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.

 

reading: perfume, Eugenides, Kincaid, skincare

On June 20, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Scent and Subversion, Barbara Herman — A quick intro to vintage perfume and then a series of reviews of classics broken down by decade. Not unlike Perfumes: The A-Z Guide in format but focused on vintage scents and with more historic framework in place. Written by a perfume enthusiast for perfume enthusiasts. As with the guide, a good text to get you thinking about what makes good perfume writing, and how to think about (and how to think about describing) perfume.

The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides — I’ve been listening to podcasts of KCRW’s show Bookworm a lot lately, and getting a number of recommendations from those conversations (the host Michael Silverblatt interviews authors about their recently released books), this being one of many. I didn’t love it, but I give it to him that it is painstakingly life-like in its bizarrenesses. I was drawn in by the concept that the marriage plot (where the whole novel turns on whether or not or who or when someone will marry, see Jane Austen for example) , wildly common in the early days of the novel, is more or less dead as a driving force now, and yet Eugenides wanted to try his hand at one. Sounds to me like a good exercise.

My Garden (Book), Jamaica Kincaid — I heard an interview with Jamaica Kincaid (whose voice is gentle and inviting – Bookworm again) about this book and was curious to check it out. A series of essays held together by the common thread of gardening but touching on themes of post-colonialism and identity. Casual and charming, good for those who can appreciate the Latin names of plants, or who like to hear them roll around.

Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin, Harold Lancer — This reads, somewhat unfortunately, like a well-researched infomercial. If you can skip through the repetition, though, the breakdown of how skin works (and how the method works) is solid. The basic idea is that you encourage your skin to repair itself, as modern skincare is still not as sophisticated as the systems of regeneration the skin already has in place. The issue is communicating to the skin that it should be in regeneration mode, and the method for doing this is daily exfoliation, before cleansing. This is almost the conclusion I’d come to independently, but I wasn’t exfoliating before cleansing, and the reasoning for doing so seems sound. My skin is responding well, too.

smell this: Lolita Lempicka

On May 17, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Lolita Lempicka is a strange and unexpected fragrance, designed by the talented Annick Menardo in 1997 for the French fashion house.  It opens with a very sweet licorice note—imagine aniseed (or maybe better, anisette) cotton candy—which softens but remains in the forefront for the duration of wear. Give it 10 to 20 minutes and it’s hard to say what is happening on your arm; chocolate, lavender, powder, vanilla…the scent is creamy yet not heavy, lasting several hours on me and seeming to change its face from one hour to the next and one wearing to the next. Sometimes it seems like a complex bourbon-vanilla and the licorice, which I can intellectually trace back to, is almost entirely disguised or subsumed by something like praline or marzipan with hints of coffee and chocolate throwing additional licorice-cloaking shadows.

This perfume is often compared to Mugler’s Angel, another sweet gourmand of an entirely different species (chocolate/vanilla/patchouli), and while Angel has something flirtatious and heady about it, the brightening, almost herbal quality of licorice, underscored by the actually herbal ivy and violet notes, keeps Lolita Lempicka light and innocent. It manages to be fully sweet, unmistakably sweet, without being cloying.  A more or less straight licorice doesn’t work for me (see Hermes Brin de Reglisse) but the creamy current of powdery tonka sweetness contrasted with the gentle violet grounds this fragrance.

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The classic Lolita Lempicka bottle is an apple, and the Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin bottle a tree trunk. I say: cute.

There is an Alice in Wonderland kind of strangeness to this perfume (this is the flavor, perhaps, of the EAT ME biscuit), which was extremely innovative when it was launched and still smells interesting and modern to me now. It can be a bit sweet for me, and it may be a bit sweet for you. It’s often a candidate for layering with something more masculine to temper the sweetness, and I often opt for the less creamy Au Masculin when I want a licorice note (I’ll tell you about that another time), but this is the kind of fragrance I love to find lingering on my scarf or sweater days later.

smell this: Bruno Acampora Musc

On April 4, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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When I finally picked up Bruno Acampora’s Musc this winter it had been at the top of my fragrance wishlist for over a year. I first heard about it when Katie Puckrik reviewed it on her channel and was, like many, instantly curious. A deep, earthy musk, beautiful, entirely unisex. The team at Lucky Scent gave it an unabashedly glowing review and I knew that I must smell it.

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They are right. It is beautiful. It is earthy. It is resinous. It is not, somehow, to my nose, that musky…it is musky, but not that musky. It doesn’t feel overwhelmingly like musk. Actually, it feels like patchouli (there is patchouli in the base). Like a rooty, vegetal, loamy patchouli.

The opening is peppery and vivid, there is that wonderful healthy basement odor I was trying to describe for Lalique’s Encre Noir. This is a completely different fragrance but it has that same great moldy element. For me it is distinctly mushroomy, which I mean in the best way. Imagine a dark loaf of bread that has just begun to mold, that point where the mold does not yet smell like a warning but instead like an invitation. The mold only adds depth and complexity to the smell of the yeast and the grain, and a slight powdery quality. [Everybody with me?] At the same time there is something I want to call sweet about it. Imparted partially by the cloves, perhaps. It is not sweet, but it has that level of saturation and intensity that sweetness can achieve. In the nose and mouth it feels the way sweetness feels. This is a proper, proper perfume. It is intense, concentrated, and a little goes a long way.

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The back of the box. “Color: gold.” That’s the color I am! In my mind/heart!

Part of the delight of this fragrance is the complexity, and the strangeness. It is hard to identify what you are smelling (I can’t really pick out the individual florals they reference in their description above), creating the [accurate] impression of an elaborate structure. This is the flip-side of the appeal of a clean, one-note fragrance; a simple citrus or soliflore that delights with its bright simplicity. Dark complexity is equally compelling, and Bruno Acampora Musc has it. The real beauty is, when I wear it, I think I have it, a bit. Or, at least, I project it. A few hours after application I find it wonderfully subtle, a muted and more ambery version of its initial self.

weekend distraction: Sali’s perfume tour

On February 23, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve mentioned before how much I like and am willing to listen to Sali Hughes, the beauty editor for The Guardian. She’s sensible (with a kind of dry, intelligent humor I like), well-researched, well-spoken, and we share a soft spot for perfume and tarty makeup. Her recommendations are solid across the board and she has this great In the Bathroom series of interviews I enjoy, where she interviews friends of hers (about their beauty routines and favorite products) in their bathrooms. I don’t know her really, of course, but I like her. One gets the sense, reading and watching her, that she smokes and swears and makes excellent observations, and you’d want her at your party.

She’s made a video walking through her favorite perfumes and it is just the kind of mini-introduction to excellent perfumery I wish I’d had ages ago and still find useful and interesting now. She has great taste, with stress on high quality ingredients and complexity of scent. Her favorites include a mix of masculine and feminine, intellectual and fun, and she moves through quickly enough to keep interest, peppering the tour with great bits of data for the perfume-curious.

[I want to do a tour along these lines myself. Still working on video over here but it’s only a matter of time.]

I’m definitely going to seek out samples of a few of the unfamiliar scents she highlights here (esPECIALLY that Roja Dove vetiver, but I’ve been meaning to look into Atelier Cologne and more of the Frederic Malle line as well), and, though it’s no coincidence, am pleased to note that a number of her favorite brands are favorites of mine as well. Take note of the brands she highlights, as they are great ones to look at (I mean, look into getting samples of – get samples! Try fragrances on your skin before you buy!). Even if your favorite scents are not her favorites (and why should they be?), these are brands producing beautiful fragrances worthy of being called perfume. They are, in many cases, not inexpensive, and this is no coincidence, either.

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