, it should be in your collection as a reminder that perfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.

Le Feu d’Issey has been reviewed on several well-known fragrance blogs: The Sounds of ScentThe Candy Perfume BoyColognoisseurPerfume-Smellin’ Things, and others. Almost all agree that it is an oddity with a strangely compelling appeal. My experience parallels theirs, though I am happy to say that I won’t feel a desperate need to track down a full bottle. Happy, because they go for $200 or more on auction sites! I found a set of reasonably priced manufacturer’s samples online, so I was able to indulge my curiosity.

Manufacturer's carded samples of Issey Miyake's fragrance Le Feu d'Issey

Carded samples of Le Feu d’Issey

The opening is very sharp and weird. Obviously the carded manufacturer’s samples I have are over ten years old, and one of the top notes has gone off. I think it must be the bergamot, because I don’t smell that at all — the very first thing I do smell is a harsh note of alcohol. That’s age, not design. It goes away within seconds, and I do smell the other notes listed on Fragrantica: coconut, rosewood, anise. The visual pyramid also lists as top notes coriander leaf and rose. I don’t smell rose at the start, but I do get an herbal note in addition to the anise, which could be coriander. Within minutes, the rosewood emerges as the winner among the top notes, and I like it very much.

As the heart notes emerge, Le Feu becomes sweeter. I definitely smell the milkiness coming to join the rosewood. At this stage, it reminds me of Carner Barcelona‘s Palo Santo. whose middle notes are warm milk and guiac wood. Le Feu’s heart notes are listed as: jasmine, rose, milk and caramel but the pyramid also shows pepper and golden lily. As it gets sweeter, I do smell something like caramel, but I wonder if that is due to perfumer’s sleight of hand. Here is a comment written by London’s Bloom Perfumery about Palo Santo: “Some people smell caramel, but it’s a trick played by the combination of gaiac, tonka, davana and milk accord.” On my skin, the sweetness is mostly gone within the first hour of wearing.

As to the flowers, here is where I experienced the famously shape-shifting nature of Le Feu that has intrigued so many. The first time I wore it, I definitely smelled the emergence of a smooth, classical blend of rose, lily, and jasmine. Today, as I sit with Le Feu on my hand so I can write down my impressions — no flowers. And I sprayed from the same sample!

The base notes of Le Feu are: cedar, sandalwood, Guaiac wood, vanilla and musk. At this stage, it is a very appealing, warm, woody scent with a lingering trace of something sweet. Yesterday when I tried it for the first time, that stage lasted on my skin for several hours.

Bottom line: I like Le Feu very much, but I don’t feel desperately compelled to seek out a bottle of it. However, I’m glad to realize that, while not a dupe, Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santo shares some of Le Feu’s appeal. It’s not cheap, but it is still available!

Perfumed Plume Award Winners!

April 11, 2018, at the Society of the Illustrators in NYC, the 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards for Fragrance Journalism winners were announced to a packed crowd of industry notables, influencers. Many Friends-in-Fragrance including Francois Damide of Crafting Beauty, Bart Schmidt of Olfactory NYC, Rhona Stokols, Mindy Yang and Darryl Do of Perfumarie, Andrew Rosen, Raymond Matts,…

via 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards for Fragrance Journalism Winners — Cafleurebon – Perfume and Beauty Blog

Congratulations to all!

PSA: APJ Update — A Bottled Rose

Editor’s note: My dear friends over at Australian Perfume Junkies are going through every blogger’s worst nightnare at the moment, so the Cookie Queen is here today to let everyone know what’s happening. ‘READ ALL ABOUT IT, SHOCK HORROR, HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS’ – Shock Horror by Mick Farren & The Deviants (1977) […]

via PSA: APJ Update — A Bottled Rose

Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

The New York Times has a “style” periodical supplement called, simply, “T”.  Earlier this month, T editors were polled about their favorite fragrances: Great Perfumes, Recommended by T Editors. I must say, though, I chuckled when I read this: “Perfumes are my obsession: I have a wardrobe of about 30 I cycle through.” That editor needs to meet some of the fragrance bloggers I read, or even some members of the group Facebook Fragrance Friends, who own HUNDREDS of perfumes! Even I, a relative newbie, have more than 30. On the other hand, that editor may be at the more sophisticated stage of having owned dozens upon dozens of fragrances once upon a time, and now, like Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass, one of my top favorite blogs, being more educated and selective with the result that she has winnowed her collection of the chaff. I’d still put Undina’s collection up against most, from the little I’ve read about it, including this T editor’s! I mean, she has a DATABASE of her collection. Some day I hope to emulate that level of organization and commitment. Right now, to borrow one of Undina’s many memorable phrases, I am often still “kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings.” (And enjoying myself thoroughly, I might add).

