Nina Ricci – Farouche

Nina Ricci – Farouche


The Nina Ricci fragrance line is one that I did not traditionally have much exposure to growing up, as none of the women in my family wore it. I did have a distant aunt who sometimes wore L’Air du Temps, but we’ll save that for another post. No wonder then that the house’s 1973 release Farouche failed to catch my attention until now (there were after all plenty of other fragrances to keep me busy).

I recently purchased an assortment of vintage perfume minis, and one fragrance included in the assortment was Nina Ricci’s Farouche in the Eau de Toilette concentration. While I have a decent knowledge of French, I will admit that I was not familiar with the word “Farouche”. Interestingly, I did not look it up until after I had tested the fragrance several times, fearing it might skew my impression. In that vein, I will keep its meaning silent until the end of the post.

Farouche opens with some fizzy aldehydes adding lift to a soft orange and galbanum melange. While galbanum fragrances generally make weak in the knees, Farouche comes on like a whisper. The heart unfolds to a gentle floral bouquet of jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and geranium, to which iris lends a hint of powder, While carnation and clary sage add a bit of a twist, Farouche’s overall character remains moderate. The fragrance wafts up again after a about an hour or so, revealing a mossy, vetiver base, reminiscent of classics such as Ma Griffe, but executed with a subtle hand.

In fact, my main issue with Farouche was its faint presence, which made an otherwise lovely fragrance with all of the hallmarks of a classic, slightly forgettable in the face of other mossy, green giants. That being said, this lightness of character would make it a perfect scent for someone just starting to explore the genre, as it touches on all of the aspects of a mossy green floral. I can only imagine how lovely the parfum concentration must be, though I have heard that is subtle as well. The Eau de Toilette bottle is lovely, with its slender neck is reminiscent of a swan, while the flacon for the parfum (reportedly made by Lalique) resembles a heart.

And in case you are still wondering (and have not searched for it yourself), Farouche translates as shy. Perfect.

Floral Aldehyde

Notes: Aldehydes, Mandarin, Bergamot, Galbanum, Peach, Honeysuckle, Carnation, Iris, Lily, Clary Sage, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-Valley, Rose, Geranium, Cardamom, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk, Oakmoss, Vetiver.


Caron – Bellodgia

Caron – Bellodgia

caron bellodgia

There are certain fragrances which are like a revelation for us, sending our senses reeling as our minds attempt to catalogue all of the myriad impressions they inspire. Bellodgia, created in 1927 by the perfumer Ernest Daltroff, the nose behind such classics as Tabac Blond and Nuit de Noel, is truly revolutionary. While it is often referred to as a study of carnation in all of its spicy glory, and meant to invoke all the beauty of the lovely, sunny seaside town of Bellagio, Italy, Bellodgia’s beauty runs much deeper.

The carnation certainly takes center stage during the opening, and its vibrancy nearly blinds us to the other important figures arranging themselves onstage. The piquant spice of the carnation and lily of the valley is enhanced by a smoky facet with such intensity that it reminds me of the charcoal trail fireworks leave behind. The carnation begins to smolder with the spice of clove, which melts and softens into a creamy, powdery cloud.

In fact, this combination of carnation and clove works so well that it found its way into another incredibly successful fragrance which I shall post about soon. For those few of you fortunate enough to have smelled Guerlain’s Bouquet de Faunes, the clove in Bellodgia takes on a similar character, miles away from its interpretation in Diptyque’s L’Eau.

While with its exotic name, Bellodgia is meant to transport us to summery climes, for me Bellodgia is all about winter. It possesses a deep and embracing character which feels perfect with cashmere and thick, plush scarves and while I can imagine it being worn by elegant women with fur stoles and opera length gloves, it just as beautifully dresses up a pair of blue jeans.

