Now Sampling: February 2017

Like most perfumistas, I collect fragrance samples. (I have a spreadsheet to keep track of all of them.) It would be impossible to write about every single one. And, let’s be honest, not every single scent merits an entire write-up either. But, I did a Luckyscent haul at the beginning of the year and I’d like to do a short bit about a few scents that were interesting. Hopefully, I’ll do these posts periodically throughout the year to keep track of what I’m currently testing.

Blackpepper by Comme des Garçons

I’m in a black pepper mood, what with Poivre Electrique from Atelier Cologne and now this from CdG. Luckily they are two very different takes on the same theme, and this one is perfect for the dreary winter weather we’ve been having lately. Blackpepper is a warm and rich take on a cool spice, with heavy doses of patchouli and cedar. For such deep notes, it wears very close to the skin. I really enjoy it, but this is not a huge one for sillage or longevity.

Intense Café by Montale

I will try almost anything that relates to coffee or has coffee/cafe in the name. Similar to Café Rose from Tom Ford, Intense Café is a gourmand rose scent to me. The coffee note here is mixed with vanilla, and is more like a rich vanilla latte from Starbucks than the bitter coffee note I’m looking for. Intense Café is very pretty, and very long-lasting, too. But my search for my ideal coffee fragrance continues.

Gold Leaves by Regime des Fleurs

Sometimes there just has to be a scrubber in the mix. The description and the notes for Gold Leaves sound gorgeous, including: iris, oakmoss, and cardamom essential oil — sounds interesting! On my skin, it’s a strange lily note and absolutely nothing else. It’s a scratchy, eye-watering, allergy-inducing, chemical lily. I’m sure Gold Leaves works better with other people’s skin chemistry. It’s just not for me.

Vetiver de Java by Il Profumo

This is the kind of masculine scent I love and wear for myself. The vetiver is very green, mixed with a strong cedar note. However, on my skin, this isn’t a deep smoky woody scent. It leans more green/soapy in that traditional English after-shave type of scent (all that’s missing here is the lavender note). It strikes the perfect balance for me between clean and woody, and this is going to be my transition scent as we head into spring weather.

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As stated, I purchased all of these samples from Luckyscent.

Photo taken by me.

Rousse by Serge Lutens

Notes: amber, Mandarin orange, cloves, resin, cinnamon, and cedar.

Rousse is a special one to me. It was initially released in 2007 and it is sadly now only available as part of the exclusive Serge Lutens bell jar line. I suppose it wasn’t a terribly big seller. On the one hand, I can understand why. But, on the other, I love Rousse. It’s the perfect type of warm spice you’d want to wear in the doldrums of January/February. And it’s my go-to for Valentine’s Day.

I was lucky enough to snag my 50 ml spray bottle shortly before it was announced that Rousse was moving to the bell jar line. You can see it has the old Serge Lutens Palais Royal logo, which I love. I still have a substantial amount left. The juice has definitely changed over the years but, like a fine wine, Rousse has aged well. The fiery hot cinnamon is still very present. It always reminds me of Red Hots and various Valentine’s Day candies.

Rousse was initially famous for a waxy lipstick note paired with the cinnamon. It’s much less waxy now. I find it has developed into a warm rich musk and something like orris butter. I can’t find any specific floral notes listed for Rousse. (Least of all on the Serge Lutens website. Uncle Serge is always cryptic.) I’m guessing there’s a touch of iris and some kind of white floral. Kafkaesque guesses that it’s magnolia, which makes sense to my nose. Whatever the floral note, it’s become much more prominent and creamy over time.

Overall I think Rousse has become a little bit more smooth with time. It still has a quirky edge to it though, so it’s not completely mellow. That cinnamon still crackles right off of the skin with heat and intensity. The supporting notes seem to have become more rich and creamy, as though Rousse has now grown into itself. If you happen to track Rousse down, it’s absolutely worth it. There are so many greats from Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens, but this one is a real gem.

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Rousse is available directly from Serge Lutens in the 75 ml bell jar bottle.

