eyeliner on a cat

eyeliner on a cat
beauty, scent & style scrutinized for pleasure

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Redefining the animal: Amouage Library Collection Opus V

For a couple of weeks, I've been somewhat at a loss as how to explain the experience of wearing the most recent launch from Amouage: Opus V. Created by perfumer Jacques Cavallier, it is definitely not a traditional perfume in the way that I know traditional, but it's not exactly modern, either. But with that said, I somehow feel like I understand it. It is strictly Earth-bound. It is animal, vegetal and mineral, magnetically grounded and sensual- not simply for pleasure but for procreation. It exists in a wild, feral space bursting with the potential for life.

When first sprayed onto the skin, it explodes with a boozy tickle to the nose attributed to a fabulous but rather short-lived rum note, then the florals create sparks that shower down over you like olfactory fireworks.The particular element of rose used here smells very expensive and is charming, luring you at first into an expanse of an English topiary garden full of roses, sunlight and shadows. The rose is refined, without a hint of sweetness, and the jasmine is soft and (thankfully) non-indolic. Just when you become comfortable with the way things are developing, the familiar starts to disappear. You slowly come to the realization that you're actually alone in the woods as the canopy of trees overhead grows thicker by the second and blocks out all light, and glowing eyes peer at you from every dark corner. It's like a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. At once beautiful and picturesque, then veering into the shockingly visceral. Opus V is to me a complete and unflinching representation of the cycle of life. It's nature acting naturally.

Notes: Orris Absolute, Rum, Orris Concrete, Rose, Jasmine, Agarwood, Civet, Dry Wood Accord

The woods are creamy and develop fairly soon, and they feel even creamier because of the civet which smells natural and thick (but it's synthetic, I checked). The agarwood is rich and pervasive; just gorgeous (and natural, I checked on that too). This is where the fragrance starts to feel very satiny and cashmere-like, it grows a thick coat of fur, and it's maddeningly plush. The orris is very earthy, dark and opulent- just the way I like it. The "dry wood" accord is not overly dry, in fact, the moist presence of the civet helps the woods to not disperse too quickly. Instead, it damps them down so that they play nicely with the other notes for a longer period of time. There is a subtle smokiness in the drydown which I think could be labdanum. Whatever it is, I'd consider eating it with a spoon. 

Over time, the civet and agarwood are all that's left (with a tiny touch of rose), and it really starts to meld into the skin in the most seductive way. It reminds me a bit of certain savory gastronomic delights, like forest mushrooms sauteed in butter, or goat cheese with brined olives. 

The sillage of Opus V is not too strong- it wears fairly close to the skin, but the longevity is unbelievably good (12-24 hours depending on how much you spray). This is what I would consider to be a 'personal perfume'. It's not something I would wear for the benefit of anyone other than myself. It's MY fur coat, and nobody else can wear it.

Amouage Opus V is available from Amouage.com, a 100ml bottle for 275 Euros, also available from Luckyscent.com for $325 USD.

[my sample of Opus V was provided by the company for review]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dreaming Big: my full bottle lust list this week

I've decided that occasionally, I'm going to post about what's on my current full bottle wish list. It always seems to be changing and, let's face it, I love to gush about perfume.

Guerlain Attrape-Coeur

1. Amouage Opus I, III and V (not necessarily in that order) My re-introduction to Amouage Perfumes has been a raging success, and I am having a blast. The downside, of course, is falling so hard for more than one- but there are always potential splits.

2. Etat Libre d'Orange Tom of Finland I'm convinced I need to sample every ELdO fragrance there is, but I already know one thing for sure- a full bottle of Tom of Finland must be mine. My sample is almost gone, and it's been one of my very favorite perfumes as of late.

3. Knize Ten, modern and vintage I have a sample of modern Knize Ten, and have decreed that it's the raunchiest, roughest, furriest most wonderful leather perfume ever (eclipsing even vintage Tabac Blond in terms of ability to burn off nose hairs). I am dying to try the vintage, and plan to very soon. It's also very nice to know that the modern version is so beautiful.

4. DSH Perfumes Vert Pour Madame Just as I was in the process of whining that nothing is as good as vintage Balmain Vent Vert when it comes to the green-eyed monster (galbanum), along comes Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz to the rescue. Done in vintage style, there is a lot to love.

