Lancôme – La Vie Est Belle

Lancôme – La Vie Est Belle


I anticipated the release of La Vie Est Belle with great excitement. It was developed by Olivier Polge, Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo, a formidable team. Iris is one of my favorite notes for the ghostly, earthy, and chilling aspect it lends to perfumes and La Vie Est Belle was touted as “the first ever iris gourmand”. While there are other perfume houses that could dispute that claim, as an iris lover, this sounded profoundly promising. Nothing surpasses the beauty or elegance of iris in Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee, Chanel’s 28 La Pausa or Serge Luten’s Iris Silver Mist. Yet despite numerous attempts and testing on blotter and skin alike, I have yet to detect any discernable iris note.

La Vie Est Belle created a bit of a dilemma for me. Perhaps I have been lulled by the fragrance’s cheerful demeanor or predictable plotline. Yes, La Vie Est Belle is well-made, more-so than many of the numerous fragrances I pass on the fragrance counters. And as must be the case with a perfume that seems to loosely follow the formula of the more seductive Angel by Thierry Mugler and the more refined Coco Mademoiselle, La Vie Est Belle is pretty. Perhaps that is where the problem lies. La Vie Est Belle feels like the pretty girl at the party who is quite nice but perhaps a bit lacking in intellect. She smiles so sweetly, perhaps a little too sweetly, I want to like her, but after speaking to her for five minutes I am terribly bored. When I look around the room, there seem to be several girls who look quite a bit like her, but perhaps have a more sultry or rebellious side that maintains my interest.


The fragrance moves along the fruit-flowers-patchouli track, hitting you all the while with a gourmand accord of  vanilla, tonka and praline. Had the iris note been truly prominent, this fragrance would have stood a greater chance of achieving olfactory immortality. Without it, it’s just another pretty face in the fragrance crowd. The fragrance does possess an incredible sillage and lasting power however as my blotters were still going strong the next day. La Vie Est Belle is a nicely-done fruitchouli, a bit overpowering and forgettable for my taste, but it did win the popular vote in Fragantica‘s 2012 community poll. If you don’t have any fragrances in this genre and Angel and Coco Mademoiselle are too bold for you, La Vie Est Belle may work for you.



Notes: Iris pallida, iris aldehyde, jasmine, orange blossom, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean, praline, black currant and pear.

Lucien Lelong – Tailspin

Lucien Lelong – Tailspin



The elegance of Lucien Lelong’s designs are undisputed and his fragrances tend to have a refined character and unique signature. Tailspin, which was launched in 1940 as a collaboration between Lucien Lelong and nose Jean Carles, is no exception. The fragrance has a joyful and fresh character, possessing an unique combination of accords.

Tailspin opens with what seems like a competition between two sets of notes: the first is a green, slightly spicy note, somewhere between an herbal scent and the smell of flower stems. The second is a strong soapy accord, reminiscent of the tiny, fancy soaps one might set out for guests in the bathroom. While the scent is decidedly fresh, it is not the modern definition of fresh with its citrus and marine notes. Tailspin reminds me of the days when ladies included perfumed talcs, lotions and soaps in their repertoire, giving them a layered and pervasive scent, one that would remain imprinted on one’s memory.

Tailspin’s heart is lightly floral, with a touch of gardenia and lily of the valley, but remains tinged with the soapy character. Despite the floral notes, the fragrance is in no way sweet and as such would be suitable for use by a man. I tested the Cologne version of Tailspin and it was fairly tenacious, lasting through the day, though possessing a moderate sillage. At its base is a slight animalic note, reminiscent of Lelong’s other creations. While it is not strong enough to be immediately discernible, it nonetheless balances the fragrance nicely.



