Oriza L. Legrand: Chypre Mousse, Horizon & Reve d’Ossian

Oriza logo. Sourc: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

An ancient perfume house whose fragrances have been brought back to life like Sleeping Beauty awakened with a kiss. Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza”) is not a well-known house, but its perfumes have a unique character that is redolent of the past and the classic French tradition. Yesterday, I provided an overview of the brand, its history and how its fragrances have been tweaked from the 1900s to suit today’s tastes. Today, I’d like to briefly review three Oriza perfumes: Chypre Mousse, Horizon, and Reve d’Ossian. The remaining four, primarily floral fragrances — Relique d’Amour, Jardins d’Armide, Oeillet Louis XV, and Deja Le Printemps — are the focus of another post.

CHYPRE MOUSSE:

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Oriza describes Chypre Mousse (at the link imbedded above in the title) as the essence of nature in autumnal woods:

After the first rainfall in September nature exude scents of humus, peat and wetland. [¶] This is the time for a promenade in the woods to enjoy the freshness after the heat of summer. [¶] Autumn encourages us to contemplate, to observate nature that gently prepares us for the coming winter and its frostbite.

The mossy paths, precious jewels of the undergrowth, are brightened by the last rays of sun. [¶] Cyprus-Moss evokes in us our surrounding nature which soon will be covered by the first fall of snow. [¶] Smell of damp undergrowth of scorched leaves and the scent of moss before picking mushrooms and chestnuts.

Chypre-Mousse, a Fragrance of the House Oriza L. Legrand launched in 1914 for the dandies of this world!

Top Notes[:] tonic & balsamic: Wild mint, clary sage, wild fennel & green shoots.
Heart notes[:] aromatic & flowing properties: Oakmoss, Galbanum, Angelica, fern, wild clover, Mastic & Violet leaves.
Backgrounds[:] Notes mossy & leathery: Vetiver, Pine Needles, Oak Moss, Mushroom fresh Humus, Roasted Chestnut Leather, labdanum & Balms.

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

As outlined in my earlier post on Oriza, I went to the boutique with the goal of sniffing and possibly buying a very different perfume, Horizon. I’m generally not one who buys a perfume without testing, especially given my crazy skin and how voracious it is. So, I sprayed both fragrances on my skin and on the sweater that I was wearing, walked out of the store to think about it, and headed on my way to Serge Lutens to buy my precious bell-jar. I went four blocks, sniffing myself throughout, then stopped dead in my tracks, and headed back. I had to have Chypre Mousse, then and there, without further testing. Suffice it to say, that is extremely unusual for me.

Source: photocase.com

Source: photocase.com

I’m not sure how to best describe Chypre Mousse. It’s not the typical oakmoss fragrance; it has neither the dark grey, mineralized, dusty fustiness of some oakmoss fragrances, nor the bright green, softly plush, fresh mossy feel of others. To me, it smells like the damp forest floor, wet leaves, dewy violets, earthy mushrooms, drenched forests, and a symphony of green, brown, grey, and purple. Again and again, I go back to Oriza’s description of “green shoots,” because there is something of youthful life that is pushing through the wet floor of a verdant forest.

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Chypre Mousse opens with a pungent but sweet oakmoss that feels as though it’s sprouted right off the bark of a tree deluged by rain. There is a dark leather underlying it, covered in resinous, piney tree sap, swirled with darkened mosses, and speckled with reddish mushrooms. The strip of leather lies atop a mound of leaves whose autumnal oranges and browns have turned darker with dampness and water. All around are bunches of fresh violets, pushing out through the soil, past the green shoots, and in the wet space left untouched by the gnarled, woody roots of surrounding pine trees. The dewy, sweet purple flowers form a bright spot of colour in the dark, green forest.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The leather, wood, mushrooms, wet leaves, violets, grass, and moss are backed by traces of other notes. The sweetest black earth, the freshest of green herbs, the stoniest of grey boulders, the darkest of tree sap, and just the subtlest hint of smoky incense. The forest has come alive in a symphony that is leafy, earthy, green, woody version of Serge Lutens‘ delicate floral masterpiece, De Profundis. There is the same sort of haunting delicacy, of dewy wetness, of youthful life. The two perfumes are fundamentally different in notes, but they share a very similar feel. And, oddly, there is something of a chrysanthemum undertone in Chypre Mousse. Perhaps it’s the slightly piquant, peppered, floral greenness created by the other accords together that creates that strange impression. Whatever the cause, Chypre Mousse has the same haunting, evocative impact on me.

The most interesting aspect of Chypre Mousse may be the more unexpected notes. I have no idea what the “hummus” reference in Oriza’s list means, but the mushroom-y touch is fascinating. So is the combination of that leather note which has somehow been transformed by the other elements into something familiar, and yet not. This is leather that has been left out in the rain to have Nature and the forest absorb it, transforming it into something that is more a part of their world.

Source: modavesen.com

Source: modavesen.com

Yet, what I consistently found myself thinking about were the violets or pansies, whose tender refrain wraps its ribbons around you. The funny thing is, I never knew Chypre Mousse included them in my four or five early wearings, and I thought I was quite mad for detecting their delicate, purple hues in a scent intended to be a mossy, mushroom, earthy, forest one. In fact, long before I actually looked at Oriza’s list of notes, I sprayed Chypre Mousse on four people, and asked if they could detect violets. They merely scrunched up their eyes, responding with some form of dubious: “I guess.”

For them, Chypre Mousse was something indescribable, inexplicable, odd, but utterly mesmerizing. A swirl of unusual notes in a well-blended, seamless, elegant bouquet that they couldn’t place or categorize. One Paris fashionista who tested it took a single sniff of her arm, and immediately said, “I’ve never smelled anything like it. Where can I buy it?!” She couldn’t describe it, and neither could two others. A fourth tester was an experienced perfumista, and just looked at me with bewilderment. “What is this??!” Her initial response was uncertainty, but every passing minute changed that. She loved how she couldn’t put her finger on the scent or what lay underneath it. Even more so, she was astounded by the trails of aroma that followed in the air around her. As someone whose skin squashes both projection and longevity, she couldn’t get over it.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

That brings me to Chypre Mousse’s sillage and longevity. It’s outstanding, even on my crazy, perfume-consuming skin. Two small sprays will create a large cloud all around me for the first hour, followed later by projection that extends about six inches. Later, when the sillage drops around the end of the third hour, Chypre Mousse continues to send out ribbons of scent in the air around you. And it lasts for ages. On average, I get around 10 hours with two small sprays, and well over 12 hours with more.

There are no entries for Chypre Mousse on Fragrantica thus far, but Ida Meister wrote a piece entitled Fragrant Snippets on a few of the Oriza scents. Like me, she was knocked off her feet by Chypre Mousse, and ordered a bottle right away. Her summation for the scent reads as follows:

It is Confession Time. I didn’t want to wait for another week: I ordered this edp PRONTO. 😉

Chypre-Mousse sings to me. All that lurks in the forest, humid and expectant after the first September rains. The exquisite aromas of the undergrowth; peat, mushrooms, humus. Moss and more moss; sheer delight for me, who craves that velvety green aromatic cushion beneath the nose, the feet, my fingers! A carpet of russet leaves underfoot, the seductive aroma of grilled chestnuts around the corner. Oriza may have had dandies in mind for Chypre-Mousse, but it is my ongoing intoxicating love affair with all things Green. I will wear my velvet cloak of chypre gratefully.

Chypre Mousse sings to me as well. I think it is an absolute masterpiece. To me, it doesn’t smell old-fashioned or dated for one simple reason: I’ve never smelled anything quite like it. From any age.

HORIZON:

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon was originally released in 1925, and Oriza describes the fragrance as the embodiment of its decade:

After World War I, the Roaring Twenties reflect the desire of the exotic and the need also through fashion and decoration. [¶] The East and particularly Asia, provide new HORIZONS. [¶] The frenzy for exotic travel and encourages artists to transcend the culture of the East in their creations: new silk, fine embroidery, pearl beads, woody scents, heady and sweet …

In the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, the female body is revealed, it abolished the corset, the flappers open the eyes and smoking languidly.

Slumming it in the salons of Paris!

The materials, colors, shapes symbolize a new freedom and portend, at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the hope of a new HORIZON. [¶][…] [An] Oriental fragrance for boys and tomboys, fragrance of Precious Woods and Ambergris agreements Tabac Blond and Soft Leather.

Top Notes: Bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose.
Heart Notes: Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa, Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli.
Base Notes: Benzoin, Amber Gray [ambergris], Peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Horizon called its siren cry to me the minute I read that long list of notes. Bitter orange and cognac? Patchouli and leather? Ambergris and tobacco? I was almost certain I would buy it, though things ended up differently when I smelled Chypre Mousse. But it was a very close thing. Horizon bloomed on my thin sweater with an explosion of Armagnac that was rich, nutty, and boozy beyond belief. I felt as though I’d actually had a bottle of aged brandy poured on me. Tendrils of smoke, patchouli, amber, and tobacco stirred underneath, but the main bouquet was a forceful explosion of booze in a kaleidoscope of reds, browns, amber, and gold.

It’s a different matter on skin. Very different, in fact, and significantly softer. I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t end up purchasing Horizon in the end for the simple reason that my skin seems to eat it up like a wolf who hasn’t seen food in weeks. I also can’t decide if Horizon is less complex on actual skin, or simply so much milder that all its layers aren’t as easy to detect. Whatever the case, Horizon is, for the most part, primarily just a boozy, cognac patchouli on me. You can definitely detect the other notes if you sniff closely and pay close attention, but, from afar, it is primarily a very soft patchouli cloud. I much prefer the deeper, more potent, robust version on fabric, alas.

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

On skin, smelled up close, Horizon opens with leather, patchouli, and cognac, followed by faint hints of bitter dark chocolate that grow stronger with the passing minutes. There are whiffs of caramelized, candied orange and something smoky. This is a true patchouli scent, in all its brown, red, amber glory, smelling spicy, leathered, ambered, and chewy, all at once. Lurking at the edges, there is subtlest hint of something nutty. It never smells almond-y to me, but more like toasted hazelnuts. The whole thing sits atop a base of ambergris that has the element’s special, unique characteristics: a very salty sweetness that is also slightly musky, marshy, sweaty, and rich.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

There is a definite chewiness and earthiness to Horizon’s opening that soon changes into something lighter on my skin. For the first 25 minutes, the perfume is a dark, dense, orange-brown-black mass in visuals, but it turns creamier, smoother, gentler. There are slow stirrings of a very custardy vanilla in the base. At the 45-minute mark, Horizon seems softer and thinner in weight, with sharply reduced sillage, and a movement away from that very dark, leathery, chewy patchouli and leather opening. The orange bits have receded, the boozy cognac has started to evaporate, dark chocolate has turned into milk chocolate, and the patchouli feels infused with cream.

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

I’m consistently saddened by how quickly the fragrance becomes airy and light. It sits soft and low, with a scent trail that really only lingers for about 40 minutes before it drops to hover an inch or two above the skin. And then it drops even more. At the end of the second hour and the start of the third, Horizon sits right on the skin as a blur of creamy patchouli amber with the tiniest hints of milk chocolate, vanilla, and cognac. By the 6.5 hour mark, Horizon fades away as a blur of patchouli sweetness. It has to be me and my wonky chemistry, for Horizon feels quite potent and forceful in the first ten minutes. And a mere spray on my shirt continues to pulsate in full force days later.

