Scented Advent, December 8

Scented Advent, December 8

Another happy random pull from my samples! Today’s Advent SOTD is Spell 125, from Papillon Artisan Perfumes and perfumer Liz Moores. I really can’t improve on her own description and explanation:

In the Book of the Dead, Spell 125 represents a balance of light and dark, life and death. The compelling ceremony of weighing the deceased’s heart against a feather animate a delicate olfactory rendering of the lightness of the soul, with just a sliver of the underworld shadows.

Egyptian illustration from the Book of the Dead
Part of the Egyptian Book of the Dead; image from DK Publishing.

Ms. Moores explains the context for this 2021 addition to her line of fragrances:

“The seventh fragrance released in Papillon’s seventh year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. In ancient Egypt, the number 7 was considered a number of the Gods, and it is these deep esoteric connections thread together the inspiration and composition for Spell 125. Everything about this perfume is entwined with magic, history and ancient mystery.

Notes are listed as: White Ambergris. Siberian Pine. Black Hemlock. Green Sacra Frankincense. Ylang. Indian Sandalwood. What I smell right away is a mix of frankincense and ylang, followed quickly by the pine and hemlock notes. Ambergris is something I have smelled as a raw ingredient, but I can’t readily identify it in a fragrance. What I notice in fragrances that list ambergris as a note or ingredient is that there is usually an underlying sensual warmth — not really spicy, but warm nevertheless. That’s what I perceive in Spell 125.

The frankincense smells spicy with a hint of smoke; the sensation of warmth it evokes is enhanced by the sandalwood accord. This warmth and spiciness lead me to think that Spell 125 will be most appealing in cooler weather, as is usual in fall and winter here. It reminds me a bit of St. Clair ScentsFrost, though Frost is smokier. Spell 125 also has a sweetness to it that absolutely does not smell sugary; I think that is a contribution of the ambergris.

Like all Papillon perfumes, this one is lovely and beautifully constructed. It is fully unisex and would smell great on anyone. Definitely worth trying, if you haven’t done so yet. I happily own Papillon’s Dryad and Bengale Rouge. While I don’t know that I’ll ever add Spell 125 to my collection (I think I would go for Angelique and Tobacco Rose ahead of it), I’m very happy to have it as a sample.

Snce Spell 125 was launched in 2021, a year into the global pandemic, when it was hard to get out and try new fragrances, many people may not have had access to it yet. Have you had a chance to try it? What did you think?

Scented Advent, December 7

Scented Advent, December 7

Today’s Guerlain Advent sample is Rose Chérie, launched in 2021 and created by perfumer Delphine Jelk. The only notes listed for it are: Bulgarian rose, rose, violet, heliotrope, tonka, and musk. It is meant to evoke the chic of Paris and “la vie en rose.” The fragrance smells pink, too, like a fresh pink rose but with no greenery attached. The heliotrope accord is immediately evident to my nose; I really enjoy heliotrope in fragrances, I like the powdery aspect it lends. Here, it blends with the violet and rose accords to create a scent reminiscent of pink lipstick and face powder. The scent itself isn’t as retro as that sounds, though.

The heliotrope accord also smells like a mix of almond and vanilla, giving Rose Chérie a slight hint of gourmandise. It isn’t an actual gourmand fragrance though, which I appreciate because I have a limited tolerance for those. If there is any food it brings to my mind, that would be delicate pink macarons, lightly dusted with sugar. Now my mouth is watering, remembering the stacks of rainbow-hued macarons I saw in Nice a few years ago, in the patisseries of the old town and market.

Pile of pink macarons with flowers
Pink macarons; image from The Preppy Kitchen.

Rose Chérie definitely leans toward the feminine end of the spectrum, but it could smell wonderful on a man. It doesn’t last as well on my skin as, say, Épices Volées, but its longevity is fine. Its development is quite straightforward, almost linear to my nose. The tonka bean emerges after a while, once the floral notes have mostly faded. It gives a little oomph to the fragrance, like vanilla without any sugar.

This is a very pretty rose, and if you like semi-gourmand florals, you should probably try it if you get the chance. I own so many rose fragrances (hello, Roses de Mai Marathon!) that I wouldn’t feel the need to add this one; besides, I tend to favor richer or greener rose scents. But sometimes, one just wants a macaron! Do you have any favorite gourmand florals?

