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.

Shangri La by Hiram Green

shangri la

Notes: citrus, peach, jasmine, rose, iris, spices, vetiver, and oakmoss.

Perfume lovers don’t always agree on much. But one thing I think most of us want out of a fragrance is some kind of longevity. A refreshing but short-lived Eau de Cologne has its place (the hottest, most humid days of summer), but I think a lot of us appreciate some serious wear time from our perfumes. That’s one reason I’ve been skeptical of natural perfumes. No sillage and no staying power seems to be the consensus when it comes to natural scents. Enter: Hiram Green Perfumes, which perfumer Hiram Green launched in order to work exclusively with natural materials.

I was browsing around Luckyscent, as I tend to do, when Shangri La popped up as a recommended scent for me. The fruity chypre genre isn’t usually my favorite, but I was intrigued enough to order a sample. The fruit is the dominant note on my skin here, particularly the peach, which comes across as a realistically ripe note, as though this peach is just soft enough to bite into. I get the tiniest sparkle of citrus from the opening, just a wink, and then it’s all peach from there.

The floral heart notes appear fairly quickly here. The jasmine is a clean bright white floral, but it brings a full-bodied aspect to the composition. The rose meshes well with the peach note, really bolstering the impression of ripe lushness here. At this stage, Shangri La reminds me very strongly of Liaisons Dangereuses from Kilian, another fruity chypre. In that case, the peach note was also very pronounced on my skin. Apparently, my skin chemistry just loves a peachy chypre!

Shangri La remains this way, a lightly spiced fruity floral, for several hours. I get some really nice sillage out of it before the composition begins to settle a little bit. I was hoping for some smoky earthiness from the iris and vetiver, but both notes seem lost on my skin. Ditto with the oakmoss. The depth I get from this fragrance is from a spiced clove note, which is lovely since I do like cloves. I wish a little more depth overall would come through on my skin though. Unfortunately, this means the dry down is mostly lost on me.

Shangri La disappears on me after five hours, which is honestly a longer wear time than I was expecting. It fades out as the rose note verges on turning from lush ripeness to that sickly type of decaying floral note. I’m not a fan of that kind of floral, so the composition probably bows out at the right time on my skin. I’m really impressed with the projection I got out of this, as well as the gorgeous full-bodied fruit and floral notes. My skin chemistry was stubborn and just did not want to pick up the vetiver or oak moss during any of my wearings of this. Still, Shangri La is a nicely put together composition, particularly for a natural fragrance. It has definitely made me question my skepticism of natural perfumes, and I’m sufficiently intrigued to keep an eye out for more from Hiram Green.

***Edited to add: The lovely Lavender brought this post by Luca Turin concerning Shangri La and Hiram Green to my attention: EU Natural. It’s VERY interesting and casts a different light on the process of working with so-called natural materials. It’s definitely eye-opening as to what the industry can classify as a “natural” composition. I’m intrigued to try more scents from this brand now simply because my curiosity has been piqued. I will try to do more research on natural brands and fragrances in the future to see just what type of “natural materials” are being used in the compositions.

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Hiram Green Perfumes are available from Luckyscent, which is where I ordered my sample.

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Much Ado About the Duke by Penhaligon’s

the duke penhaligons

Notes: rose, leather, gin, pepper, and woody notes.

Penhaligon’s launched their Portraits collection in 2016, and you can tell right away that it’s a little bit different from their regular line. The gorgeous bottles with the gold design caps are showstoppers (the Clandestine Clara peacock cap is my favorite). Penhaligon’s clearly envision their Portraits fragrances as characters. It’s a really clever idea, giving a fragrance a backstory. And you can tell the Penhaligon’s team had fun putting this together. The backstory they’ve given to the Duke here is quite lively. He is married to the Duchess Rose (the Coveted Duchess Rose, another one of their fragrance Portraits) but the rumor is that their marriage has never been consummated because our Duke does not prefer women. It’s fitting, then, that Much Ado About the Duke is a truly unisex scent. This is a rose that can be worn by anyone, no matter your preference.

In reading reviews of Much Ado About the Duke, I’ve seen several people mention that this is a liner fragrance. I can see where they’re coming from. There isn’t a typical opening stage, followed by the heart notes, and leading to the base with this composition. And the rose is certainly always present. I’ve nearly used my sample up already trying to test this one out, and what I’ve concluded is that this is a circular composition. The rose is the constant. The other notes revolve around it, weaving in and out as they please, and circling back again. And it’s never in quite the same order.

The first time I tested the Duke, the gin note stood out right away. The scent was a fizzy, sparkling rose. It was like wearing a rosewater-infused gin & tonic. It was pretty fabulous. I thought my skin chemistry must have changed drastically because my next wearing of the Duke was all about the deeper notes, the leather and the woody notes. The rose was dry and subtle, more of a background player. My wearing of it today has brought out a dry rose once again, and a crackling black pepper note mixed with the woody notes.

