I live in Stockholm, the Swedish capital city. For a big city Stockholm has a lot of nature, after all, it's built on an archipelago and there are plenty of parks and green areas. But hanging out in a park only gets you that far. Sometimes you want to experience REAL, unspoilt, unplanned nature. I'm lucky enough to have some of the nicest in-laws imaginable, and they live far out in the Swedish countryside. This Easter we visited them for the holidays. I thought I'd make the most of my visit and had a stroll around the house, taking in scents and the generally hopeful ambiance of spring by photographing the spring flowers. Unfortunately non of these flowers has much of a scent, but they are beautiful all the same!
This one took me completely by suprise and made me smile. The first top note is dead on identical to the scent of the Swedish candy "geléhallon" (direct translation to English: jelly raspberries, see picture above). However, if one puts on a drop or two too many, that first note is tranferred into "Alvedon mixtur för barn med smak av skogsbär". "Alvedon" is my first medicin of choice for reducing fever and pain for my kids. A thick syrop, massively scented with artificial forest fruit aroma to hide the medicine flavour.
Don't worry though, this initial burst artificialness only lasts for about half an hour. Then the notes settle down into a somewhat more integrated composision. The "bois" part is the same as for the other Serge Lutes "boises", most notably warm cedar and forest floor on a sunny day. Among the fruits I pick out sweet and sticky blackberry jam, quinces, apricots, raisins and figs.
I'm completely in love with this one. The way the sweet fruit blends in with the wood notes is very sensual and works great on my skin. Also, the fact that I tried "Bois et Fruits" during Easter made the geléhallon note extra appropriate. Swedish people consume a lot of candy, 17 kg per person per year That's more than twice then what the average EU citizen eats, and 20% of all that candy is consumed around Easter time (source: DN). So if there is one time a year when to smell like candy, this is it!
I'm rating "Bois et Fruits" 5 out of 5. A little to playful for an everyday scent but perfect for a long weekend mostly spent playing games with the kids in the sun and catching up with famliy and friends.
A couple of years ago I read about Crater Lake Company on Scrangies excellent nail polish blog. Crater Lake Company crafts artisanal bath and skincare products in a variety of unique, hand-blended fragrances. I was immediately caught while reading their huge list of fragrance descriptions and decided to order a few of their bathing products to try out. Since then I've ordered several times and some of my all time favourite fragrances come from there.
The way their home page works, you first choose what type of product you'd like (shower creme, EdP, body butter, scrubs etc.), then you choose the fragrance. An extra feature is that you can choose what scent intensity you'd like to get; light, medium or strong. This is great as I think Americans tend to like products having a stronger scent intensity than we Europeans. Personally I hate smelling to much. For me, I prefer medium strength in soaps but "light" in everything else.
If I'd list 3 products I'd recommend, they would be:
Luscious Lather. Soap, shampoo and bubble bath all in one.
Zambian Coffee Scrub. Like scrubbing yourself with chocolate-Kaluha brownie crumbs. This one only comes in one divine fragrance.
Triple Action Body Buffer
There is a collection of 6 signature fragrances that are always available. Other fragrances are rotated over the year to fit the seasons. A couple of times a year all fragrances are available. Now is such a time! Check them out here (this link might be time limited).
I think I might have tried about 20 fragrances or so. These are my 5 favourites, along with the Crater Lake Company descriptions:
Psycho Path, as close to a personal signature fragrance I've ever had.
Scent-nopsis - She hurried along the path, constantly looking over her shoulder. She thought she saw a silhoutte of a man and heard the sound of twigs snapping and leaves rustling. Too bad she was so scared she was practically sprinting now. She really wanted to enjoy the cold air laced with the fragrance of all that is dark and mysterious about a midnight walk. The Cast: Dark pomegranate, night-blooming lotus, dark amber, light frost and Middle Eastern spices.
Tea Ceremony II
The Japanese Tea Ceremony recognizes and acknowledges that each encounter can never be replicated again; that |this| singular moment, at this exact point in time, cannot and will not occur again. Thus, every aspect of this ritual is carefully rehearsed so that each participant in the ceremony savors each cadence, movement and rhythm. Like the ceremony, this fragrance is a study of a scent's movement as it flows into the next. Characterized by its fluidity, where one note stops, another follows. Steeped green tea greets your nose. Lime punctuates the air with muted exclamations. Sweet Japanese plums and warm ginger form the drydown.
