The New Site Is Up, But….

“Houston, we have a problem.” The new site is up, and all the old posts have been moved over. Unfortunately, there are glitches. The main one is that you may have to re-subscribe, re-follow, or re-sign up again, as I’m not sure if the Transfer request that I put in has worked. I remember another blog, Australian Perfume Junkies, having a similar problem when they went to a self-hosting site.

Since I’m not seeing a list of subscribers on the new site administrative page, I worry that many or all of you may need to sign up again, just to be certain. Those of you who are particularly interested in the new Amouage offering, Opus VIII, which was just released may want to do so soon, as that will be the first review on the new blog.

To go to the new blog, you can click on this: Kafkaesque. For your records, the full URL is: http://www.kafkaesqueblog.com/

I really apologise for all this, and I hope I don’t lose too many of you. I am seeking help for the problem, as well as for the fact that I’m suddenly not getting email notifications of any comments that have been posted (on either site). Thanks to my Tech Wizard friends, the other snafu of the URL links to all the old reviews being broken and not re-directing to the new site has been fixed. Hopefully, the rest of the growing pains will also be minor and short-lived in nature.

I wish you all a happy Saturday and weekend. On that note, I should get back to the brand new Opus VIII with its fascinating mix of contrasts and contradictions. A new Opus as a new review for a new blog. It seems quite fitting. Happy weekend everyone!

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WordPress Issues, Self-Hosting & Future Plans

[UPDATE 3/17 — I’ve been informed that people who subscribed to the old blog via WordPress Follows can’t be transferred over to the new site. Transfers seem limited to email subscribers. So, I’m afraid any of you who read via WordPress will have to re-subscribe if you want to receive notification of new posts. Unfortunately, the new platform doesn’t seem to have anything analogous to the old “Like” or “Follow” option, and none of the “Plug-Ins” that I’ve looked into thus far are similar. They all center around email subscription. I know some people are not keen on that, so please accept my apologies on the inconvenience. I will understand if you choose not to follow the new blog as a result.

UPDATE: 3/15 — “Houston, we have a problem.” The new site is up, and all the old posts have been moved over. Unfortunately, there are glitches. The main one is that you may have to re-subscribe, re-follow, or re-sign up again, as I’m not sure if the Transfer request that I put in has worked. I remember another blog, Australian Perfume Junkies, having a similar problem when they went to a self-hosting site.

Since I’m not seeing a list of subscribers on the new site administrative page, I worry that many or all of you may need to sign up again, just to be certain. Those of you who are particularly interested in the new Amouage offering, Opus VIII, which was just released may want to do so soon, as that will be the first review on the new blog.

To go to the new blog, you can click on this: Kafkaesque. For your records, the full URL is: http://www.kafkaesqueblog.com/

I really apologise for all this, and I hope I don’t lose too many of you. I am seeking help for the problem, as well as for the fact that I’m suddenly not getting email notifications of any comments that have been posted (on either site). Thanks to my Tech Wizard friends, the other snafu of the URL links to all the old reviews being broken and not re-directing to the new site has been fixed. Hopefully, the rest of the growing pains will also be minor and short-lived in nature.

I wish you all a happy Saturday and weekend. On that note, I should get back to the brand new Opus VIII with its fascinating mix of contrasts and contradictions. A new Opus as a new review for a new blog. It seems quite fitting. Happy weekend everyone!]

As some of you realised, the blog was “suspended” by WordPress in the wee hours of the night, and all posts “archived” or hidden. I received no explanation other than a giant red banner across my Administrator’s Dashboard informing me that I had violated WordPress’ TOS (Terms of Service), and that I was henceforth locked out of the entire system. There are no words to convey the degree of my shock, panic, and confusion.

The problem turned out to be a simple name in a caption to my new Tom Ford post that I provided as a source for one of the photos of the champaca flower. I gave the name of a site (which I no longer dare even mention out of paranoia at this point) called MonsterM______________. (There is also a P in that long name.) The site is on WordPress’s automatic red-flag list, and is blocked out of concerns that links to it would lead users to experience malware, viruses, trojans and the like. I certainly understand and commend them for their attempts to protect people.

Just to clarify, though, in my case, I never provided a URL or link, but a mere reference name in a photo caption. It was enough, however, for the system to shut down my entire account within a minute of the post being published. The blog was archived or hidden, I was locked out, and I was greeted everywhere with a big red banner telling me that I had been suspended for violating their Terms of Service. What that precise violation may be, they didn’t say. They merely pointed me to their lengthy TOS page which listed pornography, hacking, and all sorts of inapplicable activities.

WordPress’ red banner did, however, include the gentle hint that I may want to consider taking a hike and hosting my own site elsewhere. To that end, they said they would kindly give me a brief period of time in which to retrieve my files (by means of some complicated, technical gobbledygook that went completely over my head) before all my work would be lost forever.

Thankfully, now, everything is now resolved. WordPress promptly assisted me this morning, acknowledged how inadvertent everything was, and returned the site back to normal. (So you can now read that Tom Ford Champaca Absolute review, if you’re interested.) But last night left a mark.

Those hellish and incredibly stressful hours forced me to do something that I had been thinking about for a while: self-hosting the blog. In simple terms, that means that I get my own url or “.com” name. The blog becomes its own thing with its own site, rather than an adjunct of WordPress. I’ve long hated the current url and name for the site (AKafkaesqueLife), but I had few options when first began. Franz Kafka is too popular, Kafkaesque is too well-known of a literary or philosophical reference, and seemingly every variation on either name was already taken. It’s driven me a little crazy that people call the blog: A Kafkaesque; AKafkaesque; Kafkaesque Life; or any of the other multitude of things that I’ve seen. But who can blame them? Not everyone reads the “About Me” section in which I clarify the issue of the name vs the URL. Besides, in everyday life, URLs generally are a site’s real name.

Things are going to change in that regard. I have registered a new name and a new domain on a new self-hosting site called DreamHost. The url will be very simple: KafkaesqueBlog.com. But everything else should remain exactly the same in terms of WordPress publishing the actual posts.

Nothing should change for any of you as readers. What is going to happen may take a few days, but, fingers crossed, everything should transfer over to the new self-hosting site. All of it, from the old posts, archived information, comments, links, format, followers, subscriptions, and more. (Perhaps that will also fix my current WordPress problem of never getting email notifications of new posts on other blogs. To all of you other bloggers, that is the main reason why I haven’t commented lately on your new posts. I never get emails about them! WordPress won’t answer my queries about it, either.)

All of this should happen behind the scenes, and none of you should even realise anything is different as things move over. If you click on an old post, you should be redirected automatically to its page with the new URL address. You should still get WordPress notification of my new posts, and you can still comment as you did before. However, those of you who follow the blog via an RSS feed or blog reader may need to update the url. I’m afraid I don’t really know how that works.

I’m not going to be doing any of this technical work, as I am an utter idiot when it comes to computer programming. Actually, “utter idiot” probably doesn’t begin to cover it. In this arena — as well as in everything to do with the nightmare of last night, and the self-hosting, domain, registration, start-up, technical aspects — I am wholly indebted to the Temptalia Team.

Christine of Temptalia is a dear friend of mine who walked me through everything starting at midnight last night and for hours thereafter. She suggested the best service for me to start up my own site, and explained the pages and pages of different computing, domain, programming, download, plug-in, and hosting information. She held my hand through my panic at the veritable tsunami of overwhelming technicalities, none of which helped my latent anxiety disorder one bit. (WordPress’ alarming TOS “support” (ha!) pages didn’t facilitate things in that regard, either.) Christine patiently stayed up for hours to help me with all of it, and I’m incredibly grateful.

I’m equally indebted to her husband, Shaun. He is a tech wizard who generously (and totally crazily, masochistically) volunteered to help me with all the programming aspects. He will be transferring everything from WordPress to the new site, and the amount of work involved is substantial. I’m a relative stranger to him, so I’m stunned by his kindness. I honestly don’t have the words to convey the extent of my gratitude for his help, as well as for Christine’s. It will be solely thanks to the two of them that I will be able to give you a new and, hopefully, better Kafkaesque in a few days time.

So, to all of you who emailed or contacted me with concern about my “suspension,” that is the whole silly saga. Moral of the story: never mention a site whose name starts with MonsterM, lest automatic computer systems have a fit and start flashing red. More importantly, be grateful for friends who are always there for you.

Here’s looking forward to the launch of a new Kafkaesque.

Tom Ford Private Blend Champaca Absolute

Tom Ford in W magazine, via Papermag.com

Tom Ford in W magazine, via Papermag.com

A heady, rich, utterly opulent mix of creamy, white and yellow, tropical flowers whose velvety petals are infused with syrupy fruits and sprinkled with a touch of boozy liqueur, before being dipped in dark tea and bergamot, and then nestled in a vanilla cocoon. That’s the essence of Tom Ford‘s Champaca Absolute, a very lush eau de parfum that is part of his Private Blend line. The perfume was released in 2009, and is centered around the eponymous flower, Champaca, an Asian cousin to magnolia. Champaca has an aroma that is a mix of magnolia and ylang-ylang, but it can also have a tea-like aspect with fruited nuances. All those sides are highlighted in Champaca Absolute in a very bold, very sweet, very heavy mix that is not for the faint of heart.

Tom Ford’s description for the fragrance, as quoted by most retail sites, appears to be the following:

A floral oriental composition that is pure and provocative. With its sensuous heart of champaca, the magnolia-like flower that inspired it, this intoxicating nectar heightens the senses with notes of Tokajii wine and cognac as it warms the skin with vanilla bean, amber and sandalwood.

Source: de.osmoz.com

Source: de.osmoz.com

According to Luckyscent, the notes in Champaca Absolute include:

Tokaji [plum] wine, cognac, bergamot, magnolia champaca, orchid, violet, jasmine, vanilla, amber, sandalwood and marron glacé.

Fragrantica, however, has a slightly different list which is notable for the inclusion of dyer’s greenwood, a variety of the broom shrub that smells of hay. They state:

the top notes are cognac, bergamot and dyer’s greenweed [or broom]; middle notes are champaca, orchid, violet and jasmine; base notes are vanilla, amber, sandalwood and marron glace.

I think the complete, total list would be a combination of the two, as I definitely detect both the broom and the Japanese plum wine.

Champaca. Source: monstermarketplace.com

Champaca.

Champaca Absolute opens on my skin with an intense, concentrated blast of fruited, plummy, Japanese wine and cognac brandy, followed by tropical champaca. The flower smells of: buttery magnolia; custardy, banana-like ylang-ylang; apricots; and a heavy, syrupy, fruited sweetness. Lurking deep below the heady, over-the-top, floral richness is an almost leathered, smoky nuance. Sticky, cooked, plum molasses swirls in the floral air from the Japanese wine, while cognac is sprinkled all on top. You don’t smell as though you were dunked in a vat of alcohol, but there is a very pronounced liqueured aspect to the fruited sweetness.

I’ve noted a number of times in the past how Tom Ford fragrances can smell very different depending on how much you apply, and Champaca Absolute is no exception. When I applied a lot (amounting to a little over 1/3 of the vial, or the equivalent of 2 big sprays from an actual bottle), there was a definite vein of smoky darkness underlying the heady, sensual flowers. However, when I applied a lesser quantity (about 2 big smears, amounting to a small spray from a bottle), the notes which accompanied the champaca at the opening were quite different. There was no smokiness or leather, little plum, but a lot of orchid infused with vanilla.

Source: Foundwalls.com

Source: Foundwalls.com

Orchid has a very interesting, clear, sweet, delicate smell that can vary in its aroma depending on which variety of the flower is used. Here, in Champaca Absolute, it smelled delicately dewy, liquidy, and like floral nectar that was thoroughly infused with both ylang-ylang and vanilla. The overall effect was to remind me of one of my favorite, opulent florientals, LM ParfumsSensual Orchid. It is a scent with a couple of notes in common with the Tom Ford, namely, orchid, boozy tonalities, ylang-ylang, jasmine, vanilla, and resins.

