Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Clinique (Prescriptives) Calyx: The Resurrection Of The Fruit Salad

The close of 2013 saw the re-launch of Calyx, a fragrance that stomped all over it’s much maligned fruity floral genre with steel capped DM boots. Formerly manufactured by Prescriptives (an Estee Lauder Group company who disappeared into the murky depths of ‘internet only’), this long lost perfume has been resurrected under the brand Clinique. It is in effect – a zombie perfume, that which is back from the dead.

It’s not alone. That’s the thing about Zombies – they multiply. Whilst in the films they are resurrected as a rapidly decomposing reanimated (and therefore worse) version of their former living selves, it seems that perfume zombies are frequently making a come back as a ‘poshed up’ version, often with a much increased price tag and a fancy new bottle.

Recent Zombies of the posh variety have included Carven’s delightfully mossy green chypre – Ma Griffe which reappeared in a remarkably classy bottle, accompanied by a winsome sister in the form of Le Parfum, created by Perfumer de jour – Francis Kurkdijan. A 100 ml bottle of ‘new’ Ma Griffe costs about £75, whereas 100 ml of ‘old’ Ma Griffe is easily available on Ebay and at dilapidated seaside town chemist shops for about £30. I have no idea if they smell like each other or not, only that when I wore a sample of the new version to a summer wedding last year I felt elegant and a bit snooty.

Caron’s Zombies are walking the earth too, with Bellodgia regenerating as ‘Pui Bellodgia’ and Parfum Sacre becoming, well a less lipsticky version of Parfum Sacre, and much the better for it it is too.  Again, the price tag has jumped unfeasibly high for the reforms. In similarity to Carven, they too have gained a new sibling, in the form of My Ylang, a startlingly vibrant floral that sits high up on my want list.

Back to Calyx.

I don’t really recall the original very clearly, although I should given that it was enormously popular in my teenage years, not quite in the league of CK One and The Body Shop’s Dewberry Oil, but well loved by a generation.  Note to teenage self: don’t put Dewberry Oil inside your New Balance rave trainers, it will make them smell worse than the effects of twelve hour’s dancing inside a sweaty industrial unit..

According to Clinique’s publicity department, it contains exactly the same notes as it’s former self, of which there are many. It’s essentially a highly tart tropical fruit salad with a strong lily of the valley green astringency. Despite not being generally fond of Muguet, I like it enormously. Tropical scents tend to expel an eau de naff, being essentially sweet, fruity and a bit giggly. They are the starting point of teenage girlhood, for those who have yet to appreciate the eroticism of a heavily spiced oriental or the grown-up glamour of a dry chypre. Even worse, they are a frequent sub genre of the celebrity scent, touted by C list celebrities who like their fans to believe that they smell of lurid sweets and sugar. However, Calyx exists for grown ups being entirely devoid of anything resembling ‘sweet’. This is how it wears:

Upon the first spray, you are hit by an enormous whiff of passion fruit, sharp, tart passion fruit, not that of the gourmand desert variety. This soon wears off leaving a multi-faceted fruit salad. Again, not sweet, more lush in an aquatic manner. You can sense cucumber, melon and all sorts of other watery delights. This is topped with a slightly herbal quality, essentially the scent of ‘green’. Cassia and mint notes project a sensation of bracing radiance that uplifts you in similarity to the effect of a citrus cologne. An hour or so into it’s wear, floral and mossy notes dominate the fruit. For oakmoss chypre lovers, this is where you’ll feel a great sense of gratification, for it is truly ‘forest floor’. The mossy quality blends seamlessly with lily of the valley, again proliferating the essence of verdant foliage. Lily of the valley tends to appear overly artificial to my nose, but here it creates a highly natural sense of the outdoors which appeals to my city-locked claustrophobia enormously.

In short, I’m impressed.

Now then Clinique, please can we bring Wrappings back to life too and resurrect it from it’s gift set grave at Harrods?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

My Collection, How Much Is Enough? Plus - A Giveaway!

