Scent Sample Sunday: Sylvaine Delacourte Dovana

Scent Sample Sunday: Sylvaine Delacourte Dovana

Sylvaine Delacourte is the former perfume creative director of Guerlain and current owner/founder of her own eponymous perfume brand and line. She has issued three themed collections of fragrances: the Vanilla Collection, the Musks Collection, and the Orange Blossom Collection. Dovana is one of the Musks Collection, and it is described as a “tender musk.” All of the Musks Collection are at 20% concentration, i.e. eau de parfum strength, and all are unisex.

The brand’s website says that Ms. Delacourte wanted this collection to feel like “olfactive pashiminas”, with a signature softness. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

One of my Christmas gifts was a bottle of Hermes’ latest “Jardin” fragrance, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. It was created by Hermes’ house perfumer, Christine Nagel, following in the footsteps of Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena famously created the series starting with Un Jardin En Mediterranee in 2003, followed by Un Jardin Sur le Nil in 2005, subject of Chandler Burr’s book The Perfect Scent. (That book started me and many others on our trip down the perfume rabbit-hole!). I own and love all the Jardin fragrances, my favorite being Un Jardin Apres la Mousson.

Hermes Un Jardin series

Un Jardin fragrances, by Hermes; image from http://www.hermes.com.

This latest one was given to me as a souvenir of our first visit to Venice last summer, and a lovely souvenir it is, especially as we stayed in a serviced apartment with its own private garden on an adjoining canal, in a small restored palazzo. “La Lagune” does not refer to just any lagoon; it means, specifically, the Venetian Lagoon, which is the bay of the Adriatic Sea that surrounds the island city of Venice. One of the highlights of our trip was a journey across the Venetian Lagoon in a beautiful old-fashioned water taxi, the kind that remind me of old American “lakers”:

Wooden water taxi in Venice lagoon landscape

Venice water taxi; image from http://www.bookvenicewatertaxi.com

The excursion was arranged by our concierge, to visit a glassmaking factory in Murano; the water taxi met us at the tiny canal-side private dock of the palazzo, reached by opening the massive, ancient water gate doors of its columned cellar, which felt magical even before we had stepped into the boat and zipped through the canals into the open lagoon, with its spectacular views of Venice. Un Jardin Sur la Lagune was created by Ms. Nagel to capture the essence of a “secret garden” in Venice, the Giardino Eden, or “Garden of Eden“, that was created over a hundred years ago on the Venetian island of Giudecca by an Englishman named Frederic Eden.

Photo collage of Venetian island garden and Hermes perfumer Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel and the Giardino Eden; photos by Jenny Lin for Town & Country.

I’m not sure why, but this Jardin fragrance has drawn a lot of criticism online, in spite of several very positive reviews by knowledgeable and experienced fragrance bloggers (e.g.,  Victoria of “Bois de Jasmin“, who gave it four stars, and Thomas of “The Candy Perfume Boy“). On the other hand, it was not an immediate love for me, so maybe it just takes time to appreciate. I tried it in various stores and on my skin several times before I decided I really do like it very much and wanted a full bottle.

What is it like? It opens with a soft, citrusy, floral chord, a combination of pittosporum and magnolia. Magnolia blossoms smell lemony as well as being white florals, and apparently pittosporum blossoms smell to Ms. Nagel like a combination of orange flower and jasmine. Thomas at “The Candy Perfume Boy” nails it: the overall impression is one of honeysuckle, not magnolia. Right after the opening, madonna lilies join in, together with a saltwater or sea spray scent that is distinctive. I think that is the note that seems to give some people difficulty with the fragrance, especially if they dislike marine or aquatic fragrances; I love it. There is also a note that is not much discussed online; it is samphire, and I had to look it up. Aha! Samphire is a plant that grows near coastlines, including in Italy, along the Adriatic coast, where it is called “paccasassi” and is used in regional cuisine to add a salty, briny flavor to local dishes:

This makes perfect sense to me in reference to Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. I do smell a vegetal, briny note, reminiscent of seaweed but not as strong as seaweed. I think it must be the samphire, also called “saltwort” or “sea fennel”, and I like it very much. It is a unique accord, as far as I can tell, and a very clever one.

As it dries down, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune takes on a more woody and musky feel. This too makes sense, as Ms. Nagel has described how she was fascinated by the roots of the trees in the garden, which had pushed their way through the soil’s surface and formed webs of roots lying on the ground; they look like fishermen’s ropey nets, set aside in a rare moment of respite. (Southern magnolia trees, Magnolia grandiflora, do this even when not planted in an island garden). The wood and musk notes make this a more unisex fragrance, and I think many men would smell wonderful wearing it. It is light and subtle, as are all the Jardin fragrances, but it has excellent staying power.

