Tuesday, February 2, 2010


That's IT, I've HAD it with the whole "I can't comment on your blog" issue.

We're packin' up and movin' out.

Please follow me to my new Wordpress blog site.  It'll look different, sure.  But it'll be your friendly Muse nattering on....

Image is Moving Van Arrives by psmphotography at flickr.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Housecleaning, Feb. 1, 2010

Several items here:

1. I'm having a lot of trouble commenting on various blogspot blogs recently.  I can sometimes manage it if I use my laptop, but my main 'puter doesn't even pop up a comments box for me.  I suspect that it may be the spam-and-porn blocker installed on the main 'puter, but I'm not taking that down - I have kids.  OTOH, there are some blogs I never have trouble with.  I don't know what the diff is.  Also, I've recently done some esoteric adjustments that supposedly should prevent people from having trouble commenting here, but I don't know if they worked.  If you've tried to comment since Jan. 29 and weren't able to for some reason, please drop me a note at malsnano86 at gmail dot com.

2. I am completely snowed under with samples at the moment.  Completely.  While this is actually a very delicious crisp pickle, a pickle it is.  I'm not going to be able to do any more swaps for awhile until I strap my head on very tightly.  Sigh.  If I've already emailed you about swaps, I'll finish those because I've already budgeted time for them.  But I can't add any new ones for... oh, gosh... at least several weeks.

3. As I may have mentioned once or thrice before, I didn't actually... um... finish my NaNoWriMo novel this past November, and have set aside the month of February to complete it.  It's mostly written, but there are several holes to patch, and I'm still having difficulties with the timeline.  (The timeline thing is my fault, mostly.  If the relevant bits of story take place over 25-30 years or so, how do you incorporate past and present? Flashbacks are cheesy.  There's the diary option, which might be pressed into service, given that my protagonist is an English-lit professor who presumably might be a journaler.  Then there's just the possibility of telling the story straight out, with gaps when nothing really happens, but that's disjointed.  This stinks.)  In any case, I'll be drastically reducing my posting frequency here at the blog to twice a week.  Don't worry, I will be back.

Image is Housecleaning by moline at flickr.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tuberose Series 10: Beyond Love

All right, already. I am chewing diligently on my earlier words about By Kilian being unworthy of my attention due to their exclusive attitude and fancy-pants packaging, with ridiculous pricing to match. I Wuz Wrong, at least about this one. On the other hand, it would never have touched my skin if I hadn't found a slightly-used travel refill at a deep, deep discount.

Perfume Review: By Kilian Beyond Love (prohibited)
Date released: 2008
Perfumer: Calice Becker
Sample provenance: 7.5 ml bottle, bought second hand in 2009.

Once again, here's the review from PTG, by Luca Turin (and boy, is he ever the Calice Becker fanboy, isn't he?):
**** Tuberose tuberose... Not only is the smell of tuberose flowers wonderful, it isn't even, properly speaking, floral in the clean, vegetal sense of floral fragrances. Tuberoses smell of butter, rubber, leather, blood, and heaven knows what else. Using fresh flowers as a reference, much as Roudnitska did with muguet for Diorissimo, Calice Becker has composed a straight-up tuberose using the best absolute from India, with touches of other notes (magnolia, iris) to narrow the gap between the extract and the fresh flower. The result is the best tuberose soliflore on earth.
Oh-kay, if he says so. I'm sad to say that I have never smelled fresh tuberoses. They're a little upmarket for the rural area I live in, and I'm unwilling to spend big bucks at the florist. I did check around. The clerks at four of the five shops within fifteen miles of my house didn't even know what tuberose was. The woman at the fifth shop – my favorite, naturally, a little hole-in-the-wall place on a side street, with a parking lot barely big enough for three cars – knew what they were, knew where to get them, said they were gorgeous, but warned me that there would be a minimum of $75 for special order flowers they didn't normally carry, and did I want the shop to get them? Were these for a wedding or special occasion? I explained that I was just checking around, and thanked them. (Sometimes you have to love living in a small town. Sometimes it's a pain – and sometimes it's both at the same time.)

In any case, I do have a small bottle of tuberose essential oil on hand. I diluted it in grapeseed oil to the proper concentration (the shop said 2-4% in carrier oil was safe for skin, so I made it a 4% solution) and tried it on one wrist. You know what? It smells great. Seriously. Of course, you have all the oil issues – low sillage, sticky skin – but it truly smells lovely, if a bit simple. I liked it better than I liked Kai, as a matter of fact, which was another fragrance I called simple. Then, too, you have to love tuberose, which I do. The little 1-dram (4ml) bottle I bought cost something like $3, which probably means that you can buy it cheaper in larger quantities, and that it isn't terribly expensive even in small bottles, and that even the cheap version is nice. How cheap must synthetic tuberose be, if perfume houses use that instead of the essential oil? Cheapskates.

The By Kilian website lists these notes for Beyond Love (prohibited), under the label "To discover the perfumer's formula" – and what that “prohibited” thing is all about, I don't know, although I assume it's more marketing hoopla about forbidden flowers and carnal love and whatnot:

Fruity Note
     Coconut accord                 10g
Floral Notes
     Egyptian jasmine absolute   20g
     Tuberose concrete            250g
     Tuberose absolute            300g
     Green tuberose accord       50g
     Tuberose petals accord    480g
Amber Notes:
     Amber gris accord            10g
     Tonkin musk reconstituted 80g
Oh-kay again. I notice they don't bother to say what's actually in the stuff, although they make a big deal of listing the grams of each accord. (I do understand that there's a difference between concrete and absolute, because they're obtained by different methods of extraction. But puh-lease. Coconut accord contains something other than coconut? Green tuberose accord and tuberose petals accord are somehow different? This is supposed to make me want to buy the stuff?)

I'll stop ragging on the By Kilian website now, I promise. Because, really, Beyond Love is very beautiful. I admit that it is miles more gorgeous than the simple tuberose essential oil (thank goodness, or I'd start wringing my hands over the State of Perfumery). I'm going to make assumptions that Beyond Love contains at least some coconut, some jasmine, some musk and synthetic ambergris, plus a honkin' ton of real tuberose essence – and because LT says so, maybe some magnolia and iris too.

The first five minutes of Beyond Love are like a speeded-up, seen-at-a distance film of Tubereuse Criminelle: you get a hit of camphor-menthol, and a smaller one of rubber, and about half a second of undercooked chicken, and then it's all gone and it's tuberose, tuberose, tuberose. Less green and florist-fresh than Carnal Flower, less buttery-creamy than Fracas*, it smells both tropical-jungle green and seductively, headily floral. The coconut is very faint, adding a dreamy, milky quality without being too sweet or reminding me of suntan lotion. And I don't smell any basenotes at all – just tuberose. Which shouldn't surprise me, since tuberose does tend to take everything else hostage in composition. My guess is that the ambergris-musk base simply extends the length of time I continue to smell the tuberose, without adding much to the perceptible scent.

It has been several months since I wore *Fracas (review pending), so I'm going to get it out and test it in a Celebrity Death Match, but based on my memory of it, I'd say that I prefer Beyond Love as being a tad more wearable on any occasions not requiring full-length bias-cut satin gowns, opera gloves, and diamante. Not that I'd wear Beyond Love to work – it's too dressy-feminine for that - but I would definitely wear a discreet dab of it on social occasions. Yes, even to the theater, but just a tiny dab on one wrist. So far, Carnal Flower is half a mile in front of everything else, with Beyond Love and Fracas close together in second and third position. But the race for My Favorite Tuberose Scent isn't over.

