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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Secrets in the night: Forbidden Love natural perfume from La Fleur by Livvy

by Donna

I only recently discovered the work of natural perfumer Olivia Larson of La Fleur by Livvy, but I was very impressed with her as an emerging talent. Now she is launching a new fragrance that elevates her work to a new level, and I am honored to be among the first to review it.

Forbidden Love is the story of a young Japanese man's hopeless yearning for a beautiful Geisha, a woman who is not allowed to have a personal life but who must always follow the strict rules of her profession and submit to duty over emotion. I will let the perfumer's own vision speak here:

I see her silhouette as she gracefully floats in Zori. Her obi tied in a simple knot. The nape of her neck is exposed as she turns around the corner at the street lamp. She has no idea that I wait for her passing each night on the way back from the tea house. Her kimono smells of a rich scent; a combination of orange blossoms, vanilla and lilies laced with tobacco. The Cypress trees and full moon heighten my senses. At that very moment a gentle waft of burning incense catches my breath from temples nearby. I am in love with her but she can never love me back for it is forbidden to love.”

This timeless theme has been translated into a fragrance that bypasses the usual Orientalist cliches and truly touches the heart. It is tender and wistful, a scent of longing, subtle yet richly layered. Every major ingredient in this perfume has a connection to Japan, including something I thought I would never encounter – real lily essence. Virtually all modern “lily” fragrances, even the best ones, are constructions assembled from various aroma chemicals, since the lily blossom only yields her precious oil grudgingly, and the process of extracting it is too laborious and expensive to be done on a large commercial scale. Ms. Larson has found a source for the real thing, a natural oil made from the majestic Lilium auratum of Japan, which is famous for both its dazzling beauty and its powerful scent. I knew I was experiencing something very special the first time I smelled this fragrance; the inclusion of vanilla brings to mind another Japanese lily, Lilium speciosum, with its exquisite “French perfume” aroma. Most people are familiar with the popular florist lilies 'Star Gazer' and Casa Blanca' which are bred from these iconic Japanese blossoms – now imagine opening a bottle of perfume and having that amazing smell emerge.

The remaining notes mesh with the lily and vanilla as gracefully as a Geisha's movements. Lotus and orange blossom enhance the floral beauty of the lily, cypress adds an element of green mystery, and tobacco leaf, benzoin, green tea and vodka hint at the atmosphere of the private rooms where wealthy men pay exorbitant prices to be presented with the talents of her ancient art behind the sliding screens; the tea ceremony, classical dancing, the spare, haunting music of the Shamisen, and clever conversation that makes a man feel flattered and important. Yet it is he who in thrall to her charms, much as I am enamored of Forbidden Love; at last I have found the lily perfume of my dreams.

This perfume will be available for purchase at La Fleur by Livvy's web site beginning on November 1, 2015. You can also read what some other perfume bloggers think about Forbidden Love at Fragrantica, Çafleurebon and Art and Entertain Me.

Image credit: Forbidden Love images provided by La Fleur by Livvy; lily photo and collage by the author.
Disclosure: I received my sample for testing from La Fleur by Livvy.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Impressions of Genius: DSH Perfumes Giverny in Bloom Collection

By Donna

Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes has recently released the results of yet another collaboration with the Denver Art Museum – her eighth! - and once again she has demonstrated why she is one of the finest perfumers in America – and the world. The Giverny In Bloom Collection that accompanies the museum's major Impressionism exhibit is a perfect rendition of the artist's vision. There are four fragrances in the collection, three of which are actually the component accords for the final finished result named Giverny In Bloom. Each one has its own special character and is color-keyed to reflect its relationship to Impressionist art and gardens. Let's walk down the paths of Claude Monet's famous garden and see what we find.

