Thursday, December 31, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit and wearing perfume

This is the second time this week that I've worn perfume. That is, the second time that I just wore perfume, without evaluating it, without reviewing it, without making sure that I caught all of the stages of the development, just to wear it. Just to, you know, have a smell.

I've apparently developed a work ethic related to wearing perfume, and I feel like I'm slacking off. You'd think that I'd enjoy the slacking off, but as it turns out, no - I like to analyze my perfume. I'm a little sad that I didn't pay proper attention to L'Oiseau de Nuit.

All I can tell you today is that I expected this to be a dark floral, and I was entirely wrong - dark yes, floral no. It's very ambery and resinous, which makes sense given the notes list of cistus labdanum, liqueur of davana, benzoin, and leather. (So, what's davana? A quick search tells me that it's an herb with fragrance notes reminiscent of apricots, liquorice, and hay.)

That all sounds pretty good. I'll pay attention next time.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Perfume (Sort Of): Issey Miyake A Scent Moisturizing Body Lotion

I love perfume, but I very rarely use perfumed products. I prefer my soap and shampoo to be unscented, and I rarely use face cream or hand cream. When my hands do get chapped, like now, I use unscented hand cream, and that's that.

But when I bought my bottle of Issey Miyake A Scent, they gave me a bitty tester of "moisturizing body lotion" in the same scent, and I've been occasionally using it on my chapped hands when I go to bed.

And I like the stuff. It's a pretty true version of the scent, without the weird notes that so often intrude on a scented "product". Nicely green, gently flowery, unsneezy, pretty nice for falling asleep to. It doesn't soak into my hands quite as quickly as I'd like, but then, it's not hand cream, so it's not quite fair for me to expect it to perform in a way that it wasn't trained to.

That's about all, but it's such a novelty for me to like a "scented product" that I wanted to post. I might even buy more.

Photo by Tryptophan. Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle (and note reconciliation)

A painting, Albert Joseph Moore's _The Green Butterfly_, of a woman in yellow-green draping robes standing on a brick garden pavement in a thoughtful posture, with a butterfly fluttering on her left.
Remember when I didn't like tuberose?

I'm over that. So over it. I'm doing everything short of chasing tuberose perfumes with a butterfly net. Is this how it is when you and a hated note reconcile? Do you love that note more than the ones that you were able to appreciate at first sniff?

Of course, it helps that I always appreciated that tuberose was beautiful. The dislike was an association thing. I felt irritated, annoyed, crowded, even as I could perceive the marvels of the note. It appears that piling up enough positive associations, mostly with Tubereuse Couture, was enough to drown the dislike as if it had never been.

So, I'm holding my own private tuberose festival. And Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle is a fine, fine festival exhibit.

The opening is challenging. People have compared it to Vick's Vapo-Rub or gasoline. At least one person (OK, me) has compared it to mothballs. The first time that I tried this fragrance, that put me off. That note skimmed off some of the beauty of the tuberose, and with tuberose on probation (at best) with me anyway, what's the point?

Now that tuberose and I are friends, I love the weird mentholated opening. It seems to add an edge of humor and an edge of, well, edge, to keep the flower from being purely Shirley Temple ruffles and batting-eyes pretty.

That anti-prettifying function is usually achieved in white flower perfumes with indolic notes, so this cleaner version is a nice change. It's similar in function to the green notes in Tubereuse Couture, but utterly different in the final result. It's strong, but also cold, smooth, solid, and a little distant - it's a presence, not a smothering blanket. It makes this a perfume that a (brave) man could wear, and I have a strong preference for unisex perfumes.

Much of the mothball weirdness wears off in the first hour, enough to let you see the tuberose clearly, but there's just enough of left to keep the perfume from being cloying.  Other things are going on, too - the listed notes are tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, hyacinth, nutmeg, clove, styrax, musk, and vanilla.

I can faintly sense the spices and vanilla helping to bridge the gap between the flower and the mothballs. I'm guessing that the orange blossom and hyacinth are making the normally-indolic tuberose and jasmine a little cleaner and brighter.

I want. Tubereuse Criminelle is in the non-export line, so I'm going to have trouble getting my hands on it without going to France. But I'm sure that there are Ways.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Bois de Jasmin and Sweet Diva and PereDePierre and For The Love Of Perfume and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume Posse and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and Grain de Musc and Basenotes and MakeupAlley and Fragrantica and Eiderdown Press and Perfume Shrine and Perfumista dot org and Nathan Branch and Perfumum and FitForAFemme and The SF Examiner and Pink Manhattan (scroll down) and Perfume Nerd and Muses in Wooden Shoes and Scentsate.

Modified to add to the Review Roundup.

Image: Albert Joseph Moore, The Green Butterfly. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque

If I didn't like this, I might compare the urinous honey note to... well, but I do like it. A lot. So I'm going to put it another way. To me, this is the remains of a bonfire built with well-aged, resinous wood, with tigers prowling around the coals. And what happened to whoever was smoking all that sweet tobacco?

It's lovely. But it's not pretty.  It's not cuddly. To me, this isn't the scent that your smoking jacket picks up after an evening by the fire in a comfy Moroccan leather chair. This is outside, somewhere unexplored, where you're not absolutely sure that you're going to make it out alive.

That's what it is for me, anyway. Reading the reviews, most people seem to experience this as a comfort scent, maybe with a little friendly animal, maybe without. Hearths, libraries, dried fruit, and pipe-smoke. Except for Donna at Perfume-Smellin' Things - I'm pleased to read that she gets danger, too.

