Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day Sales: Beauty Habit, Kelly & Jones

The net is full of tempting shopping offers for Labor Day weekend. Here are some of the very best ones (I'll try to update as others roll in):

20% off Kelly & Jones perfumes ( with code LABORDAYLOVE. Their Notes Of Wine scents were one of the nicest surprises of the year. My personal favorites are Notes of Cabernet and Notes of Chardonnay.

BeautyHabit is also offering 20% off with code SUNNYDAYS. While the sale excludes some brands (Chantecaille and sadly also Arquiste perfumes) it's valid on lots and lots (and lots) of other pretties including Rouge Bunny Rouge, Serge Lutens(!!!) and more.

Journelle has some of the most gorgeous and luxurious lingerie. They're offering 20% off on orders over $125 with code LD2012.

Joyous Shopping!


Caron- Farnesiana

There's a moment during the development of Caron's 1947 classic Farnesiana that I suddenly get it. The mimosa note, sunny and golden, comes out and it's beautiful. What happens next depends on what version and vintage of Farnesiana you have on your hands.  I remember an older sample I had that was dark and held a certain mystery. My current decant of extrait de parfum is new and I'm not too crazy about it for reasons I'll mention below. However, I've drained the old sample a couple of years ago so this is just from a memory that might be somewhat gilded; yet I know that I loved it and didn't even remotely think this was a flat version of L'Heure Bleue.

I'm a Guerlain girl but have a healthy appreciation of Caron. The version of Farnesiana in front of me is very powdery, almondy with a touch of anise. The mimosa note is there briefly, but it's somehow frothy and airy and not as complex and rich as I remember. Then there's the heliotrope-almond-anise which should be bleue and melancholy, but somehow it's not. Instead, I get all powder all the time and not nearly as romantic as it needs to be. Farnesiana goes up in a fluffy and soft musk that's pleasant enough but isn't too interesting.

The comparison to L'Heure Bleue doesn't do this version of Caron's Farnesiana any favors. The classic Guerlain is sexy while Farnesiana is scrubbed clean and then powdered within an inch of its life. It reminds me of the old adage about gentlemen buying Caron perfumes for their wives and Guerlain for the mistresses. If these are the only options in front of them, then there might be something to this generalization. Now, don't get me wrong: Farnesiana is perfectly nice even in this version, and lovers of powdered almond pastry could do far worse. It just doesn't ring my bell quite as intensely as I hoped.

Notes: Cassie, Mimosa, Bergamot, Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley, Violet, Lilac, Cassie, Opoponax, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Musk, Heliotrope.

Caron Farnesiana in extrait de parfum ($100, 7.5ml) is now available from Luckyscent. There's also a new EDP version that I haven't tried.

Image: Caron Farnesiana 1947 ad via

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hakuhodo J214 Eye Shadow Brush


Hakuhodo J214 is a beautiful eye shadow brush. It has a thick and round goat hair head that's very full and  quite dense (18mm x12mm). The softness of the hair makes me want to meet the goats who produce it and  cuddle with them are .

Hakuhodo J214 is pretty big for an eye brush. It's only a touch smaller than the highlighter brush Hakuhodo 212. If you have small lids you will probably either skip J214 altogether or consider it for highlighting or other face makeup tasks (concealing!). My massive lids and I like this Hakuhodo brush for blending and diffusing an all over lid color and creating a soft look.

J214 has a dark haired twin from Hakuhodo's Basic series: B214. They're of similar size and shape and I use them interchangeably, either for blending eye shadow, concealer or correcting the under-eye area.

Bottom line: great to have.

Hakuhodo J214 ($35) and the rest of the J series are available from

Rouge Bunny Rouge - Batiste Grayling (054) Long-lasting Cream Shadow

I have just one complaint about Rouge Bunny Rouge cream eye shadows: they only come in five shades. I'm a big fan of cream eye shadows (most of the newer products in these category are a huge departure from older formulas and no longer crease and run). This one from Rouge Bunny Rouge is especially wonderful as the texture is very light, semi sheer and can be blended to a light wash of color as well as built up for a more dramatic effect.

