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.

Scent Sample Sunday: Carla Fracci’s Giselle

Scent Sample Sunday: Carla Fracci’s Giselle

I knew I was fated to own this fragrance one day, once I found out it existed, because I actually saw Carla Fracci dance the role of Giselle live, in a production by American Ballet Theatre. She was unforgettable, her dark Romantic beauty and feminine grace the perfect match for this grand, 19th-century, tragic ballet.

Ballerina Carla Fracci as Giselle; American Ballet Theatre

Carla Fracci as Giselle

If you do not know it, the story is a classic one of seduction and betrayal of an innocent peasant girl, Giselle, by a local noble, Albrecht, who has disguised himself as a hunter. When she finds out his true identity, and that he is betrothed to a noblewoman, Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. She is raised from her grave by the ghosts of other young women betrayed in love, the Wilis of legend, who are fated to avenge themselves by dancing to the death any young man who crosses their path during the times when they haunt the night. They lure Albrecht into their dance when he visits Giselle’s grave, conscience-stricken, but Giselle protects him by dancing with him herself until the dawn, when the Wilis disappear. Her act of love not only saves Albrecht’s life, but frees her from the Wilis’ fate and allows her to rest in eternal peace.

Ballerina Carla Fracci as Giselle with Erick Bruhn as Albrecht; American Ballet Theatre

Giselle and Albrecht

This weekend, I found a bottle of Giselle at a major discount in a local store, so I decided it was time. Giselle the fragrance did not disappoint! It is a very pretty, feminine, high-quality fragrance without being expensive or overbearing. The fragrance Giselle is clearly meant to evoke the sunny, happy days of Giselle’s first love, before she discovers the truth.

The listed notes of the fragrance are, in no particular order: ylang-ylang, vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine, tuberose, musk, freesia, coconut, caramel, honey. It is a sweet white/yellow floral, with a slight gourmand aspect without the cloying sweetness of today’s gourmand scents. Giselle was launched in 2004. (There are two versions: the one I have is the first, in a yellow box, which many reviewers and commenters find superior to the later edition in a pink box).

To me, the strongest notes are the ylang-ylang and vanilla, with the honey underlying them both with a golden sweetness; the white floral notes add depth, especially the freesia, more than the jasmine and tuberose. As it dries down over the course of several hours, the vanilla lingers. It is a light, sweet vanilla, nothing heavy or spicy. Like the character of Giselle, her fragrance namesake is innocent and charming.

Giselle ballet opening

 

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Solstice Scents

Scent Sample Sunday: Solstice Scents

What could be more fitting, two days before Halloween, than to discuss the sample set I recently ordered from Solstice Scents? (Read to the end to find out about their international Halloween giveaway!). Solstice Scents is a family-owned small-batch perfumery based in North Florida. The nose, co-founder and owner is Angela St. John; CaFleureBon did a lovely profile of her two years ago. The line has scents with wonderfully evocative names like Witch’s Cottage, Tenebrous Mist, Night Watcher, Conjure, Scrying Smoke, Runestone, Seance, and Jack and the Devil. Lest you think it’s all witchy, however, there are also cozy-sounding scents like, yes, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Riverside Hayride, Maine Moon, Maplewood Inn, Owl Creek Aleworks, Sycamore Chai, and Cardamom Rose Sugar. Solstice Scents has many gourmand fragrances in addition to the resins, woods, and attars that Angela loves, and even Witch’s Cottage is described thus:

Upon entering the Witch’s Cottage you are greeted with fresh and dried herbs, chamomile flowers, rosemary sprigs, Sweet Annie, Davana and a hint of crisp apples. A warm undercurrent of luscious baked goods, sweet buns and candied pralines emerges and is followed by mild fragrant woods and sweet hearth smoke. Witch’s Cottage fragrance is a true journey with loads of atmosphere.

On initial application the herbs emerge with the sweet baked goods hovering just below. The apple and herbal top notes (namely the chamomile and Sweet Annie) retreat within a few minutes to make way for brown sugar and caramel heavy baked goods. The sweet note is a collection of a variety of different sugary treats but the overall scent is not cloying – rather a vague, well blended impression of baked goods that adds a rich warmth to the blend.

