Friday, October 24, 2014

The Perfume Bible By Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay- A Book Review By The Husband


Editor's Note:
It's becoming harder and harder for me to look at perfume guides and evaluate them from a distance. Obviously, I'm not the target reader of the majority of these books, so reviewing them becomes a process in which I'm having imaginary conversations with the authors, which is not always what a potential reader needs. Enter the Husband, who represents a typical reader of this blog: a well-informed, well-sniffed, curious and interested individual, but his life do not revolve around reading, writing, and talking about perfume (at least if he can help it). The review below is his.

Any book that has the presumption to call itself a Bible immediately sets the bar too high. And while this lovely book can be called many things, a bible is definitely not one of them.

Maybe a more fitting title would have been “My First Perfume Book”. The Perfume Bible is a very girly, beautifully done introductory book to many aspects of the perfume world with several unexpected extra topics that broaden the discussion. But it’s still not a bible.

It is an admirable task to try and write a book that would take a perfume novice and introduce her to the wonderful world of scent beyond the basic Sephora, mass market, celebrity and department store spray-ladies. The book tries to cover a lot of ground in less than 200 pages, jumping through a wide range of topics that include some basic information about perfume families, ingredients, how perfume is made, perfumers (noses), the history of perfume in 6 pages, perfume concentrations, perfume terminology, and a list of 100 perfumes to try before you die. It also includes a few more advanced topics such as naturals and synthetics, niche brands, niche perfume stores and a useful Q&A. There’s also a list of sources such as blogs and books (including a mention of The Non-Blonde. Gaia and I were tickled pink. No pun intended). The Perfume Bible also adds a few extra topics to the mix, like growing perfume plants, collecting perfume advertising, and collecting perfume bottles.

All this breadth comes at the expense of depth in almost all subjects, which is perfectly fine for an introductory book trying to open a door to a new world for the reader. But not feeling certain what will resonate with their reader, the authors tries everything they can think of. I was reminded of these colorful but thin travel books that aim to please absolutely all travelers by mixing the tried and true with the anecdotal. I admit to owning a few of those.

Reading through the book, here are a few observations and thoughts that came to mind:
  • As stated, this is a very girly book. From the pink cover and beautiful Rene Gruau-inspired watercolor illustrations, to the fact that the section dedicated to “Men’s Perfume” includes only 10 of them (!). Why is there an inherent assumption that men will not be interested? If you focus on the female audience, why include a masculine section? Maybe it’s a gift guide, but even as such it is seriously lacking.(Editor's notes:  No Egoiste, no Terre d'Hermes, Sartorial, Nicolai's New York, Knize Ten, Tom of Finland, A*Men, or anything from MPG? I could go on and on and on).
  • There is a section dedicated to bespoke perfume which brings again to mind the question of who the authors were targeting. Bespoke perfumes usually cost thousands of dollars and are a true luxury. But it’s not a necessary topic for an introductory book that explains the difference between an eau de cologne and a pure parfum.
  • I liked the bias towards niche brands and the emphasis on the credited perfumer as an important aspect of the modern perfume world.
  • Any Top 100 list is very personal and the choices tell a lot about the personal preferences of the authors. This particular list is decidedly on the feminine and lighter side of the spectrum. Fairley and McKay chose Fracas over Bandit, Feminite Du Bois over MKK, and Alien over Angel. There’s not a leather to be found and only one oud.
  • While there is a good answer in the very solid Q&A section to the question “Why doesn't my favourite perfume smell like it used to?” that discusses reformulations in a very frank way, it does not really talk about vintage perfumes other than to quote Roja Dove who says that in collecting bottles the juice is irrelevant and mention that perfume older than 2 years may not be good anymore.
  • I find the idea of a “Signature Scent” very outdated. The authors make a big deal of finding a scent your children will always associate with you. My mother is indeed loyal to a fault to her Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, but in a book that is all about exploring the vast and diverse universe of scent this is a throwback to different times. This suggestion does not connect to the overall theme. How about having a perfume wardrobe?

