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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Le Labo Ylang 49

By Tom

By and Large I like the fragrances from Le Labo. Some of the marketing I could do without (the expiration dates for instance) but on the whole I've loved the scents. So the other day when I was in the neighborhood I popped in to Barneys and sauntered over to the Le Labo counter. I noticed Ylang 49 and remembered that I hadn't tested it.

Ylang 49 is flat out gorgeous. Lovers of white flowers will be very happy here: after a rather astringent oakmoss blast in the beginning, the gardenia and ylang start to come to the front. Then I start to get the incense and at it's base it has that wonderful Le Labo sandalwood/Benzoin thing going on. The only downside is that for me the lasting power is only average: 6 hours or so. But that's a reason to re-apply, right?

I usually wouldn't wear a white flower scent because I usually find them overpowering, but applied sparingly it really whispers. My Scent Twin also loves this one and I love to smell it on her. I can imagine on a woman (who could get away with heavier application) it would be absolute heaven.

Luckily, this is one of the "classic" collection so if you have a Le Labo counter or store nearby, you can get it. My samples were from Barneys and the Le Labo store on 3rd Street.

Image: Barneys


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Not To Wear To Work

By Tom

Last night I was a little bored and decided that I wanted to wear something very daring. So I dabbed on some UNTITLED #8 that I got from ScentBar. It's one of the skankiest things I have in a collection that isn't exactly light on the skank. I love it- I think that it's great on it's own, and also great for putting some of the old-school punch into scents that have been neutered by reformulation.

What it is not is work friendly. So imagine my horror when after a vigorous and thorough shower, there was still the next morning a distinct aroma coming from me that said "rode heard and put away wet." Luckily the human interaction today was very light. I hope that tomorrow I'll be back to my fresh'n'clean self. But s it crazy that I want to dab on just a little right now?

Just a dab?

What are your scents that you find not exactly office-friendly? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Luckyscent


Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Painterly Palette of PK Perfumes (Part one)

By Donna

The one-man show known as PK Perfumes has been quietly making inroads into the American indie perfume scene, and the small company has gained wider recognition with several prestigious industry nominations and awards in an impressively short span of time. Perfumer Paul Kiler has a unique and somewhat quirky viewpoint, and after testing the full range of fragrances and a draft of an upcoming launch, it is easy to see why this brand is gaining a loyal following. These fragrances are composed in the classic manner with a high percentage of natural materials, but the results can be quite unexpected.

One of the most talked-about perfumes in the lineup is Red Leather, and when I first tried it, I really thought I hated it. The opening is blunt and tarry, and it seemed as though it was going to be one of those coarse, greasy leather and patchouli scents that only the bravest men would ever wear. Much to my surprise, this effect did not last very long, and after the smoke cleared a different animal appeared. I have never smelled leather paired with the astringency of buchu leaves, rhubarb and pink grapefruit before but this is a genius move that turns Red Leather into a streamlined modern leather like no other. Civet and castoreum in the base keep it anchored and some florals peek through on occasion, but this one is all about the contract between funk and zing, and it works wonderfully. I ended up liking it a lot with its sporty vibe that brings to mind Italian leathers such as Trussardi, and it is ideal for men (and women) who want to make a memorable impression.

Gold Leather is very different from its sibling, but it also gets its character from an unusual combination of notes. To my nose the dominant impression is of “pocketbook” leather overlaid with a bitter cherry/almond accord, which happens to be one of my favorite things in perfumery (see DSH Perfumes Antiu), and softened with fruits and sumptuous white flowers – lily, tuberose, gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine and more. It is sweet but not overly so, and the leather is always in the forefront. Herbal notes and oakmoss make for an earthy yet sunny drydown that seems to last forever. This is my kind of leather scent; since I am an ardent fan of vintage Balmain Jolie Madame, who hides a huge bouquet of creamy white florals under her leather catsuit, I appreciate that Gold Leather fills a need for today's perfume lovers seeking a wearable feminine leather that will also appeal to men. This one goes on my wish list for sure.