Those with normal skin seem to have fared much better. Take, for example, Ida Meister whose Fragrantica piece on Horizon talks about the perfume’s longevity, along with how beautiful and modern it felt:

1925. Really???

Horizon smells utterly contemporary—it brings to mind Bois 1920’s Real Patchouly and Chantecaille’s Kalimantan. Truly well-aged patchouli is a joy, even for many who are phobic about it, having been previously traumatized by the cheap 1960-1970’s “head shop” astringent nostril-singeing variety.  😉  Horizon is as suave as it gets: ambery, boozy, honeyed and oaken. It feels utterly without gender. Horizon is a resinous silk duvet which enfolds you tenderly and possesses remarkable longevity. You can be a throwback to the Summer of Love or a CEO in an Ermenegildo Zegna couture suit; either way, it fits. It is heavenly in its own right, and a perfect illustration of classicism: if the design is excellent, it will remain so in the future. [It DID.]

On Parfumo, the lone review for Horizon is extremely positive, and talks about 12-14 hours of duration. The chap also mentions that his immediate reaction to testing the scent was “this smells like vintage Yohji Homme.” I may be remembering things incorrectly, but I believe I read somewhere that Yohji Homme was one of Luca Turin‘s favorite fragrances, and something whose loss or changes he’s mourned. Going back to the Profumo review, the commentator describes Horizon’s development, in part, as follows:

Horizon opens with a quick dash of almond before a slight powdery cocoa note emerges, mingling with a subtle dark dulled rose. As the fragrance enters the early heart the cocoa turns less powdery, blooming to full milk chocolate, as it mixes with the primary heart accord of boozy cognac and benzoin-laced semi-sweet amber. Natural woods and a touch of underlying anise join the remnants of the dull rose in support. As the fragrance enters the late dry-down, the cognac and dull rose dissipate while the relatively sweet amber remains dominant, now joined by traces of sanitized patchouli and suede-like leather. Projection is average and longevity is excellent to outstanding at 12-14 hours on skin.

You have no idea how utterly envious I am of such longevity. I loved the opening minutes of Horizon on me and, even more, the complete cognac-fest that exploded on my clothing. On the basis of smell alone, Horizon’s initial bouquet is extremely close to the ideal patchouli that I’ve been looking for since my old favorite from the 1980s, even if the subsequent development became very different. Alas, Horizon doesn’t ultimately work for me, but I’m sure that you will have better luck. It’s a lovely fragrance.

RÊVE D’OSSIAN:

Reve d'Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Reve d’Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

The romantic, 19th-century poetic style of Ossianism with its poems of fairies, dark forests and mysterious wood are the heart of the inspiration for Reve d’Ossian. Oriza’s detailed explanation on the fragrance and its backstory reads, in part:

Reve d'Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Reve d’Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

The [Ossian-style] poems achieved international success (Napoléon Bonaparte was a great fan) and many writers, painters and artists were influenced by the works, including Ingres, Schubert and Oriza L. Legrand Perfumes. […]

“Rêve d’Ossian” is a perfect perfume for those who claim a difference and the rich heritage of the History. Dark and precious essences, wooden notes filled with the mystery of the forest with fairies and pixies…

Top Notes: Frankincense and Pine woods.
Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Benzoin, Tonka Bean and Opopanax [sweet myrrh].
Base Notes: Tolu Balm, Sandalwood, Leather, Labdanum, Amber and Musks.

Reve d’Ossian opens on my skin with sharp black pepper, myrrh’s white incense, warmly sweet cinnamon, aromatic pine needles, and dust. It’s like an old monastery’s library in the middle of some German forest. For me, the dominance of the dust and incense makes the opening share some thematic similarities to Bertrand Duchaufour‘s Dzonghka for L’Artisan Parfumeur and, to a lesser extent, Heeley‘s Cardinal. I’m not generally a huge fan of High Church fragrances with olibanum or myrrh, and even less so for things with great dustiness, so I’m rather pleased when the latter quickly disappears. Less than five minutes into Reve d’Ossian’s development, it vanishes, a small soapiness takes its place, and the whole thing turns more ambered.

FrankincenseQuickly, Reve d’Ossian turns into a warmer, woodier fragrance with flitting bits of green pine needles that feel as though you’ve crushed them on your walk through the forest and on your way to church. There is a dark resinous feel underlying the white incense smoke, a pungently aromatic overtone reminiscent of a wintery forest, and the feel of crisp, sweet, piney sap. Less than 60 minutes in, Reve d’Ossian turns soft, a hazy blur of the two types of myrrh incense — olibanum and opoponax — with a touch of amber and only a hint of the great, green, woody outdoors.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

At the 2.5 hour mark, the focus of the perfume shifts away from the incense. Reve d’Ossian is now largely an amber scent infused with nutty, warm, soft sweetness of myrrh and a hint of olibanum’s soapy whiteness. It lies right on the skin with extremely weak sillage. The fragrance turns into more of a blur, and, at the start of the 6th hour, all traces of amber and sweet myrrh opoponax fade away. In fairness to Oriza, a greater application (around 4 sprays from the atomizer) yielded far better results, just close to 7.5 hours. The sillage, however, remained moderate to soft.

Reve d’Ossian is one of the few Oriza fragrances to have a Fragrantica entry. With regard to longevity and projection, the majority of the votes put it at “moderate,” though a few also vote for “weak” in each category. The few reviews thus far are all positive in nature with the most detailed, descriptive one stating:

It’s quite close to a balsamic Baghari by Piguet.
A surprising opening, aerial and metallic (aldehydes and terpineols?) notes of pine, old wood and foam on wet stone but it’s warming gently, blowing a strange impulse to this myrrh fragrance. The smell of warm lightly ambered paper, dry almost dusty leather binder. An impression of moor in the autumn.
It is so at odds with our modern conception of the perfume he could be the last release of Comme Des Garçons: Odeur 1900, without changing anything.
Truly a beautiful work of resurrection of the house, all these completely forgotten fragrances are high quality, both modern in their treatment and completely faithful to the spirit of time: a real success.

I haven’t tried Piguet‘s Baghari or the Comme de Garcons‘ scent to be able to compare, but I do agree with much of his description, especially the parts about a dusty leather binder and the dominant role of the myrrh. I also agree that it has a high-quality smell. That said, I think Reve d’Ossian has some problems with it: it has a linear aspect, it’s not enormously complex, and it has sillage issues.

Nonetheless, I liked it, even though it’s not the sort of scent I normally go for, and I thought it was done with a lot of graceful elegance. There was something very appealing about Reve d’Ossian, very softly comforting in its amber heart. I actually don’t think it smells very dated at all, and it’s hard to believe that it was originally created in 1905, more than 107 years ago. When you think of how many scents from the early 1900s were floral orientals or chypres like Mitsouko, while today niche fragrance counters abound with a plethora of “churchy” incense, amber scents, it seems clear that Oriza L. Legrand was far ahead of its time.

Next time, we’ll visit the remaining four creations of Oriza L. Legrand which are largely floral fragrances that are centered around carnation, lily, and assorted spring bouquets.

PRACTICAL DETAILS:
WebsiteOriza L. Legrand. There is an actual e-Store that sells the perfumes and offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. The perfumes themselves are all eau de parfum in concentration, at around 18% perfume oil, and cost €120 for 100 ml/3.4 oz. Other vendors in Europe: For a few other French vendors, like Marie-Antoinette in Paris’ Marais quarter, as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands, you can check Oriza Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.

Oriza L. Legrand: The History, The Store & The Perfumes

When perfumistas with vast, expensive fragrance collections and tastes similar to yours urge you repeatedly to do something because “you’ll love it,” a person tends to listen. Again and again, before my Paris trip, I was told that I had to go to Oriza L. Legrand, not because I am a history fanatic, but because of the sophistication, complexity, depth and elegant luxuriousness of their perfumes.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

I’m glad I listened, because I was utterly entranced. The history is fantastic, the boutique utterly adorable and filled with quirky personality, and the perfumes are lovely. In one case, so absolutely incredible that it stopped me in my tracks while on my way to buy my precious bell-jar from Serge Lutens. Those of you who know me (and my feelings about Serge Lutens) will realise that it takes a hell of a lot to make me turn around in my set journey to my perfume mecca — let alone to get distracted enough from Serge Lutens to buy another perfume, then and there, and after a mere 15 minutes!

But that is precisely what happened with Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse, a fragrance that I will review (along with some others from the line) in another post. The funny thing is that I had actually gone to Oriza with plans to investigate a completely different perfume, a patchouli-cognac-amber fragrance called Horizon whose lengthy list of notes had called to me like a siren song. It’s a beautiful patchouli-amber, but, in the end, it could not compare to the utterly haunting, unique loveliness that is Chypre Mousse. To me, Chypre Mousse is the damp, mossy, forest, leafy version of Serge Lutens‘ delicate floral triumph, De Profundis. My fellow blogging friend, Undina, once described De Profundis as a “homage to life,” and I think that beautiful phrase is also the ideal way to describe Chypre Mousse. I mean it quite seriously when I say that I think the perfume is a masterpiece.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

I was impressed enough by Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) that I decided to begin my coverage with a little overview of the brand. So this post will address Oriza’s history, its return to the perfume scene, and, at the very end, some of the fragrances that stood out for me. It will also focus on how the perfumes may have changed from their very original formulation. I was lucky to stumble across a superb interview with one of Oriza’s new owners in which he explains how he’s dealt with perfume formulas that go back to 1899 and the early 1900s, the tweaks he’s made in order to offer a slightly modernized version, some very famous fans of the new fragrances, and more.

In addition, I have to include some photos from my own time in the boutique. I loved the time-capsule feel of the store with its vintage posters or adverts from the early 1900s, its quirky collection of bow-ties made from vintage silk, and its brightly coloured window displays. As usual for this trip, my tiny camera wasn’t very cooperative. Nonetheless, I hope it gives you a little sense of what the Oriza boutique is like, especially if you are planning a visit to Paris. At the very end will be a discussion of some of my favorite Oriza perfumes thus far, along with their notes, and an explanation of how you can try the line for yourself.

THE HISTORY:

1720, King Louis XV, and famous beauties. Far before Guerlain, Grossmith, Creed or the like, there was Oriza L. Legrand. The brand originated with Fargeon the Elder who set up his first shop in the Louvre Palace’s central court, and who made a fragrance for the young king. It probably helped Oriza even more that Fargeon’s potions and creams were rumoured to be the secret of Ninon de Lenclosa great courtesan known for her beauty and eternal youth.

Composite of old Oriza photos and adverts, created by forevergreen.eu .  http://forevergreen.eu/a-fleur-de-peau/reliques-parfumees/

Composite of old Oriza photos and adverts, created by forevergreen.eu .
http://forevergreen.eu/a-fleur-de-peau/reliques-parfumees/

In a 2012 interview with the French blog, Flair Flair, one of Oriza’s current owners, Franck Belaiche, explains both the company’s name and what happened next:

As for the name of the house, it derives from Oryza Sativa, the latin name for rice, which was part of the cosmetics’ ingredients.

Then in 1811, Louis Legrand took over the house as he understood all the potential prestige it had. With its fragrant creations, he pushed it to its full extent. It is him who introduced the perfumes in the house although Fargeon, in his time, had created a fragrance for Louis XV, the young king.

He created the most refined, the most exquisite, the most complex things. Legrand was a true fragrance artist, like the perfumers one encounters in [Patrick Suskind’s book] Le Parfum. […][¶]

[Eventually] Oriza was one of the rare houses that provided the Courts of Russia, England, Italy and France. In France, it lasted until Napoleon 3. The house was also one of the firsts to turn its fragrances into lines of products. It has become the most natural thing now, but it wasn’t back at that time. For Déjà le Printemps, you had a perfume, a powder, make-up, soaps… You see, when I saw the industrial, powerful and innovative aspects of the house, I fell in love right away. I wanted to give it a second birth and give it its prestige back.

At the start of the 1900s, Oriza continued to enjoy success. It participated in the World Fairs, which were very big things back then and one of the rare occasions when the very best artisans, merchants, and luxury lines could present all their wares in one place. In essence, it was a sort of prestigious Olympics.In 1889, Oriza took home the Gold Medal for its perfumes but, in 1900, it received the very top honours with the Grand Prize. I’ve found a photo of the perfume which may have won and which may have been named after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort.

