Kenzo Flower

Kenzo Flower


Created in 2000 by Alberto Morillas, Flower by Kenzo appears to be undergoing a renaissance as of late. The folks over at LVMH have created a lovely new ad/commercial for a flanker known as Flower in the Air (seen here and here), which emphasizes the fragrance’s special character. While I have yet to get my hands on a sample, I thought it a perfect time to review the original Flower. Although it is a clearly contemporary creation in terms of its structure, Flower has one foot squarely in the past, paying deference to some of the great perfume classics.

Flower was  styled as a poppy fragrance, meant to represent the scent of this supposedly scentless flower (though a fellow collector friend tells me the plants have a sharp green scent). Press marketing aside, Flower is a soft powdery violet with aspects reminiscent of L’Heure Bleue and Royal Champagne de Caron.  While the most recent sample of Flower I picked up seems reformulated and less brilliant than I recall, it is nevertheless closer to its happy, carefree self than either of its forebears.


Flower’s fluffy violet is grounded by hints of vanilla, musk and opoponax, all of which are painted in soft brush strokes keeping the fragrance light throughout. While the fragrance has fairly good lasting power, it never feels heavy, and manages to convey its message in whispers. Flower is a lovely, relatively affordable choice when one needs the singular lift only a fragrance can bring. Perfect for a younger woman just venturing into fragrances.

The Flower line was expanded to include body products and though I have not seen it in person, the Sephora site claims that the new flacons are now re-fillable!


Notes: Wild Hawthorne, Bulgarian Rose, Parma Violet, Cassia, Opoponax, White Musk, Vanilla.


Scented Comfort

Scented Comfort


When one is predisposed to surround themselves with fragrances, it is inevitable that this love affair with scent will intrude into the home. While I have read that many scent purists, and especially perfumers, prefer to keep their environments free of any scented products, scent can add an additional layer of beauty and comfort to a home.

In this vein, I love to keep a few scented candles around my home. They can help create a delightful ambiance on a rainy afternoon indoors, or add a special touch after a dinner party, enticing guests to linger. Mind you, I am not speaking of the supermarket variety, although some of those do possess a nice fragrance that will do in a pinch. Better to invest in a few good candle products, which if cared for and used judiciously, will last several months.

Aside from the obvious choices of Guerlain and Diptyque, some of my favorites are those produced by the French company Carrière Frères Industrie.  Carrière Frères was founded in 1884 by two entrepreneurial brothers who were passionate about wax-making and craftsmanship. Their passion led them to combine the best quality, pure vegetal wax and wicks for a candle that would burn longer and cleaner, without unwanted smoke. The paraffin-free wax formula blends more easily with fragrance and seems to release it more uniformly as well. The duo was awarded a gold medal in 1889 for their innovative church candles and night-lights, and has been the official supplier to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur ever since.


The Carrière Frères line carries numerous soliflores and other botanical scents in elegant white glass holders bearing an image of the scent and its scientific name. The candles give off a lovely odor even when left unlit and the holders can be “recycled” for other uses once the candle has been used. I love to use mine to hold cotton balls or makeup brushes. While there are too many wonderful scents to choose from, Iris Sibirica, Viola Odorata, Gardenia Tahitensis and of course Lavandula Angustifolia, are among my favorites. The candle box is also gorgeous – elegant and minimalist.

The website offers points of purchase (I purchased mine from one of the online retailers) and helpful tips for caring for your candle. A friend of mine offered the best tip for candle care, however, one which assists in prolonging the scent. Once you have finished your candle session, simply put a plate on the candle holder to snuff it out. This helps the wax dry evenly and allows the scent to last longer. I have been using this technique on all my scented candles and have been very pleased with the results. According to Carrière Frères, the candles have an average burn time of 45 to 50 hours.

Carrière Frères Industrie 

Guerlain News

Guerlain News

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I recently posted here that the Guerlain flagship store at 68 Champs-Élysées was undergoing renovations. It turns out that the store has indeed been closed for the past several months and is expected to remain so until later this year. Apparently the existing boutique area is undergoing an extensive expansion which will span multiple floors. My friend in Paris was kind enough to snap some photos for me which show work going on in the background. While it is certainly exciting to imagine the beautiful new displays, I do wonder how necessary the additional space is, as 68 Champs-Élysées was just expanded in 2011. Hopefully the rumors about historic elements being demolished will turn out to be unfounded.


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Another rumor which judging by these photos seems to hold some truth is that Guerlain is conducting some activities in Russia. If you look closely at the flags in the picture at left, you can see the Russian flag all the way to the right. In addition to a commemorative bee bottle of Quand Vient La Pluie (Thierry Wasser’s modern “interpretation” of Après L’Ondée) named Place Rouge to celebrate the 150th anniversary of one of Russia’s major department stores (located in Red Square), Guerlain has been rumored to be producing fragrances in factories located in the former Soviet Union.