La Danse des Bleus et Des Violettes is an homage to blue and violet blossoms, and its shy and wistful character is guaranteed to charm. Rich in violets, iris and heliotrope with a touch of lilac, it is ever so soft and slightly powdery; it reminded me of the delicate paintings on bone china teacups, yet it is no relic consigned to a display cabinet; a a breath of green and true to life floral notes keep it firmly in the garden. The violet is quite prominent here but everything is swirled together and so well-balanced that nothing is at the forefront for too long as all the notes have a turn in the limelight. For those who find most violet soliflores to be too melancholy, this would be a good one to try. It is not rain-washed and sad but restful, evocative of a shady corner where one stops to sit on a bench and contemplate the surrounding garden's beauty.


The more extroverted L'Opera des Rouges et des Roses is a celebration of reds and pinks, with plump roses and peonies jostling for attention with warm, spicy carnations and almost being upstaged by a sublime note of jasmine. This is a cheerful scent, rich and sweet, spilling over with abundance and joie de vivre, a garden party in a bottle. I love these “old-fashioned” style florals and I mean that in the best possible way; perfumes with exotic woods and spices are all the rage these days, but the skill required to create a mixed media floral perfume that is both original and interesting cannot be denied.                                                                         

My favorite of the three individual accord scents and the one that to me stands alone best as a finished perfume is Le Jardin Vert. Perhaps this is because it has one of my favorite notes in it – I just can't get enough galbanum, and there is enough of it here for my “green fix” and more; oakmoss, “dirt” accord, bergamot, pine needles – you name it, my favorite green and mossy things are all included, along with the ethereal breath of linden blossoms. This is a liquid vision of all those paintings of the bridge over the pond at Giverny, with weeping willows trailing in the water and lily pads covering its surface. The cool freshness of this perfume has been most welcome during this sweltering summer, and I have reached for it several times when the mercury rose to unbearable heights. 


So, you may be wondering, what happens when all three of the base accords are combined to make the perfume called Giverny in Bloom? I really only need one word to describe it: magical. This is where the perfumer's genius reveals itself, in a thrilling symphony of scent and color that is worthy of a tribute to the master of Impressionism. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the many superb florals combined with the green, mineral, earthy and woody materials create the uncannily three-dimensional effect of a living place. Its overall character is that of a green floral, with the galbanum of Le Jardin Vert still glimmering through. I can close my eyes and imagine I am there in Monet's overflowing garden, surrounded by the sensory feast of aromas and colors, not knowing where to look next, the dizzying jumble of grass, leaves and flower scents rising in the warmth of the sun and my skin caressed by cool breezes. The alchemy of this fragrance is such that when I walked back into the room where I had sprayed it I few minutes before, I smelled strong echoes of the two grandest green florals in perfume history – Balmain's Vent Vert and Jean Patou's Vacances, the latter one being my favorite perfume of all time. The originals of those two masterpieces are sadly no more, but now Giverny In Bloom is here to bring those lost gardens back to life.

Image credits: Water-lily Pond and Weeping Willow; The Rose Walk, Giverny; and Branch of the Seine Near Giverny by Claude Monet via, all in the public domain.
Disclosure: My testing samples of the perfumes in this review were given t me by DSH Perfumes.

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

A beacon of light in the gloom: Bergamoss solid perfume by Aftelier

By Donna

Recently I was thinking about why I like chypre fragrances so much. Obviously I love the way they smell, but apart from that, the true chypres all share a common thread; they clearly owe much of their character to natural materials, and in general those materials are of good quality. From the high opening note of bergamot through the floral heart and down into the base of resins and moss, they are grounded in nature. Whether it is the animalic elegance of Miss Dior, the wistfully rosy beauty of Houbigant's , Demi-Jour or the bitter-green oakmoss overdose of Jean-Louis Scherrer, the chypre structure in all its guises owes its integrity to things that can't be made in a laboratory. (Don't even get me started with the so-called “modern chypres” that were born of necessity out of restrictions on naturals.) As much as I appreciate contemporary perfumes made into abstract works of creative art with the use of aroma chemicals, those which are made with nothing but those lack heart and soul, like a computer-generated image of a “perfect woman” whose expression is a vacuous stare and whose face is boring in its eerie symmetry. For the real deal, I reach most often for my collection of vintage chypres, made before the days of nanny states, bureaucratic overreach and multinational detergent companies acquiring perfume houses.

