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.


Guerlain – Vol de Nuit

Guerlain – Vol de Nuit

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I am not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. If one has positive changes to implement in one’s life, why wait until the dawn of a new year to start doing so? That said, I am a proponent of focusing on new year’s intentions – those visions and dreams which we want to manifest over the coming twelve months. Being a lover of travel, my mind naturally starts focusing on where the next twelve months can take me.

In addition to poring over photographs of dream destinations,  I love wearing fragrances which take me away to foreign locales, even if I am sitting nowhere more glamorous than my desk at work. One of the fragrances I find myself reaching for most during my intention setting is Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit, or Night Flight in English. This 1933 fragrance is Jacques Guerlain’s tribute to Antoine Saint Exupery’s novel by the same name and is yet another link in a long line of masterpieces.

While Saint Exupery’s tale is a memorial to the dangerous and sometimes tragic missions of early airmail pilots flying through the night to deliver their charges, Vol de Nuit celebrates the romance of air travel, in typical Guerlain fashion. From the elegant flacon with propeller-inspired relief to the distinctive zebra-print box, Vol de Nuit is the embodiment of elegance and adventure. Air travel is something that we largely take for granted in modern society, so it is incredible to imagine a time when this was a rare luxury reserved for the elite. The first commercial flights, which took place nearly a hundred years ago were much planned and greatly publicized. People fortunate enough to board a plane took the travel itself as a momentous occasion, and did not neglect to dress the part.

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Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit suggests this world of decadence and luxury, evident in the rich materials of the vintage formulation which are of superb caliber. The fragrance possesses a highly unique character, evoking a sense of otherworldliness and wonder which I associate with exploration. When compared with other vintage Guerlains, including its predecessors L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit has a subtle masculine (and dare I say rebellious) edge, not unlike the androgyny found in Caron’s Tabac Blonde.  

Indeed the fragrance is a delicious balance of bitter citrus and deep green notes which part the skies to reveal a warm, woody base set atop the famous Guerlinade. Shining throughout like the gleaming wings of a plane is one of the loveliest examples of galbanum I have ever encountered in a fragrance, on par with the beauty and bite of vintage Chanel 19.

While the fragrances are very dis-similar in scent, I cannot help but draw comparisons between Vol de Nuit and Guerlain’s own Bouquet de Faunes for the darkness of character. While many fragrances today are formulated to be light, casual and pretty, Vol de Nuit suggests a depth and mystery very akin to its name, and is among the more “intellectual” of the old Guerlains. If you are a lover of vintage Guerlains or of galbanum, I highly suggest seeking this out – as the current formulation (updated due to restrictions on materials) unfortunately do not do this justice.

 Notes: Bergamot, Petitgrain, Galbanum, Lemon, Jonquil, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Iris, Musk.

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Guerlain – Samsara

Guerlain – Samsara


If you are a perfume afficionada, one of the benefits of going to an all-women’s college is the rather obvious proximity of many young women wearing many different fragrances. In my hallway alone, I was greeted each morning by a variety of freshly-showered Chanels and Calvin Kleins as they made their way to morning classes. Into the melange of perfumed heads making their way down Broadway in 1989, came a stunning new creature. She had a cascading mane of beautiful curls atop her slender figure, wore a tiny nose-ring balanced with a huge scarf (which seemed to perfectly match her studies in comparative religion and art), smoked Camels like there was no tomorrow, and was French Canadian to boot. She cut quite an impressive figure in the sea of Eternity, because, of course, she wore Samsara.

Named for the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth, she railed against the ironic name choice for what was such a simply beautiful fragrance (though given the state of Guerlain’s current output, I find myself desperately wishing for rebirth at this point). As a child of the 1980s, Samsara wove an exotic tale, this time of India, with its references to sandalwood and its stylized, deep red bottle. Indeed, vintage Samsara is legendary for containing some of the highest quality sandalwood, in unprecedented amounts.

Into this rich, delicately sweet wood, Jean-Paul Guerlain had the brilliance of introducing a rich jasmine note. While Samsara is certainly recognizable from a distance, unlike many other fragrances of the 1980s, it was never cloying, as the equally demanding notes of sandalwood and jasmine worked in perfect harmony, rather than competing for top billing. The rich rose and ylang notes imparted a nearly palpable creaminess to the fragrance, lending it soft edges and voluptuousness. Perhaps I have been tainted by the intense sillage of other fragrances in my collection, but I find that Samsara wears fairly close to the skin.

