Monday, March 16, 2015

Yet More Soap! The Noblest of Toiletries...

Now that I have managed to cram all of my worldly possessions in a storage space measuring 8 ft x 8 ft x 10 ft--save the contents of three very heavy suitcases and a humongous and probably "against the rules" carry-on tote, I've decided to organize everything else as well, beginning with my photographic images. This has become necessary because now that I have commenced sherapop's big adventure, I am snapping photos like a ... gasp ... tourist!

In the past, I never took photos on my trips to far-away lands. Not in Japan, not in Ghana, not in Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Argentina, anywhere in Europe, nowhere. Partly because I always felt that tourists spent way too much time figuring out how to get the best photos and not enough time looking at things. Partly probably because it used to be rather cumbersome to take photos. You had to buy film, for one. You had to buy the right kind of film. Then you had to develop the film, upon which you'd find that many of the photos were not really worth developing. You kept them, of course, but the whole tedious and expensive process had a strongly deterrent effect.

Not so anymore. Now you can snap one hundred photos and be happy with ten of them and not have wasted anything at all. Yes, digital photography has made everyone into a photographer. Well, perhaps only to the extent that the internet has turned everyone into a writer (ahem). You don't even need a camera, though I have one, because I have yet to join the i-phone craze. Perhaps another day, but for now I still have a "dumb phone" and take pictures on a smart camera,  Nikon Coolpix, which honestly was one of the best investments I ever made. I had to bring it with me to New Zealand, because everything in this place is stunningly beautiful, and it's so far-flung that nearly no one is going to come here to visit me. Hard to believe, but it's not overhyped!

I was a bit daunted by the prospect of doing this, until some kind soul introduced me to Pixelresizer software. What a relief to be able to diminish file sizes by folders instead of one image at a time! So here I am organizing my ever-expanding collection of photographs on Flickr, and I found these entries in the Soap series:

So, yes, it can be truthfully said that I like soap!

Look carefully at the next image, and you'll see the bars I brought with me! Yeah, I know...

My only real defense is that I'll be here for eight months!

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, February 15, 2015

More Pictures of Lily...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pictures of Lily

After smelling the scent of these gorgeously intoxicating flowers fill the house 
where I am staying near Orange Beach, Alabama, 
I feel compelled to give

Cartier Baiser Volé

 another try!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Around the World in 2400 Perfumes...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

His or Hers? 8: Amouage Gold

Amouage Gold pour Femme (1983)
I first tried this perfume a couple of years ago, and my immediate impression was that it was very similar to Estée Lauder White Linen. Both creations offer a strong aldehyde experience. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the aldehydes really dominate these compositions. There are lots of other participants, but the aldehydes steal the show to the point where I have to be in a certain type of mood to wear this sort of perfume.

In some ways I hate to admit this, because so many people gush over Gold, but to my nose, White Linen extrait is a more appealing perfume. I somehow get that weird buzz which appears to scintillate the central nervous system of devotees of Chanel no 5. Everyone needs to have that essential life-transforming aldehyde experience with one perfume, but which one it will be varies from person to person. Chanel no 5 never really did it for me, but White Linen extrait did--once. Alas, I was never able to repeat the experience, and was a tad disappointed when I acquired a bottle of the eau de parfum and found it to have a fuzzier oak moss quality rather than the white Dial soap clarity-inducing zing.

In my initial testing of the made for women perfumes from this house I found Amouage Dia to be even more intensely aldehydic, or perhaps with fewer base notes than Gold, so I did end up preferring Gold to Dia, but if the truth be told, I was not enamored of either. Trying Gold again a couple of days ago, I realized that I still find the aldehyde a bit overdosed to the point of shrouding the flowers.

I wonder whether the same mistake was made in this case as was made with Chanel no 5? Legend has it that the mixer added five times more aldehydes than prescribed by the formula. But that was what Gabrielle selected, and the rest is history.

Perfumer: Guy Robert
Notes (from lily of the valley, rose, frankincense, orris root, jasmine, myrrh, amber, musk, sandalwood, cedar, civet + ALDEHYDES!!!! (why are they missing from the pyramid at Parfumo, I wonder?)

Amouage Gold pour Homme (1983)
I was happy finally to give Gold for guys a sniff, in honor of Vladimir Putin's recent valiant attempt to avert World War III. It is rumored throughout the world wide web that Vlad's signature scent is Amouage Gold pour Homme, so that was reason enough for me to pull out my carded sample. What I found, to my surprise, was a perfume rather close to Van Cleef & Arpels First! The first clue was the heavy civet. But the blended florals are really beautiful in Gold pour Homme as well.

