Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint”, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!
The Perfume Chat Room is back! After a brief hiatus for December’s Scented Advent, then my new collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, “Notes on Notes” (first Mondays of the month), I’m ready to chat again and I hope you are too.
So, if you’re new to this blog, welcome to the Friday 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, January 13 (yes, it’s Friday the 13th), and here in the USA we are looking forward to our three-day weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, January 16. I don’t have any special plans other than perhaps a lunch with the other volunteers who take part in a prize program to recognize high school students who make positive contributions to race relations in their schools or communities. I helped launch this program many years ago, and it is now nationwide. We’ve met so many wonderful teenagers who are doing great work. I love it.
Heads up — I spent last weekend visiting one of my closest friends in West Palm Beach, and I was able to go to the Guerlain boutique in The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. Yes, I came home with a bottle (the “new” Mitsouko). Yes, that means I made it one whole week into 2023 before buying a new fragrance. Yes, I’ll do a separate post with photos!
Are you attempting a no-buy or low-buy for 2023? I am going to try a “low-buy” but I’m not exactly off to a good start, lol. Or do you have any particular fragrances on your 2023 wishlist?
Happy Christmas Eve! I never got around to posting yesterday because I was so busy creating the first of several family feasts for last night and the next few days. I love to cook, and I love having our kids and their friends around, so this is a great time of year for me!
For December 23, my Advent SOTD was Guerlain’s Embruns d’Ylang, created by Thierry Wasser and launched in 2019. I like it much more than I expected to! Not that I dislike ylang-ylang, but it’s not high on my list of favorite floral notes. I like it a lot as a supporting character in many beautiful fragrances, but I wouldn’t normally seek out a fragrance where it has the starring role.
According to Fragrantica, the notes included are: top notes, Salt and Bergamot; middle notes, Ylang-Ylang, Cloves and Jasmine Sambac; base notes, Iris, Patchouli and Vanilla. I never know how to identify “salt” as a fragrance accord, except as a sort of mineral smell; and Embruns d’Ylang definitely has that in its opening, with a tangy bergamot. Believe it or not, the combination of salt and a bitter citrus has a long history, though mostly involving grapefruit: “Grapefruit and Salt: The Science Behind This Unlikely Power Couple.”
After the opening, ylang-ylang is the dominant accord, and it is very lovely. Interestingly, although I often think of ylang-ylang as falling on the sweeter end of the yellow flower spectrum, here it doesn’t come across as very sweet. It certainly isn’t cloying at all, and it is a ylang-ylang that would work well for all, truly unisex if that is a concern. I don’t smell cloves at all, though given the above article’s explanation of how our taste sensors can cancel each other out, I wonder if cloves are helping to reduce the sweetness of the ylang-ylang. I do pick up the jasmine sambac, but here it is a supporting player.
The ylang-ylang persists into the drydown and the base, which makes for a very interesting combination of yellow floral, powdery iris, soft warm vanilla, and earthy patchouli. I find it quite unique, and very pleasing. It also lasts on my skin for several hours, including overnight.
I find this to be a thoroughly unisex yellow floral fragrance with a unique combination of notes. Its name has a poetic meaning: seafoam of ylang, which takes into account the salt accord. This is different enough that I would suggest trying before you buy it, if you are so inclined, but it is well worth sampling.
Now I have to decide what to wear for Christmas Eve! Truthfully, I have many nice options, so I might have more than one SOTD. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone who celebrates it! Advent officially ends tonight, so I’ll wish you also a very happy Christmas; and to everyone everywhere, a happy, healthy holiday season. Thanks for joining me and other readers here on Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities; I look forward to hearing more from you all in 2023!
Today is the winter solstice, the turning point from dark to light, or at least lighter. We still have much winter to come, and December 21 is considered the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but the days will start getting longer and the nights shorter.
In England, the group that owns and manages Stonehenge is English Heritage. They will stream winter solstice celebrations taking place at Stonehenge tomorrow, December 22.
And — surprise! My stash of Guerlain samples had a couple of duplicates, so today’s Advent sample is Angelique Noire, again! This time, the caraway seed accord was a bit more forward. I still don’t perceive this fragrance as “noire” at all.
As before, Angelique Noire has good longevity on my skin. I’m going to try it side by side with some other vanillas, like the vanilla discovery set from Sylvaine Delacourte.Mme. Delacourte was the Creative Director for Guerlain fragrances for 15 years, and Angelique Noire was created under her supervision, so I think that will provide some interesting comparisons.
Happy winter solstice! And all of you in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoy your own seasonal changes!
My Guerlain Advent scent today is Néroli Outrenoir, another “citrus aromatic”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk and launched in 2016. It’s very, very appealing. Per Fragrantica, top notes are Petitgrain, Bergamot, Tangerine, Lemon and Grapefruit; middle notes are Tea, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Smoke and Earthy Notes; base notes are Myrrh, Vanilla, Benzoin, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Oakmoss.