The drydown hints at Guerlain heritage, with vanilla and tonka making their symbolic appearance, warming the jasmine petals and woods into a warm skin scent. The EdT places emphasis on the jasmine, while the EdP and Parfum highlights the beauty of sandalwood. While Samsara makes perfect sense (and even appears subtle) in today’s fragrance environment, at the time it was released it was instantly recognizable and larger than life. An intriguing and sophisticated choice for a woman barely in her twenties. Whenever I reach for it, I am reminded of of her unique, indomitable spirit.

Notes: Bergamot, Jasmine, Narcissus, Rose, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood, Iris, Tonka, Vanilla.

*A further note on the fragrance – as I commenced writing this review, I instantly realized why Jasmin et Cigarette had failed to hit the spot for me. The perfect combination of jasmine, tobacco and smoke had already been achieved (albeit unintentionally) by my Samsara wearing friend.

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.

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris


By now you have surely come to the conclusion that perfume is one of my guilty pleasures. The way other people reach for a cocktail when they get home to unwind, I grab a bottle of a different kind and apply liberally to melt away the stresses of my day. I am sure all perfumistas have some fragrance in their wardrobe that is a guiltier pleasure than they would like to admit to. For me, it’s Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris.

While the Aqua Allegoria line started out as an exercise in minimalism, somewhere along the way (i.e. after the departure of Mathilde Laurent), the entire project went haywire, resulting in odd and sometimes abrasive compositions. With a few exceptions, such as this here, many of the fragrances had a light, delicate character that made them good introductory Guerlains.

Not so with Figue Iris. The first time I smelled it, I was slightly horrifed, as I was expecting a light green fig enhanced by magical iris dust. What I got instead was a dense, surreal impression of the inner pulp of a fig: juicy, ripe, heavy and pungent which segued into a very lush (and slightly plastic) iris, with a hint of violet deepened by a rich vanilla. No subtlety, no light romance, just FIG and IRIS in mile high pink letters.

A f ew months went by and I was sorting samples and came across it again, and applied it absent-mindedly. This time I liked it, almost in spite of myself. I admitted my bizarre newfound affection to a fellow collector who was slightly horrified as well, but we agreed that it was no worse than any other fruity floral on the market. I finished my sample and found myself longing for this plush, plastic fig.  Before I knew it, the search was on to try and track down a bottle because this 2008 release had long been discontinued.

While I cannot help but wish Guerlain would have served this up as a traditional perfume and invested the resources to make it more complex, when it comes down to it, it smells really good. While it lacks the sophistication of say a Diptyque or Hermes fig, ironically, this is one of the fragrances that I get the most compliments on when I wear it, which is on rare occasions given that I had to track my bottle down halfway around the world from a seller in Spain who had one to spare.

Fruity Floral

Notes: Citrus, Violet, Iris, Fig, Milky Notes, Wood Notes, Vanilla, Vetiver.


Guerlain – L’Heure de Nuit

Guerlain – L’Heure de Nuit

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Released in 2012, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the monumental L’Heure Bleue, L’Heure de Nuit is Thierry Wasser’s homage to the classic. The fragrance is striking, a deep blue-hued juice in a classic bee bottle, and yet it seems an odd choice of presentation for such a  prestigious house.

While I applaud the effort on the part of houses like Guerlain to introduce their classics to a younger audience, once you have mastered perfection, it is difficult to match. In fact, any fragrance so sublime as L’Heure Bleue is sure to make anything, let alone a modern flanker, pale in comparison. Had I never smelled L’Heure Bleue, I may have fallen in love with L’Heure de Nuit immediately, but given the circumstances, it is difficult not to make comparisons.

L’Heure de Nuit starts off smelling distinctly like L’Heure Bleue, the gorgeous, luminous orange blossom unfolding into a anisic, almond confection that is pure heaven on earth. But much like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy loses some of its strength when played apart from the rest of the Ninth Symphony, L’Heure de Nuit feels slightly trite without the heft of the original. Absent is the rich powdery veil and the lush oriental base. In its stead, L’Heure de Nuit gets a dose of clean musk, making it feel lighter, cleaner and more modern than its refined older sister. If L’Heure Bleue is an impressionist painting, deep with densely applied colors, L’Heure de Nuit is a starter pack of magic markers: colorful and bright, but light and transient.

