Carpathian Oud (Soivohle)

About this one, there's shockingly little to say. I've struggled for nearly a month to assemble a few descriptive words about it, but all I can come up with is "It's nice". I can tell you what I wanted: I wanted danger and desire. I wanted a raw sensual phenomenon seething with heat and mystery. I wanted the merest spritz of Carpathian Oud to summon up a lawless Romani lover in whose eyes I drown, in whose arms I find shelter as midnight closes in around our campfire...

Carpathian Oud is nice. I'll wear it. But it won't make me howl at the moon.

Scent Elements: Fir balsam absolute, rhododendron absolute, laurel, rose geranium, carnation accord, mountain poppy accord, ylang-ylang, orris butter, iris accord, wild violet accord, clove, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg absolute, oakmoss base, amyris, sandalwood, Indian and Laotion oud, oud accord, civet reconstruction, vetiver, opopanax, patchouli, castoreum reconstruction, muscone, amber base, benzoin

Parfum du Jour: Quadrille Vintage Eau de Cologne Fraiche (Balenciaga)

Why wear it? This week is Leather Week at Now Smell This, and I wanted a very light handbag SOTD as a lead-up to the heavier leathers (Casanova 1725, Jolie Madame, and of course Cabochard) which I mean to wear for the rest of the week.

What does it do? As I described to other NSTers, Quadrille smells "at first lemony-mossy, then rosy-fruity-spicy, then (concludes with) an unexpected slap of glove leather... The leather in mine pops up in the drydown-- delicate & almost prim against all the fruit..."

How do I feel? Rueful. I had a largish bottle of Quadrille which I convinced myself I didn't wear frequently enough, so I decanted a couple of milliliters before consigning it. Now I'll never get it back. I don't regret letting it go, but I wish I had decanted more of it before bidding it farewell.

Parfum du Jour: The Afternoon of a Faun (État Libre d'Orange)

Why wear it? Because twice is nice. I wore it yesterday and felt so enlivened by it that I decided that a reprise was in order.

What does it do? It turns a humdrum workplace into a sun-dappled glade, a cluttered office full of book carts into a poppy-strewn meadow, and all of one's patrons into revelers waiting for the bacchanal to begin. Its rose geranium accord is supremely dewy, but set off against moss, incense, and some seriously animalic leather, it burns, it burns!

How do I feel? Ready for the weekend. I so seldom do what I say I'm planning to do, but this time I must hold to my promise of cleaning the kitchen. Our little friends the sugar ants are back, woe is us. If I bust it out quickly enough, I will be free to do something frivolous-- jewelry making, perhaps, or working on a short story.

Gucci No. 3 Eau de Toilette (Gucci)

Thus far, my exposure to the Gucci fragrance line has been limited. The peony nightmare that is Gucci Flora sent me running; unless we count James Franco's "Goosey by Goosey!" commercial parody, there it ends. I've heard that Rush and Envy are pretty good, but having never smelled them weakens my credentials as a perfumista. What rock have I been hiding under?

Released in 1985, No. 3 is an aldehydic chypre with a mien as ebullient as a can-can girl's. I have no other Gucci experience to offer points of comparison, so I must pull another simile out of my hat. For a time, I found myself in danger of becoming addicted to Saint-Germain, a marvelous elderflower liqueur ideal for spritzy mixers. Now that I am prohibited from tippling, I can get my jollies from Gucci No. 3. It's fizzy, friendly, approachable, and right up my boulevard. Instead of pinot, prosecco, or Sauvignon blanc, pair it with flânerie, Toulouse-Lautrec, and raw oysters on the half-shell. Et voilà voilà!

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, coriander, greens, jasmine, narcissus, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, iris, amber, vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss, leather, musk

Fracas Vintage Parfum (Robert Piguet)

Have you ever, in a moment of self-pity or ghoulish glee, planned your own funeral? Ostensibly, what happens after we evanesce heavenward is out of our control. But the temptation to stage-manage it is irresistible-- especially the part when you assemble a deathbed playlist. (Mine includes Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, Sigur Ros, and of course the voice of Vedder carrying me home to Valhalla.)

To me, the idea of being embalmed and displayed like a ventriloquist's dummy in a satin-lined box is thoroughly repugnant. I personally always wanted to be laid out in the wilderness and devoured by ravens, but I don't think my spouse would be too keen on this concept. The alternative is to be cremated as quickly and cheaply as possible. Commit my ashes to the wind and water off Cattus Island, and send no flowers, please.

Especially not tuberoses.

Monolithic, carnivorous, chilly, morbid, waxy, bloodless, deathly sweet, overpowering, vegetal, funereal, unnerving. With these words, I have drawn past portraits of Polianthes tuberosa. Those who favor it use adjectives like buttery, creamy, opulent, velvety, voluptuous, luxurious, heady, sexy-- but to me, tuberose will always be the queen of the coffin, traditional witness to a million eulogies.

A recent gift added a few choice descriptors -- narcotic, menacing, masterful -- to my list. As we speak, I'm wearing two precious, golden drops of vintage Fracas, one on each wrist. They come from a thumbnail-sized bottle bestowed upon me by Toni, who IS a tuberose lover and cares not who knows it. I suspect that the ghost of Edie Sedgwick (whose favorite perfume Fracas purportedly was) whispered in her ear that I needed a crash course in classic BWFs. Or perhaps this is no mere apparition we're dealing with. Edie would make one hell of a vampire... with a perfume to match.

