I had an interesting conversation recently with a fellow fragrance blogger regarding the various styles of perfume blogging. My fragrant friend X is a fan of the just-the-facts-ma´am approach: she wants (and gives) the notes, the nose, the retailers, info on development or sillage, and generally strays into the personal only when it relates to, say, commenting on the fragrance notes as part of a trend. When you read her reviews, you cannot necessarily tell how she feels about the fragrance she is reviewing – a perspective she considers irrelevant. If you read a few scent blogs, you can see there are others at this end of the spectrum as well.
I thought about our conversation for awhile. I have read her blog longer than anyone else´s, I´ve always enjoyed it, and her writing style is excellent. It´s just not a style I can emulate. Whether I like a fragrance – whether it moves me – how it connects to some moment in the past or present – is, to me, a large part of the fun of blogging about it. Even ragging on a fragrance can be fun on occasion (hey, see the post from last Friday.) For better or worse, I am fundamentally unable to separate a fragrance from my feelings about it. Ergo, the blather you read in my posts. I suppose folks who hate my style just give up and go elsewhere. For the rest of you, here are my feelings on:
L´Artisan Dzongkha – The reviews I recall have been universally positive. The L´Artisan blurb says: “wild smoky teas, ancient leathers, woods mixed with spices and veils of incense,” and that sums it up. If you had to hammer out a description of something I´d love, that´d cover all the bases. Furthermore, I am a happy fan of L´Artisan as a line. So Dzongkha was one of my most-anticipated fragrances of 2006, which is why my dislike for it is such a bitter disappointment. All the notes are a mishmash to my nose – from the hazy, indistinct opening smell of the bottom of a dusty, wooden spice cabinet, through the sour-tea-ish middle and into the drydown I can only describe as dropping a jar of pickles in a dusty warehouse. It´s not a bad smell by any stretch. It´s actually a nice smell. But it´s a smell – like dried mushrooms, linseed oil, or fresh latex paint – I find appealing without any desire whatsoever to wear it. Patty insists that the drydown is wonderful; I´ll keep trying. Thus far the only way I like it is with IUNX L´Ether on top, but come on – I´d probably like Baby Phat Goddess if you sprayed some L´Ether on it…
Serge Lutens Mandarine Mandarin – I am one of, let us say, six people who thought Chypre Rouge smelled wonderful. To most other people, apparently, it was misery – in fact, I believe my beloved blogmate described it as “buttcrack and tears.” Which is why all the love being shown MM baffles me. Not that it doesn´t smell great; it does. But to me, the Serge story on this one is: Chypre Rouge and SL Fleurs d´Oranger have a tryst. A child is brought forth. Which they lacquer. And voila – Mandarine Mandarin, more or less. I have now tested this theory on my arms – MM on one, and CR layered with FdeO on the other. My layered combo is missing the weird acetone note, which is fine by me (although I don´t get it every time), and it´s less sweet than the MM. Also, the opening of cumin dancing with immortelle in the layered version provides a surprisingly sexy armpit accord (wow, can I sell a concept or what? How come Serge never calls me with le job offer?) Having said all that: Mandarine Mandarin is just weird enough to be Serge, without being difficult to wear. The drydown – faintly spiced and somewhere between marmalade and orange trees – is a wonder. I´m guessing it´s going to be very popular. If you´ve still got some Chypre Rouge sitting around unloved and taking up space, try layering it with either Oranger or Mandarine itself, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Penhaligon Malabah – notes are citrus, tea, ginger, Persian spices, jasmine, violet, rose, woods, musk, amber. I smelled this at Duft und Kultur in Vienna. The few Penhaligons I´ve smelled are like Eau de Granny, and somehow in the store I got the same vibe from this one. My sister-in-law bought two beautiful, small stoppered bottles at 15 Euros each (no, that´s not a typo). I came home with a sample vial, and I´ve now decided I´m an idiot for not buying my own. I wonder if I could bully one of those bottles out of her for Christmas… it´s perfume-y, yes. It´s got an old-fashioned, sweet aspect that keeps it from being a must-have, more floral than woody-musk. But it´s just … dreamy – the sort of thing you could throw on before a party and people would ask you what you were wearing. My guess is guys would love it on the nape of your neck.
image of Bhutan: farhorizon.com
Oh, Stockholm is alright I guess, and probably the only city in Sweden with some decent perfume shopping (try Cow Parfymeri and C/O Stockholm if you ever go there, but the department store Ã…hlÃ©ns surpriced me with a pretty good range of brands too) I live only an hour away and yet I very seldom go there, I buy all of my scents online. People keep saying it’s a beautiful city, but I don’t find it outstanding among other European cities.
I live in Uppsala myself, and I think it’s just as beautiful, but I guess there’s not a lot to do in such a small town. We do get busloads of Japanese and Russian tourists though.
Solander — thanks for your comments. I know you stop by regularly. BTW my big dream is to haul everyone to Stockholm, but I can’t figure out a reasonably-priced way to get our family of 7 over there and someplace to stay… my husband went two years ago and has raved about it ever since.