The description of the launch party in Venice in “Town and Country” magazine (also mentioned in Vogue) is to die for: “A Secret Garden in Venice is the Ultimate Inspiration for Hermes’ New Fragrance.” What I would give to have attended that! But I feel very fortunate to have finally seen “La Serenissima”, especially before the record-breaking recent flood, and I hope to return some day, wearing Un Jardin Sur la Lagune.

Have you tried this, or any of the other Jardin series of fragrances? What did you think? Do you love any of that series, or do they leave you indifferent?

Bottle of Hermes fragrance Un Jardin Sur La Lagune in Venetian landscape

Un Jardin Sur la Lagune; image from http://www.hermes.com

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

I was one of the lucky fans who was able to buy one of the “January Joy Boxes” made by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays this winter. The box has several 9 ml sprays of some of her limited edition or other special fragrances, and the idea was that you were supposed to wait until January to open it, to relieve any post-holiday gloom. The boxes holding the sprays are numbered and are to be opened in sequence. It was hard to wait until New Year’s Day, but I did! I’ve decided to pace myself and open one of the scents every 2-3 days, so the set lasts me all month and I have a chance to appreciate each fragrance.

The first fragrance was Temptation, a soft, sweet confection with smooth musks and a note others have described as “sugared almonds”, with vanilla anchoring it all. Sarah has written on the 4160 Tuesdays Facebook page that Temptation is the sub-base notes of Take Me To The River; it has eight notes, and it includes three different musks as well as vanillin. On my skin, it lasts for hours! It doesn’t “carry” very far, but it is delightful and I can’t stop sniffing my wrists. Now that I know its relationship to Take Me To The River, I’m going to try layering it with something else and see what happens.

Sarah has said that her fragrance Take Me To The River was inspired by the Talking Heads’ cover of that Al Green song, as that is her favorite version, but I love this one:

Who doesn’t love Al Green singing his own song, with BB King, Lenny Kravitz, and Sheryl Crow? But if we’re picking Al Green songs, the one that goes with Temptation is “Let’s Stay Together”, that smooth sweet sexy ballad full of soul.

I loved so many of the soul groups and singers of the 1970s — like the Temptations — with their roots in gospel music. I can go for years without hearing one of those songs, but just a few bars can take me back to my childhood, listening to a dinky little Panasonic transistor radio shaped like a red ball. I’ll be quite happy to think of Al Green’s music when I wear the fragrance Temptation.

Featured image from http://www.thenational.ae

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: A Pop-Up, Anat Fritz Tzor’a, and Berdoues’ Trefle & Vetiver

Scent Sample Sunday: A Pop-Up, Anat Fritz Tzor’a, and Berdoues’ Trefle & Vetiver

Last weekend, I visited a pop-up store presented by a new niche perfume retailer in my area: IndieHouse. I met its owner, Carrie Hadley, sniffed her small but thoughtfully chosen selection of fragrances for this event, and ended up buying an eau de toilette, Berdoues’ Trefle & Vetiver, from their 1902 line. With my purchase, I received a sample of Anat Fritz’ Tzor’a, another green scent, in eau de parfum.

Anat Fritz is a clothing and accessories designer who started in Berlin and is now based in New York. She has two fragrances, the second of which, Tzor’a, was created by perfumer Geza Schoen, who may be best known for his creations for Escentric Molecules and Ormonde Jayne. The website describes Tzor’a as “a bright, peppery unisex fragrance, featuring a zingy mix of warm citrus, pepper, earth, moss, and woods.” The composition is a pyramid structure: top notes of black currant, clary sage, bergamot, pepper; heart notes of magnolia, osmanthus, jasmine; base notes of cedarwood, vetiver, patchouli, musk, moss. If you are thinking this all sounds quite green, you are right! I love green fragrances, which is what attracted me to Tzor’a after sniffing the clever samples of fragrances that Carrie had created out of paper flowers sprayed with each fragrance and placed under glass funnels.

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The opening of Tzor’a is the “zingy” part. It is in fact very bright and peppery, thanks to the black current, sage, bergamot, and pepper. Users beware: a little of Tzor’a goes a long way! One spritz on the inside of my elbow lasted for hours and had great sillage — not so strong that it would repel anyone, but definitely radiating for a few feet. As it dries down, I must say that I don’t smell any of the flowers listed as heart notes; on my skin, Tzor’a goes straight into the woody base notes after the bright opening. The Non-Blonde blog’s review made a similar comment about the floral notes. Most prominent is the cedarwood, followed by vetiver. Some Fragrantica commenters have compared it to Terre d’Hermes.  Although it is unisex, it probably inclines more toward the masculine than the traditionally feminine. It is a very dry scent, which makes sense based on the brand’s description of what inspired it:

An ancient piece of land near Jerusalem, where the biblical story of Samson and Delilah begins. On a hill – with a breathtaking view over the whole landscape – lies Kibbutz TZOR Á between pomegranate, olive- and citrus trees. Luscious fruit trees wherever you look. A paradise place.

