Ma Griffe

Jean Carles, the Beethoven of modern perfumery, created many unforgettable classics that have changed the world of perfumery forever. Tabu and Canoe (Dana), Shocking (Schiparelli) as well as several scents for Lucien Lelong. And like Beethoven, he lost his sense of smell towards the end of his career. But that did not stop him from creating great fragrances. Ma Griffe being one of them. And like Tabu and Schiaparelli, whatever it lacks in nuance and refinement, it makes up for in a bold and innovative advertising campaign.

I've always had a fondness to Ma Griffe (1946), be it the original (and more demure ad) portraying the literal meaning of the scent "My Signature" with a lady's hand signing her name with perfume instead of ink. But also always ignored it because of my much greater love and loyalty to Miss Dior, the epitome of animalic-floral chypres tinged with green. When smelled separately, the two bring each other to mind. But Ma Griffe has a certain crudeness to it that has softened and rounder by the time 1947 rolled around with Miss Dior (also created by Jean Carles, this time in collaboration with Paul Vacher. The extrait for Miss Dior, by the way, was reworked by Edmond Roudnitska). By then he must have perfected the concept, resulting in a seamless Chypre that is like no other.

Ma Griffe opens with a burst of juicy lemony notes and bergamot, as well as citronella, which I feel is the culprit of the opening notes, and probably what made it not nearly as popular as Miss Dior that followed it - the citronella gives a sharp impression that takes away from the refinement of the rest of the composition. There is a hint of galbanum, but not enough to leave trails on your man's back!
As the perfume evolves, it becomes more bitter, tart and woody, and less feminine and sultry.
 Aside from galbanum, two other contributors to the bitterness is methyl ionone and coumarin - notes that bring to mind the metallic-floral prowl of Je Reviens and Rive Gauche. This phase, admittedly, is not my favourite part of Ma Griffe, which also has a hint of oily aldehydes (C-11, C-13) - giving it a very lady-like personality. It's charming in low doses, but is very particular to the era and not necessarily appeal to today's fast-paced, simplicity-seeking lifestyle. I imagine the same "type" of women who enjoyed it in the 50's would now appreciate the reformulated Sisley's Eau de Champagne - which is a lot more simpler, brisk and still has that bitter charm of a glass of very dry martini.

Once the aldehydes quiet down a bit, the warmth of cinnamon begins to come through, as well as a hint of incense from the styrax (AKA liquidambar - one of the main components for creating amber accords). The florals are not particularly strong in any phase, but if anything comes through, it's the spiciness (hint of eugenol) and fruity-banana-like nuance from the ylang ylang. This underappreciated floral is a wonderful, smoothing counterpart to green notes, who in return cif ut through its intense, heady sweetness. Both together eliminate their potential for nauseating headiness, and create something new and exciting. If you've smelled Chamade, with its prominent galbanum-ylang ylang contrast, you may know what I am referring to.

As Ma Griffe dries down, it's becoming even more appealing, especially for the connoisseurs of unsweet perfumes. Strong presence of vetiverol - the vetiver alcohol - gives it a very clean, tart, precioius-wood finish that men could sport with just as much confidence as ladies.

This review is for a pre-IFRA regulated version (from days of yore, when there was no requirements of listing any allergens on the ingredients list) and in the EDT formulation. It's very vintage-y, and if comparing to Miss Dior - it has more of a white floral and musky nuances to it, which remind me a bit of Chant d'Aromes. It also has more of a citrusy burst and it's more aldehydic and powdery than Miss Dior. I should get around to write a full review of it next week. One of these days I'll do a side-by-side of these three beauties, and give you a more elaborate comparison.

Top notes: Lemon, Begramot, Citronella, Galbanum, Aldehydes
Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Rose, Gardenia, Clary Sage, Cinnamon, Styrax
Base notes: Vetiver, Coumarin, Oakmoss

There are Signs that Green is Back

After a long, long, long period of brain-numbing fruity florals and suffocating gourmands, there are signs that indeed, green is getting back into fashion, fragrance wise.

And while this change in trends is most welcome amongst those of us who either despise fruity florals or simply are tired of cookie cutter fragrances that seem to be the imitation of an imitation of an imitation of something that seemed to be cutting edge or just fun 10 or 15 years ago; there is something a bit worrying about the way greens might be coming back.

The reason for my less than cheerful attitude to this much-anticipated change of course is two-fold:
1) the gradual extinction of certain natural essences that were utilized in classic green perfumes of yesteryear. Namely oakmoss. But naturals in general are becoming a rarity in mainstream perfumes (which makes perfect sense when thinking of the vast quantities of jus produced every year; we simly don’t have enough land on this planet to produce enough natural oils to be a substantial part of all the mass –marketed perfume launched every other day.
2) Judging by the recent green releases (mostly coming out of niche lines first, and it seems that gradually, mainstream perfumes will pick up on the hint and adapt the trend), they offer nothing new. Nothing that we haven’t smelled before (except that its coming from a different or a new brand). Two of the Chanel Les Exclusifs (28 La Pausa and Bel Respiro). The names as well as the compositions are winking quite suggestively at past successes and achievements (either olfactory or fashion), which may indicate lack of finding inspiration in the present time.

