Monday, June 21, 2010

Coco Mademoiselle

At Sephora, yesterday, I once again let myself be seduced by the pretty bottle and serene pink juice, and I spritzed my wrist again with Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle. I think that part of the problem is that I have trouble remembering in between times what Coco Mademoiselle smells like, and I keep reconstructing in my mind what I imagine it to smell like--a sparer, younger version of the great Coco. And I spritz.

OK, so I don't forget this again, Coco Mademoiselle smells a lot like a Shirley Temple. As a number of people have pointed out, it is really a fruity floral, not an Oriental, as it has been wrongly promoted, and the predominant note, to me, seems to be grenadine. Not pomegranate, Rose's grenadine. Maybe that's the litchi the official notes refer to. I detect the same note in Gaultier's Ma Dame. Ma Dame disappointed the hell out of me. I spritzed it in Sephora also, and for about five minutes, it smelled like what I've been hunting for for ages, a richer, deeper version of Clinique's Happy. Then the top notes faded, and the plasticized Shirley Temple came on full blast.

This note, whatever it may be, seems prominent in a lot of the popular fragrances of the past several years, and I can't stand it. It's not a bad smell, it's just the last thing I would ever want to smell like. Artificial and sweet.

Coco Mademoiselle dries down into something less fruity, and rather more pleasant, but I smell plastic all the way to the bottom. Note to self: do not spray this on me again. It is not working.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Vierges et Toreros

You have to love a perfume, for one thing, called 'Virgins and Toreros', although I am baffled by Etat Libre d'Orange's decision to title it in French, which makes no sense at all.

V&T starts off with a mad flamenco stomp of serious white flowers, followed by a mad flamenco stomp of rawhide. We are not kidding around with the leather on this one. We are not talking about nice glove leather, or subtle suede, or gentleman's tack, or that soft musky smell that sometimes gets called 'leather' in perfume. We're talking that stiff, unfinished orangey stuff that smells to high heaven of LEATHER. The overall impact is sexy, up-in-your-face, and is basically the scent equivalent of the sound of mariachi brass.

Then the Play-Doh gets involved. Within ten minutes, surfacing slowly from the rough leather, this salty, doughy, incredibly familiar smell. Stomping and twirling like a matador in the suit of lights made entirely from Play-Doh. Ole.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chanel No. 5

When my parents and I flew to San Diego for my grandmother's funeral, we stayed in the little apartment she had lived in for the last several years of her life. On the counter in the bathroom was a half-empty bottle of Chanel No. 5.

I idly sprayed a dab of it on my wrist, thinking, I think, that it would smell like her. It didn't, it smelled to me of generic grandmotherly perfume, but didn't spark any particular smell memory. Too powdery and archaic for me at the time--I was not even a newbie perfumista at the time--and I put it aside.

Now, I should explain, before I come to my most recent experiment with Chanel's great masterpiece, that my grandma was horribly allergic to most fragrant flowers. We never sent flowers for birthdays, and they were never in her home. I remember walking with her in Golden Gate Park, hearing her reminisce about the time my aunt and a friend of hers, with the best of intentions, filled her room with jasmine blooms in little vases. She woke up to breakfast in bed, but was unable to open her eyes, which had swelled up from all the jasmine.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through the Macy's in downtown San Francisco, and hovered briefly by the Chanel counter. On a whim, I picked up the Chanel No. 5 EDP and sprayed my inner arm heavily.

The first hit was of dusty, chypric notes, less powdery than I recalled, and then, five minutes later, as I walked out of the store, I was hit with a high, screeching note that emerged out of nowhere, and which I could only identify dazedly as smelling like peaches in syrup and mint. It howled. I had no idea what it was, since as best I could remember the official notes of No. 5, Screaming Minty Fruit Salad was not among them.

Today, walking by the baseball field on a sunny spring day, I got hit with the smell again, this time in context, and now I know--that's the jasmine, that high heady screech smell. Funny, and a little bit ironic, that the note I smell strongest in No. 5 is the one that, on the vine, would make my grandmother flee the garden.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cuir De Russie

First things first--I first tried Cuir de Russie some months ago, in warmer weather, and did not take to it at all. The scent was ordinary, ambery baby powder, I got no leather, and I simply didn't get why everyone raved about it so much. Worse, I got a slight indolic dampness, which reminded me unpleasantly of babies--not that babies smell bad, but you wouldn't necessarily want to rub one all over yourself for a night on the town, no? I put the Cuir de Russie aside.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, now that the weather has chilled substantially, I dabbed another dab on, and oh, dear, it it gorgeous. The damp baby is gone, and the leather is softly sophisticated, and the whole composition is filled with wondrous light, and, oh, cool, now there's another Chanel Exclusif I wouldn't mind having a bottle of, at another two hundred bucks I don't have. Oh well. I will try it again this evening. Perhaps the damp baby will come back.

