Gardenia perfume – Strange Invisible Perfumes

 On its website Strange Invisible Perfumes describes itself as purveying “botanical fragrances and artisanal products” developed by Alexandra Balahoutis.  The site doesn´t go on and on about SIP’s mission, at least that I could see, a fact that pleases me.  So far as I´m concerned, their mission is to make something I’d enjoy wearing.

Vine – this is the weird one, right?  Notes are black currant, lavender, osmanthus and grapefruit, and it´s a parfum.  From their website: “Vine´s whispering decadence is evocative of red wine, black currant and lavender.  Provenance: the intricate, sublime yet often cruel duality of nature and the unforeseen appetite of innocence.  Character: ambrosia, poised, decadent.”

Um … okay, my balderdashometer just revved (although it didn´t redline – seriously, read that stuff every day and you build up some tolerance.)  Anyway, Vine has a fruity, musky scent inside a larger smell that reminds me very much of the Elephant House at the National Zoo.  From me, that´s a compliment.  It´s an earthy, animal smell, dungy but not really unpleasant.  It reminds me a bit of a JAR in its strength, liquor-like smoothness and overall peculiarity – it´s like a warmer, fruitier Ferme tes Yeux (the barnyard one, and apologies if I spelled that wrong).  As you go deeper into the drydown I get an outstanding cured tobacco note.  I´m giving this two large mammalian opposable thumbs up.

gardenia perfume billie holidayStrange Invisible Perfumes Lady Day – this one I think isn´t on their website, you have to call and ask about this gardenia perfume.

Smelling it in the first ten minutes, I was verklempt – it´s one of those rare perfumes that make me cry.  Malle En Passant and Serge Lutens´ Encens et Lavande have the same effect on me, and Teo Cabanel Julia did a little bit, too.  En Passant is wistful;   EetL is exquisitely mournful, like a rainfall in a cathedral graveyard in the spring.  Julia is innocence of youth at the moment before it becomes knowing.  Strange Invisible Perfumes Lady Day is sensual and celebratory and heartbreakingly sad.  Lord, I do go on, don’t I? Hand me a Kleenex.e to call and ask.  It´s the gardenia perfume.  Patty said the notes are lemon verbena, blood orange, jasmine and sandalwood.  Here´s her extensive review.  I get the citrus-y opening, and the gardenia perfume weaves itself in and out – it pops in, fades, and when it´s not there you´ve got a lovely green jasmine, no cheese note, nothing particularly indolic going on here, a little woods.  I´m gonna quote Patty, who put it beautifully: “There is a richness to this perfume, hinting at dark longing, mixed with regret, but never toppling over into the abyss of despair. It is lush, almost too ripely indulgent at times, but manages to pull back before the serious decay sets in. Mostly, it is beautiful and has sillage that wafts gently around you – a soft, rich, velvety sillage. Exquisite, unique and haunting.”Heroine – Duh, I always thought this was “Heroin,” which I thought was a skeevy name for a fragrance, so I´m pleased to discover I was wrong.Notes are ginger, tuberose, frangipani, opoponax and Moroccan cedarwood.It´s murky on me at the start – kind of a mishmash of tropical flowers and wet mud – but give it a few and the ginger and opoponax shove the whole hot mess in the direction of a peppery, resinous floral.I wish the flowers were less present on me and the ginger were stronger; I find it a tad sweet, and it´s less interesting than Vine or Lady Day.Having said that, it´s very pretty, yet just enough off-kilter (there´s a wet, green, earthy note in there) that it´s not dull.

Black Rosette – proving once again that I don´t like rose unless you freak it up a little.Black Rosette is saved for me by the addition of leather and mint.The opening is just … very peculiar.It smells like a cross between artemisia and camphor.It´s medicinal but not unpleasant, I kind of like it.After the camphor fades I get a very leathery rose, but the rose itself is kind of new and green – that florist-fridge-rose smell never leaves, like a rose version of Tuberose Criminelle.I wouldn´t wear it, it´s not me, but I think it´s beautifully done.

Heroine lasted a little less than average on me (4 – 5 hours).Lady Day had a charming way of fading and reappearing suddenly over the course of 8 hours, like being haunted by a particularly lovely ghost.Black Rosette lasted most of the day before riding off into the sunset. Vine lasted, I kid you not, 36 hours on the back of my hand (which means: through many handwashings).I was thrilled, but if you hate it, consider yourself warned.I tried only parfums, and don´t know whether the EDPs wear differently.These had excellent sillage on me, with a little going a long way.I´m impressed with these, and I´m going to explore more of the line on my next trip toNew York.They weren´t quite as bizarre as I expected, which was fine.Vine and Lady Day were a trip well worth taking.If any of you have particular recommendations from the line, I´d like to hear them.



