Quick Sniffs – Maison Incens’ Tabac Licorii, Figue Oudii, Musc Kalirii, Figue Eleii, Cuir Erindil

Today I want to talk about 5 perfumes from Maison Incens. The man behind the brand is Philippe Constantin and the perfumer Jean-Claude Gigodot.

I happened upon the brand by chance. A girl on a Fragrantica asked for liquorice perfumes with a salty feel (Scandinavian salty liquorice), and that’s where I came across Tabac Licorii. We decided to spilt a bottle, and I received samples from the rest of the line at the same time.

Tabac Licorii; Star anise, licorice, tobacco, violet, sea water and musk.

To me it smells of earthy tobacco and oak moss, sometimes there’s a bite of liquorice sometimes there isn’t. The same goes for the saltiness; like the sea breeze it comes and goes with the ebb and flow.image It’s a very rounded fragrance with a very natural feel, if somebody told me it was a 100% natural perfume, I wouldn’t have questioned it. As a liquorice fragrance, this might be a disappointment, but if you’re looking for a unique fragrance with a natural and cosy outdoorsy-feel, you ought to try it. It dries down a little warmer and perhaps muskier with a tad more liquorice, but still within a very natural feel. Perhaps the most masculine of the lot.

Interestingly the samples came without labels, so a fun sort of blind sniff at first, which luckily turned out to be easy’ish to verify due to strong compositions and the individual colours of the juice.

Figue Oudii; bergamot, orange, fig, ylang-ylang, violet, iris, leather, cedar, oud, sandalwood, amber and musk.

There are two fig perfumes in the line-up, the first one being the heaviest and perhaps more unusual of the two. It’s the unlikely combination of fig and oud, and if Tabac Licorii, was perhaps less true to its name, Figue Oudii certainly is. Fig is prominent, and it’s as if the oud is just the extension of the fig foliage. I should never have thought it but these two complement each other nicely. On the other side of the spectrum there’s creaminess from ylang-ylang, leather and sandalwood, which gives the whole composition a warm oriental feel. If you’re looking for an oriental perfume with more than a twist, give it a try.

Musc Kalirii; bergamot, orange, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, leather, vanilla and sandalwood.

Is characterised as a Woody Floral Musk, and funnily, it’s what it is, but again not your usual FWM: the flowers aren’t dainty but sort of ‘casually present’, the wood is not synthetic ‘blonde woods’ or whatever they are called now, but just a little woodiness, and the musk is neither laundry musk nor an animalic skank-fest, but just a bit of warmth underneath the composition.image

Figue Eleii; fig leaf, green notes, tuberose, iris, cedar, sandalwood and musk

At first sniff this one is much closer to the normal idea of a fig perfume; it’s fig, it’s green and those together translate into summery green freshness. However, it’s wonderfully paired with a creamy, milky tuberose and a more-buttery- than- not iris note, which gives this perfume a gorgeous opaline feel. I enjoy wearing this one a lot.

Cuir Erindil; bergamot, mandarin orange, incense, spicy notes, iris, myrrh, leather, musk, sandalwood and vanilla.

Although nowhere mentioned, I could swear the first few seconds of the opening smells of a mix of menthol and camphor. I’m reminded of tigerbalm in a leather bag, as the leather almost immediately takes hold of the scentscape. It’s proper leather, not suede, a little biting almost, but it softens fairly quickly into a warm and mellow base of resins, iris and just a touch of vanilla.

What I especially enjoy about all Maison Incens’ perfumes, is the daring to make perfumes that are a little different, and still eminently wearable. They are deceptively simple and quiet, but keep showing new facets with each wear and lasts way longer than I would have thought upon application. Another thing that hit me was, that I never feel overwhelmed with scent molecules blowing up in my face, rather there’s a naturalness about them which seems to leave a lot of space to take in other things than your perfume.

 

Pics by me.

