Blind Buys: Valentina Assoluto


Notes: Italian bergamot, peach, white truffle, tuberose, jasmine, Madagascar vanilla, oakmoss, patchouli, and cedar.

Serious perfumistas know better than to make a purchase sight un-sniffed, as it were. And yet, I think we’ve all done it. Whatever the reason is, pretty packaging, a good name, or just the need for instant gratification, we’ve all been guilty of fragrance-related blind buys. I certainly am, anyway!

My most recent adventure in blind buying is Valentino’s Valentina Assoluto. The delicate pink packaging reeled me in. Then I was caught by the promise of an absolute version of Valentina, which I sampled at Nordstrom a few years ago but never really fell for. The price ($79 for the 80 ml size) helped as well. There was no tester in sight, but I snapped up a box anyway and got in line to check out. How bad could it really be?

Luckily, it turns out that Valentina Assoluto is very pretty on the skin and my chemistry seems to work nicely with it. Similar to the original Valentina, the Assoluto is a pretty white floral. This 0ne has a fizzy champagne quality to it, reminiscent of a bellini when the peach note comes through. The white truffle note is noticeable and it adds a dash of playful weirdness to a composition that might otherwise come across as a bit pretty-but-boring.

It now appears that Valentina Assoluto is out of stock on Valentino’s US website. Considering that I bought this for a discounted price at Saks off Fifth, I’m hoping they aren’t phasing this one out. It’s quite pretty, with a bit of interest and depth to truly make it worthwhile.


It looks like Valentina Assoluto is currently available from Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus. I purchased my bottle at Saks Off Fifth.

Image taken by me.

What’s in a Name? Gender & Jicky


Jicky from Guerlain is my all-time favorite fragrance, but I’ve written surprisingly little about it on here. I want that to change so, from time-to-time, I’ll be doing write-ups about various aspects of Jicky.


It starts with the name.

“Jicky? What the hell does that mean?” At least that’s what I asked myself the first time I encountered Jicky in person at a Guerlain boutique.

The myth of the Jicky name only adds to the confusion. Created by Aimé Guerlain, the story that seems most likely is that Jicky was the nickname of his nephew, Jacques Guerlain. As stories go, that one isn’t overly exciting, and Guerlain itself seems to enjoy confusing the issue by perpetuating the legend of a love story. As the legend goes, Jicky was the nickname of an English girl with whom Aimé fell in love while studying abroad in England. They couldn’t marry each other because the families didn’t approve, so Aimé returned to France and created a fragrance in her memory.

Whether or not the myth of Jicky is true, it certainly makes for a fabulous story. The one thing that both stories have in common is that, whether referring to a man or to a woman, Jicky is a nickname. It’s intimate, almost a term of endearment. It’s fitting for Jicky the fragrance, considering the deep civet note, it’s definitely an intimate scent.

I first tried the Eau de Toilette version of Jicky. The cool shimmering lavender, that hallmark of the fougère genre, is the star of the show here for me. This makes the EdT very accessible for the men’s fragrance market. Jicky also exists as an EdP (which Guerlain now offers in the bee bottle) and as a parfum extract. These higher concentrations are warmer with higher doses of that smooth, rich coumarin. I love and own the extract. However, the EdT is what first made me fall for Jicky.

For what it’s worth, Guerlain lists Jicky under women’s fragrances on their website, but it’s accompanied by a marketing note declaring it to be “the first unisex fragrance in perfumery.” The thing about Jicky is that it defies categorization. It is neither strictly a men’s nor a women’s fragrance. It’s both, and it probably was the first fragrance to appeal to both. But, to me, unisex almost sounds like another type of classification, and Jicky is beyond that.

Because what I find really striking about Jicky is that it’s a self-possessed fragrance. I always get the feeling that it doesn’t conform to you, your skin chemistry has to adjust to it. When you wear Jicky, you are Jicky. That’s its magic. You are the myth.


Further reading: Monsieur Guerlain’s definitive write-up on Jicky.

The image is from Fragrantica

Poivre Electrique by Atelier Cologne


Notes: bitter orange, black pepper, pink pepper, incense, pimento leaf, Turkish rose absolue, myrrh, sandalwood, and cedarwood.

Along with the smell of coffee, the smell of freshly cracked black pepper is one of my favorite smells. There is something so fresh about black pepper. It’s aromatic, but with a touch of bitterness, which makes it interesting. When I saw that Luckyscent now has the new pepper-centric Atelier Cologne fragrance, I knew I had to try it. Poivre Electrique is part of Atelier’s newest collection, the Collection Orient. There are four other scents in this collection. Poivre Electrique is the only one I’ve tried so far (I’d also like to try Tobacco Nuit from this collection).

