Yves Saint Laurent – Champagne / Yvresse

Yves Saint Laurent – Champagne / Yvresse


Nothing conveys a sense of luxury and celebration quite like champagne: the excitement of its bubbles, crisp effervescence and intoxicating aroma. Fragrance names are often selected to invoke a certain imagery or romanticism, and Yves Saint Laurent’s 1993 release was no exception. Depsite the legal battle which ensued over the fragrance’s name when the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne sought to protect the cultural heritage of the beverage, there is nothing particularly controversial about the fragrance. It is simply luxurious, bright and perhaps a touch heady in the way of its namesake.

The opening bursts with a quick progression of notes which mimics rising champagne bubbles in a glass. Pungent nectarine, deep rose, a touch of anise and violet compete for top billing. For those who are wary of the cumin note, fear not. While the cumin adds a slight earthy quality to the fragrance which mimics the bite of champagne, it is not very distinct, and much less apparent than in the reformulated Rochas Femme.

champagne glasses

The fragrance’s heart reveals an accord that will seem familiar to Sophia Grojsman fans, as she presents another variation on her fruity rose trick. I prefer Champagne’s composition to that of her other opus Lancôme Trésor, as it feels more balanced when juxtaposed against a classical chypre base of oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.

Champagne’s spin on chypre is extremely accessible and quite lovely. Despite the musty, earthy smell which oakmoss can sometimes lend to a composition, Champagne manages to remain bright and light. While the fragrance certainly alludes to such classics as Mitsouko and Rochas Femme with the interplay between fruit and chypre, Champagne seems like the light-hearted, blonde younger sister of these two dark-haired beauties. Champagne in turn appears to have influenced modern perfumery, as one can glimpse hints of its structure in Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon.

Champagne, later re-named Yvresse as a play on the French “ivresse” or “intoxication”, is an easy-to-wear, exuberant fragrance. No matter what the occasion or indeed the outfit, that always makes me feel elegant and in the mood to celebrate.

Fruity Chypre

Notes: Nectarine, Anise, Mint, Violet, Cumin, Rose, Lychee, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Vanilla.

Caron – Nuit de Noël

Caron – Nuit de Noël




The holidays are a time of celebration, but also of remembrance, when we take stock of the year which has just passed and remember those who have made our days so special. As I have mentioned here, the House of Caron (along with the venerable Guerlain) held a special place for many of us Stateside in the early 1900s, as the ultimate in French perfumery. Is it any wonder then that the lovely Nuit de Noël, French for Christmas Eve, would hold a place of high honor during the holidays?

Created in 1922 by Ernest Daltroff for his muse and amante Félicie Wanpouille, who as the story goes loved the intoxicating scent of marron glacés, a traditional delicacy served in Europe around the holidays. For those of you not familiar with this French confection, it consists of fresh winter chestnuts enrobed in a light sugar glaze. If you have never experienced the scent of marron glacés or freshly roasted chestnuts, you must try them. The smell and taste are simply heavenly.


Despite all this talk of confections and sugary chestnuts, Nuit de Noël is not a gourmand fragrance in the modern sense. The fragrance goes on dry and slightly crisp, not unlike a glass of holiday Champagne. Nuit de Noël opens with a subtle floral mix of rose and jasmine with a hint of ylang-ylang, which have a slightly sparkling effect. as the fragrance unfolds, it has a soft, velvety quality which provides the perfect backdrop for the spices to take center stage.

Nuit de Noël is among the more subtle Caron fragrances, which seem to be so blended as to create a mood or overall effect, rather than to convey a battery of notes in the traditional pyramid sense. The drydown is positively delicious, a warm yet subtle base of woods, moss and amber which remain in the background as the light spices continue their dance on center stage.

As is the case with many of our favorite fragrances, Nuit de Noël is slightly different in its modern form but still a lovely fragrance, though the Eau de Toilette is a bit scratchier in the opening than the parfum. The vintage parfum, which comes in a green tasseled box and a gorgeous black baccarat bottle, is worth seeking out. After all, it’s never to early to plan for next holiday’s gifts.

While it may seem like a cliché in today’s disposable consumer age to have a fragrance reserved for the holidays, many women at this time could not afford to wear fragrance on a daily basis, a simple luxury we take for granted today. And though I love wearing Nuit de Noël year-round, with its reference to marrons glacés and Christmas inspiration, it was clearly created with the holidays in mind. What better way to create lasting memories for the next generation than to make the holidays a special time, by creating and honoring your own rituals.

imgres copy

Notes: Ylang-ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Musk, Amber.

Last Minute Shopping – Sephora

Last Minute Shopping – Sephora




Hopefully all my readers are safely tucked away, either at home celebrating with loved ones or out enjoying themselves at holiday festivities. For those last minute shoppers, or even for those who carefully plan every gift only to receive an unexpected present from a kind neighbor or co-worker, Sephora is a great choice for an impulse gift. Their stores have tend to have a nice selection of fragrances, as well as numerous non-fragrance items like cosmetics and specialty creams and shampoos.

