Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tango by Aftelier Perfumes

Earlier this year I spent some weeks on the "Tim Ferriss diet" in order to get rid of those last post-pregnancy kilos. That means, somewhat simplified, 6 days a week you eat low-cal-high-fat food. The seventh day is your "day off" - you get to eat any amount of anything you like. Tango from Aftelier Perfuemes pretty much sums up what I did on my day off, plus a bit more.

But, lets start from the beginning. First time I put on a few precious drops of Tango, I just went "?????" I couldn't figure it out. There just was nothing familiar I could hold on to. Nowhere to begin to understand this thing. I felt so confused. But then the notes started to unfold. The first thing I got took me back to when I was something like 10 years old and went to the dentist to get braces. The dentist took out this metal mould that he filled up with some type of putty. This he shoved into my mouth in order to make a cast of my teeth. That putty tasted a bit like the first seconds of Tango. A very unexpected first impression.

By then things should only get better, and fortunately they did! I started picking up spices. First charred ginger, then cloves and in no time I had a nice little orchestra of spices playing gingerbread dough on my wrist. I also got, at some points marzipan, Cadbury milk chocolate, Kahlua, chai and lots and lots of sweet pipe tobacco. The notes kept on moving, dancing, sometimes disappearing but then showing up in a new guise. Like watching the face of someone you love, discovering new cute things all the time.

At the time I did the testing for this review I was staying at my in-laws house out in the countryside and I asked my mother-in-law if she'd like to try my Tango sample along with me. She did, and Tango turned out very different on her. In fact, if I had not seen her apply about the same amount of Tango as I did at the same time I had never thought it be the same perfume! When I had this symphony of spices and tobacco, she got a bit of sweet wood and some cinnamon during drydown. No gingerbread and no pipe  for her, whatsoever! It was like her skin was eating all those notes alive. On the other hand, we also tried Mandy Afteliers Honey Blossom and the florals there turned out much better on her, more vivid and longer lasting. So now she is the Flower Power Woman while I'm the Spice Girl.

Also, when reading other reviews on the net, I seem to get a sweeter and foodier treatment than others. Actually Tango is listed as a floral on Fragrantica, and Champaca is one of the official notes, but that one is not revealing herself to me at all. But, as a gourmand scent Tango is fantastic, containing all the stuff I love but shouldn't eat too much of, with a bit of pipe smoking thrown in just for fun. It has grown on me every time I've tried it and now I know, if I ever have to do the "Tim Ferriss diet" again, Tango will be what gets me through those 6 days tedious diet days every week.

Monday, July 25, 2011

CB I Hate Perfumes "Memory of Kindness"

I'm going nuts with vegetable inspired scents here. Next in line is another great summer favourite of mine, CB I Hate Perfumes "Memory of Kindness".

This scent is recreated from a childhood memory of CB founder Christopher Brosius. On a sunny day, he was crawling around in the warm soil under some tomato wines, enjoying their smell, when his aunt called out for him. He startled her as he came crawling out from under the wines but instead of getting angry or irritated she just smiled and took his hand. 

On me, Memory of Kindness starts out smoky. Within minutes there is the CB signature soil accord. Here the soil is warm and sun kissed. Like walking through a vegetable patch on a sunny day when the bees are buzzing and you can almost feel the garden growing. The main crops here are tomatoes and this is my favourite rendition of tomatoes in any scent I've tried so far. It's hard to describe. If you think about tomatoness being a trinity, represented by a triangle.
  • In one corner is that green sharpness you get from tomato wines and stalks. 
  • Second corner is the juicy sweetness that burst into your mouth when biting into a sun ripened cherry tomato. 
  • Third corner is the savoury meaetiness you get from a dried tomato. 
Memory of Kindness ends up in the very middle of this triangle. A bit of each but no side is overpowering. This might also undermine the reality of the tomato note, but hey, you can't have it all.

