Honeysuckle & Davana by Jo Malone

Notes: artemisia, rose, honeysuckle, and moss.

I always love a Fall release from Jo Malone London. I love the tradition of visiting my local counter and trying the new annual release. It really puts me in the mood for the transition to Fall. This year’s release, Honeysuckle & Davana is a green floral, which might come across as more springy, but I’m really enjoying wearing it right now. There’s something about it that just feels right for the moment to me.

Honeysuckle & Davana opens with a pretty, blooming honeysuckle note, as you might imagine. The interesting part is that it’s also quite green and herbal from the artemisia note. In researching this perfume composition, I’ve learned that the davana herb is part of the artemisia family. Davana on its own is a chameleon note and can really vary depending on skin chemistry. I wonder if Ann Flipo, the perfumer, cleverly used artemisia here to give that herbal davana feel, while ensuring that it would be a bit less variable according to people’s skin chemistry, (Of course, you can never guarantee what something is going to smell like with someone’s skin chemistry!)

The green herbal note leans to the bitter side, which I enjoy. I’ve seen commenters on Fragrantica saying that it’s too bitter. Safe to say, if you don’t enjoy a green bitter note at all, this scent probably isn’t for you. Luckily, the rose note comes through in the heart and softens the bitterness. My skin chemistry doesn’t pull off a fully blooming rose note very well, and this is why I enjoy the herbal, bitter artemisia so much here. It really balances the composition.

I would have guessed that the dry down is actually sandalwood because it leans very woody on me. The SA at my Jo Malone counter told me that the dry down is musk, so who knows what’s actually going on here! The woody notes that come through on my skin make for a nice transition as the herbal artemisia top note fades. It also blends well with the floral notes. I don’t see anyone being offended by this dry down. It’s just really pleasant and a nice way to close out this composition.

I haven’t enjoyed a Jo Malone release this much since Wood Sage & Sea Salt (which is still a great one). I get 6 hours of wear time before Honeysuckle & Davana completely fades away, which is quite good from Jo Malone. It’s a perfect daytime scent. I’ve even been able to wear it to yoga class without offending anyone with an overbearing fragrance. As always, I urge everyone to test this on out the skin. The paper tester doesn’t pick up the herbal nuances here the way skin chemistry can.

I am really taken with Honeysuckle & Davana. It’s easy to be cynical about so many new releases coming from the fragrance industry as a whole right now, whether it’s mainstream, niche, or indie brands. We’re dealing with over-saturation from just about every corner of the industry. With all of that being said, it feels good to unabashedly enjoy a new release! I hope you’re all finding something to enjoy as well, as we transition to Autumn here.

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Honeysuckle & Davana is available now from Jo Malone, Nordstrom, Saks, and Sephora. I purchased my bottle from the Jo Malone counter at my local Nordstrom.

Photo taken by me.

The list of notes is from Fragrantica.

Chanel No. 5 EdT

When I first became interested in the world of perfume, I was a Guerlain girl all the way. I didn’t think Chanel was for me. In particular I didn’t think No. 5 worked with my skin chemistry, nor did it suit me overall. Now, here I am, over a decade later, and I’m a Chanel girl. And, when you’re a Chanel girl, you have to dive into the world of No. 5.

When I used to work in fragrance, I would constantly hear “No. 5 smells too perfumey” and, of course, the dreaded “It’s too old lady.” We associate No. 5 with old ladies because it’s what everyone’s grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-aunts all wore. That’s the reality of a classic, iconic fragrance. But our great-aunts weren’t always old. At one point, they were young women and perhaps they wore Chanel even then.

For those clients who would make the “it smells too much like perfume” comment (which is an endlessly frustrating comment for someone working in fragrance to hear), I would steer them towards No. 5 L’eau or the No. 5 Eau de Toilette concentration. And that is how I became hooked on the No. 5 EdT myself. There is something about the way the notes weave in and out in the EdT concentration that is pure magic.

It starts with the aldehydes, which are clear, shimmering, and pleasantly sharp here. It’s not the same champagne rush of the aldehydes in Cristalle. You can sense there’s a lot of substance swirling beneath these aldehydes, but you have to be patient. I typically don’t get much of a substantial rose note from Chanel compositions, except here in the No. 5 EdT. The rose note is the central floral heart note on me. It’s delicate, but substantial. A smokiness from the vetiver begins to weave in and out creating a really interesting contrast of the floral and smoky.