Notes: Green notes, gardenia, white floral, animalic

Viktor & Rolf – Spicebomb

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb – A Case of Mistaken Identity



I do much of my fragrance and cosmetics shopping at Nordstrom, in part because they have a wonderful points system and frequently have special gift offers. They also have a wonderful, do-it-yourself sampling system. During one such offer, I received a goody bag filled with various lotions and potions, but one in particular caught my eye: Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb. I will admit that I did not care much for Flowerbomb, although it is a pleasant fragrance. It was just a bit too sweet and it seemed like yet another variation on the post-Angel theme. I found the advertisement for Spicebomb very intriguing because it seemed like such an innovative way of reaching the female audience. At least I thought it was trying to reach a female audience, because no man I know would want to wear Spicebomb based on the advertisement unless he also wanted to date the model.

Confident in my assumption that the fragrance was intended for me, I began wearing it and was happily surprised to find that while it bore some resemblance to its pink sister, it satisfied numerous categories that she did not. Whereas Flowerbomb was a simple, almost one-dimensional dessert dish, Spicebomb is more like a sumptuous spiced dinner, complete with an after-dinner snifter in a soft leather armchair.

Spicebomb’s accords range from the lightly spicy notes of cinnamon, saffron and chili to a warm, plush mix of leather and tobacco. The citrus and pink pepper opening smelled delicious but not overly sweet. The sillage was potent yet comfortable. So far, it seemed perfumer Olivier Polge had captured my attention with his version of oriental “light”, but the best was yet to come. As the opening accords settled, a subtle spicy mix warmed on my skin unfolding into richer accords of leather, tobacco and vetiver. Every once in a while, I would catch a whiff of pine from the elemi resin. Other times, the cinnamon and pepper seemed more pronounced. Had any of these elements been pushed to the forefront, the composition would have had an edgier feel, but Spicebomb is tied together in a very cohesive manner, while still allowing for the subtle impression of different notes. Overall, it is a well-crafted and attractive fragrance with moderate lasting power.

After sampling for a few weeks, I decided to commit and buy a bottle. I walked through Nordstrom, unable to locate the signature grey grenade. I approached a sales assistant, who brought me over to the men’s section. Upon seeing my bewildered look at its location within the store she explained “It’s a men’s fragrance” to which I immediately responded “Oh yes. Of course. I knew that. It’s for a gift”.


Viktor & Rolf

Moral of the story: if you enjoy a fragrance and it works for you, ignore the rubbish marketing and target audience. Despite the press caption which states: “Infusing the codes of masculine perfumery with olfactory dynamite, Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is an explosive cocktail of virility that transforms you into a powerful, intense and daring man”. Spicebomb is not particularly explosive, nor have I been transformed into a man.

Smoky woods

Notes: bergamot, elemi, grapefruit, pink pepper, cinnamon, vetiver, tobacco notes, leather, chili and saffron.

Fragantica Fragrance Awards

Fragantica Fragrance Awards

Yesterday, Fragantica released their list of top fragrances for 2012. Selections were based on a collection of reader votes within the Fragantica community. I was excited to see Hermes take the top 2 slots in Best Shared Fragrances with Voyage d’Hermes and L’Ambre des Merveilles, both of which are extremely well-made. Disappointingly, Serge Lutens’s Santal Majuscule only made number 5 in the shared category, but judging buy the other finalists, I suppose I should celebrate that he made it to any slot at all. The most remarkable finalist was Fame by Lady Gaga, which in addition to taking first place in the women’s celebrity category, also ranked third in the overall women’s, beating out Chanel’s Coco Noir!

Be sure to check out the finalists below, as well as my review of Coco Noir. In honor of winning the Best Men’s Fragrance category, today I will be posting a review of Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf, which in my opinion is also a great choice for the shared category. 


