Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

I find that the fragrances I choose to wear are highly influenced by the season and the weather. This year, in my part of the US, September and even the start of October felt more like late August. Temperatures were still in the 90s almost daily, and the humidity was high in spite of near-drought conditions and lack of rain. Finally, in the past week, fall arrived. Leaves are changing color and night temperatures are in the 40s. We even turned on the heat this week, though we don’t need it during the day, when the sun still warms the air into the balmy 70s. We haven’t had the weather we usually enjoy here in October, which resembles the “Indian summer” one sees in September in the Northeast, but it is pleasant. And we finally got lots of rain, which the trees desperately needed.

What fragrances work with this oddball weather and transitional season? One could do worse than Sarah Jessica Parker’s Covet, an oddball fragrance that combines apparently disparate notes like lemon, lavender, and chocolate. Wearable by both women and men, it combines a summery freshness with aromatic lavender, over a hum of dark cocoa.

On first application, Covet displays its lemon opening notes very clearly. Some commenters dislike the opening, comparing it to lemon floor cleaner and other functional sprays. I do see what they mean, though it doesn’t hit my nose as sharply as it seems to hit theirs. Luckily, the cocoa quickly starts making itself felt, and lavender arrives shortly after that. The lemon is persistent, but it does fade into the background after about 45 minutes or so on my skin. In the middle phase, to my nose the most prominent note is lavender. I can’t say that I sense any of the listed floral notes (honeysuckle, magnolia, and lily of the valley), which would have matched it more closely to my perceptions of spring. The cocoa is still faintly present and warms up the lavender. In the dry down, moving into base notes, Covet becomes more herbal and its warmth is woody rather than chocolatey, with an undertone of musk. Longevity is good but not extraordinary.

Covet was launched in 2007, after the huge success of Lovely, the first SJP fragrance. It has been discontinued as far as I can tell, though it is still widely available at bargain prices online. In line with its odd composition, the ad campaign for it is truly weird, portraying Sarah Jessica Parker in a ball gown, kicking in a plate glass window at night to get to a bottle of the fragrance and being taken away in handcuffs by Parisian gendarmes. “I had to have it”, she declares to the camera, with a somewhat demented expression on her face.

I find Covet to be a unisex fragrance, leaning neither traditionally feminine or masculine. Do I “have to have it”? No, but I’m glad to have a small bottle, because the fragrance is interesting. It’s a transition between the mainstream prettiness of Lovely (which is indeed lovely, though not groundbreaking) and the much more daring SJP Stash. Covet is much more quirky than Lovely, but Stash is in a category of its own among celebrity scents. As many commenters have noted, if Stash came with a niche label and price tag, it would hold its own among today’s niche fragrances.

Covet turns out to be a good fit with the transitional season and weather we’re having now. Soon enough, I will want more traditional fall fragrance notes, like amber, vanilla, spices. What are your favorite fall fragrances and notes? Have you tried Covet?

Scent Sample Sunday: Iris Dragees

Scent Sample Sunday: Iris Dragees

Lancome has launched another in its “Maison Lancome Haute Parfumerie” line, and it’s a winner! I am coming to love this higher-end Lancome line, as it is launching some truly gorgeous florals, my first loves in fragrance. Iris Dragees , launched in 2018, is by perfumer Nathalie Lorson. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “top notes are bergamot and pink pepper; middle notes are freesia, orange blossom, almond, sugar and iris flower; base notes are iso e super, orris, vanilla and white musk.” The box and the Lancome website list only three notes: iris distillate, iris resinoid, and sugared almonds. The latter are the “dragees”, which are literally almonds coated in a hard sugar shell, usually in soft pastel colors.

Iris Dragees is very true to its name. Contrary to Fragrantica’s list, I smell iris right away, although there is a brief, fresh pop when first sprayed that could be a hint of bergamot. The iris jumps forward almost immediately, and it is a sweet iris, but not too sweet. (I’m not much into gourmand scents, though I do like some gourmand notes, like vanilla and coffee). Although iris is often perceived as “powdery” because of the note’s long use in, and association with, luxury powders, this iris feels less powdery to me although still floral, and  I think that’s because of the almond note. To my nose, almond lends a creaminess that is very appealing. Here, it is a light creaminess, so maybe more like almond milk — subtle, and enhancing the iris rather than announcing itself.

