No. 19 on the 19th

vintage No. 19 ad

It’s that time of year again. I know Chanel has decided to commemorate Coco’s birthday with the release of Gabrielle this year. Still, I don’t think there’s a better way to mark the 19th of August than by wearing her own fragrance, No. 19 itself.

I’ve written about the EdT here before and it’s still my favorite formulation. I also own a bottle of the EdP. And I’ve recently acquired a 14 ml bottle of the parfum after finally taking the plunge into the world of fragrances on ebay. This particular little parfum came to me completely sealed and in the original Chanel double box. I was curious about the authenticity but, when I broke the seal and smelled the parfum, I was sure. The nose can tell, and I feel like No. 19 is a difficult one to fake. (Though it’s always possible someone mixed a bit of real No. 19 in with a fake concoction.)

The parfum opens with an intense galbanum note, with just a hint of tangy bergamot. The galbanum is much more rich here than the EdT. It transitions to an earthy, powdery texture but that green galbanum is still there. It’s funny, I find the parfum more powdery than No. 19 Poudre. There’s some real warmth to the parfum, too. The EdT is all shimmering, cold, and green galbanum to me. A touch of warmth starts to creep into the parfum with the earthy orris. And I believe there is some true oakmoss in my formulation (or at least closer to real oakmoss than anything we’ve gotten recently). It seeps through the composition like ink, green and slightly damp.

I find this is a true parfum, and by that I mean it’s very potent (you don’t need to apply much) but at the same time, it’s a smooth composition. It wears close to the skin, and it won’t overwhelm your senses like a powerhouse. When I wear No. 19 in any form, it envelops me in a mist that’s almost like a fairy world. It invites me to this green grassy world, delicate florals dancing in the background, and with that mossy undercurrent snaking through all the while.

There is always something wistfully sad about No. 19 in any of its formulations. Maybe it comes from knowing the history, knowing that this was Coco’s personal fragrance and that it was the last Chanel fragrance to be released during her lifetime. I think it has to do with something integral to the composition, too. A lot of people describe this scent as “arrogant.” Perhaps it is. That green galbanum is the star note, so bitter and cold. I think what people miss is that No. 19 has some real emotion to it, and that it’s seductive in its own way. Particularly with the parfum, there’s a juxtaposition of cold and warmth that’s beautifully magnetic. Maybe it’s not sexy. Maybe it’s not flirty and fun. But it’s Chanel through and through.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

____________________

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

Image taken by me. Info on notes from Fragrantica.

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.

__________________________

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

The image is from Fragrantica

Memoir Woman by Amouage

amouage memoirNotes: absynth, cardamom, mandarin orange, pink pepper, wormwood, clove, incense, pepper, jasmine, rose, white flowers, musk, French labdanum, oak moss, styrax, and leather.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I always find myself craving Amouage’s Memoir Woman. February is the shortest month of the year, but it can often feel like the longest. Sometimes you need a little something extra to get you through this last bit of winter. Amouage is a brand known for opulence and, just from glancing at the cluster of notes listed above, it’s easy to tell that Memoir Woman is definitely something special.

For me, Memoir Woman starts out dark and becomes brighter as it develops. The opening is a zesty dose of aldehydes, pepper, and orange fruit. The leather note is also present for me right away. It conjures up the feel of a deeply luxurious black leather, like grabbing a black handbag on your way out the door for the night.

As the leather develops, smoke begins to waft and curl its way around the skin. Smoke and incense fragrances have been playing very quietly with my skin chemistry lately, but not Memoir Woman. This is a bold fragrance and the smokey note is no exception. Because of the clove note, I get the distinct impression of smoking black clove cigarettes. My friends and I used to smoke these in college (thinking we were so grown-up!) so there’s a bit of a nostalgia factor here for me.

