Scent Sample Sunday: Monbloom

Scent Sample Sunday: Monbloom

I recently had a birthday (yes, I’m a Virgo) and treated myself to some fragrances — surprise, surprise. One of them was a tester of Ramon Monegal’s Monbloom. I had been curious about it because I like several of his other fragrances very much; I discovered them several years in Barcelona, home of the brand and perfumer, where my husband was kind enough to buy me a bottle of Lovely Day. When I saw a tester for a good price, I pounced.

It’s odd that I was intrigued by Monbloom, because normally I’m not a huge fan of big white florals, and Monbloom is definitely tuberose-forward. The brand’s own romantic description:

Olfactory inspiration, resplendent and magic. Bewitching floral filter. Exuberant and voluptuous tuberose and jasmine with exotic Osmanthus. Magic and power dressed in incense and labdanum are linked to the incandescent strength that emanates from cedarwood.

This is my festive tale of a magical celebration of a starry night in Dubai.

The notes are listed as: Comoros Ylang-Ylang, Sevillan neroli, orange blossom, wild strawberry, Karnataka tuberose, Moroccan jasmine, Chinese osmanthus, Indonesian patchouli, Spanish cistus, Indian oud, American cedarwood. Quite a few white flowers in there! Elena Prokofeva wrote a wonderful piece for Fragrantica about the many haunting legends associated with white flowers: “Dark Legends of White Flowers” and referred to tuberose and jasmine as “flowers of seduction and death.” I don’t experience them that way, but most white flowers do become most fragrant at night, to attract insects which are active after sundown, so they have a strong association with darkness. A “starry night” in Dubai — what might that resemble? A stroll through fragrant palace gardens like those in the Alhambra of Granada, or in the Royal Alcazar of Seville?

Tuberose

Tuberose, native to South America and noted by Spanish missionaries as early as the 16th century, is among the most fragrant of all white flowers; it has been written that the Victorians warned young girls against inhaling its fragrance lest it inspire wild passions and carnal desires. To my nose, tuberose often smells a bit soapy — more clean than seductive. Monbloom is neither sweet nor very soapy. It was initially launched in 2015 as an exclusive for Bloomingdale’s and the city of Dubai, and it is clearly intended to appeal to a Middle Eastern customer, with its hints of oud, resin, and incense. Those notes create an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness of tuberose, jasmine, orange blossoms and neroli. I tend to like green, almost bitter, chypres, and sweetness is not something I seek out in fragrance, so I appreciate the difficult balance achieved in Monbloom. Although it starts out with a gust of classic white flower notes, it becomes more complex over its development as the cistus, oud, and cedarwood emerge, creating a subtle breath of incense, resins, and wood. I will have to study it further, though, as I was very cautious in my initial applications — no more than a small spritz on each wrist.

It does not surprise me that such a well-crafted perfume comes from Ramon Monegal, who is the fourth generation of perfumers in the Monegal family, founders of Myrurgia, which has been creating fragrances for over a century; he began training in perfumery in the 1970s and worked for several firms before returning to the family company, which was acquired by Puig in 2000. After working for the combined company for several years, M. Monegal left to launch his own artisan brand. He takes inspiration from his birthplace and city of residence, Barcelona, the Mediterranean, and his homeland of Spain.

When we took a family trip to Spain some years ago, mostly through Andalusia, it was brought home to us just how close Spain is to the Middle East, especially where it faces Morocco across the water. It was, of course, partially occupied for much of its history by the Moors, who left Spain with a remarkable legacy of architecture and gardens. So it isn’t much of a stretch for a Spanish perfumer to feel affinity with Dubai, home of remarkable Middle Eastern attars and perfumes.

If you are a lover of white flower fragrances, Monbloom is absolutely worth trying. Unless you do truly love the narcotic white flowers, though, I wouldn’t make it a blind buy. I did buy it blind, because I have enjoyed several other Monegal fragrances and felt comfortable taking that chance.

Have you tried Monbloom? Do you have other “Big White Flower” fragrances you enjoy?

Scent Sample Sunday: Paris-Venise

Scent Sample Sunday: Paris-Venise

Paris-Venise was one of the first three “Les Eaux” fragrances launched by Chanel in 2018, all created by in-house perfumer Olivier Polge. They are eaux de toilette inspired by Coco Chanel’s travels to various cities — what a creative idea! The others were Paris-Deauville and Paris-Biarritz. Since then, the original three have been joined by Paris-Riviera and Paris-Edimbourg, which I haven’t tried yet.