LM Parfums Sensual Orchid. Source: Fragrantica

LM Parfums Sensual Orchid. Source: Fragrantica

However, the two fragrances differ quite a bit in their focal points and overall feel. Champaca Absolute is dominated by the very unctuous, magnolia-like flower, not the lighter, clearer orchid. The Tom Ford fragrance feels more oriental, ambered, heavy, syrupy sweet, and fruited. In contrast, LM Parfums’ Sensual Orchid feels less flat on my skin, less potentially oppressive or weighed down, and much more purely floral. Its tropical touch comes from coconut, not from the custardy, buttery magnolia flower. It lacks bergamot, along with hay or tea tonalities, but includes mandarin orange, almonds, peony, and neroli. At the same time, its boozy note is substantially lighter and more refined. It’s also much fresher and less sweet at its core, and thereby, less potentially cloying in nature. I have to be honest, I much prefer Sensual Orchid’s take on the lush, over-the-top, narcotic, floriental genre.

Broom via pbase.com

Broom via pbase.com

Beyond the minor Sensual Orchid resemblance, a lower dosage of Champaca Absolute also yields other differences from the version I saw with a higher amount. The main difference is that the accompanying notes rise to the surface much sooner, particularly the bergamot, jasmine, and the broom’s hay-like note. There is a more obvious, profound, and long-lasting citrus tonality to the scent, along with increased dryness from the broom. There is also a stronger touch of earthiness in the base that verges on something like mushrooms or truffles, though it is subtle, so its impact is quite relative as a whole. (Still, it’s enough to make me think of Tom Ford‘s Black Orchid which has a truffle note in the base.) Apart from all that, and as noted above, Champaca Absolute does not feel resinous, smoky or dark at the lower dosage; and both the booziness and the fruity undertones are also much weaker. In short, if you apply less Champaca Absolute, you’ll get more of a sweetly floral-magnolia scent that has very different, very altered levels for the rest of its accompanying elements.

Blooming Magnolia tree. Source: wallpaperswiki.org

Blooming Magnolia tree. Source: wallpaperswiki.org

Regardless of the amount that you apply, both versions end up at the same place, sooner or later, so I’ll just stick with discussing the Champaca Absolute I experienced with the larger quantity. This version is fully centered on the magnolia-like flower, with not much interference from the orchid or anything else at first, other than the very fruity accords. The plum wine is powerful during the first 10 minutes, much more so than the boozy cognac on my skin, although both are simply different form of liqueured fruits. At the same time, there is a definite suggestion of something almost like Davana, a rich Indian flower that smells like apricot-y ylang-ylang. There is almost no fresh bergamot to lighten up the notes, no hay, and little vanilla.

10 minutes into its development, Champaca Absolute slowly shifts. The jasmine arrives on the scene, imparting an additional layer of syrupy sweetness to the bouquet. The plum wine takes a small step back, the boozy cognac softens a little, and the perfume feels even richer. There is the first hint of the champaca’s tea-like facet, along with the tiniest whisper of bergamot, though both are very muted at this point. Slowly, very slowly, Champaca Absolute turns more floral in focus. The boozy elements retreat to the sidelines after 30 minutes, and the delicate nectar of the orchid arrives to coat the richer, more unctuous, buttery champaca. There is a touch of broom now as well, but its subtle dryness does little to leaven or cut through Champaca Absolute’s richness.

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

Source: the3foragers.blogspot.com

In the base, there is a tiniest whisper of earthiness, though it never smells like marrons glacé or iced chestnuts to me. Interestingly, at the lower dosage, Champaca Absolute reflected a more noticeable, almost truffle-like, mushroomy nuance in its foundation, but it’s not so apparent now. By the same token, the tea-like elements and bergamot feel much weaker at the higher dosage, too. Frankly, the lighter, more minor notes have very little chance of standing up to the power of the heavy floral cocktail. Everything but the flowers, fruits, syrupy sweetness, and the growing touch of vanilla in the base are secondary — and, in some cases, tertiary, acting as a very muffled or muted suggestions at best.

The power of the florals as the showpiece is the main reason why Champaca Absolute doesn’t change much in the hours which follow. All that happens is that certain secondary notes fluctuate in their prominence, order, and clarity. Whether it is the bergamot, the tea, the darkly smoky aspect in the base, or the various fruits, they all basically reach a crescendo by the end of the 2nd hour. After that, they either lose their shape and individual distinction, melt into the base, or generally aren’t a main or powerful part of the scent.

Apricot. Source: forwallpaper.com

Apricot. Source: forwallpaper.com

The champaca (or davana-like) facets of apricot and tea have the greatest shelf-life in weaving about the top notes, along with the bergamot to a much lesser extent, but as a whole, Champaca Absolute is really just a floral blend of lush, tropical, velvety flowers dominated by a magnolia-like richness. It is infused with vanilla which increasingly takes over from the fruited elements. They, in turn, become more abstract, feeling merely like a general fruity syrupiness that coats all the flowers.

The more obvious, significant changes to Champaca Absolute involve its projection and feel. Initially, the perfume was very potent, powerful, and intense — regardless of how much you apply. However, with a little over 1/3 of a ml or about 2 sprays from a bottle, Champaca Absolute is extremely forceful indeed. At first. In fact, it’s rather a surprise how quickly the perfume turns soft and the sillage drops. I suspect Tom Ford sought to counterbalance the richness and sweetness of the notes with something that was less dense in weight. If so, then he succeeded in that goal. At the end of the first hour, Champaca Absolute turns softer and weaker. From an initial distance of about 5-6 inches, the perfume’s projection now drops to around 2-3 inches. At the end of the second hour, however, Champaca Absolute hovers just above the skin. And that’s at the very high dose! Granted, it remains there for hours, and only turns into a discreet skin scent at the 6.5 hour mark, but given the serious intensity of the opening moments, I was a little surprised by soft and airy the fragrance becomes later on.

Magnolia. Source: wallpaperpimper.com

Magnolia. Source: wallpaperpimper.com

By the end of the 2nd hour, Champaca Absolute is a well-blended, seamless blend of lush, tropical, buttery flowers dominated by a magnolia-like richness that is lightly flecked with jasmine syrup, hints of ylang-ylang, and a touch of Davana. Tiny streaks of apricots, dark tea, and, to a much lesser extent, fresh bergamot run through it. There is no hay, earthiness, plum, or booziness on my skin. There continues to be a definite element of fruitiness, but it becomes increasingly abstract and indistinguishable from the florals. Only the tiniest suggestion of a dark, slightly smoky, resinous amber ripples through the base. Much more prominent, however, is a smooth, custardy creaminess that has a very vanillic nature.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

In the hours that follow, Champaca Absolute turns into a simple blur of rich florals with tropical creaminess. As noted above, the other notes either fade into the sidelines, or melt completely into the base. The resinous amber, smokiness, and bergamot are the first to vanish around the 5th hour. After that, the apricots and fruitiness. Late in the 6th hour, Champaca Absolute is primarily a sweet floral with a custardy, banana-like richness and sweetness. If I smell very hard with my nose right on the skin and focus intently, I can single out ylang-ylang and jasmine as the most prominent aspects, along with vanilla and a subtle hint of fruitiness. There is a brief flicker of some nebulous, vaguely woody note in the base, but it’s hardly distinguishable as sandalwood. (And it’s most definitely not Mysore sandalwood.)

From afar, though, Champaca Absolute is a mere haze of rich, custardy florals, and it remains that way until its very end. In its final moments, the perfume is a light smear of floral sweetness with a suggestion of something creamy, tropical and fruited about it. All in all, Champaca Absolute lasted under12 hours with a small amount, and a whopping 14.75 hours at a higher dosage. Given how my skin eats up perfumes, that says something. The sillage hovered just above the skin for a good portion of that time, and the perfume felt quite airy in weight, despite the heaviness of its notes up close.

Champaca via tropicalbonsainursery.net

Champaca via tropicalbonsainursery.net

I’m going to say this bluntly, and probably about 15 more times during the remainder of this review, but Tom Ford’s Champaca Absolute is one of those love it/hate it scents that you should not go anywhere near if you don’t love extremely heavy, lush, sweet florals. If you hate the richness of magnolia, stay away. If you can’t bear the sweet syrupy aspects to jasmine, or the custard heaviness of ylang-ylang, stay away. If you don’t like even light amounts of hay, broom, or earthy notes, you may want to pause. If you don’t like intensely fruited notes, especially very unctuous, syrupy, or tropical fruited notes, then run. Same thing if you don’t like fragrances with even light touches of booziness or liqueured aspects. And if you hate fragrances that explode like a heavy, powerful bomb at the start, then you may want to go to the other end of the planet than anywhere which is wafting Champaca Absolute. This is a fragrance for a very particular sort of perfume taste, and it will not be for everyone. I cannot emphasize that enough.

Now, if you happen to be someone whose taste or perfume style suits several of the aforementioned categories — ideally, all of them — then you may find Champaca Absolute to be the best thing ever. However, even if you are one of those people, there is a chance that Champaca Absolute will feel too heavily and oppressive in its flat, dense, richness. I happen to be someone who actually is in the target demographic, and I’m still a little uncertain about the perfume.

I enjoy Champaca Absolute’s opulence and richness, but I really have to pause at times. For one thing, the perfume is a little too monolithic in its feel. If Champaca Absolute didn’t drive over you like a Panzer unit on its way to Poland, then I might handle it better. If the linearity of “heavy florals with vanilla” had been leavened with more changes, I might not feel quite so exhausted by the end. I think it’s a great scent for a “once in a while” occasion, in low quantities; I’m not sure about anything more than that, or about wearing Champaca Absolute on a frequent basis, let alone a daily one. There is something about the scent that feels as though you just ate 6 whole vanilla-frosted cakes, when you merely asked for a single, large slice. Wearing Champaca Absolute for a few days in a row would probably put me off both cake and rich florals for a while.

I suspect that some (or many) of these issues are the reason why Champaca Absolute has received mixed reviews. In fact, on MakeupAlley, the fragrance seems to be quite polarizing. Take this long (edited) assessment by “Mac789” who seemed to initially like the fragrance, before drastically changing her mind:

A wonderful, bitchy-pill white floral that completely disagreed with me. […][¶]

This is not your mother’s white floral, nor is it something that is especially easy to wear. It’s a ballsy scent with a lot going on and it has extreme lasting power.

The drunken spree at the top, combined with the champaca absolute, a sprig of almost mentholated green, and whatever other floral is veering around, blew my mind. Nothing smells like this. Thank you, Tom Ford, for creating a five-alarm fragrance. The florals are rich, bright, and careering towards instability.

French Broom via Wikipedia

French Broom via Wikipedia

Shortly, a strong honeyed broom note appeared. I have never liked broom, although I can’t fault the fragrance for its use. […][¶] I then left the store and let the fragrance air out. Within short order, the base ripped through. This base was fanatical woods and dirt, insistently growing and engulfing, sharpening, smothering, cutting… reaching a splintering zenith from which there was no escape, not by washcloth, shower, or baby wipe…

It stayed with me until the next day, showing off. The experience left me reeling, and also realizing that sometimes the thing that stands out the most is the thing that most attracts–for the wrong reasons.

Champaca Absolute is a standout that I suspect will entrance and enchant people who adore broom, woods, and soil. It’s a highly creative fragrance [… but it]  was too distorted for me to wear, with both giant opener and closer and not a smooth segue from one thing to the next, or perhaps it was my perception that was distorted, since I liked it well enough when I first smelled it. As of right now, though, rather than being that overworked term “edgy,” it pushed me towards the edge.