While the fragrance is lovely, it lacks the depth which gives vintage Guerlains their classic tenor. The fragrance has good longevity and sillage but again, lighter than the original. While I am thrilled that one of the most beautiful fragrances of all time has not been forgotten, I would prefer to have the original reincarnated in its true form, though as one can tell from the abominable quality of the current version of L’Heure Bleue, the IFRA has made that impossible.

Classic Reinterpreted

Notes: Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Iris, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Rose, Musk, Sandalwood


Hermès – Iris Ukiyoé

Hermès – Iris Ukiyoé

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Irises – Katsushika Hokusai

Jean-Claude Ellena is without a doubt the reigning champion of diaphanous florals. In this, the 9th fragrance from the exclusive Hermessence line, he draws his inspiration from the watery minimalism of Japanese Ukiyoé prints to create an aquatic floral which seems to hover just out of focus, suspended in the air.

The biggest surprise about Iris Ukiyoé is that it smells nothing like the carrot-like, orris root fragrances which many of us are so fond of, like this, this and this. Instead, Ellena focuses on the scent of the iris flower itself, with all of its vegetal lightness. In fact, after the orange blossom opening disipates, Iris Ukiyoé smells more like a true-to-life rendering of Muguet à la Guerlain.


Being a lover of iris’s rooty goodness, I must admit to feeling a sense of slight disappointment at the fragrance’s development, especially given the price tag of the Hermessence line. After repeated testing however the beauty of the fragrance revealed itself, layer by gossamer layer. Now a hint of rose, next a green note reminiscent of cucumbers and green tea, and finally the soft floral veil that Ellena is so adept at.

While the fragrance possesses a sylphlike character, it does possess a subtle tenacity which I find intriguing. Just when I am ready to criticize the fragrance for vanishing, a closer look reveals her clinging to me, beckoning me to a closer inspection.


Notes: Mandarin, Orange Blossom, Iris, Green Shoots, Green Watery Notes.

Chanel – Nº 19 Poudré

Chanel – Nº 19 Poudré

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There are some fragrances which take me ages to review, simply because I find them uninspiring. Then there are those fragrances which are so sublimely iconic that they are nearly impossible to reduce to mere words. Finally, there are those fragrances which I have difficulty getting my head around and need time to reflect upon before formulating an opinion, let alone a review.

No 19 Poudré falls into this last category, emphatically so. My expectation upon its release in 2011 was that it would be something along the lines of how the Chanel website describes it – a “luminous re-imagining of Coco Chanel’s signature scent”.  Given how bold the original Nº19 is, I envisioned its Poudré sister would be equally so, with a dose of modern perfumery’s requisite sweetness and of course, powder. I could not have been more mistaken.

Admittedly, it took me some time to get over my preconceptions, so much so, that I made a (short-lived) vow never to read a perfume press release again.  But once I got past the lack of crisp galbanum, the boldness of leather and the rich, earthiness of oakmoss, I started focusing on what the fragrance did possess.

To truly appreciate this fragrance, my recommendation is this: forget the name. Put it completely out of your mind that this bears any relation whatsoever with Nº19, since the only impression of the original is as though smelled from a great distance, through a smoky veil.

Nº19 Poudré possesses subtle, delicate green notes which feel as soothing as toner on sunburnt skin. Rather than focus on the sharp, angular aspects of the original, the fragrance highlights its subtleties. Stripped of its edgy aspects, Poudré feels like a powdery floral, rounded out with super-clean musks and sweetened with tonka. The overall effect of is of an iris powder-puff surrounded by a fuzzy incense cloud. While I cannot help but wish for more dimensionality and lasting power in the scent, Jacques Polge did create a lovely-enough iris fragrance.

Notes: Mandarin, Neroli, Iris, Jasmine, Galbanum, Vetiver, Musk, Tonka Bean.