In fact, upon reading a review by jtd it dawned on me that Amouage Gold pour Homme is like First without aldehydes, and Amouage Gold pour Femme is an aldehyde bomb, so First is basically the equivalent of a cross between Gold pour Homme and Gold pour Femme!

My favorite of the three is Van Cleef & Arpels First. But First is not in the running today. Amouage Gold pour Homme is a better perfume than Gold pour Femme, in my opinion. It's more complex and not marred by the aldehyde overkill of Gold pour Femme. In fact, when I wore it the other day I was forced to postpone my bath because I couldn't bear washing it away!

Some of my perfume pals do not like Gold pour Homme. Perhaps they find the civet too heavy. I, in contrast, find it to be an excellent perfume--for guys and gals alike! Yes, it's old school, in some sense, but it's also a welcome blast from the past in this age of abstraction and Twitter perfumery. I've been finding that nearly all of the Amouage pour Homme perfumes are highly wearable by me, and in several cases I prefer the Homme to the FemmeGold is no exception to the rule!

Perfumer: Guy Robert
Notes (from dog rose, lily of the valley, frankincense, orris root, jasmine, myrrh, amber, patchouli, oak moss, musk, sandalwood, cedar, civet

Running Tally: His or Hers?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

His or Hers? 7: Bvlgari pour Femme/Homme

Bvlgari pour Femme (1994)
Created by Sophia Grojsman nearly twenty years ago, Bvlgari pour femme smells today surprisingly fresh and new. This feminine composition features sweet florals—rose, mimosa, and violet loom large—in a clean resinous base and does not seem dated in the least. Having recently received one of the small .8 ounce purse sprays of this creation, I am able to report that there is no obvious distinction between my “vintage” bottle and the latest iteration of this now classic perfume. Many of Grojsman's perfumes have been reformulated—to their detriment and to the disappointment of most of the people who fell in love with them at the time of their launch. Bvlgari pour femme is a rare exception to the rule. Is this because this jeweler's perfumery branch has not been sold off to one of the corporate conglomerates? Perhaps.

Bvlgari pour Femme edp is one of only a few perfumes which I wore in the twentieth century and still wear today. Not only has it not changed, my attitude toward it also has not. Sometimes we experience a change in tastes and decide that what we used to like or even love, we do not anymore. That certainly happened to me with a number of perfumes, including Oscar de la Renta Oscar. My attitude toward the perfume already in my possession changed—it was the same, but I became disenchanted with the scent.

So in the case of Bvlgari pour Femme edp, the fact that no reformulation appears to have taken place is only one part of the equation. The reformulation of nearly everything else does however suffice to explain why most of the perfumes which I wore in the 1990s are history. I mean literally a part of my perfume history, like old friends from the past whom I have no intention of meeting up with again, even if I could, in theory, say, by joining the hunt for vintage bottles at e-bay. Not going to happen.

Every bit as appropriate as it was back at the time of its launch, Bvlgari pour Femme edp is a sweet violet-rose composition similar in some ways to both L'Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose and Miller Harris Coeur de Fleur. They are all united by their violet-tinged, water-washed rose. The big distinction made by the Bvlgari violet rose is that there is a substantial clean musky base which imparts a decidedly perfumey quality to the composition as a whole. It smells somewhat resinous to me, and in addition to making Bvlgari pour Femme seem more like an elixir than a watery sweet floral, it also adds a kind of golden shimmer. Mimosa contributes to this effect, as well.

More formal than both Drôle de Rose and Coeur de FleurBvlgari pour Femme is also very distinct from Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose, yet another fine violet-rose creation. The Bvlgari perfume, apparently the first in its olfactory neighborhoodand another iconic idea generated by the great Grojsmanstrikes a balance between formality and informality. Wearing this perfume is like getting all dressed up in satin pajamas to spend the night at home.

Perfumer: Sophia Grojsman
Notes (from bergamot, neroli, violet leaf, jasmine, jasmine sambac, mimosa, rose, iris, musk, sandalwood

Bvlgari pour Homme (1995)
During the 2012 holiday season, I was plied by retailers with carded samples of Bvlgari pour Homme. I assumed for that reason that it must be a new fragrance. Imagine my surprise on learning that this perfume was launched way back in 1995 and is nearly as old as Bvlgari pour Femme! Is the composition the same today as it was back then? I honestly have no idea, but the fragrance does seem to have a fairly big following, judging by the reviews I've seen. Here's my take:

What a baffling composition. I am told that some twenty-odd notes are present. Of course, we all know that notes are mere metaphors, but in the extremely bizarre case of Bvlgari pour Homme, the metaphors clash head-on with my experience.

