Monday, March 31, 2014

Hermès- Epice Marine Hermèssence

Hermèssence  Epice Marine is for those who want to be repulsed and fascinated by their perfumes at the same time. The marriage of aquatic notes and cumin can be as nightmarish as they come, depending on how you feel about either (or both). Yest, there's something about the way  Epice Marine sits on the skin and interacts with it that makes me unable to detach my nose from my wrist, even as I observe, almost from afar,  that my stomach is flipping.

The "epice" in Epice Marine is straight up cumin. Supposedly there's also cardamom, cinnamon, and even sesame, but I smell none of that. The cumin burns through everything else. It's not a dense cumin, and I don't smell the Arab spice market of Serge Lutens, but it is cumin: warm and pungent-- up to a point. The first twist in Jean-Claude Ellena's vision is that the cumin becomes cumin water, and makes me think of a cumin shower gel, sort of like Declaration (Cartier), another Ellena creation.

The watery element is, indeed, marine. Unfortunately, I don't smell the actual ocean as much as every aquatic men's cologne from the 1990s and 2000s. I didn't like them then, and I don't like them now, even in an overpriced Hermès Hermèssence bottle.I smell with interest as the waves of cool water are being drown with even cooler water: frozen vodka on ice, with a slice of lemon. I don't like this either, but it is a fascinating transformation, and it does wash away most of the cumin, leaving it as a mildly spiced sort-of vetiver.

Do I want to wear it and smell like Epice Marine? Not particularly. I don't even want to be around someone else who wears it if he or she smells the way I do. But I enjoy the ride and the thought behind it. That has to be something, right?

Notes: cumin, hazelnut, sesame, cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, sea notes, whiskey, vetiver and oakmoss.

Hermès- Epice Marine Hermèssence ($245.00 100 ml EDT) is available from Hermes boutiques and

Laura Mercier Rendezvous in Monte Carlo Baked Eye Colour Quad New Attitude Collection

Rendezvous in Monte Carlo is one of two limited edition baked eye shadow quads from Laura Mercier's New Attitude Collection for Summer 2014. This is the one with the softer, more neutral colors, while Summer In St. Tropez brings a blast of riviera colors. While my advice regarding Summer In St. Tropez would be to only wear one color at a time (that's how I use all my other Laura Mercier baked eye shadows, actually), with Rendezvous in Monte Carlo you can actually combine almost any two colors together, since the finishes go from matte to intense sheen.

Rendezvous in Monte Carlo contains the following:
-opalescent white, high shimmer (this is the weakest link in the quad. Would work better as a face highlighter than anywhere around the eyes. Use with caution).
-complex almost-taupe brown with an almost pink cast (gorgeous. We should lobby to have it as a single)
-matte baby pink
-complex almost matte charcoalish almost black

Many times baked eye shadows benefit from use with a damp brush to intensify the colors and/or control glitter fallout. But this Laura Mercier quad is so of such an impressive quality that the pigments are already in full capacity when used dry (as seen in the swatch) and there's very little difference when used damp (not enough to show in photos). Fallout is also minimal, so that's not an issue, either. The one color here that gains extra complexity is the blackish one, because it gets an interesting almost purple cast under a certain light, and can also be used as an eyeliner this way, but it's by no means necessary.

Bottom Line: I'll go on that Rendezvous, if only for the two darker colors.

Laura Mercier Rendezvous in Monte Carlo Baked Eye Colour Quad New Attitude Collection ($44) is available at the counters and online. The product for this review was a press sample.

René Gruau Illustrations

The Legendary illustrator René Gruau passed away ten years ago today. His work is familiar to anyone who loves vintage perfume ads: Gruau created some of Dior's most iconic imagery (no, not topless Natalie Portman). Gruau he also worked throughout his long career with other fashion and perfume brands (Fath, Blamain, Rochas), illustrated countless of fashion editorials, magazine covers, and cosmetics ads, all graceful and elegant.

Images via and

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Byredo- Seven Veils

The official list of notes for Byredo's Seven Veils doesn't tell even half the story:  carrot, pimento berries, Tahitian vanilla flower, laurier rose, tiger orchid, sandalwood, and vanilla bean. It's obviously an oriental, but as soon as one tried Seven Veils for the first time it's clear that the main story here is spice. Lots and lots and lots of spice.