Side note: I've worn BL solo three times, and twice now have had it on next to something vanilla and been impressed with the results. First time, it was the far drydown (14 hours after application) of Havana Vanille, when it's all deep, rich vanilla liqueur. Second time, it was the drydown of BL (7 hours after application, with just a hint of tuberose left) with a spritz of Shalimar Light Blue Juice (which is more strongly simple vanilla than the original version, IMO). Both times I couldn't keep my nose away from my wrist: Tuberose+Vanilla = Awesome.

The Bottom Line :
Quality       Definitely A. Beautiful, fresh-smelling, natural, and seamless.
Grab-scale score    8, maybe 8.5. (Still trailing Carnal Flower.)
Short description    Jungle tuberose.
Cost      $$$$   I'll be honest, if I hadn't found it used-n-cheap (my favorite!) I'd have been seriously annoyed by the pricing, and I doubt whether I'd like it as much. Unfair? Probably, but I gotta live with myself, you know.
Earns compliments:   Yes. Bookworm liked it, The CEO liked it, my girlfriends liked it. Gaze said “meh,” although usually he likes the same things I like, so that was the one demurral.
Scent presence   Moderately strong. Moderate to big sillage (be careful with the dosage, lest you asphyxiate people on the elevator). Lasts 6-8 hours. Like I said, I wouldn't wear it to work.
Review Report: NST, PST, Perfume Posse

Top image is from the By Kilian website.  Lower image is Tuberose by dbfarrell2003 at flickr.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Picks 2010

So everybody else is doing their Top 10 Winter lists... I'm just presenting a few scents that I reach for in cold weather.

Teo Cabanel Alahine - I continue to insist that this is happiness in a bottle.

I always have a Dark Rose on hand, like Caron Parfum Sacre or Amouage Lyric Woman. Dark Roses like these seem particularly lovely in cold weather.  Both of these have a beautiful translucent rose, some cool, deep incense, and the warmth of woods.

Chanel Bois des Iles - warm, woody, elegant.  Acceptable substitute:  SSS Champagne de Bois is a remarkably similar fragrance, and it's reasonably priced, which is a blessing in these times when that 200ml bottle of Les Exclusifs runs $210, and the parfum is both difficult to obtain and horrendously expensive.  It may not have all the cachet of the Chanel (oh, that Chanel iris!), but Champagne de Bois is beautiful, and my second favorite in the Sonoma Scent Studio Line.

Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka - totally unserious, totally joy-making.  Wearing it is like drinking Heritage Dr. Pepper (made with, gasp, sugar! the utter decadence of it!) - always a treat.  This one makes me giddy: aromatic lime and tangerine, spicy-floral carnation, a rummy vanilla, the smoky tang of frankincense.  This was my very first decant purchase, and I just love it all to pieces. 

There are days when I need the promise of spring, and that's when I want to wear a lovely Chilly Floral, like Diorissimo or Lancome Climat or (yeah, like I own this!) Frederic Malle Carnal Flower.   I love the cool florist-freshness I get out of them - I can almost feel the silky petals against my face.  Please note: I'd actually love to own some Carnal Flower.  Send me all your spare stash...

Other stuff I'm enjoying: Floral orientals like Amaranthine and Ubar and LeLong pour Femme, spicefests like Organza Indecence and Mauboussin, and the occasional dab of Shalimar.  Oh, yes, and tuberose... (at this stage, my tuberose choices would be Beyond Love or Carnal Flower - but I haven't tried everything yet.)

Image is Barn in Winter by James Jordan at flickr.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dear Scent Diary, Jan. 20 - 26

I should have posted this yesterday, but I was sad.

Wednesday, Jan. 20: SOTD: Havana Vanille. SOTE: By Kilian Beyond Love. (How come nobody's made a tuberose-vanilla? Two great smells that smell great together... I can see the ad campaign now: one woman carrying some really potent vanilla extract on a tray and coming around one corner, another woman carrying a bouquet of tuberoses coming around the same corner and crashing into the first woman... Wait, I guess that's been done. Reviews pending for both of these.)

Thursday, Jan. 21: SOTD: Amouage Ubar, early version on left wrist and rerelease on right wrist. The early version is more woody floral, the newer more oriental floral. Robin at NST prefers the original, and she's welcome to – it's really pleasant – but I have a definite preference for the floriental. One dab from my sample vial of Ubar has lasted for hours.

Friday, Jan. 22: SOTD: PdN Vanille Tonka. Happy happy joy joy happy happy joy joy!!

Saturday, Jan. 23: SOTD: Lancome Climat, La Collection. Gorrrrgeous. Gorgeous all day, as a matter of fact. (Review of this one coming soon.)

Sunday, Jan. 24: SOTD: Parfum Sacre, because I needed something comforting today.

Monday, Jan. 25: SOTD: Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. SOTE: Thierry Mugler Alien edp. I know everyone else in the Western Hemisphere has smelled this, but I hadn't yet. I'm surprised at how much I actually like it, jasmine not generally being a favorite of mine... of course, it's jasmine sambac, not jasmine grandiflorum, so it's tropical rather than French-y Lingerie de Putain. I can't decide if it's too sweet or not – I'll think, Yeah, too sweet, and stop paying attention, and then the next thing I smell is woody, and it swings back and forth.

Tuesday, Jan. 26: When I woke up, the end bits of Alien were still on my wrists, and they smelled woodily great. SOTMorning: Caron Aimez-Moi. Violet-anise-vanilla, wonderful. (Every so often it smells like old books, yay!) SOTAfternoon: vintage Piguet Baghari edc. Starts with aldehydes – and say what you like, I'm old-fashioned and I think aldehydes smell like real perfume, so there! – and then goes all spicy and dry... and after that, it gets pretty skanky for awhile. I think I scared the grocery clerk, despite adhering to my 3-foot sillage rule. It settles out of the skank after half an hour or so, but I finally washed it off so I could do some more testing. SOTE: L'Artisan Tubereuse.

(Four perfumes in a day... I feel a little, um, promiscuous. I had a college friend who seemed to change girlfriends as often as he changed his socks. His sock-changing routine was fairly normal, but the girlfriend-changing one was a bit extreme. I thought of him today. - Hi, Diz, and thanks for the laughs!)

Image is Perfume Bottles by Cassie's at flickr.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Fear

It's probably a bad idea to blog while emotional.  But until the Blog Cops show up and pull me over, I guess I'll write, because this is for me.

As late as this past Sunday, nobody knew where 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was, three months after she disappeared from the Metallica concert she'd been thrilled about for weeks.  I took one kid with me to Wendy's after church before we zipped into Target for a pair of jeans for him (poor kid, he was down to three pairs without knee holes), and as I opened the door I noticed yet another of the FIND MORGAN posters that have covered the area.

When the story hit our local paper in October of last year, about how her parents had set up a reward fund, and how Metallica had donated to it, and how her family and friends were determined to get her home, I remember looking at The CEO and saying to him, sadly, "They're not going to find her."  And he looked back at me and said what I hadn't: "Not alive."

As of yesterday, we know where Morgan is, and some part of me wishes I still didn't know, so I could pretend that maybe she would still come home under her own power and not in a box. 

I really, really wish I hadn't read all those Patricia Cornwell novels.  Every so often, my brain skitters off into wondering what Morgan's last hours were like, and I don't know whether that's due to empathy, or to horrified rubbernecking, or whether I'm just examining The Fear again.  Probably all three.

If you're female, you probably know The Fear more intimately than you'd care to acknowledge. These days, it's less for my forty-year-old self than for my daughter, but there it is: that tickle at the back of your neck that says, "Somebody is looking at me and thinking of destruction, because I am female."  The Fear keeps us from walking down dark streets alone and leaving our doors unlocked; sometimes The Fear keeps us from wearing that really hot dress or speaking to strangers.  Because You Never Know.  For most of us, The Fear will stay ghostly.