Perfumed Thoughts and a Mini Review- Hermessence Muguet Porcelaine (2016)

This post is dedicated to all those random and less random thoughts regarding perfume, which pop up from time to time in the space of my brain that is perfumista branded.

First up: regular readers might know that I have a weakness for interior design blogs and mags. How fun to discover the perfume- blogger-sceptic Francis Kurkdjian presenting his home to an interior blogger at Coffeeklatch. It’s a beautiful home and a great interview.

Asked about perfume as art, he responds: “Yves Saint-Laurent summed it up very well when he said: “Fashion is not art, but you need to be an artist.” I think it’s the same with perfume, and why it isn’t considered as an art form. Art takes inspiration from different facets of life: happiness and darkness. When you think about poetry, movies or literature you can always find beauty in something dark, sad or ugly. Perfume, on the other hand, magnifies beauty. No one ever commissioned me to create a perfume for an ugly woman who’s a total loser. My job is to bring people happiness. Fashion tackles the same issue in pursuing beauty. There’s a line you can stretch but never cross. Perfume is conventionally sold in a bottle. But when I make art or olfactory installations, I can do whatever I want and show my dark side if I want to.”

Art and perfume pals #1. I was so lucky as to receiveimage some real vintage Djedi (as opposed to reissue), and otherwise being firmly on M Kurkdjian’s side when it comes to perfume as art, I would say Djedi is the closest I’ve ever come to smelling art. Thank heavens ( not knowing exactly which deity to choose for this exact vintage) for an amazing perfume pal who gave me the opportunity. I promise there will be more of Djedi another time, as that will warrant its own post.

Samples: what to do?

They are multiplying be the minute, a sample can turn up everywhere in my flat or in my clothes. And yet most samples, I’ve learned through the years, need to be kept for references. Perhaps I need to get a bit tougher on which perfume samples are reference samples, and which will need to go…image

Decants.

At the spur of the moment I decided to split a perfume, something which I hadn’t done in a while. It was a blind buy hard to get perfume which sounded weirdly attractive.

Most of us have been there: a truly annoying sprayer, impossible to get a perfect spray from, and dribbling down the sides, thus loosing way to much juice in the process. Aha, me thinks! syringe method!!! NoNoNo, warning to all, NEVER EVER USE SYRINGES no matter how easy it might look, and what a good idea some people think it is. The chance of the syringe breaking the spray mechanism are ( according to split Queen Ruth K, who is my helping perfume guide in greatest need) 50%. What happens when it breaks is mayhem, looks like thisimage imagewill cause grief and a ruined bottle, and that’s not to mention the tools and time it will take to break the bottle in order to get the perfume out.

 

Perfume bottles and wish lists

What to do if you feel you have a collection, in size and variety, you are happy with, we are taking the BLEQ ( beyond life expectancy quantum ) obviously, but there are still things on your wish list, and obviously perfumes will keep being launched? A new found and wholly unexpected perfume love, made me ponder this ever more pressing question. A whole lot of my perfumes I wouldn’t be able to repurchase, which significantly adds to the risk should I let them go. At the moment, save one or two which I have been trying to get rid off, all perfumes I own, I wear and love, but how then to deal with adding new stuff?

talking of bottles:( perfume pals #2) as if we didn’t already know that perfume pals are the best, out of the blue an envelope arrived with a label for my bottle of Bal de Fleurs, now it has been established thanks to said friend that it’s indeed what it is. Isn’t she pretty?imageedit_1_2158657547

And the mini review; Muguet Porcelaine is the new perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena in the Hermessence line. I love the name, I imagined a crisp and delicately transparent lily-of-the-valley lace veil. MP starts out beautifully reminiscent of vintage Diorissimo, the go-to for all muguets. Then the rose-tinted glasses are violently ripped from my eyes by an aquatic cucumber/yeasty note and a civetty ‘jasmine’?, threatening to destroy the whole china shop. After that, I suppose it gets green and perhaps a little woody by and by, but I would recommend this one mostly to lovers and brand-loyals of the Hermessence line, or hard-core muguet-fans, preferably both. For me, I stick to the vintage Diorissimo, dc’ed Lilia Bella, dc’ed Envy…  For lotv recommendation check out the Posse guide or Serenity Now’s Month of Muguet.

