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: Giulietta

May Muguet Marathon: Giulietta

Giulietta, by Tocca, is described as “a romantic and muse … sweet pink tulips and green apple mingle with a floral delicacy of lily of the valley and amber.” It comes in eau de parfum strength; other notes include Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, pallida iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, heliotrope, cedar, musk, and sandalwood. It is one of the “Tocca Girls” fragrances, each of which is meant to have a distinct personality; Giulietta’s is described as refreshing, feminine, delicate. The fragrance’s name is also meant to refer to actress Giulietta Masina, wife and longtime artistic collaborator of film director Federico Fellini.

It opens with a pop of the green apple, fruity but a bit tart. It then becomes more floral, and I smell heliotrope more than any of the other listed floral notes. It is quite sweet at this stage, with a vanilla note that becomes more evident as the floral notes fade. The white musk base note emerges less than an hour into the drydown, and I think it is this note that prompted some Fragrantica readers to note that Giulietta reminds them of Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. It’s pretty, but to my nose not very distinctive.

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies had a more positive reaction than I did, in a review at Olfactoria’s Travels, calling it a “perfect summer fragrance.” It’s nice, but there are many better, even less expensive, options. For example, for the $76 list price for 50 ml of Giulietta, one can get 100 ml of Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil from online discounters, a much more interesting and distinctive summer fragrance, to my nose. I agree with Portia that after the opening, there is a pleasant, blended floral bouquet in which it is hard to pick out individual notes; also like Portia, I do smell heliotrope early on and throughout the drydown, which quickly becomes a soft vanilla musk. Like Jessica’s review at Now Smell This, my overall impression is that Giulietta is a nice summer vanilla. It does last reasonably well, and it would be a perfectly appropriate and safe office fragrance, or gift.

Although Tocca chooses to highlight lily of the valley in its copy, I don’t smell it at all in Giulietta. As in — not AT ALL. Nor do I smell the lilac that readers of Fragrantica rate among its most noticeable notes. Giulietta also comes in a hair fragrance format, like some other Tocca scents (two of which I’ve reviewed, Colette and Liliana). I think the photograph on the Tocca website is more accurate than the copy:

Bottle of Giulietta eau de parfum from Tocca with pink tulips and green apples

Giulietta eau de parfum; image from http://www.tocca.com

Bright, fruity, sweet floral with a clean white laundry background — to me, that’s Giulietta. Very pleasant, and indeed a nice, light, floral vanilla for summer — but not a muguet in sight.

Are there any other Tocca fragrances you particularly like? I did like the two hair mists I’ve previously reviewed, although I think those two have been discontinued (several others are available).

Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Occasionally I find a fragrance gem online, for sale by a resale shop that has discovered the internet. This spring, my find was the first fragrance from designer James Galanos, an eau de toilette named, simply, Galanos. James Galanos was highly selective in all his choices, from the very wealthy women who were his preferred and devoted clientele (most famously, Nancy Reagan), to his refusal to license his name for almost anything: the two exceptions were furs, and fragrance.

There are only two Galanos fragrances: the first, eponymous one, and a flanker called Galanos De Serene. Both can be found in eau de toilette and parfum though both have been discontinued. I found an unboxed bottle of the first eau de toilette, for sale online, and I knew I would probably like it as I already had a small bottle of the parfum. The fragrance was created in 1979 and won a FiFi award in 1980, the one for “Women’s Fragrance of the Year — Prestige”. I have been unable to find out who the perfumer was; please comment below if you know! Angela at “Now Smell This” wrote a terrific review of Galanos, aptly comparing its appeal to that of classic vintage clothing.

There was only one catch to my purchase: when it arrived, the top of the sprayer turned out to be a replacement that didn’t work. I contacted the seller (from whom I had successfully bought a vintage fragrance once before), who immediately offered to send a replacement top or a partial refund. Since I was pretty sure I would be able to use a Travalo to get the fragrance out, the price had been very reasonable, and it really wasn’t worth the seller’s time to send a new top that might not work either, I took the partial refund and bought my first Travalo. Happily, it worked!

Basenotes analyzes Galanos as follows: top notes: lemon, orange, mandarin, chamomile, coriander, clove, and bay leaf; heart notes: lily of the valley, orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia, ylang ylang, rose, geranium, carnation; base notes: cypress, musk, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver, cedarwood, oakmoss, sandalwood, and patchouli. It smells to me like a cross between a floral chypre and a green chypre, with the herbal top notes in smooth balance with the floral heart notes, and its woody, mossy, aromatic base. It reminds me a bit of Estee Lauder’s Azuree, but with a more floral, 1980s vibe. The notes that “speak” to me most strongly are the carnation and geranium notes, followed closely by ylang ylang and gardenia, but the herbal notes are evident from start to finish.

