Tag Archives: 2000s scents

O The Virtues: ORIGINAL VETIVER by CREED (2004) + SIGNORICCI by NINA RICCI (1976)

 

 

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A bright winter’s morning.  The bathroom of a stately home.

 

On the wash basin,  lies a pristine bar of soap.

 

It is the most perfect soap imaginable; a hard, impenetrable, triple-milled yellow soap; the clean, heart-clearing brightness of bergamot: the finest essences of sun-binding neroli all married grassly to a light, fresh note of cool, purified vetiver root planted down, somewhere beneath the surfaces, in its fragrant, pounded, centre.

 

A vetiver, then, of spanking immaculateness and spruceness; a perfect accoutrement to the face-splashing morning ritual: a scent that very reeks – very nearly,  ALMOST – of trust.

 

Until you smell Signoricci that is, when the artificial, clammed together, and somewhat hysterical brightness of Creed’s Original Vetiver is suddenly exposed……

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signoricci, one of the few key masculines from a classical house that, in its heyday, produced some of the most delicate and exquisite feminine florals ever created, predates Creed’s scent by three long decades and is of a similar soap-cleansed theme; citrus (lemon, verbena and lime), over delicate, cologne-steeped vetiver, but in this long discontinued perfume the effect is incredibly, incredibly refined.

 

 

I first smelled smelled Signoricci at my brand new friend Federico’s apartment in Rome one October afternoon – standing there, alone as it was on his wooden bookshelf in his room – and I remember how immediately blown away I was by its deceptively simple beauty; a beautiful conception of fine-hearted masculinity that is almost impossible to imagine now in today’s world of hard-hitting woods; spices;  and designer-bearded synthetics.

 

 

Beginning with perhaps the most piercing, yet simultaneously gentle and perfect citrus top note I know of, the vetiver, cedar and sandalwood heart of this composition is  revealed gently and gradually;  an accord of almost heartbreaking cleanliness: a perfection and purity of soul.

 

 

 

Its perfection notwithstanding, if there can be any criticism of Signoricci (and must there be, really?) it is just that: this perfume, in all honesty, is possibly too perfect; a saintly, flawlessly scrupled man who seems too good, almost, to be possibly true.

 

 

 

 

Like doubting Thomases,  we stand agape.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Perfume Reviews, Vetiver

THE SPRING FLOWERS THAT ENDURE : Nymphéa, Flower, J’Adore, Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, Romance, Pleasures, Bouquet De La Reine

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It is that time.

NYMPHEA / IL PROFUMO (2004)

I am not sure how such a heavenly creature actually works on a real life girl, but this dreamy, artful, fresh-green bouquet (bamboo, fig, white waterlily, lotus flowers, water jasmine, and white rose) is, in my view, almost heartbreakingly lovely. Il Profumo describes it as having a ‘lacustrine tranquillity’, and it does have such a transparent, lake-like, lily-pad beauty that I am compelled to agree.

ANTONIA’S FLOWERS/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1985)

Antonia was a florist in The Hamptons, and knowing her flowers, and adoring freesias, and being dissatisfied with the floral scents available on the market, set out to create her own. In the process she produced three American classics: Antonia’s Flowers, Floret, and Tiempe Passate, all of which have apparently been among the best selling fragrances since their launches at Bergdorf’s and Barney’s New York.

Despite my own personal love of fleurs à la Parisienne, there is no reason why the classic French model (flowers, woods, musks and animalics) should necessarily predominate in a person’s floral wardrobe; not everyone wants that suggestive, ‘come-thither’ quality in a perfume – sometimes you want a scent that goes on fresh and clean and stays that way. And what distinguishes the Antonia’s Flowers perfumes from the mass-market chemical-sheen ‘flowers’ like Romance and Happyis a natural, well crafted, ‘made-with-love’ quality that, in the case of this, her eponymous fragrance, shines all the way through the brilliant fusion of light-shimmering, china-dry rosewood and crisp, springtime flowers (mainly freesia, magnolia and lily). It is a highly unusual fragrance – the intense but beautifully natural bois-de-rose note is too much for some – but one I would recommend to anybody who loves flowers and just flowers.

