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: Dryad

Scent Sample Sunday: Dryad

I first learned about dryads from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, books I dearly loved as a child and still love. Dryads are tree spirits, nymphs who personify trees and may inhabit them. They are benign pagan beings, female, and sometimes referred to as “wood-women” in Narnia. In the Narnia books, Lewis describes both male and female tree spirits, but he only uses “dryad” to refer to female spirits. Dryads, when they appear in human form, take on the characteristics of the particular trees they inhabit: birch-girls in silver, beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow.”

Illustration of a dryad tree nymph by Arthur Rackham.

Dryad, by Arthur Rackham, 1913.

Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ Liz Moores has conjured up a bewitching, witchy green perfume in her 2017 creation, Dryad. I have a great love for green scents, as well as the florals I love, and this nymph has won my heart. From the Papillon website:

As vibrant emerald Galbanum weaves with the delicate flesh of Bergamot, the nomadic wanderings of Dryad begin.

Beneath jade canopies, sweet-herbed Narcissus nestles with gilded Jonquil. Shadows of Apricot and Cedrat morph radiant greens to a soft golden glow.

Earthed within the ochre roots of Benzoin, heady Oakmoss entwines with deep Vetiver hues.

And at its heart, the slick skin of Costus beckons you further into the forest…

And into the forest I happily go! Papillon lists the notes as follows: Narcissus, Oakmoss, Jonquil, Cedrat, Galbanum, Benzoin, Vetiver. The narcissus and jonquil notes are very evident at the start, but the galbanum (a green resin) is right there with them, giving a sharpness in contrast to the floral notes, as if to remind us that there are no living flowers without green stems and leaves. Dryad does not evoke a bouquet or still life of cut flowers — far from it. It smells like a tree come to life — a vibrant, dynamic being with unpredictable movement. This nymph dances.

Green nymph Fantasia

Image from Disney’s Fantasia 2000

As it dries down, Dryad brings out more and more of the oakmoss, the cedar, and the benzoin, which happens to be an oil extracted from a specific kind of tree. The word “dryad” comes from the ancient Greek word for oak, so oakmoss also fits right in. Honestly, this fragrance is so clever as well as lovely! As I had hoped when Dryad‘s launch was announced, this fragrance is GREEN as well as being a chypre. If you hate Chanel No. 19, for instance, you may want to keep your distance. Even the bergamot mentioned in the website copy is a green citrus, not a sweet one. Despite several wood-related notes, though, Dryad never feels “woody” to me.

This is a potent potion; one small spritz on each of my wrists, and I happily smelled it wafting up to my nose all evening. I don’t think it carries very far away from me, i.e. sillage is moderate, but it lasts for several hours. The more it dries down, the more I detect a faint sweetness; the sharper edge of the opening stage has softened. The whole progression has a vintage vibe, but the fragrance is thoroughly modern and unisex.

Dryad is perfect for the cool, sunny fall days we are having now, with the nights that approach, but do not quite reach, frost. While doing some research for this post, I found a poem that C.S. Lewis wrote in the 1940s, before the Narnia books. It describes a magician forcing a dryad to leave her tree and take human form, which she experiences as a prison; he releases her to return to her tree, but the tree’s leaves fall and it will wither and die. Dryad is not a sad or withering scent, just as fall is not a season of death. Trees lose their leaves in the fall so they can slumber through the winter, and awake afresh in the spring, bursting into green with the daffodils. So Lewis’ poem is not quite apropos here, but I’ll share it anyway, and borrow some of his words:

She drank
With thirst of myriad mouths the bursting cataracts of the sun,
The drizzle of gentler stars, and indivisible small rain.
Wading the dark earth, made of earth and light, cradled in air …

This Dryad does indeed embrace the sun, the rain, the dark earth, and the green air of an ancient forest, like the New Forest where she was born. And even when she slumbers, the promise of her reawakening lies beneath the surface.

Mud Maid sculpture in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Mud Maid, the Lost Gardens of Heligan

MAGICIAN
Out of your dim felicity of leaves, oh Nymph appear,
answer me in soft-showery voice, attempt the unrooted dance
–My art shall sponsor the enormity. Now concentrate,
Around, where in your vegetative heart it drowses deep
In seminal sleep, your feminine response. Conjuro te
Per Hecates essentiam et noctis silentia,

Breaking by Trivia’s name your prison of bark. Beautiful, awake.

