Myrrh: 14 posts

Yves Saint Laurent Opium (New) : Perfume Review

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Opium. Even if you haven’t worn Opium yourself, just the name of this perfume by Yves Saint Laurent is enough to conjure its controversial and dramatic personality. Opium came out in 1977 and it marked a whole era with its spicy, fiery carnation scent. In the 1980s, when neither perfume nor hair could be too big, it held its own alongside Christian Dior Poison, Giorgio Beverly Hills and other heavy hitters.

opium

My relationship with Opium and other big 1980s perfumes is ambivalent. I recognize their genius; I admire their boldness and verve. But whenever I wear Opium in all of its “pre-reformulation” spicy glory, it feels like I’m playing dress up. I can’t make it my own. But Yves Saint Laurent left us with no choice. In 2009, the house discontinued Opium and reintroduced a new version. The original formula of Opium contained so many ingredients considered allergenic that trying to save it was a losing battle.

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Estee Lauder Youth Dew : Perfume Review (New and Vintage)

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This year Estée Lauder’s first fragrance, Youth Dew, will celebrate its 60th anniversary.  Originally conceived as perfumed bath oil, it is the dowager empress of the Lauder fragrance counter, still selling briskly despite its late middle age. So formidable is it that if you only try it once every ten years, you will recognize it.

youth-dew1

Youth Dew has always been a thick and nearly viscous brew. Lauder perfumes contain sumptuous amounts of perfume oil and nowhere is this illustrated as plainly as in Youth Dew, whose 30% dosage leaves a sheen on the skin.  In today’s terms, Youth Dew is retro in the same way Opium is retro; they are both heavily spiced and heavy-lidded Orientals of a type no longer in trend. As with Opium, Youth Dew is crazily ripe with orange top notes and aldehydes bursting over its clove and cinnamon heart.

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Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire : Perfume Review

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Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire by perfumer Dominique Ropion is said to contain 25% vetiver—the most on the market where this herbal, grassy note is a frequently the principal note in men’s fragrances. Depending on which facets the perfumer has illuminated, vetiver can be sweet, dry, smoky, bitter, fruity, peppery, and woody. In Vétiver Extraordinaire, the note is freed like a balloon by ozone, which gives it a fresh airiness in opposition to more earthbound vetivers (like Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s earthy Route du Vétiver or Serge Lutens’ root-y Vétiver Oriental).

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Vetiver is a grass that is native to India but is also grown in Haiti, Indonesia, China, Java, and Reunion.  For perfumery purposes, oil is extracted from the roots. The damp, woody scent of vetiver is so complex that it can be a perfume on its own. The note is used as a drydown accent or it can be treated as a main theme.  It’s traditionally associated with masculine fragrances like Guerlain Vetiver, but it also appears with regularity in the bases of feminine perfumes like Chanel No 19 or Guerlain Chamade.

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Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of a Faun : Perfume Review

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By a coincidence, the first time I wore The Afternoon of a Faun, the latest perfume from Etat Libre d’Orange, was to a ballet performance. I applied it earlier in the day and by the time I sat in the darkened theater it already melted into my skin. My companion leaned in and whispered, “I love the smell of theater, the mix of wood and floor polish… Oh, wait! It’s you!” And she was right, Faun smells like worn wood, or something antique and patina covered.

Created by , the same perfumer who authored the brilliant Fils de Dieu, The Afternoon of a Faun is inspired by the ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes. It was first performed in 1912, with Nijinsky dancing the main role. Set to the score by Claude Debussy, L’après-midi d’un faune told the story of a faun who meets and teases a group of nymphs. The erotic subtext of the plot and the archaically styled dance ran so counter to classical dance that it caused a scandal, and Nijinsky could barely escape the angry fans.

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Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau : Perfume Review

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One of the great vagaries of a perfume habit is how you can end up besotted with a fragrance that you originally disliked. Somewhere in the mid-nineties I came across Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau, a fusion of tangy blackcurrant leaf, dark rose, and white grapefruit. It was completely out of step with the perfumes I knew in those days when niche fragrances were more or less not known or available stateside.

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At the time, I was wearing one of those huge glitzy florals (Dior Poison!) and L’Ombre dans L’Eau was its exact opposite. The green intensity of blackcurrant leaf in particular struck me the wrong way, as if the edges were sharp, cold, and brutal.  The fragrance smelled not of a shadow in the water (as its name would be translated from French) but of digging in a garden in the dog days of summer, hands in the dirt around a rose bush, with a heat haze dragging the bitter, earthy and resinous smell of tomato leaf through the thick air.  It was too photorealistic, this experiential French scent, and the leafiness was such that one might experience it as both a smell and as a taste, as if somewhere in one’s memory was trapped a childhood remembrance of biting into a tomato.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Safran in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: I’d second Encens et Lavande, great suggestion! June 28, 2017 at 4:47am

  • Tiamaria in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Hi Raquel, You might like Neela Vermiere Mohur. Rose and cardamom and lots of other lovely stuff. June 28, 2017 at 4:44am

  • john in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: I’d second Habit Rouge as being beautiful but not boring. Also (for me) in this category: Caron’s 3e Homme. On a totally different note, Yatagan in summer reminds me of… June 28, 2017 at 3:31am

  • Nick in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Dzongkha is wonderful in winter where its clean clear incense (Asian not Catholic) is warm and enveloping. In spring its brightness is fresh and almost sweet. In summer the incense… June 27, 2017 at 11:22pm

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