Scented Advent, December 6

Scented Advent, December 6

Today’s sample for Advent is Puredistance’s Warszawa No. 08, sent to me a while ago by a kind reader. The perfumer for this Puredistance fragrance is Antoine Lie. The website states that it was created for a store in Poland, and was inspired “by the class and elegance of Polish women and the rich history of the city of Warsaw”.

Model in street fashion show in Warsaw, Poland
Street fashion show in Warsaw; image from the Associated Press

Puredistance is a brand I haven’t really explored before, so I appreciate having this opportunity. The house only creates its fragrances in parfum strength, with concentrations of perfume oils that range from 25-32%. The two other perfumers who have created for Puredistance are Annie Buzantian, and Roja Dove.

Warszawa No. 08 was launched in 2016, initially as a store exclusive and then worldwide in 2017. Top notes are listed as: galbanum, violet leaf, and grapefruit; middle note as: broom, jasmine, and iris; and base notes as: patchouli, styrax, and vetiver. It is a unisex fragrance, although the brand writes about it in terms of “classic feminine beauty”. The opening is very nice; I smell violet leaf more than galbanum. To the extent that any grapefruit accord is present, it is more like the rind than the fruit or juice, but that may be because it is made more bitter by the galbanum. To my nose, the opening is more green and herbal that citrusy.

As the middle notes develop, the broom is most dominant, but the jasmine is not far behind. Iris’ presence is detectable only in a certain softness that blurs the edges of the broom and jasmine. The broom is an interesting accord; it smells to me like a mix of green and yellow, with some woodiness mixed in. It’s a bit odd, but it works.

Yellow broom plants in flower
Broom plants in flower; image by Laura Christman / Record Searchlight.

The base notes work to evoke the earthiness of, for instance, broom plants growing in the wild. The vetiver especially recalls the kind of dry meadow in the image above, while the patchouli smells like earth. Throughout the development of Warszawa No. 08, the quality of the ingredients shows; there is a depth and texture to the fragrance that one doesn’t experience with even the most appealing “cheapies.” On balance, although I like this fragrance very much as a sample and I appreciate the artistry behind it, it’s not one that I would wear often just to please myself. What a relief — no need to yearn for a full bottle!

Have you had that experience with a fragrance — that you like and appreciate its quality, but you’re relieved to find that you don’t want anything more than a sample?

Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

Even days of December are when I alternate my Guerlain samples with other samples, and I’m trying to make sure I reach into the box that has mostly independent perfumers’ fragrance. In this challenging economy, it continues to be important to support the independent and small businesses that already had a tough time during the pandemic. Besides, the independent perfumers often create the most interesting and innovative fragrances that we love to try.

Today’s sample is Andy Tauer‘s L’Air des Alpes Suisses, inspired by the Swiss Alps and launched in 2019, and I’m just delighted. First, it’s a beautiful fragrance. Second, I was able to visit Zurich and some of its perfumeries in the “before times” and one of them was Suskind, a small perfumery that only sells niche fragrances. Apparently its owner was an early supporter of Andy Tauer (who is based in Zurich), who is very well-liked in the perfume community for his approachability as well as his undoubted talents. When I visited Suskind and asked to sample some Tauer perfumes, the sales assistant confirmed that he stops by sometimes, and how nice he is.

So back to my sample: L’Air des Alpes Suisses is 100% unisex. It may lean a little masculine for some, because it is aromatic and woody, which many associate with masculine fragrances. Here is M. Tauer’s description on his website:

HEAD NOTESThe HEAD notes are fresh like a breeze from treeless mountain summits: rough granite ground, the cool air from the glacier, and bitter alpine herbs.
HEART NOTESThe HEART notes are fresh, green with hints of spices. Floral delicacies such as the red Alpine lily bloom on lush meadows, powdery, spicy, green.
BODY NOTESThe BODY notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun. notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun.
L’Air des Alpes Suisses notes list, from the Tauer Perfumes website

Fragrantica lists these specific notes, in no particular order: ambergris, lavender, fir, pine needles, tonka bean, lily, lemon balm, orchid, birch, palisander rosewood, basil, thyme, nutmeg. As others have noted since its launch, L’Air des Alpes Suisses is basically a fougère, a classic fragrance structure that uses citrus, lavender, coumarin (tonka), and a mossy or woody base, often oakmoss. An aromatic fougère, like this one, will also include notes of spices and herbs.