SOurce: rmwebed.com.au

SOurce: rmwebed.com.au

Others had a very different experience, where the problem was not any earthiness or broom at all, but rather “putrid fruit,” too much tropicality, or just plain fatigue after a while. Some of the shorter responses:

  • This has a problem of arrested development on my skin. No matter how much I spray, it is arrested at a preliminary stage where it is about to bloom and that is it. I also get cognac-sweet top notes but the rest is just a super humid tropical evening without much in particular. Indeed Champaca Abcolute has such a humid, moist vibe on my skin that it wouldn’t surprise me if I started seeing tiny mushrooms popping up on my skin. It also turns acrid, somehow fermented on my skin after a short while. [¶] Still, even I get a meaty tropical flower smell from this. Is it champaca? […] I get something that makes me think of magnolias and other things.
  • Its an alright fragrance. At first whiff this was gorgeous and I had to have it but the drydown was not something that I liked as much. Too floral for me.
  •  It was really perfume intensity and smelled like putrid fruit. Not like a big white floral that I was hoping for. […] The next day I could still smell it on my skin. It finally had become pleasant, but nothing special.
Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Others, however, love Champaca Absolute, sometimes passionately so:

  • [At] the Tom Ford counter […] I tried White Musk (my least favorite), Oud Wood (too masculine), Japon Noir, Noir de Noir (not too bad), but none of them really blew me away until I smelled Champaca Absolute! This fragrance is mysterious, sensual, sweet and surprising. Everything that I was looking for. [¶] The cognac top note really makes this a special fragrance. The sweetness lasts about an hour and then comes the Jasmine, Violet, Orchid and Champaca floral notes. Very nice. The dry down is especially wonderful. The fragrance stays close to your skin all day. I really think this is a timeless fragrance that’s good for any adult age.
  • How lovely! TF Champaca Absolute opens with blast of champaca-scented rice in a container made of fresh-cut bamboo-stem, along with sweet ripe plum. I am a big fan of white florals and I love the real champaca flower. The name is misleading as champaca is never dominant but lingers to the end. [¶] Comparision between TF Champaca Absolute and Ormande Jayne Champaca: OJ is “browner” and denser while TF is greener and more airy. OJ is less sweet and less rice-like. Both are well-blended exotic beauties! OJ is “wilder” while TF is more lady-like. I like both.
  • TF Champaca Absolute by **no means** deserves any kind of low rating or to be compared to Ormonde Jayne et al. Tom Ford went to the most ancient of gardens, where perfumiers have been harvesting for thousands of years, and has captured not just the scent, but the **soul** of champaca (hence the “absolute.”) If it turns putrid as some say, then that’s incompatible skin chemistry my dears, NOT the perfume. When a perfume turns putrid after being sprayed on acid-free paper or linen, then and then only can it be considered a loser. TF Champaca Absolute is EXQUISITE to the extreme, and incredibly lifting, not only for the wearer, but those who experience the waft. […]  Tom Ford has nailed it. That is **exactly** what champaca is… a sacred flower that the eastern cultures maintain inspires a higher peace and joy. [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]

I’ve spent so much time on the average perfumistas’ mixed responses to Champaca Absolute in order to provide a counterbalance to the bloggers who generally seem to love the fragrance and who also detect very different elements. Take, for example, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin who wrote:

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

Despite its name, Champaca Absolute is not a soliflore—the magnolia note is part of a bouquet. Overall, it is a quite a striking blend, full of character and dramatic presence. Like many Private Blends, Champaca Absolute has a certain vintage glamour, yet without a self-conscious retro aesthetic. The richness of the composition is evident throughout: from the top accord, with its dried fruit and candied citrus nuances, to the sugared amber and vanilla base. Set against this gourmand cornucopia is a heady, luxurious floral composition. It suggests the indolic heft of jasmine, the spicy warmth of carnation and the petally radiance of magnolia. While magnolia is only an accent, it fits so beautifully that I forget about wanting a magnolia soliflore experience.

There is a point to the development of Champaca Absolute that reminds me strongly of Tom Ford Black Orchid, or rather what I wanted Black Orchid to be—an unapologetically rich, opulent floral. The late drydown of Champaca Absolute is my favorite part. The dramatic sensuality of the composition mellows down, leaving one with an intimate, warm veil of woods, incense and violets. It is certainly worth waiting for!

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

Japanese Plum Liqueur, Yamazaki. Source: tokyowhiskyhub.blogspot.com

Then, there is The Non-Blonde who also seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the scent:

Is Champaca Absolute the big  fruity floral in Tom Ford’s Private Blend line? Yes and no, I guess. The floral heart notes take center stage and they are accentuated with sweet round plums and a plum liqueur. But, really, this is not something that belongs in a pink bottle on Sephora’s shelves. The first blast is very alcoholic and boozy. Something between Armagnac and a plum brandy. […] Champaca Absolute smells really really good.

The flowers (jasmine, violet, orchid, champaca) are blended into a single accord of prettiness.It leans to the tropic side, a little loud and exuberant, but after wearing it enough times and learning to listen I’ve begun to smell the softness that lies underneath. It feels like a layer of silk, not quite powdery and not quite sweet- I guess that’s the steamed rice quality of champaca. I have yet to find it when wearing Ormonde Jayne’s Champaca which I like well enough, but Tom Ford’s version works better on my skin for one reason or another.

Maybe it’s the base. Champaca Absolute dries down rich and sweet. After four or five hours it becomes a full blown oriental, even though the floral accord is tenacious enough to still be hover and appear here and there, especially in the heat. I can’t say I get the promised marron glace note, but there is quite a bit of sweet creaminess to satisfy my sweet tooth. [Emphasis and bolding to name added by me.]

On Fragrantica, the reviews are as mixed as they are on MakeupAlley, though a substantially greater number seem to really like Champaca Absolute. Some find the perfume to be a wonderful successor to the tradition of big ’80s powerhouses, or even older ones like Fracas. A handful enjoyed the beginning before being overwhelmed by too much syrupy sweetness over the course of the perfume’s development, and changing their mind. Several dislike Champaca Absolute as being “too perfume-y,” too much like “an old lady perfume,” or too boring in its simple floral nature. Others rave about how it is “seductive,” “glorious,” “exceptional,” their “favorite TF buy so far,” or even their “favorite fragrance of all time.”

Marrons Glacés or iced, glazed chestnuts.

Marrons Glacés or iced, glazed chestnuts.

Interestingly, one of the positive reviews comes from a man. Actually, I know a few men who enjoy Champaca Absolute, probably because of boozy opening, but they are exceptions as this is a fragrance that definitely skews feminine in nature. Still, you may be interested in one man’s Fragrantica assessment:

Champaca Absolute is my favourite TF and in my opinion one of his best.Boozy opening,no doubt,but once the cognac has subsided to a lesser extent the glorious chestnut aroma remains right through the mid notes and drydown. I disagree with previous commentary that its a female only scent and an old womans fragrance or overtly floral. For mine the floral notes are there but take a backseat.Granted its not the most masculine scent going around but its a standout in a bland sea of citrus/aquatics/oriental/woods and can be worn by a guy who is looking for something totally unique and is confident enough to wear it. Longevity is in the vicinity of 6 hours and sillage is close to the skin.
Definitely worth a sample and pleased I have added this gem to my collection of niches 🙂

Whether or not a man can wear Champaca Absolute is definitely going to depend on his personal tastes and comfort zone. I firmly believe that if you feel good in what you’re wearing, that’s all that matters. So if a guy enjoys lushly opulent, boozy florals, then Champaca Absolute is definitely one to consider. If, that is, he fits within all my prior parameters or warnings about both the scent as a whole and its particular notes.

We all have different perfume tastes, and there isn’t a scent in the world which is going to appeal to everyone. Tom Ford’s fragrances tend to be more polarizing in general, due to their intensity, richness, often powerhouse forcefulness, and heaviness. Champaca Absolute is no different. However, it may be a little more of a love it/leave it scent than some of his others. I’ve noticed that people really respond at opposite ends of the spectrum to big, lush, heavy florals. Here, there is the added issue of syrupy sweetness, almost tropical fruitiness, and the other supporting notes like the cognac, broom, and the very subtle earthiness. Making matters even more complicated is that lush intensity, the heaviness, and an 80s-like powerhouse strength. If all of that sounds like your cup of tea, then you should definitely seek out Champaca Absolute. You may want to remember, however, that — just like a very rich cake — a little goes a long way.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Private Blend Champaca Absolute is an eau de parfum which comes in three sizes that cost: $210, €180, or £140.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; $280 or £320.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle; and $520 or €420 for a 250 ml/8.45 oz bottle. The Tom Ford website is undergoing renovations at this time, so its e-shop is down. In the U.S.: you can find Champaca Absolute at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Luckyscent, and many other retailers. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Tom Ford is carried at Holt Renfrew, but they don’t list many of the TF perfumes on their website. In the UK, you can find Champaca Absolute at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, or Selfridges in various sizes. The small 1.7 oz/50 ml size costs £140, and the super-large 250 ml bottle goes for £320. In France, the Tom Ford Private Blend line is available at Sephora. For the rest of Europe, all Tom Fords, including Champaca Absolute, are also sold at Premiere Avenue which offers the 50 ml size for €180. They ship world-wide. In Belgium, you can find Champaca Absolute at Parfuma, in Russia at Lenoma, and in Australia at David Jones for AUD$290. In the Middle East, the Private Line is carried at many stores, especially Harvey Nichols, but I also found Champaca Absolute at ParfumeUAE. For other all other countries, I would normally link to Tom Ford’s store locator, but his website is undergoing construction at this time. Samples: Surrender to Chance has samples of Champaca Absolute starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Histoires de Parfums 1828 (Jules Verne)

Jules Verne, photo by Nadar circa 1878, via Wikipedia.

Jules Verne, photo by Nadar circa 1878, via Wikipedia.

Jules Verne was one of the fathers of science fiction, and the author of such famous adventure novels as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Verne was a fascinating figure who was born in 1828, and his life is the source of inspiration for an aromatic, citric, woody eau de parfum from Histoires de Parfums which uses that date as its name. With 1828, Gérald Ghislain sought to create a scent for the modern globe-trotter who wants to travel in Jules Verne’s olfactory footsteps.

Histoires de Parfums describes 1828 and the man whom it seeks to encapsulate as follows:

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

He was born in Nantes, at the beginning of that century of discoveries. The close ocean took him far away, inspiring in him extraordinary novels of adventure. Inspired by the father of literary science fiction, this eau de parfum for modern globe-trotters breathes its aromatic Hesperides-like scents, just as a marine breeze over a wild heath. A freshness tinted with sophistication.

Originality: spices, wood, aromatic herbs representing Jules Verne – world traveler. A group of olfactive scents assembled from trips all around the globe.
(Madagascar black pepper, Indonesian nutmeg…)
Moods: energizing, dazzling, bright, timeless.

Top Note: Grapefruit, Citrus, Tangerine, Eucalyptus
Heart Note: Nutmeg, Pepper
Base Note: Cedar, Incense, Vetiver, Pine cone

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

1828 Jules Verne opens on my skin with a strong burst of bitter nutmeg, followed by tart grapefruit, sweet tangerine, and zesty citruses. A brief hint of sourness vies with the pungency of the spices, though the sweet and fresh notes try to counter it. Touches of pepper and a fresh, mineralized vetiver ensue, briefly creating a small resemblance to a Terre d’Hermes-like cologne. As a whole, 1828’s opening feels like a very safe, more elevated version of a department store fragrance. I’m thoroughly unimpressed, and starting to reconsider my plan of going through a number of the Histoires de Parfum creations in a row.

Although the dominant bouquet is of nutmeg with hesperidic, citric elements, 1828 starts to change after 5 minutes. The tiniest whisper of eucalyptus, pine and incense slowly start to creep in. At first, they sit quietly on the sidelines, and overlook the flickers of clean musk and vanillic sweetness that stir deep down in the base. However, after 15 minutes, the pine and eucalyptus amble onto center stage, adding a very forest-like aroma to the nutmeg citrus bouquet. At the same time, the vetiver recedes to the background, while both the incense and tangerine fade away completely.

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com -

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com –

For the rest of the hour, 1828 is a blend of dusty, bitter nutmeg, white-yellow grapefruit, pine cones, and eucalyptus. The latter smells like the aromatic oil you get if you crumple the fresh leaves between your fingers. The pine smells similarly deep, but it’s more woody than resinous in nature on my skin. Citrus, woody scents aren’t particularly me, but 1828 underwhelms me for different reasons. It feels rather boring, but, more to the point, the elements seem to be very much out of balance on my skin. Someone on Fragrantica once described 1828 as the scent of curdled nutmeg, and, oddly enough, that description really seems to fit the opening hour.

Thankfully, 1828 Jules Verne improves with time, although the scent also turns more simplistic and minimalistic. At the end of the 1st hour, a wonderful creaminess arrives, shoots through all the notes, and smooths out the rough edges. It’s like a silky cream that is almost vaguely vanillic in nature, which is a little baffling as vanilla is not listed in the notes. The accord turns 1828 into a fragrance that is smoother, more balanced, and less crisp. The pine and eucalyptus notes are now more prominent than the nutmeg on my skin, yet the fragrance feels warmer as a whole.

