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.


Hierbas de Ibiza – Agua de Colonia Fresca

Hierbas de Ibiza – Agua de Colonia Fresca


While I am lucky enough to have cobbled together a nice collection of perfumes and samples over the years, I am truly fortunate to have friends that are eager to share their fragrances with me, allowing me to experience scents I may not have otherwise had access to. Some of these are avid collectors, and some have only a few bottles in their repetoire, but the generosity and enthusiasm of each and every one of them is part of what makes the exploration of fragrances so enjoyable.

One such friend introduced me to Agua de Colonia Fresca by Hierbas de Ibiza, a family-operated perfumer that has been creating Mediterranean-inspired scents since 1965. While the group started out small, creating fragrances on a fairly intimate scale, the success of their products has ultimately landed them in prestigious retailers such as Barney’s.

The groups’ self-professed star creation is Agua de Colonia Fresca Hierbas de Ibiza. While the official notes have a dizzying list of citrus, floral and savory notes, the fragrance is fairly straight-forward in execution, consistent with the house’s motto of “simplicity and spontaneity”. Hierbas de Ibiza starts out super sharp and citrusy, with a slight herbal bitterness reminiscent of lemon pith. The fragrance quickly sweetens into a sorbet-like lemon confection but retains its bright, sharp character.  During the drydown, some of the green savory notes make a brief appearance, with rosemary and thyme being dominant.

Then, in what feels like an abrupt about-face, Hierbas de Ibiza largely changes its character in the drydown, transforming into a soft, warm and slightly musky vanilla veil. Given the fragrance’s playful opening and associations with the Mediterranean, I feared it might veer into the suntan-lotion category, but Hierbas de Ibiza’s vanilla is warm rather than sweet. Upon first application, the sillage is bold and viviacious. About an hour or so after the vanilla first makes its appearance, the fragrance is barely detectable, which is my main disappointment with Hierbas de Ibiza. That and the fact that I am not currently in Ibiza wearing sandals, a sundress and a deep suntan while I reapply it.

Notes: orange, lemon, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary, thyme, sage, verbena, geranium, jasmine, orange blossom, cinnamon, and vanilla

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 – Calypso

Robert Piguet – Calypso 

Odysseus and Calypso by Hendrik van Balen

Odysseus and Calypso by Hendrik van Balen

It has been a long time since I experienced a love at first sniff. Quite to the contrary, I typically sample repeatedly before I buy and implore my friends to do the same. There is nothing worse than an impulse buy – especially when fragrances today are designed to smell especially good in the opening notes. I have heard too many perfumistas sing the praises of a perfume, only to arrive home and feel the heartbreak of paying too much, or having the romance be short-lived because the drydown was disappointing. And yet despite all precautions, there I stood face to face with a new love at the Robert Piguet counter at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and had no choice but to summon all my willpower to avoid buying it on the spot.

I had stopped by the beauty and fragrance level of Bergdorf to gaze at the lovely Guerlain display and sample Caron to my heart’s delight, but more on that later. After spraying myself with various different fragrances, and picking up samples of Oud, Bois Noir and Casbah, I left the store to do some sight-seeing.

The rest of the afternoon I was haunted by a soft, slightly floral, powdery patchouli dream of a drydown. My only problem was that I had tested no less than 9 perfumes on my skin that afternoon, so how to uncover which I had fallen in love with! As I sat down that evening, I went through my blotters and notes, which allowed me to eliminate many candidates. I knew it could not be a Caron, as it did not have the distinct flourish unique to Carons in the drydown. I know all the Guerlains by heart, so those were eliminated immediately.

NMC0W2F_mxI went through each of the Piguet samples until I found the source – an alluring and yet subtle mixture of modern lightness and a soft powdery quality prevalent in vintage fragrances such as L’Heure Bleue. The geranium opening quickly softens to a light rose, tempered by a soft iris. The drydown arrives fairly quickly, and in fact, is perceptible from the opening. The loveliest warm patchouli, mellowed by a light amber and soft, suede-like smell. Now that I have fallen in love with the modern version, which was reformulated by Aurelien Guichard, I am extremely curious to smell the 1950s vintage version. And yes, I have since purchased a bottle!

For those familiar with Chanel’s Coromandel and Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens, this will seem like a tamer, subtler interpretation of a similar  patchouli theme, but it has its own merits. While Calypso is not particularly edgy or innovative, it has a subtle beauty and sophistication which make it a joy to wear. And after all, isn’t that what fragrance is all about?

Notes: Geranium, mandarin, rose, iris patchouli, amber and suede.





Diptyque – Eau de Lierre

Diptyque – Eau de Lierre

Bruges, Belgium. Photo by Quintessence

Bruges, Belgium. Photo by Quintessence

“Green” is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit when it comes to discussions on perfumery. I am always amazed by the range of interpretations that this accord can have, and how uniquely it manifests in different fragrances. Green can run the gamut from fresh and invigorating to dense and mossy, and everything in between.

Diptyque’s Eau de Lierre is inspired by the scent of ivy and indeed, lierre is French for ivy. For me, this scent could easily be named “Eau de Dark Green”, as it truly conjures the deep verdancy of this evergreen climber. The fragrance was launched in 2006 by the innovative house of Diptyque and it is very much in keeping with their minimalist aesthetic. Eau de Lierre opens with a slightly spicy green note that is as true to nature as one can get without being outdoors. While some fragrances interpret dark green notes as herbal, Eau de Lierre has a distinctly vegetal character. Eau de Lierre is by no means a marine fragrance, and yet there is an overall impression of wetness. The opening feels somewhat dark and earthy, the equivalent of trudging through the garden during a light rain with a sturdy slicker and Wellies.

While the fragrance dries down to reveal a slightly woody, musky scent, the green impression prevails, making me think of the woody stems of an ivy plant that has overgrown its intended bed. The fragrance is devoid of any sweet notes, making it a good candidate for men as well as women. Eau de Lierre does not have an especially potent sillage, yet it manages to cling to the skin quite nicely. On the evening I was testing it, I still had traces of the scent on my arm the next morning. While perhaps not on par with the house’s L’Ombre dans L’Eau, creator Fabrice Pellegrin has nevertheless composed a unique and enjoyable composition which evokes the English countryside.

Bruges, Belgium. Photo by Quintessence

Bruges, Belgium. Photo by Quintessence


Notes: Ivy, cyclamen, geranium, gray amber, rosewood, green pepper, musk and woody notes.

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.