Guerlain Vetiver

Guerlain’s Vetiver is a classic that’s been reformulated over and over. As near as I can tell, the old and new versions smell pretty similar. I have only tried the new version on my skin. Vetiver

In Bottle: Lovely green and clean with earthy notes that spells fresh rain, leaves, and woods.

Applied: Green and citrusy clean. Lovely wet scent that ushers in the woodsiness with a nice elegance. One of the things I tend to notice with BPAL (Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab) fragrances is their dirt note is very pronounced. Fantastic for those who like more earthy scents but I prefer what the dirt in Vetiver is doing, lending a small essence of itself without being pronounced. I smell it’s there but it isn’t overpowering anything, in other words. The cleanliness of Vetiver is a fantastic feature as the fragrance shifts into a beautifully balanced dry, clean, spicy and woodsy fragrance. As the scent ages the citrus disappears leaving that clean dry spice and wood to mix with a pleasant light smokiness. While I’m trying to separate these notes, I’m not having an easy time. Vetiver is a masterfully balanced fragrance that makes it difficult to pick out individual notes and frankly, when a fragrance is this well balanced, I don’t care enough to pick the notes out of it. Just take it for what it is, a clean masculine scent that’s been referred to as a classic for good reason.

Extra: Vetiver is a type of grass that smells dry, green and grassy. Guerlain’s Vetiver came out in 1961.

Design: Presented in a lovely glass bottle with alternating clear and frosted glass stripes. Vetiver’s bottle is functional, pleasant to look at and easy to hold.

Fragrance Family: Woodsy

Notes: Bergamot, lemon, mandarin, neroli, coriander, vetiver, cedar, tobacco, nutmeg, pepper, tonka bean, capiscum.

If you were planning on picking up a bottle of Vetiver, definitely go out of your way to test it out first. This fragrance smells very different on the skin than it does on paper.

Reviewed in This Post: Vetiver, 2008, Eau de Toilette.

Guerlain Habit Rouge

Sometimes when people hear a woman admit she’s wearing a men’s fragrance they act surprised. Like it’s a scandal to wear a men’s fragrance. And don’t even start on how people react if you’re a man admitting you’re wearing a women’s fragrance. The truth is, perfumes aren’t constrained by gender. Though some perfumes can be construed as feminine or masculine. The final say on the matter always ends with the individual. If you like it–just wear it. Habit Rouge is one such fragrance where if you like it then just wear it. Habit Rouge

In Bottle: Musky citrus as the opener. After over a month of smelling safe modern fragrances, I was ready for this. Already I can detect the minor Guerlainess in the fragrance as the musk insists that I test this on.

Applied: Citrus opens with a brilliant brightness. I know the version of Habit Rouge I’m smelling is not the same well-loved one that came out in 1965 but it is still a complex and extremely likable fragrance. The best part comes after the citrus as Habit Rogue morphs into a strong but not overpowering sandalwood and floral. The cinnamon in this pops in and out of the picture and continues to do this even during the dry down. The vanilla peeks in on the dry down when Habit Rogue decides that it’s time to go. Along with the vanilla something dense and leathery ushers on in as the fragrance takes a turn for the smoky vanilla and leather darkness that signals its final curtain call. Try and find a scent like this in the recent releases from mainstream houses and you may find it difficult. Habit Rogue remains beautiful even through its reformulations.

Extra: Commonly marketed and considered a men’s fragrance, Habit Rouge, to me is actually more of a unisex scent. It has a slight sweetness to it though its dry down is masculine, its opener is unisex, its heart is feminine. If you wanted a full on masculine scent, look elsewhere. If you want a beautiful unisex fragrance that’s stood the test of time, Habit Rouge it up.

Design: The eau de toilette version, which is the one I tested is a very simple design. Glass rectangular bottle. Red label, metal and plastic cap. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top. I would have loved to see what the other versions were designed like but the EDT packaging was pleasant enough. No frills, no bells and whistles or gimmicks. I like it that way.

Fragrance Family: Oriental

Notes: Bergamot, lemon, rosewood, basil, pimento, sandal, carnation, patchouli, cedar, rose, cinnamon, vanilla, amber, moss, leather, benzoin, labdanum, olibanum .

I had been chasing this one for a while, knowing that’s lovely. It’s dry down reminds me a bit of Shalimar but is a bit grittier and animalistic. It’s the leather, I think.

Reviewed in This Post: Habit Rogue, 2009, Eau de Toilette.

Comme des Garcons Nomad Tea

Continuing on my quest to find the perfect tea scent, Nomad Tea by Comme des Garcons popped up as a potential candidate. As far as I understand it, Nomad Tea is a part of Comme des Garcon’s Series 7: Sweet. It, and the fragrances in the collection, are a less complex homage to varying notes. Nomad Tea

In Bottle: Bitter, dark, herbal tea that has a very distinct bright mint note to it. This reminds me a lot of another mint based fragrance that I did particularly care for. Mint has this repellent quality to me that tends to hover between nicely spicy and rather plastic. I love real mint, but smelling it in fragrances is a real downer for some reason.

