Poison by Christian Dior

Notes: coriander, plum, wild berries, anise, Brazilian rosewood, carnation, jasmine, African orange flower, tuberose, opoponax, cinnamon, incense, rose, white honey, vetiver, musk, sandalwood, Virginia cedar, amber, vanilla, and heliotrope.

The bar at the Ritz Central Park in New York is one of my favorite meeting spots in the city. The bar itself is small, but usually not overcrowded and not too loud either. My sister and I have used it as a meeting point and just a place to grab a drink and rest our feet. (It’s also a good place to stop and use the bathroom if you’ve been running around the city all afternoon!) I bring this up because I was sitting at the bar having dinner one night when I recognized a familiar scent: Poison. That huge all-enveloping tuberose is unmistakable. A French woman came in and sat down at the other end of the bar and ordered for herself. I assumed she was French even before I heard her speak because who else still wears vintage Poison these days? I could smell Poison wafting towards me all evening. It’s a beautiful smell, and all-consuming one. I think we all left the Ritz that night smelling of Poison.

In the US, I feel like Hypnotic Poison has definitely taken over as the Poison scent to wear. When I worked at Sephora, we didn’t even carry the original Poison in store. We carried the flankers: Hypnotic, Pure Poison, and we got the new Poison Girl in. (I actually don’t mind Poison Girl. There is something of the original Poison in the base). The original Poison was created by Edouard Fléchier and was released in 1985. It is unquestionably an 80s fragrance, in that it’s huge, in your face, and demands all of your attention. You can kind of see how the pendulum swung from this extreme to the other extreme with the 90s acquatic calone-infused fragrances. The US is still a little bit enamored with these clean scents. One thing I used to hear all the time from women looking for a new scent was “I don’t want to smell like perfume.” What they meant was “I don’t want to smell like No. 5. I don’t want to smell like Poison.”

Even Poison does not smell like Poison anymore. I have a bottle of the EdT that I purchased from Dior in 2016. The opening is lovely. It’s an explosion of fruity, jammy plum, creamy tuberose, and a little bit of sharp, spicy cardamom. It settles into my skin nicely. I get smoky incense and a spiced carnation in the heart. But, as it wears, this Poison takes on a manufactured grape juice smell. Going into the base, the composition feels thin. It’s missing that rich, syrupy, creamy texture.

I’m happy to own a bottle of the Poison EdT. I love the apple bottle shape and the deep purple — so dark that it’s almost black. But it’s not my favorite to wear. I am keeping an eye on ebay for samples or small decants of older formulations. I know that The Perfumed Court also offers decants of the vintage Eau de Cologne formulation. Ami Loves Perfume has a fantastic video here on her channel about Poison. She shows examples of the different packaging and bottles over the years in case you’re looking at Poison on ebay and are wondering what’s authentic. It’s also just a very informative and lovely video to watch!

I’m publishing this post on Halloween and, yes, I am wearing Poison for my Halloween scent! Although, the truly scary thing is how quickly Dior seems to reformulate their fragrance compositions these days. All the reformulation drama aside, I love Poison. Love it or hate it, once you smell Poison, you will recognize it forever. It’s a haunting perfume, indeed.

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I ordered my bottle of the Poison EdT online directly from Dior. They also have an extrait available. I’m very curious as to what the modern extrait smells like.

The info on the notes is from Fragrantica.

The photo is taken by me.

Now Sampling: Serge Lutens

I’ve been sampling a couple of recent Serge Lutens releases and I thought it would make sense to group them together for a write-up. So here we are!

Le Participe Passé

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, pepper, fruity notes, Egyptian balsam, resins, caramel, cumin, leather, and patchouli.

This one opens green and bitter from the artemisia. It almost smells like celery to my nose. It’s green and vegetal. It’s an odd opening, even by Serge Lutens standards, and yet I keep applying it just to smell that strange, bitter artemisia.

The composition quickly settles into a more typical Lutens dried fruit note and a beautiful resin note. I’ve never smelled this particular Egyptian balsam before, but it’s very smooth and a little bit aromatic. It blends with the vegetal artemisia, creating a harmonious green, balsamic scent.