I like this scent a lot. It's very far from most peoples idea about how a perfume should smell and I have a difficult time to explain exactly what it is that I like about it but, as with all love, I just know that I do. It reminds me about CB "In the summer Kitchen", there is a similar initial smokiness and, of course, they are both about vegetables. But Memory of Kindness is warmer, less about Italian herbs and more close knit and introspective. I'm rating Memory of Kindness 5 out of 5. For making me smell like a tomato and loving it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sharp by Andrea Maack

Two days ago was my birthday and the fragrance I chose to wear that day was "Sharp" by Andrea Maack. It turned out to be a very good choice. As I have two little kids I don't have to much time for pursuing my own interests (perfumes are an exception, thinking about how you smell is one of the few things you actually can do while taking care of small kids). But since it was my birthday I got a few hours to myself in order to bake a decent cake.

The cake I went for had had 2 chocolate cake layers and a filling consisting of vanilla/mascarpone cream and strawberries. I didn't manage to get a photo of itcake before it was gone, but I found a photo of a cake made from the same recipe ("Strawberry Celebration Cake" from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich, highly recommended btw) at the Mad Bakers blog, and this is what it looks like:

Sharp, my scent of the day, started out very much like the cream filling in the middle. Lots of soft, sweet, dreamy vanilla mixed with wild strawberries. The note that I interpret as strawberries is an interesting one. It's milky and a bit artificial, like those strawberry milkshakes that don't contain any real strawberries. It also reminds me of paper. This I find very intriguing, I've never thought of strawberries and paper smelling anything alike before. After a while the strawberries left and there was mostly vanilla left. I also got chocolate at times and that really made me really feel like my cake :)

The official sales texts talk about Sharp being a soft scent with a subtle poison note hiding behind all the lull, hence the name. First I thought this being  just nonsense. I can imagine a sales person coming up with something like this in order to make a scent seem more interesting. I could also imagine people, wearing Sharp, going "Ehhh.....ummmm... yes, now I do get a little sharpness..... ehhh....ummmm....very interesting...hmmm", but really not feeling a thing at all. An "The Emperors New Clothes" type of practical joke.

But then, after spending some hours inside a cloud of vanilla, there is this tiny hint of something dirty. All of a sudden I'm getting sawdust left on stable floors to soak up the horses urine. Later during drydown there is sea water and musky sweat. And that paper again, but different now, not as sweet. What happened? This little darling of a scent went from a super sweet vanilla to a salty, dirty one. A birthday cake stumbling upon hard times? Or did she grow up into a pony girl?

All the scents in Andrea Maacks line are interpretations of her artwork. Above is the picture that goes with Sharp. I'm not sure I get the connection, but maybe it's about a facade breaking up and you get to see what is underneath? Or about how life moves in mysterious ways? Or maybe something completely different?

I'm rating Sharp a 4 out of 5. The start is way to sweet for me. I'm fine matching a birthday cake scentwise one day in a year but not more. Great for people who like sweet foody vanillas though. The drydown, however, I love it! I don't have a straightforward relationship with vanilla but with enough dirt and edge mixed in, then we're talking! I'm overall very impressed with both Andrea Maack fragrances I've tried. They are interesting and unique and longlivity is great.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Etat Libre d'Orange, 3 from 1

Finding perfect peaches is a bit of an obsession of mine. I love them but here in Sweden it's very hard to get good ones. It's to cold to grow them and even in the middle of summer the ones we get in the stores tend to be hard and taste mostly of cardboard. I guess that after they've reached that perfect state of juice dripping, sun ripened perfection, they don't travel to well.

The second best thing would be to smell like a perfect peach. I haven't found that scent yet but whenever I see peach listed among scent notes I give a scent a try. Etat Libre d'Orange Vrai Blonde is mostly about peaches. It starts surprisingly heavy with notes of cocoa, baking powder and peach brandy, feeing thick and gooey. Soon the heavyness fades and there comes along a nice, light and yummy peach note with a hint of vanilla. One has to apply rather much of the perfume, in order to get the scent to last, and I really recommend doing that as the dry down is the very best part!

Encens et Bubblegum also has peach listed among the official notes, but here the peach is a team player, supporting the bubblegum accord, along with raspberry, vanilla and musk. I've read a few other reviews where people claim that it smells exactly like you might expect by the name - equal parts bubblegum and incense. Only on me I clearly feel the bubblegum but I get no incense at all. But for being a bubblegum scent I find it very wearable. It's not cloying but light, sweet and airy, great for a summers day when you're not taking yourself very seriously. This is a pretty faint scent that does not last very long on me. But, I suppose, bubblegum is fun for a while but to reek of it forever wouldn't be very comfortable.

Just as most family come with a hippie aunt or two, most perfume lines spot a patchouli, for Etat Libre d'Orange, that's Nombril Immense. According to the official notes it contains patchouli, balm of Peru, vetyver, black pepper absolute and more. One might think this would be a heavy and male oriented scent, but it is not. It's woody all right, but relatively light and very easy to wear. I'd say this is a beginners patchouli. Perfect for someone insecure  that really want to get into the hippy dippy thing but doesn't want the dirty nails and natural smelling hairy armpits of the real thing. Or for anyone that likes a hint of patchouli but not to much, like myself.

Nombril Immense, intrestingly enough, means giant belly button. I like that. When I'm thinking about it I picture this giant space ship in the sky. All of a sudden, in the middle of the underside, this huge hole opens up, the belly button of the ship. It goes bigger and bigger. A thick fog gushes out of the hole, sailing downwards, towards earth. Everybody who breathes in the fog immediately feels so smart and enlightened, they now understand it all. With a peaceful smile on their faces they all marching toward the space ships food storage compartment where a very special welcome has been prepared for them... (Yes, I've been watching the "V" remake)

One might think that the Etat Libre d'Orange scents would also be provocative or garish. Some of them might be, but the ones I've reviewed here certainly are not. They are light and enjoyable, and most of all, fun!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Craft by Andrea Maack

According to Wikipedia: "Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner." This happens to me so often I'm sometimes wondering if I have a team of supernatural beings working full time hitting me over the head.

The other day I wrote a blog post about Perfume Shopping in Iceland. The next day I went visiting my favourite perfume store here in Stockholm, Cow Parfymeri, in order to smell their Amorages. When I stood there, complentating my smelly wrists, I saw a perfume line that I had never seen before. There were no labels on the sides of them so I turned one upside down and guess what? They were made in Reykjavík, Iceland. Unknowingly, I had stumbled over Andrea Maacks line. She is an visual artist and she has had 3 perfumes made that are supposed to be olfactory representations of her artistic work.

The first one that I've tried is "Craft", a very unusual scent. The piece of work it's representing is a jacket, seen below:

And here is the print on the jacket, an intricate, organic pattern of pencil lines:

So, how does this smell? At Andrea Maacks website Craft is being described as: "Like being lost in a foggy forest with metallic trees and citrus fruits hanging from the metallic branches." Does this sound weird? The funny thing is that once you sniff the perfume it makes perfect sense. First, there is a strong burst of tonic water mixed with bitter grapefruit rind and metal. I'm also reminded of the chemical taste of aspirine. The citrus note comes from eleni, a resin with a spicy and citrusy scent. There is no sweetness whatsoever and if this will not wake you up, nothing will.

After a while, the tonic metal seamlessly moves on towards cedarwood. For a while the scent notes seem to be jumping between tonic and wood every other time I smell. At the end there is patchouli, and once you've come this far you realise that is has been there all the time, nudging everything else along.

So, is this something anyone would want to wear? Yes, considering the metalness, it's suprisingly wearable. It's great on a scorching summers day when you want your drinks to be dry, tart and bitter and just can't stand anything too florid. If I was to describe Craft in one sentence it would be a "High-tech and long lasting gin-and-tonic cologne". I'm rating it 4 out of 5.

Samples of all Andrea Maacks fragrances are available on Luckyscent.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Demeter Celery

Today I'm going to blog about a fragrance I consider to be a great addition to any summer fragrance wardrobe. You might think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I'm talking about Celery from Demeter Fragrance Library.

As most of the Demeters it smells exactly like it says on the bottle, solely and purely as freshly cut celery. Its green and sharp. I wouldn't call it fresh, there is a funky, almost salty note to it, but its crisp and edgy and cuts like a knife through warm, stale summer air. Demeters are not known for quality and long lasting fragrances and Celery is no exception. I find that Celery stays for about an hour, but then again, maybe you don't want to smell like celery forever?

Celery can be worn on it's own, but it's great to layer. To me, this is my new bergamot. Of course the scent is nothing like bergamot, but it goes with nearly everything, adding freshness and a zap of energy wherever applied. As an example, I've tried using it  over Demeter "Fig Leaf". "Fig Leaf", contrary to it's name, does not contain any hints of leaves. In my opinion it really ought to be named "Figgy Smelling Sun Tan Lotion". Its very sweet and foody, mostly smelling of coconut, but when Celery is applied over it, it becomes true to it's name.

Another Demeter, "Dirt", also benefits from Celery. Dirt is a classic, the forerunner to the whole CB I Hate Perfume soil accord. Dirt can be gorgeous but I have a skin chemistry issue with it. On me it goes way too sweet, smelling like limpid beet roots that are bordering on going bad. It makes me think of those brown worms that come crawling out after raining. Again, Celery comes to the rescue, adding sharpness and focus to the whole thing, making it wearable.

And when one browses all the Demeter titles there is really no end to layering experiments to try out. Maybe one should get "Tomato" and "Cucumber" and become a green salad?

So, I'm rating Celery 4 out of 5. There is nothing "haute" about it, but it's a fun scent, great for people like me that love to play around with scents, layering and experimenting.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Perfume Shopping in Reykjavík, Iceland

Hi again, now I'm back! I've recently been on a trip to Iceland in order to visit my family there and I've been travelling in Sweden as well, but now I'm back in Stockholm for at least a week! When I go abroad on shorter trips I usually bring a few samples but not to many. Instead I rely on that I'll discover new and interesting scents and just spray them on whenever I see them in the shops. Iceland used to be a great place for that, there used to be a consumer culture that equals nothing I've some across. But as they have been in a major economic recession the last few years, things are very different now. As most Icelanders have no money there are hardly any imported luxury goods available. Even McDonalds has left (I'm not kidding).

But, even if Icelanders themselves have no money, there are lots of people that do - tourists! It used to be very expensive to go there, but not any more. And tourists like to buy local stuff and partake of local culture. So there seems to be a boom in arts and creating things locally. And there are not just souvenir polar bears and little wooden vikings. I found, surprisingly, 2 new local brands of perfume as well.

First one is EFJ, manufactured by Gydja. It's described as a classic, spicy, light and fresh fragrance with hints of citrus, vanilla, roses and bergamot. The perfume is clearly marketed towards tourists as it's made with with glacial water from Eyjafjallajökull and every bottle comes with a small lava rock from the volcano.

The only chance I had to try this one was at the airport, just before leaving.  It's a very generic floral with some rose and citrus thrown in. I didn't get any vanilla. It didn't impress me. But to it's defence I must say that while I was wearing it, I was carrying my very reluctant one year old daughter. First for an hour inside the airport terminal, then I had to try keep her entertained  for 3 hours straight, sitting in my lap, during the flight back home. Not the best conditions for perfume sampling...

The other Icelandic perfume brand I came across was is an extension to an Icelandic clothing brand, named Ella, founded by Elinros Lindal. There are two scents, "Ella" and "Ella Night". The official scent notes of Ella are lemon, verbena and patchouly. Ella Night smells of roses and fur.

I never got to wear these ones. I must admit I was put off by the bottle design, it was so clearly a bad Byredo copy. Normally I'm not too sensitive by such things, I believe that the best product will win in the end, but as I don't care much for Byredo to start with I just felt tired when I saw these. But if anyone has tried them I'd love to hear what you think.

So, I'm not super impressed by Icelandic perfumery yet, but at least there is an embryo of a local perfume industry. That, I believe, is a very good thing, and from now on things should only be able to get better! However, what is impressive are some of the Icelandic clothing designers. I'm including a few links here for anyone who's interested in checking them out:

Spakmannsspjarir , if I was a foot taller and a little more goth looking I'd buy all of theirs stuff! Amazing!

Kron by Kronkron, very cool shoes and stockings.

Elm, apparently Oprah has stopped by here and bought stuff.