James Galanos was famous for the craft of his designer clothing, often compared favorably to Parisian “haute couture” although his creations were ready-to-wear (but still VERY expensive). Galanos’ designs reached their height of fame in the decade of excess, the 1980s, and he used only the most expensive materials and finest workmanship, but you rarely see huge puffy sleeves or gigantic flounces on his dresses.

Gowns by designer James Galanos at Phoenix Art Museum retrospective exhibit

James Galanos gowns; image from Phoenix Art Museum.

You see elegant, feminine lines, often enhanced by exquisite embroidery. Nancy Reagan once commented about his dresses that “you can wear one inside out, they are so beautifully made.” His fragrance is consistent with that elegant, luxurious simplicity: understated, classic, of its era but also timeless. It feels like an elegant accessory, meant to complement the wearer and the outfit instead of outshining or competing with them.

Designer James Galanos in clothing atelier

James Galanos; photo by Getty Images

Although James Galanos retired in 1998 and died in 2016, you will still see his creations on the red carpet, since many stylish women wear vintage Galanos gowns to occasions like the Academy Awards and the Met Costume Institute Gala, where they are as elegant and timeless as ever. I wonder if any of the wearers know that they could also wear the perfect fragrance accessory with those beautiful gowns?

Do you have any fragrances that you think of as couture accessories? Favorites?

Just had to add this photo, taken in the early 2000s in San Francisco, when Mr. Galanos was delighted to discover a perfume boutique that still carried his fragrance:

Fashion designer James Galanos in Jacqueline perfume boutique, San Francisco

James Galanos with his fragrance; image from San Francisco Chronicle

Featured image: James Galanos vintage gown (1950s), www.etsy.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

As some may recall, I went to Ireland in August with part of my family, on our first extended trip there (we had previously visited Northern Ireland and Dublin, briefly). We just loved it and can’t wait to go back! One of the things we discovered while there was Irish artisanal GIN. We aren’t much for cocktails in our house; we don’t go out very often, and our usual tipples are wine and an occasional beer. Part of this trip included a few days of a work retreat for my husband, and his colleague who organizes these had a different “tasting” dinner of one kind or another every night. One night, the tasting included small-batch gin, made into different summery cocktails. These included Shortcross gin, and Jawbox gin, both made in Northern Ireland. They were combined with different Fever-Tree tonics, and different garnishes, which brought out their different herbal notes. After we left Northern Ireland and during our stay at Powerscourt in County Wicklow, we sampled cocktails made with Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, and the Scottish gin Hendrick’s, which we had previously discovered. (And which we used to invent our own gin cocktail two summers ago, combined with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade). Ireland is producing dozens of terrific small-batch gins, which you can read about here and in other publications.

Why am I carrying on about gin in a perfume blog, you may ask? It’s all Sam’s fault. The author of the I Scent You A Day blog wrote a wonderful post this past week about the limited edition 4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm, which was created for a Hendrick’s event, and can now be bought from the 4160 Tuesdays website.

4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm

4160 Tuesdays Scenthusiam; image from http://www.iscentyouaday.com.

It sounds marvelous, with many of the floral and herbal notes I adore. Here is Sarah McCartney’s description:

It’s ever so slightly gorgeous. It isn’t the same as our first ever gin fragrance but this one is made with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil.

To make it last, boost the scents of the naturals and too smooth them out, we blended it with our special musk, fresh air and white woods accord.

It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.

Want!! But the price is a bit steep, even before UK shipping costs, and I haven’t found it being sold in the US by the brand’s regular stockists, so I’ve had to cast about for other options. Enter Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, which I have in a mini size from a gift set.

Penhaligon's gift coffret of five mini fragrances.

Penhaligon’s gift coffret; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

Named after an old mixed drink called a “gin sling”, this fragrance’s strongest note is juniper berries, which give the beverage gin its distinctive odor and taste. Created in 2011, it is a woody aromatic fragrance, unisex, created by Olivier Cresp. Top notes are angelica, cinnamon, orange brandy, and juniper berries; middle notes are cardamom, orris root, leather and pepper; base notes are vetiver, cherry, sugar and amber. Penhaligon’s has even kindly shared its own recipe for an actual “Juniper Sling” cocktail, made with Hendrick’s gin! When the scent was launched, they also released an entertaining fictional short film about its supposed origins, linked to on Now Smell This.

The opening smells a lot like one of the gin cocktails we recently sampled, with a burst of juniper berries, the most characteristic odor of real gin. The opening is herbal and slightly spicy too — definitely aromatic, but not green. In the middle, I can clearly smell the cardamom, which I appreciate; cardamom is one of my favorite smells, but often I find that even fragrances that list it as a note don’t really smell like cardamom. It doesn’t last very long in the progression of Juniper Sling, but it is definitely there. The orris root and leather are less discernible but there is a smoothness and woodiness in the middle stage that I think they add. I can’t say that I detect the separate notes listed among the base notes, but I also haven’t applied a decent-sized spray to my skin, as the mini splash bottle is so small.

