Top Rated Reviews - 2013

Digindirt 8 years ago 19

Gone too soon
My dearly beloveds, we are gathered here today to celebrate the life and the premature death of a work of art that is sorely missed. Fendi Fendi, according to databases, was first launched in 1985. I only met her just last year when my quest for vintage fragrances began to soar. At first sniff, my eyes watered. Fendi, for me, carries the feel of L' Heure Bleu but sways in the opposite direction. Where L'Heure Bleu is subtle and unobtrusive, Fendi is prominent with a hot chip on her shoulder.

An initial blast of spice leads to soft, aromatic florals.

Warm spices envelop the sweetest flowers. Ylang is captivating as it mingles with Jasmine and Patchouli making this a deep, rich and irresistible. If carefully applied, Fendi can be as soft as corn silk yet powerfully rich and deep enough to make your knees buckle. Woodsy notes and amber bring us to a dramatic finish that reeks luxury and sex appeal.

Fendi can be described as breathtaking and heartbreaking. There are no equals. None.

She and I don't have a long history together but I do cherish my new friend. Just as a departed loved one remains in our hearts forever, I am hoping that Fendi will remain in my collection forever.
9 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 18
8
Scent
7.5
Longevity
5
Sillage
10
Bottle

Scent of the Middle Earth
Back when I was a child, my mother often wore Zen EdC out of the splash bottle. It lingered on her hands and had a way of turning up on everything she touched, including her books. While she was in the middle of her Zen period, my mother happened to be reading the most enticing novel. It had strange illustrations, some of which were a bit frightening, and a beautiful hand-drawn map in the front that mysteriously featured a dragon.

All of this was irresistible to a curious child, and fortunately my wonderful, unconventional mother eventually gave in to my pleading and read The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story over the course of a few months. Not surprisingly, J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical tale and illustrations will forever be associated with the smell of Zen for me, and I almost expect its mossy drydown to come wafting off the pages of my recent edition as it did from my mother's copy.

The different perfume sites disagree as to whether Zen is a floral or a chypre, which is not so strange for a fragrance that defies categorization; the floralcy, green notes, woods and mosses are so harmoniously balanced that it is a bit difficult to fit Zen into a particular slot. My vote would be for chypre despite the fact that Zen is missing the labdanum component from the classic formula, simply because the oakmoss is what haunts me about this particular scent. In conjunction with galbanum, it really does bring to mind the depths of Mirkwood Forest in Wilderland. Sadly, I'm not able to pick up the aquatic aspect that others mentioned, but I don't doubt that it's there by virtue of the notes listed.

As a 1964 release, Zen was on the leading edge of the golden age of chypres. I imagine it was popular during the mossy green 70s, only to fall out of favor when the power perfumes changed public taste in the 80s. At that point, subtlety was no longer a fragrant asset and Zen's whispered dark green spells fell silent with discontinuation. Although something called "Original Zen" with the beautiful black and gold sake bottle was recently re-introduced by Shisedo, I haven't tried it so I can't comment on whether it is a faithful rendition of the classic. My sincere thanks to my vintage enabler for restoring a bit of my lost childhood with the lovely sample. I will be spritzing some of it on my copy of The Hobbit for sure. :)
4 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 16
8
Scent
10
Longevity
10
Sillage

Warning: Patchouli
Not being familiar with Rossy de Palma, the woman who inspired this fragrance, I went Googling to ascertain the nature of her celebrity. It turns out that she is a Spanish actress known for her work in the films of Pedro Almodóvar and (please forgive me, Gentle Reader) not exactly an oil painting. My ignorant opinion of Rossy de Palma aside, ELDO gets a lot of credit in my book for selecting an atypical muse as inspiration material rather than the usual teen idol or Hollywood starlet. For a company that sometimes gets a bad rap for using shock tactics as a marketing tool, Eau de Protection strikes me as a thoughtful, intelligent launch.

