Jicky: purchasing my priciest perfume

 

This post is a little bit of a follow-up to my previous one, which contained a mini-rant about the skyrocketing price points on the niche fragrance market, in particular. The difficult thing about it is: perfumery is an art. It truly is. But the fragrance industry is a business. Art and business are always tough to reconcile when questions of value and worth arise. It’s all good fun smelling beautiful creations from the likes of Kilian and Amouage. It’s not always so fun when it comes time to make a purchase.

I thought I would share my own experience with purchasing the most expensive fragrance I own: Jicky in the parfum extrait. I first encountered Jicky when I was in New York with my grandparents. I was lucky, we were staying at the Waldorf, where there’s a Guerlain boutique in the lobby. I first tested the Jicky EdT and fell in love with the stark, shimmering lavender note. I didn’t yet know the history behind Jicky or that there was a parfum extrait. I just knew that I was magnetically drawn what I was smelling, and that I needed to keep smelling it.

Over the course of the next few months I did a lot of reading up on Jicky. I read every review I could find online. I learned about the extrait, the bottle design, the (likely invented) story of Aimé Guerlain and his first love. My reading also taught me a lot about the history of Guerlain in general. It was exhilarating in a way, learning so much about the history of perfumery. It made me hungry to try more from Guerlain. It also made me desperately want to *purchase* more from Guerlain, which I’m sure makes the business execs happy to hear.

Fast forward several more months. I had now been accepted to grad school. I should’ve been saving my money. Instead, I took a weekend trip to New York and made a beeline straight for the beauty department at Bergdorf’s. I walked right over to the Guerlain counter (which is strangely sort of hidden away in a corner) and announced to the sales associate that I wanted to purchase Jicky.

I had a wavering moment of panic, as the sales associate produced the luxe gold box that houses the parfum extrait. Surely I should ask for the canister EdT bottle? Well, yes, I should have done that! But I was swayed by the decadence of it all. Instead I reached for my wallet and paid $300 plus tax for my prize, my treasure, my very own bottle of Jicky.

Immediately upon leaving Bergdorf’s, my phone rang with a call from my bank wanting to know if I had just made a $300 purchase in New York City myself, or if my card had been stolen.

What did I learn from this experience? Notify my bank ahead of time when I’m traveling. Don’t spend $300 on a fragrance when you should be planning for grad school. Also, that it’s simply not necessary to own every single perfume, even when you feel that magnetic pull of “I want this.”

I still own my bottle of Jicky and I absolutely love it, and probably fawn over it more than is normal. I still wear it. I will always wear Jicky in some form. Jicky is a piece of art, and a piece of Guerlain history. I’m really lucky to own it. But is any fragrance worth over $300? The Guerlain parfums are $350, and I feel like they could (and will) go even higher with that price point. All I can say is, I hope that I’m a little wiser with age now. And I hope that I can balance that sense of wisdom and responsibility with my passion for perfume.

“Superstitious” Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle

superstitious

Notes: jasmine, rose, peach, amber, incense, vetiver, patchouli, and aldehydes.

I was very excited for this newest edition curated by Monsieur Frederic Malle. It seems that this one is a similar idea to the Dries Van Noten collaboration from 2014. I loved Alber Elbaz’s work for Lanvin (and I would love for him to take over at Chanel but Uncle Karl seemingly will never leave us). However, I was wary when I read about the aldehydes in the fragrance. Make no mistake, Fragrantica might list aldehydes last in the notes for Superstitious, but this fragrance is all about the aldehydes. They are present from start to finish. And, dare I say it? This might be the scent that finally inspires me to love aldehydes and the way they show up on my skin.

I’ve noticed quite a few commenters on Fragrantica mentioning that the aldehydes in Superstitious have a clean laundry feel. This is not quite the case for me. The aldehydes definitely have a clean feel, but it’s more crisp and cool, not laundry soft. I find that there’s a biting edge to the opening here. It’s not a sharp citrus note, nor is it refreshing. It’s metallic without coming across as too harsh or chemical. This gives Superstitious a modern feel right away. It’s almost as if the fragrance is winking at you (like that eye on the bottle) saying this could be a vintage fragrance in the style of a classic Lanvin, but those modern aldehydes jump out at you, saying otherwise. I notice the jasmine appearing in the opening as well, white and luminous, to soften the aldehydes just a touch. This is possibly one of the most difficult openings I’ve ever tried to describe, as it’s very abstract. And I get the feeling that the abstraction was done very much on purpose.