DRYAD
Risen from the deep lake of my liberty, into your prison
She has come, cruel commander.

MAGICIAN
I have given speech to the dumb.
Will you not thank me, silver lady?

DRYAD
Oh till now she drank
With thirst of myriad mouths the bursting cataracts of the sun,
The drizzle of gentler stars, and indivisible small rain.
Wading the dark earth, made of earth and light, cradled in air,
All that she was, she was all over. Now the mask you call
A Face has blotted out the ambient hemisphere’s embrace;
Her light is screwed into twin nodules of tormenting sight;
Searing divisions tear her into five. She cannot hear
But only see, the moon; earth has no taste; she cannot breathe
at every branch vibrations of the sky. For a dome of severance,
A helmet, a dark, rigid box of bone, has overwhelmed
Her hair…that was her lungs…that was her nerves…that kissed the air.
Crushed in a brain, her thought that circled cooly in every vein
Turns into poison, thickens like a man’s, ferments and burns.
She was at peace when she was in her unity. Oh now release
And let her out into the seamless world, make her forget.

MAGICIAN
Be free. Relapse. And so she vanishes. And now the tree
Grows barer every moment. The leaves fall. A killing air,
Sighing from the country of Man, has withered it. The tree will die.

~C.S. Lewis, “The Magician and the Dryad”, Poems (1964)

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Several of the perfume blogs I follow are featuring lists and questions about favorite autumn fragrances, and I’ve found myself mentioning, more than once, Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, which I like to wear in the fall and winter as a “floriental” — still floral, which is probably my most favored category of fragrance, with added oriental fragrance aspects like spices, myrrh, frankincense, etc. Per Fragrantica, its top notes are oregano, saffron and honeysuckle; middle notes are turkish rose, myrrh, styrax and lavender; base notes are labdanum, musk, ambergris and olibanum (frankincense).

Calligraphy Rose was one of a trio of Aramis eaux de parfum launched from 2012-2014: Calligraphy (2012), Calligraphy Rose (2013) and Calligraphy Saffron (2014). It was created by perfumer Trudi Loren, who is listed with Maurice Roucel as co-creator of 2006’s Missoni, awarded five stars by Luca Turin in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” It has been discontinued but is still widely available online for reasonable prices.

To my nose, Calligraphy Rose starts out green and sweet, which makes sense given the top notes listed. The oregano I smell is the green, growing plant, not the dried herb. The sweetness must come from the honeysuckle note, which Gail Gross wrote about in a wonderful review of Calligraphy Rose last January at CaFleureBon. For her, the honeysuckle was very dominant. It is less so for me, though its underlying sweetness never leaves. On my skin, the rose note emerges quickly and strongly, and it persists for a long time, which I love. I have layered Calligraphy Rose with other rose scents such as Taif Roses by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, a powerful rose attar, on occasions like Christmas Eve, with happy results; any lasting rose fragrance will have the same effect of amplifying the already-strong rose note. I bet it would layer beautifully with Viktor&Rolf’s Flowerbomb Rose Twist, a perfume layering oil, or with Tauerville’s Rose Flash, with its 20% concentration. One could emphasize other notes in a similar fashion, such as adding a lavender or frankincense layer, pushing it in any direction one prefers. Calligraphy Rose is a bit of a chameleon.

As it dries down, Calligraphy Rose on its own becomes less floral and more balsamic, like a lovely balsamic glaze. This “glaze” was made with honey, and includes herbs. Having started out quite green, it becomes warmer, thanks to those warm base notes. In fact, its progression is not unlike the progression of autumn itself, from the lingering green of still-living plants, to the late flushes of rose blooms, to the warmth and spice of winter dishes. P.S. It lasts for hours and hours! One spray on my wrist is still wafting faintly off my skin almost 24 hours later as a warm, sweet skin scent. Use with a light hand, but you’ll smell marvelous for a long time.

Calligraphy Rose is a truly unisex fragrance. Launched under Estee Lauder’s men’s brand of Aramis, it suits both men and women. It is less gourmand than Montale’s Intense Cafe, more herbal. I love it!