All pics by me, exept Djedi by ebay seller antiquecollectibles1900

 

 

 

 

 

What is Your Cup of Tea? and an aside on experimental infusions – Jo Malone Oolong Tea, Midnight Black Tea and Golden Needle Tea

The sheerness and longevity issues of the typical Jo Malone output has not exactly made them high on my favourites list, yet the combination of finding a new favourite in (the limited edition) Tudor Rose and Amber as well as wearing (another LE ) White Lilac and Rhubarb at lot this spring, when I first heard of the new ‘Rare Tea Collection’ I was intrigued.

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The collection has a new and interesting price point, they are 300€ each for 175 ml, so I bought three small decants from a split of the ones that I thought might be what I was looking for in a tea fragrance. The three I left out were; Silver Needle, delicate floral, enveloping musk and a rose (- did anything ever NOT spell out my name quite so loudly?), Darjeeling Tea with freesia, jasmine (- ‘It’s not you it’s me, Honey’), Jade Leaf Tea, sencha, pomelo and maté (– chase me with maté tea).

What I have been looking for in a tea fragrance for some time, is a note of that dark smokiness, a real ‘brew’, a tarry, leather substitute note almost. A black tea that isn’t sweet. No more Chai Tea Lattes or Fresh Green Tea kind of thing. With 6 perfumes to choose from, each focussing on a different tea, surely it wasn’t too much to hope for, that one of them had that note?

The Rare Tea Collection contains 6 fragrances all ‘tea infused’. I’m not sure that the ‘infusion’ is not exactly my problem, but more of this later, first up the three fragrances that I ventured to try.

Midnight Black Tea; funnily I am not entirely convinced I would have smelled black tea at all had I not known of it. Midnight Black Tea has notes of vanilla, amber, guaiacwood and puh erh tea. On the strip I got more sweetness, and I detected something berry like and what seemed like almonds, none of which appeared on (my) skin. Its honeyed amber, a little inoffensive wooden smokiness and a touch of delicate spices is lovely and cosy, even if not exactly groundbreaking. It has good longevity, and for me it has just the right kind of airiness to not become cloying or sticky. It’s strikes a similar chord as Ambre Narguile, Nu_Be Helium, Oajan etc.

Golden Needle Tea; is another one where I’m not sure exactly how important the tea is. Supposedly it’s yunnan. The notes say; leather, sandalwood, benzoin and spice. It actually smells golden upon application. It took me some time to figure out why.

Last year, and here we actually get to the infusion part, I spend some time in the spring and summer collecting various plants, roots and resins infusing them (with perfumers alcohol) as an experiment and as a way of getting to know some plants and notes better. Among the stuff I retrieved were the fresh tears from the spruce tea, Picea abies. imageThe stuff is as sticky as it is fragrant, which is VERY. However, the scent is truly magnificent, with its golden bitterness. It’s almost as if you can smell the colour of the amber ‘stone’ it might turn into in some thousands of years given the right circumstances. It is this exact smell that I’m reminded of in Golden Needle, not ‘just’ myrrh or other resins.

A short note on the infusions is, that an infusion of a material is only very rarely a lasting or strong scent in itself, and wonderful as a 100 hour tea infusion sounds, it doesn’t really say much about whether it will actually add any significant flavour to the fragrance or not.

Back to Golden Needle and the slightly bitter resiny feel; it also reminds me of orange oil and ginger powder (remember always, we are talking Jo Malone, these associations are homoeopathic doses). It goes into a lovely suede like leather before resting on a sandalwood base. And a few hours in, best as you think it ends there, that little golden sticky resin pops up again, now as a faint driblet.

Oolong Tea has notes of cacao, tonka, hay and tobacco, and to me is the tea’iest of the lot.

