smell this: Molton Brown re-charge black pepper edt

On June 20, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Here is a lovely summer scent for absolutely anyone. Molton Brown products smell reliably good, and this is an easy favorite. Re-charge Black Pepper edt is an easy-going fragrance, light and inconspicuous but still interesting. The bodywash* enjoys a solid following on scent forum basenotes, and while the eau de toilette isn’t as powerfully peppery, it is still a wonderful, light spicy citrus.

Molton Brown black pepper re-charge edt

The opening is strong here, bright lemon and bergamot with leafy, herbal underpinnings of basil and cilantro. I also get a touch of sourness, grapefruit. The fragrance begins softening almost instantly, warming up with cardamom and what is for me a vague spiciness. The notes list cinnamon and nutmeg (and not black pepper, interestingly) but the cardamom is all that comes through clearly to my nose, which is absolutely fine by me: I love cardamom.

I suspect the sandalwood, along with the various spices, contributes to the sense of pepper (which is definitely there, in a lively, refreshing way rather than a heavy barnyard way – real life black pepper often disappoints me). Sandalwood comes in a number of guises, some of which feature a zesty edge not unlike pepper, nutmeg, ginger, galangal and such. The sandalwood is legible for me very early on, maybe even (or do I imagine it?) in the topnotes.

Molton Brown black pepper re-charge edt

This wears down into a soft sandalwood/patchouli with a cardamom/minty brightness. The sense of grapefruit stays around for me for quite a while as well. The sandalwood is more prominent than the patchouli but that earthy, loamy sweetness comes through as time goes on. Trying to pin down the impression of the sweetness, the best I can do is equate it to a pale incarnation of a weighty spring floral, like magnolia. That is, it doesn’t smell distinctly of patchouli, but it bears the marks.

The formulation is light enough that it could almost be a cologne, though I do find I am able to detect it many hours later, if only slightly, as a beautiful soapy sandalwood. Men, men, men, please go smell this. This is such a great fragrance for those who think they don’t like fragrance. It’s unobtrusive, easily leans masculine without being obnoxiously so, and can be spritzed carelessly without concern of overdoing it.

Molton Brown seems to emphasize its masculine offerings (or, at least, department stores seem to do this on their behalf), and while they do have great shaving and toilette stuff for men (intended for men, I really like that Ultra-Light Bai Ji Hydrator as well), it’s a shame that this means women often overlook the brand for anything more than handwash (their handwashes smell so good).  Ladies, Re-charge Black Pepper would smell great on you, too.

x

*I have the bodywash as well, and while I think it smells awesome in situ, I don’t notice that it hangs around on me. Bodywashes never seem to, for whatever reason.

smell this: Halston 1-12

On November 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Halston 1-12 launched in 1976 along with its more popular brother Halston Z-14. Both were named for the perfumer’s codes for the drafts, Halston couldn’t decide between the two and launched both simultaneously. Often considered the younger brother, overshadowed by Z-14 (a harbinger of the 80s powerhouse colognes to come), but I think it is also the more academic, more mysterious brother. Z-14 doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t typically like chypres,* often think they smell…not good. Old fashioned? Unpleasant. Musty but not in the way I like…

* “Chypre, pronounced: [ʃipʁ] or [ʃipχ], is the name of a family (or concept) of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus top-notes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic base-note derived from oak moss and musk. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.” (wikipedia)

But I like this. Probably because it meets the technical requirements of a chypre but feels like a fougère.**  Fougères I routinely like (ref. YSL Rive Gauche pour homme). Intellectually a chypre, emotionally a fougère, 1-12 is surprisingly complex for its price tag, and surprisingly contemporary for its age.

** Fougère, pronounced: [fu.ʒɛʁ], meaning “fern-like”, is one of the main families into which modern perfumes are classified, with the name derived from the perfume Fougère Royale (Houbigant) by Paul Parquet, now preserved in the archives of the Osmothèque. This class of fragrances have the basic accord with a top-note of lavender and base-notes of oakmoss and coumarin (Tonka bean). Aromatic fougère, a derivative of this class, contains additional notes of herbs, spice and/or wood.” (more wikipedia)

This opens with a bright lemon and green cedar-like accord, a little shrill for the first few seconds (but you know better than to judge a perfume in the first few seconds) but quickly softened by notes of basil and bergamot. The opening is not my favorite part of this, reminds me too much of the screaming green opening of Grey Flannel, which cologne I like but not until many minutes after application (and even then, not so much as I like 1-12). Grey Flannel, while it has its charm, could never be mistaken for a modern perfume, and I think 1-12 could be. And probably would be, as few seem to know about it.

Effervescent citrus and coniferous green soften into a soapy, lavender-infused green with a hint of gin—by which I mean juniper—, and when the creamy tonka bean (sweet, vanilla-like) comes forward, that’s when I begin to really like this fragrance. The green smells interesting and fresh, mossy yet newly laundered at the same time. This base is balanced such that the players that often dominate the base (amber, musk) are instead quietly warming and intensifying the rest of the team. The key players left on the skin hours in (and this lasts pretty well on me) are moss and tonka bean, with the aromatic cedar and juniper (and maybe lavender, sometimes I can catch it and sometimes I can’t) never quite fading away completely. This may be too soapy for some but I don’t mind it at all. My main complaint about soapy fragrances is that they are dull, and Halston 1-12 is not.

To me this smells subdued and elegant. It’s gently masculine, readily unisex. Suitable for wear year round. Especially good in the rain.

It’s been discontinued for a while but it’s still easy to find it dirt cheap all over, around $10 or less. Fantastic value here, this fragrance shows that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a quality scent. You’re not likely to bump into someone else wearing it, either. Woefully overlooked, check it out.

