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Intimate


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

New Perfume: Lost Lagoon

 Inspired by a hidden garden of azaleas

Lost Lagoon

Happy May Day!
I'm excited to share with you my new perfume for spring and summer: Lost Lagoon.

Every spring, the rhododendrons awaken - first slowly, building anticipation. By early May, they simply burst with colour and aroma, some of the bushes so dense with flowers that you can't even see their leaves and branches...

These fragrant azaleas paint the edges of Lost Lagoon with myriads of flowers of tropical colours and exotic scents as versatile as the number of hybrids planted there: some are reminiscent of lily, others are like ylang ylang and some smell like cool suntan lotion. Bluebells, violets and other bulb flowers and annuals are planted among them; and magnolia, lilac and syringa contribute their luscious perfume to the already fragrant air. Freshly cut grass from the Pitch & Putt is the only reminder you're still in the Northern Hemisphere and not in the tropics...

Lost Lagoon

In case you can't experience this extravagant botanical explosion in person - don't be sad: I've bottled that scent especially for you!

Lost Lagoon is the third installation in "Perfume For A Place" series, which is inspired by my favourite places in Vancouver. This perfume will transport you to a secret lagoon surrounded by tropical flowers. Lost Lagoon is a refreshing Chypre with exotic floral notes of magnolia and ylang ylang and loaded with bergamot and green notes of rhododendron buds, violet leaf and galbanum.



Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Galbanum, Violet
Heart Notes: Rhododendron, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Oakmoss, Amber, Iris


Cured: The Science & Art of Decay

Orris Root

The challenge of some raw materials is that they might be rather unpleasant in their original state. At best, they lack any aroma and depth whatsoever. The cure for that lies in a process called curing (pun intended). Curing takes many shapes and forms. Sometimes the process is long and at times it's rather short. Either way, the results are nothing short of magic that tantalizes the palate and the olfactory bulbs!

We've all heard of curing meats and tobacco leaves, and it's common knowledge that wine gets better with age. But the culinary world is not the only one that benefits from time and fermentation. For some fragrant crops, growing and harvesting them is only a tiny portion of the process to make them edible, smellable or worth any mention at all. The starting material may be extremely stinky, bitter, astringent, or just plain flavourless at best. The processes by which the desired result is achieved is usually referred to as "curing" or "aging". It ranges from a few days, weeks or months and up to several years. The extra time and care that is invested in those crops makes all the difference in the world. And this will be evident and felt in the raw material itself as well as the finished product where it will be used - in our case, perfume.

Several aromatic botanicals used in perfumery require a fair amount of processing before being used (or extracted). For example: vanilla beans must be left in the sun to cure to bring out the vanillin; patchouli leaves must be dried and matured for quite some time to improve their scent; and iris rhizomes must be peeled, dried and stored for 3 years before they are extracted to produce orris butter.  Let's explore some of these unusual raw materials in more detail, as they specifically relate to the world of perfume and aromatics:

Oakmoss

Oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) actually is a lichen native to former Yugoslavia, and which also grows in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. You may know it under the name Antlered Perfum; however, it is practically odourless when found fallen on the forest floor. Once placed in hot alcohol, and undergoes a process of extraction - a fragrance that personifies the aroma of the forest floor's dark and mysterious hidden life emerges - fungi, decay, moss and undergrowth. No wonder Chypre, the most beloved fragrance family that relies on oakmoss, is strongly associated with fall.
Perfumes that give oakmoss its proper due are far and few - so reach out for vintage of Miss Dior,  Vol de Nuit or Chamade; or check out some of my Chypre (and Fougère) fragrances, namely Ayalitta, Megumi, Rainforest and Autumn.

