4 stars: 401 posts

4 stars means “very good,” a fragrance with enough character to be memorable, and enough tenacity and diffusion to be noticed. It may either lack that ineffable “spark” that makes a perfume truly outstanding for me or else it may simply need more time on the market to determine its staying power.

L’Occitane Arlesienne : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on the return of an old-school rose.

Ultra-feminine and quite literal roses were popular during my childhood, in the ‘80s. Think Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, which is fresh, pink, and photorealistic, but – somewhat undermining the delicacy of its namesake – possessing mushroom-cloud sillage and nuclear tenacity. Or Her Majesty’s Rose, the rose soliflore available at Victoria’s Secret, back when its aesthetic was more lacy-nightgown-in-a-country-cottage and less sex-bomb-in-garters. I had a coffret of perfume minis from VS when I was about 12, and the rose one, while pretty, reminded me distinctly of potpourri in antique shops.

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I apparently wasn’t the only one to make that association. Moving into the ‘90s, roses that smelled like roses were about as uncool as you could get. In junior high, my mall-going friends and I ditched Her Majesty’s Rose and the other overt florals and embraced Tranquil Breezes, an intense and distinctive cucumber-melon scent. Around that time the perfume I most wanted to smell like was Calvin Klein Escape. Over the next few years I ended up with bottles of CK One, L’Eau d’Issey, and Polo Sport – aquatic, blue-smelling calone bombs to a one!

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Yves Saint Laurent Oriental Collection Majestic Rose : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to dismiss the Oriental Collection from Yves Saint Laurent as yet another banal attempt to capture the attention of the Gulf markets. Hence, we have the luxury packaging, high prices and a trite press release. Noble Leather, Majestic Rose, Supreme Bouquet and Splendid Wood are said to be inspired by “the splendor of the East.” But overload of orientalism aside, the collection judged only on its olfactory merits is very good. The ideas are clever, interesting and well-executed. And, as I discovered when traveling in Oman, traditional Gulf perfumery is spectacular enough to emulate.

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In traditional Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf perfumery, rose and oud are important players. With the discovery of oud by European and American perfumes, dark roses have become common enough, and every line worth its prestige brand name has attempted them with varying levels of success. Blend rose with enough dark woods, and even a novice can approximate something vaguely “eastern”, but what makes traditional perfumery and fragrances like Majestic Rose interesting is their use of bright accents. Harmony, especially if we’re talking about dark, rich notes, is hard to achieve.

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Jo Loves Pomelo : Perfume Review

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Andy reviews Jo Loves Pomelo and also discusses why grapefruit paired with vetiver is such a successful combination (with plenty of other perfume examples).

Jo Loves is the perfume company that Jo Malone founded independently in 2011, five years after leaving the Jo Malone brand as creative director. Estée Lauder’s infamous acquisition of Jo Malone was very old news by the time I developed an interest in perfume. And yet even today, as I indulge in the original lineup’s signature creams and bath oils, I can’t help but be reminded of the difficult decisions Jo Malone must have faced, to trade authority over her brand and her name for a piece of the Lauder fortunes.

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Now, as I orient myself to the pefumes from Jo Loves, Jo Malone’s newest personal business venture, I feel as though I am getting an authentic look at Jo Malone’s own creativity, as this focused collection feels personal, even autobiographical. Pomelo, the first perfume launched by Jo Loves, pleases and excites me, and is a particularly striking example of its creator’s talent and originality.

Fitting to Jo Malone’s signature fragrance style of simplicity and freshness, Jo Loves Pomelo is one of the most delightful citrus fragrances I have smelled recently. Like any good cologne, Jo Loves Pomelo provides ample refreshment, but where it really exceeds is in its intertwining of the shining citrus with a foil of earthy vetiver.

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Lolita Lempicka Sweet : Perfume Review

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I am what you might call an optimist. So when I read a fragrance description like “a cherry-cocoa lip accord, exquisitely transgressive, outrageously musky”, I decide to look for a sample.  The quote refers to Lolita Lempicka Sweet, and depending on your attitudes towards smelling like lipstick and chocolate covered cherries, it could be either ghastly or delightful.  I doubt you can have a noncommittal opinion about this fragrance. It will bully you until you make up your mind.

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What you smell is what you get–a dark raspberry-rose accord reminiscent of retro lipstick and a dollop of chocolate sauce. This kind of directness is what attracted me to Lolita Lempicka in the first place. There is no pretense to aspire towards rarefied sophistication or sucked-in-cheeks elegance. The story isn’t about a precious Laotian resin transformed into a caramel candy. Lolita Lempicka also doesn’t mistake its press release for a philosophical treatise on happiness. No. Leave all of that to Viktor & Rolf Bonbon, Prada Candy and Lancôme La Vie est Belle. Sweet doesn’t take itself seriously, and as a result, you get an utterly charming fragrance.

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Alaia Paris by Azzedine Alaia : Perfume Review

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Taking Alaïa note by note is complicated, but since Azzedine Alaïa became famous for his unusually structured knitted dresses, perhaps, this is only to be expected. While most fashion designers don’t convey much of their aesthetic in fragrance lines they launch (see Miu Miu), Alaïa is an exception. Fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa wanted to incorporate recollections from his Tunisian childhood but avoid any trite “oriental” references; the idea instead is to convey couture with a personal touch. For me it works.

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Alaïa is a transparent modern floral, with a velvety woody-musky drydown. Alaïa doesn’t shock, but it is different from the legions of fruity bonanzas and cotton candy laced new releases: its combination of abstract flowers and mineral, wet chalk nuances is surprising; its manner of rendering animalic notes is novel, and its gauzy but enveloping sillage is alluring. It’s a promising debut.

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