This could hold some benefit for perfumistas, as the strict regulations regarding perfume materials are not in place outside of the European Union. While the news of this set my mind racing with olfactory visions of real oakmoss, the thought of another Wasser creation snapped me back to reality. Now if Guerlain would only bring back Mathilde Laurent!



Chanel Les Exclusifs – Bel Respiro

Chanel Les Exclusifs – Bel Respiro

Coco Chanel Igor Stravinsky 0012

No summer would be complete without the easy elegance of Chanel’s Bel Respiro. Released in 2007 with 5 other Les Exclusifs as part of the original line-up, Bel Respiro is a study in green. It possesses simplicity and sophistication in equal measures, qualities which are woefully absent from many modern releases.  Indeed, although it possesses a far more subtle character, Bel Respiro seems to be more a contemporary of its elder sisters Chanel No 19 and Cristalle.

Given the number of show-stopping fragrances in the Les Exclusifs line-up, it took some time before Bel Respiro caught my full attention. In fact, it took something quite different than repeated sampling for me to fall in love. Named after Coco Chanel’s gorgeous chateau in a Parisian suburb, Bel Respiro was depicted in the 2009 cinematic release Coco and Igor Stravinsky. The film, which seeks to recount a love affair between Chanel and the Russian composer, is largely set in the beautiful chateau, which she “lent” to Stravinksky and his family so that he might compose his music without the pressures of earning a living and facilitate their amorous liaisons.Coco Chanel Igor Stravinsky 0013

I have read that Jacques Polge drew his inspiration from various parts of Mademoiselle Chanel’s life when dreaming up the fragrance line. In the case of Bel Respiro, as in many of the other Les Exclusifs, he appears to have perfectly channeled her sensibilities.  It was there, in those scenes of the bucolic green grounds and magnificent house that the fragrance suddenly came alive for me. Bel Respiro, which translates roughly as “beautiful breath” (as in a breath of air) captures both the soothing effects of nature and beauty on the human psyche, as well as the luxuriousness of leisure time spent outdoors.

Bel Respiro is nature rendered with the elegance of Chanel. From the crisp green opening reminiscent of Chanel 19, Bel Respiro softens into a gossamer light green floral, with a touch of the fine herbs France is famous for. I find the fragrance to be changeable, sometimes giving an impression of green tea and sometimes a light subtle rose before warming into the softest hint of leather. There are whispers of myrrh in the drydown, but these are subtle enough that they only seem to lend to an overall impression of soft smoke and incense. While not mentioned anywhere in the notes, I have the sense of an iris coming in and out of focus. Overall, the fragrance possesses an expansive, airy quality – a beautiful breath indeed.  I can easily imagine Mademoiselle Chanel strolling through the grounds of Bel Respiro at dusk, taking in the scents of her garden and the beauty of her surroundings, wild grasses crunching underfoot.

While Bel Respiro was one of my later acquisitions of Les Exclusifs, I fear I may finish my bottle long before all others. The fragrance features a light and personal sillage, and requires heavy application to get it off the ground so to speak. Surprisingly, it is fairly tenacious on skin despite being a low volume fragrance. This is one of the Les Exclusifs that I will pray for a parfum version of. While it is gorgeous as an EdT, it would be heavenly as an extrait.

Be sure to check out these movie stills from Architecture of Film, as well as the film in its entirety. While it got mixed reviews, the scenery is astounding and a must for a Chanelphile.

Green floral

Notes: Crushed leaves, Rosemary, Thyme, Rose, Lilac, Hyacinth, Green Tea, Aromatic Grasses, Myrrh, Leather.



La Légende de Shalimar

La Légende de Shalimar

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This past week, the folks over at Guerlain/LVMH released the most stunning marketing piece for one of its most iconic perfumes: Shalimar. The mini-film (here), produced by the uber-talented French filmmaker Bruno Aveillan (who produced a similar piece for Cartier), makes real the tale behind the fragrance: the love story between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

While there can be no argument that the imagery is stunning and will certainly draw attention to the fragrance and the once mighty house of Guerlain, I could not help but watch the film with a sense of irony and regret. I have posted here about my difficulties with Shalimar in its modern version. I find the modern Shalimar to be aggressive, brash and scratchy, while the original possessed the warmth and depth of liquid gold. While re-formulation of fragrances and the unavailability of important materials certainly plays a role in the current state of perfumery, there can be no denying the fact that the quality of materials has decreased in many of our favorite fragrances.

