Teo Cabanel

To anyone who´s spent more than five minutes reading my blog posts, it must be screamingly obvious that I am, how you say, no trained professional. I do not possess the impartiality or the discernment of the chemist or master perfumer who is capable of dissecting some fragrance with enormous artistic merits that s/he may, personally, hate. You don´t read tons of posts on rose fragrances from me, because I don´t like rose scents, so what can I do? If I stumble across a rose fragrance I actually like, and I do occasionally, you hear about it (off the top of my head: I like a couple of Rosines, SL Rose de Nuit, that nasty Rose Poivree). If resident Hermes genius Jean-Claude Ellena worked anise and lavender into, miracle of miracles, something I love, you´d have heard about it. Sadly, he did not, and thus no post from me on Brin de Reglisse.

When I picked up the Teo Cabanel bottles at Henri Bendel, the name was familiar, but I had never tried any of the three scents. Picking through the scant information on their website leads me to understand that the original firm was founded in 1893, existed at least until the 1930s in Paris, and was reborn in 2003. There´s a section in there about using “only rich natural ingredients” that I will grit my teeth and resolutely ignore in the interests of focusing on the scents, one of which is “me” and the other two decidedly not.

Oha, the first scent I tried, is a dark, spicy rose. Notes of: roses from Bulgaria and Morocco, jasmine, cardamom, vanilla, iris, tonka bean, woods, white musk. To the extent that any of these get any coverage on the fragrance forums, I think this is the most popular, but sadly I am unable to wax poetically about its charms.

I picked up Julia next, because Julia happens to be the name of one of my daughters. The notes are mandarin, rhubarb, blackcurrant, jasmine, hyacinth and violet, sandalwood, incense, citrus, musk. Their website blurb says: “Julia is the perfume for every woman, for all occasions. It brings to mind a bouquet of impressionist flowers. Both voluptuous and subtle, Julia is made for vibrant women with a strong love and passion for life.

With all due respect, this is wrong. Julia is the fragrance I want to give to a special girl, with all my love, on her 16th birthday. It is delicately sweet; the impressionist flowers´ bit is spot-on, a seamless blend of jasmine and hyacinth, the rhubarb and blackcurrant freshly picked rather than jammy. The base notes are a tidy basket to carry the flowers in. Julia glows like dewy skin on high-school girls who are, of course, too young to appreciate their own beauty the way an older woman would. It evokes innocence on the verge of something more. There is nothing winking or jaded about it, but it is not childish. It is gentle, reflective. It would smell absurd on me; I am not that young girl anymore. It is a verging-on-womanhood fragrance, fresh as a new rose at dawn. It is lovely. It knocked me sideways.

Alahine, the last of the three, I can´t stop thinking about. Notes of ylang, bergamot, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, neroli, pepper, iris, cistus, patch, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, musk. I went by the store and sprayed this on three times, waffling between the parfum and the EdP. I´ve finally decided I like the EdP better. I am not generally a parfum girl, partly because I almost never struggle with strength and/or longevity in scents. Part of it is clearly my scent personality – in a general sense, I am drawn to the rougher edges of an EdP concentration the way some other people are clearly drawn to the seamlessness of an extrait. Anyway, Alahine can´t be described as rough in any way. It´s a mannered oriental. I´m afraid I don´t have a sample to retest, but I was charmed by Alahine´s transformation. It starts out with a ladylike floral note, a generalized citrus/jasmine/ylang, very classic and expensive smelling. It is Julia´s immaculate mother, thirty years older. From there Alahine only gets better as the pepper, iris and the naughty bits start to bloom, but it’s sexy in a subtle way, the woman in the corner of the room who catches your eye, and suddenly compared to her quiet chic everyone else looks a bit overdone.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little tired.  Tired of the hoopla, the 2007-harvest narcissus LE, the petals plucked by blind nuns at dawn, the newest sex-shop leather bump and grind.  I don’t believe any of the three Teo Cabanel scents is an old formula; I can’t speak to the quality of their ingredients.  But they have the feel of something I long for — a scent that began with a brief that started with the words, make me something beautiful.

image of Alahine parfum: shop.teo-cabanel.com

image of Olivia Hussey, who will always be Juliet to me, dvdtoile.com

  • Nora McKay says:

    I agree with your description of Julia as a scent for a young girl. The Meloe and Oha are very beautifull. But I’m looking for an oriental floral scent so I’ve ordered a sample of Alahine.
    After reading this review, I’m really looking forward to it.
    The bottles are exquisite! Very classic!

