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 5

Scented Advent, December 5

Today’s Advent scent is another Guerlain sample from the collection “L’Art et La Matière”, Épices Volées, which debuted in 2021 in its current form (commenters note that it is a slight reformulation of the earlier Arsène Lupin Voyou). Fragrantica lists it as a “woody chypre” with top notes of coriander, lemon, artemisia and bergamot; middle notes of clove, cardamom, sage, and Bulgarian rose; base notes of sandalwood, patchouli, benzoin, and labdanum.

I really like artemisia (sometimes listed as davana) as a note in fragrance. It is a shape-shifter, changing with each wearing and on each wearer’s skin; also, it is a bitter green herb, and I tend to love those. I don’t smell much lemon in the opening of Épices Volèes, my nose is captivated by the artemisia, coriander, and bergamot. The bergamot is very light, it comes and goes quickly. The coriander segues into the spices of the middle notes; to my nose, they are mostly the cardamom and sage. I pick up some clove but it doesn’t smell dominant to me. I assume the rose is there, because there is a smooth floralcy to the heart phase, but to be honest, I don’t smell it as a stand-alone note.

Containers of various spices
Variety of spices; image from lovefood.com

The warm spices of the heart phase give way gradually to the warmth of sandalwood, benzoin, and labdanum in the base, with a hint of patchouli. This base is much gentler than what I usually associate with chypres (which I love, by the way), without the backbone of oakmoss. It is very appealing, though, and I think the whole fragrance would appeal to many who don’t enjoy chypres. If there is one word I might associate with Épices Volèes, it is “ingratiating”, in a good way. This is not a dramatic fragrance that demands one’s attention, it is comfortable like a well-loved cashmere sweater. In fact, it steals up on you not unlike the namesake of its predecessor, Arsène Lupin, which is named for the beloved fictional French “gentleman thief” who appeared in many novels at the turn of the twentieth century.

Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix, wearing a soft sweater
Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix.

This fragrance is definitely unisex. If you are a woman who likes to wear spicy sandalwood and resin fragrances, you might love it. I particularly like the resins among the base notes; I also appreciate that the spices don’t hit you over the head, they are subtle and well-blended. Do you have any favorite spice-focused fragrances, or spice notes in fragrance?

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 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
Perfume Chat Room, October 28

Perfume Chat Room, October 28

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 NOT Friday, October 28, because I am a day late in posting! We have just wrapped up a week-long visit to New Hampshire, to see my father-in-law who will turn 92 next month. He is doing well, sharp as ever, and we’ve had a lovely week spending every afternoon with him, going right after lunch and staying until his dinner arrives. We’ve enjoyed a week spent in the gorgeous New England fall, though the fall foliage was just past its peak. The reddest leaves tend to fall earliest, from the maples, but there was still plenty of breathtaking orange, gold, yellow and brown to admire. We went on some good walks including a lakeside trail that follows the shoreline and an old railway track.

And of course, I’ve enjoyed smelling the fresh New England fall air, which to my nose is a blend of wet leaves, soil, pine and balsam, damp moss, ferns, chrysanthemums, and lake (I would include sea water if we were on the coast). Probably some petrichor too, as we had a few showers this week.

Rainbow over New England lake

I’ve also been enjoying some of the Guerlain samples I was sent with my order from the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. A few I’ve really liked: Oeillet Pourpre, Herbes Troublantes, and Frenchy Lavande. They blend well with the fall air. I like Oeillet Pourpre very much, but I don’t think it is significanty better, to my nose, than L’Artisan’s Oeillet Sauvage, which I love. I might prefer it slightly to Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet, which I also like very much.

I can’t believe that Halloween is upon us! Do you have any special Halloween plans or traditions? Ours, to the detriment of our waistlines, is that I go out and buy far too much candy in hopes of many little trick-or-treaters, then we don’t get as many as I had hoped, and we “have to” eat all the candy. I’m trying to do better this year!

Perfume Chat Room, October 7

Perfume Chat Room, October 7

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, October 7, and this week has brought lots of fragrance activity! First, I posted my last monthly “Scent Semantics” post on Monday, focusing on the word “serenity” (which is the first part of this blog’s full title, “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities.” Then, today, my precioussss package arrived from the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas, which I was able to visit last week. I bought three eaux de toilette from the line “Les Legendaires”: Après l’Ondée, L’Heure Bleue, and Vol de Nuit. The lovely sales assistant who helped me also sent a flock of samples from the collection “L’Art et La Matière”, both boxed samples and a few she made up for me, of fragrances I had liked in the boutique.

