I love Chicago. If I go to heaven, it´ll look something like the perfume section of all the stores I visited last week on and off Michigan Avenue, including Nordstrom, Saks, NM, Barneys, C. O. Bigelow, Sephora, Hermes, Bluemercury, Lalique à¢â‚¬¦ you get the idea.
This was also a special trip for me because it was the first time I had the chance to spend an entire day sniffing with another fragrance lover à¢â‚¬” Ina from Aromascope à¢â‚¬” rather than my typical solo ventures. As much fun as solo sniffage is, sniffing with a compadre is even better à¢â‚¬” we could laugh, compare notes, sneer, gab with SAs, etc. Ina has, as we used to say in Santa Fe, a à¢â‚¬Å“great vibeà¢â‚¬? — she´s as lovely, funny, smart and well-spoken as you´d guess from her blog.
So I´ve perused my notes, and I´ve decided that anyone else reading them would conclude that they were jotted by a happy maniac à¢â‚¬” they have that addled, opaque enthusiasm, but maybe it was all the fragrance alcohol getting to my brain. Anyway, in as much order as I can muster, here are some thoughts, highlights, and winners:
I found my Carons. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how poorly Caron and I get along. Turned out I just needed to cross the border into the men´s department à¢â‚¬” L´Anarchiste (Orange Blossom, Mandarin, Leaves, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Musk) and Third Man (Le 3me Homme — Lavender, Rosemary, Anise, Bergamot, Geranium, Jasmin, Rose, Fern, Carnation, Amber, Musk, Moss, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Tonka, Vanilla) were both just stunning. Le 3me Homme was sharper at the top, probably the lavender and herbs à¢â‚¬” shocking but not unpleasant, drying down into dark woody/musky wonderment. L´Anarchiste I am incapable of describing other than weirdly sexy, a musky, dirty skin scent. So there. I am now unsure whether it´s the ladies´ Caron base I hate, and these were built differently, or maybe I actually like the Caron base, just without all the frills.
Lalique. I had never smelled any of them, but visited the Lalique boutique. Considering the other goods the boutique is carrying, the fragrances are quite reasonably priced ($67 for the EDT). I found the original Lalique for women (Chinese gardenia, Sicilian mandarin, blackberry, magnolia, Tunisian orange blossom, peony, Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, vanilla, cedarwood, sandalwood, Tibetan musk, amber, oakmoss) very pretty but a bit, uh, baroque à¢â‚¬” a very ornate floral, quite nice if you like a lot going on. The Eau de Lalique is a green unisex (Mandarin, Cardamom, Citron, Bergamot, Dill, Freesia, Hibiscus, Cinnamon, Amyris Wood, Sandalwood, Benzoin, White Musk, Guaiac wood) and quite lovely but gone too quickly on me. The Flora Bella (Mandarin, Bergamot, Baie Rose, Daphne Flower, Frangipani Blossom, Vanilla, Sweet Almond, Amber, Vanilla, White Musk) is a fresh white flower and almond confection, and whatever went on in the drydown was even more endearing.
Comme de Garcons. At Barneys I smelled the supremely weird 2, 3 and White, and no, I can´t describe any of them, and I wouldn´t recommend buying them unsniffed, but they´re not dull, are they? I finally got to smell the entire longed-for Incense series à¢â‚¬” okay, Avignon was empty, it´s apparently the most popular, but I´ve already smelled (and loved) that one. A must-try for incense lovers. My favorites: Zagorsk and Oarzazate (go ahead, try to say it) but I´d take any or all of them, gladly.
Hermes à¢â‚¬” what a pleasure it was to try all the Hermessences in a row. (News Flash: Vetiver Tonka is still my nemesis.) My favorite, I have decided, is Rose Ikebana à¢â‚¬” a rose of such ethereal delicacy even a non-rose fan like me can swoon. Then we got the friendly SA to Dig Around in the Secret Hermes Drawer and produce: Amazone, a green, unisex oddity that made me think of both iris and bamboo; and Doblis, the hideously expensive LE which is, I guess, a leathery chypre? It combines the elegant glove-leather of Hermes with a soft powdery floral into a vaguely Mitsouko-esque deal, but it dries down a little off. Honestly, it was pretty in an interesting way, but the earth didn´t come anywhere close to moving, and at its price point ($600?) I ought to be screaming like Meg Ryan in whatchamacallit à¢â‚¬¦ moving on, in my quest for a sexy men´s skin fragrance for the Big Cheese I tried Bel Ami, which was sharp citrus and good; Equipage, a leathery, balsam-y carnation which was even better; and my new love à¢â‚¬” Rocabar, which I´m still scratching my head over because the notes sound like wood-chip hell in a bottle (Juniper Berry, Cedar Needles, Lavender, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cypress, Atlas Cedar, Virginia Cedar, Basalm, Vanilla) à¢â‚¬” I mean, ugh, cedar is a complete train wreck on my skin. But this was a winner. Elegant on my skin, and the scent lingering hours later on my sweater made my knees weak with desire. My only sadness was that the Secret Hermes Drawer did not include samples. Rocabar was delicious, and much more arousing of the senses than anything atà¢â‚¬¦
Marilyn Miglin. Of Pheromone fame. How does this place stay in business? No, seriously. It´s awful. All of it. Maybe the shop is some sort of front for mob money? I sniffed through the whole gamut (okay, as much as I could stand), including the new collection of 7 Deadly Scents à¢â‚¬¦ no, that´s not right, it´s the Seven Sacred Oils. How were they? God, they were just crap. The 7 Sinful Scents at Sephora are crap too, but at least they´re cheap.
Diptyque Eau de Lierre à¢â‚¬” meh. Smells like, I don´t know, ivy? It´s green. It´s barely there. Olivia Giacobetti, did they fail to follow your instructions? I love your light hand, but where´s the rest of it, girlfriend? It makes me long for Diptyque´s most vile and offensive fragrances, two of which I own and (urp) wear. No, not that damn vinegar one. The other two vile ones.
L´Artisan Fou d´Absinthe à¢â‚¬” knocked me on my fanny. You know what? Fragrances like this are why I love L´Artisan. With a couple of exceptions, you may love them or hate them, but they are not boring or insipid. I will never improve on Bois de Jasmin´s elegant review of this. Absinthe is too pugnacious for me à¢â‚¬” but it really is wonderful. Fans of green meanies like Vent Vert and nightclub lunacies like Velvet Rope and VIP Room should give it a whirl.
Tired? Need a rest? Stop at Sarah´s Pastries and Candies, at 11 East Oak Street (I think we were near Barneys, this link goes to their online store — danger, danger!). I know a thing or three about sweets, and this place is Nirvana. Tastes homemade, but only if Mom was a really, really good baker, or maybe a pastry chef. Have the black and white cupcake, you´ll thank me. Buy some of their candy for later — those milk chocolate Royaltines are unbelievable.
Okay, that´s it for this post. Stay tuned for: Chicago: Part Deux, in which I reveal My New Undiscovered Incense, do a big, fat backpedal on something I ragged previously, stumble across a designer frag I just lurve, and take a sniffage stroll in Lincoln Park à¢â‚¬¦
credits: fragrance notes, basenotes.net; cupcakes, Sarahscandies.com