It is powdery cacao dust, dry hay and smoked tobacco combined with a moist tea feel. I’m briefly reminded of the tea note in Bulgari eau parfumée au thé bleu, not least because of the buttery orris vibe I get, not that it’s mentioned anywhere in the minimalist note list. The tobacco sways and sometimes adds to a smoky tea feel and sometimes to a teaspoon of honey in a slightly bitter brew. It’s somewhere between haughty and enveloping and as such the perfume keeps itself poised and interesting, by always changing its nature slightly each time I wear it.

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As it is I like all three, especially the last two, yet not enough to splurge on a humongously large bottle. I prefer my tea to be more than infused; I want the builders brew version of infusion, also when it is wrapped in a sheer and airy composition. And perhaps just a little bit more Mad Hatter than Tea in China.

So, like with my coffee search, my tea search goes on too. In the meantime I shall enjoy the scent of the Oolong Tea à la Guerlain called L’Heure Bleue, but that’s another story and it will have to wait for another time…

Have you found your perfect tea perfume yet?

The Greatest Perfumes Never Made – Bulgakov The Master and Margarita

Recently I started re-reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. This masterpiece novel had left so many visual impressions on me, that I wanted to visit them to put them back in the right order so to speak. The book seems to be made out of images, one stronger than the next; Behemot the speaking, gun carrying and chandelier swinging cat, Satan himself in the disguise as ‘professor’ Woland, a ‘magician’, the naked broom-riding Margarita as the Master’s mistress, Pontius Pilate and Yeshua a Notsri (as themselves). There’s even a short cameo for the atheist head of the literary circle called Berlioz, which makes me think of the ‘programme’ symphony, Symphonie Fantastique by that composer, which ends with a 5th movement called “Songe d’un Nuit du Sabbath” (Dream of a night at the Sabbath).

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I shall not attempt at a summary, (I was personally sold to this book by the thought of a speaking cat), but the main story lines are that of Woland and his gang creating a mayhem in 1930s Moscow, that of Pontius Pilate and the trial of Yeshua a Nostri, and that of Margarita flying off to Walpurgis night and ultimately succeeding in being rejoined with ‘the Master’.

There are a few passages of scent, but to me by far the strongest is the start of the second chapter, when Pontius Pilate is suffering a terrible migraine, and describes the smells around him.

“In a white cloak with a blood-red lining, with the shuffling gait of a cavalryman, early in the morning of the fourteenth day of the spring month of Nisan, there emerged into the covered colonnade between the two wings of the palace of Herod the Great the Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. More than anything else on earth the Procurator hated the smell of attar of roses, and the omens for the day ahead were bad, for that smell had been haunting the Procurator since dawn. It seemed to the Procurator that the smell of roses was being emitted by the cypresses and palms in the garden, and that mingling with the smell of his escort’s leather accoutrements and sweat was an accursed waft of roses.image
From the wings at the rear of the palace that quartered the Twelfth Lightning Legion’s First Cohort, which had come to Yershalaim with the Procurator, a puff of smoke carried across the upper court of the garden into the colonnade, and with this rather acrid smoke, which testified to the fact that the cooks in the centuries had started preparing dinner, was mingling still that same heavy odour of roses.
“O gods, gods, why do you punish me?… No, there’s no doubt, this is it, it again, the invincible, terrible sickness… hemicrania, when half my head is aching… there are no remedies for it, no salvation whatsoever… I’ll try keeping my head still…”
Cypresses, palm leaves, leather, metal, sweat, smoke and above all; roses.
After my many attempt at finding the right rose, I feel that with perhaps exchanging sweat for warm animalics, this could be the foundation for rather a great dark rose.
A link here for the 5th movement of Symfonie Fantastique
pics mine, The Master and Margarita excerpt in the translation of Hugh Aplin.

A Rose (by any other name) – Or et Noir Caron (1949) modern extrait version

After searching high and low for my rose fragrance, I finally found it in Or et Noir*.