The first thing of note is that Poivre Electrique is definitely well-named. The opening of this fragrance is certainly electric. It’s an invigorating burst of black pepper. I know that pink pepper is listed in the notes but, to me, this one is all black pepper. Pink pepper comes across as powdery to me and I really don’t get that effect here. The citrus adds to the bitter aromatic quality of black pepper and amplifies it. I can see some people finding this opening a little sneezy, but I personally love it. It’s everything I enjoy about the smell of black pepper.

The opening here is so bright, I figured the black pepper would fade fairly quickly. However, it lingers all the way until the dry down for me. The cedar is the other major note that comes through for me. The deep cedar note really balances out the pepper and gives this composition an anchor. It also blends nicely with the citrus, giving the composition a seductive kind of Italian vineyard/earthy vibe.

The resinous myrrh makes up the bulk of the dry down for me here. The cedar fades and seamlessly blends into the myrrh note. It’s a little bitter for me, a little bit medicinal. It really mirrors the bitterness of the opening, but in a much more subdued way. I actually wish this dry down was a little more potent because I like this stage so much!

This brings me to my only issue with this fragrance, which is that it only last about five hours total on my skin. The black pepper note lasts well through the beginning and middle stages of the composition but, once the myrrh dry down kicks in, it goes from being a skin scent to undetectable very quickly. I don’t mind re-applying a fragrance, especially one that I like so much, but I wish I could squeeze another hour or two out of the wear time here. I might be able to get more longevity when wearing this in warmer weather.

It has to be noted that the Collection Orient fragrances retail for a heftier price than some other options from Atelier Cologne. Poivre Electrique is $130 for 30 mls and $250 for 100 mls. Atelier does offer 2 ml samples on their website, which is convenient. If you’re interested in any of the Collection Orient offerings, I definitely suggest trying a sample either through Atelier or from Luckyscent.


Poivre Electrique is part of the Collection Orient from Atelier Cologne. It’s available directly from Atelier and also from Luckyscent. I personally ordered my sample from Luckyscent.

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

Vert des Bois by Tom Ford (Private Blend)

vert-des-boisNotes: poplar buds, anise, olive tree, plum, mastic, jasmine, patchouli, tonka bean, and woody notes.

A new Private Blend release from Tom Ford is always exciting, and I think the Vert collection from Fall 2016 has made for some truly worthy additions to the line. Vert Boheme actually turned out to be my favorite and the scent I would wear the most. However, I wanted to write about Vert des Bois in particular because it has some interesting notes that I have not encountered before. The marketing proclaims that Vert des Bois is an example of “avant-garde processing of green perfume.” Normally I would be wary of claims like this coming from fragrance houses, but there is something markedly distinctive about Vert des Bois. I’ve never smelled anything containing poplar bud extract before, so that adds to the uniqueness.

Like many green compositions, Vert des Bois opens with a spiky and almost abrasive blast of greenery. However, there are no spices in the composition, no aldehydes here to give it a “sparkling” feel. I sense the olive note right away, which makes me think of the color green and adds to the overall effect. Vert des Bois is an immersive green, and I think it’s a little more bold than we’re currently used to from green scents.

That’s not to say that Vert des Bois is heavy. There’s a bright, sweet green note that shines through, and I believe it’s the jasmine mingling with the poplar bud extract. It’s hard for me to describe, possibly because I’m not familiar with poplar extract! It’s not overly sweet, nor overly floral. It’s a shimmering green that brings some light to the composition before the earthy patchouli really kicks in.

I wasn’t sure a green fragrance would work for Fall/Winter but the woody notes make this perfect for December wear. (Incidentally, I have not tried Vert d’Encens but with notes of pine resin and fir balsam, it’s likely the most appropriate Vert release for this time of year.) The dry down is like being in a densely green forest. This forest is partly cozy and partly dark. That cold-weather smoke smell seeps through here, I think from a combination of the patchouli and roasted tonka bean. I’m used to green fragrances coming across as much more “clean” than this, but Vert des Bois evokes cold, dark weather exceptionally well.

Overall, Vert des Bois is a fascinating experience. It’s bold, especially for a green scent. It has some darkness to it, but also some shimmering light aspects (a chiaroscuro scent?) I’m not convinced to splurge on a full-sized bottle for this one, but Vert des Bois is a must-try simply for its distinctiveness. I hope this one will remain part of the Private Blend line for a long time to come.


Tom Ford Private Blend fragrances are available directly from Tom Ford’s site. They can also be found from the usual department store suspects: Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. I ordered my samples of Vert des Bois and Vert Boheme from The Perfumed Court.