Fragrantica lists the notes of Paris-Venise as: top notes, orange, lemon, petitgrain, bergamot and pink pepper; middle notes, iris, neroli, ylang-ylang, rose and geranium; base notes, tonka bean, vanilla, white musk, orris, violet and benzoin. Sure enough, when I spritz it, I get a lovely burst of fresh citrus notes, beautifully blended. The bright, sunny opening softens within minutes to a gentle floral, also beautifully blended. One aspect of Chanel fragrances (among so many!) that I appreciate is the elegance of how they are blended. Notes merge and segue into each other, dancing with each other to different tempos, stepping forward and backward in the rhythm their combined music suggests.

The Chanel website describes M. Polge’s inspiration as follows: “1920. Gabrielle Chanel falls under the spell of Venice. The glimmer of the Byzantine mosaics and precious gems of St. Mark’s Basilica inspire the designs of her first jewelry collections. Between freshness and sensuality, PARIS-VENISE evokes this legendary city that marks the boundary between East and West.” Having visited Venice for the first time in the summer of 2019, before the world shut down, I would say that M. Polge has done an outstanding job of evoking the city.

My recollections of Venice are of brilliant sunlight glinting off the water of the ubiquitous canals, the welcome breezes off the ocean, the hidden gardens including that of the vacation apartment in a small, restored palazzo where we stayed. Paris-Venise’s citrus-forward opening vividly recalls the sunniness of Venice’s summer climate, while the emerging floral notes remind us that Venice is a city not only of canals and ancient buildings, but also of gardens. (Christine Nagel dwelt on that feature in her fragrance for Hermes, Un Jardin Sur La Lagune). M. Polge did not, in his creation, make reference to the sea or salt water as Mme. Nagel did in hers.

In the middle stage, no one floral note dominates, though I can clearly identify the ylang-ylang, a signature floral note in many Chanel fragrances, including the iconic No. 5. The petitgrain and bergamot linger at the start of this heart phase, adding their bright verdancy to it like sunlight dappling a garden. The rose and iris are also classic Chanel fragrance notes; here, they are fresh and light. I find all “Les Eaux” to be very fresh and youthful, which I’m sure is part of Chanel’s strategy to attract a younger clientele while still appealing to their longtime clients, as they have done with No. 5 L’Eau.

Drying down, Paris-Venise becomes warmer and softer, with a slight spiciness that recalls Venice’s heyday as a entry port to Europe for the spices of the East. A highlight of our visit to Venice was a stop at the Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses a perfume museum as well as artworks and other exhibits (the embroidered fabrics are gorgeous!). Among the perfume-related displays is a massive table covered with spices and resins.

Display at the Palazzo Mocenigo

The base notes include a light vanilla, just a touch of it as this fragrance is by no means “gourmand.” This vanilla smells like the vanilla orchid that produces the actual vanilla beans, so it is more flowery than foody. It combines beautifully with the base’s more floral notes such as violet and orris. All are given a sort of warm airiness by the white musk, like a balmy evening breeze.

I’m very impressed with Paris-Venise. It is ambery without being too heavy or warm — perfect for summer wear even in a climate as hot as Venice. If a fragrance can be slender and elegant, Paris-Venise is that and more. Have you tried any of “Les Eaux de Chanel”? What did you think?

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

On our way home from a family wedding, I stopped in an airport boutique that had a wall of designer fragrances, mostly to see if there might be a tester with something appropriate to spritz before our short flight. To my surprise and delight, there was a separate display of Parfums de Marly, including an actual tester of Delina Exclusif! I had been wanting to try Delina or a flanker, but wasn’t interested in making a special trip to a department store for that purpose, so this chance encounter was most welcome.

Delina Exclusif was launched in 2018; the perfumer was Quentin Bisch, as for the original Delina in 2017. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes are Litchi, Pear and Bergamot; middle notes are Turkish Rose, Agarwood (Oud) and Incense; base notes are Vanilla, Amber and Woody Notes. The fruit notes are very noticeable at first spritz, in a good way. The litchi is the most prominent of the opening notes, with its sweetness and that of the pear note balanced by tart bergamot. The rose is immediately apparent, and it seems very natural and lush. The oud and incense are not strong, but they are detectable, and one of my daughters who doesn’t like oud commented on it. Some commenters have detected a resemblance to Montale’s Intense Cafe, and I see that. The drydown of Delina Exclusif is lovely; the vanilla and amber dominate but are grounded by some woody notes. The scent lasts for hours, 12 or more. I could still smell hints of it on my wrist a good 18 hours after applying it. What lingers is a slightly gourmand ambery vanilla, sweet but not sugary. Be advised — if you don’t care for rose-based fragrances, you may not even want to bother trying this one, because it is ALL about the roses, even with the companion notes. The floral arranger at the launch party certainly captured its spirit:

Floral arrangement of pink roses in shape of perfume bottle
Delina floral display; image from Basenotes.net.