One of the ancient Oriza baccarat bottles, as many used to be. This one seems to be for "Violets Prince Albert" and the winner of the First Place prize at the 1900 World Fair winner. Source: lylouannephotos.blogspot.com with the original on Flickr.

One of the ancient Oriza bottles, in baccarat crystal as many used to be. The name of this one translates to “Violets Prince Albert” and it seems to be the Grand Prize winner at the 1900 World Fair. Source: lylouannephotos.blogspot.com with the photo originally from Flickr.

Then, alas, things came to a crashing halt in the 1930s, and obviously WWII didn’t help matters. The house completely died.

THE RETURN OF ORIZA L. LEGRAND:

Franck Belaiche. Source: Flair Flair.

Franck Belaiche. Source: Flair Flair.

Decades later, a perfume lover stumbled across the Oriza name while doing research in a library. It was Franck Belaiche. As he told Flair Flair in the interview linked above, his background was in the movie and television industry, but he loved perfumes. So, he bought the brand with the goal of putting it back on its feet:

I’d spotted Oriza Legrand while doing some research and reading in libraries. Soon, I was fascinated by its story and how it was a precursor of so many things. The house seemed to me like it was one of the creating actors of today’s perfumery.  […]

What did you think when you bought it? What did you want to do with it?
I wanted to make it modern while keeping its essence and soul intact. I first had to select, among the 80 fragrances that had been created, which ones were likely to be adapted, reworked from their original formulas, and still be appealing. A good number of them are not easy to wear, especially since Raynaud and the steam extraction technique gave birth to many florals. But there were also a few synthetic molecules which allowed the creation of what we would call today “orientals”. I’ve had to work with the labs to see what we could do based on the formulas and also on the juices, since I have managed to get hold of some old, full bottles. I wanted to get close to the old perfumes while making them modern, without betraying them.

So from the beginning you wanted to make these formulas contemporary? It was never about saying “This is exactly what perfume smelled like back then”?
No, and let’s face it, that would have been impossible. First because of the raw materials that we can no longer use, and also because it would have mean making sent-bon (French for smell good). Besides, although these fragrances were high quality, they correspond to a time that is not necessarily ours. With Déjà le Printemps, just like the three others, we are very close to the original, but there is this little something that makes it modern. Careful though, reworking a fragrance does not mean making it attractive to a majority. Right now, I am working on the next two perfumes, which will come out at the end of January.

The whole 2012 interview is fascinating, excellent, and really informative. I urge any of you who may be interested in the technical aspects of how ancient fragrances are brought back to life, to read it in full. It addresses everything from the work process with the laboratory in Grasse and its chemists and perfumers, to the way that perfumes have changed since the time of Louis XV, and the company’s future plans. You can also learn more about Oriza, its current ownership, and the reconstruction of its scents from the lovely Caro of Te de Violetas who interviewed Mr. Belaiche back in September of this year.

One part I found interesting in the Flair Flair interview was Mr. Belaiche’s explanation for why all the new “re-edits” of the original Oriza line pertained to its 1900-era fragrances, instead of the 1720s one. As he explains, it would not have been easy to do a tweaked version of something like Violette du Tsar, a perfume created for the Tsar of Russia. Moreover, “not a lot of people would have enjoyed it, and then starting with old perfumes didn’t seem to me like a relevant way of bringing the house back to life.” (But aren’t you dying to know what that may have smelled like?!) Clearly, Mr. Belaiche is not trying to recreate fragrances merely for the sake of nostalgia and historical curiosity. Instead, he wants to do the house proper justice by making Oriza a viable, current, commercially successful brand with a long-term future. In other words, he’s not trying to create a museum, but a living and breathing house that has a chance of success beyond just the initial curiosity factor.

The Relique d'Amour.  Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

The Relique d’Amour. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Judging by the interest of two famous clients who are known for having exquisite, expensive tastes, I think he’s off to a good start. In the Flair Flair interview, Mr. Belaiche mentioned that the great Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani are fans of the line. According to Mr. Belaiche, Oriza’s customers generally fall into two groups:

either they are foreigners from Russia, America or the Middle East, fascinated by the house’s story; or they are demanding customers from France who don’t want to wear what everyone is wearing. We were pleased to welcome Catherine Deveuve and Isabelle Adjani, who fell in love with the house. […]

[Their perfume choices:] Déjà le Printemps for Catherine Deneuve and Relique d’Amour for Isabelle Adjani.

I met Mr. Belaiche when I went to the Oriza boutique, along with his business partner and fellow Oriza owner, Hugo Lambert. They were both charming and very kind, though Mr. Belaiche seemed to blink a little at the extent of my enthusiastic outbursts over the fragrances and their quality. I don’t think he’s used to someone babbling a thousand words of English a minute, mixed in with French, while sniffing everything, taking photos from every angle, suddenly stopping in their tracks to announce “Aha! Armagnac! This has aged cognac in it!” in response to one fragrance, and being the sort of whirlwind that is rather uncommon to the very restrained French. I hope he took it as the compliment that it is — there are many niche perfume houses these days, I’m extremely hard to please, and I rarely find a brand to have impressively sophisticated, high-quality, original, creative or luxurious offerings almost across the entire line.

Relique d'Amour poster. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Relique d’Amour poster and perfume label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

I’d like to thank Mr. Belaiche for letting me take photos of the boutique, and I can only apologise to him for my camera taking such poor photos. While I’m at it, I’d also like to thank Mr. Lambert for providing me with a small decant of the beautiful patchouli scent, Horizon, to go with my purchase, even though he had to dig up a long vial from the back. As a side note, I wish I had managed to take photos of all the vintage Oriza posters and adverts framed under glass in the store. They were fascinating, and I’m so glad the new owners have kept the brand’s aesthetic, both in terms of the feel of their boutique and their perfume’s packaging. I’m a complete sucker for Art Deco, so I love Oriza’s brightly coloured labels with the old-style, vintage fonts.

Without further ado, here are a few photos of the Oriza store on rue Saint-Augustin:

The exterior of the colourful store.

The exterior of the colourful store.

Oriza 4-B

One Oriza store window, featuring Chypre Mousse and some of its collection of vintage bowties.

One Oriza store window, featuring Chypre Mousse and some of its collection of vintage bowties.

Some of the soaps from the Oriza line.

Some of the soaps from the Oriza line, along with boxed perfumes wrapped in wonderfully old-fashioned, patterned paper.

Oriza 5 B

Part of the Oriza collection of bowties made out of vintage silk fabric.

Part of the Oriza collection of bowties made out of vintage silk fabric.

One of the bowties up close.

One of the bowties up close.

Some of the original 1900s posters and adverts for Oriza fragrances, now framed and under glass.

Some of the original 1900s posters and adverts for Oriza fragrances, now framed and under glass.

THE PERFUMES TODAY:

I think Oriza is going to go places simply because the majority of its perfumes really don’t smell like anything else that I’ve encountered. (Chypre Mousse…. oh, Chypre Mousse!!!) They have the classique feel of fragrances created in decades gone by, much like the very old Guerlains legends. It is a feel that — somehow, I don’t know how — seems miraculously untouched by the impact of IFRA. Like Sleeping Beauties put to sleep in 1900 and awakened today, the Oriza fragrances have body, layers of notes, a very rich, concentrated feel, and the elegant signature of something that is both very French and very “perfume.”

That said, I don’t think the perfumes are generally something that a novice perfumista with commercial tastes would relate to very well. These are not scents that someone used to Estée Lauder‘s Beautiful or Viktor & Rolf‘s Flowerbomb would understand. I think that perfumistas whose tastes skew towards uncomplicated, light, clean, and wispy scents would also struggle a little. None of the Oriza fragrances that I’ve tried thus far would qualify as “wispy” or simple — thank God. They’re nothing like the By Kilian‘s with their largely straightforward, basic nature, or sometimes gourmand fruitiness. They’re too purely French to be like an Amouage or a Neela Vermeire, though they sometimes share both those house’s opulent sophistication. They’re full-bodied and with a vintage feel in terms of both their potent richness, their complexity, and their sophistication. If you like the early Guerlains, the complicated originality of some Serge Lutens creations, or the sophisticated weight of Roja Dove’s fragrances, then Oriza L. Legrand will be for you.

Oriza's list of perfumes with their original date of production.

Oriza’s list of perfumes with their original date of production.

Thus far, Oriza has seven “returned” fragrances. The list of the eau de parfums with their original date of creation:

  • Relique D’Amour (1900)
  • Rêve d’Ossian (1900) -(Fragrantica gives a different debut date for Reve d’Ossian which it lists as a 1905 creation, but I’m going by what was listed in Oriza’s own shop window in Paris.)
  • Oeillet Louis XV (1909)
  • Jardins d’Armide (1909)
  • Chypre Mousse (1914) (Fragrantica incorrectly states that this one is from 1920.)
  • Déjà Le Printemps (1920)
  • Horizon (1925).
Jardins d'Armide. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Jardins d’Armide. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Though I haven’t finished testing the whole line yet, the ones I have loved the most thus far have been three. Chypre Mousse wins, hands down and by a landslide, as one of the most fascinating, haunting, evocative chypres I’ve smelled in ages. It is then followed with Horizon and Reve d’Ossian in a neck-and-neck position. The florals that I’ve briefly and cursorily tested thus far have sometimes smelled dated to me, though generally not in a bad way. Only one of those triggered a strongly negative reaction: Jardins d’Armide, which felt too painfully difficult and old-fashioned with its heavy powder and its soapy feel. However, my perception has to be put in the context of one who dislikes powdery scents, and who loathes anything soapy, even expensive floral soap!

So, what are the notes in some of my favorites? Oriza provides the following details for my top 3:

CHYPRE MOUSSE:

    • Top Notes tonic & balsamic: Wild mint, clary sage, wild fennel & green shoots.
    • Heart notes aromatic & flowing properties: Oakmoss, Galbanum, Angelica, fern, wild clover, Mastic & Violet leaves.
    • Backgrounds Notes mossy  & leathery: Vetiver, Pine Needles, Oak Moss, Mushroom fresh Humus, Roasted Chestnut Leather, labdanum & Balms.
Reve d'Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Reve d’Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

REVE D’OSSIAN:

    • Top Notes: Frankincense and Pine woods.
    • Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Benzoin, Tonka Bean and Opopanax [sweet myrrh].
    • Base Notes: Tolu Balm, Sandalwood, Leather, Labdanum, Amber and Musks.
Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

HORIZON:

    • Top Notes: Bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose.
    • Heart Notes: Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa, Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli.
    • Base Notes: Benzoin, Amber Gray [ambergris], Peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather.
Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

One thing that I need to emphasize about many of these note lists is that I don’t think they accurately convey the real nature of the fragrances. One reason is that the perfumes are superbly blended and a bit linear, so that you often get an overall effect, rather than a detailed, distinctive sense of each of their parts. For another, something about many of these fragrances is… well, for lack of a better term, other-worldly. I’ll be honest and say that one reason why I’ve put off reviewing Chypre Mousse is that I’m not sure I could even BEGIN to describe it properly and in-depth. I’m not one who is usually at a loss for descriptors or olfactory adjectives, but Chypre Mousse may be beyond my abilities. The smell is simply like nothing I’ve encountered.

Given how many of the perfumes really are a “sum total” effect due to their seamless, fluid, often linear structure, I fear I’m merely going to have to give descriptive snippets of each. At times, my account may amount to instinctive abstractions, as in the case of Relique d’Amour:

RELIQUE D’AMOUR:

    • Top notes: Fresh Herbs, Pine.
    • Middle notes: Powdery Notes, White Lily, Pepper, Oak, Incense, Myrrh, Elemi.
    • Base notes: Musk, Moss, Waxed Wood, Woody Notes, Pepper.

