Anné Pliska

Now that the heat is almost at its full Northwest Coast capacity, I hesitated for a moment before I drenched myself in that rich ambery oriental - the fabulous purple concoction that is Anné Pliska. But I am glad I did not give up and tried it despite of the “inappropriate” weather. Like my other two favourite ambery orientals, Shalimar and Obsession, they actually glow in the heat and are a real treat, just like vanilla ice cream...

And indeed, what I first got from Anné Pliska was a summery note of orange and cream soda slushy topped with soft vanilla ice cream, along with daring hints of leather (or wintergreen and birch), creating a root-beer-like effect – which adds an interesting, contrasting accent. After a few minutes this thirst-quenching, cool concoction of sweet crushed ice and vanilla desert fades a bit, and the herbal note softens and moves to the background (perhaps it is tampered by the sweeter, more well-mannered geranium). Vanilla and amber are definitely the most dominant notes and are the theme of Anné Pliska, and are much softer and mellower in the dry down, and become almost powdery. But despite the fact that the scent stays quite linear for most of the composition – it is never boring. The notes weave in and out and maintain the sweet and lovable presence of amber,

Anné Pliska , made by South Californian independent perfumer by the same name, was launched in 1987 (two years after Obsession). Although it shares many similarities with Obsession, it is quite different and more sultry and complex. Think about the creamiest Shalimar vanilla, the amber of Tabu and Obsession, the orange-mandarin notes of Obsession, a tad of unique spiciness that is vaguely reminiscent of Joop! For Men - and an unusual, mysterious oomph of its own – and you get Anné Pliska. If you love these three bombshell orientals, you must try Anné Pliska. In fact, you must try Anné Pliska anyways because it is a special amber perfume, and an example for what a well-made American perfume is: boldly luxurious and sensual, yet sophisticated and elegant.

Top notes: Orange, Mandarin, Wintergreen/Birch
Heart notes: Geranium, Vanilla
Base notes: Amber, Vanilla, Patchouli

P.s. Image is from Luscious Cargo, which carries all of the Anné Pliska line. For more information about where to get it visit the Anné Pliska Blog. Like other American luxury items of yesteryear (i.e. Estee Lauder's Youth Dew), it is also sweetly affordable. Don't you just love them parfum extraits under $100?

Fleur de Shanghai

Forever Magnolia, originally uploaded by Plavi.

Sometimes, it is more difficult to write a review about a perfume you love. But sometimes a thing of beauty does not need any more words to describe it in order to convince one of its beauty. This is the case in Fleur de Shanghai – the most addictive Opium I have ever tried. There is really not much more to say. The notes are simple. The structure is simple and coherent. The scent is simply divine from start to finish. Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a single note about it. So what is there to say about a perfect perfume, whose only flaw is that it is a limited edition? This special one is doomed to become extinct before even having an adequate shelf exposure. A unique flower hybrid designed to bloom for only one season, and than collect dust in a safe somewhere and become forgotten along with hundred other limited edition and discontinued fragrances.

I wish I could say more about Fleur de Shanghai besides that it is beautiful, and state my reasoning more clearly for why this scent should not be a one-season-stand. I would love start up a petition to YSL’s perfume division and beg them to change their minds and add Fleur de Shanghai to the permanent collection. But I am afraid this will be useless, for this scent was meant to be nothing more than a retail success. If Opium hasn’t proceeded it, I am certain Fleur de Shanghai would have gracefully joined other classics in the Perfume Hall of Fame (that, of course, if such a thing really exists in a perfume world where hundreds of new releases happen every season, and classics become discontinued or are altered in order for the big corporations to make more money). Please do tell me if I am not alone in my devoted affection to Fleur de Shanghai.

Fleur de Shanghai starts with lovely notes of mandarins, underlined with the sweet-spiciness of cloves, as cozy as my grandmother’s perfect honey cake. The heart is floral yet light: magnolia petals unfold to reveal their fresh and cool honeyed scent along with a hint of green, and tiny white star jasmine blossoms float around delicately like miniature steps of Asian dancers concealed by their floating robes. A heavy undercurrent of myrrh, narcotic and poetic, is soon unleashed and becomes the centre theme, underlined with just a hint of Saxon moss to keep it dry and balanced its medicinal aspects, and made delicious by coumarin and sheer vanilla – mellow and sweet yet light-weight.

