Showing posts with label perfume. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perfume. Show all posts

Nov 12, 2018

Perfume Review: L'Occitane's Néroli & Orchidée

L'Occitane's Néroli & Orchidée, perfume, review, La Collection de Grasse, neroli, orchid, scent, perfume review, orchidee, eau de toilette,

Today I'll be reviewing L'Occitane's Néroli & Orchidée. The fragrance is part of the company's La Collection de Grasse which pairs ingredients from the Mediterranean with scents from distant lands. Néroli & Orchidée combines two white flowers from two continents: white Madagascar orchid and Grasse neroli. It's a light fruity floral with notes of peach, fig milk, muguet, white musk, and iris.

For those of you who may not know, L'Occitane en Provence (commonly known as L'Occitane) is an international retailer of skincare, fragrances, and home products based in Manosque, France. The company was founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan who wished to create a company that celebrates the traditions of his native Provence. The company name literally means "The woman from Occitan in Provence." All of L'Occitane's products are developed and produced in Manosque, where its 1,000 employees work. L'Occitane strives to preserve traditional cultivation methods by: supporting a program of raising almond trees in the Haute-Provence Alps, preserving species by planting rare Immortelle flowers in Corsica, and developing partnerships with organizations that support the development of scented and aromatic plants (such as the Office National Interprofessionel des Plantes à Parfum). In addition to products sourced from Provence, shea butter is purchased by L'Occitane directly from women's groups in Burkina Faso with Ecocert certification. La Fondation d'Entreprise L'Occitane is a private organization founded in 2006 by the company to support visually impaired people and help the economic emancipation of women in Burkina Faso. L'Occitane does not conduct animal testing, and no animal products or by-products are used other than beeswax.

L'Occitane is one of the few luxury European brands that has stand-alone shops in every major city of India. Although they are a bit pricey, I love their ethically sourced shea butter skincare products for my dry, eczema prone skin. L'Occitane's fragrances perfectly capture the scents of the south of France. (Which reminds me of my native California with its Mediterranean climate.) I have hesitated in the past to purchase any of L'Occitane's perfumes as they tend to suffer in longevity. I'm not paying over $20USD for a scent that lasts only 20-30 minutes, I don't care how fabulous it is.
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 Néroli & Orchidée was absolutely love at first whiff! I adore white florals and this one does not disappoint. Fortunately, the eau de toilette has good longevity and is interesting enough to set it apart from your usual neroli offerings. The fragrance is also available in a perfumed body milk, perfumed shower gel, perfumed solid soap, and a perfumed candle. I believe they recently added a scented hand cream too. Néroli & Orchidée was created by Grasse native Karine Dubreuil in Spring 2014. Here's what the ad for Néroli & Orchidée states:
"A tantalizing and lovely fragrance, Néroli & Orchidée Eau de Toilette blends the scents of two precious white flowers in a beautiful harmony. A heart of radiant neroli essence from the Mediterranean is blended with caressing white orchid absolute from Madagascar. Fruity bursts of orange and heart notes of peach complete the sensuous bouquet, which lingers delicately on the body throughout the day."
Additional notes include mandarin, fig milk, muguet, musk, and iris.

L'Occitane's Néroli & Orchidée, perfume, review, La Collection de Grasse, neroli, orchid, scent, perfume review, orchidee, eau de toilette,

Now, what exactly does "caressing white orchid absolute from Madagascar" smell like? I'm getting rather irked with all these popular perfumes that list some rare orchid no one has ever heard of or just plain "orchid" as a note. The Orchidaceae family has about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 genera. In addition to this, since the introduction of tropical species into cultivation in the 19th century, horticulturists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars of orchids. Furthermore, all these orchids have their own distinctive scents. There is an orchid that smells like coconut, and others that have scents similar to chocolate, lemon, baby powder, cinnamon, and many varied things. I am guessing that the white orchid from Madagascar is this:

L'Occitane's Néroli & Orchidée, perfume, review, La Collection de Grasse, neroli, orchid, scent, perfume review, orchidee, eau de toilette,

Angraecum sesquipedale, also called the Christmas Orchid, Darwin's Orchid, King of the Angraecums, Star of Bethlehem, and the White Orchid of Madagascar. It is native to Madagascar and releases a heady fragrance at night reminiscent of lilies, Nicotiana, and to my nose the cool, metallic, fresh, green notes of lily of the valley or muguet. Night-fragrant flowers often produce scents reminiscent of jasmine, honeysuckle, tuberose, lilies, and gardenia. When you see orchid listed as a note for a fragrance, this is most often what you are getting. Muguet or lily of the valley is also listed as a note in Néroli & Orchidée so it's part of the "caressing white orchid of Madagascar" accord I suppose.

