I have a shoebox full of fragrance vials. I call it the Halloween Candy. Some of the Candy came from eBay; I buy decants. But most of the Candy came from the same incredibly generous, anonymous donor in Colorado who owns this blog. She said, hey, let me send you a few things. I knew the Colorado package was here because one of the vials had opened in transit (Frangipani? Rosine?) and my front porch smelled like a fancy brothel. I mean, the sillage from the mailbox was breathtaking.
I play a game with the Candy. It´s a good game because it helps me fulfill one of my 2006 resolutions: to buck my control-freak tendencies. I just plunge my hand in there, no peeking, and come up with something, and that’s what I’m putting on.
So here are some brief, recent impressions from the Candy box (and a few from test-drives at the perfume counter). I´m not going to cheat on any of these entries by looking up the correct spelling, actual fragrance notes, or anything else that might add to what little credibility I have left. Go ahead, laugh at my mistakes.
Santa Maria Novella Heliotropo – strong almond, heliotrope, a hint of something bready or PlayDoh-ish, and then – poof! – it´s gone. Completely. In less than 5 minutes. I repeated this test; same result. Three hours later: I am aware of a bitter, herb-y drydown that reappears, but very close to the skin. It reminds me of what´s left after some of the iPdF fragrances, which is actually quite pleasant.
Frederic Malle En Passant – bread (why bread again?) lilacs, rain, a hint of cucumber from an adjacent garden, and smelling the lilacs with my face pushed up against a cold, wet fence (chain link? Possibly iron). I find it ineffably sad, which is confusing – is this an association I have with lilacs? Beautiful but I could only wear it to cry. I´m so curious about the emotional aspect I ask my 11-year-old what she thinks. She says: “It smells like flowers and rain. It makes me feel happy and sad at the same time.” Decent sillage three hours later. Still makes me want to cry.
Shiseido Feminite du Bois – I know this is a Major Love for Patty. I think the French translates roughly to The Femininity of Wood. (If this is a howler of a mistake, have fun – I´m not going to fix it.) What I get first is lovely and strange – cedar, something sharp and turpentine-ish, lavender or rosemary, iris? And then roughly 2 minutes later, the inevitable Serge Cedar Trainwreck – whatever compound Chris Sheldrake is using (and I know, this is pre-Serge, but I´m betting it´s the same) turns into unadulterated B.O. on me, as if I´d applied it directly to my armpits post-workout. I have the identical problem with SL Bois de Violette and Iris Silver Mist. Oh, well – plenty of other things to love. Postscript: 5 hours later, right on the skin, is that unbelievable honey drydown you get if you suffer through the initial hell of Miel de Bois.
Frederic Malle Iris Poudre – a perfect-for-spring fragrance that pretty much captures its name – Powdery Iris. On me it is a light, close to the skin scent that reminds me strongly of Apres l´Ondee in terms of its initial impression (powder and a hint of violet) and in its transparence. However, in the drydown it has a bit more edge, more cedar-y and musk. Reminiscent of the great 1950s powder scents, with a twist.
Annick Goutal Eau de Camille – what kind of skin do I have? I have the kind that can transmogrify a lovely, ethereal scent into something so manifestly evil that the chic SA at my local Neiman Marcus makes a moue of distaste upon sniffing my wrist and says, hurriedly, “er, it´s not supposed to smell like that, the bottle must be spoiled.” No, madame, don´t blame Annick. It´s me. I have not the slightest idea how this is supposed to smell, but if you were here right now with me, you would smell burning rubber and trampled grass resting on a base of the merest whiff of vomit. No, I am not funning you. Four hours later: gone, mercifully.
Annick Goutal Muguet – I take back every snarky, hurtful thing I ever said about muguet (a.k.a. lily of the valley), which generally makes me think of sugared plastic. One of the AG soliflores (using the term loosely), Muguet is the precise smell of a handful of lily of the valley stems and leaves plucked from the shady spot of your yard, way back over there by the roses where the grass doesn´t grow so well, misted lightly with water, and tied with a white organdy ribbon for you to carry in a bouquet toward the altar on what is possibly the happiest day of your life. (Have I mentioned that I hate muguet perfumes?) Considering how deliciously swoony I find this, I wonder what a true muguet fan would think. If muguet is your thing, do yourself a favor and try this one. Lasts until the next morning, if I sniff for it.
Annick Goutal Folavril – Ack!! Nooooooooo, get it off me!!! White pepper, dandelion greens and the grape lollipop I found under the back seat of the van. Some masochistic impulse compels me to re-smell it. See note for Camille, above. I brought this on myself by commenting on Cait´s blog that AG scents never seem to sour on me.
S-Perfume 100% Love – I wanted to hate this. How I wanted to hate this. Rose, chocolate and incense… I find even the idea nauseating. And if you had to come up with a concept for a perfume house designed to irritate me, you´d be hard-pressed to do better (worse?) than S-Perfumes´ cutesy minimalist sperm thing. So. I opened the vial with a flourish of barely concealed contempt, affixed a sneer to my face, and waited for the punch line… which is, of course, that it was love (lust?) at first smell. 100% Love is a harlot of a fragrance, a wanton woman in a brown velvet dress flashing her red silk garters at you, so dig out that roll of $100 bills, baby, because she´s going to do things you´re too shy to ask for, and you´re going to like it. In terms of Sex in A Bottle, it´s right up there with Bal a Versailles. They have a “S-ex” perfume (they paid people to come up with that name?!) but as far as I´m concerned they must have mixed up the labels. This one goes all night on me… if you know what I mean.
jordan almonds — americanbridalshop.com
rainy street – East Germany (uncredited)
hat from suzannemillinery.com
lily of the valley bouquet courtesy of derouinfloral.com
Bettie Page, pinup queen – grrl.com