smell this: Byredo Rose Noir

On November 12, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I find my nose increasingly sparing with its praise. Once you smell a few hundred perfumes, you’re not so easily charmed as perhaps you once were. This is I suppose the development of some kind of discernment or taste, and I tend to think it’s for the best. It often strikes me as vulgar to like too many things [as I undoubtedly do], aside from merely liking things everybody else likes. I don’t want to eradicate vulgarity but it is something I want to display in moderation.

So, then, impressive fragrances stand out all the more. Anything that makes it into the category of beautiful stands out all the more. I was delighted to be so effortlessly pleased with Byredo’s Rose Noir.

Byredo Rose Noir parfum

If you don’t like the scent of rose, I guess forget it. The rose is a true lush damask rose, and she does not smell cheap (she is not cheap). It opens with a super ripe yet still sour grapefruit note mingled with a vague white floral (evidently freesia, a scent with little character in isolation, light and inoffensive) that remains as the rose comes gently forward. There is a poignant, woody richness that I tend to associate with oud (which I generally do not like, finding in it something sickly, rancid, like the oversweetness of rotten wood). It works for me here, providing a savory anchor that balances the full-on rose, much like black pepper does in The Different Company’s spicy Rose Poivree and Le Labo’s stunning Rose 31. I’m pretty sure I like it here because it’s not actually oud but cistus (labdanum(resin)) and musk creating that same sense of a faint neon glow. [Probably some aldehydes contributing to this as well.]

This balance is critical for me. While its boozy headiness is beautiful in its own right, damask rose isn’t a scent I want to wear. It’s too much. Though rose is by far my favorite floral, really one of the only floral notes I take much interest in (with the exception of Tiare flowers/Tahitian gardenias), I want it in combination with something. Vetiver (L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses), incense (Caron Parfum Sacre), citrus (Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose)…something.

The sour grapefruit lingers (as does its brightness) and the resin has an intrinsic sourness/savoriness that prevents the sweetness of the rose from ruining the show. This is a wonderfully sophisticated scent. It reads clearly as a floral and a luxurious one yet isn’t especially heavy or dark. Not one of those rich roses suitable only for evening. The musk is gentle and sparing, and far in the background. All other notes play a supporting role to the rose. It could be accused of being too simple, not exciting enough, especially given the pricetag and that Noir, but being solidly pleasant is success enough. If it were somehow more exciting…I imagine the balance would be off and I wouldn’t like it anymore.

The junction of floral/citrus/musk reminds me a bit of Chanel Mademoiselle, which I also like, though this feels like the older, less obvious, more mysterious sister. The one who doesn’t care whether you like her or not. Harder to make her smile, and so more satisfying.

The edp is lovely for autumn/winter but I could see wearing this anytime. I expected it to be slightly stronger (esp. with that ‘edp’) but actually I like this concentration. I don’t think I’ll be getting a full size of this, I’m still longing for Profumum’s Victrix, but I think this is beautiful, and enjoy wearing it.

If you want to investigate other rose fragrances, this L.A. Times article mentions some great ones.

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.

 

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.

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