But back to the T editors and their choices. Another phrase I loved in the article was when one editor described herself as “polyamorous when it comes to perfume.” Another writes of her discovery of fine fragrance after she read Chandler Burr’s article in The New Yorker that became his book The Perfect Scent, which describes the development of Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance as the new in-house perfumer for Hermes:

The story had captured my imagination. I think, deep down, I so badly wanted to be the elegant woman Ellena considers wearing his scent as he roams through Egypt recording smells (lotus root, nasturtium) in his notebook. In recent years, I’ve diversified what scents I wear, but I always return to Jardin Sur Le Nil. Perhaps because if it once made me think I was luxurious, now it reminds me of a younger, more impressionable version of myself.

That book was my downfall too — I read it as part of my research when I was writing a script about two rival perfumers, and down the rabbit-hole I went.

The article is an entertaining summary of fragrance choices by beauty editors who have access to everything; it’s interesting to read what they love and why. I hope T Magazine publishes more articles about fragrance! Have you read any recent articles about scent that captured your attention or imagination? Any of the finalists for the Perfumed Plume award?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi for T Magazine.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As I write this, the extreme cold continues in the US — so cold that a friend who lives in Boston posted this photo of a bottle of Creed Viking in the window of the Copley Square Neiman Marcus, frozen solid:

Creed Viking frozen bottle at Boston Neiman Marcus

Frozen bottle of Creed Viking, New Year’s Day 2018.

She reports that other bottles displayed in the window were cracking and leaking from the cold! Let’s hope they were all factices filled with colored water. Although it does seem amusingly fitting that a bottle of Viking should be frozen solid …

I have many hopes for 2018, but let me simply say, if you are reading this, I appreciate your presence at Serenity Now and any comments you’d like to share about scents and sensibilities! Happy New Year!

 

A Fall Giveaway from Now Smell This!

What is it: Juice Box, a Fall 2017 sample pack from Twisted Lily in collaboration with The Dry Down and Racked. Rachel Syme and Helena Fitzgerald, creators of the new perfume newsletter The Dry Down and hosts of the perfume salon Dry Down Live have combined their powers with the fashion and shopping site Racked…

via Up for grabs: Fall 2017 Juice Box — Now Smell This

Scent Sample Sunday

Scent Sample Sunday

Having plunged into perfumes a little over two years ago, I now have dozens of samples of fragrances that I haven’t yet explored beyond the initial spritz at a store, let alone written about them. So I’m going to try to clear some of that backlog by posting short comments on at least one scent sample every Sunday, and posting longer reviews or essays on a Fragrance Friday once a month. Let’s see how it goes!

To get started, here is a great article about how to get perfume samples, from the website lovetoknow.com: Places to Find Free Perfume Samples. Many of the leading perfume bloggers have also posted at least once about getting, using, and storing perfume samples.

My favorite ways to get perfume samples: 1) from department or specialty stores; 2) choosing one or more as a gift with purchase; 3) buying discovery sets from a single brand, or ordering a group of related samples from a service like Surrender to Chance. I have even found some great sample lots on ebay, though I rarely look for samples there. A Scentbird subscription is another great way to try new fragrances, although the monthly travel sprays are much larger than the usual “sample.”

