Sunday, December 20, 2009

Perfume Reviews: Ormonde Jayne Ta’if and Caron Parfum Sacré, or Two Peppered Roses

In my Pepper post of a few days ago, I promised reviews of these two scents. (I also promised a review of Lumiere Noire pour femme, but that one’s going to take me awhile; it’s very complex and I need some more time to process it.) It also occurs to me right now that there’s a pretty famous Peppered Rose I haven’t smelled: The Different Company’s Rose Poivree – notorious for its first version smelling like a sweaty jockstrap. Apparently it’s been reformulated for polite society – but no sample has come my way as of yet. Ta’if and Parfum Sacré are two favorite scents of mine; they share a spiciness and a warm, winey rose. I tend to associate them in my head for that shared spicy rose, but of course during the side-by-side test I confirm for myself that they’re different.

This is good. How else could I justify having both? Actually, I own only a decant of Ta’if, which is by far the more expensive of the two, and which I obtained in a swap with dear Daisy the Enabler. Parfum Sacré I have only worn in eau de parfum, as the extrait is no longer made and is both hard to find and ridiculously expensive. Just yesterday, an eBay auction for a 7.5ml bottle of Parfum Sacré extrait sold for just under $150. Yes, $150, for a quarter-ounce! No matter how gorgeous it is – and it’s reputed to be The Bee’s Knees – I can’t afford that. Good thing that the edp is wonderful. I have heard that it’s been reformulated as well and is thinner than the original. My bottle, which came from an online discounter in Feb. 2008, must be old stock. It smells just like the samples that came from The Posh Peasant and a swap friend who bought her bottle in 1998: wonderful.

Today’s experiment was to wear Ta’if on my left wrist, Parfum Sacré on my right. Here are the notes for each:
Ta’if: Pink Pepper, Saffron, Dates, Rose Oil, Freesia, Orange Flower Absolute, Jasmine, Broom, Amber
Parfum Sacré: Lemon, Pepper, Mace, Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Rose, Jasmine, Rosewood, Vanilla, Myrrh, Civet, Cedarwood

The similarities are apparent – pepper, spicy notes, orange blossom, rose, and jasmine are congruent. At the beginning, each scent is strongly peppery and spicy. (And yes, I know that pink pepper is a dried berry, not a true peppercorn. It smells like “fruity black pepper” to me. I like it. Kwitcher whining.)

Ta’if smells quite peppery to me at the start, and it takes a few moments for the saffron to show up. I like that saffron note, whatever aromachemical it is – saffron seems creamy and smooth to me in perfume, and it’s a texture I enjoy. But very soon the dates come to the fore, and for several hours Ta’if is all about creamy saffron, the sweet dried-fruit character of dates, and that beautiful rose. Bookworm likes Ta’if; it’s probably the sweetness she finds appealing. There in the heart of the fragrance, there’s a fresh floral presence which could be the orange flower but is probably freesia, since freesia has a cool, dewy, florist-case quality that my brain calls “fresh.” This is such a pretty fragrance. I wouldn’t call it girly – but gosh, neither would I term it Edgy, as Luca Turin seems to imply in his review of it in Perfumes: The Guide: ‘Wear it when the desert wind blows, as Raymond Chandler put it, “one of those hot dry Santa Anas that … make your nerves jump and your skin itch…”’ Good grief. Wonder how he got Edgy out of the not-quite-gourmand saffron+dates+rose, which I consider the true character of Ta’if, and which lasts for a good three-four hours on me. As the drydown continues, it gets a little less pleasant; the amber is not my favorite type (labdanum cistus), and there’s nothing else in the base with anything near the rich sweetness of the heart. However, by the time the drydown arrives, the fragrance is nearly gone. There is a dreaminess about Ta’if, a head-in-the-stars sort of innocence about it.

On the other hand (literally!), Parfum Sacré begins with very “kitcheny” notes – it’s primarily lemon pepper, both aromatic and a little dusty. Just as I begin to think, “Well, if there’s lemon pepper, I must be cooking fish tonight,” the nutmeggy mace and the cardamom come in, hand in hand with that beautiful winey rose PS shares with Ta’if, and it’s not kitcheny anymore. I smell a good bit more orange blossom in PS than I do in Ta’if, but PS is still largely a rose fragrance in my mind. Oddly, Bookworm smells only pepper and wood in PS, no rose at all, while I get mostly rose and incense. The wood is there, of course, and I sometimes think of Dolce Vita when I wear Parfum Sacré, but I smell a great deal of myrrh too. There is supposedly vanilla in there, and civet, but I am not conscious of smelling them. The drydown of PS is beautiful; it is rich and mysterious and layered. Parfum Sacré is one of those rare fragrances that I wear for comfort, but which also seems very sensual to me. I think of phrases like "the eternal feminine" in connection with PS.  When I wear it, I feel very feminine: both very motherly, and very… well, interested in doing what women do in order to become mothers. It also has that magical quality of melting into the skin, becoming part of me instead of being simply a scent I wear.  It was one of the first scents I fell in love with over the past year, and every time I have worn it since, I’ve been glad I bought it.

Summing up in a few words:
Ta'if is a rich, sweet rose, with saffron and dried fruit, idealistic and young at heart.  I love it.
Parfum Sacré is a rich, warm rose, with pepper and wood and incense, emphatically womanly.  I love it deeply.

Top image: Rose Bouquet Well-Defended by bartholmy at flickr.
Second image is from
Third image is from


Daisy said...

Hi! The first thing that struck me was "wow, Mals has a lot of pepper and salt shakers! "
Of course I adore OJ Ta'if....on me it's all rose, saffron and I think Broom...great stuff.....Parfum Sacre I keep trying to get...maybe even like, but I just can't get there. I get the pepper and I get the cedarwood...are you sure there's rose??hmmmm I'll give it another sniff in a few months.
My dear, you write a lovely, evocative review. Whether perfume or books or whatever! Keep up the good work. :-) Daisy

Mals86 said...

Thanks for stopping by - and thanks for your kind comments!

Oh, yes, tons-a-rose in PS. Beautiful; you know me and rose! But you know, I didn't really notice the wood all that much until I wore it one day after I'd been wearing Bois des Iles, and then the wood came out of the background.

I still don't get Mitsouko. The only part of it I like even remotely is that nice labdanum amber in the base...

Mals86 said...

Oh, and those aren't my S&P shakers! I found that pic on flickr and it made me laugh. I think the roses are silk, anyway.

Daisy said...

oh good! Coarse ground black pepper I get, but that is way too much salt to be healthy! ;-)

oh--I've been sniffing and resniffing the's odd but interesting....not really pretty, but I can't keep my nose away from my wrist! I may have to hit you up for some later on....maybe I could convince you to swap 5ml for something delicious that I have ?

sharviss said...

After reading this I'm very interested in trying Parfum Sacre. Just what I need - more samples!