Batiste Grayling (054) is a medium gray that can work as an easy daytime neutral or applied more graphically  in a couple of layers as a modern twist on a 1960s mod look. The formula and texture meld beautifully with my skin and stay there until I remove my makeup. The eye shadow sets quickly and stays put without migrating or creasing. I'd suggest using thinner primers (such as NARS or Lorac) with this Rouge Bunny Rouge formula to keep things light and smooth.

The applicator of Rouge Bunny Rouge cream shadows is of the soft and fuzzy type. I'm not sure how I feel about it since I use a brush to blend anyway (your pinky finger will also work) . It's not very rational but I feel that a regular sponge looks cleaner. In any case, the applicator deposits the right amount of product, so it doesn't really matter.

Bottom line: more colors, please!

Rouge Bunny Rouge - Batiste Grayling (054) Long-lasting Cream Shadow ($32) is available from in the US and if you're anywhere else in the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Arquiste L'Etrog and Etrog by Ayala Moriel Parfums

"And you shall take on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." (Leviticus 23:40)
The Jewish High Holidays are approaching (mid September this year) so it's a good time to discuss two interesting perfumes that were inspired by the holiday of Sukkot, which is also the celebration of the harvest. Etrog is the Hebrew name for yellow citron (Citrus Medica), the "fruit of beautiful trees" in Jewish tradition, and is used during the holiday. The Etrog is presented and blessed alongside branches of palm trees, willow and myrtle. This is the background story of L'Etrog from Arquiste and Etrog by Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Arquiste's L'Etrog is a a light and airy citrus cologne. It's very bright, a bit soapy and well composed. There's no sharpness in L'Etrog and it smells preppy and pedigreed. It smells expensive and has nothing in common with cheap department stores citrus perfumes. It's probably one of the loveliest smells you could find and I want nothing more than a full line of L'Etrog home and body products so I can live in its clean and golden environment. However, as a personal fragrance it falls a little short, especially compared to the other five Arquiste perfumes. L'Etrog is a bit too pale for my personal taste, and my skin eats it up in record time. Most of the perfume's body disappears after the first 30 minutes and the rest is completely gone in two hours. I certainly understand why the perfumers who worked on L'Etrog (Yan Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux) didn't ground it in some heavy musk, but I wish there was something there to hold the other notes together a bit longer.

Then we have Etrog by Ayala Moriel Parfums. Perfumer Ayala Sender fondly calls this natural perfume her "Oy de Cologne", but don't be fooled by this. Etrog is actually an eau de parfum, and despite the reputation of many natural perfumes, it last for about four hours with some green and resin residue that lingers afterwards even from a tiny sample, so a full application must be even better. Ayala Moriel's  Etrog feels almost meditative: uplifting at first and then calming. Like the rare and expensive Etrog fruit itself, the perfume is almost mystical. It was also a labor of love as Ayala Sender tinctured the Etrogs herself from fresh organic fruit sent by her family in Israel; also the rabbi of downtown Vancouver donated his family's Etrogs for 3 consecutive years. The result of the effort is a balsamic aromatic perfume even more than a citrus. The fruitiness of Etrog is not so much fresh pulpy as it's a delicious reminder of spicy citron jam. The incense in the dry-down is especially beautiful. There's a hint of sweetness and a cool touch of early evening breeze, and it lasts for several blissful hours.

Arquiste L'Etrog notes: Calabrese Cedrat (Citron in French), Myrtle, Date Fruit, Vetiver.

Ayala Moriel Parfums Etrog notes: Ambergris, Balsam Poplar Buds, Citron (Etrog) Tincture, Frankincense, Green Myrtle, Honey Absolute Japanese Mint, Lemon Myrtle, Olive Tree Resin Opoponax, Petitgrain Cedrat, Pomelo Peel Tincture.

Arquiste L'Etrog ($165, 55ml) is available from BeautyHabit, Aedes, Barneys and Osswald in NYC.
Etrog by Ayala Moriel Parfums ($48, 4ml. Other sizes and samples also available) can be purchased from
Samples of both perfumes were provided to me free of charge.