Oriza describes it as “the smell of an old chapel of Cistercian abbey.” I think that gives a misleading impression of the perfume, as do the notes themselves. It is far from a dusty, cold, dark, foresty, woody, High Church olibanum/myrrh scent. To me, it’s a very complex, unusual, quite twisted take on a lily scent that actually feels like a Serge Lutens, only very old in nature. Relique d’Amour is different, original, and stands out a mile away — and it won’t be easy to summarize it in the upcoming review. [UPDATE 11/6 — You can find my reviews of the full Oriza line at the following links: Chypre Mousse, Horizon and Reve d’Ossian in one post; and the 4 remaining, largely floral fragrances in this second post.]

All in all, I think Oriza L. Legrand is a line that is definitely worth exploring. Though there are no U.S. retailers (yet), it’s easy to order directly from the company. In addition to the full bottles of the perfumes, they offer a sample set of the complete line. It’s quite inexpensive at €9 for 7 fragrances that come in 2 ml vials, thereby giving you quite a few test wearings. I think it’s well worth the minimal cost, and I believe Oriza ships the samples world-wide. If you’d like to sniff very elegant, very French, perfumed Sleeping Beauties, brought back to life after more than a century and in a largely unchanged form, give Oriza a try.  

PRACTICAL DETAILS:
WebsiteOriza L. Legrand. There is an actual e-Store that offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. The perfumes themselves are all eau de parfum in concentration, and cost €120 for 100 ml/3.4 oz. Store address: 18 rue Saint-Augustin, 75002 Paris, France. Hours: Monday – Friday: 10:00 am to 7:30 pm; Saturday: 1:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Metro: Opéra ou 4 Septembre. Phone: 01 71 93 02 34. Other vendors in Europe: For a few other French vendors, as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands, you can check Oriza Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.

Paris Perfumers: Laurent Mazzone & LM Parfums

Fate, planning, and a little bit of serendipity gave me the chance to meet with three, very different, Paris perfumers during my trip. Actually, to be completely precise, one is primarily based in Grenoble, and one is an actual nose/creator, while the other two are more technically considered as perfume creators with their own houses. Semantics aside, I had a marvelous time with each one, and thought I’d share a little bit of the experience, each of which was very different but utterly memorable. Today, the focus will be Laurent Mazzone and some of the LM Parfums that I tried, including some gorgeous upcoming, new releases slated for November 2013 and early 2014.

LAURENT MAZZONE & LM PARFUMS:

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

Hotel Costes. Source: hotel-costes.semuz.com

The Hotel Costes on the Rue St. Honoré in Paris is perhaps the pinnacle of stylish, ne plus ultra, sophisticated cool. Velvet, opulence and excess are the bywords for the decor inside, but one of the main attractions is the indoor courtyard. And what a scene it is! Imagine a large, covered, indoor courtyard surrounded on high by Roman statues and greenery. At its pristine, white tables covered with crystal glasses, an array of pencil-thin, black-clad, social x-rays — draped in ennui as much as in Hermès — pose stylishly on thin, black chairs. Their fragile bones seem likely to be crushed by the great effort of lifting their cigarettes. And they’ve clearly followed the mantra and example of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s “Nuclear Winter” editor-in-chief, when it comes to haughtiness. Their male counterparts are all tanned, in dark suits with crisp white shirts that are opened a few buttons, and fixated on their cellphones as they sip a glass of chilled white wine with one well-shod limb elegantly crossed over the other. All around are a phalanx of haughty waiters, many of whom seem to be aspiring models, who look down their noses at your from their great height and seem almost offended that you’ve bothered them with a request. (Or perhaps they’ve simply got issues with people who ask for ice, or for directions to the loo? At the very least, they’ve got issues with a variety of things, and need a serious attitude adjustment.)

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Hotel Costes courtyard. Source: lefigaro.fr. photo : DR.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

Outside the Hotel Costes. Photo: my own.

As I walked up to the hotel from the aristocratic, luxurious Place Vendome just around the corner, a large chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce was idling, and a bodyguard talking into his microphone. The chauffeur stood in the middle of the road with the famous Chopard jewellers behind him. Hovering like a gaggle of geese, outside and in, were extremely tall, elegantly clad women whose clothing, looks, and attitude marked them as somehow being involved in Paris Fashion Week which was ending the next day (October 2nd).

It was into this overly hip, excessively cool, “in” scene that I arrived — sleep-deprived, with my voice half-gone from the early part of my trip, and feeling rather bedraggled, if truth be told. I was scheduled to meet Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne, the international business agent for LM Parfums, whose incredibly warm, sweet, and friendly emails had resulted in this meeting. We had begun communicating just a few days before my departure and after my enthusiastic, extremely positive review for LM Parfums‘ gorgeous Sensual Orchid.

As luck would have it, Laurent Mazzone was going to be in Paris for the fashion shows. He had greatly enjoyed the thoroughness of my review (happily, my verboseness seems to a positive thing for some people!), and invited me for drinks. When I warned Fabienne that my French was rusty and that I hadn’t spoken it consistently in almost 20 years, she offered to come along as well. (It was just as well because, despite her opinion that I wasn’t at all rusty, I most definitely am! Plus, in the fog of my exhaustion, I often blanked out on words or phrases. Merci, Fabienne, for saving my linguistic hide.)

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

Laurent Mazzone and Fabienne during Moscow Fashion Week 2013. Source: annarusska.ru

I found Laurent and Fabienne easily, sitting at a couple of tables in the corner along with Laurent’s partner, and was greeted with kisses and even a hug. Laurent Mazzone is a very dapper, youngish man in his early ’30s (I think), with a cherubic face, a naughty gleam in his mischievous, warm, brown eyes, and a big grin. He has an enormously exuberant personality, which I loved, and endless passion. Yet, he is also extremely serious when it comes to the subject of perfumery, and has a true commitment to the idea of making luxurious, sensuous perfumes in the grand tradition, but with a modern feel. There was enormous sensitivity in those brown eyes when listening to my comments about some of his line, sometimes followed by a huge, infectious smile from ear to ear when he saw that I understood and appreciated their nature.

Source: uae.souq.com

Patchouli Boheme. Source: uae.souq.com

He had brought a chic, black, and black-ribboned, LM Parfums bag of what I thought would be perfume samples. They turned out to be actual, full, 100 ml bottles of 3 of his fragrances: Ambre Muscadin, Patchouli Boheme, and the new, limited-edition, Chemise Blanche. Yet, despite my patchouli and amber obsession, I never tested any of those perfumes that day and, instead, ended up trying his forthcoming, new perfume, Hard Leather.

Hard Leather will be released in November, and I can’t wait because I absolutely loved it! In fact, I think I may have yelped or cried out rather loudly upon sniffing it because, suddenly, some tables of black-clad, haughty Parisians were turning around with raised eyebrows. I didn’t care, and I think I may have hugged Mr. Mazzone at one point over Hard Leather because it was (and is) absolutely fantastic. Mr. Mazzone describes it as an “animalic leather” that, to my opinion at least, isn’t particularly animalic or aggressive after the opening 10 minutes, but, instead, much more beautifully well-rounded and warm. It might be “animalic” by French standards, but I don’t think it is generally or as a whole, and especially not by Middle Eastern or Amouage standards.

Hard Leather has its musky side to be sure, but it’s primarily woody, sweet, rich, spicy, ambered, and incredibly sensual. From the first sniff, I could instantly tell that there was oud from Laos in it, with its own very unique, aged character, but what I liked about this version of it is that it didn’t smell fecal like so many fragrances that use that particular Laotian wood. Even better, there is none of that revolting Gorgonzola or cheese undertone that very aged Laotian oud can sometimes have. Soon after the agarwood announces itself, there is a burst of pungent civet which quickly calms down (in less than ten minutes), and melts into the rich, well-blended, richly burnished whole.

In essence, Hard Leather smells like your boyfriend’s leather jacket, lightly mixed with his musky scent, along with deep, almost honeyed, slightly smoky oud, and a vague tinge of floral sweetness, atop a base of ambered warmth. At times, it seemed to share some kinship with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque, which is one of my absolute favorite Lutens fragrances, but there are clear differences in smell. Even apart from the oud, Hard Leather has a little more edge at first, and is significantly more woody. It also seems to have a different (and much smaller) floral vein running through it. I can’t remember the rest of the notes that Laurent later told me about, but, if memory serves me correctly, there is iris absolute in Hard Leather as well. [UPDATE 10/17/13 – I have the official press release for Hard Leather with its sleek graphics and the full list of notes in the perfume.]

I also can’t recall the name of the perfumer with whom Laurent worked, but I laughed at his description of the process whereby he kept telling the nose to put in “more. More, more, more!” Not only is such a comment completely in keeping with Mr. Mazzone’s character, intensity and passion, but the perfume really has deep richness. I was so crazy about Hard Leather that Mr. Mazzone sent his friend up to their rooms to get his own small decant to give me as a gift, which resulted in a further exuberant outburst that undoubtedly horrified the Hotel Costes’ snobs, but too bad. This is such a fantastic perfume! I will do a review closer to the perfume’s launch date, but I’m telling guys, in particular, and women who like masculine, woody or leather scents: you need to check this one out.

Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

Some, but not all, of the LM Parfums line. Source: Silkcosmetics.nl

What I love about LM Parfums is that they are luxurious, sensuous, full-bodied, and rich. Hard Leather, unlike most of the perfumes from the line, is an extrait de parfum (only three of the current LM Parfums have that concentration), and clocks in at 20% perfume oil. All the perfumes, however, have an opulence that really harkens back to the golden age of perfumery. They’re not fuddy-duddy, old or dated in smell, but Laurent is clearly driven by his love for the classic perfume greats. These fragrances all feel like actual, serious perfumes — they proclaim their richness and luxurious nature without hesitation, announce their presence, and feel no shame over the fact that they are both perfume and French in nature.

Yet, the thing I found with Sensual Orchid and Hard Leather is that their richness contrasts with a surprising airiness in feel. These are not opaque, thick perfumes by any means! Based on what I’ve tested thus far from the line, even the sillage drops after about 2-3 hours to hover somewhat discretely just an inch or so above the skin. The perfumes are potent when smelled up close and linger, but they aren’t battleships of heaviness with nuclear projection that trails you for hours. (In all honestly, I wish they were like that, but I realise that my personal tastes are not the modern style, and that ’80s-style powerhouses are rarely made today.) Still, LM Parfums are all very French in feel or spirit. Mr. Mazzone mentioned a number of the perfume legends, like Guerlain’s Mitsouko, for example, and how he wants his perfumes to reflect the same sort of sophisticated complexity with layers of nuance.

His philosophy certainly shows in Hard Leather, but also in another upcoming fragrance called Army of Lovers. It is a chypre and, honestly, this is a true chypre! None of that neo-chypre or wanna-be, pretend, quasi-chypre business. (Le Labo’s Ylang 49, I’m looking straight at you with your revolting purple patchouli!) No, this is an actual, genuine chypre with an amount of oakmoss absolute that you have to smell to believe. It’s beautiful, very elegant, and reeks of class. It was created by Mr. Mazzone with a Robertet nose (I think) whose name I have now forgotten, and the perfume name references a Swedish group that Mr. Mazzone loves. I have to wonder if there will be any trademark issues in using the same name, but the perfume won’t be released until 2014, so I’m sure he has time to work out any problems that may arise.