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In the opening of the fragrance, I get a blast of bright and brisk neroli flower and a bit of juicy Mandarin orange. As that settles down the lily of the valley peeps though and what I suppose is the caressing white orchid. Its cool floral notes lend a fresh, Spring-like air to the warmth of the orange blossom. Then the velvety green fig milk and peach show up.  The peach is realistic but not too sharp. Underscoring it all is a delicate silvery tinge of iris and white musk. Given the list of notes, you might think it'd be overpowering but the overall impression is elegant, feminine, delicate, sophisticated and airy. Neither the fruit nor the floral notes overpower each other. It remains clean and fresh lasting about 6 hours in miserable Monsoon heat and humidity. In moderate weather, the fragrance remains with discreet sillage for 8 hours or more.

There are a total of 9 fragrances in La Collection de Grasse. Of all the fragrances in the collection, this was my instant favorite. I'm looking forward to making my way through all of them to see if I find any more gems. If you're looking for a light fruity floral scent that's not too sweet and suitable for Spring and Summer  - this is it!
Have you tried any of the La Collection de Grasse scents?
If so, which one do I need to try next?

Oct 15, 2018

Perfume Review: Gucci Bloom

Gucci Bloom is the first feminine fragrance released by the Florentine fashion house under its new creative director, Alessandro Michele. Created in collaboration with master perfumer Alberto Morillas it's a white floral- but not for wallflowers!

If you have any interest in modern fashion, then you know that Gucci has been killin' it! If you'd like to know what "killin' it" looks like in the 21st century - please take a gander at the above photo of Gucci's Fall 2018 collection. Gone are the antiquated esthetics of Gucci's previous creative directors. Arrivederci to Tom Ford's tired "porn chic" and Frida Giannini's minimalistic "functional chic." Mr. Michele references a little of everything in his kaleidoscopic fashion sense.  Severed heads, babushkas, and unibrows become accessories. Victorian glam meets 90's hip-hop and 70's rock and roll. There's a bit of David Bowie, Little Edie, Frida Kahlo, Los Luchadores, Norman Bates, Gatsby, and Game of Thrones thrown in too. Nothing "normcore" going on here. Welcome to the 21st century, the era of MAXIMALISM - more is more!

Alessandro Michele 

Above is a photo of the aforementioned Mr. Michele in one of his gorgeous floral suits. He describes his magpie approach to fashion thusly:

“It’s my aesthetics,” he says. “You can be one thing today, something else the next day just for the business. I feel it’s an old-fashioned idea that you have to change every season. You have to build your look.” He adds: “I’m like a thief of the granny wardrobe. There’s always something from the past that can match in a beautiful way with something new.”  -Alessandro Michele

I find it fascinating to see how a change in creative leadership can completely turn a brand around. Gucci's new tagline is, "Redefining modern luxury fashion." And they mean it!

Gucci lists only three notes in its description of Bloom:

 "Gucci Bloom is created to unfold like its name, capturing the rich scent of a thriving garden filled with an abundance of flowers. Tuberose and jasmine combine with Rangoon Creeper—a unique flower discovered in South India that is being used for the first time in perfumery to create a rich fragrance that transports the wearer to an imaginary garden. The scent is presented in a lacquered bottle, reminiscent of porcelain, in a vintage powder pink shade with a Gucci label appliqué."

I think I sniff a little more than just tuberose, jasmine, and Rangoon creeper- perhaps one of Alberto Morilla's signature musks?

Rangoon creeper (Combretum indicum)
The scent of Rangoon creeper (Combretum indicum) is a familiar one to me. It is a fairly common ornamental plant throughout Asia in tropical areas. Several of our neighbors have Rangoon creepers sprawling over their front fences. I've seen it in Thailand and southern Florida also. The flower is initially white and opens at dusk. Night time is when the Rangoon creeper's heady scent is released attracting nocturnal pollinators such as moths. On the second day, the flowers turn bright pink. By the third day, the flowers turn brilliant scarlet attracting daytime pollinators like bees and birds.

Rangoon creeper's fragrance is quite lush and initially reminiscent of jasmine. There is also a similarity to heliotrope with its powdery vanilla and marzipan notes. Rather than leaning buttery or indolic as many white flowers do, the fatty note in the Rangoon creeper's scent is like toasted coconut. Not an overly sweet or synthetic coconut but a rich, smooth, toasted coconut aroma. You probably wouldn't even immediately recognize it as coconut as it lingers in the background.