Caron has done several rose-centric perfumes, and I must confess that the lack of availability has made me unable to smell the ones which actually carry ‘rose’ in their name. Parfum Sacre and even Nuit de Noël are also amongst the ones mentioned when the talk is of ‘dark’ rose perfumes, however for me, as much as I love them both, they are neither that dark (more cosy in my book) nor strictly rose focused enough to be called rose-perfumes. Or et Noir is what the others aren’t, it’s both a rose perfume and deserving of the black name. (How often can you say that about a perfume called something with Noir? – Coco, Sensuous, Crystal et al) Knowing of its own worth, it was even deemed unnecessary to name it after its prime ingredient, the queen of flowers.

Starting off with fiercely high-strung metal, and thorns to draw blood, Or et Noir makes sure you do not mistake its rose for ‘pretty’. imageIn fact, to me it’s exactly its bright sharpness which makes it dark. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to another Caron classic, Narcisse Noir, where the ‘noir’ is more about the poisonous pull than about any typically ‘dark- notes’. In the same way the gold metal is also the black, as if it was a tattoo of a dagger through a dark rose.

It’s as if there’s some magnetic rejection between the lemony metallic scent of the geranium and the green slightly sour deep red rose. Different twists on similar scentsations vie for attention, and only as the rose wins the battle over the geranium, does it allow itself to soften up, open its petals and become a huge single rose attracting rays of golden sun and honeybees alike.

As the sun loses its power, a carnation starts casting its peppery shadow over the Caron rose, until completely covered, and the rose takes on the same dark hue as the carnation itself. Together they darken, sweeten and wither until mossy earth peeks through. I’ve seen people mention amber, but this is no amber rose dry down, this is a rose with all imaginable hues of darkness and light, gold and black. Or et Noir.

 

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” Nietzsche.

 

*A huge thank you to dear STC <3

 

Or et Noir was made in 1949 by perfumer Michel Morsetti. I own a large decant from TPC. Pictures are mine.

 

 

Musketeers – Aramis (1964) and Balenciaga Portos (1980)

Ivanhoe, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Musketeers. I must admit I loved watching the old costume movies and still am partial to any re-remake.

imageThough an avid reader, I never bothered reading any of these, surely in this case part of the (guilty) pleasure is in watching handsome bearded men in leather suits playing cloak and dagger.

Leather, men and musk is what it’s about today. I’ll start with the beast that is Aramis (in its current formula), so unashamed masculine, that I have no trouble seeing the musketeer straight off his horse from battle. The opening is herbs and there’s cumin, and then there’s some more cumin, perhaps you take cumin with that? I was pretty choked that in this combination for once the cumin doesn’t at all remind me of Chicken Jalfrezi take-away, it actually smells ‘masculine’, like fresh sweat from someone you like. (As opposed to stale sweat from someone you really don’t like!)image It’s in the company of wormwood and leather that cumin becomes more of a handsome French musketeer, than a Barbarian (Musc) Koublai Khan. Also consider, which Khan would have added a little green freshness and jasmine? Yes, in Aramis it’s all there, ending on soft bed sheets of (an uncanningly deep and authentic smelling) oak moss and musk.

I struggle to call it animalic because it’s more about human skin and testosterone than any animal I can think of. Even the warmth it exudes is something which spells more Musketeer than Musk deer to me. It says: “just a kiss”, but don’t believe a word Aramis says.

While I wouldn’t put it past women to wear this, it would probably be the equivalent of men wearing Vintage Rochas Femme ( pre the cumin stuff that is ’89). On anyone who can wear Aramis, I bet it smells sensational.