I wish I could recall the notes in Army of Lovers, but all I remember now is how impressed I was with its elegance. At one point, I had Hard Leather on one shoulder or bicep, and Army of Lovers on the other — and I may have uttered a rather strangled, guttural moan. I certainly did something very loudly that seemed to have (further) shocked the constipated denizens of the Hotel Costes, and I saw a very disapproving gleam in our server’s eyes when he stopped by next. At this point, I most definitely did not care. Laurent Mazzone was spraying me with glee, and then himself, and we were standing up to sniff each other publicly without the slightest bit of thought to those around. I might have entered a slight fugue state at one point as the potent chypre of Army of Lovers, and the spicy, oriental, animalic leather-oud warmth of Hard Leather billowed out around me. I may have this incorrectly, but if I recall, I think Laurent Mazzone stated that Ambre Muscadin and Patchouli Boheme are two of the main corner stones or representational fragrances from his line. I suspect that either Hard Leather, Army of Lovers, or both will be soon joining them.

In telling you all this, I’m being completely honest. Just as I am when I say that there were some things I smelled that day that were not my cup of tea at all. Very well-made, and beautifully blended, yes, but most definitely not my personal style. Mr. Mazzone sprayed me with something and — blame my usual bluntness or, perhaps, massive sleep-deprivation — I instinctively recoiled, my whole body jerked back, and I grimaced. It was some floral fragrance with purple, fruity patchouli and a synthetic element. So much purple, sweetness, and fruitiness! I had blocked out the name entirely due to my sheer horror, but, in looking over the list of names in the LM line now, I suspect it was O de Soupirs.** If I recall correctly, Mr. Mazzone described its feeling or inspiration as something a woman would wear before going to a rendezvous with her lover. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out something along the lines of “Absolutely not! This is for a 14-year old girl!” (Oh God, now that I’m remembering more of the day, I think I even tried to rub it off my arm with a napkin!)  ** [UPDATE: it turns out the fragrance I didn’t like was a new, upcoming, not-yet-released perfume called Lost Paradise. It will be launched in 2014. — Further Update 1/29/14: the name has been changed to Ultimate Seduction. ]

I usually try to be more tactful and polite, so I’m quite chagrined at my rudeness, but I really couldn’t help the outburst or my instinctive, gut-level reaction. There was a pause in the conversation, and Mr. Mazzone blinked, but he was extremely gracious about it, though there was a hurt look in his sensitive eyes. I tried to explain that I was always very honest in my opinions, and that my candour should let him know that I was quite sincere in my raves for the other two perfumes. He actually seemed to like that a lot, but he’s also incredibly polite, so perhaps I’m just hoping that he put it all into context.

Even before this incident, Mr. Mazzone had quickly caught onto my personal tastes, which strongly mirror his own, so it wasn’t a surprise when he immediately noted that I would very much dislike another perfume that he had included in the very generous “samples.” It was the new, recently released but limited-edition Chemise Blanche which — unlike its siblings — is not done in a black, velvet box imprinted with the LM Parfums logo. It’s also not in one of the black bottles that Mr. Mazzone has intentionally made almost just barely opaque, but not quite. He was concerned that perfume owners would not be able to see how much was left in their bottle if it was a solid black, so he specifically had the glass done in a way which would show how much liquid was left if the bottle was held up to the light. I loved the thoughtfulness and attention to detail involved in that, especially as the issue of remaining quantity is a problem that I always have with my old, jet-black bottle of Fracas.

Chemise BlancheInstead, Chemise Blanche is in a clear, glass bottle and in a white velvet box. The reason Mr. Mazzone was sure I would dislike it is because it is very much the opposite of my favorites from his line: it’s a perfume centered around aldehydes and citruses. To me, it very much evokes something crystalline in visuals, almost Alpine, if you will: white, pure, clear, airy, and very light in feel, despite being an extrait in concentration. According to Fragrantica, the notes include:

aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, iris, lily of the valley, rose, benzoin, tonka, amber and musk.

To my surprise, given my loathing for aldehydes, the note was much tamer than I had expected but, alas, even Mr. Mazzone admitted that Chemise Blanche smelled of soap and dishwashing liquid on my skin. (By now, sniffing yet my another portion of my shoulder, we were really receiving some strange looks!) Chemise Blanche is not my style at all, and my skin is always a huge problem when it comes to aldehydes, but I freely admit that the perfume is very well-done. Actually, with a few wearings, I occasionally persuaded myself that Chemise Blanche might almost be something I would opt for if I were looking for a crisp, light, gauzy perfume with a citric edge. Almost. I’m wearing Hard Leather as I write this, and I doubt I would ever go for crystal white when I could have shades of richly burnished brown, red, black and amber instead!

Nonetheless, Chemise Blanche turned out to be quite a hit with my friend with whom I was staying and who has very difficult perfume tastes. It’s not only that she is someone whose tastes are the polar opposite of mine; it’s also that she finds almost everything to be “too sweet” or “too strong.” She recoils in horror at even the slightest bit of Orientalism or spice, isn’t a huge fan of most pure florals, and adores airy, light, clean and citrusy fragrances. Even in that last category, however, she thinks the vast majority are “too sweet.” (It was quite interesting going perfume-shopping with her one day! No matter what citrus fragrance I found for her, almost all were rejected and, in a few cases, deemed to be “too masculine” as well.) Chemise Blanche, however, smelled lovely on her skin, and she seemed almost convinced that it wasn’t the dreaded, verboten “sweet.” (It is not. Not even remotely!) So, I left her a large decant for her to test out while she decides if it is full-bottle worthy. 

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

Laurent Mazzone. Source: unique.ru.com

All in all, I had an absolutely wonderful time meeting Laurent Mazzone, his partner, and Fabienne. They were incredibly warm, friendly, effusive, generous, and filled with life. It was truly fun, whether we were laughing over Mr. Mazzone’s astringent views on some of the Paris Fashion Week collections, sniffing each other publicly, or having passionately robust discussions about the state of perfumery in the past versus today.

You know, all perfumers talk or claim that they put a little bit of themselves or their personalities within each fragrance, but it’s not always true. Commercial perfumery certainly doesn’t have that, and neither do some purportedly “niche” lines. Yet, in sniffing the various LM Parfums, I can actually and genuinely see a little bit of Mr. Mazzone in most of them. There is a quietly refined, passionate lustiness or sensuality in the ones that I’ve tried — whether it’s the overtly sexy Sensual Orchid, the smooth, sweetened, goldenness of Ambre Muscadin, the hugely smoky Patchouli Boheme with its almost mesquite-like opening, or the more masculine Hard Leather — that really seems to epitomize different parts of the gregarious, outgoing, exuberantly passionate man I met. Chemise Blanche seems to be an anomaly, at least to me personally, in terms of that character assessment theory, but the line certainly carries something for everyone and its clean crispness should definitely appeal to some modern tastes.

I may end up doing a proper review for Chemise Blanche down the line, but I definitely plan to cover Patchouli Boheme and Ambre Muscadin. Hard Leather as well, when it is released next month. In the meantime, if you have the chance to try any LM Parfums, do give them a sniff. The line is now in the U.S., and is no longer exclusive to Europe. Plus, Osswald in New York has a very affordable deal on samples which should make testing quite easy. For readers in Europe, the line is not hard to find, and LM Parfums sells 5 ml decants at a very reasonable price (€14 or €19). As for me, I suddenly fell upon the genius idea of layering Sensual Orchid with Hard Leather on occasion, and now, I really have to get my hands on a proper decant of both. The people at the Hotel Costes are lucky they’re not around to witness my reaction….

[UPDATE: I have now reviewed Ambre Muscadin and Hard Leather, with shopping information and pricing information provided in the appropriate reviews.]

Disclosure: Some of the perfumes covered in this post were, as noted, provided by LM Parfums. There was no financial compensation for any of this. I don’t do paid reviews or posts, and my views are my own. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: LM Parfums always come in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The European price is generally either €120 (€125 at some online vendors), or €195 (or £195). The American retail price is either $175 or $225. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances used to be European exclusives, but the range just came to America two months ago. It’s sold exclusively at OsswaldNYC. For some strange reason, the website seems to show only two fragrances now, and not all the ones it had earlier when I reviewed Sensual Orchid. In terms of samples, none of the U.S. perfume sample sites currently carry the LM Parfums line, but Osswald has a special deal for all its perfumes for U.S. customers who telephone the store: 10 samples for $10, with free shipping in the U.S., and it’s for any perfumes that they stock! That means the full, existing, current LM Parfums line (or whatever parts they may now carry of it), and some other goodies only found at OsswaldNY, for less than a $1 a vial! The deal is only available for telephone orders, however, so you have to call (212) 625-3111. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can buy the perfumes directly from LM Parfums for €125 or €195. (At this other LM Parfums site, some of the bottles are priced at €120.) Samples are also available for €14 or €19, depending on the perfume in question and its concentration, and they come in a good 5 ml size. In the UK, the LM Parfums line is carried exclusively at Harvey Nichols. In France, you can find the perfumes, and 5 ml samples of each (usually about €14) at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the full line and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at Silks Cosmetics or Parfumaria. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume retailer. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well. 

Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chyprée: Bewitching Opulence

“‘Tis the last rose of summer,” once wrote the famous 19th-century Irish poet, Thomas Moore, in a poem that later inspired everyone from Beethoven to Felix Mendelssohn. The line definitely comes to mind when I wore Une Rose Chyprée, a spectacular chypre-oriental hybrid that features an autumnal, amber rose. Yet, that is only one part of the story.

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

At the same time, Une Rose Chyprée also conjured up everything from a coquettish, youthful, warm Audrey Hepburn in the 1960s, to thoughts of a woman’s warm, heated flesh as revealed by an opulent, dramatic dress cut low enough to seduce. It is a scent that is surprisingly playful and welcoming for a chypre — normally a very cool, haughty, aloof fragrance family — but Une Rose Chyprée is graced by an oriental seductiveness as well. I’m not one who goes weak in the knees for chypres, let alone scents that are primarily rose-centric in nature, but Une Rose Chyprée may be the best rose I have smelled in years and it completely swept me off my feet.

Source: Tauer Perfumes

Source: Tauer Perfumes

Une Rose Chyprée (sometimes written as “08 Une Rose Chyprée“) is an eau de parfum released in 2009 by Andy Tauer, the founder and nose behind the much-adored Swiss niche house, Tauer PerfumesOn Fragrantica, the fragrance is classified as chypre floral, but it seems more accurate to me to call it a chypre-oriental hybrid. The Tauer website supports this impression, describing Une Rose Chyprée as:

An exclusive oriental rose on a vintage chypre chord.
Une Rose Chyprée is a modern vintage perfume. It reaches back to the craft of traditional high perfumery, using a luxurious setting of raw materials. At the same time, I wanted it to be a rose of today, that speaks our language.

According to Luckyscent, the notes in Une Rose Chyprée include:

Rosa Damascena Absolute and essential oil, Bay, Cinnamon, Bergamot, Lemon, Clementine, Bourbon Geranium, Labdanum, Oak Moss, Patchouli, Vetiver, and Vanilla.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

I tested Une Rose Chyprée three times, and, each time, it opens on my skin with a bouquet that’s so sultry and exquisite, it feels like a growl that eventually turns into a sensuous purr. There is smoky incense intertwined with the peppery, spicy bite of fuzzy, green geranium leaves, followed by tart, green, unripe lemons and rose. The rose begins this journey as something green and mossy, but soon takes on a bubblegum, fruity undertone. There are momentary flickers of a purple grape underlying the flower’s tightly closed bud, perhaps from the patchouli or something like methyl anthranilate, but they are soon replaced by hints of sweet clementine.

Photo: Arbyreed on Flickr, (Website link embedded within, click on photo.)

Photo: Arbyreed on Flickr, (Website link embedded within, click on photo.)

Every part of the citrus is there: the sweet, sun-ripened, heavy pulp; the squirting oil of its zested, slightly bitter rind; and the candied flesh, crystallized with hints of dark, earthy, chewy, black patchouli. The smorgasborg of notes swirls into the geranium, adding brightness to its piquant verdancy in a combination that has me utterly enraptured. Sweet but peppered, orange but green, zesty but spicy, sun-laden warmth but fuzzy, leafy darkness. It’s a chiaroscuro of light and dark that weaves its intoxicating, unexpected, and original thread throughout a good portion of Une Rose Chyprée’s early hours, and I can’t get enough.