Rich and deeply mesmerising, this blend takes patchouly, all earthy and loamy, and wraps it in a blanket of black orchids, white jasmines and blood red roses. In the background, you'll catch whiffs of burning incense, sandalwood mala beads and myrhh. While patchouly is definitely present in this blend, it never threatens to overpower the other notes. Rather it serves to enhance, deepen and anchor the heady florals. This blend wears differently on the skin - more floral on some, spicier on others - but the result is all the same. A deep appreciation for patchouly in all its dark and sensuous glory.
Mary Contrary, edgy and fresh
So how does your garden grow? Inspired by my friend Abby's garden, Mary Contrary is lush, green and fresh. For those who love the scent of tomato leaves, this one will have you swooning. A melange of fruits, herbs and young leaves blend together beautifully to create a unique garden scent. Notes: Basil, mixed citrus, green apple, bergamot, blackberries, green tomatoes and tomato leaf.
The fun, sweet, playful and oh-so girly scent we all know and love grows up to be one heck of a stunner! Sultry and mysterious, with a little bit of a dark side, this is a sexy blend of Pink Sugar, Egyptian Musk and lightly grazed by Vetiver. Pink Sugar greets the nose in all its sweet glory. We then pulled the musk background of Pink Sugar with the addition of Egyptian Musk. As the fragrance wears and evolves, it matures to a deeper, more sensual sniff, with Egyptian Musk taking front and center to form the heart of the scent. This fragrance evolves from the sweet naivete of Pink Sugar to the sultry, "street cred" smart of musk and vetiver. Created for the woman in charge who's lethally aware of her feminine wiles!
And, while I'm looking through their list of fragrances, here are 3 that are on my wish list and will most likely be included in my next haul:
Fresh Cut Grass
True to its name and sure to delight purists of green, fresh fragrances. This is the scent of high spring where freshly mowed crisp and verdant grass permeates the air. Wears beautifully alone or mixed with floral or citrus notes.
Interview with a Vamp Scent-nopsis - Reporters from media outlets far and wide pushed and shoved their way closer to her. She thought it was because they were dying to know the answer to the one all-important question—how did she survive the vampire attack? Everyone had left her for dead. But no, they weren't fighting to get closer so they could get the best sound byte. They were intoxicated with her scent and wanted more. I guess it goes both ways, she thought ruefully. The scent of a newly minted vampire was as intoxicating to a human as the scent of warm blood was to her. The Cast: Cold, moist dirt. Night-blooming jasmine. Premorse rose buds. Dew-studded grass.
Shanghai Noon Tea
This blend is redolent of the click-click sound of mah-jongg tiles being shuffled, the dying embers of an incense stick on a redwood armoire and the aroma of black tea infused with floral blossoms. Rich and deep, yet still somewhat light, this fragrance captures the aromas of an afternoon in a Chinese courtyard where playing mah-jongg and drinking tea is the favourite pastime. Against a black tea canvas, fruit blossoms, sandalwood, Chinese star-anise, black vanilla and sugar cane unfurl to create this wonderful painting of life in a far-away land.
What more to say? Services are great. I've gotten a personal, hand written note from the founder every time I've ordered. She has also answered my mails right away when I've had enquires. Shipping is fast, even to Europe. There are always free extras! So, do yourself a favour and go order some stuff from Crater Lake Company right now!
Trying another one of the "Boises" today, "Bois et Musc".
This one smells exactly like the base notes of "Bois de Violette", reviewed in my last post. Just remove the violets, amp up all base notes and add some drops of musc, and you've got "Bois et Musc"!
I find this a discreet but wearable everyday perfume. There are warm wood notes, most notably sandalwood and cedar, enlosed in an aura of feminine musk. Musk is often said to contribute sexiness in a perfume. That works just like sexiness in general, I think. If you try to much you just come across as cheap. The amount of musk in this one is ok, but I wouldn't like any more.
Also, this scent wears extremely close to the skin. It's literally impossible to smell a thing if you're not sniffing your wrist directly. That makes it a great scent to wear at the office. You'll smell good to yourself but nobody else, if not standing very close, will notice. Like wearing nice underwear. Most people will not know about them but they are still adding to your general well being and self confidence.
I'm rating this one a 3.5 out of 5. Less interesting than "Bois de Violette" but I still like it better that "Bois Oriental".
In my last post I mentioned that "Bois Oriental" reminded me a lot of "Bois Violette", so today I decided to try on some "Bois Violette" to compare.
I got my first sample of "Bois Violette" in a swap with lovely InesStef at "All I Am - A Redhead" as a surprise extra. The Serge Lutens brand is not sold in Sweden, as far as I know, so I hadn't tried any of the perfumes before, but I was immediately hooked on this one. There was so much violet scent packed into those tiny drops, I could hardly believe my nose!