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, cinnamon, gardenia, pelargonium, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, leather, oakmoss, amber (from fragrantica)

Portos EdC, was first introduced to me by a lovely Italian perfumista. A much overlooked fragrance which is no longer in production but can still be found online. imagePortos is much prettier than his fellow musketeer and much more obviously unisex. Wormwood, bergamot and especially geranium makes for a floral and lively opening. The absinthian mixes with minty-rose softness and becomes bittersweet, a little Dandyesque perhaps. As the opening wears of, a smooth leather and castoreum (beaver) becomes more evident. The base is rooty green, warm and velvety of vetiver, musk and moss.  The earthy oak moss lasts all day.

So is Portos an old-fashioned gentleman? More likely it’s a cologne for anyone tired of fruits, aquatics or blonde woods. I think on most people it would even wear a tad sweeter than on me, making it just too cool as a women’s fragrance. A player and a dreamer is Portos, I think he wouldn’t mind sharing his cologne.

Notes: artemisia, cumin, bergamot, coriander and galbanum, jasmine, geranium, carnation, cedar, patchouli and vetiver, castoreum, leather, moss, musk, myrrh, incense and labdanum (from fragrantica)

Musketeers from 1921 Douglas Fairbanks Sr silent film, 1973 Richard Lester film and the 2014 BBC series.

Main Musketdeers are mine. Aren’t musk deers the cutest?

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Perfumed Plume – award winner at CaFleureBon

I’m very excited to tell you that Cafleurebon just won an award with my piece called Perfume as  Opera . The Perfumed Plume – awards for fragrance journalism, is a new award similar to the UK Jasmine Award and the French Prix Jasmine. Read more here.

The category was:
Visualization of Scent Stories – Overall Design Presentation: ÇaFleureBon Perfume as Opera Madama Butterfly and Turandot.

Thank you Michelyn Camen for putting my story and visuals forward and believing in me. And thank you to the Perfumed Plume Awards, I feel honoured.

Coffee Time – Sebastiane Espresso Royale and Reliquary Perfumes Café la Nuit

Only thing worse than your computer crashing once, is your computer crashing twice. And how about that second time being just after you’ve put the final dot in a post, and for reasons unknown the file has disappeared. Hours I spent in vain because I refused to believe that it had not been saved somewhere in the depth of the hard disc, but alas! Rant over, and many, many espressos later I’m trying to recreate my coffee post.

I was encouraged by a fellow perfumista and several online reviews that Sebastiane’s Espresso Royal would be worth a try in my ‘search for the perfect’ coffee perfume (to quote Undina).

Espresso Royale does what it says: it smells of coffee. It is an espresso with hazelnut praline. Its hazelnut sweetness reminds me of Italian Gianduja and goes down perfectly with a good espresso. I would say that the sweetness to coffee ratio is 50/50, but thankfully it never feels like a Tall Hazelnut Latte. The espresso stands its ground with a dark roasted bean even when the hazelnut gets a little help from caramel and tonka bean. The perfume feels quite linear to me, but as it evaporates I start getting a mere hint of cinnamon and butter, as if the praline had been exchanged for a Belgian speculaas. The dry down is coffee grounds, but the sugar has been consumed and the overall feel is less foody, more just comfort-coffee. In case you were in doubt this is definitely a Gourmand perfume, and even if I absolutely love both hazelnut praline and espresso, for me personally perhaps Espresso Royale is a little too much so. However, if you are a gourmand perfume lover looking for a true coffee note, this one must be tested.

Notes; Whiskey, coffee, hazelnut, caramel, tonka bean.

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The indie perfumer from Reliquary Perfumes wrote and asked me if I would like to sample a few of her fragrances, and one in particular was instantly of interest to me; Café la Nuit, inspired by the famous Van Gogh painting La Café la Nuit.