Whether it's wilderness or a warm fireside chair, it's glorious. As usual, I can't pick up most of the notes - I read that it contains currants, honey, rose, jasmine, leather, beeswax, tobacco, Peru balsam, patchouli, tonka bean, styrax, juniper, and vanilla. I get smoke and tobacco, a hint of vanilla, a little burned resin, and tigers. Like many Lutens perfumes, it undergoes drastic changes in the development, and the beginning is the most challenging part, so if you don't like it on first sniff, give it at least four hours before you give up.

Review Roundup: Perfume-Smellin' Things and Bois de Jasmin and Sweet Diva and PereDePierre and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and MakeupAlley and Fragrantica and Basenotes and PerfumeCritic and Nathan Branch and Jonniker and The Fragrant Elf and Blogdorf Goodman and Pink Manhattan and Pink Manhattan again and Pink Manhattan a third time and a brief description in A Mental Note and a brief description of a layering experiment in Aromascope.

Tiger photo: By Dick Mudde. Wikimedia Commons.
Bonfire photo: By Jon Sullivan. Wikimedia Commons.

Movie: Up In The Air

Photo of backpack or rucksack.
Summary: In "Up In The Air", a Termination Facilitator encounters threatened change to his job, his personal philosophy, and his lack of relationships. And does a whole lot of flying.

Rapid Fire: Eppley Airfield. Undershirts. Crop circle. Admiral Club. Miami-Dade. Graphite. That necktie. Card key. O'Hare. TSA. Bridesmaids. Cold feet. Lambert.

Score: 4/5

Recommendation: Very good. George Clooney at his best, without the cartoon coating that some movies wrap around him. The other leads are similarly compelling. It's all good; I can't think of a single weak spot to point to. The only reason not to go see this now is if you save your big-screen money for special effects blockbusters.

Link Roundup: Wikipedia and Roger Ebert and IMDB.

Photo: By Joadl. Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 28, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Un Lys

Closeup of a piece of penuche.
I didn't make a considered decision to wear Un Lys today. It started when I couldn't find the dabber bottle where I'd dumped my sample. After a frantic search, I found it, sniffed the top of the bottle, found the smell oddly medicinal, and applied the smallest of smears to make sure that it's surviving all right.

The resulting cloud let me know that it's surviving just fine, and that you can't wear just a little of this perfume. That is, you can, but it won't act like just a little. Extremely light application accelerates the drydown, but once any of it's on, that's what you're wearing today. So I made the most of it and dabbed away.

I still love this stuff. I liked the accelerated drydown that results from minimal dabs - I enjoy the barely-grainy sweetness of the later phases more than the clear, high-pitched beginning. The olfactory texture, if I can call it that, reminds me of old-fashioned slightly grainy fudge, or penuche, though the scent itself has nothing to do with food. It's a very satisfying sensation.

Review Roundup: Is here.

Photo: By Mackinac Fudge Shop. Wikimedia Commons.

Compilation: Where to buy perfume (and a few other things) in Ashland, Oregon

Photo of Ashland, Oregon's downtown plaza, with the Oregon Shakespeare banner in the upper left of the image.
When I travel, I always want to know where I can shop for perfume. Whenever we pass a row of nice little shops, I just know that there's perfume hiding there somewhere, and I always wish that I could grab a local perfume freak and demand to know where the good stuff is.

I'm sometimes a local, always a perfume freak in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and Southern Oregon University (SOU) and the Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF) and other nice things that could result in you driving through someday.

So I want to tell you where the perfume and other scented products are, so that you'll (1) buy some, which will (2) encourage the stores to carry more of it and possibly (3) carry more brands or more scents, so that (4) I have more that's local to sniff.

And while I'm at it, I'll tell you about a few of my favorite other stores.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles (Quick sniff only)

In spite of looking forward to the arrival of the sample, I didn't pay proper attention to this one today. I liked it - pleasantly camphorous, pleasantly medicinal, in general enjoyable versions of notes that I don't expect to enjoy. I liked it when I put it on, liked it on my walk in the cold shortly after, and still like the drydown now.

But I liked it in an oblivious sort of way, so the proper review (and the Review Roundup) will have to come another day.

Photo: By Downtowngal. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

SOTD: Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia

My previous experience of Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia was a quick sniff at the fragrance counter. As the fragrance developed, I smelled butter and beeswax, and I fell madly in love. But I managed to control myself, to the heroic (I think) extent of declining when Himself volunteered to take me to Neiman Marcus when I had something to celebrate.

I waited for the spray sample to come. I didn't even search for an online source. Much.

Sadly, it turns out that I was wise to wait, because this second wearing was different. The top notes were nice - much fresher than I remembered, without the thick sweetness that I expect from white flowers. Fresher, but not citrus and not green. Maybe this is what I see referred to as "balsamic" - that's a category of notes that I haven't nailed down yet.

But as the scent developed, I didn't get any of that butter and beeswax, and without it, this is just an adequate, not-too-cloying gardenia scent. It just got quieter, creamier, and less aggressive. A dozen hours after application, it's a shrug.

I'm not giving up, but at least two more wearings are called for. And they need to happen soon, because this one's going away.

Review Roundup: Bois de Jasmin and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume Posse and PeredePierre and Perfume Posse again and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and Basenotes

Link Roundup: A Tom Ford review in poem form on Perfume Posse and a post on Gardenias and Leather from What We Do Is Secret (almost nothing to do with Velvet Gardenia, but I liked it and I have no gardenia compilation).

Photo: By Waugsberg. Wikimedia Commons.

BOTD: French Fried by Nancy Fairbanks

Photograph of the Palais des Papes, Avignon, France.
Summary: American food writer and chemist husband encounter good food, cranky people, and bumbling murderous intent in France.

Rapid Fire: Liver paste. Japanese food. Hypermetropes. Adultery. Charles de Gaulle. Human Resources. Avignon carousel. Winston Churchill. Broken heels. Circuit breaker.