I like the idea of carrot as a perfume note. There's not enough of that around, and Seven Veils only gives a hint of cold and earthy carrot before Byredo cooks it into a dense and spicy tzimmes. Not that there's anything wrong with roasted sweet and spicy glazed carrots (serving suggestions: add just-cooked potato gnocchi to the sauce/glaze), but I find the result somewhat overwhelming. I smell lots of nutmeg, clove, allspice,  powdered ginger, and pepper, and it's all cooked in a vanilla syrup and served over a chunk of creamy sandalwood that melts into some musk, while maintaining the strong spice rub. I can't believe I'm saying this, but even in small quantities this is just too much for me.

The more I wear Seven Veils and try to like it, the more the combination of orchid and nutmeg stands out to me as the culprit. It's hard to explain exactly why, but something there becomes cloying and refuses to settle into a manageable level. I know that people really enjoy the animalic oriental facets of Seven Veils and I can appreciate why: it's sultry, original, and very warm. But on my skin this tzimmes smells overcooked and has caramelized to the point of no return.

Byredo- Seven Veils ($110, 3x12ml EDP in the travel spray format) is available from Luckyscent and Barneys.

Photo: Rita Hayworth as Salome, 1953.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fabergé- Tigress (Vintage Perfume)

I wasn't aware that Tigress by Fabergé ever had a parfum version until I came across the bottle at a local antique store. I was familiar with the eau de cologne, of course, with its round tiger striped cap and a scent that was everything my mom would have described as "cheap perfume": loud and spicy (which was basically everything I wanted to smell, instead of the dainty florals that were all I was allowed to wear). Loud and spicy is pretty much what I still love, along with animal prints (which my mother would not be caught dead even considering).

Faberge launched Tigress in the late 1930, several years after Dana's Tabu, which has probably influenced it greatly. Tigress, even in the very old formula I have on my hands, seems somehow more simple and easy going than the thick explosion of vintage Tabu. But that doesn't mean it's not utterly lovely, and that's the big surprise here. If you're familiar with some of the big animalic perfumes of yore you've already smelled some roaring and shocking beasts. Tigress is much better mannered, offering an almost soapy spicy-flora core (carnation is unmistakable, and I agree with Barbara Herman's assessment of hyacinth and quite a bit of powdery orris. As a matter of fact, for a while there Tigress veers on the line of soapy before it reveals the oriental exotic side full of clove, cinnamon, and an ambery vanilla that surrounds the dirty yet surprisingly animalic base.

Tigress is  as warm and  fuzzy as the tiger print velvet box, and very satisfying, especially if you're in a retro mood (read also Angela's review on NST). Cheap? Funny how perception changes over time. In today's world Faberge perfumes are far more complex and sophisticated than the fruity and vanillic body sprays favored by the masses, and dare I say- better composed and crafted. Several sources suggest that Tigress has undergone at least three major reformulations: in the mid-60s, in the 80s and in the last decade. I'm not sure quite how old is my extrait de parfum: the bottle design is older than that the one in the 1965 ad above, but I can't tell for sure if it is the original formula. In any case, bottles of the eau de cologne from the 60s and 70s can still be found here and there, and are often reasonably priced. It's worth a sniff- you might find yourself adopting this cute little tiger.

Alassis Candle No. 4 Fig & Violet Leaves

This is my favorite candle right now: Alassis Candle No. 4 Fig & Violet Leaves. It shouldn't surprise anyone, considering how much I adore fig-smelling things. And figs by themselves, of course. The thing about this Alassis candle is the complexity of the scent. As expected, the green fig here is blended with floral notes, but there's also a hint of spice, a very dry almost powdery orris, and a sweet ambery hay. The scent keeps things balanced between the fresh and light and the heavier (yet still very much fig tree-like) dry-down. As a matter of fact, even with all the other fig perfumes in my personal collections, I would have loved a bottle of this stuff.