A popular thread on the forums of Fragrantica and Basenotes is ‘Perfume Collection Show-off’, an intriguing and addictive spot where you can ogle lovingly posed photographs of the collections of your peers. An oppositional and equally intriguing thread also often appears, entitled ‘How much is Enough?’

After viewing photos of Facebook friend Paul’s gargantuan collection (inhabiting a floor to ceiling IKEA style open shelving unit), I began to ponder my own (and much more modest) collection. I would love to be left alone with Paul’s shelving for a greedy olfactory party but if I owned it, it would be a nagging source of worry. I’d fear for all the molecular disintegration and the stress of working out “Erm.. What shall I wear today?!”.

 Paul's astounding collection

What I did find pleasing upon perusal of the photo, was the mixture of niche and high street fragrances, suggesting that Paul buys his scents without brand bias. Inevitably, we’ll be repeatedly drawn to houses that use a familiar base across a range, such as Guerlain’s infamous Guerlinade or Ormonde Jayne’s peppery wood, if we feel a desire for the base. However, the true fumie explores everything by everyone, even if costs £20 from Marks and Sparks.

Fragrantica members store their perfumes on a virtual glass shelf, each shelf contains space for ten. I have a personal ‘wobble point’ when I spill over onto shelf four. Somehow, more than thirty FBs (an abbreviation of ‘full bottles’ used by the community to exclude decants and samples) seems overly decadent to me and as Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume suggested, we will probably be outlived by our perfumes.  This is amplified further by the fact that bloggers spend a lot of fragrant time wearing samples, hoping that the inner muse will inspire us to write about them. During this time our own bottles patiently wait, craving attention in the cupboard.
Fragrantica shelves

Since taking these photographs, a large bottle of Perles De Lalique arrived which further wobbled my shelf number four. As it’s an utterly beautiful keeper, something will have to go!
So I set about analysing my FB wardrobe. I divided it into 3 piles:

The A list: Beloved perfumes that I would feel comfortable wearing all the time, they complement my personality and make me consistently happy.

The B list: (specialists): Perfumes that I don’t wear very regularly but turn to for specific occasions or to create a particular mood. My ‘travelling’ scents appear here, e.g. those that I might wear in bed to take me somewhere in my imagination such as a forest or historical location.

The C list: Those that I don’t truly love but for some reason can’t get rid of, they still have a hold over me.

As you’ll see from my collection, I have wide ranging tastes, from haughty chypres to buxom orientals. Citrus features strongly, as does wood. The only missing genres are ouds and heavy gourmands, both of which I generally struggle to feel the love for. My collection has changed rapidly over recent years but is now slowing down as the abundance of samples I amass sates my thirst for smelling everything.

I apologise for the lack of correct French accents and possible incorrect spellings. As I write I’m recovering from flu, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa and frankly can’t be bothered checking in with Professor Google and his wife Madame Online International Keyboard.
Links have been set up on those that have appeared in reviews, just click on the perfume’s name to be transferred.

The A list (clockwise from the back):

Caron – Eau de Reglisse EDT (my first and my greatest niche purchase)
Dior – Escale Aux Marquises EDT
Ormonde Jayne – Ormonde Woman EDP
Trish McEvoy – Gardenia Musk No.4 EDT
Robert Piguet – Calypso EDP
Penhaligon’s – Lavandula EDP
Yves Rocher  - Cedre Bleu EDC (I am going to weep inconsolably when this discontinued exercise is the beauty of woods runs out, amazingly, it cost me £7)
Guerlain – Mitsouko EDT

The B list (clockwise from the back):

