Plum Japonais by Tom Ford (Private Blend)

Notes: Japanese plum, saffron, cinnamon, immortelle, plum blossom, camellia, agarwood, amber, benzoin, fir, and vanilla.

 

There has been a flurry of activity concerning Plum Japonais recently. The rumor was that Plum Japonais would be discontinued to make way for the newest Private Blend release, Lost Cherry. I’ve been a fan of Plum Japonais for several years, and I finally took the plunge to buy it when I heard that it might be discontinued. Plum Japonais was originally released in 2013 as part of the Atelier d’Orient collection. The other Atelier d’Orient scents included: Fleur de Chine, Rive d’Ambre, and Shanghai Lily, all three of which have sadly been discontinued. If Plum Japonais were to follow suit, that would mean the entire Atelier d’Orient collection would be out of circulation. The current rumor at Fragrantica is that Plum Japonais will now *not* be discontinued. Who can keep up?

But enough about the drama! What does Plum Japonais smell like? It’s a classic Tom Ford Private Blend in that it opens in a rich, decadent manner. It’s all jammy plum and cinnamon on my skin for the first 30 minutes. It’s very Fall/Winter and the cinnamon makes it a little bit Christmas-y. It reminds me of mulled wine. This is one that becomes more opulent the longer I wear it. The saffron creeps in, adding to the spice of this fragrance. Then the plum fades slightly, only to be replaced by a floral note. The floral smells like jasmine to my nose. There’s also some oud here (the agarwood) but it’s very dry and comes across like patchouli to me.

The vanilla note comes in during the heart notes for me. After an hour and a half of wear, Plum Japonais takes on a creamy texture. It’s not heavy, but the texture is tangible. I would not wear this in hot or humid weather, where it would definitely become too heavy and overbearing. But in cool weather, these heart notes are delicious. The vanilla mingles with the spice for a warm spiced latte kind of vibe. At this point, the fragrance is yummy, and it’s really walking the line of being a gourmand. The dry down solidifies that this is not a gourmand. That dry oud returns, and it really is bone dry on my skin. There’s a light resinous note that smells like frankincense, but it’s in the background until the base completely fades away.

The similarities between Plum Japonais and Fille en Aiguilles from Serge Lutens have been covered in the fragrance community. I do indeed smell the similarities between the two. In fact, I also own Fille en Aiguilles and I wear it on Christmas Eve every year. Plum Japonais also reminds me of the festive cherry cola/leather smell of Mon Numéro 10 from L’Artisan Parfumeur, which I also wear around Christmas time. Clearly, this spiced, festive and opulent genre is a favorite of mine! The difference between the compositions for me is an emotional one. Plum Japonais is the type of scent that demands an occasion to be worn. It’s for holiday parties, even a New Year’s Eve party. Fille en Aiguilles, like many Serge Lutens compositions, gives me a more contemplative vibe. My family doesn’t attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve but, if we did, Fille en Aiguilles is the one (which is why I wear it on Christmas Eve anyway). And Mon Numéro 10 is to keep cozy on cold December nights.

There are so many perfumes out there these days. Let’s face it, many of them are going to share similar notes and accords. It all depends on what works with your skin chemistry and what you want to prioritize within your personal collection. Plum Japonais has a place in my collection, and I know I’ll get plenty of wear out of it this Fall/Winter. As for whether or not it will be discontinued, only Tom Ford himself could tell us. It will likely be discontinued at some point because that’s the reality of the market these days. I’m glad to have snapped up a bottle — even if the discontinuation rumors were all just a clever sales tactic!

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Plum Japonais is still available directly from Tom Ford. I purchased my bottle from Luckyscent.

The photo was taken by me. The info on the notes is from Fragrantica.

Tyrannosaurus Rex by Zoologist

Notes: bergamot, black pepper, fir, laurel leaf, neroli, nutmeg, champaca, geranium, jasmine, osmanthus, rose, ylang-ylang, resins, cade, cedar, civet, frankincense, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, and vanilla.

 

Tyrannosaurus Rex is actually my first foray into the world of Zoologist. I have of course seen the brand all over social media. The bottles with uniquely detailed illustrations of animals on the labels can’t help but stick in your mind. I just hadn’t had the opportunity to sample anything before now. Well, I’m starting with the king of the dinosaurs, and perhaps that’s the best way to begin! The brand refers to T-Rex as “a gargantuan scent” and it certainly is. Antonio Gardoni, who burst onto the perfume scene with Maai, is the perfumer here, and it seems fitting that the rockstar of the perfume (and architecture) world is the creator of this larger-than-life scent.

T-Rex starts off loud and gargantuan indeed on my skin. It’s all black pepper, birch tar smokiness, and just a hint of balsamic fir tree. This opening is chaotic, and it really shocked me the first time I tried it. It absolutely conjures up the chaos of the Cretaceous period. The smoke in particular signals danger and the reality of extinction. I have to be honest, the opening is just not wearable in a realistic way for me. I don’t want to get into my apartment building’s elevator and send everyone into a panic because it reeks of smoke! The birch tar is very strong on me. I only need to dab the tiniest amount of perfume onto my skin in order to get a huge impact.