Image taken by me. Info on notes from Fragrantica.

Galop d’Hermès

galop-hermes

Notes: saffron, quince, osmanthus, rose, leather, and white musk.

Galop was released in 2016, and it marks Christine Nagel’s first pillar fragrance for Hermès after Jean-Claude Ellena’s departure. (She did create Eau de Rhubarbe Ecalarte while Ellena was still with Hermès.) I’ve been so interested to try this release but, as with most things Hermès and considering that it’s a parfum concentration, it’s rather pricey. I finally got a small decant for myself, and I’ve been testing it for the past few weeks.

On my skin, Galop actually opens right away with the leather note. There’s no leading up to it, the leather immediately takes center stage. This leather is definitely elegant, but it has a strength to it at this opening stage. I see people commenting on Fragrantica saying that this is a “masculine” leather and perhaps that’s what they mean. To me, it’s the leather of a saddlery here. You can clearly see the Hermès heritage but it’s not quite the refined leather of a Birkin. Not yet. This leather has a peppery bite to it, and just a tiny bit of a wild edge.

Of course this is Hermès, so Galop is going to be about sophistication above all. That opening leather note never turns too harsh, and the rose and the fruit notes quickly come into play to balance it out. I get a jammy vibe from the quince. It’s almost like a blackcurrant jam. It adds some texture to this composition without becoming foody or gourmand. The jammy fruit texture makes the rose comes across as both rich but also delicate by contrast.

In fact, Galop is all about contrast. The leather and the rose are both equally the stars of the show here. As I wear Galop, the rose and leather intertwine with one another, both coming across as strong and delicate in different moments. As mentioned, Galop is a parfum concentration. It has excellent sillage and projection during the first few hours of wear time before noticeably drying down to a skin scent. Some people may want a little more projection out of this one, but I don’t mind because the leather is beautiful in the skin scent stage. The dry down has a refined yet alluring sensuality to it that is both very Hermès and very Christine Nagel.

I love Galop d’Hermès and I’ve gone through my decant alarmingly quickly. I’m still not sure about a full-sized bottle. Again, Hermès is always an investment and, I have to admit, I find the stirrup bottle a bit gimmicky. But, if anything, Galop makes me more excited for future Hermès releases from Christine Nagel. She nailed it in this case.

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Galop d’Hermès is available directly from Hermès and in person at boutiques and counters. It’s a parfum extrait concentration, and is available in the stirrup bottle and a refill bottle. I purchased my small decant from The Perfumed Court.

Image and the info on notes are both from Fragrantica.

Blind Buys: Valentina Assoluto

 

Notes: Italian bergamot, peach, white truffle, tuberose, jasmine, Madagascar vanilla, oakmoss, patchouli, and cedar.

Serious perfumistas know better than to make a purchase sight un-sniffed, as it were. And yet, I think we’ve all done it. Whatever the reason is, pretty packaging, a good name, or just the need for instant gratification, we’ve all been guilty of fragrance-related blind buys. I certainly am, anyway!

My most recent adventure in blind buying is Valentino’s Valentina Assoluto. The delicate pink packaging reeled me in. Then I was caught by the promise of an absolute version of Valentina, which I sampled at Nordstrom a few years ago but never really fell for. The price ($79 for the 80 ml size) helped as well. There was no tester in sight, but I snapped up a box anyway and got in line to check out. How bad could it really be?

Luckily, it turns out that Valentina Assoluto is very pretty on the skin and my chemistry seems to work nicely with it. Similar to the original Valentina, the Assoluto is a pretty white floral. This 0ne has a fizzy champagne quality to it, reminiscent of a bellini when the peach note comes through. The white truffle note is noticeable and it adds a dash of playful weirdness to a composition that might otherwise come across as a bit pretty-but-boring.

It now appears that Valentina Assoluto is out of stock on Valentino’s US website. Considering that I bought this for a discounted price at Saks off Fifth, I’m hoping they aren’t phasing this one out. It’s quite pretty, with a bit of interest and depth to truly make it worthwhile.