Performance is also very impressive. Alassis candles are made of soy (poured in the USA), and are offered in several sizes and versions. The one I bought and you see above is the 14oz double wick Art Glass Candle that comes in a beautiful heavy hand-blown art glass. The promised burn time is 45 hours, and I can tell you that despite using it for a couple of weeks now, I've barely made a dent. Projection is very good. It's not a heavy scent, yet I can smell it all over the house, sweetly perfuming the air.

Bottom Line: I need to get a couple of backups.

Alassis Candle No. 4 Fig & Violet Leaves ($29.95) is available at Bloomingdales and from

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Winter 2013-2014: My Most Worn Perfumes

The weather app on my phone tells me that it's 29 degrees outside and feels like 15 with the windchill. Technically it's already spring, which means it's time to look at my notes and see what I wore this winter. As always, there are the staples, but the most exciting part is looking at the new discoveries that have become cherished friends.

The obvious:
Shalimar. In any formulation, from various years. If I can't think of anything else I wear Shalimar.
Mitsouko. Mostly in extrait, but also vintage PDT and EDT. As a matter of fact, I'm wearing it right now.
Balmain- Jolie Madame. I think the cats have begun to smell of it.

New(ish) Staples:
Parfum d'Empire- Musc Tonkin. Had been in my collection for over a year now, and I actually had cravings for it over the winter.
Aftelier- Cuir de Gardenia. At this point I think it's the best gardenia perfume I know.
Costume National- Scent Intense. I upgraded from the mini I had to a full bottle (which ended up to be the best cheap thrill of the season).
Scents by Alexis- Body Made Luminous. The husband surprised me with a bottle, which adds to the joy of this breathtaking chocolate perfume.
Etat Libre d'Orange- La Fin du Monde. I've been wearing it about twice a week since before Christmas, and can't see myself stopping.

Used up too many samples, must get a bottle NOW:
Masque Milano- Montecristo. The most exciting offering from one of the best new lines.
Parfums MDCI- Nuit Andalouse. A dream of summer nights saved several dreary winter days.

What were the perfumes that helped you deal with winter?

Cat(s) Of The Day

Lizzy, Sophie, and Bob wanted to say hello.

My Current Favorite Translucent Powders

Like all makeup products, face powders have gone an incredible transformation in recent years. The new powders are lighter than ever, undetectable, and can give the face a subtle yet polished finish without caking or having that dreaded floury look of yore. Once upon a time translucent powders still had a white cast to them, so I used to prefer ones with just a hint of beige pigment in them. But the new generation is, indeed, sheer.

These three powders are my current top picks. They're different from each other and each has its particular strengths. I use them almost every day.

NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Powder. I'm a huge fan of the loose version, but needed something for my makeup bag so I bought the pressed one to carry with me. They're not exactly the same: the loose powder if applied just right is truly an airbrushing wonder (it's very easy, though, to go overboard), while the pressed is more forgiving but slightly less of a miracle worker. The compact comes with a thin sponge (I don't use it), and is sleek and sturdy enough to bang around a makeup bag or an evening clutch. It's completely sheer with no visible shimmer. $35, anywhere NARS products are sold.

Laura Mercier Invisible Pressed Setting Powder (Universal). If the NARS powder is 100% a finishing powder, this one from Laura Mercier is a hybrid between setting powder (that you can use on smaller areas) and a light reflecting finishing powder, excellent when you're in a hurry or not in the mood to use two different powders (i.e. almost always). I had my doubts, but this incredibly gossamer-like delicate powder really does both. It's not as airbrushing as NARS, but you still get a gorgeous finish. The problem is that the powder is so soft and delicate that any minor bump to the compact results in major breakage. When I received this one in the mail the entire envelope and bubble wrap inside were coated in white powder. When I opened it, the powder got everywhere- on my bed, my hands, and on Kosh, who insisted on investigating the mess. I ended up pressing the powder with 99% alcohol. It worked, and the powder is as good as new, I just wouldn't risk toting it around, despite the pressed compact format.  $32, and at the counters (Press Sample).

