Chicago Smells Like Heaven

black and white cupcakes.jpgI 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,; cupcakes,

  • March says:

    V — thank you so much! Now I know I am not losing my mind about the Carons. Sandalwood-iodine-moss? Yeah, that might be the problem.

    No, they didn’t have that Lalique! I am guessing from your comments that’s the one you prefer…. sigh. Oh, well, will have to try again!

  • March says:

    Amy — I’m in the midst of work, which is interfering with my blogging — I plan to do Chicago Part II next week… eat one of those cupcakes for me.

  • March says:

    P — I knoooooow, I wish they’d Fed X those cupcakes. That chocolate stuff, though, they’ll send.

  • March says:

    Gail — yeah, yeah, call me crazy … but i SMELL good.

  • Victoria says:

    March, Lalique Le Parfum is not a perfume version of the original Lalique, it is a separate fragrance created by Dominique Ropion last year. Here is a link:

    The last time I was at the Lalique boutique in Chicago, they had it and even gave me samples. I am finally going to cave it one of these days.

    Yes, Caron masculines have a completely different base. Plus, most of them were created much latter. You probably just do not like that sandalwood-iodine-moss accord that Caron is famous for.

  • gingele says:

    Fantastic!! (*)(*)
    I love hearing such wonderful things about my hometown! With the exception of a few blurry years in Iowa City (rumour has it I went to undergrad there. I cannot confirm or deny this fact), I have lived in & around the City of Big Shoulders all of my life. So glad you enjoyed your sniff through town, cannot wait to read tomorrow’s installment and *must* try Rocabar. Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and the magic drawer will bless me with some samples.


  • Patty says:

    Would you stop with the damn cupcakes? Did you know they don’t ship those?:-w Rrrrr…

    Dzing! what a shame. I had avoided it forever because that name just sounded goofy, as did that whole circus thing, but it really is just a slice. I feel bad that you befoul the circus smell like that. 🙂

  • gail says:

    lololololololol You ARE perfume maniacs\:d/

  • March says:

    R, I wish you’d been there too!! Although Ina and I scared off enough SAs just the two of us… I think we look like perfume maniacs.

  • March says:

    Patty — it’s not FAAAAAAIIIIRRR! Dzing! is one of the few that smell great on everyone but me. I do something unspeakable to the leather. The whole thing becomes too circus-animal, in all the worst ways…

  • March says:

    Vi, those cupcakes? Were amazing. I mean, just LOOK at that photo!!! They tasted that good.:o

  • March says:

    Ina, if I lived within a mile of that bakery I’d weigh, like, 450 lbs. That stuff was much better than anything I can get here, in a theoretically real city… thanks again, that was great.

  • March says:

    greeneyes — sooooooooo, ordering decants from Dragonfly, eh?

    Meh heh heh heh heh. Sooooon there will be those leetle glass vials and bottles all over your house… I sense a serious addiction coming.

  • March says:

    Cait — With the exception of the original Lalique with the square bottle and the fan-shaped top, I am going to guess that they are NOT you, particularly. I think they’re too … transparently jewel-like? But WTF do I know? If you ever try them, tell me whether I was right.

  • March says:

    Elle – buy that Rocabar, hon! Cheap online! The Flora Bella, let me say, when I first put it on, I was sort of meh — pretty but nothing special. But I went to lunch, re-sniffed an hour later, and did a complete reassessment — I mean, it’s sweet and pretty but it’s just different enough, y’know?

  • March says:

    Well, P, studying my Venn Diagram…. 😕 yeah, if Marina and I both like it, you’d pretty much have to hate it, right? On the other hand, Caron is your BFF, so it’s hard to imagine. Those two other Hermes are pretty cheap on Le Bay. I’m buying myself some Rocabar, that’s for sure. Even if the Cheese doesn’t like it, I do.

  • March says:

    Sybil, the Absinthe is so unusual. And L’Anarchiste isn’t exactly run of the mill, either…

  • March says:

    Marina — I think you would very much like L’Anarchiste. The one that made me think most of you was Equipage, though that Rocabar is delish too…

  • March says:

    Sariah — Yeah, come down some time after the next two weeks (I am slammed right now.) There’s a great boutique in Tysons, and there’s the usual (Nordstrom, Sephora, etc.) nearby.

  • Ina says:

    Patty, don’t add insult to injury, you enabler, you! WAH!!!

  • Robin says:

    Great post, and can’t wait to see Part 2. It has been a long time since I’ve had a wonderful all day fragrance shopping trip — wish I could have been there smelling!