Yves Rocher – Essence Neroli EDP purse spray (behind the Guerlain mini)
Guerlain – L’ Instant de Guerlain Parfum (ltd edition bottle)
Parfums de Nicolai – L’ Eau Mixte EDT
Robert Piguet – Visa EDP (Miniature roll on)
Guerlain – Vintage Shalimar EDC (yes, it’s true, in perfect nic, wohoo!)
Guerlain – Vol de Nuit EDT (refill bottle)
Guerlain - Mitsouko EDP (I prefer the EDT, hence why this one is on my B list)
Serge Lutens – Fille en Aiguilles EDP (this would be on my A list were it not so perfect for going to bed in a forest
Guerlain – Eau Imperiale EDC
Guerlain – Habit Rouge EDT
Penhaligon’s - Cornubia EDP
Yves Rocher – Vanille Noire EDP
Guerlain – L’ Heure Bleue EDT
Mauboussin – Mauboussin EDP (this should actually be A list!)
Neal’s Yard – Pure Essence Rose No. 2 EDP

The C list (from left to right)

Guerlain – L’ Instant Magic
L’ Occitane – Eau Ravissante
Annick Goutal – Musc Nomade
Donna Karan – Essence Labdanum
Chopard – Casmir (a most peculiar oriental, but look at the bottle, how could anyone get rid of this beautiful gold minaret?)

What I would add to the collection if I could currently afford it: Jovoy – Psychedelique, Jul et Mad – Terrasse a Saint Germain, Caron – My Ylang, Neela Vermeire –Mohur, YSL – In Love Again (I tried with this one but bought a dud vintage, boo..), Cartier – Essence du Bois, Olfactive Studio – Chambre Noir, Chanel – Cristalle Eau Verte, 4160 Tuesdays – Urara’s Tokyo CafĂ©.

When I observe my collection in this detached way, I see a haul of fumes that differ wildly from each other. However, there is a distinct link – they are all (perhaps with the exception of the last two on the C list) very easily wearable and do not represent an olfactory challenge. Which is probably why I have only reviewed about a third of them for Odiferess.  Imagine trying to review Mitsouko, where would you start? This seamless ‘liquid nice’ is impossible to describe without drawing on history and mythology and turning it into a thesis. 

Although ‘wearable beauty’ defines my ownership, the avant-garde and conceptual more frequently stirs my creativity, prompting me to write about scents that I would be highly unlikely to buy a bottle of.

So dear readers, I ask you, is there a defining trait in your collection? Do you have a narrow or vast genre appreciation? Do you possess a haul to rival Paul’s creaking shelves or, alike Jean Lindsay, just one faithful signature scent?

Leaves your comments below or on the facebook page to be entered into a draw to win a  sample of my gorgeous newbie – Perles de Lalique (see, I’m already trying to get it used up!). The draw will be UK only due to our daft postal rules, as usual, sorry to my International readers but please do join in, I appreciate you!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Humorous Look At The Trauma of Discontinuation And A Review Of Yves Rocher, Nature Millenaire

The writing of this post began on Sunday Evening..

We possessed years of shared experiences, moments of euphoric happiness; we ate chips from a paper wrap on the seafront in Whitby, danced all night with the trannies at legendary Leeds night club – Vague, we camped and hiked in the verdant hills of North Yorkshire, lost time together in the debauchery of the fields of Glastonbury, got drunk and sang along theatrically to Kate Bush records and cosied up close in the baltic cold of my tatty flat. Then you left me.. and I can’t even remember your name.

The melancholy of discontinuation (possibly) by Picasso 

I speak not of a man, but of the fragrant hole left behind by my favourite discontinued scent. The scent was a kind of aromatic body spritz by the French natural skincare company – Decleor. It smelt of licorice, spice and citrus, I‘ve spent years trying and failing to remember it’s name. This happened some 8 or 9 years ago and the only fragrance that has offered a ghost of the memory has been Caron’s Eau de Reglisse (which is extraordinarily beautiful in it’s own right). 

Which brings me to the frantic and emotional search that is the phenomena of ‘hunt my beloved discontinued scent’, a task undertaken by thousands of fume junkies across the world. Really, we should give up and accept the fact that it’s gone. After all, it’s not like having a limb blown off on a peacekeeping army mission or the sad demise of years amassed in a loving relationship. I did spend a few (hopeless) years talking to (clueless) Decleor ladies in department stores, I even wrote several times to Decleor directly. The trouble is that my bottle ran out about a year after it’s demise from the shop shelves, I was too late.

