Blind Sample — Scentzilla and Perfume Critic

Awhile back, Patty, Marina of Perfume-Smellin´ Things and I did a three-way unlabeled fragrance sample swap, and it was such a hoot we decided to do it again. This time, however, we enlisted the participation of several other scentbloggers.

I drew Katie of Scentzilla and Marlen of Perfume Critic as my victims. This presented a challenge, as they have both smelled tons of product. So I had to dig into my more obscure selections. The results are in, and here’s what they thought of my offerings:

Scent A

Katie: Good lord, I could swear this another of Mad March’s Mixes… There’s an element to this fragrance that SO strongly reminds me of some version of L’Aimant. Cinnamon and woody at the top. But not quite L’Aimant, since the spice is terribly reminiscent of Red Hots candy. Then there’s a figgy and vanillic middle, with white florals. And then with the drydown, we’re back to some strange mutant imitation of L’Aimant. Lightly played musk and maybe even a touch of oakmoss at the base, too. This has to be a small brand or niche: no way would a big department store brand use spice so unabashadly like this. Well, I guess there could be a way, I mean, what do *I* know? This is not a fragrance for the shy retiring types, at any rate.

Marlen: This is nice. A soft, subtle, incense aroma…I get a musk that reminds me of Final Net and perhaps a saffron note? There’s also something slightly spicy here…cinnamon? And there’s either cedar or sandalwood somewhere in the base. I’m stumped, and the juice is a golden brown? Huh…It’s not terrbily strong or powerful but I’m still loving it. I just tried on Sample C and now I have no ability to smell sample A anymore. Lemme get up and walk around the house… Ok, so I can smell a hint of A and I put on half the vial 15 minutes ago. Definitely a longevity and projection issue with this one. Put on a little more A and still getting that pesky Final Net note and thinking of Gaultier Le Male (le yuck). I dunno. I liked the opening at first, but now am not really loving the overall effect.

It was: IUNX Splash Forte, my entry in the Obscure, Discontinued Niche category. How obscure was IUNX? Jude was less obscure. Rumor had it you couldn´t even take photos inside their Paris boutique, although there are a few online at flikr. Anyway, they went out of business last year (I think), so No More Soup For You. According to, Splash Forte contains notes of cardamom and nutmeg, and Olivia Giacobetti is the nose, so no wonder I like it. To me it smells like cinnamon mouthwash, but really good, French, expensive, high-end cinnamon mouthwash. If you´re thinking cinnamon mouthwash wouldn´t be that refreshing on the skin in the heat of summer, you´d be wrong. It´s a fabulous, weird smell — both Katie and Marlen were right there on this one.

Scent B

Katie: Shalimar said, “not tonight honey, I have a headache,” so March must have sent me this instead. A slighly green lily of the valley is prominently there at the top, but it stretches across a vanilla/vanillin cocktail. At the base is an iris and leathery/incensey intonation in the vanilla/vanillin cocktail, and a little animal, too, which speaks to me of Guerlain. (God, this is going to be so embarassing if it turns out it’s, like, Kountry Bob’s Klassy Kologne or something.) Even with the florals I’d even describe it as cuddly. In fact, I hereby dub this Mallomar, because it smells like a fluffed up, slightly sweeter version of Shalimar. Also because of the staying power: it disappears quickly, just like an unguarded box of Mallomars. I rather like it the best out of the three.

Marlen: Hmmm, this smells very familiar – a vanilloriental along the lines of Shalimar, leaning more towards the cinnamon and clove side. I like it quite a bit. Could it be…Takashimaya “T”? Armani Sensi? Paul and Joe Bleu? No, probably none of these but definitely some kind of oriental vanilla composition. Though it remains spicy, it gets a little soapy as it dries down and loses its complexity.

It was: Paul & Joe Bleu! Good job, Marlen! And Katie’s right — it is certainly in the same genre as Shalimar, although (heresy!) I like Bleu much better. Notes are: bergamot, coriander, cumin, ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, magnolia, heliotrope, sandalwood, myrrh, oudh, vanilla, musk. I smelled this last winter at Anthropologie, loved it, and spent the next six months kicking myself for not having bought it. It´s a warm floriental, rich but not dense, that reminds me a little of Serge Lutens´ Chergui, only more floral, with a drydown that is woody rather than sweet. I finally scored a bottle on eBay. I give it two thumbs up for this fall, and consider it unisexy.

