Monday, May 30, 2011

Spring scent experiment

In my former blog post, the Zeta review, I mentioned that Zeta influenced me to do stuff I normally don't do. While wearing Zeta I kept thinking about different spring scents and I just got this enormous urge to create a spring scent of my own.

My first thought where to start was getting lilacs. There is plenty of them here and they are in bloom right now. So I packed my daughter into her pram and went out in search of them. But the ones I saw were all very obviously growing in some ones garden or in a pot on some ones balcony. I just couldn't bring myself to snatch some sprigs.

However, what I did find, growing freely, was my old pal, the rowan. I tried eating it in my Spring scent safari 2 blog post and was surprised that it tasted not very sour or bitter, but more like nougat. There were lots of rowans in full bloom near my house, so I promptly picked a big bunch of flowers to take home.

Now, rowan blossoms do not have a very pleasant smell. I think they cater more towards insects than people. They smell smokey, fishy and a little bit funky. Interesting, in other words. They might not make a great soliflore, but might help add character to something else.

In order to get as much scent out of the blossoms as possible I ran them in the blender to smash them up real good. I'm not sure if this was a great idea. In a matter of seconds the flowers started to oxidise and went from cauliflower white to brown. With fruits and wine oxidation damages taste so a note to self: No more flowers in the blender.

Then I needed a medium to carry the scent. I decided to split the blossoms into two jars containing two different mediums; rapseed oil and alcohol.  Now I suppose pure alcohol is better than a half used up bottle of Bacardi, but in the spur of the moment, this is what I could come up with digging through my cupboards. Note the label on the bottle of oil, it must be a sign ;)

So, this is what I've got so far. One jar of mashed rowan blossoms in oil and one in alcohol. Andy Tauer, I'm sure you have better things to do than reading this, but if you do, just so you know, you made me do this!

And, just to be clear, I don't have the slightest idea how you're supposed to extract scent from flowers. I'll read up on it eventually but for now, this is just a crazy little experiment. You got to start somewhere, right?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zeta by Andy Tauer

The only thing I ever recall winning in a lottery or drawing was a can of Coke I got at a lecture at the computer club (Lysator) back in University. I suppose that was their evil scheme to lure people to come to those lectures. But now that has changed, Olfactarama hosted a drawing of 3 Zeta samples over at her blog and I was the lucky winner of one of those!

Zeta is labled to be a linden blossom themed perfume. We do have linden here, but I can't recall them ever smelling much. But I suppose there might be different kinds, some more fragrant than others. So I'm a bit handicapped reviewing Zeta, but lets try anyway. It starts out pretty heavy. There are tons of dewy honey laced white spring flowers. I also thought about honeysuckle and sweet yellow apples. There is beeswax, old fashioned nivea skin creme and oily orange in there, adding weight. To you wine nerds, if Zeta would be a wine it would be a Sémillion.

After an hour or so it lightens up and most of the heavy sweetness disappeares. No more honeysuckle. Now I'm starting to love Zeta! I wouldn't say it's so much about how linden blossom actually are, more about how they would be in a very perfect world. Still very delicate but a tad sweeter, fresher and gentler, somehow.

This is not a scent that makes me walk around sniffing my writs all day, discovering different notes and thinking about how they are fitted together (like the Serge Lutens I've been trying lately). This scent is more about being enveloped in a small cloud of spring air, very energizing and inspiring, nudging me towards new ideas and encouraging me to try out fun stuff that I normally wouldn't do.

I'm rating Zeta 5 out of 5. It's a scent I think everyone should try at least once and I'm very grateful I got the opportunity!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Win Ineke sample kits!