Now we have another entry in the genre that could easily be a throwback vintage scent, but it's an all new fragrance called Bergamoss from Aftelier Perfumes, and it is only available in solid form. Mandy Aftel wanted to make a true chypre fragrance and decided that it would work best as a solid. After testing it, I cannot disagree; it's so good I want to slather it all over myself and live in it 24/7.

Bergamoss is 100% natural, like all Aftelier perfumes, and it has the true chypre building blocks but with some unexpected companions. The exhilarating top notes of bergamot and wild sweet orange are bright and uplifting, like sunlight knifing through a dense forest canopy to reach the ground below. As the perfume warms on skin, it opens up to reveal a dreamy, expansive heart featuring ripe peach and nutmeg, a combination I have not encountered before but of which I heartily approve. This pastoral effect is heightened by the use of a most rare material called flouve, which is an absolute of a sweet grass that has a heartbreakingly beautiful aromatic character and gives the the wearer the feeling of being in a broad, romantic meadow filled with waving midsummer grasses drying into hay and interwoven with scented wildflowers. Of course, the base has plenty of real oakmoss, the cornerstone of all true chypres, along with antique civet and coumarin, the latter of which enhances the impression of the flouve. I have to say that flouve is my new perfume crush – every time I wear this fragrance I smell something different in it, as there seems to be no end to its aromatic revelations. The solid formula adds yet another dimension, with its sensuous, luxuriant feel when applied to the skin.

Bergamoss has it all – it's refreshing, bright, sweet, floral, spicy, green (literally and figuratively so), mossy, earthy, rich, animalic and profound. Classic perfume lovers rejoice; the art of the chypre is not lost, it's just living in the small studios of artisan perfumers who are keeping the flame burning.

Image credit: “Enchanted Forest” from
Disclosure: My testing sample was given to me by Aftelier Perfumes.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Beautiful Blend for a Balmy Summer's Day! ~ Annick Goutal ~ Rose Splendide and Ninfeo Mio

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine: 
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night's Dream 

It's a balmy summers day in Cleveland, Ohio, the kind of day that just makes you long for the days when you were a child and could rip your clothes off and run around naked with with abandon. 

It's the kind of day that makes me want to go skinny dipping and then eat fresh peach ice cream until I'm so full that I could burst. 

Alas, I can't do either of these things because I'm an adult now and my days are full of trivial adult like pursuits. A girl can dream though and this morning when I was searching for something that would cool me down and comfort me I remembered this precious combination. These two beauties from the house of Annick Goutal when blended together are sheer poetry and they remind me of the many days spent in my father's garden when I was very young. 

Daddy knew more about dirt and flowers than anyone I've ever known. His gardens served as the muse for his true love which was painting. When I was younger his gardens were fairly basic ,but then he fell madly in love with France...more specifically Giverny.  He came home from that first trip and began anew. He researched everything, we liked to tease him and say that he was clearly a frustrated botanist and should just go back to school.

 He planted roses (never hybrid teas) and searched for the perfect peonies. He loved his lilies and his Irises. His garden was a symphony of colorful chaos, not contrived at all  and completely blowzy in the English style but with a French romanticism that was palpable. He had so many different species of so many different plants and his herbs were gorgeous and lush, mixed in with a painterly touch. His Lilies of the Valley have never been supplanted in my heart. He always kept Sweet Woodruff growing underneath his maple trees so that he could make May Wine every spring which we'd share glasses of together while watering the gardens in the evenings. 