Something else I’ve noticed from the comments on Fragrantica is the endless comparisons to the Grande Dame of the Frederic Malle collection, Portrait of a Lady. It’s inevitable, given the fact that Dominique Ropion composed both scents, and the similar rose and patchouli notes. (Although I have to be honest, the rose is undetectable to me here). Some people don’t feel Superstitious is really different enough to stand apart from Portrait of a Lady, and the rich patchouli in the heart admittedly is extremely similar. If Portrait of a Lady is your all-time signature scent, I understand that you might not get much out of Superstitious. Portrait of a Lady is an ode to a classic novel and is a beautiful expression of perfumery. Superstitious, on the other hand, is kind of an oddity. It’s like an ode to classic perfumery with a pastiche of modern elements mixed in.

If the opening was difficult to describe, the base is where things really get mixed up. The patchouli of the heart notes makes Superstitious a gorgeous warm and rich fragrance and, again, it’s almost in the vein of a delicious vintage Lanvin scent. The incense note starts to come in towards the base. It blends with the patchouli and weaves in and out, disappearing and reappearing again. It’s very seductive. There is something else noticeable too, and here is where I will link kafkaesque’s write-up of Superstitious because it’s a great piece of writing and because reading this helped me figure out the base notes here. When first testing Superstitious, I detected something screechy and chemical in the dry down. I wondered if it was the aldehydes turning on me, but this note is not the dry, crisp metallic edge of the opening. As kafka explains, it’s Ropion’s white musk making an appearance in the base. I’ve had similar experiences with white musk in other compositions, hence its status as one of my least favorite base materials. Fortunately, there is so much going on in this composition that the white musk doesn’t derail the whole fragrance for me.

Overall, Superstitious is a gorgeous, inventive, and sometimes puzzling perfume. It’s absolutely worth testing. Whether it’s worth purchasing is another question. The 100 ml bottle of Superstitious is up to $370. I would love to own this bottle with the chic design by Alber Elbaz, but it would be pretty hard for me to justify at this price point. There is always the travel spray, but even that is expensive for a small amount. Undina and I have talked about this in the comments on other posts, but it really is such a shame that niche price points keep rising higher and higher with no end in sight. Putting aside the idea of “exclusivity,” I’m afraid some of these brands will price themselves out of being relevant. I love Superstitious in all its abstract strangeness. But when you think about the price point, it’s very difficult.

______________________________

Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle are available in the US from Barneys and Nordstrom. You can also purchase directly from Frederic Malle. I purchased a sample of Superstitious from Surrender to Chance. I plan to finish up my sample and purchase a decant. I won’t have the chic bottle design, but it’s the more reasonable option.

Both the image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.

Chance Eau Fraîche by Chanel

Notes: lemon, cedar, pink pepper, jasmine, water hyacinth, teak wood, iris, amber, patchouli, vetiver, and white musk.

It’s hard to believe that Chance Eau Fraiche has been out for ten years now, but it was indeed originally released in 2007. I remember it well, as I was studying in Paris at the time. I got sucked in by all the advertising and fanfare that comes along with a new Chanel release, and I saved up my euros to buy a 50 ml bottle (A 100 ml bottle was too far out of my price range at the time. Even the 50 ml was pushing it on a student budget, let’s be honest). That bottle was well-loved, and Chance Eau Fraiche has been my companion every summer ever since.

The top notes start with a lively, juicy lemon, which is typical enough for a summer scent. The interesting thing about Chance Eau Fraiche is that the lemon is paired with cedar as part of the top notes. This is unusual, especially for a women’s fragrance. The cedar note comes through quite strong on my skin, and I love it. The shimmering lemon note keeps the composition balanced and gives it that “fraiche” quality.

Another interesting thing about Chance Eau Fraiche is that I find the heart notes green and aromatic, where I would normally sense aromatic notes in the opening. The main mid-note I sense is jasmine. More than a white floral, it’s a green floral here. The water hyacinth must be what I’m sensing as the fresh, cooling aromatic note. The jasmine brings more of a rounded, full-bodied aspect that balances out the cedar.

I’ll be honest about the dry down, I don’t get many of the listed notes at all, except for a subtly smoky vetiver. I sense the cedar all the way through the composition, including here in the base where it blends with the vetiver for a deliciously dry and woody phase before the scent fades away.

I decided to write about Chance Eau Fraiche now because it’s a favorite of mine. Recently I noticed that the Chanel website lists it as “limited edition” although I believe it just means that one of the sizes is limited (the 1.2 oz bottle) not the fragrance itself. Still, perfumistas are used to precious favorites being discontinued, and it gave me a scare. It would be a shame if Chanel were ever to discontinue this one. The composition is unique and dynamic, especially in a very crowded and same-y women’s fragrance market. It’s also beautifully wearable, particularly during these hot and humid July summer days. Even if it’s not limited, I’m stocking up on Chance Eau Fraiche, just in case.

