Si Lolita

Is it possible for a perfume to be simultaneously floral, fresh, warm, spicy and woody? Apparently yes. Si Lolita succeeds in being all of the above without any clashing of the elements. It is all at once pretty, happy, girly fragrance and a surprisingly spicy. Beginning with a dry peppery freshness of pink peppercorns, cedar and the lemon-and-pepper balsamic pungency of elemi resin. Si Lolita glows softly on the skin, revealing its almondy tonka and heliotrope foundation with hints of patchouli that smells musky-animalic in this context rather than earthy (that’s the magic of perfume: blending tonka and patchouli together creates something new altogether). At its core lays a sweet pea accord, a flower that hasn’t been exactly popular since, perhaps, Caron’s Pois de Senteur (1927). After searching high and low for a sweet pea scent on Basenotes, I found only four that either have mention of this in their name, or as a note.

If you ever grown sweet peas in your garden, you know how cheerful their smell is. It is sweet as the name suggests, and has spicy and green elements, make is why it also feels very balanced – not cloying or heady or indolic like lilies, for example. Both Arctander and Poucher describe sweet pea flowers to have a scent of hyacinth and orange blossom with a little bit of rose. Unfortunately, although the flowers yield themselves to extraction with solvent, an absolute is not produced commercially at the moment, so whatever is in Si Lolita must be a sweet pea floral base (created by the perfumer to reproduce the impression of the flower).

But I digress. (update: I decided to move the portion about composing sweet pea accord into another post). I got a sample from Holt Renfrew on Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday night my grocery list already included a bottle of the juice (as I’m writing this, I am still waiting for my daughter to return from school so I can do my “groceries”). This is not to say that Si Lolita smells like a grocery item, but it has captured my nose immediately, that I am feeling deprived since yesterday night – so you see, it is a necessity!

Si Lolita is mischievous, pretty, chic and easy and fun to wear. While it has enough warmth in it to make a fall day feel cozy, it is a rather light scent, even at the EDP concentration (which explains why I run out of the sample in less than two days – I had to reapply a lot). It’s not nearly as potent as its big sisters Lolita Lempicka and L, but it would be a bit much if the entire line was heavy orientals, wouldn’t it?

The bottle and packaging is whimsical in a non-chalant, effortless Parisian style. It’s romantic without being nostalgic, the design feels as effortless as a non-committal sketch in water colour, yet it works. It’s easy on the eyes and easy to handle and apply (something I can’t say about either L or Lolita Lempicka’s bottles). The flow of design is thankfully not reserved for the visual alone but also the fragrance. And the most surprising part – it’s interesting and even original in its choice of notes and comosition.
It’s refreshing to see a scent that is pretty and perhaps even “cute” by some standards, easy to wear without being pretentious, and even has a spark of originality in it. It really shimmers as a result. And I think it is even going to sell well with that lucky four leaf clover.

Top notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Pink Pepper
Heart notes: Sweet Pea, Giroflée (Wallflower), Heliotrope
Base notes: Tonka Bean, Elemi Resin, Patchouli, Amber

P.s. I really recommend you read Octavian Coifan's commentary on this unusual perfume.

Narciso Rodriguez - Part Two

Calla Lilly B&W, originally uploaded by brianchapman.

Narciso Rodriguez is a quirky yet very wearable perfume. It’s equally mundane and unique. It can be easily dismissed as just another test-tube fragrance, or as a non-scent if you have musk anosmia tendencies…

Starting with a nail polish and a boozy note, Narciso may give off the impression of having barely any scent of its own besides that of the carrying alcohol. It’s light and bubbly as a just-uncorked champagne, and like a good champagne, it can become quite addictive once you become used to it… It's also a bit floral, yet there are no real flower notes there. Just an abstract suggestion of orange blossoms and perhaps even glimpses of osmanthus wannabes. The woody notes which are said to be vetiver remind me more of flour and rancid ground walnuts… A tad of light honey poured on skin and than licked away, leaves a smooth, sensual, faintly-woody and musky-clean trail is the best way I can describe how Narciso Rodriguez smells once it settles on the skin. When it settles on fabric, it may remind you of your favourite laundry detergent and fabric softener…

You may recall my struggle with Narciso Rodriguez a while back. I was equally intrigued and taken aback by its composition. It presented a challenge to me with its very different aesthetic concept: it radiates out, yet when you come near to understand it better, it slips away; a scintillating illusion of a fragrance rather than a real olfactory being. Perhaps it’s the idea of musk vs. amber that was intriguing to me. A sneaky yet alluring phenomenon… A perfume that radiates energy that cannot be tracked to the source.

Writing a review for Narciso Rodriguez was further delayed because I think that Cait Shortell
did it better than I could ever do it, so I encourage you to read her fascinating review as well as the interesting visual connection she discovered to the work of Imogen Cunningham.

Narciso Rodriguez smells particularly wonderful on fabrics (where it will last for days, but not in an obnoxious way like other, very heavy perfumes do;To my surprise, I was able to wear other perfumes even if there is some of it left on my sleeves).

The above review is for the EDT, which is my favourite formulation, seconded only by the pure parfum (comes in a roll on with a black cap). I stay away from the pink bottles in this line, and find the Musc for Her to be too persistent overall though it has its own charm if you are looking for a linear, long lasting musk oil. It's a scent I'll never be without.

Narciso Rodriguez was designed by Francis Kurkdjian and Christine Nigel, and won the Fifi award for Women's Nouveau Niche fragrance in 2004. I believe that this perfume embodies a landmark in modern perfumery and perhaps a new fragrance sub-family of modern non-animalic musky-florals, and will see many followers, in additions to some that we already smelled such as Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker and Ralph Lauren's Pure Turquoise.
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