Best Women’s Fragrances 2012 – La Vie Est Belle – Lancome




Best Men’s Fragrances 2012 – Spicebomb – Viktor & Rolf


images copy


Best Shared Fragrances 2012 – Voyage d’Hermes Eau de Parfum – Hermes





Best Women’s Celebrity Fragrances 2012 – Fame – Lady Gaga



Etat Libre D’Orange – Secretions Magnifiques

Etat Libre D’Orange – Secretions Magnifiques


With a name like “Magnificent Secretions”, it was evident that Etat Libre D’Orange had every intention of creating a provocative fragrance that would push the boundaries of conventionality. According to Etat’s press information, the fragrance is intended to invoke the scent of blood, sweat, sperm and saliva and to represent the “unique moment when desire triumphs over reason”. Novel concept indeed. And while Secretions Magnifiques can indeed be a polarizing scent, it is not as offensive or animalic as one would anticipate.

The opening is extremely subtle – so much so that I immediately reapplied after smelling my wrist, thinking I had not applied a sufficient amount. The softness of the opening is immediately punctuated by a metallic, mineral smell reminiscent to that of blood. While this may not sound like the beginnings of a fragrant love affair, the strangeness and novelty of it is positively intriguing. The drydown is similarly subtle, where marine accords lend themselves to imaginative interpretations of various secretions. Given the strong sensual implications of the name, an animalic note is strangely absent. Animalic notes are often used to convey a “body smell” to a fragrance and are frequently very sexually suggestive, especially in vintage perfumery. It is as though the “secretions” were captured and removed from the host body, making them devoid of some of the warmth one might anticipate. The absence of a strong animalic accord in conjunction with an almost oily sensation from the metallic opening reminded me of more of “Mechanical Secretions” than magnificent ones.


While Secretions Magnifiques will certainly be a challenging fragrance for some, I found it very enjoyable in an abstract, almost intellectual way. Despite the oddity of the accords and intended scent, it is actually a fairly light fragrance, and I found myself continually burying my nose in my wrist to recapture this novel creation.  Thanks go out to the amazing Victoria at Bois de Jasmin for providing me with a sample as part of a contest!


Iodized accord (fucus, azurone), adrenalin accord, blood accord, milk accord, orris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax.

Coty – Muguet des Bois

Coty – Muguet des Bois


One spray of Coty’s Muguet des Bois and I am instantly transported in time: to afternoon walks in the woods and the innocence of shared childhood secrets. Muguet de Bois was created during one of history’s darkest hours, in 1942 when the dark specter of WWII shrouded the world in darkness. And yet this lovely soliflore (a fragrance based on the scent of a single flower) is the freshest breath of innocence and light imaginable.

Lily of the Valley is often associated with purity and innocence, making it a frequent choice for wedding bouquets. In France, it is customary to give Lily of the Valley as a gift on Fête du Travail, which falls on May 1st, in celebration of Spring. Tradition states that King Charles IX of France was given Lily of the V alley on May 1, 1561, as a good luck charm and he subsequently offered the flower annually to the ladies of his court. Ironically, all parts of the plant are highly poisonous. Even more confounding is the fact that while Lily of the Valley is known and treasured for its distinct aroma, the scent cannot be distilled from the flower and must be painstakingly re-created.

Muguet des Bois opens with a slight bitter green note, reminiscent of a freshly cut stem, which quickly gives way to the soft soapy freshness of Lily of the Valley. While the fragrance is for the most part a singular Lily of the Valley note, there are subtle shades of warmth from jasmine and rose. As the fragrance dries down, there is a suggestion of woods, enough to give the fragrance a bit of depth. A touch of sandalwood and musk also give the fragrance a slightly smoky quality, reminiscent of Summertime picnics. While the fragrance is not as complex as Diorissimo, it is nonetheless lovely and a believable Lily of the Valley. Muguet des Bois would make a lovely Spring or Summertime fragrance, when one is in the mood for something light and uplifting. It is also a perfect bedtime fragrance, promoting dreams of silent forest walks.