FLORET/ ANTONIA’S FLOWERS (1995)

Or alternately, try Floret: a tightly controlled, crystal-clear, sweet-pea floral, with  rose, tuberose and marigold, and a delicious, transparent apricot top note. Pure, feminine, it is springtime in a bottle: the olfactory equivalent of pressed, clean clothes in an airy, open room.

FLOWER BY KENZO/ KENZO (2000)

‘A flower with no fragrance.’

Kenzo, who I have always liked (for their Kenzo Homme, L’Eléphant, Le Tigre, Summer, Kashâya and their sensuous, eponymous original scent) suddenly became a major contender in the perfume world when, thirteen years ago, in a marketing act of brilliance, they released a rather stunningly designed bottle, which appeared to contain poppies at various stages of growth, and cleverly filled airports and department stores with them. The effect was startling, the concept (‘creating the scent of the poppy’) an instant hit with consumers, and thus cities were suddenly filled with scent of young office girls going to work in Flower.

It is a very pleasant scent, like anything by the company; airy and green, with soothing, gentle notes of Bulgarian rose, hawthorn, cassie and parma violets over a sheer, powdery almond base: gentle, carefree, light, and safe – like running through a neighbouring field in freshly tumble-dried, clean smelling clothes. Which is another way of saying that it is fragrant, and nice, but rather dull. I quite like it, but don’t get my friend Helen started on how much, and why, she despises this to the extent that she does.

J’ADORE/ CHRISTIAN DIOR (1999)

Knowing what the women wanted – something fresh, light, sophisticated but somehow ‘vulnerable’ – Calice Becker, one of the world’s undisputed masters of florals, created a scent for Dior in 1999 that  went down a storm – J’Adore is now one of the world’s best selling scents, and I can certainly understand why. Despite the usual fresh floral metallica, this perfume does have that ‘classic’ stamp on it; the greenness of the fresh ivy top notes; the gleaming flowers (orchids, champaca, white roses, violets – apparently it was designed as an ‘emotional floral’); the fruitiness (Damascus plum and blackberry musk), the gentle, skin-tone, base notes. This scent is ‘pure woman’, and something you can’t really go wrong with. For evenings out. For romantic dinners. For engagement parties and anniversaries: the magazine adverts featuring Charlize Theron say it all – in gold; glamorous, pretty, charming and ‘dazzling’.

Despite my objective appreciation of its charms, however, I myself don’t  like J’Adore at all, and, as the murdered woman in Goldfinger was to find, all that gold can be suffocating.  The perfection; the flawlessness, is all too much for me I’m afraid, and it catches in my throat; hysterical – a sharp, processed, gilded lacquer.

ROMANCE/ RALPH LAUREN (1998)

True-blue thoroughbred, how could Ralphie go wrong with an advertising campaign that played up to every Tiffany-dreaming, happy-ending, Caucasian fantasy? And the smell! So clear, so sheer, so ‘romantically’ floral and clean: so ‘right-for-every-occasion’.

Inevitable then, that Romance should be such a big hit. I can’t personally say that I like it (shrill; synthetic; far too conservative for this writer), but it might be what you are looking for if you want an inoffensive, indistinct scent for that wedding or baby shower.

PLEASURES/ ESTEE LAUDER (1995)

Pleasures is, I think, aimed at the same target audience as Romance; thirty-something mothers of a stable income and societal position who shun any hint of prurience (or even any acknowledgement they have a body) in their scent (what would the other mothers think?!?). For the successful original advertising campaign, that foxy British minx of the upper-middle classes, Liz Hurley, donned a lilac cashmere sweater, and, airbrushedly, tumbled about with a Lenor-washed puppy in a field, a thousand miles from the cleavage Versace It-dress that made her famous. The message was clear: like Romance, this woman was a Good Girl, and her family values were most Virginally Intact.

