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.


Serge Lutens – Douce Amere

Serge Lutens – Douce Amere


Fall is without a doubt my favorite season. While we face the bitter regret of another summer passed, we can rejoice in the knowing that sweet times lie ahead in the coming months, where the endless holidays give us reason to unite with family and friends. That interplay which makes life interesting carries over to fragrance as well, where the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous elements often creates something which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Christopher Sheldrake perfectly captures this duality in Serge Lutens’s Douce Amere, a 2000 fragrance which is only available outside the U.S. at present. Mention “oriental” and “Lutens” in the same sentence and no doubt Ambre Sultan will come to mind, but Douce Amere is one of Lutens’ most unique creations, despite not being his most well-known. On first sniff, it doesn’t smell like an oriental, nor does it smell much like a Lutens, as it features none of the velvety, viscous, jammy qualities many of his fragrances are known for. Douce Amere is instead like a pale green chiffon, light and sumptuous, but slightly synthetic in a deliciously elegant way.


Douce Amere starts off with a blast of medicinal wormwood, a bitter green in the manner of Diptyque’s Eau de Lierre (in character only, the two smell nothing alike). The herbal concoction is lightened by a touch of mint, which is so subtle and elusive it seems to linger just out of reach. The green fairy, as absinthe was traditionally known, then spreads her glorious wings with subtle floral notes, tiare being the most prevalent to my nose, but maintains a largely anisic character throughout.

 First bitter, then sweet, it’s absinthe of course.

As green as wormwood is grey, these two ideas tussle inside me… only to kiss and make up on the skin.       Serge Lutens

Just when one imagines that the bitterness has taken hold, Douce Amere turns on the point of a knife into a soft, slightly powdery skin scent. A light musk, with a whisper soft woods, renders a delicate sweetness which speaks to some of chocolate. It serves to soften and sweeten the bitterness of the fragrance, but Douce Amere retains a light dry quality throughout which keeps it from becoming a true gourmand. While the two fragrances smell nothing alike, the combination of anise with subtle gourmand elements reminds me of the effect created by Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, although that masterpiece possesses the furry, warm quality we generally associate with orientals, while Douce Amere does not.

Like many of the Lutens fragrances, Douce Amere has wonderful lasting power, but its sillage is much gentler, wearing more politely close to the skin than say Chypre Rouge. I enjoy the tension created by the transition between bitter and sweet, but find Douce Amere deliciously wearable, even in warm weather.

Notes: Absinthe, Cinnamon, Anise, Lily, Jasmine, Tiare, Tagette, Marigold, Musk, Cedar.


Christian Dior – Dune

Christian Dior – Dune

christian-dior-dune-kristina-semenovskaya_thumb[3]An increasingly central focus of modern perfumery is advertising. While advertising in different forms has always been key to promoting perfume to consumers, budgets have increased exponentially in recent years, vastly surpassing the cost of producing the actual perfume. Fragrance houses also use advertising as a means of promoting (or creating) a perfume’s identity, the fantasy we consumers are lulled into buying.

After the impossibly extroverted perfumes of the 1980s, the 1990s shifted the focus to cleaner, lighter, marine-inspired scents. The advertising also seemed equally “sanitized” after the more provocative ads of the 1980s, perhaps in reaction to changing social mores after an era of decadence. Case in point, a comparison of the advertising for Christian Dior’s Dune, which features ethereal beauties and that of its 1985 release Poison, which often featured black-clad and heavily made-up dark beauties. And yet with Dune, despite the serene advertisements depicting blonde beauties lounging on a beach, I am reminded not of a seaside retreat, but of the rippled sand dunes on a distant planet in an imaginary universe created by Frank Herbert.

Dune, published in 1965 and hailed as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel, tells the story of an intergalactic struggle to dominate a single planet, Dune, in order to control the precious substance cultivated there: spice. The spice, ironically named “Melange”, is similar to a narcotic: highly addictive, becoming more so with prolonged use. Spice/Melange is valued above all else for its ability to expand consciousness, prolong life and allow for instantaneous interstellar travel. Paul Atreides and his mother, a member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood – a group of women with mystical and witchlike powers – relocate to the planet Dune with the mission of overseeing spice production, a difficult and dangerous process, due to the existence of giant sandworms which patrol the planet’s surface, protecting the spice which is formed deep within the planet’s core.