We now go back to the question of who is this book for. It is definitely not for fragonerd who already knows much more than this book offers. Still, the next time a niece or a young friend shows interest in your perfume passion, this book may be just the nudge down the slippery slope. Next thing you know, they’ll come back to you asking for some samples, and that's a very good thing.

The Perfume Bible By Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay (hardover, $22.44) is available on Amazon through third party sellers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dior Cuir Cannage 5 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette





Because we all needed another brown eye shadow palette.

Dior has been churning out the quints this year and I'm having a hard time following the assorted collections (pre-fall, not-quite-fall, pre-holiday, almost-holiday, holiday--- who knows what and why). They're all so very beautiful I'm finding myself again and again wishing Dior would have a make-your-own-palette system so we can pick and choose from the best color in each. Cuir Cannage (released a few weeks ago) captured my attention because all five colors are so wearable, making the quint more versatile than most.

The five colors in Dior Cuir Cannage go from matte (the middle) to satin, iridescent, and shimmer. The iridescent plummy brown (top left) has an almost duo-chrome finish, and is among the mot gorgeous Dior eye shadows I know. The other special color is the darkest one (bottom right), a very cool toned super dark brown with an almost purple cast. The other three eye shadows in the palette, though easily duplicated, are excellent everyday colors: beige satin, matte medium brown, mocha shimmer. The greatness of Cuir Cannage palette is that it can carry you from daytime to special occasions and the colors can truly be worn together in any combination.

Bottom Line: an instant classic.

Dior Cuir Cannage 5 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette ($60) is available from all the usual suspects. Right now Nordstrom offers a 10% discount online (no code necessary).

Kjaer Weis Highlighter



The latest product release from Kjaer Weis is a cream highlighter in a neutral-to-cool beige color with a visible shimmery finish that is still subtle enough for everyday use. The swatch above is obviously heavy so you can get a good idea of the color, but when you blend it (fingers work better than a brush in this case) the look you get is a lot more elegant.

As I mentioned above, the highlighter appears neutral, neither golden nor pink, but the shimmer has a silvery gray cast that might look a bit off on some skin tones. I get a more elegant result by mixing the highlighter with foundation (or even patting it underneath).  It can look quite iridescent if you pile it on, which is better for evening and for the very pale/cool toned.

 My own weird visibly green undertone works rather well with the color. I find Kjaer Weis' slightly waxy cream formula versatile for various areas of the face and for mixing with other cream (not liquid) products. It does especially well with Kjaer Weis foundation, but since I have an allergy issue with the coconut oil used in the foundation I can't enjoy this particular benefit (the highlighter is coconut-free).

The highlighter is made in Italy and is certified organic. It's also gluten-free but not vegan (because of the beeswax). I find that it stays on for at least 6 hours and fades evenly without leaving particles behind.

Bottom Line: great when the color is just right for you.

Kjaer Weis Highlighter comes in the brand's signature sleek refillable compact ($56) or as a stand-alone refill ($32, as seen above) that you can also pop into any free-style magnetic palette. Available from OsswaldNYC.com and kjaerweis.com.
The product for this review was sent free of charge by the company.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Agraria Golden Cassis Woven Crystal Candle


You can see that the candle above, Agraria Golden Cassis, has seen a lot of use since we got it a couple of weeks ago. I've always been very fond of Agraria products, but I admit that since my relationship with cassis can be described as "complicated", I might have skipped this one (the newest scent from the brand) and missed on a truly satisfying home fragrance that lives up to the promise of being "golden" and doesn't annoy the husband with excessive fruitiness (he actually really likes this scent).

The first whiff of Golden Cassis is round, fruity, and luscious. No surprises, expect that the berries don't smell very "red"; they give an impression of yellow and orange fruit, just sweet and juicy enough but with a pleasant tartness. Later on, as the candle burns and projects, the scent gains an ambery-floral quality. Again, the feeling is of yellow and gold, and while there's no mention of it in the official note list, I could have sworn that I get a ghost of mimosa.