Bellagio Italy

Unlike some of the other vintage Carons, the vintage extrait version of Bellodgia can be found online for a reasonable price. If you are a carnation or clove lover, the vintage is worth seeking out. Unfortunately, I cannot much recommend the modern reformulation which is dissimilar to the original, due in great part to restrictions on many of the original ingredients.

Notes: Carnation, Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Lily of the Valley, Clove, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Musk.   

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille


For the most part, the Aqua Allegoria series by Guerlain feel like watercolor impressions of fruit and floral bouquets. The various Eau de Toilettes generally have a light character, making them perfect summertime fragraces when one is fresh out of the shower with clean scrubbed hair. The exception to the original series released in 1999 is Ylang & Vanille, a heavier, fairly opulent floral oriental, more in the style of traditional Guerlain scents.

True to its name, the fragrance largely focuses on the interplay of the exotic Ylang Ylang and luscious vanilla notes. The fragrance opening highlights the sharper, greener aspects of the flower, but quickly softens into a sumptuous floral veil that feels like a thick, plush robe. While there are subtle notes of jasmine and carnation, they are barely discernable and act more to highlight the lush Ylang Ylang. The flower’s distinctive fragrance reminds me of balmy days in humid tropical islands and its deep, voluptuous scent can add heft to a perfume. In Ylang & Vanille, Guerlain does nothing to downplay the slightly odd scent of this beautiful flower, instead adding vanilla to enhance the dense, heady quality.


The vanilla, once it appears, is quite different from the traditional Guerlain vanilla we experience in Shalimar and Jicky. Ylang & Vanille’s vanilla feels closer to a vanilla bean or extract, rich and pungent, but lacking in sweetness. While the Ylang Ylang feels sumptuous enough to hang in the air like a billowy cloud, the lack of sweetness in the fragrance keeps it from becoming too cloying, or worse, yet another sickly sweet gourmand. The fragrance displays considerable potency for an Eau de Toilette, and this is one of the few Aqua Allegorias which would be overwhelming in a more potent concentration. Similar to several of its sisters in the original 1999 series penned by Mathilde Laurent, this one has been discontinued.

Floral Oriental

Notes: Ylang Ylang, jasmine, carnation and vanilla



Robert Piguet – Bandit

Robert Piguet – Bandit

Leather scents rank highly in my top fragrance choices, but they can be difficult for some, especially as the weather turns warmer.  On days when I want the daring, provocative rebellion that only a leather can deliver, but without the heaviness, Robert Piguet’s Bandit is my fragrance of choice. Created by the fragrance mastermind Germaine Cellier, the woman responsible for Fracas and Balmain’s Vent Vert, Bandit is a fine balance between bracing leather and green florals.

Legend has it that the perfume was inspired by a symbolic post-war runway show, with models dressed up in masks and carrying toy weapons, like cross-dressed outlaws. Whether or not this legend is true, Bandit clearly has a foot squarely in each the masculine and feminine realms, giving the fragrance a subtle androgynous character and driving home its bad-boy image.bonnie-and-clyde-faye-dunaway

While the post-2012 reformulation is surely miles away from the 1944 original, the magic of Bandit lies in the interplay of leather and chypre, smokiness and green depths, masculine and feminine. From the first moments of its sharp galbanum opening until its rich smoky roots, Bandit is a beautiful marriage of opposites, like a tussle between James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. It’s elegant, bitter and beautifully unconventional.

Notes: galbanum, artemisia, neroli, orange, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, tuberose, carnation, leather, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, patchouli.

2012 reformulation sample courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman.

Balmain – Ivoire

Balmain – Ivoire27115-pierre-balmain-perfumes-1988-ivoire-hprints-com

Elegant and polished like the keys of a piano, Balmain’s 1979 Ivoire perfectly captures the sensibility of its time and of the refined, luxurious fashions of its creator, Pierre Balmain. While the fragrance can go head to head with the big, bold and brash fragrances of the 1980s, it possesses an earthy quality characteristic of the 1970s. While the name Ivoire, French for ivory, conjures for many images of a big white velvety floral, Ivoire is positively green.

