The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from eyeliner on a cat!


I'd like to wish all the wonderful readers of eyeliner on a cat a spectacular Halloween, and in the spirit of the season, I thought I'd share a few spooky photos from my past. Enjoy!


No self-respecting former goth girl doesn't have a graveyard photo shoot under her belt


Forlorn, melancholy... Edwina Allan Poe


My tattoo of Christopher Lee as Dracula

Kitty in a costume for good measure, it is Halloween after all!


What perfume will you be wearing to celebrate Halloween today? I'm heavily entranced by Mandy Aftel's latest perfume solid, Oud Luban (review coming soon). 


[photo credit for cat: from the book Fashion Cats by Takako Iwasa]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My home in the forest: revisiting Ormonde Jayne Woman

As I was choosing my scent of the day today, I was drawn to one of my favorites, Ormonde Woman. I wore it a  lot last Winter, and I associate it with the minor thrill I get when freezing cold air first hits my skin when I go outside. Despite today being relatively warm, Woman ushered in the mood and the emotion of Winter and a slight giddiness bounced around in the pit of my stomach. This fragrance, in all its evocative glory, is a harbinger of the cold for me, and I wear it today in celebration of the beauty of this time of year- when Fall ripens into Winter and I become the best version of myself. Intentions become clearer, my mind moves along at a pleasing clip and ideas are more likely to be brought to fruition.

When I reviewed Woman back in March, I had already figured out how much gravity and power this perfume held. It's one of a kind, and from the very first sniff, I knew that it was made for me. When I spray it, I experience its gifts: to be led by the hand into the forest where this scent lives, underneath the canopy, at the base of a massive oak tree with moss growing all around-- this is where Ormonde Woman lives, and this is my home as well.



This is where I curl up on the half-frozen ground- I am practically impervious to the chill. There are shades of brown and green all around me- a thousand colors with minute differences between them, but each so completely necessary to the scene. Each twig, leaf and insect is exactly where it should be, every inhabitant of every inch of space, living or no longer living, is accounted for and perfectly in place. A shimmering veil of dreaminess touches the hyper-real landscape.



Ever since I was a little girl, this has been my happy place. I picture myself here, sinking into the ground, becoming part of the glorious earth beneath me. Nothing has ever made me happier than knowing the peace I feel here, a place where fear does not exist. It is a place where I accept all the miracles and tragedies of nature for what they are, what they must be. It is a perfect place, my home in the forest. There have been physical places I've been to that are very similar to the forest haven in my mind (or heart?), so many times when I have been overwhelmed by the beauty around me. I have felt small in the presence of mountains and California Redwoods, and I try to keep that feeling with me always. To become small when confronted with great beauty (in whatever form) is a rite of passage for humans, and if you're not lucky enough to be around that beauty all the time, you can seek out an emotional shortcut. Mine has been found, it is Ormonde Woman. The forest in my soul is accessible by a single spray of an atomizer.

Do you have a particular perfume that serves as an emotional shortcut to your happy place? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scented Skin Care: the little things matter

As someone who really gets my jollies out of perfume, I really appreciate it when the little things I use every day, like lip balm or face cream, give me a fragrant boost. There are some companies that really understand that the short time we all take to satisfy our daily needs is just another opportunity to show just how much potential there is in every moment. The products I have listed below all make me happy, and are small indulgences I can highly recommend. Their fragrances are all distinctive, yet don't interfere with my perfume. In short, we've got ourselves some (mostly) cheap thrills here.

Pangaea Organics Pyrenees Lavender with Cardamom lip balm- $12
The scent of French lavender with its slightly fruity nuances is incredibly authentic here, and coupled with the gentle spicy warmth of cardamom, it's truly delightful. The balm itself is soft and spreads easily, and comes in a convenient oversized stick form. All lovers of lavender must try.



Decleor Aroma Solutions Nourishing Lip Balm- $16
Luxury takes hold with a more complex blend of oils, essences and resins: Hazelnut, rice and macadamia oils, barley grain, vanilla and tonka bean, petitgrain and cinnamon. These sound like notes in a beautiful perfume to me, but in lip balm form, it translates as slightly naughty. I was curious to see if the tonka would be noticeable, and it is, thankfully. No one essence in this concoction dominates, it is a natural and sophisticated blend that is perfectly paired with the silky texture of the balm that comes out of the squeeze tube. This is quite possibly one of the best lip balms I've ever tried.