We are still not done with leather, and Zaffran is yet another original take on the theme – leather with saffron, and lots of saffron at that. Zaffran is quite somber, with no discernible sweetness, and even cardamom, clove bud, cinnamon and kaffir lime can't brighten the mood created by the leather embellished with tobacco, patchouli and costus root. It has a distinctly masculine aura, and although many women might like it I would rather smell it on a man than wear it myself. It is actually too subdued for my taste and I wish it had a little more brightness, but it's as smooth as one could want and elegantly understated.

Another fragrance in the line that has a unisex appeal is Ginger Zest de Citron, which was inspired by the idea of cooling summer drinks. The concept is deceptively simple; sure, just throw in some citrus and add ginger, how hard could it be? Not so fast – this is a well composed and interesting scent that hides an undercurrent of curry spice, musk and a hint of leather, with a dry, cool and rooty character that feels just like sitting in the shade of a tree on a hot day. It also lasts a lot longer on skin than one would expect for something in this style. Guys, please oh please wear this in summertime instead of those dreadful, faceless “bug spray” sporty masculines. You will be doing yourselves and the rest of us a huge favor.

Switching gears, the delightful duet of chocolate and violets provides an olfactory treat in Violet Chocolatier. It would be easy to dismiss it as a novelty but don't make that mistake. An initial burst of dew-dappled violets is quickly joined by a warm accord of gently spiced chocolate and a deliciously tangy fruit note of apricots. I can take all the apricot you can throw at me and more, and the fact that it is combined with so many of my other favorite perfume ingredients – violet, chocolate, rose, nutmeg, honey, gardenia, benzoin, jasmine and more – pretty much guarantees my thumbs-up vote on this one. As it dries down the round, juicy fruitiness sticks around accompanied by an earthy iris effect as the violet subsides, with lingering echoes of chocolate and amber, and it turns out to be a surprisingly sophisticated composition. Highly recommended.

While we are in gourmand territory, let's talk about Café Diem. This is another idea that could have gone wrong in less capable hands but it really works here in a boozy, smoky blend of coffee, absinthe, whiskey, warm spices, incense and vetiver. It's less foody than it sounds and one reason for that could be because of what's not in it; Mr. Kiler dislikes vanilla and does not use it in his perfumes. (Did I mention his quirky viewpoint? I believe I did.) One of the most popular materials in all perfumery is off the menu, and it's exactly one of the ingredients most perfumers would use in this kind of fragrance, but it suffers not all from its absence. Café Diem brings back memories of my younger self and good times spent at a local French bistro that had live jazz bands playing late into the evening. Liquor flowed freely, and the bar specialized in steaming hot coffee drinks featuring the addition of Drambuie, Bailey's Irish Cream and other cozy libations. Just one of those would keep me warm all the way home on a rainy winter night, and this comforting coffee scent would make a perfect winter perfume.

Next time I will review the rest of the PK Perfumes roster, so come back soon!

Image credits: Gold tooled floral pattern leather via . Rose and Violet chocolate creams via
Disclaimer: I requested and received a sample set from PK perfumes for testing purposes.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Ys Uzac Immortal Beloved

By Tom

So the other day I was in ScentBar (if I had a dollar for every time I wrote that I'd be rich...) and I was asking Steven (who is always very nice about this sort of thing, especially considering my purchase-to-ask-for-sample ration) what's new.

One of the new ones was Immortal Beloved from a company called Ys Uzac. Apparently Ys Uzac (don't ask me to pronounce it) was founded in 2011 by of all things a Cellist named Vincent Micotti.

I have to say, I'm glad he gave up his day job.

Immortal Beloved is as you know, the mysterious addressee of a love letter that Beethoven wrote to, but apparently never sent.