If you read my perfume writing you already know that I don't give a fig about a fragrance pyramid or what makes it all up. What I care about is the emotional template of a perfume and this blend reads like a Shakespearean sonnet juicy , musky and green. When I put this on, it immediately cools me down. Either of these fragrances are lovely, but blended together they shimmer diaphanously , reminding me alot of the beautiful dragonflies that inhabited my fathers beautiful world. Together they smell wet and almost feral, sexy like Queen Titania yet they're a perfect combination to wear with long pearls, linen and a cup of tea. 

My father has been gone for too many years now, and it took me a while to find my new home. I work every Tuesday and Thursday in the beautiful Western Reserve Herb Society  gardens that are housed down at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens. I spend my days with wonderful women of like mind tending and harvesting the herbs, making  glistening jellies, jams and other wonderful things. 

My true love though lies in simply being down there, quietly tending and clipping and mulching and remembering my fathers words, "Build the soil, Feed it well, Water it Wisely and you'll have a beautiful Harvest. " 

Undoubtedly the best advice for life that he ever gave me. Use it and bloom!

You can find both of these remarkable perfumes at Lucky Scent


Sunday, June 21, 2015

A gentle touch with flowers: La Fleur By Livvy Natural Perfumes

By Donna

Every time I think I have tried all the best American indie perfumes, another interesting house seems to pop out of the woodwork and get my attention. Such an embarrassment of riches; no matter what style or genre of fragrance you like, somewhere there is something for you that was made in the U.S.A. And it just may be from Colorado too – this young brand hails from the same state as DSH Perfumes and Aether Arts. I am grateful to perfumer Olivia Larson for sending me samples of her line, La Fleur By Livvy.

As you may imagine from the name, the focus is on florals as the centerpieces of the scents, which are my first love in perfumery. La Fleur By Livvy is an all-natural line too, so I knew I would not be getting the dreaded “over-exposed chemical floral” experience. As soon as I smelled White Lotus I knew I was on to something good. It is a soothing, soft and calming scent that smells true to its name, with none of the distracting aquatic accords that usually find their way into mainstream perfumes of this style. Surprisingly it also has vetiver, which usually does not go well with my skin chemistry, but here it is just right and smells refreshing and green, a perfect companion to the gentle lotus blossom. An unexpected base that includes tonka bean and cognac makes this one linger longer than what might be expected of a natural floral.

Expecting more in the same vein, I tried A Parisian Affair and got a big surprise – there is nothing shy or demure about this one! It smells not unlike a modern version of Lanvin’s My Sin, one of my all-time favorites. Rich notes of lilac and champaca meld with vanilla and pine – an odd combination but somehow it works and smells for all the world like a classic feminine floral perfume from the golden age of perfumery. This is a truly sensuous fragrance and lasts well on the skin. If you are a fan of retro and vintage-inspired perfumes, I recommend this very highly.

Another big floral in the line is Fleur de Seduire, which fills the narcotic white floral slot quite handily. The jasmine in this one is very heady, and I think I smell tuberose too although it is not a listed note. It's not a huge, knockout white floral like Fracas or A La Nuit, so it can be worn more easily, but make no mistake, it will be noticed. A base of frankincense and myrrh brings to mind one of my favorite discontinued perfumes, Jo Malone's Vintage Gardenia, so anyone who has been missing that one needs to try Fleur de Seduire. It is indeed a scent of seduction but in a more subtle way than conventional white floral perfumes; it beckons and mesmerizes instead of using the stun gun approach.

Fleur de Mystere makes me think of a classy red-haired woman with green eyes; it just seems like the kind of fragrance such a woman would wear. It opens with a one-two punch of bergamot and geranium, and the heart of peach, ylang ylang and rose is offset by a generous yet well-balanced dose of fresh, soapy patchouli in the base. It is sporty yet sophisticated and one of those perfumes that can ease seamlessly from day to evening. The green-eyed lady can wear her riding habit or form-fitting Forties suit in the morning and a bias-cut satin gown at night, but her fragrance remains the same. 