Source: topwalls.net

Source: topwalls.net

1828’s sillage is very soft, though, and the scent hovers only an inch above the skin. A lot of the notes begin to overlap each other, losing clear shape and distinction. In fact, from afar, 1828 appears like a well-blended blur of creamy, aromatic, foresty woods, that are lightly flecked by an amorphous, zesty citrus, a subtle dash of sweetness, and a touch of spiciness. Up close, 1828 isn’t substantially more complex or nuanced, though you can pull out the individual notes with more ease.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

1828 remains that way for hours. It turns into a skin scent just before the end of the 2nd hour, and grows increasingly abstract. At the 3.5 hour mark, it is an aromatic, woody bouquet dominated by pine with only small touches of grapefruit and eucalyptus, all atop a creamy base. There is now a small vein of cedar running through 1828 as well, though it’s very muted on my skin. However, the nutmeg has disappeared, and two hours later, so does that last remaining citrus element.

By the end of the 5th hour, 1828 Jules Verne is a blurry haze of creamy, vaguely aromatic, green woods. The pine note has vanished, and the cedar is just barely discernible if you put your nose right on your skin, inhale forcefully, and focus hard. By the start of the 7th hour, even that goes away. In its final moments, 1828 is a wisp of abstract creamy woodiness. All in all, the fragrance lasted just short of 9 hours on me, with generally low sillage throughout.

After its unbalanced, somewhat bitter start, 1828 turned into a generally pleasant fragrance. I preferred the bouquet in the middle phase with its mix of foresty woods and creamy sweetness, lightly flecked with that pretty grapefruit, but all of it left me feeling underwhelmed. None of it is distinctive or particularly interesting, in my opinion. For the most part, 1828 really feels like a more refined version of a designer scent, minus the latter’s synthetics or cheap ingredients. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve smelled 1828’s drydown somewhere else before, but I can’t remember which department store fragrance it was.

Still, 1828 is pleasant, even if that’s damning it with faint praise. On a more positive note, it’s definitely an easy, safe, approachable fragrance. I just wish I wasn’t so utterly bored. Surely Jules Verne of all people deserved something more interesting? A breath of saltiness, a touch of algae, or a whisper of … something…. that is unique, complex, and enlivening?

Source: Nathan Branch.

Source: Nathan Branch.

On Fragrantica, the most amusing review comes from “Cloyd42” who writes:

If nutmeg could curdle it would smell like this. The grapefruit is downright sugary and the eucalyptus is wildly unbalanced. If 1828 really smelled like this it must have been a dreary year indeed.

Sillage / 3 ft
Duration / eternal?
Fabulosity / day old sushi
Value to price ratio / poor
2/10

Speaking of his sillage and duration numbers, I want to make clear that my experience with 1828 as a weak scent doesn’t seem to be the norm. However, I fit squarely with others in terms of the longevity. The votes for both areas are:

  • Sillage: 7 for soft, 11 for moderate, 13 for heavy, and 10 for enormous;
  • Longevity: 13 for long lasting (7-12 hours), and 14 for Very Long Lasting (12+hr). [I’ve skipped over the other categories as those 2 are the majority by a landslide.]
Source: picstopin.com

Source: picstopin.com

Those two issues aside, Fragrantica posters are mixed in their views of 1828. A number of people find it to be an easy-going, refined spring scent, while others shrug and dismiss it as largely forgettable despite its pleasant nature. A small range of opinions:

  • Honestly, the most disappointing scent among HdP masculines. […] this is undoubtably well made, but also a bit boring and forgettable. You can get the same job done by other cheaper fragrances!
  • Simple, easy to like and also easy to forget… [¶] But it is quite good. [¶] I really enjoy how the nutmeg is well blended with the other notes as citrusy accords (on the beginning), the pine notes, eucalyptus and cedarwood. [¶] Nutmeg is the main note for me… Dusty, spicy and intriguing here. [¶] But even though, here we have a simple scent – easy to go everywhere, anywhere…
  • This is a terrrific blend of various scents of woods and citrus, especially the great pine scent that comes from it. [¶] I have never heard more compliments during the day at the office from a fragrance than with this.

Gucci Envy for MenOne commentator, “Alfarom,” found 1828 Jules Verne to be extremely similar to Gucci Envy for Men:

to me, 1828 is not so distant from Gucci Envy for Men.

It opens with citruses and eucalyptus immediately joined by incense. Frankincense perfectly blends with the aromatic grapefruit note adding depth and consistency to the fragrance. This accord is definitely successful and so well executed that I was ready to declare 1828 as one of my favourite compositions from this house. Elegant, masculine, fresh but not dull, with a remarkable presence but not loud…a fantastic everyday’s fragrance…but…

…but disappointment was waiting for me just right behind the corner. The eucalyptus note evaporates in couple of minutes and you can say goodbye to the “balsamic” effect. Same is for the aromatic grapefruit leaving 1828 in a sort of generic territory made of vetiver, spices and woods (mainly cedar) that’s really too similar to Gucci Envy For Men. Overall I can’t say that 1828 is unsuccessful but after the outstanding opening I definitely expected something more.

That said, if you’re not familiar with Gucci Envy For Men and you are ready for a challenging price tag, you could enjoy 1828. Personally I stick with the Gucci.

All I can say is that he experienced a scent that was substantially more complex than I did, and, yet, he still found it comparable to a department store fragrance.

I could comb the web for more comparative reviews to give to you, but, honestly, I lack the motivation. Cloyd42 wrote in his Fragrantica review, “If 1828 really smelled like this it must have been a dreary year indeed.” I would replace the word “dreary” with “uninspiring,” which is the very last thing that a man like Jules Verne deserves.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1828 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, €87, or £75; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all order anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1828 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1828 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfums1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy both sizes of 1828, as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1828, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) offers the 60 ml bottle, and also sells 14 ml decants of 1828 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. Alas, 1828 is not one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells 1828, along with a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £125 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1828 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1828 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for 120 ml, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1828 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Histoires de Parfums 1826 (Eugénie de Montijo)

1826 was a year notable for many things, the least of which was the birth of France’s last Empress, Eugénie de Montijo. 1826 is also the name of a perfume inspired by her life and passions, from a perfume house that seeks to capture history in a bottle. Histoires de Parfums is a French niche perfume house founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain, and many of their scents are entitled with just a simple date, the date of birth for a famous historical figure who serves as the perfume’s inspiration.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

In the case of 1826, it is Eugénie de Montijo. She was born in Granada, and was a Spanish Grandee (or aristocrat) who became France’s last Empress Consort as the wife of Emperor Napoleon III. Empress Eugenie was renowned for her sophisticated style, jewellery, and fashion sense, but what Histoires de Parfums is encapsulating is her love of patchouli. Histoires de Parfums describes the perfume as a “sensual amber,” and writes:

The future and last French empress, Eugénie de Montijo, was born in Granada, the jewel of Andalusia. A sparkling beauty, her seductive nature and temperamental elegance delighted Napoleon the third. This beautiful lady who influenced the mundane life and artistic refinement of her time inspired this luminous fragrance, a sensual amber carried by the power of white flowers and patchouli, of which the empress loved the unforgettable vapor trail.

Originality: mix of anis and amber.
(Eugenie de Montijo was voluptuous, full-bodied and delicate at the same time).

Top Note: Bergamot, Tangerine
Heart Note: White Flowers, Violet, Cinnamon, Ginger
Base Note: Patchouli, Amber, Incense, Blond Woods, White Musk, Vanilla.

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

1826 opens on my skin with sharp, clean musk and citruses that immediately give way to a creamy, milky patchouli. It is infused with vanilla, and the tiniest pinch of cinnamon in a refined mix that glows a soft, warm brown. None of patchouli’s camphorous or minty green sides are present to any noticeable degree, at least not at first. Instead, this is a very milky, almost creamy and beige patchouli whose softness in the opening minutes calls to mind both Etat Libre‘s Nombril Immense and, to a much lesser extent, the drydown of Chanel‘s glorious Coromandel. As the momentary burst of citrus and sharp musk sinks into the base, incense rises up to take their place, adding to the tentative, small similarities to Coromandel.

Photo: puresilks.us

Photo: puresilks.us

The differences are much, much greater than any commonalities, however. The main one is the total absence of any white chocolate notes in 1826, whether powdered or mousse-like. The incense is another substantial point of departure. There is extremely little of it in 1826, whereas Coromandel has almost as much smoky frankincense as it does patchouli. Perhaps even more so. Speaking of patchouli, the note in 1826 starts to slowly reflect a quiet earthiness which the Chanel fragrance completely lacks. In less than 5 minutes, 1826 takes on a subtle undertone of damp, wet, loamy soil. Under the surface, hints of tobacco bubble up, along with the tiniest suggestion of something green and camphorous. Both accords momentarily diffuse the milky aspects of the scent, but they are muted and very short-lived.

"Cosmic Swirls Beige" by Jeannie Atwater Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com

“Cosmic Swirls Beige” by Jeannie Atwater Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com

15 minutes into its development, the creamy patchouli in 1826 turns plush and deep, feeling like velvet. The earthiness is extremely smooth and well-balanced. As a whole, the patchouli never smells musty or dusty, but turns lightly chocolate-y in nature. Thanks to the vanilla in the base, the overall effect is more akin like a dusting of milk chocolate powder infused with warm, sweet soil, a lot of milk, and hints of woodiness. Underlying that bouquet are subtle undercurrents of incense, spice, tobacco, and milky Chai tea, but the primary impression is of a vanilla-infused patchouli scent. It’s much sweeter, earthier, and warmer than the drier, incense-heavy, white cocoa Coromandel.

For the longest time, there really isn’t much more to 1826 Eugenie de Montijo on my skin. There are no fruited notes or tangerine, no ginger, no discernible florals, and very little cinnamon. The perfume is initially strong on my skin, but extremely airy, wafting in a sheer cloud that extends about 2-3 inches above my skin with 3 enormous smears. The sillage drops quickly, and it consistently takes between 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours for 1826 to turn into a skin scent.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

I’ve tried 1826 a few times, and the perfume’s simplicity and linearity remains the same each time. 1826 continues as a milky patchouli scent until the 3.5 hour mark when hints of powder creep in, along with a return of the clean musk and an abstract woodiness. The musk does an odd thing to the woods, turning them cold and clean.

Slowly, the woody musk starts to take over. At first, it is an equal partner to the lightly powdered patchouli, but by the end of the 6th hour, it completely dominates the scent. 1826 is now primarily an abstract woody musk fragrance, with just a vestige of patchouli sweetness. The whole thing feels very nondescript and generic, with the tiniest hint of something soapy lurking deep in the base. In its final moments, 1826 is nothing more than a slightly sweet, woody cleanness. All in all, 1826 lasted just over 7 hours with a small quantity, and 8.25 with a heavy dose.

1826 has received mixed reviews on Fragrantica, though the majority seem to like it. One person experienced a much more complex scent than I did, as evidenced by this review:

it is quite beautiful and I wouldn’t mind owning a bottle. The top notes include orange, which complements the heart notes of cinammon and ginger beautifully. Rounding out the heart are creamy white flowers and a hint of sharp (not candied) violet. About an hour in, the base notes start to make an appearance, including a lovely, slightly sweet incense note. This is not an old medieval church type of incense, but a light, dry, modern incense, and it’s not added with a heavy hand. Instead the base notes of vanilla, patchoulli, and amber share equal footing with the incense, which I like. The combination is just right. Beautifully complex and layered, 1826 is a full blooded and heavy boned oriental in the absolute BEST sense.

Other people, however, experienced a “wisp” of a scent that barely lasted and which was far from full-blooded, though they did enjoy it greatly:

  • in my case […] definitely not a heavy oriental..it’s a beautiful wisp of a scent! The spices are very subdued, it’s a warm floral with a clean skin musk peeking out from under, thoroughly wearable. Not sweet at all nor old fashioned- very well blended as someone else mentioned.
  • 1826 starts quite heavy and spicy, reminds me of Ambre Sultan at this stage. But it only lasts a few minutes. [¶] Then it becomes more and more milky and vanillic, sweet, but stays transparent all the time. I think I smell something similar as in Clinique Simply – a bright accord of anise, which is not listed in any of them. It gives this fragrance a pale, lunar light. [¶] It’s so well blended … Absolutely nothing stands out. One light accord of patchouli, white flowers, amber, vanilla … [¶] Recently I’ve been so bored with spices and flowers shouting at me from almost every composition out there… [¶] And when 1826 touched my skin I felt like in a scented heaven. A Zen-like scent. Modest and modern at the same time.Sounds perfect? Yes, but it has 2 very serious drawbacks.
    One: there’s almost no sillage! A true skin scent. I literally have to put my nose onto my wrist to smell it. You really have to use a lot, and still only YOU will be able to smell it … Pity, considering how beautiful it is and that I’d love to share its beauty with someone around …
    Two: No lasting power! After 2 hours there’s no trail of it.