For some of us, it won't.  I'd like to change that.  I don't know how.  All I can do is raise my boys to respect women, and my girl to respect herself, and vice versa.

Morgan's family loved her very much, and she loved her family.  What's kept me going today is the memory of a choral piece I sang in college, a setting of a couple of verses from Song of Solomon:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm
For love is strong as death -
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,
For love is strong as death.
 Here's a link to a recording of it on youtube: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart," by Sir William Walton, recorded by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge.  I'm American enough that I find it a little creepy for choirboys to be singing this one, although that doesn't usually bother me.  I think it calls for the passionate sound of women's voices rather than the purity of boys' voices.  And this performance is a little slow and bloodless, too - I always felt it was a tempestuous piece.  But the only other recording I could find had serious pitch problems, so St. John's it is.

Hold your loved ones close.  Pray for the missing.  Pray for the ones that miss them.  Hold The Fear at bay.

For love is strong as death.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Perfume Review: Bal a Versailles, or Hurrying Time

Perfume Review: Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles
Date released: 1962
Perfumer: none listed
Sample provenance: parfum bottle won summer 2009 in drawing from parfum1, parfum de toilette mini bought from eBay 2009 (labeled vintage, but who knows for sure?)

The CEO dislikes Bal intensely in its early stages, and I understand why. It smells, mostly, of heavy floral perfume, and reminds him of the elderly ladies at church during his 70's childhood. Bal is the epitome of what I think of as “French cathouse.”

You know, French cathouse - like when teenage you goes out with some friends, wearing your tastiest clothes and a generous swipe of Cheri's plum eye pencil, not to mention Carlynn's coral lip gloss and Kelley's Sand & Sable, and your father stops you at the door and gives you The Look. “Young lady,” he says, “you're not going out of this house like that. You look like a clown, and you smell like a French cathouse. Get back in this house, go into the bathroom, and wash that stuff off!” You roll your eyes, but you comply, dabbing off the lip gloss and the eye makeup with tissues and muttering under your breath, “He just doesn't understand... there's nothing wrong with it... I don't know what his problem is.” You swipe at your neck and wrists with cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol. You sniff back a tear or two, then re-powder your nose to cover the pinkness, and march out to the front door again. You pass inspection. You receive the reminder of curfew without rolling your eyes, and you escape. Twenty minutes later, you're again bedecked with the bounty of Cheri, Carlynn, and Kelley, making a mental note to hide the evidence before you go home from the skating rink.

Yeah, that “French cathouse.” The smell that is almost toooooo much. It's a heavy, rich smell that opens Bal a Versailles, and it is somehow, quintessentially, French.

I recently read a review of Teo Cabanel Alahine by Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, in which he compared Alahine to Bal a Versailles. I didn't get it then; I don't get it now. Alahine is pure happiness to me, while BaV is the kind of scent you wear when you don't want to go home alone, shall we say. They're completely different in feel, as well in actual scent.

However, I would call both of them symphonic – very richly compounded, very layered and complex, greater than the sum of their parts. Maybe that's what Brian was getting at. (I should ask him. And while I'm at it, I'll put in a plug for ISTIA. Great writing by two people who love perfume, go check it out.)

March at Perfume Posse calls Bal, in parfum, “candied incense,” and I don't get that either. **But her take on the edp (similar to my pdt concentration) is “floral sex,” and that is spot-on. Spot. On. Big florals, with something honeyed and rich, followed by warm skin that is not quite sweaty... I'd say Bal in parfum is “floral sex, with candles burning.” Maybe my “candles burning” is March's “incense.” And candied? Well, I just said “something honeyed.” Maybe I'm closer to her description than I thought. (** It's in the comments of a recent post which wasn't actually about Bal, and if I can find the darn thing, I'll post the link.)

If I were to compare Bal a Versailles to any other perfume, I'd say Balenciaga Rumba. Rumba is similarly dense with complex florals and honeyed fruit, and contains a beautiful note of burnt dust that I for one find very pleasant. It's not exactly the candle wax of Bal, but in both scents there is that hint of heat and consumption – the dust burns, the candles melt, and underneath it all is the smell of warm skin and hurrying time, with a faint reminder that death waits for no man and decay will someday take this warm flesh.

Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
(from To His Coy Mistress, by Andrew Marvell)

That breath of mortality is something you won't find in many modern fragrances. It makes me want to seize the moment, because I suddenly remember that my moments are not infinite. It's genius, it's philosophy in a bottle. It's why I forgive Bal her French cathouse florals, and wear it again and again.

Notes for Bal a Versailles – an “everything but the kitchen sink” recipe if there ever was one:
Top: Rosemary, cassia, lemon, bergamot, mandarin, neroli, orange blossom, jasmine, rose, Bulgarian Rose.
Heart: Lilac, ylang-ylang, muguet, sandalwood, patchouli, orris, vetiver.
Base: Tolu balsam, amber, musk, civet, benzoin, resins, vanilla, cedar.

Notes for Balenciaga Rumba, just so you can compare:
Top: Orange blossom, plum, raspberry, peach, basil, bergamot
Heart: Honey, magnolia, carnation, tuberose, gardenia, jasmine, orchid, marigold, heliotrope, muguet.
Base: Leather, sandalwood, plum, amber, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, cedar, styrax.

Both images from fragrantica.com.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tuberose Series 9: Michelle

This was a lucky eBay find for me. I'd had it on my Watch List for about a week, and then a review at Perfume Shrine (see below) made me decide to snag it.  I think the words “ginormous heart of tuberose and rose” were influential, and my thanks to Helg for the review and the push.

Perfume Review: Balenciaga Michelle, vintage parfum
Date released: 1979 - now discontinued. (*Note: I can't find out when it was discontinued, but my guess is that it was several years ago.)
Perfumer:  Francoise Caron
Sample provenance: Small spray bottle of parfum in sealed box, bought from eBay seller in 2009.

The first time I talked about Michelle here was early in the fall of 2009, when I'd had this epiphany about really radiant perfume. I'm still not a big fan of that – I feel positively rude when people can smell me from farther away than a yard – so I restrict my usage of Michelle to times when I can wear a scent just for me. In any case, I no longer automatically cross a scent off my list if it's loud, I just wear less. (Duh. For example, one tiny dab of Ubar was enough to keep me smelling great all day. I wouldn't spray that one.)

My bottle of Michelle is, as a matter of fact, a spray bottle of parfum (see top photo), which strikes me as being one of the most decadent ways to wear perfume, ever. Spraaay... parfum?? Wow. Luxury squared.

When I reviewed Michelle earlier, my experience wearing it was that it was essentially a tuberose scent decorated with carnation, and with a lovely oakmoss-rich base. But when I have worn it since then, the rose has had a far greater presence, partnering with the tuberose and carnation in a circle dance, Three Graces powerfully linked.

Michelle does still start out with a bug-spray accord that lasts about five to ten minutes - and it still reminds me of the decomposed aldehydes-and-bergamot openings of various vintage fragrances.  Ergo, it doesn't bother me.  I can spare ten minutes.  After that, we're on to the Big Dance, rose and tuberose and carnation tearing up the floor while the ylang and jasmine look on, standing near the punch bowl.

Eventually the florals (except the tuberose) fade, and the base reveals itself to be a rich, lush composition of moss, vanilla and sandalwood, covered with a light veil of tuberose.  I have a hard time calling it woody, chypre, or oriental - it's just rich.  And beautiful.  The only modern fragrance that reminds me of this drydown is (the rereleased) Amouage Ubar.

