Gucci – Rush

Gucci Rush

Gucci Rush

Like many dedicated perfumistas, my fragrance collection spans a wide variety of genres: from the ultra-rare and “très cher” to the timeless and chic, without discrimination for cost, high or low as it may be. After all there are still bargain fragrances out there, and while the folks at Chanel would have us forget, there was a time when Chanel No 5 could be found in drugstores.

All of this by way of introduction. While some fragrances are no doubt contemplative à la Serge Lutens or intellectual (here’s looking at you Guerlain), we must all leave a bit of room for pure, unadultered joy.

No fragrance lends itself better to this category in my opinion than Gucci Rush. Though it has references to some of the great classics, like Mitsouko and Diorella, they are delivered with the tongue in cheek, larger-than-could-possibly-be-tasteful style of Gucci under Tom Ford’s reign.

Gucci Rush starts off with a blast reminiscent of hairspray and fruit – in fact it feels like poking your head into a young woman’s room as she is preparing for a fun night out with friends: scented bath gel, fruity shampoo, hairspray, perfume and body lotion. Rush is like a cacophony of scents that should not work together but absolutely do, as evidenced by the number of suitors this young woman has attracted after a night of dancing.

Rush’s white florals are sparkling and playful, leaving the heavier indoles to its more serious floral sisters. A hint of coriander lends dry spice and drama to the fragrance and keeps it from veering into a traditional fruity floral. The drydown is pure, if not strange, olfactory heaven.

Rush morphs into a synthetic milky peach which lacks Mitsouko’s solemnity but is nevertheless beautiful. Similar to Dior’s Diorella, Rush’s peach is warmed and mellowed by patchouli, but Rush manages to maintain a modern, slightly plasticky edge.

Rush is a terrific fragrance for going out, or for those days when the gravity of life is too much to handle. Despite the beauty and elegance of its composition, Rush does not take itself too seriously (as evidenced by it’s plastic, cassette-like flacon) and maintains a joyful edge.

While with most posts I search for an image to convey the visual equivalent of the olfactory sensation, Rush couldn’t be contained to a two-dimensional image. Embedded then is a link to a remix of French singer Yelle’s “A Cause de Garçons” – the perfect combination of fun, trash, brash and the simple joy of movement. What a genius Michel Almairac has proven to be.

Notes: Gardenia, Freesia, Jasmine, Rose, Coriander, Vanilla, Patchouli, Vetiver.


Kate Spade – Live Colorfully

Kate Spade – Live Colorfully

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While there are certain releases which I dream about for months, there are others which barely register on my interest radar. When I heard of the latest release from the Kate Spade fashion empire, Live Colorfully, a collaboration between consultants Fabrice Penot, Edouard Roche with input by Poppy King (and execution by Firmenich), I did not know what to expect. I grabbed a sample on a recent trip to Nordstrom and must admit that I was immediately put off by the psychedelic packaging.

Perhaps the problem lies with me, as I tend not to be overly “colorful”, with the exception of some Hermes scarves, but the sample card seemed to scream “plastic, harsh synthetic, fruity floral”. And therein lay the surprise. Live Colorfully opens with a burst of citrus and floral, with a touch of anise. The opening feels quite thin, far from my expectation of a syrupy sweetness. Despite the name and packaging, Live Colorfully is not very colorful. It morphs into a decent white floral, with gardenia accented by a light coconut that manages not to scream “suntan lotion”.

At this point I was intrigued and attempted to hunt down some perfume notes (listed below) and there are certainly a lot of them. Despite the impression that Live Colorfully has a lot going on, a lot of notes, a lot of creators, it is fairly simple at its heart and quite pretty, if a touch unbalanced. I detected a hint of narcissus, which appears to be the only flower not included in the fragrance, but the gardenia/tiare combination dominates.

The drydown has a very subtle combination of vanilla, amber and musk, which in my opinion could have been a little richer. While I don’t see myself running out to buy a bottle given the number of white florals I have in my collection, Live Colorfully is a pretty fragrance that is perfect for someone venturing into this genre.

