Notes I Love

I’ve been shifting and changing, growing more experienced about what I want in a fragrance and the list of notes that I love today might not be the same as the one I’ll make next year. But these days, I’m craving some very specific notes and some notes, I’ve just wanted to find holy grail fragrances for and haven’t been able to locate those yet.

Photo by: Jo Anna Barber

Here are the notes that I’m loving right now.

Holy Grail: Spiritueuse Double Vanille
I love vanilla, but not the faux vanilla that has a tendency to smell like plastic when it’s poorly blended. But boozy, spicy vanilla with a touch of woods. My favorite for this category is still Guerlain’s SDV, whose boozy, woodsy spicy vanilla hits the spot.

Holy Grail: Still looking
A good amber to me is smooth, warm, comforting and settles quietly on the skin. I have yet to find an amber fragrance that I’m totally happy with.

Holy Grail: Honey Blossom
Honey Blossom isn’t so much a single note of honey, if that were the case, I’d just get single notes and be done with it. Rather Honey Blossom an entire perfume that beautifully depicts the concept of a honeyed floral. It smells inviting and pretty. I just wish I had a lot more of it.

Holy Grail: Still looking
I’m picky about jasmine because it’s in so many fragrances as it is. I’m looking for a scent that really showcases a green, fresh jasmine that isn’t too overpowering because strong jasmine doesn’t smell too great either. There has to be a delicate balance and I’m still looking for my favorite.

Holy Grail: Still looking
If any note could take me back to my childhood, it would be sandalwood. This is another one that I’m really picky about and as a result, haven’t found my favorite yet. The closest so far is Guerlain’s Samsara whose perfumed sandalwood inspired some brief nostalgia, but not anywhere near enough.

So what notes draw you in? And as always, I’m open to any suggestions on my search for a holy grail for every note.

Photo Credit: Jo Anna Barber

AdP Colonia Assoluta In Villa

In Villa

In Villa

Up today is another decant from Steve at The Scented Hound (thank you). I really have no method to my madness, so I decided upon Colonia Assoluta In Villa because it was the closest one.

In Bottle: Green citrus, I get a lot of lime and bergamot, with a big dose of woodsy notes.

Applied: Lime and bergamot on opening, reminds me of greenness and it only gets more green when the cypress quickly rolls in. When I looked up the notes for this Acqua di Parma wants to tell me they used cedar. Now, I’m not a great nose when it comes to well-behaved cedar because it’s always going funky on my skin. If this is cedar, then it’s behaving really well. The citrus is quick to dissolve, leaving cedar holding the bag until a clean waft of florals rolls in during the midstage with the very barest touch of spice. The scent gets decidedly less floral near the end where the green cedar continues to carry it forward with a touch of warmth from a very faint amber note. The fragrance reminds me a lot of an adorable little cottage I saw once. It was–funny enough–in the middle of a city, but the owner had enough land that despite metropolitan life going on around him, he managed to have a beautifully done wooded area surrounding his property. It looked like a page out of a storybook and In Villa reminds me of that.

Extra: Colonia Assoluta In Villa was released in 2009 by Acqua di Parma.

Design: I actually really like the bottle for In Villa, it’s elegant and simple. Modern with a little bit of classic flair so that it doesn’t look outdated. I think what sells this bottle for me (in terms of aesthetics) is that it has a balloon pump, which gives it a classic charm. Though as Steve noted, the balloon pump adds an element of beauty to the bottle, but it’s not great when you go to use it. From my experience with balloon pumps, I can eagerly agree.

Fragrance Family: Woodsy

Notes: Lemon, lime, bergamot, cardamom, chili pepper, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, cedar, white musk, amber.

I was really happy with how well the cedar in this worked on me, but aside from the surprising mild cedar, there’s not a whole lot going on with In Villa. It’s pretty enough, but it’s not my kind of thing. But if it is your kind of thing, you can buy a whopping 200ml of this stuff. That’s a lot of In Villa!

Reviewed in This Post: Colonia Assoluta In Villa, 2012, Eau de Cologne.

M. Micallef Vanille Marine

I’m delighted to be wearing a vanilla fragrance on any day. As much as I love Jasmine and honey, the vanillas keep me coming back. Up today is M. Micallef‘s Vanille Marine, a pretty aquatic with a bite of citrus and a smooth vanilla personality. 

In Bottle: Sharp citrus and marine with a tempering of flowering vanilla. It’s quite an interesting mix of sharp and soft that forms to make a fairly nice fragrance.