Laura Mercier Foundation Powder

Laura Mercier Powder Foundation is one of those genius little products that can make a huge difference. Generally, powder foundations are not meant for dry skin, and Laura Mercier's version isn't different as it contains oil-control ingredients. Thus, I wouldn't have tested it if the little compact weren't part of a GWP package and that would have been my loss.

Laura Mercier Foundation Powder can be used wet or dry. A damp sponge transforms the product into a high-coverage paste while dry it's a shine absorbent powder that goes over tinted moisturizers and the like to set them and mattify. The secret as far as I'm concerned is localized use. It's the dog days of summer and some days are so humid I can feel my hair being liquefied. A light touch of this Laura Mercier foundation in powder form (I use a brush, not a puff, to avoid over powdering) fights even NYC haze. When used damp over blemishes and such the powder becomes an excellent concealer that doesn't budge or slide.

The color I have is No.3 for fair to medium yellow undertones. It matches my skin well. I also played with both No. 2 and No. 4 at the counter and discovered that with light application this powder is surprisingly forgiving, so finding the perfect match is less stressful that you'd expect.

Bottom Line: excellent.

Laura Mercier Foundation Powder ($40) is available at the counters, Sephora and The product for this review was received as a gift with purchase.

Burberry Midnight Brown (21) Sheer Eye Shadow

Yes, I know that I'm exactly one year behind since Burberry released their Midnight Brown (#21) eye shadow last fall. Back then I was grumbling crankily that I didn't need another taupe/brown/neutral Burberry eye shadow and refused to engage in the hype and fuss. Silly me.

It took me long months but eventually I succumbed. The combination of Burberry's texture perfection and the complexity of the shade are incomparable even in a pretty well-rounded makeup collection. The photos were taken at different angles to show you the color under direct and indirect natural light and I hope you can see the richness and sophistication. Burberry's Midnight Brown is gorgeous, it plays well with other beloved eye shadows and with navy blue eyeliner, but also it's the perfect shade for a minimalist look when you have no time or patience to do much more than patting a little color on your lid and go.

Being me, I've also experimenting with mixing and customizing Midnight Brown. I Blended it with LMdB Corinthian to make it a bit more silvery, added a touch of khaki and plum shades- it works, making this Burberry eye shadow an incredible base  and starting point for various look. I'd say it's a must-have both for a makeup minimalist and for the indulgent user.

Bottom Line: I wish I got Midnight Brown as soon as it came out.

Burberry Midnight Brown (21) Sheer Eye Shadow ($29) is available from select Nordstrom and Saks locations as well as online.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Xerjoff- Dhajala (Shooting Stars Collection)

Dhajala from Xerjoff's Shooting Stars collection is a sensual feast. It's a dark and opulent amber that doesn't conform to ambery conventions of vanilla, cream and powder; instead, Dhajala is bright and almost juicy as it opens, presenting the wearer a huge bouquet of flowers. These are colorful flowers, red orange and vibrant pink, they were just picked and their long stems are green and fresh with just a little bite. Like all Xerjoff perfumes, Dhajala is  ultra luxurious by design and definition, and it shows (and smells). The vibrancy of the fragrance is breathtaking from the very first whiff . The colors, the richness that almost has a taste- Dhajala is full of life and joy.

The husband who only tried Dhajala once so far says he smells something leathery. I suspect that he associates the sharpness of galbanum with leather (a consequence of sharing quarters with my vintage perfumes). What I smell beyond the golden nectar of the top and heart notes is a resinous incense mixed with dark and incredibly beautiful patchouli. It goes right to my head and makes me want to roll in it catnip-style.

Dhajala is long lasting (we're talking at least 12 hours) and has some good old-fashioned sillage. It's an evening perfume, I think, with the way it wafts and seduces, though a more careful spraying can make it behave in a more civilized way. In theory, Dhajala is one of Xerjoff's feminine perfumes, but I have no doubt that a patchouli and amber-friendly man can wear and enjoy it just as well. The floral notes shouldn't scare anyone. There's a part there that reminds me of Uncle Serge's De Profundis (flowers and bitter green stems) which isn't too femme. On the husband's skin there's a more dusty patchouli dry-down (he still insists on leather) that smells as masculine as they come.