Notes for Balenciaga Michelle (from Perfume Shrine):
Top: Aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, coconut, peach
Heart: Carnation, tuberose, iris, orchid, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose
Base: Sandalwood, oakmoss, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver

The Bottom Line :
Quality:     A-   Bear in mind my bottle is vintage and the top notes are slightly off.
Grab-scale score    8
Short description    Tuberose-rose-carnation powerhouse
Cost     $   (only available at ebay and a very few online discounters)
Earns compliments:  From The CEO, yes.  From my kids, no.  I did wear it to work once, and no one commented, either positively or negatively.  Of course, that day I mostly spent hiding at my desk among the brake rotors, so it's hard to make assumptions based on that experience.
Scent presence   Very strong.  One small spritz (parfum) lasts 8-10 hours.  Big sillage.
Review Report: Perfume Shrine

Top image is Michelle by Balenciaga, sold by fiera1966 at ebay; my bottle looks just like this.  Bottom image is Three Graces, from artist's website: http://tomaszrut.com/pages/rut-editions.html.  Wish I could afford it myself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tuberose Series 8: Tubéreuse Criminelle

Famous, or perhaps infamous, for its difficult opening, TC has nevertheless a devoted fan club among perfumistas: Beauty armed with a Really Big Knife.

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle
Date released: 1999
Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake
Sample provenance: purchased from TPC in 2009

After all the reviews I'd read, I was expecting the difficult opening. It did not disappoint in its terrifying awfulness. So how awful was it? Pretty darn bad: Vicks' Vapo-Rub plus raw chicken (why, yes, I had recently cleaned out the fridge, how did you know?) plus chlorine. Or maybe kerosene.  Eek.

However, I have been known to suffer through some difficult openings before now, particularly with vintage scents. For example, my vintage Victoria parfum (the first Victoria's Secret perfume, released back when the outfit had at least a vestige of class) smells almost as horrid for half an hour – think swimming pool plus maple syrup – and then settles into a very lovely fresh-floral chypre. I've now smelled Victoria from three different bottles, and they all have damaged topnotes, which has got to be one reason it was discontinued. The other reasons probably have to do with hot pink thongs and the proliferation of sugary-fruity smells, but I digress.

Here's Tania Sanchez' review of TC in PTG:
           **** Menthol Tuberose. If Ethel Merman were a floral, this would be it – loud, proud. Tuberose absolute usually contains, especially at the start, disturbing aspects of rubber and rotting meat. While most fragrances disguise or eliminate these potentially unpleasant effects, this one amplifies them: an icy blast of camphor, a salty, bloody smell, and a white floral bouquet so indolic you think it must be a mistake, getting stronger by the minute. Terrific.

And let me encourage you again to go pick up a copy of Perfumes: The Guide, or the new edition, Perfumes from A to Z. Even if you disagree with every review (you won't), it's a fun read, and a bargain at less than $15. It's even fun to argue out loud with the authors when they're wrong, despite the fact that people around you will think you've lost your marbles.

(Ahem. End digression number two.) Anyway, TC is this Freddy Krueger of a smell for about ten minutes, maybe fifteen, and then it develops a very, very sweet candied-floral note reminding me of Chanel No. 22 for a few minutes before the tuberose takes over. From here on out, it's pretty much a lovely tuberose, with tiny occasional whiffs of orange blossom and cool hyacinth, until the drydown. And there's another problem: four tests, an exhausted sample, and I have yet to actually smell the drydown. The scent development, on my skin, goes like this: a) horror movie b) tuberose floral c) GONE. The base contains styrax (benzoin), musk and vanilla, so you'd think I'd get at least a whiff of them, but nope. Nothin'. I never smell any of the spices, either, and I love spice notes. Wonder if I'm anosmic to the musk? I don't know. Usually vanilla sticks around for ever on my skin, but not here.

In one of the review links I've provided below – it's the first one, by Marina at Perfume-Smellin'-Things – the experiences of the commenters range from “all tuberose, no nasty green” to “the nasty green never went away” to “all sweetness on me.” Seems that YMMV (your mileage may vary) is especially applicable to TC, so please be aware that this fragrance may interact with your skin in unexpected ways!

Notes for TC:
Eucalyptus, camphor, jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, hyacinth, nutmeg, clove, styrax, musk, vanilla.

I admit defeat. I get it, okay – this is Velma Kelly as Killer Babe Tuberose, all voluptuous in her green dress, packing heat and refusing to let you get too close. But all I want to know is, why? What's the purpose of the evil opening? Thorns on a rose? Or is it more like the cowboy who always bought his boots two sizes too small, because it felt so good when he took them off?

I suppose I just don't find Tubéreuse Criminelle all that compelling, given that there are so many alternative tuberose scents. Yes, it's a beautiful tuberose fragrance. But if I wanted the experience of a difficult opening, since that is occasionally fun, I'd pick up something really vintage. And if I wanted a straight-up tuberose, I'd wear Fracas or Beyond Love. TC is well-made, it's interesting, you could do a lot worse. It just strikes me as being difficult simply for the sake of being difficult, and that annoys me. (I don't drink my coffee black, either, make of that what you will.)

The Bottom Line:
Quality           B    Clearly good-quality materials. Thematic. I can't smell the drydown, otherwise I'd have given it an A.
Grab-scale score   3
Short description   Malicious stiletto-wielding tuberose.
Cost   $$$
Earns compliments: I don't know. My family, at least, is pretty traumatized.
Scent presence  Slightly less than average (2 spritzes last 3-4 hours), moderate sillage.
Review Report: Marina at PST, Robin at NST, Donna at PST, Tom at PST, Bois de Jasmin, Pere de Pierre, Chicken Freak's Obsessions.

Image of TC from fragrantica.  Center image is Tuberose Buds by Dev-Happy at flickr.  Image of Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in the film version of Chicago from imdb.com. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Dumb Random Thoughts, Mostly Because I'm Having a Snarky Week

...and also because I'm avoiding doing laundry.

So what is UP with all these skunks lying dead on road surfaces around here over the last week?  Hmmmm? Skunk invasion that failed?  Big skunk party some of them didn't make it to?  There's one in the left lane of Rt. 100 near the airport, one in the right lane of Lee Highway not far from the bridge, and one on the road that goes by the high school.  Then there's the one on Broad Street near the bank, and the one I encountered this morning on Bagging Plant Road, on the way to work.  FIVE dead skunks, separated by at least a mile, mile and a half - and you know that if these five didn't make it, there are fifty in the surrounding area.  Eek.

And Perfume Posse is offline so frequently over these last months.  Is it their blog host? Is it their astonishing web traffic?  Grrrrr.  I need my Posse fix.  Hey, now they're online... off, on, off, on...

I've been so busy testing tuberose scents - and all the faaaaabulous swappie samples I've received lately, thanks to all of you wonderful Perfume Hussies - that I haven't had time to wear the scents I already know I really love.  Okay, okay, I did wear Diorissimo on Monday... Vanille Tonka, come to Mama, I've missed you. And don't worry, Tabac Aurea, you're next. Smooches!

And speaking of those tuberose reviews, I'm not gonna finish in January.  You knew already that I wouldn't, didn't you?  I have AT LEAST 22 scents left to review, with the possibility of nine more (if I can get my hands on them, curse Histoires de Parfums and their new tuberose series!).  New Plan: I review these over the next three months... or maybe five months... or maybe I make 2010 the Official Muses' Year of the Tuberose. Yep, I like that.  Year of the Tuberose it is.

Oh, hey, and apparently Sasha Cohen is back.  Girl is still fierce - if I'd gotten to choose what I'd look like, I'd have said, like that, all gamine and dangerous at the same time.