  • Eileen says:

    A bit late to the party, but..

    “To anyone who’s spent more than five minutes reading my blog posts, it must be screamingly obvious that I am, how you say, no trained professional.”

    That’s what I like about your comments, though! You’re ahead fo me on the road, but not so far ahead of me that I can’t undertand what you’re smelling. 😉

  • Divalano says:

    From one rose-a-phobic to another, I thank you. Also lavender. I love your reviews. Your scent vocabulary is sufficiently more sophisticated than mine that you can explain things to me that I hadn’t previously understood, but not so trained that what you’re observing bears no resemblance to my experience. The things I find in common among all the perfume bloggers I read: they relate to scent emotionally, they have a good command of vocabulary to describe that experience, they know very clearly what they like & don’t like but are open to new experiences. Oh, and a sense of humor helps 😉

    Also re: trained vs untrained. I had a photo instructor once who told me that her arts training had almost ruined her ability to create. It had made her so self conscious about the intellectual/academic process & meaning in everything she did that she lost touch with her emotional relationship to the work. I’ve heard that often from my more schooled colleagues. I’ve had a few classes & am mostly self-taught.Training is a good thing but too much of it can kill the joy.

    • March says:

      Wow. Okay, you win the Compliment of the Day award. I hadn’t thought of it that way, really, but it makes sense. I know we bloggers jointly joke about trying to work out what we mean when we say various things (Robin at NST and I got into a discussion about indolic).

      And now I have to tell you this story re: training. I was at a special tour deal at the National Gallery of Art yesterday (long story). Short story: there were several artists on the tour. There we were, learning all sorts of interesting things about the symbolism, the context of the painting in the time, etc. And I realized at some point one of my comrades was doing essentially nothing but looking at the perspective. She was studying the various ways of capturing perspective — holding her pen up, measuring. Which, okay, is FINE. But I wondered: did she hear anything he said? Did she get anything else out of it? 😕

  • sweetlife says:

    I’m so glad to see these lovely reviews — was just commenting on NST regarding the new solid form of these that I’ve never seen anyone review Oha, which I really love (rose lover that I am), or even mention the line, really. Now I’m dying to try Alahine.

    I got my samples from a very nice rep I met on the Sniffa in NYC a year ago. He was repping the Divine line as well, and sent the Teo Cabanel along unasked, so I always think of them together somehow. They both have that classic perfumery feel, I think. And I agree with you that its a nice change, now and again.

    • sweetlife says:

      Holy, moly — don’t know how I missed this–is that photo of your daughter? She’s heartbreakingly beautiful, whoever she is…

      • March says:

        Nope, that’s Olivia Hussey, who was in Romeo and Juliet (the movie) along with some hot young man whose name I’ve forgotten, and which I saw at an impressionable age, I think it’s the 1970s … I know they remade it with Clare Danes and there are probably other remakes, but Olivia Hussey was It for me. She is gorgeous.

    • March says:

      The solid compacts were lovely! I should have mentioned those. Worked so well with the line in terms of appearance — ladylike, something for the purse…

      I thought of Divine when I was working on this. I see the connection; very Classical Perfumery. Robin at NST just mentioned Annick Goutal, which I can also see.

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Thank you for NOT buying into that all ingredients blather: what the heck is the difference between Moroccan/ Bulgarian/ Kashmiri/Tacoma rose or Tunisian/ Provencal/ Ft Lauderdale jasmine? As if.