All in all, while I still yearn to try Scenthusiasm, I was happy to scratch that itch with a gin-evoking fragrance I already own. Have you tried Juniper Sling, or Scenthusiasm, or any other gin-related fragrances? What did you think? Do you have any favorites?

Bottle of Penhaligon's Juniper Sling eau de toilette

Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling Eau de Toilette; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet en Fleurs

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet en Fleurs

Another affordable muguet fragrance comes from Yves Rocher: Muguet en Fleurs. It is exactly what it appears to be: a muguet soliflore, priced for the mass market but with Yves Rocher’s customary good value. In other words, this is a pretty fragrance (and the nose behind it is Sonia Constant), and it smells nice while it lasts, but it doesn’t last long at all on most people.

There is no progression to describe, because the scent comes and goes so quickly; the only notes listed on Fragrantica are lily of the valley and green notes, and that is pretty much what you get, although when it launched, Now Smell This also listed bergamot, citron and pink pepper. Some Fragrantica commenters have noted that this would be a pretty scent for linens, etc., and it would. It also comes in the form of shower gel and body milk, which might extend the longevity of the eau de toilette. In its bottle, the eau de toilette is pale green, just as in the photograph above. It is part of a series, like Guerlain’s original Aqua Allegoria series, meant to evoke a morning in a garden.

It is light, fresh, and dewy, and it is muguet, but that’s about all there is to it. However, if all one wants is a little burst of lily of the valley, easy to reapply all day, this is a nice option. It would be hard to over apply Muguet en Fleurs, as it is so light and fleeting, but when you first spray it on, it is bright, cheerful and reminiscent of spring. Some days, that is all one needs or wants. But I’m definitely going to try it on my pillow!

Pillowcases with lily of the valley design by Lilly Pulitzer

Lily of the valley bed linens; Lilly Pulitzer

How Performers Use Perfume

How Performers Use Perfume

The Guardian has published an incredible article about how various actors and other performers use fragrance and perfume to get into their roles (hat tip to Now Smell This): The Spray’s The Thing: How Actors Use Perfume To Get Into Character. It was fascinating. I can’t help but wonder what Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole might have chosen to wear as they played cosmetics pioneers and queens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden in the recent musical “War Paint”! In the Guardian article, I was particularly taken with the approach by one ballerina:

The ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson works with a perfumer, sometimes over months, to devise the perfect scent for her roles with the Royal Ballet. “I learn a lot when I work with her,” she once told me. “I talk it all through, from the beginning to the end of the ballet, while she asks many questions. There was a moment in act two of Giselle” – where the heroine appears as a spirit – “which she captured unbelievably. I’d said I wanted to feel like there was a veil or gauze over me, and she did it in scent.”

I had just written recently here about ballerina Carla Fracci’s fragrance Giselle, which I find captures the heroine in the happy first act of that ballet; how wonderful to know that a ballerina of today had a perfume created to capture the sense of the ghostly second act!

The same article reveals that a new book has been published which clearly I must get, if only for its title: “Scents and Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture”, by Catherine Maxwell; it includes descriptions of scents at the 19th century theater:

Catherine Maxwell quotes Oscar Wilde’s plan for mood-enhancing fragrance in Salome. He wanted “in place of an orchestra, braziers of perfume. Think – the scented clouds rising and partly veiling the stage from time to time – a new perfume for each emotion.” It never happened: how could you air the theatre between emotions?

However, Wilde’s fans ensured an aromatic premiere for The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895. Ada Leverson reported that “nearly all the pretty women wore sprays of lilies against their large puffed sleeves, while rows and rows of young elegants had buttonholes of the delicate bloom of lily of the valley.”

I love the idea of scented theater productions, something perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays has done in collaboration with directors:

She has scented productions, including Handel’s Acis and Galatea. The opening fragrance summoned cut grass and cucumber, “fresh, green and outdoors”. During the interval, as the plot darkened, she sprayed a muddy, leathery, mossy brew called Foreboding from bottles in the balcony.

I recently attended a production of “Twelfth Night” in a tavern-style theater that presents plays on a stage that resembles the Globe Theater, but smaller, and that encourages the audience to buy dinner and drinks to consume during the show, from a kitchen behind the seating area. Choices include Shepherd’s Pie, Cornish pasties, Guinness, Samuel Smith ales, etc. It’s a different means of “scenting” a production but remarkably fun when paired with a Shakespearean comedy. Not sure I’d enjoy it so much during “Romeo and Juliet”, though …

A Fall Giveaway from Now Smell This!

What is it: Juice Box, a Fall 2017 sample pack from Twisted Lily in collaboration with The Dry Down and Racked. Rachel Syme and Helena Fitzgerald, creators of the new perfume newsletter The Dry Down and hosts of the perfume salon Dry Down Live have combined their powers with the fashion and shopping site Racked…

via Up for grabs: Fall 2017 Juice Box — Now Smell This