The perfume itself was an instant love for me because it has so much in common with my beloved Epic Woman and can be had for less than half the price. Eau de Protection opens in fresh fashion much as a natural rose would with some sparkling bergamot, but rapidly transcends the true flower by incorporating a number of darker notes. Before you know it, the rose is quite poisonous, but all the more alluring for being so. Eau de Protection uses a similar strong peppery note to the one I find so appealing in Epic, but replaces the caraway with ginger, rendering Eau de Protection less pickle-like and a bit more wearable. While Eau de Protection showcases a fairly nice Bulgarian rose, Epic revolves around the headier Damascus variety. Both contain incense and patchouli; the Amouage favoring a gorgeous silver frankincense and the ELDO being heavy on the patchouli, and therein lies the rub with this perfume.

Patchouli is a polarizing note, perhaps because some associate the smell with the '60s counterculture and the tumultuous events that surrounded it. My first wearing of Eau de Protection was at an outdoor event of a fairly conservative nature. In my defense, I wasn't familiar with the note pyramid and stupidly figured that Rose Frag = innocuous. Not! An offended woman who happened to be seated nearby sniffed ostentatiously while glaring at me as if I were The Whore of Babylon. In a nutshell, Eau de Protection has great, big sillage and is not the ticket for fragrance-phobic environments. Longevity is excellent. Many thanks to the rock star from South Africa who turned me on to this beauty, which is absolutely bottle-worthy.
4 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 16
8
Scent
7.5
Longevity
7.5
Sillage

It's All About the Cumin
Whether you will enjoy or dislike El Attarine will depend on how you feel about a certain sweaty spice finding its way into your perfume. I don't happen to find the cumin overpowering in this context, but there is no denying its presence. While some find even the suggestion of perspiration repulsive, I associate healthy sweat with some wonderful things. Moreover, it makes a nice change from all the "clean" scents that are popular right now but just make me want to scream at the top of my lungs and drench myself in skank to avoid being assimilated into the laundry musk borg.

As with most Serge Lutens creations, El Attarine is not a perfume that remains politely in the background. Rather, it demands not so much to be noticed as to be contemplated. Unlike so many fragrances that prompt me to think about the notes, to the extent that they lead me to consider anything at all, El Attarine fires my imagination like an adult fairy tale. I envison Saluki dogs and strange hairless cats. Heat rising in waves and sandstorms. Nights wild with stars, sleeping on a rooftop. Men with piercing dark eyes rimmed in kohl. Mint tea and peacock thrones. Most of all, I feel the warmth of radiant sunshine -- something that made El Attarine seem like a precious, golden gem during this past dreary winter. Looking at my nearly empty jar is a little depressing. Unlike in the olden days I now can order a replacement from Barney's NYC, but there was something perversely thrilling about using a certain parfumista's not so well-kept secret friend to "mule" it back from Paris. It was like buying olfactory opium and part of the overall mystique.

To return to the practical, El Attarine is a combination of spice, dried fruit, honey and immortelle. It is more restrained than other similar compositions such as Arabie and Aziyade, but nevertheless would be a poor choice for a blind buy. The majority of people will find El Attarine either over-the-top and borderline unwearable or larger-than-life in a wonderful, remarkable way. Sillage and longevity are both very good on my skin.
8 Replies

Greysolon 8 years ago 15
9
Scent
10
Longevity
10
Sillage

The other Prada Amber for men
I've never cared for Prada’s masculine amber offering, Amber Pour Homme. I know, that view puts me in a distinct minority. Nonetheless, I dislike Pour Homme for the same reason I dislike so many other designer label fragrances: it seems as though elegance has been sacrificed for the sake of masculinity.

That brings us to the other side of the supposed gender divide and how I "discovered" Prada Amber.

Last week I was waiting for my wife as she shopped at a big box cosmetics outlet. I had stationed myself before the men’s fragrance display, which is my usual post in this particular store. I was bored. It’s a dingy, gray, soulless place and for as long as I can remember the same 2 dozen or so designer label fragrances have been the backbone of their men's collection. Even when a new item manages to crack the ranks it's relegated to a shelf at floor level forcing anyone over 5 feet tall to squat or crawl to see what gems might be lurking in the abyss. In recent months there has been extensive renovation and expansion to the rest of the store. Unfortunately the upgrades have bypassed the men's section and the same forlorn display continues to beckon piteously. Over time, I've reached the conclusion that this area was not designed to sell fragrances but is, in reality, a men's day care center. A place where guys intimidated by the sight of a cosmetics counter can safely hang out and not be approached by the scary sales associates. A place wives and girlfriends know where to look for their frightened charges when it's time to leave.

