Less and More

saddleryToday — two woody/saffron fragrances, one of them ethereal and one of them dense.

I was getting into perfume at about the time IUNX was shutting down.  Like the Gobin Daudes, they were gone before I had any real sense of what I was missing.  The Eaux always seemed evanescent (hey, they’re eaux), but I thought Splash Forte and L’Ether were both pretty great in different ways.  Now that IUNX is back in business I don’t feel guilty about blogging about them; the scents were almost impossible to find.  (I think they’re available at Hotel Costes in Paris — so, okay, they’re not easy to get.  But not impossible.)  While I like my big, bombastic sillage as much as the next gal, as I reach the bottom of my L’Ether decant I can appreciate its subtle virtues.

Notes are myrrh, benzoin, rosewood, saffron, maple wood, white sandalwood.  Patty finds it has a smell that she associates with horses, in a good way.

The fragrances are composed by Olivia Giacobetti, and L’Ether has her handprints all over it.  Less sweetly floral than L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer, incense-ier than Matthew Williamson Incense (speaking of long-gone scents I weep over, and my decant is almost empty and the rerelease is totally different), and more soft and woody than Safran Troublant, L’Ether is probably my ideal contemplative scent.  I wish I got a shade more saffron, and I wonder whether it’s been tweaked in the re-release, but sniffing the back of my hand over and over I ultimately find myself surprised to have a similar reaction to Patty — in my case it smells like being inside a saddlery, with the smell of wood and expensive leather mingling in the background.  It is mildly incensey without being remotely churchy.   I have no doubt that many people would find it too light to bother with, and that’s fine.

At the other end of the saffron strength spectrum is Costume National 21 – notes of bergamot, milk, orange blossom, saffron, cumin, pepper, cashmere woods, royal jelly, moss, clary sage, patchouli, olibanum, amber, sandalwood, oud wood, cedar, vetiver, labdanum, tonka bean, vanilla, musk.    I had a tiny sample of this, but failed to secure a bottle. (Unlike the rest of the Costume National scents which I remember as ambery and are now all over the deep discounters, 21 doesn’t appear to be anywhere outside of places like LuckyScent.)  Now I have a decant that will probably last forever although I wear it regularly.  Why?  It is ridiculously strong on me, particularly given those notes.  You’d think it would be soft and sweet, like KenzoAmour maybe, and you’d find yourself wanting more oomph.  But having to change clothes last week after overspraying, I’ve gone back to dabbing it on.  Dabbing tamps down the bits that smell like anise in favor of the sweet woods, milk and saffron, which is the direction I want it going anyway.  (Cumin-phobes – I am the cumin magnifier, and I can’t smell it.)  On the wrong day it’s almost too anisic and sweet like Douce Amere, and no thanks.   But I’ve learned to under-apply just as I’ve learned to over-apply L’Ether, and I’m glad to have both of them in my wardrobe, particularly in this year when it’s still wet and cold and our heat is still kicking on late at night.


  1. OK, that does it! I’m ordering a decant of that CN 21 right now. I’ve been hankering after it since at least last summer and still haven’t tried it. I had it on my evilbay notification list, and two almost-full bottles have come up over the past year; both ended up going for under $100 and I know I should have nabbed them, even unsniffed (as is my habit with evilbay frenzies — but I’ve had GREAT luck with that). It hasn’t really shown up on any of the swap/decant boards that I troll, so I’m caving in and going to the source of sources. 😀

    Two questions, M:
    1. You seem to find CN more dense than other reviews I’ve read, but would you say it’s more of a cool-weather scent or could it be pulled off when it’s a bit warm? (We’re in the middle of a mini-heat wave, but then again it will be overcast and chilly most of the summer if history is any guide.)
    2. How sweet or obvious is the orange blossom? That’s certainly not a dealbreaker for me, but I’m not sure I’m looking for a scent with OB as the focus. I’m more turned on by milky/woody/saffron.

    • I’m a cheapskate and I kept waiting for it to show up on the discounters like the others (CN, Intense, I think there’s a third.) But it never did. Offhand, Lucky is the only retailer I can think of stocking it. Temperature-wise… thinking. It’s the *kind* of scent I want in cooler weather, closer to Douce Amere or Idole than a summery scent. But I think part of that is it’s so huge on me — on Louise it’s more a skin scent. It’s on my shirt from three days ago, I can smell it.

      2) I find 21 really blended — looking at the list of notes, I can go, okay, there’s the saffron, there’s the sandalwood, but nothing really leaps out at me. I think whatever sweetness the scent has is partly attributable to the OB but I can’t pick it out at all as a single note. In terms of feel/strength (not smell) it reminds me of a cross between Douce Amere, 10CC and Idole. At a guess, I think you’d like it.

  2. I’m always on the cusp about the IUNX… I admire them tremendously, but somehow I’d reach for the more sensual Safran Troublant before l’Ether, which I agree is built on the same principle. I think they may be just a tad ethereal for my too, too solid flesh (call me Gertrude).
    The IUNX are devilishly hard to get since the hotel Costes boutique is the only POS and does — very emphatically — not ship. They also have l’Eau Blanche and l’Eau de Sento II from the old collection, and I believe they plan to rotate — Splash Forte, for instance, was available but was replace by Sento.

    • You can thaw, Denyse (not that you need to if it’s warmed up in Paris like it has here), but please, don’t go resolving yourself into a dew.

    • I have only tried one of the IUNX scents and predictably, my skin devoured it within an hour. Beautiful, but fleeting.

    • I think in this case it’s a matter of personal preference — Safran is so lovely, but I find the rose too prominent. I really don’t care for rose, as you know, and it’s *always* with saffron. That’s what I love about L’Ether, it’s sweetly saffron but not rose-y. But I do acknowledge that it’s quite light.