The image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle: Portrait of a Lady

portrait-of-a-ladyNotes: clove, cinnamon, rose, blackcurrant, raspberry, sandalwood, patchouli, incense, musk, amber, and benzoin.

Is it possible to be intimidated by a perfume? Or, should I say, is it silly to be intimidated by a perfume? Because Portrait of a Lady is one of those iconic fragrances that I’ve seen people mentioning even from the very beginning of my perfume journey. Everyone seems to have their own experience with it. Then, too, I have my own feelings about this perfume’s namesake, the novel by Henry James. I love Isabel Archer but find the novel’s last third and the ending so emotional (don’t marry Gilbert, Isabel!) that I have never re-read it. What experiences and associations could I bring to this classic scent? And what would Portrait of a Lady make of me?

Created by Dominique Ropion, Portrait of a Lady is a spicy rose patchouli scent. I swear there is a bit of pepper in the opening here even though it’s not listed. I get the spices right away with the cloves being the most dominant. The rose is there from the beginning of course, but this fragrance doesn’t hit you over the head with the rose note. It doesn’t need to. It’s as though the rose and the spices are tightly entwined and are slowly unspooling. The clove gradually gives way to a sweeter cinnamon spice, while the rose blends with the fruit, becoming jammy and full-bodied.

Patchouli is listed in the heart notes for this composition, and for good reason. It’s definitely a central focus so that’s something to be aware of if you’re not a patchouli fan. I detect a touch of oud as well, but it’s not listed in the notes. The patchouli is earthy but elegant. It’s not camphorous to my nose. It’s rich but dry. The patchouli here is actually what makes me think of Isabel Archer. The dry element that peeks out from time to time underneath the rich earthiness is elegant and enigmatic at the same time. It’s like a woman holding her head high and walking through a crowded party as everyone pretends not to stare after her.

The rose reappears alongside the patchouli and this time it’s a little bit more sweet, and a little bit more dry as well. The rose even turns a little powdery on me as the composition heads into the dry down, but not unpleasantly so. In fact, there is no stage or moment where Portrait of a Lady is unappealing at all. I haven’t been the biggest rose or patchouli fan, but Dominique Ropion pitches this composition just right in that it’s always balanced and it’s always interesting. Not easy to do.

Unfortunately, the one con has to be mentioned and that is that Monsieur Malle’s Editions do not come cheaply. The quality is there with Portrait of a Lady. The projection and the staying power are top-notch. I happened to be wearing this one night while watching Netflix on the couch and now my couch cushions seem to permanently smell like Portrait of a Lady – I’m not complaining! This scent really stays on both skin and on fabric. It’s a beautiful fragrance, and capturing both beauty and that frisson of something interesting isn’t always an easy thing to do. Still, at Frederic Malle price points, much like Isabel Archer, you need to be certain before making a commitment.


In the US, the Editions de Frederic Malle are available from Barney’s. Samples and decants are available from The Perfumed Court and from Surrender to Chance, which is where I got my sample.

Both the image and the info on notes are from Fragrantica.

Aube Rubis by Atelier des Ors

 aube-rubisNotes: bergamot, grapefruit, blackcurrant, sage, violet, iris, patchouli, vetiver, and praline.

Luckyscent recently started carrying Atelier des Ors and I had to snap up a few samples. “Or” means gold in French and, yes, those are actual gold flakes pictured floating in the full bottle. A few flecks of gold even made it into my samples. The gold doesn’t add anything in an olfactory sense but it’s definitely eye-catching. And Aube Rubis does have a luminous quality that makes the gold feel appropriate. Of the fragrances that I tried, this one really stood out to me.

The listed top notes are the fruity notes, including bergamot, grapefruit, and blackcurrant. But the opening for me is overwhelmingly an iris note. It’s crisp, dry, and a little vegetal. This is not a makeup/cosmetics iris. It’s only slightly powdery and it gradually develops to an even more earthy feel. Aube Rubis is reminiscent of Dior Homme at this point. The main different being that the iris isn’t the central note here in Aube Rubis, and the composition quickly evolves from the opening.

The grapefruit note becomes apparent as the iris blends into the composition. The grapefruit brings a sparkling effect just as the patchouli note also comes to the forefront. It’s a really interesting accord, since the patchouli is earthy while the grapefruit brings a very vibrant sparkling vibe. The combination results in a bittersweet kind of scent. Aube Rubis is almost edible at this point, but not truly gourmand. It’s also extremely pretty and much more wearable than it might sound.

The dry down is where Aube Rubis does take a turn for the gourmand. I’m definitely a gourmand-lover, and I don’t find the praline note to be overly strong. However, if you don’t care for gourmands at all, you may feel differently. On my skin, the praline brings some sweetness and a bit of a nutty flavor as well. I would have guessed it was a hazelnut note if I hadn’t seen it listed as praline. But overall, this is not a sticky sweet dry down by any means.