Scent C

Katie: Remember when Bath and Body Works was just starting out, and displaying everything in bushel baskets? They had one fragrance selection they were pushing like crazy (at the time I was working in a mall, next door to them) called Sun Ripened Berry or something like that? C has a fruity note that reminds me of what I remember that product line smelling like. But with peony! (And some other identity-less floral notes.) It smells like someone expertly mixed a bunch of body splashes, and came up with this. Which sounds bad, but you know, not really. It’s nice. Not anything I’d buy, but I think I’d enjoy catching a whiff of it on other folks in passing.

Marlen:Jasmine, rubber, fruit, nail polish remover…what a bizarre mix of aromas. Just when it wants to be blueberry pancake syrup, it changes to reveal something slightly dirty. Again, I’m sticking to my jasmine and thinking that the entire scent is some kind of grand homage to the white flower. I don’t think I would wear this as there’s too many other distracting notes here and the overall effect is just not something I could stand for very long. It’s like a jasmine with a nicotine addiction.

It was
: Shiseido Message from Orchids! My entry in the Peculiar Category. I had concerns about Marlen recognizing it since he lived in Japan until recently. Notes are carnation, hyacinth, orchid, orange blossom and vanilla. This was easily the heaviest scent in the samples, and probably came as something of a shock after the other two. It is a profoundly strange fragrance, and I am never entirely sure whether I like it, but it is compelling and I don´t own anything else remotely similar. It is sweet, sharp, and green, and commenters on the blog swear it´s a dead ringer for the smell of cattleya orchids. It is not an easy fragrance for me to wear; sometimes it turns and growls at me, the green-ness so sharp and astringent that it strays almost – but not quite – into scrubber territory. Both Katie and Marlen, with the reference to BBW and nail polish remover, hit on the odd artifice of this scent. But when it is good, it is very, very good, the carnation adding warmth and spice to the rich orange/vanilla drydown. Fans of orchid fragrances, and the adventurous public, can buy decants on eBay.

Today’s special giveaway: sample set of these Three Blind Samples! I have just enough left to make one set. If you’d like to enter the drawing for it, say so in the comments.

  • March says:

    Marlen — you did a great job on your test — gold star student!

    Hope your new digs are working out.

  • Marlen says:

    The funny thing is that I DID buy Message from Orchids and didn’t care for it much and so sent it to a friend who I thought might appreciate it better. Where did I smell it and buy it? Osaka. Where did I sample Paul & Joe? Osaka. I guess the city really isn’t THAT bad…lol.

  • March says:

    Tommasina — you can probably buy most of the Malle decants on eBay — I held them in my hand for the first time at Barneys, which was fun.

    Patch — you’re in!

    Chaya — Maybe we’ll come ambush you…

    Judith — the Paul and Joe’s obscure, but around. Well worth sniffing.

    Emote — welcome back!

  • Emotenote says:

    Ahh! After traveling and catching a nasty virus I was just wondering about some different fragrances in families yet undiscovered and then, before my eyes, was this blind test. I would love to be in the drawing, and I’ve missed you guys!

  • Judith says:

    This was great! And they did so well!! I really love Splash Forte–also L’Ether from that line. . . I need to try the Paul and Joe, but since that is probably the easiest to find of the 3, I will pass on the drawing. . .

  • chayaruchama says:

    March, my Freundin-

    You and Ina are perfectly welcome to do so- but I wouldn’t laugh, I’d be rolling around like a pig in s-it myself; I never tire of the eternal sniffest…sigh…

    Plus, Boston would never survive such a visit…
    Well worth the risk !

  • patchamour says:

    What perceptive sniffers in the blind test. Fun to read about. If it’s not too late (working oh-so-late hours these days), I’d love to be entered in the drawing.

    Happy sniffs,

  • Tommasina says:

    March – no, I haven’t looked yet – don’t want to torture myself with yet more things I should have done but didn’t – like being aggressive with the snooty Frederic Malle SA and DEMANDING to smell Eau d’Hiver, Musc Rav., Noir Epices and Carnal Flower instead of letting her choose my “allowed” smells. (OTOH one of those was Lipstick Rose which I absolutely ADORED and should have bought but didn’t – ARGH!) So now I guess I’ll have to trawl MUA and see who has samples, swap-virgin that I am.

    Ah well – next time… if I can live that long without Lipstick Rose…

  • Steve says:

    Please enter me into the drawing as well. Thanks

  • March says:

    Tommasina — I was there last fall and didn’t go. I am still kicking myself. Did you look at the pictures on flickr? It is just the wildest-looking thing.:((

  • March says:

    Chaya — Ina and I have decided, we want to come run our fingers through your fragrance collection. We promise to wash our hands first…@};- You can watch us sniff and roll around on the floor in ecstasy, and laugh at us.