      I’m dying to try Blanche! I totally forgot about it. I bet Patty has some, I’ll bug her. 🙂

      • I’m a cautious rose convert, in some scents. Safran Troublant and, oddly, the uber-destroy-all-monsters roses like Nahema and FM Une Rose. Go figure.

        • I’m a cautious convert meself but in a lighter iteration. I got Erin’s bottle of PdRosine Poussiere de Rose at the Chicago swap and it reminds me a bit of YSL Paris, Jurassic Era, with something interestingly camphor(?) running underneath it. Une Rose is a bit much for me – but you never know. Rex, who works the Malle counter @ Barney’s, wears it wonderfully! I might convert, in time…


  3. I’ve never tried any Costume National scents. Ain’t that strange?

    • The regular (or was it the intense?) CN I kept thinking I wanted as a wallpaper scent, then thought, this is too boring. I should probably retry them. 21 is an entirely different prospect, but if that milky/woody thing doesn’t do it for you, you could skip it.

  4. A fragrance that you need to dab sounds like something that I will want to spray. Especially with those notes! Cumin? It’ll calm down on my skin in a minute or two. As for the anise, as long as it is balanced by other notes, it will be fine. Straight anise scents can be very off-putting for me, but Douce Amere is one of my favorites in the winter. It dries down to an interesting creamy, edgy blend on my skin. So CN 21 is a must-try.

    The L’Ether sounds lovely but my skin scoffs at light scents. If a decant fell into my hands, I wouldn’t complain though!

    • FWIW I got my taste from Louise and it’s magnificent on her — and it holds up, although predictably it’s much easier on her skin than it is on mine. I think for her it’s a throw-it-on skin scent.

      An interesting creamy edge is a perfect description of the drydown.

      Next time I see you I’ll bring L’Ether and I know I owe you something…

  5. I’ve been on a Baume du Doge kick lately and am hungering for ever more saffron… These sound wonderful, particularly the CN 21. I’m interested in your reply to Joe’s warm-weather/cool-weather question above, however — no sense sampling and falling in love with a cozy winter scent while the mercury is rising!

    • I don’t know that I’d wear it in the teeth of a DC summer, but I wore it when it was 70 degrees and thought it was lovely. I just need to go back to dabbing or it’s more sillage than I can cope with.

  6. I **just** finished my decant of L’Ether (love this one!) and now you’ve got me wanting to try CN21. I like wearing soft complicated scents while the weather here tells you several stories within the same day.

    • Sara,

      what a lovely way to describe crappy, changeable weather! I haven’t tried any of these and since I’m not a fan of creamy musk, which my skin will probably amplify, I’m not hankering after any of them. They do sound like they will be lovely on others, though.

      I’m wearing PdN Maharanih today, precisely because of the weather-stories, though I wouldn’t have thought to phrase it so elegantly!


      • Maharahih is so gorgeous, I’d have thought it too soft for you. How’s your allergy going? Are you better?

        • Much, thanks! We had a hard rain for 2 days, really helped clear things up and my lungs don’t hurt nearly as much.

          For some reason I thought you hated Maharanih (don’t worry – I get nearly everything wrong until I get it right!)

          It doesn’t sit soft on me at all! It’s sort of acidy-green, with a tiny hint of creaminess to smooth it out….actually, it is a bit like Drama Nuui’s grown-up sister – obviously I’ll have to look up the notes.


    • Seconding Musette, that is an absolutely perfect description of what’s going on with the weather right now. And scents like L’Ether, CN21, Idole, and SL Santal Blanc are perfect for that kind of weather.

    • Not sure where you live, but there’s a saying around here that “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute.”

  7. I remember sampling the 21 and really liking it. Fantastic comfort scent. However, I never got around to getting any and am wondering why. Sometimes I put off purchases due to budget panic, sometimes simply because the scent didn’t meet my “dropped to my knees in awe” criteria, which I basically need to feel to purchase anything these days (although I appear to have rather weak knees, since this happens more frequently than one might think). Must go resniff this. I admire many of the IUNX scents. I have yet to need to go beyond decant stage w/ any of them, but L’Ether is definitely my fave.

    • Laughing. Hon, your knees are so weak I am pretty sure you’ve bought unsniffed a time or two, your minde leads you on!

      L’Ether and Splash Forte I’m fine with decants, although Carmencanada reminds me I want to try the hot steam iron one (Blanche).

  8. The IUNX line has absolutely no staying power on my skin. There was a flash of lovely, and less than 20 minutes later there was nothing. Mayflies last longer. Humorously enough, one of the notes that my skin devours the quickest is anise: the first time I tried Douce Amere on I waited too long to get back to sniffing it, and didn’t even get the anise! A sweet patch of drydown was all that was left. I didn’t know it had any anise in it until I went back and read the notes.

    • That’s so funny. Douce Amere is like being inside a black jellybean for me — it’s just too too much. Although it smells great on some other folks.

  9. Here’s what’s weird: Boots in the UK carries the CN line. So I think it’s only in the US that they’re so darned hard to find. I’ll bet Barneys has it too though, even if they don’t have it online.

    Really wish I had a bottle of L’Ether. Any idea what it costs now?

    p.s. — pop up is BACK.

    • You’re right — Barney’s definitely had it in Chicago, so I assume they have it in NYC. Although … weird … I swear I didn’t see 21 in Chicago, just the other two/three.

      I asked Denyse, she thinks it’s 150e in Paris, although I don’t know what size and she’s not sure.

      I hate Wal-Mart.

    • Wow, reasonable at Boots UK too! Only £65 for 100ml.

      Now I’m peeved. Want. 😀

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