Nuxe Creme Prodigieuse Enrichie Anti-Fatigue Moisturizing Day Cream- $35
Do you love the scent of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil? Yeah, I do too. It's got a soft jasmine and warm skin scent that no one else can duplicate. Women all over the world clamor for the stuff; it makes skin satin-soft, and it disappears into damp skin leaving no greasy residue. And, most importantly, the fragrance is to die for. That's why when Nuxe decided to create a Prodigieuse facial care line, I was definitely interested. The cream itself provides fabulous, rapidly-absorbing, long-lasting moisture for dry skin and has antioxidants and sweet almond oil for nourishment. The fragrance of the cream is true to the dry oil, and lasts longer than you might expect on the skin. It's not overwhelming in the least, but it will last several hours.



Kisu Lip Balm- $7
This lip balm is available through the DSH Perfumes website, and although Dawn does not make it herself, she's addicted to it just like I am, so she decided she had to sell it through her website. It has the scent of pure Italian neroli essential oil, and that's it. The texture of the balm (in stick form) is very soft and melts onto the lips. The fragrance and the formula itself are so incredibly soothing, it's the closest thing to an instant pick-me-up that I have come across. It's brilliant, and a steal at $7.



Ren Frankincense and Boswellia Serrata Revitalizing Repair Night Cream- $55
This is a night treatment cream that I've used on and off for a couple of years. The fragrance, for lovers of frankincense, is just gorgeous. It's very raw and natural-smelling, herbal, resinous and incredible for a facial massage. Initially I was concerned about my sensitive skin reacting to the frankincense, but it's actually very calming to my skin. Ren products are a bit on the pricey side, but they are really gorgeous and worth the money in my opinion. This is a dead-of-winter must.



Clarins Huile Santal- $50
This is my most recent acquisition, recommended to me by the author of one of my most favorite blogs ever, Beauty Huile. Out of all the facial oils in the world she said unequivocally that for me, it should be Clarins. She was spot on. I really like a heavier texture in facial oils because my skin is dry and I don't like to use a lot of products at one time on my skin. The Santal oil has a base of hazelnut oil and plumps up my skin and makes it as soft as silk and feeling toned. Lately, I've been using it for facial massage at night, and when I wake up in the morning, my complexion has officially ditched the redness it usually has, and instead I have an even skin tone that's as cool as a cucumber. The fragrance is mostly lavender, but there is also cardamom and traces of woodiness- I can't say I can identify it as sandalwood, though. If there were natural sandalwood essence in this oil, the amount probably wouldn't be enough to stand above the lavender to be noticed. The fragrance is relaxing in the way that only lavender seems to be able to pull off, and the quality of the product is excellent. Clarins makes a couple of other facial oils for other skin types as well.



I'd love to know what scented skin care products you use! Please comment below and dish, because obsessed minds NEED to know.

[I was not compensated for these reviews, all opinions are my own and products were purchased by myself with the exception of the Nuxe Prodigieuse Cream, which was a press sample sent to me by the company]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Finally, here's your chance to expose your briefs

Let's say that you are the creative director of a fragrance firm, or a designer. Your job is to compose a brief to hand off to a particular perfumer and hope for the best. What would you ask for exactly, and to whom would you entrust the job of making your creative vision into olfactory reality?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the incredibly varied briefs that perfumers must get handed to them, and it's my fondest wish that someday, some well-known perfumer would write a book compiling all of them. It wouldn't be necessary to name names, just to be able to read them would be a guilty pleasure. I'm sure they would vary from the insane to the sublime and would make great entertainment on par with Turin and Sanchez' The Guide.

Me? Perhaps I would call up Thierry Wasser and, utilizing his strengths, ask him to compose a fragrance of haute vulgarity. Using a blend of high-quality naturals and great synthetics, he would take certain cues from Guerlain's history. I would ask him to create the olfactory equivalent of the outmoded psychoanalytical idea of the Madonna/Whore Complex. It would smell like early twentieth-century violet, loads of coumarin/tonka and whatever else might strike Monsieur Wasser's fancy. It would turn heads, distracting all in its wake to the point of mania in searching out its source. In short, it would be spectacular.