I mentioned projection, and as is usually the case with Agraria candles, their throw is impressive and I can smell the golden leafy-fruity aroma all over the house. Burn time is excellent:- they promise 40 hours from the 7 oz. size, but I'm pretty sure this candle has already passed this mark. Presentation is also beautiful: a decorative patterned crystal glass in a beautiful and sturdy box, and a silver-plated lid. Obviously, this is geared toward the gift market, but a good candle is such a treat for oneself, and this is a very gratifying splurge.

Notes: orange, berries, cassis, rose, jasmine, lily, galbanum, sandalwood, amber, white musk.

Agraria's Golden Cassis candles come in two sizes. The one above is the 7 oz Woven Crystal ($55), and there's a smaller option, the 3.4 oz Crystal cane ($35). Available at select department stores and directly from agrariahome.com. The product for this review was sent for consideration by the company's PR.

Gucci Peacock Magnetic Color Shadow Duo





To be honest with you, I don't think that this Gucci Magnetic Color Eye Shadow Duo in Peacock was the best choice for me. I would have gotten much more mileage from Fume, Aristocratic, or even Malachite (all three are on my wishlist right now). But there was something irresistible about the brightness of the blue and purple shades in  Gucci's Peacock, and only one of them, is actually out of my comfort zone.

The swatches you see above consist of one brush swipe (Shu Uemura N 10) over primed skin. It's a rather impressive pigment intensity even if the texture appears almost sheer. The navy has a significant amount of blue-silvery glitter which I could live without, but it's less pronounced on the lid, especially when packed with a stiff flat brush. The bright purple is more satiny (very fine shimmer). It's gorgeous, but I just don't have it in me to wear it on its own. I use it as an accent on top of a neutral color, from gray to taupe or for evening: over a black pencil or cream shadow. This way it adds drama and color without looking too purple.

I can't say that there's anything special about this Gucci duo. The texture is nice but I've seen nicer (the single I bought feels smoother than this particular couple); the colors are fun but not unique. The eye shadows are of decent quality and I have no complaints, but I'm not quite wowed. Perhaps it is the colors, after all.

Bottom Line: I should have chosen better.

Gucci Peacock Magnetic Color Shadow Duo ($49) is available from Saks, Neiman, and Gucci.com.

Vincent Longo Flamenco Creme Gel Liner



Here's my secret weapon these days: Vincent Longo Creme Gel Liner in Flamenco*. While Flamenco, a medium taupe, is not a classic eyeliner color, it works beautifully to lighten a heavy/dark eye makeup look (see an example using a gold eyeliner in Lisa Eldridge's Plum Chic fall makeup tutorial). But the real secret here is how between the color and the iron-like wear of this Vincent Longo mousse-like texture, I've been using Flamenco as a cream eye shadow.

The whipped cream feel of the product is easy to apply and blend with a variety of brushes, natural or synthetic. It sets and dries quickly, and will not move until you use an oil-based (or a dual phase) cleanser.

Two notes about using the cream all over the lid: I highly recommend using a primer that smooths skin texture (NARS works well for me, but more mature skin might do better with Guerlain). Also, apply lightly and blend with a fluffy brush. The swatch above was done on bare skin and used enough product for both eyes (and then some). It shows you the depth of the color but also just how textured it can make skin appears if not applied carefully. As long as you keep a smooth canvas and a light hand, though, the result is beautiful, waterproof, and utterly delightful.

Bottom Line: There are five more colors in this range. Just Sayin'.

Vincent Longo Flamenco Creme Gel Liner ($25) is available from beauty.com. The product for this review was sent for my consideration by the company's PR.

* I know that the first question is how does Flamenco compares to Tom Ford Platinum, but since I never bought it (and have no intention to buy the re-release) I cannot answer this. If anyone has tried both products, please chime in.

Aftelier- Palimpsest

Eden by François Foucras

The best gift I can get from perfume is a a strong emotional reaction. Preferably a positive one. What I received from Palimpsest, the newest Aftelier perfume, was more than that: it is a feeling of well-being, comfort, and contentment. The luminosity goes beyond the notes, beyond the incredible quality of the raw materials; it's the olfactive representation of warmth and love that come from an eternal source. The result is both soothing and encouraging, heartwarming, and utterly divine.