Chawan with Matcha

Tea is so unusually diverse - there are white, yellow, green, blue (AKA oolong), red and black teas - that it's hard to believe it comes from only one plant: Camellia sinensis. It is the process of  curing - namely, oxidation, fermentation, roasting, and sometimes even smoking, that creates the unique effects of texture, aroma and nuanced flavours in tea. Some teas are even left to age for decades and up to a hundred years!
Tea leaves come in all sizes, shapes and forms, at times they are twisted to break the cells and release the enzymes that will start the oxidation process (as in oolong teas), other times they are rolled into little balls (dragon pearls or jasmine pearls), hand-tied to look like a flower that will open its "petals" once steeped in water, to reveal a colourful real flower in the heart, and many other ancient traditions involving teas. In perfume, we use tea notes rarely, because they are so subtle. The first "tea" perfume was Bulgari's Au Parfumeé au Thé Vert (which utilized ionone in conjunction with hedione to create the effect of freshly steeped green tea) and the series continued to even include a "red tea" scent based on rooibos (not from the tea plant).  But my favourite is, not surprisingly, the Bulgari Black, which is based on Lapsang Suchong (pine-smoked tea), and even more so - l'Artisan Parfumeur's Tea for Two, which is a more refined play on the same tea leaf. If you're a tea love, taste a sip of Kinmokusei, our osmanthus-scented tea with hints of tobacco, Gaucho (with the tannin South American Maté) or The Purple Dress (black tea).


Tobacco Flowers

Few other ingredients stir the imagination as much as tobacco. The raw leaves have a bitter taste and not a particularly pleasant smell either. After all, nicotine, the substance that gives tobacco most of its medicinal (and addictive) properties, is meant to protects it from insects. Although the raw leaves have medicinal uses, it is hardly the sophisticated aromatic that we have learned to recognize as tobacco. This is achieved via a careful drying process that takes several days to a week, and usually followed by an additional fermentation period of about 8 weeks. This will develop the characteristic tannin,  full-bodied chocolate-vanilla undertones and hints of coumarin, violet and tea notes in tobacco products that some of us are so fond of (or hooked on). Additionally, tobacco leaves are treated with various perfume and flavour materials to enhance and accentuate this character. If you like your tobacco leaf clean and dry - try Sabotage  The tobacco in or Rebellius is exotic and spicy-sweet, not unlike shisha,  To experience pipe tobacco or Cuban cigar in all their glory, dab some Espionage.

Patchouli Leaves

Patchouli leaves, an odd member of the mint family, do not smell like much when they're green and fresh. The sun-dried leaves are ideally stacked and occasionally turned in a process of interrupted fermentation. This way they will yield 2.5-3 times more oil than the green leaves. This process helps to rupture the cell walls and release the oil. However, that is not sufficient to develop their charactesritic aroma of patchouli. Exceptional patchouli oils undergo an additional step of aging, in which all the off notes (grassy, oily, tar-like) dissipate and make room for rounded, warm precious-wood aroma that you'll find in fine quality patchoulis - which can take another 1-4 years. Patchouli really does get better with age, and when this desired effect is achieve - the scent will remind one of both dark red wine, oak barrels and the cellar where it is kept. Patchouli is earthy, woody, musky, a tad funky, spicy and dark-chocolate-like. Examples of this can be found in  Patchouli Magique and Patchouli AntiqueFilm NoirRazala, and Palas Atena (Ayala Moriel).

Ambergris

Ambergris is a rare secretion that occurs in about 1% of sperm whales to heal their stomach from the scratches of the cuttlefish they swallow. This sticky mass floats on the ocean, and by exposure to the sun and the salty water it changes its originally foul smell into one of the most delicate and sought after fragrances: Ambergris. Ambergris is sweet, soft and slightly powdery. We use ambergris only occasionally – when we can find ethically harvested ambergris that was beach harvested. It is than tinctured and used as a base note in oriental and floral compositions. Best scents to experience this though are LesNez' mystical l'Antimatiere  by Isabelle Doyen; and my own Orcas, Etrog and Razala.