I read every perfume blog I find, but I definitely prefer the personal ones. Perfume Posse is one of my favs for it’s great, fun writing style. Product news, magazine clippings, shopping tips and so on bore me. I only want to read about perfumes the blogger has actually tried, or at least personal reflections on some perfume s/he desperately wants to try. One more fact-based perfume blog might be a good resource, but it’s dead boring to read about the same new perfume launch in ten different blogs. The personal approach is what makes me want to read more than just one perfume blog.
I also write a very personal perfume blog myself (in Swedish). I don’t know if it’s appreciated since I never get any comments, but I guess the Swedish perfumista subculture isn’t very big considering how small the international/American one seems to be…
March, I smell immortelle for sure. I do not have a detailed breakdown in front of me, but I smell that savory richness crossed with burnt sugar of immortelle. I am addicted to immortelle, so that might explain my love for Chypre Rouge.
PS: I think that the person I think that fits the closest your description of neutrality that I know of is Jan Moran. But even she lets through some of her preferences; it’s always a more or less high positive assessment though. Her style is the most diplomatic I know of. Some people might think it might be interesting to see her take some positions too:)
Here comes a pearl of wisdom and even two: the most important thing is to be who you are and not to pretend to be someone else. It will just sound fake and you won’t be able to keep going on for very long obviously. Transformations have to be internal.
Yep, that was my impression, that you were brooding a bit; fortunately, I still haven’t met the robotic perfume blogger you were referring to although I agree that there are different levels of bio thrown into the posts. I think that expressing personal opinions or letting them through is inevitable but that people should take those as secondary expressive aspects of the perfume’s evaluations. They just need to try the perfume by themselves.
Leopoldo — I missed your comment! Dzongkha makes me think of powdered tea (shudder). Oh, so that WAS you in my lap?!:d
I had big bald spots on the side of my head once. Bummer. Like the size of the palm of my hand. Bald as a baby’s butt. After a few months the hair came back in, but it was mostly gray. I never did get any definitive diagnosis. If you read all the stuff on the ‘web, it all boils down to “your hair grows, it falls out, it stops growing, and mostly we don’t have a clue.” Keeping my fingers crossed for you.
Bliss — thank you for the compliments. So I’m sure you’ll be digging all my yackety-yakking next week, which I’m already at work on…
Victoria — hey, you’re the pro. Every time you like a fragrance I like, I feel vindicated.:”> I wish I got more of MM’s bitter facet (I think of pith on a satsuma); it is actually almost as sweet as FdeO on me, which is clearly not most people’s experience. By the way, if you check back over here — do you think that’s immortelle in the Chypre Rouge? I have never read anything that lists it, but I can’t think what else it could be.
Late, but wanted to say I adore your very real, very personal style of perfume blogging. It adds a very approachable and entertaining dimension to the pursuit! And, it often helps me understand how a perfume will really smell (regardless of components).
Actually that goes DOUBLE – for both you and Patty!
I think your blog together adds to the variety of the field, and is encouraging for the inexpert (or maybe just less experienced) but enthusisatic noses out there. So, thank you! 😡
March, I am late to comment thanks to stupid Bloglines. I keep receiving my notifications late or never at all, and this is getting frustrating (not your fault at all, it is that of Bloglines!)
I love Chypre Rouge, love it, love it, love it. And I also love MM. I can see what you mean, and I have just tried layering, but CR+FdO does not quite get me there. MM has an interesting bitter facet, which I love. It lightens what could have been a rather dense composition.
Tom — every time I read about those Nez things I giggle.
Ina — maybe THAT’s the smell at the end of Dzongkha, not pickles! I’ll have to look for the celery in MM.
I don’t think Dzongkha could stand up to those Nez things. Lord knows I couldn’t…
I’m the only person on the planet that gets soapy vetiver in the drydown of Dzongkha, and no iris at all. I also get quite a bit of celery in MM, and I’m getting more and more underwhelmed by it.
PS Everyone, can I just say? I smell so good right now. Combo of: Coty Chypre, Coty Les Muses, Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. I should throw on something fabulous and go out, because it’s being criminally wasted on my dog and my 10-year-old.
Sybil — actually, the best thing about Dzongkha is it reminded me that I need to get back to Art with Flowers and re-smell Timbuktu, which I remember used to make me go, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I always like to re-check those, because they seem to morph into loves.
Mimi — PS, well there ya go — see, my recollection was that you’d liked Dzongkha. Because I guess your headline didn’t read “This Dzongkha stuff is crap.”:-” You know, not too subtle for me.
Seriously — I am going to score another sample (actually I think P’s sending one) because on rare occasion I discover that, for whatever reason, the sample I’ve got ahold of is off somehow.
Mimi — well, babe, I’m not talking about you!:x
Seriously, my note was prompted by my own dark night of the soul regarding my blogging style. Let’s face it — P and I are the Click and Clack (Laurel and Hardy?) of perfume blogging. I’ve decided to make peace with my trucker hat rather than gaze wistfully at the Masterpiece-Theatre end of the blogging.
I am so relieved to hear that I’m not the only person who found Dzongkha less than wonderful, despite firmly expecting to be bathing in it. Love the notes, like the line, so why this mehness? My first thought was “This smells like a bad rip-off of Timbuktu” (which I like, go figure) Repeated tries have continued to fail to rock my world.