  1. MUST try Vine!!! Osmanthus, lavender and weird are my middle names :d

  2. Oh, I’m so pleased you liked these! Sometimes you think you’re just a handful of weirdos that find something exquisite and beautiful and most everyone else just looks at you like you lost your damn mind.

    What am I doing posting comments in the middle of the night? That horrific flu bug seems to have finally landed on me for good, after flirting with me off and on for the last month. Tuesday’s post should be interesting with the fever/chills I’m suffering from. 🙂

    • We smelled those SIPs at Barneys, and I think I’ve done so before. Maybe those are the EDPs? They were nice, but didn’t do anything special for me. These were AMAZING, and hugs and kisses to you for the samples.

      I am so sorry you’re sick! It seems to be three to four weeks in our neighborhood before an individual house is no longer contaminated. I hope you feel better soon. >:d<

    • you aren’t alone! I’ve had it since Thursday and today is the first day I am not supine (even if I want to be)

      The plus side is that it’s great for my diet..

  3. I’m really enjoying Vine. Yet to sniff Lady Day and Black Rosette. Y’know, I haven’t smelled a scent for three days straight, let alone worn one! 😮

    *hears Patty and March plotting to kick him off the posse for failing in his olfactionary devotion. They hatch a plan for scented penanve – NK Incense + CB Musk + Fracas to be worn in huge amounts for three days*

    • Lord,Lee,my fav honeybun….we’d have to throw you in a casket quickly (dead from the mere fumes,doncha’ know)….so, do stop this nonsense,and throw something decent on….well,of course,not TOO decent…we have to maintain our sluttiness,at all costs…carry on…>:)

      • Egoiste. You should put on some Egoiste. I got a decant of Egoiste, and one of the best parts separate from the great smell is each time I see it I see that hilarious commercial with all the laydeez throwing open their windows yelling “egoiste!!!!” And why that amuses me so much, I don’t know, but it does. (not sure it was meant to be funny?)

        • Was Egoiste what they replaced that lovely Bois Noir with?

          • Egoiste is the Chanel cologne. Notes are Mandarin, Rosewood, Coriander Rose, Carnation, Cinnamon, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Ambrette. It’s kinda fab, I think we did a three-way review of it once. It’s STRONG — spicy and kind of feminine. I think the Chanel ad blurbage is along the lines of defying the boundaries of traditional male perfumery or some such. I have no idea how successful it is/was, but pretty sure it’s still in production.

            • My husband used the Chanel Bois Noir back in the late ’80’s or early ’90’s but they discontinued it. I thought it was replaced with Egoiste which is similar but not as nice.

              • Kathleen, thanks, you are correct! It sounds lovely, I left you an unthreaded comment down here at the bottom about Bois Noir.

    • That’s very funny. You’ve heard of a technological sabbatical (one day away from the computer, iPod etc.?) Are you taking a fragrance sabbatical? What’s the explanation?

      I am toying with the idea of one day a week being a day I just wear fragrance and don’t test anything new.

    • Hey, now! Don’t be dissin’ the Fracas! You know what happens if you diss the Fracas? You will wake up the next morning with a giant bottle (with the top hacked off) stuck in your bedsheets!8-x


    • Three days of those three scents doesn’t really sound like punishment; more of a perfume orgy. You stumble away, feeling dazed and decadent and a little bit ashamed, still wearing a sly smile on your face. Mmmmmmm…

  4. Happy Monday, all.

    I’ve only met Black Rosette from this line, and sadly, given that I now love dark rose, it didn’t work at all for me…which figures, since you do not love rose.

    I have a very tentative friendship with gardenia (mostly get the blue cheese thing), but Lady Day sounds fascinating…with such longevity. And must try Vine, though there’s a hint of creepy about it, unsniffed….

    • The good thing about Vine and Lady day is, in parfum strength you might get some mileage out of them. Of course actually liking the way they smell is always a bonus. 😉 Next time we see each other, why don’t we find out?