IMG_8605

Orris Root: Orris root essential oil (AKA Orris Butter) is one of the most precious perfume materials. The roots need to be peeled and aged for three years before extraction or distillation. During this time, the glucosides in the rhizome gradually metabolize into irone - the violet-like molecule that gives orris root its desired violet-blossom aroma. It is invaluable in perfumery for its delicate powdery delicate aroma and ability to fix lighter scents. Orris is a welcome addition to any perfume whenever a delicate softness is required. Orris butter is both powdery, milky and smooth - reminiscent of a baby’s head and soft skin. Experience the highest quality of orris, with 15% irone (the unique orris molecule) in Sahleb parfum. For a lighter, paper-thin iris, try Hiris, and for a more sophisticated, abstract, modern yet old-fashioned you must experience Après l'Ondée!

Iris (Iris pallida)

Coumarin has may sources, and in all of them, it is not felt all that much in the original product but only appears after a process of drying or curing takes place. Tonka is soaked in rum and then dried, to coax the coumarin crystals out of the "beans". Liatrix (deer's tongue) smells like nothing when it's fresh, and like hay - needs to be dried and even slightly fermented to bring out the coumarin potential locked within them, which smells like "new mown hay". Classic coumarin examples are YerbamateBiche Dans l'Absinthe. and Brut. To experience natural coumarin try l'Herbe Rouge, Sabotage or White Potion.

Climbing Vanilla Orchids, Patchouli and Vetiver

Vanilla Beans are left to cure in the sun so that they turn from green to black and develop their vanillin content. But vanillin is only one component that makes vanilla so special. In reality, this is one of the most compelling and complex natural aroma, inimitable by any manmade compounds.  Some 100 molecules were identified in vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), in addition to vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde), including: Guaicol, creosol, acetovanillone, vanillyl alcohol and methyl salicylate and vitispiranes.
Tahitian vanilla (Vanilla tahitensis) has a much lower content of vanillin, and has a scent reminiscent of heliotropin - but contrary to some literature, this is not a compound that naturally occurs in it. Rather, it's the anisyl compounds that are responsible for its soft, floral, almond-like, sweet heliotrope-like nuances, including anisyl alcohol, anisaldehyde, dianisyl ether and anisyl ethyl ether. (Bo Jensen). To experience true vanilla absolute in perfume, try Shalimar (the extrait has handcrafted vanilla tincture), My Vanilla (Anna Zworykina),  Vanille Galante (Hermessences), Espionage and Immortelle l'Amour (the latter has 5 types of vanilla, including absolute, CO2 and handmade tinctures by yours truly).


Polo

POLO_ARMY VERSUS STEVE COLLINS ALL STARS_24

Long time ago, in a country far away, I was a nanny in a busy household in which both parents had a career in filmmaking and production. I would show up at their place at 8:30 (which was a huge lifestyle improvement for me comparing to the first job, the year prior, which started at 8), and by 9am the parents and older brother were gone and I was left with the adorable one year old I took care of for the day.

It's a privilege to be entrusted with a child's life at such a tender age, not to mention being welcomed into a home like this and become almost like a family member; yet also a bit of an odd situation to be entering a family's daily life in a rather intimate moment - preparing for the day and saying goodbye to each other as they set off on their long day adventures. When I came in everyone were still at different stages of dressing, showering, eating breakfast and so on.

Because, not surprisingly, I was oddly interested in fragrance even back then - I will always remember certain things about their home, including the soap they used (it was Dove - which was a rather exotic thing in the early 90s in Tel Aviv - and for sure the dad brought it back from his many business trips to L.A.). There was also a bottle of Obsession in the bathroom, which he bought for his wife and she never wore (unfortunately, she's really not into perfumes whatsoever) and then there was the green bottle with a horse and a rider holding a strange long stick, clouds of which wafted every morning after the dad shaved.