In my recent post New samples, help needed! a couple of commenters mentioned Ineke as a good brand to dig into, and lo and behold if not my fellow perfume blogger Julia Forsberg of Daisy Beauty is hosting an Ineke drawing over at their blog. You can win one of 3 sets, containing samples of all 7 Ineke fragrances. A link to her blog post containing the contest (in Swedish) is here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Coeur d’Été by Miller Harris

Having kids, some days you'll be very very tired. There are lots of reason for that, they might have stomach ache, teething, nightmares or sometimes they just wake up for no reason at all and refuse to go asleep again for hours and hours. I recently had a day like that. I felt there was just no way I could bear putting on another Serge Lutens to try out, I wanted something light, subtle and undemanding. I thought about my stash, wasn't there a sample of Coeur d'Été by Miller Harris somewhere? According to the sales talk: "Lynn Harris (their perfumer) made that perfume during the early stages of her pregnancy when her already acute sense of smell became heightened". Great, I thought, that should deliver what I'm looking for.

I occasionally wore this perfume while I was pregnant myself last year, and liked it. I remember it smelling of chocolate, bananas and lilies of the valley, a strange mix but it worked for me. Now it felt different, I mostly smelled inky lilacs, anchored to a curiously heavy base I couldn't make out.

In the end I looked up the notes on the internet:
Top notes: cacao pod, mandarin orange, grapefruit, licorice and lemon
Middle notes: banana, white pear, cassia, lilac and heliotrope
Base notes: sandalwood, musk, benzoin and vanilla

The citrus and liquorice I can't detect at all. The other fruits and gourmet notes I can detect as I now know they are there, but this perfume does not stand out as a gourmand scent. The flowers are load and clear though. The other notes are near seamlessly integrated, creating a firm background for those heady florals.

Pregnancy is a funny thing, it completely distorts your sense of smell. I remember all of a sudden not being able to stand the smell of plastic bags and green herbs. It was so bad I forced my husband to keep our kitchen herbs (mint and Thai basil) out on the balcony, which nearly killed them. However, the notes in this perfume do makes sense. I had huge cravings for fruit, ice cream and chocolate. My guess is when creating this perfume, Lynn Harris put together all the things she could stand the smell of, just to see what would happen.

If you're looking for something light and delicate, this is not it. This scent reminds me of something both my mother and grandmother might wear. Makes sense to connect to earlier generations of women while you're pregnant, I suppose. It's a comforting and a bit old fashioned scent, but not very exciting. I'm rating it 3 out of 5.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Santal de Mysore by Serge Lutens

Go ahead, press the play button on the YouTube clip above. This blog post has a soundtrack.

I've been wearing "Santal de Mysore" for a couple of days now, and the best way to describe it  is like a Bach concerto, firmly built around a central theme that is indefinitely varied but never gets old.

The theme is, of course, sandalwood and the infinite variations are the way the other notes seamlessly intertwine, playing one off the other, managing to render the sandalwood in different lightings again and again. There is "woody sandalwood" flanked by oak chips and wine barrels. There is "spicy sandalwood", flanked by cumin and Indian curry spices. There is "gourmet sandalwood", flanked by liquorice, vanilla and good quality dark chocolate.

The wine barrel note I find especially interesting. My first impression of "Santal de Mysore" was, my god, this smells just like an Australian Chardonnay. They sometimes carry some pretty aggressive oak notes as they are not only aged in oak barrels but some producers have been known to throw in oak chips for that extra little oooomh (nothing you see on bottle labels though, this is a trade secret). As the perfume dries down the wine barrel note goes softer and after a few hours I've caught notes of softly oaked young Cabernet Sauvignon.
It's funny that the oak notes are so prominent for me in "Santal de Mysore", that is not officially supposed to carry oak, but I didn't catch any oak in Chene, that is supposed to be all about oak, just generic wood.

So, how do I feel about this one? It's not a classical "woody" fragrance to me, it's a sweet, dark and seductive fragrance. I find it  pleasant, but I think it will be even better in winter. I'm rating this a 4 out of 5 for now, but I might very well up that at Christmas.

Music: J.S. Bach Double Concerto for 2 violins in D minor, 1st movement. Solemn and a bit stiff arsed at fist listenings but once you start hearing how the two violins sometimes support each others, sometimes tease, a whole new landscape (soundscape?) opens up. Very much like the process I've had with "Mysore de Santal".