  5. So glad you liked Lady Day! I adore Heroine, but that has a lot to do w/ the fact that the opoponax really comes out on my skin and I’m a hopeless opoponax/resin sl*t. As you know, I love this line, but have to say that so far I’m not overly thrilled w/ the edps I’ve tried. Sampled the Prima Ballerina parfum and loved it (despite the name, which just makes me think of childhood ballet classes and seems too twee), but, in a misguided attempt at economizing, bought the edp unsniffed. Money down the drain. The parfum had a richness and depth (funkiness?) that are simply lacking in the edp, which is pleasant enough, but only that. Also have now tried the edps of Fair Verona, Moon Garden and L’Invisible and feel the same way about them.
    Happy St. Pat’s! 🙂

    • Just wanted to add that I’m obsessing over that photograph. Gorgeous!

      • That is rather nice, isn’t it? SOmetimes I hunt for awhile and never find anything that really pleases me. Sometimes something pops up that seems perfect — and that did. Plus Patty said she likes those light through a window deals…

    • That explains some things, fragrance twin. I don’t get the bloom from Heroine the way I feel like I should, and now that I know you obsess over a certain part… and thanks for the info on the line. I *think* what I’ve been trying repeatedly at Barneys NY is the rest of the line in the EDPs, and they struck me as nice but the Earth didn’t move. These parfums were very different.

      And Happy St. Pat’s to you too! Wait, hang on a minute …. %%-

      there! I knew that would come in handy some day! :-j

      • Don’t have a thing to say about the fragrances, yet – haven’t tried them (on the list, though)…but I do know all about fragrances making one cry. Cristalle always made me kind of weepy and Ma Griffe, which I just tried again after a looonnnng hiatus, brought up the salty goodness as well. I’d sprayed fresh bedsheets with it before I remembered….dang. Lots of melancholy until it wore off!

        Mostly, though, I just wanted an opportunity to use the %%- too! Happy St Patrick’s Day (I’m carrying a kelly-green bag today, in honour of the vaunted snake-killer!)

        • Oh! So curious … do you have specific memories associated with those scents, that trigger the emotions? Or do the emotions just come? I have no good reason to cry at any of the ones that make me cry… and I am surprised by Cristalle, it seems cheery to me (although many people say that about En Passant, so what do I know?)

          • No, no ‘things past’ at all. It seems to be the fragrance itself. Cristalle & Ma Griffe always put me in a melancholy mood. I was startled by it (and it was an ongoing thing) because I always thought of them both as lovely fragrances, too (I agree that Cristalle is cheery – don’t think I can say the same for MaGriffe)! I’m anxious to try En Passant – knowing how Cristalle and MG make me feel ’tis probable that EP will have me clicking my heels and whistlin’ a happy tune!

            • Some people find En Passant quite the cheery spring scent, I am maybe the weirdo in that dept. Cheery or not, it is very much worth sampling. Gorgeous.

              • EP is on my list for my next Spritza which will be in a few weeks – can’t wait. Too rushed the last time and I just flung myself on the Malle table with little or no thought to what I was doing…all the reviews of EP seem to match yours – beautiful..but melancholy. Perfect for certain days.

                …how do you feel about Fleur de Cassie, btw? It that a cat pee scent for you? It’s weird but I really like it – makes me feel like flinging a cashmere stole around my fantasy Balenciaga suit!

                • Cassie swings both ways on me. 😉 SOmetimes it’s wearable, sometimes … well, yeah, that urine note. I admire it more than love it, but the people who love it REALLY love it.

                  • Well, I’m not quite there with REALLY love it yet:-?. I’ve yet to wear it in the right environment, with the right clothes (I’m going to test-run it again tonight)…but I’m thinking I like it a lot. A lot better than Lipstick Rose, which I thought I was in love with but on third sniff have decided is a little wrinkly. I think the powdery drydown is more of a turn-off than I first anticipated.

                    Hope you’re having better weather than we are – I am going to have to find a ‘blasting through the fog’ fragrance for today!

  6. Hmmmm. . . just trying some samples I got from TPC. In the past, Black Rosette didn’t work AT ALL on me (and Lord knows I tried–those notes sound perfect)–so I didn’t get that one. But I tried Lady Day and thought it was quit beautiful (and mournful, yes, I can see that). At the moment, I am trying l’Invisible (in EdP) and I’m thinking this may be THE ONE for me; I really like it! After reading Elle’s comment, though, I need to try the parfum: I think it will be perfect! Still to go: Heroine and Persica.