The coffee note in Café la Nuit is one of the most natural and authentic I’ve come across. There’s not even a hint of coffee aroma chemical which I’ve found in so many coffee perfumes (A*men coffee, New Harlem a.o). The opening is like dark chocolate and espresso with crisp sugar, and it reminds me of another favourite chocolate of mine ‘Pocket coffee’.pocket coffee 1

There is the merest hint of lavender to lift this perfume oil out of ‘straight-up-gourmie’ territory and into something which although dense still somehow feels like it has a little more ‘space’ than your typical chocolate-gourmand perfume. Later enters a lovely smoky note changing the feeling of the coffee from a tasty dark brewed liquid to the roasting of beans, of cafés and perhaps even a cigarette… This is dark chocolate and black coffee in various shapes and forms. The coffee not only stays as the heartbeat throughout the composition, but manages to change character, going from buoyant to pensive as the night falls at the Terrace Café.

Notes; orange, cinnamon, lavender, espresso, café au lait, cacao, spilt sugar, tonka bean, vanilla, smoke.

Now I better get this published before more posts are lost, perhaps I should reward myself with a coffee afterwards.

Both perfumes can easily be enjoyed together with this little number;

Natalie Cole ‘Coffee Time’

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s listen to some jazz and rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

Let me show
A little coffee house I know
Where all the new bohemians go
To have a cup of coffee

Greetin’ time
The music box is beatin’ time
It’s good old fashioned meetin’ time
So grab a chair and take me there
‘Cause that’s just the place I’m at

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s sing this silly little rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

Hey, greetin’ time
That music box is beatin’ time
It’s good old fashioned meetin’ time
So save me a chair, I’ll see you there
‘Cause that’s just the place that I’m at

Coffee time
My dreamy friend, it’s coffee time
Let’s sing this silly little rhyme
And have a cup of coffee

We’ll have a cup of coffee
Just a little bit of Java
Yeah, we’ll have a couple of joke
Don’t you know?
‘Cause it’s coffee time

 

I bought the Sebastiane sample, the Reliquary sample was given to me by the perfumer. Pocket coffees photo didn’t have credits. Feat pic is mine as are my opinions.

Pink Elephants on Parade – Maria Candida Gentile Elephant & Roses (2015)

The release of Elephant & Roses by indie perfumer Maria Candida Gentile conjured up such a beautiful image, I knew I would have to explore it. As MCG’s perfumes are not that easy to come by it took me some time and in the meantime I read other reviews. As far as I remember most talked of an animalic rose, so I was wasn’t prepared for the make-up’y powder puff in an old-fashioned green-room that first hit me.circus girls2

I’ve seen people talk of all the things that perfume and elephants makes them associate, for me it’s my first ever visit to the cinema. I can still remember how it felt when Dumbo’s mother was locked away for protecting her little baby elephant with the big ears. Another thing that stayed with me, was the surrealistic sequence of pink elephants singing; “Look out! Look out! Pink elephants on parade. Here they come!” And it is the visual for me when I think of the name Elephant & Roses.

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Wearing it, and testing it over the last weeks, the perfume slowly opened up to show many more facets than my initial impression. So for instance the opening thyme makes for a welcome change in the top note repertoire, and is a lovely companion for the pedal point of the vegetal muskiness. The rose is very mild, the greenness hidden in the opening thyme and its softness disguised within the make-up powder. The heart of the perfume feels part rose, iris (not mentioned), hair and a swan down puff. And underlying always the musk. I believe it’s mainly the costus I smell with the hint of ambergris, the costus with its weird and wonderful herbal furry feel. The base sees a little saw-dust woodiness added, but all in all there’s nothing growlingly animalic or wild boar sweaty about it, even the elephant is not in the room, so to speak. The powdery musk feels a little sweet and intimate, politely naughty rather than dirty.

If the ‘animal’ part of Elephant & Roses has scared you off, I’d say it shouldn’t, it’s less zoo, and more the vintage dressing room of a circus princess, and perhaps even not so very far off my first association of the Dumbo circus.

Although I have a few powdery perfumes, nothing comes close to this little number, and its distinctive perfumer’s stamp has made me very curious to try and retry Maria Candida Gentile’s other fragrances.

Do you know her fragrances, and do you have favourites or some you are curious to try?

Feat picture is mine, Dumbo still from film from Walt Disney Productions, circus girls 1930s didn’t have a credit. Sample of Elephant & Roses bought by me.