Fleur de Shanghai was love at first sniff. In fact, I loved this summer version of 2005 so much, that I had to stock up. Luckily, my perfume collection is big enough to distract me from its extinct status for most of the year. But when summer comes – I have to wear it very often and seem to never get enough of it. I enjoy re-applying even though it has a great lasting power. It never seems to overwhelm though. Despite its sweet notes, the myrrh and moss make it as refreshing and protective as a rice-paper parasol, Vetiver woven mats and blinds, and pale linen suits. I run out of 50ml just last summer. So I guess I have 3 more years to go if I am counting the other 100ml bottle that I have saved for bad days. I also have Fleur Imperiale, the limited edition for summer 2006 – pleasantly based on myrrh like Fleur de Shanghai, but lacking the unique sweetness of magnolia, which is replaced but a much less significant or authentic osmanthus and apricot blossoms.

Ck Obsession for Women

In the midst of an artificial perfume collection, dominated by computer generated fragrances, Calvin Klein’s Obsession stands out, being a modern Oriental that is surprisingly charming.
Obsession appeals to the young generation of impulsive, simplicity-seeking youth as well as “grown ups” with style that haven’t yet completely repressed their sensuality for the sake of synthetic class. It’s intense appeal is derived from an interesting approach combining heavy and rich natural essences such as oakmoss and frankincense, with an added touch of modern sparkle that is almost deceivingly perceived as fresh and “light” by distracted passing-by noses…

It starts with quite a blast of summery sparkle of tangerines and mandarins, beautifully melted into an ice-cream like note of intensely sweet vanillin. This accord is sweet and fresh at once, almost like a creamsickle…

The heart, though floral, still possesses the charming contrast of sweet floral notes with some tanginess: heady jasmine mellowed and balanced by the citrus-invoking floral note of Orange Blossom absolute. It is backed up by a warm accord of fluffy smoke of sandalwood incense.

The base contains an interesting dosage of oakmoss that is dry and synthetically modified, to create an almost spicy impression reminiscent of allspice berry and of cyclamen. It is accompanied by frankincense and is heavily backed up with notes of vanilla and fresh-smelling, radiant amber, which will end up dominating the dry down without compromise.

Obsession is fun to wear, and is quite versatile. Though classified as an oriental, it has certain quality to it that makes it suitable to wear also in more casual social settings, and in mild and even warm weather.

Top notes: Mandarin, Tangerines

Heart notes: Orange blossom, Jasmine, Sandalwood

Base notes: Vanillin, Amber, Frankincense, Oakmoss

Image from Un Monde En Senteurs - the first musical, olfactive, and aquatic concert ever held in Switzerland


Comparing to the multi-faceted masterpieces Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and l’Heure Bleue, Shalimar is in danger of being the most obvious – a purely seductive indulgence. Even the bottle shows off with it’s fountain-shaped stopper – or is it the feathered crown of a peacock’s head? It is a grandiose show-off of sensuality and passion – not unlike it’s inspirational tragic love story which resulted in the bombard grave known to us as Taj Mahal.

In fact, Shalimar is almost too good to be true. There is nothing in this perfume that is not pleasantly dripping of sweet softness and curvy sensuality. From the sweet and fresh bergamot and curiously smoky top notes through the rose petals and jasmine blossoms softened by powdered iris, carnal base notes of castoreum, musk and opoponax sweetened with amber, tonka and affectionate doses of vanilla. The real beauty, however, and where the genius of Shalimar lies, is in the final dry down – a soft and delicious just-kissed skin,fondled and worshiped by a lover.

From the most memorable creations of Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar is least complex, despite its incredible richness and expressiveness.: it sends a clear message of an indefeasible aphrodisiac. It’s beauty lies in the uncompromising hedonistic attitude and the absence of ambivalence in it’s total romanticism and sensuality.

Top notes:
Smoky leather notes, Bergamot, Orange

Heart notes:
Rose, Jasmine, Orris

Base notes:
Vanilla, Amber, Opoponax, Musk, Patchouli, Castoerum

p.s. The only concentration I recommend for Shalimar is the Parfum Extrait. It may be different with vintage Shalimar, but the newly produced ones in other concentrations are a far cry from the love song that is the pure parfum.

Illustration from Karin Kuhlman’s Peacock fractal

l'Heure Bleue

L’Heure Bleue is one of the true masterpiece by Jacques Guerlain. I see it as standing hand-in-hand with its sisters Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit. There is certain quality that underlines those three masterpieces and makes them even more than an amazingly beautiful-smelling perfume to wear - but truly a work of art.

L’Heure Bleue is sophisticated and anigmatic, and yet has a unique melodramatic peacefulness that definitely does not lack reflective, philosophical melancholy…
When you realize, once the last dusky lights are giving themselves away to the first stars, how beautiful the day was, and how wonderful the deep blue night is, and the world is so vast and immeasurable and so full of beauty that it may even make you want to cry…
This moment of beauty is so eternal that it makes you feel your mortality in a painful way. Still, you are content with yourself and your life that you know if it will be taken from you that moment, you will feel complete and in perfect harmony with the universe…

You breathe in the silent fresh air of your warm summer garden… The night blooming jasmine is beautiful and intoxicating… The grass that has been just watered, full of murmurs and insects’ summer-songs… The orange blossom flowers are just folding themselves for a long, peaceful night sleep. You pick a late blooming rose, a deep, velvety-purple-crimson rose, her petals already soft after warming up in the sun for the past three days. You hold the rose and fondle the petals and hold them against your cheeks to sense the warm scent of a mature rose releasing the peak of her last fragrance into the night air... And it is all part of you now, there is no need to hold on to it.