Source: wallpapersnatural.com

Source: wallpapersnatural.com

At the heart of Une Rose Chyprée’s tapestry is the rose. It swirls all around you in a veiled shimmer of greens, garnet red, earthiness, and mossy trees — all rolled into one. This is a green rose whose petals were crushed into the damp, wet soil of the forest floor; a rose that lies nestled amidst fresh, just slightly mineralized, faintly bittersweet mosses; a rose infused with the concentrated essence of a thousand dark green, slightly spicy, peppered leaves, then sprinkled with hints of alternatively tart and zesty citruses. It is a rose that is fruited, but spiced with cinnamon, and wrapped with the tendrils of black incense. It is a rose that smells like bubblegum at times, like grapes once in a while, and even like bananas or earthy mushrooms in different tests.   

Une Rose Chyprée is a swirling kaleidoscope of all those things, and then some. This is a fragrance with so many facets and dimensions, it made my head spin. It made me test the perfume twice, doubting that it was possible that I was accurately smelling such nuances (bubblegum? mushrooms?), and it left me quite awed. It was so fabulous, I have worn it for a third time, almost draining my sample that a very kind, generous reader of the blog — the lovely “Dubaiscents” — gave me as a gift. I even went to see what The Ultimate Perfume Snobs — aka, my parents — thought of it, and if you think my reaction is fervent, you should have seen theirs! My father actually put Tristan und Isolde on pause to ask about the perfume — and few things distract my father from his Wagner.

Source: hqwalpapers.com

Source: hqwalpapers.com

I think the real appeal of Une Rose Chyprée is that it’s not a haughty fragrance. A number of classic or vintage chypres keep you at a distance with oakmoss that can be coldly pungent, fusty, or slightly dusty, or with galbanum that can feel as sharp as the crack of black leather whip. Une Rose Chyprée is almost a coquettish chypre that beckons you with a sweet smile, despite the emeralds and rubies glowing around her elegant, rosy throat. The perfume’s opening is that of a chypre suited to Audrey Hepburn whose slim elegance and classic style never hid her sparkling, elfish beauty and approachable warmth. From Eliza Doolittle going to the ball in a tiara, to Holly Golightly, to Audrey herself in her perfect little black Givenchy dress with a radiant smile, Une Rose Chyprée combines the refined elegance of a classic chypre with a warmth that is open, modern, bright, and always approachable.

It’s not all a bed of roses, however. There are thorns in the form of a synthetic or two that lurks in the perfume’s base. At first, around the 40-minute mark, there is merely a sharp note that is hard to pinpoint, but which gives me a dull ache behind my eyes. It feels woody, but not exactly like ISO E Super at first. Soon, unfortunately, the aroma-chemical’s telltale peppery, humming buzz makes itself noticeable, along with a rhythmic jack-knife drilling through my skull. It lasts for hours and, since I don’t always get an ISO E Super headache unless there is a hell of a lot of the synthetic at play, I rue one more time Mr. Tauer’s love for the bloody note. (No, Mr. Tauer, not everyone thinks it serves as a wonderful photoshop-like finishing touch!) Given the forcefulness of the synthetic carrion vulture circling around my head, I suspect that there is something else going on as well, like Ambroxan. Whatever the specific synthetics in question, it’s a testament to Une Rose Chyprée that I don’t care in the slightest. That says a lot. Regular readers know that I think the rampant use of ISO E Super in perfumery is akin to an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, and that I despise the majority of fragrances that include it. But Une Rose Chyprée is special.

Around the same time that the devil’s chemical minions pop up their blasted head, Une Rose Chyprée starts to slowly morph. First, it’s just a question of feel, as the notes start to blur and overlap each other. Then, the fragrance starts to turn more gauzy, like a sheer veil of garnet red and mossy green gliding in the air like a kite. Yet, despite the breezy weight of the fragrance, Une Rose Chyprée is incredibly potent and pulsates its bouquet out across a room in a beautiful juxtaposition of airiness with strength. Perhaps the best way to describe it is like a cloud that billows out several feet around you, with notes that reflect brightness, lightness and dark.

Vanilla Custard. Source: Sacchef's Blog.

Vanilla Custard.
Source: Sacchef’s Blog.

Another change is that Une Rose Chyprée starts to manifest faintly gourmand undertones. Vanilla starts to rise to the surface; it’s beautifully creamy, rich, and custardy, with such a ripe sweetness that it almost takes on a banana custard aspect on occasion. At the same time, a sugared, floral powder quality creeps into the scent. When it combines with the vanilla custard, the sun-sweetened clementine, the rose, geranium, and the cinnamon, the result is something that actually smells of pink bubblegum. One reason may stem from the patchouli which feels fruity on occasion, but whatever the cause, there is a definite candied, pink, bubblegum tonality to the rose that manifested itself on all three occasions that I tested Une Rose Chyprée. Somehow, it adds to the fragrance’s playful, flirtatious open side, underscoring once again what an unusual sort of chypre this is and how it straddles different perfume families.

"Rose Reflections" by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

“Rose Reflections” by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

Yet, despite the quiet, fruited undertones, Une Rose Chyprée is still primarily a rose scent with green notes that are wrapped up in a ribbon of black smokiness. A third verdant element pops up around the 90-minute mark: vetiver. It’s simultaneously a bit earthy, musky, and rooty all in one, a swirl of dark greens and browns. I suspect that it’s responsible for the occasional mushroom nuance I detect, but what makes it really special is the way it interacts with the vanilla. Vetiver and vanilla are an old, established combination in perfumery, but it’s done extremely well here in conjunction with the other notes. It works particularly well with the flickers of spicy, peppered geranium leaves and the fading whisper of juicy citruses. And, somewhere in this complicated, unusual, multi-faceted mix is a hint of beeswax from the labdanum.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

The beeswax heralds the arrival of the final, and most substantial, change to the fragrance. One hour and forty-five minutes into Une Rose Chyprée’s development, the amber becomes prominent, lending a golden hue to the rose’s glossy garnet and mossy, emerald gleam. The labdanum here doesn’t have any of its usual, typical characteristics; it has no leathery, nutty, animalic, musky, masculine or dirty undertones. Instead, it’s merely a smooth, rich glow, infused with that sweet vanilla custard and a tinge of fruited patchouli. Resinously deep, it sweeps through the fragrance like a coursing river of molten, amber lava flecked with hints of cinnamon, beeswax, vanilla, and earthy vetiver. As the sweeter, warmer elements surge forward, the geranium-oakmoss-clementine trio weaken in strength, and Une Rose Chyprée loses some of its youthful, coquettish playfulness. Slowly, the fragrance starts to turn into an Oriental that is more seductive and openly sensual.

The labdanum grows stronger and stronger until, at the start of the fifth hour, it completely transforms that mossy, smoky, slightly bubblegum, fruited rose. Une Rose Chyprée has become primarily an amber scent, emitting a caramel tonality mixed with vanilla custard, patchouli, and a hint of floral powder. The rose is almost wholly abstract now, feeling like a supporting player on the sidelines. The green notes have receded or faded completely away, leaving a scent that is resinous and almost chewy in feel. The patchouli that was once almost fruity has now turned into my absolute favorite kind: black, dark, faintly spiced, lightly musky and smoky, and completely chewy. It folds and melts into the amber and vanilla custard, creating a very sexy, sumptuously rich scent.

Dior Couture. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for "Dior Couture," a  book by Ingrid Sischy, Patrick Demarchelier.

Dior Couture. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for “Dior Couture,” a book by Ingrid Sischy, Patrick Demarchelier.

Something about the fragrance’s dramatic opulence and warm, sensuous creaminess makes me think of the suggestion of a woman’s golden, musky, voluptuous flesh languidly spilling out from a deep décolleté. Une Rose Chyprée is no longer a gamine, playful Audrey Hepburn rose. Instead, it’s now an oriental seductress in an amber and patchouli haute couture ball gown tantalizing you with suggestions of heated warmth and musky, sweet abandon. And the fragrance remains that way until its very end. Around the 7.5 hour mark, the fragrance turns into a hazy blur of golden sweetness that hovers right above the skin. Powdery touches (that I really don’t like) come and go, until the 9th hour, when Une Rose Chyprée begins its final change into a simple wisp of lightly powdered amber.

All in all, Une Rose Chyprée consistently lasted over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. During the first test, I applied 4 large smears of the scent, and the perfume lasted well over 16.5 hours. The sillage was monstrously huge, wafting a good 2-3 feet across the room, and it remained that way until the 5th hour when it dropped to about 3-4 inches above the skin. Even when Une Rose Chyprée was closer to the skin, it was still extremely potent. In fact, the fragrance only became a skin scent on me around the middle of the 9th hour. All in all, the longevity was utterly astounding, especially given how voraciously my skin eats perfume, but it is also further proof of the synthetics underlying the mix.

The second time around, I applied my usual quantity of two large smears, and Une Rose Chyprée lasted just over 12.75 hours. There was a difference in the perfume’s development, as the ISO E Super seemed substantially more prominent, and the top notes (particularly the geranium-moss-clementine accord) were significantly weaker. By the same token, the perfume seemed much smokier and a wee bit more spiced at a lower dosage, while the fruited notes were more muted. In addition, the powdery quality to the fragrance crept in much sooner, as did the resinous amber undertones. In short, if you use a small quantity of Une Rose Chyprée, your skin may not bring out the fragrance’s top notes in quite the same way and the fragrance may lose some of its more beautiful nuances. Other than those small issues of strength and timing, the core essence of Une Rose Chyprée remained unchanged. With the lesser dosage, the sillage dropped faster, and the fragrance became a skin scent around the 6th hour, but it was always very potent in feel and it still lasted an incredibly long time.

My experiences with Une Rose Chyprée differs from that of a few people. For one thing, there are dramatically polar opposite accounts about the perfume’s sillage and duration. On both Luckyscent and Fragrantica, a number of people think the perfume simply doesn’t last and has weak projection. In fact, going by the votes on Fragrantica, the majority find the Une Rose Chyprée’s longevity is merely “moderate.” Even more people, combined, think that the perfume’s duration is “poor” or “weak.” My response to that is the same as one disbelieving reviewer’s reaction: I “can’t believe what im seeing.” The explanation may lay in the quantity used. My own experiences, and the 2nd test in particular, make me think that applying a very drop or two of the fragrance will curtail its potency, in addition to hiding its nuances and layers. Still, skin chemistry is a tricky and deeply individual thing, so be warned that some people have problems with Une Rose Chyprée’s projection and duration.

As for the fragrance itself, general commentators seem split on its appeal, with some finding it to be too heavy and old, while others think it is the most beautiful, “extravagant” or “3D” rose they’ve encountered. It will all depend on your benchmarks. I wouldn’t recommend Une Rose Chyprée to anyone looking for a light, fresh rose fragrance, nor to those looking for something edgy, revolutionary, or quirky. Une Rose Chyprée was intentionally created to be a modern twist on a very classic, traditional style of perfumery, and it succeeds in that goal beautifully. This is a fragrance with a heavy, vintage feel, so those who want a light, youthful, simple fruity-floral should not bother one iota. But, if you’re looking for an over-the-top glowing jewel of a rose that throws out more notes than a diamond hit by the sun, or if you’re looking for an opulent scent with a wickedly sensuous, seductive, “come hither” allure, then Une Rose Chyprée is for you. I’d also like add that anyone who was deeply disappointed in Frederic Malle‘s much-vaunted (and, in my opinion, hugely over-hyped) rose fragrance, Portrait of a Lady, should run to try Mr. Tauer’s stunner. This is how it’s done!

Ava Gardner.

Ava Gardner.