Applied: I get an initial spear of citrus and sharp marine notes. It makes the scent smell quite strong and reminds me a lot of soap. While the opening might be harsh, Vanille Marine settles down quickly into a softer interpretation lending much of this progression to the florals and that awesome vanilla. I had my reservations about an aquatic vanilla fragrance. I hadn’t tried any before that I thought worked out very well, but Vanille Marine makes the concept very appealing. There’s a clean edge to this from the marine that mixes well with the soft floral vanilla. It makes me think of delicate vanilla flowers floating in the ocean. This is clean, fresh and warm all at the same time as you settle into its mid-stage. Where Vanille Marine gets really good is near the end where the marine notes have time to settle into the skin and work with the vanilla to give off this beautiful smooth vanilla and aqua fragrance.

Extra: M. Micallef’s vanilla collection showcases the many faces that vanilla can take. I’m extremely happy that fragrance houses are using vanilla in different ways than the standard recipe of throwing it into a gourmand or spraying it all over the base notes of some fruit floral and hoping for the best. I never thought an aquatic vanilla could work out this well, and I’m happy to be proven wrong.

Design: Vanille Marine is packaged and presented in much the same way as Vanille Orient. I’m still not a big fan of the aesthetics and think Micallef’s other work is more attractive. Still, the bottles and the design are nice interpretations of fun, natural and organic aesthetic.

Fragrance Family: Sweet Aquatic

Notes: Lemon, blackcurrant, marine, vanilla, white florals, benzoin, musk, woods.

I though Vanille Orient would be my favorite from this batch of vanillas, but I’m thinking Vanille Marine might have it beat. I’ve smelled a lot of good oriental vanillas and while Vanille Orient is up there on the list, Vanille Marine was a pleasant surprise.

Reviewed in This Post: Vanille Marine, 2012, Eau de Parfum.

Disclaimer: The fragrance sampler spray reviewed in this post was provided to me for free for the purposes of review. In no other way am I receiving pay or compensation for this review. This review was written based upon my personal experiences and opinions of the product.

How I Spent My Weekend, A Princess Ariel Perfume

A while ago I posted a list of perfumes that were probably terrible that I’d just have to try. A bunch of Disney-themed fragrances was included on the list and I was genuinely excited when one of my friends said she had a questionably old bottle of it. Well the little vial of Princess Ariel arrived the other day and both my friend and I weighed in on how it smells.

Disney Princess Ariel

Disney Princess Ariel

One word review: Expired.

It smelled strongly of alcohol and broken florals. Thoroughly unpleasant and if there was an actual fragrance in there, it has long disappeared. So there was no Disney Princess perfume for either of us. Sad day.

What I find kind of funny is how incredibly difficult it is to source truly awful perfume that nobody wanted to buy. I do remember the last time I was in a dollar store, I spent some time sniffing the offerings there next to a man who noticed me and said, “Forgot my wife’s birthday”. Whether or not he actually forgot his wife’s birthday or if he actually enjoys dollar store perfume and didn’t want to admit it, is anyone’s guess. All I knew was that the perfume was awful, but then I’m the kind of masochist who watches awful movies and plays terrible video games because I find them entertaining.

Anyway, when I asked my friend how she managed upon a Disney Princess Ariel perfume she admitted that it was in a hodge podge box of perfume purchased at a garage sale. It had settled in amongst the standard offerings of half-full Cashmere Mist and Fantasy by Britney Spears.

I got a description of the bottle and did some Google investigations. My research (hah) yielded a lot of people on eBay claiming this was authentic Disney merchandise. I’m no Disney expert so if this was somebody’s idea of a knock-off and wasn’t actually a Disney item then I wouldn’t be surprised. If you’re curious about this too and feel like throwing out $15-30, it’s widely available on eBay and on Amazon Marketplace. I only sprayed this on a piece of paper, so I suggest you do the same.

And that’s what I did this weekend.

M. Micallef Vanille Orient

Vanille Orient

Vanille Orient

M. Micallef Perfumes is a husband and wife venture started in 1996 and based in Grasse, France that features some beautiful perfumes and handcrafted bottles. This year, they released a series of four vanilla-based fragrances. Vanille Orient is one of them.

In Bottle: Spicy vanilla with a hint of sandalwood. It’s warm and sweet, but sophisticated.

Applied: Vanilla is definitely the star of this show. Vanille Orient opens with a spiced liqueur-like vanilla. It’s the kind of vanilla that reminds me of Spiritueuse Double Vanille in that it smells deep, authentic and grown-up. This is definitely not what I’ve taken to call, “Barbie-doll vanilla” that smells of sweetened plastic. As Vanille Orient ages, the vanilla introduces a sandalwood note and amps up the warmth with a rich amber base. Sandalwood takes the fragrance away from being a straight up sweet vanilla by introducing a soft woodsy element that blends and works together with the vanilla as opposed to letting it dominate. I compared this to Spiritueuse Double Vanille, but Vanille Orient differs in a few ways. It’s smoother, less smoky and plays up the sweetness a bit more. There have been a lot of times in the past where fragrances choose to go with a sandalwood and vanilla base that bored me. But the richness in Vanille Orient give the sandalwood and vanilla pairing a depth that I would love to smell in instead of the weak, synthetic interpretation I usually get.