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sarrasins by Serge Lutens

Once upon the time in far away Thailand there was a small shop that made jasmine garlands. The garlands used to chat about where they would end up when they were being sold. "I want be a gift to a famous monk", said one. "I want to cheer up someone who is ill", said another. "I want be wrapped around the neck of a beautiful dancer" said the third. I don't know what happened to the first two, but the third one indeed ended up around a beautiful dancer. One that worked hard, all nights long, in a very sad and seedy place...

So, Sarrasins is about jasmine. Initially, the jasmine comes out so load it's screeching. It has got a plasticky and synthetic feel about itself. After a while it calms down and a whole new picture reveals itself. The jasmine turns lighter and more realistic and in the background there is leather and other animal notes. There is flesh, lightly smoked fish and somehow (although I know you are not supposed to be able smell that) salt. I wouldn't say it smells like vagina, but that sure is the general direction of things.

It's no surprise that perfume makers use elements that are normally considered  unpleasant to make their creations come to life. However, it is unusual (at least for me) to find them left out in the open like this. I find the play between innocent jasmine and the other notes very intriguing. The only other fragrance I know of with this level of bipolarity is Tubereuse Criminelle. That one is, for me, about questionable sanity. This one is about guilty sex. I mean, why else hide behind all that jasmine?

So, risking to appear to be a total pervert, I have to confess that I love this scent. There is something about it that makes me smile again and again. I'll wear my sample to the last drop. I rate this one a 5 out of 5.

Monday, May 16, 2011

El Attarine by Serge Lutens

Living in Sweden, there are some flower notes that I've no idea how they smell in real life. Immortelle, one of the main notes in El Attarine, is one of them. I can't pick it out since I've no idea how it smells, I just have to trust other reviewers on the net that's it in there somewhere.

Actually, I've had a hard time picking out any notes in El Attarine. Sometimes it just smells like my skin has gotten sweeter. Sometimes I feel like I'm followed by a ghost, the perfume is all around me, but when I smell my wrist there is nothing there.

What I do pick up is sweet honey, I love the fact that this is a sweet perfume without any traces of vanilla and coconut. For a short period of time, there is a rash cumin note. There is also a healthy dose of musk. There are traces of flowers and spice, but nothing cool or fresh. El Attarine is all-in warm and golden.

I just can't bring myself to love this one. Compared with all others Serge Lutens I've tried, El Attarine has the least personality. It lacks character. Maybe this is a scent that comes to live on warmer days days, we've had cold and rainy weather when I've tried it on or maybe we just aren't meant to be. I'm rating El Attarine 3 out of 5.

New samples, help needed!

My Serge Lutens samples
Looking at the tag cloud to the right one might assume that I'm really really crazy about Serge Lutens. Well, they have many memorable scents and they tell a story like nothing I've encountered before. But there isn't much more to them, for me.

Before I started this blog I was on a 9 months perfume break as I wanted to create an environment as natural as possible for my infant daughter. And before that I was pregnant, and everything smelled horrible. But now, I wanted to restart my perfume life and decided to get some samples from The Perfumed Court. I had an older Serge Lutens sample that I really liked so I wanted to try more from them. I figured I'd get something like 5 samples. But when I started looking which ones to get, both my kids were sick and literally climbing on me, screaming whenever I sat down by the computer. It was impossible o read up and make a decent choice. So when I saw that you could get all 24 non-exports Serge Lutens in a sampler pack, I just ran for it, thinking I might never have another opportunity to score samples (having kids is certainly helping me to live in the moment :)  )

In retrospect, getting all 24 was a smart thing to do. I'm finding that I love some scents that I didn't think I'd do (i.e. Tubereuse Criminelle), and there are some I thought I'd like but didn't (i.e. Un Bois Sepia, Mandarin mandarine).

