Chicago, Part Deux

Continuing my Chicago Smell-o-Rama:

In Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue we tried a number of the Amouage fragrances, which are known for their fine ingredients and high prices. They´re on the Great Wall of Fragrances, this big niche area off the general fragrance section, where they keep the niche/high-end product (although other things like Victor & Rolf´s F-Bomb are, inexplicably, in there next to the Guerlain). The SAs circle in droves on the floor but, for reasons we´re not clear on, pretty much won´t go in the Great Wall area; you´d think it had an electrified fence — which suited us fine. Anyway, sampling Amouage was fun for me, because I´ve tried a couple of dab-on samples but it´s not really the same. Well, if I´d taken better notes I could say which ones I tried (I believe Gold, Dia and Ciel à¢â‚¬” Ina might remember) and they were all à¢â‚¬¦ very expensive smelling, but as you can see I didn´t like any of them enough to actually write it down, which surprised me. They are, somehow, just not my thing.

jil.jpgThen Ina handed me a squat, homely bottle and said, here, try this, I think you´ll like it. And so I tried it, purely (sorry, Ina) out of politeness, because I was pretty sure there was nothing in that ugly little tub I´d fancy. And I was wrong. Because Jil Sander No. 4 EDP is à¢â‚¬” get ready à¢â‚¬” a Gold-Medal winner, and if you like florientals, do yourself a favor and try this one, because it´s à¢â‚¬¦ perfect. It is perfectly balanced. It´s floral, but not heady or cloying. It´s oriental, but not too spicy or challenging. It is rich and well-rounded, but not overpowering. My fragrance wardrobe is full of many special things that, in truth, I have to be in precisely the right mood for. Even my beloved Mitsouko has turned on me occasionally. Jil Sander No. 4 is a classic, beautifully worked scent that will never be wrong, but won´t bore you either, and that´s something I could use in the lineup. To my nose it smells just the tiniest bit amber-y, which is not my favorite note but works quite nicely here, prompting me to label this one a flamboriental. (Floramberental?) FWIW I looked it up on Basenotes, and every single review is positive, which I don´t see often, so I´m not alone in my affections on this one. (rose, geranium, plum, galbanum, violets, jasmine, rose, tuberose, heliotrope, ylang ylang, carnation, tarragon, myrrh, ambergris, oakmoss, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, musk).

The following day I took a stroll with my Chicago galfriend on Halstead Street in Lincoln Park, which has Fresh, Bluemercury and Endo-Exo Apothecary close to each other. In Endo-Exo I discovered that Norma Kamali has a fragrance line. The names are cutesy à¢â‚¬” Baby was meh, Olive You was à¢â‚¬” well, it smelled like olive oil. à¢â‚¬Ëœnuff said. The Zagara was too sharp, and the Jazmine and the Tea were just okay. Butà¢â‚¬¦ the Ceremony, a unisex woody incense, was a worthwhile discovery. There´s not much development à¢â‚¬” wood and incense and a little smoke are the whole story start to finish à¢â‚¬” but it had excellent lasting power and was rich without being too much for a warmish summer day, which is more than I can say for most of my incense fragrances. It´s stronger than Passage d´Enfer, but certainly lighter in spirit than, say, CdG Avignon or the Armani Prive. It´s distinctive enough to be worth trying on its own merits, if you love incense (and I do.)

At bluemercury we tried the Christiane Celle Calypso line. They were pretty enough, although not especially imaginative. The Mimosa, which is the signature scent, was probably my least favorite. The Jasmin I´d be writing a rave about right here, because it was indolic enough to smell deliciously dirty, but not enough to frighten anyone. However, it gets some sort of Reverse Genius award for disappearing entirely in, say, five minutes on my skin. Weird. I went back and re-sprayed. Same thing. You´d think something with that much skank out of the bottle might last to the point of overstaying its welcome. But no.

papillon.jpgAnd finally, my Big Reversal à¢â‚¬” I´d ragged a little on the Donna Karan Essences recently, saying I needed the wenge (which the SA pronounced à¢â‚¬Å“wen-geeà¢â‚¬? with a hard g, I wonderà¢â‚¬¦) and labdanum, but the lavender and jasmine I could live without. Well, I can´t live without the Jasmine, which isn’t really indolic enough but, Lord, it is lovely. Again, this illustrates perfectly the fatal flaw in sampling from vials à¢â‚¬” dabbing these on is nothing like spraying them with an atomizer. The three layered together are The Bomb (the SA asserted that was Donna´s favorite combo). You can still keep the lavender, which is something I prefer to smell on my bed linens and in my garden. FWIW, I am not about to pay $165 per bottle for these. I bought a 4-pack sampler on eBay for $12 and I’m perfectly happy. I did re-sample Black Cashmere, and if you’d like the best of what the Essences has to offer, maybe that’s your cheap ticket — a wildly underrated fragrance, in my opinion, although a bit much for summer in my neck of the woods.