Further journeying into the cottage will take you to the warmest, most fragrant and exotic soft woods touched by a wisp of divine incense and sweet hearth smoke. The long term dry down is that of the woods and sweet smoke and is a very warm, comforting and alluring fragrance. A definite morpher that is also very interesting, unique and complex scent. It wears close to the skin and encourages snuggling into the couch in front of a blazing fire with a great book and a mug of hot cider!

Clearly, this Witch is a white witch. Solstice Scents’ art and graphics are equally evocative, featuring what look like reproductions or re-creations of old woodcuts with subjects like astronomy, alchemy, mythology, etc. Their fragrance labels have the same vibe, and are hand-lettered. Angela’s husband Greg is an accomplished artist and she cites his work as an inspiration.

Labels and artwork from Solstice Scents

Solstice Scents labels

The samples I ordered were: Sea of Gray, Heart of the Night, Night Watcher, Tenebrous Mist, Cardamom Rose Sugar, Riverside Hayride, Winter Dove, and Nightgown. Today I’ll just touch on Riverside Hayride. It has notes of soil tincture, white carnation, woody notes, hay and apple. On first application, what jumps out at me first are the apple and woody notes, and there is also a note like a spice which isn’t listed but is quite strong; it quickly turns into a smoky wood. The Solstice Scents website describes the scent here:

Riverside Hayride opens with a potent blend of moss, wet dirt, stone and fallen leaves. White carnations, bare branches and hay quickly follow. A very subtle trace of pressed apples carried on the breeze from Corvin’s apple orchard arrives after a few minutes of wear. As the blend settles on the skin, the strong earthy outdoors notes are tamed a bit, allowing for the white carnation, wood and hay notes to become more apparent. The apple top note disappears. A thin line of woodsmoke permeates the blend on the dry down.

Solstice Scents' fragrance Riverside Hayride perfume

Solstice Scents’ Riverside Hayride

I don’t really smell soil or fallen leaves, but the moss lurks from the start; I smell it as dry and oaky, not green and damp. The spiciness mellows into carnation and hay, and the apple note does fade away but it periodically peeks through again during the drydown. The smokiness persists, which I enjoy. Note: this is strong stuff! One small smear from a sample vial on my wrist is plenty to experience the whole fragrance, and caution is advisable if wearing outside the house as a personal fragrance! I will definitely enjoy exploring more of this intriguing line of scents and I look forward to seeing what they offer as a Winter Collection!

Solstice Scents is currently taking entries for a Halloween giveaway of more than $200 worth of their fall perfume line, whipped soap, bath salts and select Eau de Parfum sample sprays. Follow the instructions at the link, also on their Facebook page. Happy Halloween!

Solstice Scents perfume oil Riverside Hayride

Riverside Hayride perfume oil from Solstice Scents

Images from www.solsticescents.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

Scent Sample Sunday: Black Flower Mexican Vanilla

In honor of American perfumer Jeffrey Dame’s generous giveaways last weekend and this one, on Facebook Fragrance Friends, today’s Scent Sample Sunday is devoted to one of the samples he sent me in addition to my freebie:  Black Flower Mexican Vanilla.

It is on my wrists as I write this, and wow, is it scrumptious! It’s not really gourmand, though; it has enough citrus, floral and other notes to prevent that. It is one of the “Artist Collection Perfumes”, described as creative collaborations between Jeffrey Dame and his father, artist Dave Dame. The artwork on the bottles’ labels is by Dame Pere. The fragrance is described as “a blend of vanilla absolute with touches of lemon, grapefruit, caramel, nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, musk, and tonka.” It was launched in 2014. You can read more about Dame Perfumery and its three generations of Dames here.

Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is mesmerizing. It reminds me of the late, great Anne Klein II , a discontinued gem that I wore in the 1980s and which now commands outrageous prices online, if and when you can find it. Like AKII, it opens with a healthy dose of citrus, but the vanilla permeates top, heart and base. Like AKII, the floral notes emerge shortly after the opening and blend beautifully with the omnipresent vanilla. BFMV has gotten enthusiastic nods of approval from the two males in my household (husband and teenaged son), also reminiscent of AKII, which is the only fragrance I’ve ever worn that got me compliments from strangers on the New York subway.

I am especially enjoying BFMV because I’ve been looking for a vanilla-based fragrance I would like. My preferences lean heavily to greens, florals and chypres, with a special fondness for muguet and narcissus (yes, I have two bottles of Penhaligon’s Ostara). I haven’t been won over by any truly gourmand scents, and so many vanillas now are gourmand more than Oriental. BFMV is classified as an “Oriental Vanilla” while AKII is listed as an “Oriental Floral”, paying heed to the spice and woody notes each one includes.

