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.


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 Hermès, 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.


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.

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.

Epice Marine by Hermès

Notes: cumin, hazelnut, sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, sea notes, whiskey, vetiver, and oakmoss.

The Hermessence line is the Hermès equivalent of Les Exclusifs from Chanel and the Christian Dior Privée line. (Which I believe is now being called La Collection Couturier Parfumer Christian Dior. Really succinct and abbreviated!) It seems that the most exclusive luxury houses feel the need to produce ever more exclusive fragrances. I really enjoy a few of Chanel’s Exclusifs. Epice Marine is my first foray into the Hermessence line. I’m glad I started with this one because it’s really interesting and surprisingly wearable for a fragrance containing a hefty dose of cumin.

Epice Marine was launched in 2013 and was composed by the Hermès in-house perfumer at the time, Jean-Claude Ellena. This is a classic Ellena composition in that it’s rendered in his typical sheer, transparent style. It’s best to go in knowing this, and not setting your expectations for a powerhouse that lasts on the skin for 12+ hours. Ellena composed this one in collaboration with a Breton chef, Olivier Roellinger. You can see or smell the influence, since Epice Marine has a salty sea air tinge to it as well as a very unique gourmand aspect. The cumin is strong right off the bat. In terms of épice or spice, I sense the cinnamon, and a touch of whiskey. This composition is definitely influenced by food, but it’s not foodie in a typical boozy/vanilla/chocolate way.

More than any specific kind of food, Epice Marine gives off the impression of a restaurant. This is a restaurant along the coastline with an outdoor terrace. But it’s not a pristine oceanfront view in the south of France. This is a northern Breton beach. The sea still offers a beautiful view, but the water is cold and forbidding. This is not a seaside for sunbathing. The whiskey note here is slightly smokey. Combined with the cinnamon it adds some warmth, or as much warmth as you’re likely to get from this scent. Epice Marine is otherwise firmly on the cool spice side of things. The cumin here is not sweaty. It’s green, and a little bit fizzy. It adds some liveliness. It’s the buzz of the diners chatting out on the terrace.

As the dry down comes on, Epice Marine takes on a baking bread type of smell. I have only encountered this type of note in Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant before. It’s subtle but it’s a doughy bread smell. I’m not sure where the bread note is coming from but it helps flesh out the whole restaurant impression. And I appreciate that this composition is almost a savory/salty gourmand rather than sweet, which is very unusual. It’s also not your typical calone marine/aquatic scent either.

It’s worth saying that Hermès offers sets where you can choose four of the Hermessence fragrances in a 15 ml travel spray. (You can choose to do four of the same one if you’re really attached to one in particular.) This is what I may end up doing once I try a few more of the Hermessence line. The price point for a full bottle is an Hermès price point, let’s be honest. But Epice Marine is worth it. For a fragrance that is so unusual, it’s also highly wearable. More than that, I love the restaurant dinner scene it evokes. It’s both inviting and a little bit strange. Simply put, it’s haunting.


The Hermessence line is available exclusively from Hermès boutiques and the Hermès website. I purchased a small decant from Surrender to Chance.

The image is from Hermès and the info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel

Notes: bergamot, Sicilian lemon, neroli, magnolia, musk, iris, and jasmine.

I’m continuing off of my previous post about spring-themed scents, and Cristalle Eau Verte is absolutely one of my favorites for spring. The original Cristalle was composed by Henri Robert and released in 1974 (and I will do a separate write-up of that fragrance because it deserves its own post.) Cristalle Eau Verte was released much more recently in 2009 and was of course composed by Jacques Polge. Eau Verte is definitely updated and modern. It’s an accessible kind of scent profile and it’s effortless to wear.

Cristalle is famous for its sparkling champagne-like citrus top notes. Eau Verte also opens with a sparkling sensation, but you can tell right off the bat that this has definitely been composed for a modern audience. The bergamot has that clean green aspect to it, and the lemon note is very pronounced. It’s a fresh and lively opening. It’s the kind of scent I like spritzing on just after a shower. It’s just that refreshing.

