Jasmin Rouge

Jasmine in bloom

As much as I love to hate Tom Ford and his excessiveness (especially with anything noir and/or oud-related) - when it comes to floral his artistic direction is just right. Velvet Gardenia is haunting, beautiful and with an intriguing candle-wax and labdanum base notes; and Shanghai Lily unusual yet strangely pretty. While I was a bit disappointed with Champaca Absolute's intensely fruity-fresh and shampoo-like quality, I still find it oddly interesting, and many of the other seasonal floral releases were intriguing even if not enough to warrant a full bottle purchase (that only happened with Velvet Gardenia), and the entire floral Jardin Noir collection (with purple label) smelled promising, namely Café Rose and Ombre de Hyacinth - even I did not get around to try them on yet.

I didn't make much of Jasmin Rouge when I tested it on scent strip at Holt Renfrew, where I was also given a sample of it just because they had one in stock. It just did not smell like jasmine on paper, so I didn't bother trying it on my skin. Admittedly, it was not until this jasmine series and noticing it was mentioned favourably in a few jasmine features by other blogs. They were right. Jasmin Rouge turned out to be one of if not the best jasmine perfume I've sampled in the last three weeks. It was created by nose Rodrigo Flores-Roux, a most prolific and productive perfumer who knows both how to create expressive florals, rich orientals and effervescent fresh and citrusy fragrances: He is the nose behind the magnificent Anima Dulcis (Arquiste), and many other fragrances for that line including L'Etrog; Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, Essence Wenge and Essence Labdanum, and too many others to count. He has already worked with Tom Ford on Neroli Portofino (in 2011, the same year as Jasmin Rouge was launched in conjunction with a make up collection - hence the names such as "Santal Blush" and "Jasmin Rouge"), and more recently (2013) Fleur de Chine.

Jasmine Rouge & Santal Blush by Tom Ford_1
Jasmin Rouge is a realistically convincing yet imaginative jasmine. It begins with a strong, unmistakable jasmine cloud, as if you've just passed a bush full of flowers while blindfolded, and taken by a pleasant surprise. Next you might notice an emphasis on fruity notes - plum, apricot and peach, but these are very grown-up fruits, nothing like the fruit punches you get in the teeny bopper lip-glosses, but that is not to say the fruit notes are dry or overripe either... They are subtle accents  that give the perfume an  deliciously juicy, almost edible presence to the otherwise too serious or toxically beautiful white flowers who are the true stars of this fragrance.

Next you'll notice a tuberose/gardenia/orange-blossom quality of methyl anthranilate, which also adds to the juiciness but in a darker, more sinister way (methyl anthranilate also developed in the more advanced stages of the decomposition of corpses). With all that being said, the jasmine maintains its character throughout, but there are some darker notes in there giving it more depth - hints of spices, resins and balsams. The jasmine itself possesses both the qualities of tea and of milky stone fruit, which makes me think of jasmine sambac variety - but I am also smelling jasmine grandiflorum, with its more pronounced indole. If compared to Serge Lutens A La Nuit though, the sambacness of this perfume is a little more pronounced. But on its own, I wouldn't think of it as any particular variety of jasmine.

There is also a hint of a fatty, modern-day lipstick-like quality as the perfume dries down, to prove that this perfume goes to the extreme to promote upscale makeup. And while there are myriads of spices, flowers and even leather and herbs (Clary Sage) listed in the notes, they only perform as accents to the jasmine, which is for a change truly the main focus of the perfume.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Black Pepper, White Pepper
Heart Notes: Jasmine (Sambac and Grandiflorum) Broom, Neroli, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage
Base: Mexican Vanilla, Labdanum, Leather, Woodsy and Ambery Notes

Tea, Wine & Champaca Absolute

Nirmalya Originally uploaded by shubhangi athalye

Champaca absolute is one of the most complex natural essences, and despite its immense beauty, not an easy one to work with. Especially this is the case when the flower is intended as the star of the show. It’s density and potency sometimes get in the way of revealing its beauty. It also poses two additional challenges – from a commercial point of view: it is neither affordable nor particularly understood or favoured by the Western world. Champaca is a note that is much prized in its country of origian – India – but only recently has begun to cross the East/West border and be featured in select few Western perfumes. And even than, it doesn’t always receive justice.

My impression is still a bit divided when it comes to this new interpretation of champaca in the Tom Ford Private Blends collection. Like Linda Pilkington’s Champaca there is rice-steam and subtlety of tea to it underneath it all, which I find both very suitable and complementary for champaca absolute. Interestingly, from all the rice-steam fragrances I've experienced, this one delivers the feel the best despite the fact that it is not "supposed" to do so (judging by the list of "notes" released by the company); also, there is no synthetically musky dry down to get in the way of enjoying this unusual floral.

At the same time, it is way fruitier than champaca absolute is, which make the name a bit misleading. Perhaps the flower in full bloom portrays more of this fruitiness, typical of its sister the white magnolia; but the effect takes away from the rarity of this perfume as it brings to mind too many typical fruity florals. Thankfully, this common effect is not dominant and for most of its duration on the skin, Champaca Absolute delivers that rare thing – a subtle big floral. My first thought when wearing Champaca Absolute was - "this is how I would have wanted KenzoAmour to smell", which goes to show you how much of a prettified champaca this one is.