But, now I'm more than half way through the samples and, like the true perfume junkie I am, I need to get some more. The "getting several samples from one producer"-strategy seems to be working for me, so I've been thinking about who should be next.  One idea is getting the Jayne Ormonde Discovery Set. Tauer has a sampler set and there is Aftelier, pricy but I'm very curious about their scents. Or is there anyone else? I'd love to get some ideas and recommendations!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Scent of Spring

I just wanted to share this with you, a bird cherry tree (hägg in Swedish) growing by my balcony. The scent of the flowers is honeylike and intoxicating at the same time. In Sweden, this is the scent of spring.

Bird Cherry Tree

Close up of the flowers

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rahät Loukoum by Serge Lutens

This is one perfume that forever will rub in the fact that the smell that comes out of a bottle might be very different than how that perfume will smell on your skin.

When I open my vial, out comes a strong whiff of bitter almonds. On skin the bitter almond note lasts only for a second or two. Then there are toasted almonds for about 10 seconds. These turn to sweet marzipan, but within a few minutes the whole almond thing dissappears, making place for cherries. The scent keeps on morphing, inpersonating among others cherry liquorice, cherry liquor, marshmallows, cherry nougat and vanilla pudding. This lasts for about two hours. After that there is mostly musk and vanilla. Rahät Loukum is the arab name for Turkish delight, "Candyshop" would also be a decent name for this scent.

My first thought when trying this one was "Oh my god, this is way off my sweet-o-meter, far into diabetic zone, I can't wear this". But since then, I've found myself reaching out to this scent several times. Today I wore it after first using a coffee scrub, leaving faint bitter-sweet notes of coffee and dark chocolate all over my skin. In my opinion, that bought out the best in the Rahät Loukoum. Layered like that, I got deeper and darker notes like cherry tobacco and Kriek, Belgian cherry beer, two party staples when I first started uni. I'm no big consumer of any of them nowadays, but I loved catching a whiff every now and then, reminding me of happy, carefree days :)

Rahät Loukoum is most wearable gourmand scent I've tried so far, but still, I wouldn't wear it out of the house. Or, well, actually I did today, and I felt rather uncomfortable doing it. This is not a scent when you want people to take you seriously, but great when wearing your slouchiest clothes, realxing around the house. So, I'm rating this a 4 out of 5.

Picture: Cherry Almond Nougat, yum

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boxeuses by Serge Lutens

There is no label like Serge Lutens  to create vivid vignettes in my mind when I try one of their creations. Boxeuses is no exception.

When I was 17 I lived in Thailand for a year as an AFS Exchange student. At that time Thiland did not have it current day status as a holiday paradise but was viewed with a bit of suspicion. I stayd in the smallest province, named Samutsongkhram. The only tourists ever to come there were safely enclosed into air conditioned buses, heading for the beaches further south.

It's difficult to describe the culture shock I experienced. Everything was different from home. The lush vegetation. The spicy food. The Buddist mindset. And there were  temples all around, serene at day, loud and crazy at night hosting fairs full of song and dancing performances - and also Thai boxing matches.

The first 30 minutes of Boxeuses take me right back to one of those fairs. It opens with a bang, the initial notes are jumping one off another. There are mothballs, camphor and wood. There is an extremely life like smoke note that only lasts for a couple of seconds. There is leather and lots of sweet incense. I think it's the incense that does it, it smells exactly like I remember the incense from those temples. The smoke reminds me of fire from burning dry palm leaves and the wood comes from all those huge tropical trees that grew all around.

When the scent calms down, the incense stays. It's now a sweeter than I remember from Thailand. There are prunes and leather as well.

I'm rating Boxeuses a 4 out of 5. I love the beginning, just as I came to love Thailand and its people. But I'm not yet ready to smell like a prune yet. Sorry!

The picture above is of Parinya Charoenphol. He became a Thai boxing champion in order to pay for a gender change. It's a true story and there has been a movie made about it. See trailer below for more of the atmosphere I'm associating with the Boxeuses scent.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chergui by Serge Lutens

Chergui is named after a wind that blows in the Moroccan desert. It is supposed to be persistent, very dry and dusty, hot in summer, cold in winter. I think the idea to create a perfume inspired by the chergui is stunning. Before I've tried on the perfume my head is full with vivid pictures out of Arabian Nights; rubinesque harem ladies cooling off by the pool, bedouin musicians playing intricate tunes outside their tents at night, camel caravans carrying riches beyond imagination... 

Now, if I return to reality, I haven't been to Morocco. The only desert I've visited was in Rahjastan, in India. The major scent note I remember is dust. A dry chalky scent when the sun warms the sand to the point that it burns your skin when touching it. There are dry, scarred shrubbery smelling a little herby. Animalic scents from camel dung and sweaty camel fur all around (I was on a camel safari). Sometimes spicy curries stewing over small, wood kindled, cooking fires.

So, what does Serge Lutens Chergui have in store for me? Initially there is honey and vanilla. These are backed by traces of smoke, which adds character and keeps the sweeter notes from getting cloying. While the scent plays on, the vanilla is ever present and on and off I feel soft amber and musk. It feels like a sweet whisper, close to my skin.

So how can this have any relation to the Moroccan desert wind? I think of it as a dream of how desert life would be without all the dirt and grime. Just the sweet, soft and the pleasant remains. The honey note comes from piles of sweet confections. The smoke whirls up in the air where friends share a water pipe. The only scents coming off the camels are from their cargo of sandalwood and vanilla while musk tell tales of secret amorous encounters behind harem walls. The only one who knows is the ever swirling desert wind.

This is the most expertly crafted Oriental I've tried this far. I personally don't feel comfortable wearing vanilla, so I'm rating it 3 out of 5. That doesn't mean this is a bad scent, it just isn't a scent for me, but for anyone (of any gender) who's into orientals, I consider it a must try.

Pic: "The terrace of the sergalio" by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Scent Safari, Part 2 -Trees

In the blog post "Spring Scent Safari, Part 1" I showed some pictures of the earliest spring flowers that show up around my in-laws house. But, if anyone remembers, I also said that they hardly have any scent at all. So is Sweden all scentless during spring, one might ask? No, I wouldn't say so. There are lots of scents, but at this time of the year, if you want to experience them, you have to look toward the trees.

Now, if you just stand there, pressing your nose to the trunk and leaves there are some scents, but not very strong. How do you get to the more substantial ones?  You can cut the tree down, of course. A warm chainsaw is grinding it's way through the trunk would release lots of scent. But I somehow doubt that my mother in law would still like me if I cut down the trees in her garden. And I like them myself so it would be pretty stupid to cut them down. So, what other options are there?

Well, just pick some fresh buds and new baby leaves, stuff into your mouth, chew them and pond upon what sensations you get! Most of what you think you taste are actually scents. A great way to get a close experience of the raw materials in your surrounding. Of course, be very careful to try only trees and plants that you know are not poisonous in any way.

Here are the one I tried:

Birch. This one gave me a very astringent feeling in my mouth. It was bitter but very fresh and leafy.

Spruce. Extremely resinous. Spicy and bitter. Somehow more feminine than the pine.

Pine. What can you say, the king of Swedish trees? Also resinous but a lot less acid than the spruce. Feels very manly somehow, probably as it is used mainly in masculine fragrances :)

Rowan. This was a big suprise. Hardly any astringency. A hint of soft nougat or hazelnuts. I'm dying to try putting some of this in alcohol to see what happens.

Moss. This one did not have any smell at all, nor taste. Mabye the moss I tried was dead but I wouldn't be able to tell the difference...