This opening lasts for an hour to an hour and a half on my skin. By the two hour mark, T-Rex undergoes a shift, and the floral heart starts to shine through. This is where I feel the composition really starts to open up and it lets me actually wear it, instead of the fragrance wearing me. I get a big yellow floral from the ylang-ylang. (Everything in this composition is big and over-sized. That’s just the nature of Mr. T-Rex.) The black pepper has calmed down considerably by this point, but there’s still some rich spice from the nutmeg. There’s definitely a red rose note lurking, but it’s not allowed to dominate with so many other notes competing for wear time here. The heart of the composition gives me the impression of a streak of dried blood in a landscape that’s otherwise dense with flora and fauna, perhaps the only remaining visible sign of the once dominant T-Rex.

But don’t think that Tyrannosaurus Rex goes all floral and sweet at the end. Around the four hour mark, the civet note starts to come through on my skin. Here, T-Rex reminds me faintly of Jicky with civet and vanilla notes that are slightly reminiscent of the guerlinade base. But T-Rex isn’t dying down yet. I still get another solid four hours of wear time. The base is animalic, maybe signaling a shift from dinosaurs to mammals, with civet, leather, vanilla, and a gorgeous resinous note. I also get something slightly chocolately on my skin. It’s a dry, earthy chocolate, so I wonder if it’s the patchouli turning slightly edible on my skin. It’s an unexpected note here, but I always welcome a chocolate note!

Tyrannosaurus Rex as a composition isn’t really about whether or not I personally like it (I do, once I get past the opening). It’s about the challenge. It’s the challenge of composing a scent around an extinct animal and a time period during which humans didn’t yet exist. I think Antonio Gardoni pulled it off. T-Rex will definitely be a unique scent in Zoologist’s library of scents. (Unless they plan to do other extinct animals!) T-Rex is well-worth smelling. It’s an absolute must to test it on the skin because this is a composition that develops and shifts according to skin chemistry. That’s part of the challenge, too. As the wearer, this composition gives you the chance to tame the T-Rex beast, or at least get to know the beast a little bit better.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex is available from Zoologist and from Luckyscent. I ordered my sample from Luckyscent, but Zoologist also offers samples individually and in sample packs.

The photo and info on the notes are both from Zoologist.

And here is an interesting interview between Zoologist’s Victor Wong and Antonio Gardoni.

 

Belle de Jour by Christian Dior

Notes: pear, rose, woody notes.

Belle de Jour is named after the Luis Buñuel film starring Catherine Deneuve. One of the Dior SAs kept mentioning the film as I was purchasing this. This fragrance doesn’t evoke the film for me, however I’m sure Dior executives want people to imagine themselves as Catherine Deneuve circa 1967 while wearing this. Belle de Jour is one of the newer releases in the Maison Chistian Dior line, formerly La Collection Couturier, formerly the Dior Privée line. Let’s hope Dior will stick with this Maison Christian Dior title! To make it more confusing, some Maison fragrances are the original Privée scents, but relaunched. (For example, Gris Montaigne is now Gris Dior.) Belle de Jour is one of the entirely new compositions.

I tried Belle de Jour on a rainy New York September day, just as the weather was turning to Autumn. I spritzed this on at Saks, and then wandered around midtown in the rain, passing Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, The Palace Hotel, and crossing over to Lexington. The city was grey and chilly from the rain, but I felt contented because Belle de Jour was radiating a pleasant warmth around me. I get some lovely sillage out of this. It’s not a beast, but more like a very pleasant and fragrant cloud.

Belle de Jour opens with a pear note. It’s not necessarily juicy, but it’s fresh and very easy to identify as a pear note. Fragrantica, for some reason, lists the opening note as peach, but it’s clearly pear. The fruit blends right into the rose note. I normally don’t fall for rose scents, but it’s extremely smooth and easy to wear in this composition. The rose here reminds me of Liaisons Dangereuses from Kilian. That one from Kilian does contain peach blended with rose, and it’s much more carnal. Belle de Jour is sensual, but I don’t find it to be carnal or sexy (which is kind of funny, considering the Buñuel film).

The Dior SA also told me that the dry down is musk and woods. I couldn’t get anything more specific out of her. There are all different types of woody notes, but Dior remains vague about this. The dry down here reminds me of the musk in Tocca’s Margaux, which I love, and I don’t always love musk! Belle de Jour’s dry down is a warm, rich musk. It feels decadent without being over the top. Thankfully, it doesn’t smell overly synthetic either. Again, the rose blends seamlessly into this dry down before the last floral traces fade away.

In fact, the striking thing about Belle de Jour is that it’s an exceptionally seamless and smooth composition from start to finish. There are no rough edges here, nothing odd peaking out between the seams of the composition. Sometimes I enjoy a scent that has a strangeness to it, something that makes me think. In this case, I enjoy Belle de Jour precisely because it’s so beautiful in an effortless way. It feels pretty and luxurious without trying too hard. As I walked around rainy midtown Manhattan, not even caring about the weather because I felt at peace while wearing this scent, I knew Belle de Jour had earned its place in my collection. Reader, I went back to Saks later that afternoon and bought it.

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Maison Christian Dior fragrances are available from Dior and from Saks in store. I purchased my 125 ml bottle from Saks.

Photo taken by me.

List of notes taken from Fragrantica and from Dior.

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.