_______________________

Chance Eau Fraiche is available directly from Chanel and you should be able to find it in person at any Chanel counter.

The image and info on notes are both from Fragrantica.

Epice Marine by Hermès

Notes: cumin, hazelnut, sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, sea notes, whiskey, vetiver, and oakmoss.

The Hermessence line is the Hermès equivalent of Les Exclusifs from Chanel and the Christian Dior Privée line. (Which I believe is now being called La Collection Couturier Parfumer Christian Dior. Really succinct and abbreviated!) It seems that the most exclusive luxury houses feel the need to produce ever more exclusive fragrances. I really enjoy a few of Chanel’s Exclusifs. Epice Marine is my first foray into the Hermessence line. I’m glad I started with this one because it’s really interesting and surprisingly wearable for a fragrance containing a hefty dose of cumin.

Epice Marine was launched in 2013 and was composed by the Hermès in-house perfumer at the time, Jean-Claude Ellena. This is a classic Ellena composition in that it’s rendered in his typical sheer, transparent style. It’s best to go in knowing this, and not setting your expectations for a powerhouse that lasts on the skin for 12+ hours. Ellena composed this one in collaboration with a Breton chef, Olivier Roellinger. You can see or smell the influence, since Epice Marine has a salty sea air tinge to it as well as a very unique gourmand aspect. The cumin is strong right off the bat. In terms of épice or spice, I sense the cinnamon, and a touch of whiskey. This composition is definitely influenced by food, but it’s not foodie in a typical boozy/vanilla/chocolate way.

More than any specific kind of food, Epice Marine gives off the impression of a restaurant. This is a restaurant along the coastline with an outdoor terrace. But it’s not a pristine oceanfront view in the south of France. This is a northern Breton beach. The sea still offers a beautiful view, but the water is cold and forbidding. This is not a seaside for sunbathing. The whiskey note here is slightly smokey. Combined with the cinnamon it adds some warmth, or as much warmth as you’re likely to get from this scent. Epice Marine is otherwise firmly on the cool spice side of things. The cumin here is not sweaty. It’s green, and a little bit fizzy. It adds some liveliness. It’s the buzz of the diners chatting out on the terrace.

As the dry down comes on, Epice Marine takes on a baking bread type of smell. I have only encountered this type of note in Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant before. It’s subtle but it’s a doughy bread smell. I’m not sure where the bread note is coming from but it helps flesh out the whole restaurant impression. And I appreciate that this composition is almost a savory/salty gourmand rather than sweet, which is very unusual. It’s also not your typical calone marine/aquatic scent either.

It’s worth saying that Hermès offers sets where you can choose four of the Hermessence fragrances in a 15 ml travel spray. (You can choose to do four of the same one if you’re really attached to one in particular.) This is what I may end up doing once I try a few more of the Hermessence line. The price point for a full bottle is an Hermès price point, let’s be honest. But Epice Marine is worth it. For a fragrance that is so unusual, it’s also highly wearable. More than that, I love the restaurant dinner scene it evokes. It’s both inviting and a little bit strange. Simply put, it’s haunting.

______________________

The Hermessence line is available exclusively from Hermès boutiques and the Hermès website. I purchased a small decant from Surrender to Chance.

The image is from Hermès and the info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel

Notes: bergamot, Sicilian lemon, neroli, magnolia, musk, iris, and jasmine.

I’m continuing off of my previous post about spring-themed scents, and Cristalle Eau Verte is absolutely one of my favorites for spring. The original Cristalle was composed by Henri Robert and released in 1974 (and I will do a separate write-up of that fragrance because it deserves its own post.) Cristalle Eau Verte was released much more recently in 2009 and was of course composed by Jacques Polge. Eau Verte is definitely updated and modern. It’s an accessible kind of scent profile and it’s effortless to wear.

Cristalle is famous for its sparkling champagne-like citrus top notes. Eau Verte also opens with a sparkling sensation, but you can tell right off the bat that this has definitely been composed for a modern audience. The bergamot has that clean green aspect to it, and the lemon note is very pronounced. It’s a fresh and lively opening. It’s the kind of scent I like spritzing on just after a shower. It’s just that refreshing.

Luckily Cristalle Eau Verte is more complex than a typical body mist that you might apply post-shower. The florals come in and really carry this fragrance in a sophisticated way. I’m a sucker for magnolia, so I love getting to the mid-stage of Eau Verte. Magnolia is often creamy on my skin, and even peachy-fruity. The magnolia here is slightly different in that it’s creamy but, combined with the neroli note, it takes on a shimmering light sensation. It radiates off the skin, almost singing in a way. On a sunny day, I feel like you can almost see the shimmering effect of the magnolia and neroli on the skin. That’s one reason it’s perfect for spring.