The difference between Romance and Pleasures, though, is that Pleasure has character, and lots of it – only characterful creations are this recognizable. So powerfully, translucently floral it almost hurts, this complex bouquet of rain-drenched flowers (lily, lilac,  violet leaves, peonies, baie-rose…) can be hypnotically feminine, mysterious even, on the right person if used in small doses (I have known women who have smelled quite gorgeous in it) but, ultimately, it is so resolutely ‘pure’, so WASP, I have to say that it rather scares me.

BOUQUET DE LA REINE / FLORIS (2002)

Middle England: a secret, illicit tryst between two married people, in love,  speaking in quiet voices under their drinks in the hotel bar.

He is wearing Eucris (Geo F Trumper): she is wearing this: a pretty, insistent bouquet, green and fresh (bergamot, blackcurrant buds, violet leaf,  rose, ylang and jasmine) that is respectable, pliant, and womanly. He leans in closer, and, furtively watching and smelling from a distance, we don’t doubt for a moment the passion that will later ensue.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Floral Bouquet, Flowers

Here comes the sun, little darlin….. SOLEIL LIQUIDE by MEMOIRE LIQUIDE (2009)

Today was the first day of proper, unbridled sunshine we have had this year : blue skies, cold breeze, but in the sunshine directly it was hot enough to not need a jacket; proper soul-warming sun up to the the mid-sixties, the kind of day in London where people strip off their shirts in the parks and soak up some rays on the grass with beers and the first picnics, as multilayered foreign tourists from much hotter countries look bemusedly on, and we pretend to ourselves that this is going to be what the weather will be like for the foreseeable future.

A day, then, for mood-enhancing, summery scents (even though it is only the beginning of March and I am totally jumping the gun…) I have been lucky, though, to receive a lot of perfume samples in the post in recent weeks, and livened by the light, and having just finished my post on piquant greens from this morning, I felt like trying something new and refreshing.

Scrabbling through the vials (all over the house, anywhere, everywhere, total lack of organization I am afraid) I came across one that had ‘Soleil Liquide’ written on it (no name of the perfume house on the vial, inviting me in, cryptically, as a ‘drink me’ bottle might do Alice) as I was ironing my shirt,  with my coffee; music on; the window wide open and the sounds of my  neighbourhood flooding in; my cat, Mori, fighting with the ginger tom across the street (there is some territorial battle going on);  kids on their way to school, birds beginning to ‘twitter’ (I have had the windows shut for so long!)…a quick sniff before applying: ah yes, that will do, one of those nice, unthreatening,  contemporary florals I like in measured doses;  those jasmines and tuberoses like  Beyond Love, Marc Jacobs,  and the new Oscar De La Renta Mi Corazon; sheer, but not too sheer; fresh, clear, but with enough exotic suggestion for me to acquiesce (just on one wrist and one cuff, my guilty, bucking-the-rules pleasure for school, as ‘gender-bending’, nectarous, fleurs emanate from my tutorious person….)

In any case, Liquide Soleil has been my school scent of the day, and I have to say that have enjoyed it. A modern, citrus white floral that is easy on the nose and spirits for its cheering, American summer goodness,  its barely  whispered memories of France (Tendre Poison, even the eighties incarnation of Vent Vert, or am I just imagining it?), its simple, immediate, pamplemousse-gorged uplift.

Neroli, tangerine and lightly candied grapefruit; a pleasingly blended triumvirate of yellows that coalesces very nicely together over the standard, familiarized accords of subtle sandalwood and white musks, yet mixed together knowingly and judiciously to cleverly bring the ‘liquid sunshine’ to the whole.  Conventional if you really have to nit-pick, but something that really does to me smell good, and those were today’s quite simple criteria. Make me smell nice. Make me smell clean and laundered but also nice; handsome; comely.