5. Parfumerie Generale Cuir d'Iris This was in an iris sampler pack I got recently from The Perfumed Court, and I fell for Cuir d'Iris instantly. This goes further in showing how leather and iris together just makes a whole lot of damn sense. True love.

6. Guerlain Attrape Coeur It's sweet, it's soft, it makes me feel like a vixen. All the delicious, powdery aspects of violet and iris with a soft incensey amber... a bee bottle is calling my name.

7. Vero Profumo Kiki Once I get my hands on a full bottle of Kiki EDP, that will be the only lavender-based perfume I will need for the rest of my life. I'm mostly serious.

8. Ormonde Jayne Woman Pure Parfum Why? Because a girl can dream. I dream about layering my Woman EDP with the Pure Parfum. I also dream about a Woman candle, you know, the really big one. Bath & Shower Creme, Lotion, whatever else there is, I'll take it.

And in the vintage sect, I'm going to need more of this stuff:

1. Vintage Balmain Vent Vert Because even though Vert Pour Madame exists now, I still want some original Vent Vert (I only have about three drops left in my sample vial). I am a human lady, after all. I also have to try samples of vintage Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame.

2. Vintage Caron Tabac Blond I was lucky enough to get a partial bottle of this (from the 70s) recently, and I've been thoroughly enjoying every drop. But I still want to go further back in time and try an older vintage. Tabac Blond is in my top five favorite perfumes of all time.

3. Vintage Guerlain L'Heure Bleue This must happen. Since L'Heure Bleue was the first fancy perfume I ever picked out and bought for myself, I feel that I owe it to myself to have some vintage. It's a very special fragrance to me.

So now it's time for you to dish. Tell me, what perfumes are topping your wish lists these days? 

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Tempting Trio: Liz Zorn Perfumes Blood Cedar, Domino Viole and Vanillaville

I have made no secret about the fact that I am a huge admirer of Liz Zorn Perfumes. I'm going to review a few of the scents that have recently captured my heart.

When I first heard about Blood Cedar (demi-absolute), just the name alone was evocative enough that I knew I must have it. I love cedar almost more than any other note in perfume, and Liz' treatment of this particular essence is singularly delightful.

From Liz Zorn's website: "Blood Cedar, distilled from the Virginia cedar heartwood is a warm wood embellished with a citrus opening, lightly floral with a base of tonka, sandalwood, labdanum and vanilla."

Blood Cedar is warm, nutty and delicious from opening until extreme drydown. The cedar note does not carry the high-pitched sharpness that cedar is often known for, instead, this has a rich, wet wood quality that, blended with the subtle sweetness of vanilla and labdanum speaks of sleeping cats, curled up in front of a fire on a cool night, thin cashmere blankets and expensive tea. Blood Cedar is a mood piece, as are so many of Liz' perfumes. There is an intense sense of comfort and well-being when I wear Blood Cedar, almost unequaled by anything, perfume or otherwise. The labdanum in particular is used strategically here, just when you think the intensity is waning, its softly animalic depth comes out for the duration. It's clear that I'm going to need a bottle of this.
[11ml spray for $30,  35ml spray for $80]

The next one I'm going to mention is Domino Viole (absolute).
From the website: "a rebirth of our beloved Domino in a lush absolute, dark earthy violets, oakmoss, oud, herbals and musk, with a sprinkling of jasmine absolute, orris root, roses and lavender"

Domino Viole is a very rich blend highlighting violet and orris with a dark mossy background. It is a floral fougere with mystery attached. The violet used here is not the light-hearted, candied kind, but reminds me of the violet in vintage Coty L'Origan, but lacks any of the powderiness traditionally associated with violet. The orris is slightly spiced, no doubt aided by the subtle and lovely lavender. The reason Domino Viole is rather thrilling to me is that it does indeed give the impression of a vintage classic perfume, before the days of watery musks and fruity floral abominations. This is perfume for a woman who knows herself, and cares enough to treat herself very, very well.
[4.5ml is $70, 15ml is $180]

The third and final perfume I'll be reviewing (today, anyway, I've got more!) is Vanillaville (demi-absolute). There is a smoky, tea-like, rich herbal signature that Liz has in some of her fragrances that frankly, I am powerless against. If her Meerschaum is your sort of thing, you'll definitely want to try Vanillaville.