Well, I rather agree with him or her on 1826’s lack of body, not to mention the incredibly weak sillage, no matter how much you apply.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

In terms of other assessments, male commentators find 1826 to be very unisex, while one woman (who clearly doesn’t like patchouli in general) found the perfume to be too masculine for her tastes. One poster thought 1826 was too earthy, another compared it to “cotton candy” mixed with a “vanilla milkshake,” while a third found the perfume “too powdery” with a soapy undertone. I can definitely understand a number of those assessments, especially the milkshake, though I think it would be a vanilla-cocoa-patchouli one that is only present for the first half of 1826’s life. As a whole, though, the general consensus on 1826 seems to be that it is not a patchouli bomb but, rather, “a very pleasant patchouli/vanilla/creamy white flowers mix with a hint of cinnamon, spice and powder.” I think that’s quite an accurate nutshell summation, even if the creaminess that I personally encountered wasn’t at all floral in nature.

I enjoyed parts of 1826 Eugénie de Montijo in its opening phase, but I find it hard to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for the scent as a whole. The clean, white musk simply ruined it for me, as did the problematic sillage and the banal drydown. On the other hand, the perfume is easy to wear, and those who enjoy lightly sweetened, milky, fuzzy, Le Labo type of scents may enjoy 1826’s approachability. It is definitely unisex, in my opinion; as one male Fragrantica poster noted, the perfume is actually more unisex than the 1969 fragrance that Histoires de Parfum categorizes as such. Obviously, you have to like patchouli to enjoy 1826, but you also have to enjoy some powderiness as well, in my opinion. So, if a milky, creamy, vanillic, slightly powdered patchouli scent with great sheerness, softness, and discreetness sounds like your cup of tea, then give 1826 a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1826 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, £75, or €87; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205, £125 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1826 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1826 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfum1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy the small 60 ml bottle of 1826 as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1826, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of 1826 for $36, but doesn’t list the full bottle. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. 1826 is one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £75 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle and £125 for the 120 ml size, but 1826 is not listed or shown. Elsewhere, Harvey Nichols doesn’t carry the full line, but they do have 1826 Eugenie in the large £125 size. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1826 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1826 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for the large 120 ml bottle, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1826 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Caron Farnesiana: The Rite of Spring

Photo: Jill at JillThinksDifferent.blogspot.com.  (Website link embedded within.)

Photo: Jill at JillThinksDifferent.blogspot.com. (Website link embedded within.)

Pastel floral ballerinas pirouette onto the stage in Nature’s version of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Yellow acacia mimosa, pink heliotrope, purple violets, lilac hyacinths, and white lilies of the valley twirl daintily in the air, before being caught in the muscular arms of a creamy almond dancer. Sweet meringue powder rains down on them, while sandalwood peaks from the wings, waiting to slink onto the stage during the third act. It’s a dainty ballet, nothing like the raucous stridency of Stravinsky’s original, and it evokes the pleasures of a warm Spring day in a green field dominated by flowers and powdered pastries. It’s the ballet of Caron‘s Farnesiana.

Farnesiana in one of Caron's famous Baccarat urns. Photo: Fragrantica.

Farnesiana in one of Caron’s famous Baccarat urns. Photo: Fragrantica.

Farnesiana was released in 1947, and was created by Michel Morsetti. It is one of Caron’s Haute Parfumerie “Urn Scents” which originated as extracts or pure parfums. I tested the parfum extrait concentration, but not the famous vintage version. I would have liked to, but, as with all of Caron’s most important fragrances, the vintage is not what most people have access to or can easily find, even on eBay. So, modern Farnesiana parfum is the focus of this review. 

Farnesiana is a mimosa scent which Caron describes as follows:

Born in 1947, Farnesiana remains one interpretation of mimosa without many parallels on the market.

In order to capture its duvet-like appeal, Caron turned to the extraordinarily modern essence: sweet acacia, a lesser known variety of mimosa. Cleverly combined with latter, it lends the fragrance an almost mouth-watering sweetness.

The sweet acacia (Latin “Acacioso Farnesiana”) also provides the inspiration for its name, evocative of Rome’s Farnese Palace and the way of life redolent of sweet Mediterranean refinement and aromas.

Accords: Mimosa, sandalwood, hay…

Those three notes are the only things I am certain of when it comes to Farnesiana. Trying to figure out else what is in this perfume is an utter nightmare, with every site contradicting itself. Fragrantica says:

Overwhelming shades of sweet mimosa, floral and fruity blackcurrant.

In sharp contrast to that are the notes provided by The Perfumed Court, a decanting service rather well-known for its stock of vintage fragrances. For the modern Farnesiana parfum, they say the notes are:

 bitter almond, mimosa, iris and lavender.

I don’t believe it that is the full extent of things, though I do agree that the perfume contains those notes. Caron’s most famous creations became legendary because of their complexity, which would thereby seem to involve more than a mere four elements.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

In my opinion, Surrender to Chance‘s description and list seem the most complete and accurate to me, based upon what I personally detected. They write:

In 1947 Michel Morsetti created Caron Farnesiana based on Ernest Daltroff’s notes on the perfume before his death in 1941.  Acacia, also known as cassie or mimosa, is the center of this creation, and it was one of the first fragrances to build around this note.  It smells distinctly of almonds with that rich Caron Mousse de Saxe base, dark around the edges with a gourmand quality to it, though it veers away from being sweet and dries down to a great hay note.  This is what a gourmand perfume could be.

[Notes:] Cassie (acacia or mimosa), bergamot, lily of the valley, violet, lilac, opoponax [sweet myrrh], vanilla, sandalwood, musk, heliotrope, mimosa, jasmine, hay.

Bois de Jasmin quotes something similar, though not as detailed, so I think Surrender to Chance may have the truest assessment of Farnesiana’s elements. That said, I think The Perfumed Court is correct in noting lavender is a potential suspect as well.

Source: Wikicommons

Source: Wikicommons

Before I start, I need to confess a weird bias I have when it comes to mimosa. It is a flower which holds great personal symbolism and meaning for me, so I have especially high standards when it comes to fragrances featuring it. As a child, one of the places I lived had numerous acacia or mimosa trees. The mere sight of their graceful, fluffy, yellow beauty against the turquoise skies always gave me great comfort, especially during a very difficult period when I was quite ill. For me, mimosas are something bound up with joy, nostalgia, longing, and bitter-sweet memories of my childhood. And their scent is firmly imprinted on my nostrils.

As a result, it was initially somewhat difficult to review Farnesiana in its current form. I never tried the vintage version, so I have no personal experience with its smell, but I do know that Farnesiana is explicitly intended to be an acacia mimosa soliflore that pays homage to the note. On my skin, the current version is very far from that — so much so that it was a problem at first. After a while, however, I simply told myself to mentally approach Farnesiana in a vacuum, and to merely consider it as a general floral scent, not a mimosa one. I suggest you read this review in that same light, and consider Farnesiana as a fragrance unmoored from its past or from what you may have heard about its former self.

Lily of the Valley, or Muguet.

Lily of the Valley, or Muguet.

Modern Farnesiana parfum opens on my skin with a mimosa note that is very wan, very pale, and powdered. It is sweet, bordering on the syrupy, but it doesn’t feel like a rich, deep, concentrated mimosa, and it certainly isn’t the mimosa of my childhood. Within seconds, it is followed by dewy violets, honeyed sweetness, and lily of the valley, or “muguet” as I’m used to calling it. There is also the tiniest whisper of both iris and jasmine. On their trail is a muscular, strong, bitter almond smell that pushes its way onto center stage to flood over all the flowers.

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The mimosa is disappointingly weak for a concentrated extrait parfum meant to highlight the note. Yes, there is a clear and distinct aroma that is sweet, but it also feels like a translucent shadow of itself. Part of the problem is the very watery undertone to Farnesiana’s opening, thanks to the effects of the dewy, green muguet. To my disbelief, the blend of lily of the valley, violets, and an almond-infused iris sometimes seems stronger than the mimosa on my skin. All the flowers are infused with honey to create a floral bouquet that is, admittedly, very yellow in its visuals, but also green. The overall effect is quite strangely watery, and the best way to describe it is to compare it to a nectar. An agave nectar, in fact, which is a thin, pale, honeyed liquid.

Source: mimosa-cavatore.com

Source: mimosa-cavatore.com

I don’t understand what Caron has done, particularly as this is the same perfume house which puts out Montaigne, an affordable eau de parfum (not an extrait) that is filled with copious amounts of deep, yellow mimosa. I know because I own Montaigne, though I constantly struggle with its suffocating, somewhat oppressive heaviness. But at least Montaigne seems like a solid blast of hardcore mimosa (with jasmine and daffodils), whereas Farnesiana seems like a general floral scent which merely happens to have some pale mimosa as well. It is almost bewildering how the muguet feels like one of the main players in the opening minutes, along with the increasingly powerful, dominant almond note that starts to take over at the end of 10 minutes.

Photo: Mimosa Flower Studio via theweddingco.com

Photo: Mimosa Flower Studio via theweddingco.com

It is at this point that I told myself to put aside all expectations of a mimosa scent, and to consider Farnesiana as a floral-almond fragrance with dewy nectar and light honey. By that light, then Farnesiana is pretty indeed. It’s a lovely blend of very spring-like, dewy, almost syrupy flowers in a spectrum of green, white, and yellow. There is the lightest suggestion of powderiness, at least initially, and it feels as though sweet pollen were sprinkled over the bouquet in a pretty counterbalance to the agave nectar.

A newcomer slowly creeps onto the scene to join the blend of watery muguet, bitter almonds, dewy violets, yellow acacia mimosa and honey. It’s hay, and it smells dry, sweet, fresh, and, oddly enough, rather wet, all at the same time. Perhaps it’s the overlapping trace of the muguet that creates that water-logged impression, but I can’t help imagining drops of rain hanging off bales of sweetened hay in a field of yellow and green. In addition, there is now a definite grassiness to Farnesiana’s undertones as a whole, a grassiness that extends far beyond the sweet hay. It feels like the scent of bright, sweet, summer’s grass, as you lie on your back in the warm soil in a field of flowers, as the warm sun shines down on you, amplifying the smells of nature. 

Field of Narcissus

20 minutes in, new notes arrive, and Farnesiana realigns itself. The focus of the scent shifts away from the lily of the valley, violets, and that hint of iris to something completely different. For whatever reason, I smell narcissus or daffodils as much as I do the violets. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is a daffodil note wafting from my skin, and it leads me to wonder if Caron’s more recent Montaigne was created as a more heavy, opulently floral, non-gourmand riff on the original Farnesiana. One fragrance very much feels like the mental inspiration for the other, even if there are substantial differences between the two scents. But, as in Montaigne, Farnesiana is manifesting daffodil in both its sweet floral facets and it’s almost hay-like drier ones.

Hyacinths and daffodils. Photo: wallpoper.com

Hyacinths and daffodils. Photo: wallpoper.com

My impression of daffodils is short-lived, however, because it is soon replaced by a stunning note of hyacinth. At first, it is a muted, muffled element that hides behind the almond note that has increasingly become Farnesiana’s most dominant characteristic on my skin. I absolutely love hyacinths, especially the purple kind that you buy in pots in Spring. It is one of my all-time favorite floral notes, but I’ve never found a perfume that has managed to bottle its unique aroma.

For me, hyacinths smell like a mix of greenness, dewy syrupiness, wet soil, woodiness, and an ethereal liquidity. There is a crystal-like clarity to the floral sweetness; it’s like an Alpine stream that takes in all the blackness of sweet soil, the wateriness of the flower, the greenness of its leaves, and, yet, somehow, still manages to feel as clear as a bell. It’s a hard smell to describe, but it’s absolutely there in Farnesiana. I’m over the moon, while simultaneously feeling somewhat crushed that the hyacinth is so muffled and so thoroughly infused with the bitter almonds.

Source: wallpaperzone.biz

Source: wallpaperzone.biz

It’s at this point, about 20 minutes in, that I suddenly realised just how much Farnesiana is like a floral march through Spring. It’s reminds me of that old childhood song about “the animals go marching in,” two by two. Here, it may be more three by three, with that wan mimosa note and the muscular, bitter almond being the first two, and the third place being taken by a steady succession of different flowers. First, it was the lily of the valley, while the violets (and, to a much lesser extent, the iris) looked on from the sidelines. Then, the muguet retreated to make way for the daffodils for a brief moment, before they passed the baton to hyacinth. In all cases, the flowers trail behind the almond and that thin mimosa note, infused with acacia honey and a touch of powder. It’s also like a more harmonious, melodic, floral version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, where several members of the Corps de Ballet take turns in pirouetting in the limelight, while others (like the hay and grass) gracefully lie curled over in the far corners.