One of my favorites in the line is Fleur d'Aspiration, a delicate composition that has an aroma very similar to some of my most beloved flowers, Easter lilies and hostas, a cool, sweet and slightly haunting scent with freshness of bergamot and the exquisite smell of tropical frangipani. It is the fragrance equivalent of finding a spot in the shade on a hot day. Its only flaw is its fleeting nature, which is also the problem with Fleur de L’Amour, a pretty and slightly soapy fruity-floral that seemed to vanish almost as soon as it hit my skin, so I could not really follow its development. I would be interested to know what it is like for other people, but my skin just does not hold on to it.

It's not all about the flowers – the warmly herbal and balsamic Puck's Potion is a pastoral unisex fragrance inspired by the mischievous character in Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream” that features a generous dose of oakmoss, which guarantees that I will like it, and it has a most enjoyable aroma like sweet summer hay. Tonka bean makes it cozy and cassis adds a touch of tangy fruit. It also has an unusual ingredient, lily absolute – in commercial perfumery, the use of natural lily essence is virtually nonexistent due to its cost and the difficulty of extracting it, and many people think that all lily notes in perfume are constructions, but it does exist, and put to good use here where it creates a halo effect around the other notes, bathing the whole composition in a cloud of gentle flowers and spice. Lilies are my favorite flowers, so finding a perfume with both lily and oakmoss in it was like hitting the jackpot. Keep an eye on this house; I have a feeling that it will make a positive impact on the indie perfume scene. These fragrances others are available on the company's Web site. (And just look at the pretty little perfume vial you can have!)

Image credits: Jasmine wallpaper from Romantic Parisian scene from Red haired woman from, original source unknown. Blue heart-shaped mini perfume vial from
Disclosure: The perfume samples were sent to me gratis for testing by La Fleur By Livvy.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

We have a winner! has spoken, and the winner of the sample of Bruno Fazzolari Au Delà Narcisse des Montagnes is Patti Moore. Please hit the "Contact us" button on the right side of the page so we can send you your prize, and congratulations!


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Inside the artist's studio: Bruno Fazzolari Editions perfumes (And a prize draw!)

By Donna

I had the great pleasure of meeting artist and perfumer Bruno Fazzolari when I took my first ever trip to San Francisco earlier this year. He is a low-key, thoughtful and kind person, but underneath the calm exterior lies an extraordinary talent. He began as a visual artist and later began to translate his creative ideas to the art of perfumery, and I for one am very happy that he branched out; the diversity of the offering is a testament to his willingness to take risks, and that has paid off in a big way. In the two short years since the fragrance line was launched, his work has garnered a lot of the right kind of attention, and deservedly so. (Did I mention that he also has the rare gift of synesthesia?)

One of the delightful surprises in the line is the retro chypre Au Delà, a stunner of a scent that pushes all my buttons – it has depth and mystery, a heavily animalic character and it's a real chypre, with galbanum and resins and oakmoss, so of course I fell hard for it. I am loving this trend among American indie perfumers of making the fragrances that Europe can no longer produce with the advent of the ever-tightening IFRA/EU restrictions. With such recent perfumes as Au Delà, Zelda from En Voyage Perfumes, Intimacy from JoAnne Bassett, and DSH Perfumes' Vert pour Madame, it may no longer be necessary to troll EBay for vintage – we can just order them brand new! In fact, I recently had the opportunity to sample a very rare old chypre that is impossible to find now. At first it reminded me of both Miss Dior and Rochas Femme, but as it developed on my skin and became ever more animalic and intense, I realized that it also bore a strong resemblance to the warm and vibrant Au Delà. Wear this when you mean business; it's for adults only, if you know what I mean...