Forest_lily_of_the_valley screensaver


Notes: aldehydes, orange, green leaves and bergamot, cyclamen, lilac, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose, sandalwood, musk

Coty – Les Muses

Coty – Les Muses
Continuing with the Coty theme this week, the last Coty fragrance that I was fortunate enough to obtain a sample of was Les Muses. Based on the research I did, it appears that Les Muses is the 1986 adaptation of an earlier Coty fragrance known simply as “Muse” which was released in 1945. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the pre-1980s release to compare it to, but it is my understanding that Coty reissues are not always necessarily true to original form. Les Muses was re-released along with Le Rose Jacqueminot and Chypre.
My overall impression of Les Muses is of a sweet, fruity, floral underpinned by a slight animalic and woody base. While I could not locate any official notes for the fragrance, most prominent is a melange of peach, tuberose and jasmine, supported by heady white florals. While Les Muses had the potential to be a terrific fragrance, this one unfortunately failed to fully capture my heart. While the white floral notes had a nice phenolic aspect (tar-like smell), once the base set in and the revealed a vanilla and amber duo, the fragrance had simply become too sweet. The fragrance seemed top-heavy and lacking in a stabilizing force. While animalic notes in a fragrance can often serve to offset sweetness, the amber (and perhaps musk) utilized were not of sufficient quality to balance the fragrance. If you, like me, enjoy the odd sweet tar-like smell of certain florals, the Shiseido’s Zen is a better option.
Fruity Floral
Notes: Peach, Jasmine, Tuberose, White Florals, Vanilla, Amber, Woods and Musk

Coty – Ex`cla-ma`tion

Coty – Ex`cla-ma`tion



Continuing with the Coty theme this week, Ex`cla-ma`tion was launched by Coty in 1988 and is truly a product of its time. Ex`cla-ma`tion was created by Sophia Grojsman, the extraordinary nose behind such innovative fragrances as Estée Lauder White Linen (1978), Prescriptives Calyx (1987), Calvin Klein Eternity (1988) and Lancôme Trésor (1990). One of the hallmarks of Grojsman’s creative process is her ability to weave groundbreaking scents out of minimal ingredients. While it is not uncommon for perfumes to be a formulation of hundreds of different scents, Grojsman’s typical fragrance may contain fewer than 10.

While violet is not listed anywhere in the official notes, my overall impression of Ex`cla-ma`tion is of a powdery, light, woodsy violet with vanilla overtones. The fragrance opens with a fruity mix of apricot and peach, brightened by the effervescence of bergamot and green notes. The beauty of Ex`cla-ma`tion appears in its middle notes, a combination of orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley and rose, which together create a light, innocent floral sensation. As the base notes appear, the main impression is of a lush vanilla rounded out by woods thanks to sandalwood and cedar. The woodsy impression is enhanced by notes of amber and musk, however, the fragrance maintains an overall floral character.

Ex`cla-ma`tion would be perfect for a young woman just beginning to explore the world of perfumery. It is delicate enough to be age-appropriate, and yet has sufficient depth to serve as a gateway perfume.


Notes: apricot, green notes, peach, bergamot, orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley, rose, sandalwood, amber, cinnamon, musk, vanilla and cedar.

François Coty

François Coty


Over the course of the next week or so, I will be posting a series of reviews on fragrances developed by Coty, so I thought it would be helpful to provide some background on the company and creator first. Coty was formed in 1904 by François Coty (1874–1934). In addition to perfumes such as L’Origan and Emeraude, Coty created the groundbreaking Chypre in 1917. The original Chypre fragrance, which would later come to define an entire category of perfumes, was centered around a combination of elements: citrus notes, floral notes, oakmoss, woods, and some form of musk.

François Coty was born and raised in Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea located west of Italy, and southeast of the France. Coty relocated to Paris in 1900 where he began work selling women’s fashion accessories. Ever the entrpreneur, Coty diplayed an interest in creating fragrances. At the encouragement of a chemist friend, he sought formal perfumery training at Grasse, where he was fortunate enough to be accepted to the school run by Chiris, one of the largest and oldest perfume houses. Within the year, Coty had returned to Paris, eager to try out his hand at creation. While Coty’s initial attempts at marketing and selling his fragrances were not well-received, his audacity and business acumen soon propelled him into the spotlight.