First Paragraph Score: 2/5

Overall Score: 2.5/5

Recommendation: Worth finishing. I'm not sorry that I bought it, but I did buy it used. I'm hoping that this is a weaker member of a stronger series, because I like the elements, they just don't come together in an entirely satisfactory way in this one.

Photo of Palas des Papes, Avignon, by Jean-Marc Rosier. Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, December 25, 2009

SOTD: Fendi Theorema (And Merry Christmas!)

Pomander, orange studded with cloves.
Oranges belong with Christmas. Navel oranges in my stocking when I was a kid. Tangerines along with the little powdered-sugar doughnuts for the Christmas morning snackfest. I had a limited fondness for fruit as a kid, so Christmas was one of the few times that I really appreciated the scent cloud that's produced when you crack open an orange.

I forgot my perfume this morning, in all the poultry-roasting and subsequent gluttony. And I forgot to get oranges for Christmas. So I just corrected both errors with a good couple of sprays of Theorema.

Review Roundup: Is here.

Photo: By Peter Kuiper. Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SOTD: Shiseido Feminite du Bois

A quick Christmas Eve ramble; I'll no doubt have a great deal more to say about this perfume another day.

The good news is that I like Shiseido Feminite du Bois. I didn't expect to like it - I don't like most of the Serge Lutens "bois" perfumes - but I find that it's a lovely mix of wood and spices and fruit that blends so well that it doesn't even announce itself as fruit. It's what I once imagined plum pudding could be like.

The bad news is that I like Shiseido Feminite du Bois. Because it's been reformulated and changed brands. The easily obtained version is now Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois, which is not the version I just fell for.

I approve of the fact that this fragrance has "gone home" to the Serge Lutens line - Serge Lutens was responsible for its creation in the first place. But it changed, at least a little, in the process. And I haven't seen anyone yet who prefers the new version.

So we're back to the Tragedy of Reformulation: Do I buy it now, or do I let it go and trust that the perfume world will produce something else just as lovely?

Review Roundup: Bois de Jasmin and Bois de Jasmin again (about the reformulation) and Perfume-Smellin' Things and The Non-Blonde and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and Perfume Posse and Now Smell This and Fragrantica and Basenotes and MakeupAlley and Polish, Platforms, Perfume and Yesterday's Perfume and Confessions of a Perfume Nerd and +Q Perfume Blog.

Link Roundup: The Scented Salamander has an interview and Now Smell This announces the reformulation and Fragrantica has a page on the reformulated version and Perfume Shrine talks about the reformulation.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Photo: By Malene Thyssen. Wikimedia Commons.

Meta: Oops. I didn't delete you, really!

It appears that I had my list of perfume links set to only thirty entries, so folks at the bottom of the alphabet were falling off.  I've corrected this, but in the unlikely event that anyone noticed that they were once there and then were no longer there, and were offended as a result, I wanted to make this quick post to explain.

Bad ChickenFreak. Fixed now.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SOTD: Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale

Today we had a Christmas party. So of course I wore Sushi Imperiale. What else could I possibly wear?

Actually, I'm surprised to find that I could have worn Un Crime Exotique (well, I could have if I owned more than a drained sample vial), or Thereoma. Where I had one winter celebratory fragrance, now I have three.

Do I need three? Does having three fragrances for one type of occasion add enjoyment to that occasion, because I have more choices? Or would I derive greater enjoyment from simply having one fragrance for the occasion, one that I know that I'll wear, that I put on as part of the ritual of preparing for the event?

I don't know, and I'm too full of cookies just now to say. But I'll be thinking about it.

Review Roundup: Is here.

Photo: By Schlurcher. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SOTD: Chanel Cuir de Russie (Les Exclusifs, EDT)

Head and shoulders of Katharine Hepburn, from The Philadelphia Story, looking severe and serious.
I had high expectations of Cuir de Russie. It's fulfilled them. I want some and I want it now.

This one has been discussed and described so well in so many reviews - see the roundup down there? - that I have nothing new to offer. But that won't stop me.

To my nose, it's all about leather - elegant, fine leather. Soft gloves and well-used bags and well-aged leather upholstery. Upholstery in a luxurious and well-aged car, the kind that ambles along at a deceptively decorous pace until its owner suddenly decides to show off the engine, and then the car is quietly gone with barely a puff of smoke to mark where it was. That kind of leather.

Iris takes second billing. I didn't take to iris immediately, back when I started on this perfume freakery path. I disliked it, and then I tolerated it, and I'm finally learning to like it. I definitely like it here, even the nuts-and-pencil-erasers beginning.

And am I actually liking amber? There's a powdery sweetness late in the development that's lovely, mixed with vanilla. So, maybe I am.

There are other things in here. According to The Perfumed Court, the top notes are orange blossom, bergamot, mandarin, and clary sage, the middle notes are iris, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, and vetiver, and the base notes are styrax, leather, amber, and vanilla. I'm not getting even one of the floral and fresh notes. But that's all the more reason to try this one again and again, until I do get them.

But all that is just about how it smells, not how it feels. It feels luxurious. Elegant. Self-assured; it's not the least bit eager to please. This isn't a woman that works and frets to be beautiful; it's a woman who's blessed with beauty and elegance without even trying, and accepts those blessings as her due. Not an altogether likable character, perhaps, but you still can't look away.

Review Roundup: Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This and PereDePierre and 1000 Fragrances and One Thousand Scents and Grain de Musc and Perfume Shrine and Fragrantica and Basenotes and Suite101 and MakeupAlley and WAFT and Polish, Platforms, Perfume and hortus conclusus and ScentsOfSelf and Perfume Patter and Scent Of The Day.

Link Roundup: Les Tuileries and The Vintage Perfume Vault and hortus conclusus and parfumieren and The Perfume Chronicles.

