Caldey Island Lavender (Caldey Abbey Perfumes)

In His Dark Materials -- the astounding trio of philosophical novels by Philip Pullman -- each person's soul exists independently as a totem animal or dæmon. Having declared the separation of people from their dæmons necessary to defeat sin, religious authorities develop a procedure known as "intercision" to effect the final cut. Neither the victim nor his dæmon die of the resulting schism -- at least not physically. But they are rendered dull and spiritless, vivisected of their joy.

Caldey Island Lavender is what would happen if Jicky underwent intercision. Its dæmon has been banished, and nothing -- not even a heavy slug of musk -- can lure that animal back.

Luca Turin deemed Caldey Island Lavender 'the best lavender soliflore on earth', but after wearing it all day, I'm not only unconvinced but truly unsettled. It's cheerful enough, with a Jean Naté-like citrus opener; it's hearty enough, with the kind of hail-fellow lavender that stands there flexing its muscles. But something just seems vaguely off-putting about it. I can't put my finger on a bad note; the whole song is wrong.

Imagine that the best lavender on earth is a entire field of the real thing basking in the midday sun. Caldey Island Lavender keeps the sun-- but omits all the dirt. There's no ground to stand on. The scent is not technically rootless, inspired as it certainly is by some very accomplished forebears. But it manages -- how? -- to neuter them all. It's Jicky minus the saucy wink; it's Caron Pour un Homme minus the wit and raunch. It's Mouchoir de Monsieur if Monsieur donned sackcloth and ashes and took a vow of celibacy.

It's got -- forgive me -- nothing between its legs. And if I ever scoffed before at the importance of sex to fragrance, I'm not laughing now.

Scent Elements: Lavender, citrus, musk

Bal à Versailles (Jean Desprez)

In 1965, Versailles is a fifth-floor open-plan loft in midtown Manhattan, rented for one C-note a year. Decorated extravagantly in wall-to-wall silver paint and sumptuous tinfoil, it boasts as its throne a notorious red cabriole sofa discovered on the curb in front of the 47th Street Vanderbilt YMCA. Dragged back to the palace by loyalists, the red sofa has become the de facto seat of power for the king and his consort, both sporting (in lieu of royal crowns) coiffures as pale as the platinum walls.

The queen loves to dance. This is her greatest charm, her most obvious flaw, and her most trusted antidote for the weight of the past. From time to time (vaguely, and always with a slightly hysterical laugh) she alludes to a girlhood spent walled up alive, imprisoned in various ivory towers and electroshock dungeons. Now liberated, nothing short of total exhaustion can slow her down. No party can last too long; no sunrise can convince her that it’s quitting time. Racing incessantly towards the lights and music, she pledges to outrun memory itself. And for the length of a glittering year, it seems she might even succeed.

The mirrored walls of the palace reflect a thousand distorted souls: boys with bullwhips, nymphs in false eyelashes, society matrons in fur coats, all here to witness the nightly lever du roi. Phantom-pale, the king blinks in exaggerated fright at the spectacle of so many people clamoring to touch his robe. At his side, Her Highness giggles and signals frantically to the house band. Silence is anathema, intolerable, unthinkable! Well I'm beginning to see the light, sings her troubador, and she begins to move-- tentatively, at first, then with escalating violence: a divine dervish impossible for any mortal to partner.

And here you are smack dab in the middle of it all, decked out in your most daring Courrèges floor-length patent-leather sheath in pristine snow-white, looking as though methedrine wouldn't melt in your mouth. You appear quite the highborn lady-in-waiting-- but truth be told, your perfume speaks a gutter tongue.  What's that, alley cat?  Bal à Versailles?  Not a bad disguise-- still new enough after three years to startle the unwary; chic enough to secure you a place on the 'up' elevator; raunchy enough to imply you're no stranger to downward spirals. Enfolded in civet and floral leather, you're a modern Jeanne de Valois, pitch-perfect and passing like funny money. If you seem a little off, darling, who's to notice? As long as you're ON...!

A lackey approaches, black-turtleneck-clad and inscrutable behind waspish dark sunglasses. He bears a summons from the king, gesturing through the flicker of random film projectors and flashbulbs. Oh you're fab-ulous, isn't she FAB-ulous, Gerard, isn't she BEAU-tiful? comes the royal decree. Maybe we should put HER in the next movie...