That citrusy opening is very uplifting, a mix of greenness and, well, citrus. It reminds me a bit of Miller Harris’ Tangerine Vert. To my nose, the most prominent notes are the petitgrain, tangerine, and lemon, but I definitely smell the bergamot, and a whiff of the grapefruit. Very soon, tea is served, and it is a black tea with lemon in it. It does have a floralcy that comes from the néroli and orange blossom, but to me the strongest impression is of black tea and lemon, with a tinge of smokiness. Almost like a lapsang souchong tea, but not as smoky or tarry.
This scent is like chiaroscuro, the painting technique that famously contrasts light and dark, the leading examples being the paintings of the great Caravaggio. It starts out very bright and sunny, with all the citrus notes in the opening. Then the brightness dims a bit, and softens and blurs, with the arrival of accords of tea and flowers. As it dries down, it gets gradually darker but also warmer, with the base notes especially of benzoin, ambrette and oakmoss. Myrrh and vanilla accords are present, but to a lesser degree.
Neroli Outrenoir has decent longevity on my skin, though nothing like Épices Volèes. It’s also a different kind of citrus/tea fragrance, one with more depth. I think it’s totally unisex and it would smell wonderful in warm weather, especially warm summer evenings. It’s fresh enough for hot weather but sophisticated enough for evening wear.
Very nice! Do you have any fragrances that contrast light and dark this way?
The Guerlain sample I pulled today was one that I tried and liked in the Las Vegas boutique, Frenchy Lavande. This version was launched under that name in 2021, but it is basically the same as Le Frenchy, which was launched in 2017. Like a few others, it was renamed and moved into the collection “L’Art et la Matière”. It is called an “aromatic fougère”, so classified largely because of the central role that lavender plays, but others have called it a citrusy aromatic. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes, Lemon Verbena, Lemon and Bergamot; middle notes, Petitgrain, Lavender, Citron, Sage and Neroli; base notes, Ambergris, Vetiver and Tonka Bean. Eddie Bulliqi reviewed it and Herbes Troublantes recently for Fragrantica: “Herbs for Winter; Guerlain’s Frenchy Lavande and Herbes Troublantes.”
The opening is lovely, and even my nearby husband looked up and commented, “That’s really nice, what is it?”. While the opening notes are in fact very citrusy, I also smell lavender right away. The lemon and lemon verbena are more prominent than the bergamot, and the lemon verbena adds a distinctly herbal tint to the lemon and lavender. I can’t pinpoint the moment when lemon gives way to citron, but I can say that the partnership of citrus and lavender continues in the middle phase. I only get glimmers of sage, and the neroli is a latecomer to this stage, at least to my nose. It gradually replaces the lavender, as the fragrance moves toward its base notes. Vetiver continues the aromatic, herbal aspect of Frenchy Lavande. I can’t really distinguish the ambergris and tonka bean accords, just that the base slowly becomes warmer and less herbal.
Believe it or not, there is actually a blog called “The Traveling Frenchy” by a young woman named Alex, and in it she has posted a guide to visiting the lavender fields in Provence. I highly recommend it if you are thinking of seeking out French lavender fields; she gives very specific information on the locales she prefers, and even lists particular villages and roads.
Ultimately, though I like Frenchy Lavande very much, it is a bit like Herbes Troublantes in reminding one of a cologne, although it is in a eau de parfum format. I wouldn’t say that it is much nicer than my Jicky eau de toilette or even that it lasts longer; and it certainly costs a lot more. Bottom line: if you want a Guerlain lavender, I recommend Jicky. In fact, that may be my next Guerlain purchase, from its reissue of several Guerlain classics in the collection “Les Legendaires”.
Do you have a favorite lavender-centric fragrance?
In a total change of direction, today’s Guerlain sample is a 2021 addition to “L’Art et la Matière”, Herbes Troublantes, by Thierry Wasser. Apparently, it used to be a cologne called Un Dimanche À La Campagne. This new version, an eau de parfum, is categorized as a “citrus aromatic”, and is it ever! The first word that came to my mind when I dabbed it on my wrists was “zingy”. It has a very fresh, green, bergamot-dominant opening. Luckily, I quite like bergamot; in fact, I like it a lot.
Once the bergamot fades into the background, a neroli accord appears, with unspecified “green notes.” Like bergamot, it is fresh, green, slightly bitter, aromatic, and very much a citrus note, but it also has the floral aspect of orange blossom. At this stage, Herbes Troublantes becomes softer, though it is still very aromatic in a green citrus kind of way; and if pressed to name the green herbs, I would choose lemongrass or lemon basil. The only base note identified for it is white musk, which to my nose means that it just gets softer and more reminiscent of clean linen. The overall impression I get from Herbes Troublantes is that of a citrusy herb, perhaps like lemongrass or even citronella (the plant, not the oil). It’s very pleasant and I think I would like it on my husband.