I've dabbed. Damn. No damp baby. Now it has a sort of incense note as well. This is no good. Maybe it has a slight wheaty note I don't like? I will meditate on the wheaty note.Oh well.

Anyway, while I was thinking about Cuir de Russie, I popped over to the Chanel website, and discovered that not only is this stuff only available in 200 ml. containers, for $200 a pop, but that according to the website, "CUIR DE RUSSIE captures the essence of the wild and lavish world of 1920s Russia".

This brought me to something of a pause there. My own great-grandparents left Russia not too long before the 1920s, and 'wild and lavish' is not exactly the image that has been passed down from generation to generation. More like 'miserable and short on food'. I understand that there were in fact Bolshevik flappers--much disapproved of by their elders--but frankly, the '20s in Russia began with civil war, and ended with Stalin in charge, and I kind of figured that the lady to the right over there more summed up the spirit of the day than her contemporary flapper girl up top there.

Then I read some more reviews of the fragrance, and people raved about troikas, and furs, and leather boots, and some guy named Ivan bringing them more caviar, and it suddenly struck me that THIS is what they're talking about:

This, of course, is Liv Tyler, playing the beautiful and virtuous Tatiana Larina, in the 1999 remake of Pushkin's 1831 novel in verse, Eugene Onegin. The film is titled Onegin, Ralph Fiennes plays the title role, and, well, it's too British for my taste, although very beautiful.

This is what they're referencing with Cuir de Russie--Imperial Russia. Leather boots, troikas, lavish fabrics, wild hearts, French flirtations, princesses, grand balls, St. Petersberg, Anna Karenina, Onegin, vodka, caviar, snow on the birch trees...(pogroms, oppression of the peasants, ignorance, superstition...nevermind).

OK. Guys--think maybe 1820s, or 1850s. Not 1920s. Okay?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perfume Persona

What does it mean when you find that what you actually want to wear does not accord with your ideas, when you became a perfume newbie, about what you would want to wear?

I mean, I love Bois des Iles. And I love Feminite du Bois. And I've developed a bit of a yen for Tann Rokka Signature. (And Samsara.) But despite a fondness for some of the woods, most of the stuff I assumed I would like, I don't like so much. Incense, except for a tad in Chanel 22, has let me down. Spice, rich roses, amber and musk, lavish Orientals, all of the things I assumed I would naturally gravitate toward, I mostly haven't gravitated toward. I like a few things in each of these categories, but not all THAT much.

What do I like? Apparently I like GREEN. It started with Chanel 19. And then Bandit--OK, after Bandit I was done for. I like galbanum, and bitter lovely viridian green perfume. Everything in my wardrobe may be in warm colors, but it's the hot greens I want on my skin.

I wonder if this indicates some lack of self-knowledge, or just a lack of knowledge about perfumes when I got started.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tabac Blond-History Comes Full Circle

Tabac Blond, by Caron, is kind of a legend. Created in 1919, it was developed at a time when French women were beginning to take up smoking, and was meant to be a complement to that. It has a reputation for being edgy, chic, and sophisticated.

The first impression is of a sort of standard Caron, sweet and vanilla-floral. With the sweetness, though, comes the tobacco--cigarette tobacco, so fresh and photorealistic that there's almost an impression of a cigarette forming out of the ether.

It's a fascinating thing to smell, but the problem is that history has moved on. Where fashionable young ladies in Paris after the war took up smoking, American women of my generation largely do not smoke, and smoking has a declasse reputation that has overridden it's previous glamorous one. Cigarettes are the last thing I want to smell like.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tann Rokka Signature

OK, it used to be called Kisu. Whatever.

Signature is based on 'ancient Japanese bathing rituals', according to its literature. I have no insight on ancient Japanese bathing rituals, although it summons up an image of very elderly Japanese ladies, blissfully up to their necks in hot tubs. And the juice really does smell rather like that. If I had to identify this smell it would be cedar planks that have been washed down repeatedly in soapy scalding hot water. It's the smell of a hot-tub with nice incense burning in the changing room.

People refer to this having 'aquatic notes', but I don't smell the water, just the effect of the water on the wood. This is a beautiful cedar, and I love my cedar. It's simple, domestic, and wears soft but persistent on the skin.

The opening is a bit wacky. Lots of people on Basenotes ID it as Lysol. It's a bit cleanserish, but I think it's more like Simple Green or something--and at any rate it goes quickly, at least on my opening-note-eating skin.

This stuff is really nice--a lovely scent without being overly perfumey. It seems homey, suited to all seasons, and pleasant and easy to wear.