  • Patty says:

    Ina, I caved on a Dzing! lemming after Cait did a review of it about a month ago. It really is just unique and gives me the warm fuzzies.

  • violetnoir says:

    March, your adventures in Chi-town with Ina sound, as Mary Poppins would say, practically perfect in every way. 😡 I can’t wait to read Part Deux.

    And…I love a good cupcake! Thank you for posting that delicious photo.


  • Ina says:

    Crap, I meant I’m NOW lemming Dzing! like a maniac. 😮

  • Ina says:

    March-pumpkin! So fun to read your account, and I can’t wait for Part Deux! I had a total blast. And, oh my word, those cupcakes! Must you tempt me AGAIN? I swear I could go to that bakery every day. I totally agree on the 7 Deadly Scents! Major disappointment. Fou D’Absinthe is great but I’m not lemming Dzing! like a maniac. Your fault!!!

  • greeneyes says:

    More stuff to put on the list! I have a sample of Zagorsk to try, but I’m trying to get through a bunch of vetivers I ordered from Dragonfly Scent Me (thanks for telling us about them). Vetiver Tonka wasn’t in the pack–seems liek people either love it or hate it! I woudl love to try Rose Ikebana…the name is just pretty…and I am one of the few people, I think, who likes Eau de Lierre–maybe the heat’s already getting to me! 🙂

    Happy Thursday!

  • cait says:

    Dear March,
    I loved Chicago before I became a perfume fanatic. I can imagine how nuts I’d be over it now. These Laliques always interest me and then the notes sound so ornate but flittery. Hmmm, I am curious.
    Heheh, like the phrase “fans of nightclub lunacies.”

  • Elle says:

    Chartreuse w/ envy that you got to go sniffing w/ Ina! The Rocabar and Fou d’Absinthe sound perfect. I’ve somehow missed the Lalique Flora Bella. Must remedy that and try it.

  • Patty says:

    I’ll hate L’Anarchiste, won’t i? 🙂 If you and Marina love it, it’s definitely going off my list.

    But now I’m *needing* those two Hermes I don’t have. My husband adores Bel Ami, but I get a ton more woods in it than citrus.

    Chicago is one of my favorite cities. If I ever had to pick a huge city to live in, it would be Chicago, and the people there are just wonderful.

  • sybil says:

    It’s offical…I want to try L’Anarchiste (love the name!) and I havetotry Fou D’Absinthe so bad, I could cry, esp. after reading your review and Marina’s. Glad the Windy city was good to you…

  • Marina says:

    Note to self: try L’Anarchiste!

  • Sariah says:

    Dude, how did your nose handle so much sniffing in one day? We should get together for a sniffing expedition in DC! I don’t know the good places yet – hopefully there are some. Nothing in Frederick

  • March says:

    Mimi — Hey, they’re cheap online, get both!:d

    It was actually a close call. Equipage is very elegant, leathery, more “masculine.” There was nothing “feminine” about Rocabar, but in my opinion is is more unisex. I think either one would be fabulous on a man, and they are certainly different enough to justify trying both! What really got to me was the Rocabar drydown on both me and my sweater. I’m sure it’s happened to you — you get a whiff of something on a spot of clothing hours/days later and you whip to attention and go, what the heck is THAT?!?! It was gorgeous.

  • March says:

    V — I could have written a whole post on how much I love Chicago. Re: the Lalique: they didn’t have the parfum! Only the EDP, I think I would have preferred the parfum… the Bel Ami sounds like it’s been reformulated to be lighter and “fresher.” I do have a question for you regarding the Caron masculines — do you think the base is totally different from the feminines? How could I find them so appealing in contrast to the regular line?

  • Sorry, I meant to say today, it’s already Thursday!

  • Oh that Rocabar sounds good! I was thinking of purchasing Equipage for my DH but now I am leaning towards an unsniffed buy of Rocabar.

    I’ll be posting a piece tomorrow on an old Harvard Square store that has a charming perfume section of mostly men’s fragrances. They were very nice and let me take pics when I visited them a couple of weeks ago.

  • Victoria says:

    Oh, I am so excited to read your impressions about my beloved city and its scented gems. I am even more excited that you discovered how phenomenal Caron and Hermes masculines can be. I love The Third Man, Equipage, Bel Ami (I guess they changed it, because I remember it as a dark spicy animalic chypre), Rocabar. Cannot wait to read the second installment.
    Did you get to try Lalique Le Parfum, the one in a big square bottle?