(Edited to add to the Review Roundup.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 21, 2009

Answers: Anosmic? Eh?

Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, sniffing.
I merrily referred to myself as anosmic to some notes in this review, and it occurred to me that I should offer a definition of the word.

Anosmia refers to the inability to smell. Specific anosmia refers to the inability to smell certain things, as in the phrase "anosmic to musk". (And, as it happens, many people are anosmic to musk - it's one of the more frequent of specific anosmia.)

In my case - just in case anyone should ever want to know in the context of my reviews - I seem to be anosmic to whatever causes pepper notes in L'Artisan Parfumeur scents, and I appear to smell ambergris (really, probably some chemical or chemicals used to simulate ambergris) "wrong". I may have other quirks with my sense of smell, but those are the closest that I can nail them down so far.

Link Roundup: Fragrance Bouquet and Wikipedia.

Parfumerie Generale Drama Nuui

A reservoir glass filled with a naturally colored verte absinthe next to an absinthe spoon.
Oh. Yeah.

I forgot that I tried this before. I forgot why I wasn't sold. Now I remember.

But I'm not sorry that I tried it again today, because I learned a little more. First, I no longer think that it's an incorrect sample - I can get the jasmine now, and even the indolic notes. And I can see what the reviewers are talking about - the transparency, the freshness, and so on.

From the descriptions, it should be an indolic jasmine illuminated by fresh notes, so that now you want it a little dirtier, now you want it a little brighter, the whole mix producing that tension that I love in a fragrance. The two sides should highlight each other, like salt on watermelon.

But it just doesn't come together for me. The notes aren't highlighting each other - instead, the freshness spoils the jasmine and the jasmine spoils the freshness. And I'm also getting something a little aquatic/melony in the fresh notes - it makes me think of Calone, whether there's Calone in there or not. And so far, I fervantly dislike Calone, at least when I can tell that it's there.

I'm more than willing to theorize that the problem may be my nose. There are a few things that I'm quite sure that I'm anosmic to, and one of them may be whatever it is that weaves all this together and makes it the fragrance that others smell. Perhaps it's whatever produces the absinthe note - I can't get any absinthe at all, and I can see that its presence could make a huge difference. It might cancel out the melon, and add the bitterness that would be needed to reconcile the jasmine and the fresh notes.

Hmm. Now I'm really wishing that I could smell that. But I can't, so for me, this is an unimpressive watery-melon-jasmine. There's nothing in there to make it a potential acquired taste, like Bois de Copaiba. So I'm done with this fragrance.

Unless I forget again.

Review Roundup: Was here.

Photo of absinthe in glass by Eric Litton. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique (Pfeffernusse perfume!)


I tried this before, and was unimpressed.

But I just saw a post about Theorema on I Smell Therefore I Am, pointing out an olfactory relationship between Un Crime Exotique and Theorema. And I've always seen a relationship between Sushi Imperiale (which I've always adored), Theorema (which I now adore) and Un Crime Exotique (which was a "meh" for me.) So I figured it was time to try Un Crime Exotique again to see if I love it now.

Oh, yes. Oh, my. How could I have sniffed this before and not fallen in love?

Most people say that this perfume smells of gingerbread; I say that it's a precise rendition of pfeffernusse. Those spicy little holiday cookies, with the powdered sugar or, sometimes, sugar glaze? They're almost a perfume in a cookie. More anise than gingerbread, more cinnamon, altogether just a little darker. Here's that same scent in a bottle. As I wear it, I feel as if powdered sugar should be gently raining on me.

Review Roundup: For The Love Of Perfume and Now Smell This and Sweet Diva and The Scented Salamander and PerfumeQueen and Nathan Branch and SmellyBlog and MakeupAlley and Basenotes.

Edited to expand the Review Roundup.

Photo of star anise: Arria Belli. Wikimedia Commons.

BOTD: Smoke Screen by Marianne Macdonald

Summary: Antiquarian book dealer caught between an irresistible collection, a mad client, and a murderer.

Rapid Fire: Dead poet. Victorian Gothic. Cranky toddler. Royal command. Bad coffee. Oxford professor. Burning books. Tree huggers.

First Paragraph Score: 2/5

Overall Score: 3/5

Recommendation: Well worth reading.

Photo: By Toby Ord. Wikimedia Commons.

Answers: What's the First Paragraph Test?

Yes, I realize that at the moment that I post this, not even one of you have been asking yourself the above question. Because I've never used the phrase before. But I'm going to use it in future posts. So I'll explain.

I read a lot of books. I've mentioned that. A whole lot of books. This means that I need to acquire a whole lot of books, in order to read them. This means that the logical methods of finding books - reading reviews, getting opinions from friends, buying the books of an author that I already know and like - frequently fail to identify candidates when I need them to. Especially since I'm dealing with used bookstores that have a varying selection from day to day.

So I've developed a way of choosing non-fiction books, mostly mysteries, from the shelves at the used bookstore: I judge the entire book by its first paragraph. If a book fails the first paragraph test, it goes back on the bookstore shelf.

So what causes a book, usually a murder mystery, to fail the test?

Unsubtle explanation and description can do it. If I read in the first paragraph that "Pretty Mary Jane Wilbertson shook back her raven curls as she walked down the main street of lovely art town Millerville, Montana in the late September sunshine..." the book's out of the running. I'll probably be gone at "Pretty" and I'll certainly be gone at "curls", long before the excessive detail about Millerville.

Dramatic or sentimental language can do it. I don't want to hear the fully-flowering grief or terror of a character that I haven't met yet. If the big stuff happens in those first few sentences, it had better happen in a dry, matter-of-fact way.

Failed humor can do it fast. If the author and I can't mesh on something as important as humor in the first paragraph, where they've presumably put in their best efforts, how bad is it going to get later?