From the website: "a rustic leathery vanilla with overtones of pipe tobacco, including sweet fennel, pink pepper, coffee absolute, cinnamon, cepes, rectified birch tar, sandalwood, amyris, floral accord, benzoin, almonds"

If you're anything at all like me, just reading the notes list is enough to make me weak in the knees. Vanillaville is smoky, sweet and rustic indeed. This is not the kind of scent that needs to be treated with kid gloves, it exists on the same plane as Le Labo's Patchouli 24 (Annick Menardo), it's rough and tumble, giving the impression of a fine smoky tea and a leather saddle. This is not by any means a traditional gourmand fragrance; Vanillaville is so good, it hurts. It hurts so much, that you're probably going to want to buy it not only for yourself but for all your friends. Do it.
[11ml spray is $30, 35ml spray is $80]
Samples of all scents are also available at lizzornperfumes.com.

Samples were sent to me for review by the perfumer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekly Scent Round-up [May 14-21]

This was an active blogging week for me. Lots of exciting things have come my way: a slew of Amouage samples, the fulfillment of a Perfumed Court gift certificate from my dear Joanne Elaine of Redolent of Spices blog (an iris and a leather sampler pack), a sample of DSH Perfumes brand new Vert Pour Madame and a much-awaited decant of Guerlain Iris Ganache. I've also been playing around with a lovely box of samples from Liz Zorn, and have an as-yet untouched red velvet baggie of Aroma M scents to explore. There are lots more blogs to be posted, and I'm looking forward to it.

DSH Perfumes Vert Pour Madame

Here's what some of my favorite fragrance bloggers have been up to:

At EauMG, Victoria espouses the beauty of Ormonde Jayne Frangipani, one of their gorgeous watery, tropical florals. Frangipani is not the one I expected her to fall for the hardest, but if perfume can't surprise us sometimes, I suppose nothing can, right?

Tarleisio spins a yarn of how she helped some women she knows appreciate perfume in a new way over at Scent-Less Sensibilites.

Both Birgit at Olfactoria's Travels and Dee at Beauty on the Outside tackle Histoires de Parfums Marquis de Sade inspired perfume, 1740.

Persolaise tells us about a niche perfume line somewhat under the radar, Angela Flanders, and hosts a sample giveaway as well.

What have you been exploring or coveting this past week?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee Cologne Absolue and Soap

It's been awhile since I've reviewed anything other than perfume, and although this is also a  review of a soap, the juice came first, so I will start there. I have been growing more enchanted every day by Atelier Cologne's fragrances since I first received samples of all of their scents. The instant hit for me was Vanille Insensee, and I've heard so many people talking about the soap that I had to get it as well.

First, I'd like to say that I thought the Cologne Absolue and the Soap smell different enough to warrant reviewing both of them. Vanille Insensee Cologne Absolue is so dry, you really can't help but conjure up images of incense smoke curling into the air. The vanilla is not overly sweet, and the fragrance overall is pretty linear. This is one of those perfumes you actually want  to be linear; such is the nature of incense. I stopped burning incense once I started getting migraines several years ago (not because of the incense, but it didn't help), and I miss it a lot. Vanille Insensee fills a need for me not previously met: I now have an incense-based personal  fragrance to use during the summer. It's soft and thin enough that it never becomes cloying, but it has enough body to it that my incense cravings are truly and completely satisfied. The hint of lime at the outset is so subtle and doesn't really smell citrusy, it offers more of a high-pitched accent to the blend, lightening it up considerably. It is delicious without being overly gourmand, and so refreshing to wear. Based on the quality of the fragrance, excellent price point and uniqueness, this is a must-have full bottle for me.

notes: Lime, coriander, jasmine, vanilla, oak moss, woods

Now, on to the accoutrement. The Vanille Insensee soap is the first bar of soap I've bought in over a decade. That's right, I'm a liquid body wash kind of girl. This, however, is no ordinary soap. It is finely milled, the bar is very large and highly scented (enough to fill the entire bathroom with fragrance), and the lather is satiny soft. The scent of the bar has a more prevalent lime note in it that makes it great for use as a soap. The coriander is also more noticeable and gives it a stronger herbal impression than the Cologne Absolue. The scent doesn't last on the skin for too long, but that's okay with me, since it won't interfere with my daily perfume testing that way.

