Right and Wrong

Yes, it´s true – I went into the woods for more than a week, beyond the reach of cell phone or computer, and yet … I took along three perfumes.  What else would one expect?

They were simple and unobtrusive and felt right – Origins´ ginger roll-on, Caron´s Eau de Reglisse, and Prada Infusion d´Iris.

Prada Infusion d'IrisThe Prada came out two years ago (how is this possible?) and my initial reaction was muted.  I had trouble smelling it.  Then I could smell it, but it wasn´t interesting to me.  Then it reinserted itself into my awareness when it became a favorite scent of the train commuters in my area, a pleasant surprise after room-hoggers like Angel.

For something rather subtle, Infusion d’Iris is quite distinctive.  (Notes include mandarin, galbanum, orange blossom, iris, cedar, vetiver, incense and benzoin.)  I have read more than one comment describing it as smelling like very expensive soap.  That’s meant as a compliment in context, and I understand it: it’s not really like soap, but there is something soothing about its slightly spicy seamlessness.  My favorite bit is the benzoin-rich drydown that has a habit of wandering off and magically reappearing when I think it’s all gone away.

Having accumulated several sample vials, I took to wearing it on occasion and was surprised to receive compliments almost every time.  Maybe I put it on with too heavy a hand (I still think I am partly anosmic to it) but I am surprised to discover, two years later, that there are days when nothing else will do.

I´m going to link to Robin´s review, which I rediscovered when noodling with this post, because it´s spot on in my opinion.  (And I´m going to leave that sentence as is, with a giggle, because I notice I appear to be aping Robin´s writing style tonight, consciously or not.  I´m not going to fight it.)  For a fragrance that seemed so tenuous and disappointing to me at first (and third and tenth) sniff, it has surprising tenacity on the skin and on fabric – I find ghosts of it a week or two later on my sweaters, and it´s never an unpleasant surprise. It also turns out to be one of my favorite irises because it´s easy and it never goes monstrous – not too powdery, not too rooty.  Lutens´ Iris Silver Mist is a glorious thing, but I don´t throw it on without considering the consequences; I´d say the same for Hiris and even the annoyingly short-lived 28 La Pausa (on the wrong day it´s slightly metallic, like sucking on a dime.)

In the end I think I fell in love with Infusion d´Iris because it isn´t trying to do or be too much; it is lovely without being either conventional or hip.  It is elegant but not snobbish, dry but not austere, sweet but not girly.  A man could (and should) wear it with aplomb.

Carolina Herrera CHIn contrast, let´s look at the new Carolina Herrera CH which just showed up at my Nordstrom, although I believe it appeared at roughly the same time as Prada Infusion d´Iris – mid 2007.   Notes are bergamot, orange, pomelo, melon, rose, jasmine, praline, cinnamon, woody notes.

I´ve always loved Carolina Herrera’s clothing but been a little baffled by Herrera´s fragrances.  They were never my thing, although I know several women who wear Chic enthusiastically, and her scents are at least age appropriate if inoffensive.  The new bottle for CH is gorgeous, the sort of thing I think Coach should have done, wrapped in (okay, probably faux) red leather and very stylish.   It would look great on your dresser, and I´ve just hit the highlight, because if I were you I wouldn´t try wearing the actual fragrance.

mr yuckThe first, overwhelming impression is sweeeeet, subcategory gourmand, to the point that I tried reflexively to step away from my own arm after applying it.  Why they trotted this out in midsummer is beyond me.  The words plastic melon drilled themselves into my brain, thus adding to my appreciation of Chandler Burr´s review of it while I was incommunicado (among other things, he mentions Splenda and Saran Wrap.)  Sprinkle a little pumpkin pie spice on top before you pop it in the microwave and Bob´s your uncle.  The fragrance on a paper strip two weeks later is surprisingly offputting – an acrid, woody base smothered in the olfactory equivalent of cinnamon Cool Whip.   Grabbing from Burr´s review: “Every time I say a perfume is cheap, the perfumers (in this case Olivier Cresp and Rosendo Mateu) protest that the materials are, in fact, expensive. O.K. This smells incredibly cheap.” It´s been awhile but I´m trotting out the Mr. Yuck logo for this one.

In contrast to the Prada, CH is trying to do and be all the wrong things – younger, hipper, sexier – and it fails at all of them miserably.  It´s too sweet, too plasticky, much too strong and feels dated in the worst way – the uber-gourmandy thing of two or three years ago rather than, say, the iconic giant fragrances of the 70s that have been out of fashion so long they feel wonderfully fresh.   I can only assume this was the brand´s attempt to lure a younger audience and, with all due respect, good luck with that.  In fact, if Carolina Herrera youths the brand up before I´m old and rich enough to wear those glorious clothes, I´m going to be cross.