    • March says:

      Actually :d (to use my favorite overused word I get teased about) Chandler Burr had this bit in his new book talking to JC Ellena, where Ellena’s discussing the price of raw ingredients. And he’s talking (I think) about this jasmine from Grasse, and it was 10x more expensive than some other option which he thought was very good. And his point was, you have to be a realist in the construction — that *he* could smell the difference, and other perfumers could, but 99.9% of the audience couldn’t, so why would you spend your budgeted money there? Clearly to those with The Nose, though, there’s a difference in provenance. And I know that’s true in the rose descriptors (watch, no some rose gardening fiend is going to jump on here and explain, we have several!)

  • violetnoir says:

    Isn’t Olivia Hussy lovely? What ever happened to her?

    I tried Oha some years ago, and it was okay. I will keep my eyes peeled for Alahine on TPC.


    • March says:

      When I googled her there were other images, she certainly aged well, but I can’t recall seeing her image connected with any other movie. I saw R&J on a school field trip in one of those grand old theaters and was swept away. I rent it every now and again.

      Hmmm, to be honest, I can’t see you falling hard for any of the Teo Cabanels. But I could be wrong!

  • Robin says:

    Kept meaning to try these! Only one I’ve got is Julia, so have just put some on. Your review is spot-on, it’s lovely, but too innocent for me. There is maybe something kind of Annick Goutal-ish about it? And have a feeling the one I need is Oha.

    • March says:

      You and your roses, of the three, Oha would be most likely, absolutely. Yes, I think Goutal-ish is an apt comparison. And yes, too innocent for us, but I think as we get more jaded — so much of the hard-core stuff — something that is meant to be exponentially pretty and nothing more turns out to be radical in its own way, you know? /:)

  • Debbie says:

    “Plucked by blind nuns at dawn”? =))

    I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse when we can’t get a fragrance out of our mind(s). A blessing if we can get more of it….a curse if we can’t?

    • March says:

      Come on, you *know* that’s got to be in some perfume blurbage somewhere.

      Usually a blessing, because usually there’s more, somewhere. Some things, well … I’m not sorry I smelled Djedi, or those Gobin Daudes, even though Supplies Are Limited.

  • Dain says:

    Mmm… thank you for the lovely review, I have not heard of these perfumes before but… no, no… must not… give… addictive personality… full rein. :((

    I think you are very right on a lot of points throughout your post. I found myself expressing some very similar sentiments only a few days before, so I can only but heartily agree. And if you take a lot of care and time, truly, it shows in the quality of your reminiscences, because you bring these particular perfumes to life.

    • March says:

      Yeah, and good luck with reigning in that addiction. I don’t even buy that much stuff, and my spouse is SICK OF THE WHOLE THING. As is our mailman.:d

      And thanks for the compliments. :)>-

  • sarah patton says:

    Hi March! Am happy to hear about Julia. I’ve committed to getting all my neices some perfume when they turn 16 and I have another one coming up in April. Remember I got the last one Petite Cherie… didn’t get much more than a “smells nice” out of her but there you are. I’m sure she’ll think fondly of me at some point.

    • March says:

      Meh, I’m not sure you’d get much more out of them than that anyway. A friend of mine just got her niece Coco Mad; same response. But I will say that I think those girls, 10 or 15 years from now, will look back fondly on their first grownup perfume moments and appreciate your lovely gesture for what it is. I wish I had some older nieces to give fragrance to. I have given my nephew a thing or three on his birthday(s), trying to get him out of Axe.:d Think he’s getting the hint?

  • Patty says:

    I do think these three are beautiful, each in a different way. I don’t know that any of the three fit me that perfectly. Alahine is definitely more you than me. 🙂 But I admire them because they are straightforward, aren’t trying to be all loud and obnoxious to get attention… and, hence, they get very little attention. PdN suffers the same fate, which vexes me overmuch.

    • March says:

      P, yeah. I mean, I’ve been there several times and never noticed them. And I would not have appreciated them a bit last year, but now, I can see how lovely they are in their straightforwardness. And I feel your pain on the PdN!