Extra: M. Micallef is a niche house based in Grasse where they handcraft the bottles for their fragrances. Autumn 2012 features the Vanille Art Collection that includes Vanille Orient, Vanille Cuir, Vanille Fleur, and Vanille Marine. All of which have been crafted to feature a decadent vanilla from Madagascar. Vanille Orient is available at niche pricing  in 50ml or 100ml at Luckyscent.

Design: I haven’t had a chance to hold a bottle yet, but based on the images I’ve seen the Vanille Art Collection favors a warm organic style with the fragrance being held in a cube-shaped bottle. I’m not as a big a fan of these bottles as I am some of their other work, but I do love the boxes that they’re presented in and the shape is very attractive. The bottles give off a fun flair and the fact that the owner spends a lot of her time hand decorating them is extremely impressive.

Fragrance Family: Oriental

Notes: Vanilla, sandalwood, amber, musk.

All in all, Vanille Orient is a lovely interpretation of vanilla. It’s one of the better ones I’ve smelled with its spicy and warm vanilla and sandalwood interpretation. If you’re looking for a very competent, sweet vanilla then give this a try.

Reviewed in This Post: Vanille Orient, 2012, Eau de Parfum.

Disclaimer: The fragrance sampler spray reviewed in this post was provided to me for free for the purposes of review. In no other way am I receiving pay or compensation for this review. This review was written based upon my personal experiences and opinions of the product.

Miss Dior

Miss Dior, unlike her younger sister (Miss Dior Cherie), is a smart, sophisticated woman who enjoys the finer things in life but doesn’t let it get to her head. She’s humble and complex with a classical charm that Miss Dior Cherie can never beat.

Miss Dior

Miss Dior

In Bottle: Green with a prominent aldehyde quality to it and a dusting of florals.

Applied: Sharp green aldehydes that are a bit of a sting on the old nostrils. Miss Dior goes on strong and powerful, hits you with a wave of classical perfume and reminds you of what a real chypre ought to smell like. Nothing like the lilting chypres of today that have been toned down and have lost their oak moss. Miss Dior is the full force of chypres upon application. As the fragrance ages, she smooths out a bit taking on a powdery quality to me with a warm sensuality that works in the complexity of the fragrance. It’s hard to describe complex fragrances for me because breaking them down into components and saying, “I smell this and now I smell this” would ruin the experience. Instead let me just say that Miss Dior smells like a vintage with an aldehyde and floral mid-stage prominent in neroli and jasmine and is every bit the chypre that she’s supposed to be. The fragrance dries down into a lovely rich flowers, forest and buttery leather scent that makes me want to stick my nose to my wrists and deeply inhale.

Extra: Miss Dior was released in the late 1940s and was composed by Jean Carles and Paul Vacher. Like most (if not all) classics that have survived till today, Miss Dior has been reformulated. The version I’m reviewing in this post is reportedly from sometime in the 1970s. I have not tried the more readily available, “Miss Dior Originale” yet, but I do have a sample of that so I will be trying it eventually.

Design: Miss Dior seems to do everything better than Miss Dior Cherie. The bottle has a classic look, but one that will never go out of style. While it’s a familiar shape to Miss Dior Cherie, Miss Dior’s more grown-up style and beautiful textured glass sets it a class above its younger counterpart. Miss Dior doesn’t need a bow on its neck to exude femininity, basically.

Fragrance Family: Chypre

Notes: Aldehydes, gardenia, galbanum, clary sage, bergamot, carnation, iris, jasmine, neroli, lily of the valley, rose, narcissus, labdanum, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, oak moss, vetiver.

It probably sounds like I’m ragging on Miss Dior Cherie a lot in this post, and I am. It’s not that Miss Dior Cherie doesn’t accomplish good things as a modern gourmand that appeals to younger women, it’s just that Miss Dior–who sometimes gets confused with her younger counterpart–gets a lot of bad press from people who accidentally picked her up thinking she’ll smell anything like the candy-like Miss Dior Cherie. Then come the proclamations that Miss Dior “smells like old lady”, and that’s just unfortunate.

Reviewed in This Post: Miss Dior, ~1970, Eau de Toilette.

Lady Gaga Fame

I’m going to make a deal with you guys and myself. I’m going to review this thing, then I will absolutely not mention Lady Gaga or Fame again for the duration of this year. I think we’d all like to move on, and I was almost going to pass on even trying this because of how bored I got with the marketing. So, I promise, this one last post and then no more.