Nowadays, it is a challenge to smell a scent without prejudices: the perfume’s name, brand, packaging, colour, advertising campaign, not to mention the anticipation of a fragrance all over fragrance boards and blogs create expectations not only as to the quality of the scent but also how it actually smells. Thes factors all have an impact on what you actually smell in a new fragrance, as those expectations are difficult to block out.

With Kelly Calèche, the expectations went all the way from complete dismissal (pink jus, named after a bag), to a peaked interest once seeing the ad (now, that looks intriguing!) but I wasn’t holding my breath for it. When I passed by the Hermes boutique on Wednesday, I checked in and found it there. It was neither pink nor leathery. It was a green, dry iris with very little to remind one of leather if at all. It starts with an off-putting note that immediately reminded me of Rose Ikebana (which I’m not capable of wearing at all – the combination of berries, greens and rose is nauseating to me, and even more so ever since I overdosed on curried mango pickle in my avocado sandwich one day while wearing l’Ombre Dans l’Eau…). Thankfully, the sharp berry and green phase is short-lived, and is replaced by a fresh, citrus green accord, which quickly develops into a powdery rose and orris body notes. With a dry undercurrent (the leather?) it is not unlike No. 19. After all, pairing greens with leather is not a new idea (No. 19, Ivoire). Neither is the green perfume with orris and rose at the centre. For a moment I get a peppery dry whiff reminiscent of the tea-tinged Osmanthe Yunnan. Overall, Kelly Calèche wears like a sheer veil rather than a leather whip. It’s very well mannered, cool even, elegant in a selective and luxurious style, very much like the public image of Grace Kelly who inspired the bag which inspired the perfume’s name. Would I have been more impressed if the perfume would have been called “making soles in angel leather"? I won’t be able to say now, because it is named after a leather bag. A well made bag, but nothing that inspired emotion in me. I suppose I would have been more likely to appreciate its etheral greenness if it had a name and an image more fitting to what it actually smells like. Just like Bel Respiro and 28 La Pausa, the uninspiring name takes away from the value of the fragrance on its own.
Top notes: Grapefruit, Cassis, Pepper
Heart notes: Rose, Iris

Base notes: Leather
, Cedar, Labdanum

Note that although mimosa and tuberose are listed, I can barely smell them if at all. The base is dry, cedary almost, though not quite leathery. I smell the faintest hint of labdanum there too, without the base becoming sweet by any means.

To read other reviews of Kelly Calèche, visit:
Now Smell This
The Perfume Shrine

* Image of green Kelly bag borrowed from: http://www.chrisabraham.com/


I Surrender, originally uploaded by Ana Santos.

Chamade. A perfume like no other. Green. Fruity. Floral. Aldehydic. Mossy. Balsamic.
When I first read about it in the Guerlain pamphlet I received at The Bay, I did not expect to like it at all because it was described as an aldehydic floral. But to sum it up as belonging to one category or another would be missing the whole point: Chamade is Chamade. You must enjoy it for what it is rather than attempt to classify and categorize it. This would be likened to locking a beautiful songbird in a cage, or a free spirited woman in a house and tell her what to wear, eat or do. If you love Chamade you should know better than that!

Yet, the magic of Chamade is not so much in the fact that it is so versatile, but rather, in the unusual assembly of notes that are so different, yet harmonize perfectly with one another. Notes that seemingly contradict each other so much you wouldn’t think they’ll get along at all: the briskness of galbanum and the caramely sweetness of vanilla; the fruitiness of black currant buds and the acrid oakmoss; Not to mention the florals and aldehydes in between which on the paper create an unresolved olfactory mess.

Yet in the Cupid’s arrow-stricken reversed heart bottle, these elements form a balanced tension that leads from the briskness of galbanum and fruity sharpness of cassis to an oily-urinal aldehydes combines with the above mentioned berries. Creamy and hot, pulsating floral notes of ylang ylang mingle with the powdery, green yet sweet hyacinth creating an impression of a flower warmed in a sunny spring garden. And this all leads to a base that is first mossy, slightly acrid-bitter-dry-woody of sandalwood and oakmoss. Hourse later, the magical vanilla that only the dynasty of Guerlain could use so appropriately without making it seem banal or overdone. The same vanilla of Shalimar parfum – dark, resinous-sweet and sexy in the most intimate, close-to-the-skin tastefulness of the classic parfum extrait of this house.