Applied: Artemesia gives the very powerful mint note a nice mellowing but you can tell the mint is very strong as it fights off the evaporation for a good while before finally giving in. The rest of Nomad Tea is headed by a very nice green tea scent with a smoked quality to it. There’s a very mild sweetness to this followed by the herbal, floral treatment that gives Nomad Tea a very aromatic feel to it. The dry down is a nice smoky and woodsy scent.

Extra: Comme des Garcons is a fashion house focusing on avant guard concepts. They branched into fragrances in the early to mid 90s.

Design: I’m not wild about the design of the bottle as it seems less polished than a fragrance like this deserves. Held in a textured glass bottle, Nomad Tea has the series name, fragrance name, and house name written in black ink on the glass. Very simple, really boring. Kind of messy which reflects the house’s aim a bit but doesn’t quite make it there. I expected better from Comme des Garcons, to be honest.

Fragrance Family: Aromatic

Notes: Artemisia, wild mint, Burmese green tea, geranium leaf, white sugar loaf, smoked woods.

That mint note that opens this is pretty distracting for me. So while the rest of the fragrance’s treatment of green tea is rather interesting with the sweet smokiness creating this nice atmosphere, I still have to get past the dreaded mint. I love mint–when I eat it. I don’t like it in my perfumes for some reason. It just has this watery, spicy, plasticness to it that turns me away.

Reviewed in This Post: Nomad Tea, 2009, Sample Vial.

Guerlain Shalimar

At long last I’ve come to appreciate Shalimar and truly understand her. I knew for years that there must be a reason for why people love Shalimar so much that I’m just not seeing. I kept reading on about how the dry down is this rich, deep, sensual vanilla but the top notes just turned me away. Then I decided to hell with it, and needed to see what I was missing for myself. And now, I think I’ve finally got it. k5f2jcs0

In Bottle: Smoky, slightly sweet and very spicy. Like taking in a lungful of cigar smoke. The bottle phase of Shalimar is excellent at hiding the vanilla deep in a hole somewhere and it’s just begging for you to come dig it up. To be completely honest, I am not wild about how Shalimar smells in the bottle or off-skin. It was the major thing holding me back for years from actually trying it on. And let me just say, Shalimar is strong. It’s not the kind of fragrance that sneaks into a scene and sits behind everyone else and stays quiet. Shalimar’s best trait is its projection. You don’t wear Shalimar to blend in with people. You wear it because you want your presence to be known. In short, it is powerful.

Applied: Initial burst of citrus, bergamot and lemon at work I’m thinking, but it’s very quick to go away. There’s cloves in this that lend to its spiciness. To me, cloves have this slightly plastic quality to it. But, hey, I’m warming up to them. As the initial lemon and clove notes starts to dry down I get more smoky sweetness from Shalimar as it leads me into the much raved about vanilla phase. The final vanilla phase for me is not what would be expected of vanilla. These days, people think sweet and gourmand when they hear vanilla. The vanilla in Shalimar is an incense laden, smooth, and dense smoked vanilla layered over powder. I know Shalimar is a classic. I’ve always known it was to be respected but up until now, I only respected it from afar. This is one perfume that needs to be allowed to age as its dry down is simply masterful.

Extra: Launched in 1925, Shalimar was the trademark of the daring, sensual woman. Shalimar, in Sanskrit means “Temple of Love”. Shalimar has a somewhat mixed reception these days. As more often than not, people opt for lighter, cleaner fragrances. As a result, Shalimar’s been called a lot of names. “Old lady” is one of the predominant criticisms. And “too strong” is another. It’s true, Shalimar is an old lady. It’s a classic, beautiful, timeless old lady. It’s also true that Shalimar is too strong. It has tremendous projection and is inappropriate for the office, public transit, and dinner parties held in close quarters. Like I said, this scent projects like mad. You need to pick the right places to wear it because it won’t go on lightly.

Design: Shalimar’s most well-known classic design inspired the current modern version. The classic design was based on the shape of a fan. A very romantic, lovely piece of art and design history. The modern design, though modern and hip, has lost quite a bit of that romantic and classic look. I prefer the old design. This new one isn’t bad, of course, but it feels a little mismatched for a classic fragrance so well-loved and well-known. As if the modern version was trying to take it away from the 1920s when it was born. The version I have comes in a clear glass bottle in the modern style. It has a plastic cap with “Guerlain Paris” written on it.

Fragrance Family: Oriental

Notes: Bergamot, cloves, smoke, iris, opopanax, vanilla.

All right, I fully admit my embarrassingly slow warm up to Shalimar. I think some people need to work up to this fragrance. Try it out enough times before they finally get it. I hear the same could be said for Jicky. Jicky being one of the Guerlain classics I’m really hesitant to try due to its infamously civet treatment. Ah well, Shalimar today and now that I finally understand her, it’s time to hunt down Vol de Nuit, Habit Rouge and Apres L’Ondee.

Reviewed in This Post: Shalimar, 2010, Eau de Parfum.