Thierry Wasser- my imaginary perfume husband

What about you? What would be your perfume fantasy? How would your brief read, and which perfumer would you task with it?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Entry form for the 2012 FiFi Award for Indie Fragrance of the Year

Below, you will find the rules and entry form to print out and mail in for the 2012 FiFi Award for Best Indie Fragrance. Soon, you will also be able to find the form on The Fragrance Foundation's website, as well as other fragrance blogs. The five finalists and winner will be honored on January 31st, 2012 at the Elements Showcase in NYC. I'm really excited to find out who will be entering and what they will be bringing to the table. Best of luck to all!




2012 FIFI® AWARD “INDIE” CATEGORY
FRAGRANCE OF THE YEAR
NOMINEE VALIDATION FORM for 2011 Fragrance Launches 

All “indie” fragrances introduced in 2011 are eligible to enter the FiFi® Awards process.

The judging will determine the top five finalists as well as the winner. 
There will be one winner in the FiFi® “Indie” Category for Fragrance of the Year (Men’s, Women’s or Shared). The finalists and the winner will be honored at the 2012 Elements Showcase on January 31st in New York City.  The winner will receive the crystal FiFi® statuette as well as a congratulatory check in the amount of $10,000 from Givaudan Fragrances Corp. The winner will also be recognized at the 2012 FiFi® Awards Ceremony on Monday, May 21, 2012.

The criteria for this category are as follows:
Ø  Must be an established* brand and on the market for at least 2 years
Ø  Must be independent, not distributed or owned by a large company
Ø  Must be sold in 1 to 50 doors (actual # of stores) in the U.S. including online
Ø  The nominated fragrance must have been launched in 2011
                        *registered company

The Validation Form asks each eligible brand that introduced a fragrance in 2011 to identify the fragrance, validate and list the number of stores that the fragrance was in as of December 31, 2011 and notarize. In addition, each entry must be accompanied by a $200 entry fee.

Once we receive your notarized Validation Form and the entry fee, your fragrance will be placed on the ballot.  Please complete a separate form for each fragrance launched in 2011 that you would like to nominate.

The Validation Form must be returned to The Fragrance Foundation no later than WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2011, along with TWO bottles of the fragrance being nominated.  All eligible entries become the property of The Fragrance Foundation.

Voting for the Fragrance of the Year in the “Indie” Category will be scheduled in early January 2012 (exact date to be determined). Entries will be judged by a prestigious panel of independent judges comprising fragrance authorities, beauty press, retailers, etc. Ballots will be tabulated by the Foundation’s accounting firm, Sperduto Spector & Company.

2012 FIFI®AWARD – “INDIE” CATEGORY

FRAGRANCE OF THE YEAR

NOMINEE VALIDATION FORM

The following fragrance:

__________________________________________
(Fragrance Name and Company as it should appear on the ballot)
Women’s     Men’s      Shared
was launched in 2011 and is eligible to be listed on the ballot as a nominee for

2012 Fragrance of the Year – “Indie” Category


List Names Of: 

Owner: ______________________________ 
Fragrance Supplier: ____________________ Perfumer: _________________
Bottle Designer:  _________________________________________________
Bottle Producer: __________________________________________________
Package Designer: ________________________________________________

Distribution as of December 31, 2011:

# of stores (the criteria states 1 to 50 doors): __________________________

List names of stores: _________________________________________
                                                                               
                                _____________________________________________
                                _____________________________________________
                                __________________________________________________
(Please list any additional stores on a separate sheet of paper.)