Wearing "Bios de Violette" makes me think of a day in the forest. The violet buds bursts early in the morning and release their scent, all sweet and juicy. Apart from violet I can detect curious notes of liquorice, cough syrup, soap and a Swedish candy/breath freshener named Läkerol. Makes you wonder what kind of creatures roams the forest at night...
As the day goes on, sunbeams find their way down to the forest floor, drying the petals, making them drier and more brittle, weakening the flowers. But the sun also warms the trees and the forest floor, adding an aroma of wood and warm soil. A reminder that life goes on.
When I smelled "Bois de Violette" alongside "Bois Oriental" I could not believe that I'd ever thought they were anything alike! Where there might be a tiny note of violets in "Bois Oriental", it's mainly packed with everything else. Lots of vanilla, spiciness and musk/ambra. It makes me confused, I don't know where to start, it's just to much. I clearly prefer "Bois de Violette" that really is only about violets, with some supportive cast to make them shine.
If I'd say a person I think of when I wear "Bois de Violette" it would be Emily the Strange. The candy tones point at someone young and the rest to someone sharp witted and alternative. I'm rating "Bois de Violette" a 4 out of 5, my favourite Serge Lutens yet.
When I first tried on a drop of this one I was sure that something had gone wrong with the labelling on my sample. It smelled strongly of violets, exactly like I remember "Bois de Violette", the only Serge Lutens I'd tried before my latest haul from The Perfumed Court.
But while I was getting myself together in order to write an angry letter, demanding a new sample, the scent started to transform. It was still packed with violets, but all of a sudden there were lots of vanilla pushing through and I don't remember that from "Bois de Violette".
Some 4 hours later there are still lots of vanilla. Not the creamy velvety type like in "Un Lys". This one is sweeter, drier and more powder like, like vanilla sugar. I can't pick out the wooden notes implied in the name ("bois"). A pity.
This is a very feminine scent. A a lot more feminine than I'll ever be. I love the scent of violets. It's a small flower, easy to overlook, but very unique scentwise. The vanilla I'm not as crazy about. The problem with vanilla for me is that I associate it with passivity and placidity. It's the goto scent and spice when you can't think of anything better. If I'm going to associate a person with this scent it would be a curvy, luscious sleeping beauty. Just laying around, waiting for someone to come along and shape up her life. Not what I want to feel like every time I sniff my wrist.
Imagine a beautiful, young, Italian mother in a 50-ies movie. She is cooking a lot and working hard to take care of her big family. This is what I imagine she would smell like.
The most distinctive note is a light, unobtrusive, smokiness. I think it stands out to me because I normally don't wear smoky perfumes. I also come to think of a pot of Italian soup, full of green herbs and fresh vegetables that have been cooking over an fire until it's just done, all the aromas and flavours to blending into one another.
But paradoxically I wouldn't call it a foodie scent, and not a green scent either. I find it comforting and easy to wear, maybe that's because I also cook a lot and take care of my family... It's far from glamorous, but for that Italian 50-ies mother archetype ambience, it's just right.
This is the first Annick Goutal I've tried and I chose it because I was still mesmerized with the Summer By Kenzo, blogged about my last post. I wasn't sure that I understood exactly what note was the mimosa one, so I figured that trying a perfume named "Le Mimosa" might help figure that out.
To me, this one started off with sweet ripe peaches, boilt in syrup. After a while I realised that there had been a vanilla bean in the syrup, or maybe the peaches were being served with vanilla ice cream. One of my favourite desserts!
Some 6 hours later, the peaches were gone and there was mostly powder left, with faint traces of vanilla and spun sugar. I never caught any florals, so the Mimosa is still a mystery to me.
Annick Goutal is an upscale perfumery house, often mentioned when talking about niche perfumery, so I had hight hopes for this one. Unfortunately I found it much lacking in complexity Great scent if you want to smell like a sweet little peach, but too one-dimensional for me, personally. I suppose I can layer it with other scents, perhaps a drop of vetivier to add base and some citrus to freshen it up? Hmmmm...
I'm rating this 3 out of 5. A pleasant little scent but nothing special to me.
Finally, first scent in this blog that I'm actually positive about! Summer By Kenzo opens up with some rather sharp citrus tones. There are lemon and limes in there and not the juicy fruity type, but zesty sharpness and a feel of astringency.
When that initial sharpness disappears more flowers emerge. To me this perfume has a feeling of dandelions (that astringency again) and honeysuckle about it. Not the sweet honey dripping kind of honeysuckle you tend to encounter in other perfumes, but a greener and more realistic kind. Like they really smell in real life.