It can be frustrating smelling a scent as changeable as this one. It’s also terribly addictive. I keep wanting to test it again to see what will come through this time. The one flaw here is that the wear time can fluctuate with the notes. When the lighter, more playful gin and black pepper notes are dominant, the Duke wears more like an EdT. When the woody notes are dominant, I can still smell this on my wrists as I’m getting into bed for the night. I don’t mind the notes playing a hide and seek game, but I do want more consistent longevity.

There is always some element of playing a game when putting on a perfume. How will this smell on my skin today? What notes will be more prominent? The Duke takes this game to an extreme. Perhaps it’s just my skin chemistry wreaking utter havoc. But this sort of game does seem fitting for the Duke and the backstory Penhaligon’s have given him. I’ll have to sample more from the Portraits collection to see what kind of wear I get and how they compare. This composition does stand on its own though. The Duke himself is rather magnificent. You just have to be ready to play the game.

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I ordered my sample of the Duke from Luckyscent

The image is from Luckyscent and the list of notes is from Fragrantica.

Now Sampling: Nishane Istanbul

 

I’ve been wanting to try Nishane fragrances ever since following their Instagram account (a sentence you could only say in 2017). It is supposedly the first Turkish niche perfumery house. When I got an email from Luckyscent announcing that they now carry Nishane, I jumped on it. I ordered the sample pack they were offering. These are the three scents that have stood out to me so far, and it’s worth noting that all of these compositions are in extrait de parfum concentrations.

Ambra Calabria: A relatively unique amber composition. This one takes its name from the Calabrian bergamot note in the opening. We don’t commonly associate words like “fresh” and “green” with amber fragrances, but Ambra Calabria has a remarkably refreshing opening due to this bergamot note (and a vague “green leaves” note according to Fragrantica). If this doesn’t sound like your kind of amber perfume, the amber definitely makes an appearance along with a vanilla note, and leads into a more typical amber dry down. In fact, during its mid-notes, Ambra Calabria reminds me of Elixir des Merveilles from Herm├Ęs, with its vanilla-amber cream soda vibe. The only flaw with this particular fragrance is the wear time. I can only squeeze about 3-4 hours of wear out of this one. That’s fine if I’m only wearing it in the evening, but the refreshing opening makes it a great summer daytime scent, too. I just wish it lasted a little longer.

Sultan Vetiver: If you’re on the hunt for a truly rich, powerful vetiver, this is the one. It’s almost too overpowering for me to wear at times. I have to be careful with my application. Like Ambra Calabria, the opening here is also striking and fresh. I get the impression of pine needles. Sultan Vetiver is remarkably clean and aromatic, but then a familiar vetiver smokiness starts to creep in, tendrils of smoke swirling around, to bring depth. From here on out, it’s a powerhouse. The vetiver is by turns smoky, woody, and earthy. There is a dark and elegant leather note in the dry down that blends in a really interesting way with the earthy vetiver. It’s almost textured. A new restaurant and cigar bar has recently opened down the street from my apartment, and it’s the ideal type of place you could wear this fragrance. Whether you’re in the mood for a solitary, contemplative glass of red wine, or a celebratory bottle of champagne with friends, Sultan Vetiver would do the trick.

Fan Your Flames: Firstly, I love the name of this one. This is also the most recent Nishane creation I’ve tried so far. It was released in 2016. Fan Your Flames is the sweetest Nishane composition I’ve tried, even sweeter than Ambra Calabria. It also might be my favorite. It sounds like a pretty typical boozy oriental fragrance, with notes of rum, tobacco, tonka, and cedar. I’m a fanatic for a cedar note done right, and the cedar note here is what makes it for me. While I love a yummy rum and tobacco blend, this one can turn overly sweet on my skin. Combined with the tonka note, it can feel heavy, especially in the heat. However, the cedar note is pitch perfect and dry as can be. That dryness is what pulls this composition back from falling into the abyss of being cloyingly sweet. As it is, it’s in the Goldilocks sweet spot of “just right.” And I suspect Fan Your Flames will be even better in cold weather.

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Nishane fragrances are now available from Luckyscent, which is where I purchased my samples. This is a niche line so naturally the price points are on the more expensive side. But, considering the extrait de parfum concentrations, the current prices aren’t *too* exorbitant. Still, always sample if you’re curious. This line gets a thumbs up from me for the uniqueness and quality of the compositions.

Photo taken by me.

Birthday Perfumes


Do any of you ever pick out a special fragrance to wear on your birthday? It wasn’t a hard choice for me this year. Chanel No. 19 is one of my favorites. It was good enough to be named for Mademoiselle Chanel’s birthday, so it’s good enough for mine. Plus, it’s fine for the office, which is important since I’m at work today. I typically don’t save up my favorites to wear specifically on my birthday though, I usually just go with what I feel like!

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Photo of questionable quality taken by me of my 100 ml EdT bottle.