Anyway, after smelling Bvlgari Blv -again- and realizing it smelled the same last month, I noticed the women’s collection had nearly doubled in size as a result of the recent renovations. I was admiring all the new choices just across the aisle when I saw a tester of Prada Amber and decided to give it a spritz.

It was a revelation. I'm convinced that if somebody would park the tester on the men's side of the DMZ, Amber would be flying off the shelves.

Amber may be marketed as a feminine fragrance but it seems to fall comfortably within the bounds of being unisex. So gentlemen, if you’re looking for an elegant, distinctive amber don’t waste your time with Pour Homme. Nobody’s home. If you're considering an amber fragrance from Prada, this is the one.

Amber comes out of the bottle with deep, rich florals and dark, aromatic citrus. Not to worry, this is not a big floral or bright citrus opening; it's very balanced and blended. As Amber dries down the top notes part, making way for the tannic, dry tea aspect of bergamot which hints at the sandalwood to follow. At the same time, the citrus accord begins its sweet and sour oriental dance with the lower notes. Further into Amber's development the sandalwood emerges with an understated, dry, woodiness that blends perfectly with the arid qualities of the bergamot.

From application, all that development takes about an hour but the journey to the base is worth it. When the warm, resinous amber and vanillic accords finally well up out of the depths you're rewarded with a rich, luxurious fragrance.

I find Prada Amber unisex in the same vein as Diptyque offerings such as Volutes or 34 Boulevard St. Germain. It has the amber qualities of Volutes and the slightly powdery, cloud-like sillage of 34 BSG. However, Amber is a potent edp so I recommend going easy on the button. I was surprised just how much its projection and longevity outpaced a fragrance like Volutes. A single spritz keeps me cloaked in a pleasant cloud of scent for hours.
7 Replies

Sherapop 8 years ago 15
10
Scent
10
Longevity
10
Sillage
10
Bottle

Addictive
To my great surprise, I have been won over to the Clinique AROMATICS ELIXIR cult. For years, I scoffed at the very concept of a Clinique perfume--weren't they the company that eschewed all fragrance in their skin line? So what in the world were they doing producing not only a fragrance but an incredibly potent "perfume spray"?! No, I stayed very far away and was further deterred from visiting the Clinique perfume counter (a contradiction in terms!) by my sister's "gift" of about a dozen HAPPY minis which she had received in GWPs. Clearly, I thought, Clinique had no business meddling in perfume.

After reading so many glowing reviews of AROMATICS ELIXIR by so many of my favorite reviewers, and also being intrigued by the naysayers, I finally coughed up the modest sum for a bottle. Initially I was shocked at the chamomile opening: sour and unpleasant, to put it mildly. I compared the scent in my mind to a variety of former classics whose reformulations have been less than felicitous: Balenciaga (now Ted Lapidus) RUMBA, Emmanuel Ungaro DIVA (the eau de toilette), the list goes on and on. I was ready to head for the bath, when it happened.

Suddenly AROMATICS ELIXIR had struck a harmonic chord with my nose. The sour chamomile and bitter grass had managed to blend in with the patchouli and a million other rich floral and chypre notes to produce a gloriously rich cloud of, well, aromatic elixir! So now, believe it or not, after being totally put off by the opening, I have fallen head over heels in love with this stuff!

Anyone who loves patchouli--and one must, to wear this composition--needs to get their nose on AROMATICS ELIXIR. It is the perfect respite from all of the fruitchouli and ANGELESQUE perfumes, offering the patchouli without the caramel or the fruity syrup. AROMATICS ELIXIR is much closer to unreformulated LA PERLA, to give an indication of its integrity. It is strong beyond belief, and I am not sure whether I'll ever wear this creation outside my house, but it is a dream to wear and enjoy in the privacy of my home, especially late at night after a long, hot bath.