Fragrant Projects

Fragrant Projects


While I carefully arrange my budget to set resources aside for fragrance purchases, I love finding inexpensive, do-it-yourself alternatives. For example, if you have a favorite perfume but prefer not to purchase expensive scented lotion (or worse, it doesn’t exist) you can easily make it using a few drops or a spritz of your favorite fragrance and the unscented lotion of your choice. Before I go to bed, I put a quarter size drop of lotion in my palm, a tiny bit of perfume (either the one I have been wearing that evening, or a soothing night-time scent) rub my hands together and voila! Just enough scented lotion to moisturize my arms and ensure sweet dreams.

To that end, I have been reading a book by Laura Fronty and Yves Duronsoy called “A Well-Kept Home: Household Traditions and Simple Secrets from a French Grandmother”. The book is full of wonderful suggestions for keeping leather shoes extra shiny (rub with the cut side of a lemon), traditional recipes for making preserves, natural pest control and how to make scented waters. While I don’t want to spoil the book and give away its secrets, this “recipe” for making Iris Water was too good not to share.

Iris Water

18 ounces surgical spirit

1 ounce ground Florence Iris

2 ounces Benzion dye Blue-iris-flowers603

The ground iris is placed in the surgical spirit solution for a week. Once the week is up, the liquid should be filtered and the benzoin added. Once the Iris Water is ready, it can be used as a topical skin solution, light fragrance or bath additive.

While not common in the U.S., surgical spirit is used as a skin disinfectant, which also serves to tighten the skin. The spirit also contains castor oil to help prevent dryness and cracking. In addition to its delicious ambery smell, Benzoin is reputed to have anti-inflammatory properties. A quick internet search will reveal where to purchase these items if they are not readily available in your area.

Do you have any DIY fragrance tips?



Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica

Guerlain – Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica


I recently read somewhere that the fragrances produced by Guerlain should be experienced in reverse order if one is to make any sense of the progression of the perfumes released by this great house. One would start out with the simple and accessible post-LVMH La Petite Robe Noir and Aqua Allegoria series, move on to the more sophisticated yet youthful fragrances created by Jean-Paul Guerlain, graduate to the ground-breaking beauties composed by Jacques and Aime Guerlain, until finally experiencing the creations of Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain which won the house the honor of being royal supplier to the crown. While I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment (and have been wracking my brain to recall who the inspired genius who penned this was) there are a few newer fragrances released by the house which I have found captivating, in spite of their simplicity.

Some of these are from the Aqua Allegoria line first introduced by Guerlain in 1999 as a series of five scents, with the intention of releasing additional fragrances in the line annually. While there is little mention of Mathilde Laurent’s tenure at Guerlain, reportedly due to a falling out with management, it is no surprise to me that some of the best examples in this series were her creations. The original five releases, Herba Fresca, Lavande Velours, Pamplelune, Ylang & Vanille and Rosa Magnifica, are each inspired creations in their own right, and a wonderful introduction to the magic of Guerlain.

Rosa Magnifica is at once a new fragrance and a recollection of other Guerlain masterpieces. As the name implies, Rosa Magnifica is fragrance built around a rose note, rendered in the softness of an Eau de Toilette. Guerlain has a long history of sourcing the best materials, both natural and synthetic, and while this reputation has suffered in post-LVMH years, the rose at the heart of Rosa Magnifica is a delicious, full-bodied bloom. While die-hard Guerlain lovers will have difficulty avoiding a comparison with Nahema, which is the undisputed champion of roses, Rosa Magnifica is a softer, subtler rendition but not without its own merits. The initial difference is apparent in the opening, which is spicy where Nahema is opulent. As the fragrance develops, I am reminded of another one of Guerlain’s masterpieces, Chamade. Rosa Magnifica features a beautiful hyacinth note, giving the rose a brightness and piquancy that give it a subtle lift. Similar to Chamade’s heavenly drydown, Rosa Magnifica is rendered delicate thanks to the introduction of iris and violet, which give it a soft and slightly powdery quality. coral-rose

While Nahema remains the ultimate rose and my number one choice in this category, I enjoyed Rosa Magnifica much more than I expected and I love having a softer, more delicate rose option for those occasions that calls for a bit of subtlety. Unfortunately, Rosa Magnifica was discontinued by Guerlain, along with others in the Aqua Allegoria line which did not fare well commercially. I find this to be a real shame, as there are other newer Aqua Allegorias which I could, quite frankly, do without. Thankfully Rosa Magnifica still pops up every now and then on Ebay and is available from various decant services.


Notes: Rose, hyacinth, iris and violet