To my nose, the lemon balm accord is taking the place of a more traditional “citrus” opening, accompanied by lavender, green herbs like basil and thyme; personally, I would list chamomile instead of basil. So the opening is very green but not like galbanum, more herbal and less bitter. There is no sweetness at all, but it’s very pleasant and refreshing. The middle phase is very intriguing, with the herbal accords mingling with the floral notes of lily and orchid, and a hint of evergreen forests. M. Tauer’s handling of the accords that evoke fir and pine needles is masterful. Needless to say, there is nothing that smells at all like the ubiquitous pine-scented cleaning liquids. Nutmeg brings a woody spiciness to the party.

As L’Air dries down, it does get woodier, which adds warmth, but I think the star of the show is ambergris. There’s an earthy warmth that blends harmoniously with the warm woods but is distinct from them. Having had the privilege of smelling actual ambergris (kept in a vault!), I think that is what my nose detects. The tonka (or coumarin) evokes dry hay, as one would find in a summer meadow.

As you may know, the Swiss Alps are home to amazing alpine meadows, with unique, unusual plants and flowers. A beloved summer tradition of hiking and walking along trails to see the meadows in bloom has persisted in Switzerland, despite its sophisticated, urbane modernity. Andy Tauer has perfectly captured the atmosphere of an alpine ramble surrounded by meadows and flowers and fringed by evergreen forests, starting at the summit and slowly descending. I think I would love this on my husband, because I quite like it on myself!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Scented Advent, December 3

Scented Advent, December 3

Well, what a pleasant surprise! The Guerlain sample I pulled out of my bag today was Cruel Gardénia, which hadn’t previously interested me much, although of course I knew it would be of the highest quality. I live in the Southeastern US, so I can and do grow gardenias in my garden. Billie Holiday famously wore gardenias in her hair when she performed. I love them as garden plants, and I love the fragrance of their flowers outside, but most “gardenia” fragrances don’t do much for me. Too artificial, too sweet, too narcotic. Cruel Gardénia is none of those, and I’m so glad the nice Guerlain sales assistant included it in my package of samples.

Top notes are peach, rose, and neroli. Heart notes are violet, ylang-ylang, and musk, combining to create an imagined gardenia. Base notes are tonka, musk, vanilla, and sandalwood. The opening has an alluring peachiness, supported by rose and brightened by neroli. The neroli also adds just a touch of bitter greenness, which cuts any tendency toward sweetness. As the top notes recede, the violet, ylang-ylang, and musk accords bring a pillowy, floral softness to the fore. The note I smell the most at this stage is the ylang-ylang, which I did not expect from a fragrance named for the gardenia. Here’s what the Guerlain website has to say:

Gardenia is a powerful, sensual white flower with fruity accents. Yet, paradoxically, it stays mute in the world of Perfumery, unable to offer up its fragrance through the traditional techniques of distillation or extraction. It must be written as an accord, as if composing a poem. For Cruel Gardénia, notes of rose, neroli, ylang ylang and peach recreate its trail.

How ironic, to claim that gardenias are mute, when they are so closely associated with one of the 20th century’s greatest voices!

Singer Billie Holiday with white gardenias in hair
Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, of course, had a tragic life in spite of her legendary artistry. But what a great beauty she was, with the white gardenias in her hair. She has been a perpetual figure of fascination, inspiring movies and plays based on her life.

Singer Billie Holiday with gardenias in her hair
Andra Day as Billie Holiday; image from vogue.com

I am so happy to have finally tried Cruel Gardénia. It is a warm, sensuous, musky floral that dries down to a warm, musky sandalwood tinged with tonka. My husband liked it too! It just goes to show you that we should keep trying even the fragrances that don’t initially draw us. Have you had that experience?

Scented Advent, December 2

Scented Advent, December 2

Today’s sample for Advent is Amberama, by 4160 Tuesdays. I’m really enjoying it! It comes in parfum strength, which I have sparingly sprayed on my wrists. Perfumer Sarah McCartney lists these notes on her website:

Top Notes: bergamot, black pepper

Heart Notes: raspberry, iris, sandalwood

Base Notes: amber, labdanum, woods, musks

I don’t get a lot of bergamot in the opening, just enough to convey a certain brightness, which suits Amberama. This is not a dark, moody, woody amber. It’s quite light for a fragrance that so clearly smells of amber, labdanum, and various woods including sandalwood. I think the raspberry accord keeps it bright and lively, while the iris softens its edges. Amber fragrances usually smell warm to me, like a cuddly cashmere throw over one’s shoulders. Amberama is still warm and cozy, but it is so light that to me it evokes one of those beautiful, lace-stitched mohair shawls that I’d love to learn how to knit.