Luckily Cristalle Eau Verte is more complex than a typical body mist that you might apply post-shower. The florals come in and really carry this fragrance in a sophisticated way. I’m a sucker for magnolia, so I love getting to the mid-stage of Eau Verte. Magnolia is often creamy on my skin, and even peachy-fruity. The magnolia here is slightly different in that it’s creamy but, combined with the neroli note, it takes on a shimmering light sensation. It radiates off the skin, almost singing in a way. On a sunny day, I feel like you can almost see the shimmering effect of the magnolia and neroli on the skin. That’s one reason it’s perfect for spring.

The base continues the white floral theme with jasmine bringing a more full-bodied presence. There is also plenty of white musk, which is not my personal favorite base note, but it works for this composition. A tonka or sandalwood note would have been too heavy. I get 5 hours of wear time here, so it’s a pretty typical EdT.

Overall, is Cristalle Eau Verte the most essential or pivotal Chanel fragrance? Of course not. But it’s an excellent flanker. It works as its own fragrance and doesn’t diminish the original Cristalle. It’s sophisticated and more complex than many “fresh” spring/summer scents these days. It makes me smile when I wear it and, sometimes, that’s all you need.


I own a full bottle of Cristalle Eau Verte, which I purchased from Nordstrom.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Photo taken by me.


Spring Irises

I’m not a huge floral fragrance person, but even I can’t help myself for spring. (Miranda Priestly voice: “Florals for spring? Groundbreaking.”) This spring I’ve been drawn to iris in particular. Iris is fascinating in perfumery because it has so many different facets. It can be powdery and almost makeup-y. It can be dry, earthy, and crackling. It can be all these things, and a pretty, wearable floral to boot. Here are a couple of iris scents I’ve been trying:

Iris Prima by Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s refers to this scent as “the regal Prima Ballerina.” The perfumer, Alberto Morillas, worked with the English National Ballet to capture the elegance and glamour that go into a ballet production. Surely plenty of blood, sweat, and tears go into these productions as well, but Iris Prima is firmly on the elegant side of things.

Iris Prima opens with iris right away, along with a gorgeous shimmering bergamot note. The bergamot here is what really drew me into this fragrance. It’s not sharp or biting like bergamot can sometimes be, but it adds just enough zest to lift the composition. It’s definitely a stage lights coming on type of feeling. I was expecting the iris here to lean very powdery for a backstage makeup vibe. It’s still on the dry side, but I find this iris much more classic floral than makeup. There is a hint of jasmine too, which amplifies the floral bouquet.

I initially found the vanilla in the dry down to be too overwhelming. I usually love vanilla in almost any form, but it seemed to throw the composition out of balance. Now that I’ve worn Iris Prima multiple times, I really sense the leather in the dry down. The iris seamlessly blends into the dry leather note here, and maybe that’s why I missed it at first. I also think this is one fragrance that benefits from being worn in warmer weather. The heat brings the nuances more to life here. I really enjoy wearing this one.

Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

Feu Secret is a dry, woody, smoky iris, and a much more moody and contemplative composition. Orris root is the star of the show here, which means that this is less of a pretty iris right off the bat. It’s dry and earthy with a lot of depth, and there is a cedar wood note that blends in beautifully well. I love cedar, and I actually wish my skin would pick up more of the cedar note here.

I actually find Feu Secret more powdery than Iris Prima, which I did not expect! The orris root develops from a crackling dryness to a subtle kind of powder, and finally, to a suede-like smoothness as the composition reaches the dry down. Feu Secret lasts for hours (I easily get 8 hours here) so it takes some time to reach the dry down. And I personally wouldn’t wear this one in extremely hot weather. I’d love to try this in winter though, just to see how dry and earthy it can get. Feu Secret is another intriguing release from Bruno Fazzolari and it’s definitely worth at least testing out.


I ordered samples of Iris Prima and Feu Secret from Luckyscent. I ordered the samples at different times, but realized that I liked rotating these two in particular. Hence this iris-themed post!

Picture taken by me.