NOTARY STAMP BELOW                                 
                                                                                ________________________________
                                (Signature of Owner of the Company)

                                ________________________________
                                                                                (Print name)

                                                                                _______________________________
                                                                                (Company)

Company Contact person: ______________________________

Phone: _____________________________________

E-mail: _____________________________________

Payment of Entry Fee by:
o Check enclosed – payable to The Fragrance Foundation in the amount of $__________.
o Credit card – charge my (circle one) Visa/MasterCard/American Express in the amount of $ ____________.
Account number: ________________________________
Expiration Date: _____________________ Security v-code: _________________
Name as it appears on card: __________________________________________

       
Return this signed and notarized form along with two (2) bottles of the nominated fragrance plus the entry fee by Wednesday, November 30, 2011 to:
The Fragrance Foundation
2012 FiFi® Award Fragrance of the Year – “Indie” Category
545 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900
New York, NY  10017
Attention:  Amy Rubin
If you have any questions, please contact Amy Rubin at 212.725.2755 x103 or Mary Ellen Lapsansky at x106.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aftelier Parfum Prive: a siren song

Aftelier Perfumes Parfum Prive was created by Mandy Aftel for herself, but she was so pleased with the results that she felt the need to share it with the world. It's lucky for us that she did, because it's one of her most unique, memorable and stunning fragrances. As is the case with many of Mandy's perfumes, the interplay of opposites is what attracts; sharp against smooth, the creation of energy and then its release. There is also an otherworldliness here, it's your Planet Earth but better.


notes: bergamot, pink pepper CO2, orange flower absolute, osmanthus, pimento leaf, ambrette, ambergris

When I first apply Parfum Prive, the strangest thing happens: my mouth starts to water. It's not a gourmand fragrance, but some part of me wants to consume it anyway, as if inhaling its scent just isn't enough. As I breathe in, it's as if my nose, then throat, then chest expand and tingle with ecstatic anticipation. The spiciness of the pink pepper and pimento leaf are featured quite prominently, and are used to great effect in combination with the bergamot and orange flower absolute. After about 20 minutes, the spices calm down, and the essence of the sea emerges; intoxicating, salty and sweet... this, my friends, is real ambergris. It marries with osmanthus and ambrette seed so seamlessly, and then a tiny hint of coconut comes through. The scent creates vivid imagery in my mind of being shipwrecked somewhere exotic, with traces of flowers and softened, jammy fruits colliding with the breezes coming off of the water... even the sand is present with bits of seashells and pebbles that have been pummeled smooth by the moody sea.



Parfum Prive is haute perfumery at its best. It is a journey in a bottle for revelers to partake in, and also a perfect example of how artisanal excellence and a high taste level can be executed in a fragrance. It is pure, unadulterated luxury.


Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?

-Herman Melville, Moby Dick


A 2ml mini bottle of Parfum Prive can be purchased from the Aftelier Perfumes website for $125, and the perfume solid version is $400 for 1/4 oz in a sterling silver container designed by Mandy herself. Samples are available in both forms for $20 each.

[Sample was sent to me for consideration by the perfumer. Product photos courtesy of Mandy Aftel]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mini Mondays- Givenchy Dahlia Noir and Frederic Malle L'Eau d'Hiver [10/3/11]

On this lovely Mini-Monday, we have perfect weather today and two fragrance reviews- one mainstream, one niche.


Givenchy Dahlia Noir was conceived under the creative direction of Givenchy's in-house head designer Riccardo Tisci. The roses and aldehydes on opening are reminiscent of a quieter YSL Paris. Dahlia Noir then moves quickly into generic floral bouquet territory with watery (not marine, more like diluted) aspects with a slightly powdery facet- presumably iris. There is the promise of sensual depth in the base notes with tonka, but it's never allowed to speak too loudly (even in the drydown), which is unfortunate, because it's what could have made this fragrance somewhat interesting. The note of patchouli is listed officially, but I cannot detect any. There is a soft but bright fruitiness to the composition, probably due to the rather nicely rendered mimosa note. The fragrance is described as a powdery floral chypre, but to say that this is any type of chypre is pushing it a bit. To my mind, this is an average-quality floral composition with unrealized potential. There are dozens of modern perfumes on the market today that smell just like this- taking cues from the drama and guts of the perfumes of the 1970s and 1980s, but ultimately they just end up being neither here nor there. In the end, Dahlia Noir gives us an amalgam of tired synthetic musks with lingering traces of generic, nameless flowers.