  • Flor says:

    They all sound sooo lovely!! I don’t have a beautiful princess to give beautiful perfumes or anything to. I have two boys, and my best friend has an adorable girl, but she’s a bit of a tomboy and doesn’t like sparkly or pretty. So sad. Anyway, when I make my trip up there I’ll have to check them out, my list is getting longer and longer.

    • March says:

      I wish I had nieces or a godchild to give fragrance to — the closest I get is my daughters, I make them sniff things and talk about things, which is fun. They were just sniffing the Demeter Necco hearts candy releases with me.

  • Malena says:

    though i know you weren´t fishing for compliments 😉 i have to stress how much i like your perfume reviews! you write emotional, entertaining & witty & one feels your love for perfume.

    i think it´s complete nonsense if some people think you have to be a trained professional or whatever to have “the right” to give your opinion about perfumes, otherwise you don´t have the knowledge to write about it. that´s really crap 8-|!

    after all it´s people like us who buy perfumes, why not write how you feel about them?! it´s so interesting to hear other opinions!

    about the cabanels: i´ve samples of oha & julia, but never cared to test them :”> after reading your reviews, i think that must be changed. i´m also (very) tempted to order a sample of alahine.

    could you comment on the difference between extrait & EdP? Is it just a matter of strength or do they smell different?

    i´ve very seldom a problem with lasting power, so that would never be a reason to purchase an extrait. if i purchase an extrait it´s because it´s more complex, deeper or even smoother.

    • March says:

      The extrait IS deeper and smoother. That’s true in this one as well. Alahine in the extrait is a richer-smelling scent. I will say, in this particular style … I think I like my orientals a little tarted up? I acknowledge that, say, Cinnabar and Mitsouko are superior in extrait, but I actually *prefer* them in EdP. I like being smacked around a little by the sillage. I tend to prefer my classic florals in extrait strength, if that’s available.

      So — I would say Alahine smelled spicier in the EdP, and I liked the sillage better. It’s not a sillage monster like Opium, it’s closer to the skin, so I feel you could wear the EdP to work and not irritate people. IMHO.:d

  • Elle says:

    Perfume is all about emotional connections and responses. It’s not for the analytical part of my brain that I put on perfume each day. Consequently, when I read about perfumes, I want the opinions of a fellow enthusiast who also happens to be a brilliant writer and you most certainly are that.
    I’ve somehow missed Alahine. Sounds divine – like something I’d love in the same way I love 24, Faubourg. I’m going to have to retry Oha, but I seem to recall it wasn’t dark enough and I like my roses *dark*.

    • March says:

      Hugs to you, too!! Now I am embarrassed, I swear I wasn’t fishing for compliments. I was yammering on because they were hard to review.

      Alahine I do think you would like, although it’s a quieter scent than 24. They were so …. so lovely, you know? In a sea of I-Don’t-Swallow or whatever. Smelling them in Bendel, I was struck by the huge contrast in styles, and that’s what drove the post. And yeah, it *was* emotional. Julia made me cry; it was that sweet, in an emotional way. I’m a perfume goober, and proud of it. The way they make me feel things.

  • Katie says:

    Hello March,

    Another great post !
    I really don’t Julia (and I’m sad about it). I wish I could smell everything you can in this one. For me, it’s all about one note I can’t deal (some fruity note). I smell the same note in some fragrances I can’t remember now (maybe J’Adore?).
    Now I want to try Alahine.

    • March says:

      J’Adore! Can I tell you? I have accosted a couple of delicious-smelling women (I stalked this gal all through a museum in Vienna once) and they were both wearing J’Adore. Go figure; I HATE J’Adore, on a strip, on my skin, in a box, with a fox …. but clearly in the air, in the right environment, I love it.

      I do think you would like Alahine.

  • Anne says:

    This post is why I read perfume blogs. I rely on the honesty. Nothing brutal needed, mind you, I can read between the lines (usually). I appreciate that it is possible to find something positive to write about every scent (most of the time) even if it is the bottle or the label. I don’t often go to the actual perfumer website and I don’t read a lot of fashion mags so I don’t encounter the Mad. Ave. copy. Better that way. What bothers me also is the number of releases. There isn’t enough time to savor what needs to be savored.