A friend of mine in France and I were recently comparing notes on Sephora. While the one in my local mall is decent size, one of the Paris Sephora stores measures 2,500 square meters! For the rest of us, that’s equal to 26,910 square feet!!! While I would have no problem picking out a nice gift at my local store, I think I would get lost in the Paris store in the fragrance section alone! But then perhaps that is LVMH’s strategy (yes, they own Sephora as well).

Please check out the photos below for a store by store comparison. I will let you – my discerning reader – determine which is which! Happy Holidays!

Store #1


Store #2


Diptyque – L’Eau

Diptyque – L’Eau


There are many fragrances, beloved though they may be, which are clearly the product of the olfactory fashions of their time. Whether it be an over-abundance of aldehydes, oakmoss or civet, like tiny wrinkles gathering at the corners of a woman’s face, they serve as tell-tale signs of age. I am repeatedly amazed then by the timelessness of certain fragrances and of certain houses, which continue to enchant as the years go by.

While Diptyque came on to the fragrance scene in the 1960s, one would be hard-pressed to tie them to a specific era. Their simple flacons with spare black and white lettering are at once indisputably modern, and yet suggest a bit of Roman antiquity in their designs. No single fragrance in the Diptyque line-up better exemplifies this quality more so than L’Eau, the house’s first personal fragrance which was launched in 1968.

Somewhat ironically named, L’Eau is a somewhat polarizing rendition of pot-pourri, with its rich notes of clove and cinnamon. If you are not a fan of these notes, stop right here, for while they temper over the life of the fragrance, they never dissipate completely. Indeed, the opening is reminiscent of the spice and sizzle of red hots, the tiny heart-shaped candies so popular on Valentine’s Day as an emblem of romantic love. As the fragrance unfurls and warms like branches over a fire, the initial spicy burst mellows into a clove-tinged rose, warmed by the richness of woods. A hint of soapiness gives the fragrance a retro appeal.

L’Eau is without a doubt a cold-weather scent, in part for the associations which the rich notes bring to mind, but also because it can be somewhat cloying in warmer weather. In some respects L’Eau clearly seems like a child of the Sixties, where social boundaries were being broken and wearing pot-pourri would seem très anti-establishment. Every time I catch its lovely spicy scent rising up however I have strong visions of a distant past; of winter hoods trapping the scent of mulled wine and homemade holiday gifts, as the bearer traveled through the cold to personally deliver holiday cheer.


If one can call what feels like a 500-year old fragrance recipe “retro”, then it is this timeless quality that makes L’Eau so appealing. And similar to other fragrances which contain notes with strong seasonal associations such as this and this, once these notes are seen in a new context, the result is unforgettable. Wearing it today feels supremely modern, much in the way that the pop-art of the mid-1950s still retains a modern edge.

Notes: Cinnamon, Clove, Geranium, Sandalwood, Rose

Celebrating the Magnificent Bee Bottle


Image courtesy of Bragmayer and Guerlain


For the past 160 years, Guerlain’s Bee Bottle has epitomized luxury and distinction in the world of perfumery. The Bee has served as a long-standing symbol of royalty, but since the day its image was emblazoned upon a bottle of Eau de Cologne Impériale offered to Empress Eugénie, then-wife of Napoleon, it has become nearly synonymous with the venerable House of Guerlain.

It is fitting then that in commemoration of its 160-year anniversary, it is the Bee Bottle itself which will be receiving the royal treatment. Following are links to a short video produced by Guerlain here, as well as a post describing the many new faces of the Bee here. The designs are so special, it is impossible to pick a favorite.

Readers will note that new Bee Bottle collection was not included in my list of favorite holiday gifts posted here earlier this week. While they are certain to be high on anyone’s list after a glimpse, they come with a price tag which is truly fit for royalty!


Fragrant Gift Ideas

Fragrant Gift Ideas









We are in the midst of the holiday season! Stores everywhere have decorated themselves, hoping to tempt shoppers into finding the perfect gift within. Below are some of my top picks for the season.


Yves Saint Laurent Nu is back! Originally launched in 2001, this gorgeous, dusky oriental was sadly discontinued. Nu is one of my favorite incense fragrances and has been in heavy rotation this winter season. Rumored to be a flop in part due to faulty packaging (a metallic, violet-grey hockey puck of a dispenser which sadly leaked) Nu has received an elegant makeover. Let’s hope that the beauty and originality of the Jacques Cavallier creation is still intact. Nu can be purchased directly from the YSl site here.



Chanel No 5 Intense Bath Oil – this luxurious bath oil scented with one of the most beloved fragrances of all times is deeply nourishing for the skin and feels positively sinful. Add it to the bath or apply directly to the skin for a rich veil of scent. A little goes a long way and since the bath oil comes in a large 8.4 ounce flacon, it could last you for many holidays to come. The last time I checked it was sold out on the Chanel website but was available at my local Nordstrom.