This scent is named after my least favorite tense to conjugate in French and it seems that Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens purposely composed this one to recall some older Lutens releases. Perfume aficionados will know that Uncle Serge has had some, shall we say, eccentric releases in recent times. (I couldn’t get on with Dent de Lait at all.) Le Participe Passé is more similar to some older Lutens orientals, like Ambre Sultan. But there is the unique artemisia opening here, making Le Participe Passé its own scent and not just a copy of previous classics.

Baptême du Feu

Notes: gingerbread, powdery notes, tangerine, castoreum, osmanthus, woody notes.

This one is right in the Serge Lutens wheelhouse of warm, wintery, festive scents that just call out to be worn around the holidays. It has some similarities to two of my Serge Lutens staples: Five O’Clock au Gingembre and Fille en Aiguilles.

Baptême du Feu opens with a zingy orange citrus note and a warm gingerbread note that draws you in. The osmanthus functions as an undercurrent holding everything up until the castoreum comes in. And we must talk about the castoreum here because it is of course, an animalic, and it’s not subtle. To me, castoreum smells like a rich, black leather with a dank and oily undercurrent, which is really where the animalic nature comes out. If you don’t like animalic notes, steer clear of Baptême du Feu. The castoreum heart lasts for a good three hours on me before fading to a more approachable woody base note.

Baptême du Feu is rich with a lot of depth. It has foody gourmand notes sprinkled throughout the composition without ever turning into a gourmand like Jeux de Peau. It’s very grown-up and contemplative, but also some sensuality. I think this is the type of scent that a lot of people are looking for from Serge Lutens.

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Both Baptême du Feu and Le Participe Passé are available from Serge Lutens. I got my samples from Luckyscent.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Photo taken by me.

Cinéma by Yves Saint Laurent

Notes: clementine, cyclamen, almond blossom, peony, amaryllis, jasmine, amber, benzoin, white musk, and vanilla.

I personally love that bottle design and packaging is part of the whole experience in the perfume world. There are some beautiful bottles out there — some more beautiful than the juice inside! The best is when an iconic scent has an iconic bottle to go along with it, as in the case of Shalimar or JPG Le Mâle. They are are bottle designs that even non-perfume lovers would recognize. YSL Cinéma has one of my favorite bottle designs. It’s not overly elaborate or a completely unique type of bottle. I simply love the play of light through the glass, emphasizing different points of the gold bottle design. It’s a bit of a trompe l’oeil because sometimes it looks as though Cinéma has flecks of gold in the liquid. (Which is a real thing now thanks to Atelier des Ors, if you’re looking for your perfume to contain gold flakes!)

Cinéma opens with a juicy mandarin citrus note. This is not a fruity floral, but the mandarin adds a freshness to a composition that could otherwise become very dense. It’s a lovely bright opening, and it makes way for a floral heart of jasmine and peony. My nose isn’t advanced enough to pick out cyclamen on its own, but I find this to be a very appealing floral bouquet. It has an effortless feel. I think a lot of people could pull off this mandarin and floral opening, and feel good about what they’re wearing.

The almond blossom note makes things a little bit interesting. I sense it more in the heart of the fragrance, which starts to come through an hour into wear time for me. The floral bouquet is still present and it takes on an even more lush white floral feel. In fact, the whole fragrance is so lush and full-bodied at this point that it reminds me of a white wine. The almond blossom adds a soft nutty note, while the jasmine continues to bloom on the skin. Cinéma takes on a buttery chardonnay feel for me here. It’s very textured, creamy, and yummy without being gourmand. I’ve sometimes gotten a red wine vibe from fragrances, and even a champagne vibe from aldehydes, but not chardonnay before. Cinéma is really unique here in that way. I will clarify that it’s definitely not a boozy scent. Rather, it’s full-bodied in the same way that buttery California chardonnays are.

