Scent Sample Sunday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

Scent Sample Sunday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

I have a sample of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet that I finally got around to trying this weekend, for one simple reason: it was available online as a full bottle for a reasonable price, and I wanted to decide whether or not to get it. Luckily, I’ve been wondering about it for a while and already had a sample from Surrender to Chance, so I was able to make an informed decision!

I had been intrigued by Vitriol d’Oeillet because I really do like the scent of carnations and other dianthus flowers like Sweet William. Vitriol d’Oeillet has often been translated into English as “angry carnation” but I don’t think that is quite right. Vitriol can refer to anger or fury, but it has a nuance of acidity, and can also refer specifically to a sulfate of various metals. “Oil of vitriol” is concentrated sulfuric acid, according to Merriam-Webster.  Maybe a better translation of “vitriol d’oeillet” would be “sulfate of carnation”. The blog CaFleureBon review of Vitriol d’Oeillet plays off this contrast between the naturally fresh, floral spiciness of carnations and the suggestion of sulphurous fumes.

Luckily for me, from my sample I get mostly flowers and spice, and no sulfur (usually described as the smell of rotten eggs). The notes are listed as: nutmeg, clove, pink pepper, pepper, paprika, carnation, wallflower, lily and ylang-ylang. Here is the description on the Serge Lutens website:

 – “What is it, Doctor Jekyll?”

Listen, my child, and I will tell you everything. Take a carnation and a sufficient quantity of Cayenne pepper. Firmly drive it into the very center, using the “nails” of a clove. Before committing the final act of violence, let wallflower throw in a few punches.

Yes, our collective leg is being pulled. Vitriol d’Oeillet is neither hellish, nor acidic, nor sulfurous, nor violent. It is a warm, spicy, fresh carnation, and it reminds me of the original Old Spice aftershave and cologne. I like it very much, but not for myself; I think I would love it on my husband! Have I mentioned yet that I ADORED the ad campaign for Old Spice that featured the tag line “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and actor Isaiah Mustafa:

On my own skin, Vitriol d’Oeillet opens with a blast of spice, most prominently cayenne pepper and clove, but with a sweet floral note underneath right from the start. As it dries down, the spice lightens up and it becomes a bit soapy as the florals become more evident. It is very appealing! I think many of the traditional men who wear Old Spice because their fathers and grandfathers did may not realize that the scent they (and we women) often associate with solid, old-school masculinity contains some of the notes traditionally included in women’s fragrances: heliotrope, aldehydes, even jasmine. They are not the dominant notes, though; they provide a background for the more dominant spices, wood notes and base notes like ambergris and musk. The dominant floral in Old Spice, and in Vitriol, is carnation — a flower associated with gentlemen since the dawn of the boutonniere.

Red carnation boutonnieres on gentlemen's white dinner jackets or tuxedoes

Red carnation boutonnieres; image from A Gentleman’s Row

In fact, the association of carnations with distinguished men goes back centuries, as portrayed in many Renaissance paintings like this one:

Renaissance portrait of nobleman holding carnation by Andrea Solario

Portrait of Man with Carnation by Andrea Solario

As Vitriol d’Oeillet dries down even more, the floral notes fade and the spices come back to the fore, including pink pepper. I happen to like the scent of pink pepper, although I know others do not, so I welcome its return together with the cloves, Cayenne pepper, paprika and nutmeg. At this stage, the nutmeg is more prominent than it was at the start, so Vitriol closes with a certain dry sweetness.

In sum, I like Vitriol d’Oeillet a lot, based on this sample. I won’t be buying a full bottle for myself — but I might get one eventually for my husband!

Pink pepper or baie de rose berries

Pink pepper; image from CaFleureBon

 

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

More Women in Perfumery

Alyssa Harad is the author of Coming to My Senses and here is her contribution to the Women in Perfumery series. You can learn more about Alyssa’s work and read excerpts of her book at alyssaharad.com. When Jessica, a.k.a. the Perfume Professor directed my attention to the July Allure article on the “new frontier” of indie…

via California Dreaming — Bois de Jasmin

Misty Copeland: Modern Muse

Misty Copeland: Modern Muse

Great news! Estee Lauder has announced that prima ballerina Misty Copeland will be the new face for their fragrance Modern Muse. I am so pleased! You can see a couple of wonderful videos with her at that link.

I love ballet generally; I have long been a fan of American Ballet Theater; and I admire Ms. Copeland. I also appreciate that this new role for her adds to diverse images of beauty and fashion, including not only race but also the strength and grace of her physique. The tag line for the campaign is “Be An Inspiration.” Misty Copeland is the perfect embodiment of that. Well played, Estee Lauder, well played!

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

I got some great fragrance bargains this weekend! One I had ordered several days ago, but it came this weekend: Missoni Missoni, the older version by Maurice Roucel to which Luca Turin awarded five stars. It has been discontinued and was replaced in 2015 by a completely different fragrance. I had been hoping to try Roucel’s version, and had been disappointed once when an online discounter showed a photo of that one but sent the new one. When I saw that Perfumania had 1 oz. bottles of the eau de parfum for under $20, I thought, why not take a chance and try again? And yes, it’s the right one, in the orange-toned box with the short, tilted bottle. It is very intriguing, and so far I like it a lot.

I also found some little treasures at T.J. Maxx — I love that, because in return for very modest amounts of money, I get to expand my familiarity with different combinations of notes and knowledge of fragrance. The list: Clean White Woods: $16.00 for 2 oz.; Tokyomilk Dark No . 28 Excess, 1.6 oz. for $7.99; Vera Bradley Macaroon Rose, .5 oz. for $5.99.