Notes: Bergamot, orange flower, galbanum, orange flowers, rose, jasmine, pink pepper, Tonkiphora balsam, Myroswelia balsam, amber

Xerjoff- Dhajala from the Shooting Stars Collection ($265, 50ml) is available from

Art: Frederic-Louis Leve, Harem Beauty Sitting on Leopard Skin

Ask The Non-Blonde: Personally Speaking (Makeup)

You asked, I promised to answer (then procrastinated for a while), but here are answers to some recurring personal makeup questions.

Do you ever leave the house without makeup? 
No. I can do a minimal look, a two minute face (if I'm having an exceptional skin day), skip mascara if I'm in a hurry, but after a certain age it's just not cute to go out in public without some enhancement, even if it's just red lipstick and big black sunglasses.

Do you have a signature makeup look?
I'm always testing something new and experimenting with colors and textures, but I do have a default look that never fails me: navy eyeliner applied somewhat heavily and smoked and blended with taupe eye shadow, a little rosy blush and a natural looking dark rose lipstick.

Who are your beauty icons?
My mother, Diane Von Furstenberg and Sophia Loren.

Is there a beauty product you never use?
Self tanners. Too much margin for error.

What was your first lipstick?
I think I used clear balms and whatever found itself into my hands from various GWP my mom got, but the first lipstick I remember actually buying for myself was called Frosted Raisin (or was it Raisin Frost?) from Revlon.

What was the worst makeup mistake you've ever made?
I'm pretty sure the foundation I wore in the late 80s was not only too thick but was also the wrong shade. It was a Helena Rubinstein something or other and I bet that it was pink-based.

What's your biggest makeup pet peeve?
I wouldn't call it a peeve since it's none of my business, but over-plucked and/or over-drawn eyebrows are very distracting. I guess it bothers me because this is one thing that is relatively easy to fix yet you see it all the time.

Do you have a makeup product you keep repurchasing?
Yes, several actually: LMdB liquid eyeliner, Peau Vierge and eye shadows, Lancome Artliner, Chanel foundation, Laura Mercier concealer, Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner, Guerlain Meteorites powder, Giorgio Armani eye pencils, lipsticks and mascara, YSL mascara.

How many makeup brushes do you have? How do you store them? How do you decide which brush to use?
I have more brushes than necessary and not enough to make the absolute comparisons and observations. Obviously, I'm not a normal makeup user because I try to test products by using several brushes before I give a verdict, so I need to have options for shape, density and hair type.
I keep my eye brushes in various vintage cups and pottery items arranged by type and function (blending, pencil, etc.) while others are in my drawers next to the products I use them for.

Which makeup item makes the most difference for your look?
Eyeliner. It's the one thing that I can't do without because it has the most impact on how alive I look. I can do without mascara, especially if I tightline between my lashes, but an eyeliner adds definition and enhances the shape and color of my eyes.

Image: detail from  1960s Revlon ad via

Monday, August 27, 2012

Esteban Paris- Bois Plume

Bois Plume came out in 2009 as part of Esteban's Boises series  but never received much attention. On a second thought,  the entire Esteban brand lives pretty much under the radar in the US. If you're in Paris, though, they have a couple of boutiques, including one in the Marais (20 rue Francs Bourgeois, a quick walk from the Etat Libre d'Orange store on 69, rue des Archives)  that deserve a visit.

But back to Bois Plume, a very soft and cuddly wood fragrance, that leans a little feminine but I can see men pulling it off easily. The "plume" here (French for feather) probably refers to the lightness and almost airy feel of the perfume. Despite the presence of darker notes such as patchouli and spices, Bois Plume is defined by a powdery and soapy iris over a very smooth light wood. Sandalwood and cardamom have been known to create a chai effect/accord, but this Esteban fragrance is more abstract and less sweet than that Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant, the ultimate chai. It's also quite low-key and doesn't try too hard to assert itself;  the very gentle floral heart makes it even more sheer and dream-like.