My imaginary home. The place I refer to when asked for the most beautiful place in the world. TZOR Á is an ode to this piece of nature, which emanates freedom, authenticity and self-confidence. Fresh and clear.

The place Tzor’a is home to a noted winery and series of vineyards in the Judean Hills. Interesting historical note: excavations near this kibbutz in 2011 uncovered a Jewish ritual bath structure dating back to the “Second Temple Period” (first century BC through first century CE). It was the first archaeological site to confirm that the area had Jewish inhabitants as long as 2000 years ago, likely until about the year 70 CE, when the Temple  (and most of ancient Jerusalem) was destroyed by the Romans to put down a rebellion, in one of the more brutal episodes of the Roman Empire.

Tzor’a comes in a unique bottle: the bottle itself is a simple shape, a rounded rectangle of glass, but it is encased in a handknit net of sage green yarn, invoking Anat Fritz’ interest in textiles and knits. It is a very appealing presentation.

Anat Fritz perfumes

Anat Fritz fragrances; Tzor’a and Classical; image from http://www.anatfritz.com

All in all, I like Tzor’a a lot, but I think I would prefer it on my husband to wearing it myself. Given how much I love floral notes as well as green notes, and since I don’t seem to be able to smell the few floral notes in this composition, I think it will suit me better on him! It is an expensive fragrance, but the quality and strength are so high, it may be more affordable than it seems from the retail price ($180 for 80 ml), since it lasts so long with 1-2 sprays. Cafleurebon editor Gail Gross is a fan; her review is here.

The other green fragrance I tried (and bought) was Berdoues’ Trefle & Vetiver.

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“Trefle” is French for clover, and the scent does indeed smell like summery clover blossoms. The top notes are apple and jasmine, the heart is clover, and the base note is vetiver. I find this to be more unisex than Tzor’a, because the fruity and floral notes are more apparent to me. It doesn’t last nearly as long as Tzor’a, not surprising since it is an eau de toilette, not eau de parfum. It is also more affordable, coming in at $40 for 100 ml. I was impressed by the wide range of prices that Indiehouse displayed, from the affordable to the luxe. Such a great way to introduce more people to niche fragrances! I look forward to writing more about Indiehouse when the brick-and-mortar store opens this fall.

Trefle & Vetiver feels right for the weather and time of year in my part of the US. It is almost October and the days are getting noticeably shorter, yet the weather is still very hot and dry. The combination of bright apple with summery jasmine, tempered by clover and grounded by vetiver, suits that. It still feels like summer around here, but it’s time to harvest apples! Various clovers appear in apple orchards as non-invasive cover crops that help fix nitrogen in the soil, don’t compete with the trees for water, and attract the honey bees and other pollinators that are essential to fruit production. My own garden is too small and shaded to envision growing fruit trees for fruit, but I love the image of apple orchards underplanted with blossoming clover!

Blossoming red clover underplanting apple trees

Red clover in apple orchard; image from http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Although Trefle & Vetiver doesn’t radiate as strongly or as long as Tzor’a, it continues to make itself known as a pleasant skin scent for several hours after application. This would be a very nice scent to wear to work; it is subtle and soft as it dries down, but it is a pleasant reminder of the great outdoors when one has to be inside.

Have you visited any pop-up stores lately? Tried either of Anat Fritz’ fragrances? Have any other suggestions for fragrances during a hot, dry fall?

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, the scent created by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton, in 2010. It must still sell well, as it still has its own page on the ELDO website. It isn’t necessarily a fragrance I would have associated with Ms. Swinton, a brilliant actress who is known for playing eccentric, complicated characters and for her striking, almost androgynous looks. ELDO’s website calls it ” cozy, skin-hugging sweetness nestled with soft florals and unique, orange citrus notes.” Here is the longer description from ELDO, which sound as if it was written by Tilda:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is, or what “God’s fragrance” means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close.

Like this.”

This is possibly my favorite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse my scent sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home. In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland – after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me – where the adventuring, alien Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick – comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests: Like This

Smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse. Yes, Like This evokes all of those.  The listed notes are ginger, pumpkin, tangerine, immortal flower, Moroccan neroli, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, woody notes, musk, heliotrope. When I first spray it, the opening is pleasantly tangy with ginger and tangerine — lightly spicy and citrusy, not sweet. If this ginger is gingerbread, it is not the sugary kind — it’s more like a ginger snap (one of my favorite cookies). The combination of tangerine notes and neroli reminds me of a very particular kind of greenhouse: an orangery, a glass enclosure where Europeans in cooler climates could grow trees in huge pots, that produced prized citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. At “Now Smell This“, reviewer Angela wrote:

I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.