So often does one find tuberose swizzled up with coconut cream and white musk that it ought to come with a free tiki cocktail. Fracas, on the other hand, has never seen the sun; if she ever trod a white sand beach, it was by the rare light of a super blood moon. "Buttery", true; these petals come richly sauced. And yet this is no comfort food for the nose; Fracas' unsavory effect reinforces my disbelief that any consolation could be found in these blossoms. Sex and death, yes; sympathy, perhaps not.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, mandarin, tuberose, hyacinth, gardenia, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, neroli, narcissus, violet, rose, iris, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, musk

Amberene, redux and redone.

On and off over the last few weeks, I've been wearing Soivohle Amberene. No special reason; I was pawing through my stash and gave in to the urge to get reacquainted. Had I known that Amberene has been not only renamed but reformulated by its creator, I would have worn it with more nostalgia.

Amberene was once a spicy, strongly vanillic amber kept from piercing sweetness by a touch of acerbic citrus. Now it is known as Burnt Pyrrole and is described by Liz Zorn as a "natural smoky amber-based essence with spice notes and a botanical musk". Perhaps you could say something similar about Amberene. But I can't help thinking that Burnt Pyrrole is an entirely separate and distinct fragrance. Surely it can't be Amberene masquerading under a new nom de parfum!

Now, I know you're not supposed to judge a perfume by its notes list. But compare the two fragrances' scent elements:

Amberene: Grapefruit, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, violet, heliotrope, tonka, benzoin, patchouli
Burnt Pyrrhole: Labdanum absolute, benzoin, Oman frankincense, balsam Tolu, spices, ambrette, smoked tea


Do those look like they would smell anything like one another? It will take a sample of Burnt Pyrrole for me to find out. Until then I will cherish my tiny vial of Amberene, such as it is-- or rather, was.

Aromatics in White and Black (Clinique)

Sometimes I worry about Estée Lauder. The company, I mean; not the grande dame (who is safe in her grave, though likely rolling over in it). During its first half-century, EL -- along with its subsidiaries Clinique and Aramis -- judiciously released one or two well-crafted fragrances per year. Many of these have been deemed classics of perfumery. But among the avalanche of flankers which followed Lauder's death in 2004, none came close to achieving that accolade. Most don't even try. Matters have only grown more troubling of late. With its systematic takeover of competing fragrance brands (Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Ermengildo Zegna, Jo Malone, Le Labo, Frédéric Malle, Tom Ford), EL now resembles that corporate Borg known as Coty, subduing and assimilating all who tremble in its path.

From this chaos emerges Aromatics in White (2014) and Black (2015), two sweet fruity-florientals which trade on the name of the 1971 Elixir without inheriting any of its gravitas. JC -- who adores the original Elixir to infinity and beyond -- purchased full bottles unsniffed and presented me with generous decants for my birthday. Even before I unpacked the gift bag, the buoyant golden scent of White's orange blossoms tickled my nose.  Its friendly florals seem squeaky-clean until they suddenly don't-- and when they don't is when things get interesting. Ambergris and labdanum give White a Dune-like dissonance and danger, at once sexy and glowering, successfully depositing its drydown yards beyond the expected goal post.

Like so many perfumes with 'Black' or 'Noir' in their names, Aromatics in Black is way too lighthearted to be dressed in that somber shade. It commences with a brassy blast of grapefruit and bergamot reminiscent of Chanel Coco Noir, which I believe it is meant to emulate. It's much nicer, though, in that diffuse unthreatening way of all Nice Lauders. I don't know what "plum leaf accord" is supposed to smell like, but the heart of Black smells like sweet red plum pulp, and that's fine with me. Like a stubborn compass needle, it keeps pointing toward By Kilian Back to Black, which I suppose is its North-- and maybe now I can finally stop accusing Puredistance Black of plagiarism now that I know Everybody's Doing It.

In White, Perfumer Nicholas Beaulieu promised a modern fragrance evoking the same "attraction on skin" as its august predecessor. I suppose the concept of attraction has undergone as many redefinitions over time as have popular perfume tastes. That being said, I do find both new Aromatics to be attractive on my skin... though I wouldn't say that either of them redefine Elixir, or (for that matter) Estée Lauder.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, pink grapefruit, "plum leaf accord", osmanthus, jasmine, neroli, myrrh, vetiver, tonka (Black); Sichuan pepper, violet leaf, labdanum, rose, orange blossom, patchouli, leather, white musk, ambergris, benzoin, vanilla (White)

KL Eau de Toilette (Karl Lagerfeld)

KL was introduced in 1983. That's almost all you need to know. Big! Brash! Ballsy! Think of it as the jasmine cousin to Chloé's tuberose-- caked with eyeliner, hairsprayed to the limit, and showing off maximum leg.

I actually prefer KL to Chloé, truth be told; tuberose has never quite been a friend of mine. But jasmine jibes just right with my preferences, and KL's is a delicious one-- sultry, not too sugary, tempered with a velvety amber. In the main, KL lies far closer to the skin than its cousin, which is still not saying much. It's like a civil defense siren whose sound radius only measures three miles instead of five. Let that be a warning to you.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, orange, Jamaican pepper, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, orchid, patchouli, cinnamon, cloves, benzoin, amber, vanilla