I noticed one night before retiring that I must have been experiencing olfactory fatigue, because I considered reapplying right before going to sleep. I opted not to, and when I woke up I discovered that my pajamas were seriously redolent of the scent. This is an advisory caution to those who wear AROMATICS ELIXIR in public venues: the fact that you are not detecting it does not mean that others will not! If you prefer not to be pegged by the naysayers--those poor souls who have yet to see the AROMATICS ELIXIR light--as "an old lady", I'd advise wearing this perfume very sparingly in public, or else reserving it for your private use at home where you can apply with reckless abandon. ;-)

Why is this perfume so beautiful? I do believe that it has a magical effect upon one's mind. AROMATICS ELIXIR epitomizes both luxury and comfort. Wearing it is like being wrapped in piles of cashmere on a frosty winter day. Gorgeous! I love it! In fact I love it so much that this past holiday season I purchased the special edition flower-embossed bottle, which, it turns out, is produced in Switzerland, not the United States. Both formulations smell and wear wonderfully on me, and I believe that this perfume is much better than hundreds of niche offerings at two, three, or even four times the price.

For savory patchouli lovers only!
5 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 15
3
Scent
10
Sillage

Unfortunate
Call me morbidly curious. When a close friend with an adventurous and tolerant nose tested Oud Ispahan and found it repellent, I had to see what the stink was all about. To cut straight to the chase, look no further than the oud, or pseudo oud (psoud?), since we all know by now that what passes for oud these days is just another aromachemical.

The specific "oud" found in OI smells to me like the same one that Montale has been using for years. If you find scents like Black Oud appealing, you will probably enjoy OI. In fact, I would rate OI higher than Black Oud because underneath the massive, hulking agarwood is the ghost of a beautiful perfume. The tiny waft of it that manages to escape being smothered is reminiscent of Dior's gorgeous Dolce Vita sans the big peach note. I can just barely detect the same harmonious combination of rose, sandalwood and cardomom that I adore in DV.

I can only surmise that the reason oud is present here in such a high concentration is to justify the large price tag. Apparently, someone at Dior figured that more "oud" would equal more dollars. I will say that OI is good value for money in the sense that the sillage is positively intergalactic. I put some on this evening and a short time later my husband inquired from the foot of the stairs, "Dear God, what did you spill up there?" Unfortunately, I can't comment on the longevity because I was forced to scrub, but not before the fragrance had fully developed. It is fairly linear in any event. To compare the experience to something relatable, it was like being in a surgical suite that had been scrubbed with an industrial cleaner, and then being swabbed with that orangey-brown antibacterial solution -- I think it's called Betadine. The anesthesiologist had just eaten a delicious dinner of Moroccan food and I could still smell it on her breath. She was also wearing a dab of very nice perfume. It probably goes without saying that this is not a good candidate for a blind buy. Big thanks to Dig for an interesting fragrant experiment.
9 Replies

jtd 7 years ago 15

memory
I’m from a small town in Connecticut. Not, Suburban-New-York-Connecticut. New-England-Connecticut. In my 1960s-1970s, the New England countryside was a place of wonder and democracy. The woods were a frame of mind as much as they were a location.

Though I never thought of anything local as particularly exotic, pine was the scent of local magic. Pine was the scent of outdoors and the change of seasons. It was omnipresent and always welcome.

Fille en Aiguille’s pine is bittersweet for me. It is 30% sense memory and 70% longing.

I now live in Southern California in a climate that I struggle with every day for nine months out of the year. Its climate is almost universally loved, but is unbearable to me and anathema to my pale Celtic body and spirit, a reality that is inexplicable to those around me. Fille doesn't offer me a solution to my dilemma. It doesn't give me relief from the heat or an alternative to the deathly brightness. It triggers memory, remembrance, beauty from an an arcadian past. It reminds me of the magic. And if there's magic, there's hope.

But mostly there's just longing.
2 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 15
8
Scent
10
Longevity
10
Sillage

The Mouse that Roared
Clinique's Aromatics Elixir has been somewhat of an oddity since its launch in 1971. At the time, perfume houses were splashing out with big ad campaigns that featured either a celebrity or a supermodel. Chanel No.5 had Deneuve, Charlie had Shelley Hack, Ciara had Lauren Hutton, Tigress had Lola Falana and Chantilly had Kim Alexis.