    And finally, thinking about someone this morning.


    • March says:

      The number of releases is insane. Just insane. Group releases like the Rue Cambons and the Tom Fords is even more insane. How much nicer to focus and fall in love with them one at a time? And the flankers! Oy! Don’t get me started…

      You’re right, I can find nice things to say about most fragrances, and things that just don’t do it for me I don’t review — if I’m bored writing it, you’re bored reading it. I thought these were special — as a group. They moved me, even though I can only wear one of them. In this post I wanted to process that.

  • chayaruchama says:

    I’m in complete agreement with your sentiments on these !
    I passed up Julia one year ago, and then Alahine 3 months ago…
    Rest assured, in April, I’ll rectify THAT.

    The price point is certainly more reasonable than many; perspective tells me that, one year ago, I thought it was costly enough, LOL.

    Alahine reminds of Cadolle #9- another exquisite oriental.
    The reviews were just marvellous and heartfelt, sweetheart.

    • Malena says:

      chaya, alahine reminds you of cadolle # 9?
      then i need to order a sample of it soon 🙂 cadolle # 9 is really lovely!

    • March says:

      Oh, are you going to the Sniffa?!? This might be “the one” for me.

      I have bottle fear. I do this thing … I may lose all interest in a scent if I buy a bottle. So I think I’m going to start with a decant of Alahine.

      • Joan says:

        Bottle Fear…I have that too -but I never had a name for it before. For me, I think, it may have someting to do with being more intrigued with wanting something that is unavailable and precious in small amounts. Does that make any sense?

        • March says:

          Ab-so-lutely! Bottle fear. I could do a whole post on how I am NOT just a cheapskate. Having a bottle of something can kill off my desires lightning-fast. I think some of us out there are bottle collectors — they want the bottle, a decant or sample just won’t do. I have this *absurd* collection of samps now, so I can dig things out and re-smell them, but really very few bottles for a perfume nut.

          I think you’ve hit on a large truth with “something unavailable and precious in small amounts.” I’d add that I end up “wearing” probably 3% of the stuff I sniff, even stuff I love. It’s all about smelling something new and different — that rush, those feelings.

          • Joan says:

            3% – in my case that would be a generous estimate. I have gifted away easily 97% of the samples I have sniffed over the last 7 months. The ones that *I can’t stop thinking about*, I reorder in a 5ml rollerball (i.e. MKK, I can control the strength of the scent). Now for a confession – I did buy an full bottle of Tiholta and I still use the little samples…how weird is that?!!!

          • March says:

            Yeah, I’m doing that too. I own a bottle of Chaos but working through my decant … a couple other things like that too (Theorema until the decant was gone.)

  • MattS says:

    I count on you guys for your wit, style, and uncanny ability to give me, through words alone, an idea of how a scent smells. I’m not looking for scientists or sensationalists, just my lovely Perfume Posse. I’ve been out of town for a few days and I’ve missed you guys terribly.

    These scents sound lovely, by the way. Understated, which of course, I struggle with, but lovely nonetheless.

    • March says:

      Hey, I was wondering where you were!

      None of these scents seem like you, particularly where you are right now in your perfume journeys. But if you’re ever near a bottle and you want to smell something that’s unapologetically pretty, give them a sniff.

  • Louise says:

    March, your nose is plenty learned for me. Cute, too.

    My last run through Bendel’s was so fast I missed the Teo Cabanels entirely (and nearly missed my bus home, too). Just from your description I think I would like the rose-infused (ahem) Oha a lot, and would admire the others. Your Julia would do Julia justice in a few years.

    Are all the bottles so lovely?

    • March says:

      The bottles are lovely, but they’re easy to miss in the Bendel souk. You know how much stuff they have in there. (They’re over by the MPGs.) That’s the extrait pictured, the EdP bottles look like that but larger (duh) with atomizer tops.