You know what? Turns out I like a hint of civet in my frags: Climat, Ubar, Parfum Sacre, vtg L'Origan, Diorissimo, Sortilege.  (Exception Joy.  But then I've always maintained that it's the indolic jasmine that bothers me in Joy, not the civet.  Why is it that indolic tuberose, or orange blossom, doesn't bother me but indolic jasmine is Total Ho Underwear?  I have no idea.)

Is there anything better than a spiral-sliced Smithfield ham? Sure, there are several things As Good, and lots of things that are Almost As Good, but better? I don't think so.  Okay, maybe filet mignon.  But ham is fabulous. Ham cooking liquid is very weird, though. It's a nice color, and if you strain out all the little brown bits and ham bits and fatty bits, and get the grease out of it, it would make nice gravy. Trouble is, the best way to get the grease out of it is just to refrigerate it and then scoop off the layer of hardened grease after the whole thing is cold. And then what you have is, essentially, Ham Jell-O. Ewwwwww. I guess technically it's gelee, which could become the very fancy-pants aspic, if I were insane enough, and bored enough, to suspend things like poached eggs in it, a la The French Chef. But still, Ham Jell-O. Who in blazes thought that would be a good thing to eat?

So Bookworm actually let me spray her this week with a couple of samples she considered innocuous: one evening it was Kenzo Flower, which we both like, and the next Kenzo Amour, which I like a lot on her, not so much on me, and which she finds “boring.” Progress is being made. Weird that Amour is very creamy on her but floury on me. I know a lot of people really like that rice steam note, but I don't find it interesting beyond the five seconds it takes to isolate and identify the note, sniff it twice for realism, and say, “Yep, there's that rice steam thing.” By the time I've done all that (all five seconds of it), I'm ready to move on. Next!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Scent Diary, Jan. 13 – Jan. 19

Wednesday, Jan. 13:  Weather chilly and overcast. SOTD: Velvet Tuberose (reviewed Jan. 18). SOTE: Tubereuse Criminelle.
Thursday, Jan. 14: The CEO came home this morning from Seattle, and promptly left for the Agribusiness Association dinner in Richmond. Wonder what kind of mileage he put on his chassis this past week? Weather chilly (low 40's) but clear.  SOTD: Balenciaga Michelle (revised review pending). Bookworm, combating exam stress, snagged a spritz of Mariella Burani after considering and rejecting vintage Lauren as being “soapy and green” and therefore not the comforting thing she was looking for. SOTE: Voile de Fleur. Boy, that's nice stuff.

Friday, Jan. 15: Still chilly.  SOTD: Velvet Tuberose. SOTE: Kai eau de parfum.

Saturday, Jan. 16: Scentless morning, busy day. Opened a few late Christmas presents – I finally have my wished-for copy of Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone, thanks to my favorite brother. SOTE: Tubereuse Criminelle.

Sunday, Jan. 17: Weather chilly and damp. SOTD: Mariella Burani.

Monday, Jan. 18: Weather warmer, in the low 50's today, and clear. SOTD: Amouage Ubar. SOTE: Diorissimo. It slightly made up for the very crappy day we had (see RIP John Deere 4040).

Tuesday, Jan. 19:  Weather relatively warm (upper 40's and overcast).  SOTD: DSH Perfumes Essense Oil Mysore Sandalwood, followed by another wearing of Tubereuse Criminelle. I don't get this stuff yet. I will have to postpone my review again.

Photo is "My winter favorites" by F_A at fragrantica.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

R.I.P. John Deere 4040, and Other Important Stuff

The 4040 is dead.  It caught on fire yesterday afternoon - probably due to something electrical - and although we were able to put the fire out, the tractor is sitting a blackened, immobile hulk out in the middle of a field.  (Many thanks to the New River Valley Regional Airport, and the Dublin and Newbern Volunteer Fire Departments.  You guys are the best.)

The tractor will probably continue to sit there, useless, for some time.  The ground is very wet because of all the rain and snow we've had, and there's no way to tow it at this point without creating a mud quagmire. (Ever see My Cousin Vinny? That kind of mud.)

The CEO is understandably bummed.  The thing's insured, but not for anything near its replacement cost. Also, that tractor is one that's typically used every day to feed hay to cows in the winter; one of the other tractors will have to be modified with a hay carrier. This means: a lot of extra work, a lot of cash out of pocket, and a lot of worry.

Heavy sigh.

The good news is that no one was hurt.  Which brings me to the Other Important Stuff: please, if you haven't already done so, consider donating to organizations offering relief to Haiti.  We only lost a piece of equipment, not our home or our hospital, church, school, police department, food, clean water, neighbors, or family members.

Here are a few reputable organizations who've been doing good work in Haiti for decades, if not longer, and who could use a little help right now:

Partners in Health  (over twenty years of service to Haiti - highly recommended by givewell.net)

Medical Benevolence Foundation  (affiliated with Presbyterian Church, USA)

World Vision  (a Christian humanitarian organization)

UNICEF, the American Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders you've probably heard of as well.  All are well-regarded for their everyday charitable work and for fiscally responsible behavior.  I have personally donated at one time or another over the years to all of these organizations and am satisfied that none of them are scams.

Image is 1982 John Deere 4040 tractor at fastline.com.  It's not our tractor - ours is a lot older, and a lot dirtier.  I just couldn't get out to the field to take a picture of ours. Plus, it would probably depress me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tuberose Series 7: Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose

Chiefly remembered by me as the unlikely gateway drug to my new addiction, as in, “Boy, this stuff is great! I'd forgotten how much I used to like perfume... Now that we're not pinching every dime, wonder what else is out there?” Finding out What Else Is Out There led me to Now Smell This, and I was hooked.

Perfume Review: Bath and Body Works Velvet Tuberose
Release date: 2007
Perfumer: Who Nose?
Sample provenance: my 50ml bottle, purchased in August 2008 from BBW store (it cost me all of $13.75 on sale, and if your tastes are decidedly upscale, you might decide you've read all you need to know). I think the packaging has changed for this scent, although the new tester bottle I smelled a few weeks ago smelled like my own bottle, which looks like the one pictured above.

Okay, okay, okay... by now, you've probably figured out that I'm a cheapskate perfumista, if there can be such a thing. I really struggle with the price schedule of certain houses I'd otherwise like to try (Amouage, MDCI, By Kilian) and simply cross other houses completely off my list because they seem like poor value to me (too many to enumerate). I have never paid full retail price for a bottle of anything. Online discounters are my friends. And of course I'm a suckah for eBay.

It wasn't always this way. Used to be, I'd scrape together babysitting money, or pizza money when I was in college, and troll the drugstore aisles for sent-bons. I discovered Bath and Body Works at about the time I started dating The CEO, and was devoted to their old Freesia body products. (NB: I miss Freesia, by the way. Sheer Freesia is what they're selling now, and it's not at all the same; it's missing something – I think a muguet note.)

True Story Digression: The CEO used to call up the company where I worked, using the pseudonym “Scott Preston, of Preston Enterprises in Charlotte, NC,” and ask to speak to Miss Muse in Accounting, an amusing little subterfuge that probably fooled no one.

In any case, in August of 2008, I made my way to the B&BW at the mall to pick up some Lavender Vanilla lotion from the Aromatherapy line for my sister's birthday. While I was there, I wandered around desultorily sniffing things, and came across VT. Before I knew it, I had bought a bottle. I wore it almost exclusively for several months... and aprés Velvet Tuberose, le déluge.

It is a rather sheer tuberose. I know, I know, “sheer tuberose” is something of an oxymoron. But still. If you're expecting some big creamy huge floral thing, you'll be disappointed in its light weight.