    • I have been itching to try Persica. I’ve actually had 4 or 5 in my cart, filled in the info and still didn’t hit send. I know I will eventually. But the cost! What do you get in sample size 3 drops? And what if I like it? 😮 In reality, I think it is the shipping cost that pisses me off the most. For 5 samples its $11? Are they coming in on the wings of doves? I feel better after getting that off my chest. (probably go hit send now):”>

      • Hahahaha — laughed at “… and what if I LIKE it?” There have been scents that I seriously thought, man, I hope I don’t fall for THIS one. I haven’t checked out their shipping– Lee and I were ragging someone else recently for their shipping cost, can’t remember who. Not defending SIP, but I think some of the per-vial sample charge is for the labor, making the things is such a pain.

    • Added: tried Persica–lovely, lovely. . . welcome to Spring!

        • Love lilac. If I’m out jogging and I see a lilac shrub, I will stop and take a whiff (check for bees first though). I guess that’s what they mean by “stop and smell the roses” or lilacs. What about the NM Parfum D’Odette. I think that has lilac in it. Does anyone know?

    • Wow, ringing endorsement for L’Invisible — how’s it holding up? I still need to try Persica. Did you get more love from Heroine than I did, I wonder?

      • Holds up OK, not as well as it could, though (but then I have been trying other things madly, and I only dabbed, so maybe that’s not fair). Must try the parfum. Persica is, indeed, the lilac one (has clear ylang-ylang, too–which she seems to like a lot). Haven’t tried the Heroine yet, but I am liking those I have tried–which is interesting, because I didn’t like the ones I sniffed at Barneys AT ALL; I’m almost postive those were parfums, too, so I guess I just tried the wrong ones).

        • Well, you just said the same thing I did to Robin! 🙂 I was assuming the ones at Barneys (which didn’t impress me) were EDPs, only because I remember the bottles being too large for parfum, but my memory could be faulty. I remember thinking they were okay, nothing special. I will definitely be paying more attention the next time I am there for the sniffa.

          • Hmmm. . .On the website, the only ones listed in EdP are
            FAIR VERONA
            MOON GARDEN
            TROPICAL VIAL.

            I know I tried SOME of those (Ballerina, Magazine, maybe more but NOT l’invisible) in EdP at Barneys and had a similar reaction to yours (nice, but no FB). But several that were really terrible on me (including Black Rosette) I tried earlier in parfum (small bottles). So either my skin/nose has changed, or I tried the wrong ones at that time (the EdPs I should give another chance). Meanwhile, all this talk of Spring has led me back to Cradle of Light, which I absolutely adore!

            • Cradle of Light! I have a decent sized sample of that,you are right, this is the PERFECT time for it.

              I am afraid I am not feeling very spring-y. I think it’s cold. [-( I would love to be flitting around in a sundress right now.

      • L’Invisible is the first perfume that ever made me gasp and cry. I grew up in LA, and the scent of it-blood orange, hibiscus, lemon, oak trees, and green climbing vines– was so sensual it transported me in whiff to a hot night sitting on the balcony watching the city lights twinkle while the Santa Ana winds blew. The perfume wields the same bewitching effect that those feisty winds do. They lasting power always seems too fleeting–two to three hours–but maybe that is all the sorcery one can stand for any period of time. The EDP version was a light breeze, and thus a let-down– in contrast.

        I also love Heroine– it reads like a warm nourishing hug. Lady Day– I love, and agree with Patty’s review. Moon Garden smelled like used latex–the only real let down.

  7. Kathleen, thanks, I had no idea — I learn something new every day, huh? From Basenotes:

    “Chanel’s masterpiece, Bois Noir flopped and was removed from the Chanel boutique shelves within the year of its introduction (1987). It was re-launched in 1990 as Egoiste. As good as Egoiste is (and it is good, no, it is great) Bois Noir is far and away, a superior mix of the same notes found in Egoiste. It is a dirty rotten shame Chanel found it necessary to alter the formula, however slightly for it’s relaunch as Egoiste but they did and of course, Egoiste was a huge success.”