I’ve read elsewhere that Ms. Swinton had just dyed her hair orange for her role in the movie “I Am Love” when the fragrance collaboration began, and may have actually requested the references to orange. How fascinating the creative process is! Like This is warm and beautiful, like the image of Swinton’s character in that movie, Emma, the midlife spouse of a rich Italian aristocrat, who falls in love with a much younger man.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love”, 2010.

Given the powerful roles Ms. Swinton has played in the movies about Narnia and the Avengers, coziness, warmth, and home might not come immediately to mind in relation to her, but a cozy scent is what she asked ELDO to create:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain.

The floral notes take over from the citrus, but the ginger continues like a glowing thread through the composition, and the floral notes are well-balanced with spices, woody notes, vetiver, all of which keep the fragrance dry and vivid. This would smell lovely on either men or women, it is truly unisex.

Kafkaesque reviewed Like This when it was released and concluded it is “definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you!”, although she didn’t see herself buying a full bottle. Her review includes more details about the creative process behind the fragrance. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” gave it four stars out of five; she found it darker and smokier than I do, calling it “a strange and unconventional blend … a cross between the woody richness of Serge Lutens Douce Amère and the smoldering darkness of Donna Karan Chaos, with plenty of its own surprising elements.”

I agree with Kafkaesque that Like This is intriguing and that it grows on you. I hadn’t really planned to wear it three days in a row this week, but I did, and I enjoyed it every time. It lasts well on my skin, enough that I can spray it on in the evening and still smell its warm base notes on my wrist the next morning. It is the kind of fragrance that other people won’t recognize but most will find very pleasing, especially up close.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by a fragrance that wasn’t what you expected in one way or another?

May Muguet Marathon: Chanel Paris-Biarritz

May Muguet Marathon: Chanel Paris-Biarritz

Last summer (2018), Chanel launched “Les Eaux de Chanel”, three eaux de toilette named after three destinations to which Chanel herself traveled from Paris. The destinations are Biarritz, Venise, and Deauville. Created by Olivier Polge, Chanel’s in-house perfumer, each of these fragrances opens with a strong medley of citrus notes. They are intended to be very fresh and lively, and so they are.

Paris-Biarritz is a tribute to the seaside resort in the southwest Basque region of France, which became fashionable during the time of Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III, who built a grand summer home there. Chanel opened her first true “salon de couture” here, in 1915, during World War I when many wealthy people sought refuge and distance from the war. The international clientele of Biarritz allowed her to earn enough that she became financially independent, and the town is thus integral to the history of her fashion house. Perfumer Olivier Polge describes the intent behind Les Eaux:

“This is a new sort of collection of perfumes, we call them Les Eaux because they’re fresh, fluid, sparkling. My source of inspiration came from Eau de cologne, those combinations of fresh citrus oils,” says Polge. Each scent was inspired and named after a destination vitally important to Coco Chanel’s life: Venice, Biarritz, and the beach town Deauville where she opened her very first boutique in 1913. “The three cities are really important in the history of Chanel. They became a part of our identity and source of inspiration,” he says.

The story of Coco Chanel in Biarritz is best told by Chanel itself, in this short film:

Like its siblings, Paris-Biarritz opens with a burst of citruses, in this case orange, lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, and tangerine. The combination is very appealing; there is sweetness from the orange and tangerine, tartness from the lemon and grapefruit, and some greenness from the bergamot. It takes a while for any heart notes to show up, and the first one I perceive is the neroli, which seems fitting since it is the source of orange blossom absolute. The bergamot lingers the longest of all those citrus top notes, which leads nicely into the greener heart of the fragrance. The words used by Chanel to describe this fragrance include “exceptionally fresh”, “dynamic”, “vivacious”, and I would agree.

As the citruses settle down, the neroli shows up, then lily of the valley and unspecified green notes. This heart phase is floral, but lightly so. Given that both lily of the valley and neroli give off citrusy and green aromas, and bergamot is a very “green” citrus to my nose, the greenness of the middle stage works well and quite smoothly. I think the neroli takes precedence over the lily of the valley, however. The citrus notes last longer than I might have expected, which I appreciate. This is a truly unisex fragrance, very reminiscent of summer colognes but longer lasting.

That doesn’t mean it has great longevity, though, because it doesn’t. Not bad for a citrus-focused fragrance, but after just a few hours, it is gone. The base notes are, to my nose, skin scents, and I can’t even say that I smell any patchouli, just a lingering light note of white musk. Some will enjoy reapplying it often to enjoy the beautiful citrus top notes. If you are seeking a a true lily of the valley fragrance, this isn’t it, but it is very appealing.

Have you tried any of “Les Eaux de Chanel”? Did you like any?