 

Stepsisters – Guerlain Mahora (2000) and Jardins de Bagatelle (1983)

Luca Turin’s most hated Guerlain until Champs Elyssees and Mahora came along was apparently Jardins de Bagatelle (1983). Whilst calling Mayotte (renamed 2nd version of Mahora) ‘dreadful’ and a ‘nasty floral’, by the time he came around to writing The Guide, he deemed Jardins de Bagatelle ‘the best of a lousy lot’.

It might look like it’s hard being Cinderella, but if we turn our attention to the stepsisters for a moment; they clearly have a terrible mother, the ultimate anti-role model, telling them that only materialistic things are worth pursuing, playing them out against each other to get the prince (not for love but for the mother’s ambition of social-climbing), even letting them self-harm, self-mutilate in fact, to reach that goal. How misunderstood these sisters are…

Take our two stepsisters, white florals Mahora and Jardins de Bagatelle. They have heard it all, been shamed and despised but they are still here* (one went to the numerologist, but if it helps?)

Mahora, the younger of the two, is a loudish, creamy white floral. And although you won’t find the famed guerlinade here, the vanilla/ ylang combo still feels so trés Guerlain. Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain, Mahora was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The anorexic juices of the 90s still casting their goth-like shadows, Mahora was just not trendy. It’s a big bold sunny perfume with an easy digestible tuberose at its heart, a tropical ylang-ylang with a touch of coconut. The added sugarcane sweetness from a triumvirate of orange blossom, vanilla and sandalwood, makes Mahora a sweet hedonistic dream under a tropical sun.

Given as an option to wear for a night out, a friend (who would normally wear Hermessence, and who didn’t know Mahora in advance) chose this one, and called it sunny and sexy. Just saying…

Donatella Versace, as sported by J. Lo, gets loud and glamour on us, 2000 with a hint of 80s?

Jardins de Bagatelles EdT (Jean-Paul Guerlain) opens on a mixture of bright pearly aldehydes and neroli, giving it an edgy vintage vibe. After that there’s an ‘every white flower under the sky’ with a wink at the 80’s perfume feeling, which ingeniously is actually almost subtle, certainly if compared to its ‘death by silliage’- contemporaries. It never stings your nose, or delights in indoles or rubber, but stays a glamour filter photo as it folds out its fan of flowers; gardenia, rose, orange blossom, tuberose, magnolia, ylang-ylang, orchid, lily-of-the-valley and narcissus. The flowers are kept in check by bits of metallic sheen. Surprisingly the woody base shows signs of nectar and adds extra depth at the end. Although both Mahora and JdB share the parentage and the white florals, they are two completely different characters. I would call JdB sunny too, but there’s no tropical heat, JdB is a temperate day with little bursts of sunshine. JdB has a mixture of retro and wannabe 80s pop idol about it. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

1960s phenomenon goes 80s in the Screwball Comedy in Desperately Seeking Susan

If you are into retro or white florals in general don’t miss out on these too, in my opinion they are both more innovative and have more heart than many new ones in the genre even if they might at the time of their release not have lived up to the expectations of the Guerlain classics; L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, Mitzy etc.

In the end, I believe that little by little perfumistas who have perhaps never read Mr Turin’s damning review, or who smell them by chance, open their hearts to their beauty, perhaps after all these years of misunderstanding, finally the sisters know themselves, and are happy with themselves, they are not trying to be their amazing stepsister Cinderella in the castle, they just want to be loved for what they are, and guess what? I for one am ready to embrace them.

Do you have a secret stepsister love? How do you rate the two Guerlains, if you know them?

Winners of my little birthday draw: I chose to do two drawings as you can see from my Random lists; and the winners are Esperanza who chose decants and Tara a print. Thank you very much all for taking part 🙂

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*At least they were when I started writing, according to M Guerlain blog, Mayotte is now DCed, if you, like me, happen to like it, grab a bottle while you can.