The name of this fragrance is intriguing: it means “disturbing grasses (or herbs)”. Really, there’s nothing disturbing at all about Herbes Troublantes. It succeeds in its goal of capturing the spirit of a cologne, in eau de parfum concentration. It lasts longer than a cologne, of course, but I don’t think it lasts as long as other scents in the collection.
What do you think of the idea of evoking a cologne in an eau de parfum? Wasn’t that the whole concept behind Atelier Cologne? now sadly no longer distributed in North America although one can still find it to buy online.
Today’s Advent Guerlain sample is Angélique Noire, which seems to have developed something like a cult following since it was launched in 2005. And I can see (or smell) why! It’s an unusual, distinctive fragrance, totally unisex to my nose. Fragrantica lists it as an “amber floral”, with top notes of Angelica, Pear and Pink Pepper; middle notes of Jasmine and Caraway; and base notes of Vanilla, Angelica and Cedar. Right away, upon spraying, I smell the angelica. It is green, herbal, aromatic but lightly so. It is made slightly but noticeably fruity by the pear accord, which is a very appealing combination. Some reviews mention bergamot, but I don’t really smell that. However, since bergamot is, to my nose, a slightly bitter, green citrus scent, a combination of green angelica and juicy pear may emulate it.
While jasmine and caraway join in for the middle phase, the angelica never goes away, and it persists through the entire drydown. That’s saying something, because I could still smell Angélique Noire on my wrist, albeit faintly, ten hours after applying it this morning. The caraway carries forward the initial herbal greenness of the angelica, while the jasmine brings a bit of floral sweetness. To my nose, the notes in this fragrance are really well blended, they just segue from one to the next, often overlapping. The perfumer is Daniela Roche Andrier, creator of one of my top fragrances, Tiffany & Co..
As the floral notes fade, the vanilla emerges and the angelica becomes dominant again as part of the base. At this stage, it reminds me of Vanira Moorea, the citrusy vanilla from Berdoues whose greenness comes from a petitgrain accord. Angélique Noire is a darker green, but still fresh. The base shows off more of its aromatic nature, which a cedar accord enhances.
I was interested to try Angélique Noire partly because Guerlain sales assistants seem quite enthusiastic about it. I first encountered it several years ago, when there was still a Guerlain counter at our local Neiman Marcus or Saks (can’t remember which!). I had asked the SA to recommend some vanilla scents and she immediately wanted me to try Angélique Noire. I remember liking it then, but my senses were overcome by Spiritueuse Double Vanille, so I don’t think Angélique Noire made much of an impression. Then, this past September, when I made my first visit to a standalone Guerlain boutique, the lovely SA literally pressed a sample of it into my hands, and sent me another one with the order I had placed. I had told her I like green scents, and I think that is the aspect of Angélique Noire she wanted to bring to my attention.
I really like Angélique Noire! I don’t find anything particularly “noir” about it, either. Angelica is an unusual note on which to center a fragrance; do you know of or recommend any others?
The Guerlain sample of the day is Iris Torréfié, which was created by Delphine Jelk and launched in 2020. I had to look up the word “torréfié”, as it was unfamiliar; it means roasted, often in reference to coffee beans. Sure enough, among the notes listed for the fragrance is coffee. The full notes list on Fragrantica is: Top notes, Cardamom, Coffee and Bergamot; middle notes, iris and Ambrette (Musk Mallow); base notes, Leather, Tea, Vanilla and Amber. I’ve never associated iris with coffee — or roasting, for that matter — but I do like the opening of Iris Torréfié very much.
The very first thing I smell upon spraying my wrists is the iris, and it’s a beauty. Rich, a bit fruity, a bit carroty — it’s a gorgeous iris. And who knew? There is an actual iris called “Coffee Trader”. So maybe they are meant to be together after all!
I don’t smell cardamom at all in the opening, and I’m a little disappointed by that because I love the smell of cardamom. I do smell the bergamot; it makes a quick appearance to brighten the opening and then steps back. If I hadn’t been told there was a coffee note in Iris Torréfié, I would not have known. To my nose, the opening is all about iris with a light touch of bergamot.
In the middle phase, the iris is still dominant, still gorgeous. There is an underlying muskiness that emerges, which must be attributable to the ambrette. As Iris Torréfié dries down, the base reveals itself to be a warm combination of leather, vanilla, and amber; I don’t smell the listed note of tea. The iris continues to reign, warm but not “roasted.” All of these accords play very nicely with each other, while keeping the iris the star of the show. The leather is very subtle and segues smoothly from the ambrette.
Iris Torréfié is a lovely fragrance, and the first among my Guerlain samples that could tempt me to a full bottle, even though I have several iris-forward fragrance. It has just the right balance of floralcy and vaguely spicy, soft leather. Have you tried it? What did you think?
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.
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?