If you think all this fuss is from a blogger with an over-active imagination, you’d be mistaken. For one thing, as I said at the start, I don’t particularly like rose fragrances to begin with, and chypres are not my favorite category. More importantly, however, reviews from everyday perfume users gush just as much about the fragrance as do all the bloggers out there (and trust me, the bloggers lose their knickers for Une Rose Chyprée). On MakeupAlley, where the fragrance has a perfect 5.0 score with 8 reviews, one apt description of the scent succinctly reads:

This fragrance is gorgeous and dark. It is sexy, animalic, and gutsy. If I had to give you a visual, I would say Ava Gardner in her prime.
Haunting, fascinating, utterly gorgeous.

I personally would go with 1950s Audrey Hepburn for the fragrance’s chypre opening stage, but let’s not quibble. She’s absolutely and completely right about Ava Gardner for the middle and end stages.

That said, don’t interpret these comparisons as something that feels dated and old. Another raving MakeupAlley review talks about how the scent felt just as appropriate in a grunge pit and jazz club, as it did at the opera:

I tend to avoid roses as they are often too pink and polite to my nose [….]. Une Rose Chyprée is different. Despite its wide range of notes that feel like a salute to different fragrance families, it is a unique interpretation that does not have a futile attempt to satisfy the chyprée and gourmand lovers at the same time- how horrendous would that be! On the contary, it is a tremendous blend that hints at an intelligent crossroad but does its own thing in a versatile way. On me, the oakmoss base gives a fantastic depth to the vintage rose but the result is just like modern classical music sounds to my ears. I am a music lover and I have worn this to the opera. I felt like I was dressed in velvet. I wore it to a couple of grunge and noise gigs with deep V necks and felt super accessible and unreachable at the same time. It also goes well with jazz clubs. My next plan is to stock this masterpiece, be forced to declare bankruptcy and feel completely untouchable at the courtroom i.e. I am addicted.

Finally, if any of these references or photos make you think that guys can’t pull off Une Rose Chyprée, think again. But don’t take just my word for it; the award-winning blogger, Persolaise, thinks so, too. In a comment on Basenotes (where Une Rose Chyprée has a 91% approval rating), he gives it 5-stars and writes:

The ghosts of all the old, bewitching Guerlains are to be found in Une Rose Chyprée, a pitch-perfect manifestation of pure sensuality. My initial reaction to it was to let out a gasp of astonishment and exclaim, “I don’t think I’ve got enough noses with which to smell this.” Yes, in simplistic terms, it’s a rose, but then, a rose is a rose is a rose… Earthy and sparkling, this is a substance of gilt-edged richness, which also accomplishes the feat of remaining unabashedly unisex throughout its development.

I completely agree. Une Rose Chyprée is unabashedly unisex with the luxurious, opulent quality and elegance of a vintage Guerlain, while still retaining a very modern drama and oomph. It’s got a refined elegance that turns into a deep-throated growl of sensuality. And it has enough prismatic nuances that you will, indeed, think you need a few more noses with which to smell it.

Source: hdwallpaperes.com

Source: hdwallpaperes.com

One downside to the fragrance is that it’s not cheap for the small size at $140 for a 30 ml/ 1 oz bottle. That said, it is an eau de parfum in concentration, and a tiny amount of Une Rose Chyprée goes a long, long way. Plus, the ingredients are extremely expensive. At the fragrance’s launch in 2009, Mr. Tauer said that each hand-packaged bottle contains one pound of steam-distilled rose petals, as well as rosa damascena absolute. In one of his recent blog entries, he wrote that his rose base “comes to 450 Francs per kilo. That’s the price you have to pay for a real rose base. Actually, compared to the rose absolute per se it is a bargain (rose absolute sells for about 4000 $ [.]” That costly rose damascena absolute is a big part of Une Rose Chyprée, as well. In short, the reason why the fragrance costs so much is the same reason why the rose glows like a jewel: it’s got the real stuff in there, and in huge quantities to boot.

I could write several thousand more words about the beauty of this scent, and why it feels so special. I’ll spare you that. The bottom line is that Une Rose Chyprée may be, at its heart, an essentially simple green-then-ambered rose, but it’s greater than the sum of its parts. To expand on the line from the poet, Thomas Moore, ’tis the last rose of summer whose refined green-red brightness has now given way into autumn’s sultry red-golden amber. It’s also the sexiest, most compelling, addictive, mesmerizing, bewitching rose-centric scent that this rose-skeptic has smelled in a long, long time. I bow down at Mr. Tauer’s feet in utter admiration.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Une Rose Chyprée is an eau de parfum that comes in a 30 ml/1 oz bottle that costs $140 or €95.60 (if purchased from the Tauer website). In the U.S.: you can buy Une Rose Chyprée from Luckyscent or MinNewYork, as well as directly from Tauer Perfumes where it is cheaper at $128.60. (See further details down below in the Tauer section.) Luckyscent also sell a sample vial for $3, and MiN for $5. Samples are available from The Perfumed Court as well, starting at $8.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. It is not sold at Surrender to Chance. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the full line of Tauer Perfumes is available at Saltridges which sells Une Rose Chyprée for CAD$168. I think Saltridges may be the exclusive Canadian vendor for Tauer, but I’m not sure. In Europe, you can find Une Rose Chyprée at France’s Premiere Avenue for €99, while Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €105.00. It too carries samples. In the UK, Les Senteurs sells Une Rose Chyprée for £99.00, along with samples. In Italy, you can find the fragrance at Vittoria Profumi which sells Une Rose Chyprée for €104. In Russia, the Tauer line of fragrances is available at 1st Original. The Tauer website’s store locator also provides locations in over 10 countries — ranging from France and the Netherlands to Russia, Singapore, the UK, Poland, Romania, Spain and more — where its products are available. You can find that list of stores here.
Cost & Availability from the Tauer Website: The Tauer Perfumes website lists the cost of the 30 ml/1 oz bottle as: Fr. 118.00 / USD 128.60 / EUR 95.60. Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of Une Rose Chyprée for: Fr. 5.00 / USD 5.50 / EUR 4.10. Though they used to ship to most places in the world, you need to know that they can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now. The website explains that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria and cannot ship “Great Britain, UK, Russia, Belgium and the Czech Republic.” As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes (for free shipping to most places in the world) which you can choose at will for: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.80 / EUR 25.10. The website provides the following information:
Free selection: It is your choice to pick a set of 5 DISCOVERY SIZE perfume samples in glass spray vials. 1.5 ml each (0.75 ml of 0.75 ml of UNE ROSE CHYPRÉE or UNE ROSE VERMEILLE or CARILLON POUR UN ANGE) are at your disposal. Pick any scents from the Tauer perfumes range. The amounts of 1.5 (0.75 ml) are minimal amounts. Usually , we will ship around 2 ml (1ml). The DISCOVERY size vials are spray vials and will allow you to enjoy our fragrances for several days.Packaging: The DISCOVERY SET comes in a glide-cover metal box for optimal protection.Shipment: This product ships for free within 24 hours after we received your order world wide. Exceptions: Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Belgium, Czech Republic.

Vero Profumo Mito Eau de Parfum: Effortless Italian Style

Villa d'Este via Selectitaly.com

Villa d’Este via Selectitaly.com

A vision of dappled green that is flecked with yellow and slowly turns to gold in a shimmering veil of crispness and sweetness. The most beautiful gardens, as simple as they are ornate, as refined as they are timeless. They are the gift of centuries past, and their beauty has been passed down from Renaissance princes to commoners today. A palatial garden whose essence has been distilled into tiny drops of perfume:

The warm air is pervaded by a pleasant sensation of white flowers, jasmine and newly blooming magnolias, garlands of moist moss, aromatic leaves and proud cypresses. Slowly the fragrance rises.

Source: Wikicommons

Source: Wikicommons

Up, up, higher and higher still, to join, all of a sudden, the crystalline jets gushing in the fountains and resting on the mirrors of water in the garden. Millions of miniscule water particles intertwine to create a shining, perfumed veil that rests on the cold marble shoulders of countless statues: gods, nymphs, fauns, dragons and mermaids. Time has stood still in the garden: yesterday is today is tomorrow.

For a moment the perfume fills our desire, satisfies our need for lightness and our yearning for better times. The myth of a timeless eternity.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

That is the description of Mito from its creator, Vero Kern, the founder of the Swiss niche perfume house of Vero Profumo (sometimes written with unusual punctuation as “.vero.profumo.“). Mito is an eau de parfum from the chypre category that was released in 2012, and which was inspired by the stunning Renaissance gardens of the Ville d’Este in Tivoli, Italy. In an explanation provided by First in Fragrance, Ms. Kern says:

I was struck by its architecture, the splendour of the park where classical statues and fountains spring up out of the blue. In a sense it takes me back to my childhood, to the garden full of people and little statues where I daydreamed as a child. […] the scent of the water in the basins, of the white flowers, the grass, the moistness. The air is pervaded with elegance, mythology and an almost androgynous beauty that is both masculine and feminine at the same time. This garden smells of the Mediterranean and of Italy, of ancient and modern history, of echoes of a past not necessarily better than the present or the future. It fills me with calm and energy at the same time. That is why I am dedicating a perfume to it.

According to Luckyscent, Mito’s list of notes includes:

Citrus blend, magnolia grandiflora, white magnolia champaca, jasmine, galbanum, hyacinth, cypress blend, moss.

Villa d'Este. Source: loasa.ch

Villa d’Este. Source: loasa.ch

Mito opens on my skin with the darkest essence of green: foresty, bright, spicy, pungent, citrusy, zesty, refreshing, crisp, and crunchy, all at once. It’s a flood of galbanum, cypress, lemon, and even something a little more bitter and tart like lime — some of which feel concentrated to their very core. Mito is profoundly rich and opulent in its intensity, a tidal wave of the darkest types of green across the spectrum. Yet, it’s done in a manner that actually sparkles and which definitely calls to mind the source of the perfume’s inspiration, with diamond-like rivulets of water tossed into the air from ancient fountains and gleaming like crystals in the bright sunlight in front of a panoply of green. For all that galbanum can often (or usually) be pungently abrasive, arid, and sharp, the note here is uplifting, fresh, and infused with the sweet juiciness of sun-ripened lemons. The citrus is too intense to feel like the squirt of fresh juice; it feels more like the concentrated essence of a 1000 lemons, and perhaps three or four limes tossed in as well.  

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

Within minutes, the bouquet is joined by a beautiful burst of oakmoss that feels so plush, it’s akin to the thickest, downiest Bavarian goose-down duvet. The note is fresh and bright but, to my surprise, it has an unexpected undertone of something minty. The oakmoss is never dusty, fusty, mineralized or grey in feel like some of the mosses in the old vintage chypres. Instead, it’s utterly alive and vibrant, almost springy, and the brightest of emerald-green. Joining it is a note of much darker green-black from the cypress. It’s subtle at first, but carries a slightly piney nuance that makes one think of towering, ancient trees bordering the edges of that lovely garden.

Source: rpgwebgame.com

Source: rpgwebgame.com

The whole thing evokes a dappled landscape of green, highlighted by touches of sweetly warmed yellow. I can’t emphasize enough how enormously bright, refreshing, crisp, brisk, and yet, also rich, heady, deep, and smooth Mito is in these opening minutes. Yet, to be a little honest, the concentrated nature of that lemony freshness also sometimes calls to mind liquid Joy lemon dishwashing liquid in its intensity. The image is fleeting, however, especially around the five-minute mark when a hint of something floral starts to lurk in the base. It’s indistinct at this point and very subtle, a blur of rich, white sweetness that hints at things to come.

Forty minutes into Mito’s development, the fragrance has softened to a cloud of sweet, sun-warmed citrus atop a quiet base of fresh, almost minty moss with dark woods. There is a gauzy, sheer veil of gardenia that wafts all around, as delicate as a small breeze. Down below, tiny flickers of cypress emit subtle hints of piney evergreen. Unfortunately for my personal tastes, the whole thing hovers right on the skin. In fairness, Mito seems intended to be a discreet, elegant, wholly unobtrusive, restrained skin scent that evokes Spring in the most elegant of Italian styles — and it accomplishes that in spades.