Meanwhile, AE's advertisements consisted of a bare bones photo of the product itself with no slogan, no artwork and no humans to be seen. However, behind the scenes in the Clinique marketing department some genius hit upon the brilliant idea of promoting AE by inclusion of a small bottle as a "Gift with Purchase" when the customer bought Clinique cosmetics. The gesture was bound to generate good will, as few if any of us can resist a freebie. Although Estee Lauder and other houses soon adopted the GWP strategy, they continued to advertise their perfumes in catchy, colorful fashion while AE stubbornly maintained its plain Jane approach. Fast forward 40 years, and Chantilly, Charlie and Ciara are now languishing on the drugstore shelves while AE still enjoys its cult status from behind department store counters.

This improbably successful fragrance is distinctive and unmistakable, characterized by one of the most bizarre openings in fragrant memory. AE's top notes have been compared to everything from nail polish remover to Chinese herbal medicine. The one thing everyone can agree on is that for better of worse, AE grabs your attention straight out of the bottle with its unusual combo of chamomile and sage. Perhaps Mr. Chant was attempting to tap into the early 70s nature vibe that celebrated the likes of macrame and earth shoes when he crafted those herbal top notes.

After the challenging start, AE rewards the wearer's patience with a blissful floral heart in which a dark rose is the standout but jasmine and ylang are also featured. The earthiness has been replaced by sophisticated elegance, only to cleverly revert back to earthiness with the patchouli and oakmoss dry down. Throughout the perfume's development, the sillage is so enormous that sales associates advised the customer to apply AE by spraying it in the air and walking through the mist instead of putting it directly on the skin.

If AE were launched by a mainstream house today, it would probably flop, as most mainstream fragrances cater to the need for instant impulse gratification with lovely but fleeting top notes. On the other hand, as a contemporary niche release, AE would probably flourish at twice its current modest price. In any event, I suspect that forty years from now, AE will still be part of the fragrant landscape. It is one of those unique perfumes that every fragrance lover ought to try at least once.
6 Replies

Cryptic 8 years ago 14
8
Scent
7.5
Longevity
5
Sillage

Black Widow
Love in Black was created as a tribute to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which is sort of amusing when you consider that she was known to favor civet bombs like Jicky and probably would have politely declined to wear LiB had she ever encountered it. Nonetheless, it is a beautifully composed violet and iris perfume that probably appeals to non-parfumistas simply because it is an homage to "American Royalty."

The combination of violet and rose has always struck me as utterly romantic and somewhat retro. However, when paired with iris the "shy" violet becomes a thing of sinister beauty to my nose. Part of that association came about from reading the novel, "White Oleander," in which a lovely but sociopathic woman poisons her lover. Many of the novel's characters are strongly linked to a specific fragrance, and Ingrid the Poisoner is always drenched in an unnamed violet perfume. I remember thinking that Chanel No. 19 would have been a better pick and that matching a violet perfume to a beautiful murderess seemed unfitting somehow. Then I discovered LiB, which contains an iris/orris note that is similar to the chilly accord that many find aloof and "bitchy" in No. 19. Suddenly it all made sense and Ingrid's perfume was no longer nameless. While I certainly don't identify with the character, it can be a bit of harmless fun to try on a different fragrant persona, even that of a femme fatale hiding behind a bouquet of violets.

In terms of practical matters, LiB behaves rather strangely, as jtd noted below. One moment, the wearer is surrounded by a cloud of sweet violet wrapped in a dry, woody iris and then it suddenly disappears. A short time later the scent mysteriously reemerges. After much puzzlement and a little research, I think I may have found an explanation for this oddity: High doses of the ionones found in violet and iris notes apparently can cause temporary anosmia. http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2011/02/perfumery-materials-violet-violet-leaf.html

As far as the matte black bottle is concerned, it pains me to say that it was evidently meant to imitate the black sand of the Greek Isles where Jackie and Ari were married. While that might make you cringe, don't let it stop you from giving LiB a sniff. It really is a wonderful perfume for lovers of violet and/or iris fragrances. As a bonus, a portion of the proceeds is given to the World Wildlife Fund. :)
5 Replies