Some might say that the mellowness and makes Bois Plume boring, but I disagree. There's no drama there but the effect of a warm skin scent makes up for it, especially when worn in hot weather that allows it to fully develop into an almost fruity musk that is quite a contrast to the soapiness I get earlier. I do wish there was more there, but mostly in terms of concentration and longevity. Most of Esteban's perfumes are in eau de toilette form and I wish for at least an EDP (not to mention some extraits). Bois Plume last for five or six hours with very polite and office-friendly sillage.

Notes: bergamot, cardamom, lavender, iris, rose, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, rosewood, cinnamon.

Esteban Paris- Bois Plume ($82) is available from

Image: Peacock Skirt by Aubrey Beardsley, 1892.

NARS Andy Warhol Collection Holiday 2012

The good people at NARS have released all the details about the much-anticipated NARS Andy Warhol Collection Holiday 2012 and it's a big one. Huge, really. Unlike the ultra disappointing Karl Lagerfeld for Shu Uemura holiday collection, what NARS is offering us is a wide selection of items that retain a cohesive artistic vision. It's quite grownup and edgy, and the limited edition packaging is a true collector's item.  There will be three ranges of Andy Warhol products for different distribution channels. Eventually I'll post my top picks from each, but for now here's a quick breakdown and some photos courtesy of NARS PR.

1. POP Collection (Sephora Exclusive, available starting October 1st) is all about Andy Warhol's Pop Art. It includes some serious stunners:
 -Debbie Harry Cheek and Eye Palette ($65) includes new shades and a new diamond dust formula.
 -Three eye shadow palettes — Flowers 1, Flowers 2 and Flowers 3, each $55 — all new shades, and each compact has a Warhol quote selected by Nars inscribed on the mirror.
 -Kiss Mini Larger Than Life Lip Gloss Coffret ($55), features five new lip glosses in a soup-can container decorated with Warhol’s lip print.

-Walk on the Wild Side ($39) set, includes a silver illuminator, a mini It nail polish and a mini Orgasm Larger Than Life lip gloss.

2. Silver Factory Collection (department stores and from Nobember 1st) is all downtown edge and dedicated to Warhol's famous studio. It includes gift sets at various price levels:

-Silver Factory set ($200) includes: the Silver Factory Multiple, Eye shadows Trios; Chelsea Girls Pure Matte Lipstick; Desire Blush; Via Veneto Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner, and two brushes: large domed eye shadow brush and blush brush.

- Edie set ($75) is in a film canister with a shot from one of the actress’ original screen tests with Warhol. It includes Film Star Pure Matte Lipstick, Edie Eyeshadow, Carpates Eyeliner Stylo and Deep Throat/Amour Blush DuoShadow.

- Beautiful Darling set ($49)  contains Candy Darling Nail Polish, Femme Fatale Duo Eyeshadow and Woman in Revolt Larger Than Life Lip Gloss in a makeup bag with an image of Darling, one of Warhol's muses, shot by Nat Finkelstein.

-Three different eye shadow palettes — Self Portrait 1, Self Portrait 2, Self Portrait 3, each $55 — offer new shades and Warhol quotes selected by Francois Nars on the compacts.

-Photo Booth set ($35) is a mini nail polish lineup with new shades named Back Room, Soup Can, Chelsea Girls and Silver Factory.

3. Andy Warhol Holiday Color Collection (available from both Sephora and deprtment stores, October 1st):

- Satellite of Love Highlighting Blush ($28)
- 47th Street Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner ($23)
- four Soft Touch Shadow Pencils ($24 each)
- five new Larger Than Life lip glosses ( $26 each)

- five nail polishes ( $18 each)

It's a lot of stuff, I know. At first glance, what do you consider a must-have from this collection?

