4 stars: 378 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.

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady : Perfume Review

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The news of Frédéric Malle selling his Editions de Parfums house to Estée Lauder reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to writing about one of the most intriguing fragrances from his collection, Portrait of a Lady. Why intriguing? Well, consider the name. If it brings to your mind the cool elegance of Henry James’s heroines, then you’re not alone. I also expected something along these lines–ultra refined, sophisticated and feminine. Except that it is all wrong. Portrait of a Lady is interesting precisely because the scent is not at all what you expect. It’s a twist on a Middle Eastern theme, and it’s not all that lady-like.

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If you’ve already smelled traditional Middle Eastern perfumes or western blends inspired by them (Amouage, Kilian’s oudsArmani Privé Rose d’Arabie), then you might recognize similar elements in Portrait of a Lady. It has a generous dose of classical “oriental” notes–sandalwood, amber, patchouli, dark woods smoked over incense, and of course, rose. It has a similar dramatic and mysterious character that makes this perfume genre so distinctive.

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Caron En Avion : Perfume Review

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I’m not sure why exactly I decided to revisit Caron En Avion after so many years, but it might have been inspired by my reading of Miklós Bánffy’s The Transylvanian Trilogy. An epic novel set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before the First World War, it paints the vanished world of the Hungarian aristocracy, the era that was quickly coming to a close. There is something equally poignant and nostalgic about En Avion, a perfume created by Caron’s owner Ernest Daltroff in 1932, just a year before Count Bánffy started writing his masterpiece.

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En Avion, as the name suggests, was inspired by the first pilot women such as Helen Boucher and Amelia Earhart. It was a luminous but dark orange, dipped in the sweetness of jasmine and the incense-like warmth of opoponax. It was spicy but also cool and mossy. The kind of fragrance that could only have been the product of Daltroff’s eccentric pairings and the era’s penchant for perfumes thick as fur coats.

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Lady Gaga Eau de Gaga : Perfume Review

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Lady Gaga the performer is all about provocation and surprise, but her first fragrance, Fame, was anything but dramatic. When it came to creating Eau de Gaga, the singer was apparently much more hands-on, and for better or worse, offered plenty of opinions. So, what do we get in the elegant black bottle?

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Spray Eau de Gaga liberally on your skin and take a deep inhale. If you expected candies and fluffy musk, then you’ll be surprised. It’s not sweet. It’s not fruity. Eau de Gaga is a green tea cologne, with a big dose of violet. A 21st century CK One, if you will. It has a bright and inviting introduction laced with lots of peppery citrus and green violet leaves. It’s sophisticated and polished.

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Paco Rabanne Calandre : Perfume Review

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Patricia revisits Calandre, a metallic green rose with a chypre heart.

Nineteen Sixty-Nine was a year in which I watched with my family as men walked on the moon, 400,000 young people crammed into the then little known town of Woodstock, NY for a three-day music festival, and the hugely unpopular war in Vietnam was escalating with accompanying casualties on both sides of the conflict. In the same year, Calandre, an avant-garde perfume from the fashion house of Paco Rabanne and created by nose Michel Hy, was launched.

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Betty Friedan, considered by some to be the mother of the second wave of American feminism, had written The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and the sixties provided fertile ground for the growing Women’s Movement. Perfume styles were changing as well. The more formal floral style of the fifties and early sixties was giving way to more modern interpretations.

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4711 Original Eau de Cologne : Perfume Review

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Simple. Lemon with a touch of lavender and piney rosemary. Not a perfume to wear if you want a big trail. Not a perfume that will make you ponder the mysteries of life. Just a good, no-nonsense cologne that smells bracing and sharp and makes you feel clean and energized. And the name is straightforward too, just four numbers. 4711.
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When I first smelled 4711 at the now defunct pharmacy on New York’s East Side, it smelled so familiar and traditional that I could picture my grandfather slapping some on his shaved cheeks or my grandmother adding it to her bath. This was, of course, pure fantasy. 4711 didn’t exist in my Ukrainian childhood, but because the scent of a classical cologne–and 4711 is anything if not classical–has such a recognizable form, it feels as if this German cologne has always been around.

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