The fragrance of the Rangoon creeper has been replicated in Gucci Bloom using the technique of headspace technology. It is not possible to extract the scent of Rangoon creeper flowers by processes such as distillation, solvent extraction, expression, sieving, or enfleurage. Developed in the 1980's, headspace technology analyzes the air around a fragrant object such as a flower to elucidate the odor compounds present. Headspace equipment entails a hollow dome or globe-like container forming an occlusive, airtight seal surrounding the object(s) of interest. Inert gases are then passed into the container or a vacuum is established. The odor compounds are captured using a variety of methods including cold surfaces, solvent traps, and adsorbent materials. The samples can then be analyzed using qualitative and quantitative techniques like gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, or Carbon-13 NMR. When the identity and quantity of the odor compounds have been determined a recreation of the scent in the air around the flower can be made. The replicated scent or accord is pieced together with synthetic and natural isolates. Gucci Bloom is the first perfume to use a Rangoon creeper accord developed with headspace technology.

As you might expect with a fragrance named Bloom, the opening is distinctly and definitely floral. Jasmine and tuberose start out and almost screechy. Green notes soon become apparent suggesting vivid leaves and stems while tempering the tuberose and jasmine. Soon heliotrope-like powderiness and vanilla peek through further subduing the tuberose and jasmine. A hint of toasted coconut replaces the buttery and indolic notes you'd expect with white flowers. A light musk underscores the fragrance, and something reminiscent of salt and sand. As it develops Gucci Bloom simply softens, lasting about 6 to 8 hours on my skin. It remains linear but is so multifaceted I never lose interest in it.

The overall impression of Gucci Bloom is heady, slightly sweet, tropical, elegant, ultra-feminine, uncomplicated, and fresh. The toasted coconut note combined with tuberose and jasmine reminds me of an idyllic tropical vacation (without veering into suntan lotion cliché) rather than the Mediterranean garden pictured in the ads. Gucci Bloom is never overwhelming nor heavy the way some white florals can be. The fragrance never goes animalic, fecal, or obnoxious even in Monsoon heat and humidity. It's another scent like Houbigant's Orangers en Fleurs that somehow manages to feel both modern and vintage at once.

These totally dope gold Gucci loafers were available last year at Sak's for a mere $730.
I would rock these until the horsebits fell off!

I really thought Gucci Bloom was going to be yet another syrupy sweet thing when I first saw the raspberry toile box and Millennial pink bottle. Although it was released midsummer 2017 I didn't try it until this year. I thought at best it would be some wan, nondescript, floral thing like the Flora by Gucci Garden collection of 2012. After trying it on at Delhi duty-free I had to have a bottle of my own. I love it! Apparently, it has been quite well received as there are two new flankers released this year: Gucci Bloom Acqua di Fiori and Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori. If you are looking for a modern, feminine, office-friendly, well behaved, gorgeous white floral- try Gucci Bloom.

Have you tried Gucci Bloom?
Get your Gucci on!

Nov 27, 2017

Perfume Review: Twilly D'Hermès

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On our recent trip to Delhi, I had a chance to try the new fragrance: Twilly D'Hermès. I'm not a big Hermès fan but the simplistic notes listed for this new fragrance intrigued me- ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood. And who could resist this campaign spiel:

"The scent of the Hermès girls, Twilly d'Hermès is a daring fragrance woven with striking ginger and sensual tuberose—floral, spicy, and oriental. Ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood are given a new twist. Combined differently, they become searing spice, a disconcerting attraction, a revelation of the carnal." 

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Grace Kelly: "It's Air-maysss, dahlings!"
Hermès is IMMENSELY popular in Asia nowadays. A Twilly is the iconic brand's long thin ribbon-like silk scarf. They are worn mostly by young fashionistas/os in all sorts of ways: as neck scarves, headbands, wristbands, belts, or purse accessories tied in a bow on the handle. Your bog-standard 32" x 2" Twilly costs about $160. I have seen many South Delhi Brats ferrying their Kellys, Lindys, and Birkins about with a Twilly festooning the handle. Apparently, youngsters find the Twilly less matronly than the 35" x 35" traditional Carré scarf. 

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Start'em young, Hermès!
The ad certainly seems to target young girls. The campaign straddles the line between not too hip and not too twee. The bottle with its derby hat lid and jaunty silk necktie certainly suggests something stylish yet fun. Looks like the perfect fragrance for a young girl's first "grown-up" perfume. My initial thoughts were something along the lines of "Ooo! A bubblegummy tuberose paired with bright, lemony ginger? The American Bazooka brand bubblegum's original flavor is a mild ginger with vanilla.That actually sounds like an interesting twist on the floral-fruity genre. 
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Christine Nagel
(Hey Goody! She's got your glasses!)

"It is with young women in mind, by observing their lives, that I created Twilly d’Hermès. Free, bold, and irreverent, they swim against the tide, impose their own rhythm, invent a brand new tempo."
- Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel is the new house perfume at Hermès replacing Jean-Claude Ellena. Mr. Ellena has developed Hermès' perfumery style as minimalistic, transparent, and focussed on a key accord. He usually achieved this by using copious amounts of the popular synthetic Iso E Super. Christine Nagel's style is apparent in her creations such as Armani Si, Versace WomanNarciso Rodriguez For Her, Karl Lagerfeld for Her, and Miss Dior Cherie.