Never noticing, never stopping, the queen dances and dances. Someday soon she'll dance herself to dust. Angry landlords will storm the palace; eviction notices will be tacked to its front door. The red couch will be carried downstairs and onto the back of a truck, there to be absconded by neighborhood thieves, vanishing as casually as it first appeared. The king will eventually learn to play a perverse Robespierre, guillotining friendship after friendship to save his own neck. As for you -- denied a callback after your obligatory screen test -- you'll head into the safety of exile downtown. Really, it's for the best.

The train of that beautiful snow-white Courrèges gown will take on a nasty gash when a careless taxi driver slams the cab door shut on it in front of Max's Kansas City. There seems no point in having it repaired, so into the back of the closet it goes-- its acetate lining still imbued with its last dousing of Bal à Versailles, the sole souvenir of your glory days at court.

Scent Elements: Rosemary, orange blossom, mandarin, cassia, jasmine, rose, neroli, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, lemon, sandalwood, patchouli, lilac, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, balsam Tolu, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar, resins

Clutch Cologne (Abercrombie & Fitch)

Erroneously believing that all Abercrombie & Fitch stores enforced a "21-and-under" policy that possibly involved club bouncers carding long-in-the-tooth lifestylers at the door, I must report that I have never set foot inside an A&F outlet. My friend DC (who knows better) recently scored some Clutch Cologne and decanted some for me. Color me pleasantly surprised-- it may come straight from a generic mall chain, but this stuff rocks!

Instead of the expected cookie-cutter clothing-label fragrance, Clutch is a frisky little palate cleanser-- more saline than sweet, as tart as a Marino's Italian lemon ice, and blessedly restrained when it comes to those metallic notes that mar so many other calone-rich "active" aquatics. It's not trying to pass for Monsieur Balmain, but it's obvious that it paid attention in class and knows which role models to emulate. It's currently marketed to young men at A&F Kids, but girls could easily steal this (by which I do NOT mean the old five-finger discount, campers).

Seriously, I've worn L'Eau Serge Lutens, and I've worn Clutch, and I can honestly say that aside from pedigree and price, they're not all that different. Well, actually, there remains this distinction: the Lutens flaunts an overload of PoMo irony, while Clutch offers only pure and fresh happiness without pretense.

Sincerity wins every time.

Scent Elements: Pomelo, apple, herbs, sandalwood, amber

Love (LUSH)

I opened the mailbox, and out flew summer-- an unexpected tenant for a postal receptacle during any season of the year, but especially in January, when the metal mailbox latch is so cold it stings one's fingers.

I soon discovered the reason for summer's unauthorized presence in my letter-and-bill zone. My LUSH Exclusives Miniatures Set had arrived-- not entirely intact. The glass vials had been packed into their little tray so tightly that the center vial had cracked clean down its length, releasing every drop of its fragrant contents into the surrounding cardboard.

The very same tragedy once befell the authors of Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. The "escaped" perfume in question was the now-discontinued orange-sherbet Mack truck known as Keep It Fluffy. In L&T's opinion, the smell pervading the box was so stomach-churning that it nearly wrecked their desire to sniff the rest of the contents. Luckily for us, they soldiered on.  And luckily for me, it was Love that busted out all over.  I could hardly name a more appetizing scent to alleviate the disappointment of a shipping mishap.

LUSH describes Love as a "tempting apple and spice" fragrance, but the fruit that speaks loudest here is bergamot-- painting a virtual sunrise in every zany hue along the red-orange-yellow spectrum. To a chilled Nor'Easterner, it projects the bright, uplifting appeal of a piping hot toddy made with Seville orange marmalade and more bourbon than is strictly necessary. At the same time, it also smells like a bowl of Froot Loops. Whether you think the combination of liquor and kids' cereal is all that great an idea depends (I suppose) on your tolerance for both juvenilia and the cold. Personally, I'm fine with the former. But having been born in Chicago during a lake-effect deep freeze, I possess a hard-wired horror of temperatures below 70°F. I must have warmth and light; Love gladly serves 'em up in megadoses. With every inhale, I could imagine winter becoming less of an evil and more of an chance to scope out prime snow fort real estate.