A lovely spray sample of Frederic Malle L'eau d'Hiver by Jean-Claude Ellena was sent to me by a friend as a birthday present (along with two other Malle samples). This was my first experience with any Frederic Malle perfumes, and L'eau d'Hiver turned out to be my favorite of the three. It's just a whisper of a scent, I could easily use up the entire 2ml sample in one application. As I sat there contemplating it, contented and fully saturated, I realized why I loved it so much. It's similar to Guerlain L'Heure Bleue, but it has the streamlined restraint associated with Ellena's work. The heliotrope note is dominant, but it's brighter and more cheerful here, with the bitter almond facet carrying with it traces of cherries macerated in liqueur. I usually prefer scents with more heft and lasting power, but I can say with certainty that if I had a bottle of L'eau d'Hiver, I'd use it up, and quickly. I'm not sure I see the association with winter in particular, because to me, this fragrance is as seasonless as it gets. Casual, uplifting yet refined, it's simply enchanting.



[sample of Givenchy Dahlia Noir was free from a department store, Frederic Malle L'eau d'Hiver was a gift]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Heart of decadence: Mona di Orio Oud EDP Intense

Mona di Orio Oud Eau de Parfum Intense is part of the Les Nombres D'Or collection, and as the original collection is about to fade away, it's very reassuring to know that such high quality fragrances are emerging in its place. I've yet to review the others in the new collection that I've sampled (Vanille, Tubereuse, Ambre), but I can give you a hint at what's to come: they're all good, one of them is even what I'd call spectacular.



notes of Oud: elemi, green mandarin, petitgrain, patchouli, osmanthus, nagarmotha, cedarwood, oudh, musc, ambergris


I've tried many oud-centered compositions, but none as spicy and tenacious as this. It's important to emphasize the fact that this is an EDP "Intense", because if you spray too much (which I did the first time), it can easily overwhelm your senses. The second time I tried it, I used more restraint, and was able to detect many of the delicious and unique subtleties it contains. What initially attracted me to this perfume just from having read the notes list is the combination of osmanthus and oud. I could imagine what it might smell like, but the reality of it is much more beautiful and complex than my mind could have conjured. The dried-apricot jamminess of the osmanthus with the smooth, dark depths of the natural Laotian oud is quite simply intoxicating. What binds this blend neatly together are the spices and patchouli, which last for many hours on the skin and may eventually fade in intensity, but they only give way to the most sigh-inducing ambergris (I can't attest to it being natural or not) and tonka (which is not listed, but I'm sure it's there).

Mona di Orio Oud is masculine-leaning with massive sillage, but should not alienate any women who appreciate deep woody or spicy fragrances. Remarkably, you don't necessarily have to like oud itself to enjoy this. The way the material has been adulterated in many fragrances (mainstream and niche) makes it practically unrecognizable in its high-quality, natural state, and I think many folks would be surprised by its potential. So, yes, we've got another oud-based perfume added to an already over-saturated market, and I know, oud was so 2009, but I've never tired of it. You don't throw away your favorite doll just because it's missing a button eye, do you? Not me. Oud is well worn and well loved by me, and I've found something wonderful in Mona di Orio's Oud- something unique that I've not seen before: a particular combination of intensity, sexuality, aggressiveness and confidence all wrapped up in one delirously beautiful package. If Oud were a man, he would be perfect in all his imperfections. Bristly and old-fashioned in some ways, totally unrestrained in other ways. Always surprising, though.

Most people (including myself, at first) think that $520 is a lot of money for a 100 ml bottle of perfume, but I took part in a split hosted by the beautiful Olfactoria, and it's much easier to take when the cost is divided among several friends. Another thing to consider when thinking about cost is the fact that you really only need a tiny bit to last all day. I'm notorious for spraying generously, but I fully admit that was a mistake with Mona di Orio Oud. I'm not even the type to say this normally, but I must- a little goes a long way. I adhere to a "more is more" aesthetic most of the time, but my 5 ml decant is going to last me quite awhile. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for Ms. di Orio for not compromising on quality of materials to make her product affordable for everyone. Many of us would rather have a little of something amazing than have copious amounts of mediocre stuff.

the Noble Rot

Mona di Orio Oud EDP Intense is available through Luckyscent.com. A 100ml bottle is $520 and a sample is available for $8. Don't let the high price of the perfume prevent you from trying a sample- treat yourself to something truly special.

[my decant was purchased by me as part of a split]