Notes for VT:
T: Magnolia, apricot, citrus, ylang
H: freesia, cyclamen, tuberose, gardenia, fig leaf, jasmine, orchid
B: sandalwood, amber, spice, musk, cashmere woods

The scent opens with just a few minutes' worth of tangy fruits and creamy but nondescript florals – and don't worry about that apricot note, it's barely there. Very quickly, you're down into the heart of the thing, which blends some fresh florals (freesia, cyclamen, and orchid) with a traditional white floral mix. I'm pleased to say I've never noticed that fig leaf, as fig leaf is pretty much a dealbreaker for me, ugh. After a few hours of tuberose-floral blend, VT dries down to a cheap-but-pleasant base of Cashmeran and musk. Amber and spice? No. Sandalwood? Not really, but you can't expect much from under $15, can you? Turns out, though, I actually like Cashmeran.

In fact, I like VT better than tuberose-centric mainstream scents like Michael Kors, Juicy Couture, and Christina Aguilera Inspire, all of which cost considerably more than VT. It's another one of those office-friendly tuberose scents: quiet, pleasant, pretty without overpowering the noses of all in the general vicinity. It stays fairly close to my skin, and can be detected within hug range. I still like to put on a spray or two just before bed, and sometimes wear it to work, when I don't want to have to think about what scent I'm wearing.

The Bottom Line :
Quality        C  Clearly cheap materials, but nicely blended
Grab-scale score:     6.5
Short description:    Tuberose Floral.
Cost:      $
Earns compliments:     Yes, in surprising numbers.
Scent presence:       Slightly better than average (2 spritzes last 5 hours), mild sillage. Will not get you lynched at the office.

Review Report:   Bois de Jasmin (brief mention)

Top image is Velvet Tuberose... by Robert Hughes at flickr.  Lower image is White tuberose by buttersweet at flickr.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tuberose Series 6: Kai eau de parfum

Several celebrities are reported to wear Kai: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Pamela Anderson, Tyra Banks, Kelly Ripa, Usher, Cate Blanchett, Alyssa Milano, Mary J. Blige, Kate Bosworth.*   It's also a forum favorite. It was originally released as an oil, and is intended to smell like a Hawaiian vacation.

Perfume Review: Kai edp
Date released: 1999 (?) in oil and 2006 in edp
Perfumer:  Gaye Straza Rappoport
Sample provenance: edp sample from luckyscent, 2010

Kai is probably more a gardenia-focused scent than a tuberose-focused one; nevertheless, it's definitely chock-full of tuberose. The listed notes are simply, “Gardenia, exotic white florals,” and that's pretty much what you get. The scent does start out with a stemmy greenness under the gardenia, and the first fifteen minutes is just delightful, recalling a greenhouse where the gardenias are in bloom. After that, I smell a lot of tuberose and a grassy jasmine, and the whole thing is pretty and simple and luxurious for two hours – and then it's just gone. I got four wearings out of my sample vial, and each time I got two, maybe two and a half, hours of scent. (I did layer it over some unscented shea butter twice, and the fourth time tried it on skin that had not been bathed for more than twenty-four hours, to see if that would make a difference. It didn't.) Either there's no base to this scent at all - and I see no typical basenotes are listed – or it's a light musk that I cannot smell.

To be honest with you, Kai smells to me very much like the perfumer simply added some sambac jasmine and tuberose essential oils together, perhaps tossing in a few green notes, diluted with denatured alcohol and some fixative, and called it a day. Mind you, it's very pretty, and I might be tempted to wear it in the summer, for a sundress scent, but it's sort of the olfactory equivalent of a milkshake: milk, ice cream, blend. That's it, you're done, and it's delicious but it didn't take any skill to make. Also, it's gone in a flash.

I did not try the oil, but maybe I should have. On the other hand, I have a feeling it would remind me of a concoction I smelled at a “natural perfumery” stall at our local permanent flea market, said concoction being made strictly of tuberose and jasmine sambac essential oils, in a carrier oil, and costing $12 for half an ounce.

The CEO and I stopped briefly, for five days, in Hawaii on our way back home from Australia and New Zealand a few years ago.  (Oh, come on.  Wouldn't you rather fly back via Hawaii than LA? That was a no-brainer.)  And it did smell wonderful, with tropical flowers and ocean breezes and coconut oil, and a freshness in the air, especially on the Big Island of Hawaii where we visited Volcanoes National Park - go if you possibly can, it's amazing and largely undeveloped.  Kai does not smell like that Hawaii vacation, however - the scents I've tested that made me think of Hawaii are Ormonde Jayne Frangipani and Maoli Colonia Dulce. 

The Bottom Line :
Quality    B Smells like natural florals but is very simply structured.
Grab-scale score   6
Short description     Tuberose Floral.
Cost    $$
Earns compliments:    Yes.
Scent presence:     Nice three-foot sillage, but very poor staying power in edp.
Review Report:   Now Smell This, For the Love of PerfumeBasenotes, Fragrantica  

* Celebrity info from luckyscent. 
Top image: Kai eau de parfum at ebay by andyfrog.  Middle image: Jasminum sambac by mondomuse at flickr.  Bottom image: Tuberose by Swami Stream at flickr.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Upcoming reviews

No, I'm not dead.  The CEO is back from his trip, and things are topsy-turvy until we settle again.

Reviews coming in the next few days:

Balenciaga Michelle (a revised review)
Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose
L'Artisan Tubereuse
Bal a Versailles/Balenciaga Rumba double feature

and sometime next week, Tubereuse Criminelle.

Image is Regent Theater by gtotiger68 at flickr.

Edit:  Okay, so I didn't get all those posted... sorry.  (You know I don't get paid for this.)  Anyway, I WILL get to these in the coming week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Interesting post and discussion over at Perfume Posse today.  I guess I'd better put my money where my mouth is and state where I obtained each fragrance I'm reviewing.  If I'm telling March that the info would be helpful, I can't skip it myself.

Dear Scent Diary, Jan. 6 – Jan. 12

Wednesday, Jan. 6: Cheered by the success of having decanted my mini dabber bottle of Bvlgari Black into a spray atomizer, I did the same for Fendi Theorema. I hoped spraying would reveal facets of delight heretofore not realized by me. Sadly, it did not. Theorema is wonderful until the drydown, and then it just sits on my skin and bores me. I'm discovering a kinship between Theorema's drydown and the experience of Barbara Bui Le Parfum; that would explain why March at Perfume Posse loves them both. I found BB dull, and I only like part of Theorema. That does it, I'm done with Theorema. There's way too much other stuff out there for me to keep trying scents that don't move me. I spent the evening in vintage No. 5 parfum.

Thursday, Jan. 7: Whee, a scrubber! Sample swap freebie that sounded nice – Comptoir Sud Pacifique Hemisphere Sud pour femme. Orange, pepper, pink pepper, peony, jasmine, rose, patchouli, vanilla, sandalwood, musk; your average modern floriental. It was really lovely for about twenty minutes, and then disgustingly chemical. I got a headache. So I made it go away... and moved straight on to the Tuberose selection of the day: vintage Chloe edt. (reviewed Jan. 8)

Friday, Jan. 8: Chloe again, parfum this time. It's not fun wearing this, I feel like an eighth grader. This was a pretty mature choice for a middle-schooler, but I didn't pick it out for myself. I don't remember being unhappy with it, though.

Saturday, Jan. 9: It's freeeeeezing. Yet another day of 15-degree-weather. The CEO left on his trip to Seattle, but not before depositing a calf that was either sick or weakened by the continuing cold on a tarp in the laundry room and instructing me in how to take care of it. If you are thinking, “Aw, a calf, how cute, how much trouble could that be?” I'll explain that said calf is about three months old and weighs a good two-three hundred pounds, if not more. (Actually, she is cute: brown face, black body, white diamond on her forehead, and the most ridiculously long eyelashes. But she's trouble. You ever have calf poop on your laundry room floor?) And then I was ludicrously optimistic (stupid) and put on some Giorgio (reviewed, sort of, Jan.10). Dear God.