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It looks like Valentina Assoluto is currently available from Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus. I purchased my bottle at Saks Off Fifth.

Image taken by me.

What’s in a Name? Gender & Jicky

jicky-extrait

Jicky from Guerlain is my all-time favorite fragrance, but I’ve written surprisingly little about it on here. I want that to change so, from time-to-time, I’ll be doing write-ups about various aspects of Jicky.

 

It starts with the name.

“Jicky? What the hell does that mean?” At least that’s what I asked myself the first time I encountered Jicky in person at a Guerlain boutique.

The myth of the Jicky name only adds to the confusion. Created by Aimé Guerlain, the story that seems most likely is that Jicky was the nickname of his nephew, Jacques Guerlain. As stories go, that one isn’t overly exciting, and Guerlain itself seems to enjoy confusing the issue by perpetuating the legend of a love story. As the legend goes, Jicky was the nickname of an English girl with whom Aimé fell in love while studying abroad in England. They couldn’t marry each other because the families didn’t approve, so Aimé returned to France and created a fragrance in her memory.

Whether or not the myth of Jicky is true, it certainly makes for a fabulous story. The one thing that both stories have in common is that, whether referring to a man or to a woman, Jicky is a nickname. It’s intimate, almost a term of endearment. It’s fitting for Jicky the fragrance, considering the deep civet note, it’s definitely an intimate scent.

I first tried the Eau de Toilette version of Jicky. The cool shimmering lavender, that hallmark of the fougère genre, is the star of the show here for me. This makes the EdT very accessible for the men’s fragrance market. Jicky also exists as an EdP (which Guerlain now offers in the bee bottle) and as a parfum extract. These higher concentrations are warmer with higher doses of that smooth, rich coumarin. I love and own the extract. However, the EdT is what first made me fall for Jicky.

For what it’s worth, Guerlain lists Jicky under women’s fragrances on their website, but it’s accompanied by a marketing note declaring it to be “the first unisex fragrance in perfumery.” The thing about Jicky is that it defies categorization. It is neither strictly a men’s nor a women’s fragrance. It’s both, and it probably was the first fragrance to appeal to both. But, to me, unisex almost sounds like another type of classification, and Jicky is beyond that.

Because what I find really striking about Jicky is that it’s a self-possessed fragrance. I always get the feeling that it doesn’t conform to you, your skin chemistry has to adjust to it. When you wear Jicky, you are Jicky. That’s its magic. You are the myth.

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Further reading: Monsieur Guerlain’s definitive write-up on Jicky.

The image is from Fragrantica

Poivre Electrique by Atelier Cologne

atelier-poivre-electrique

Notes: bitter orange, black pepper, pink pepper, incense, pimento leaf, Turkish rose absolue, myrrh, sandalwood, and cedarwood.

Along with the smell of coffee, the smell of freshly cracked black pepper is one of my favorite smells. There is something so fresh about black pepper. It’s aromatic, but with a touch of bitterness, which makes it interesting. When I saw that Luckyscent now has the new pepper-centric Atelier Cologne fragrance, I knew I had to try it. Poivre Electrique is part of Atelier’s newest collection, the Collection Orient. There are four other scents in this collection. Poivre Electrique is the only one I’ve tried so far (I’d also like to try Tobacco Nuit from this collection).

The first thing of note is that Poivre Electrique is definitely well-named. The opening of this fragrance is certainly electric. It’s an invigorating burst of black pepper. I know that pink pepper is listed in the notes but, to me, this one is all black pepper. Pink pepper comes across as powdery to me and I really don’t get that effect here. The citrus adds to the bitter aromatic quality of black pepper and amplifies it. I can see some people finding this opening a little sneezy, but I personally love it. It’s everything I enjoy about the smell of black pepper.

The opening here is so bright, I figured the black pepper would fade fairly quickly. However, it lingers all the way until the dry down for me. The cedar is the other major note that comes through for me. The deep cedar note really balances out the pepper and gives this composition an anchor. It also blends nicely with the citrus, giving the composition a seductive kind of Italian vineyard/earthy vibe.

