Friday, January 26, 2018

Ten Perfume Picks For Winter

I will remember this winter as a time of searching for comfort as well as increased awareness. Two concepts that can be seen as contradicting. I prefer to think of them as complementing each other when one gains comfort from the hope brought on by awareness, compassion, and the change they can bring. The light and warmth that pushes consistently against the darkness, propelling us one step closer towards spring while relishing in the cozy comforts we love in winter. Those were the thoughts and mood that guided my ten perfume picks for this particular winter. New ones, modern classics, cult classics- they all fit my mood.

  • Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret. I love to wear iris perfumes in winter and this is a great addition to the theme of fire and ice. Whifs get caught up in my layers of cashmere and scarves, on the brim of hats, and in my cozy blankets. 
  • Sonoma Scent Studio- Bee's Bliss. This is probably the last perfume creation by Laurie Erickson before she sells her brand. And it's spectacular. Bee's Bliss actually smells like summer, a very specific summer from my childhood, and it's pure comfort and sunshine on the gloomiest, slushiest day. Smile, hug someone, pull back the drapes. Breathe in.
Winter roses (not the Westeros blue ones favored by Lyanna Stark, which should be a topic for a different post. Note to self) for me are dark, blood red, black-wearing goths. I'm usually not a big rose person, but something made me crave these lately and I've been luxuriating in their velvety fragrance.
  • Etat Libre d'Orange- Eau de Protection (Rossy de Palma). It took me eight or nine years to come around this one (I used to dislike Eau de Protection), which is the lightest rose in this bunch. The spicy zingy rose with the dry incense core is sophisticated and wearable like a very NYC black winter outfit. Who knew? (everyone but me, apparently). I bought an older bottle with Rossy's nae and the dragon illustration, and it smells the same as the juice in the new streamlined packaging you can get at Twisted Lily.
  • Memo- Lalibela. A creamy incense rose that wafts to heaven and back. Sometimes it's moody, sometimes cuddly and comforting. I've loved it from the first whiff on a rainy day in Paris and it remains a favorite. Now easily available from and select department stores.
  • Regina Harris- Frankincense - Myrrh - Rose Maroc. Here's a blast from our collective past. Back when the online perfume conversation was at its infancy and tiny micro-niche brands (the term didn't even exist at the time) were emerging, the two perfume oils from Regina Harris were sort of a secret for those in the know. I've moved from an instant dislike of the thick rose note to an absolute adoration of its mysterious gothic beauty. And, yes, it's still sold at exactly the same price as thirteen years ago, $125, which used to be rather steep and is now Sephora-level.
This leads me to the depths of my (and possibly your) perfume collection. A recurring theme in the beauty/makeup community these days is appreciating and enjoying items we've acquired long ago, examining why we loved them and taking a good look at the reasons we want more new things. It doesn't apply quite the same way to perfume, but I do love going back to old favorites such as the following ones with their rich gourmand notes and attached memories.
  • People of the Labyrinth- Luctor et Emergo. It was all the rage in the year or so before I started blogging. Almond, cherry, wood, Play-Doh, and incense- a composition people either adored or disliked on the spot. It's still weird, still wonderful, and thankfully- still available (at BeautyHabit and Luckyscent).
  • St. Barth- Lea. This one is sadly no longer available but I HAD to mention this other cult obsession, especially n the context of modern gourmand. Lea was a creamy almond-vanilla concoction with a phantom note of cocoa butter. Do you still have a bottle? Do you still wear it to bed while pulling the covers tightly around you? I do.
  • Serge Lutens- Chergui. Serge (the brand) is no longer what it used to be and I haven't bought a new release since L'Orpheline. But do you remember your first Chergui bottle? Hay and tobacco, honey and iris- it was part of my serge Lutens Midwinter series and I still crave its warmth and gender-ambiguity that feels like borrowing a boyfriend's jacket and wearing it over a flowy dress. Available at Aedes, Barneys, and wherever else they stock Serge Lutens these days.
Wearing the almond-laced perfumes mentioned above (as well as Uncle Serge's Louve) made me go back to the drier and darker side of this note:
  • Cartier- Le Baiser du Dragon. Officially discontinued but still available online (at the time I'm writing this), almond and amaretto, dark chocolate and patchouli come together to create a hot toddy for the soul. This perfume feels a bit baroque at times, but it's a season we do things to cheer up. I wear glitter eyeliner when going out in the evening these days, so why not a chocolate dragon?
  • Back to present days, while the holiday season is behind us I must include the stuff of twinkling lights and spices. I'm cheating here because it's two perfumes instead of one, with an honorable mention of their spiritual ancestor. Both MDCI Les Indes Galantes and Baccarat Rouge 540 from Maison Francis Kurkdjian are perfumes I love bringing out the day after Thanksgiving. One is a spicy orange while the other a spicy amber, and both help me control the use of the long-discontinued Theorema, because there's no such thing as a lifetime supply in this case.