My Guerlain precioussses

I am so excited to have these! I love the new bottles, and I loved how these new versions smelled when I sampled them. Elena Prokeva at Fragrantica wrote about the “new” L’Heure Bleue very favorably, and commented that “[i]n general, the entire line of Les Légendaires de Guerlain is magnificent: one gets the feeling that classic fragrances have been dusted off and placed under a magnifying glass, which helps to see their beauty better. It seems they are better than the previous attempts to re-release the same Guerlain classics; the new ones are much more similar to originals, to the best vintage samples.”

I’ll report back upon further testing. Have you had any fragrant adventures or revelations this week?

Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas
Perfume Chat Room, September 30

Perfume Chat Room, September 30

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, September 30, and I have been to perfume Mecca, i.e. the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. Shout-out also to the Chanel boutique in the Encore hotel, where a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant called Yannis chatted with me about Chanel fragrances and where they had the whole Exclusifs line. I’ll write more about that later!

Shalimar, at the Guerlain boutique

This is only my second visit ever to Las Vegas; as I’ve written before, it’s not really my kind of scene as I dislike crowds and noise, and I don’t gamble. But on this trip, I didn’t feel any need to visit or see most of the Strip; instead, I focused on doing a few specific things, including a “field trip” outside the city to Red Rock Canyon, culminating in sunset over the desert — just beautiful. The Guerlain boutique was top of my list of destinations, but I also checked out a number of other fragrance retailers so I could write an updated, longer post about perfume tourism in Las Vegas. Stay tuned!

I can’t believe September is over as of today. It is probably my favorite month, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the fall too. One reason I like the fall is that in my climate, that is the best season for planting in my garden; and it’s the season to plant the spring bulbs I love so much. Of course, it is also hurricane season, and my thoughts are with those who have already been so badly affected, as well as those who will be.

It has become a joke, but “pumpkin spice” season is in full swing here in the US! Everywhere I turn, there are pumpkin spice drinks, desserts, and room fragrances. Luckily, our hotel’s signature fragrance in all the bathrooms and associated products is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost, which I greatly enjoyed. Very apropos, since Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert — and not a pumpkin in sight.

Hotel toiletries

Do you have any particular plans for October? I plan to keep clearing clutter from our house; and if I get really motivated, to bring some order to my fragrance collection.

Perfume Chat Room, September 23

Perfume Chat Room, September 23

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, September 23, and I am planning a trip to Las Vegas! My husband is going for work, and I will go with him. Vegas isn’t really my scene, and I’ve only been there once before, but I’m really looking forward to it — for three reasons. One, spending several days in a nice hotel with my nice husband is a treat in itself. Two, we have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show The Beatles Love, which we saw on my only prior trip and thought was fabulous. Three, I plan to visit the Guerlain boutique, which I’ve never done before!

Poster for the Cirque du Soleil show "The Beatles Love"
The Beatles Love; Cirque du Soleil.

One my last trip to Las Vegas, I hadn’t yet gone down the perfume rabbit-hole, so Guerlain wasn’t on my must-see list. When I did get interested in Guerlain fragrances, I used to be able to try them at a Guerlain counter at nearby department stores, but then Guerlain closed those. I’ve visited mini-boutiques in duty-free areas of airports. But this will be my first visit to an actual Guerlain Boutique, and I’ve heard that some of the new versions of the classic fragrances are big improvements over the prior reformulations.

So, fragrance friends, what do you recommend I try, and possibly buy??

Perfume Chat Room, July 22

Perfume Chat Room, July 22

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, July 22, and it is HOT! It’s abnormally hot almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, apparently. We have had days and days of thunderstorms and torrential downpours of rain, which barely cool the ambient temperatures at all. I’m tempted to make Un Jardin Aprés La Mousson and Aprés L’Ondée my only fragrances right now! I’m also enjoying a new fragrance, Carthusia’s A’mmare, a salty, aromatic fragrance that will suit men and women equally well. It’s very refreshing. I found it in a Carthusia boutique in Milan when we were there in May (our first trip outside the US since 2019!). Yay, perfume tourism is back!

Speaking of perfume tourism, my husband and I will be going to Las Vegas this fall, on a business trip for him. It looks as if there is still at least one Guerlain boutique open there, and I plan to visit it! Have any of you been to it? I know Undina has! Any suggestions, anyone? I’m eager to try some of the 2021 versions of the classic Guerlain fragrances like L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit, and Mitsouko, I’ve read good things about them. Thoughts?

Las Vegas sign; Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m also excited that we have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show “The Beatles Love”. We’ve seen it once before, on my one and only trip to Las Vegas, and I’ve often said that it might be the only thing that could bring me back to that city. (I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed that trip, but a lot of what many people love about Las Vegas just isn’t my vibe, no offense intended, as I generally don’t like heat, crowds, or casinos). The show was absolutely fantastic and you don’t have to be a lifelong, diehard Beatles fan like me to enjoy it. I can’t wait to see it again!