The base is more of a typical vanilla/amber/musk dry down. The composition still has a rich, buttery feel. It’s a comfort scent for me at this point. The musk in the base gives me Tocca Margaux vibes (a personal favorite) in that it’s a warm, comforting musk that doesn’t come across as synthetic. This is a lovely base, it’s just a little bit less unique than the interesting heart notes.

Overall, Cinéma is a delicious white floral/vanilla that has some uniqueness, and doesn’t tip over into full-on gourmand territory. It’s a happy scent and a comfort scent for me. Cinéma will put you in a good mood. I also get beautiful sillage and wear time from this one. It easily lasts me a typical eight hour work day and it doesn’t offend anyone in an office setting. Cinéma always puts a smile on my face. It’s a scent that I enjoy and the gold-flecked bottle only adds to my enjoyment!

I would love to hear about any favorite bottle designs, please share! Likewise, are there any bottle designs that have put you off testing/buying a perfume?

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Cinéma is a little harder to find in the US these days. It’s currently available directly from YSL. I purchased my bottle a couple of years ago from Fragrancenet.

The info on the notes is from Fragrantica.

The photo was taken by me.

Beach Hut Woman by Amouage

Notes: bergamot, mineral notes, driftwood, ylang-ylang, patchouli, and cashmeran.

I’ve tried many new Amouage releases in recent years, including Bracken Woman, Imitation Woman, Lilac Love, and Blossom Love. Frustratingly, none of them seemed to want to work with my skin chemistry. I’d almost given up hope of finding a contemporary Amouage release that works with my skin when I read about Beach Hut Woman. I don’t do typical beach scents like the quintessential Bobbi Brown Beach or Replica Beach Walk. I’m not really a typical beach person in general. I sunburn way too easily to spend my vacations laying out all day. Luckily for me, Beach Hut Woman isn’t the typical vacation beach scent and it really suits my style.

Beach Hut Woman opens with a bright, clear bergamot citrus note. I also get the mineral notes. To my nose, it’s not the typical calone note you might expect. It’s quite salty to me, and comes across as slightly seaweed-y! This opening is actually really interesting and appropriately beachy, while also signaling that this scent will not be the typical sunscreen-and-sand beach composition.

After an hour, the dry patchouli note starts to appear and it lasts for the rest of wear time for me. The driftwood note, which is the heart of the composition, appears as a woody note with a quiet presence. The sillage is low at this point. Beach Hut Woman sits closely to the skin and is really an inward-leaning scent rather than projecting out. If this is not your style, you likely won’t enjoy this scent. However, I find the low sillage appropriate for the vibe of this scent. The driftwood note conjures up images of visiting a beach house during the off-season. You can smell the salty sea air, but it’s too cold to go for a swim.

The cashmeran base softens things out like a haziness falling across the sea at dusk. There is something that feels universally familiar about Beach Hut Woman at this point, as though we’ve all been to this beach house at dusk. I imagine that most of us have been around this type of nostalgic smell before, whether it’s a summer house that’s been closed up for the off-season, or clearing out an old attic at your parents’ house. This kind of dry down won’t be for everyone. It’s not opulent, rich, or warm. Beach Hut Woman leans on the cooler side, although there is some coziness in the dry down from the cashmeran. Overall, it’s a contemplative and cerebral scent. I find it has a similar vibe to Wood Sage and Sea Salt from Jo Malone.

A full bottle of Amouage is out of my price range, but the packaging and presentation for Beach Hut Woman is beautiful. To me, this is completely worth the splurge if you can afford it. I wouldn’t recommend blind-buying this scent in particular simply because it’s so different for a beach scent, and you may not like the low projection of this composition. Beach Hut Woman is an emotional scent, in that you really need to be in the right mood to wear it and enjoy it. I also find it very nostalgic. I’d love to try Beach Hut Man (I hear that it’s a minty fougère) but I can say for sure that Beach Hut Woman is definitely worth a sniff.

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I purchased my sample of Beach Hut Woman from Luckyscent.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

The photo is my Beach Hut Woman sample vial paired with earrings from J. Crew.

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.