There is much of the exotic in here, from banana-leaf wrapped steamer rice and tea to the large golden petals of this admirable magnolia, dipping slowly in warm plum wine. The scent lasts well beyond expected, and is only a tad overbearing for a few minutes in the beginning (at the fruity-floral phase). While it does linger on clothes after it departs from the skin – it is actually a pleasant surprise to find it there, like a sweet memory of Malaysian food enjoyed the evening before in candle-light. It is just a little too pretty and little too simplified for champaca, but if that would make the West understand and appreciate champaca more - perhaps it is a good thing.

The notes include top notes of: Tokaji wine (something I’ve only heard about when reading about the Baron von Münchhausen’s adventures in Turkey), cognac, bergamot and davana

Heart notes of: champaca, broom, Phantomia orchid and night blooming jasmine

Base notes of: vanilla, amber, sandalwood and marron glacé (candied chestnut)

I would say it starts off like plum wine (perhaps the Tokaj and davana, which is a boozy smelling type of artemisia), continues into magnolified-fruity champaca with the addition of rice and tea like notes (perhaps this is the starchiness of the candied chestnuts) and boils down to vanilla and a woody amber. It is semi-linear though, as the changes are not that dramatic and it generally keeps its original shape throughout.

P.s. First it was Velvet Gardenia, and now the newest addition to Tom Ford’s Private Blends proves my lack of integrity. It just occurred to me yesterday that the ferocious ad
was really making fun of men who like porn, rather than being demeaning to woman. Isn’t that a convenient way to get around the bush?

Velvet Gardenia

burning honey, originally uploaded by futureancient.

The moment I lifted up the lid of Velvet Gardenia to unveil its fragrance, I was swept into an unfamiliar territory, resting somewhere between dusk and twilight. A perfume simultaneously soft and diffusive like the performance of a soft-focused old-Hollywood starlet. The subtle and demure expressions are delivered by features that were intensified with false lashes and blood-red lipstick.

Velvet Gardenia will strike a nostalgic chord for anyone familiar with this heady flower; yet not in the least the conventionally pretty gardenia soliflore favoured by the Southern Belle. This gardenia was grown by candle light, deeming it somewhat waxy and distinctively darker and spicier than any other gardenia-themed perfume. Its dusky complexity stems from combining wine-like top notes, the spiciness of ginger lily and the underlining honeyed sweetness of labdanum. There is absolutely nothing tropical about it; it would be useless on the beach but perfect through a blizzard paired with a fur coat.

Notes: Gardenia, Ginger Lily, Orange Blossom, Honey, Labdanum, Incense

Cozy Florals

The big meeting..., originally uploaded by gardawind.

While temperatures drop rapidly, and the rain drapes the city skyline with a crystalline persistence, I turn my nose towards flowers that never bloom in the wintertime.

And rather than reach for one flower at a time, I am enjoying the concept of pairing them together and getting different whiffs from different directions. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

Farnesiana parfum + Yasmin creme parfum
A double treat: wearing Farnesiana parfum extrait from Caron, while wearing perfumed jewelry filled with Yasmin solid perfume (I’ve just recently filled myself a poison ring with Yasmin). While Farnesiana is very cozy and on the gourmand-side, with it’s almondy heliotropin, it’s like a rich desert in an afternoon tea; Yasmin brings the vivacity of jasmines in full bloom in the summer time. There is something about jasmines that just makes me smile when I smell them. And if it wasn’t for my friend HR I wouldn’t have thought of wearing it in the winter time. She likes to wear it in the snow, and she’s absolutely right about doing so. It brings out the best of the perfume, the animalic aspect of jasmine yet in a very subdued way - and counterbalances the windchill factor.

Floral Candles:
While I have been (impatiently) awaiting my first batch of White Potion candles, I’ve been experimenting with Dyptique’s floral candle gift box. The box contains three candles: Tubereuse, Mimosa and Choisya (Mexican orange blossom). In the cold throw, snuggled up in their white box, all three are magical. Burning them together is overwhelmingly pretty and fresh in a springtime cheerfulness of flowers awakening to the sun after morning showers. I find these to be a tad too sweet and overpowering, so perhaps just one candle at a time would suffice even though they are really small.

KenzoAmour Le Parfum:
This full-bodied version of KenzoAmour is more concentrated (even though it comes in a spray bottle) and says out loud everything that I wanted to hear when it just came out. There is more frangipani, more depth overall, and the only thing that I’m still not getting enough of is the rice steam.

Velvet Gardenia:
I never though it would be possible for me to fall in love with anything that Tom Ford makes after his shameful men’s fragrance campaign; but the Private Blend line has just magically appeared at Holt Renfrew and from all the dark, resinous, incensey scents (from first sniff, they all smelled like various variation on the Tom Ford concept of what an expensive perfume should smell like) - Velvet Gardenia made a real impact on me. It smells like a macro version of gardenia’s heady scent, amplified but filtered to create some softness. It’s realistic and magical at once. It’s interesting even though it is a soliflore. And it is not as loud as white florals often get. A through review is in order.
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