Some have posited that the original Delina is more of a spring and summer fragrance, and Delina Exclusif more suitable for fall or winter. I understand that, as the flanker has some spice and warmth to it, but I think it is a year-round fragrance. As others have noted, this is a really beautiful fragrance, the major drawback being its price, around $289 or more for 75 ml. 

Overall, Delina Exclusif is a beautiful, modern rose — elegant, warm, sexy in a wholesome way. I still prefer Ormonde Jayne’s Ta’if, but if you want a rose that will certainly work well in colder weather, Delina Exclusif would be a contender, if not for its price. As it is, I’ll stick with Ta’if in most weather and Intense Cafe when temperatures are cooler.

Have you tried any of the Delina line? Flankers or other products?

May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

This is one of the few new 2021 fragrances I’ve tried this year. I was excited to get a sample from a kind sales associate, because I love the scent of real magnolias, especially the pink ones that bloom in my neighborhood, and I hoped this might resemble it. Sadly, it doesn’t. Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t live up to its predecessor, Beautiful, either, unfortunately. To my nose, it smells like a pleasant but nondescript flanker of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one. It’s pretty, and light, and it may do very well in some markets, but it’s not really for me, and I think its price is too high.

Fragrantica classes Beautiful Magnolia as a “floral aquatic” and lists its notes as follows: Top notes are Magnolia Petals, Lotus and Mate; middle notes are Magnolia, Gardenia, Solar notes and Turkish Rose; base notes are Musk, Cedar and Sandalwood. What I smell are: a bit of citrus, a bit of unnamed white flower, a hint of mate, white synthetic musk, and something slightly fruity. What I don’t smell are magnolia, lotus, gardenia, rose, or wood. I think the bit of citrus I smell is supposed to be “solar notes.” I can’t say much about dry-down, because Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t seem to have a true “drydown”, it just fades away, humming the same few wordless notes as when it entered the room. It is a very linear scent.

What a disappointment! I don’t often write reviews of scents I don’t care for, and this isn’t a “dislike” for me, it’s just that I expect better from Estee Lauder, a brand that has created so many memorable and classic scents. What I do dislike is the price for what Beautiful Magnolia is — $128 for 100 ml. I also dislike its recycling of the name “Beautiful” — the original Beautiful was a gorgeous 1980s floral, and even reformulated, it is so much more interesting and lovely than this. Comparing the two is like comparing artificial plastic flowers to the real thing. They may serve a purpose, and even be likeable, but they’re not on the same level.

Artificial magnolia flowers
Real magnolia flowers; photo by Deena on Pexels.com

Every spring, I eagerly await the blossoms of the pink magnolias. Some years, I am bitterly disappointed because a late frost comes along just as they’re about to bloom, and ruins the flowers. Nothing can be done about that; you just have to wait another year, until the next spring and the next magnolia flowers come. It’s a missed opportunity. That’s how I feel about Beautiful Magnolia. As Luca Turin once wrote about a different fragrance, “Encore un effort!” Please!

Do you have any recent fragrance disappointments? Or unexpected delights?

Featured image from: https://thewiltedmagnolia.blogspot.com/.

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Given how much gardening is on my mind (and under my fingernails) these days, it seems fitting to write about one of 4160 Tuesday’s quirkier scents, Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor. Yes, it is named for the antagonist gardener in the Peter Rabbit stories, and also in homage to Jean-Claude Ellena’s Jardin series of scents for Hermes (all of which I own and enjoy). Perfumer Sarah McCartney writes that it was created during one of her perfume-making workshops, with a focus on the aroma molecule Hedione, which creates an impression of freshness and floralcy, with notes of jasmine and greenness. The goal was for the class to create the scent of a cottage garden in the Lake District.

For those who may not know, the famous author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books and many others, Beatrix Potter, played a key role in preserving thousands of acres in the Lake District, including leaving 4000 acres of countryside and 14 farms she owned to the National Trust. She was, of course, a marvelous illustrator, but she was also a gifted botanist, naturalist, gardener, and farmer, and the plants in her illustrations for her children’s books are botanically accurate down to the last details. They include many of the plants mentioned in the notes and materials list for Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor.

Mr. McGregor in his garden, by Beatrix Potter
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Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

The garden centers and grocery stores (the only places I go these days) are full of potted hyacinths, one of my favorite flowers and favorite scents. Yesterday, in anticipation of Easter next weekend, I bought two pots of forced hyacinth bulbs: one has flowers of a delicate, creamy pale yellow; the other’s flowers are a cheerful, slightly tacky, bright pink. So the scent of real hyacinths is wafting through my house — what better time to review a recently acquired decant of Tom Ford’s Ombre de Hyacinth?