You may have smelled this type of fragrance many times before, these citrus-boosted nerolis like Fleurs D’Oranger and Cologne Grand Neroli that abound quite frequently in the perfume world;  but a perfectly blended, dependable bottle of summertime happiness is nothing to be sniffed at ( I find most perfumes these days go wrong at some point: there is always some vile woody addition that ruins it; some sweet, banal chemical that turns me off, but I didn’t really get any of that with Liquide Soleil, apart, perhaps, from a sense that by the end of the day, when the sun had actually gone, it was slightly beginning to outstay its welcome (probably because it was clinging, still zinging with orangey, persistent neroli to my chalk-flecked shirt…)

No. The carefree, citrus florality of this perfume is really  appealing, and it is something I would happily wear quite regularly, particularly on warm sunny days like today. If it is nice tomorrow as well, I think it might be getting another outing…

 

 

 

 

 

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Today, 5.36 pm, Hiratsuka station, as I made my way to my evening classes…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grapefruit, Neroli

SCREAMING JELLY BABIES: TUSCAN BLOOD ORANGE by PACIFICA

 

 

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When the package came, the first thing I tried was Tuscan Blood Orange.

 

I love orange: I love it in chocolate, in cakes, in perfumes, and am a huge consumer of the fruit, especially Japanese mikan, iyokan, and ponkan: I think my colleagues find me slightly bizarre. While I ultimately think I prefer lemon, there is nothing more uplifting and easy than a good orange, though it is not often successfully carried off in perfume for some reason (see my other post on oranges for some exceptions to this rule).

 

This particular perfumed version of the fruit, ‘Tuscan Blood Orange’, is not an orange, per se, as much as a jelly baby, or rather a fistful of jelly babies, those classic British gummis that kids of my generation grew up with, and which my grandparents always brought round to the house on a Sunday night, along with Twixes, Bounties, and Mars Bars.

 

And I loved them.

 

Boxes of Bassetts jelly babies in their bright friendly colours of green, red, black, orange……mild, delicious, as you bit of their heads with a tinge of guilt and kept dipping your hands in for more.

 

 

The marketing teams at Bassetts also decided, a few years ago,  to give a name to each flavour (making the dental decapitation all the more savage, don’t you think?) and this cute little perfume by American brand Pacifica seems to feature almost the entire posse (though Bigheart, blackcurrant, is conspicuously absent)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While an appley, melon top note makes you question whether the perfume has been labelled incorrectly for a few seconds, soon Baby Bonny (raspberry); Brilliant (strawberry), and even brief flashes of Boofuls and Bubbles (lime and lemon respectively) make appearances in Blood Orange before Bumper – that lovely, sweet orange jelly baby – smiles, winks, and immediately tap dances its way into your affections.

 

 

Wearing this perfume, then, is a total confectionery blast from the past for me and puts me in an excellent mood – it is so cheap as well that I might have to order myself a bottle from Amazon. Sometimes I like such pleasing uncomplication.

 

 

 

 

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The title of this post comes from a science experiment that I wish my school had done, in which jelly babies are thrown into tubes of potassium chlorate as they  fizz away instantaneously in fits of oxidisation, squealing, apparently, as they do so, and leaving the science labs reeking of candy floss. I think that if chemistry lessons at my school had involved such olfactory pleasures, perhaps I might now have been making perfume, rather than merely writing about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Confectionery, Orange, Perfume Reviews

Lady In Red: Pour Une Femme by Caron (2001)

Lady in Red, is dancing with me.

I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight.

Never seen you shine so bright….

A made-up, quintessentially vermillion ‘date perfume’ for night time and silk, this beauty by my side has the hairdo of Jennifer Rush and smells indelible, typical; I move my head slightly back.