Immortal Beloved, the scent starts off with a chill, but then quickly warms with amber and rose. It get's smoky and even more delicious when the cognac kicks in. It's fairly linear, and has only average lasting power, but while it's there it's so lovely that I found myself reaching for my sample to re-apply.

Immortal Beloved is available at LuckyScent for $230 for 100ML. I asked for and received my sample from ScentBar. 

Image: Luckyscent

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Back Soon

By Tom

Sorry I've been Radio Silent for a while. I've been having many trips to the dentist fixing myself up and it's actually been affecting my sense of smell slightly.

Actually, that's a big old lie. It's just made me feel hideous and old and annoyed that I can bounce back at (gasp! he admits it!) 50 the way I could when I was 20.

But it's all over and I promise to review something new next week.

Incidentally, I've been pulling out the heavy hitters as comfort for the "why do I have to do this s^&t" moans I've been indulging in. I write "indulging" because it is- I don't have cancer, my home hasn't been swept away in a mudslide and my loved ones aren't in an airliner on the bottom of some sea. But I am always amazed at the power that scent has over me. I can be energized, calmed or even aroused by different scents. 

So what scents to you turn to in times of stress?

Image: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rainforest radiance: Samarinda by Providence Perfume Company

By Donna

I am always eager to try a new fragrance from Providence Perfume Company, because I know it will be interesting and stand apart from the crowd. Samarinda is no exception, and testing it has involved keeping my nose firmly glued to my wrist. It's one of those perfumes that has so many interesting notes that it's hard to focus on trying to analyze it; I keep getting pulled in by one thing or another and “following” it with my nose, only to be led astray by something else.

Samarinda is not a heavy-handed Orientalist fragrance loaded with spices and patchouli, as one might expect from something inspired by Indonesia, but rather a subtle perfume that mesmerizes by stealth, unfolding one beautiful note after another until its full glory is revealed. It captured me immediately with a particularly excellent cardamom opening – that is my favorite of all tropical spices and it's usually relegated to a supporting role in masculine scents and often overwhelmed by bolder notes, so it's a rare treat to find it in a fragrance I would actually wear. A delicious sweet orange is the perfect accompaniment. The floral heart that includes a rich orange blossom is sweet and redolent, but its headiness is tempered by a deep impression of Sumatran coffee, enough to give the whole thing a backbone, and not overdone; it is by no means a coffee perfume. Just when you think that is the final act, the base notes begin to peek out, and they are quite unusual – jasmine rice (another one of my favorite aromas), rum, vanilla oakwood, and of all things, roasted seashells. I have smelled the last in a couple of other natural fragrances and it's fascinating, a warm mineral note that's not really smoky, more earthy and salty. Combined with the savory aura of the jasmine rice, it creates a feeling like a sense of place. I can imagine a small island village where the smells of cooking mingle with the aromas of spices and jungle flowers, and over all there is dust and mud, perhaps the essence of the rice paddies where man and water buffalo work as one. A faint scent of the sea comes in on a languid breeze.

Like all fragrances from this company, Samarinda is completely natural, and 5% of sales will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund to help preserve habitat and critically endangered wildlife in Borneo and Sumatra. I can't think of a more worthy cause, and this is definitely a worthy perfume. There is nothing discordant or “difficult” about it, just pure pleasure and a certain restfulness and ease as it spirits you away to your own private island dream. Perfumer Charna Ethier has once again shown us that natural perfumery is limited only by the imagination, and hers apparently knows no boundaries.

Image credit: Samarinda logo and bottle via
Disclaimer: I received my sample of Samarinda  for testing directly from Providence Perfume Company.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Foodie Sunday: Snow, Snow and More Snow - Grilled Cheese and Carrot, Dill and Ginger Soup

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

It’s been too cold here in Ohio for way to long.  All of us are getting cabin fever and the dogs are quite uncontrollable so I keep having to find ways to keep us all content. Frankly most of these generally involve craft beer and comfort food!