The “dragee” aspect of Iris Dragees also shows up quickly, with a light vanilla undertone  that also subtly supports the iris heart note. As the scent dries down, the iris becomes more and more pronounced, but it never loses the underlying sweetness from the “sugared almonds.” Iris Dragees lives in the same realm as its sibling from the same Maison Lancome line, Jasmins Marzipane, which Tania Sanchez gave five stars in the new “Perfumes: The Guide 2018.” It is a land of elegant sugared flowers, so artfully composed that to the human eye, it would be hard to tell whether the delicately tinted decorations on a gorgeous cake were real flowers or their idealized facsimiles.

Sugared iris flowers on wedding cake by Amanda Earl

“Iris” cake by Amanda Earl; image from http://www.amandaearlcakes.com.

A little goes a long way with Iris Dragees; a small spray on each of my wrists is ample for me to enjoy it, and its longevity is good. The base has a lightly woody vibe, which is probably from the Iso E Super listed among the base notes by Fragrantica. It is a soft landing from the soft heart notes.

Another aspect of this fragrance and its siblings which I appreciate is that they can be bought in a 14 ml size, just right to bring the price down to “impulse purchase” range (suggested retail $35.00), but enough to enjoy more than once or twice. These travel-size bottles are as pretty as the big ones, with their artwork based on cut paper.

Iris Dragee bottle

Iris Dragees by Maison Lancome; image from http://www.lancome.co.uk.

If you like iris fragrances, I suspect you will like this one a lot! I’m a relatively new convert to iris as a fragrance note; not that I ever disliked it, I’ve just always gravitated to greener florals and notes like muguet, rose, and lily. But I have discovered in the last couple of years that I really do like many iris-centered fragrances, such as Miller Harris’ Terre d’Iris and Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Nirmal.

Have you tried Iris Dragees or any others from Maison Lancome? What did you think? Can you recommend any other iris fragrances?

Edible iris flower cake toppers from Sugar Butterflies on Etsy.

Edible flowers from Sugar Butterflies

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

I have a soft spot for the Commodity line of fragrances, as Commodity Moss was one of the first niche-type fragrances I tried when I started getting serious about fragrance (I say niche-type, because once you can buy a fragrance in Sephora, I’m not sure it’s a true niche fragrance any more!). I really like Moss, but my oh my Velvet!

Commodity Velvet is a new 2018 release, and the perfumer is Jerome Epinette. Its top notes are listed on the Commodity website as roasted almond, clove buds, and coconut water. Heart notes are: heliotropine, vanilla flower, velvet rose petals. Base notes are blonde woods, white birch, black amber. Commodity has a short film in which M. Epinette describes his intentions in creating Velvet:

Velvet is a unique rose fragrance, with its notes of roasted almond, white birch, and black amber. There are many fragrances that combine rose and vanilla, but Velvet’s lightly smoky, nutty opening is unusual and very pleasing. The only other fragrance I’ve been able to find that combines roasted or toasted almonds with rose, vanilla, and birch is Soivohle’s Vanillaville, in which it seems that the rose is much more of a bit player, and tobacco and leather notes dominate. (P.S. Vanillaville sounds great! I haven’t tried it but it’s now on my radar).

M. Epinette focused on evoking the soft texture of velvet fabric or the velvety feel of real rose petals, and he has succeeded. He says of his concept: “I was inspired by the image of vibrant pink Turkish Rose Petals floating gently over a mysterious, dark background of richly warm vanilla and black amber with a delicious touch of roasted almond drifting in the air.” The almond is present right from the start. I don’t smell any coconut in the opening, but it may be there as a support to the roasted almond, which I do smell.

I don’t experience the base or drydown of Velvet as “dark”, if by dark one means edgy. The dark of Velvet is warm and soft, shot through with subtle shades of color, as fine silk velvet often is. M. Epinette describes vibrant pink rose petals against a dark background, but I perceive Velvet as being more like one of the dark, velvety roses that have shades of pink on their petals.

