There is a box of decants that I kept from the days when perfume trading was fun and exciting, and collecting more vials than I will ever need in my lifetime didn't feel burdensome. There was the thrill of the hunt, and the wonderful feeling of being taken care of when someone you only knew by their screen name and fragrance wardrobe sent you a surprise in the mail with vintage perfumes that smelled like nothing you ever smelled before... That was of course, before I smelled too many perfumes, before each year offered over 500 new releases, and I became too jaded and selective about what I put under my nose.

In a moment of olfactory boredom last night, I unearthed a roll-on with vintage Intimate in its vintage form (Revlon, 1955). The concentration is not specified, but judging from it lasting well into the next morning, I imagine it's at least an eau de toilette.

Intimate is a softly-spoken echo Miss Dior's green-floral-animalic-Chypre; a hazy mirror image of its New Look glam. There are green aldehydes at the top, but they've lost their sharp edge (possibly through aging and mellowing, but even still, comparing to the vintage Miss Dior I have they are less intense).

Intimate is definitely from the same genre (Chypre Floral Animalic, and sporting some definitive green notes), yet has a softer, powderier character right from the the start (a trait that is only evident in Miss Dior if you really pay close attention somewhere around the second act). It has edgy, woody-herbaceous notes peeking underneath, making the greenery less obvious. There is an aldehdic wisp at the opening as well. Mingled with the orris this creates a blending illusion, like smudging and blending pastel crayons that obscures the shapes of jasmine and rose that were just drawn moments ago. One can't quite tell when the jasmine and rose end and the oakmoss, sandalwood and cedarwood begin. The woods create a dry feel, a sort of temporary cleanliness. An animalic power roars from underneath, with the carcass of castoreum and the concentrated piss of civet create a dark, musky-sweet epilogue.

This phase dissipates faster than I would have liked it to, turning into a vintage Revlon lipstick scent, like the ones I would try on from my grandmother's dresser. My grandma always dressed elegantly, so lipstick was the only way to tell she's going somewhere importatn (work included, and she worked well into her 70s, and continued freelancing even after she officially retired). And if it was somewhere social, there will also be a dap of perfume or some Eau de Cologne splashing.

The drytdown (as observed the next morning) has a sweet and smooth amber and a musk compound that bears some fruity, berry-like qualities. Oakmoss is still there as well as a hint of greenery. Overall, there is a soft, close-to-the-skin feeling that's exactly what I would like in a perfume from the night before: a sweet reminder that something wonderful happened last night, but without having all your clothes reeking of it or making you want to wash it off. You could easily apply something else on top, or go for a second round.

Intimate is beautifully constructed and elegant, and smells sexy in a down-to-earth kind of way. If I didn't know who made it I would think it is a French perfume - it skips the loud statements that American fragrances so often have (both in sillage and tenacity) and instead offers a more nuanced perfume that even if it isn't a groundbreaker for its time, it is very well done and wonderfully enjoyable. The bottle in the ad shown perfectly conveys its style and class, which will be evident even if you are blindfolded and can't see it.

Top notes: Green Aldehydes, Bergamot
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Orris, Cedarwood, Sandalwood
Base notes: Oakmoss, Civet, Castoerum, Musk, Amber

Blue Diamond

lotus bud

If I were to observe the middle-school version of me and spy on her reading habits via her library activities, I would be deeply concerned for her future not to mention current well-being. Among her favourite books were any titles whatsoever by Kurt Vonnegut, and similarly disturbing titles such as "Catch 22" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". One may argue that this is still better than what real-life tortured teen girls went through  in other books on her reading list, Christiane F. being one such example. Being only a merger 13 years old meant that these books were not read with a critical adult eye, but rather served as wan encouragement and an inspiration for awkward behaviours, because trying to fit in was not only a lost cause - but also a faulty one.* I'd marvel at anything out of the ordinary and sought different ways to look at the world. Such as focusing on very small details in my pencil sketches, or looking through a blue glass prism to see the world multiplied by its many facets.

Thankfully, those days are over and despite all odds, I survived teenager-hood with only a scratch or two. But some things became an inseparable part of me. Such as compassion to anyone who is different from the mainstream society or culture; and also a desire to look at things from an alternative angle, even if

Blue Diamond is an ancient perfume made by renown Danish chemist and author Steffen Arctander in 1979, and no longer in production. The gracious Heidi, a SmellyBlog reader and a long-time customer, has given me a sample when she was visiting in Vancouver this past summer. I heard about it before through another comment on this blog, but never seen it mentioned elsewhere. Heidi's curiosity about the notes in this perfume piqued my curiosity. She suspected the name "Blue Diamond" alluded to a precious blue flower: The legendary sacred Egyptian blue water lily, which is often mistakenly called "Blue Lotus". She was not far off the mark.

Upon opening the vial, a familiar yet mysterious fragrance welcomed me. As I was telling Heidi when I first smelled it - I could smell a high content of natural absolutes in the mix, perhaps tuberose, hyacinth or lotus - but not blue - rather, the pink variety (which is the true lotus). Visually speaking, I can see how a flower may be the inspiration - the unopened bud of lotus looks like a birds-eye view of cut-diamond or sapphire. The other dominant aspect of the composition is aldehydes, of the oily scalp type - C-11 or C-13, giving the perfume a skin-like, awkwardly intimate quality. The perfume is very potent and very long lasting, with the finishing notes being a pleasant cocktail of synthetic white musks.

* In modern perfumery terms, such philosophy is found in some awkward compositions, such as Tubereuse Criminelle - which instead of trying to make the tuberose smell pretty, it amplifies its ugly, rubbery and medicinal character and by exaggeration creates something beautiful.