I had wanted to try it for a while, but it is discontinued and not easy to find. Imagine my delight when I saw it listed on the website of a decant subscription service I was considering! Sign me up! And I did.

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Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Stash

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Stash

I wrote almost two years ago about Stash Unspoken, the first flanker to 2016’s Stash SJP, by Sarah Jessica Parker, but I realized I hadn’t yet devoted a post to the original, so here it is! And I have a good reason for writing about it now, because Portia solved a problem I had been having — what to do with that bottle of “elixir oil” that came in the gift set? Undina had the same issue when she wrote about Stash back in 2017. In response to a comment somewhere, Portia suggested using a few drops of the oil in one’s bath. Eureka! I exclaimed, like Archimedes, that’s the answer!

I use bath oil more regularly now, because my skin has become so dry, especially in the winter when the house is heated. Most of the time, I use an unscented oil like Neutrogena’s sesame body oil; I just squirt some in the bath water. After Portia’s comment, I’ve added less than a dropperful of the Stash elixir oil, and it is wonderful — it scents the whole bathroom. Sillage is not a problem with this fragrance — it carries quite a way.

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Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Emotions by Jo Malone

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Emotions by Jo Malone

I have been eagerly awaiting the US launch of Zara’s collection of fragrances, Emotions, in collaboration with perfumer Jo Malone. I love some of her fragrances under her own brand, Jo Loves, so I was curious to see what she came up with for Zara, well-known as a destination for budget-conscious shoppers. Zara has released many, many fragrances under its own name, some created by famous perfumers, such as Vibrant Leather, created by Jerome Epinette. The Emotions collection launched in Europe in late 2019, but it took another year to become available in the USA. Luckily, it arrived in time for the holidays, and I treated myself and one of my daughters each to the sample/discovery set. It costs $25.90.

The discovery set is a nice size: eight long, narrow vials of eau de parfum, each holding 4 ml of a different fragrance. The collection consists of: Amalfi Sunray, Bohemian Bluebells, Ebony Wood, Fleur de Patchouli, Fleur d’Oranger, Tubereuse Noir, Vetiver Pamplemousse, Waterlily Tea Dress. The vials are “dabbers”, not sprays. Each fragrance lists only three notes, and I think they would be ideal for layering, with each other or with other fragrances. In fact, the Zara website sells “layering sets” with various combinations of the collection’s fragrances, with one scent in a 15 ml “paintbrush” format and two more in 10 ml sprays. The sets offer some ideas for layering which I plan to try with my discovery set.

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Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

A short while ago, multiple media outlets reported that Swedish furnishings giant IKEA would launch a limited edition of scented candles in partnership with Swedish fragrance brand Byredo. Well, perfumistas, here in the USA, the eagles have landed! I went to my local IKEA today, and there they were, although the announcements said they would be available in November.

The series of candles is named, in classically inscrutable IKEA fashion, “Osynlig.” You can find them online by typing that precise name into the search box on the IKEA USA website, which also seems to be selling them now (i.e., before November). Apparently, the scents are designed by Byredo’s Ben Gorham so that all can be burnt alone or layered together, creating your own personal home fragrance. He is also quoted as saying “I really enjoyed the idea of being able to make interesting products accessible to as many people as possible,” in an interview with WWD. Ikea was “one of the few [with which] I could actually develop and manufacture a product of this quality, yet make it available at that type of price point.”

I only started using scented candles regularly a few years ago. These ones are really special; they come in beautiful ceramic pots with different colors that reflect some aspect of the scent. A few of the fragrances are available in small, medium, and large sizes. I haven’t yet tried lighting any of the ones I bought but they smell wonderful! Most immediately striking to me was “Tobacco and Honey”, which does indeed have a strong note of golden honey.

Scented candles at IKEA, limited edition by Ben Gorham of Byredo
IKEA’s Osynlig candles with Byredo scents.

I am so pleased to have “scored” several of these! The ones that are currently available are: Tea Leaves & Verbena, Pomegranate & Amber, Basil & Mint, Fig & Cypress, Peach Blossom & Bamboo, Lilac & Amber, Rose & Raspberries, Cotton Flower & Apple Blossom, Sandalwood & Vanilla, and Tobacco & Honey.

There is one fragrance mentioned in the press, “Swedish Birch and Juniper”, that I did not see on the IKEA USA website or in the store, and it sounds like one I would like. Apparently the other three scents in the collection — Cassis & Freesia, Swedish Birch & Juniper, and Firewood & Spice — will be available in February 2021.

Have you seen or tried any of the “Osynlig” collection yet?