Still, I wanted to wear Love, not merely huff it off of a piece of cardboard. So I got straight on the horn to Lush Customer Service. (Could they have been nicer or more helpful? I think not. Oh Canada!) Within days a new vial of Love landed in my mailbox, accompanied by several adorable soaps (including the coveted marzipan Snowcake). Ever since, the level of perfume in the vial has been dropping sharply-- but not due to breakage. Call it wintertime therapy, the equivalent of time logged under a sunlamp: I need this. It's medicinal.

Some might cavil (not without reason) that no fragrance so blatantly candied could be taken seriously. And normally, with my repugnance for fruity florals, I would agree. But when (as now) the leaden sky is spitting snow and the world outside the door seems less than hospitable, Love -- sweet, sweet Love -- proves unconditional.

Scent Elements: Lemon, lemongrass, bergamot, apple, cinnamon, cassia, jasmine absolute, rose absolute, ylang-ylang absolute

Brûlure de Rose (Parfumerie Générale)

It's the winter of a new year... time for a raspberry rose to make a total sucker out of me. Patricia de Nicolaï's narcotic Balkis hypnotized me in 2010; Christian Lacroix's cheap-and-cheerful Tumulte sealed the deal in 2011. Both were at heart affable, yielding and sweet. In contrast, this year's model -- Brûlure de Rose by Parfumerie Générale -- is a moody, heat-packing firebrand. Darker and more fervent in tone than its companions, it instantly evokes to my mind the rebellious Gertrudis de la Garza of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate.

After a meal of quail in rose petal sauce exquisitely prepared by her lovelorn sister Tita, Gertrudis is infused with a vicarious passion-- something voluptuosa, aromática, calurosa, completamente sensual (voluptuous, perfumed, hot, totally sensual) that she cannot identify. She decides that a nice shower might give her relief from this strange, invading emotion. But the rose-scented steam that rises from her skin under the caress of the hot water attracts the notice of Pancho Villa's army. In no time at all, this respectable, well-born girl becomes a rebel captive... then a soldadera or girl soldier... and then, through her own inimitable will, a full-fledged general in the División del Norte.

All due to a dinner of flowers!

A dedicated Villista Gertrudis may be, but this wildflower never sacrifices her femininity to the job. She maintains an air of irresistible coquetry even when barking orders at subordinates; the success of her method is proven when they fall all over themselves to obey her. Who wouldn't-- when her revolución promises time enough for dancing?

Brûlure de Rose ("Burning Rose") certainly raises the heart's tempo with its rich clarion-call of roses-- all pink and scarlet and deep magenta, if my mind's eye speaks the truth. Its chocolate is the same profoundly bitter liqueur that anchors PG's Iris Taïzo (now Iris Oriental), sans the ameliorating presence of honey. Even its raspberry (a fruit which can project floods of molten jammy sweetness) stays firm and strays to the tart end of the spectrum.

So while Balkis weaves Oriental dreams and Tumulte tempts with top-shop glitz, something about Brûlure de Rose strikes me as pragmatic, workaday, no-nonsense. It steadily resists playing dress-up or pretending to be more than it is. But it draws quick and shoots straight-- and its aim?

Dead on target.

Scent Elements: Rose, raspberry, Brazilian rosewood, cacao, amber, musk, vanilla

Amberene Demi-Absolute (Soivohle)

This weekend we are celebrating a belated Yule with my mother-in-law (she of 24 Faubourg and sundry other scent adventures). Consequently, the tree's still lit and decorated; presents wait to be wrapped; a house waits to be cleaned; a grocery list waits to be bought and cooked by me-- and I'm currently wearing Soivohle's Amberene, instant post-Christmas cool.

The easiest way to express it is that Amberene is VanillaVille after a sizable chill pill has taken full effect. Certain spices retain a cool aspect, and cardamom is one of them; here -- paired with one of the only grapefruit notes I've liked outside of Guerlain's Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune -- it achieves Prozac levels of heavenly detachment. Not that this is a deep freeze by any means; cinnamon and clove take care of that. But oh, the blessed disconnect between desire and achievement! Whether I clean the entire house in one go or collapse in a heap on the couch for a day is peripheral to the good feelings I'm entertaining at this moment-- all due to this perfume on my wrists.

There's so much I must accomplish to prepare for this visit; yet I don't feel in the least bit hurried or stressed. I haven't yet fired up the oven, and already the intense, spicy smell of Christmas baking permeates my immediate airspace. When my mother-in-law arrives on Saturday morning, I'll be delighted beyond words to see her. I may even greet her at the door with some Amberene-- this way, my heartfelt welcome will be made abundantly plain.

