5 stars: 104 posts

5 stars means “outstanding,” a perfume that invariably feels like a special discovery, even though I might have been wearing for it years. These fragrances are the ones I would keep if I had to pare down my perfume collection; they satisfy all of my yearnings and fantasies. On a technical level, 5 star fragrances are the ones that I find impeccable–well-crafted, original, and high-quality.

Guerlain Habit Rouge and Its Family : Perfume Review

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Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last perfumer for the house carrying the family name, once memorably said that one could be a Shalimar woman or a L’Heure Bleue woman, but not both. Of course, he made the statement in his usual provocative manner, but the idea was that the two perfumes had such different characters that you loved either one or the other. I had all the makings of a L’Heure Bleue woman, having fallen for its older sister Après l’Ondée, but then I met Habit Rouge. One encounter was all it took for me not only to be captivated by its velvety orange blossom doused in incense and bergamot, but also to understand the allure of Shalimar.

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That Habit Rouge is marketed to men should make no difference to women. In 1965, when Habit Rouge was created by Guerlain, the collection had many splendid feminine perfumes like Jicky, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, and Mitsouko, but the offerings for men were considerably less outstanding. The exception was Vétiver, which Jean-Paul Guerlain created a few years earlier. His solution to draw gentlemen to the perfume counter was to take the basic outline of Shalimar and its famous accord of citrus and sweet oriental notes and give it a dandy appeal with leather and green orange blossom. The result was a less sweet, less curvy and less ripe version of Shalimar, but with all the elegance and panache of its great ancestor.

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Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chypree : Fragrance Review

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Elisa on roses, moss, and brocade.

Some perfumes take only moments to love, but years to understand. Such was the case for me with Une Rose Chyprée, a perfume from the indie line created by Andy Tauer. From the first sniff, I knew it was special. But I struggled to grasp why or how. It was not, to my nose, a chypre (a mossy-woody blend) at all. It was not of the sharp, haughty variety like Paloma Picasso; not chilly and green like Yves Ssaint Laurent Y or Chanel No. 19; not, like the more recent Agent Provocateur, saffron-sour up top and musky-dirty at the bottom. So what was it, then?

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After spending a few years with his collection, I realized that Andy Tauer’s true muse is amber. And Une Rose Chyprée is not a straight chypre but an amber in conversation with a mossy rose, melding into its bittersweet floral-herbal personality, but not losing its own round, full, and resinous scent.

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Lalique Encre Noire : Perfume Review

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That I’m obsessed with vetiver is obvious. If you select the note ‘vetiver‘ in Bois de Jasmin’s Find a Perfume feature, you’ll find around 20 reviews of perfumes sharing this earthy, woody leitmotif. Vetiver essence is distilled from the roots of a nondescript looking grass, but its scent is spectacular. It smells of milky hazelnuts, bitter grapefruit, licorice and driftwood. Every time I think that I have tried enough vetivers, something else comes along to tempt me. If I want dark and salty, I go for Annick Goutal’s Vétiver. If I’m in the mood for fresh and sparkling, Prada’s Infusion de Vétiver never fails to hit the spot. But if I had to wear a single vetiver perfume for the rest of my life, I would pick Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme.

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Encre Noire may not seem like an obvious choice, especially when we have vetiver gold standards like Guerlain Vétiver and Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire. Without a doubt, those are perfumes that must be sampled at least once, but what makes Encre Noire so compelling is its elegance and versatility. It’s also impeccably crafted and memorable.

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Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine : Perfume Review

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A Russian friend told me that when she first moved to Sicily twenty years ago she couldn’t get used to the overabundance of oranges. Back in Moscow you had to queue for hours to get a box of precious Jaffa oranges but the sidewalks in the villages around Palermo were covered with fallen fruit. Or in what seemed to be a case of utter decadence, people would use oranges to polish copper. “Imagine cleaning your dirty pots with oranges!”

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I think of this story whenever I cook with oranges or try an orange based fragrance. I imagine myself eyeing in dismay the piles of orange opulence–wasted, unwanted!–and stopping to stuff yet another orange into my purse. Even though oranges for me are not a rare luxury, I find their vibrant color and exuberant taste irresistible. My kitchen is never without at least one orange, and there is often a small bottle of Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine (Blood Orange) in my purse.

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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.

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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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  • Victoria in Traveling Samples Box Giveaway: We can try it any way we like, and we can always adjust along the way. For this round, I will select two people via a random number generator, and… October 25, 2014 at 5:08pm

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