  • Erika says:

    See, I love the Prada. I try to play the field, and I keep coming back again and again; okay, I’m a huge sucker for Iris, but there’s definitely more to it than that…I’m actually worried that I may not *need* to buy anything else for a while – HORRORS!

  • DinaC says:

    Totally agree with you about the new CH scent. The bottle and its red faux leather wrapper look so elegant, but it’s totally misleading! I expected grown-up woman elegance, and smelled something that belonged in a pink glitter-speckled plastic bottle from the dime store! Ugh! What a waste. They should have ditched the melon, cinnamon and praline notes. I’m not a fan of gourmand scents either, March!

  • sweetlife says:

    Welcome back!

    I like hearing that you wore the Origin’s Ginger. I liked it before I started wearing perfume, and when I dug it out the other day I still liked it. I thought it might smell like air freshener or something, but nope, pretty good stuff. No bottom notes at all, but nice. Like a lemon spritz.

    • March says:

      Thanks, it’s nice to be back! Nope, no bottom at all. Just ginger, straight up. I love me some ginger. Ginger ale, ginger beer, shandys (shandies?), ginger snaps, ginger tea… I should try Demeter Ginger Ale, shouldn’t I? I hear it’s great. So. Origins is like that to me. Nothing flashy, just ginger on the pulsepoints where I can dip in for a sniff.

  • Linda says:

    Love, love, love Infusion d’Iris. I wonder if I can talk my hubby into getting me a bottle? It’s my favorite going-to-a-movie perfume because I can sniff when it gets dull, and I can enjoy the subtlety if the movie is good. Is that strange?

    • March says:

      Not strange at all. In fact, I bet we could do a post about when our perfume selection was too intrusive. I hate it when my fragrance is clamoring for attention at the movies, it’s very distracting.

      If I recall correctly, the Infusion is quite reasonably priced, esp. considering today’s prices. Wasn’t it less than $100?

  • DianaWR says:

    I love Infusion d’Iris, which I thought wasn’t nearly as nice as the other irises I’d tried but the more I wore it the more unique and likable to me it became. “Effortless charm” is really a good way to put it.

    I’m curious what you thought of the Ginger roll-on. I like it very much, but have a lot less sniffa experience than you.

    • March says:

      Ginger is IMO one of those massively difficult things, because how do you make it stick around and seem plausible? I think the Origins does a decent job, and it’s small enough I can drop it in my purse and reapply. I’m not sure it’s a genius scent, but sometimes I just want something really simpler. Also it’s so unobtrusive I never feel like I’m offending someone (eg I try not to wear fragrance into medical buildings.)

  • Silvia says:

    That Prada is a good one, you described it very well in its effortless charm.

    There is a breed of scents that only blossom whem you give them some time. While on hols at my family for example I wore every day Costume Nacional Sheer which I had up to that point dismissed and learned to really appreciate it, it’s only an eau fraiche but was perfect for the heat. Some perfumes, like people, don’t stand out so much in a crowd but, given the time to get to know them individually, become long lasting and reliable friends.

    That CH sounds horrid, I now want to smell it for scientific purposes !!!

    Nice to have you back.

    • March says:

      Nice to be back, I missed all of you.

      Really, Sheer? I have really come around to some of those lighter scents, as you know. Now I want to try it.

  • Shelley says:

    March! Good to hear your voice again, and glad to hear the vacation was a good one…

    Know what you mean about the Prada. My own experience of it has been that it continues to register as a “nice”* scent through my nose evolution. *Not in the damning sense that one feels when the crush of your life pronounces you a “nice girl,” but as in pleasing on every level, if not profound–but sometimes profound changes. I have many times found something new to appreciate about it.

    pssst…CH is a guilty pleasure of mine…kind of like Amarige, or Poeme…none of them are the kind of thing like Infusion d’Iris — Id’Iris is one of those scents you could pack as the only thing you have for a month, and all would be okay — but it is a fun bomb. To me.

    • Shelley says:

      GAK!!!! My guilty pleasure is Caroline Herrera, the original, not the new CH thing of which you spoke. Ack!!!! I’ve had it with my brain.

      • March says:

        Well, I was all set to defend your defense of CH a la it takes all kinds, but you’ve just made my job a lot easier. 😉 Your loving CH didn’t make any sense to me!

  • Kathryn says:

    I am impressed that you got beyond reach of cell phone and computer. That’s increasingly hard to do up here in the north woods. I seem to recall seeing the sun once or twice last week, so hard as it may be to believe, you got the best of our unusually dismal summer weather here so far.