Scent Elements: Grapefruit, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, violet, heliotrope, tonka, benzoin, patchouli

Cabochard Vintage Eau de Parfum (Parfums Grès)

As fans of both Auction Hunters and Indiana Jones know, antiquing and archaelogy have a lot in common. The scale's smaller, the stakes are lower, and the loot's a bit easier to reach at the antique store... but nothing beats the thrill of unearthing a treasure that seems to have waited aeons for you to claim it. The discovery of lost Ilium itself beneath one's feet could not bestow more naches.

On one of our summer antique store shakedowns, DC and I happened upon a miniature vitrine full of Cabochard. At least four vintage versions of the Grès classic shared space with full bottles of Jean Patou 1000 and Joy, not to mention an empty (alas!) Lalique "apple" bottle for Nina Ricci Fille d'Eve.

From this trove, we chose our treasure. Even more striking than its presentation box (designed in the "Bernard Buffet style" according to this seller who listed an identical presentation set on eBay Australia) was the fact that the flacon had never once been opened. (We remedied this soon enough.)

The vendor who consigned these riches had obviously been collecting them for decades-- and the results of her diligent curatorial efforts could not be confined to one vitrine. I've found other vintage fragrances scattered on displays throughout this vast antique center-- all beautifully preserved, and all belonging to her. Rumor has it that she consigns non-aromatic antiques (turn-of-the-century silver mesh purses, embroidered ladies' gloves, breathtaking costume jewelry) at a shop not two blocks from where I work. I harbor hopes of someday crossing paths with her.

How did you put it all together? I'll ask her face to face. And how can you stand to tell it all goodbye?

The latter question might be easiest for her answer, as perfume lovers have been saying goodbye to Cabochard for years. Luca Turin describes it as "chewed down to a frazzle by accountant moths"-- a terrible arrêt de mort.

The first hint at future misfortune came in the form of a frosted glass bow. Commemorating Cabochard's 25th anniversary in 1984, it took the place of the hand-tied grey velvet ribbon that had been this perfume's signature adornment since 1959. The rigidity of this new ornament warned of an ominous process taking place within the bottle: a loss of spirit, an approaching rigor mortis. Cabochard was not yet dead... but profit margins, popular taste, and IFRA had all conspired to number its remaining years.

The purpose of Cabochard's original grey velvet bow was simple: to identify it as Cabochard. If it had sported a green bow, it would be Chouda, another Grès perfume. Both came in identical, prefabricated bottles bought in bulk from a small-time glasswork's overstock; the ribbons provided visual differentiation between the bottles' contents. When Grès discontinued Chouda, Cabochard was left alone-- but its bow remained, a tactile reminder of Alix Grès' dressmaker roots. Mere practicality had been converted into something iconic.

Much of the grey velvet bow's appeal lay in its impermanence. Fabric is fragile; knots can come loose. So it was in 1983, when Parfums Grès first untied the bind. In 2000 it subjected its child to a total reformulation that left it impoverished, unrecognizable. (Wouldn't a black ribbon have been appropriate then?) Yet the thinner and more cadaverous Cabochard became, the more notes seemed to append themselves to its formula, varying by degrees of improbability. (Basil, clove bud, tarragon, sage? Maybe. Coconut and asafoetida? Good lord, I hope not.) One is reminded of the mummies of Egypt, shriveled and sad and invisible beneath their layers of golden magnificence.

The core list of Cabochard's scent elements confirms the dynastic marriage of chypre and leather that also produced those two Machiavellian masterpieces, Bandit (1944) and Jolie Madame (1953). Yet in Cabochard, this classic "hard" accord benefits from a slight blurring around the edges. Citrus notes (in particular mandarin) sweeten it from the very start, while a thread of green attributable variously to galbanum, tobacco, and armoise (Artemisia vulgaris, AKA mugwort) winds around its narcotic top notes. A controlled dose of aldehydes lends sparkle and modernity without negating that which is wild and natural about this fragrance's heart. The result is a kinder, gentler, eminently wearable leather chypre-- the spitting image of its forebears, but viewed in forgiving soft focus.