 

2014 summer fragrance picks

On July 18, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

It’s often not mentioned, as it doesn’t show up in photos, but I’m nearly always wearing some perfume or another. Or, one way or another, I smell like something in addition to smelling like myself. Something good.

Here are the fragrances I’ve been reaching for so far this summer.

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 Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine – Literally, ‘blood orange’. A gorgeous orange scent with the bitter and acidic elements elegantly balanced with a mix of bright florals. Nothing overly sweet, cloying, or synthetic about it. It smells…like sunshine. A wonderful, unusual summer citrus. Unisex.

Guerlain Vetiver – OK, so I’ve mentioned this numerous times, but this is a gold standard vetiver, and one that smells great on many people in many contexts, in every season…and especially in summer. Leans a bit masculine, but in a way that makes me appreciate it all the more on a woman.

Guerlain Homme – I got this…must be 6 years ago now? I haven’t stopped liking it one bit. Smells like a mojito that is wearing cologne. Awesome. Younger guys, I would especially like to smell this on you. [Older guys, you could be potentially devastating in the Guerlain Vetiver, give it a sniff.]

Clarins Eau Dynamisante – Lemony and herbal, very light and unassuming. I’ve reviewed this before. Perfect to spritz on post-shower, like a luxe, actually appealing body spray.

The Body Shop’s Love Etc. – Smells like grass and popcorn, what more do you want for summer? Master perfumer Dominique Ropion did the mixing, so the blend is surprising and sweet, on the girlish side in a playful, innocent way.

Bulgari Pour HommeGrapefruit of the gods. Many summer fragrance lists plug citrus but this most often means lemon. Lemon is, for me, the most difficult of the citruses, the one most often disappointing in a fragrance. The one most likely to smell like pez. Or Pledge. Enough of lemon. Give me grapefruit, orange, and lime. I don’t know that I can call this my favorite fragrance—it is too difficult, and too unnecessary to choose such a thing—but I can say that when I am wearing it, I love to be wearing it.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Body Oil Spray – Smells like the beach, in the best way. Or like the way you wish suntan lotion smelled. No longer available in this form, evidently, but the eau fraîche skinscent is close, and also lovely, as is the body cream.  [Not pictured because I forgot, bafflingly.]

I have a few samples from the extraordinary Italian brand Profumum that I am loving, too, and will have to tell you about them as well. I got a handful to try and they are nearly all stunning for summer.

 

smell this: Clarins Eau Dynamisante

On October 18, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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I made my way to a Clarins counter to smell Eau Dynamisante a few months ago after it was featured on Garance Doré’s site. This offering from the French skincare brand, launched in 1987,  is evidently something of a cult classic with men and women alike in France. I can see why.

It opens with a bright citrus note that my nose associates hopelessly with pez but, maybe 10 minutes later (be sure to wait at least this before making your judgment), settles into a light, delicate leather scent with herbal and citrus backup singers. There is, in fact, no leather. What I perceive as leather is (relatively) sweet midnotes of ginseng and white tea hitting a patchouli basenote, then petit grain (the oil extracted from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange plant) for brightness and rosemary to make things interesting. Patchouli is persistent on the skin and this lingers on me for many hours. Fades over time into a creamy white tea and patchouli accord that is to me in every way pleasant. I got some for myself.

No surprise from a skincare brand, it’s meant to be good for your skin as well, and follows basics of aromatherapy in its selection of essential oils. I can’t tell if it is making good on these claims…but these would be a bonus anyway. I’m inclined to trust in the ingredients and imagine it does have some subtle effect.

It’s hard to imagine putting too much of this on, it is so inoffensive and so light in formulation. At the same time it isn’t, like so many inoffensive fragrances, unforgivably bland. This leans slightly masculine, at least for the American market, but just slightly. This feels like a modern Eau Sauvage (which, for the record, I do not much like), and I would especially recommend it for a no-fuss, post-shave morning spritz.

smell this: Cartier Déclaration

On October 8, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

I like men who like Cartier Déclaration.*  I have that urge – that sudden urge I sometimes get upon learning such small details as this – to put my faith in their hands.

*Women, too, theoretically, should I ever meet any.

IMG_6138Déclaration launched in 1998, composed by the subtle Jean-Claude Ellena, whose work I like so often, and so well. This smells somehow old-fashioned and modern at the same time. A masculine blend of bitter, spicy, and smoky, this scent is at once mature and…what to call it? Virile, maybe. A cultivated virility.

My pattern of generally preferring “masculines” (marketing!) is clear.

In the notes we have bitter orange, cardamom (this is the spice I mean, not a warm amber/holiday spice, but a green, slightly exotic, peppery spice) and a blend of birchwood, cedarwood, oakmoss, and smoked wood. [So, yes, it smells of wood.] This is very smoky, to warn you. Rather like your clothes might smell after a bonfire, to distinguish from the sweeter tobacco notes you sometimes get in masculines. Or maybe more like it smells at a bonfire, with the smell of the burning wood mingling with the live woods nearby. Seriously, if you are into bonfires…

IMG_6139Cool cap mechanism, too.

There is also, controversially, a slight cumin or body odor-like smell, which tends to be polarizing. People love it or hate it, depending on their skin and temperament. I love it, at least as it is interpreted here, and as it behaves on my skin. For me the cumin is balanced by the bittersweet citrus elements and bound up with (and integral to) the strength of the smoke. It is nice to acknowledge and celebrate the human element rather than try to mask it into oblivion, ultimately a losing battle for a human body,  though the barrage of “clean” and “fresh” fragrances would have you try. I don’t want to smell unclean but I don’t want to smell inhuman, either. I want to smell alive. Not like a kitchen.

 

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