On the other side, what causes a first paragraph to pass the test with flying colors?

Dry humor. Restraint. An intriguing fact or event. Subtlety in providing necessary description or explanation. Stepping straight into the action, so that it's as if you're already past the first paragraph. Any of those can work.

For example, Murder Within Murder by Richard and Frances Lockridge starts with:
Miss Amelia Gipson presented a firm front to the world; she stood for no nonsense. For the conscious period of her fifty-two years she had stood for no nonsense in a world which was stubbornly nonsensical. The nonsense in the world had not been greatly abated by her attitude, but Miss Gipson's skirts were clean. What one person could do, she had done. If that was inadequate, the fault lay elsewhere; there was a laxity in higher places. Miss Gipson often suspected that there was.
That paragraph sold me that book, plus another by the same authors that had a much less impressive first paragraph. Yes, it gave me the character's full name and her age, but I didn't notice that I was being fed background - I was fully absorbed in the picture being painted.

Now, the first paragraph test isn't a guarantee in either direction. I just picked up a favorite book by Barbara Michaels, and was surprised to find that it certainly would have failed the first paragraph test. So for my own entertainment, I'll be including a first paragraph rating on my Book of The Day posts, so that over time I can evaluate the first paragraph's success against that of the whole book. And I wanted you to know what it means.

As a side note, I'll also be changing the format of the Book Of The Day posts. I'm dissatisfied with the process and the product of my book posts, so I'm going to try something completely different.

Photo: Lin Kristensen. Wikimedia Commons.

Link: Himself Blogging Ashland

You've always wanted to hear from Himself, right? You can! He's at Blogging Ashland, his blog about the fine town of Ashland, Oregon.

Ashland is well known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the news makes sure that the whole country is kept up to date on Ashland's public nudity laws. But believe it or not, there's more! A lot more, as Blogging Ashland will show you.

Photo of Ashland 4th of July parade: Himself's.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

SOTD: Diptyque Tam Dao

I read a debate about Diptyque's Tam Dao today. Some folks argued for it as the very best sandalwood fragrance, others argued that it's a synthetic cloud of ISO E Super. So I wore my sample, to decide for myself.

So. Sandalwood.  All sandalwood - I'm not getting the cedar that others mention. And, well... yeah, it's sandalwood.

It's nice. It would be hard to argue that it's not nice. Pleasant. Smooth. Good-smelling. If I owned a full bottle, I certainly wouldn't be getting rid of it.

But I don't feel the desperate urge to own that full bottle. I'm fonder of my Art of Shaving Sandalwood, eucalyptus and all. Tam Dao is just a little too smooth and linear for me - or I may not have a sufficiently educated nose to find what makes it so well-loved. For me, it's Perfectly Nice, like Philosykos, another Diptyque scent that doesn't capture me.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin and The Non Blonde and MonkeyManMatt and  Aromascope and Perfume Posse and Perfume Patter.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, December 18, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens A La Nuit

Another no-fooling-around floral today. This one is in competition with Un Lys, another Christopher Sheldrake creation, for the List. (The "bottles I intend to own someday" List.)

And a deeply Wrong thought occurs to me. The category under competition is "another killer white floral". However, one could break that category up into the different white florals, and make an argument for someday owning the perfect tuberose (Tubereuse Couture), jasmine (A La Nuit), lily (Un Lys), and gardenia (Velvet Gardenia). Ooh...

OK, I'm back now. That would be Wrong.

So, back to A La Nuit. The opening is jasmine. A fog of it. A pool of it. But I no longer perceive it as a honey-thick suffocating ocean of it, as I did the last time I tried this, about a year ago. My jasmine appreciation has apparently increased manyfold. I'm pleased, if perhaps just a little alarmed - at what point in this increased tolerance am I in danger of drowning other people?

I think that the "green shoots" note also helps to control the jasmine's suffocation potential - I'm learning, from this and Tubereuse Couture, that I have a much higher tolerance for white flowers when they're accompanied by a good streak of green. The green adds a tart counter to the flower's sweetness, and some freshness to battle the indolic notes. Without it, I'm likely to find the flower lovely for about forty seconds, after which I want to wash it off.

And upon more thought, I conclude that perhaps the "white honey" note is helping, too. Jasmine can be intolerably shrill for me, and green notes add their own high-pitched note, so they're not going to help with that. Beeswax and honey, on the other hand, are very low-pitched to my nose.

(A momentary diversion: What do I mean by high- and low- pitched smells? I don't know, but I know it when I smell it. In general, sour is high-pitched, and creamy/buttery/woody/musky fragrances are low-pitched. But it's not that simple, because jasmine is both high-pitched and sweet, and anyway, sour is a taste, not a smell, so we're still on the wrong sense. I'm not the only perfume freak to use the word "shrill" for a scent, so I know I'm not alone in this particular brand of insanity. But I do rather wish that I had a better explanation.)

So. Back, again, to A La Nuit. Jasmine blowing trumpets at the opening, quieter jasmine in the middle, shy jasmine at the base. Not too indolic. Not too sparkly. Not too sweet. I like it a lot. I suspect that Un Lys is still winning the White Flower Faceoff, but not by much.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin and Fragrance Bouquet and PereDePierre and  Sweet Diva and Fragrantica.

Jasmine, by Albert Joseph Moore: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 17, 2009

SOTD: Chanel No. 19

A painting of a young red-haired woman in green, lounging on a sofa, looking slightly to the right with a thoughtful expression. Painting is a cropped portion of William Glacken's _Young Woman In Green_.
I realized today that Chanel No. 19 extrait has two roles.

First, it's a special-occasion scent, a celebratory scent. A scent for dressing up. In that role, it's also one of the scents that I most strongly defend from negative associations - normally, I only wear Chanel No. 19 on days that I expect to be very good days.