Bandit and Jolie Madame play rough perfectly. For their unique brands of steely-eyed dominance, there is a time and place. But in the moments when you wish they'd drop the leash, there waits a model of restraint... and she is wearing grey velvet.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, mandarin, aldehydes, ylang-ylang, jasmine, iris, rose, geranium, hyacinth, galbanum, tobacco, oakmoss, armoise, clove buds, sandalwood, vetiver, leather, castoreum, costus, patchouli, labdanum, ambrettolide musk

Life Threads Silver (La Prairie)

My great-aunt -- a sour old miser who at best kept a middling table -- drew all her culinary inspiration from two sources: bridge club and the Great Depression. According to bridge club, bread must always be snow white, thinly sliced, crustless, and well-buttered-- a measure designed to keep watercress, sliced radishes, pimento cheese, and chicken salad from turning the bread to mush. The Great Depression, however, rendered scarce all such fancy sandwich fillings-- hence the wieners and pickles.

I beg your pardon: I meant frankfurters and gherkins. Economy-minded though she may have been, my great-aunt preferred to keep the tone of her table high. Even lowly comestibles could benefit from the Ladies' Auxiliary treatment, as the following recipe demonstrates:  Butter your bread, then take two boiled frankfurters and split them in half lengthwise. Lay them face down (still steaming from their stovetop bath) on one buttered slice, then pave the other with "fancy" dill pickle chips. Clap the two slices together, cut crosswise on the diagonal, and serve on your finest silver-rimmed china.

Sure, it sounds plucky-- a preservation of high life for the down-at-heel. But make no mistake: Auntie Mame this wasn't.  Equal parts stingy and superior, my great-aunt confused tinfoil thrift with gold-plated virtue-- a move that proved fatal to her hospitality.  "It's perfectly good," she would say of some purplish, unidentifiable, evil-smelling meat, the victim of untold years' worth of freezer burn soon to be served up to distressed dinner guests. "During the Depression, we'd have been grateful for this.  Listen, you'll eat it, and you'll like it."  

She passed away twenty-five years ago. But if my great-aunt were alive today, I have a feeling she'd appreciate Life Threads Silver, a tuberose so pickled it fills me with disbelief. Buttery-rich, vinegary-sour, meaty and salty by turns-- all that's missing is the mothball-scented linen napkin in my lap, the warning looks from my parents, and the hopelessness of confronting a plate I cannot possibly bring myself to lick clean.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, tuberose, jasmine, ylang ylang, green leaves, pimiento, orange blossom, sandalwood, vetiver, solar musk, and moss.

Audace Vintage Eau de Parfum (Rochas)

Faced with a monumental wonder, it's natural to be stricken mute. The marvel needn't be visual to have this effect: wearing quintuple-distilled sequoia forest on your wrists also pretty much decimates your parts of speech. Close your eyes, and redwood pillars of scent tower around you, appealing to the impulse to climb and climb. An entire ecosystem swallows you whole with every breath.

If I were Julia Butterfly Hill on a fourteen-city speaking tour, far from my lofty, leafy home, this is what I'd spray for an instant two-hundred-foot lift. But like the ancient trees that inspired it, supplies of this precious substance are endangered. If you have some, practice responsible stewardship: conserve, conserve, conserve.

Scent Elements: Iris, jasmine, bergamot, violet, carnation, rose, patchouli, oak moss, galbanum, amber, juniper, pine.

Émeraude Vintage Eau de Cologne (Coty)

The devaluation of something precious is devastating enough when confirmed by an expert, but the proof somehow hurts more when delivered by someone who admits they know little about it-- and really could care even less.

Last summer, when DC and I found a pristine boxed trio of Coty colognes (Émeraude, L'Aimant, Imprévu) in a local antique store, we received a dose of this sentiment from the shop owner. Why would anyone want to wear THAT old stuff? she wondered aloud. Stung, we did what few secondhand shoppers do-- attempted to argue a curio's value to the person with the pricing gun. We might have saved our breath. Our proprietress didn't need to hear our reasons for wanting the Cotys; she only wished for us to take them off her hands. The proposed ransom (ten dollars for the lot!) palpably reflected her relief to be rid of dead weight, and more: it served as a succinct declaration that these erstwhile works of art could no longer be counted among things of worth.

By anyone. Period.

