What can one expect from a scent with a name so unassuming as Coriandre? Would it be green? Rustic? Funny? Refreshing? There is nothing particularly intriguing, mysterious or fashionable about that. You just have to try it on your skin to find out.

Coriandre is a great perfume, which I have overlooked for years. Despite the many good things I've heard of it, it did not appeal to me when I tried it for the first time. It simply didn't register. Years later, I came across it on the forgotten shelves of the neighbourhood parfumerie; and noticed that they had some stray old bottles pre-IFRA reformulation frenzy. Which is always a good news for a scent that is very likely to rely on oakmoss for its appeal, being green and all.

Well, as it turns out - IFRA or no IFRA - it would have probably not made much of a difference. Unless what Robin is saying is true, and this is already been reformulated beyond recognition by the early 90s.

Coriandre is not really a Chypre in the classical sense of the word. I don't even think I would classify it as a Chypre at all. Nor would I classify it as green, either. To me, Coriandre is a big, dirty, dusty rose. Maybe not that big either. And if it smells like any colour at all, it would be brown, not green. It is brown. And bitter.

Unbeknown to it, it is the mother of all of those godless, oakmossless modern "Chypres" - Agent Provocateur, Narciso Rodriguez, SJP Lovely and Chloe. A Chypre that relies on musk, patchouli and vetiver to tell its dry, bitter jokes and poke fun at rosy-cheeked naïveté, all the while being doused in rose itself. If you're into herbaceous, earthy floral perfumes, such as Aromatics Elixir- Coriandre is a very good (and affordable) substitute. It can be had for $38 for a 30ml bottle (and that's probably a rip-off, actually, comparing to how cheap you can get it elsewhere).

Top notes: Coriander seed, Angelica Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom
Base notes: Musk, Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood

Diamond in the Rough?

Ever since I watched Jennifer Lopez’s mind blowing performance in U-Turn, I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen in her perfume line. I know, this is a rather nive wishful thinking, but we can all dream a little… I don’t know what the future holds for the J. Lo perfume line, but so far the only one I can smell myself wearing is the newest one - Deseo. That is not to say that Deseo is even remotely close to mind blowing in perfume terms. But at least it’s nice to find a fragrance to like bearing the name of such a talented actress (and I do prefer Ms. Lopez acting than her music). However, while Glow was too soapy, Still just not interesting, Miami Glow mouthwateringly artificial (and so were most of the others to follow – Live and the rest of the limited edition sequels for Glow) – Deseo is easily wearable and falls exactly into the fragrance category I would have belong to if I was the typical modern woman of my typical social cross section (which I’m not).

Deseo joins the growing family of modern chypres, and to me smells like a hybrid between Pure Turquoise and With Love (Hilary Duff). It starts fresh and citrusy, yet not as brisk as Pure Turquoise. It brings forth some milky notes, but is not quite as milky as With Love, as it stirs towards beachy coconut-milk, skin and sand notes. The floral heart is obscure and I can’t say I recognize any particular note, but if you are familiar with star jasmine, this might be the only thing I can somehow relate to that resembles a living flower. Star jasmine is not a true jasmine, and has a fresh, fleeting green-floral note. It is easy to see why it’s getting so popular with recent fragrances released – it’s a white floral sans the drama, i.e. with the indole left out. The underlining notes are not any more articulate than the heart notes – mostly musks and woods of vague origin, yet upon dry down the oakmoss starts to really shine through, which is very encouraging for all of us true chypre lovers who are being fed a non-oakmoss chypre diet for quite some time…

Judging by the packaging and name (Deseo means desire in Spanish) is meant to symbolize something deeper than it may seem – the bottle being in the shape of a diamond in the rough, and that got to have some deeper meaning in regards to Ms. Lopez’ life story, perhaps even with some implications to other diamonds out there yet to be discovered... What I’m smelling though, is fresh citrus notes of no particular identity, slightly beachy with nice smelling yet nondescript floral bouquet, over woody and and slightly warm and skin like base anchored in moss and salty mineral notes. The base would definitely suit a man very well. Deseo is simple, clean, easy to wear (even more easy to wear than Pure Turquoise), cool yet neither aloof nor distant, fun but not overly beach, serene without being pretentious - and that is precisely what I like about Deseo. After all, any diamond, even a diamond in the rough, is just a cold stone; and unless it's adorning a certain piece of jewelry, it is about as meaningful as a virtual lover or an imaginary boyfriend...