Coty acheieved considerable fame and fortune during his lifetime (eventually becoming France’s first billionaire) and in addition to his success as a perfumer, Coty acquired two Paris newspapers to advance his sometimes unsavory political views. Today, Coty has a global presence in more than  130 countries and territories, with offices in more than 30 countries and are guided by CEO Michele Scannavini. Coty’s fragrance, fashion and beauty brands include such prestigious names as Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein, Cerruti, Chloé, Chopard, Davidoff, OPI, Sally Hansen, Vera Wang and Vivienne Westwood.

Elie Saab – Le Parfum

Elie Saab – Le Parfum


Each morning, as I prepare for the day ahead, I run through an inner dialogue to determine what scent will accompany me through the day. I live in a warm climate which does not offer much temperature variation or seasonal variety, but I am still drawn to certain scents at certain times of the year. I often find however that my selection is based on my mood. Am I introspective or bold today? Do I have to make a presentation at work for which I want to feel confident? Perhaps it is raining and I crave the fragrance version of comfort food. I go through a similar ritual in the evenings when I return home in order to select a second fragrance for the evening. The converse is also true. There are certain fragrances which have the ability to impact my mood instantaneously, like a liquid mood-enhancer and I am careful to keep lots of these gems around.

I had been eagerly awaiting the release of Elie Saab’s fragrance which made its debut in mid-2011, though it took it a bit longer to reach my local Nordstrom for sampling purposes. Elie Saab, a Lebanese designer, is known for his elegant and romantic haute couture. His dresses feature beautiful, intricate lace and sweeping silhouettes, reminiscent of eras gone by. His designs have received numerous honors and he has distinguished himself as an established designer for various royals including the Crown Princesses of Sweden and Greece, as well as Queen Rania of Jordan. While beautiful execution in fashion is no guaranty of success in other mediums, certain houses such as Chanel and Dior have historically produced equally spectacular and memorable fragrances, so I had reason to hope.

Press releases revealed that the fragrance itself would be encased in a beautifully unpretentious crystal orb suggestive of a diamond, with the equally simple moniker of Le Parfum. The fragrance, created by Francis Kurkdjian who has designed for Narciso Rodriguez, Guerlain and Kenzo, was described as a flowery-woody composition featuring orange blossom, jasmine, cedar, patchouli, and rose honey. I tend to enjoy woody compositions, as well as several of Kurkdjian’s creations, so all seemed to point to an elegant, warm floral. In fact, I fantasized that the fragrance would be the equivalent of the dress below.


The opening started well enough with a fresh orange blossom that seemed like familiar territory. As I walked around the fragrance department in Nordstrom looking for a sample vial, I began sensing a pleasant swelling of jasmine and rose, leading me to believe that this fragrance might have potential. My excitement mounted. I filled up my vial and continued on my way. After about ten minutes, I started feeling irritable and almost angry for no reason whatsoever. I rechecked my wrist and there it was: a blast like a wounded trumpet played by an amateur at point-blank range. This assault bore no relation to the fragrance’s opening but definitely heralded its end. Suddenly, the beautiful crystal orb seemed more like a grenade I had pulled the pin from and forgotten about it until it exploded in my pocket.  I have read that the dry-down features a nice clean musk which I might have enjoyed, but this one did not make it past the next ladies’ room sink.

Since I am by no means infallible, and since Elie Saab Le Parfum by Francis Kurkdjian won the 2012 French FIFI awards for Best Feminine Fragrance, Best Feminine Bottle, and best Feminine Media Campaign, you may wish to experience it for yourself at Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. I will stick to the creations Kurkdjian releases under his own name, which are excellent.


Notes: orange blossom, jasmine, cedar, patchouli and rose.