The vetiver eventually leads into the earthy base notes of patchouli and oak moss. I also get the impression of a sheer yellow ylang-ylang that reminds me of a sweet dessert wine. According to Fragrantica, there is supposedly still a civet note in the base. While I definitely get a substantial musk note here, I don’t get anything quite like civet on my skin. I’m guessing it may be more pronounced in the pure parfum concentration.

The No. 5 Eau de Toilette is the original concentration that Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux released in 1921 (along with the pure parfum). I like to think that, even through all the reformulations over the years, there’s still a bit of the magic of the original in the current EdT formulation. Sometimes it wears very quietly on my skin. Other times it’s louder and more insistent with a lot more vetiver and earthy oakmoss. However, the EdT is never heavy or overwhelming. And it’s certainly not “too perfumey.” Although, naturally, I don’t believe there is such a thing!

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Photo taken by me. I ordered my bottle of the No. 5 EdT directly from Chanel.

Twilly d’Hermès

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Notes: Ginger, tuberose, and sandalwood.

Twilly is yet another new launch from a storied fragrance house aimed at capturing a young audience. Compared with Chanel Gabrielle and Dior’s Poison Girl, I think Twilly is the most successful of this group. Twilly was of course composed by Hermès in-house perfumer, Christine Nagel, and it truly does smell like the younger sister counterpart to 2016’s Galop d’Hermès. The rose and leather of Galop were elegant and refined, whereas Twilly is just that little bit more approachable, both in terms of the notes and the price point.

Hermès officially lists only three notes for Twilly, although it is worth noting that Fragrantica adds bergamot, bitter orange, jasmine, and orange blossom to the Twilly pyramid. The ginger is definitely present as the main player in Twilly’s opening. I can sense a sparkling bergamot as well, but I really don’t get orange or other citrus notes here. Ginger really is the star. It’s spicy and effervescent, almost like a fizzy ginger ale. It’s a unique opening that definitely gets your attention.

The tuberose here is appropriate for a young wearer, so no weird facets here. It’s definitely a recognizable white floral, but the ginger lifts it. Tuberose can sometimes become overbearing as it develops on my skin, but it never does here. My nose can’t pick out jasmine on its own in this composition, but I can sense a touch of orange blossom. This is because Twilly takes on a soapy feel, but it’s soapy in a French way. That is, it doesn’t smell “clean” like so many American brands would try to project. Rather, it reminds me of the type of decorative soap you might come across in someone’s very fancy powder room. I have the impression of going to touch up my makeup in the ladies room at a very upscale hotel.

The tuberose blends seamlessly with the creamy sandalwood base note, and makes for a gorgeously smooth dry down. This is what I wanted from the Gabrielle dry down. This sandalwood has quite a bit of heft and depth to it. I have worn Twilly to work and while the ginger and tuberose wear off, I can still smell the sandalwood at the end of the work day. It’s definitely more of a skin scent, but it’s noticeably there.

I visited my old Sephora store during the recent sale and bought a 50 ml bottle of Twilly. Of my recent fragrance purchases, I am happiest with this one. I think Twilly is successful because, even though it’s aimed at a young audience, it doesn’t feel condescending or juvenile. The packaging is adorable and perfectly symbolizes the Hermès twilly scarves. I think the only criticism is that true perfume addicts may be looking for a more complex pyramid of notes. Personally, I think Twilly’s simplicity works because the ginger adds a touch of uniqueness. Overall, it’s a really lovely effort from Hermès.

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Photo taken by me of my 50 ml bottle of Twilly.

Info on notes from Hermès.

Now Sampling: Cire Trudon

For a candle lover like myself, it’s always fun when Cire Trudon releases their holiday candles for the year. For people not into candles, the brand has also released a fragrance line: Maison Trudon. It’s very true that Cire Trudon candles are a luxury (and very much at the luxury price point), but the quality is excellent. I wanted to sample a few of the new perfumes to see how the quality holds up.