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Upon two sprays applied to the inner wrist: A very earthy, peppery, ginger followed by a shrill, sweet orange blossom note that lingers for about 10 minutes then disappears. There's a green, herbaceous note that's almost licorice-y? After about twenty minutes all that's left is a bit of creamy sandalwood and a slightly vanillic musk. So I guessed the orange blossom was supposed to be the hint of tuberose washed clean of any trace of indoles. (Apparently, indoles are equated with 'old lady' perfumes in the younger set.) What was that earthy, peppery, herbaceous, licorice note that bunged up the lemony ginger?

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A little internet research led me to determine that this note was a new synthetic musk called Polvolide from the Japanese company Soda Aromatics. Polvolide is a potent macrocyclic musk with a herbal-spicy, fennel-anisic side. According to the description on Soda Aromatics' website the musk's fragrance is also “luminous,” "like a flower suddenly blooming," and has a "powdery fragrance that Japanese people like." Musks are one of those strange molecules that seem to be perceived differently by everyone. Some people are completely anosmic to particular musks and some can only detect certain facets of them. Women’s sensitivity to musk is 1,000 times greater than men’s. Evidently, my olfactory bulb picks up on the fennel-anisic side of Polvolide and interprets its powderiness as vanillic. Your mileage may vary.

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Will the young ladies love Twilly D'Hermès? I don't know. Thankfully it's not another hyper-sweet sugar bomb or pink fruitichouli like most other recent fragrances marketed for girls. It definitely wasn't "a revelation of the carnal" as the ad implied. I'm not a huge fan of Hermès' minimalistic and abstract fragrances anyway, I prefer a little bombast for my dollar.  I would give it kudos for originality though and would definitely like try it on my skin again. If only the ginger were the "searing spice" and the tuberose a "disconcerting attraction" as advertised.

Anyone else try Twilly D'Hermès? What did you think?
I hope all of my American readers had a lovely Thanksgiving!



Nov 20, 2017

Perfume Review: Chanel's Gabrielle

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On my recent visit to Delhi I had the chance to try Chanel's hotly anticipated new fragrance launch of the year: Gabrielle.  It’s the first "pillar" (as in not a flanker) feminine scent Chanel has launched in 15 years and took 5 years to develop.  The fragrance is said to embody the house's founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel when she was a young girl: a rebel at heart, passionate and self-ruling, freeing herself to become the woman she wanted to be. The concept from Chanel's website:

"A solar fragrance created around four points of light from four white flowers: orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine and Grasse tuberose.
Olivier Polge crafted the dream flower. The only flower that could embody the unrestrained femininity of Gabrielle Chanel herself."

Olivier Polge is Chanel's house perfumer following in the footsteps of his father Jacques Polge whom retired in 2015. The fragrance's alleged notes are listed as such by Chanel:

Top notes: mandarin, grapefruit, black currant
Heart: tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom
Base: sandalwood, musk

gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray
Looking mighty fierce there, Ms Stewart.

Here's the ad for Gabrielle. Kristen Stewart plays her rebel spirit self in the campaign by fighting, punching, and dancing her way out of a gauzy cocoon to the sounds of Beyonce's Runnin'. Tres hip. Evidently the launch for Gabrielle took place in Paris at the trendy Palais de Tokyo and included a high-tech immersive "fragrance journey" into the world of Gabrielle. This included a holographic perfume bottle  that burst into a shower of virtual white flowers. The DJ was Pharrell Williams and the guest list was full of stylish A-Listers including Ms Stewart.  (I wasn't invited.)
gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray

Upon liberal application of Gabrielle to my wrists at Delhi Duty-Free: A blast of bitter grapefruit followed immediately by orange blossom bathroom cleaner sitting on the same thickly sweet vanilla-woods-musk base as Coco Mademoiselle. That's it. Whew, that's a lot of grapefruit in that bathroom cleaner. Turned obnoxiously to citronella and sandalwood a few hours later in the Delhi heat. Honestly, it was like some sort of posh bug repellent. My skin usually amps up the sweet in most fragrances but the acerbic grapefruit and heavy musk base went absolutely rank in the Indian incalescence. Definitely not a warm weather fragrance. Just to make certain I tried another spritz of Gabrielle the next day at the Chanel boutique in Delhi- still went from insipid to insecticidal.