The packaging is marvelous. As you can see, it's wrapped in cream-colored, slightly textured paper and has a leather mahogany colored band with the Atelier Cologne logo on it with a metal snap surrounding it. I wanted to wear it as a bracelet, but it's too big on me. Therefore, my cat Troutie has happily inherited it as a new plaything.

I plan on buying the soap in Orange Sanguine as well (the Cologne Absolue is absolutely stunning), and I am also very hot to try several of Atelier's candles.

Vanille Insensee is available in 30ml bottles ($60), 200ml bottles ($170), bar soap ($15) and candles ($45) at Ateliercologne.com, and also at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

[bar of soap was purchased by me for my personal use, perfume sample was obtained for free via the Atelier Cologne Facebook page]

Sweet Redemption: Amouage Library Collection Opus III

Circumstances in the past had led me to basically ignore Amouage perfumes, but I have a decent reason for it. I had a run-in with a vial of vintage Ubar on Christmas last year that nearly scarred me for life, and my nose had not since forgiven me for it. Luckily (and happily, as it turns out), I have been given the opportunity to test several other Amouage perfumes, and I found out just how quickly the olfactory sins of the past can be forgiven.

Initially, I was going to review The Library Collection in chronological order, but I sort of cheated and took out the vials one by one and sniffed them without spraying. I found several to be of interest, but Opus III (created by Karine Vinchon in 2010) grabbed my attention first. Based on the results of my initial testing session, I am very excited to try the others in The Library Collection, and other Amouage perfumes as well.

I have spent the last 24 hours or so with Opus III, and it's hard for me to remember ever wearing a perfume that demanded so much of my attention. I don't mean that in an 'annoying little brother' kind of way, I mean that the fragrance is so seductive and enchanting from one minute to the next, and more importantly, it's surprising.

notes: mimosa, broom, carnation, nutmeg, thyme, violet, jasmine, ylang ylang, orange blossom, ambrette, musk, papyrus, cedar wood, sandalwood, guaiacwood, benzoin, vanilla, frankincense

The opening of Opus III is very damp, dripping with a tropical floral feel. There is the smell of earth, salty soil, and something akin to human skin and bodily fluids (this may sound unpleasant, but it's not). The wet bitterness in the blend settles down after about 20 minutes as the woods begin to emerge, and I can tell immediately that it's going to be a legendary dry-down. Now, the sun begins to beat down through the trees, evaporating the misty heat, drying out the woods and flowers. Soon, the incense starts to burn, and it's one of the most truly beautiful incense accords I've ever smelled. What I find very interesting about Opus III is how smooth the transitions are between stages of wear, and this can only be accounted for by expert blending and high quality ingredients. The sillage is moderate/good, and the longevity is spectacular. Hours later, I can still smell the slightly sweetened aroma of incense, woods, and a little delicious drop of violet wafting up from the crook of my neck.

Opus III has the richness of a true oriental which benefits greatly from the levity provided by mimosa and the coolness of a clean but almost vintage-smelling violet. There is no lasting powderiness or dustiness to be found, which is unexpected considering that it could be present from several different elements of the fragrance. These things combined makes Opus III an oddity in my mind, and I mean that in the most positive way. I already have many perfumes that I reach for regularly out of a need for comfort or to relax, yet I'm intoxicated by the scents which don't completely make sense to me right away. Perfumes like Opus III obviously take time and patience to fully unfold before the wearer. There are many nuances here which I find almost unsettling, it reminds me of the way I felt when I first wore Ormonde Jayne Woman. Slightly disturbed, but intellectually and emotionally hooked. It is a guarantee that I will wear Opus III many more times, for enjoyment and out of sheer curiosity.

Amouage Opus III is available online at Amouage.com, a 100ml bottle for 275 euros, or in the US at several locations, including Luckyscent.com for $325 USD.