Polo in the Dark

I've never worn Polo and I can't say I have an intimate connection with it, but I did remember it as smelling good. So with Fathers' Day approaching and me feeling the urge to cover some more masculine fragrances on SmellyBlog - I set on trying it out for two days in a row now. The first time it was only semi-planned: I went to the drugstore to scout for some more cheap drugstore colognes and aftershaves. But I did not find what I was hoped for (Canoe). So I remembered that odd number and decided to try it on one wrist, and Eau Sauvage on the other. The latter was unfortunately a spoiled tester (too much light, folks!) while Polo simply won my heart almost immediately.

It's strong, bold and in your face so I'm glad I was wearing it sparingly. What one smells at first is that wonderful melange of patchouli, oakmoss and honeyed-animatic civet blooming in their warmth. And there is a decidedly leathery undercurrent that makes it really intriguing (and not wanting to scrub it off even though it is rather on the strong side). There are also many other things going on but these are the ones that I immediately pick up. Then as it unfolds on the skin, more fougere-like qualities pop out. Artemisia and other herbs mingle. I read that there are also thyme, basil and marjoram in this - but I can't really pick them out. There is just an overall feeling that is both sunny and warm like the Mediterranean garrigue - but also dark and looming against the leather. There is on one side a very smooth interplay of those rather distinctive elements. It's true that they go really well together in a red pasta sauce, a stew or even on bread with olive oil; but as perfume raw materials all these herbs are rather at odds with each other when combined with so many other perfume-y materials. They just don't like to behave!

There is also pine, which gives it a very distinctively masculine aura, as if to reassure you that all that civet is not going to turn floral on you. As Polo dries down on the skin, more of the dryness that comes out, accentuating the patchouli, and less of the civet notes (which are just this close to becoming as impolite as Kouros). Virginian cedar wood comes to the fore and mellows the more animalic elements, giving them a reliable context for an alibi (just in case someone walks by and suspects them of misbehaving).

Polo (1978) is at once sweaty, carnal, earthy, dirty, fresh, sexy, bold, distinctive, unique yet unmistakably manly. But what I adore the most about Polo is the dry down. Oh, the patchouli and the oakmoss, when they mellow on the skin after hours, and there is a bit of musk to connect them and balance the tartness of oakmoss and the dirty of patchouli. Why did they stop making scents like this for guys?!

Top notes: Pine, Lavender, Bergamot, Juniper, Coriander, Cumin
Heart notes: Carnation, Geranium, Jasmine, Rose, Basil, Marjoram, Thyme
Base notes: Patchouli, Oakmoss, Civet, Leather,  Amber, Musk, Frankincense 

Diorella


Before I begin, I have two announcements to make: First of all, I want to thank the generous Joanna for sharing a decant of vintage Diorella with me. This review is based on my subsequent wearings of this beautiful rendition, prior to the oakmoss banning days. My second confession is that some ten or so years ago, when Diorella was quite widely available (and before oakmoss was so ridiculously restricted) and it did not quite capture my heart. While I liked its freshness and similarity to the brilliant Eau Sauvage, here was something about it that I disliked - a combination of the heaady floral note of honeysuckle, and the soapy aldehydes at the opening. Time perhaps has been kind with Diorella, because she has aged gracefully. Or perhaps it is an even earlier formulation of the same one. But it is certainly different from the scrubbed and lathered version you’ll find on the Dior counters nowadays.

Way before its time, Roudnitska was at ease incorporating fruit salad elements in his fragrances in a most refreshing, light-weight manner... created in 1972, Roudnitska’s fruit has thankfully no affinity with the syrupy, unbearably sweet fruity-gourmand florals of the new millenia; but rather posessed a cheerful lightness paired with complex substance from more earthy and floral notes of natural raw materials. So again, these are far superior to the light, watery fruity-florals of the 90‘s, though these were strongly influenced by the asthetics that Roudnitska developed with the creation of Eau Sauvage, which introduced the concept of space and expansion to modern perfumery.