I know the only fruit note listed is the mandarin orange but, after a couple hours of wear, I get the impression of red fruit. It’s both sweet and tart, and it has some texture to it, almost like raspberry jam. Perhaps it’s the combination of the pepper and the florals. Whatever it is, it’s quite appealing. And the composition never crosses the line into being too jammy or sticky sweet.

The leather note is at the heart of the dry down. It’s a little less dark here, but no less rich. I sense soft musk and rose, and there’s a lingering sweetness rounding things out. The perfume still casts some projection even in the late dry down stages, and it lasts for ages. The scent lingers on clothes, on my scarves, and on sheets. If I wear Memoir Woman to bed, my bedroom smells like this dry down stage in the morning.

I’ve tried its counterpart, Memoir Man, and I far prefer the Woman version. It just feels that much more rich and full-bodied to me, and it’s the one I find myself returning to again and again. Amouage runs on the extravagant side of the price scale. I personally have not splurged on a full bottle yet, but I hope to eventually. Amouage is the perfume house turn to if you’re in the mood for decadence, and Memoir Woman is my preferred choice for indulging.

samples and full bottles of Amouage fragrances are available from Luckyscent, which is where I keep replenishing my sample of this fragrance.

Image and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

L’Orpheline by Serge Lutens

serge orphelineNotes: aldehydes, cedar wood, fougere accord, coumarin, clouds of ambergris, patchouli, incense, and cashmeran.

This new Serge Lutens release is based on the simple notes of musk and incense. However, as always with Lutens and his partner in perfumery, Christopher Sheldrake, it’s not necessarily a simple fragrance. L’Orpheline opens with a gentle cloud of musk and light cedar. The aldehydes add some lift here so that the composition doesn’t appear too heavy right off the bat. I get a quiet, warm sensation of myrrh, but nothing hugely smokey from the incense.

Even though the incense isn’t dominant for me, it’s easy to see incense’s influence on the fragrance as a whole. The opening of L’Orpheline is similar to stepping into a cathedral, taking a seat somewhere in the wooden pews, and soaking up the hushed atmosphere. L’Orpheline continues with this hushed, muted tone. Despite the musky and woody notes, this is never going to be an overwhelming kind of fragrance, which makes it excellent for daytime wear.

But the muted aspect doesn’t mean that L’Orpheline is a “weak” fragrance (in fact it’s an Haute Concentration eau de parfum). I’ve been wearing this in some very humid weather, and it really blooms on the skin. It takes on a soft and comforting texture without ever feeling heavy. I haven’t felt that it’s inappropriate for hot weather because the composition retains that cloud-like feeling all the way through. The musk and cedar develop a lightly sweaty aspect that runs in an undercurrent beneath the soft cashmeran cloud. This lends a sultry air to the scent, it’s even a little bit sexy!

“L’Orpheline” translates to “the orphan girl.” It is known that Serge Lutens was separated from his mother at a very young age. Without getting into psychoanalysis, it’s safe to assume that the theme of this fragrance holds a lot of personal meaning for Monsieur Lutens. What, then, might he be trying to communicate with the creation of L’Orpheline? It’s certainly an odd perfume, not an obvious blockbuster the way some of his previous fragrances have been. And yet, a blockbuster isn’t always what’s necessary.

L’Orpheline is subtle and chic enough to wear to the office. It’s also elegant enough to wear out, and soft enough to wear as a comfort scent. L’Orpheline is all of these things, and also firmly its own creation. The quietness of this fragrance demands that the wearer stop, listen, and figure out how best to wear this, demonstrating that loud showiness isn’t always necessary to draw attention. L’Orpheline definitely won’t be for everyone, it won’t even be for all Serge Lutens fans. But it’s undeniably striking in its own subtlety.

Serge Lutens is available from Barneys New York. Full bottles and samples are available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

Image is from Fragrantica, and info on notes is taken from Luckyscent. It’s worth noting that Fragrantica lists musk and incense as the only notes, while Luckyscent goes into more detail.