Coumarin & Tonka Bean: 17 posts

Tonka beans, the seeds from the fruits of the Dipteryx Odorata tree native to South America, look like black, wrinkled beans, but they smell heavenly–a mix of toasted almond, cherry, and mellow tobacco. Coumarin is the main fragrant component of tonka beans. If you ever get to play with real tonka beans, try them in desserts instead of vanilla or cinnamon. In perfumes they lend a rich, opulent note. The velvety warmth of Guerlain’s classics (ie, L’Heure Bleue, Nahema) wouldn’t exist without tonka. To see a detailed discussion, please take a look at Coumarin, Tonka Beans : Perfume Notes.

Tonka Bean, Chocolate Salt and Three Perfumes

Several years ago, a friend gave me a jar of chocolate and tonka salt from a Viennese outfit called Zum Schwarzen Kameel. It’s a delicatessen and a culinary complex famous for its unique interpretation of classical Austrian specialties. The salt was a mix of coarse salt crystals, black pepper, pieces of cacao beans and tonka. Only a small quantity of the latter was present, but its cherry-almond scent made the salt a heady, fragrant mixture. I’ve used it on grilled meat and fish, but it shone best on winter vegetables like cabbage, turnips, swedes, potatoes, and parsnips. I’ve since made my own version, using equal amounts of black pepper and cacao beans and a smidgen of tonka shavings for perfume. The recipe is at the end of the article.

The reason I was stingy with tonka bean in my blend is because it’s a potent ingredient.  The scent of toasted almonds, amarena cherries, sun-warmed hay and vanilla custard lingers well, and tonka bean’s is one of the most luscious and seductive aromas in a perfumer’s palette. It was also responsible for a revolution in modern perfumery.

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Tom Ford Lost Cherry : Perfume Review

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Expensive fragrances get more scrutiny, and that’s only fair. If a brand wants you to pay over $200 for a bottle of scent, then you should be certain that you’re getting your money’s worth. In the case of Tom Ford, you’re paying for the name, luxurious packaging and the whole style factor that gives Ford an edge. That being said, the collection has a number of perfumes where even the special markup can be justified. Lost Cherry is one of those fragrances, because when Ford wants a bombshell perfume, he doesn’t hold back.

The name, only a touch less vulgar than Tom Ford’s F*cking Fabulous, suggests fruits and sweetness, but Lost Cherry is a sophisticated blend of woods in the style of Serge Lutens’s original Feminité du Bois. Lutens commissioned it as a woody fragrance for women, a request that at the time made a few eyebrows rise. 27 years later, nobody is surprised by “feminine woods,” but many brands still shy away from embracing the idea fully. In other words, woods play a secondary role to fruit, caramel, flowers or vanilla. Women who want woods, without too many embellishments, might well turn to the masculine side of the fragrance counter. 

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Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Bleu : Perfume Review

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Who could have predicted that one of the greatest perfumes of the 20th century would be a rejected green tea accord? Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert was originally created by Jean-Claude Ellena for Christian Dior, but at the last moment, the house decided on what is now Fahrenheit. A number of fragrance houses also shook their heads, until the Italian jeweler Bvlgari took a gamble on Ellena’s mod. The rest is history.

the bleu

Today, despite its young age, a mere 23 years, Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert is in the pantheon of perfumery classics for its laconic composition and distinctive character. The theme invites plenty of variations and none have been more interesting than Bvlgari’s own. The green tea note can be embellished with orange blossom and bitter herbs (Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc), pepper and fig (Eau Parfumée au Thé Rouge), or, as is the case with the latest sequel, Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu, iris and lavender.

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Guerlain L’Homme Ideal : Fragrance Review

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The first time I smelled Guerlain’s L’Homme Idéal, I chuckled, because clearly, their ideal man is wearing a little black dress. Yes, L’Homme Idéal is a masculine twist on La Petite Robe Noire. But this kind of borrowing, right down to the toasted almond and praline details, is clever rather than boring. This is not just another bland and safe sports cologne, that’s for sure.

Guerlain-L-Homme-Ideal

The quest for an ideal man is nothing new, in life or in perfume, and Guerlain’s approach to L’Homme Idéal is rather humorous. Instead of using notes that for reasons of accident and culture came to be seen as the only ones appropriate to men, like lavender, herbs, cedarwood or mild spices, perfumer Thierry Wasser loads the composition with gourmand accents.  It tries to tempt men with the same delicious notes that made La Petite Robe Noire such a success. Continue reading →

Smell Bent Commando : Fragrance Review

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Andy discovers another cheap and chic perfume.

Smell Bent is a small, independent perfume company with an interest in keeping fragrance enjoyable, affordable, and, above all, fun. The cheeky names and concepts behind their fragrances, including Monaco-Dependent and Violet Tendencies might sound wacky, but in a market where we’re up to our noses in increasingly expensive niche perfumes, I find a playful and inexpensive line refreshing. After recently testing some perfumes from the brand, one stood out to me above the rest, a fragrance called Commando.

commando

At first I thought Commando would be bold and dynamic, as it sounded like a perfume one sprays on for combat. This was before I realized that the creator had another idea in mind—let it suffice to say that Commando is described “as close as it gets to wearing nothing at all.” Likewise, Commando is best described as a skin scent, though wearing it hardly feels like wearing nothing. Commando is both simple and strangely intriguing despite only two distinguishable notes, of musk and tonka. On the whole, this fragrance has little in the way of development, but the overall light and luminous effect is more than the sum of its parts.

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