Dark red velvety rose against black

Dark red rose; image from Flowers Healthy.

Dark red and pink Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Velvet is a beautiful rose for cooler weather, when many roses, like those in my garden, put forth a new flush of blooms. It reminds me a bit of Montale’s Intense Cafe, though without that fragrance’s powerhouse sillage and longevity. Its longevity is reasonable; I can still smell it on my wrists seven hours after first application, although it has become faint. Its roasted almond top note is different and very appealing. Velvet is warm, soft, slightly spicy, and utterly charming.

Featured image above from OliverTwistsFibers on http://www.etsy.com.

Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

I developed a strange liking for the original SJP Stash when it came out — strange, because it really is not my usual vibe. I didn’t like it much when I first tried it in store, but I sprayed some on a paper slip and took that home. Lo and behold, every time I found myself sniffing the air, thinking “what is that alluring scent?”, it was the slip with Stash on it. And this went on for a week! At the end of that week, I caved and went and bought one of the gift sets on sale at Ulta.

Now there is SJP Stash Unspoken, a flanker. And I really like that too, though they are different in many ways. Stash Unspoken has these notes, according to Fragrantica:

Top: Pink pepper, Quince
Heart: Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Peony
Base: Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Frankincense

In contrast, Stash is described as having “notes of fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.” Only one floral in the whole pyramid: ginger lily.

Grid collage of fragrance notes of Sarah Jessica Parker's fragrance SJP Stash.

Fragrance notes of SJP Stash; image from http://www.sjpbeauty.com.

Stash Unspoken, whose heart notes are entirely floral, occupies the ground between woody, aromatic Stash and Sarah Jessica Parker’s first commercial fragrance, Lovely, which is a softer, lightly fruity floral with some spice and woody notes. To my nose, Stash Unspoken is warmer than Lovely. Its opening is fine, didn’t really excite me but didn’t bore or repel me either. Pretty quickly, the floral heart notes emerged. Among them, peony seems the strongest to me. All are light and evoke late spring/early summer; they are very pretty. Then the base notes start to take over, and that’s when I think Stash Unspoken really comes into its own. As the SJP website says: “Stash Unspoken layers brighter, softer notes of floral woods with the sensuous base notes of original Stash.” Although the two scents do not have the same listed base notes, the drydown of Stash Unspoken definitely shows its Stash DNA. There is a woody warmth, lingering on the skin, that suggests intimacy without being as “sexy” as Stash. You could absolutely think of Stash Unspoken as your daytime scent and original Stash as your nighttime scent. One would segue into the other very nicely!

Many reviewers and commenters felt that the original Stash smelled like a quality niche fragrance; it was different from the mainstream, it is quirky, it holds your interest. Stash Unspoken maintains that niche feel, while being a little more approachable than the original. Similarly, I love the bottle of Stash Unspoken. It is the twin of the original, but in a delightful shade of rose gold. Very feminine, but modern; it feels a little more mature than Lovely without being staid at all, and softer than Stash without losing the quirkiness.

Have you tried the original or the flanker? What did you think?

Scent Sample Sunday: Amouage Gold

Scent Sample Sunday: Amouage Gold

This weekend, my husband and I had a somewhat rare, formal “date night”. Our son was going to be out all evening at a fundraiser and I bought us tickets to see the ballet “Don Quixote”, which is one of the few classic, full-length story ballets I had never seen. So of course, this was an excuse to dress up more than usual — and to wear Amouage Gold for Woman.

What a gorgeous scent it is! Like the ballet, it is a full-blown classical creation and pulls off dazzling twists, turns, changes, and lifts with seemingly effortless grace. Luca Turin put it better than anyone in his five-star review in “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide”:

The whole thing is put together in a happy, slightly naive, manifestly handcrafted style, which reminds me of the few really valuable things Russia used to produce, like Red October chocolates, confirming my long-held opinion that Moscow is a big Damascus with snow… The fragrance? [Perfumer] Guy Robert describes it in the press pack as the crowning glory of his career, and I agree. Robert is perhaps the most symphonic of the old-school French perfumes still working today, and Gold is his Bruckner’s Ninth. This perfume is about texture rather than structure, a hundred flying carpets of scent overlapping each other. It’s as if Joy had eloped with Scheherezade for a thousand and one nights of illicit fun.