Pale pink lace mohair shawl
Lace Mohair Wedding Shawl, pattern by Dana Young, image from Ravelry.

Knitting is one of those skills I yearn to master but doubt I ever will. I’ve tried, but I’m too much of a perfectionist and when my stitches don’t look right, I undo them and start over. Needless to say, I haven’t ever finished a knitting project! Maybe when I retire … (One of the many things I love about fragrance as a hobby is that I don’t have to master the skills myself — just learn to pay close attention to a fragrance and keep educating my nose, including by reading a lot.)

Sarah has also written a brief explanation of Amberama’s name: “We partly named it in honour of a certain 1980s girl group, as it’s got the characteristic 4160 Tuesdays raspberry heart, full of fruity fun (but absolutely no banana). Its unusual notes are black pepper on top and iris in the centre.”

Who else remembers Bananarama? Like the pop group, Amberama doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a light-hearted, youthful amber that dances on the skin, warm and sensual yet playful. Apparently it originated in a combination of two trials that were part of a project to create a woody amber scent for a client, then the combined fragrance proved popular. Although they are listed among the base notes, I smell the sandalwood, amber, and labdanum accords right from the start, albeit more faintly than later in the scent’s development. I really, really like the iris in the middle. And who knew that bergamot and black pepper would combine so nicely as an opening accord? It’s almost as if someone sprinkled pepper into their Earl Grey tea!

So what I get from Amberama is a warm, slightly spicy, bright opening, followed by a softer middle stage whose iris is kept from being melancholy by the cheerful raspberry accord and that continues to be warmed first by sandalwood and then by the growing presence of amber and labdanum. This isn’t a blue or purple iris, to my nose; it is pink, or peach, or apricot.

Peachy pink bearded iris
Iris “Pink Attraction”; image from gardenia.net

Really, this is a very charming, appealing scent that one could enjoy year-round. It’s already a great value at 127.50 GBP for 100 ml of parfum; go to 4160 Tuesdays’ Facebook page where you will read about their current upgrade offer through December 10 (e.g., buy 30 ml of any fragrance, get a 50 ml bottle; buy a 50 ml bottle, get 100 ml). I don’t have any affiliation with 4160 Tuesdays, nor do I get any compensation if you click through; I just want to support small independent perfumers and also alert readers here to a good deal.

Tomorrow I’ll take another random Guerlain sample out of my goodie bag and write about that! Please come back, and join in the comments!

Three pop singers from group Bananarama
Bananarama pop group; image from redferns.
Scented Advent, December 1

Scented Advent, December 1

Happy start of Advent, perfumistas! Even if you don’t celebrate Advent, you can still enjoy the festivities. Here at Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities, we love Advent, and we love a good Advent calendar, with all the little drawers or doors that hide surprises or treats. I continue to be astonished by the many high-end luxury Advent calendars now available in the beauty world, from brands like Chanel and Jo Malone London, as well as calendars with assorted teas, or jams, or other goodies. (Note: while some are now sold out, others are now on sale).

As I did last year, I am using fragrance samples I already have to do my own homemade Advent calendar, and I’ll try to post about them daily as a “Scented Advent” feature through December 24. This year, I am the happy recipient of a dozen samples of Guerlain fragrances from my autumn visit to the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas, so I’ll alternate those with other samples. I’ll preserve some element of surprise by reaching into my Guerlain goodie bag every other day and pulling out whatever comes to hand.

My first Guerlain sample is Oeillet Pourpre, which means “purple carnation”. It is described as a new fragrance that was launched in 2021 as part of the collection “L’Art et la Matière”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk. However, several close observers of Guerlain, including Neil Chapman of The Black Narcissus blog, have noted that it is a slight reformulation of Guerlain’s 2017 Lui. (I”m actually glad to know this, because I had thought I’d like to try Lui, which has been discontinued, and now I won’t feel I should seek it out). Fragrantica lists these notes: Top: Clove and Pear; middle: Benzoin and Carnation; base: Smoke, Vanilla, Leather, Woody Notes and Musk.

