Woohoo, Guest Post!

Happy August, folks.  Let’s try something new.  Today please welcome our guest poster, Carolyn!  Carolyn comments on the Posse, and we got to “know” each other over a long-distance swap (Worth Courtesan for local gourmet chocolate, we both came out winners).  In one of those great small-world coincidences, Carolyn lives in Santa Fe, where I lived for a decade and hope to return, and now I have a new friend there.

Meantime, my Beauty Pie fragrance sample pack showed up a month or so ago, and I ….. had a big ol’ head scratch over them, because they were fleeting, and sometimes I could barely smell them at all, although I could tell there was something there.  As I’ve written on here before, I’ve struggled with transient anosmia since an elective surgery two years ago.  It’s frustrating and annoying, but I’ve largely made peace with it.  I realized that, even with hindsight, I’d still have opted for the surgery which has been a big positive change in my life, and somehow that realization helped me move on.  Anyway, I asked Carolyn (without telling her my first impressions) if she’d like to smell them and share her thoughts, I thought that’d be a fun exercise, I was curious what she’d think.  Here you go.

*  * *

Many thanks to March for giving me the opportunity to experience these perfumes!

Who is Frank Voelkl?  He created the four perfumes we tested for Beauty Pie. According to Fragrantica’s database, he is a senior perfumer who has created 82 perfumes for 34 different companies.  Some of his more popular scents include Sara Jessica Parker’s Covet, Le Labo‘s Santal 33 (he created 15 scents alone for Le Labo), Kenneth Cole’s Reaction, and Glossier’s You.

Petals, Heliotrope & Ambrette EDP

Top notes: tuberose petals and greens

Heart notes: natural gardenia, Arabian jasmine and heliotrope

Base notes: musky ambrette seeds, vanilla, coconut shells

Beauty Pie calls this an earthy floral but I found nothing even remotely earthy.  I would characterize it as more of a gourmand floral.

I admit that I approached this one with some trepidation given that white flowers can be overpowering for me. I’ve been punched in the nose with a bouquet of tuberose and rammed face first into a jasmine bush by such perfumes in the past.  Turned out there was no reason to be cautious…these are white flowers “lite.” The greens in top notes were a nice counterbalance to the tuberose, keeping it from becoming heavy.

I had no memory of what heliotrope smells like so I looked it up to help identify what I was sniffing.  Turns out that heliotrope is referred to as the cherry pie flower because its scent oscillates between marzipan, vanilla, cherry pie and almond.  As you may know, heliotrope is a key player in Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and Apres L’Ondee, both of which I’m dying to smell now. Anyway, the heliotrope in this Beauty Pie scent nicely balances the gardenia and jasmine in the middle notes.  No bubblegum jasmine here. Now I’m wondering if heliotrope will grow here in Santa Fe because who wouldn’t want their backyard to smell like cherry pie?

Low/no projection at all.  Longevity is extremely short.  It turns into a faint skin scent within an hour and was undetectable at about 2 hours. Never got to enjoy the base notes.  No coconut for me!

Brazilian Lime, Fig Leaves & Tea EDP

Top notes: fresh lemony limes and Brazilian orange

Heart notes: black tea and fig leaves

Base notes: cedarwood and amber

The first couple of minutes I got a blast of what I thought smelled like lime and what my spouse swore was lemon.  Neither of us could detect the orange.  Within a few minutes the fig leaves come out to play.  Those leaves are quite green at first and then turned a little bit soapy. The black tea is detectable in the background but seems bashful about taking center stage.  I would definitely characterize this as a “clean” fragrance.  I am quite fond of cedar but could never smell it or the amber during dry down.

One of the reasons I love wearing perfumes is the chance to find out more about my spouse when I ask her if they bring up any associations for her.  Doing so with this one led to a story about Aunt Mary and Aunt Lizzy, her Italian “old as Stygian Witches, spinster” aunts, who lived together in a plastic-covered crystal palace (aka 2-story apartment), had dyed red hair her Nana found scandalous but made my spouse wonder if their heads were on fire, and who possessed an overwhelming collection of fragile objects that the kids were strictly forbidden to touch each and every visit.  The perfume brought them to mind for her as the fig leaves are reminiscent of their bathroom potpourri.

Throw on this one was again quite low and longevity was inconsistent. It became a faint skin scent within about an hour.  On my first try I could just barely detect it at the end of my work day.  On my second try it was undetectable after 2 hours.