Fragrantica has this to say: “This is an intensive floral for evening wearing and special occasions.” The top notes are rose, lily of the valley, and frankincense. Middle notes are myrrh, orris, and jasmine; the base notes include ambergris, civet, musk, cedarwood, and sandalwood.

It was a great match for “Don Quixote”, which is also a huge, symphonic fairy tale with its roots in the 19th century. Unlike many other such major story ballets, however, “Don Quixote” is happy throughout and has a happy ending. And if you want naivete, you have it in the character of Don Quixote himself, the idealist who dreams of knights and fair maidens, and who has visions of the beautiful Dulcinea. In the ballet, his harmless delusions lead him to rescue a village girl, Kitri, from an arranged marriage with a wealthy fop, and make her father allow her to marry her true love, Basilio. The ballet is based on the original choreography by Marius Petipa, via the Kirov Ballet by way of Rudolf Nureyev and thus to American ballet companies. It has many set pieces and Spanish folk variations, with dozens of dancers flying across the stage in colorful costumes, doing spectacular lifts and showstoppers like Kitri’s 32 fouettes. (The audience last night gasped, cheered, and clapped its hands to the point of soreness. The ballerina received a well-deserved standing ovation and several curtain calls at the end of the ballet).

On my skin, Amouage Gold is a sophisticated blend of all those notes and probably more that aren’t listed. It is so well-blended that one doesn’t really pick out individual notes; as the perfume progresses, my experience is that I suddenly notice it has changed although it is still recognizably Gold. It is a tour-de-force of modern perfumery that harks back to classical French perfumery. Turin’s phrase “a hundred flying carpets of scent overlapping each other” is apt. Amouage is famously a perfume house that was meant to bridge the worlds of Middle Eastern and European perfume. Just so, Spain — the setting of Don Quixote — has been for centuries a bridge between the Middle East and Europe, with many Moorish influences on its art and culture. Gold and “Don Quixote” are both felicitous incarnations of that spirit of Spain at its best: gorgeous, charming, symphonic, airborne, magnificent.

Ballerina Natalia Osopova as Kitri in ballet Don Quixote

Natalia Osipova as Kitri; photo from http://www.nytimes.com

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Brainiac

Scent Sample Sunday: Brainiac

I always appreciate a quality fragrance that is also affordable, and I appreciate other writers alerting me to those, so here’s my contribution to the “bang for the buck” list of fragrances. The mid-price chain Target has launched a store exclusive line of fragrances called “Good Chemistry” in January; the line is a division of the company Illume. They must be selling well, as the shelves were almost empty when I wandered over to my local Target to check them out. According to the promotional copy:

… the niche fragrance brand includes four collections inspired by different personalities: Confident and Charming, Good and Grounded, Vibrant and Playful and Cool and Collected. Each collection then includes four unique scents that come in perfume, body sprays and rollerballs.

I tried a few from the testers in the store and came home with two rollerballs: Brainiac and Apricot Bloom. (Full disclosure: I may return the unopened rollerball of Apricot Bloom, because the drydown became unappealing after an initially pleasant skin test from the store tester). Brainiac has claimed a place on my shelf, and I’m glad I bought it. I’m also glad it and the other scents come in rollerballs, as I really won’t need more than the 7.5 ml those contain.

Hands holding rollerballs of Target Good Chemistry fragrance collection

Rollerballs from Good Chemistry collection; image from www.good-chemistry.com.

Brainiac is part of the “Vibrant and Playful” collection. It is further described as “clean and practical with a bit of wit.” It is definitely unisex. Its label lists its primary notes as citrus, peppercorn and vanilla. Interestingly, all the Good Chemistry scents are described as “vegan and cruelty-free with essential oils.” No parabens or propylene glycol. The interesting part is that in tiny print, the label says it contains essential oils of armoise, cardamom, and clary sage. Yes! That’s why I immediately liked Brainiac — I love the smell of cardamom. I like clary sage too, but what is “armoise”?