But there are more flower notes in there! I cheated and looked up this fragrance at Fragrantica.com and apparently the main flower note is Mimosa. I'd never heard of it, but in Swedish it's called Sensitiva. Apparently, this is what it looks like, according to Wikipedia:
To me, this is a perfect spring scent. Why Kenzo calls it summer I do not understand. Citrus, astringency and small, not overly sweet, flowers point towards spring to me. Also, it's on the shyer side, not acting up but more anticipating things to come, which I also associate with spring. But anyway, it's a great scent that I enjoy wearing.
One of my favourite ways of killing time is to go to shopsniffing. Small perfume shops with dedicated salespeople that know what they are talking about are of course the best, but in a jif any type of department store with will do. Today I targeted Åhléns at Skanstull, a very ordinary type of department store with a small room dedicated to perfume. They carry all the most common brands but nothing out of the ordinary.
Walking around in there I pondered how come that 90% of the ladies fragrances seemed to contain notes of muguet. Or lily of the valley in English. It's a pleasant enough, but not very interesting to me. A safe scent.
Then I came to the Burberry counter and I found "Burberry Summer 2011". This one is topped with a juicy bold blood orange note. No peel of bitterness, just lots and lots of seeping fruit, like the orange in the Dexter intro.
So I tried it on, and was very happy for about 10 minutes. Then the fruityness started to give away and guess what was left? MUGUET! Lots of it.
To me this type of fragrance is a "I want to be special but unfortunately I don't have any personality whatsoever to back that up". That might not be the worst thing that is, but for me, the search for the perfect fragrance goes on.
6 hours later now, and this scent is growing on me. Muguet has faded and now there is only a warm musky and cedary base left. Maybe not super unique but friendly and somehow soothing. If only that mid note muguet could be removed, this is a scent I'd wear.
"Un Lys" means "A Lily" and that's exactly what this perfume is all about. The notes are powerful white lily, some greenery support and a soft vanilla base.
Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, lilies are not my favourites. In fact, it's the only flower (except some rotten flesh smelling meat eating ones) whose scent I'm not 100% comfortable with in RL. It's not that it's bad, it just tends to be very very much.
So, why do I insist on trying on a perfume I most likely will not like? I suppose I have this personality trait that I think I have to "be friends" with everyone. When things are not working out I just try a little bit harder, thinking maybe this time it will be different. Until I give up. Or, to rephrase in a more upbeat way; I'll try everything once.
Now, "was it any different this time?". No. The first blast of lily nearly knocked me out. Seriously, it did give me a headache and I did feel nauseous from it. I think there is something in there that I'm allergic to. I got gasoline spiked white flowers, in the same manner that some Riesling wines have petrolium notes. Yuk. But my neighbour absolutely loved it, she said it was the most adorable thing she'd smelled in a long time, so chances are, it's just me. When the lily finally faded away some hours later this perfume grew on me. I'm not that found of vanilla either (to many bad room freshener experiences) but this was good vanilla. Rich, creamy, velvety and luscious. Like swimming in good quality panna cotta.
So, I'm rating this one a 2. If you love lilies it's probably as close to heaven as you're likely to get, but for me, another miss.
I'm a real sucker for the mandarin/black smoky tea combo. "Russian Caravan Tea" by "CB I Hate Perfume" is my favourite scent in the whole wide world. But unfortunately doesn't work out to well on my skin. It's just to clean to make sense.
Therefore I great anticipations to sample Mandarin Mandarin. According to the internet the scent has top notes of Chinese orange and nutmeg; middle notes of candied mandarine orange peel and Lapsong-Souchong smoky tea; and base notes of rock rose, labdanum, Tonka bean and ambergris.
For me, the top notes were a very clear warm mandarin note, flanked by spices such as cumin and a general dark brown smoky huskiness. I loved the start. No clean fruity fresh whatsoever, unusual in citrusy scents.
But then, something happened. The smoke vanished and the spices with it. Left was that mandarin note but now layered with a lilyish, garish, white flower note. I'm no fan of lilies. This was not what I had hoped for. I got the feeling like you've had a big night out and are desperately trying to brush your teeth in the morning and spraying room spray all around, pretending that all that stuff you kind of half remembered from the night before (that was actually great but you would never ever admit to that) never did happen. The scent of anxiety. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else, but anyway...
So I'm giving Mandarin - mandarine a 3 out of 5. The start was great, but the finish was just not something I'm going for.