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The omnipresent scent of the '00's Coco Mademoiselle
(actually it's still the best selling perfume worldwide)

I thought Gabrielle was going to be a white floral? The supposed "dream flower" reimagined in Gabrielle is barely discernible as even botanical. Just plop a bit of hedione and jasmolactone in there and call it a flower! Surely with all the premium materials Mr Polge has access to in Grasse he could have done better than this. This isn't youthful and radiant it's another banal fruity-floral thing. This is abstract to the point of being a cleaning product not a luxury fragrance. It could easily be a flanker of Jacques Polge's ubiquitous 2001 hit Coco Mademoiselle eau de parfum rather than any "pillar" fragrance. Perhaps they should've marketed this as Coco Mademoiselle Gold or Coco Mademoiselle Soleil?
gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray
Hedione  (Methyl dihydrojasmonate)
Anyway, if you like Coco Mademoiselle and want to smell like one of the numerous dupes that followed it's success with a few random floral notes tossed in - you'll love Gabrielle. If you're a fan of Lancome's La Vie Est Belle (another Olivier Polge fragrance) you'll probably like Gabrielle as it has a similar vibe. I know I'm not the teens to 20-somethings demographic Chanel was aiming for with this perfume - but I do think youngsters can handle something that actually smells like a white floral.

So, I guess I'm not a Chanel kind of gal. 
My camera had to be shipped to Delhi for repairs so I shan't be doing any recipes for a bit. 
What's up with you? 
Have you tried Gabrielle or any other new fragrances of note?



Sep 11, 2017

Perfume Review: Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs

life, love, houbigant, Orangers, Orangers en Fleurs, perfume, fragrance, review, orange blossom, tuberose, Turkish rose, ylang-ylang, Egyptian jasmine, nutmeg, eau de brouts, cedar, musk,
Orangers en Fleurs eau de parfum
Today I thought I'd do a review of my favorite perfume, Houbigant's Orangers en Fleurs. This new interpretation of orange blossom is not just a simple soliflore. It's a lush bouquet of orange blossom, tuberose, Turkish rose, Cormoros ylang-ylang, and Egyptian jasmine. Spicy nutmeg, eau de brouts, sheer cedar, and a base of clean musk temper this heady white floral. I'm certain reading Bibi rave about this overlooked gem is far more interesting than listening to her kvetch and crab about the Monsoon heat, eh? 
Matryoshka dolls
I first came across this perfume in a small duty-free shop in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport in 2015. I had a 7 hour layover and was leisurely perusing all and sundry luxury goods on offer in the airport. I was expecting amber, vodka, caviar, matryoshka dolls, t-shirts, and perhaps furs? Nope! It was all perfumes and makeup - Bibi's most favorite things! And we're talking everything in the way of fragrance- Amouage, Montale, Escentual Molecules, Juliette has a Gun, Clive Christian, Chanel, Hermes,-you name it they had it. Bibi was in perfume heaven!!! So after about an hour of sampling at the bigger shops I stumbled across this tiny boutique at the end of the terminal. This little boutique had quite an odd assortment of brands. One wall was devoted to the Arabian brand Ajmal, there was a small selection of uber expensive Amouages, and another counter had an assortment of trendy niche brands like Byredo. I tried a few Byredos and other niche offerings and was rather unimpressed. I've already tried every Ajmal in existence so I declined sampling those. Then I spotted the tackiest 70's looking clear lucite display you can possibly imagine on the back wall. 
Orange blossoms
The garish fluorescent-lit display was devoted to three new offerings from Houbigant: Fougère Royale, Quelques Fleurs Royale, and Orangers en Fleurs. I was thoroughly underwhelmed upon trying the Quelques Fleurs Royale (2004). I tried the new version of Fougère Royale and was AMAZED but I know the Sheikh would never wear anything that bold or complex. The pristine crystal flacon of Orangers en Fleurs intrigued me. An orange tree in bloom? That sounds like a rather unoriginal and uninspiring premise for a luxury fragrance. However, white florals are my jam so I had to try it! And it was love at first sniff. Like the heavens opened up on that grey September day in Moscow and a brilliant beam of white floral bliss sparkled down from paradise. I asked the price. The saleslady said $80. I said, "I'll take it!" The owner of the store exclaimed loudly, 
"But that's the cheapest perfume in the whole store!" 

I replied, "It's the best thing I've tried in the entire airport." Her eyebrows about flew off her head. Guess they have crappy service in Russia too.
life, love, houbigant, Orangers, Orangers en Fleurs, perfume, fragrance, review, orange blossom, tuberose, Turkish rose, ylang-ylang, Egyptian jasmine, nutmeg, eau de brouts, cedar, musk,
My box has a white satin lining not this pink bathroom wallpaper stuff.
So I waited patiently until I arrived in Delhi to unbox my new treasure. I opened the immaculate white box stamped with a gilded logo of stylized orange blossoms and lined with elegant white satin. The crystal flacon has a nice heft to it but I will say I was a bit disappointed that the cap is plastic. I spritzed myself lightly before dinner. Would this turn out to be a disappointment as some other love (or like) at first sniff purchases have been? Would it simper off into nothingness in the searing heat of Delhi or morph into something monstrous? The sharp opening of the dry, gorgeously green, and petitgrain-like note of the eau de brouts was refreshing in the heat of the Subcontinent. The honeyed brightness of the orange blossom came shining through next. But then the real star of the show came forward...