I was initially reluctant to mention it because it's no longer available, but the “flanker” of Au Delà called Au Delà - Narcisse des Montagnes is one of the most astonishing perfumes I have smelled in the past few years, with the finest narcissus absolute of piercing beauty overlaid on the original perfume's structure. It adds a sublime, almost honeyed floral beauty and a green aspect as well, while still maintaining the main idea of a chypre. The key ingredient is very hard to source so this was a limited edition; if it ever comes back, grab it with no questions asked if you love narcissus, because this does that flower justice in a big way, capturing the unique fresh/sweet/chilly/loamy character of the flower. It is very unusual to come across a modern fragrance that showcases narcissus because the absolute is so precious, and there is no acceptable substitute.

In complete contrast, Lampblack has attracted a near-cult following for its fascinating take on a masculine spicy scent. What sets it apart is the confluence of bitter (grapefruit) spicy/woody (nagarmotha and black pepper) and smoky, the sensation of which comes from a “burnt” vetiver note, which has an inky aroma. Vetiver is my perfume nemesis – I like the smell out of the bottle, but on my skin, it tends to turn into something that smells like old vase water, murky and mildewed. Here, it is transformed into a roasted, tinder-dry, almost charcoal-like element that I really enjoyed, and it did not turn against me even after hours of wear. I never thought I could find a vetiver I could live with, but you never know! In this instance, going over to the dark side is exactly the right thing to do.

Some of Bruno's fragrances are not so serious. Jimmy is a real charmer; you have watch out for him, he will talk you out of your last dollar and you'll be happy to hand it it over. Jimmy is the Fred Astaire of fragrances, nimble and light on his feet, brash and breezy and without a care in the world. He makes an entrance bursting with the exuberance of lemon and geranium, but lest you think he is a little too assertive, he whisks a bouquet of pink roses, sweet violets and ylang ylang out from behind his back and presents it to you with a bow and smile. Who could resist? He won't linger for very long, but you will remember him with fondness.

If you are going to make a cologne style fragrance, the competition is fierce so you had better do it right; no problem here with Five. Clean, fizzy lemon, petitgrain and sweet orange mate well with savory rosemary and a woody/spicy base in this crisp, classic refreshment of a scent. Excellent materials and expert construction make this one stand out from the crowd. This one also has an ozonic quality, which I don't always care for, but here it is judiciously employed and does not dominate the composition.

Want even more variety? Try the flat-out gorgeous Montserrat, a romantic and genre-defying perfume with a delicious aura of ripe apricots, courtesy of the magic of osmanthus absolute, and limpid jasmine. It was the first one I wore when I started testing these; it just kept blooming and opening as time went on, becoming ever warmer and lovelier, yet there was something fresh and interesting hovering in the background that I could not figure out, but I loved it; I found out later that's it's a note based on the idea of wet plaster, the kind that is used to make artistic frescoes. Now that I know what it is, it jumps out at me, but it just makes me love Montserrat even more; it is actually named for a specific artist's paint color, Montserrat Orange which is a beautiful hue somewhere between apricot and terracotta, so it's all of a piece. Indeed, it's the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of the other notes, and I have always loved the aromas of making art, paint, plaster, varnish and all the rest. I just can't overstate how lovely and unusual this is, and it captured my heart at first sniff.

The most recent introduction to the brand is Room 237. and it's unusual to say the least. Its source of inspiration? The horror film “The Shining.” How do you make a wearable perfume based on an idea like that? If you are Bruno Fazzolari, you do something no one has done before and make it with: a shower curtain accord. I don't even begin to know how this was accomplished, but it works. In the category of “strange yet oddly compelling” Room 237 is right up there with the best of them. It's fresh and soapy with florals, green herbal notes and white musks, but first impressions can be deceiving. The smell of vinyl, clean yet somewhat claustrophobic, evokes the atmosphere of places where unspeakable things happen behind closed doors – hospitals, asylums, and yes, cursed hotels. (The smell of something that's a little too clean is always disturbing; what is it hiding?) It reminds me somewhat of one of my favorite (and sadly discontinued) Imaginary Authors fragrances, L'Orchidée Terrible, not in the way it smells, but in how the aldehydic shimmer on the surface acts with intent to deceive, since it's not in the least bit innocent despite its pretty façade; so does Room 237 present itself as a brightly scrubbed, smooth surface, until you figure out what lies beneath. That said, it's perfectly enjoyable to wear and has been such a hit that it is currently sold out, but more is on the way soon.