One thing about Oeillet Pourpre that intrigues me is that it has smelled slightly different on me each time I’ve tried it. The first time, it reminded me a lot of two carnation-centric fragrances I have and like: L’Artisan’s Oeillet Sauvage, and Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet. Today, it smells smokier than either of those, in a good way. I don’t usually gravitate to smoky fragrances, though there are some I like, so that’s a pleasant surprise. I do like carnation in fragrance, which I know some people dislike, and I like it here. Oeillet Sauvage is more floral, but it shares Oeillet Pourpre’s notes of resin (benzoin) and vanilla as well as carnation.

Much as I do like Oeillet Pourpre, and it lasts and develops well on my skin, its retail price means I won’t be buying a full bottle, especially as I already have full bottles of Oeillet Sauvage and Vitriol d’Oeillet. Fragrantica comments are full of frustration that the more reasonably priced Lui was renamed and moved into the L’Art et la Matière collection, where it is priced at $360 for 100 ml and smaller sizes are not available. I’m very happy to have received this sample, though, as it has allowed me to try it on different days and see how each wearing differs.

Do you have any thoughts to share about these fragrances, or L’Art et la Matière? Do you have an Advent calendar this year?

Refillable wooden Advent calendar
My fragrance Advent calendar
Perfume Chat Room, November 4

Perfume Chat Room, November 4

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, November 4, and I am pondering my newly acquired Guerlain samples, from my visit to the Las Vegas boutique. I think I’ll use them to do another Scented Advent calendar series in December. I have samples of 13 different Guerlain fragrances that are new to me, from the collection L’Art et La Matière. I also bought three bottles of EDT from the collection Les Légendaires (Après L’Ondée, L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit), but to put those in my Advent calendar, I would have to make my own samples, a prospect I find somewhat daunting. Yes, I am a perfectionist. If I figure out how to do that, though, I also have other Guerlain fragrances in my collection that I could add. Or I could alternate samples of Guerlain with other samples I have, which seems more likely because 1) I have many samples I need to review, including ones that some of you have so kindly sent me; and 2) then I don’t have to worry about spilling, if I try to make my own!

What do you think? And are you starting to make any holiday fragrance wish lists? If yes, what’s on your list?

Refillable wooden Advent calendar
My fragrance Advent calendar
Scented Advent, December 24

Scented Advent, December 24

Happy Christmas Eve! Today is the last day of Advent, the period when Christians await the coming of the newborn Jesus on Christmas Day, so it is also the last day of my scented Advent calendar posts. I’ve had so much fun doing this! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along; thanks for joining me on this journey. Major thanks especially to the lovely reader and active perfumista who sent me the samples that I’ve used to fill my DIY fragrance Advent calendar!

My Advent SOTD is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ French Linden Blossom. Normally I would say that it is seasonally out of sync, as it is such a spring-like fragrance, but today dawned as a sunny day with temperatures expected to reach into the 60s. Quite balmy for Christmas Eve! However, not that unusual here in the Southeastern US, where people garden, and play sports like golf and tennis, through the whole winter.

Linden blossom is the blossom of “lime trees”, sometimes called “French Lime”. It’s not a scent I know in real life; in my area, when I encounter real citrus trees and their blooms, they are always orange or lemon trees, to be grown in pots that can be moved indoors (our weather is pretty balmy for wintertime, but not so balmy that the more tropical citrus trees can stay outside year-round). Update: some of my readers have clarified that the “lime trees” that are also called “linden” are not related to the limes that produce citrus. There is an excellent article about LINDEN trees here: “What Is Drifting In The Breeze?“. Thanks for the help, commenters!

Flower of linden or lime tree
Linden Blossom; image from selfsufficientish.com

All share the quality of having a light, white floral scent, and that is what I get from French Linden Blossom. When I first sprayed it, I got a hint of cucumber or melon, which surprised me until I read this on DSH Perfumes’ website: “An ethereal, almost cucumber-like floral note with sweet honey-melon nuances.” Bingo!

I’ve written before about cucumber/melon accords in fragrance: Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Après La Mousson. Apparently they often come from the aromachemical Melonal, so I’m sure that (or something similar) is present in French Linden Blossom. The citrus notes in UJALM are said to include lime, but that refers to the citrus fruit, not the flowers and not linden. The DSH Perfumes website refers to French Linden Blossom as an accord, and that seems right to my nose — it is pretty linear. To my nose, it smells more greenish white. It’s very pleasant, but I think I would like it better in really warm weather like late spring or summer. As it dries down, it gets a bit soapy, also very pleasantly. It is a fresh, clean fragrance that one could wear anywhere. I do think it is more casual than one might choose for an evening out or special occasion, but it’s a great scent to just spritz on in the morning as a casual fragrance.