A lush and buttery tuberose! The heady tuberose is the perfect foil for the soapiness of the orange blossom. Then Egyptian jasmine absolute appears adding further warmth yet remaining elegant, not animalistic. The prim Turkish rose absolute imperceptibly blends with the orange blossom. Cormoros ylang-ylang brings yet another facet with it's tropical note. Nutmeg chimes in delicately with a subtle citrusy spiciness completely in harmony with the orange tree theme. The cedar is so sheer it simply comes across as part of the tree. As the fragrance dies down a base of clean white musk is revealed. Nectarous orange blossom does continue to linger well into the dry down lightly hovering over the musk for hours (if not days). A deeper whiff reveals that intoxicating tuberose seductively lurking. This perfume gets an A+++ from me for a tenacity of over 12 hours in withering South Asian heat and humidity. In spite of this longevity it remains a well-behaved white floral that never goes indolic, sweaty, skanky, or fecal- YOU CAN WEAR THIS IN THE ELEVATOR!

YAY! A white floral that won't asphyxiate people in close quarters.
I've read reviews complaining that Orangers en Fleurs is overly simple, unoriginal, and just pretty. It is a very traditional floral-woods-musk composition. For me it's simple beauty and sophistication harken back to the classic style of Houbigant's older floral fragrances such as the iconic Quelques Fleurs, Les Violettes, and La Rose France . The perfumer is showcasing the quality of ingredients and their innate complexity perfectly. All those gorgeous absolutes are multifaceted and develop quite enough to keep me interested. This is also one of those amazing perfumes that definitely has a vintage feel to it but is somehow thoroughly modern too. No synthetic sleight of hands nor artifices required. Sometimes pretty and uncomplicated is what's called for. I certainly don't want to compete with the cacophonous and often overwhelming stench of South Asia. At least it isn't yet another one of those ubiquitous pink fruitichouli or gourmand things so popular nowadays!

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Orangers en Fleurs was launched by Houbigant in 2012. Apparently, it was initially only available at Bergdorf-Goodman and Neiman Marcus. The price started out at the princely sum of $180 for 100mls of the eau de parfum and $600 for 100mls of the parfum. I've now seen the eau de parfum priced as low as $60 for 100mls at online discounters. It's such an underrated bargain! I'm not sure if it wasn't a huge success because florals aren't trendy now or that hip niche houses are considered more fashionable ? I do have to say that Houbigant could have done a lot better with their marketing of the fragrance. I mean look at that ad -
Pink has nothing to do with this fragrance!!!! White, green, and gold are the colors of this perfume. Almonds?!?

Kirsten Dunst as Marie-Antoinette frolicking at the (relatively) understated surroundings of the Petit Trianon
Houbigant has a long history of purveying to the French, British, and Russian aristocracy. Obviously, Houbigant wished to draw on it's legendary past with that classic Baccarat style flacon and the retro floral feel of Orangers en Fleurs. Marie-Antoinette was a famed client of Houbigant whose passion for feigned rusticity started the trend to lighter floral scents. Because of Marie-Antoinette the dense animalics so popular in the 17th century faded from popularity. Ethereal and elegant compositions of florals and woods became en vogue. Why not get a Kirsten Dunst look-a-like in a flimsy muslin chemise a la reine lolling about the Petit Trianon sniffing an orange blossom posy for the ad? Or just a boxed orange tree amongst the parterres of the Orangerie at Verailles in the background to infer an aristocratic bent?

Queen Victoria's wedding portrait
Here's another royal patron of Houbigant with a love for orange blossoms. Queen Victoria donned a pastoral coronet of orange blossoms on her wedding day. Her white gown and orange blossom headpiece set the style for western weddings for the next 200 years. Why not a simple orange blossom wreath or tiara next to or around the bottle for the ad? Oh well, I doubt Houbigant will be calling me for advertising advice.
life, love, houbigant, Orangers, Orangers en Fleurs, perfume, fragrance, review, orange blossom, tuberose, Turkish rose, ylang-ylang, Egyptian jasmine, nutmeg, eau de brouts, cedar, musk,
Boxed set of Orangers en Fleurs eau de parfum with scented lotion
(What is up with that tacky peach and green print on the box? It looks like a feminine hygiene product.)
Anywho, by now you've probably guessed that I absolutely love this perfume. From start to finish this perfume is just absolute perfection. Indeed, if I had to choose a signature scent- this would be it! Despite florals not being 'on trend' nowadays I get all sorts of compliments on this fragrance. A Chinese lady chased me down the street in Kathmandu last month wanting to know what the "powdery" perfume was that I was wearing. The Sheikh can be rather persnickety about perfumes but he has actually asked me to wear this one! I'd love to try the extrait. The eau de parfum is pretty potent so I'm curious as to how the stronger extrait would wear. I'm not certain if I could convince the Sheikh it's imperative that we buy a $600 bottle of parfum for me to try though ;)

What's your favorite perfume?
Any new white florals or tuberoses out there you think I should know about?
I am anxiously awaiting Gabrielle (the new Chanel tuberose)!
Hope your Summer went well and you're ready for a glorious Fall!