Farnesiana feels deep and rich, in the softest way imaginable. Its notes develop like smooth satin on the skin, except they feel weightless and airy at the same time. The perfume’s hues may translate to a soft buttercup yellow and white, but the delicate scent is wonderfully rich. It seeps over the skin like liquid nectar, with decent projection at first. Three small smears of parfum produced a soft cloud that initially hovers 2 inches above the skin.

From afar, the almond note isn’t so dominant, and Farnesiana appears as a sweet, light, honeyed, somewhat dewy nectar of floral mimosa, almonds, and hyacinth. I can’t get over how lovely the hyacinth is, though it teases me by slipping to hide behind the almond. The other flowers have folded into the mix at the 40 minute mark, and aren’t so easy to pull out in any individual way. The wet, earthy soil tonality from the hyacinth remains, along with its greenness, and the sense of floral liquidity, but the hay, violet, and muguet have largely faded from my skin.

Heliotrope. Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Heliotrope. Photo: Crystal Venters via Dreamtime.com

Then, at the end of the first hour, things suddenly change again. The heliotrope slinks in, all pink and white, smelling of powdered vanilla meringues with a touch of marzipan. It takes some of the bitter edge off the almonds, softening them, and slowly bringing in a new form of sweetness. Instead of honey nectar and the hyacinth’s liquid, green syrup, the focus very gradually shifts to vanillic powder and almond-dusted treats.

French meringues via allrecipes.com

French meringues via allrecipes.com

The heliotrope grows stronger with every passing quarter-hour, turning Farnesiana into a scent that is predominantly French vanilla meringues and bitter almonds, lightly flecked by a nebulous sense of wan, quasi-mimosa powder puffs, and honeyed nectar. 90 minutes in, the hyacinth moves back to join all the other flowers on the discarded heap. Farnesiana’s sillage softens even further, hovering less than an inch above the skin, though the scent itself remains heady, deep, and very rich in feel.

Unfortunately for me, Farnesiana turns into a skin scent after 3 hours with 3 big smears of scent, and in even less time with a smaller quantity. Extraits are said by some to be much softer in sillage than eau de parfums (because of some technical issue involving the burning off of the alcohol base in the latter, I think), but Farnesiana’s projection is substantially weaker than most Extraits that I have tried. It’s disappointing, I have to admit.

Source: misslemon.eu

Source: misslemon.eu

Farnesiana remains a heliotrope-centered fragrance with powder-puff floral sweetness until the start of the 4th hour when the sandalwood rises up from the base. It’s a problematic note for me, especially in the beginning. The wood is vaguely creamy, slightly sour, fully bland, and definitely not Mysore. It has touches of cinnamon and a subtle smokiness that are nice, but also flickers of ashiness that are not. On occasion, there is even an undertone that even translates as stale and dusty, almost as if this were Guaiac wood more than “sandalwood.” When all these more negative facets appear, even in a mild form, Farnesiana’s drydown is less enjoyable and the perfume feels like a sudden shift into dryness. For a brief 20 minutes, the perfume smells like a stale, dusty, dry, Australian sandalwood infused with almonds, heliotrope meringue powder, a suggestion of smoke, and a dash of cinnamon.

Then, Farnesiana shifts again. Suddenly, the strange undertones to the sandalwood disappear, the wood turns creamier, and lavender appears on the scene. I had thought The Perfumed Court must be mistaken in including lavender in their brief list of notes, and I certainly haven’t seen any other bloggers mention smelling the flower, but it was definitely there on my skin during one of my tests. Interestingly, when I applied less of the fragrance, the lavender didn’t show up, but I attribute that to how sheer Farnesiana is as a whole when you use a low dosage.

Source: A Spicy Perspective. (For recipe for lavender chocolate ice cream, click on photo. Website link embedded within.)

Source: A Spicy Perspective. (For recipe for lavender chocolate ice cream, click on photo. Website link embedded within.)

At the end of the 5th hour, the perfume has suddenly transformed into a sweetened, creamy, lavender and heliotrope scent that reminds me of a lavender ice-cream dusted with meringue powder. The now creamy sandalwood lingers at the edges, alongside the tiniest hint of something smoky, though both elements are muted and muffled. The whole thing feels like a gauzy wisp on my skin, and the specific nuances are sometimes hard to detect. Farnesiana is not a powerhouse by any means!

The perfume quickly softens even further. Soon, it’s just a blur of powdered sweetness with the tiniest touch of an abstract dryness. Farnesiana remains that way until its very end. All in all, the fragrance lasted just under 8 hours on my skin with 3 good smears, amounting to about one very big spray of parfum extrait. With a smaller quantity, Farnesiana lasted between 6.5 to 7 hours.

As a whole, bloggers seem to give good reviews to Farnesiana parfum, even in its current form. Everyone agrees that the vintage version was amazing, but they generally seem to like the modern version too. (At least, whatever modern version they tried in 2011 and, in one case, 2012. Who knows what further reformulation may have taken place since then.) I’ll start with the review at Now Smell This where Jessica also includes a useful, quick survey of other people’s impressions of the scent:

I’ve always considered Farnesiana a sophisticated comfort scent, an unusual floral-gourmand (or “fleurmand,” as I like to call this perfume sub-genre). To my nose, Farnesiana begins with a powdery, pollen-like mimosa note and with accords of sun-warmed hay and grass. Oddly enough, this green-tinged phase reminds me of certain fragrances from Santa Maria Novella, like Ginestra (Broom) or Fieno (Hay), that evoke meadow-like landscapes. Farnesiana’s heart opens up to reveal the sweetly resinous opoponax — one of those notes that I might or might not love, depending on the context, but I do like it in Farnesiana. Then there’s also a considerable amount of dusty almond with just a hint of fruitiness (the black currant) and a drop of vanilla. I also detect a cool lilac note, although some of the other listed florals are not as apparent to me. The base of the composition includes just enough soft musk to make Farnesiana’s far dry-down a refined skin scent for me.

Of course, the issue that I’ve been skirting up to this point is the question of possible reformulation: has Farnesiana been altered over the years, and if so, for better or for worse? The sample I’m using right now was acquired directly from the Caron boutique in New York City just a few weeks ago, so I’m assuming it’s the most recent version. I’ve only been familiar with Farnesiana for about six years; in my memory, it was a little plusher and more golden when I first sampled it, but the current Parfum still “feels” like Farnesiana to me. However, I haven’t sampled any truly “vintage” Farnesiana. Erin, who has gone further back, regretfully calls today’s Farnesiana “a pale non-entity”; in Perfumes: The Guide, Tania Sanchez finds little to love in the current fragrance after sampling a 1950s original.

On the other hand, Victoria of Bois de Jasmin thinks Farnesiana’s current formulation is very well done, and I tend to side with her on this one. For me, Farnesiana is still an intriguing fragrance, something hard to define, somehow gentle yet moody and changeable. I’d recommend trying it if you usually enjoy soft almondy scents or meadowy-grassy florals, since it combines these two ideas. Of course, if you’re already deeply in love with a much earlier bottle of Farnesiana, the current offering might disappoint you[.] [Emphasis to names added by me.]

Painting by Trisha Lamoreaux.

Painting by Trisha Lamoreaux.

Speaking of Bois de Jasmin, her review is useful because it compares the smell of Farnesiana from a super old bottle from the 1950s, to one from the 1990s, and to the version closest to her time in 2011. She gives Farnesiana an overall Four Star rating, and her review reads, in part, as follows:

Caron Farnesiana defies conventions with its interpretation of violet and almond tinged mimosa notes. The classical softness of mimosa is rendered as suave and tender, yet the effect is more like delicate swirls of incense smoke rather than the swan dawn lightness of spring flowers. Farnesiana has an elegant, mellifluous character, yet at times it speaks in sultry whispers, with the overall impression of the fragrance being surprising, dramatic and at times unpredictable. […][¶]

The warm and powdery fragrance of cassie flowers has an interesting undertone of balsamic spiciness, which is fully explored in Farnesiana. The composition hits the sonorous, dark notes immediately, giving a glimpse of its incense and sandalwood inlaid base. The honeyed sweetness of mimosa is rendered as the luscious richness of almond nougat, which when paired with the dark woody and ambery notes makes for an exciting counterpoint to the plush floral notes. Initially Farnesiana has a luminous quality, augmented by orange blossom and jasmine; as it dries down, the incense and musk give it a more somber and seductive hue. […][¶]

The most recent version of Farnesiana I have smelled struck me as very good. The main difference is the stronger vanilla note and the clearer, brighter floral accent which serve to give Farnesiana a more baroque aura. [snip.]

My experience is obviously nothing alike to what she is describing or to what Farnesiana apparently used to be. On my skin, there is absolutely no strong incense accord, no dark notes, no orange blossom, and, in fact, totally different florals. 

Source: cocon-etc.blogspot.com

Source: cocon-etc.blogspot.com

What I encountered closer to what The Non-Blonde experienced in late 2012. Her review from the time brings up Guerlain‘s L’Heure Bleue, and talks about it in a way which leads to me to believe that, once upon a time, perhaps the two fragrances shared some similarities. Well, not now. Not on her skin, and most definitely not on mine! Her review reads, in part:

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[….]

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

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. […][¶]

[This] version of Caron’s Farnesiana […] is scrubbed clean and then powdered within an inch of its life. […] 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.

On Fragrantica, the majority of people seem to adore modern Farnesiana. A good portion of them succumb to the gourmand elements and to the powdery note (even though no-one seems to recognize it as heliotrope). Several people like the almond aspect as well. Generally, Farnesiana is described as a sweet, powdery, floral scent with mimosa that turns either vanillic or woody-vanillic in its drydown, depending on perspective. However, there are a rare few who struggle with the hay note, and find it unpleasant. For the most part, though, the overall consensus is of a very enjoyable floral scent with gourmand facets.

Farnesiana in Extrait on the right, in EDP on the left. Source: Luckyscent.

Farnesiana in Extrait on the right, in EDP on the left. Source: Luckyscent.

As an Extrait, Farnesiana is expensive for the tiny size of the bottle. 7.5 ml will cost you about $100, which is one reason why I tried to use an amount similar to what the average person might apply from such a bottle. In contrast, you can buy 50 ml of the Eau de Parfum for only $30 more at $130. Extraits and eau de parfums differ beyond just the question of concentration or richness. Often, a variation in formula is used, resulting in different notes being highlighted or sharpened.

I haven’t tried Farnesiana’s eau de parfum, so you might be interested in the a review of it from “Doc Elly,” otherwise known as Dr. Ellen Covey of the Olympic Orchards indie niche perfume house. (The Fragrantica page for Farnesiana is the same one for both Parfum and EDP versions, so always check to see which concentration someone is talking about.) Her Fragrantica review is for the 2012 (or earlier) version of the Eau de Parfum, and states: 

Mimosa and leathery violet, powder and almondy heliotrope dominate in the beginning, but this EdP quickly dries down into a realistic, non-sweet rendition of yellow mimosa. It’s a beautiful scent that reminds me of springtime in the south of France, when the mimosas bloom. After an hour or two the base of vanilla and white musk becomes prominent. Toward the very end, a little sandalwood appears.

Sillage is moderate. I love the mimosa opening, and the drydown is pleasant to have lingering during the rest of the day. On skin, it lasts at least 6-8 hours. Farnesiana begins as a lovely, cheerful spring-like powdery floral scent that gradually becomes a warm gourmand-ish musky one. I like it very much, and would enjoy having a decant and wearing it on occasion..

Her experience largely mirrored mine with the Extrait Parfum, right down to the longevity, so the EDP might be a better deal as a whole.

I think Farnesiana is a very pleasant fragrance if you free yourself from expectations or memories of its prior self. It left me a wee bit underwhelmed with its overall simplicity, and I wasn’t enthused by the sillage, but I found some parts of it to be really pretty indeed. The hyacinth part is truly lovely, as is the march of the floral brigade in the first two hours. If a bottle of Farnesiana ever landed in my lap, I would definitely wear it on occasion. So, if you’re looking for a soft, feminine, powdery floral with gourmand undertones and the sense of Spring, you may enjoy Farnesiana quite a bit. Those who love heliotrope’s vanilla meringue character, as well as almonds in particular, should definitely consider giving it a sniff.