Sunday, Jan. 10: I have a mild stomach bug. The weather's still freezing, CEO's still gone, Sara the calf is still poopin' on the laundry room floor. Poor thing either can't or won't stand up. Vet says, “Give her 1 cc of MuSe and 2 cc's of Vitamin AD&E, and if she's not up by tomorrow I'll come by.” I call the CEO to find out where these supplies are, yada yada... turns out I can give the MuSe (Selenium, a mineral supplement) subcutaneously, but the AD&E has to go into the hip muscle. I've never given an injection before. Eek. I have to enlist Bookworm to hold the medicine bottles while I pull out the correct amount into the syringes, but the injections themselves go smoothly. Whew. Testing DSH Tubereuse (reviewed Jan. 12) for the fourth time since last spring.

Monday, Jan. 11: My birthday. Sara's better – she's standing up, which means it's time for her to go out to the little barn lot with the shed in it, with Davy the orphan calf and Beth the abandoned twin calf, whom (whom? Can you use “whom” with animals?) the kids have been bottle feeding since the fall. Wearing Attrapé-Coeur, lovely floral-amber thing.

Tuesday, Jan. 12: Good luck to my brother-in-law Bob, who's heading off to Basic training for re-enlisters. SOTD: Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose (review pending). SOTE: DSH Tubereuse again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuberose Series 5: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse

Tubéreuse is one of the three top-selling scents at indie house DSH Perfumes, which is making a name for itself among American perfume fans for well-blended, quality classical (part-synthetic) scents as well as excellent naturals-only perfumes. Nose Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's website is a lot like the candy shop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory*, stuffed to bursting with goodies of every description. I could happily get lost there.

Perfume Review: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse
Date released: (I've sent an email to Ms. Hurwitz to ascertain)
Perfumer: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Sample provenance: directly from DSH, 2009
The listing for Tubéreuse, in the Parfums des Beaux Arts section at the DSH website, reads like this:
"Tubéreuse (Tuberose)
Its milky white and fleshy flowers bear the secret of attraction. In India, this flower is called “Mistress of the Night:” The most sensuous and intoxicating of perfumes.
Top notes: Citron Accord, Mimosa
Middle notes: Tuberosa, Tuberose Absolute
Base notes: French Beeswax, Heliotrope, Himalayan Cedar, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood"

I first came across this perfume last spring, during my first awed wander through the website. I tested it at about the time I was also testing some of the lusher Annick Goutals (Passion, Songes, Gardenia Passion), and certainly it's on a par, quality-wise, with the Goutal scents. It also seems to share a certain simplicity, or perhaps you'd call it transparency, with those classic AG feminines: it smells definitively of tropical flowers, with a few other notes serving as framework.

The opening is my least favorite part of the development, with a citrusy note that seems both bitter and a bit powdery.  Powdery citrus?  How can that be?, you're wondering.  I don't know myself - I assume that the mimosa (cassie) is the powdery bit, and the citron, or cedrat, is the bitter bit.  What it reminds me of is the dreaded Tang Dust Accord.**  I don't get this every time - so far I'm two-for-five - but I do find it somewhat unpleasant for the fifteen minutes it lasts.

However, the Tang effect might be due to neither citron nor mimosa, but natural indoles in the tuberose itself.  Somewhere*** in PTG, Tania Sanchez refers to a "back of the throat rasp" with regards to indole.  Certainly this thing is composed of natural tuberose, a buttery-sweet-tropical thing that lolls, heavy-lidded and languid, on skin.  I'm still doing some research on the difference between tuberose essential oil and tuberose absolue (I suspect that they are extracted by different methods, and that absolue is more concentrated), but both are included in the formula.  Tuberose is really the heart of the scent, with citron and sandalwood the supportive BFFs that keep it from falling over backwards in a swoon.

Four to five hours after application, the tuberose has quieted and there is a softly woody drydown, with a hint of not-too-sweet coconut. I like coconut; this is far less beachy than, say, Bronze Goddess.  But if you hate coconut, you will probably want to avoid this scent. To me, the coconut seems in keeping with the tropical, lazy character of the tuberose, and I enjoy it.

While I was considering the fragrance - why, for example, citron rather than bergamot, or orange? - I came across the following information, and suddenly everything became quite clear: this is a hymn to India.

Citron: "In South Indian cuisine, especially Tamil cuisine, citron is widely used in pickles and preserves. In Tamil, the unripe fruit is referred to as 'narthangai', which is usually salted and dried to make a preserve." (from Wikipedia)
Tamil Nadu sandalwood: the same species as Mysore sandalwood.  "Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently a threatened species and consequently very expensive. It is indigenous to South India... Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India is widely considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu in order to avail of the economic benefits of sandalwood." (from Wikipedia)
Coconut:  "The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera Linn.) is supposed to be one of the five legendary Devavrikshas and is eulogised as Kalpavriksha - the all giving tree - in Indian classics. All parts of the palm are used in someway or another in the daily life of the people of the west coast; the traditional coconut growing area. Its fruit is called Lakshmi Phai and is used in social and religious functions in India irrespective of whether palm is locally grown or not."  (from http://www.bgci.org/education/1685/)

The tuberose blossom, as I found when writing my "Series Opener" post, holds a significant cultural place in India as well, being used in weddings and other religious ceremonies, as well as in personal adornment.  I've never been to India; now I want to go.

DSH Tubéreuse is really lovely and cohesive, an affectionate study of the flower.  Like ELPCTG, it's not a scent you wear in a business environment.  But where TG was girly, Tubéreuse is languid and sensual - it's every bit the carnal flower that Malle's Carnal Flower is not.  I recommend it.

* The 1971 movie with Gene Wilder, of course.  The candy shop is the place where Charlie buys the candy bar that holds the last Golden Ticket, after the shopkeeper sings, "The Candy Man."  I found the 2005 version, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," with Johnny Depp, weirdly wonderful too.  (Depp seems to be channeling Michael Jackson doing Carol Channing; he's such a bizarre delight.)
** "Tang Dust Accord" refers to any component of a scent which makes the back of my throat hurt.  Background: The CEO adores Tang (the Kraft drink mix).  He actually prefers Tang to real orange juice (it's probably because of the sugar content), and I think he's nuts, but hey, people who live together make compromises.  But here's the thing - I hate making Tang.  Just hate it.  No matter how I do it, whether I put the mix in first or a little water in, whether I snap the cover of the pitcher on top or not, a little mushroom cloud of Tang dust always rises up and hits me in the back of the throat.  Honestly, I can feel it in my sinuses.  Gah.  Even if he makes the Tang, or one of the kids does, I can walk through the kitchen ten minutes later and get hit with the Tang dust cloud effect. It hurts.  I hate it.  I especially hate encountering it in perfume, as I have in Lancome Magnifique, Guerlain Insolence (edp), Giorgio, and occasionally in DSH Tubéreuse. Luckily, with Tubéreuse the effect doesn't last long.
*** If I find the page, I'll update with a direct quote.  Edit:  Found it!  In the review of Diptyque Olene, TS gives a short chemistry lesson on indole and skatole, two chemicals found in both white flowers such as jasmine, ylang, etc., and in animal waste.  Then she explains why chemical recreations of natural white florals don't smell right: "If you measure the amount of indole in, say, jasmine oil and make up a synthetic mix with the same amount of the pure stuff, it will smell of mothballs [indole] whereas the natural one doesn't.  Why?  Nobody knows.  But that is the main reason why white-flower reconstitutions seldom have the back-of-the-throat rasp of the real thing."