But it has a second role. It's also a "don't mess with me" scent.

In this role, I see it as a beautiful, not altogether human creature. She's lounging as she observes the source of the problem. Her green claws are sheathed but ready, and one eyebrow is raised just enough to inquire, without words, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

Like my image for Tubereuse Couture, I'm not that creature, but sometimes it's very useful to smell as if I am.

Review Roundup: Is here.

Cropped image of William Glacken's Young Woman In Green: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SOTD: Serge Lutens Un Lys

Picture of one white lily with recurved petals. (Lilium ledebourii)
Sometimes I long for girly perfume. Perfume that calls itself perfume, not the somehow more modern term "fragrance". Perfume that wants silk and furs, that would be comfortable at a night club, but only if the year is before 1960. Perfume.

This is, to me, one of those. And I rarely like those; it's usually more of an abstract longing than one that can be fulfilled by any real perfume. So my interest is definitely caught by Un Lys.

It's beautiful.

It starts out clear and high-pitched, all lily, ringing out and impossible to ignore. But that emphatic phase doesn't last quite as long as it takes to get tired of it - it fades while you're still enjoying it, into something more textured, a little grainier, with musk and vanilla joining the lily.

The good news and the bad news is that just a few drops last all day. So I have no need for a full bottle. So that's the bad news.

Review Roundup: Now Smell This and Basenotes and 1000 Fragrances and Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfme-Smellin' Things again and For The Love Of Perfume and MakeupAlley and ScentSignals and Eiderdown Press and Pink Manhattan and Beauty Banter and sakecat and Fragrantica and PerfumeShrineBlog and Bois de Jasmin.

Edited to add to the review roundup.

Photo: By Iman Mirabzadeh. Wikimedia Commons. Click for information/licensing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SOTD: Comme des Garcons:Leaves:Tea Versus Fendi Theorema

I've had Comme des Garcons Series 1: Leaves, Tea for a while; I read good reviews of it and wanted to give it a try. So I put it on this morning.

It's more bitter than I expected. Acrid? It makes me think of strong tea that's been stewed for a while. I like my tea overstewed, so that's just fine with me.

But it also has an odd aggressive note that I'm not sure about. Some reviews have mentioned Lysol or ammonia or "antiseptic" or vinyl or Saran Wrap or rubbing alcohol and, yeah, I can see that in there.

On the other hand, just trying to analyze what that note smells like is making me warm to it. This is Comme des Garcons, after all. There's no reason to assume that something that smells like plastic or cleaning fluid is a mistake rather than a design decision.

This is one of those fragrances that teeters on that precarious edge between "dreadful" and "got to own it". I suspect I'll want to own it, but I'm not sure yet.

And I can't evaluate it any more today, because after a few hours: The Theorema package arrived! Woohoo!

So I promptly sprayed Theorema over Tea, and it became a Theorema day. In the process, I discovered that Theorema and Tea layer very nicely. The orange mixes with that medicinal/Lysol/vinyl/whatever note and turns it into a positive. The tea note sweetened with the orange becomes a good deal friendlier - Tea is not a friendly fragrance.

And, oddly, Tea makes Theorema friendlier, too - it shifts it from not quite gourmand, into gourmand. I'm not going to be layering these two all the time, but today I like it.

Review Roundup for Tea: Fragrantica and Basenotes and the catalog page at LuckyScent. And now Now Smell This!

(I usually don't include perfume sellers, but LuckyScent clearly allows negative as well as positive reviews, and there isn't enough review coverage of this one otherwise.)

(And, ohforheavenssake - this is discontinued too?! Really? I read a remark to this effect in my searching. I hope it's a mistake.)

Review Roundup for Theorema: Is here.

Edited to add to the Review Roundup.

Tea Photo: By David J. Fred. Wikimedia Commons.
Orange Photo: By Alexander Talos. Wikimedia Commons.

Perfume: The Bi-Annual Insanity

I'm noticing that my perfume acquisition comes in cycles. I suspect that they're six-month cycles related to season changes. (And, no, I'm not a psych student, but I did recently see Beer Bad. Hence the phase names.)

Id: First, there's excited, happy exploration. Sometime after the halfway point of the Warm Season or the Cold Season I start to develop cravings for scents of the season that's coming.

I send off for samples and samples and more samples. I buy bottles, preferably bottles that I sampled thoroughly last year, but sometimes just because something was pretty and my purse was dangerously close to the computer.

(Note to self: Always keep the purse in another room, preferably somewhere where you have to pass a witness who knows darn well why you've gone to fetch it.)

This phase is fun, but expensive.

Ego: Then comes driven exploration.

I keep reading descriptions and reviews and forum posts and ad copy. And adding things to my shopping cart and taking them out again. And debating whether the greater utility of an eight dollar 1.5ml sprayer from The Perfumed Court outweighs the lower price of a four dollar 1ml vial from LuckyScent and, hey, does Aedes have samples for that one, and what's the perfume house's policy on sending out samples?

My mind is a hamster wheel. I want it. I shouldn't get it. I might not wear it. I'm not made of money. It might go away. I want it. Just buy it. How much is it?! Is it any better from The Perfume Shoppe? What's the Canadian exchange rate? Remind me, do I have to pay customs?

This phase is not nearly as expensive, but also not nearly as much fun. It's also characterized by denial, because didn't I just say in my sampling post a few days ago that I was free of the "must try everything!!!" drive? Ha. Just look at my Perfumed Court cart.

Superego: Then comes the (temporary) release from the drive. This is the moment - and it happened twenty minutes ago - when I realize, "I don't have to buy another drop of perfume as long as I live."