The resinous myrrh makes up the bulk of the dry down for me here. The cedar fades and seamlessly blends into the myrrh note. It’s a little bitter for me, a little bit medicinal. It really mirrors the bitterness of the opening, but in a much more subdued way. I actually wish this dry down was a little more potent because I like this stage so much!

This brings me to my only issue with this fragrance, which is that it only last about five hours total on my skin. The black pepper note lasts well through the beginning and middle stages of the composition but, once the myrrh dry down kicks in, it goes from being a skin scent to undetectable very quickly. I don’t mind re-applying a fragrance, especially one that I like so much, but I wish I could squeeze another hour or two out of the wear time here. I might be able to get more longevity when wearing this in warmer weather.

It has to be noted that the Collection Orient fragrances retail for a heftier price than some other options from Atelier Cologne. Poivre Electrique is $130 for 30 mls and $250 for 100 mls. Atelier does offer 2 ml samples on their website, which is convenient. If you’re interested in any of the Collection Orient offerings, I definitely suggest trying a sample either through Atelier or from Luckyscent.

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Poivre Electrique is part of the Collection Orient from Atelier Cologne. It’s available directly from Atelier and also from Luckyscent. I personally ordered my sample from Luckyscent.

Both the image and the info on the notes are from Luckyscent.

Vert des Bois by Tom Ford (Private Blend)

vert-des-boisNotes: poplar buds, anise, olive tree, plum, mastic, jasmine, patchouli, tonka bean, and woody notes.

A new Private Blend release from Tom Ford is always exciting, and I think the Vert collection from Fall 2016 has made for some truly worthy additions to the line. Vert Boheme actually turned out to be my favorite and the scent I would wear the most. However, I wanted to write about Vert des Bois in particular because it has some interesting notes that I have not encountered before. The marketing proclaims that Vert des Bois is an example of “avant-garde processing of green perfume.” Normally I would be wary of claims like this coming from fragrance houses, but there is something markedly distinctive about Vert des Bois. I’ve never smelled anything containing poplar bud extract before, so that adds to the uniqueness.

Like many green compositions, Vert des Bois opens with a spiky and almost abrasive blast of greenery. However, there are no spices in the composition, no aldehydes here to give it a “sparkling” feel. I sense the olive note right away, which makes me think of the color green and adds to the overall effect. Vert des Bois is an immersive green, and I think it’s a little more bold than we’re currently used to from green scents.

That’s not to say that Vert des Bois is heavy. There’s a bright, sweet green note that shines through, and I believe it’s the jasmine mingling with the poplar bud extract. It’s hard for me to describe, possibly because I’m not familiar with poplar extract! It’s not overly sweet, nor overly floral. It’s a shimmering green that brings some light to the composition before the earthy patchouli really kicks in.

I wasn’t sure a green fragrance would work for Fall/Winter but the woody notes make this perfect for December wear. (Incidentally, I have not tried Vert d’Encens but with notes of pine resin and fir balsam, it’s likely the most appropriate Vert release for this time of year.) The dry down is like being in a densely green forest. This forest is partly cozy and partly dark. That cold-weather smoke smell seeps through here, I think from a combination of the patchouli and roasted tonka bean. I’m used to green fragrances coming across as much more “clean” than this, but Vert des Bois evokes cold, dark weather exceptionally well.

Overall, Vert des Bois is a fascinating experience. It’s bold, especially for a green scent. It has some darkness to it, but also some shimmering light aspects (a chiaroscuro scent?) I’m not convinced to splurge on a full-sized bottle for this one, but Vert des Bois is a must-try simply for its distinctiveness. I hope this one will remain part of the Private Blend line for a long time to come.

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Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances are available directly from Tom Ford’s site. They can also be found from the usual department store suspects: Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. I ordered my samples of Vert des Bois and Vert Boheme from The Perfumed Court.

The image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.