Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

The garden centers and grocery stores (the only places I go these days) are full of potted hyacinths, one of my favorite flowers and favorite scents. Yesterday, in anticipation of Easter next weekend, I bought two pots of forced hyacinth bulbs: one has flowers of a delicate, creamy pale yellow; the other’s flowers are a cheerful, slightly tacky, bright pink. So the scent of real hyacinths is wafting through my house — what better time to review a recently acquired decant of Tom Ford’s Ombre de Hyacinth?

I had wanted to try it for a while, but it is discontinued and not easy to find. Imagine my delight when I saw it listed on the website of a decant subscription service I was considering! Sign me up! And I did.

Tom Ford launched Ombre de Hyacinth in 2012; it was created by Calice Becker as part of the “Jardin Noir” collected that also included Cafe Rose, Lys Fume, and Jonquille de Nuit. The brand had this to say about Ombe de Hyacinth: “Sophisticated. Voluptuous. Passionate. Ombre de Hyacinth creates bewitching tension as hyacinth cloaks its voluptuous beauty behind cool, aristocratic finery.” Fragrantica lists its top notes as: Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Magnolia Petals and Olibanum; middle notes as Hyacinth, Pink Pepper and Jasmine; base notes as Galbanum, Musk and Benzoin.

When I first spray it, I smell the hyacinth faintly, not as strongly as I had expected, and it doesn’t dominate the middle stage either. I would say that the strongest top notes to my nose are the violet leaf and galbanum, with the violet leaf most dominant, and they both continue to be evident throughout the fragrance’s stages; I like both of those notes, so I quite enjoy that. I don’t smell magnolia at all, and very little pink pepper, but I do get an undertone of the resins listed.

Kafkaesque wrote a great review of Ombre de Hyacinth, which included some of the press release upon its launch:

“Jardin Noir explores the forbidden sides of four of perfumery’s most treasured blooms: narcissus, hyacinth, rose, and lily. Convention is abandoned and unexpected ingredients converge with bewitching and intoxicating results. Iconic flowers fall open, dropping their innocent facades to reveal the subversive beauty and fierce elegance they normally keep hidden.”

Sorry, but no. There is nothing “noir” or subversive about Ombre de Hyacinth, though it is very pretty and even elegant. Kafkaesque commented on its soapiness after a short time, and I agree. While I find the real scent of real hyacinths to be “voluptuous”, bordering on narcotic, that is not what I smell in Ombre de Hyacinth; rather, I smell a pleasant, understated green floral. Jo Malone’s Blue Hyacinth is a much more realistic hyacinth scent, to the point of being photorealistic. Five hours after I sprayed Ombre de Hyacinth, most of what I smell is a white musk with a remaining hint of green floralcy and a lightly spicy note under those that I assume is the benzoin.

While I like Ombre de Hyacinth, I would never have paid its original price and I won’t be seeking out a full bottle now that I have my decant. Whew! That’s a relief, given that it was discontinued some time ago and that would be hard to to as well as expensive. Have you tried any of the “Jardin Noir” collection? What did you think?

Featured image by Kevin Lee Jacobs.

Perfume Chat Room, March 19

Perfume Chat Room, March 19

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, March 19, and I’m delighted to say that I got my first COVID vaccination shot yesterday! So far, so good; my arm is just a little sore. As hoped last week, my husband and I were able to go on Sunday to my “happy place” full of daffodils; as expected, they were magnificent! And inspired by Undina’s question on her blog, Undina’s Looking Glass, about photographing perfumes, I took my bottle of Ostara with us and took pictures of it in several locations among the millions of daffodils. I will say that I got some puzzled looks from other garden visitors, and one actually asked me what I was photographing as I crouched down to get closer to the flowers and the bottle! He laughed delightedly when I told him.

I’m sad to say, though, that I just found out that one of my favorite fragrance bloggers, Kafkaesque, has recently learned that almost 200 pages worth of her blog content has apparently been appropriated by an “author” in England who self-publishes books on Amazon. She is understandably very upset and angry, as she was never contacted for permission or informed of this use of her writings. Her blog is notable for her extensive knowledge of perfumes and her long, detailed explorations and analyses of them, and I have learned so much from her. She paused writing for some time but the blog was (and is) still up and available to read, and she resumed posting after the November 2020 elections. If you’re new to reading fragrance blogs, hers is very interesting and I recommend it. I don’t always agree with her take on scents, but I always admire her passion and knowledge!