    The idea of Eau de Reglisse plus the smell of the Maine woods is really intriguing. As soon as the trails dry out, I think I will try that on my next hike.

    • March says:

      We were over near Castine, sort of, and we did have some nice weather. Not the flukey brilliance we had a year ago in mid-June (I think it rained once) but good enough for me. I don’t even mind the clouds, so long as it’s not pouring all day. I did get to do some kayaking in the fog, which was spectacular — I’d not done that before. The water was like glass on those still mornings, so I could hear the porpoises blowing all around me, out of sight in the fog. Eerie and entrancing simultaneously. Didn’t stray too far from shore, to keep my bearings and avoid the lobster boats…

      • Kathryn says:

        Brilliant weather is actually more the norm this time of year than the soggy summer we’ve been having. But I do know the kind of still, foggy mornings you write of so well. It’s an entirely different kind of sensory world. It’s not just that you can’t see much that makes sounds seem more vivid. You actually can hear more because sound carries better when the air is so dense. There is something magical, too, about the way shapes emerge out of the fog. Did you see any herons close to shore? They always thrill me.

        Good idea to avoid the lobster boats. Prices are so low that the fishermen are getting really touchy. The state just closed down the fishing grounds around Matinicus Island because there is a lobster war going on there. Lines cut, shots fired. It’s pretty wild. But I do hope you got some lobster to eat. Thinking fond thoughts of lobster rolls at The Bagaduce Lunch!

        • March says:

          I did not see the herons. Maybe next time. I did see plenty of the Bagaduce! I am entranced by their onion rings, which are (in my humble opinion) the best I’ve ever had. We even did a drive over to Blue Hill to try those. Bagaduce is better, although I get halfway through their enormous serving and start to feel ill. That’s like a week’s worth of grease for me.

  • Nava says:

    You know, I’ve loved Prada IdI since the moment I first smelled it. I just can’t stand that it up and leaves me about an hour after I put it on. But, I can relate to your delayed appreciation of it; lately, I’m discovering scents that I normally would sprint far, far away from. Not that I ever could sprint in the first place…

    I’ve never been a fan of any CH scents, but I now have a perverse need to smell this one. Stay tuned… 🙂

    • March says:

      Definitely smell it and report back; after all, you can’t say you weren’t warned. 🙂 Don’t get it on your clothes!

  • Melissa says:

    You are so right about the Prada. Lovely and I don’t know why I never reach for it. So, I will. Soon.

    As for the CH, the last time I wandered into Nordies, an overly eager SA chased after me with a bottle and I stupidly relented. I too recoiled from my own arm. Luckily, I ran into a cheerful, young (and sympathetic) SA at another counter who doused me with a variety of skin cleansers. I think I tried nail polish remover too. Tenacious dreck.

    • March says:

      CH seems so entirely not your thing that I’m giggling at the idea of you even trying it on. And it certainly does demonstrate the rule about scrubbers lasting forever — eventually I got sick of it at home and even my failsafe, liquid laundry detergent, didn’t quite do it. I thought I was going to have to sand some skin off. Thank God I was careful (I usually am) not to spray toward my clothing.

      • Melissa says:

        I was being polite. Which is usually not my thing either when it comes to SAs chasing after me with department store fragrances. I don’t know what I was thinking.

        • March says:

          The thing about Nordstrom is they’re usually not so aggressive. I stopped going into Macy’s for awhile, just for that reason — the Perfume Harpies right there at the entrance, offering to slay me with Boucheron Trouble or something equally hideous.

    • Nava says:

      Ha! “Tenacious dreck”. You should e-mail that to Chandler Burr. You could flummox a whole army of French perfumers with that one. 😀

  • Musette says:

    OOop! Meant to respond to the Prada: I still cannot smell that stuff but okay – I am going to try this again. You know my anosmia to iris but some of it gets through – we’ll see.

    The model looks like a praying mantis and for a second I thought she had E.T.’s hands! Lord, I sound like my mother but: whatever happened to girls just looking, I dunno, PRETTY?

    xo the old bat, >-)

    • March says:

      Lord, I love you. You like fashion, have you ever looked at their clothes? Some of it is lovely, but much of it seems deliberately ugly to me. Dumpy avant-garde? Is that the aesthetic?

      • Musette says:

        I think MMP giggles every time she cashes a ginormous check!LOL!

        but that’s just me.

        Of course, she might not be giggling – have you seen how SHE dresses? Never once have I seen her in anything that flatters her figure – and the TIGHTS, MM, the TIGHTS!