Top notes: Watery Bamboo Leaves, Garden Yuzu, Sicilian Bergamot, freesia.
Heart notes: Star Jasmine, Pink Geranium Flower, Orange Blossom, French Mimosa.

Base notes: Warm Amber, Oakmoss, Sensual Musks, Creamy Sandalwood, Atlas Cedar, Patchouli, Mineral Accord.

Image of bottle via Fragrantica

Other reviews of Deseo:
Now Smell This
The Scented Salamander

Pure Turquoise

How often do the dirty and the clean mix together and stay clean? Apparently, this is possible not only in muddy and stinky sulfur springs, but also in a modern-day perfume by the name of Pure Turquoise. The concept of cleanliness takes an interesting turn as grapefruit is married with patchouli. All of the above being immensely artificial smelling in a charming way, like a flaunt of an “I just shampooed my hair” swept backwards releasing that completely non-original fruity fragrance of 2-in-1 shampoo+conditioner with grapefruit and avocado or whatever.

Yet it is not until one gets beyond that hair-flaunting that a dirty, dusty, ephemeral scent of skin that just dried from a long soak in sulfur springs (or perhaps an improvised outdoor spa treatment of a fool-body warp in salty black mud), that the grapefruit and patchouli accord can be seen in a completely different light.

Pure Turquoise opens clean, fresh, watery and fruity that it is almost the modern cliché that everyone stopped looking forward to about five years ago. Although the pyramid for this fragrance is said to include many exotic and unfamiliar notes – I am mostly noticing grapefruit, lily of the valley, patchouli and an overall flat and non-descript fruity-floral freshness.

This is quite in cotrast to what I would have expected from a scent including notess such as cactus flower, indigo violet, night-blooming cereus (AKA Queen of the Night – that cactus that blooms only once a year, with an intense night-blooming-jasmine fragrance; I haven’t had the honour, but I wasn’t as stunned by Pure Turquoise as I imagine I would be by the Night Queen), desert lily (a lily that grows in the Mojave and Sonora deserts). I can see a desert theme threading through the selection of notes, yet I can’t quite smell it with my nose… Not only that, even the more familiar notes, which I work with everyday, such as Blugarian rose absolute and orange blossom absolute remain to reveal themselves to my olfactory bulb.

The base, dominated by patchouli, dries down to a woody skin scent. Clean, fresh, serene, but not as sterile as some others scents belonging to the fresh genre. On the other hand, it is not as sensual or wild as you might expect from a base containing rum, vanilla and silver birchwood. I am mostly smelling a clean musk and patchouli, and the latest remains of the sulfuric grapefruit still hanging to its life by the nails… The new Chypre family, as we can see, is all about being pleasant and polite. Thought there is something centering and grounding that I find in the modern, fake Chypres, and that they still are very chic in their own way - I must declare that there is none of the excitement and sense of danger or breaking the boundaries when wearing these limpid though pleasant scents. To find that, one must go back to a real Chypre, before the days of reformulations. And before the days of faking it and pretending that patchouli and vetiver are mossy. They’re not.

Pure Turquoise comes in two concentrations: eau de parfum for the poor, in a difficult to grasp cut-glass spray bottle; and pure parfum, for the spa aristocrat who loves to stack rocks over their jus. The latter crystal flacon is topped with a humongous sized turquoise stone, which unlike the beautiful one in all the posters and magazine ads, is not smooth and roundish, but cut in angular shapes (just like the bottle is), and comes in a far paler and less impressive colour.

* To the left: the EDP spray bottle accompanied by the false parfum flacon. To the right: the true parfum flacon, with the angular-cut paler turquoise stone, which is what you'll get in the box...

Top Notes: Cassis, Indigo Violet Petals, Lily of the valley, Cactus Flower,
Middle Notes: Night-Blooming Cereus, Orange Flower Absolute, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Desert Lily
Base Notes: Patchouli, Silver Birchwood, Amber, Vanilla Bourbon, Rum.

