Perfumes For a Rainy Day

With Debby off the coast of Florida, we’ve been getting some consistent rain here. Most of it is light, the winds aren’t intense where I am and the sky stays a soupy, grey color no matter what day of the week it is. I find it fascinating, the differences between my new home and my old one. I had never seen clouds fly so fast or so low before.

I watched the light drizzle misting the backyard the other day and got the strong urge to put on some Samsaraby Guerlain. It felt like an appropriate departure. Something dry and spicy and woodsy to take away the damp. My husband informed me later that day that we should be expecting weather like this for the rest of the week.

Maybe I’m a little strange (I seem to say that a lot, don’t I?), but I actually like the rain. Not thunderstorms and lightning, but a light drizzle that just mists everything. It reminds me of highrise apartments, a old place with a lot of character and a perfectly good window that you can sit beside and take in the smell and feel of light rain. That kind of mood calls for a bit of Un Lys by Serge Lutens like a little delicate floral would belong in a little delicate rain and fragrance the water.

Finally, today, sitting unscented in front of the computer with the rain dripping off the roof and onto the grass. I had a strange hankering for Chypre de Coty. I have yet to procure a vintage bottle and still only have a very small, but very precious sample of its vintage formulation. I took a sniff, did not wear any, and was reminded of the moment that I wrote that first Chypre de Coty review and distinctly remember that it was raining back then too. Odd how moments and moods bring out the scents.

What about you? What fragrances do you get the urge to wear or experience on rainy days?

Brand Awareness and Fragrances

When it comes to fragrances, there’s a bit of bias when it comes to price point and branding. Fragrance branding is a very sensitive thing. Though perfume lovers will all agree that it’s not about the brand, it’s about the smell itself, we can’t help but be a little bit swayed by branding and marketing.

One of the things I learned as a graphic artist is the compelling strength of good branding. For a very succinct example of branding power and price points I’ll take a page from graphic designer, David Airey who asks us to investigate people’s perceptions of an item’s value.

He told us to think of Aston Martin and Skoda, two car companies.

The first, Aston Martin, has a brand identity appealing to luxury, charm and the sophisticated man and woman. Aston Martin even goes so far as to reel in James Bond, a character who leads a dangerous, exciting, upper class and often glamorous life.

On the other side, the Skoda, a reliable, economical car with good mileage and reliability. Surely we aren’t going to be conjuring up images of James Bond, hopping into his Skoda and calculating his mileage while he does his taxes and picks up milk after a quiet day at the office.

So if you were given the choice between an Aston Martin or a Skoda (assuming you knew them by brand and money wasn’t an issue), which would you chose? I would venture that most of you would pick the Aston Martin.

This picture makes me feel ridiculous!

And this is where things go back to perfume. Like it or not, branding has touched all of us for better or for worse. How many of us know fragrances by their brand? How many of us would pick a brand we never heard of over a brand we have? Or how many of us would pick a brand we know we like over a brand we’ve heard of but haven’t tried before?

And if we were each given a choice between a Chanel perfume or a Victoria’s Secret perfume, which would we chose? I bet the majority of us would take the Chanel fragrance for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons might just be the brand. After all, Chanel is about sophistication, luxury and high end fashion. When people think of Victoria’s Secret, they often think of underwear.

This is by no means a steadfast rule that applies to everyone, but it is a good idea to be aware of how companies and their approaches to marketing and branding themselves affects our perceptions of who they are and the quality of their product.

Just for fun, can you imagine if a company like Clive Christian (Oh, ye of the thousand dollar perfumes) stripped away their ultra luxurious exterior and started marketing affordable, fun, deodorant sprays to teenagers? You would see Clive Christian stands in drugstores with big pictures of cartoonish fruits hocking scents like “Radical Raspberry” or “Super Sweet Strawberry”. Maybe I’m getting a bit too giddy thinking about Clive Christian, taking a few steps away from the diamond-encrusted podium they’ve been standing on.

How about the bizarre scenario of the Axe Body Spray company all of a sudden deciding to put out a perfume based upon the classic chypre structure and marketed toward successful and distinctive men and women in their 40s and 50s? It’d be pretty strange, right? This is because people generally know of Clive Christian as that company that sells the most expensive perfume in the world and Axe Body Spray as that company that makes and sells those deodorant things that invade the hallways of high schools all over North America.

This preference for brands and perceptions of brands based on marketing isn’t our fault for being easily swayed or whatever. It is just how marketing works. And while there are a lot of fragrance marketing materials that turn off consumers (Marc Jacobs, I’m looking at you) or seem downright outrageous (Still looking at you, Marc Jacobs), the fact is branding sways us a bit more than most of us realize. We don’t have to be worried about this, but it wouldn’t hurt to be just a bit aware of how our perceptions are being changed and transformed every day.

Caron Narcisse Blanc

The Narcisse Blanc I have is a–of course–sampler from a parfum extrait bottle. I was wondering about the availability of this juice, given my very limited experience with straight up parfum extraits but was happy to note that Luckyscent carries it on their websitefor a rather reasonable price too.