In other news, I was touched to see a lovely article in this week’s New York Times about the late Carlos Powell, aka YouTube’s “Brooklyn Fragrance Lover.” I rarely watch video reviews of fragrances, I much prefer to read about them, but by all accounts, Carlos was a beloved and friendly member of the fragrance community and is missed by many. I really enjoyed reading more about him.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Penhaligon’s Ostara eau de toilette among daffodils
Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose 31

Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose 31

Sometimes I read reviews or comments about fragrance that I just don’t understand. Take, for instance, cumin. Many commenters smell cumin as “sweaty” or dirty. I never understood that, because I like to cook, and sometimes I cook with cumin, and it never smelled sweaty to me. Until I tried Le Labo’s Rose 31. Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: Epine Mortelle

Roses de Mai Marathon: Epine Mortelle

So this Roses de Mai Marathon has finally inspired me to try a fragrance I’ve had in my collection for a while: LM Parfums’ Epine Mortelle. LM is Laurent Mazzone. The perfumers with whom he has worked include Jerome Epinette and Richard Ibanez, though it’s not clear which one worked on Epine Mortelle. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, the scent created by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton, in 2010. It must still sell well, as it still has its own page on the ELDO website. It isn’t necessarily a fragrance I would have associated with Ms. Swinton, a brilliant actress who is known for playing eccentric, complicated characters and for her striking, almost androgynous looks. ELDO’s website calls it ” cozy, skin-hugging sweetness nestled with soft florals and unique, orange citrus notes.” Here is the longer description from ELDO, which sound as if it was written by Tilda:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is, or what “God’s fragrance” means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close.

Like this.”

This is possibly my favorite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse my scent sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home. In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland – after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me – where the adventuring, alien Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick – comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests: Like This

Smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse. Yes, Like This evokes all of those.  The listed notes are ginger, pumpkin, tangerine, immortal flower, Moroccan neroli, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, woody notes, musk, heliotrope. When I first spray it, the opening is pleasantly tangy with ginger and tangerine — lightly spicy and citrusy, not sweet. If this ginger is gingerbread, it is not the sugary kind — it’s more like a ginger snap (one of my favorite cookies). The combination of tangerine notes and neroli reminds me of a very particular kind of greenhouse: an orangery, a glass enclosure where Europeans in cooler climates could grow trees in huge pots, that produced prized citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. At “Now Smell This“, reviewer Angela wrote:

I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.

I’ve read elsewhere that Ms. Swinton had just dyed her hair orange for her role in the movie “I Am Love” when the fragrance collaboration began, and may have actually requested the references to orange. How fascinating the creative process is! Like This is warm and beautiful, like the image of Swinton’s character in that movie, Emma, the midlife spouse of a rich Italian aristocrat, who falls in love with a much younger man.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love”, 2010.

Given the powerful roles Ms. Swinton has played in the movies about Narnia and the Avengers, coziness, warmth, and home might not come immediately to mind in relation to her, but a cozy scent is what she asked ELDO to create:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain.

The floral notes take over from the citrus, but the ginger continues like a glowing thread through the composition, and the floral notes are well-balanced with spices, woody notes, vetiver, all of which keep the fragrance dry and vivid. This would smell lovely on either men or women, it is truly unisex.

Kafkaesque reviewed Like This when it was released and concluded it is “definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you!”, although she didn’t see herself buying a full bottle. Her review includes more details about the creative process behind the fragrance. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” gave it four stars out of five; she found it darker and smokier than I do, calling it “a strange and unconventional blend … a cross between the woody richness of Serge Lutens Douce Amère and the smoldering darkness of Donna Karan Chaos, with plenty of its own surprising elements.”

I agree with Kafkaesque that Like This is intriguing and that it grows on you. I hadn’t really planned to wear it three days in a row this week, but I did, and I enjoyed it every time. It lasts well on my skin, enough that I can spray it on in the evening and still smell its warm base notes on my wrist the next morning. It is the kind of fragrance that other people won’t recognize but most will find very pleasing, especially up close.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by a fragrance that wasn’t what you expected in one way or another?