This factor is exacerbated by the ever-increasing marketing budgets that must be justified, often at the expense of the underlying product. In fact, the cost of the materials in a perfume is often only a few dollars, while the majority of the expense put into producing a bottle of fragrance is in fact that of the marketing machine. How then can we interpret the fate of Shalimar and indeed the house of Guerlain? Production costs for the movie were rumored to be in excess of $45 million. Given the current state of Shalimar, this can only mean two things in my opinion: 1) either Guerlain/LVMH is aware that the fragrance in its current form is not up to par and needs marketing assistance if it is going to survive and seduce future generations or 2) another re-formulation or decrease in quality lies ahead.

The greatest irony of the release is that Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal upon Mumtaz Mahal’s death, so the beautiful monument commemorated in the film is actually a memorial to the dead. Perhaps then this monumental film also commemorates the death of the beloved, in this case, the beauty and splendour of the original Shalimar. For my part, I would prefer advertising along the lines of this 1933 image below, if it meant that funds would be expended where they should: to restore the fragrance to its former, impossibly perfect, glory.



Hermes – Un Jardin sur le Nil

Hermes – Un Jardin sur le Nil


There are certain fragrances which elicit an involuntary story full of romance and wonder, thanks to the beauty of their creation. Unfortunately for Un Jardin sur le Nil, anyone who has read Chandler Burr’s “The Emperor of Scent” will likely recall the tale of Hermes sending its nose Jean-Claude Ellena on an expedition to Egypt with an entire team in tow, to capture the scents of the exotic landscape. While this episode does show the more banal side of perfumery, the hilarity of this scenario does nothing to diminish this beautful creation.

Jean-Claude Ellena commenced his olfactory travels in 2003 with Un Jardin en Mediterranee, a fig/woods creation which invoked the gardens of the Mediterranean. Un Jardin sur le Nil, second in the series and created in 2005, takes us to the exotic reaches of the Nile, if only in name. Chandler Burr explains here how Ellena  had to abandon his original vision for an Egyptian-inspired fragrance upon his arrival, as the actual smells were less dark and opulent than his imagination had suggested. What Ellena was ultimately inspired by was the many mango trees growing in the area which were covered in young green mango, which has a distinctly different smell than ripe mango – tart, with a bit of bite and slightly dusty.

The fragrance starts out with a bright citrus note that is positively bursting. While not listed anywhere in the notes, my impression is of a juicy grapefruit exploding under the pressure of a sharp knife. The grapefruit note unfolds into a green mango note, fruity and tangy but devoid of sweetness, which in my opinion is one of the aspects that makes this fragrance so successful.

As the citrus dies down, there is a light floral impression which lightens the fragrance into a familiar Jean-Claude Ellena category. While light, the fragrance possesses an underlying complexity which becomes more apparent in the base of rich sycomore woods. Despite the richness of the mango and woods, the fragrance maintains a dry character which keeps it beautiful and delicate without becoming too sweet.

As with many of Ellena’s creations, the simplicity of the notes belie the complexity of the resulting fragrance, as Ellena has proven himself to be a master of illusion. Un Jardin sur le Nil possesses a strong but comfortable potency and sillage and its character is perfectly suitable for a man or a woman.

Citrus Woods

Notes: Green Mango, Lotus, Aromatic Rushes, Incense, Sycamore Wood. 

Creed – Fleurissimo

Creed – Fleurissimo


There are few women who have walked this earth that come close to possessing the elegance, beauty and talent of Grace Kelly. A shining star of American film and theater until her fairytale marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco, she conducted herself with such finesse that she truly lived up to both her name and her title.

Small wonder then that the perfume house of Creed consented to Prince Rainier III’s wish to commission a fragrance for his young bride’s wedding day.  The result, Fleurissimo, was a floral bouquet centered around tuberose, the heady, white flower responsible for the likes of Fracas.

While tuberose can be a difficult note for some, it is most successful in fragrances that harness its lush, buttery quality and use it to bring depth to a fragrance. Unfortunately, Fleurissimo accomplishes none of this. After a promising bergamot opening, Fleurissimo, which translates roughly to “extreme flower” is anything but. Instead, it is a pinched, slightly synthetic-smelling white floral which (thankfully) dissipates quickly.

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I wish I could transport myself back to 1956 and smell James Henry Creed the Fifth’s original creation. I have to imagine that the vintage fragrance privileged enough to grace the Princess’s wrist must have been superior to what is produced today. Sadly, the modern Fleurissimo does not do justice to the beauty and decorum of its muse.

Notes: Bergamot, Tuberose, Bulgarian Rose, Violet, Iris, Ambergris.

Thanks for Standing By

Thanks for Standing By


Last week I experienced the dread of any blogger – complete computer failure. If the folks at Apple are to be believed, it will never happen again. Thanks to my readers for their concern and for welcoming me back into their daily routine.