For the rest of our wintery mix please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Art: Edmund Du Lac, Dreamer of Dreams, 1915

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret (Perfume Review)

I have an attitude when it comes to new perfume lines. It comes from a lifetime of sniffing and collecting fragrance, but mostly from blogging about it for eleven years and eight months. It's easy to dismiss new brands that keep popping up with their own version of an amber, an oud, a vetiver, a rose... We all know how it goes. Then I remind myself that if we're all very very lucky they might be as good as Bruno Fazzolari.

 Fazzolari had burst onto the scene in 2013 and quickly(ish) claimed a prime spot on the American indie perfume landscape. Here's how much I trust Bruno's blending hand: earlier this year just before Feu Secret launched he sent me a sample. However, the envelope reached my mailbox sealed yet empty. There was only the card with press materials. I checked, triple checked, looked suspiciously at the neighbors and cats, but no. Whoever filled the enveloped simply forgot to actually put a sample in mine.

Being me, I couldn't bring myself to email Mr. Fazzolari and request a do-over. I just don't do that. My plan was to visit Twisted Lily and give Feu Secret a good sniff. Or buy a sample online. I never got around to do either, but knowing that this Bruno Fazzolari perfume was out, and that it was an IRIS of all things haunted me. Especially since a couple of friends who've smelled it already told me I'd need a bottle. Because it's an iris. An iris!

I bought a bottle. Unsniffed. Which is not something I do often. I was already placing an order for Lampblack for my husband , so why not*?

It was a good decision. Putting aside the fact that when the husband tried Feu Secret on his own skin he announced that it needs to live in his cabinet and promptly placed it next to his Lampblack bottle. I don't mind, it's still on a shelf I can reach easily, which I do often. Feu Secret makes it necessary to amend and adjust my old list of favorite iris scents. It's that good and takes on iris (or orris) to the max in every direction this note can go. Perfumers seem to prefer concentrating on a single facet: earthy, carroty, a chilly fog marsh next to a cemetery (I've been thinking about Great Expectation lately. Must reread), or an opulent silk and dried violets, a perfumy boudoir, a buttery pastry, we can go on and on. Iris is all that.  However, Bruno Fazzolari's theme here is alchemy. Combining certain elements, often contrasting ones, and creating a new precious substance.

Orris root, with the lengthy process extracting the actual raw material, its history in the fields of Tuscany, and the iris flower itself has that magical shape and enchanting colors that are perfect for this alchemy theme. It's ice and fire, a dark cavern full of secrets, light flickering from a pile of precious blue and purple gem, and the alchemist's smoky cauldron hanging over a green fire in the ancient alcove. It has all that, yet it's also a very modern perfume in the way the two main aspects, hot and cold, are sketched. Two lashing tongues bursting on a canvas, dueling in their starkness at first before the full power of the fire wins over the cold camphoric blue light and engulfs you with the powdery hug of spices, woods and plenty of orris. The dry-down is like falling down into the most comfortable and luxurious bed, outfitted with crisp sheets and the softest warmest comforters you can pull over your head while taking a deep breath.

Feu Secret has an all-day longevity on my skin, it dries down softer and fluffier with the hours, yet the impression is completely gender neutral and easy to wear for lovers of iris, spice, eucalyptus, and a good dose of quality cedar note.

*I can't claim I've never met an iris I didn't like, because I'm a bit ambivalent about Aedes Iris Nazarena, bored out of my skull with Prada's various Infusion d'Iris versions, and the highly acclaimed Penhaligon's Iris Prima smells like dill on my skin.

**I'm two Fazzolari's behind. Something will be done about this soon.

Bruno Fazzolari- Feu Secret ($125, 30ml) is available from Luckyscent, Twisted Lily (when they're not out of stock), and directly from the perfumer on (ditto).

Image: detail from The Peacock Stage, attributed to Jörg Breu the Elder, (German, ca. 1475–1537). Miniature from the illuminated manuscript Splendor solis oder Sonnenglanz.