Aldehydes? Certainly not. Bergamot, well, okay, yes, I suppose, since it is present in 33% of all perfumes. Maybe I can conceive of this as a tea scent. But the rest? They may as well say that this perfume contains unicorns and elves, since I smell them just about as well!

None of this is to say that there is anything essentially wrong with Bvlgari pour Homme. It's nice. It's light. It's polite. It's clean and keen. It's the perfect scent for the twenty-first-century open-cubicle office. Indeed: it smells to me rather like just pressed and starched long-sleeved cotton shirts complete with linked cuffs and button-down collars!

During most of my wearings of this perfume, my experience remained consistently the same. I simply do not detect the vast majority of notes listed in the hierarchy. One reviewer maintains that this is a big iso-E-super composition, so perhaps it is wiping out all of the other notes. To me, this does not have the same effect as Encre NoireTerre d'Hermès and the other iso-E-super bombs I've encountered, which I identify immediately by their sinus-clearing capacity. But maybe that is the best explanation for my inability to detect much of anything beyond a freshly pressed and starched cotton shirt in this composition. Certainly the longevity is excellent, which suggests significant aromachemical presence.

I should add a small caveat: during one of my four wearings of this fragrance, the muskiness came through much more strongly than on the other occasions. It occurred to me that this composition would not smell good on someone with an acrid skin—or while exercising.

Perfumer: Jacques Cavallier
Notes (from aldehydes, bergamot, lavender, mandarin, mace, neroli, black currant blossom, tea, cyclamen, carnation, geranium, coriander, pepper, rosewood, amber, oakmoss, musk, tonka bean, vetiver, cedar

Concluding Assessment: His or Hers?
Bvlgari pour Femme ou pour Homme?

No surprise, given my long-term relationship with Bvlgari pour FemmeHERS gets my vote today. I would love to hear from the guys out there about what I take to be the MIA notes in  Bvlgari pour Homme. Also: has it been reformulated? Does anyone know? Eighteen years seems like a long time, and if this fragrance for men were produced by nearly any other house, I'd have guessed yes. But apparently Bvlgari pour Femme has not been reformulated, so perhaps pour Homme, too, has remained the same?

I'll close by clarifying that I consider Bvlgari pour Femme to be a feminine, not a unisex perfume. In contrast, Bvlgari pour Homme strikes me as completely unisex, but I happen to like it less. In a lifeboat scenario where only one bottle was allowed for everyone on board, I'd be willing to forego the feminine version in order to avoid mutiny, but barring that sort of unlikely situation, I'd choose Bvlgari pour Femme for myself.

Running Tally: His or Hers?

Friday, January 23, 2015

His or Hers? 6: Dsquared2—He or She Wood?

Violets are a wonderful thing, so when I found out about the house of Dsquaredand their penchant for these fine purple flowers, I was willing to overlook the corny number 2 at the end of the house's name. Was it an effort to show that they remember junior high school math class? Don't know. Then there were the wood-encased bottles with truly absurd text on the unfinished cardboard box empirically indistinguishable, I might add, from the boxes in which testers are housed. The box of DsquaredHe Wood reads:

Il legno naturale che racchiude il profumo, rende il prodotto preziosamente unico, vivo ed originale nelle sue differenti venature.
The natural wood framing the perfume, makes the product preciously unique and original in its distinctive grain.

 Le bois naturel entoure le parfum et avec ses différentes veines rend le produit précieusement unique, vif et original.

We'll be the judge of that. Oh boy. It appears that the public relations team at Dsquarednever learned, first, the correct use of a comma and, second, that all important lesson “show don't say.” Nonetheless, with violets looming large and purple in my mind, I decided to overlook all of the evidence and buy these perfumes blind since they were quite inexpensive and samples seemed pretty hard to come by. What did I find?

Dsquared2 He Wood (2007)
I have to admit that the opening of He Wood is something of a turn-off. I smell basically a blast of that all-too-common and becoming increasingly and annoyingly more common pseudo-amberish/pseudo-cedarish aromachemical stuff—apparently it's a mixture of ambroxan and iso-E-super and what-not, and it's being sold by the ton to houses large and small. It is strong, loud, boorish and brash, and it often shrouds all of the other notes alleged to be present in the same perfume.

Perhaps I am hyperosmic to the stuff. All I know is that I am smelling Le Labo Another 13 and Juliette Has A Gun Not A Perfume and Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 and Molecule 02 in way too many bottles these days, and most of them do not bear any of those names.

Did perfumers blow it by revealing to us the secrets to some of their successes? Perhaps. Now that they've laid their cards out on the table, we know it when we sniff it, and if we happen not to like it, then this becomes the basis of an oft-repeated gripe. These chemicals undoubtedly serve to enhance facets of well-composed perfumes, but as focal notes they are not at all appealing to me.