    “An incredible fragrance. Heavier on the sandlewood and vanilla than what it morphed into as Egoiste (which has slightly more citrus). This fragrance tempers down to a senseous, almost dusty, note, spiked with a just a bit of spice. It’s not a scent that a lot of (straight) men could pull off particularly well. What I mean is that it’s a fragrance that women and other (gay) men would find attractive. The straight guy who is wearing it probably wouldn’t care for it all that much. But for those who do like it, gay, straight, or otherwise, it’s a total aphrodisiac.
    The cap of the bottle, by the way, is made of hand-carved black-stained wood, not plastic. This fragrance was sold exclusively in Chanel botiques for the very few years that it was produced, in 4.2 and 8.4 ounce sizes.
    This is truly one of the great men’s fragrances ever. “

    • So is this Bois Noir impossible to find now? I’ve just rediscovered Egoiste and I can finally wear it and love it. When it first came out, I smelled it on others and was smitten. Rushed out to buy a full bottle and it smelled awful on me. It lingered in my mind for years, and I finally decided that perhaps I’d evolved enough to wear it and it finally works on me. I’m smitten once again, but could possibly dump it for its bigger, better older brother. Slut indeed.

      • I haven’t seen this in years. I never bought it in this country(US). But I’ve been Googling for years for it and have had no luck.

            • And the ones we CAN have, we go … meh, not so much. :-< I have been waiting *forever* to use that emoticon.

  8. I’m glad to see others trying this line, and frankly, I’m iimpressed that you got such longevity. With Black Rosette I got 2 hours, tops, and I don’t know that I could bring myself to try it on in the heat to see if that makes a difference; it just screams cold weather to me. Vine lased for maybe 4 hours, defintely gone by lunch. SIP’s heavier, spicier florals seem to do better by me: I can get at least 8 hours out of Magazine St and Arunima. I’m more interested in trying Heroine now that you mentioned the possibility of a spicy oppoponax though–I was afraid that it would be too wispy on me.

    • There’s another vote for Magazine Street, which it sounds like I need to try. And I should explain that I have the super-adhering skin — things in general really hang around on me. Sometimes I wish they’d go away. 🙂

  9. Always happy to see SIP get more attention — I think these are so wonderful. I really like Magazine Street very much, did you try that one? And don’t know if anyone else would agree, but I do think her later scents are more obviously “accessible” than her earlier ones.

    • Robin, I didn’t. I remember a couple of times trying some at Barney’s and thinking they were nice but not swooning. Now wondering whether those are the more “accessible” ones, and/or whether Barneys carries the EDPs and not the parfums (I’m thinking EDP, remembering the size of the bottles.) In any case, I will pay more attention next time I am there. The longer Vine hung around, the more I appreciated it. Which is a good thing given how long it hung around 😉

  10. You know I tried several of these and for some reason they just didn’t do it for me..

    • They didn’t at Barneys either. The selection there was either totally different, or … this time I can still smell. 😉

  11. Hey, what happened to this month’s PP Scent Club? I miss it!
    Do you know, sill the SIP’s be available in NY somewhere during the SNiffa?

    • The SIPs were at Barneys, as far as I know — this is my first sniffa so don’t know whether they have any extra presence. And none of us (Judith, Robin, me) can decide which they have at the store. :”>

    • Vida, I don’t think we ever picked anything for Scent Club. Bug Patty about it tomorrow. We kind of hit a wall where nothing leapt out at us, and wow, how much crappier a metaphorical mix can I make?

      • Maybe you are suffering from the end of season doldrums and the coming of spring will fill you all with inspiration. Having said that N. VA isn’t very springlike today, don’t know about the rest of the country.

        • Here in Central IL we are experiencing a ‘springlet’ – it’s feeling more like Spring only because the bulk of the 900 feet of snow we had has finally dissipated….but now we have that Hound of the Baskervilles fog, in all its goopy glory. The birds are sounding sort of springlike, though, so it’s a start. I’m wearing a combo of T42, Elixir des Merveilles and Eau de M to ward off the damp chill.

          Back, hound! Back!8-x

          Hope Springs makes it way to you soon!

  12. I bought some SIP samples from her website a few months back. They were outrageously expensive and when they arrived they were literally “drops” inside the glass vial. I think this really put me off. I understand perfume making is expensive – especially when handmade in smallish batches using the best ingredients – but still! I am so turned off with SIP’s pricing that I will NEVER buy her stuff. And the website is so pretentious. Just gimme the juice and don’t gimme the silly music and overdone poetic prose! UGH. That said, I did like Black Rosette, Vine, Galatea and Narcotic. But I didn’t love them enough to “have to” buy them. I think I’m getting a bit jaded with many of these niche perfumers… sorry to be a drag!

    • Hah — I have the sound off so I missed the music. I get so many samples from swaps and other sources (as opposed to samps bought from the houses), or just local sniffing, that I’m not really aware of what they charge, or how much they send. I can certainly see how your experience would put you off.

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