A slightly more splurgey purchase was Guerlain’s Terracottareduced on saks.com from $79 to $49 (helpful info from another blogger!). I thought I could pick it up in person at my local SFA; was very surprised to find they had no Guerlain counter at all and only had Shalimar in stock at the store! The friendly sales associate told me that Guerlain had been pulling out of most US department stores — thank goodness, they still seem to be fully present at the Neiman Marcus in my city. Anyway, she was lovely enough to show me some new By Kilian fragrances instead and sent me home with a couple of samples: Forbidden Games and Moonlight In Heaven (I especially liked the latter). Then I went over to Nordstrom (in the same mall) and got samples of Tom Ford’s new Vert fragrances: Vert BohemeVert d’EncensVert de FleurVert des Bois.

Set of green mossy furniture, chairs, sofa, table, outside.

Moss furniture; image from Black Burge Art blog.

None of those would qualify as fragrance bargains if I had bought full bottles! I’m delighted with my free samples, though, and I appreciate that Nordstrom just put them out on the counter with a note saying: “Take One, It’s Yours!”.  I really liked Vert Boheme and Vert de Fleur. But if I’m going to spring for a pricier green fragrance this year, it will be Papillon‘s Dryad. I am so eager to try this! Several blogs I follow have detailed, enthusiastic reviews: Megan in Sainte Maxime, Kafkaesque, The Candy Perfume Boy, A Bottled Rose. I have a birthday coming up, so who knows?

Have you tried any of the fragrances mentioned here? What did you think? And what’s your next fragrance splurge?

Mosaiculture topiary of earth goddess at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Earth Goddess, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Featured image: Atlanta Botanical Garden.

 

American Perfumers

Allure Magazine has posted a fascinating article on several independent American perfumers: The American Perfumer’s Modern Approach to Fragrance.

A movement composed of independent, homegrown perfumers is reshaping the fragrance landscape, gradually changing the way we approach and experience scent. Straying from tradition, these olfactory trailblazers are creating fragrances with a distinctly American feel — solitary, rugged, luminous. A new frontier. But there’s another virtue, beyond the pioneering spirit, that motivates this group to push boundaries and break genres. It’s called defiance, and it’s just as entrenched in our American mentality. These artisans are inspired not necessarily by their love of fragrance but by a sense of opposition to it.

If you are curious about CB I Hate Perfume, Juniper Ridge, D.S. & Durga, Joya, Phlur, Imaginary Authors, check out journalist Liana Schaffner’s take on on their work. As for me, I think there are a few more discovery set and sample purchases in my near future! Even though my reviews here have not kept pace with the trial sizes I already have from other brands … I’m surprised she didn’t include Jeffrey Dame’s Dame Perfumery, another independent brand I am eager to explore, or Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier Perfumes. As I think about it, though, there are so many American perfumers who could have been mentioned in an article like this that there simply isn’t enough space.

Have you tried any of these brands’ fragrances? What did you think?

Update: Victoria and Jessica at Bois de Jasmin have pointed out that the Allure article did not mention any women indie perfumers, of whom there are many! So they and other contributors to that (excellent) blog propose to remedy the oversight by starting a series of articles about those important contributors to modern American perfumery, starting this week. Check them out!

Featured image: copyright Jared Platt.

Fragrance Friday: Scents of the Ancient World

Fragrance Friday: Scents of the Ancient World

Nerd alert! I spent MANY years of my youth studying Latin and Ancient Greek, and my studious little soul still thrills to the occasional article about obscure aspects of the classical world. So it is my pleasure to bring you: Recreating the Aroma of the Ancient City: Incense in the Ancient Mediterranean. Last weekend, there was a conference in Rome where “archaeologists, historians and classicists gathered not only to explore the use of incense, perfume and scented oils in antiquity, but also to attempt to recreate the ephemeral smellscapes of the past.” Heaven!

I have visited the Minoan sites mentioned in the article (Crete, and Akrotiri on the island of Santorini — well worth visiting!). I don’t recall the article mentioning another site I have visited, however: Delphi, possibly because the most famous scented emissions there, the vapor that put the Pythia (oracle) into a trance, was not manmade:

It may even be possible to identify the kind of gas. Plutarch—who, we recall, was a priest of Apollo at the Delphic sanctuary—noted that the intoxicating pneuma had a sweet smell, like expensive perfume. Of the hydrocarbon gases, only ethylene has a sweet smell—so ethylene was probably a component in the gaseous emission inhaled by the Pythia.

Professor Bond, author of the article about recreating ancient aromas, ties the use of incense, frankincense and other fragrant substances to Christian traditions too:

When the Magi brought frankincense and myrrh (Gr.σμύρνα) along with the gold to the baby Jesus, they were donating sacred substances to be used to make the newborn’s house and his body more fragrant. Although frankincense was usually placed in an incense burner, myrrh came from an Arabian tree and was often turned into an unguent used on the dead in ancient Egypt.

She goes on to describe things like ancient recipes for incenses, like one from Egypt called kyphi, which the conference scholars apparently tried to re-create. What a lovely goal — to put oneself as completely as possible into the mindset of the ancients, to understand better their history, literature and architecture.

Kyphi was a popular aromatic in Egyptian temples dedicated to Isis, but could also be used in the house before bed to help people get a good night’s sleep.

Imagining the bedrooms of the ancient world is completely different when you can actually smell the pungent sweetness of kyphi as you take in the colorful frescoes and cushioned furniture within the ancient bedrooms of places like Pompeii. Smelling these reconstructed substances in person is then a potent reminder that experiencing the ancient world is not just about modeling ancient buildings or putting on a wool toga.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall for this conference. I may just have to take up my Ancient Greek grammar book again …

Delphi Pythia

Priestess at Delphi, by John Collier (1891)