I am aware that Molecule 01 continues to be a best-seller at Aedes and other emporia, and perhaps that's why perfumers have been opening up the spigot and letting it flow long and hard, but I've just about had it with the stuff. It's gotten to the point where perfumes which feature that all-too-familiar scent are immediately removed from contention for a possible full-bottle purchase. No, thank you very much. I've smelled far too much of the stuff, and in places where I frankly think that it should not be. A recent truly off-putting example: Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile, which does start out nobly but then the jasmine petals are literally throttled before being beaten to death by this base.

Have I been spoiled by Miller Harris, whose wood-centric perfumes, En Sens de BoisFleurs de BoisTerre de Bois, and others, actually smell like wood rather than aromachemical mixtures? Perhaps. I only know that I've had it with the vat-produced “neither amber nor wood” juice being used to substitute for loftier and more refined and, above all, more natural materials.

I know that there are people out there who like the scent to which I am referring. I read reviews all the time by people who consider this scent to be the scent of wood. But it is not the scent of wood. It is the scent of aromachemicals.

Fortunately, the opening of He Wood is only the opening, and it is moderated by an expanding violet facetboth leaves and petalswhich arrives on the scene to rescue my nose from what otherwise would be an unwearable perfume. By the drydown, the blend is quite nice. It is sweeter than I'd have expected for a made-for-men fragrance, but it does not hold a candle to its fair sister, She Wood.

Perfumer: Daphné Bugey
Notes (from violet, violet leaf, vetiver, cedar, amber, musk, fir

Dsquared2 She Wood (2008)
It took me more than a year to write a review of Dsquared2 She Wood after having acquired a bottle because I was ambivalent about this perfume. I certainly loved the violets, but there was something about the aquatic side of the composition which kept me at a distance. Maybe that makes sense, since I do not usually like aquatic fragrances. What is interesting about this one is that it does not manifest any of the seasickness-inducing qualities so common in the aquatic category. I've now made some inroads into my 100 ml bottle, and never has She Wood made me feel angst-ridden or sick.

So why was I ambivalent? I suppose because I felt and continue to feel that the quality is closer to the Salvatore Ferragamo Incanto series than to more sophisticated violet perfumes such as Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette or L'Artisan Parfumeur Violette Verte. In terms of similarly priced violet offerings, She Wood is not very close to Trussardi Jeans (or its compositional cousin, Alexander McQueen My Queen), nor is it very much like the Sonoma Scent Studio violet perfumes. I recently discovered that She Wood does bear similarities to Ellen Tracy Bronze, but that's probably neither here nor there, since Bronze was discontinued after a short production life during which it seems only to have been sold at TJMaxx.

Despite its name, She Wood seems very limpid and aqueous rather than opaque and woody, but there is just a tinge of wood in this composition, which seems to me closest to vetiver. Perhaps that is what makes this creation a bit odd. Rather than the usual treatment of wood, here we have a wood-flavored water. All perfumes are aqueous solutions, but this is a case where the water seems like an important note. This composition is not at all musky to my nose, and I think that floral woody aquatic would be the best category to place it in. As far as I know, it would be nearly alone, flanked only by Bronze. The violet and aquatic aspects are similar to Balenciaga Paris, but the smidgeon of wood sets She Wood apart.

This is a likeable and wearable and public-space-friendly perfume. I am not convinced that it is unisex, but there are probably some daring guys out there who would not mind in the least smelling like sweet watery violets.

Perfumer: Daphné Bugey
Notes (from bitter orange oil, jasmine, lemon, violet leaf, violet blossom, heliotrope, cedar, vetiver, amber

Concluding Assessment: His or Hers?


There are those who poo-poo the violet, considering it to be cheap and childlike. They think that because the scent of violets is easily mimicked using inexpensive ionones that somehow violet perfumes are less noble. My approach is different. I do not care how much the scent-making ingredients cost. So what if the scent of violet is cheap to produce? That just means more violets for me! So you see, my railing against the pseudo-amber/pseudo-cedar aromachemical STUFF is not really a snobby economic dismissal. No, I just think that it does not smell good, and when too much of it is used, it covers everything else about a perfume which might have made it beautiful.

Small wonder, then, that in the final analysis, my vote today goes to HersShe Wood. Neither She Wood nor He Wood contains much in the way of an authentic woody scent—as the names certainly imply that they should—but in She Wood I don't have to wait for the aggressive base to make way for the violets. No, they are there from the beginning, limpid, sweet, watery, and clean.

Running Tally: His or Hers?

Dsquared2 She Wood