In Bottle: If I had any expectations that this would smell anything different than a generic fragrance then I would like to once again concede my disappointment. Fame smells of slightly synthetic honeyed florals and the barest glance of vanillic incense.

Applied: I aimed a spray of this on my arm was fascinated to see the black turn clear. And that was probably the most promising thing about Fame. I will say upfront that if you expected this to be bold, unique, or interesting then you might be in for a let down. Fame starts off with a synthetic blast of fruity florals. I can’t really tell if the synthetic waft I got came from the purported belladonna note or the honey note they used. Maybe it even came from whatever agent they used to turn black liquid into clear liquid. Whatever it is, it smells faintly of chemical and plastic on application. Rest easy though, that stage of it lasts for a few seconds and Fame settles down into a honeyed apricot floral fragrance. It is very apricots and jasmine based with a thick coat of sweet honey. After the very generic mid-stage, Fame dives into a slightly more interesting saffron and incense with florals dry down. The dry down gives off a smoky saffron (smells a bit like vanilla to me) twist to the generic florals, but it’s really late to the ballgame and to be honest, the incense is lightly used which makes the dry down even less noteworthy.

Extra: Fame has been causing a huge buzz in the celebuscent circles for months and I’m particularly happy that it’s finally released and we can hopefully move on from here. Fame was developed by Coty with some sort of collaborative effort from Haus Laboratories. The fragrance was apparently marketed as having new technology including the black liquid and some nonsense about it being “push-pull” where the notes weren’t going to work in a typical pyramid fashion. I don’t know where they got that one because 1) perfumers have already been making that happen for years, and 2) I experienced a mostly linear progression.

Design: What Fame does well is mix Lady Gaga’s style with the design of the bottle. It very much reminds me of her while at the same time forces me to draw some similarities to Thierry Mugler’s designs. It’s Alien-esque, but I think it works well for Gaga’s image. The bottle isn’t ugly, but at the same time it’s not my kind of style as I’ve confessed before that I find most Mugler bottles to be a bit of an eyesore. Still, it felt nice to nice to hold and was easy to use. I’m not going to be buying it for looks or smell any time soon though.

Fragrance Family: Fruity Floral

Notes: Apricot, orchid, belladonna, jasmine, honey, saffron, incense.

Now, if you’re a huge fan of Gaga, I don’t think my review is going to curb you away from buying this. If you aren’t a fan of Gaga and just want to know if this is anything at like Mother Monster, then I’ll save you a trip to the department store and say, “No”. Fame is very pleasant, not gross or weird, but really generic and easily beaten by more competent honey fragrances such as Tokyo Milk’s Honey and the Moon or for a less gourmand and more floral scent, Aftelier’s Honey Blossom. If you want Gaga branding, go with Fame. If you want an actual interesting and beautiful honey floral fragrance? Seriously, check out Aftelier’s Honey Blossom.

Reviewed in This Post: Fame, 2012, Eau de Parfum.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Paris

Paris was one of the very first Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents I ever tried. It was in the form of a sampler vial (what they call ‘imps’) and it was, unfortunately, not my cup of tea.

In Bottle: Tons of lavender loaded up with sweetness and a little bit of spice.

Applied: Yep, lots of lavender with a lot of sweetness. I’ve tried other BPAL lotus scents to me and the lotus components always smelled sweet and a little off. It’s off because it smells like chemical sweetness. Like the chemical sweetness you might associate to something you’re not supposed to be near. That’s the kind of sweetness that I’m getting from Paris and it’s very distracting. Lavender has to be mixed just right for me or it ends up distracting or just smells weird in a fragrance. Unfortunately, Paris’ off-sweet lotus mixing with the strong lavender in this fragrance creates an odd sensation that I’m at the dentist and getting ready to have my teeth worked on. As Paris progresses, the fragrance ages into strong off-sweet lavender with a hit of cinnamon. The spice does help to mature the fragrance and make it more appealing, but it’s too little too late for me.

Extra: Paris is a part of BPAL’s Wanderlust series of fragrances.

Design: Pretty much what you’d expect from a BPAL. Paris sits in an amber apothecary bottle with a standard BPAL label and standard black cap.

Fragrance Family: Sweet Aromatic

Notes: Lavender, lotus, cinnamon.

In addition to Paris, I also had a scent that worked out a lot better in my first order from BPAL. Thankfully, The Unicorn was a big hit for me and kept me going on BPAL’s to slowly sample their massive library scents. In that time, I’ve discovered stuff that didn’t work at all and stuff that I really like. Though it’s way too easy to get lost in all the inventory.

Reviewed in This Post: Paris, 2010, Perfume Oil.