Those beautiful, magical notes interweave with each other so gently that it is hard to tell one from the other. Together they create one impression that in my mind I visualize as a very earthy brown colour, though somewhat rich and copper like. I simply cannot see a deep blue when smelling l’Heure Bleue, though the different notes on their own make sense and tell the story of this time of the day:
There are the subtle citrus and anise top notes that are there to accentuate the soft florals, including violet flowers, and link them to the deeper base notes.
The root of the composition, apparent from first application, is a soft and bittersweet heliotrope, combined with tonka bean that accentuates the softness, yet also possesses the bitter-almond-like undertones. Vanilla and orris root are also present, to support the overall powderiness and soft, mature and philosophical nature of l'Heure Bleue.

The drydown is somewhat more smooth and ambery (though it is hard to see l’Heure Bleue as an oriental per se –it has such a unique individuality and perhaps deserves not to be categorized at all…Just like Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko, I am afraid it does not quite fit into categories…)– The drydown is a bit less powdery, with a vanillic accord. It also has some woody notes in the drydown – I suspect vetiver, but cannot quite pin point it. I will not be surprised to find some oakmoss in it either, though not in a chypre context but an oriental context, and perhaps some underlining spices that are subtle and are not meant to be recognized but rather create a warm undernote to support the rest of the scene.

There is something in it that totally reminds me, surprisingly, of Mitsouko – the fruitiness that is quite dry, bittersweet (dry peach like notes in Mitsouko, and the cherry-like notes in l’Heure Bleue); and a certain dark woodiness at the base that is interesting, mysterious, hard to grasp – but once you get it you are totally captivated!
The fruitiness of l’Heure Bleue lasts much longer though – as it originates in the heliotrope base notes, rather than the peach top notes in Mitsouko (that most people find they fade just a bit too quickly after been exposed…).

Top notes: Bergamot, aniseed
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Rose, Violet, Carnation, Orris root
Base notes: Heliotrope, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Woods, Spices

L’Heure Bleue is probably the most incredible inspiration one could have ever found for a perfume – the name is beautiful, captivating, alluring, enchanting...
Initially, the fragrance itself did not do the same thing to me - It seemed to be extremely sweet, with a dominant, bittersweet heliotrope note in it, and dries down to a rather interesting and comfortable ambery-powdery vanilla. It wasn’t until I tried l’Heure Bleue in pure parfum that I got to enjoy, understand and appreciate it more – although I believe I only touched the surface of this aromatic mystery. It smelled intensley of jasmine when I smelled it directly from the bottle, and from there the images started flowing...

When I first heard about l’Heure Bleue I was so fascinated with the inspiration for it that I decided to create my own interpretation for such a magical hour. It immediately made me think about my mother – an enigmatic lady (I am still trying to figure her out…), she is an aquired anosmic who always loved anise and velvet. I created for her the perfume Indigo, an enigmatic concoction of anise, caraway, bergamot, boronia, orange blossom, jasmine, violet, spices, incense and amber. To be honest, there is hardly anything in common between the two fragrances, left for a few notes and the insipration. Indigo is soft and cool as satiny-velvet, and smells like a nightfal in the Wadi – the dried riverbed, full of luscious greenery and vegetation, and the sounds of frogs and crickets.

I only learned about l’Heure Bleue’s sweetness after creating Indigo (I didn't find l'Heure Bleue until after I created my own interpretation for that inspirational and magical hour). So, once I actually smelled the original creation I must admit I was somewhat confused and initially, perhaps a bit disappointed: it was not what I expected, it did not make me think about the blue hour – until after I worn it several times in the parfum form, which unfortunately is becoming harder to find by the minute…Like Mitsouko, I think it takes rare personality to carry it through easily and without tapping into it first…

Now that I have given l’Heure Bleue a chance, and tried it several times, I must confess that I understand why this classic has survived two world wars as well as the currently overwhelming age of perfumery.

p.s. Although the other concentrations are nice too, the pure parfum is for sure the best one. The Eau de Parfum is quite true to the parfum, while the Eau de Toilette is more similar to Apres l'Ondee. The other concentrations will be reviewed later.

Artwork: Frank Holmes - Blue Twilight
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