Shout-out to the stores that have been particularly generous with samples and where I try to direct my business when buying fragrance (or other items) in person: Sephora, Nordstrom (where they put out ready-made samples, even of Tom Ford, on the counter with a note that says “Take one, it’s yours!”), Neiman Marcus, among department stores. My local Nordstrom even puts out empty spray vials so you can make your own samples from their testers! Saks has been a bit more stingy, but if you find a nice sales associate and communicate that you are serious about fragrance and may actually buy something, you can get some very nice ones, like the By Kilian samples I was given last weekend, after a failed trip to buy Guerlain’s Terracotta. I’ve also had good luck at some, but not all, Jo Malone counters in various department stores, and purchases have followed! (I don’t actually understand why these stores don’t give out manufacturers’ samples more freely, as they are provided to them by the manufacturers for the express purpose of encouraging people to try their fragrances, and maybe buy them).

Among independent or freestanding perfumeries: Les Senteurs, in both of its London locations, have been generous both with samples and with information. Their staff are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about fragrance, and their stores are lovely. Go visit if you can! I may be asking my husband to stop by to pick up the new Papillon Perfumes Dryad for me on his next trip to London, as one of their sales associates spent quite some time with me two years ago describing Liz Moores and her work (and yes, gave me a couple of samples); and last fall’s visit to their Belgravia location was equally pleasant.

Niche perfumery Les Senteurs in London, Belgravia. Knightsbridge

Les Senteurs niche perfumery; photo: http://therealknightsbridge.com/les-senteur/

In London’s Burlington Arcade, the Penhaligon’s boutique staff kindly offered several samples, both of their newest, high-priced line and of my beloved, late lamented Ostara. The sales associate also insisted that I take a sample of Blasted Heath, the more masculine companion fragrance to another of my favorites, Blasted Bloom.

Penhaligon's perfumery in London, Burlington Arcade

Penhaligon’s

The Perfumery, in the old Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, of Barcelona, is a charming store not to be missed, often staffed by one of its owners, who is happy to share his knowledge, passion, and samples with purchase. The fragrances carried there are very unusual, although I recognized brands like Aedes de Venustas, Making Of, and J.F. Schwarzlose. I bought a full bottle of the gorgeous Orquidea Negra, by the perfumer Daniel Josier, as a souvenir of our trip, and also brought home some lovely samples of ZiryabKaleidoscope, and Santa Eulalia.

The niche store The Perfumery Barcelona, in the Barri Gotic.

The Perfumery Barcelona; photo: https://manface.co.uk/perfumery-barcelona/

A local perfumeria near our hotel, the source of a heavily discounted bottle of Serge Lutens’ Chypre Rouge, also gave me manufacturers’ samples of L’Orpheline and Bapteme du Feu. I had not expected to find so much Serge Lutens in a little neighborhood store filled with celebrity and designer scents!

A note about samples: once you have a more educated olfactory palate, you can likely understand much about a fragrance from just one small sample, and that is by far the most affordable way to go. My nose isn’t that well educated yet. I often need to try a fragrance more frequently, in larger amounts than the usual 1-2 ml sample, to learn the fragrance and its notes, its development. Each one I try is a lesson. One current solution is to look for small travel sizes of various fragrances, in a wide range of types, notes and prices, for as reasonable a price as I can find. Some manufacturers sell sets of their fragrances in sizes from 5-15 ml, which is ideal for me. I’ve been able to try several from Miller Harris, Annick Goutal, Penhaligon’s, Byredo and others that way. Among cheaper brands, good for learning though not longevity, Yves Rocher also has very reasonably priced miniatures and frequent online sales.

Set of three Miller Harris fragrances, Fleurs

Miller Harris “Fleur” set; photo from http://www.millerharris.com

Scentbird is another good option for me, because I can choose from among their offerings for the fixed monthly subscription price, and recent choices have included scents from Amouage, Arquiste, Histoires de Parfums and other high-end brands. If I want serendipity, I can explore local discounters like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s and see what they’ve got for, say, under $15. Case in point: a 1.6 oz bottle of TokyoMilk Dark No. 28 Excess, for $7.99. It has notes like amber, patchouli and oak that I’m curious about but don’t want to spend a lot on before I know more about how they strike me. I can happily spritz away with this one without guilt, and maybe even cajole my daughters into trying it! Honestly, at this stage, I’ll try anything, because I am enjoying the learning curve. I don’t have to fall in love with each one or even like it much to appreciate the lesson it offers.

Featured image from: makeup.lovetoknow.com