Oct 18, 2016

Perfume Review: Ajmal's Ragheeb

Perfume Review Ajmal's Ragheeb attar perfume oil fragrance ajmal

With a slight nip in the air and the steamy rains of the Monsoon finally gone, Autumn has finally arrived. Now's the season to break out those warm, woodsy orientals and delectable gourmands from your fragrance wardrobe. Ajmal's 'Ragheeb' is one of my favorite oriental floral fragrances for the Fall.

The late Mr Ajmal Ali, founder of Ajmal perfumes. 
For those of you unfamiliar with Ajmal it is a luxury perfume house started in the 1950's in India by Mr Ajmal Ali. Mr Ali was a native of Assam where some of the best agarwood or oudh is sourced. Moving to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) he began by selling Assamese oudh to Arab countries. Eventually he began mixing perfume oils into brilliant compositions and became a premier supplier of perfumes to the Middle East. In 1976 the House of Ajmal moved it's headquarters to Dubai. In 1987 Ajmal was the first company to introduce the classic Dahn-Al-Oudh (literally fat of the wood) in an eau de parfum form bringing to a to wider, global audience. (Yes, Ajmal's Dahn-Al-Oudh eau de parfum started the Western world's craze for oudh that's still raging on presently.) The fine tradition Mr Ajmal Ali started in India in the 1950's has been carried on now for 3 generations of his family. Today Ajmal is represented by over 100 boutiques and showrooms across the Gulf countries and is quite popular in Russia too.

So, in and amongst the myriad traditional Arabic oudh and rose attars on offer at a posh boutique in the Bahrain airport in 2006 I found 'Ragheeb.' Instantly, this scent brought memories I couldn't quite place. Late Summer and early Fall mornings in northern California in a traditional Arab attar? That's what it reminded me of. The 'Ragheeb' means willing or desirous in Arabic. Ajmal's description of the fragrance and notes:
"This exotic bouquet opens with the floral essence of bergamot and rose creatively infused with spicy hints of saffron, nutmeg and clove, interspersed with geranium. The fragrance highlights aromatic, warm and contemporary base woody yet sweet notes, for that long lasting trail.
Fragrance Description
Top: Floral Citrus
Heart: Spicy
Base: Woody Ambery"

Ragheeb opens with a bittersweet blast of saffron after which the nutmeg, bergamot, rose, geranium, and cloves seamlessly appear. You might look at the note pyramid and wonder where the woods and amber are. Saffron this intense takes on a woodsy, ambery effect with an almost masculine tobacco-like tone. The spiciness of the cloves bolsters the warmth of the saffron. Bergamot and nutmeg brighten the composition with their citrusy notes and keep the saffron from going completely leathery, metallic, or dark. The rose is the classic deep and intense Taif rose so prized in Arab culture. Real Taif rose oil isn't very long-lasting on the skin so typically geranium is added to prolong it's presence. The famed Taif rose has tea-like notes but can have peppery or even sharply tannic edges. To Western noses the Taif rose can often be perceived as harsh and soapy. You might think the intensity of the saffron and the harshness of the rose would make the composition come off as acrid or astringent. It doesn't. Ragheeb perfectly emulates the uniquely warm, spicy, myrrh-like fragrance of certain old rose varieties. The bergamot, nutmeg, and rose are unfortunately first to go in this scent after about two hours. The drydown is gorgeously Autumnal as the saffron mellows to an almost honeyed amber and rich aromatic cloves remain for hours.

Photo from the Taif Rose festival in Saudi Arabia
That was it! When I lived in California in the 90's I began collecting David Austin's English roses in my garden. Not only for their gorgeous forms and color but I particularly loved the strength and complexity of their warm old rose fragrance with varying touches of myrrh, clove, musk, fruit, and tea. Somehow the saffron, bergamot, cloves, rose, geranium, and nutmeg in this attar captured that old rose scent perfectly. Mr Austin's pink and apricot colored rose cultivars were particularly known for their spicy, myrrh-like notes similar to the fragrance of Ragheeb.