From the outset, Ivoire is dense and layered. On my skin, the fragrance does not unfold in the typical top-heart-base progression, rather it unleashes its depths all at once. Ivoire is green, herbal and floral, with a pungent, spicy warmth at its depth. And while the fragrance does take some twists and turns throughout the day, revealing bright citrus and hints of floral underpinned by galbanum, the warmth of oakmoss and musk is ever present. The drydown is a creamy, woodsy and slightly soapy pillow.

I have a small vintage bottle from the 1980s that I take out whenever I want to feel especially elegant in a confident, Chanel No 19-esque  manner, so I was thrilled to see that Balmain had re-issued the fragrance in 2012. While perfumers Michel Almairac and Jacques Flori are certainly talented in their own right, the beauty of the original was unfortunately lost in translation due to restrictions on perfume materials. The re-issued Ivoire leans more toward a straight floral, and feels sharp and unbalanced without the richness that only true oakmoss and musks can bring. And while it does not possess the elegance of the original 1970s ads, the new marketing photos are a knockout.

ivoiredebalmainvisuelpuNotes: green accord, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, aldehydes, lily of the valley, rose, hyacinth, jasmine, carnation, orris, orchid, geranium, cedar, musk, oakmoss, amber, raspberry and sandalwood.

Robert Piguet – Fracas

Robert Piguet – Fracas


There are some fragrances which are love at first sniff, as though the scent satisfied some intense longing we never knew we had. And there are those which we struggle with, knowing conceptually that they are the stuff of legacy, but which we are nevertheless unable to embrace. While most would pass on a perfume that failed to capture their immediate attention, many perfumistas have confessed to a struggle with one classic or another until either the relationship ended, or a lifetime romance began. For me, it was Fracas.

Perhaps it was not the fragrance itself as much as it was tuberose, the heady white flower which when used injudiciously can evoke images of a Hawaiian luau. The name also befuddled me, as fracas implies a noisy conflict or quarrel and I found none of that here. I had a vintage bottle which I kept for reference purposes mostly, taking it out every now and then to re-test, which I did regularly over the years. Perhaps there was some half-forgotten association from childhood, but whatever the reason, the lovely little bottle went unloved for many years.

And then something magical happened. The way an old friend who has waited patiently in the wings while you date the more flashy suitors, I found myself thinking of Fracas and wondering if there might be something there, some magic spark. Magic indeed. Fracas was created by Germaine Cellier in 1948, one of the few female noses and a master of her craft. In addition to other memorable Piguet fragrances, she was the genius behind Balmain’s Vent Vert.


While Cellier used a perfume base in her creation of Fracas, a dense, luscious tuberose dominates the landscape and indeed, it appears that any other flowers are there to support tuberose in its leading role. Upon application, one notices immediately that Fracas is like no other. The citrus opening is miles away from the ordinary, lush and rich, rather than sparkling.  As the tuberose unfolds, it seems impossibly large, buoyed by the presence of jasmine and violet, which lend to the fragrance’s deep indolic quality. There is an unctuous sensation to the fragrance, as though the tuberose had turned to syrup.  While iris helps to temper the creation slightly, Fracas envelops you in a thick velvety haze that is indolic one moment and pure butter the next. Fracas is tuberose on the point of turning, with animalic references throughout enforced by the depths of oakmoss and woods.

Fracas feels both sophisticated and sensual. It is a fragrance which one must give oneself over to, as it is completely enveloping, to the point of rapture. And now that I have given myself over, there is no turning back.


Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, greens, peach, tuberose, jasmine, violet, iris, lily of the valley, carnation, sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, and cedar.


Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle – Iris Poudre

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle – Iris Poudre


Iris is one of my favorite perfume notes, so I am constantly seeking out fragrances where it is prominently featured. The 2000 launch of Iris Poudre taught me, however, that not all irises are created equal. Indeed, Iris Poudre, while undoubtedly lovely, is not very iris-like, nor does it contain much poudre (French for powder). The nose behind this fragrance is Pierre Bourdon, the man behind behind such classics as Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros, as well as Feminite du Bois in collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake.

Several have drawn comparisons between Iris Poudre and Chanel No 5, however the aldehydes in Iris Poudre are more evanescent than the sparkling champagne bubbles of Mademoiselle Chanel’s iconic fragrance. Where No 5 is crisp, Poudre is shimmery. While the iris becomes more prominent in the heart, it feels overshadowed and is rendered almost fruit-like by the presence of ylang-ylang, magnolia and jasmine. Absent from Iris Poudre is the metallic tang of iris or its deep, earthy root smell. While the fragrance takes on a delicate, fluffy warmth in the drydown thanks to some delicious, nearly edible amber and musk, I found that the absence of the ghost-like aspects of iris gave the fragrance a slightly two-dimensional feel. A serious contender, but unfortunately not the winner for the top iris fragrance. iris poudre2

Notes: Bergamot, Orange, Rosewood, Ylang-Ylang, Carnation, Magnolia, Jasmine, Muguet, Violetta-Rose, Aldehydes, Iris, Musk, Amber, Sandalwood and Ebony.

Christian Dior – Diorella

Christian Dior – Diorella

If Diorella had a face, it would be the exquisite beauty of Jane Fonda in Roger Vadim’s 1968 sci-fi, B-movie masterpiece Barbarella. Both reflect a beauty which is disarming, innocent, sensual and yet somewhat strange. Dior released Diorella in 1972, yet another masterpiece created by Edmond Roudnitska.


Diorella first tempts you with the freshness of lemony greens rounded out with a touch of melon and floral notes, giving the opening a hint of ripeness. Were it to end there, Diorella would have been an attractive, linear warm-weather fragrance, perfect for after a shower. But as is often the case with great beauty, Diorella has an underlying complexity which must be experienced if its beauty is to be fully appreciated.

Regardless of how many times I smell the opening, I am always surprised by a sense of underlying strangeness just beneath the surface, not unlike smelling an approaching storm before one feels the first drop.  As the top dissipates, a savory note of basil begins pushing toward the surface, which seems both out of place and brilliant, hinting at the richness of soil which lies underneath. Diorella is not unlike a flower blooming in reverse, its petals collapsing onto themselves and rolling up into the stem, which then plunges below the surface back into its damp, musky bulb. Diorella takes its time unfolding, each layer becoming increasingly sensual as the earthiness of oakmoss and vetiver settle down into the warmth of patchouli and musk.

If Diorella had sisters (or daughters perhaps), for me they would be Calyx Prescriptives and Cristalle for their green ripeness and Ma Griffe for its mossy magnificence.diorella


Notes: Lemon, Peach, Basil, Bergamot, Melon, Green Notes, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Violet, Rose Bud, Carnation, Cyclamen, Oakmoss, Vanilla, Clove, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Musk, and Patchouli.

Balenciaga – Florabotanica

Balenciaga – Florabotanica


One of my main issues with modern perfumery is the manner in which fragrances are penned by a team of market “specialists”, only to be translated into a fragrance which often bears little or no relation to its official description.  Florabotanica, released by the house of Balenciaga (in collaboration with IFF) in late 2012, is one of the best recent examples of this phenomena. The fragrance’s tagline is below.

“Florabotanica evokes ambivalent bewitching beauty. Velvety and thorny, flirting with hemp and vetiver roots. The scent is flowery, developed on a rose note with a narcotic hemp twist. The wearer is beautiful but dangerous, like some rare botanical species.”

I will admit to having no idea what the foregoing means, or what the perfume was intended to smell like. How does one go about “flirting with hemp”? What does something dangerous smell like? Fear? I can only imagine the expressions on the faces of Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Herault, the noses behind this fragrance, when they were presented with the brief for Florabotanica.