[sample was provided by Amouage for review]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Summer of Patchouli Love 2011 (Perfume Pharmer)

This summer, I will be particpating in Perfume Pharmer's (Monica Skye Miller) Summer of Patchouli Love project as a Patch Test Bunny. This is the kind of project a perfume writer dreams about. Fifteen perfumers will be submitting 100% natural patchouli perfumes to Monica, she will repackage them, label them by numbers only and will send them to her Patch Test Bunnies. At that point, we will pick our three favorites, and write about them on our blogs, or in print, whatever media we utilize. The Celebrity Patch Test Bunnies include Jodie Foster (!) and Mary J. Blige (!).

I'm awfully excited that the perfumers include Liz Zorn and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and I'm very eager to see if I can pick out their patchouli perfumes since I know their work so well. If I can't guess correctly on Liz' perfume at least, I'll consider myself defeated!

Monica will start sending out the perfumes to the Patch Test Bunnies in mid-June, so I won't have much longer to wait. What's also great is that all of the perfumes will be available for sale by each perfumer in August, so if any lemmings are created from this project, they will have a chance to be fully realized and satiated.

Thank you, Monica, for giving me the honor of participating in this seriously fun project!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Le Labo Santal 33: Switchblade Sibling

Well, the time has come. I've been waiting breathlessly for Le Labo's Santal 33 since I first heard they were taking the concept from their popular Santal 26 candle and tweaking it to create a unique perfume. This moment is the equivalent of my favorite band releasing a new album after a break of several years; I'm at once terribly excited and terribly terrified. What if I hate it? Will I raise my fists to the heavens and curse with tears streaming down my face? As usual, the stress is all for naught. Le Labo has created another very memorable fragrance that I will love wearing during every season, but especially summer.

When first sprayed, I instantly get a couple of things: the intense sharpness of Australian Sandalwood along with cedar to intensify it (good lord, the cedar is stunning), and a cool, camphorous blast. It almost feels cool on the skin too (but there's a chance I'm imagining that because I'm really getting into this). As the heart approaches, you can tell that it's not going to be as overwhelmingly powerful as Patchouli 24 or Oud 27, and that's okay, because I love and own those two perfumes already, I wanted something different.

While the woods and camphor (much like an unlit menthol cigarette) are the dominating notes, I can detect soft violet and iris in the backdrop, adding a rather charming element to the scent. The initial masculinity of the blend is tamed just slightly as the florals emerge and the camphor quiets down. I'm almost certain I smell vetiver as well, and it's lovely. There is supposed to be a smoky element to Santal 33, and I do not get that at all. Another unlisted note is leather, and it's not the leather I expected. In fact, it's more of a suede to me, the kind that often accompanies violet and iris. There's a reason these notes work so well together, and I'm not a perfumer or a chemist, so I'll leave that idea hanging in the air.

The ad copy on this fragrance has to do with The Marlboro Man, and the romantic image of the American West. I don't really get the connection once I'm smelling it on my skin, but I will say this, Santal 33 would smell amazing on a man, I just know it. It's also wonderful for people who love to toy with gender in perfume.

As is standard for Le Labo perfumes, Santal 33 isn't all about sandalwood. In fact, it only really starts to show itself in a familiar form after about 45 minutes of wear. It's not the smooth, creamy almost nutty quality of Indian Sandalwood. Australian Sandalwood (bolstered by cedar and papyrus) will cut you with a switchblade, old-school style. I can say with certainty (and may it be a warning for some of you): if you dislike the smell of camphor, stay away. Stay far away. It doesn't ever go away. I personally can't get enough, and am looking forward to a lot more time with Santal 33 to draw out any other peculiarities that I missed the first time around.

"Switchblade Sue Will Cut You" by Arabella Proffer

Creator Frank Voelkl does it again, two perfumes in a row that I love (the first being Esprit d'Oscar). He's definitely on a roll this year and has created something fresh for Le Labo. Santal 33 is modern, directly in line with the Le Labo aesthetic, and wholly original. My best guess is that Santal 33 will not quite enjoy the popularity of Patchouli 24 or Oud 27, but it will grow to legendary status among a select group. There's just no way to please everyone.

notes list: cardamom, iris, violet, ambrox, sandalwood, papyrus, cedar

Le Labo Santal 33 is available at lelabofragrances.com: 15ml bottle for $58, 50ml for $145, larger bottles also available. 