Perfumer Mandy Aftel defines Palimpsest on her Aftelier website as a "fruity-floral". I guess it is, because the center accord or impression is a smooth and milky peach surrounded by garlands of white and yellow flowers, the lushness of jasmine and ylang-ylang. But there's a reason this perfume is named "Palimpsest"-- just like in those ancient manuscripts that reveal their content in layer upon layer of rich history, the exquisite materials and accords create a very rich tapestry that manages to combine some very complex ideas and weave them into one coherent picture of life at its best.


Australian firetrees via Wikipedia

The gum of the Australian firetree (also known as Christmas tree), or by its official name, Nuytsia floribunda, is sweet and eaten raw by the ingenious people of Western Australia. It's not a common ingredient in perfumery (the only other one I know of was the limited edition Fire Tree by Australian brand Nomad Two Worlds, and I had a hard time warming up to its rawness). I never smelled the firetree as a raw ingredient, so it's hard for me to tell how much of what I smell in Palimpsest comes from it and what is pure imagination. But fantasy is a big part of the perfume joy, isn't it? 

Tree Palimpsest by Ned Gannon

Every time I wear Palimpsest the Husband happily exclaims: "honey!". It's a very honeyed perfume, and I do well with those. A good honey note has both woody-smoky facets as well as musk and other naughty animalics emanating from the beeswax. It's all here, but as Kafkaesque has noted in her excellent review of Palimpsest, this perfume is more about peaches and sunshine, which brings us back to the start, to that encompassing joy and effulgence.

The first time I smelled Palimpsest I immediately thought about Edmond Roudnitska's Le Parfum de Therese. Another so-called fruity-floral that I associate with love and radiance, and performs some stunning perfumery acrobatics. Unlike Mr. Roudnitska, Mandy Aftel works with an all-natural palette, which makes this achievement even more impressive. No matter if you care about the natural label or not, Palimpsest is a beautiful and enticing perfume, one of the best releases of the year, and a true feast for the senses.

Aftelier Palimpsest comes as both an EDP and a parfum. I tried and loved both. Samples of either one costs $6, and you can get a mini of the parfum ($50) or a full bottle of either concentration for $170. Available from aftelier.com. The samples for this review were sent by the perfumer free of charge.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NARS Holiday 2014- Almerĺa Blush & Burning Love Lip Gloss





NARS Holiday 2014 Color Collection, Laced With Edge, comes in a special decorated packaging that makes it a little more special (and collectible, if you're into that sort of thing). The modern lace pattern translated better on larger surfaces, such as a blush compact, than it does on the cap of a lip gloss, but it's still unique enough (and helps locate the right gloss quickly). But we're here to talk about the actual colors of these NARS products.

My choice from the Laced With Edge Collection were Almerĺa blush and  Burning Love lip gloss. The blush, described by NARS as "tan rose" has a distinct reddish undertone and a fall vibe. The finish is matte(ish. No shimmer, but the way it sits on skin imparts a certain satin look). Typically to NARS, the blush is very pigmented, the texture soft and blendable, making this pretty blush highly covetable (it's sold out on the NARS website, but still available everywhere else, including Sephora online).

NARS did an excellent job reformulating their lip glosses. They toned down the smell (it's very lightly scented, but no longer smells like molten plastic), made the glosses even less sticky, and they keep adding gorgeous colors. Burning Love is a limited edition ( as is Almerĺa blush), a cranberry-like color (I think NARS called it a "bright ruby") that's supposed to have a very subtle shimmer, which you can sort of see in the tube, but becomes a smooth sheen on the lips. Longevity and wear are typical to NARS lip glosses, which means reasonable but requires re-applying (the tube lives permanently in my purse these days).





Bottom Line: yes, please.

NARS Holiday 2014- Almerĺa Blush  ($30) & Burning Love Lip Gloss ($26) are available from Sephora and all the other usual suspects. These two products are limited editions and will probably sell out long before the holidays. Both items were sent to me by the company.

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