Now I'm not saying, mind you, that I won't buy another drop. I certainly will. I'll buy quarts, if not gallons. But I don't have to. I could stop right now, for ten years, and still have a more diverse perfume collection than just about anyone I know in real life.

I can just wear what I have. Velvet Gardenia is going away? I have Tubereuse Couture. Feminite du Bois in the original formula is leaving? I nabbed Theorema.  I don't have Bandit? I do have Daim Blond. So there.

(Clip Show Warning: Excessive use of internal links. I'll try to get a grip.)

This phase is the most relaxing, and the least expensive. But it's not the most fun.

Now, this is the first year that I've been blogging, so it's the first year that I've documented this process. But I do remember experiencing it at least twice before.

I predict that I'm going to keep halfheartedly looking at my Perfumed Court cart, and that I'll send off one last order this winter, possibly in the next couple of days to give myself toys for the holiday. But then I suspect that I'm done with the obsessive acquisitions until, oh, late March. At which point I should probably bury the credit cards until June.

I'll still be posting. And reading. And urging people to sniff things. It's not like I've been taken over by aliens. I'm just relaxing a little - I hope.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Compilation: Reformulation, Discontinuation, Perfume Hoarding, and Panic

A suitcase hanging from a chain, precariously, over rushing water.
So I just saw One More Good Article on the topic that I think of as perfume separation anxiety, and decided that I want to assemble a compilation.

This isn't remotely every good article on the subject, it's just the ones I found first, plus ones that I come across as I'm reading. Plus, I'm focusing more on loss than on the IFRA, because, well, as depressing as loss is, the IFRA is more depressing.

And for grieving for specific perfumes:
(Edited to add Harem. And the Wall Street Journal piece. And now the two about Lutens discontinuations.)

Photo: By Joadl. Wikimedia Commons. Click for details or license.

Monday, December 14, 2009

SOTD: Jean Desprez Bal A Versailles (Parfum) (Modern)

You may recall my Monsters and Civet and Patchouli post, where I debated buying a quite reasonably-priced quarter ounce of Jean Desprez Bal A Versailles parfum. I did.

It arrived while we were out of town, and I feared its reputation enough to ask a kind neighbor to bring it in and put the box in the bathtub for the interim, just in case something might be leaking in there. I'd hate to have to rip out the floors.

I returned, eagerly opened the box, sniffed the opened bottle (yow!), and nervously put it away while I tested less scarey things. Today, I finally got up the courage to dab some on.


The very first notes, the first few seconds, are a rather unpleasantly-sweet floral, reminding me of inexpensive oversweet candy or plastic flowers. Perfume Posse said Necco Wafers and I'm grateful - it fits exactly, and I like that image much better.

In less than a minute, the candy fades, though it's not quite altogether gone. The civet announces itself, along with un-plastic, un-candy floral that must be the jasmine. (For some reason, I have trouble placing jasmine. I suspect that it's because it's used so often in perfumes that I just translate it as "perfume floral".)

It ambles along for a while on floral powder, with the animalic notes peeking out, but only because I know they're there - it's perfectly respectable and ladylike. It's very sweet, but not a white-sugar flavorless sweet - it's more like good honey, where the intense sweetness is accompanied by equally intense flavor. It's what I think of as a "fur coat" scent, like Daim Blond, though while Daim Blond is a pale fur, this one is dark. And both furs are definitely worn by women.

Then it shifts to more wood, still sweet, but it's no longer easy to tie the sweetness to specific flowers, or even to flowers at all. It's become candied wood, wood soaked in... not honey, but the sap of some syrup-producing tree that hasn't been discovered yet.  Maybe it's a fraction less Proper, but it's still perfectly ladylike.

And it seems to be sitting there, several hours later - there are gentle shifts between the notes, but I'm not getting the animalic frenzy that I rather expected. If it does turn up, I'll be updating.

Meanwhile, this is a very fine addition to the When Perfume Was Perfume collection. I'm pleased.

Review Roundup: Perfume-Smellin' Things and Perfume Posse and Fragrance Bouquet and Fragrantica and Basenotes and Perfume-Smellin' Things again and Scentzilla! and Perfume-Smellin' Things yet again and Now Smell This and Scentzilla! again and Yesterday's Perfume and Olfactarama and Bloody Frida.

(Edited to add to the Review Roundup.)

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meta: Blog Number Two - Declutter Of The Day

So I've been dithering about how much decluttering talk to have in this blog.

On the one hand, I'd like to "journal" about hoarding and decluttering. On the other hand, I think that that might be a strain on the patience of readers who really aren't interested in that topic.

Solution? Second blog! Woohoo! I'm calling it Declutter Of The Day. Feel free to visit me there, too.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

SOTD: Parfumerie Generale Cadjmere

Mmm. Fuzzy coconut fur.




I seem to be empty of brain. Extra, unusually, almost unprecedentedly, empty of brain. Normally, I can at least babble about something inconsequential. Today... what?

I blame it on the holidays and an overfilled mental priority list. There's the year to tie up at work. And the house to tidy up at, well, home. And gifts to choose. And wrap. And ship.

And will we have that larger party we've been talking about? And when did I last do laundry?

And are the ornaments in the garage attic? And are there black widows in the garage attic? Do black widows look good on the Christmas tree? What if you dip them in glitter?

You can see, here, that my mind is on hold. But coconut fur is a fine wrapping for a mind on hold. Even if that's probably not an image that the copywriters at LuckyScent ever thought of.

Photo: Kris de Curtis. Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SOTD: Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale

Someone on Basenotes recently asked what scent Santa would wear. Sushi Imperiale, of course!

So I wore it today for Christmas shopping. After I put it on, I thought for a moment that it might be a little too bracing for my sleepy self. But it turned out to be the perfect thing to wake me up for the outing, and right now for collapsing again at home after walking home with the bags.