Rouge Bunny Rouge  Impalpable Finishing Powder Diaphanous . I've had this one for about a month now, though it's not out yet (release date is not confirmed, but should be soon). It lives permanently on my dresser and I use it several times a week. The new Rouge Bunny Rouge powder is a beautiful, light as air finishing powder that disappears into the skin upon contact. It's effortless, and have I mentioned light? Yet, it keeps my makeup in place just as a heavier powder would, and the finish is completely natural and not matte. $43 (Press Sample)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Masque Milano- Terralba

Terralba by Masque Milano is an outdoorsy little thing, full of sunshine, open air, and assorted Mediterranean herbs. Basically, it's the complete opposite of Masque's high profile Montecristo. It's also incredibly friendly, and summery, and easy to wear, and... and lots of things. If only Terralba was longer lasting I'd probably put it at the top of my list for summer. But I already have the Mediterranean shrubbery represented in my collection, Garrigue by MPG, so even though this Masque perfume is more interesting, with a longevity of two or three hours I can't justify a full bottle.

Still, Terralba is fascinating. a citrus-aromatic opening leads the way to a thick and resinous tree bark glistening with sap. It's a bit chewy, slightly sweet, yet you don't find yourself in the heart of the forest, just on the edge at the top of a hill where you can see and smell the clean for miles and miles. Terrabla is surprisingly warm for such an airy fragrance, and the contradicting sensations it creates are incredibly pleasurable. But again, longevity is a major issue here. I'd rather have a candle in this scent that can make my house smell like an Italian vacation.

Notes: Clary Sage, Lemon, Green Tangerine, Myrtle, Thyme, Curry Leaves, Everlasting Flower, Lentisque, Juniper, Cypress, Cedar Wood.

Masque Milano- Terralba ($215, 100ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent.

Art: Mediterranean Scene with Olive Trees and Figures by the Sea by Duncan Grant

Lancome Chocolate Amande Color Design Eye Shadow Palette

Last month Lancome launched three eye shadow palettes as part of their Hypnotic Eyes Collection. It's been a while since I last bought a Lancome palette, and all of a sudden I found myself coveting all three. But reason won and I settled for one, Chocolate Amande 110, probably because of the taupe shade.

The texture of Lancome Color Design eye shadows has been refined and improved over the years. All the colors in this palette have a smooth, almost creamy texture. The liner is matte and very dark (the swatch was applied dry, one coat), and the four eye shadows are best describes as shimmer suspended in a very dense almost matte pigment. They look and feel quite luxurious.

I love the three middle shades, but  the one at the top that's supposed to be an all over base misses the mark for me. A matte would have worked better for this purpose. The champagne color is more of a highlighter as far as I'm concerned (Lancome designated the color on the far right as the highlighter in the Chocolate Amande palette, but I find it better as a lid color).

Bottom Line: one of the best releases of the season.

Lancome Chocolate Amande Color Design Eye Shadow Palette ($50) is available at the counters and online.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sage Machado- Sage

Cucumbers are at their best fresh, just picked, give you a  good crunch as you bite into them, and living alongside tomatoes and feta cheese in my salad. I'm highly suspicious of them in perfume, as they're related to melon and ozonic notes, and represent the school of thought that perfumes should be shower fresh, scrubbed clean, and preferably not make anyone  suspect that you're wearing scent. Considering that my favorite Sage Machado perfume is Onyx, followed by the very complex Moonstone, what were the chances that I'd even remotely enjoy Sage (notes: cucumber, white sage, sweet pea, green musk, Egyptian musk ,tonka bean)?

Apparently, I know nothing. Because this sweet green floral over an almost milky musk base is lovely. Sage Machado perfumes have an incredible complexity that goes far beyond the stereotype of hippie SoCal perfume oils. They're real perfumes, with notes unfold themselves slowly and create beautiful and interesting imagery. Sage goes from the delicate green of new spring leaves to slightly salty grass on a path going down to the shore. Little clusters of delicate flowers swaying in the wind, warm sun on the skin (well, maybe in California), a silk chiffon scarf to tie your hair-- it's all there in a perfume that has a distinct outdoorsy feel.

Even the very late dry-down (and I'm talking about 12 hours after application) still retains its light green tinge. My skin brings forward the sweetness of the tonka bean, which adds some warmth to this harbinger of spring (even if it's going to snow again tomorrow).

Sage Machado- Diamond ($45, 1/8 oz perfume oil) is available from This review is based on a press sample.

Art: Lucy Drake Marlow, Parasol.