Signs of Fall: Christian Louboutin Troop

It must be the hardware and the woven straps that made me stop and consider this pair of Troop ankle boots by Christian Louboutin.  I usually prefer taller boots that don't cut my leg at the ankle and look better with dresses. Also,  I'm a Manolo Blahnik girl, not a Louboutin fan for reasons that start with how comfortable Manolos feel and end with my preference not to be so obvious about my footwear. Then there's the 120mm heel (closer to 5 than to 4". At least it looks sturdy) that will make NYC pavements feel more dangerous than normal.

Yet there's something very wearable and attractive about these Louboutins, and dare I say practical? They're not peep-toes, a boot trend that needs to go away immediately, at least in areas that have real fall and winter.   The zipper is in the back, looking like a stocking seam; I also like the round toe, but I wonder if the overall effect will make my big flat feet look bigger and flatter. $1595 at Barneys and

Lipstick Queen- Gold Saint Shine Lip Gloss

Shine lip glosses from  Lipstick Queen are supposed to be retro and 1970s inspired. From the packaging to the texture they're supposed to radiate the questionable taste level of the 70s in a fun and playful way. My personal feeling is that when it comes to retro makeup, textures of yore are not necessarily something I want to bring back. Goopy and sticky glosses are a prime example of that.

Gold Saint is clear gloss with an abundance of gold sparkle. It can be worn on top of a lipstick or just by itself for some serious megawattage. I just can't muster much enthusiasm for a sticky and tacky substance when there are so many modern glosses on the market that can give me all the shine I may want without ending up in my hair. The packaging isn't doing the product any favors. The pot of golden goop is big and you're supposed to just stick your finger in it and apply.Since the Lipstick Queen formula is so thick and sticky the process is neither very enjoyable nor is it classy. I tried using a lip brush and it works fine, but despite the easygoing and beachy vibe Lipstick Queen Shine lip gloss isn't ideal for using on the go.

Bottom Line: meh.

Lipstick Queen- Gold Saint Shine Lip Gloss ($22) is available from Barneys. The product in this review was a GWP.

Ramon Monegal- Mon Cuir

I was deeply tempted to use another image for this review: the famous Rene Gruau illustration (1955, originally for Diorama) showing a woman's hand resting casually on a tiger's paw. But I still have to actually write about vintage Diorama while Mon Cuir by Ramon Monegal is a  modern perfume that came out last year and has nothing to do with Dior. It is quite feline, though, and more than a little dangerous.

Obviously, Barcelona-based perfumer Ramon Monegal created Mon Cuir as a leather fragrance (he also offers another one, Cuirelle, which I will discuss another time). Leather and orange blossom, to be exact. This note combination is wonderful: some of us have been layering Fleurs d'Oranger and Cuir Mauresque (both by Serge Lutens) for ages. Then there's the delicate Infanta en Flor from Arquiste, a Spanish-themes perfume that puts the softest leather and powdery soapy blossoms in a trousseau together with some hopes and dreams. If there's a spectrum of this kind of scents, Ramon Monegal's Mon Cuir lives much closer to the wild side of Uncle Serge's perfumes than it is to the Infanta.

Mon Cuir is distinctly animalic from the very first leathery whiff. But it's what happens next that makes it so beautiful to me. The orange blossom used here is borderline indolic and quite dirty. It also develops into a rich and sweet(ish) honeyed glaze when I wear it, so there's no powder or soap. It's quite the opposite of powder and soap, actually, which can be magical for some or a complete scrubber on others. "Others" in this case includes my poor husband. The Blond loved Mon Cuir on me, but when he tried the tiniest drop on his wrist he couldn't deal with it and I don't blame him. The beast within the juice (birch tar) took over, making him smell unwashed and zoological. As much as I adore Mon Cuir I had to agree:  the husband should not wear it.

As for me, I receive compliments every time I wear Mon Cuir. People who got close have asked me to spell "Ramon Monegal" for them because they wanted to know more. There's a lot of depth and complexity to the sweet flowers and leather over a rich and opaque oriental base. Mon Cuir coats my skin and becomes part of it. However, as sexy and intimate as this perfume can be, my sillage is pretty low: it's there for the better part of the day, but not aggressive or invasive. When I wear Mon Cuir it feels lived-in and comfortable. There's no musk or civet listed among the notes, but the overall cuddly and warm effect reminds me of the way Muscs Kublai Khan behaves on the fortunate among us.