Red Apple, White Peony & Cashmere Wood EDP

Top notes: Sicilian lemon, mara strawberry and red apple

Heart notes: white peony, orange blossom and cedarwood

Base notes: cashmere wood and ambergris

Oh those top notes are FRUITY!  I don’t detect any lemon and I’m not a fan of strawberry/apple notes in perfume so I’m probably not the target audience for this one.  I adore peony (so difficult to get right in a perfume), orange blossom and cedar, so I really wanted those top notes to disappear quickly and leave me with the heart notes for awhile.  Alas the top notes lingered because Murphy’s Law.  By the time the cloud of fruit disappeared from center stage, there was just a little time left for heart notes.  I was very happy with the peony but the scent disappeared quickly so I never detected cedar or any of the base notes.

Love Perfume EDP

Top notes: Calabria bergamot and quince

Heart notes: black orchid, apricot nectar and muguet

Base notes: cedarwood, sandalwood and amber

On first sniff, I get a little fruit and a little lily of the valley.  We have a huge apricot tree in our front yard.  When we get a bumper crop we can’t give them away fast enough to avoid a huge number of them falling into our driveway where they get run over by our cars and turn into liquor and fruit leather.  Last year we had such a year and I thought I’d NEVER get the smell out of my nose so I tend to be overly sensitive to the smell of apricot.  I do not detect apricot nectar here, which was a relief for me but would probably be a disappointment for others.  Once again, the perfume was a faint skin scent very quickly and completely gone within a couple of hours.  I never got to smell the base notes.

General Thoughts on All Four Perfumes

Pleasant/inoffensive (to quote my spouse, “not bug spray”), office friendly, fleeting.

I don’t mind low throw scents given the increase of cubicle culture in work environments.  It’s unlikely that you’d trigger chemical sensitivities or migraines in an office mate with these perfumes.  The issues with longevity, however, mean these are perfumes that aren’t practical for me.  I’d have to carry around a travel decant and spray every hour to enjoy the top and some of the heart notes. As a vintage perfume lover, I’m “all about the base” so I was disappointed that I didn’t smell the base notes in any of these perfumes. Perhaps I am anosmic to the particular base notes he is using?

For Comparison Purposes: Glossier You

Top notes: green iris root and pink pepper

Base notes: musk, ambrette and ambrox

According to Glossier, this is supposed to be a linear perfume, smelling exactly the same all day.

You is one of those ‘your skin but better’ scents.  Unfortunately, I can’t smell anything about 30 seconds after spraying myself with it.  I inadvertently scared my housemate and my spouse when I thrust my arm under their noses and pleaded for their help describing it, saying I couldn’t smell anything.   Their minds, of course, flew immediately to COVID.  So, word to the wise, if you wear this one you might want to find a less upsetting way to ask others for their opinion on the scent if you can’t smell it on yourself.  After they got over their fright, my housemate said she thought it smelled a tiny bit spicy and my spouse thought it smelled fresh and clean. As for me, the scent remained completely undetectable regardless of length of time it was on my skin.


March’s wrap-up:  Thanks, Carolyn!  The fact that Carolyn had issues smelling these made me feel better, frankly.  I’m not a chemist.  Maybe the reason I can more easily smell some fragrances (or whole lines, like Annick Goutal) has to do with the specific musks and other aromachemicals they’re using.  Even pre-surgery there were scents I struggled to smell, as well as other scents I became hypernosmic to – cedar can do that to me, for example.  Over several tries, some subtle cedar note goes from a whisper to being beaten over the head with a broom.  Who knows?  Smell is weird.

Frank Voelkl’s fragrance style is more stripped-down and subtle – more ‘smells like skin’ and less of a bold statement.  And maybe he uses some of the same ingredients regardless of who he’s working for, like a painter fond of a particular shade of blue.  And so it makes sense that a lot of people losing their minds over his fragrances can just …. perceive them a lot more fully than I can.  I liked all four Beauty Pie scents, but ‘like’ isn’t enough to make me want to buy a bottle, although I’m glad I tried them.  They’re just too evanescent on me, although – like Carolyn – I got some odd looks from my boys when I asked if they can smell them.  The boys can clearly smell them just fine.  I’m wearing some vintage Mitsouko today while I finish this post up (it’s 97F outside lol) and you’ll be relieved to hear I’m not having any trouble smelling it.  But you do you.

Have you tried any of Frank Voelkl’s fragrances?  Do you struggle with being able to smell something, either not enough or just too damn much?