For more details on what went into the making of the perfume, the WSJ had this article.

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White Floral

Notes: mandarin, pink water lily, star anise, tiare, gardenia, coconut water, amber, musk and tahitian vanilla

Carven – Ma Griffe

Carven – Ma Griffe


My eyesight is very poor, a circumstance which at times provokes sheer panic at the thought of not being able to read, which is essential in my line of work and my life as I know it. When asked which of the five senses they would give up, people are often quick to sacrifice their sense of smell without taking into consideration the impact this would have on their lives. Aside from the obvious lack of scents, flavors would be gone as well. Think of how many scent-triggered memories and associations you treasure: the smell of a loved one, autumn, holiday cooking – these would all be relegated to the territory of imagination. Indeed, life would take on a flat and somewhat frightening existence, since we often perceive things with our nose well in advance of our eyes.

Imagine how much more terrifying this loss would be if one’s passion and livelihood depended upon it. At the time perfumer Jean Carles created Ma Griffe, he was largely anosmic. Anosmia is condition whereby one loses their ability to perceive odors. Let’s put aside the fact that if any of us tried to create a fragrance with no sense of smell it would probably resemble kerosene, but the fact that this man created a beautiful and unique fragrance is astounding and a testament to his abilities as a perfumer.

The French term “ma griffe” is literally defined as “my claw”. While the fragrance would later be repositioned (both in its chemical composition and its advertising) to fit this definition, it was initially portrayed with the more subtle, figurative translation of Ma Griffe, namely “my signature” or “my label” as in a designer’s label. Ma Griffe was launched in 1946 by the design house Carven. Madame Carmen de Tommaso, Carven’s founder, was a proponent for innovative clothing, meant to suit women in their everyday lives and the house’s “signature” scent clearly reflected these sensibilities.

My main experience of Ma Griffe is of the vintage, and while this does possess an intense, green burst of galbanum and citrus in its opening (I felt I could almost see the green) it quickly offers brief, veiled glimpses of the soft, mossy heart that is to come. Ma Griffe in its original form is not the talon-bearing sabertooth alluded to in later advertisements which depict a woman’s hand clawing deep marks into a man’s back. While its composition and character are assuredly memorable, Ma Griffe is more like a playful feline which gently rakes its nails over your arm and then proceeds to arrange itself cozily in your lap.

While the heart notes feature jasmine and rose, this is by no means a sweet fragrance. More prominently featured are dry and warm facets of iris, musk and oakmoss. Even the vetiver, labdanum and sandalwood take on a tone which is more mossy than woody. While most mossy fragrances offer the impression of rain-soaked forests, Ma Griffe feels more like a walk in the forest on a dry day, when the soaring oaks and ma griffetheir mossy inhabitants are warmed by the sun and give off a dry, slightly powdery musty odor. If you are not a fan of oakmoss or musk, this may be a challenging fragrance. While its character is not overpowering, it is certainly distinct. For me, this fragrance takes me back to hours spent exploring the forest behind my house, in search of magical creatures both real and imagined.

Unfortunately, Ma Griffe has been repositioned into something of a bargain basement fragrance due in part to regulations regarding the use of oakmoss, in addition to financial considerations. The current incarnation plays up the more “aggressive” factors of the fragrance and has unfortunately all but destroyed the velvety drydown. While I cannot recommend the reformulation, I find the original to be exceedingly unique and would wear it more often if my supply of it were not so limited.

Floral chypre

Notes: gardenia, greens, galbanum, citrus, aldehydes, clary sage, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, orris, ylang ylang, styrax, oakmoss, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, and labdanum.

Guerlain – Chant D’Aromes

Guerlain – Chant D’Aromes

chant-daromes21Chant D’Aromes was the first solo creation of Jean-Paul Guerlain after the retirement of his grandfather Jacques. Chant D’Aromes was released in 1962, before much of the social and political upheaval which would come to define the era. The name, roughly translated as “Song of Scents” is especially revealing for me, because within Chant D’Aromes, I detect the seedlings of all of the magnificent creations Jean-Paul would cultivate throughout his illustrious career. If Aime Guerlain was innovation, and Jacques contemplation, Jean-Paul would soon prove to be flirtation.