The Bottom Line :

Quality     A   Smells almost entirely natural; entire composition is thematic.
Grab-scale score    7, maybe 8  (Depends on whether I get TDA or not)
Short description    Tropical tuberose.
Cost   $$   1 oz. bottle of edp is $65, but you can buy a dram (4ml) of edp for $10.  Parfum is also available.
Earns compliments:  Yes, but not from people who dislike tuberose.
Scent presence:  Average (two generous dabs of edp last four to five hours).  Moderate sillage. Not an office scent, in my opinion.
Review Report:   None.  Although this scent has its fans at fragrantica, it's not listed in the database.

Top image is from DSH Perfumes.  Center image is Rajnigandha - Tuberose (Explore) by H G M at flickr. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

What, again? I did this, like, a YEAR ago...

Scent of the day: Guerlain Attrape-Coeur (many thanks to dear Daisy!)

Review of DSH Tubereuse to be posted later in the day.

The CEO gave me this very cool book by Alton Brown, my favorite Food Network Dude.  The kids gave me hugs.

Sara the calf is better.  We've taken her out to the little barn lot to hang with Davy and Beth.

It's supposed to hit 40 degrees today.

I'm wearing my new, very soft, tomato-red sweater.

I'm making cheesecake this afternoon.  Tilapia for dinner, mmm.

I've made it this far - might as well go a little longer, right?  Kidding.  I'm having fun these days.

My favorite cut flowers: yellow roses, deep burgundy roses, pale pink peonies, gardenias, tiny starlike daffodils, bells of Ireland, blue delphiniums, and lily of the valley.  I'm forgetting something, I know.  Oh, yes - carnations.  Love them.  Of the florist-available, only the white ones have a scent, and it's wonderful - spicy and floral and green all at once. 

Image is Happy Birthday! by JannaPham at flickr.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tuberose Series Bonus: Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills

I should NOT have tested this.  This is not going to be a serious, formal review because I just can't stand to do it.  Also, with this review, you're going to get pointless digressions and some disturbing emotional reactions.  You have been warned.

Perfume Review: Giorgio Beverly Hills
Date Released: 1981
Perfumer: Bob Aliano
Sample provenance: miniature bottle bought retail 2010

I wasn't going to bother with this.  I blame Luca Turin yet again, for reviewing it in the downloadable updates to the original Perfumes: The Guide.  I should have known better from that stupid Insolence experience, but nooooooooo.  Also I was blinded by nostalgia and a fuzzy memory of what Giorgio actually smells like (which is, actually, not Turin's fault).  He does make the excellent point that "many people harbor a sneaking fondness for the bad old days" of the excessive eighties, pointing out that outrageous and surprising perfumes like Angel are still succeeding, in these times of post-post-decadence.  Here are portions of his review (go read it in its entirety if you can, it's an interesting and informed take):
                       **** Giorgio.  Fruity tuberose...  The secret of Giorgio was the discovery of an accord that could stand up to a monstrously powerful tuberose while extending it in interesting directions. Two heroically strong aromachemicals were drafted: one being... reminiscent of pineapple, and the second a... base made between... a fresh-almondy-marine material and... the Concord grape smell... The result was a cute, twelve-foot-tall singing canary, at first impossible to ignore, and at length too big to love.  But if any composition embodies what makes... classical perfumery great, it is Giorgio.

Okay, first off I'm going to say yet again that it is definitely not fair to give four stars to something that doesn't smell good.  I do not give a flying flip whether it "advances the art of perfumery," got me?  I only want to wear scents that smell good.  Secretions Magnifiques four stars, anyone?  Didn't think so.  Now, I'll wade through some difficult opening notes to get to something beautiful, or at least to something interesting.  And granted, people's opinions on What Smells Good tend to, duh, differ.  I love tuberose and hate balsamic resins.  I think vetiver is boring.  I like rose and aldehydes.  You may think I'm nuts.  But for a reviewer that keeps dissing tuberose he calls "synthetic," it was downright immoral of LT to praise this *&#^%^@(*@ mess.

Disclaimer:  I went to high school in the 80's, all right?  And while I was wearing polite applications of Chloe from my dabber bottle, big spray bottles of Giorgio were all the rage.  Black rubber bracelets, banana hairclips, leggings and big tunics, Swatches and enormous abstract-art earrings in pink and aqua... and Giorgio.  Which I kind of liked then - I had a friend who seemed to have all the disposable income a girl could want, and she wore it in discreet quantities.  At the time I thought she smelled fine.

There comes a time in your sober years when you appreciate your parents' chintzy refusal to buy your teenage self trendy stuff.  I never had a yellow-and-aqua paint-splatter swimsuit to wear to the pool.  I never had a pair of Candies sandals, or even those fat-soled flipflops everybody wore.  And sure, I suffered when the cheerleaders went down the hall in a gang, snickering about my not-even-close-to-designer jeans and reeking of Giorgio, but now I feel better about the whole thing.  I recently showed my high school yearbook to my children, and they laughed at my hair but admitted that my clothes were "not as weird as what those girls are wearing, eww."  Take that, Two Christies!  Take that, Charlene and Amanda!  Your trendy clothes were weird!  Also, your Giorgio smelled baaaad.

I freely admit I couldn't afford it back then anyway.  And never mind all the science-chat about anthrancilates and whatnot, descriptions of Big Bird and grape popsicles, what Giorgio smells like to me now is money, humiliation, chlorine, and bad taste.

If I was going to attempt to wear Giorgio, this was the day to do it: The CEO just left on a trip to the Farm Bureau National Convention, Bookworm's gone for the day to an indoor track meet, and the boys are supposedly cleaning up their rooms but they keep sneaking down to the laundry room to visit Sara the ailing calf.  Here's a transcript of our conversations about Giorgio:

Me: I'm trying this out.  What do you think?
Taz (who never sniffs me if he can help it):  Eww.  It makes my throat hurt.
Gaze (trying to be diplomatic, but failing): I don't like that one.  It smells like... really bad Halloween candy. The hard kind in weird flavors, like you get from the people who don't like kids but they don't want people to think they don't like kids.  So they give you stuff, but it's nasty.
Me (secretly pleased):  Really?
Gaze:  And the pool.  It smells like the pool. You know, on really crowded days, when they put too much chlorine in there?
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz: Mom, I think Sara's better, she's eating that hay now.
Me:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Taz:  Hey, Mom... Mom, why are you laughing?
Gaze:  I don't know.  She's acting weird.  Maybe that perfume is making her sick.
Me: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha... (maniacal giggling)
Taz: Mom, will you stop laughing and make us dinner now?  Mom?  Mom! Stop laughing.  This is important.  Please go wash your hands, I don't want my hot dogs to smell like that.

It would probably be pretentious of me to repeat that old saying about the mills of God grinding slowly, so I won't.  But I will say that the taste of vindication is sweet. 

I have a nasty headache now that I didn't have when I put on this dab of Giorgio edt.  Thank the Lord, I can go take a shower now.  Maybe now I can cease the maniacal laughter.  Sample of Giorgio Beverly ILLS is going out with the trash as soon as possible.

And I'm sorry, I really am.  I should have known better.  But, see, this is why I love perfume.  Two drops of yellow gunk (which have consequently contaminated the air around me for seven hours) suddenly returned me to the horrors of being fifteen.  What else could do that so quickly?  What else could go straight for the jugular like that?  Nothing else taps so elegantly, so directly, so brutally, into the emotional center as perfume.

Top image from fragrantica.  Lower image from paper_antiquary on ebay.