'Constance Spry'
This was the grande dame that started it all. David Austin's first commercially available rose, 'Constance Spry.' Mr Austin's emphasis is on breeding roses with the character and fragrance of old roses such as gallicas, damasks and alba roses but with the repeat-flowering ability, disease resistance, and wide color range of modern roses such as hybrid teas. 'Constance Spry' was the incredible twelve foot climbing rose that graced the arched trellis over my front door in California. Richly myrrh scented she was supposed to only bloom once in Spring. I found that through rigorous deadheading she would keep blooming for about 3 months. Her spicy, warm, almost resinous old rose scent would grace my doorway along with her heavily cupped blooms. I had a collection of about 20 different David Austin roses interspersed with various lavenders, lavandins, yarrow, and a few Italian cypresses in that garden.

As you can see in the above photos Ragheeb comes in an opulent glass bottle with gold ornamentation and a scattering of sparkling white stones. (This is rather modest as Ajmal bottles go, some are like miniature fairy palaces or daring pieces of modern sculpture.) The bottle has some considerable heft as well as a delicate glass applicator. To use attars or fragrance oils like this you simply dab a few drops to the inside of each wrist. Then dab a little behind each ear with the inside of your wrists before it absorbs. You may also apply to the back of the knees so the fragrance envelops you. Attars and fragrance oils take a bit longer to develop on the skin than alcohol based perfumes. Wait at least an hour for the fragrance to develop before reapplying if necessary. I find Ragheeb lasts about six to eight hours with moderate sillage. Although I bought this bottle about ten years ago I believe this fragrance is still available for purchase as I've seen it on Russian websites. These Arab attars last for years and are not nearly as prone to degradation due to heat or light as alcohol based perfumes. As you can see in the above photo I probably have another ten years of use out of this bottle even though I wear it at least once weekly in the Fall and Winter. A little dab will definitely do with this type of fragrance.

I think I need a pink burqa like that.
And a hammam. Definitely a hammam.

Ragheeb makes me desirous of the late Summer days in northern California. The leaves were starting to fall, the grapes in the vineyards being harvested, the roses and other scented plants in my garden were at their most fragrant. I don't really miss California except for the gorgeous weather. The foggy days of Autumn would soon start and the holiday season would begin with all the festivals, food, and fun. Ragheeb is the last bloom of my old rose collection in the Fall before being tidied up and tucked in with a blanket of mulch for the coming Winter.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that remind you of certain times of the year?

Sep 5, 2016

Cheap Thrills Perfume Review: Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom

While perusing the meager selection of fragrances at a department store in Kathmandu about a month ago I came across this gem. Those of you who love fragrances may recognize Jeanne Arthes as one of the less expensive brands on offer seemingly worldwide. This bargain brand puts a lot of effort into kitschy packaging and it's fragrances are usually reminiscent of popular mainstream scents. Such is the case with Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom. This is a great dupe of Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Summer for less than half the price! Citrus and green tea scents are my personal favorites for the hot and humid Monsoon months here in Nepal. I like Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea series* and prefer it to the other well known green tea fragrances like Tommy Girl. Unfortunately most green tea and citrus scents are rather short lived. Even when generously applied rarely do they last more that two hours. Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom lasts a good four to six hours in the heat and I actually like it better than Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Summer.

Here are the notes of Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom according to Fragrantica:

Top notes
Green Tea, Pear, Lemon

Middle notes
Rose, Cherry Blossom, Black Currant

Base notes
Musk, Peach

Camellia sinensis (TEA!)
It opens with an initial blast of floral green tea and brisk lemon. Very clean and citrusy but not not to the point of being antiseptic or smelling like a household cleaning product. 

In a few minutes the fruits become apparent. I get a bold, realistic peach with a bit of black currant and a hint of ripe pear. The fruit is not at all candied, artificial, nor overly sweet. I can detect no rose nor cherry blossom at all. The only floral notes in this fragrance are in the green tea.

All this sits atop a base of clean musk making for a very refreshing fragrance. Surprisingly, the lemony notes stick around for a few hours on my skin unlike most citrus notes which usually disappear in a few minutes. The fragrance never grows cloying nor synthetic but gently fades to the peach and light musk base. You can spritz oneself with absolute reckless bravado and never offend anyone with this scent.

So, if you're a fan of green tea scents or just looking for a simple, fresh, citrusy, and fruity floral fragrance to get you through the Summer try Boum Green Tea Cherry Blossom. We kept a bottle in the fridge as a little  sentir bon dans sa peau to refresh ourselves this Monsoon and quite enjoyed it. For a bargain perfume it definitely performs well and has excellent manners. (Unlike some inexpensive brands, I'm talking to YOU Bath & Body Works!) I am told in the US Walgreens and Walmart carry the Jeanne Arthes line.

*Except for Green Tea Yuzu by Elizabeth Arden. For some reason that fragrance turns to a smoked salmon sort of smell on me. Now from a culinary standpoint green tea and gravalax sounds quite interesting, as a perfume just NO.
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