  • Portia says:

    YAY! Carolyn is writing perfume. AMAZING! I knew you could. Welcome to the Posse!
    You going to be sticking around longer than the perfumes you describe?
    Portia xx

    • Carolyn says:

      Awwww…thank you Portia! This was so much fun! Happy to help out whenever called upon.

  • Tara C says:

    Well, nothing to see here! I do love a couple of Frank Voekl scents: Le Labo Benjoin 19 and Ylang 49. The Ylang 49 is totally nuclear and really fills a room, so very dissimilar to what you smelled. But he does seem to do a lot of sheer things, like the Nomenclature scents.

  • Maya says:

    Thanks for the review. Now I can scratch him from the “list”. I have had certain perfume lines not last on me. A friend gave me a bunch of D.S. & Durga samples once. They all disappeared within less than 30 minutes. The same with Sylvaine Delacourte’s vanilla line and they’re all really lovely. Oh Well….

    • Carolyn says:

      I know what you mean. The top notes on some of these were very nice but…poof…gone so quickly!

  • Dina C. says:

    Thanks Carolyn for your great reviews! 🙂 These sound like scents meant for people who feel obligated to wear scent, but who actually hate perfume! Hahaha

    • Carolyn says:

      Hey Dina, well I’d say the target audience for these scents is certainly people who aren’t fans of “polarizing scents.” Yeah, I’m talking about you Zoologist Hyrax!

  • Musette says:

    I just looked up his oeuvre on Fragrantica – https://www.fragrantica.com/noses/Frank_Voelkl.html

    He did my all-time favorite LeLabo, Iris 39 (which I own in oh, so many iterations) and a lot of celebuscents and lines I’ve not heard of (my bad – cutting up the Card as we speak).


    • Carolyn says:

      I need to explore more of the Le Labo line. I used to work close to their flagship (?) store and never ventured over there while I lived in NYC. And with that admission, the gold card just got further out of reach.

    • Dina C. says:

      Wow, I’m stunned, because I own and love that one, and it’s a a really strong powerhouse on my skin! I guess he has more than one style of perfume work.

  • Musette says:

    OMG! Carolyn! Thanks for taking a hit for the team, here! These sound… okay. Not offensive (which, as you said, given today’s office culture, isn’t a bad thing) but I don’t want the hassle of having to spritz all damb day just to get some sniffage! Frank Voelkl has only surfaced on my radar recently (and I’mo have to turn in my Perfumista Platinum Card as I’ve never smelled Covet)

    • Carolyn says:

      My pleasure Musette! Our household got a new story out of my spouse, which was worth the frustration of “ohhh that smells kinda nice, wait where did it just go” that testing these perfumes entailed. I’m going to set my sights reasonably and hope that someday I’m offered a gold perfumista card. And when I get it, I’m going to hold onto it with a death grip! 😉

  • MMKinPA says:

    SJP Covet is one of my all them favorites, but I don’t think I have tried much else from Voelkl. I’m guessing that the problem with the Beauty Pie fragrances has more to do with the price point/quality of ingredients than his style. (Member price of $25/100ml)… From Carolyn’s review they sound a little like some of the fragrances I have from Yves Rocher – pretty but little longevity; can be had on sale for a song. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying them but I don’t run out to collect them either. I do applaud BeautyPie for offering travel sprays, and the clean looking bottles are appealing. (Maybe I’ll try them after my no-buy ends!)

    • Musette says:

      that is PERSACKLY the line that sprang to mind when I read Carolyn’s in-depth reviews – these sound less interesting than I would want to go in for – and I’m not even that adventurous when it comes to Daily Perfume Wear (vintage No5 and Mitsouko DO NOT COUNT!)

    • Carolyn says:

      Agree that price point may lead to these being more fleeting. Covet has been on my list to try for awhile. I just recently got a bottle of Lovely. I know…wildly late to the party….

  • Kathleen says:

    Well-done and entertaining review Carolyn! I enjoyed reading your post!
    The only Frank Voekl fragrances I own are Laura Mercier Amber Passion and Espeit de Oscar.
    I struggle more with smelling perfume not enough. I rarely get overwhelmed by fragrance. And I find too many fleeting. That’s what I love about vintage perfume as well; drydowns are beautiful with better longevity.

    • Carolyn says:

      Thank you for your kind words Kathleen. That there was no “there there” when it came time for the base was my biggest disappointment. I live for base notes!