Although the name suggests it to be a night-invoking perfume, I find it extremely summer-like and full of light.
It starts off with a citrus splash of bergamot and tangerine, backed up with a feminine floral notes of jasmine, and a more masculine eau-de-cologne like notes of orange blossoms and a hint of musk, that adds sensuality to that blast of freshness.
As the top notes start to fade, they reveal a luscious fruity note of peach supported by vanilla, which gradually pushes away the dominant orange-blossom and tangerine accord.
The dry down gradually enters with an interesting and surprising accord dominated by a fresh, woody and masculine vetiver notes, accompanied by green notes, orange blossom (softer and more subtle now), and a very modest hint of vanilla and rose. 
This perfume is full of surprises, I love the way the stages fade into each other. The overall impression is of freshness and vivacity, mingled with a tad of melancholy, which brings to mind Chopin's expressive piano nocturni. 

It’s surprising to see that such an old-fashioned aldehydic floral was launched in the 80’s (1981 to be exact). The perfumer behind Nocturnes is Gerard Lefort.

Top notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Mandarin, Green notes
Heart notes: Orange Blossom, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang, Tuberose, Stephanotis, Lily of the Valley, Orris, Rose, Cyclamen 
Base notes: Vetiver, Musk, Sandalwood, Amber, Vanilla, Benzoin


Música Ligera, originally uploaded by Angel_SinClaudicar.

Arpège is a perfect name for this lovely and luscious and ever so classic fruity-aldehydic-floral from Lanvin. It opens with an arpege of lovely accords that are soft and sweet, as if played on a harp:
Vetiver-Ylang Ylang- Orange---
And there is some bitter sweetness that strikes you a first, almost like tonka bean – or perhaps it is the tuberose, only that it is quite subtle and adds warmth like round ripples on the water.

Once the swirling arpeggio is quieted down, it settles on a magnificent rose theme – the rose is at the centre, and all the other flowers are just dancing around it like little fairies, and there is a fresh and uplifting citrus top note - What a delight!

Arpège is classy, a bit old-fashioned (in the good way as we all know) and so sweet and delicate. The aldehydes for sure add sophistication, but at heart it is a pure, loving floral with an eternal rosy glory.

Once settled on the skin, the dry down reveals an embracing, warm sandalwood-vetiver accord that is slightly sweetened by vanilla.

p.s. Just a little side note: For a long time I was convinced that if there is any aldehydic floral I should wear, it should definitely be Arpège and NOT No. 5. It was just so warm, and without the very heavy civette base that makes No. 5 smell so womanly. Arpege is a lot more young at heart. I never bought Arpège after all, I ended up with the No. 5 Parfum which I love – it is definitely not as innocent as Arpège is though. I love that woody drydown of Arpège. It’s pure and simple.

To read other reviews of Arpège, visit:

Bois de Jasmin

Now Smell This

Bois des Îles

Bois des Isles, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

She sits at the café. She just arrived from another era. She is not quite sure where she is, but she can recognize an urban heaven when she sees it. In her lacy gloved hand, she slowly lifts a lided paper coffee cup, and indulgently sips the warm elixir inside. Peacefully watching passers by as if completely unaware that she is the one who’s being watched. With her striking European chic outfits, complete with brimmed hat, carefully made-up brows and powdered face and dark lipstick her presence is enigmatic and foreign not only to her Asian features but also to the laid-back Pacific Northwest’ small-town mentality.

And just as her entrance into our lives was mysterious, so was her sudden disappearance one summer day. All I could gather was that I was not the only one sneaking curious gazes at her lacy brimmed hat and gloves, wondering if they might be covering some dreadful secret rather than evidence that she was indeed a time traveler… All I know is that she was not a hallucination of my dreams. Besides my success at capturing her image with my digital camera, I also found out that she disappeared on August 6th, 2007, and left behind a trail of mystery, including puzzled baristas who remembered her favourite drink was French Vanilla coffee – nothing fancy, just straight from the tap.

Perfume transcends the intangible mystery of time. And just like the presence of the mysterious time traveler, it enters our life suddenly and disappears without warning. Perhaps this was why when I saw her I smelled a phantom breath of Bois des Îles: a perfume that silently entered my consciousness and whose beauty I was unable to appreciate years ago because of its antiquated aldehydic moments and the vagueness of its intentions.

Years later, my reflections on Bois des Îles have been refined and clarity is starting to bring me more pleasure from this jus treasured within the crystal cut flacon. Without taking away from its mystery I can enjoy it and indulge in discerning the notes as they lazily dance on my skin. First come bergamot and aldehydes, which take some time to fade away. They are oily and bring to mind the somewhat uric aspect of sandalwood, and the somewhat sharp (at first) nuances of heady ylang ylang. As the aldehydic cloud settles, Bois des Îles becomes deliciously warm, with the spiciness of dry ginger and nutmeg. Sandalwood embraces the perfume throughout its evolution. Although there are floral notes in the heart (namely jasmine and rose), ylang ylang is the only one that truly stands out. The others are blended to complement the sandalwood and ylang ylang (smoothing and rounding its sharpness) and bridge from top to base and the crisp-woody notes of vetiver. And in the final movement choreographed on my skin, the sweetness of vanilla absolute, tonka and benzoin feels like a silky caress of soft lips and warm sand.

Top notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Nutmeg, Ginger
Base notes: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Tonka, Vanilla, Benzoin

P.s. This review is for the pure parfum, which unfortunately is no longer available in the Chanel boutiques as the beautiful and elegant crystal flacon of this jus had to make room for the ridiculously gigantic Eaux of the Les Exclusifs. Let’s hope the executives at Chanel smarten up and bring it back. After all, the extraits are the best way to wear the Chanel classics.
P.s.s. Coffret of vintag Chanel flacons was taken from this auction.
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