eyeliner on a cat

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: Fragrance

Giving the gift of scent can be tricky. You need to know the recipient pretty well. Ideally, you'd take their personality, lifestyle and taste into account and build on it a little bit-- perhaps suggesting something new for them. Sometimes, there is subtext involved in the act of giving. If you would like to convey a sentiment in a cool and rather exciting way, perfume is just the thing to bear the message. Perfume's allure is in part due to its fragility and the indulgence of wearing something that begins to disappear as soon as you let it out of the bottle. It's a phone number written on the palm of your hand at 3am, and at its best, a safe place for the soul to rest. The way I see it, perfume chosen thoughtfully and gifted is a compliment of the highest order.

By Kilian In the City of Sin EDP ($245) and Back to Black candle ($85)
Let's start off with a bang. If the price of the gifts you are shopping for doesn't really matter, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than By Kilian's offerings. Consider a bottle of In the City of Sin, my favorite from the new collection (In the Garden of Good and Evil), with its sleek white and gold minaudiere-style box, plus the universally loved tobacco-scented Back to Black candle. If you're going for visual impact, white and gold paired with black and silver is ultra-sexy.

In the City of Sin Eau de Parfum with case

Back to Black candle

Aftelier Wild Roses Eau de Parfum 30ml ($170)
Everyone knows someone who is crazy about rose, and yet even the biggest rose fanatics may not have had the opportunity to try a natural rose composition with the complex and masterful swagger of Wild Roses. This fragrance was inspired by a variety of roses, alive and growing, with the subtleties of each variety on display-- even the dirty ones. Add to that a touch of sweet honey and a dash of rich, aromatic bliss, and you've got Wild Roses-- a fascinating study in the cultivation of the senses.

Wild Roses Eau de Parfum

Ramon Monegal Perfumes Impossible Iris 50ml EDP ($185)
Every time I indulge in Impossible Iris (which is a lot), I always exclaim how shockingly wonderful it is. It lifts my spirits immediately, yet it has a grown-up sensuality to the blend. Orris paired with raspberry has turned out to be my OMG note-pairing of the year, all because I met Impossible Iris. It was named so because the iris is rather fleeting-- it wasn't meant to last. It was originally created by Ramon Monegal as an anniversary gift for his wife, somewhat of a fragrant "love poem", but luckily, he decided to share it with the rest of the world. If the orris is fairly fleeting, the longevity of the scent overall is excellent-- its pepperiness, tea-like timbre and sharp cedar base... and that raspberry accord that is anything but treacly. Don't call this a fruity floral, buy it for someone you dearly love and call it a day.

Impossible Iris

Le Labo Patchouli 24 Eau de Parfum 50ml ($145) and Anis 24 Classic Candle ($70)
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm obsessed with Le Labo, especially due to the likes of Patchouli 24, one of the most gorgeous, rich and smoky tobacco, birch tar overdosed, tea and tonka perfumes ever. It survived a reformulation intact- as near as I can tell, only the color of the juice has changed from rich amber to pale yellow. Men and women alike love it, and it is widely considered to be Le Labo's best (I say Oud 27 ties with Patch 24, easily). Le Labo's candles are beautifully scented and simply designed, and like almost all of their labels, can be personalized for gift-giving, or for you. If you're shopping for a foodie-type, they will love the Anis 24 candle.

Neela Vermeire Creations Discovery Set 10ml set of 3 fragrances: Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling 90 euros to US (about $116.75). Set is exclusive to NeelaVermeire.com.
Neela Vermeire's singular, millenia-sweeping vision of her native land, India, is simply striking. I've adopted Trayee as one of my highest-rotation fragrances this year, but to see the whole picture, one must experience all three. All should probably be worn sparingly, so each 10ml bottle will last quite awhile. Okay, confession: I overspray. I don't do it before I go out or anything, I just like the feeling of being overwhelmed by these fragrances. I've even dreamed of them: the perfumes changed form and morphed into music. I could see the musical notes floating in the air, and could hear the tabla in the background. A woman next to me sniffed at the passing musical notes and said to me, "Ah, Mohur!". It was an extraordinary dream. A gift, actually. Which brings us full circle.... the passion and emotion in these fragrances will make even the most wizened perfume-lover weak in the knees. Trust.

Trayee, Mohur, Bombay Bling

Maria Candida Gentile travel sizes: Exultat, Cinabre, Gershwin, Barry Lyndon, Hanbury, Sideris Reg. collection 25 euros (about $32.38) for each 15ml travel spray. Large sizes available in US at IndieScents and Parfum1. 
Italian niche perfumer Maria Candida Gentile's work emerged in the US earlier this year with her initial 6 offerings, and I had a moment. It was the kind of moment where I can't believe there's not a single fragrance I can say anything negative about. Each is inspired by interesting (and sometimes unexpected) people or places, and each has a story to tell. It is the scented narrative that MCG weaves into her compositions that I love to get lost in. The travel sizes are on sale, and are a steal at 25 euros each (additional 20 euros to ship to US). Order a set for someone who appreciates the truly independent niche creators, the unusual and the free-spirited, and especially the uber-talented. And order a second set for yourself.


Guerlain L’Heure Bleue Parfum 30ml $327 at Bergdorf Goodman
This little slice of perfection speaks for itself. I've always been partial to the vintage EDT, but the parfum version of L'HB is incredible. It teases you with warm, ripe apricot compote in the top notes and an even warmer, rounder rose in the heart. This notoriously ethereal perfume comes to life in a different way in parfum concentration. I wouldn't trade in my vintage EDT for anything, because that was the first perfume I remember picking out for myself as a teenager (oh, the Guerlain counter experience!), but if you were really quick about snatching it out of my hand and replacing it with the parfum, I would probably smile. A lot.

