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Thursday, December 19, 2013

This really Gauls me: DSH Perfumes Passport to Paris Collection

By Donna

Artisan perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes has presented another set of perfumes based on a collaboration with the Denver Art Museum, an artistic venture that brought us such past gems as the Secrets of Egypt fragrances and the YSL Retrospective collection. The new trio, inspired by iconic works of French art, is called the Passport to Paris collection. Each one was made to reflect the character of a particular piece, and after testing these all I can say is get me on a flight to France immediately if this is what happens when one contemplates French masterpieces.

I began with the delicately delicious Amouse Bouche, which translates (very) loosely to “there's a party in my mouth.” I only wished that I could have a real strawberry confection like this to eat instead of being tantalized by the perfume. It is a gourmand with a feather-light touch, beginning with a realistic strawberry note heightened by lemon before the florals, including rose, jasmine and ylang ylang chime in to ensure that it's more than just a novelty scent. Soon the gourmand notes of tonka bean, buttered brioche and vanilla show up, and their restrained sweetness makes this smell like a sophisticated pastry, the kind that's almost too pretty to eat. I am a huge fan of strawberry in perfume, and therefore I am very critical of it when it's done badly. This is exactly right, and as a gourmand fragrance it's just sweet enough to make you want more, as though you were looking with longing into the storefront of a patisserie that has closed for the day and you have to be satisfied with the lingering aroma in the air. Amouse Bouche was made to match the mood of Toulouse-Lautrec's “The Dunce's Cap' and it is as lighthearted as its inspiration.

Vers la Violette is entirely different, a moody green violet perfume with a refined sueded base. Its touchstone was a pastoral painting by Post-Impressionist painter Hippolyte Petitjean. I adore violets, so I was predisposed to like it, and it exceeded my expectations. Look “French perfume” up in the dictionary and you might well find a picture of this; nothing could be more Parisian than a bunch of violets, and this fragrance exudes chic right from the beginning. It is subtle but not wistful as the green notes of galbanum and oakmoss keep it away from the fainting couch; instead it strides breezily down the boulevard, cool and confident. This is the kind of violet fragrance that a man can wear with ease – notes of lemon, leather and ionone tamp down the floral sweetness. The perfumer really has a way with this fragile and temperamental floral; this is just about the polar opposite of her amazing Quinacridone Violet but no less deftly composed and it shows the range of possibilities to be discovered for the humble yet beautiful violet. It might even remind you a little of Balmain's Jolie Madame with its violets and leather, but with the chypre darkness replaced by buoyant spring green. If you can't be in Paris for the April violets, just wear Vers la Violette instead.

Passport à Paris was a real surprise; it was the last one I tested, I did not expect that it would become quite strong on my skin after the initial impression of bergamot, anise and lavender made me think it would be as delicate as the other two. It is a classic fougère with a twist; as it develops it becomes richly animalic and decadently powdery, laden with patchouli, rosewood, civet, coumarin (of course) and sandalwood and with impressive staying power. The perfumer took her inspiration from Claude Monet's “The Beach at Trouville” which is a glimpse into the life of the upper classes taking the air at a seaside resort. It owes more to iconic unisex perfumes like Guerlain's Jicky than to strait-laced English style fougères that conform to a narrow definition of what “men's colognes” should smell like. (Don't worry, it's not a huge stonking monster like Drakkar Noir either!) This juice is anything but stuffy, spicy-powdery but with a soapy back beat that is irresistible, like a really sexy man fresh out of the shower, wrapped in a towel and shaving with a creamy lather, and all you can think of is unwrapping him. I don't often wear traditional masculine fragrances myself except for a few favorites like Grey Flannel, but I would wear this one, if only to conjure up a mental image of the guy in the towel...but I digress. Passport à Paris is as good as it gets in the fougère department in my opinion, but don't take my word for it, since I am not as well versed in this genre as I could be. I can only say that both men and women should give it a try, because it's really great.

Image credit: Eiffel Tower wallpaper (the kind you can buy in a roll) from; also available as fabric. I want some!
Disclosure: the fragrance samples for this review were given to me by DSH perfumes.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Case of the Blahs

By Tom

First of all, happy holidays to you all. I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading your comments here and on the Posse. You really make my week, every week.

I'm afraid I ain't got nothin' for you this week though, since the scents I smelled this week were just sort of "meh." Not awful enough to make me rub my little paws together and plan exactly what turn of phrase I should use to curb-stomp it out of existence, nor one that would send me into flights of fancy as to describing what sort of situation it reminded me of in language so freaking flowery you could smell it from 100 feet. Like dung.

Just "Meh."

So I will leave you with this post until we take it up again in 2014 (how did that happen?) after the holidays are over. I wish all of you a happy, healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year!

Image: Wikipedia

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Favorites

By Tom

Winter is a great time of year for me. Mainly since in the Los Angeles area of California the temps are usually fairly gentle in the day and the worst we get at night will be in the high 30's. (The downside of that is that most buildings here aren't very well insulated, so you're going to have to have quite a few blankets on hand..)

One of those "blankets" can be scents. Wearing some of the ones that I really like in Winter in Summer would feel like wearing a down coat and boots.

I'm just going to list three, off the top of my head:

Rahat Loukoum: Cherries, almonds and musk. Gorgeous, and gorgeous on, but would feel like drowning if I wore it outside in August. Back in the day I wrote: " It opens with a hit of bright, boozy cherries that remind me of (oh god, here he comes with the stories again...) my first job after college. I worked at Dean and Deluca in New York, and one of the things we sold were incredibly boozy fruits in, well, booze. Raspberries in framboise and cherries in cherry marnier. The opening of Rahat Loukoum smells exactly what it smelled like taking the cork out of the wide mouth of that big 8 quart jar. Rich cherries, almond and spikey booze."Yup, and still gorgeous. Available in the US via Barney's on Madison Ave and the Serge Lutens website in the bell jar for $300.

Le Labo Patchouli 24: Tarry, smoky, leathery and wholly delightful, this is one that I'd still do on a summer evening when the temps drop, but just the barest touch. I wrote back in the day: "As Le Labo states 'patchouli is not easy to detect in this formula'. That's an understatement. Patchouli is almost nowhere to be detected in this one. I'd be seriously upset by this, but what is there is so wonderful, I don't much care. The patchouli is in fact there, but it's very dry and somewhat dusty, like ancient leaves of the plant combined with sweet smoky birch and bone-dry leather. I only get the merest hint of the vanilla that Colombina gets, which is fine with me." Available at Le Labo's website, Luckyscent, and most Barney's now at various sizes and prices (I love that they will do a beensy baby-sized one that's affordable)

Parfumerie Generale Musc Maori: I'd better like this one, we named is one of our top winter scents of a few of years ago. I first smelled it on a trip to LuckyScent with my Scent Twin (an experience I hope to repeat very soon). I subsequently wrote: "It's a divine comfort scent with an edge: scalded cream over dark, coffee infused chocolate with a generous helping of white musk in the drydown. Like Daniel Craig bringing you a nice steaming cup after he.. you get the picture. Gaia recommended it as one that always gets compliments.." Divine, yes, but on a hot summer day cream tends to curdle on me and if even Daniel Craig tried to touch when the temps hit the triple digits I'd brain him with the nearest lamp. $100 for 50ml at Luckyscent.

So, Tonstant Weader, what are your favorites in winter? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to discuss!

Image: Wikipedia

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