[bottle purchased by me for my own personal use]

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Maison Martin Margiela Untitled: perfume without teeth

Last year, Maison Martin Margiela released Untitled, created by Daniela Andrier. I have heard so much talk about Untitled being the go-to scent for Spring (loved by mainstream fashion and beauty magazines and perfume aficionados alike), and remembered that I was given a sample by the adorable voyagetocythera, Tommy Pickles. It was months ago when his parcel arrived, but I'm only now getting around to trying Untitled again after being initially underwhelmed by it. I always like to give things a second chance, it's only fair, after all.

The opening is promising. The varied green notes give a strong impression of vetiver root (but I don't see vetiver in the notes list), watery, verdant, salty, completely gender-free. So far, so good. In the blink of an eye, the dry-down appears, and I'm left wondering where the heart is (I hear that it's "home", though). I really wish the scent were more tenacious, because I think it has potential, but ultimately it fades too quickly. A very pleasant galbanum note is soon buried in a strange sweetness, like sugar cane dipped in pine resin.

Notes listed:
galbanum, boxwood, mastic, incense, bitter orange, jasmine, cedar, musk

Now that you know that the longevity is practically nil for me, you should also know that the sillage is somewhat of a ghostly, apologetic puff. Untitled exists in a space between where the baby teeth fall out and the adult teeth grow in-- it is a gummer. Pity, because it really is pretty. I will stick with vintage Balmain Vent Vert when I need a good hit of green.

Maison Martin Margiela Untitled is available at Saks Fifth Avenue among other retailers, a 1.7 oz bottle is $100.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Worthy Successor: Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar

Once every few years, I'll smell a magazine scent strip and know right away that I needn't sample, just proceed directly to full-bottle purchase. The last time I did that was a couple of years ago with Estee Lauder Sensuous (which remains a favorite of mine to this day). This time, it was Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar.

I happen to love the original 1977 Oscar-- as a home fragrance. I never wanted to wear it on my skin, but I have a beloved candle of it that I use not only to completely obliterate any offending odors, but it relaxes me with its intense powdery floral qualities. Esprit d'Oscar (created by Frank Voelkl) manages to have not only become something I joyfully want to wear on my person day and night, but somehow maintains a delicate balance between honoring the original fragrance and forging its own path. People who love Oscar will  surely appreciate Esprit d'Oscar, and will also win a lot of new fans who were not completely taken with Oscar.

It starts out with a citrus-aldehyde sharpness with jasmine and tuberose following closely on its heels. Then, ah, sweet, sweet heliotrope. Heliotrope can be too much for some, heck, it can even be too much for me! When it is done well, it's enchanting in its powderiness and ethereal nature, and I have not smelled it done this well in some time. The dry-down offers up the expected: vetiver, tonka and musk. That little sweetness at the outset, then at the heart, is again played up in the dry-down, it is utterly sumptuous and lasts practically forever. This is no syrupy, sticky, cloying mess, this is a well-orchestrated journey with tuberose driving the train, and I believe it has served to elevate the original concept of the fragrance to new heights and farther distances.

My only gripe (and it is a minor one as far as I'm concerned) is the packaging. It leaves me rather cold, and I don't think it does much justice to the scent it contains. The bottle is too ornate at the cap (sort of a cup-like plastic petal monstrosity), although I guess I can appreciate the odd shape of the base. The packaging for the original Oscar is, frankly, even worse.

Esprit d'Oscar is bound to excite a large number of scent lovers with varying tastes; it is sophisticated and soft enough for work, sensual enough for date night, light-hearted enough for casual wear, is season-less, and (here's the best part) complex enough to capture the heart of even the most jaded perfumista. This may very well be the most successful flanker in a long time in terms of the quality of the fragrance, and I hope many, many others will agree with me. Esprit d'Oscar is a legend in the making.

[bottle was bought by me for my personal use, $78 for 50ml EDP, available at many retailers, including online at oscardelarenta.com]