      They’re lovely in an understated way? A reference would be the rectangular Hermessences bottles? They have heft but the lines are clean, and they have that lacy pattern on them.

  • Lee says:

    Truth and beauty, baby, that’s what it’s all about.

    Read the crapola about the Tom of Finland release, have you? Tiresome, isn’t it?

    • Louise says:

      The T of F website pics are rather tasteful, though, don’t you think? 😮

    • March says:

      Oh, I don’t know. At least T of F makes me giggle. I think my eyerolling award still goes to the By Kilians, with a close second to Elternhaus.

    • Divalano says:

      Didn’t read it but saw a post about it. Something about a scent that won’t interfere with one’s manly odor? Does that mean you could wear it & still be allowed into the Lure (so long as you didn’t wear open toed shoes, that is)? “Wear this, your funk will still fly high & you’ll smell just like one of these guys here except probably less muscley because honey, we’ve seen you”

      I always did like ToF as a sort of sexual comic book camp value kinda thing & the men are beautiful but really, we want to smell like a men’s bar at 2AM? I don’t think so.

      • March says:

        Apparently a lot of men want to smell like that, though! I remember Nobi telling me Lust (or was it Sex?) was this big seller for them among the gay-bar crowd. I mean, you’d think you’d just go with your own natural juices there…:-\”

  • Lisa D says:

    I’d much rather hear your, how you say, untrained opinion of a scent than a professional’s dissection (or, at the other end of the spectrum, regurgitated ad copy).

    When you say that you can’t stop thinking about Alahine, that actually means something to me, and I believe you. Keep those subjective, inexpert and nonprofessional thoughts coming.

    • March says:

      Thanks very much. I struggled massively with this post (oooh, the sweat and toil!) because I *really* wanted to write about them, I thought they were a lovely addition to my perfume world, but trying to work with the fact that Oha is basically unwearable for me, and Julia is stunning but ridiculous on me … I’d never had to work my way out of that particular corner before, if that makes sense. Trying to admire and praise a line of perfumes that I could only wear one of.

  • tmp00 says:

    I think that there’s no reason for anyone to discount their opinions whether in a blog or real life because they are not some sort of “Trained Professional”. Firstly I doubt that most critics in other genres are have any sort of training in the field they review: did Pauline Kael go to film school? Is Ada Louis Huxtable an architect? Sometimes passionate amateurs with a decent vocabulary can be as insightful and certainly as entertaining, if not more than some “experts”

    At least that’s what I tell myself..

    So where can I get a decant of Julia? Sounds perfect for the godchild…

    • March says:

      Those are excellent points, Tom. Yeah, our longtime respected restaurant critic here was just a gal with insight who liked to eat, you know? An aficionado rather than a connoisseur?

      And I SWEAR I wasn’t fishing for the reassurance in these comments — what I was trying to say (there are two more posts coming) was, I sniffed some new-to-me, interesting things in NYC, and some of them are really great, and I can see that and say that but trying to rave about the great ones of the bunch that I dilike the notes of is a real struggle.

      Does TPC have them? I have literally never run across these things until New York.

    • March says:

      Tom — PS — The Perfumed Court is getting a bottle, so you should be able to get a decant there shortly.

  • Bryan says:

    Absolutely lovely reviews. A romantic review so to speak, of what seem to me to be very romantic parfums. I must try them. If they are anything like you describe (and scents usually are very much as you describe) I will love them…at least for their beauty, if not their timeless/picked at dawn, etc flowery prose. I get tired too, I must say, but a beauty is worth sifting through the purple prose. Thanks lovely.

    • March says:

      They are romantic! That’s a word I should have worked into the post somewhere. They are decidedly romantic. I think you might like them, but for you I’d pick the extrait, I think you like more ooomph.

      And — lord, ask Patty, I mess around with these posts *forever* — but the tangential paragraph which I eventually cut was: I appreciated smelling a number of things in NYC, where I was out of my current routine and more attentive to new smells. And the contrast between these and the trendiness of the niche-y stuff grabbed me.