While Messrs. Polge and Herault succeeded in making a nice-enough fragrance, Florabotanica is none of those things. The fragrance opens with a slightly spicy green note that quickly turns minty. Not quite a gum-smacking variety, more of a soft, pale mint that is closer to a mint herbal tea.  As the heart opens, the fragrance reveals itself to be more truly a floral, though the rose and carnation at the heart of Florabotanica are fairly one dimensional versions of these two powerhouse flowers. They almost smell like a cardboard pop-up of the advertisement with Kristen Stewart.

At the base of the fragrance is a melange of caladium leaves, amber and vetiver, which is where I expected the danger to lie, since my research revealed the caladium plant to be poisonous. Quite to the contrary,  these three notes in unison produced a slightly soapy, light chocolate effect on my skin, giving the creation a bit of softness and warmth. These notes nicely offset the flat, powdery florals, making for a pretty-enough fragrance, but nothing particularly “bewitching” or “thorny”.  Certainly not “dangerous”. While I like Florabotanica well enough, I might have had a greater appreciation of it were it not for the bizarre expectations set by the marketing line.  Probably the edgiest thing about the fragrance is the unique flacon it comes in, but for me, the design bore no relation to the scent either.


Notes: notes: Mint, rose, carnation, caladium leaf, vetiver and amber

Knize Ten

Knize Ten


I have found that some of my most passionate and enduring olfactory affairs have started out on an intense note along the lines of “what IS that?” While I am by no means drawn to flash, there are those fragrances whose openings are so unique as to create an indelible imprint, one that I often crave to smell again and again once the initial blast has subsided and the more delicate drydown commences. Like the sultry stranger who catches your eyes across the room with a smoldering glance, only later to become your devoted and domesticated bedfellow, so it is with Knize Ten.

Knize Ten is one of several fragrances introduced by the Knize fashion design house out of Austria. The fragrance made its debut in 1925 and is still in circulation. The current version is by most accounts fairly true to the original vintage version, making it a gem among fragrances. Indeed, even the clean and simple design of the bottle and crisp black and white packaging are both timeless and supremely modern. While Knize Ten (roughly pronounced kuh-knee-shuh) features the byline of “The Gentleman’s Toilet Water”, it is largely a misnomer, since it is not particularly “gentlemanly”, nor does it suffer from poor staying power. In fact, the opening notes of this reference leather fragrance are slightly reminiscent of a leather bomber jacket strutting around a gas station. Small wonder then that this was rumored to be the signature fragrance of none-other-than James Dean.


Knize Ten starts out with a slightly bitter citrus note of bergamot and petitgrain (derived from the leaves of the bitter orange tree), which to my nose has a greener smell further enhanced by a savory note of rosemary.  The opening is potent and somewhat suggestive of gasoline. While this may sound off-putting, it is this very unique introduction to what ultimately becomes a warm and somewhat powdery vanillic leather, that I find most appealing. While the dry heart note is largely woody, for me the most prominent notes are a sharp patchouli and green jasmine which reinforce the rich leather aspect. While the Knize Ten “gentleman” may come on rather strong initially, he quickly shows his soft side. The sharpness of the leather is smoothed out by orris and deepened by ambergris and castor which lend it a slightly animalic, body smell. While François Coty and Vincent Roubert designed this as a men’s fragrance to accompany the elegant and slightly off-beat bespoke designs of Knize, this can easily be worn by a woman in the style of a Tabac Blond. The bracing opening and softening drydown feel like a lingering embrace from a not-so-gentlemanly gentleman.

James Dean

Ultimate Leather

Notes: Lemon, bergamot, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, geranium, rose, cedar, orris, carnation, cinnamon, orange blossom, sandalwood, leather, musk, moss, patchouli, ambergris, castoreum and vanilla.