Now for the best part - I was so enamored of Au Delà – Narcisse des Montagnes that I bought one of the last remaining bottles, and I am offering a sample of this rarity to one lucky reader! Please leave a comment if you would like to enter to win it – please note, you must have a mailing address in the continental U.S. since I cannot ship internationally.

Image credits: Art courtesy of Bruno Fazzolari: “Lampblack”, “Nearside”, “Room 237”, and detail from the “Au Delà – Narcisse des Montagnes” poster, from .
Disclaimer: The perfume samples I tested for this review were given to me by Bruno Fazzolari.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

And the winner is....

                                                                  and spoken, and the winner of the boxed set of Puredistance samples is Stacey Walls! Please hit the "contact us" button on the right and send us your info so we can send you your prize!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Going toward the light: Puredistance White (And a prize draw!)

By Donna

The sixth release from Puredistance follows the well received Black which was also authored by Antoine Lie, and White could not be more aptly named; it is very bright, dazzling even, the perfume equivalent of looking into the sun. This particular sub genre of white floral is not everyone's cup of tea, but it happens to be a style that I enjoy very much. I have fond memories of the highly pitched white florals from the Seventies and Eighties as perfumers experimented with the new aroma chemicals that were becoming available, enabling the birth of fragrances that defied gravity like nothing that had come before, such as the original Jessica McClintock, Azzaro 9 and Madeleine by Madeleine Mono. Smelling Puredistance White for the first time brought that era immediately to mind. Yet as always, the hallmarks of a Puredistance perfume are abstraction and refinement, and so it is an entirely modern creation unto itself.

The concept behind White is that smelling it should bring an immediate feeling of happiness, lightness, and freedom from everyday cares. Perfume can be a welcome escape from reality, but some have more of an effect on emotions than others; my own immediate response to smelling it was a delighted smile. The opening rides the very edge of brightness, veering perilously close to the precipice of what Luca Turin calls “overexposed white florals” but since this is Puredistance, one can be assured that it will not go over that cliff. As with the others in the line, the composition is extremely well-balanced and I never doubted it for a moment. Rose de Mai, iris, and bergamot fused with abstract white floral notes and modern musks flood the senses with their piercing beauty, and just when it seems that the effect cannot be sustained, the underpinning of sandalwood, tonka, vetiver and a whisper of patchouli appear, shoring up the lilting, feminine high notes like wedding guests carrying the bride on their shoulders. The final result is a floral perfume of impressive lasting power; after all, it a concentrated extrait formulation. It touches on some of the stylistic themes of earlier Puredistance fragrances while remaining distinctive in its own right; it is as abstract as Puredistance I if not even more so; a soft rustle of leafy green recalls Antonia; and its structure is as infallible as Opardu. Puredistance does not launch a new fragrance until it has been perfected, and White is a stellar addition to the line. As with any perfume, testing is advisable before purchasing, but for those who love White, its gorgeous alabaster flaçon will just enhance the experience.

Due to the generosity of Puredistance, I am very pleased to offer a beautifully presented boxed sample set of all six perfumes for one lucky reader: Puredistance I, Antonia, Opardu, M, Black, and White. Please leave a comment if you would like to enter to win. (The prize draw is open only to those with a mailing address in the continental U.S.A.; sorry, I am unable to ship internationally.) If you like, please let us know what your favorite Puredistance fragrance is in the comments, or which perfumes of this style you admire. The draw will remain open until Sunday April 19, 2015 at 6:00 Eastern Daylight time.