So. It´s hot as heck here, and I need to clear some more stuff off my shelves. Today´s giveaway is Oilily Papillon à¢â‚¬” look how cute that bottle is! It´s light, not overly sweet, and perfect for sultry summer weather, and I´m giving away a mostly full bottle. Notes are roses, white lilies, tart cherry. Be advised: it has a note that smells rather pear-ish to me, like AG Petite Cherie. If the mere thought makes you dry-heave, take a pass on this one. Otherwise leave a comment below that you want the bottle, and I´ll enter you in the drawing.

  • March says:

    Karen — you’re still in time for the drawing! It’s perfect for this time of year.

  • March says:

    Flora — I am always ready to reverse an opinion. Maybe I didn’t smell the Gold… dang, I wish I could remember the bottles better. I promise to revisit it.

  • Flora says:

    I have a hard time believing anyone could forget smelling Amouage Gold – the others MAYBE but not the Gold. Pure nirvana, that one. Perhaps the price tag on it rendered you briefly unconscious? 😉

  • Karen says:

    Hope I’m not too late for the drawing! The Oilily Papillon sounds wonderful for summer.
    I re-read March’s tribute to her mother-in-law. It was especially touching, and may have been what the doctor ordered – my mother-in-law was buried last week. What I mean is, after re-reading March’s tribute, I was finally able to cry for my mother-in-law. Her name was Marlys. I wonder what fragrance she would have liked. I don’t remember ever seeing perfume bottles in her bedroom. She did like to use make-up!
    Loved the comment about Old Spice! Some oriental fragrance applied a few days ago smelled like Old Spice on me for a few minutes and I was like – “WTH???” (what the hell@##$?) (Should I just save beaucoup bucks and get some Old Spice at the drugstore? And smell weirdly like my dad?)

  • March says:

    Cheez — I kept trying to like the Amouages; when I read about them they sound so wonderful. I am not at all sure I am doing them justice. They seemed … directionless, is the best I can do. I kept waiting for that moment when I think, oh, that’s fabulous! And it never came.

    Amy — you and Marlen with the discount stores! It’s just not fair, not fair, not fair! Ours are always stocked with things like Caesar’s Woman and Shalimar EDT. You’re in for the drawing.

    Judy — you’re in!

    Vi — can I tell you (lean in close, I’m going to whisper) I’m secretly relieved at the Jil validation I’m getting here. Every time I look at that bottle I grimace … I find it completely at odds with what it contains.

    Katie — the Mongolian hordes WERE invading Nordstrom! It was the half-yearly sale…

  • Katie says:

    This is random, but you should totally be in my head right now. For some reason when you said ” Great Wall of Fragrances” I immdietly imagined Mongolian hordes unsucessfully trying to invade Nordstrom. Sigh. Stupid overactive imagination. Jil Sander 4 you say? Sounds scrummy, actually (I like my amber;))

  • violetnoir says:

    March, what a great trip you had. And yes…Jil Sander No. 4 is practically perfect in every way. It really is a fragrance that you can throw on any day and feel great about it. My dear friend, Halyna, had been raving about it for years. I listened politely and then would forget about it.

    Well one day this spring she surprised me with a bottle. I sprayed it on and, Voila!–I loved it! Halyna was so right. It smells delicious on just about everybody. 😡


  • Judy Nelsen says:

    Hi – Great website – yes, please enter me in the drawing – scent sounds great!

  • Amy K. says:

    Jil Sander No. 4, huh? My local TJ Maxx always has a few bottles – I should check this one out. I already like her Sensations and Sun quite a bit.

    Please enter me in the drawing for that adorable bottle!

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Hi March,

    Thanks for detailing your fun sniffing foray in Chicago for us :d

    Too bad about the Amouages – I’ve always wanted to try Ciel (the bottles are gorgeous, no?). Then again, I guess it isn’t so bad – it would be much worse to wind up lusting over something so expensive.

    I haven’t run across any Jil Sander perfumes in the stores, but I did smell one on a co-worker (not sure which number) and it was very nice on her.

  • March says:

    John — dude, you’re in. Mitsouko smells great on the Big Cheese. He’s also run off with my Weil Eau Fraiche, which I think is kinda femme…

  • john lowery says:

    :d Hi March,
    I’m man enough to wear Oilily Papillon.

  • john lowe Hi March,ry says:


  • March says:

    Monica — you’re in!