  • March says:

    Katie — I think you and Marlen did an amazing job, actually.

    The Bleu I love; I think it’s beautiful, definitely worth a bottle. Victoria F has an eloquent review, by the way. Oddly, Shalimar is one of the very few Guerlains I don’t love, although I’ve never smelled the parfum.

    The Splash Forte I am already mourning. I only had a tiny decant, a gift from a friendly blogger. But I thought it was so cool I couldn’t resist sharing it with you guys.

    I find the Orchids … well, not weird, exactly. I guess what surprises me is I’m never sure whether it’s going to smell good on me, or have this weird, plastic-flower overtone, which is I guess what I took home from your BBW comparison.

  • March says:

    Justine — I can’t remember what Hiver smells like! So I can’t address that … although I have also heard that. FWIW I was in Anthropologie today and it’s back in the stores, although I don’t think it’s online.

  • Tommasina says:


    I’d love to be entered in the drawing, please.

    About Iunx: I was just in Paris (hah – how cosmopolitan I sound!) and discovered that Iunx only closed down in March. The woman who was funded by Shisheido didn’t’ want to expand to a worldwide market whereas Shisheido did so they withdrew the $$ and she had to close down. Big shame. My husband took a picture of me looking disconsolate in front of the empty shop window!

  • March says:

    To everyone who asked to be included in the draw — YOU’RE IN!! I will announce Thursday. I am sorry that I only have enough for one set, so there will be only one winner.:-ss

    Elle — I would really, really love to get my hands on some more Splash Forte. I need to quit sniffing out-of-production scents.

    Marina — well, Msg from Orchids can’t be for everyone, can it? I’m surprised that one guy on eBay doesn’t sell it…

  • chayaruchama says:

    What capable forensic folk you are…

    I hope you enjoyed doing it as much as I enjoyed reading about your sniffploits…

    Please consider me a candidate for your draw!

    I’d love to be placed on the sniffing block!
    What exquisite torture…

  • Katie says:

    Wow, what interesting choices. I’d heard some nice things before about Bleu, but now I see why. It is super Shalimaresque, but wears much nicer on me generally than Shalimar (except in parfum, of course.) However, I must maintain Shalimar is the superior frag because it’s more distinctive, heh. :”>

    The IUNX one was a nice surprise. Wow, what a pity that went bye-bye. I initally thought it might even be something vintage because the spice there was as fearless as it is in Toujours Mois or Zibeline… but it smelled way too fresh to be vintage. Crazy! Enjoy that bottle, March, it’s certainly an interesting little thing that should have been more widely discovered, yes?

    The Orchids is not odd to me at all, it smelled quite pretty but completely ordinary despite my inability to place it correctly. I really didn’t pick up on any orchid message at ALL. I’m embarassed I thought peony, frankly. There was just something so peony-like to it, because the frag was so redolently floral yet remained soft – so I decided just to take a wild (and as it turns out, wrong!) guess at that note.

  • rachael says:

    I love these blind reviews, and I’d love to try the samples. A and B sound great.

  • Jenn says:

    would love to be entered in the drawing and that description of Paul and Joe Bleu sounds absolutely tantalizing.

  • Justine says:

    I have been dying to try paul and Joe Blanc because I’ve read it is similar to Malle’s L’eau de Hiver…but it doesn’t sound like it here. I do love Shalimar though. I’d love to try these as samples.

  • Andrea says:

    Hmmm…sounds interesting, put me in the drawing please!

  • jill says:

    dang, I loved one of those IUNX scents, #7 I think? alas, may I be entered in your drawing please?

  • Veronica says:

    I agree with Elle. Great calls from both of them especially Marlen’s nailing the Paul and Joe Bleu. Impressive.

  • Marina says:

    “It’s like a jasmine with a nicotine addiction.” Bravo, bravo, Marlen, what a great summary of Message from Orchids. These two didn’t appreciate it as much as I do, but hey, moroe for me…if I am ever able to find more that is.

  • Malena says:

    Hi March,
    I really regret that I didn´t buy Splash Forte when it was still available…*big sigh* I like Shalimar very much, so I´d love to test Paul & Joe Bleu!
    I´d like to enter the drawing for the sample set, please include me on your list!

  • Elle says:

    Great calls from both of them on all three! Splash Forte was my favorite IUNX by far – an absolutely gorgeous scent on me. And I feel like I *should* have liked Message from Orchids, but, like Katie, it really did remind me of something from BBW.

  • Alica says:

    Dear Patty, pls include me in the drawing. Thanks