Diorella is munching on a honeydew melon (or is it a cantaloupe?). It is ripe, juicy yet somehow still crisp, as it is brilliantly paired with citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot and a touch of spicy-sweet green basil. Her peach-toned skin emanates a scent that is similar to white peach’s delicate, milky and slightly nutty aroma, due to the use of peach aldehyde and peach lactone. These unique fruity notes were both brilliantly used in a non-edible way (as Edmound Roudnitska explains beautifully in Michael Edward’s book, Perfume Legends - French Feminine Fragrances). Rather, it brings freshness and a unique texture to the jus. It is brilliantly paired with effervescent, ethereal and soapy honeysuckle, crushed basil leaves and a tad of the oily aldehydic notes backed with ionones, that simultaneously give the clean impression of triple-milled soap, and the dirty allusion to hosiery that’s been worn and sweated in for at least half a day. That dichotomy between anti-bacterial herbs and animal/human secretion seems to be at the core of Diorella.

The oily aldheyde and peach notes fades rather quickly, allowing the basil and citrus notes more breathing room. Orris butter is present yet very subtle, giving a soft-focus background to the composition, and making it somehow smell more feminine. What truly moves to the forefront is jasmine. Pure, unadulterated, indole-rich jasmine at its best. And it is that indole that will accompany Diorella throughout her strut on the skin and the surrounding air - first an ethereal jasmine, and later on a full, unabridged indolic jasmine, with its fruity, jammy peach-like and earthy and animalic character beautifully showcasing this gorgeous phenomenon. The similarity to Le Parfum de Thérèse as well as Eau Sauvage are striking; but what surprised me what the affinity I discovered with Eau d’Hermes. Also a perfume that is all about jasmine, yet from a very different point of view - more warm, sweet-earthy and spicy. It is probably the juxtaposition of jasmine with ionones that creates that olfactory connection for me.

Last but not least, it’s time to talk about the base notes, the foundation of Diorella. No matter how much Roudnitska denies any connection to Eau Sauvage, the similarity is striking, despite the differences. There is definitely oakmoss, but not nearly as much as in Eau Sauvage, which gives it more of a green, dry and woody character rather than a dense, brown-earthy and musky feel. Vetiver also supports it in this direction. Even the patchouli, which appears in both, seems to be toned down and instead of the big-warm-oily patchouli hug you get in some feminine Chypres such as Miss Dior - there is just a single brush stroke of it, done in aquarelle. Last but not least, where Eau Sauvage has a generous dose of hay, which gives it an almost-fougere quality, Diorella has a subtle sprinkle of tonka bean (or perhaps just pure synthetic coumarin - in reality there is a very small difference between the two), giving it a slightly bitter finish, but with that feminine soft-focus that reflects the orris from earlier on.

Diorella is a very Mediterranean perfume, and truly reminds me of Grasse and the surrounding area, including the perfumer’s home and garden (which I visited in 2009). It also reminds me of a perfume that his son, Michel Roudnitska created way into the future - Eau Emotionelle - also playing on the cantaloupe-jasmine-ionone theme, but in oil-pain strokes rather than the sheer aquarelle of his father's. The culture in that area is greatly influenced by Italy and Spain, and there is something very Italian about it, especially in the opening notes. If Diorella was a woman, she would be one with a very outgoing, young spirit. A woman that loves to laugh and enjoy life’s pleasures, and just goes with the flow - but isn’t audacious or dominant by any means, and is very kind, generous and open but without ever being vulgar in the least. There is something truly carefree, open, fun, bursting with life and joie de vivre about it. In case you didn’t know already - it’s a true masterpiece. It has been relatively recently re-introduced along with the other classic retro Dior-fumes: Diorling, Dioressence, Diorama... I’m sure the new version pales in comparison but I’m nevertheless intrigued to find out what they’ve done to it to overcome the restrictions on jasmine levels and the industry’s new (low) standard of avoiding oakmoss at all costs (even though it is still allowed - the washed-down version of atranol-free absolute, and at only very low percentage).

Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Basil, Melon, Aldehydes, Peach
Heart notes: Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Hedione, Orris, Violet
Base notes: Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Coumarin
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