Scented candles always make a thoughtful holiday gift, especially if you are uncertain about the recipient’s favorite fragrance (or in the case of many of my readers, she already has too many fragrances!). I have already waxed poetic here on the candles made by Carrière Frères Industrie and this season they have a new Cinnamon candle available here, the perfect scent for creating a warm holiday ambience at home.

Another favorite candle for the home comes from Restoration Hardware. The French Oak scent immediately transports me to the sitting room of a glorious chateau in the Loire Valley, while Belgian Linen has all the elegance and solemnity of a Gothic cathedral at vespers.




Marni by Marni has been one of my favorite releases of the year. A subtle mix of rose and incense, it is a perfect go-to fragrance for all occasions. Marni is joyful enough for holiday mornings spent with friends and family and soft-spoken enough for the office once the reality of the new year beckons. At least you will smell divine once you are back at work! Marni is available at most major department stores.



Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice


While I had read positive reviews of Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice, it was not a fragrance I held out great hope for. Much less had I expected to become borderline-obsessed with it. The description for this (now discontinued) Eau de Toilette from the inconstant Aqua Allegoria series sounded too much like a gimmick. The fragrance is built around a series of wood accords, including fir and pine, meant to invoke the scents associated with the holiday season. Guerlain then added to this forest fantasy the wintry spice of clove and sweetened it with vanilla and a sugary note. In my mind, I had already conjured images of candle shops at the mall during the holiday season, with teenage salespeople pushing red and green pillars of wax, inlaid with pine cone pieces, while being bombarded with loud holiday music and frantic Christmas shoppers. Needless to say, this did not seem to me like a recipe for anything other than a bad seasonal fragrance.

In my rush to form an impression, I had failed to consider that there might yet be some steam in the venerable Guerlain engine capable of producing something provocative, which is exactly what they did. That being said, Winter Delice is a bit of an odd fragrance. Upon first application, I was hit with a musky, slightly musty sensation that was soon lightened by a fruity accord reminiscent of winter berries on a cold morning. The fragrance warmed to a strong impression of woods very much like those scents we associate with the holidays. For the first few minutes, I struggled against years of cultural associations and the sensation that I could not possibly wear this fragrance on my body unless I planned on dressing as a sugar plum fairy.

And yet, what I had not expected was the drydown: a lovely mix of incense and resin, softened by the powdery sweetness of oppoponax. The fragrance is somewhat strange no doubt, and definitely evokes thoughts of wintery nights before the fireplace. But true to its name, Winter Delice is also delicious, and I found I could not stop smelling myself to catch the warmth of the incense against woods.


As with several of the other Aqua Allegoria fragrances, Winter Delice was discontinued, although one can sometimes find overpriced minis for sale. Unfortunately for my wallet, I fell in love with this odd, lovely fragrance and have gone through a decant provided by a generous friend rather quickly. Looks like an overpriced mini is in my future.


Woody Floral Musk

Notes: Fir; Pine, Resin, Oppoponax, Vanilla, Sugar.


Serge Lutens – Fille en Aiguilles

Serge Lutens – Fille en Aiguilles


Vincent Van Gogh


It seems unbelievable that December is upon us. Winter calls to mind snowy evenings by the fire with a mug of warm spiced tea, after a brisk walk though a pine forest, where the cold night air traps a scent and suspends it in its icy fingers. And while it may not be even remotely cold where I live, the humidity has diminished, and the thermometer has been gracious enough to dip to the point where my favorite winter scents can make their debut.

Serge Lutens is the master of intellectual perfumes, ones which weave an olfactory story. Fille en Aiguilles is no exception, and yet it creates more a sense of atmosphere than a story alone. But how to create a fragrance based on the notes of pine, incense, candied fruit and spices without creating a cliché?

Released in 2009, Fille en Aiguilles is true to the Lutens/Sheldrake formula of combining disparate notes that cannot possibly belong together in any cogent manner, and turning up their more difficult aspects beyond the point of discomfort until they positively soar. Fille en Aiguilles starts out with a candied fruit note reminiscent of wintry holidays that will feel familiar to Lutens fans. It is rendered here with more subtlety than Arabie or Chypre Rouge, as though the intent were to envelop the wearer in a blanket of comfort rather than provoke or shock.


The fruit quickly fades to a forest full of pine and fir notes, warmed with wintry spices, which carry on the opening theme of candied fruit. Pine is a note I never imagined loving in a fragrance, as it could so easily become unimaginative, but here it is rendered with such elegance and creativity, it is difficult not to fall under its spell.

Then Fille en Aiguilles, which roughly translates to “girl in stilettos”, shows us her Lutensian edge with a bit of the camphorous halo many of us have come to love, though rendered with far more delicacy than in his explosive Tubereuse Criminelle. Detractors fear not, the effect is subtle and further subdued by beautiful frankincense. The combined effect is stunning, enveloping the wearer in a soft, smoky haze, much like a tender embrace on a cold winter’s night.

Notes: Pine Needles, Vetiver, Sugary Sap, Laurel, Fir Balsam, Frankincense, Candied Fruit, Spice.