In short, Farnesiana might be a lovely way to usher in Spring. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Farnesiana version discussed here is the Extrait or Pure Parfum form, and its price starts at $100 for a 7.5 ml bottle. The EDP version may be different in its feel or depth, but it might be a better deal as it costs $130 for a 50 ml bottle. Caron has a website, but no e-store from which you can buy the scents. In the U.S.: Luckyscent has the $100 small 7.5 ml size, but they are currently back-ordered with shipping said to follow in February. (We are now early March, but the notice is still there.) Luckyscent also has EDP, but the same backorder situation applies. In New York, you can find it at Caron’s boutique at 715 Lexington Avenue, or you might call to order (Ph: (212) 308-0270). There seems to be no other retail options, outside of eBay which carries a lot of Farnesiana in EDP form, as well as the occasional, ridiculously priced vintage Extrait. Outside the U.S.: In Paris, you can purchase Farnesiana from the 3 Caron boutiques. In France, you can order the Extrait or Pure Parfum from Atelier Parfumé in a variety of sizes, ranging from the 7.5 ml for €90, going up to €120 for 15 ml, €150 for 20 ml, and €250 for the 50 ml size. You can contact them to see where they ship. One place that says it ships worldwide is the Soleil d’Or Parfumerie which sells Farnesiana Parfum in the 50 ml bottle for €225.75, along with various sizes of the EDP. In the UK, I couldn’t find Farnesiana Extrait anywhere, and even the EDP was sold out on sites like Amazon. Your best bet may be eBay. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells modern Poivre starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. The Perfumed Court sells Farnesiana Extrait for a similar price of $4.96 for a 1/2 ml vial. In terms of the vintage version, MinNY has some off-the-books, secret stashes of vintage Carons that they sell in sample form. The lovely owner, Mindy, told me on Twitter that she has vintage Tabac Blond Extrait, and she probably has Farnesiana as well. In any event, you may want to check upon your next visit to the store, or call them at (212) 206 6366 if you’re interested about any vintage Carons.

Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia: Drive, Baby, Drive

One of perfume’s many joys is its transformative power, its ability to take you to other worlds and points in time, or to turn you into someone else. The rather aptly named Nostalgia briefly made me feel like the racing legend, Mario Andretti, in a 1970s Alfa-Romeo Spider convertible or like the ultra-cool Steve McQueen in his Jaguar XKSS.

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source: mtblabel.com

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source: mtblabel.com

Close your eyes and imagine a powerful old car on a racing track set in a birch wood forest. The smell of diesel fuel is in the air, along with the cracked leather seats of the ancient vehicle, and the smell of campfire smoke from a fire in the trees beyond. Bergamot swirls its sweet juices into the mix, along with vanilla, amber and earthy patchouli. As you rev your engines, and press your foot on the pedal, you speed away so fast that you leave the diesel fuel far behind, and enter into a vanilla, amber cocoon nestled amidst the birch trees. There, you take shelter in a haze of creamy, warm, lightly powdered vanillic sweetness infused with campfire smoke. It’s a simple smell, but then, Nostalgia is a return to a simpler, more nostalgic time.

Nostalgia is a fragrance from Santa Maria Novella, an Italian niche house based in Florence and one of the oldest actual pharmacies in the world. By many accounts, Santa Maria Novella is also the real, true source for the birth of cologne as a type of fragrance. You can read the full details of their fascinating, storied history going back to the 1200s and to Dominican friars in Florence in my earlier piece on the Farmacia (and its Ambra cologne). The house has been connected to everything from Catherine de Medici on her wedding day, to a marchioness burnt at the stake as the last “witch” in France, and marauding thieves who fought off the Black Plague. It’s completely fascinating stuff, if you are a history junkie as I am.

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source: MuseumsinFlorence.com

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source: MuseumsinFlorence.com

Even cooler is the fact that many of the current fragrances in Santa Maria Novella line continue to have the exact same olfactory profile as they did several centuries ago. In fact, they are said to follow a completely unchanged recipe, thanks to Santa Maria Novella’s heavy focus on all-natural ingredients (with no animal testing).

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Nostalgia, however, is brand new fragrance, relatively speaking. It is an eau de cologne that was released in 2002, which is a far cry from the 1600s or 1800s date of some of their other creations. By those standards, it was practically delivered yesterday.

Nostalgia is a leather scent which Santa Maria Novella describes as follows:

Santa Maria Novella’s most original fragrance for men, Nostalgia is the scent of a vintage racing car. Using mixes of rare South American woods, vegetable musk, patchouli, citrus wood, tobacco, amber and vanilla, it brings to mind the smell of benzene, tires and vintage leather for a truly unique and individual eau de cologne.

According to Fragrantica, Nostalgia’s perfume pyramid is:

Top notes: bergamot, rubber and styrax. Heart: cedar and patchouli. Base: leather, amber, vanilla and birch tar.

Nostalgia opens on my skin with diesel fuel. Yes, the smell of actual gasoline, but an extremely refined, high-class gasoline, if you can believe it. It smells like filtered, perfumed gasoline that is scented with fresh, sweetened, but somewhat zesty bergamot, and with a hint of vanilla. Something very herbal and fresh lingers in the rubbery corners, along with traces of general sweetness and the tiniest suggestion of a warm element in the base. The vanilla quickly recedes to the sidelines, and its place is immediately taken by birch tar on fire. There is smoke, more smoke, black rubber, and then, bubbling black tar, all enveloped in that refined, bergamot-scented racing fuel.

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via reddit.com

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via reddit.com

I find the whole thing fascinating, and, I swear to you, it’s not like an olfactory assault at NASCAR. Instead, it’s oddly and shockingly smooth. I repeat, something about the overall combination feels almost refined, or as refined as such an accord could be. One reason why is because nothing is out of balance. The racing fuel is not a barrage of anything really sharp, extreme, or chemical; I never feel as though I’m filling my car at the gas station, though the vehicle may have a tiny leak somewhere. The strong element of crisp, chilled, but sweetened bergamot definitely helps, as do the subtle hints of vanilla and amber lurking at the edges.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Thanks to the singed birch trees, there is an outdoors feel to this Grand Prix race track. At the same time, there is also an undertone of black pepper and cracked leather. The latter is not the butch, latex, fetishistic bondage leather of some fragrances, like Etat Libre‘s difficult Rien. However, it’s definitely not the well-oiled, polished leather of Puredistance M, either. Despite the birch tar commonality, this leather also has nothing in common with Caron‘s Tabac Blonde, Knize, or Cuir de Russie, at least in their current, non-vintage manifestations.

Source: blog.hemmings.com

Source: blog.hemmings.com

Nostalgia’s note is a tiny, fractional bit closer to Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, but it’s not really that either. It lacks the feeling of soldering mechanics, the sticky sweetness, the sharpness, and even the forcefulness of the birch tar in Lonestar Memories. This is much smoother, softer, and more refined. As a whole, both the birch tar smoke and its leather undertone in Nostalgia feel like a completely different take on the note for me. This is the leather of an old car with some goaty, diesel, smoky aspects. It’s rough in the untamed way of birch campfire smoke, but it is also darkly resinous with styrax, and a little bit fresh and cologne-like with bergamot.

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo: rolexblog.blogspot.com

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo: rolexblog.blogspot.com

Less than 10 minutes in, Nostalgia shifts and starts to move away from the racing fuel. Earthy patchouli arrives, complete with both its faintly camphorous side and its sweeter, softer tonalities. The amber becomes more noticeable, too, while the bergamot takes a step back. The golden sweetness infuses the tarry, smoked woods and the old leather, softening that initial, utterly cool smell of racing fuel turned sophisticated. It’s a bit of a shame, as the opening minutes were Cool with a capital “C.” We’re talking Steve McQueen and Paul Newman cool in a Mario Andretti racing world. Instead, Nostalgia is now all about campfire smoke, tar and patchouli, lightly flecked with smoother, more refined leather, all upon a warmed, sweetened vanilla and amber base. It’s warm, smoky, masculine and sexy, but not as unique as that debut.

Source: hqwide.com

Source: hqwide.com

Something about Nostalgia mesmerizes me, for reasons that I cannot fully explain. Upon reading about it initially, I thought, “racing fuel sounds cool, but who wants to actually smell of it??!” And if you phrase it as “gasoline,” it sounds even worse. All of the descriptions seemed to entail a scent that would be too raw, tough, dry, beastly, and masculine, even by my expansive standards. Yet, somehow, Nostalgia hits that perfect sweet spot for me. It’s hardly as smoky as Profumum‘s birch tar bonanza, Fumidus, or as austerely dry as Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascece; and it’s definitely not as rubbery or leathered as numerous scents that I’ve tried recently. It also lacks the difficult, black, mentholated, “car oil” gasoline of Patchouly Indonesiano from Farmacia SS. Annunziata, another old, Italian, “pharmacy” fragrance house.

Source: saab92x.com

Source: saab92x.com

Yet, on my skin, Nostalgia is not predominantly about diesel fuel after the first 10 minutes, and it’s not even really a birch tar leather fragrance as a whole. Both aspects are there — though the “leather” is much weaker than the singed campfire wood — but they are seamlessly blended into a bouquet that is primarily about smoky warmth. After 20 minutes, Nostalgia is so smooth, refined, ambered, and golden that I find it absolutely beautiful. (And quite addictive, too, judging by my eagerness to smear on more Nostalgia wherever I could.) I love the touches of sweet, warm, slightly spiced patchouli, with vanilla, sweet bergamot, and the balsamic resins in the base. They complement the subtle touch of leather beautifully, removing its goaty, cracked, aged facets. From the seats of an old convertible, the leather has now turned into something more akin to a well-worn leather jacket worn by a guy who spends his time around a campfire.

The accompanying notes are interesting. Tiny touches of something herbal and vaguely medicinal lurk at the edges, but they are light and seamlessly blended within the larger whole. On occasion, the patchouli even offers up a touch of fresh, green peppermint that, oddly enough, works well with the bergamot. In the base, the styrax resin offers up a smoky, dark, resinous touch with the faintest hint of leather. It’s the same resinous note that lies at the heart of vintage Habit Rouge (which had a lot of styrax in its drydown in the old days), and in Shalimar.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

At the end of 30 minutes, Nostalgia is a warm, graceful, vaguely leathered scent infused with birch tar and its campfire smoke, patchouli amber, and styrax, all lightly threaded with veins of sweet bergamot and vanilla. Initially, the perfume’s sillage was very forceful, wafting about 4-5 inches above the skin, but Nostalgia never felt opaque, dense, or chewy. Now, 30 minutes in, the projection has dropped, in keeping with Nostalgia’s generally softer nature. The perfume wafts in any airy cloud about 2 inches above the skin, and feels even thinner. Up close, all the notes are potent and visible in their individual state. From afar, however, the most noticeable element is the birch with its smoked, burnt woods aroma, only this one feels sweetened, almost honeyed in nature.

Nostalgia continues to soften, turning more abstract and warm as time passes. By the end of the first hour, the perfume is a soft haze of browns and gold, dominated by birch tar amber with patchouli and bergamot, with a base that just barely nods to sweetened vanilla. It’s lovely, but very sheer and light in weight. To my disappointment, it hovers just above the skin. In fact, my voracious skin seems to be eating it up with every passing moment, no doubt because it is an eau de cologne. Still, the notes continue to be very strong when smelled up close, particularly the ambered, sweetened birch. I just wish I didn’t have to put my nose right on my arm to detect the rest of the elements.

Vanilla powder. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

Vanilla powder. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

The vanilla starts to rise to the surface, increasingly taking over Nostalgia’s focus to share center stage with the birch and amber. Midway during the 2nd hour, the birch’s smoke is fully subsumed within the other notes, and the impression of leather fades away. Oddly, and for reasons that I don’t understand, the bergamot briefly seems to grow stronger again, and it occurred during both my tests of the perfume. Even odder still, on one of my arms, Nostalgia remained much smokier and less citric than it did on my main (left) testing arm. Perfume doesn’t usually vary on me, from one arm to the next, but when it does, my right one always reflects a much drier, darker, or smokier version of the scent. That seems to be the case with Nostalgia, though it’s a short-lived, very minor difference as a whole.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

At the end of the 3rd hour, Nostalgia is a skin scent centered on vanilla amber thoroughly infused with black smoke and a touch of singed woods. The patchouli and amber have melted into the base, where they add a general, indirect warmth but they no longer feel distinct or clear in an individual way. The most striking aspect of Nostalgia at this point is how creamy that vanilla is. It feels like a sweet crème anglaise sauce: thin but rich, and almost silky in the mouth.