It’s perceivable that it didn’t sell very well given that it was a rather quirky product in a mass market line. I guess that’s why it disappeared. What is surprising though is the departure of scents such as Dior’s Midnight Poison without a subsequent resurrection. Take a peak at the prices that this scent draws on Ebay. People will pay a lot of money for even a half full bottle which might have gone off languishing in it’s own headspace for too many years. Dior must know of it’s hardcore of obsessive fans, so why don’t they bring it back?

Yesterday I arranged a swop with a fellow Fragrantica member. In return for my unloved Annick Goutal’s Vanille Exquise (an example of why I should never blind buy from a house that I’m not enamored by in the first place) she has promised me a slightly used bottle of Yves Rocher’s Nature Millenaire and a few other goodies. I’ve never smelt this iconic discontinued scent but the notes sound splendid, a highly natural exercise in the woody oriental genre. It was authored by Olivier Cresp, who ironically also created the long lost Midnight Poison, amongst other mainstream giants such as Angel and niche darlings Olfactive Studio’s Flash Back.

Whilst arranging our swop, I googled the scent and checked out it’s reviews on Fragrantica. I was amazed to find that there is a Facebook group dedicated to trying to tempt Yves Rocher to re-release it!  Additionally, it’s Fragrantica page revealed ardent fans bemoaning it’s departure and sharing tips on other perfumes that smell a little like it in a desperate attempt to recreate the sensation. It was well loved..  

As I write this post it’s Sunday. I’ll return when I receive the parcel. Oh the anticipation.!

Today (Wednesday):

It’s here.

I peg it home from work via the Royal Mail depot. Entering the flat, I abandon my usual routine of coat off, boots off, heating on, hands cleansed of teenage student effluence and kettle switched to ‘desperate for a brew’ mode. Instead, I grab my trusty Stanley knife and settle myself on the sofa in readiness to gouge at the mass of brown packing tape. Three perfumes are in the fortress like box, Nature Millenaire, Donna Karran’s Essence Labdanum and another Yves Rocher creation that I’ve owned before, Vanille Noire.

My new brown scent collection

Of course I grab Nature Millenaire first.

The bottle is in great condition, with only 1 or 2ml missing I am hopeful that it won’t have turned. After all, this thing could be between 8 to 13 years old and vintage fumes are decidedly risky.  With a significantly increased heart beat, I offer up my wrist and take a lengthy indulgent spray..

Crikey, this juice is strange! I immediately understand two things; firstly, why it was destined for discontinuation being clearly far too odd to sell to a mass market clientele on the high streets of Europe, secondly, I appreciate why it has a such a dedicated following of heart broken fans. It is utterly unique, like nothing I have ever smelt before.

I rather like the moulded glass bottle

As I write I am at the ‘four hours in’ point. The first two or three hours have been arduous because it reeks of benzoin. Although this would be a state of bliss for many oriental lovers, benzoin is a difficult note for me. I own a bottle of pure benzoin tincture which I have used in my perfumery experiments. Benzoin is a key ingredient in orientals, providing a stable, slightly spicy and warming base note in similarity to vanilla but less obviously sweet. It appears as an anchor in a great many perfumes and (playing a supporting role) you are unlikely to smell it with absolute clarity. Alike jasmine, it’s an Odiferess bogey man. I don’t mind either of them hovering in background far away from me, but if they get up close it’s an olfactory terror. Remember ‘Anusol’? This benzoin rich antiseptic pile ointment was coined by the beauty press as ‘the greatest cure for under eye bags’ in the nineties. At risk of sounding coarse, hell I’ll do it anyway, benzoin whiffs of bum cream..

Ignoring the fact that (for me) it borders on the vile, this is a startlingly original niche perfume. Behind the great wodge of dominant benzoin lies a slightly woody note, which I interpret as cedar. I sense a little cinnamon too but benzoin itself shares similarities with this note. As it progresses a dirty musk and a leathery labdanum note appear. At this point I’ve moved into Etat Libre D’ Orange territory, where I smell much too close to feral. As I write my last words of this review, what remains is a soft ghost of the above combined with a distinct tonka/coumarin note. I feel less disgusted now but I’m going to scrub hard before I write my conclusion.

It won’t wash off. To those Fragranticans who have stated that it has poor lasting poor, you are wrong! I won’t be keeping this bottle. I’ll be swopping or selling it to a new owner, hopefully someone who has spent the last 8 years trying to get hold of a bottle and will melt with pleasure at the delight of it’s skanky embrace. It could potentially appeal to those who enjoy Hermessence Ambre Narguile or PG’s Tonkamande. Although it doesn’t smell like either of them at the outset, it does project (slight) similarities to aspects of both towards the end.

My swop wasn’t a total disaster as the Donna Karan Essence Labadnum is a bonkers beast! A bottle of incense and leather as unsettlingly peculiar as it is magnificent. This will be an another story for Odiferess..

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Guest Writer Jean Lindsay, On Loyalty To The Signature Scent

A signature scent is something that we fume junkies may have had many years ago, before our addiction led us to a vast and confusing wardrobe. I sometimes wonder if my ever changing fragrance takes away my identity, in that I don't have a recognisable smell that 'is me'. If others truly identify us by smell as much as the more tangible senses such a sight, I may be perceived as someone with a multiple personality disorder!

For this reason, as the new year dawns, I resolve to buy less perfumes and maintain some regular smells rather than spending my days in 'eau de decant' and 'extrait de sample'.

Someone without this problem is guest writer, Jean Lindsay. Here she speaks of what the 'signature scent' means to her:

My Perfumed Identity

We will attack the Boxing Day sales – my daughter, and I. Do we battle through the traffic into the city centre? Not a bit of it. We drive through quiet roads and park in an almost empty car park. A sign of these frugal times no doubt.

            I live in one of the smallest cities in the country and perfume departments are a bit thin on the ground, so our store of choice is Boots. The lovely gift sets that should have sold before Christmas but didn’t, have been drastically reduced and today is obviously the day to pick up a massive bargain.

            Now, I can count on the fingers of one hand the perfumes I’ve worn over my lifetime. I do that and it amounts to five, the first being Chanel no. 5, bought as a present when my ex husband enjoyed a business trip to Paris perhaps a little too much, so it doesn’t really count as it wasn’t my choice and most of the bottle was tipped over my toddler daughter’s head as she sat at my dressing table - not by me I hasten to add.

So that leaves four, over a period of maybe forty five years:
Estee Lauder, Estee
Estee Lauder, Youth Dew
Yves Saint Laurent, Opium
Clinique Aromatics Elixir

So as you can see, I don’t change my perfumes that often, and when I am wearing the now perfume, I wear no other. I am completely faithful and buy bottle after bottle of it for years. My bedroom smells of it. My wardrobe smells of it and my clothes, scarves, coat collars and even the cat smell of it. I become that perfume and it becomes me and I don’t look for any other. I went to a function a little while ago and a man I hadn’t seen for twenty years turned around – he’d had his back to me, and said,

‘Hello, I knew it was you I recognised your perfume.’

That perfume was Aromatics Elixir.

However. The Estee Lauder counter is displaying reduced gift sets and my daughter points out to me a set containing a large bottle of Youth Dew and a lovely white ceramic bottle of body cream. Unbelievable! The whole lot for under £25. I have a spray from the trial bottle and the memories come flooding back – some good and some not so good. It must be nigh on thirty years since I wore Youth Dew. Well! A bargain like this is not to be sniffed at- excuse the pun, and so I buy it.

It’s almost a week later I’m having a real battle persuading myself to use it as I’m still loving Aromatics. I’m trying my very best to make friends with the amber contents of the waisted bottle and so I wear it to the supermarket this morning, but it doesn’t smell like me at all. Perhaps I’ll wear the complete works on New Year’s Eve – body lotion on the arms and legs and clouds of perfume elsewhere, and maybe I’ll create some new good memories.

Jean Lindsay 2013