Today being no different in terms of weather or emotion, I woke up craving grilled cheese; a food that I truly love. The problem is that lately it doesn’t love me. I’ve given up gluten and I don't regret it because until recently there’s been nothing available to me that could even remotely begin to resemble bread in my book.

That is until last Saturday  when I discovered a new and quite magnificent gluten free baker at my local indoor farmers market.  Their name is Uncommon Grains. Watch out for them. They’re a cottage business right now, but I don’t think that they will be for long.

Any of you who have tried gluten free bread in the past know that it is essentially way too dry and for the most part a totally tasteless, crumbly and strange substitute for bread .The bread that I bought today is amazing; flavorful and chewy with perfect air pockets and blessed with a crust that would make a Parisian expat weep.

Today I went back specifically for their rye loaf, because I was sure that it would make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Their rye loaf is studded with caraway and has the most amazing rye/pumpernickel bread aroma. I thought that it would be perfect with the artisanal Colby cheese with dill that I’d bought the same day. 

We are so lucky in Cleveland; our origins are in farming as well as industry so incredible farm to table products are available all year round. We’ve got inner city farms, year round CSA’s and lots of farmers markets going on all of the time. There’s never a shortage of good fresh food! After picking up some fresh organic whisky scented sausage, young carrots and some chocolate peanut butter hemp seed bars I went home happy and ready to cook! A few drops of neroli , sage and vanilla essential oil rubbed through my hair (in case a special someone came into the kitchen!) and I was ready!

 Of course any grilled cheese worthy of the name needs some soup to dunk it in, so I played with the dill theme and came up with a savory fresh buttermilk, carrot, dill and ginger soup. My kitchen smells like a buttery on this perfect midwinter day and all of the dill is scenting the air with its cool, crisp fragrance. The caraway seeds from the bread are smoldering like fine incense and the Colby is melting over the edges of the toasting bread.  There are tall glasses of cold, freshly pressed winter cider.  When I take it all down to Jim, he takes a bite and shuts his eyes, smiles that glorious smile of his and for once, I don’t mind the cold nor the falling snow at all. 

What do you like to eat on a cold winters day?  Any thoughts on grilled cheese? If you want my recipes just let me know in the comments and I'll send them straight to you! 


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Short Break

By Tom

I'm having a bit of dental work done so I am going to take a couple weeks off from reviewing. I hope to be back in two weeks. Best to you all.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Just Not That Into You: Annick Goutal Petit Cherie

By Tom

Longtime readers of this blog know that we are big fans of the scents created by Annick Goutal. As a matter of fact, for me Goutal introduced the idea of "niche" when Sables first hit the shelves at Berdorfs those many years ago. In the interim I fell for many more.

But not Petit Cherie.

I want to love it; I love the idea of her creating a scent for her daughter Camille, who is now carrying on with the company and creating her own unforgettable scents. I even love the name "little dear." But I am afraid the scent really, really doesn't love me. The fruits in the opening that start out so soft and innocently sensual start to get raucous and raspy on my skin, going from tender caress to temper tantrum. Then a crazily huge cucumber note comes in, then it's time to wash..

Petite Cherie is available at the usual suspects, including Nordstrom, Neimans and Berdorfs in various sizes and compositions, My sample was in a ScentBar giftbag I received at their Valentines Day event. If Petit Cherie works for you, please feel free to sing it's praises in the comments..

Image: Nordstroms


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book review: Scent & Subversion brings vintage perfumes to glorious life

By Donna

A gourmand leather and tobacco fragrance so good it belongs to a rare scent category for me: perfume so good I want to drink it. Dark vanilla and creamy white florals voluptuously bloom as leather, tobacco and civet rise up. Peach and plum add some bruised sweetness.”
    -excerpt from the description of Lanvin's Rumeur (1934) in
     Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume
     by Barbara Herman

As regular readers of this blog know by now, I have a serious ongoing love affair with vintage perfume. Most books about perfume seem to about the inner workings of the industry (Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent) or reviews of currently available fragrances (Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez). There are also books about the history of perfume, or how fragrances are made, filled with pictures of Bulgarian rose fields and Middle Eastern spice markets. I enjoy reading all kinds of books about fragrance, but there has always been something missing. At last, now there is a book that celebrates the perfumes of the past and really tells us what they smell like: Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman. Many of you may also be readers of Ms. Herman's delightful blog, Yesterday's Perfume. The logical next step from writing reviews and giving us fascinating historical tidbits about vintage scents was writing a book, and I am so very glad that she did.

