Today I discovered that white peonies not only smell different than the pink or red ones; they are also well worth bending over and perhaps even injuring your back on the way to inhale their delicate perfume. Trying to describe it, all I can say is that white peonies smell like lily of the valley with a hint of carnation and an even tinier hint of rose. Beautiful is an understatement. The scent was so heavenly I had to keep my nose buried in the cellophane-wrapped bouquet all the way home, ignoring the staring faces of passersby who probably wondered why there's an astronaut walking up Robson Strasse.
A month ago, I shared with you my craving for ginger and amber, together. Now experiencing the sequel of the same flu (been traveling around the city I hear, with two phases, thankfully the second is less aggressive than the first) - my ginger & amber craving has come a full circle.
In the last three or four days, I have been wearing my second mod for this amber and ginger perfume concept. This ons is so simple it’s almost ridiculous to even consider it a perfume yet. But it works as a skeletal stage for something bigger and better. I hope.
All it has is my amber base no.3, with organic ginger CO2 and an extra boost of styrax added. Since there is already styrax in the amber formula, don’t even consider it an additional element or note... The amber base includes plenty of styrax, plus benzoin, vanilla, tonka bean and two different labdanums. It’s a sheer sweet amber, simple and easy going.
It wears nicely on the skin, even if a little too soft. I would like to see more of a dichotomy between a zingy bite in the opening, and a deep, rich, caramel-like at the base.
When I was searching for images to illustrate this little entry I came across this rice pudding garnished with candied ginger. It instantly reminded me of the ginger gelato I had in Squamish two weekends ago. It was dotted with caramelized ginger galore. And if you found a teaspoonful that did not have ginger in it, it tasted mostly like mastic, the magical resin used to thicken and flavour ice cream in the Mediterranean region. It is the contrast between the cool ice cream and the hot, spicy ginger that I find most intriguing, and perhaps this is what I’m searching for in my amber & ginger perfume. The sharpness of ginger on the backdrop of buttery-smooth amber is what I envision for it.
Something to think about: adding notes of mastic resin tincture. And amplify the ginger so much so, that it would have an unmistakable initial bite, no matter on how much amber it’s lying.
Of all perfumes, that one that reminds me most of a Northern Christmas isn’t actually Nuit de Noël, but Parfum Sacre. The olfactory connection of Nuit de Noël to Christmas did not reveal itself to me until few days ago. It suddenly dawned on me: Plum pudding and ink!
Nuit de Noël bears the mark of many of the Caron perfumes created by Ernest Daltroff: density, complexity and a vast mystery which is reflected in the seamless connection between the notes. It is not easy to dissect the notes from one another, not to mention categorizing the perfumes.
The dryness of cedar wood is evident at the start, and roses unfold from beneath a dark dress. There is a certain dustiness to it all, as if the perfume was collecting dust for a year before being noticed again. But now that it did, time and age has only improved it. Powderiness is not absent, and in some regards, this perfume is akin to N’Aimez Que Moi in darkness, density and the thread of rose and powder. But what gives Nuit de Noël its distinct character and its important place in the Caron family is Mousse de Saxe.
Apparently, Mousse de saxe accord is what gives many of the Caron scents their dark undercurrent. It is said to include geranium, licorice, leather, iodine and vanillin. In Nuit de Noël, this accord is used in higher proportion to the rest of the composition, making it quite memorable even among the many rose perfumes of its era (not to mention only those from the house of Caron).
Sharing similarities with other powerhouse perfumes, Nuit de Noël is at once rosy, leathery, powdery and sweet. It reminds me of a less sweet, less in-your-face Habanita, a more leathery sister to N’Aimez Que Moi, and an inspiration to daring, feminine yet unsweet rare appearances of present day, such as Agent Provocateur, and even the dry down of Opium Fleur de Shanghai.
The flacon of Nuit de Noël is made of black crystal glass, and looks like a cross between an ink bottle and a hip-flask, adorned with a Charleston-style gold headband. It was said that Nuit de Noël was made for Daltroff’s lover, who loved Christmas. Somehow, I can only envision a very lonely winter night, with Charleston-music playing in a gramophone, and many glasses of red wine and whisky being used up until that lover finally shows up, hours after the family Christmas dinner is over.
While the connection of plum pudding to Christmas is quite obvious, that of ink isn’t. In any case, use Nuit de Noël as an ink for expressing your innermost feelings only when the time is ripe. Otherwise you may need to be dancing more than just one round of Charleston.
Notes: Cedarwood, Rose, Orris, Mousse de Saxe accord (Oakmoss, Licorice, Myrrh, Cedar moss), Vetiver, Sandalwood, Castoreum
In contrary to the low expectations I had from Narciso Rodriguez for Her, which lead (after several twists and turns of the plot) to a surprising delight from what seemed to be just another non-descript trendy floral – the launch of Narciso Rodriguez for Him had at least a seed of expectations on my part. One would expect that it would do to Fougere what For Her did to Chypre – meaning: disregard it completely and instead, invent a new modern floral category (abstract musky floral). In the case of fougere (also a composition reliant on oakmoss, this time contrasted with lavender), one would anticipate we’ll see the birth of a musky lavender, something not all that far from Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely – but perhaps a bit masculinized.
However, I am sorry to report that none of that happened. I stepped into Holt Renfrew the other night accompanied by my brother Noam - a budding perfumista with a collection that could not embarrass a gentlemen twice his age (of course I will only take partial responsibility over his interest in fragrance). His immediate reaction was disgust (and we are talking about a young man who consents to the title fragrance whore –seriously, there is hardly anything he doesn’t like!).
From the moment For Him was sprayed on the paper stripe, I could not help but think of concrete. The opening notes are bizarre and somewhat disturbing. There is a hint of honey, reminiscent of the honey flower note in For Her. But one can tell right away that there is nothing groundbreaking about this fougere at all. Like most modern fougeres, the lavender is very refined, the oakmoss very subdued. Synthetic notes take over, usually with a metallic coolness that reflects more of the methods the scent was created (by machines) than the human inspiration (if there was any involved).
To me, the scent just confirmed a strong connection to the bizarre choice of colour for the bottle – a concrete gray of the most depressing hue I’ve seen in a long time. If this was fabric, perhaps I would be able to find some comfort in it. But being made of a thick cold shiny glass makes one feel just that – cold and “correctic”. Nothing more. It seems Narciso Rodriguez has simultaneously run out of ideas for his bottle’s colors and the scent of their contents. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And I think the posted ad for this fragrance says it all: it’s the cliché of a fragrance ad for men – chest exposed medium shot of a young man - nothing surprising, except, perhaps, the extremely dark thick hair and the supposedly-mysterious lack of eye contact.
If it was indeed inspired by the “great fougeres of the 80’s" than we must look back and try to remember these. Cool Water by Davidoff comes to mind, with its antiseptic Jacuzzi cleaner sillage and metal bladed breath. Anything inspires by that (or the 80’s, for that matter) is likely to make me shudder… Considering that real, sophisticated, original fougeres are originated in the 80’s of the previous century, it does make one wonder.
For Him opens with a disturbing bouquet of both dry cement and wet concrete, unrecognizable spices and a honey note. The intrigue dissipates quickly when the scent becomes a familiar, I’ve-smelled-this-before modern fougere accord – a hint of fake herabceous water, some non-descript fruity sweetness that is fortunately not quite nausearing, but just almost (it reminds me quite a bi t of the sweetness of Jean-Payl Gaultier for men, only with the sillage toned down 10 fold); a glimpse of violet leaf coolness and a certain smokiness that my brother describes as ‘ashtray smell” but at the same time he also detects some good smelling fresh herb notes. The dry down settles within about an hour – a close to the skin, rather soft, undecisive mélange of amber and musk (it is also said to contain patchouli, but I can’t say I am recognizing any). Nothing offensive in the drydown, and the sillage is soft and non overpowering – the contrary of what I’ve expected after the magical sillage and staying power of For Her (it has a tendency to stay everywhere after it was applied, and even withstand a laundry – yet it does it with a nice touch of mischevious elegance – almost like Josephine’s deliberate musk contamination before leaving Napoleon’s palaces). The only thing that truly stands out (if you take a very close look) is an animalic ambergris note, somewhat fecal, but with such low-key vibrations it can never offend and unelss you’ve smelled it before it would be very hard to put your finger on it. It reminds me of l’Antimateirer; unfortunately, in this instance one needs to wait a long time for it to emerge. And this might just be its chance for success.