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 March 6, and I am with my family on a spring break holiday in Jamaica, for our first visit here, coronavirus be d—ned! Scent of the day is Montale’s Roses Musk, a soft rose fragrance that goes well with the tropical but temperate climate here. What is your SOTD? Have you been to Jamaica? What scents evoke the Caribbean or other tropics to you?
I have a few fragrances that I think of as “crowd pleasers.” My “crowd” these days are usually my husband and teenaged son, who are patient testers of wrists extended with the request to sniff and tell me what they think. They prefer what my son calls “laid-back” scents: straightforward, more on the subtle side, nothing too strong (tuberose, I’m looking at you!) or challenging. And I have some very pleasing fragrances that fit the bill: some by Jo Malone, some by Lili Bermuda, some by Penhaligon’s, even one by Montale when applied lightly (Intense Cafe).
The crowd-pleaser I wore today is Berdoues Grand Crus Vanira Moorea. The only notes listed on Fragrantica are: petitgrain, brazilian orange and madagascar vanilla. I’m sure there’s more going on with it, but those are the notes one smells the most. It opens with that citrusy sparkle and moves quickly into vanilla territory. I’ve noticed that many men seem to like the vanilla note in women’s fragrances if it is prominent enough for them to notice. Some commenters find Vanira Moorea sweet, but I don’t — at least not enough to think of it as vanilla gourmand. It always draws nods of approval from my “crowd” when I wear it. It’s a comfortable, comforting scent without being heavy or cloying.
CaFleureBon‘s Gail Gross wrote a lovely review of Vanira Moorea, around the theme of the South Pacific:
This new cologne, created by perfumer Alexandra Monet and introduced in July 2016, is at once vivid, saturated and crisp. With the initial spritz the slightly bitter, leafy petitgrain lifts the vanilla right off the ground. As the cologne drifts and swirls though the air, bright sparks of sweetness are carried on a green, misty essence of twigs and leaves. This unisex, effervescent refreshment lasts for about an hour before the fragrance melts and settles onto the skin with a sensuality reminiscent of oranges and sunshine.
I think it is this sunny, cheerful warmth that makes this fragrance a true crowd-pleaser. Which fragrances of yours would you put in that category?
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.
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!