I’ve been fortunate to wear Chamade in a few concentrations and vintages: vintage EDT from the generous Char (I won a contest, can you believe it?), a Parfum Extrait from eBay, in a pristine 30ml sealed bottle; and of course, a brand new EDT, which is delicious and quite true to the original I think (though this will probably change any minute because of the strict oakmoss regulations in the EU and by IFRA). The new Chamade of course smells fresher, and the top notes are more apparent. It shows its vanillic face faster than the vintage I would say. Yet I can still feel the same Chamadeness beating in there. The vintage EDT is fantastic, the top notes are less pronounced, but you can still feel them, and overall the perfume feels much softer, rounder, and goes form phase to phase seamlessly. The powderiness of the aldehydes and ylang ylang is more pronounced, and there is also a bit of a note that I can only liken to the Mousse de Saxe of Caron, or otherwise to Peru Balsam essential oil (rather than the balsam itself). The parfum extrait is a completely different story altogether. It has such pronounced notes of rose and jasmine (and wow! what a jasmine!) that is barely resembles what I learned to know as Chamade from the other two versions. There is some of the galbanum though, but hardly any cassis (if at all) or ylang ylang at first. Which makes me think, it was probably reformulated after all, though I will not be able to give you any dates. The reformulation primarily seems to be downplaying the rose and jasmine to insusceptible quantities and replacing them mostly by the more cost-effective ylang ylang (probably from Guerlain's own plantations; I wonder in which year they got these...).

Top notes: Galbanum, Black Currant Buds, Aldehydes

Heart notes: Ylang Ylang, Hyacinth

Base notes: Oakmoss, Vanilla, Sandalwood

A few words about the timing for this perfume: designed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last in the line of the Guerlain heritage of exemplary high-class perfumery (which lasted for almost two decades and was brutally interrupted only in recent years by globalization and greed). The timeless beauty of Chamade only got to show you that Jean-Paul did not lack inspiration before LVMH got into the picture (rather, stole the picture) and perhaps than it was finances that designed the fragrances more than its own talented nose. Chamade was launched in 1969, marking the beginning of the 70's, which in the perfume world was significantly characterized by the emergance of soapy and green compositions, such as No. 19, Private Collection, Silences, Ivoire, Diorella, and very much influenced AnaisAnais which launched almost a decade later, as well as the much later excellent celebrity perfume Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve.


doesnt get any softer than this, originally uploaded by lil aNNa.

Refined and restrained beauty like a spirited woman in a tailored suit - Ivoire starts off with business-like manners of soapy cleanliness attached to a bouquet of garden roses and green leaves.

As sharp and soapy as the opening may be, it has an instant effect of cheerful and energetic attitude that is simply charming and uplifting.
Rather quickly, it softens to reveal dewy roses awakening to rays of sunshine releasing a fresh scent along with crushed grass and softly warming soil and petals.
This breath of fresh garden air remains true throughout the composition despite of the underlining warmth of leather, cedar, incense and moss - except for the very final dry down, which is of soft incense sweetened with subtle notes of raspberry jam; A somewhat bizarre finale to such a green song but nevertheless magically harmonious.

Ivoire is one of the very few green perfumes that put a smile on my face. While I find many other green compositions too sharp or melancholy, Ivoire balances beautifully between elegance and warmth. The underlining notes of cedar and leather must contribute to its favorable effect on me – and although I don’t find the raspberry note quite necessary, it is a pleasant surprise to find that “candy” hiding in the green rose garden… This final accord reminds me of Yohji’s final accords, as well as Rochas Man.

Top notes: Galbanum, Bergamot
Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley
Base notes: Cedar, Leather, Oakmoss, Incense, Sandalwood, Raspberry

Private Collection

Strange, mysterious and elegant, Private Collection is a perfume of rare beauty and originality. Although I liked the EDP very much, I find the parfum far superior, and this is the version I chose to review here.

The opening notes are impossible to pass by without notice: green and strange. Galbanum, freshly cut grass and twigs, along with a hint of beetle-like scent, slightly apple-y notes, flying like fireflies in the summer above wedged watermelons specked with black seeds.

An elegant crisp white floral heart complements the green notes with orange blossom absolute, neroli and rose and a tad of jasmine and lily of the valley. Underneath it all there is a warm and soft undercurrent of oakmoss and sandalwood.

This is an exceptional perfume with a frosty aura of crisp elegance - just as the bottle so beautifully portrays. It’s cutting edge yet classy. It comprises of an interesting counterpoint of a distant, well preserved beauty and a warm and loving personality that is very approachable. It’s the combination of elegant florals, childhood-invoking, playful green notes along with more grown-up, warm, mossy and woody notes that make this perfume’s personality so well rounded and lovable.

Top notes: Galbanum, Freshly cut grass
Heart notes: Orange Blossom Absolute, Neroli, Rose, Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley
Base notes: Oakmoss, Sandalwood

For a different view of Private Collection, visit The Scented Salamnder and read
review from February 5th 2007.

Photo: Cyclamen leaves in Clil

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