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 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.

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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.

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.

“Superstitious” Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle

superstitious

Notes: jasmine, rose, peach, amber, incense, vetiver, patchouli, and aldehydes.

I was very excited for this newest edition curated by Monsieur Frederic Malle. It seems that this one is a similar idea to the Dries Van Noten collaboration from 2014. I loved Alber Elbaz’s work for Lanvin (and I would love for him to take over at Chanel but Uncle Karl seemingly will never leave us). However, I was wary when I read about the aldehydes in the fragrance. Make no mistake, Fragrantica might list aldehydes last in the notes for Superstitious, but this fragrance is all about the aldehydes. They are present from start to finish. And, dare I say it? This might be the scent that finally inspires me to love aldehydes and the way they show up on my skin.

I’ve noticed quite a few commenters on Fragrantica mentioning that the aldehydes in Superstitious have a clean laundry feel. This is not quite the case for me. The aldehydes definitely have a clean feel, but it’s more crisp and cool, not laundry soft. I find that there’s a biting edge to the opening here. It’s not a sharp citrus note, nor is it refreshing. It’s metallic without coming across as too harsh or chemical. This gives Superstitious a modern feel right away. It’s almost as if the fragrance is winking at you (like that eye on the bottle) saying this could be a vintage fragrance in the style of a classic Lanvin, but those modern aldehydes jump out at you, saying otherwise. I notice the jasmine appearing in the opening as well, white and luminous, to soften the aldehydes just a touch. This is possibly one of the most difficult openings I’ve ever tried to describe, as it’s very abstract. And I get the feeling that the abstraction was done very much on purpose.

Something else I’ve noticed from the comments on Fragrantica is the endless comparisons to the Grande Dame of the Frederic Malle collection, Portrait of a Lady. It’s inevitable, given the fact that Dominique Ropion composed both scents, and the similar rose and patchouli notes. (Although I have to be honest, the rose is undetectable to me here). Some people don’t feel Superstitious is really different enough to stand apart from Portrait of a Lady, and the rich patchouli in the heart admittedly is extremely similar. If Portrait of a Lady is your all-time signature scent, I understand that you might not get much out of Superstitious. Portrait of a Lady is an ode to a classic novel and is a beautiful expression of perfumery. Superstitious, on the other hand, is kind of an oddity. It’s like an ode to classic perfumery with a pastiche of modern elements mixed in.

If the opening was difficult to describe, the base is where things really get mixed up. The patchouli of the heart notes makes Superstitious a gorgeous warm and rich fragrance and, again, it’s almost in the vein of a delicious vintage Lanvin scent. The incense note starts to come in towards the base. It blends with the patchouli and weaves in and out, disappearing and reappearing again. It’s very seductive. There is something else noticeable too, and here is where I will link kafkaesque’s write-up of Superstitious because it’s a great piece of writing and because reading this helped me figure out the base notes here. When first testing Superstitious, I detected something screechy and chemical in the dry down. I wondered if it was the aldehydes turning on me, but this note is not the dry, crisp metallic edge of the opening. As kafka explains, it’s Ropion’s white musk making an appearance in the base. I’ve had similar experiences with white musk in other compositions, hence its status as one of my least favorite base materials. Fortunately, there is so much going on in this composition that the white musk doesn’t derail the whole fragrance for me.

Overall, Superstitious is a gorgeous, inventive, and sometimes puzzling perfume. It’s absolutely worth testing. Whether it’s worth purchasing is another question. The 100 ml bottle of Superstitious is up to $370. I would love to own this bottle with the chic design by Alber Elbaz, but it would be pretty hard for me to justify at this price point. There is always the travel spray, but even that is expensive for a small amount. Undina and I have talked about this in the comments on other posts, but it really is such a shame that niche price points keep rising higher and higher with no end in sight. Putting aside the idea of “exclusivity,” I’m afraid some of these brands will price themselves out of being relevant. I love Superstitious in all its abstract strangeness. But when you think about the price point, it’s very difficult.

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Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle are available in the US from Barneys and Nordstrom. You can also purchase directly from Frederic Malle. I purchased a sample of Superstitious from Surrender to Chance. I plan to finish up my sample and purchase a decant. I won’t have the chic bottle design, but it’s the more reasonable option.

Both the image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.

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.

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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.

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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.