Narcisse Blanc

Narcisse Blanc

In Bottle: Sweet orange floral with a strong dark jasmine presence and a bit of earthy iris, powder and woods.

Applied: Bright opening from Narcisse Blanc. I get an orange blossom scent that invades right away with a very strong regiment of flowers. The jasmine is quick to roll in with this soft touch of powder and earthiness. It reminds me of darker flowers than a bright jasmine. Like there’s a strong neroli presence that pulls the whole thing together.  The neroli makes it smell like what I imagine the dirt would be like when you stick your face right into the flowers and take a big whiff. Narcisse Blanc reminds me of daylight, warmth, dirt and the sun. It’s rather strong, possessing a sweet floral personality with a sophisticated bent and a touch of earthy powder like dust being kicked up by a dry wind. The fragrance as a whole is extremely complex and a unique joy to smell. I have to wonder how much of its complexity can be attributed to its parfum concentration, but this is a scent that’s been around long enough to stand the test of time. So while I feel like the parfum extrait might be helping it, Narcisse Blanc is probably just a good unique and complex classic. The scent dries down steadily into an earthier, smokier version of itself with the presence of sandalwood and a dusky musk note.

Extra: Narcisse Blanc is a sister perfume to Caron’s Narcisse Noir. Both are very old fragrances who have been around since the early 1900s. Both are still available today at Luckyscent.

Design: Caron’s bottles are always beautifully made and work wonderfully in terms of manual handling. I get a good grip, I can apply easily, and to top it all off the bottle looks gorgeous as a display piece–or it would if I had a bottle and already used up what was inside. No concerns when it comes to design and Caron.

Fragrance Family: Earthy Floral

Notes: Orange blossom, neroli, jasmine, rose, musk, vetiver, sandalwood.

It’s nice to get in a classic now and then. I found myself really missing the way these perfumes smell compared to contemporary fragrances.

Reviewed in This Post: Narcisse Blanc, 2011, Parfum.

Hodge Podge of Smells

Ever walk by a Bath and Body Works or Victoria’s Secret and get slammed with that hodge podge of smells coming from within? And don’t get me wrong, this happens in the perfume section in Neiman Marcus as much as it happens in a Yankee Candle. A lot of people find it offensive. Be it offensive in its overwhelming qualities or offensive in its mish-mash of aromas that combine to form some mutant scent.

Luce’s Eau de Cologne

Perhaps I’m crazy, then, to admit that I actually kind of like that smell. I think of it as a challenge and I kind of like it. I wouldn’t like to stand about and smell it all day, but as a passing fancy and curiosity, I can’t say it’s offensive–most of the time.

See, when one of those hodge podge scents hits me, my brain always tries to pick out the dominant smells then categorize them and analyze what might come together to make this mixture. For example, at the moment, the Bath and Body Works at the mall by my house smells predominantly of faux cupcake, aqua, and a heavy dose of coconut and pineapple. This makes sense as a few of their featured fragrances for summer are heavily tilted toward vanilla and scents of the “cupcake” or “funnel cake” quality. Summer is also dominated by thoughts of the beach for many people which explains the aqua, and of course coconut and pineapple are derived from thoughts of escaping to the tropics to soak in the summer sun.

If we were moving up to a more department store level, walking by a Chanel counter in the 90s used to hit me with No.5. It almost always smelled of No.5 back then and always reminded me of sophisticated ladies, black dresses, and–for some reason–peacocks. These days the Chanel counter tends to smell a bit more like Chanel Chance or Coco Mademoiselle and often is a mixture of the two. They don’t play too well together, but they can be a fun challenge to dissect out of the hodge podge aroma that frequently floats out of the perfume department. Chanel counters these days remind me of modern fashionistas, the colors pink and light green, freshness, and metropolitan lifestyles.

Then there’s the hegemony of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents that wafts out of my holding box containing the numerous samples of BPAL I’ve collected over the years. There’s over a hundred vials in there which makes separating the scents rather difficult. Instead of being able to dissect it all, I interpret it as a representation of the all the scents I like because I tend to keep the samples I enjoy and trade the ones that I don’t. As a result, my BPAL samples box smells of spice, cotton, aqua, white florals and a touch of soft woods.

But maybe I’m just strange to like this kind of thing. A lot of people hate the mixture of smells as they say it gives them headaches, scent blinds them, or just stinks of synthetic fakeness. After all, how many pieces of media out there make fun of the perfume department smell? I’m reminded, in particular, of the episode of Spongebob Squarepants (don’t judge me) where Spongebob and Patrick had to escape through the “dreaded perfume section” of a department store.

Get Dad Something Besides Acqua Di Gio

Father’s Day is around the corner and I got a Dillard’s flier telling me to celebrate my dad with some fragrances. And while I wish my father shared the same love of aromas as me, he’d rather be out in the full force of nature hiking, climbing mountains, or camping. I’ve never even seen him even attempt to smell a bottle of perfume as he probably prefers mountain air over anything else. So I don’t think celebrating my dad by buying him a bottle of Acqua Di Gio will go over well for me.