The vetiver helps to keep the composition grounded in an earthy feel. The praline simply means that the bittersweet effect from the grapefruit is now softly sweet. I get some pretty decent longevity from Aube Rubis as well. It’s definitely a skin scent by the dry down but I can still sense it up to the 8-hour mark, which is more than I got with the other Ateliers I tried (Lune Feline and Larmes du Desert, for reference).

Overall, Aube Rubis caught my attention with its unique take on some staple notes, like iris, grapefruit, and patchouli. And I quite like the praline in the base here. Like I said, it’s very wearable. As niche fragrances prices keep going up (even Luca Turin has commented on it) these kinds of fragrances need to justify their luxe prices. I don’t need fancy gold flakes in my fragrances, but I do need them to smell good. Aube Rubis is quite beautiful at times. I don’t know if it’s worthy of a full bottle for me, but I’m glad to have tried this one.


Atelier des Ors is a niche fragrance line that is now available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

The image and info on notes are both from Luckyscent.

No. 5 L’Eau by Chanel

leauNotes: lemon, mandarin orange, neroli, aldehydes, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cedar, white musk, vanilla, and orris root.

Most of the writing I’ve done on here about Chanel has been focused on the Exclusifs de Chanel line (although I continue to love Chanel No. 19). I really haven’t touched on No. 5 in extrait form, the EdP, or even on Eau Premiere. No. 5 has long been a difficult fragrance for me to come to grips with. When I was first really becoming interested in the world of perfume, No. 5 seemed too intimidating to be wearable. More than that, it wasn’t really practical for every day wear during life as a student and starting out at my first jobs anyway. No. 5 seemed too iconic for me to even talk about. Well, with the current release of L’Eau, it’s time to finally come to terms with it.

One practical reason I haven’t gotten along with No. 5 over the years is that Chanel aldehydes give my skin chemistry some serious trouble. For instance, I thought I would love No. 22 but the opening doesn’t work at all for my skin. The same thing happens with No. 5 and, to a lesser extent, with Eau Premiere. In the case of Eau Premiere, I have to let the composition settle on my skin for about half an hour before I can start sniffing.

Luckily for me, the aldehydes in L’Eau are much more gentle on my skin chemistry and on my nose. The opening here is a bright burst of clean but yummy lemon. It reminds me of the San Pellegrino Limonata lemonade. There’s definitely a fizziness, and something like seltzer water with a metallic edge, as the aldehydes bounce around off the lemon and the neroli. L’Eau settles into a delicate lemon candy for the first hour or so. The composition is bright and sunny at this point, like mid-morning captured in a scent.

Since L’Eau is supposed to be such a light version of No. 5, I wasn’t sure that there would be much development in the composition, but fortunately there is. The ylang-ylang comes through to form the heart of L’Eau’s composition. The lemon candy transforms into a lemon bar with powdered sugar, until the powdered sugar melts away and the ylang-ylang is there as a soft yellow floral. The jasmine is entwined with the ylang-ylang, while the rose doesn’t come across at all to me.

The main thing I love about Eau Premiere is the sandalwood dry down. It’s creamy and almost edible, but still woody and gives such gorgeous depth to the composition. It made No. 5 wearable for me. The white musk here in L’Eau is a little less my style. I get mostly a powdery musk in the dry down which must be the orris root mixing with the white musk. Sadly I don’t sense any cedar. And, if anything, the vanilla comes across more in the heart of the composition with the ylang-ylang. Still, I’m impressed with the development of L’Eau. It’s not easy to coax real development out of such an airy, delicate fragrance but Olivier Polge manages it.

Overall verdict on L’Eau? It’s extremely well-edited and pretty. It does exactly what a flanker is supposed to do. It will never outshine the original, but it’s perfect for a younger demographic (which is clearly what Chanel wants, if the ads featuring Lily-Rose Depp are anything to go by). L’Eau is like a bright sunny morning. There’s some winking fun in there, too. L’Eau is the mimosa you order with breakfast while on vacation. Eau Premiere is the champagne cocktail before dinner. And the original? No. 5 is the grand vin de Bordeaux that you order with the main course.


No. 5 L’Eau is an Eau de Toilette concentration available in 35, 50, and 100 ml bottles. You can find it directly from Chanel (the website does state that the 35 ml size is limited edition).

*I received a bottle of L’Eau as gratis through work, however no one asked me to do this write-up. This is completely my own impression of L’Eau and of Chanel’s No. 5 offerings in general.

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