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri (again)

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri (again)

Today’s lily of the valley fragrance is Oriza Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri. A very beautiful scent, it is more than a muguet soliflore. It has a classic structure anchored by a base note of oakmoss. Top notes are, yes, lily of the valley, grass, and green notes (although the Oriza Legrand website lists them more eccentrically as “feuillages vertes, herbes folles, muguet sauvage”). Middle, or heart, notes are lily of the valley (here listed by Oriza LeGrand as “muguet des bois”), violet leaf, angelica and galbanum. Base notes are lily of the valley blossoms (“clochettes de muguet frais”), oakmoss, and wild lily (“lys des pres”, or “lily of the field/meadow”). I reviewed Muguet Fleuri two years ago, in my first “May Muguet Marathon”, but that was based on a sample. A question I posed at the end of the post was whether I should spring for a full bottle. Reader, I did. So here’s a new review.

Instead of true citrus at the top of Muguet Fleuri, we get a burst of lemony fresh greenness that is the first impression, quickly followed by the lily of the valley, which is strong. The heart notes that include violet leaf, angelica and galbanum with the “muguet des bois” send Muguet Fleuri in a different direction than a straightforward floral. All of these heart note companions to the muguet are intensely green. The galbanum gives it a little “bite” as it dries down, a bit of an edge. The angelica brings in an herbal tone. The violet leaf is meant to be somewhat metallic and aqueous, though I’m not sure I would describe it that way, but it is definitely more of a crunchy green than a soft one. Violet leaf appears in many men’s fragrances, so on balance, this phase of the fragrance is where it becomes less feminine and more unisex to my nose, suitable for either a man or a woman. I think this is why Fragrantica categorizes Muguet Fleuri as an “aromatic floral.”

Kafkaesque wrote a very thorough review of Muguet Fleuri. She found violet flowers peeping between the green leaves, but I did not. In the heart phase, the only real flower I smell is the lily of the valley, surrounded by shades of green; it is very true to the actual flower, as I’ve written before. Because of the continuous presence of that lily of the valley, the fragrance doesn’t develop and evolve as much as other high-quality fragrances, but it lasts well, and the base notes are intriguing. The oakmoss seems to anchor the muguet flowers in the earth, with the green leaves and stems sturdily supporting the ethereal white blossoms that look like tiny bells (“clochettes”).

lilies of the valley planted in moss

Kafkaesque found the final stage slightly woody: “Muguet Fleuri’s drydown on my skin really feels like a bouquet of lily of the valley, cedar, violet leaves, and violets, even though the latter is now a mere impression more than a distinctive, powerful, individual note. The whole thing is dusted with floral powder that feels sandier than ever, and a light touch of very expensive floral soap.” The Smelly Vagabond also had a very positive review, and an insightful comparison to the classic muguet scent, Diorissimo.

Oriza Legrand deliberately presents its fragrances in old-fashioned design and presentation, to emphasize its history and heritage. Muguet Fleuri is listed among its “Art Deco” Collection; to me, its design elements are reminiscent of the flower illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker, creator of the Flower Fairies in her series of children’s books.

Muguet Fleuri box and bottle

Oriza Legrand Muguet Fleuri; image from http://www.notino.co.uk

Taken together, Muguet Fleuri is a happy, uncomplicated fragrance that is sturdier than it might appear at first impression. I like the opening burst of green, the persistence of various forms of muguet throughout, the well-chosen companion notes, and the oakmoss base. This is a thinking woman’s muguet, but it is far from introverted. It has a warmth to it, after the dewy green opening and herbal green heart, that grounds it and makes it a grown-up muguet. It also comes with a pretty card, imprinted with the same images, and the following cheerful message:

“Que ces quelques brins de Muguet Fleuri vous portent bonheur!” or “May these few sprigs of Lily of the Valley bring you happiness!”. They did.

Featured image by Cicely Mary Barker.