Edited! because I forgot to point to the post with the Sushi Imperiale Review Roundup. Gotta have that.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Meta: Kreativ Blogger Award (Ooh!)

Ooh! Ooh!

Ines, the author of the very fine blog All I Am - A Redhead, has nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger award. Ines's blog is a wonderful combination of perfume, books, and other thoughts. I greatly admire her creativity and expression, and I'm excited that she's even reading my blog, much less awarding it. Thank you so much, Ines.

My understanding is that now I:

- Post the award and a link to the blog that nominated me. (Here!)
- Post seven things about myself. (Here! Below!)
- Pass the award to seven more bloggers that I admire. (Not Here! There will be Decision Making, so this may take me a little while.)

Seven things, seven things, seven things...  I'm going with purely random things that you don't know about me:

1) I love bacon almost as much as fried chicken.

2) My first "perfume" memory is a Sweet Pea Liddle Kiddle Kologne Doll. Her scent is what I was thinking of when I wrote, in one post, about the magnificence of scents that you loved when you were four.

3) I had (have?) a crush on Jack Klugman. You know, Quincy? (Himself does not look at all like Jack Klugman.)

4) In winter, I prefer wearing a zillion layers (tee, bigger tee, longsleeved polo, light sweater, medium sweater, big sweater) to wearing a coat.

5) My teenhood cat took against me when I went to college and never spoke to me again. Don't worry; she attached to my mother and was content. She just held a grudge.

6) I hate sweet pickles.

7) I'm planning to buy a tricycle for exercise and grocery-hauling. Because when I ride a bike I fall over and I don't enjoy that. (Neither do the groceries.)

Thank you again, Ines!

Perfume: Communing With the Sample Hoard

I've been separated from my sample hoard recently. We are now reunited. Celebration (and stinkiness) will ensue.

I love my sample hoard.

It's a smallar hoard than it was this summer, because I've been inflicting samples on the unwary right and left, in the hope of creating new perfume freaks.

This makes the hoard more focused and easier to spread out on my desk without baggies and vials falling off the side (as often). So I love it all the more.

In my earlier Must Try Everything!!! phase of perfume freakery, samples could be a source of anxiety. Gotta try it, gotta try it again, gotta test it through the drydown, gotta decide!! Aaaaaack! Now, I accept that I will never try everything, and that perfumery is not becoming a lost art. So I'm just going to play.

So what's in the hoard? What I haven't tested sufficiently, what I'm keeping until I can spring for a bottle, and what I'm in denial about. I'm going to type as I play with the bags and vials, and inflict a very long post on you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

SOTD: Fendi Theorema (I get it! I get it!)

I've been wanting to like Fendi Theorema. First, simply because it's so well-regarded that I feel that I ought to. People love this stuff with a passionate loyalty, and discussions grieving its discontinuation seem to appear everywhere that perfume freaks congregate on the web. Second, because it's an orange perfume, and I want a winter orange perfume, as I've discussed before.

But not only did I find it Just Nice, I couldn't even smell the orange. I smelled a gingeriness that reminded me of Bois 1920 Sushi Imperiale, and anything that reminds me of Sushi Imperiale is a bonus, but it wasn't enough. Slightly spicy, slightly prickly, slightly sweet, slightly bitter. And? So? Sushi Imperiale is friendlier, Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange is orangier, what's the big deal?

Then I smelled Bois de Copaiba. I didn't like it, but I could definitely smell the bitter orange note. It was nailed in my mental olfactory dictionary.

Then I learned to love Lorenzo Villoresi Musk and Parfumerie Generale Iris Oriental. I don't know why I  link these into the chain, but I do. I think it's the increased liking for prickly, bitter, un-soft notes.

And there was all that recent experience with Those Roses, with those bitter citron-like notes that I couldn't tolerate with roses, but unbeknownst to me I think that I was developing an increased tolerance for that particular type of bitterness.

And all the while I was staring at Theorema, discontinued but still available from discounters, putting it in my online shopping cart, taking it out, putting it in, like Eeyore. I didn't like it much, but I didn't want to lose the chance to own it if it's an acquired taste that I might, too late, acquire.

So today I sprayed on my sample, and suddenly, with much excitement, I got it. I could detect the orange note, like that in Bois de Copaiba but much quieter. Bitterness like Those Roses, but without the roses. (Actually, the notes list does list Eglantine rose, but I don't smell it, so that's OK.) Something incense like, but quieter than the perfumes that are focused on those notes. Gingery, like Sushi Imperiale, but, again, quieter. Quiet spices, making me think of nutmeg and just a tiny bit of cinnamon, but less gingerbready and cheerful than Tea for Two. Restraint all around.

I suspect that all of this restraint is part of what took me so long to assemble this one in my mind. Theorema reminds me of Ivoire in this way - not in the way that it smells, at all, but in its composition. They both assemble a complexity of notes, presenting each note with subtlety but also without rushing to rescue you from bitter or sour or melancholy aspects of the note.  And they both make me feel as if the perfumer (in this case, Christine Nagel) knew exactly where she was going at every stage of the fragrance's development, without a single missed step.

I'm liking it all the way through, from the beginning with stronger orange and a gingery buzz, now down to quieter wood, traces of spices, something faintly salty, and the barest trace of orange. It's lovely. I'm getting a bottle.

(Minor update: It wasn't done when I thought it was done. A few hours later, the orange has surfaced again. Yum.)

Review/Link Roundup: Now Smell This and The Non-Blonde and Scentzilla! and Perfume Posse and Perfume Posse again and Yesterday's Perfume.
Edited to add I Smell Therefore I Am.

Image: 'Still Life With Oranges, Jars, and Boxes of Sweets', by Luis Melendez. Wikimedia Commons.