Image credits: Abstract white flowers wallpaper via Puredistance White flaçon via
Disclosure: I received my free sample of White from Puredistance for testing.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

All that glitters: The Brilliant Collection by DSH Perfumes

By Donna

Once again, a collaboration between perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and the Denver Art Museum has resulted in a stunning group of fragrances. I always look forward to these art project launches from DSH Perfumes; Dawn's reservoir of creativity seems to have no limits. The Brilliant collection ties in with the DAM exhibit celebrating Cartier's storied history of jewelry making. All the more intimidating, the company also makes some very good fragrances, so this quartet had to distance itself from Cartier's own perfumes and make the fragrances all about the jewels – and what jewels they are!

Starting off with a bang, Deco Diamonds is a tour de force, a seamlessly abstract beauty that brings to mind the kind of bold statement jewelry one might wear to a Black and White Ball – the men in elegant tuxedos and the women in sleek draped gowns embellished with feathers and sequins, and dripping with diamond necklaces, bracelets and rings, maybe a headband or two. Eventually this glittering aldehydic fragrance reveals its heart of jasmine and other white flowers, reminding me of one of Dawn's early perfumes that is no longer made, the gorgeously tender jasmine and mimosa Cielle. Deco Diamonds is a perfume from another world, not tied to the earth; if Cielle was a wisp of cloud in a blue sky, this is a jet trail, soaring bright and pure and streamlined toward the sun.

In sharp contrast to Deco Diamonds, Fumée d'Or is a fantasy perfume in the sepia tones of a movie about the past, a whimsical imagining of what a goldsmith's shop in Paris might smell like; if this is the scent of such a place, I would want to live there and never leave. The overall impressions is warm and close, like entering a mysterious place on a brisk day and being enveloped in heat, the animal heft of human bodies and not-quite-familiar aromas. What is that languid, sweet smoke arising from the cauldron? Why do the dust motes dancing by the window sparkle so? What is that strange smell, like leather and metal somehow blended together? This “olde curiosity shoppe” of a fragrance will keep you guessing all day long.

Rubies are one of the most sought after of all gems, and I predict that the fragrance devoted to them, Rubis Rosé, will be equally admired. If roses that smell of raspberries are your thing, this is the one. It is rich and dense like the best of the old garden roses, such as the purple-red Bourbon 'Madame Isaac Pereire' which is justly famous for its redolent raspberry scent. I would not call this a “jammy” rose perfume, because although it is fruity, it is so in a fresh and realistic way. Anyone who is not familiar with antique roses might doubt that a living flower can smell like this, but this plush, velvety aroma is exactly what is found in such a rose, and it comes as close as anything I have smelled to the incomparable perfume of the voluptuous old roses I love best of all.

All of the perfumes in the collection are good, but one of them has captured my heart like no other – the stunning Jacinthe de Sapphir. The distinctive aroma of the hyacinth flower is one of my favorite smells in the world, but I have very rarely had the sensation of inhaling a perfume and feeling transported in time and place to a spring garden where the colorful hyacinth spikes give off their unique perfume, rich and intense yet not sweet in the way of most flowers, a green and airy scent with the chill of earth and winter still upon them. It even has that elusive, shifting character of the flower, dancing away and then coming back to tease the nose when you think it's gone for good. Of course this one is nominally in honor of precious sapphires, but it really an homage to this beloved garden bloom. This is the closest thing I have experienced to the exquisite hyacinth note in my favorite perfume of all time, Vacances by Jean Patou, and that's saying a lot coming from me. In the dead of winter, here is the ultimate breath of spring.

Image credits: Vintage Cartier diamond engagement ring via, original source unknown. Seventeenth century engraving of a goldsmith's shop via, in the public domain. Blue hyacinth via's Multimedia Gallery, free download photo by Damon Hart-Davis, effects by Donna.
Disclosure: The samples I tested for this review were given to me by DSH Perfumes.

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