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Montale Intense Cafe

Scent Sample Sunday: Montale Intense Cafe

I received Intense Cafe as part of a fragrance subscription service and it has quickly become a favorite. Classified by Fragrantica as an “Oriental Vanilla”, its main floral note is a rich rose, supported by notes of coffee, amber, vanilla and musk. This is my first Montale fragrance and it’s a hit! I’ve been complimented on it by an elderly lady while buying plants at a local nursery, and by my son while driving him to a gathering with other teenaged boys, as well as by my husband even through his recent head cold.

Intense Cafe is a great rose scent for cooler months. After an initial fruity rose burst, the coffee notes hover in the background and are more like a latte; in fact, much like the way I like my lattes from the local baristas: double shots of espresso, lots of foamy milk, and a sprinkle of vanilla powder on top. Kafkaesque sensed cocoa too, sometimes even more than coffee, but that was not my experience. Unlike many Oriental fragrances, Intense Cafe isn’t spicy; it is creamy and a bit sweet, though not overly so and not a gourmand scent, to me. Some commenters on Fragrantica think it smells like oud; I think Kafkaesque is probably right, that they are smelling another note she says is typical of Montale, Iso-E Super, as I’m not picking up anything I recognize as oud (not that I’m an expert).

The fragrance has great longevity; a few small sprays in the morning and I am set for the day. I emphasize “small sprays” because it is quite potent. Apparently sillage is excellent too; I was at a local nursery recently to buy pansies for my winter planters (yes, they bloom all winter here — lovely!) and an older lady came over to me from at least 20 feet away to ask what fragrance I had on, because she liked it so much. Keep in mind that we were already surrounded by nice flower scents from living plants, and Intense Cafe still made its presence known.

To my delight, there is actually such a thing as a vanilla rose latte! Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company (from which I borrowed the featured image above) has this recipe: Vanilla Rose Latte. Even Nespresso has a recipe for a Rose Caffe Latte with Vanilla, though ironically, the recipe for their automatic espresso machine seems much more complicated than the one from Barnie’s. I think I will just add some rose simple syrup to my next order from Starbucks once I get it home, and see how that tastes!

There is even a rose variety Cafe Latte, available through a marvelously named flower wholesaler in Holland, The Parfum Flower Company. Honestly, the photo below looks exactly how Intense Cafe smells to me: less of a red, fruity rose and more of a soft, dusty capuccino pink with lashings of cream.

Rose Cafe Latte from flower wholesaler Parfum Flower Company

Rose Cafe Latte; image from Parfum Flower Company.

The Parfum Flower Company specializes in highly scented garden roses for special occasions. As they note in their YouTube video (!), most commercially grown roses now have little or no fragrance. The Parfum Flower Company grows roses like my beloved David Austin Roses, as well as other very fragrant varieties from other hybridizers. Just look at that gorgeous color!

Intense Cafe will likely be one of the few scents I’ve sampled that will move to “full bottle” status on my wishlist. With Christmas approaching, maybe Santa will oblige!

Montale Intense Cafe snowflakes

Montale Intense Cafe; image from http://www.11street.my.

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

My oh my, muguet! Oriza  L. Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri opens with a decisive, spicy greenness that comes from top notes of green leaves, grass and lily-of-the-valley, per Fragrantica. The middle notes are galbanum, angelica, violet leaf and lily-of-the-valley; base notes are lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss and lily. Kafkaesque attributes the spiciness of the opening to the violet leaves, but I wonder if it doesn’t also come from the angelica. The firmness of the green top notes reminds me of the leaves of lily of the valley, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer just the right contrast to the delicate silver-white bells of the flowers on their long, slender stalks. The leaves are sculptural in their form, larger than the flowers and sometimes even hiding them. They are smooth and firm like the leaves of hostas, and reach to the sky in pairs like hands lifted in prayer.

Lily of the Valley leaves

Lily of the Valley leaves; photo from Verdure

I love the opening of this fragrance. It just happens that I am staying this week at my sister’s house, where she has an old, well-established patch of lilies of the valley, so I am able to compare the perfume and the flower directly while I type this. Continue reading

LVMH Silences Monsieur Guerlain

Instead of my usual “Fragrance Friday” post, I am sharing this, from Kafkaesque. Sadly, the title of that blog is eerily appropriate for this news:

I was stunned to wake up this morning to news that LVMH, the parent company of Guerlain, has shut down the Monsieur Guerlain website,

Source: LVMH Silences Monsieur Guerlain