Olim: When I saw Kevin of Now Smell This comparing Olim to Jicky, I knew I had to smell this one. It’s definitely a fougère, with sparkling bergamot and lavender top notes. I get a healthy dose of clove and patchouli in the mid-notes, so I would classify this as more earthy-spicy than Jicky. Olim has a powdery musk base, so it definitely has that animalic vibe. The absence of civet makes it a little more approachable than Jicky. Overall, Olim is delicious and worthy of a Jicky comparison.

II or Deux: This one is absolutely perfect for this time of year with notes of bitter orange and pine needles. This one almost makes me think of a festive ski lodge. It has that cool alpine snow feel to it. I’m curious how this would come across in warm weather. It might feel out of season, or it could be refreshing and cooling. I’m currently loving this one.

Mortel: Lots of black pepper mingling with incense here. I normally love a good pepper note, but it’s a little strong here for me. This is a really wearable incense if you don’t generally go for incense. And there is a gorgeous cedarwood note here in the base that makes me feel like I’m sitting in a church confessional! Again, this scent feels appropriate for this time of year, but it’s much more contemplative than festive. This is the one to wear if you’re in a serious or meditative mood.

Overall, the three I’ve sampled are beautiful compositions. I’d love to try more from the line and I’d love to purchase Olim if I could make it work with my budget. It will go on the ever-growing list.

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Photo taken by me of the gorgeous Ciel candle released for this holiday and my three samples, which I ordered from Luckyscent.

Autumn Nostalgia and Burberry Brit

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Is it me, or is this year flying by? I recently noticed I hadn’t posted here at all during the month of October and now we’re already into November! Some real Fall weather is setting in here, as the days are getting both colder and shorter. One reason I haven’t posted much lately is that I haven’t been trying many new scents. I’ve been wearing what I have in my collection, which is a good thing! Plus, sometimes, you just have to go with what the nose is craving and, for me, that’s been some old fragrance favorites.

With the arrival of November, the weather has taken a sharply cold turn this week, and there was even some snow in the forecast! (Which didn’t end up materializing.) This meant I was scrambling to dig out my earmuffs and gloves. I also found myself searching around in my closet for another cold weather accessory: Burberry Brit. I knew I had an old, well-loved 100 ml bottle stashed away and, sure enough, it was at the back of my closet, where I had stored it away from sunlight during the warmer months.

Burberry Brit is certainly not the most elegant or complex scent out there. It is essentially a vanilla scent, jazzed up by a fun lime top note and one of the most comforting almond notes I’ve come across. There’s a lovely woody note in the base to add depth, which I have always thought was cedar, but Fragrantica informs me is actually mahogany. The magic of Burberry Brit is that it’s both comforting and sweet, while not coming across as cloying or juvenile. I wore it into work today, and I could just as easily wear it out for dinner or drinks and be satisfied with my scent choice.

To my nose, Burberry has been infusing more of the floral peony note into recent formulations while amping up the vanilla to make the composition come across as more traditionally feminine. It is also now explicitly called Burberry Brit For Her. I find this really irritating, as the original formulation was perfectly unisex, and an utter classic for being so.

Burberry Brit was one of my signature scents throughout college, which likely contributes to my nostalgia for it now. Still, there is something about cold weather at this time of year that just makes this scent come alive. Sometimes you simply have to wear a personal classic. For me, that’s Burberry Brit.

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Photo taken by me of my 100 ml bottle.

(Incidentally, Burberry has recently redesigned the bottle and the packaging as well.)

Portrait of a Lady: Take 2


Fragrance reformulation is a huge topic of conversation in perfumeland, and for good reason. Everything is eventually reformulated these days. Even if the original composition is both IFRA-compliant and a best-seller, brands are always looking for ways to produce their compositions in a less expensive way, and tweak the formula accordingly.

Reformulation came up when I was discussing Portrait of a Lady with Undina. PoaL is a dear favorite of hers, but I had only recently tried it (I wrote about it here last November). Undina kindly sent me a small sample from her PoaL bottle so that  I could test it against my own more recent sample and report back the results.

I was curious if the two versions would smell different immediately at first sniff. The answer is: they don’t. That beautifully spiced rose is there. It’s clearly still the same inherent DNA with both versions. I find the difference lies in the patchouli heart and in how the two develop on my skin. I originally thought the patchouli was rich and bold in my sample. In trying Undina’s PoaL, there’s even more of a richness to the patchouli. It’s not overpowering, but there is clearly a depth in the development that my sample just doesn’t achieve.