The base continues the white floral theme with jasmine bringing a more full-bodied presence. There is also plenty of white musk, which is not my personal favorite base note, but it works for this composition. A tonka or sandalwood note would have been too heavy. I get 5 hours of wear time here, so it’s a pretty typical EdT.

Overall, is Cristalle Eau Verte the most essential or pivotal Chanel fragrance? Of course not. But it’s an excellent flanker. It works as its own fragrance and doesn’t diminish the original Cristalle. It’s sophisticated and more complex than many “fresh” spring/summer scents these days. It makes me smile when I wear it and, sometimes, that’s all you need.

__________________

I own a full bottle of Cristalle Eau Verte, which I purchased from Nordstrom.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Photo taken by me.

 

Spring Irises

I’m not a huge floral fragrance person, but even I can’t help myself for spring. (Miranda Priestly voice: “Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.”) This spring I’ve been drawn to iris in particular. Iris is fascinating in perfumery because it has so many different facets. It can be powdery and almost makeup-y. It can be dry, earthy, and crackling. It can be all these things, and a pretty, wearable floral to boot. Here are a couple of iris scents I’ve been trying:

Iris Prima by Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s refers to this scent as “the regal Prima Ballerina.” The perfumer, Alberto Morillas, worked with the English National Ballet to capture the elegance and glamour that go into a ballet production. Surely plenty of blood, sweat, and tears go into these productions as well, but Iris Prima is firmly on the elegant side of things.

Iris Prima opens with iris right away, along with a gorgeous shimmering bergamot note. The bergamot here is what really drew me into this fragrance. It’s not sharp or biting like bergamot can sometimes be, but it adds just enough zest to lift the composition. It’s definitely a stage lights coming on type of feeling. I was expecting the iris here to lean very powdery for a backstage makeup vibe. It’s still on the dry side, but I find this iris much more classic floral than makeup. There is a hint of jasmine too, which amplifies the floral bouquet.

I initially found the vanilla in the dry down to be too overwhelming. I usually love vanilla in almost any form, but it seemed to throw the composition out of balance. Now that I’ve worn Iris Prima multiple times, I really sense the leather in the dry down. The iris seamlessly blends into the dry leather note here, and maybe that’s why I missed it at first. I also think this is one fragrance that benefits from being worn in warmer weather. The heat brings the nuances more to life here. I really enjoy wearing this one.

Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

Feu Secret is a dry, woody, smoky iris, and a much more moody and contemplative composition. Orris root is the star of the show here, which means that this is less of a pretty iris right off the bat. It’s dry and earthy with a lot of depth, and there is a cedar wood note that blends in beautifully well. I love cedar, and I actually wish my skin would pick up more of the cedar note here.

I actually find Feu Secret more powdery than Iris Prima, which I did not expect! The orris root develops from a crackling dryness to a subtle kind of powder, and finally, to a suede-like smoothness as the composition reaches the dry down. Feu Secret lasts for hours (I easily get 8 hours here) so it takes some time to reach the dry down. And I personally wouldn’t wear this one in extremely hot weather. I’d love to try this in winter though, just to see how dry and earthy it can get. Feu Secret is another intriguing release from Bruno Fazzolari and it’s definitely worth at least testing out.

____________________

I ordered samples of Iris Prima and Feu Secret from Luckyscent. I ordered the samples at different times, but realized that I liked rotating these two in particular. Hence this iris-themed post!

Picture taken by me.

Quick Hits: Matière Noire by Louis Vuitton


Just a quick write-up today. I haven’t had much to say about the (still rather new) Louis Vuitton collection of fragrances. I’ve tried a few at my local Louis Vuitton boutique when I’ve had the time. Nothing was catching my attention or working with my skin chemistry, until this one!

Matière Noire is a fruity/rose/patchouli. I wasn’t overly interested in this one until I realized there’s another note worth paying attention to here: incense. I first catch a sniff of it in the opening, which comes across as a slightly smoked blackberry jam. It’s a weird and interesting sensation. The incense then appears again, weaving its way through the floral heart notes, and making way for a slightly smokey oud and patchouli base.

Incense usually comes across as very subtle and quiet on my skin, so I don’t often think of it as a major player for me. It’s nicely noticeable here, but it always stays in balance with the rest of the composition. It makes for a clever addition to this fragrance and adds some real interest.

My only complaint is that I wish we could have a leather note here in the base as well. It would work so well with the incense. I’ll just have to try layering this one with a leather-centric fragrance!

________________

I received a sample of Matière Noire in person from the SAs at my local Louis Vuitton boutique. The photo above is taken by me.