        (crap. hope she’s not reading this;-)

        xo >-)

    • carter says:

      Now, girls, girls…be nice.

      I actually *get* her for some reason. Not the techno stuff, the dowdy stuff. Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t be copping to that. But her shows were really fun recently when she had all those praying mantiseseses in, like, 18″ heels and they were falling down on the runway all throughout the show. I was sure that someone was gonna lose an eye, or snap a twiggy leg, or something equally interesting. Fortunately I was wrong. I am being nice.

      But Miss Herrera, Totally Wow. Always. The clothes, that is. Too bad about the frag.

      Hey, March — welcome back! I kinda dismissed the Prada as an iris to take seriously, so I’ll be rethinking that now. I love it when some new facet is revealed upon further consideration, and that’s why I love me some Posse 😉

      • Musette says:

        I know – we’re just AWFUL!

        but you know, it just bugs me when ‘fashion’ ends up looking raggedy. That’s why I adore Herrera and de la Renta (must be the Latin thing). You never see Jimmy Choo with his hair messed up.

        I just wish she’d pull up her tights, is all. And maybe wear something that flattered her figure.

        Lord knows I would, if I had her resources.

        xoxo your fat >-) friend

        • carter says:

          Oh, shut up! She is the epitome of reverse pretty. The Ep-I-Tome, I say. Dowdy is the new black, anyway.

          • carter says:

            (I have two MUCH older sisters and two brothers and shut up is a term of endearment as far as we’re concerned.)

          • carmencanada says:

            Putting in a word for Miuccia too… I always totally got her aesthetics: she deliberately plays on the unflattering, I suspect, because of some sort of pride verging on arrogance that I really like in a woman designer. As in “I won’t cater to the common idea of pretty, and I’m not playing into the clichés of seduction”.
            For that reason I always thought of her as a designer that is much more appreciated by women than men. As a fashion writer I could never find much to say about the “just pretty” designers, but I always found ideas in Prada, and I think fashion really needs that. Miuccia has consistently fed the mainstream with what she comes up with.
            I also think that the perfumes, though quite good, are a lot less interesting than the fashion: she hasn’t carried the idea through.

          • carter says:

            What she said.

  • carmencanada says:

    What I wanna know is: did CH also work as mosquito repellent? I don’t know how the buggers are in your neck of the woods, but I distincly remember NOT wearing fragrances for my foresty forays in Québec: I’d have been eaten alive.

    • Musette says:

      D –

      You need to get a big ol’ honkin’ bottle of Avon Skin So Soft oil – slather it on right after a shower; I wore this for a month in Africa and whilst folks slathered in Cutters and other repellents were getting nipped, every single flying, biting little bugger stayed as far away from me as they could get. I dunno what is in that stuff but for bugs it definitely has the Mr Yuck label.

      The one scent that bities around here seem to hate is Guerlain Vetyver. I wear that and I am a Bug-Free Zone.

      That CH sounds like napalm.

      Welcome back, li’l Missy March – you were missed!


    • March says:

      Weeeeellll… Canadian and Alaskan mosquitos are a whole different ball of ugh, so I hear from others. Like much of the US today, my area is now heavily infested in warm weather with the Asian tiger, a daytime mosquito. I suppose I’m naturally repellant (no surprise there) as I am generally the last person bitten in a group. As far as perfume goes, I know everyone says it attracts mosquitoes but I’ve never noticed it doing so. I did stop wearing it while gardening because of the bees…

  • Flora says:

    Mr. Yuck is right – I just tried CH too, they were really pushing it at Nordy’s -GAAACCKK! What are they thinking? It as okay for about half a minute and then BAM, the plastic hits like a ton of bricks. I love Carolina Herrera’s first fragrance, but everything since is a disappointment. This one is more than that, it’s pathetic. It needs a Britney Spears or Paris Hilton label on it instead, or even Mr. Yuck – then I would KNOW to stay away. >:-(

    • March says:

      After reading Burr’s review, I am going to revisit Carolina Herrera and Carolina, which I might have more appreciation for now. But this was just dreadful. It’s one of those unpleasant surprises that I think, who smelled this as it was being developed, and why did they like it?

  • Mary says:

    I laughed out loud at Mr. Yuck. Love him!!! Please review many more Mr. Yuck scents (just kidding).

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday and welcome back.

    • March says:

      I did have a lovely holiday, thanks. Lots of water-related activity (kayaking, sailing, etc.) Not swimming — I consider Maine water unswimmable, although the girls went in. 🙂

      I should do some more Mr. Yuck interviews. It’d be pretty easy!