This opinion, tragically, is not isolated. One month previous, I'd seen a nearly identical Coty cologne trio (substitute L'Origan for Imprévu) literally boiling away to nothing in the full sun of another shop's unshaded display window. These were not factices -- I know they contained real perfume, because I asked -- but to the proprietor, they might as well have been bottles filled with mere colored water for show. If I'd attempted to explain how extraordinary these perfumes once were, I'm sure he'd have squinted and rebuffed me with one word: "Once."

I wouldn't have been able to blame him. One by one, the genuine gemstones of the Coty parure have been cut down, broken up, traded away for flashy cut-rate paste jewels not worth their settings. Walk into Walgreens and take a test spray from what passes for Émeraude today: you will see. But just remember: it wasn't always this way.

The original Émeraude (1921) is a sweet amber with a pronounced herbal aspect-- the Orient seen through green-tinted spectacles. Just as Coty's L'Aimant travels neck-and-neck with Chanel No. 5, so does vintage Émeraude keep pace with Guerlain's Shalimar, particularly in its drydown-- all hazy vanilla and opopanax, as muted in tint and texture as a frieze cast in matte Lalique glass. Since Shalimar and Émeraude were contemporaries, their similarity fits; it feels less like a duplication than an single idea expressed simultaneously, or dual perspectives of a shared point in time. Forty years later, Myurgia's Nueva Maja would restate the theme, only with dried herbs instead of a bouquet garni freshly picked-- proving that certain philosophies, give or take an occasional tuck or pleat, sing eternal.

The crown-capped cologne trio DC and I rescued from indifference dates approximately to the mid- to late-seventies and appears to have been barely touched. Its L'Aimant and Imprévu deserve (and shall get) their own dedicated posts; as for its Émeraude, I find it to be a refutation of all doubts. Its citrus elements are greener, fresher, boosted slightly above that of the old-school perfume version, but that Shalimaresque vanilla shimmers exactly as it ought-- a beam of moonlight softened to the palest chalcedony hue. While seeming boneless and boundaryless, the scent in fact remains as definite as an electromagnetic field: when you're inside it, pure pleasure causes every hair on your head to stand up a fraction of an inch.

In another antique emporium, I remember seeing the tiniest bottle -- a cabochon gem not much bigger than my thumbnail -- of Émeraude parfum presented atop a little green-velvet-and-gold dais. They wanted a mere forty dollars for it-- a slap in the face, as it surely was worth twice or three times more. I procrastinated then (what fool am I!) but in the future, I will not hesitate a single minute in the righteous act of rescue.

Let them speak ill of my lady all they like... from a distance. She's coming home with me.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, orange, lemon, tarragon, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, rosewood, sandalwood, patchouli, opopanax, amber, benzoin, vanilla

Cèdre Bleu (Yves Rocher)

What makes a good "everyday" fragrance?

First, a pleasant scent-- something reliable to which one could easily grow accustomed, and to which one would be all too glad to turn several times a week.

Second, a presentable scent-- something subtle that one can wear comfortably in all the places and situations that "everyday" implies, without ever feeling distracted or self-conscious.

Third, an accessible scent-- something in ready supply, to be used up and bought again and used some more with zero qualms about where more will come from or how much it will cost.

Cèdre Bleu meets all these criteria with distinction. It's a light, lovely, milky-woody saffron that manages the feat of seeming at once brisk (it's bleu!) and soothing. With her deliciously visual review (and the generous decant that followed), Joan Elaine hipped me to it and left me glowing with happiness. To think that all this time I've been hoarding my Safran Troublant for special occasions, when her fresh-scrubbed sister has been ready and waiting since the morning bell! The hours from dawn to dusk now covered, I don't feel nearly as guilty about putting off the more seductive Safran Troublant until after-hours.

Cèdre Bleu is only one of several eaux de cologne in Rocher's Fraîcheur Végétale ("Botanical Freshness") series, which all go for the same forehead-smackingly low price of $13.95 per 125 ml. What?! you scream. So did I-- but it's absolutely true. Usually fragrances this cheap smell that way, too-- but not Cèdre Bleu. If all the eaux Fraîcheur Végétale are as pleasant, presentable, and accessible as she is, sign me up for the lot!

Scent Elements: The Yves Rocher site lists only cedar, amber, and musk, but I get a strong hit of saffron and vanilla from this, and JoanElaine picked up on a steamed-rice note which I second absolutely-- this smells like a dessert risotto of the first order.