Vanilla has a fascinating history, too; its orchid-flowered vines are native to Mexico and Guatemala, where it was first discovered by Europeans. National Geographic explains:

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, a sprawling conglomeration of some 25,000 different species. Vanilla is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean; and the first people to have cultivated it seem to have been the Totonacs of Mexico’s east coast. The Aztecs acquired vanilla when they conquered the Totonacs in the 15th Century; the Spanish, in turn, got it when they conquered the Aztecs.

Vanilla orchid vine and flowers by Dan Sams

Vanilla orchid flowers; image by Dan Sams via Getty Images

The Totonacs are supposed to have used vanilla pods as a sacred herb, using it in rituals, medicines, and perfumes. I find that the photograph on Dame Perfumery’s website, featured at the top of this post, is very evocative of that history and the actual scent, which is darker, spicier, drier and more beguiling than your standard vanilla. Nielsen-Massey, a purveyor of vanilla extract, points out:

Even after its discovery by Europeans, Mexico was still the sole grower of vanilla beans for another 300 years. That’s because of the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla orchid and an indigenous tiny bee called the Melipone. The bee was responsible for the pollination of the vanilla orchid flower, resulting in the production of the fruit… Vanilla from Mexico has a flavor that combines creamy and woody notes with a deep, spicy character, making it a delicious complement to chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and other warm spices. Even more, Mexican vanilla works wonderfully in tomato sauces and salsas, where it smooths out the heat and acidity of these dishes.

BFMV is very true to this heritage, as it tames the acidity of the citrus notes and brings its own creamy, woody, spicy smoothness and warmth to other notes like nutmeg, gardenia, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver.

As it dries down, I am finding that the vanilla intensifies while the floral notes slowly fade. Luckily for me, I love the notes that seem to be taking the stage with the vanilla during the drydown, especially sandalwood.

Black Flower Mexican Vanilla is a new love for me! It will be especially welcome now that autumn is here and the weather is cooling down. Thank you, Jeffrey Dame!

Scent Sample Sunday: Bergamot

Scent Sample Sunday: Bergamot

It is still sunny and hot here, although we are now officially in the autumn season, so a good strong blast of citrus does not seem amiss. And oh, what a blast of citrus I get from Malin + Goetz’ Bergamot!  The top notes are all citruses except for a note of green pepper, which I don’t really smell, although I can sense it hovering around the edges. The citrus notes are: grapefruit, lime, mandarin orange and, of course, bergamot. The latter is by far the strongest opening note. I love it. I am a frequent drinker of Earl Grey tea, famously flavored with bergamot, and this perfume reminds me of it without smelling at all like tea.

Fragrantica lists the heart notes as: spicy mint, lily of the valley, ginger, cardamom and black pepper. I do pick up on the spicy mint and maybe some of the ginger. Not really smelling LOTV, cardamom or black pepper, probably because the bergamot is still going strong. Although cedar is listed as a base notes, I smell hints of it from the very start. Base notes also include amber, woody notes, and musk. The drydown is very pleasant and not too musky. I like wood notes, so I enjoy the longevity of the cedar note throughout.

This is a very refreshing fragrance and is truly unisex; I could absolutely see men using it as an aftershave, but it is not so “masculine” that it wouldn’t suit a woman.

Featured image from fashionforlunch.net

Scent Sample Sunday: Gabrielle

Scent Sample Sunday: Gabrielle

Today I tried my sample of the new fragrance from Chanel, Gabrielle.  It is meant to evoke a youthful Chanel, the woman whose given name was Gabrielle before she became known as Coco Chanel and then, as befits a legend, just Chanel. However, this scent is SO youthful that I can’t imagine the real Coco Chanel ever having been as innocent as this after the age of, say, ten. Fragrantica commenter andrewatic put it perfectly:

This doesn’t automatically mean that the fragrance is bad, by any means. It should just be called something else, such as: “butterfly frolicking on tuberose flower in paradise” for instance, with an under title: “made for sweet, cute 15 yo girls, dressed in pretty immaculate-white, flower-decorated, frilly dresses” and then I would get it!

Actually, though, where my mind immediately went was to the “lovely ladies of Beauxbatons”, the French wizarding girls’ school whose students’ chic blue uniforms and fluttering entrance — accompanied by, yes, butterflies — swept the hearts of Hogwarts’ male students, led by Fleur Delacour and her little sister: Gabrielle.

Beauxbatons students entering Hogwarts in blue uniforms with butterflies

Entrance of Beauxbatons students at Hogwarts; photo Warner Bros.

Fragrantica lists its notes as:

Top notes: mandarin, grapefruit, black currant
Heart: tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom
Base: sandalwood, musk.

For me, the fragrance Gabrielle is too sweet and fruity. Even the floral notes are very sweet across the board: orange blossom most prominent to my nose, followed by tuberose, jasmine and ylang-ylang. Even the grapefruit and blackcurrant notes, which are often tangy enough to counter too much sweetness, smell sugary to me. It’s not offensive, it’s not overpowering, it is just very girlish. And not very Chanel-ish. While some commenters don’t like the bottle, I do. I think the faceted front is a creative play on the classic Chanel bottle shape, and I like the color. It feels good in the hand, too. The fragrance itself is not as memorable, though it isn’t bad. Dior has done better, in my opinion, with its fruity floral Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet.

I do understand, I think, what the Chanel perfumers and executives are trying to do. They must maintain contact and an image with a new generation of young women, who will be future customers and who have been flocking to sweet, fruity floral scents. They must also woo the growing number of fragrance customers in Asia, where I understand the taste tends more toward the light, sweet and inoffensive. And I am not that demographic on any level: not young, not Asian. I think the company’s quest to appeal to a younger customer is much better fulfilled by the new Chanel No. 5 L’Eau.  I thought that was a delightful, youthful take on the classic No. 5, without giving up any of the spirit of Chanel. I could see Fleur Delacour wearing L’Eau very well, with her undoubted chic in addition to her undoubted skill and spirit well-matched to the fizz, lightness and underlying classical structure of L’Eau.

Beauxbatons student and TriWizard champion Fleur Delacour

Fleur Delacour; photo Warner Bros.

The drydown of Gabrielle is quite pleasant, with sandalwood and musk, but again, it doesn’t stand out as special. I can still smell it on my skin five hours after application, so longevity is good for a fragrance like this. I can see many girls loving this, and that is, after all, the whole point. But I would steer my own daughters toward L’Eau.

Gabrielle Delacour, Beauxbatons students and little sister of Fleur Delacour

Gabrielle Delacour; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Scent Sample Sunday: Nirvana Amethyst

Scent Sample Sunday: Nirvana Amethyst

Surprise! Today I thought I was going to write about Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue because I had worn it a bit this week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I realized how much it reminds me of Stella McCartney’s L.I.L.Y.so I decided maybe I should review that next May, with other muguet scents. I moved on mentally to Commodity’s Orris, as I had worn that last Friday when another blog was encouraging its readers to wear scents that included vetiver, and Orris certainly does!

And then. I stopped into Sephora so I could spray Orris liberally from a tester, as my small sample was getting low. While browsing, I saw the two new Nirvana flankers, Nirvana Amethyst and Nirvana French Grey. I tried French Grey first, as its listed notes sounded more my style.  Very nice. Then I sprayed Amethyst on my wrist. Oh, my! I couldn’t stop sniffing it, in spite of the generous amount of Orris I had applied on my other side. So I decided to comment on Amethyst instead.

The listed notes, given in no particular order, are: tobacco, sweet honeysuckle, cedar and spices. The tobacco and honeysuckle appear right away, the honeysuckle sweetening the tobacco (which is already a gentle tobacco, not harsh at all but a little sharp and spicy). The spices are there underneath, and the cedar starts to reveal itself after the first 15-20 minutes or so. Although it isn’t listed as a note, I get a nice spicy vanilla as Amethyst dries down, which definitely gives it a slightly gourmand sensibility. It is lasting very well on my wrist, still going strong after two hours, though the tobacco and wood have faded somewhat, and mostly what I smell now is sweet honeysuckle and vanilla with woody undertones. No smokiness. It is really appealing! I think it would be great in autumn.

Amethyst charms from the start and continues to be charming throughout its progression. For the life of me, I don’t understand how they came up with this name, though; there is nothing remotely purple about this scent. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like it. Have you tried it yet? What did you think? How does it compare to the other Nirvana fragrances, or other woody vanillas you’ve tried?