Blackcurrant bush leaves. Lovely, the blackcurrant note shows up in the leaves, but much greener. Like a Sauvignon Blanc. If you're into wines, this is a must try. The baby leaves might be great in a spring salad, hm, what to pair them with?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Comparison Jo Malone "Orange Blossom"+"White Jasmine & Mint" vs "Tubereuse Criminelle"

When thinking about the notes in Tubereuse Criminelle, two other samples in my perfume collection came to mind; Jo Malones "Orange Blossom" and "White Jasmine and Mint". Jo Malone fragrances are made to layer, shouldn't these two add up to something similar to TC? They both have white flowers (ok, no tuberose, but jasmine will have to do in a pinch), orange blossom and mint. I decided to do a little comparison. One drop of Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle on one wrist and a small spray of first JM Orange Blossom and then White Jasmine & Mint on the other.

Smelling these two next to each others is like having a chat with a seductive but slightly insane femme fatal on one side and a innocent little girl on the other. TC just keeps expanding in all possible and impossible directions. There is good, there is evil and there is the just very strange stuff in between.

JM Orange Blossom first smells exactly like when you use your fingers to peel an orange. No more, no less. A safe smell. The "White Jasmine and Mint" isn't very noticeable at first. I suspect it takes the edge of the orange but I don't really notice it. Half an hour later the jasmine is more prominent. The little mint that there is feels vaxy and plasticy, like the first seconds when you put a Mentos in your mouth. You feel the smooth surface, there is a hint of mint, but it hasn't started to dissolve yet, releasing its menthol. About an hour later, I'm getting mandarin and lemon. There might be a hint of dirtyness, but when compared side to side with TC, it's hardly worth mentioning. This is an ok scent. Relatively fresh with lots of citrusy notes. I have to try it on its own on a warm summer day. And I think I might have been very hash when I've said before that I hate orange blossoms. I now recall that I was pregnant when I formed that judgement. They are not that bad.

So, the verdict of today's exercise: The result of layering Jo Malones "Orange Blossom" and "White Jasmine and Mint" is not bad, but it's NOTHING like the legendary Tubereuse Criminelle.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Tubéreuse Criminelle" by Serge Lutens

This one I've been looking forward to try. I've heard so much about it, it has quite a reputation, I badly want to form an opinion of my own.

First, a huge blast of...what? When I close my eyes I can almost believe I'm in the midst of a tropical night garden with big juicy clumps of flowers hanging all around me. But behind those flowers there is a hint of nasty. It reminds me of public rest rooms in Thailand. Not the piss and shit part but they use these little camphor smelling tablets to repel insects that live in the pipes, mostly roaches and silverfish. The smell of those tablets is lingering in the background. And there is gasoline, I repeatedly caught myself thinking: "I really shouldn't be inhaling this".

As the scent develops the flower part turns more toward jasmine and hyasinth. I'm also getting moththballs and lots of menthol. And orange flowers. Normally I hate orange blossoms. On me they smell dirty and remind me of tooth decay and unwashed bodies. But in Tubereuse Criminelle they fit in, making their contribution both to the flowery part and to the skanky underbelly.

Some hours later things have calmed down. There is a strong note of generic "white flower" that sometimes turns into Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum. There is also a note of mint intertwined. The mint has an interesting physical effect. As I'm not used to smell it in a setting like this I sometimes get a cold little shiver down my spine, or feel slightly unsettled by the cool sensation of it. Like I'm smelling all this flowery sweetness but I know somehow that there is something very very wrong with it. I love how the play with hot/cold adds an extra dimension to the scent.

Some associate this scent with vampires, some with a blond bombshell out of a 30ies movie. Impeccable dressed up in a black tight dress, shiny red lipstick onb but just wait for a while and out comes the machine gun. For me, I think of Snow White in her glass casket. When you come closer she opens her eyes and beckons you to open the lid. When you do, you realise there is no girl there but just a mass of crawling maggots reaching towards you. An olfactory representation of a beautiful shell with very nasty things going on on the inside.

To be honest, even if I was looking forward to trying this one, I didn't think I'd like it. There are white flowers, which I'm not to happy about, and orange blossoms that I seriously dislike. But I love it. Somehow the ugliness of each one (as I perceive it) comes together and builds a very unique and interesting whole. This is not a scent for everyday wear, it's a scent that tells a different story to every wearer. I'm rating it 5 out of 5.