Notes: Russian leather, orange blossom, labdanum, nutmeg, Indonesian patchouli, musk, Australian sandalwood.

Ramon Monegal- Mon Cuir ($185, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, Bergdorf Goodman and select Neiman Marcus locations (in Europe as well as exclusive perfume stores). A press sample was sent to me by the company.

Image: Beauty and The Beast, Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, 2005 (with Drew Barrymore).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

"Oh! oh! if this, then, be the world, say I,
I'll keep to my home in the clear blue sky;
Still to dwell in my planet I crave as a boon,
For the earth ne'er will do for the Man in the Moon."
The Man in the Moon, by C. Sloman. London, 1848 

Neil Armstrong quotes:
"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."
"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

17 Perfumes To Seek In Vintage Formulation

There are many classic perfumes that weren't discontinued and survived rebranding and reshuffling; These fragrances are still in production and available for their fans for those of us who want to get acquainted with them and learn how it all began.

Sort of.

It's no secret (unless you work for Chanel) that everything has been reformulated. Classic perfumes, designer perfumes, and even niche fragrances (Serge Lutens is perhaps the most honest about it). Some of those reformulations are more adequate than others, but if you're curious and enthusiastic enough about the subject, these are seventeen perfumes that are currently on the market but are worth the time, effort, and money it takes to find and smell in vintage form:

Guerlain- Mitsouko and Shalimar. While the juice currently on the shelves under these revered names is still better than about 80% of other department store fare, the only way to truly understand the greatness of Guerlain is to smell the real thing. Honorable mention: Jicky.

Balmain- Jolie Madame and Vent Vert. The latter is till a pleasant perfume for green lovers, but there's nothing like the original for a lesson in galbanum. As for Jolie Madame... sigh. I'll cry if I talk about it.

Dior- Everything, but especially Miss Dior (now called Miss Dior Classic), Diorella and Dioressence. I sniffed the most recent versions (exclusive to Saks and Dior boutiques, I think) and they're a clear improvement over the stuff from one, three or five years ago. Still, there's something pale and languid about them which you'll understand once you've smelled the real thing.

Chanel- No.5 (extrait de parfum), Cuir de Russie and No.19. If the difference between old and new Jolie Madame makes me want to cry, Chanel reformulations give me frag-rage.  The new No. 19 is the most criminal, bearing little resemblance to the forceful and crisp galbanum-iris-oakmoss of yore.

GresCabochard. Smoke and leather. While I can't for the life of me imagine Coco Chanel in her own No.5, vintage Cabochard fits her to perfection.

Givenchy- Ysatis and Organza Indecense. Givenchy perfumes used to be wonderful. Over the years they've been thinned, diluted, and cheapened. I'd actually advise to seek most of them in their vintage incarnations but the floriental Ysatis and the creamy Organza Indecense are too beautiful to miss.

RochasFemme. I actually had to check the company's website to verify that Femme is still in production. They bastardized and cuminized it so many times I wasn't sure they didn't give up on it completely. In any case, the original was a glorious fruity leathery chypre like no other (but somewhat related to Mitsouko).

Lancome- Magie Noire. This is a case of a perfume better off dead. The 1978 perfume was, indeed, magical. What's left of it is as sexy as the Lancome counters where it's sold.

YSL- Opium. The fragrance pretending to be Opium has stolen the identity of a sex icon. We shouldn't let the thief get away with it.

Annick Goutal- Eau d'Hadrien. Once upon a time Eau d'Hadrien was a landmark perfume, the perfect combination of Mediterranean citrus and cypress green. Then came IFRA and reduced poor Hadrien into a generic lemon cologne.

Please add your recommendations. Remember: I only mentioned perfumes that are still in production, as  ghostly and ghastly as they might be.

Vintage ads: