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Girls...

Girl

Through many twists and turns two extra teeange-ish girls were brought into my life. So that brings the total female humans in the household to four. Multiply that by 100 and you can get a pretty realistic number for for the amounts of products (some scented, some not) that each of us uses for her beauty regime, fragrance included. Thank goodness there are two bathrooms in my apartment, as we all know that girls don't use them just for straightforward business but for myriad of other mysterious purposes. It makes me think of how raising children is such a risky business - they start all adorable, helpless and easy to control and by their early teens could very possibly morph into a kind of a roommate from hell.

Whenever I feel the slightest urge to complain (like, when I see a cotton swap covered in kohl, hairballs, and myriad varieties of makeup mess) - I remind myself of the days when I was living at my friend Zohar's family. She has 3 more sisters, to with her mom there were 6 ladies in the house (but only one washroom). And it makes me feel ever more thankful and appreciative of their kindness and patience with me at that rough teenaged year of my life.

Now, back to painting that olfactory picture of what's happening right now (and yet again I'm reminded of my friend's many sisters) - every morning (or whenever they decide to wake up) - you'll get a immersed in fruity shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, deodorants, celebrity perfumes (Brittany Spears Hidden Fantasy is the "everyday" scent around here). A similar regime will take place in the evening if one of us goes out, but then there is a chance that Flowerbomb will be applied as the final touch. And then there is a mystery fragrance of roses of violets that I keep forgetting to ask one of the girls what it is... Plus Miss T takes after her mom and sprays a bedtime perfume almost every night (she hasn't fallen far off the tree). At least she does not get to wear In Control Curious because her mom stocks her up with cult scents such as "Girl Perfume", which is how she calls The Little Prince (which is a harmless, lemony eau de cologne), the classic AnaisAnais, and a designer scent and a celebrity scent I actually quite like - "Pink Bottle Perfume" (KenzoAmour) and Harajuku Lovers "Love", AKA in this household as "Mickey Mouse Perfume".

Hanae Mori Butterfly



Created in 1996, Hanae Mori's eponymus scent* is as young as my daughter (which is a perenial if not a "classic" in current perfume lifespan terms) and is about as girly as could be. It is probably the fragrance that  have set the trend for the myriads of sugary fruity-florals that dominate the celebrity scent world. While Angel and Lolita Lempicka had sweet notes that sugar-coated a very bold base dominated by patchouli and vetiver respectively - Hanae Mori's goes straight to the candy.

The beginning is somewhat fresh, with hints of crisp apples, and light citrusy rose and strawberry. But cotton candy is the true star of the show for the next few minutes. Creamy heliotropin creates an almondy nuance, and alongside strawberry-flavoured saltwater taffy, it is hard to imagine a little girl who won't like it. It envelopes with a smooth, sweet (and not sickening, yet) aura of fun-loving innocence. It took the gourmand sweetness of classics such as Eau de Charlotte (based on chocolate and cassis) to a new level of exaggerated sweetness. After a few good minutes, the rose peeks out of its hiding place. Rose that is slightly green, yet also sweet and juicy-citrusy. It reminds me of the insane Japanese bubble gum I had long time ago, the one that turns your skin into a rose-smelling bed of red hives. Another interesting element that comes out is sandalwood. So perhaps this is not entirely sugar and fluff. More vanilla and sweetness will come along further as it develops on the skin. It's a little too sticky-sweet to my taste, and without enough darkness to sustain my interest (I like sweet, but I also like a bit more of an edge to a scent - which is why I so enjoy L by Lolita Lempicka - the warmth of the cinnamon and the hint of immortelle really balance all the vanilla and musk overload).

In hindsight, this perfume is quite fun and original for its time. But after coming across so many celebrity scents with the same formula (nondescript flower + random choice of fruit + vague musk + arbitrary piece of wood) and the same premise - it did lose a fair amount of its lustre. Add to this the fact that most similar scents can be found for ridiculous sums, while this remains a bit of a high-end fragrance, I imagine is a bit disillusioning for Hanae Mori fans.

But of course, there is more than something to be said about the marketing and cultural aspects of a fragrance, and Hanae Mori has and will remain a cult fragrance. Not only because it was one of the first of the gourmand fruity-florals genre; but also because of its packaging, and because a rectangural bottle with a chunky, asymmetric top and what looks like a butterfly sticker slapped on it by a little child is I suppose irresistibly cute. Or shall I say Kawaii?

Top Notes: Wild strawberries, sweet blackberries, blackcurrants, bilberries**
Middle Notes: Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, French peony 
Base Notes: Rosewood, almondwood, sandalwood and cedar
 
* Usually referred to as "Hanae Mori Butterfly" because of the butterfly print on the bottles and/or boxes. There are pink, blue and red butterflies - each colour corresponding to the concentration level: Eau de toilette (pink), which is what this review is based on; Eau de parfum (blue); and parfum extrait (red).
** Bilberry is really the European version of blueberry. 

Gourmands: Main Course or Dessert?



The "Dessert" of the Oriental Week this past Friday was an afternoon dedicated to Gourmand perfumes - a modern sub-category of the Oriental fragrance family. This relatively recent trend turned into an established genre beginning with Thierry Mugler's Angel. This cult perfume was created for avant-garde fashion designer Thierry Mugler by nose Olivier Cresp in 1992, and closely followed by the iconic licorice, cherry and violet based Lolita Lempicka (designed by perfumer Annick Menardo in1997).

Angel, now one of the top five best-selling perfumes in the world, was not an immediate success. It took Thierry Mugler's devotion and deep conviction in the fragrance, matched by investing plenty of creative marketing effort into before the world warmed up to Angel - first through a cult of loyal customers who were completely addicted to its unique combination of patchouli, blackberry, helional, citrus and ethyl maltol (a novel scent molecule reminiscent of cotton candy) - and later, a world-wide loyalty to Angel as a brand, with a star-shaped refillable bottles and unusual spray mechanism, hi-tech urns for refilling in most retail locations, and many sequels, limited edition bottles, advertisement with unique haute-couture gown made for each model (some of which were celebrities).

Lolita Lempicka also belongs to a fashion house (of the same name), and like Angel it was cleverly marketed, yet with more earthly, whimsical fairytale-like visuals and connotations. The unique bottle, asymetrical apple-shaped with a stem that doubles as the spray nozzle - has highly imaginative posters and video clips to boot. It took the Lolita fantasy to a different level - while the name of the brand (and perfume) alone evokes that not-so-innocent child-woman from Nabokov's famous novel (the Lempicka part is named after the Polish painter, Tamara de Lempicka). there is more magic added to the mix in what feels very personable (if that's your taste), resonating on a rather deep level of self-identity, appealing to the artistic, whimsical girl-at-heart personality. And what did it smell like? Reminiscent of candy, but with hints of green freshness from ivy leaves and anise notes, Lolita Lempicka focuses its foody obsession on licorice candy, giving it a more floral treatment than Angel with the addition of violets, and the sweetness comes primarily from heliotropin (which smells like a very sweet cherry pie), coumarin and vanilla - evoking the scent of Amarena cherries. There is a lot more powderiness to it than Angel, and the contrasting earthy quality comes from a vetiver root.

Niche perfumeries did not escape from this trend either, with dessert-like creations such as the artificially almondy, syrupy-sweet Rahat Loukum (Serge Lutens), and cherry-like Luctor et Emergo (The People of the Labyrinth). The sweetness in these perfumes went completely overboard, even more than the vanilla and ethyl-vanillin saturated Shalimar (which is one of the first Ambery Orientals, created in 1925). The use of all of these sweet notes, and their dosage, suggested a full-calorie dessert, making them feel deceivingly edible. And both are closely related to Hypnotic Poison (1998, also created by Annick Menardo, and smells like almond and vanilla with hints of caraway).

Gourmands' inherent comforting impact is what made this fragrance category dominate the women's fragrance market well into the new millennia, providing a rather extreme counterpoint to the scrubbed-down aquatic florals of the same era. But it was in the early new millennia that gourmands really reached traction. After 9-11, the gourmands provided to the traumatized masses exactly the kind of comfort they needed: something child-like, innocent, familiar, cozy, sweet, a little simplistic even. Like a mother handing her sobbing child a square of chocolate caramel, the perfume companies went overboard with this trend, and it bled onto the other genres - tainting anything from florals (countless celebrity scents come to mind) to chypres (Fruitchouli, anyone?) with a sugary sweet cotton candy note; or one novel fruit or another.

Savoury gourmands are less talked about, and provide an interesting and more sophisticated take on culinary inspiration. While the dessert-inspired gourmands we've discussed so far relied on novel molecules to emanate the strong association of sweetness, a different trend, which is now becoming more popular, is the new obsession with "salty". But before we digress into mineral notes - let's just mention some of the earlier "savoury" gourmands - those that were designed to smell like earlier courses in the meal.

Dinner by Bobo (2002) is the first example that springs to mind. This perfume played up the cumin presence to create a rather controversial effect at the time. While cumin is popular spice around the world, and has been used in best-selling perfumes in France (in Rochas Femme reformulation, for example). many people in North America associated cumin with "sweat" and find it unsavoury. Dinner by Bobo brings to mind a candle-lit dinner in a French-Moroccan restaurant, complete with red wine - but no dessert in sight. It plays like a complex tajin with dried apricots and prunes and warm spices - not that far in concept from the fruity Chypres of the mid-twentieth century.

Serge Lutens plays up the exotic spices in its souk-evoking perfume Arabie. The notes are a lot more realistic, but still remain in a very clear context of perfume, with the edible association perhaps more known to those familiar with the complex spices used in Arabic and North African cooking. in Santal de Mysore, a similar accord of Indian curry is used in contrast to East Indian sandalwood.

Later still, Jo Malone introduced a couple of fragrances that explored a more savoury aspect of food: the Mexican inspired Blue Agave & Cacao, bringing to the fore a dusty cacao note mingled with salt, lime and blue agave. Sweet Lime & Cedar was inspired by Thai cuisine, and at its core is kaffir lime leaf mingled with coconut water and cedarwood. Again - not a sweet interpretation (although coconut could have brought it easily all the way to the realm of celebrity scents, Malibu beach style). Last but not least: Anima Dulcis presents its cacao notes alongside cumin, cinnamon, vanilla, salted caramel and chili. It's not exactly sugar-free, but it balances all of the sweet and savoury elements so well, that it won my heart completely.

Here are some of the most famous if not influential Gourmand fragrances:
Angel (1992)
A*Men(1996)
Lolita Lempicka (1997)
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin (2000)
Wish (Chopard)
Rochas Man
Hanae Mori Butterfly
Pink Sugar (Aqualina)
Popi Moreni
Yohji 
Yohji Homme
Rahat Loukum (Serge Lutens)
Luctor et Emergo (The People of the Labyrinth)
Rahat Loukum (Serge Lutens)
Rosewater & Vanilla (Jo Malone)
Hypnotic Poison (Dior)
R├ęglisse Noire (1000Flowers)

Savoury Gourmands of Interest: 
Dinner by Bobo
Arabie (Serge Lutens)
Santal de Mysore (Serge Lutens)
Blue Agave & Cacao (Jo Malone)
Sweet Lime & Cedar (Jo Malone) 
Anima Dulcis (Arquiste)

Mental Notes: Good Food


Cinnamon waffle@Wawee, originally uploaded by mink~.

Gourmand scents are not for everyone. Some get completely turned-0ff by the notion of smelling like desert. Apparently my fondness for food did not go unnoticed and I belong to those who have a weakness for a good gourmand scent.
Today I am wearing my beloved Immortelle l'Amour; one of those scents that I have created out of a necessity for an enveloping warmth of vanilla and maple with cinnamon and orange. Immortelle absolute and rooibos tincture add a herbaceous tea-like dimension and I am loving every moment of it. It's particularly appropriate on snuggly rainy days, or stormy ones that force people to stay indoors and embrace romance.
Perhaps this is why I spent the evening baking cookies with my daughter (peanut-butter filled chocolate cookies, if you must know!). I think Immortelle l'Amour is the first scent where I really managed to capture the scent of baked goods (cinnamon waffles), most thankfully because of the wheat absolute and cinnamon CO2.

Sweet dreams...

Or, if you are still awake, would you care to share your favourite cooking smells (as well as your fragrance for the day)?
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