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?

May Melange Marathon: Tocadilly

May Melange Marathon: Tocadilly

Cheerful and amusing are the two words that come to my mind upon trying Tocadilly, by Rochas. Who could fail to be amused by its ridiculous bottle, a purple and green version of the quirky Tocade bottle for the same house? And Tocadilly is undeniably cheerful. Created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake and launched in 1997, it is a light green, summery floral that doesn’t change much over time. (I’ve seen other information saying it was created by Maurice Roucel, who definitely created Tocade, but the sources that seem more authoritative credit Sheldrake).

Its short list of notes is: top notes of cucumber and lilac; heart notes of hyacinth, jasmine, and coconut; base of sandalwood and white musk. However, I’ve seen other notes lists that add glycine, rose, vetiver to those. When I first spray Tocadilly, I get a burst of something light green, but I can’t really say that it is cucumber. I guess I would say it is “cucumberish”. After having experienced so many Ellena scents, I might more accurately say that I smell a greenish melon-like top note, since to many of us, the scents of cucumber and melon overlap somewhat (they are members of the same plant family, the Cucurbitae). It is more like honeydew than cantaloupe. I smell a vague hint of lilac, but if you are seeking a lilac-focused fragrance, this isn’t it (at least, not to my nose). The melonish opening dies down after 15-20 minutes, though there is still a hint of it during the heart phase.

Similarly, although I first sought out Tocadilly because other commenters said it smelled of hyacinth, I only get a vaguely hyacinth note in the heart phase. I do smell a pleasant blend of a lightly floral coconut and light jasmine, neither of them overwhelming. To my nose, Tocadilly smells fresh, light, youthful, summery. Really, it’s another bargain beauty which you can still find online for very affordable prices (<$30 for 100 ml on some sites). It is one of the few fragrances for which I would recommend NOT buying a tester if the small cost difference between that and a regular bottle doesn’t matter to you, because the testers will mostly come without the funny cap, which is part of Tocadilly‘s charm.

As it dries down, Tocadilly‘s floral notes fade until what is left is a warm, soft, white musk. While this fragrance won’t set hearts aflame or imaginations afire, it is a charming, cheerful fragrance that works well in warm weather and would be fine to wear in most workplaces. It lasts for a few hours on my skin, and it’s inexpensive enough that one doesn’t feel extravagant just reapplying it as desired.

Perfume Chat Room, February 28

Perfume Chat Room, February 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 — I’ve been known to write on this blog about biryani, one of my favorite dishes to eat and one I am still learning to make! (If you have a great recipe for it, please share!).

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 February 28, and tomorrow is Leap Day, a rare event in the calendar. My SOTD is supposed to be a “unicorn”, following the Now Smell This community project, which has defined a “unicorn” scent as “a perfume you suspect no one else (or almost no one else) on Now Smell This owns, or something that you very rarely see worn or mentioned.” If I still had any, I would wear the unicorn scent I wrote about some time ago, L’Iris de Fath. Alas, it is such an expensive unicorn that I had the rare privilege of trying it once, but I don’t have any more (I did, however, put a drop on a ceramic scent disc, which still smells faintly of it). Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

One of the great pleasures of reading Turin and Sanchez’ guide to perfumes is the occasional surprised snort of laughter when one of their reviews snarkily turns a phrase that perfectly captures their — and your — experience of a fragrance. One of my favorites: “cK IN2U Her: OMG PU. Insanely strong fruit meets insanely strong woody amber. KTHXBYE.”

The snarky humor applies evenly to perfumes they praise, such as Gucci Envy:

Envy (Gucci) ***** green floral $$

Maurice Roucel has a knack for putting together perfumes that feel haunted by the ghostly presence of a woman: Lyra was a compact, husky-voiced Parisienne, Tocade a tanned, free-as-air Amazon. These have another Roucel hallmark, the spontaneity of the unpolished gem. When subjected to the full grind of the marketing department, Roucel’s style can become cramped and tends toward brilliant pastiches of classical fragrances: 24, Faubourg; L’Instant; Insolence. Envy is to my knowledge the only time when the balance between Roucel’s magic and the real world gave rise to a work that, like a diamond, needed both heat and pressure to form. My recollection is that Envy was panel-tested again and again while Roucel adjusted it until it outperformed Pleasures, then at the top of its arc of fame. It is amusing to think that such a comparison between apples and pears could be considered meaningful. However, it did constrain the woman inside Envy to be at once seraphic and suburban, complete with the sort of suppressed anger that such a creature would feel at being reincarnated as a florist in eastern New Jersey.

Why a florist? People describing fragrances often describe very green, hyacinth-dominant scents as smelling like the inside of a florist’s refrigerator. And that is the major impression of Envy after the sharp, tangy-green opening. Envy’s heart notes are: hyacinth, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, violet and iris, after an opening that is dominated by bergamot and freesia with support from minor top notes of peach, magnolia, and pineapple (for the record, I don’t smell pineapple, but that could be because my bottle of Envy is several years old; it was discontinued).

The muguet note is very prominent in Envy, but it isn’t soapy AT ALL, unlike some lily of the valley scents. It is green all the way, with hyacinth hot on its heels and gaining ground throughout Envy’s progression. Fragrantica has an interesting summary, describing it as a “metal accord surrounded by a floral bouquet”:

Envy could be compared to a breeze that brings spring into the city. Its architecture is modern; it denies gaudiness, accentuating minimalism. The composition starts with green notes with a cool metal note that freezes the senses. Gradually the scent warms up due to woody notes and musk.

Envy does start off as a very cool, contained, green scent, and I can understand the comparison to cold metal, given the “florist’s refrigerator” vibe it gives off, especially in the first hour or so. Maybe the seraph of Luca Turin’s imagination is trapped inside the florist’s refrigerator, not reincarnated as the suburban florist.

Gradually, Envy starts showing glimmers of — not warmth, exactly, but a mossy woodiness that grounds it. The base notes are oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, musk, and jasmine. The green notes from the muguet, hyacinth, and freesia are still powerfully present, but the fragrance takes on an earthiness that brings them back to ground. The progression of Envy resembles the slow descent of a winged, green creature whose feet lightly touch the mossy floor of a forest.

Novel Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman

I haven’t yet read the book Green Angel, whose cover is featured above, but in my search for an image that captured the final stage of Gucci Envy, this popped up and it seemed just right. The College Gardener has a brief review of the book, and it may have to go on my reading waitlist. That’s for another day. In the meantime, I have to go liberate a green seraph who has been imprisoned within a tall bottle of eau de toilette.

Bottle of Gucci Envy eau de toilette

Gucci Envy

Featured image above from Angels, by Olga Rezo.

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

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

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

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

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

Moss furniture; image from Black Burge Art blog.

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

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

Mosaiculture topiary of earth goddess at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Earth Goddess, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Featured image: Atlanta Botanical Garden.