Turns out that “armoise” is based on the Old French word for artemisia, part of a large group of aromatic plants also known in English as mugworts. Eden Botanicals says:

Organic Armoise (Mugwort)

Artemisia herba-alba is a specific Artemisia species indigenous to Morocco which provides the essential oil known as Armoise (Mugwort). Ours has a very fresh, cool, soft green, sweet-camphoraceous aroma that is highly diffusive in much the same way as Peppermint, however while the aroma has a very penetrating initial effect, this subsides after a few minutes of exposure to air. In natural perfumery, Armoise can be used in trace amounts to provide “lift” to top note accords; to add a fresh, green, naturalness; and to accentuate other green notes such as GalbanumSageRosemary, etc.

Yep. That’s exactly what my nose smelled right away when I tested Brainiac: cardamom, and a green “lift” that accentuates the herbal aromatic impression continued by the clary sage. There is a slightly citrusy aspect to the opening, but not much and not for long. If I had to guess, I would say it is bergamot,, as it reminded me of Earl Grey tea and it wasn’t sweet like some other citrus notes. I tend to like green fragrances, both green florals and green aromatics like Aromatics Elixir and Azuree. I don’t smell peppercorn; I wonder if that was listed in the place of cardamom, as some shoppers may be less familiar with the latter. I can’t say I smell much vanilla, although the fragrance does get a little less green and a bit sweeter over time.

All in all, this is a very pleasing fragrance and a good buy at $12.99 for a rollerball, $24.99 for a 50 ml bottle.

Rollerball of Brainiac fragrance from Target's Good Chemistry collection by Illume

Brainiac rollerball from Target

 

Featured image from CalPhotos; ©2010 Zoya Akulova.

Scent Sample Sunday: Noel Au Balcon

Scent Sample Sunday: Noel Au Balcon

In an earlier post focused on Bond No. 9’s I Love New York for Holidays, I mentioned that I had also been getting a lot of holiday use from Etat Libre d’Orange’s Noel Au Balcon. As January is now almost over, together with the winter holidays, I’d better post about it!

Now Smell This says that the name refers to an old French saying: “The proverb ‘Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison’ means that a warm Christmas — warm enough to spend on the balcony — will be followed by an unseasonably cool Easter (requiring ‘firebrands’).” (I actually think the phrase “tisons” here is more likely to refer to the embers of a fire that require poking to stay warm, as in “tisonner le feu”).  That review also notes that “the expression ‘avoir du monde au balcon,’ or ‘the balcony is crowded,’ is a reference to a shapely bosom.” So basically this fragrance’s name, true to ELDO traditions, is a play on words meaning something like Christmas among the warm, if not smoldering, bosoms. I love it!

And I really like the fragrance a lot. It opens with notes of apricot, honey, and orange. To my nose, the apricot is very noticeable, sweetened by the honey but not too much. The middle notes are supposed to be chili pepper, cinnamon, and orange blossom, and it does get spicier than the opening, but to me the spice is not very strong and it complements the apricot and honey instead of superseding them. Base notes seem to be patchouli, musk, cistus, vanilla, and another aromatic spice which I’ve seen listed either as cinnamon or caraway.

Reviewer Tammy Schuster wrote a hilarious review on CaFleureBon, complete with references to her “redneck Christmases” in the mountains of North Georgia. As she notes, Noel au Balcon is a fun date that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is just here to make sure everyone, including her, has a good time. Speaking of time, this scent lasts a good long time, too, without being overwhelming.  On me, the apricot, honey, and vanilla are the strongest and most lasting notes, with warm musk, patchouli, and spices chiming in but not dominating. In short, for a winter holiday fragrance, Noel au Balcon has plenty of “sugar and spice, and everything nice”, and a warm, come-hither smile full of good cheer.

Featured image by Earl Moran.