I also find my sample more powdery (something I mentioned in my original write-up) but there’s none of that in Undina’s PoaL. The rose is balanced in Undina’s. It’s fully developed, and has a softness to it at the same time. But it doesn’t come across as powdery to my nose. In fact, when wearing the two on each wrist, the powderiness of my more recent sample is really striking. I’m not sure what the FM team could have added (or subtracted) from older formulas to create that, or why they would want a more powdery effect? Of course, it could also be a strange fluke of my skin chemistry.

Reformulations can be a real frustration, and the bane of some perfume-lover’s existence. It raises some interesting questions though. If brands continue to reformulate their compositions on a regular basis, can there be a “definitive” version of a fragrance? Does that make the original batch the “truest” version of a fragrance?

One of the reasons I bought Gabrielle was to own a bottle from an early batch. In waiting years to test Portrait of a Lady, did I wait too long? I think my recent sample is lovely, but I’m really grateful I got to test an older composition as well. Like I said, it’s still recognizable as the same fragrance. It still has the same inherent DNA, but there are differences. Undina’s PoaL gives me a different experience with that truly full-bodied patchouli. It’s just a gorgeous perfume, and even more worthy of Isabel Archer.

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A huge thank you to Undina for letting me test out her gorgeous PoaL!

Photo taken by me.

 

Gabrielle Chanel

Notes: Mandarin orange, grapefruit, black currant, tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom, sandalwood, and musk.

I ordered my bottle of Gabrielle when it was released online August 19th. It was a blind buy. We all know the hype and the story. Chanel had not released a new pillar fragrance for women since Chance in 2002. I blind-bought this because, of course, I was eager to smell Gabrielle. I also wanted to own a bottle from an early batch production to help stave off purchasing bottles of the inevitable reformulations. And, quite honestly, I simply wanted to own a new Chanel release.

So, how does Gabrielle really smell? I will say that I was not impressed at first sniff. The grapefruit in the opening has a bite to it, which is not a bad thing. However, taken with the other citrus and fruity notes, it’s reminiscent of J’adore from Dior. Gabrielle has that similar slightly headache-inducing sharp fruit vibe. I was mentally side-eyeing Chanel at this point. Did we really wait all this time simply for Chanel to release a J’adore clone?

Fortunately, there’s quite a bit of development from the opening to the heart of the fragrance. The Chanel marketing copy states that “Olivier Polge crafted this Eau de Parfum as an imaginary flower — a radiant, and sparkling, purely feminine Chanel blossom based on a bouquet of four white flowers.” The four white flowers being: tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang. I love a white floral, so this is the stage where Gabrielle hooks me. I find the line about “an imaginary flower” extremely accurate here because none of the floral notes stand out to me individually. I wouldn’t classify this as a fantastic example of a tuberose or jasmine fragrance. The florals are blended to the point where this could be a newly imagined floral.

If anything stands out to me, it’s a bright white jasmine and a full-bodied ylang-ylang note. The ylang-ylang is more of a yellow floral, but that’s not a bad thing. It brings a bit of texture to this otherwise smooth white floral blend. The problem with Olivier Polge’s imaginary flower is that most of the defining characteristics and little quirks of the individual florals have been blended out. Both Polge and Chanel are working overtime to ensure that Gabrielle is as pretty and appealing as possible, but this might be better achieved by simply letting the individual floral notes shine.

My real issue with Gabrielle is the dry down, or lack thereof. I love a good sandalwood dry down, and I would even be willing to put up with a white musk dry down just to get some base notes going here. I get a lot of wear time out of Gabrielle, but it’s all floral heart notes. When my skin chemistry decides that it’s time for the fragrance to fade, that’s it. It’s like the composition falls off a cliff. There’s no base whatsoever on my skin. It’s the strangest thing.

All this being said, do I actually wear Gabrielle? Yes, I’ve had my bottle for nearly a month now and I’ve worn it frequently. It’s a great scent to wear into the office. And I do think it fits in with Chanel’s style: pretty and classy. But it’s nowhere near being a classic. It’s not even in the same league as Olivier Polge’s release from 2016, No. 5 L’Eau. I will continue to wear Gabrielle, but it’s not the knockout release many of us were hoping for. Nor is it the type of fragrance we know Chanel is capable of doing.

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Photo taken by me.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.