While overall, Chant D’Aromes gives the impression of a light-hearted floral bouquet with rich peachy undertones, within the opening notes, I detect the slightest sharpness that would be the unforgettable introduction to Chamade. As the seedlings begin to unfurl out of their sharp green hyacinth cases, the radiant fruity warmth of what would become Nahema is apparent. Chant D’Aromes also has a slight animalic note that would re-appear in many of Jean-Paul’s creations, subtle enough not to cloud the overall innocent impression of the composition, yet an unmistakable nod to the scent of the woman whom these flowers adorn.

While Chant is a lovely fragrance in its own right, it conveys all of the exuberance of youth not yet tempered by long years of experience. Chant is jubilant and smells of a celebration, as though Jean-Paul was able to distill a thousand disparate thoughts about love and perfume and harmonize them into a glorious nectar. While his later fragrances would achieve a level of sophistication comparable to that of his predecessors, Chant is a beautiful creation that captures the excitement and passion of a young man in love. This by no means is meant to imply that Chant is an amateurish creation – on the contrary, Chant D’Aromes reflects a level of craftsmanship that surpasses many of the perfumes available today.

chant_daromes_color_ad I am fortunate enough to have vintage versions of the extrait and eau de cologne which are similar in character, with the eau de cologne being slightly more powdery. I have not sampled the most recent reformulation, but understand that it bears a closer resemblance to Chant D’Aromes than prior attempts.

Floral Chypre

Notes: bergamot, mandarin, peach, tuberose, ylang ylang, , gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, helichrysum, iris, cedar and sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, frankincense, vetiver, and tonka bean.

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

Lucien Lelong – Balalaika

Lucien Lelong – Balalaika

Lucien Lelong

One of the advantages of having friends who share an interest in perfumery, is the exponentially increased access to various fragrances, especially vintage or niche items. A friend of mine recently acquired a bottle of Balalaika by Lucien Lelong and was kind enough to allow me to sample for review purposes. Named for a three-stringed, triangular, Russian folk instrument, the name alone held the promise of the exotic.

Lucien Lelong was a French coutourier who gained considerable popularity between the 1920s and 1940s. He favored a fluid, draping style for women, one that would move with its wearer. As a result, many of his creations appear distinctly modern today. Lelong did not create his own designs, rather, he oversaw and directed a team of designers which included Christian Dior at one point. He is credited with rescuing the Parisian fashion scene from forced migration to Berlin during the Nazi occupation, arguing that talent of this quality and calibre had taken generations to develop, and could not simply be reproduced or taught overnight. The Lelong house began producing fine fragrances in 1924 and is still in existence today.

While Balalaika did not smell too promising to me upon first application, my patience was rewarded. While I do not have another sample for comparison purposes, my impression was that the Mandarin top note may have deteriorated slightly, as it came across a bit brash and pungent.  This impression was brief however as the fragrance soon took on a lovely warm character. At the heart of Balalaika is an earthy, woodsy quality made lush by a combination of rosewood, gardenia and violet, just as the name might indicate. The wood and musk basenotes appeared fairly early on, giving the fragrance a distinct earthy odor, reminiscent of ancient tomes in a vast library. Despite the strong opening, the fragrance is fairly mild-mannered and light, however, I only tested the Cologne concentration. While the fragrance lasted through the day, it wore close to the skin, with minimal sillage. I have no doubt that Balalaika’s unique combination of woods and flowers would be exquisite in a parfum concentration, but for now, I will have to content myself with my imagination.

Natalie Paley, wife and muse of Lucien Lelong

Natalie Paley, wife and muse of Lucien Lelong

While many vintage perfumes are still widely discussed, I have seen little mention of Balalaika. It may be that the musty, earthy quality renders it too “dated” for some but it nevertheless is an artful creation and one which I consider myself supremely fortunate to have experienced.


Notes: Gardenia, Woods, Mandarin, Musk, Rosewood, Vanilla, Violet