I Spy

I spy a Chypre
In a pink porcelain flask
I spy lingerie
For an unconventional task

For reasons I do not have the liberty to reveal here, I was always intrigued by anything that had to do with secret agents. And as a result, it may not be a surprise that my signature perfume is called Espionage
My grandfather had an extensive library of John LeCarre books, the original, first print hard-covered copies. I always live in fear that John LeCarre will die before it’s time, like my grandfather did, but thanks God – he is still in good health and writing books and even likes their film versions for reasons other than money (which I do hope makes its way to him as he deserves it!). For some reason, filmmakers have been always quite careful with adapting his marvelous novels into film and TV – and although some of the detail is always being left out, it always feels authentic (the ones that I watched, anyways, which included Little Drummer Girl, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the most recent, mesmerizing heartbreaker, The Constant Gardener).
And so my interest was peaked as soon as I got the word about this alleged Femme Fatale.

It is therefore not a surprise that my interest was teased by the thought of an alleged Femme Fatale perfume named Agent Provocateur conspiring in some remote olfactory regions. I pondered it for quite a while before I dared to approach it. It sounded like such a grandiose ambition, almost intimidating in a way. The fact that the scent was nowhere to be sniffed until very recently helped the denial process. Out of sight, out of mind.

I first smelled it in London, it’s birthplace, I suppose, and immediately dismissed it as being too bold and loud as well as old fashioned, and was rather convinced that it smelled like other perfumes I smelled before (if indeed I smelled something like it that was when I was a little girl, and I have no way to track it at the moment besides, perhaps, relying on your suggestions and guesses – and these are more than welcome!). Than one day, it showed up at my doorstep one day (thanks to Pamela Hettrich - thank you, Pam!), and I decided to grant it with my bare skin. What may have smelled sharp, bitter, spicy, acrid and dry at first – with a dash of aldehydes for a good measure of old-fashionedness – turned into a quite interesting yet very wearable fragrance.

It is not as soft as the smooth egg-shaped (a symbol of fertility, claim the marketing masterminds behind the scent; fertility and espionage, interesting combination...) porcelain flask may suggest. But it does have the contrasting effect, reminiscent of the black lace through which the pale pink shade skin tone peeks, as if blushed.

The spicy, sharp opening of coriander and saffron exudes confidence more than it is exotic or Arabesque as may be expected. It does, however, mellow quite quickly with an explosion of roses laced with hints of complementary flowers, their softness undermined by the dry, acrid tones of cedar and Vetiver. The dry down is actually softer – there is still cedar, roses and Vetiver, but they crubmle into a dry yet soft, powdery presence underlined with musk. Despite the dryness and because of its warmth, Agent Provocateur is like a sexy coarse voice from a mouth dry from heat and excitement. But it can also be other things.

Agent Provocateur is allegedly the scent that will provoke upon you inconceivable naughty crimes that you would have never thought of before. But really it is just one solidly constructed perfume for a change, in a fragrance world that often seems to dissolve into an awkward redundancy and offers unreliable olfactory fantasies. It has all that I like about Ivoire (roses, dry woods and leather), but without the sharp greenness. One could easily drop the sexy image and wear it to a formal occasion without ever being accused of sexual harassment or any other provocations. Even Mata Hari needs to go for lunch sometimes.

I would not pretend that Agent Provocateur does not have any of the Femme Fatale allure to it. It is a sensual, bold and daring in its own way. But I am not so sure about the espionage component… My feeling is that if it indeed provoked anything in that direction, it is the re-definition of Chypre. There is no oakmoss in it to make it a Chypre, yet this is its official classification. As a perfumer and a Chypre admirer and expert I would classify it as a woody floral, or a spicy oriental. If there is a perfume to blame for the introduction of the concept of “Pink Chypres” in modern perfumery, let it be Agent Provocateur. But I will get into this conspiracy theory at another time…

Top notes: Saffron, Coriander
Middle notes: Moroccan Rose, Jasmin, Magnolia, Ylang Ylang, White Gardenia

Base notes: Cedar, Vetiver, Amber, Musk
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