I’m very happy that my final “Scented Advent” post can focus on an independent artisan perfumer like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz! The last two years have been very hard on many small businesses and it’s important to support the perfume artists we love, who continually advance the limits of fragrance art. One way to do that is to buy directly from their websites, and right now one can use a 20% off code on Dawn’s website, light20, which I think is good through the end of December. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan!

Do you have a favorite linden blossom fragrance? And for those who celebrate them, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas! I’ll be in the kitchen, in my garden, and at church today. All our kids are home, and all’s right with the world, at least our tiny part of it. May this Christmas season usher in a time of happiness, health, peace, and goodwill for all.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from metmuseum.org
Scented Advent, December 23

Scented Advent, December 23

Today’s Advent SOTD is Helmut Lang, by the fashion house Helmut Lang, in eau de parfum. I assume this is the 2014 reissue of the 2000 release and cult classic, by Maurice Roucel. Not to worry, perfumistas! A Vogue editor for whom the original was a signature scent has written that to her nose, it is identical to the 2000 version. She also includes the important information that the reissue was overseen by the original perfumer, M. Roucel, which is reassuring. She calls it “sweet, powdery, strangely appealing”, and I agree. Its notes include: Lavender, Rosemary and Cotton candy (top); Heliotrope, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-Valley and Rose (middle); Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cedar and Patchouli (base). The list for the 2014 reissue does not include cotton candy or vanilla, and it adds artemisia and orange flower. Like many other commenters, I definitely still smell vanilla, listed or not, but it’s possible that accord is evoked by the combination of lavender and heliotrope with sandalwood and other notes.

Claire at the blog Take One Thing Off also liked the 2014 eau de parfum; in her review, she wrote about how it reminded her of the scent of her young children at bathtime and bedtime: softly floral, powdery, lightly musky like towels on clean skin and hair. She accurately described how irresistible to a parent is the smell of their own little ones — I’m sure that’s an evolutionary trick played on us to make sure we keep feeding the little imps, and don’t throttle them in our lowest moments of stress! Believe it or not, I actually found a photo that shows a rosemary called “Baby PJ”, for its small stature and light blue flowers, with a figurine of Cicely Mary Barker‘s Lavender Fairy:

Figurine of Lavender Flower Fairy, with plant of rosemary "Baby PJ"
Lavender Flower Fairy with rosemary “Baby PJ”; image from mulberryminiatures.com

One cannot imagine a picture or scent memory that contrasts more with the signature style of Helmut Lang‘s fashions, which has been described thus:

“Quintessential minimalism” springs to mind when thinking of Helmut Lang, the namesake label of Austrian designer Helmut Lang. He is arguably one of the most influential designers of the last three decades (although Lang himself retired from fashion in 2005 to fully focus on his art career,) and his legacy still resonates across runways today. The iconic designer pioneered minimalism in the ’90s with his sharp-cut tailoring and androgynous, utilitarian pieces adorned with bondage straps and harnesses.

The only aspect of this aesthetic that aligns with the fragrance is that the fragrance itself is meant to be completely unisex, and I think it succeeds. It opens with a dominant note, to my nose, of artemisia that is soon overtaken by lavender, supported by rosemary; the heliotrope quickly joins them and lends that powdery facet to the scent.

As it dries down, Helmut Lang becomes even softer and more floral, but the lavender is still central, which I think makes it more unisex and more traditionally wearable by men (though I firmly believe men and women should wear whatever scent they like!). In fact, at this stage it reminds me of the ultimate amber fougère, originally created for men but soon adopted by women: Guerlain’s Jicky. They share many notes, from lavender to vanilla, and they convey the same aura of both comfort and simple elegance. It’s as if your stylish husband had taken off his suit jacket and tie, and was on his knees by the bathtub helping to bathe your children in his shirtsleeves. Mothers, you KNOW how irresistible that would be!

The sandalwood emerges, a very soft and subtle sandalwood. Although musk isn’t listed as a note or accord, many commenters feel it is central to this fragrance and compare Helmut Lang to another Roucel creation of the early 2000s, Editions Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur. Most find this one softer, though, less aggressively musky.

All in all, I’m really taken with Helmut Lang. I think I may have a Scentbird decant of it in my stash, and I’ll now look it out, given how appealing the sample has proven to be. Have you tried any of the reissued fragrances from Helmut Lang?