Guerlain L'Heure Bleue Parfum

Gorilla at LUSH Tuca Tuca 30ml bottle $29.95
Tuca Tuca is in my opinion, the best deal in fragrance at the moment. For a mere nickel under $30, you get a whole bottle of one the most sexy and distinctive perfumes I've ever tried and loved. It's the perfect black leather jacket fragrance-- it's all spicy incense, iris and violet, woods and tonka bean and it's thoroughly unisex. Gorilla at LUSH actually has about a half-dozen fragrances I think are wonderful on so many levels, but Tuca Tuca takes the cake. If you want to be funny, throw in a log of Pink LUSH Fun-- it smells very much like a sweeter version of Tuca Tuca.

Tuca Tuca Eau de Parfum

LUSH Fun- Pink (it's squishy soap!)

L’Artisan Mure et Musc Extreme scented gloves $480  
I feel an odd sense of gratitude towards L'Artisan for creating these leather gloves scented with Mure et Musc Extreme. It is a nice gesture to honor the rather humble beginnings of perfumery in Grasse, when the public demanded scented hides of all sorts. These gloves are beautiful and timeless-- the perfect spot of luxury for gifting someone extraordinary.

M. Micallef Ylang $245 for 100ml bottle at Luckyscent/ Scent Bar
I have been waiting for Ylang. Well, not Ylang specifically, but I have been holding out hope that a new Micallef creation would endear itself to me like Black Sea or Note Vanillee did a couple of years ago. Now that I think of it, it was really Martine Micallef's perfumes that kicked my niche perfume habit into high gear. The Sea collection is gone but not forgotten. Ylang is part delicate hothouse floral, part sugared coconut and aromatics-- but in the end, Ylang is simply super-feminine, definitely gourmand and absolutely delicious, and... take a moment and look at the Swarovski-ed out bottle below. Yes, this gift will look good on you no matter who you give it to. Me? This might be one I'll have to hoard in secrecy. This also comes as Ylang in Gold, which has a subtle golden shimmer added. 

M. Micallef Ylang

LeSnob : Perfume (about 6.79 GBP at Amazon.co.uk and 3rd party sellers via Amazon.com US)
Yes, I'm plugging this book again, because my friend Persolaise wrote it, and I have my very own page in it. Unfortunately it didn't even have much of a chance to get off the ground in the US, and was pulled from Amazon on the day it was due for release. The good news is that you can still buy it new at Amazon.co.uk, and it's a lovely little gift for admirers of fragrance of any ilk, and its rather upbeat and welcoming tone is refreshing.

Captain Blankenship Phosphorescent 5ml rollerball perfume ($30)
While I find the entire line of CB perfumes to be lovely, there's something about Phosphorescent...what is it? Reminiscent of the briny deep, living seaweed, deciduous needles from an unseen forest, citrus fruits and exotic flowers,  but mostly that toe-curling saltiness. This will be the fragrance I reach for in the dead of winter when my soul is crying out for warmth and/or I get my annual urge to act out scenes from H.P. Lovecraft stories. Brilliant and satisfying.

Captain Blankenship Phosphorescent

April Aromatics Deluxe Sample Set (US orders via Etsy- $128, Europe- order via AprilAromatics.com- 99 Euros)
In this deluxe sample kit, there are 9 X 2.5ml perfume sprays in a lovely boxed presentation. German perfumer Tanja Bochnig creates fragrances which are all-natural, organic or wild-crafted, cruelty and chemical/synthetics free. If you have someone in your life that is a Class A Bunny-Hugger like me, take my word for it-- this would be a particularly amazing gift. I'm admittedly very picky when it comes to naturals because I've been spoiled for awhile now. Suffice it to say that I'm impressed by the quality of these abstract watercolor washes of scent. Each one has its own charming qualities, but the real stand-outs for me are Jasmina (a perfectly bright and sunny narcotic jasmine), Nectar of Love (a strange and addictive dry, smoky tobacco Oriental), Liquid Dreams (summer fruits, delicate florals, green and fresh and cheerful), and Precious Woods (musky, woods with varying textures, animalic and intense). It's tough to walk the line between wearable and edgy, especially with natural materials, but Tanja seems very comfortable on that tight-rope.

April Aromatics Deluxe Sample Set

Are any of you planning to give the gift of perfume this holiday season? If so, please dish! 


  1. Wonderful suggestions, Carrie. I hope Santa brings you some L'Heure Bleue parfum.

    I would love to have the April Aromatics set and the Lush Tuca Tuca...well, how about one of everything?

    Miss you, doll!

  2. Wow, I never checked out Lush's fragrance offerings before, but I'm definitely sniffing Tuca Tuca! Thos notes sound right up my alley (and the price too)

  3. I love literally everything I've tried on this list, which means that now I need to try everything else, too. Happy holidays, Carrie, and thank you for a great post!

  4. Thanks so much Carrie, I love what you say about Wild Roses, and I’m honored to be included among the terrific selections in your stylish guide!

  5. Had the book on my Amazon wishlist as a gift to myself, and the next time I looked it said "Available from these sellers" and it hadn't even been out for five minutes!
    If funds permit maybe I'll get it from Amazon UK like you suggest.

  6. Is it wrong that I'm mostly thinking of which of these I want myself?

    I'm also delighted to read that you feel that Patchouli 24 survived the reformulation; I've been regretting not having already bought a bottle, and jealously guarding my decant.

  7. Thanks for the suggestions! Your list is awesome, especially the L'Heure Bleue and Patchouli 24. I hadn't known it was reformulated.

    Just reviewed Ylang in Gold. I agree with you, it's a lot of coconut. Still one of their better offerings though.