And as for perfume review stylings…Part of the fun of reading all these blogs is the enjoyment of different voices. Keep up the good work, all of you!
Huh, I think I expressed a reserved opinion regarding the top notes of Dzongkha.
March, for the life of me, I don’t see who you are referring to as the neutral perfume blogger:-?
Chaya — my little fromage … what shall I tempt you with? I read just last night that whatsername (La Lohan) is sealing the deal for a new fragrance with raspberries. Or maybe it was raspberry liqueur and cigarettes…
Tom — there you go, the First Law of Scrubbers (or whatever Robin calls it) — the ones you REALLY hate stick around forever. Now I am (sadistically) picturing you layering Dzongkha with one of those Nez things — maybe the Fruity Pebbles? How’s that for pain?
Lean in close for my confession (don’t tell!): I have never seen a bell jar. Or touched one. Since I am the queen of decants. But someday… the blue dragon one (I think for MM) is a stunner.
Eau de Granny… nice!
March – Dzongkha is a little chilly for me too… I’m learning to like it, but I ain’t gonna love in. And I’m so far over on your side of the fence in the CR / MM debate that you’ve probably noticed a weight on your lap…
How’s the face looking Patty?
Mine is patchy (by the way, I don’t have a beard – just gaps in my stubble – BIG gaps) and need another round of blood tests. I’m quite the mystery patient. I’m going ‘lalala’ to the thought it might be serious…
Angela — it’s just darn fun to blog. As you know. Some of my favorite reads recently have been yours (assuming you’re the Angela from NST?)
R — yeah, I know. Duh. I am not giving up on Dzongkha yet, though. Some of my eventual loves started as dislikes. Interesting frags are like that…
Marina — the best part of MM is, I swear, a full 24 – 48 hrs later. I just get these whiffs of it that are delightful. But up close and personal, I’d rather have Oranger, honestly, even though it would kill off a normal person.
Elle — I am not giving up on Dzongkha yet. It SHOULD work for me. It WILL work for me.:-w
Celery. Yuck. To me the MM is so candied (in a good way, like tart marmalade) I’m not digging up any celery, but who knows? The Play-Doh accord is my personal nemesis. That and cat pee.
Nina — actually, I would eat two raspberries perched etc. etc. cheerfully. So you should bear that in mind when reading my reviews.;)
Clearly there is some sort of skin chem thing going on with the CR.
Patty — what IS my problem? You know, I tried it and got the samp from the same store. I am a little curious whether this is like our ISM dilemma and I just got a bad batch… (remember I had you hating it, based on my nasty sample?)
Dzongkha is a chilly bastard, but it does last forever…I like it, I bought it, I wear it- but only the little bottle, and in the right mood…
MM- Haven’t sniffed, probably won’t, tant pis [maybe, I mean ,”tant piss?”]…
CR- I love it, it’s better w/ AS…
Malabah- I bought it when it came out…reminds me a bit too much of Origin’s Ginger [which came out first]- most folks like the way it smells, but we could probably exist without it !
Nothing here to rock our world senseless, I fear…
As you can tell from my reviews on Columbina’s site, I am the polar opposite of blogger X. Perhaps that’s because I am not so great of a nose that I can distinguish all of those notes; I tend to think that not describing what one thinks it smells like is like reading a restaurant review that doesn’t tell you how the food tastes.
I didn’t hate CR, it just wasn’t one of those that I had to buy a bottle of. I liked MM enough that were it at Barney’s, that little black card might come out of my wallet. It’s not for me worth the operatic hoops I have to jump through to get a bell jar though.
Dzongha didn’t work for me either, and unlike the l’Artisans I like, lasted and lasted. :((
March, I love your writing style, please don’t change it!
I am also mystified by your lack of love for Dzongkha, but hey, don’t go wasting that irreplaceable L’Ether trying to improve it!
For better or for worse I am with you, March, blogging-style wise. I try to give facts about a scent, but usually my impressions just take over :d
I am also with you on Mandarien Mandarin. Meh.
Dzongkha took me several tries to really appreciate, but I can definitely see how it might go the pickles in a dusty warehouse route. 🙂
Have yet to try MM, but have heard scary things about a celery note in it. I suffer from extreme celery phobia. Must retry Malabah.
One of the things I love most about the blog world is the diversity of styles. It would bore me to tears if everyone adopted the same style.
OK, now it’s decided to let me in, let’s see if I can remember what I said…:-? I think I thanked you with great relief for joining me in the Dzonkha-meh camp where I thought I was all alone. Yup, pickles, I get them too. Phew. I believe I also felt obliged to tell you you were all wrong about Chypre Rouge, which for me is two raspberries perched on a plate of chicken tikka masala and therefore utterly unwearable (even unbreathable). 😡 OK, blogger, I’m feeling lucky…
Um, where did my comment go? :((
I’m still mystified about your lack of love for Dzongkha. Try mixing it with t42 over the top or PdE and see if that gets you through the open, which I admit I really hated the first 30 minutes quite a lot.