Heart Mountain by Glenlarson

Heart Mountain

But, that’s my father. For some, their dads are at least a little interested in fragrances and while I understand some of the suggested selections in Dillard’s flier I have to add three of my own suggestions that won’t be too hard to find in a pinch.

Guerlain Homme Intense
I love Guerlain Homme, and when the Intense version came out I gave it a try and also liked it for its fresh initial impression and smooth interpretation of floral, woodsy rum. Great longevity and projection with a nice sophisticated masculine style.

Hermes Terre D’Hermes
Beautiful impression of spicy oranges and woods that were beautifully blended. Terre D’Hermes remains one of the nicest fragrances marketed towards men that I’ve smelled.

Chanel Egoiste
Unlike its harsher, younger brother Platinum Egoiste, Egoiste is a warm spicy woodsy fragrance that’s blended nicely to make a strong, masculine scent that will last forever–or at least a really, really long time.

Happy Father’s Day to all present and soon-to-be dads out there.

Photocredit: Heart Mountain by Glenlarson

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist

Cashmere Mist

Cashmere Mist

I don’t know why I thought I had already done a review for Cashmere Mist. Perhaps it’s because of how used to it I am. Everywhere I went as a child, I smelled this perfume on somebody. It’s popularity has ingrained itself into my mind and made it something of a given that I should have talked about it already.

In Bottle: Bergamot and very soft floral woods.

Applied: Cashmere Mist opens with a little nip of citrus that serves to drive the fragrance into its dominant stage. The stage is that of a very soft floral tinged wood with a light dusting of powder that envelops the wearer in a warm blanket. A lot of fragrances remind me of my mother because, when I was growing up, her fragrance collection helped shape my perfume preferences today. Cashmere Mist is one of those perfumes that reminds me a lot of her because she had some of it at one point. I do have to admit that I’m not a big fan of this one, despite the good memories associated with it. It’s a bit dull, sadly. Otherwise, it’s warm and soft and nurturing. It’s nice and gentle and smells like memories of the early 90s. It’s also clean, like soap, powder and laundry if you were interested in a clean scent. I just think it’s a bit generic smelling and I’m entirely willing to admit that I might just be bored of smelling it because I’ve gotten so used to it since its release.

Extra: Cashmere Mist has been out and available since 1994. It remains easily accessible and can be purchased at a variety of department stores and online.

Design: Some people love this people and some don’t. I’m one of the people who love it, though I have to admit my bias because I grew up seeing this bottle and smelling Cashmere Mist so I’m a little bit attached to it. It is, however, a somewhat dated design in that it reflects an earlier aesthetic. There are two types of bottles for Cashmere Mist, a frosted glass bottle (pictured in this post) and a clear glass bottle.

Fragrance Family: Clean Woodsy Floral

Notes: Bergamot, lily of the valley, jasmine, suede, cashmere wood, sandalwood, musk, vanilla.

The version I reviewed should be noted as there has been some differences noticed by the fragrance community between the EDT that I’m reviewing and the EDP in the clear glass bottle that’s being widely circulated.

Reviewed in This Post: Cashmere Mist, 1998, Eau de Toilette.

Coach Poppy Flower

Coach Poppy Flower is a flanker to Poppy. It’s supposed to put a more floral spin on the original fragrance. Not sure what else they want out of the original Poppy because that one was fairly floral to me. Ah well, we’ll see.

Poppy Flower

Poppy Flower

In Bottle: Fresh, juicy flowers with a lot of water lily representation.

Applied: Sadly I’m smelling predominantly water lily from the starting point. I get a bit of citrus and the other sweet fruity things in this, but I suppose this is how you can go about making an already floral fragrance even more floral. The water lily gives me a bit of a headache as it seems particularly potent in this fragrance. The rest of the florals are giving up a good fight to help overwhelm or tame the water lily but I think that initial whiff blasted whatever chance the rest of the notes in this had for me. I really just get a lot of water lily with a little bit of jasmine and rose layered in there for good measure. As the fragrance ages, the peony comes up a bit more and given my previous association with peony, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Poppy Flower smells watery to me, kind of like a flower water mix and it isn’t very good, but it’s not horrendous. I wouldn’t venture to say this is okay, it’s just not too bad.

Extra: Coach Poppy Flower is marketed as fashionable, chic, and flirty. I have to admit, that despite being bombarded by marketing that claims something is flirty, I have yet to truly understand what that means in a marketing perspective and the word has been thrown about so much that it’s lost all meaning to me. What I do know about flirtiness is that I get nothing of the sort from Poppy Flower.

Design: Similar shape and style to that of Poppy, only it’s interpreted as purple and silver this time. I still don’t like the bottle, but the handwritten affect they used on the packaging is still fitting and aesthetically pleasing in its own way.

Fragrance Family: Floral

Notes: Citrus, black currant, raspberry, litchi, apricot, ivy, water lily, rose, jasmine, peony, sandalwood, musk, amber.

Coach Poppy Flower is available in EDP format and also comes in a body lotion if that kind of thing floats your boat. Me, I’m not personally a fan of this fragrance and actually prefer Poppy.

Reviewed in This Post: Poppy Flower,  2011, Eau de Parfum.