Paul Atreides and his mother, the Lady Jessica

Paul Atreides and his mother, the Lady Jessica

The planet’s local inhabitants, known as Fremen, are greatly impressed by the mystical powers which Paul and his mother possess and believe Paul to be their long-awaited messiah. Paul instinctively knows that the key to power in the universe is directly tied to the control of spice production and befriends the Fremen, learning their survival tactics and teaching them some of the magical powers he has inherited from his mother, the Lady Jessica. The movie, released in 1984, is replete with scenes of Paul leading the Fremen, wearing futuristic black leather suits which protect them from the harsh desert elements and allow them to preserve the water given off by their bodies, which is absolutely vital to life on this dry, arrid planet. The smell of Melange is said to be pervasive and according to one character, its scent “is “never twice the same… It’s like life – it presents a different face each time you take it”.

Paul leading the Fremen

Paul leading the Fremen

Nothing could more aptly describe Christian Dior’s Dune. While certain fragrances are changeable during the stages of wear, Dune appears to be in a constant state of flux, throwing off different impressions by the second. Created in 1993 by a group of perfumers led by Jean-Louis Sieuzac, Dune is positively otherworldly. It possesses the heat of the desert under the daylight’s scorching sun and the dry quality of its unrelenting winds.  And yet it is completely devoid of warmth at the same time, feeling as black and cold as the leather suits worn by the Fremen. Dune’s ability to hover between fragrant realities is nothing short of magic.

Dune opens with a bitter, slightly anisic herbal punch that borders on the masculine, yet quickly fades to reveal a strange floral heart. The fragrance notes are deceptive, as Dune’s flowers have a dry, arrid quality which renders them largely unrecognizable. While peony and jasmine appear to dominate, the slightly green quality of the fragrance at times give me a carrot note. The marine aspect makes its presence felt in a subtle salty quality – the whisper of the winds across the fragrant sands – which kick up individual notes onto the wind. Similar to the Spice Melange, Dune is never the same twice – sometimes bitter and mossy, sometimes musky and floral – and yet always lovely.

While the entire fragrance is discernible from the opening, Dune mellows over time, revealing a hint of vanillic amber rounded by moss and woods. There is a softness to Dune, however, the fragrance is not light – it is like hearing a very powerful and complex orchestra piece played at a very low volume. Like shifting sands, the inconstant nature of Dune makes it a pleasure for some and uncomfortable for others. I personally adore this subtle, changeable aspect of Dune and am always thrilled when someone remembers this lesser known beauty, winner of a 1993 FiFi award.

*As an aside, the one attribute of Dune I find puzzling is its color which is soft and flesh-like, gorgeously displayed in its beautiful winged bottle. When I imagine Dune, in all its complexity, in its searing heat and biting coldness, it is as black as the Fremen’s leather suits.

Marine Oriental

Notes: bergamot, mandarin, palisander, aldehyde, peony, broom, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, lichen, vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.


Serge Lutens – De Profundis

Serge Lutens – De Profundis


De Profundis, released in 2011, is centered around the scent of chrysanthemums, a flower which is frequently associated with funerals, and which for many brings to mind somber associations. I made the point of seeking out chrysanthemum blooms to form an unbiased opinion, which I believe is consistent with what Monsieur Lutens was trying to achieve intellectually: to give this lovely flower new life through the power of fragrance. While De Profundis is a realistic impression of chrysanthemum with its spicy floral character, it is much more.

I am always astonished by the ability of the Lutens/Sheldrake team to create perfumes with so much character. Whether one enjoys the resulting creation or not is sometimes besides the point – there is no denying the complexity of Lutens’ fragrances, which always seem to evoke a certain sense of atmosphere. De Profundis goes beyond this point, conveying a sense of presence.

My first impression of the fragrance brought to mind a “paranormal” phenomena known as clairalience – a form of extra-sensory perception where one acquires information primarily through smell. People who experience clairalience will suddenly smell the scent of flowers, a familiar perfume, or some other scent with no visible or logical source, the explanation being that a deceased loved one is making their visitation or “haunting” clearly known by way of a scented manifestation.

Indeed, the character of De Profundis is so memorable as to be haunting. While there is no denying the more somber associations, I find the fragrance to be ethereal not corporeal, the scent of a spirit. The soaring, bright green opening gives way to an abstract spicy floral with a tinge of decay, like flowers past their prime. Despite the presence of indolic notes, the fragrance remains light.Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 10.40.35 PM

The crisp opening is tempered by a subtle incense which seems to hover over the spicy, sharp bouquet, giving it a depth unusual for a floral. It is this contradiction which helps to make De Profundis so memorable, as it seems to inhabit two distinct realms at once.


Notes: chrysanthemum, dahlia, lily, violet, earthy notes.