    Marina — I bought a bottle, I’ll send you some, I owe you. Re: the Essences, I’m the decant queen. My little bottles will probably do me just fine for now…

    Marlen, so happy to enable!! But, darnit, why doesn’t OUR Marshalls ever have anything good?:(( I will have to try the Montale…

    Patty, oh, I’m glad you like it too! I was just so surprised, certainly her clothing is not my thing.

    Elle — Jil No. 4 would be perfect for autumn. I was pleased to discover that I wasn’t making myself ill in June with it, though. Good description of the Amouages!

    Ina — the Endo-Exo staffers were so … worthless it was funny. I wrote about it and deleted it. Could not have been less help. I did buy myself a decant of Ceremony on eBay, though. Indolic Jasmine — I’m on it!

    Victoria — okay, so I’ll try the 3! And Persian Lime and Mimosa sounds like absolute heaven.

    Twibbet — nope, not powdery, you’re in! Anyone who sprays you with Kenzo Flower should be bitten by tiny, perfumed dogs.

    Pam, you are cracking me up. My dad wears Old Spice — I’ll put some on the next time I go over there. FYI Marina turned me on to Coty Wild Woods (which we jokingly call Bois Sauvage) — dirt cheap online.

    BBliss — you’re in! Yup, it’s great in extreme humidity.

    BTW everyone — this last couple of weeks have been killer on the work front. Hope to get back to more fragrances next week…

  • BBliss says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip! Happy Belated Birthday again, too!

    V. curious about the essences (I imagine them to be something like this very relaxing almost sacred-smelling french oil I have) – and will have to revisit Jil No.4 – I didn’t get it at the time, but I was also covered in a lot of other things or maybe it was my sister…

    Love the name and bottle of that Oilily – please enter me, as it sounds it would work nicely in high humidity! Thank you!

    And Pam, didn’t Luca Turin compare something to Old Spice a long-while back…or was it something that was vaguely reminiscent? I have to look that up again…

  • Pam says:

    March, I’m so glad you and Ina had such fun on your sniffa. It’s a delight to discover something fabulous, especially when you’re with someone else.

    Do you any of you ladies wear Old Spice? I’m serious. Don’t laugh.:d I’m wearing it today, and it’s unbelievably wonderful. Ten minutes in, and it smells like something that walked out of one of those fancy Parisian parfum boutiques. No kidding! Try it.

    Thanks for another great post, M.

  • Twibbet says:

    I can never seem to find any really exciting perfumes at my local Nordstroms – I wonder if I’m totally missing the Great Wall. The last time I let a SA help me she coated me with Kenzo Flower – ick, ick, ick, powdery. I hate powder. Is the Papillon powdery? If not, sign me up for the drawing!

  • Victoria says:

    Oh, I was looking forward to reading more about your trip! I agree on Jil Sander No4, although to me No.3 is the most stunning and unusual one of the line. I think that Calypso Mimosa was the only thing I liked from them, but my perfect mimosa is Slatkin Persian Lime and Mimosa. It is happiness in the bottle for me. 🙂

  • Elle says:

    JS #4 is one of my long time favs. It smells like everything perfect about autumn to me…which doesn’t stop me from wearing it year round. I found the Amouages to be sadly less than thrilling. Expensive smelling, but like a gorgeous, but boring trophy wife.

  • Patty says:

    Jil, my fave! Thanks so much for finding her again. I had got a bottle forever ago and loved it, and then my sister stole it or I ran out, not sure which, and I just never got around to getting another bottle. and now I have!! Whee!! I’ve missed her!

  • Ina says:

    March, thanks for a fun read! I can’t recall which Amouages you smelled, and I’m glad you’re still smitten by Jill Sander #4. I’ve been to that Lincoln Park area many times, and Endo Exo has actually disappointed me every time – it’s always the same stock. Secretly hoping they read this blog and get the hint. :-w Btw, I’m wearing DK Wenge and Labdanum combo today! I think I’m gonna need that Jasmin, too. I’m with Marlen on Montale Jasmine Full – it’s gorgeous! 🙂

  • Marlen says:

    I am a HUGE Jil Sander fan with “jil” being my favorite. I know #4 well and am afraid you’ve just talked me into going ACROSS THE STREET to my local Marshalls and buying that little 1 oz bottle.

    As for indolic Jasmine, have you tried Montale’s Jasmine Full yet?


  • Marina says:

    Jil Sander No. 4, really? I am putting it on my to-sample list then.
    As for DK Essences. I’d stalk ebay for those. I won’t give you false hopes for finding Wenge there at a great price. It will be less than $165, but it still won’t be cheap. Labdanum goes for less than Wenge. And Jasmine sometimes is a real bargain. I’m just sayin’.

  • Monica says:

    Oh March, how I would LOVE to have that bottle of Oilily Papillon, it is sooo wonderful for the hotter days =) and as usual, you make me want to retest some of my samples such as Jil Sander No.4…