However, as the candles flicker, our wrists flick glinting champagne glasses, and we sway and smooch to Luther Vandross, the intensity of her opening gambits fades, and the heart of her fragrance is slowly and gradually revealed – an intense, seductress sweet rose and spiced frankincense/benzoin accord that goes quite beautifully with her gown.

Image Image Image Image     I will never forget the way you looked tonight.

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Filed under Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Rose, Slinky

A hint of leather: CUIR OTTOMAN by Parfum D’Empire (2006)+ SPANISH LEATHER by Geo F Trumper (1902)+ ROYAL ENGLISH LEATHER by Creed (1781)

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CUIR OTTOMAN / PARFUM D’EMPIRE

As sensual and smooth as brand new suede, this is a great leather.  The beginning, freshly raw and animalic, might be offputting for some, like just-skinned hides being dried in the sun. But this uninhibited, free introduction is then tamed: with gentle woods, iris, and a proud, clean leather that dries down to a superb, suave, finish.

SPANISH LEATHER / GEO F TRUMPER

Antique teddy. Brideshead. Anthony Andrews.

Soft, soapy; gentle. Leather. Hints of sensuality. A touch half-hearted, perhaps, although my friend’s daughter proclaimed, upon smelling it in the shop,  that ‘it does, really, smell exactly like Spain and the air there!’

ROYAL ENGLISH LEATHER/ CREED

Diffusive, warm and powdery; a heliotropic, gorgeous, air-filling suede caress. A scent that thoroughly envelops you in elegance yet is totally seductive.

If you like L’Heure Bleue but can’t quite take all the marzipan,  Royal English Leather makes a beautiful, distinctive,  alternative.

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Filed under Leather, Perfume Reviews

A bristling citrus: PHILTRE D’AMOUR by GUERLAIN (2000)

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With so many perfume houses releasing limited editions that are released, fanfared and then disappeared without trace, it becomes easy to equate their brevity on the market with similar levels of imagination. Neverthless, occasionally, the spontaneity and lack of expectation placed on limited editions can produce bursts of creativity that lead to more singular, less market-tested and common-denominator fragrances; scents that pop up unexpectedly like crocus-bulbs in spring and enchant you with  their fresh-breathed joie de vivre.

For a while at the beginning of the 2000’s, Guerlain would release limited perfumes that were not flankers to their main-line-up perfumes, but separate work, released in a prolific spirit of productivity that yielded such well-regarded treasures as Guet Apens and Gentiana.

In a spirit of mercy to these more inspired saplings that were culled before their prime, some of them were given a reprieve, a chance to star again, however briefly, on the billboard of ‘Les Parisiennes’, a kind of Guerlain Golden Hall of Fame for discontinued classics and limited releases that stubbornly refused to die a death, and Philtre D’Amour, a wonderful, moody citrus, is one of them.

I found my bottle at the flea market and bought it unsniffed, expecting, as the name would suggest, something sultry and floral. Spraying the scent was thus a total shock. Philtre D’Amour is a sour, concentrated, and very natural accord of verbena, myrtle and lemon-leaves layered delicately over a sharp, fantastically dark patchouli: a mysterious and lovely, almost powdery citrus chypre that leaves an intriguing and surprisingly nuanced trail in its wake.

She is a delicate thing, this Philtre; treat her carefully, don’t rub her up the wrong way or step on her emotions, and she will yield; show you through the ivy-covered doors of her secret garden to the other side: her neroli’d, fresh air garden petals of jasmine diced with petitgrain: gentle walks around the topiaries, the April skies opening up and bestowing newness, vitality and Spring as the lemons shine youthfully and you sigh gratefully that someone out there still knows how to make a modern, yet classically structured, perfume.

Vistas and groves open up when I smell Philtre D’Amour: it is slight, it is curious, but it is something I would wear all the time if I had more of it:  the delicate, little 30ml cylinder you see in the picture is kept for special, precious use.

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Filed under Chypre, Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Verbena