5 stars: 103 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.

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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Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin : Perfume Review

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Several years ago I walked around an exhibit devoted to Marlene Dietrich’s collection at the fashion museum in Paris, The Musée Galliera. Among her famous pant suits, feather dresses and sexy lingerie (you had to look through a peep hole for a glimpse of her lacy underthings), were bottles of  cosmetics and tanning oils. One was labelled rose, and another–jasmine.  I don’t remember who made them or what the bottles looked like, but the image of Dietrich stretching out her gorgeous long legs, her glistening skin catching the fine granules of sand, is what surfaces in my mind whenever I hear the star’s name. I can almost smell the rose tanning oil and salt on her warm skin.

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I don’t know if in creating La Fille de Berlin, the dream team of Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake thought about Dietrich, and I have never visited Berlin to understand their source of inspiration completely. For me though, it’s a perfume that I imagine Dietrich wearing. It’s beautiful and surprising, but with a dark side. A classical Lutens, in other words.

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