Costume National Scent Intense – Back to Black

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Perfume Eau de Parfum

When seasonal trends pass, it’s time to return back to black, back to Costume National’s Scent Intense. I purchased this scent all the way back in 2005 from Kleins Perfumery, a little shop in my Melbourne neighbourhood of Fitzroy where I used to spend many hours wandering around. During a visit, I chanced upon Scent Intense sitting unassumingly on a shelf, sniffed the sprayer and sprayed it on the back of my hand on the way out. I couldn’t stop sniffing it all evening and went back the very next day to ask about the price. When I found out that it was over $200, all I could do was spray it one more time before leaving empty handed. It was simply too expensive for me. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So over the course of the next few months, I actually saved up and eventually purchased it, after of course, returning several times to spray it on my skin.

Costume National’s website gives a rather accurate description of Scent Intense: “An intense fragrance sublimated by the deep harmony of amber and cystine. The mystery and radiance of a timeless energy with woody accents and natural deep warmth”. Scent Intense’s version of amber formed my idea of what an amber note is supposed to be – a sweetness devoid of any candy-like elements, staying close to the skin that develops into a deeper warmth as the scent wears on. Apart from amber, floral jasmine and hibiscus notes soften it whilst ambergris comes in later to add an additional layer to the fragrance. This waxy resinous quality that balances the amber is perhaps what I enjoy the most about Scent Intense.

In the day, Scent Intense adds a modern edge but freshly worn at night, it becomes almost radiant in its warmth and depth, like the scent of a soft suede jacket holding its own in a smoky club.

As much as I love this scent, I also do wonder about its popularity. When I first purchased it, I hardly saw it sold anywhere else in Australia. However recently, its distribution has increased tremendously and is also often sold heavily discounted. In fact, I recently purchased it at one-third the price of what I paid for nearly eight years ago. I had to hold myself back from not purchasing additional bottles. In the blogosphere, I don’t seem to sense much love for Scent Intense, seldom seeing it being referenced to or mentioned. Not that I mind really, rather, more of an observation.

Incidentally, “Back to Black” is of course, also a reference to Amy Winehouse’s song of the same name. It was ten years ago that Amy Winehouse burst into the music scene with her first album “Frank”, exuding a charisma and an intensity matched only by her originality. Despite being embraced by the public, her own demons ultimately got the best of her. I miss her but am grateful that I can still continue to enjoy her body of work.

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Hermes Un Jardin En Mediterranée – Take Me Away

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Hermes Un Jardin En Mediterranee

Hermes Un Jardin En Mediterranée is a captivating scent. Conceived as “a walk through a dappled Mediterranean garden”, Mediterranée never fails to cheer me up a little. It transports me to a place so far away from work that it almost feels wrong wearing this to the office.

Mediterranée opens up with the freshness of lemon rind and the greenness of tomato and fig leaves along with some sharpness of unripe mango. The green mango note reminds me a lot of its relative in the same Garden Series by Hermes, Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. I adore these first few spritzes the best, although some I’m sure enjoy it less (e.g. Olfactoria’s review of this scent). If anyone knows of a fragrance that sustains these opening notes, do let me know!

The fleeting top notes soon gives way to the creamy heart of the scent. It is definitely a full fleshy fruit, too strong and sweet for a natural fig, more like fig on steroids. Florals and subtle woods also add depth to it. If this were a walk through a garden, it certainly has to be quite a damp garden. I’m not too sure what causes this but it is this dewy aspect that keeps it interesting for me and sets it apart from other fig scents. The whole scent doesn’t last too long, half a day at most. But before bowing out altogether, a slight sour note appears – nothing nasty, but rather adding to the realistic “fruity” aspect of the scent.

Amongst Hermes’ Garden Series scents, I easily enjoy Mediterranée the most. I find it versatile and charming, every bit as lovely as it was conceived to be.

 

Amouage Lyric Man – Man I Feel Like A Woman

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Alyssa Harad said it best in her novel “Coming to My Senses”, that “Perfume is decidedly not among the rarefied objects of desire – wine, music, art, and so on – whose collectors have celebrity advocates and a widely read literature of their own” so that a “perfume closet” metaphorical or not, is always on the edge of dissolving into one. I do not always speak openly about loving perfumes. It seems, well, a little strange. Even linking this to my Facebook page feels unnatural to me. After all, I have never actually heard any of my friends, male or female, espouse about the wonders of certain fragrance notes or scents, although quite clearly some of them have no problems drenching themselves in their fragrance of choice. Also, perfumes, colognes, fragrances, scents… isn’t talking about them just a tad effeminate?

Ok, so that brings me to Lyric Man by Amouage, a floral (rose!) fragrance for men. I have sampled many of Amouage scents prior to the latest Library Collection release and my overall feeling is that they make rich scents. It is almost impossible to test any other scents if I spray one of their scents anywhere on my skin. Lyric Man is certainly no exception. One spray is enough for it to linger on me for the entire day. I cannot detect the listed top bergamot note as the rose note almost overpowers everything else. However, unlike other sheerer rose fragrances (like Stella Summer Rose or Annick Goutal’s Rose Splendide), Lyric Man is undoubtedly creamier and fuller. Not unlike comparing Frederic Malle’s Une Rose to its more cheerful relative Lipstick Rose. Whilst lacking the fleshy aspect of Une Rose, sweetness from tropical fruits, complexity from spices and creaminess from vanilla and musk round up Lyric Man. I have read descriptions of the scent being grounded by wood and incense but those are absolutely lost on my skin. To me, Lyric Man smells almost more like the scent emanating from an oil burner to an actual perfume.

I love the rich fragrance of old garden roses, but oddly, I find myself not reaching out more often to Lyric Man. So why do I have these ambivalent feelings towards Lyric Man? Could it be that I really do feel uncomfortable wearing this because it is too floral for me without the “masculine” wood and incense? But if that was the case, then why would I be eyeing Hermessence Rose Ikebana? Why in the first place is Lyric Man a fragrance for men and not for women? Talking about perfume, writing about perfume and actual “masculine” scents like Lyric Man would be considered by many as “feminine”, yet most perfume “noses” out there are men. I am always slightly bewildered by the world of perfume and like Lyric Man, might perhaps be one of the reasons why I have sustained my interest in it over all these years.

Hussein Chalayan x Comme des Garcons Airborne – All Neon Like

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Citrus scents and Spring are obvious pairings. Similarly, Hussein Chalayan’s collaboration with Comme des Garcons (CDG) to create Airborne also makes sense. Both are edgy but often construct surprisingly accessible collections. The concept behind Airborne from Chalayan is compelling, in that he wanted to create a scent that captures his journeys from Cyprus to London, its notes morphing as it travels airborne from its Mediterranean origin to the urban landscape. Chalayan’s parents separated when he was young, with his father in London and his mother in Cyprus. So I can only imagine this fragrance as being quite personal for Chalayan.

Like many journeys, Airborne’s isn’t quite as straightforward as its listed notes suggest. I definitely do smell lemon and neroli in its opening but there’s also something else unusual there that always piques my interest. I suspect that this might be the listed mastic lentiscus resin note that creates an artificial light effect. This undercurrent strips Airborne off its natural greenness, lending to it a tension and a darker edge. It glows, even in sunlight, but never is its light pure. The crispness of juniper berries and cedar that come in later does nothing to dampen the synthetic nature of the scent. Airborne’s neon lights only begin to fade once the fragrance is well and truly on the verge of being completely airborne. Apparently, the flight time from Cyprus to London is just over four hours, which is just about the time Airborne’s journey lasts on my skin.

I love CDG fragrances. CDG 2 was the first “niche” fragrance I ever purchased and since then, my CDG collection has only grown considerably. So, I must admit that I am not entirely objective when it comes to CDG scents. Whilst I do feel that Airborne succeeds in its vision, I also know that this is a scent that will never be “personal” to me. I find it jarring at times, never soothing and obstinately uncompromising. Yet, there is an undertow that draws me back to it time and time again.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

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As I read an article in Marie Claire Australia’s November issue on a person’s experience losing her best friend to marriage, I began to think about the perfumes that I’ve lost and discarded along my own perfume journey.

Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee (PC) stands looming over my other fragrances from the back of the closet. It remains there and hardly gets bothered very much anymore. PC was released as a limited release in 2008, a flanker to the original A*Men. I’ve always wondered why people have such strong reactions to A*Men while I have only at most, “pleasant” feelings towards it. So when PC was released, I was intrigued and thought that perhaps it would be interesting to sniff since it did feature one of my favourite smells, coffee. A couple of sniffs at the perfume counter at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and a largely positive review by Kevin from Now Smell This sealed the deal for me.

It was love at first sniff. Smelling more like Starbucks’ Mocha Frappuccino then freshly ground coffee beans, I was only to happy to indulge. This sweet treat lasts for about an hour on me before the familiar original A*Men notes come into play as the mocha notes slowly retreat backstage. I don’t kiss and tell, so I won’t go into the details of how A*Men smells but safe to say, I’m sure most readers would have encountered A*Men at some point in time.

So when did the relationship begin to sour? It was almost three months in, when I decided to wear PC to work one day and I found that even after a single spray, PC completely overpowered me. Gone was the rush of its gourmand warmth, replaced instead by an overbearingly sweet patchouli vanilla relentlessness. Even the once harmless original A*Men notes could nowhere be found. Yet, I persisted. I tried to make it work. I wore PC in different weather conditions, different moods and different outfits in various combinations. Sadly, nothing worked.

In the original Marie Claire article, the author ends up realising that though friendship like life, changes, she and her best friend will always be there for one another. As for me and PC, breaking up is hard to do, but I did it anyway and have never looked back since. Amen to that.

 

Serge Lutens Daim Blond – Damn!

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Damn! In a good way. That was how I more or less felt when I first smelled this on a salesperson. I often read about how people say that when they wear this or that perfume, complete strangers will approach them and ask what scent they are wearing. Well, that never ever happens to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m aloof and unapproachable and/or my fragrances are not the most crowd-pleasing. That time however, I was that stranger who actually plucked up the courage to ask the salesperson what she was wearing, whereupon she promptly led me to Daim Blond and introduced me to the world of Serge Lutens. And what a world it is, although I must admit that I have trouble keeping up with all the regular (yearly?) new releases.

Before I even understood what “daim” actually meant, I already thought that Daim Blond was the softest suede I’ve ever encountered. It was only after wearing it several times did I pick up a slight apricot note. In my mind, that translates as the fuzzy ombre orange-red colour of apricot skin, rather than the actual juicy fruit. Daim Blond settles the way it starts, but with added comforting notes of iris and musk. I don’t ever find it cloying the way some other Serge Lutens scents can be. Two sprays on me is enough, especially if one is just on my chest and I get wafts of soft leather throughout the day for my own enjoyment.

Since Daim Blond, I have acquired several other Serge Lutens scents and had the opportunity to visit Les Salons du Palais Royale whilst in Paris. My experience there was no different from what I’ve come to learnt of in reviews post-visit: lovely in every aspect. It is a good thing that I live in a land far far far away. Otherwise, my bank balance would be shouting out “Damn” too.

Lady Gaga Fame vs The Body Shop Love Etc – Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)

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A short rant today.

Wandering around the fragrance aisle of Myer, I was (hopefully accidentally) spritzed with Lady Gaga’s Fame perfume. I can’t believe it took me till today’s incident to figure out that Fame is a carbon copy of The Body Shop’s Love Etc.

I’m still not exactly too sure of how I ended up with a small bottle of Love Etc but it now sits proudly on top of my ahem… toilet. Love Etc’s sweetness packs a mighty punch with incredible sillage and longevity. I envisage it being worn by someone who really loves pink. It is meant to be a bit of fun. I’m a spoilsport for using it the way I do. Writing this, I also just found out that Love Etc was developed by Dominique Ropion. Yes, the Dominique Ropion! What?!

Back to Fame. It took three perfumers to develop a copy of Love Etc and an amazing team to construct the marketing campaign. Coty spared no expenses here. A black liquid that sprays clear. Cutting edge and really, pretty cute ads. The copy lists notes of belladonna, tiger orchidea, honey, etc. I say, forget that. For a more accurate portrayal of Fame, look up Love Etc’s listed notes instead. I also guess that the marketing team figured out that they should extend Love Etc’s reach, so to make it more accessible, they watered down the juice.

In the words of Lady Gaga herself: Eh eh, there’s nothing else I can say.

Images taken from http://hauslaboratories.com/haus and http://www.thebodyshop-usa.com

L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing – Am I Not Pretty Enough?

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Driving through regional Australia for the majority of the past week, I’ve come to once again appreciate the uniqueness of Australia’s greenery. Against the harsh climate of the outback, its greens are subdued with shades of olive and gold and the land is dry with amber rubble. It was therefore fitting that L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing was my fragrance of choice for this little road trip.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing is described as a “magical evocation of the circus”, its quirkiness represented on its label by a drawing of a circus performer riding a tiger. I remember being quite taken aback when I first sniffed this several years ago. it was simply different from anything I’ve ever encountered bottled up. Dzing opens up unapologetically with intense notes of leather, woods and civet. A soft powdery hay vanillic undertone soon appears and it remains this way for quite a while. However, this soft sweetness is never really allowed to shine as it is constantly challenged by sharp wafts of wood polish interweaving itself into the mix. Unfortunately for me, Dzing is short-lived on my skin, lasting for only about four hours.

I can see Dzing’s circus connotations, but to me, it reminds me more of a polished wooden trunk housed in a farmyard barn. Dzing is not a pretty scent. I feel it to be anti-social and often wear it when I’m alone. It doesn’t aim to please. It simply is what it is and kicks ass because of that.

On a side note, Kasey Chamber’s Not Pretty Enough popped into my head as I was writing this. There was no escape from it when it was released in Australia. Listening to it now, it simply reminds me how popular music has changed.

Comme des Garcons Series 5 Sherbet: Rhubarb – Who’s Up For A Fruity Tart?

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It is a clear spring day today here in Sydney and my tart, Rhubarb by Comme des Garcons (CDG), called out to me. Rhubarb was released as part of a series by CDG, along with Cinnamon and Peppermint. Cinnamon was too savoury, Peppermint was too aloof, but Rhubarb was just right.  I have many CDG scents but Rhubarb is the one that I find myself reaching out to the most.

I don’t normally associate sherbets with smells, rather, a feeling that cuts through the palate. In that sense, I feel that Rhubarb certainly does fulfill the brief. On first spray, it jolts my senses with a tart rhubarb iciness that permeates myself and the air around me. I avoid eating anything rhubarb-flavoured but I love its smell. Go figure.

Rhubarb is selfish. It doesn’t feel the need to share its opening with any other notes, taking up the spotlight for the first hour or two. Only then, it starts to play nice, losing some of its crispness and other creamier notes begin to peek through. I detect some vanilla and rose amongst the main rhubarb note. The entire scent itself doesn’t last too long on me. In about four hours, I struggle to detect anything unless I press my nose right against the skin.

I enjoy Rhubarb. It possesses the same element of quirkiness that runs through the CDG perfumes family. Occasionally, it also reminds me of Multiple Rouge by Humiecki & Graef, although Rhubarb is surely its mischievous child. Fruity florals are a dime a dozen these days, from celebrity scents like Fame by Lady Gaga to pretty much almost anything Vera Wang releases. Whilst there’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those scents, I prefer a unique point of view and that’s definitely present in this tart of mine.

Chanel Ēgoïste – Touched For The Very First Time

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It was almost twenty years ago since I purchased my first bottle of Ēgoïste. Well, technically it was Mom who purchased it for me the first time. Although my memory is now deteriorating at a much faster pace than I would like, I still remember that purchase quite distinctly. Our family was on an international flight back from a holiday and I was allowed to buy a single in-flight duty free item as a treat. I was terribly excited and without even a prior sniff, I immediately begged for Ēgoïste. Why? I blame their sleek TV ads that filtered into my subconscious. And somehow, even at that young age, I knew that it was Chanel.

Thankfully, it was love at first sniff and I’ve never looked back since. In fact, it was probably Ēgoïste that piqued my curiosity and led me down the rabbit hole. I’ve read how Ēgoïste has changed ever so slightly over the years but I think the general consensus is that today’s formulation has held up pretty well. It blasts off on my skin with an explosion of alcoholic powdery greens and spices. The alcoholic aspect soon fades away and it continues on me this way for the next hour or so. I normally spritz this under my shirt near my collarbone as I find this initial phase can be quite overpowering for others around me. It is the next stage that I love the most. I’ve often read that Ēgoïste is primarily an oriental sandalwood scent. Whilst I do detect woods peeking through, on me, it only acts as a base for the rose and the gourmand notes that emanate from my skin. Many of my friends used to say that I smelled like apple pie whenever I wore this. Frankly, after so many years of wear, all I do smell now is “deliciousness”. The dry down comes only several hours later, a seemingly musky vanilla base which I find comforting. Ēgoïste never ventures into the “dirty scent” nor “grandma floral” territory but does smell a tad dated compared to the sheer freshness and edge of recent years’ new releases.

Despite delving into the world of niche perfumes since, I have repurchased Ēgoïste many times over the years. I reach for it almost automatically when I can’t decide what else to wear and even wear it to bed.

I adore Ēgoïste. Maybe because it evokes such great memories and emotions. Maybe because it was the first perfume I ever owned. Maybe it is a truly great scent. I will never know.