The vanilla increasingly becomes the focus of Nostalgia’s drydown on my skin, with slowly fading levels of birch smokiness. There is a tiny touch of powderiness, in the way that tonka can generally impart, but it is not substantial on my skin. Nostalgia is a gauzy, thin blur, and it feels as though it’s about to fade away any moment now after the start of the 6th hour. To my surprise, the perfume hangs on tenaciously a little bit longer. In its final moments, Nostalgia is a simple smear of something vaguely sweet and dry, conveying the subtle sense of a note that might once have been vanillic in nature. All in all, Nostalgia lasted just short of 7.5 hours on my skin with low sillage after 90 minutes.

On Fragrantica, Nostalgia seems to be a massive hit with the vast majority of posters, with guy after guy writing how they have to buy a bottle. Or, in the case of one commentator, a second bottle:

Cigars gasoline sweet powder rubber and a bit of sweat. What could be sexier? Take that first sexual experience in a car with a bearded guy who is way too old for you, guilty, uncomfortable and exciting, wanting to run away from it and wishing it would last forever at the same time, and put it in a bottle. Nostalgia is a perfect name for this fragrance. […] Oh man I totally need another bottle of this.

"Rush" movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

“Rush” movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

Another commentator amusingly began his positive review by describing Nostalgia as “FERRARI AUTO REPAIR,” writing:

FERRARI AUTO REPAIR

I could also called this ‘Elegant Benzoin’. [¶] The gasoline opening is challenging yet intriguing. [¶] The other notes are present and accounted for, even if they can’t be specifically named (at least, by me). [¶] After time, the complex notes sparkle more than the Benzoin – and this fragrance keeps pulling me into it’s unique, luxurious heart.

I just may need to own this.

1967 Fiat Spider. Source: bringatrailer.com

1967 Fiat Spider. Source: bringatrailer.com

Some other impressions:

  • Rubber and leather that smell exacactly like the interiors of my grandad’s old FIAT 500 during the summertime, when odors are emphasized by the high temperatures of the season. A great fragrance if you like challenging smoky rubber/leather scents a-la Knize Ten / CDG’s Garage / Lisa Kirk’s Revolution. I do. [¶] Downside: the drydown is quite conventional if compared to the opening, but still pleasant..
  •  this juice is damn amazing and dramatic…Reason being, right out of the gate it smells really strong like racing fuel and literally 15 seconds later it begins changing..into this gorgeous blend of rubber and leather and several minutes later upon dry down remains the alluring vanilla-leatherish-Bvlgari Black blend. [¶] 10 out of 10 for uniqueness, quality, shock factor, longevity, sillage, and originality.  [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]

For one person, it took time and repeated tries to appreciate Nostalgia. His first attempt was not positive, but then he fell in love with the opening. He writes, “I just wish this stunning opening lasted longer” — and I share his feelings. He’s going to buy a bottle, and I would too if my skin did not eat up Nostalgia.

Women have written about Nostalgia too. One lamented that she only detected “sweet, prickly green tea,” which seems to be quite a unique experience and definitely not the norm. Another female Fragrantica poster, however, had a more typical encounter, and loved it:

I love love love this perfume. Not for the fainthearted nor the heavyhanded. Best worn on autumn as it can get too heavy for summer yet it lacks that certaint ‘warmth’ necessary for winter. Very avant-garde, surprisingly sexy. The funny thing is that my husband loves it on me but not on him.

One thing I found very interesting is that the current version of Nostalgia may have been reformulated to lose a lot of its leather heart. Almost three years ago, in July 2011, a poster called “Roan” wrote:

The re-edition doesn’t have the scent of leather.
In few words, this perfume during the opening is very very unusual…the first sniff will make you cry 🙂
It smells on tyres, pit stop, road, gas, rubber, cars, colors, like the store which has everything for the house – ‘do it yourself’. The smell is fantastic hehe, after a while it settles down and becomes powdery and sweet, very conventional, it has a lot of similarities as Le Dandy D’Orsay in the drydown. This is a must try for everyone who love perfumes and the art of perfumery!
P.S. Sillage and logivity are good enough, regarding the smell, I expected that will last for days. [Emphasis to name added by me.]

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via Emirates247.com

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via Emirates247.com

On my skin, the “pit stop” aroma was very short-lived indeed, as it seemed to have been on those who posted more recent reviews of the scent. I get the impression that the fuel note (like the leather one) may have been tamed down or reduced even further since 2011, judging by a few, more recent, comments that I’ve read on its duration. It’s rather a shame, because it’s truly lovely in its uniqueness and in its incredibly refined nature. It’s not NASCAR, but the Ferrari Auto Repair that one of the comments mentions, but it doesn’t last for very long.

There are several blog reviews for Nostalgia out there. On CaFleureBon, Ida Meister raved about the scent in a 2011 article that compared it with Lisa Kirk‘s Revolution.

Nostalgia revs you up with all the aromas of an imported vintage automobile – it reeks of luxurious leather interior, exotic woods, and benzene; what’s not to like?

I’m not a driver, and I’m mad for it.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

Both begin with that unholy blast that sears your nostrils, it’s NOT a gentle come-hither, I’ll grant you that.

Where they differ is in the drydown.

Nostalgia is an original Sillage Monster.

It may soften a bit, but it remains fairly potent and outspoken to the last, it just won’t give up the ghost.

I’m incredibly appreciative of this bizarre quality, and keep spraying myself over and over again.

But I’ve yet to purchase a bottle; where the hell would I wear this?

She does have a point. It may not be the most versatile scent, but I would wear it at home happily as a cozy scent (yes, I know, I’m odd) if it actually were a sillage monster on my skin. I’m sure that spraying from an actual bottle would improve things a bit, but only at the start. My skin simply doesn’t do all that well in the long-term with fragrances that are colognes in strength.

I think the most interesting and useful review for Nostalgia comes from the blog, Cocktails and Cologne, which analyzes in-depth just how much the fragrance does or does not replicate the “vintage race car concept”:

I love the smell of exhaust and unburned fuel from a hot rod without a catalytic converter—I even like the way my clothes smell after I’m around it. But would I bottle it? Fortunately, Santa Maria Novella’s vintage race car concept fragrance doesn’t take it too literally.

Nostalgia’s inspiration was the metal, rubber, wood, and leather of hand-built Italian race cars. It’s a great concept for a perfectly masculine fragrance, very elemental, and very sentimental too. […][¶]

NostalgiaThat Nostalgia doesn’t have more fans may be a result of its polarizing top notes and its lackluster packaging (More on that later). I’m guessing many people never get beyond the top notes to the smooth, Bulgari Black-like vanilla and rubber stage.

The top notes are bright and utterly artificial smelling. I worked in a garage for a couple years and I’ve been around vintage cars my whole life but none of Nostalgia’s top notes quite conjure up the feeling of vintage racing to me. It’s closer to the smell of the plastic glue I used to use to build 1:24 scale models of cars as a teenager.

About an hour in, it smells a little more like Bulgari Black’s top notes: smooth and rubbery with a hint of leather and vanilla. It’s much milder than you’d expect for something that comes on with such a chemical assault. Unlike Black though, Nostalgia’s vanilla isn’t sweet; it’s more leathery with a hint of smoke. I love Black but I may prefer Nostalgia. [snip.]

The whole review is very well-done, astutely noting how the Nostalgia is suited to a specific audience, and discussing the issue of the old-fashioned packaging. (It puts some people off.) The article is definitely worth a complete read for anyone interested in the fragrance.

Source: worldfragrances.com

Source: worldfragrances.com

As you may have noticed, the subject of Bvlgari Black comes up a lot in the discussion of Nostalgia. I haven’t tried it, but the perfume is mentioned so often in other, very similar fragrances that I’ve covered that I really need to rectify that soon. At this point, though, I suspect I pretty much know how it smells, and yes, Nostalgia’s drydown is probably quite close.

I bring up Bvlgari Black for another reason. I know a number of women who love the fragrance, and have no problems wearing it. Those same women should also love Nostalgia. Yes, this is a fragrance that initially skews somewhat masculine, but that “racing fuel” opening is incredibly short-lived on me and on others, and the rest of the fragrance is much more approachable. Nostalgia should work for anyone who can handle the smoky birch tar aspects of Lonestar Memories, Profumum’s Arso and Bvlgari Black, along with the leather in Rien or Tabac Blond (both of which are significantly and substantially more leathered than Nostalgia), and smoky scents which contain touches of earthy patchouli. Those people should have absolutely no problem with all those various elements coming together in one fragrance that smooths out their rougher edges into a refined blend.

For everyone else, I’m not sure I would recommend Nostalgia. If you don’t like leather or birch tar, I don’t think you’d enjoy the scent. That said, I would like to emphasize again that all of the potentially difficult elements appear only in the opening phase of Nostalgia, since the majority of the fragrance’s life is centered on a very simple amber-vanilla with birch smoke that eventually turns to mere vanilla and smoke.

In short, if you’re even slightly tempted, then don’t let the sound of Nostalgia’s opening scare you off. It is a scent that both men and women who love birch leather, smoky fragrances, vanillic leather, and Bvlgari Black should try. Nostalgia is very affordable, utterly fascinating, and extremely well done.

DETAILS
Cost & Availability: Nostalgia is an Eau de Cologne that comes in a 100 ml/ 3.3 oz splash bottle and which costs $125 or €95. In the U.S.: Nostalgia is available directly from Santa Maria Novella’s US website which offers free shipping for orders over $150. (You may need to buy an atomizer spray that they offer to go with the bottle, as I believe it might be a dab bottle, like some of their other fragrances.) Santa Maria Novella also has numerous other sections worth checking out. All items are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals. The Pet Section includes everything from Lemongrass Anti-Mosquito repellant in lotion form to No Rinse Cleansing Foams, and more. Santa Maria Novella also has stores in 5 U.S. cities from L.A., to New York, Chevy Chase, Dallas and Bal Harbour, Fl, and you can find those addresses on the website. Also, LAFCO, on Hudson St. in NYC, is said to carry the entire SMN line. I checked the LAFCO website, and I don’t see any Santa Maria Novella’s products on it, but I believe they carry them in-store. Other U.S. vendors: Brooklyn’s Dry Goods NY sells Nostalgia below retail for the old SMN price of $110, while NY’s Carson Street Clothiers sells it way above retail at $165. Aedes in New York seems to carry a good selection of some Santa Maria Novella products, from candles to soaps, along with Nostalgia for $125. You can order Nostalgia by phone from Luckyscent, but it is not one of the fragrances that you can order from the website. Frankly, there seems to be an odd situation with a few vendors being unable to sell SMN fragrances on their website, with one NL site explicitly saying that they received a directive from the company not to do so, but only to offer their fragrances in store. I don’t understand it.
Outside the U.S.: In Canada, a retail chain called Gravity Pope carries an extensive number of Santa Maria Novella products, from fragrances to shampoos, lotions and soaps. They show Nostalgia on their website, but for the reasons listed above, cannot sell it online but only in store. In Europe, you can turn to the Italian Santa Maria Novella website to buy Nostalgia, but I’m having a little trouble navigating the site. There is also no pricing that I can find. The SMN Farmacia has a number of European off-shoots: stores in London and in Paris. I can’t find an address for the Paris store, but the official distributor for the company’s products is Amin Kader Paris which has two stores in the Paris. Again, I can’t find Euro pricing information for the fragrance. On a side note, on a Fodor’s site, I read that Santa Maria Novella has shops in the following cities: Roma, Venice, Lucca, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna, Castiglione della Pescaia, London, Paris, and Livorno. In the Netherlands, Lianne Tio sells Nostalgia in her Rotterdam store for €95, but not on her website due to the SMN directive. Switzerland’s Osswald also carries the full SMN line, but doesn’t seem to have an e-store. In Poland, I found Nostalgia at Galilu, while in Auckland, New Zealand, it is available at Passion for Paper, though you can’t seem to buy it directly from the website. In Russia, the full SMN line, along with Nostalgia, can be ordered by phone from Ebaumer.
Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which carries Nostalgia starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial.