Scent Sample Sunday: Adam Levine For Her

Scent Sample Sunday: Adam Levine For Her

If you are like me, you MAY have vaguely heard the name Adam Levine. You may even know that he is the lead singer for a pop rock band. You would probably recognize many of his songs with that band, Maroon 5. Maybe you’ve seen him as a coach on The Voice (I haven’t). What I’m trying to say is that I’m not his “target audience” , even though I’ve enjoyed his songs on the radio. I wouldn’t normally seek out his particular celebrity scent, or any particular celebrity scent. And yet I find myself recommending this one more than I would ever have expected, especially in colder weather, so I might as well explain why!

I have found that there are some perfume “noses” whose work often meshes with my own nose; some are mainstream perfumers working with big fragrance houses and companies, and some are truly indie perfumers, creating for their own niche brands. One of the more mainstream perfumers whose work I enjoy more often than not is Yann Vasnier. He has created several for Arquiste, including my initial discovery of his work, the two Arquiste fragrances for J. Crew, No. 31 and No. 57. I loved the “Bloomsbury Collection” he did in 2017 for Jo Malone, especially Blue Hyacinth.  The Arquiste for J. Crew fragrances were discontinued some time ago, so I was browsing around for a similar scent, and looking up other fragrances by M. Vasnier, and I came across Adam Levine For Her, which was launched in 2013. It is truly a bargain — 3.4 fl. oz. of eau de parfum for under $15, sometimes even under $12.

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “top notes are saffron, citruses, marigold and spices; middle notes are Indian jasmine, Australian sandalwood and rose petals; base notes are benzoin and vanilla.” The opening is pleasantly bright and spicy, and I definitely smell the marigold, too, which is a less common note in fragrance but one I like very much (I love the smell of real marigolds, but some people don’t like it at all). The middle phase of Adam Levine For Her is what I would call a “warm floral” — the jasmine and rose are softened and blurred by the sandalwood, while the spice notes of the opening persist for a while after the opening citruses have faded. This is the most floral stage of the fragrance, so I think it would work very well on many men, even those who don’t fully embrace floral notes.

The drydown becomes sweeter and warmer as the benzoin and vanilla take the stage, but not excessively so. A really clever aspect of this fragrance is that it evokes Adam Levine’s own voice, which ranges from a bright, pop-inflected tenor to a warmer, deeper range. M. Vasnier again shows an alert mind at work even behind this discount fragrance. On my skin, Adam Levine For Her lasts a long time; I like to wear it to bed because of its calm warmth and I can still smell it when I wake up. It also lasts forever on textile, and I’m seriously considering spraying it on one of my wool scarves this winter just to enjoy it wafting up to me when I’m outside. I don’t think I’ll want to wear it in the spring or summer, but it’s great for autumn.

Interestingly, when you read about it on Fragrantica, thirty (30) readers have noted that Adam Levine For Her reminds them of — wait for it — the much more expensive Santal Blush by Tom Ford in his Private Blend line, also created by Yann Vasnier. I haven’t tried Santal Blush, so I can’t speak to any resemblance, but I can say that the Whisky & Cedarwood he created for Jo Malone does remind me a lot of Arquiste for J. Crew No. 57, so it appears that he thinks about and reworks certain themes in the fragrances he creates, which makes sense. Santal Blush has more notes and probably more expensive ingredients, but if you like it, you might see if you like this more affordable sibling. Australian Perfume Junkies has an excellent review of it, from 2015; and I Scent You A Day also reviewed and liked it in 2016.

It may have been discontinued, as I often see it at various discount outlets, both brick and online, but it is still widely available for bargain prices. Earlier this year, Yves St. Laurent announced that Adam Levine would become the new face and ambassador for its 2017-launched men’s fragrance, Y. I think I’ll order a backup bottle of this fragrance for women!

Have you tried this, or any similar fragrances by M. Vasnier? Have you tried Santal Blush? Thoughts?

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

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Vibrant Leather

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Vibrant Leather

Although the fragrances I normally review and enjoy are traditionally classed as “feminines”, I do occasionally try and enjoy more masculine scents. I’m not sure why, but I became intrigued by the idea of trying Zara’s Vibrant Leather, and set off in search of it (the version “for him”, not “for her”). The eau de parfum formulation came out earlier this year, and the prior EDT version was reputed to be an excellent cheap substitute for the popular Creed Aventus. I’m not a huge fan of Creed, although I have Fleurissimo and I like it very much, so there wasn’t a compelling reason why I should try a dupe of one of its masculines, but there you have it — I wanted to. Anyway, I live not far from a Zara boutique and was in that mall on another errand, so I popped in. And yes, they had small 12 ml sprays of Vibrant Leather, priced at $6.90. I tried it in the store, liked it enough to spend $6.90 to play around with it, and brought my purchase home.

As someone who is less than familiar with most of the great classics of masculine fragrances (my husband mostly wears Old Spice and Brut), my thoughts on Vibrant Leather will be somewhat arbitrary. First, it has a great citrusy opening, with a lively top note of bergamot and almost a medicinal vibe, but not too much so. Almost immediately, that starts to fade (as citrus notes often do), as the middle emerges. It is described as being “bamboo”, but I couldn’t tell you whether that is accurate or not. The middle stage is pleasantly woody with a greenish tinge, and that’s close enough to “bamboo” for a fragrance this inexpensive! Although a bamboo-eater might disagree …

Female great panda Yuan Yuan eating eating bamboo and fruit on ice in hot weather.

Great panda eating bamboo and fruit in hot weather; image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk.

As the citrus and greenness fade, next comes a leatherish base, that lasts a pretty long time on my skin although faintly. I sprayed a bit on my wrists (one small spray each) one night while reading in bed, and when I woke up, 8-9 hours later, I could still smell it. Perfumer Jerome Epinette has this to say, according to the text on the packaging:

Vibrant Leather is a perfect balance between the peace and romantic side of woody notes and the vitality and intens[ity] of leather.

I can’t speak to the many comparisons to Aventus, which I haven’t smelled, but this strikes me as a good, light, leather-like scent for summer and hot weather. I like it a lot, though not for myself, so I’ll be passing it along to my husband or teenaged son (who is probably the target market). And for about $36 for 120 ml of this 2018 EDP version by Jerome Epinette, what’s not to like? If it doesn’t last long on your skin, you can spray more without guilt!

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

I have a collector’s brain; I have always enjoyed building a collection of things that interest me and learning about them. Over the years, that has mostly manifested itself in my gardening (sometimes to the detriment of orderly design); I have to discipline myself to plant groupings of plants, not just plant one of everything. Sometimes it all comes together really well, as when my husband cleared two areas of underbrush so we could plant two small groves of almost two dozen Japanese maples I had been growing in pots.

Since I started studying, not just wearing, fragrance three years ago, I’ve built up quite a collection, but it doesn’t have a lot of coherence to it yet; I’m still in the “let me try everything” learning stage, lol. But one way I have tried to inject some structure into my collection is to try as many as possible of the fragrances given five stars in Turin and Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” One of those is Issey Miyake’s Le Feu d’Issey, created by Jacques Cavallier in 1998, which was discontinued several years ago. Here is their summary:

The surprise effect of Le Feu d’Issey is total. Smelling it is like pressing the play button on a frantic video clip of unconnected objects that fly past one’s nose at warp speed: fresh baguette, lime peel, clean wet linen, shower soap, hot stone, salty skin, even a fleeting touch of vitamin B pills, and no doubt a few other UFOs that this reviewer failed to catch the first few times. Whoever did this has that rarest of qualities in perfumery, a sense of humor. Bravo to those who did not recoil in horror at something so original and agreed to bottle it and sell it, but shame, also, since they lost their nerve and discontinued it before it caught on. Whether you wear it or not, if you can find it, it should be in your collection as a reminder that perfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.

Le Feu d’Issey has been reviewed on several well-known fragrance blogs: The Sounds of ScentThe Candy Perfume BoyColognoisseurPerfume-Smellin’ Things, and others. Almost all agree that it is an oddity with a strangely compelling appeal. My experience parallels theirs, though I am happy to say that I won’t feel a desperate need to track down a full bottle. Happy, because they go for $200 or more on auction sites! I found a set of reasonably priced manufacturer’s samples online, so I was able to indulge my curiosity.

Manufacturer's carded samples of Issey Miyake's fragrance Le Feu d'Issey

Carded samples of Le Feu d’Issey

The opening is very sharp and weird. Obviously the carded manufacturer’s samples I have are over ten years old, and one of the top notes has gone off. I think it must be the bergamot, because I don’t smell that at all — the very first thing I do smell is a harsh note of alcohol. That’s age, not design. It goes away within seconds, and I do smell the other notes listed on Fragrantica: coconut, rosewood, anise. The visual pyramid also lists as top notes coriander leaf and rose. I don’t smell rose at the start, but I do get an herbal note in addition to the anise, which could be coriander. Within minutes, the rosewood emerges as the winner among the top notes, and I like it very much.

As the heart notes emerge, Le Feu becomes sweeter. I definitely smell the milkiness coming to join the rosewood. At this stage, it reminds me of Carner Barcelona‘s Palo Santo. whose middle notes are warm milk and guiac wood. Le Feu’s heart notes are listed as: jasmine, rose, milk and caramel but the pyramid also shows pepper and golden lily. As it gets sweeter, I do smell something like caramel, but I wonder if that is due to perfumer’s sleight of hand. Here is a comment written by London’s Bloom Perfumery about Palo Santo: “Some people smell caramel, but it’s a trick played by the combination of gaiac, tonka, davana and milk accord.” On my skin, the sweetness is mostly gone within the first hour of wearing.

As to the flowers, here is where I experienced the famously shape-shifting nature of Le Feu that has intrigued so many. The first time I wore it, I definitely smelled the emergence of a smooth, classical blend of rose, lily, and jasmine. Today, as I sit with Le Feu on my hand so I can write down my impressions — no flowers. And I sprayed from the same sample!

The base notes of Le Feu are: cedar, sandalwood, Guaiac wood, vanilla and musk. At this stage, it is a very appealing, warm, woody scent with a lingering trace of something sweet. Yesterday when I tried it for the first time, that stage lasted on my skin for several hours.

Bottom line: I like Le Feu very much, but I don’t feel desperately compelled to seek out a bottle of it. However, I’m glad to realize that, while not a dupe, Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santo shares some of Le Feu’s appeal. It’s not cheap, but it is still available!

Scent Sample Sunday: Crowd Pleasers

Scent Sample Sunday: Crowd Pleasers

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?

 

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: 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.