5 stars: 110 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.

Revolutionary Perfume : A Brief History of Chypre

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1917 was the year when the Bolshevik Revolution took place. It was also the year when another revolution happened. It wasn’t bloody, its scale was small, but for the history of perfumery it was as galvanizing as the events in Russia for the rest of the world. This revolution was the creation of Chypre by François Coty. The name Chypre referred to the island of Cyprus, which had been famous for its fragrant moss since antiquity, and while chypre-style fragrances, warm and moss-laden, were popular long before Coty’s creation, his Chypre of 1917 was different.

For one thing, Coty wasn’t afraid of making bold statements. To give a heavy note of oakmoss radiance, he used a novel aroma-chemical called isobutyl quinoline. Pure, it smelled pungently of leather and burned rubber, but when used as part of an accord with bergamot, dry woods and moss, its effect became sensual and luminous. Coty then increased the proportion of green notes and added a delicate floral twist. Chypre evoked the Mediterranean sea breeze and lemon orchards and reminded you that even on the most sunlit of days, shadows are present. Dark leather and inky moss provided the dramatic contrast in his composition.

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Neela Vermeire Creations Niral : Fragrance Review

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My saris are my personal archaeological layers. The turquoise and saffron one was bought from a market in Pune on my very first trip to India. The magenta one with the border of gold thread woven into the peacock pattern came from a cavernous shop in Gujarat, where I sat in a hot daze surrounded by towering stacks of silks. The hot pink one with the silver embroidery was a nod to Mumbai fashions circa 2005 picked up on a whim, along with matching bangles. The sienna and orange one was given to me on my wedding day by my parents-in-law.

My saris live in a box and I wear them only when I’m in India. Here, in Belgium, they don’t feel right. A sari needs the context–the music, the movement, the heat, the chaos of an Indian wedding. So I spread them out on the furniture to enjoy their colors, but I drape myself in a sari-like perfume of layers and folds. Like Neela Vermeire’s Niral, for instance.

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Penhaligon’s Ostara : Fragrance Review

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My tastes for white florals are indiscriminate, encompassing everything from vulgar things like Guerlain Mayotte to prim school governess types like Jessica McClintock. But even I can get tired of the genre and retreat to other pastures for a change–dry woods and damp mosses, perhaps. This is what happened for most of last year, when I was so satiated with white florals that I declared a moratorium on new acquisitions. But it’s a testament to Pehnaligon’s Ostara’s loveliness that despite my best intentions, I ended up breaking my resolve.

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Ostara shines brightly to me for its surprising combination of the lush, decadent heft that makes lovers of white florals swoon and the exhilarating springtime freshness. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour built the composition around the theme of narcissus, a flower that on a stem smells honeyed and indolic, but when turned into essence becomes leathery, musky and somber. Ostara melds both facets, but it stays on the sunny side.

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Mysore Sandal Soap : Bath & Body Review

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Does luxury need to come with a big price tag? If you take a stroll around any department store, you might come away with that conclusion. But if your shopping strategy is more of the Poirot sleuthing variety, then you can turn up some affordable gems. My local India shop doesn’t fall under any definition of upscale. It’s a tiny, overcrowded space that smells pungently of cumin, wilting coriander greens and fried snacks. But it is here that I discovered my favorite soap of all, Mysore Sandal Soap. And it cost me 1.95 euros.

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Mysore Sandal soap is produced by Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited, a company owned by the Government of Karnataka, a southern Indian state famous for its sandalwood. Mysore sandalwood groves were plentiful at the turn of the century, but while Europe was engulfed in the First World War, the precious wood couldn’t be exported. In 1916, the Maharaja of Mysore established a company to use up the excess sandalwood, and Mysore Sandal soap still remains the company’s trademark. It bears a proprietary Geographical Indication seal and contains natural sandalwood oil.

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Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine : Perfume Review

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Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection is a mixed bag. It’s too large and hard to navigate. Some fragrances are excellent enough to justify the high prices; others barely stand out. I can list further complaints, but the truth is that I keep returning to the collection and smelling all of its launches, because when Tom Ford scores, he really does offer something impressive. Such is the case with Fleur de Chine.

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When I first tried Fleur de Chine, it intrigued me, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Shanghai Lily from the same Atelier d’Orient collection (it also includes Plum Japonais, Fleur de Chine and Rive d’Ambre) was an instant hit for its lush white flowers and generous dose of spice. Fleur de Chine wasn’t going to open up so easily, though. I loved its baroque, ornate character and its hints of retro glamour, but it took its time to grow on me.

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Latest Comments

  • Joyce in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Great article and video, thank you Victori! Also, you must have an amazing necklace collection😉 A favourite chypre (or rather, rose chypre), is Agent Provocateur’s first perfume (the pink bottle).… August 10, 2020 at 5:02pm

  • Karen A in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Wonderful informative video Victoria, thanks! Chypres and I sometimes don’t work out but when it does, oh my my! 31 Rue Cannon is truly one of my favorite fragrances. August 10, 2020 at 4:50pm

  • Victoria in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Skin allergies were the issue. To be honest, I can accept the moss restrictions (it’s not banned, just restricted in dosage), but there are many more other restrictions and bans… August 10, 2020 at 1:40pm

  • Marcia in New Style-Chypre Perfumes: Did I miss noting Chanel No. 19 or Deneuve in Tourmaline’s very comprehensive list? A lifelong Chypre admirer, an aunt who frequently went to the Caribbean gave me my first… August 10, 2020 at 12:36pm

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