The book takes us on a decade-by-decade journey from the origins of modern perfumery up to the end of the twentieth century. Iconic fragrances such as Houbigant's Fougère Royale (1882) and Guerlain's Jicky (1889) were revolutionary in their time, marking the beginning of the era when synthetic materials were first used in perfumery; this advance made it possible for an explosion of creativity that continues today as perfumers use everything in their arsenals to make interesting, unusual and yes, provocative fragrances instead of the simple floral waters that were popular before that time. The “subversion” part comes from the hidden language of perfumes; the animalic and indolic essences used to compose them can speak louder than words and express the intentions of the wearer with no verbal explanation needed. This was also a time when women were finding ways to express themselves beyond the boundaries of hearth and home, and perfumery reflected this seismic cultural shift. Caron's fiercely feral Tabac Blond (1919) was made for covering up the smell of cigarette smoke, which was still a shocking habit for women at the time. Lanvin's My Sin (1924) is nominally a floral, but oh, what a floral it is, narcotically sweet, redolent, mesmerizing, with animal base notes that virtually growl. It is also one of my own favorite examples of what the now-banned nitro musks contributed to perfumery. Ms. Herman aptly compares their use in fragrances to the way foods taste and feel with and without butter, a perfect analogy; today's perfumes just can't capture that feeling.

The book is seductive in its own right – I could not put it down as I eagerly devoured every page. After an introduction that details the author's own developing fascination “real” perfume, the heart of her book is an overview of a broad spectrum of famous (and not so famous) perfumes through the years. Where possible, the main fragrance notes are also listed along with her own impressions. Many of the fragrances are those that I also know and love, and as I got into the later chapters I found “vintage” perfumes that I remember from before they were vintage, being a lady of a certain age myself. The author's descriptions made me look at them with new eyes, and now I want to rediscover such once-common gems as Revlon's Intimate (1955) and Moon Drops (1970) all over again. It is made even more enticing by the impressive array of vintage print perfume ads on almost every page, many of which I had never seen before and some of which are hilariously retro, and little-known historical details and fun facts about the perfume houses and perfumers that will be like so much catnip to avid readers.

What I found most engaging in this book is the unabashed love and enthusiasm it projects – this is not an “expert's” careful dissection of notes or a scientific treatise on perfume making. It's an extended fan letter written by a true amateur, someone very much like me, like us, like so many perfume fanatics who fall into the perfume world and get hopelessly pulled in by the romance, the history, the glamour, the personalities, and the sheer beauty of the perfumes themselves.

The book's third act is a bit of a surprise – it has a section that tells how modern perfumery is rising to the challenge of making perfumes that are neither bland nor boring, but continuing the heritage of the greats of the past, including Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume and Antoine Lie, the perfumer for the avant-garde house of Etat Libre d'Orange, known for its sometimes shocking fragrances and packaging. It is reassuring to know that today's niche and artisan perfumers are turning their backs on the corporate mainstream and its increasingly restrictive rules and making perfume that speaks from the heart. It ends with a very informative “Perfume 101” section on how to learn about perfume, how to start a vintage fragrance collection, a glossary, and a list of recommended reading. I predict with confidence that this book will be on everyone else's list of recommended reading from now on – it's indispensable, and more fun than should be legal. What are you waiting for, go get your copy!

Image credit: the cover of Scent and Subversion via
Disclosure: I purchased my copy of this book.

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