Street Chic Milano. Photo: Marina Ciucholo via Fashion Door with ViewonMagazine.

Street Chic Milano. Photo: Marina Ciucholo via Fashion Door with ViewonMagazine.

Wearing Mito, I cannot help but think of something other than those exquisite Villa d’Este gardens. I think of the Italian style in general, and of those ineffably elegant men and women who stride around in beautifully tailored clothes that scream effortless chic in a way that marks them as the direct, modern, fashion descendants of haughty Roman aristocrats in their elegant togas.

Source: vespaclubsevilla.com

Source: vespaclubsevilla.com

If you’ve ever been to Rome or Milan, you’ll known what I’m talking about. The men in their dark suits with crisp white shirts who reflect a classical ease that George Clooney has so successfully adopted. The long-legged women in their simple, sleek, dark dresses with large sunglasses and Audrey Hepburn simplicity who bypass all fashion constrictions to navigate their Vespas with nonchalant ease. Or the ones who stride about in long, flowy, draped clothes with Missoni-like patterns. They all have that intangible, somewhat aloof, restrained, luxurious, high-end minimalism that is elegance taken to a concentrated degree, but always done in the most effortless of ways. To me, that is Mito. Springtime in fashionable Rome, reflected through the greenness of the princely Villa d’Este gardens.

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

Magnolia. Source: Kathy Clark via FineArtAmerica.com

As time passes, Mito becomes increasingly floral, warm, and golden. At the end of the first hour, the gardenia note becomes more prominent and, slowly, quiet flickers of jasmine start to stir. By the 90-minute mark, magnolia comes out to play and, soon, takes over completely. Mito is now a lovely bouquet of creamy, velvety, lush magnolia trailed by jasmine and a very muted gardenia note, all atop a base of oakmoss and cypress. There is a subtle undercurrent of smokiness in the wood, a whiff of evergreen, and a lingering trace of something citrusy. The floral sweetness feels like a glowing light in a nestled embrace of green.

My skin always amplifies honeyed notes, and Mito is no exception. The honeyed undertone to magnolia, along with its lemony nuances, becomes increasingly prominent. The jasmine lurks at the edges, but Mito is largely a magnolia fragrance on my skin for most of its long shelf-life. From the end of the second hour, until its final moments, Mito is a gauzy, soft, restrained whisper of infinitely creamy, lush, lemony, honeyed magnolia with green notes. Initially, the latter can be teased apart into the moss and cypress’ piney-evergreen accords, but they blur into an abstract greenness by the start of the fourth hour. The citrus note lingers at the periphery for a while, as does the gardenia, but they fade away about 4.25 hours into Mito’s development. Something else takes their place, and it’s a soft, delicate vanilla tonality that lurks beneath the creamy, sweet magnolia. By the start of the fifth hour, Mito is a discreet, sheer shimmer of magnolia atop a base of green, vaguely mossy plushness with flickers of sweetness and muted vanilla. In its final moments, the fragrance is an abstract, creamy, sweet floral warmth. All in all, Mito lasted just short of 8.75 hours on me, with extremely soft, muted sillage throughout.   

Mito is a beloved fragrance, and I can see why. It’s not to my personal tastes or style, but I think it’s rich, well-crafted, and infinitely elegant. A lot of people call it a deeper, richer, plusher cousin of Chanel‘s Cristalle, and I think that’s quite accurate. On Fragrantica, there is nothing but glowing reviews for Mito, and the blogosphere is equally positive. Everyone finds Mito to be the most wearable, easy, approachable Vero Profumo scent, and a number of people talk about its peachy heart amidst the mossy base. Take, for example, Bois de Jasmin whose four-star review reads, in part, as follows:

Mito feels like a soft breeze, an uplifting and bright perfume. It layers its tart citrus notes over the crunchy green of galbanum, and in the Eau de Parfum, the exhilarating sensation is particularly pronounced. But give it an hour on your skin, and it becomes velvety and warm. The green now fades into the white of jasmine petals and the yellow of ripe peach. Mito reminds me of Chanel Cristalle crossed with the ripe opulence of Rochas Femme, but the total is more than the sum of its parts.

… I find Mito to be the most wearable from the collection. It’s not overly demanding or flamboyant. If Rubj is the sultry Jean Harlow, Mito is the coolly elegant Grace Kelly. It has great tenacity, but its sillage is moderate, a plus or minus depending on how you like to wear your perfume. […][¶] It’s a luminous perfume from top to bottom.

Even though my experience with Mito was largely about the magnolia and had nothing to do with peaches, I think Bois de Jasmin has summed up the core feel of the fragrance. So, too, does The Non-Blonde whose perceptions of the fragrance seem a little closer to my own:

The fragrance opens with a herbal-citrus note, a bit of a green grass and a feeling of a morning breeze passing through wind chimes. The flowers in this garden feel faraway and a bit abstract. I admit that I didn’t get the magnolia until the weather cooled down considerably so that the blooming phase on the skin takes longer. Mito isn’t about the big Magnolia of the south (or even the one in my neighbor’s backyard), so the flower doesn’t distract from the green impression, just softens it and gives it a more abstract feel, all the way to the crisp and quiet wood and moss dry-down.

Vero Kern created a feel-good and beautiful perfume without compromising or coddling the wearer. I think of Mito as wearing an exquisite and very put-together outfit, accessorized to the nines, yet it has enough movement and flow that you don’t feel restricted, pulled or pinched,  neither are the clothes wearing you. It’s that kind of an effortless elegance.

George Clooney. Photographer: Sam Jones for TIME magazine.

George Clooney at his Lake Como house. Photographer: Sam Jones for TIME magazine.

Yes, to borrow from both bloggers, Mito is effortless elegance done in the manner of a soft breeze. I think it’s very pretty, even if it’s not me, and a scent that would be perfect on both men and women alike. I can see George Clooney wearing Mito just as easily as I can see one of his well-dressed, leggy, interchangeable brunette girlfriends. Mito is approachable, versatile, and suited for those who prefer a more discreet, unobtrusive, gauzy, but rich fragrance that is always elegant. It’s not as haughty or cold as some green chypres can be, thanks to the warmth of its floral heart, and it’s not a flamboyant diva scent, but it’s the embodiment of springtime in Italy and a perfect homage to the Villa d’Este.  

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Mito is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that retails for $215, £138 or €145 (often more from different European vendors). In the U.S.: Mito is available at Luckyscent for $200 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. (The Vero Profumo website does not seem to have an e-shop from which you can buy the perfume directly.) Outside of the U.S.: the Vero Profumo Facebook page offers a whole list of European retailers from Kiev, Russia, to Oslo, Norway, and Italy. It also adds: “Since 2010 distributed worldwide by Campomarzio70 in Rome Italy, in selective boutiques and perfumeries such as ROJA DOVE, Harrods Urban Retreat London, JOVOY Paris, Parfums Rares and many more. Campomarzio70, marketing@campomarzio70.it will inform you where you find the nearest retailer in your country.” In the UK, you can find all Vero Profumo perfumes at Harrod’s Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, but there is no online website through which you can purchase perfumes. (It is not the same site as the Harrod’s website.) You can also find Mito (and the full Vero Profumo line along with samples) at London’s Bloom Perfumery which sells the fragrance for £138, along with samples. In Paris, you can find Mito at Jovoy Paris, where it retails for €145. In the Netherlands, you can find it at Leanne Tio Haute Parfumerie where it costs €150, but seems to be currently sold out. In Italy, you can find it at Alla Violetta boutique for €145, along with samples. Germany’s First In Fragrance sells Mito for €145, but they are currently sold out. The site also carries the complete Vero Profumo line, offers sample sets, and ship throughout the world. Samples: I obtained Mito from Surrender to Chance which sells the fragrance starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Perfume Review – Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan: Animal Magnetism

Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great in "The Scarlet Empress."

Marlene Dietrich as Catherine the Great in “The Scarlet Empress.”

Catherine the Great on horseback, riding to meet a young Cossack officer at a secret rendezvous where the lovers will tangle under Siberian furs before a roaring fireplace. Henry VIII seducing Anne Boleyn on more piles of fur on a winter’s night at a hunting lodge. The Sun King, Louis XIV, and one of his mistresses at Versailles, a palace redolent with the smell of the human body covered by powdered roses. The memory of riding my horse on a warm day, and the subtle aroma of his lightly musked, heated, muscular neck, mixed with the smell of the leather harness and saddle.

Special, limited-edition, rare bell jar bottle of Muscs Koublai Khan. Source: Serge Lutens Facebook page.

Special, limited-edition, rare bell jar bottle of Muscs Koublai Khan. Source: Serge Lutens Facebook page.

Those tangled thoughts and images are what cross my mind when I wear Muscs Koublaï Khan from Serge Lutens. Muscs Koublaï Khan (or “MKK” as it is often referred to for short) is a fragrance that always conjures up royalty in days long gone, along with fur and the memory of horses. It is an eau de parfum that I’d always wanted to try for very personal reasons. The tale in my family is that one side is a direct, linear descendant from the legendary Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongol hordes and the terror of both the Asiatic and the European plains. I’ve never bothered with genealogy and know nothing of its rules, so who knows how true it is, but I’ve always loved the story. So, a fragrance inspired by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan (or, as Serge Lutens writes it, Koublai Khan)? Clearly, it was something to try.

Regular bell jar of MKK, available for purchase today.

Regular bell jar of MKK, available for purchase today.

Then, I started reading about the famous Lutens creation — and I stopped in my tracks. Perhaps few fragrances come with such baggage. Horrified reactions abound on the internet, reaching such a crescendo of revulsion that any sane person would hesitate. From tales of crotch sweat, testicular sweat, camel feces, unwashed taxi drivers, and anal odor, to shuddering comments about how it would be socially unacceptable to go out in public reeking of Muscs Koublai Khan, the perfume has one of the most horrifying reputations around. I got a sample months ago but, every time I went to pick it up, I would think about “camel balls,” and I promptly put it back down again.

Imagine my disbelief, then, when I actually tried Muscs Koublai Khan and thought: “this is IT??? What’s all the fuss about?!” More to the point, I loved it. While I would never — ever — recommend MKK to someone just starting their perfume foray into niche brands or to anyone who isn’t a fan of animalic scents, I definitely think people who love musky Orientals and have some perfume experience should ignore the perfume’s reputation and give Muscs Koublai Khan a try.

The 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle of MKK available.

The 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle of MKK available.

Muscs Koublai Khan is an eau de parfum that was created with Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, and released in 1998. Though it was originally a Paris Bell Jar exclusive, American perfume buyers can easily find it in a regular 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle that is easily available and sometimes discounted online. In Europe, however, Muscs Koublai Khan is still limited to the Bell Jar format that is exclusive to Serge Lutens’ Paris headquarters, though I did find the smaller bottle available at one French online retailer.

Le Grand Serge” describes Muscs Koublai Khan on his website as follows: 

Valuable furs were spread for the Emperor of China to tread on, muddy boots and all.

Ultra-animalic musks and all kinds of tanned hides make a sensational debut in this fragrance. Pay no attention to their aggressiveness: once on the skin, they retract their claws in favor of padded paws.

Fragrantica classifies Muscs Koublai Khan as a “chypre,” which I think is odd, and says that the notes consist of:

civet, castoreum, cistus labdanum, ambergris, Morrocan rose, cumin, ambrette seed (musk mallow), costus root and patchouli.

Source: imgfave.com. Artist or creator unknown.

Source: imgfave.com. Artist or creator unknown.

Muscs Koublaï Khan opens as sweet amber, mixed with a slightly urinous, very musky edge. It feels just like warm, heated skin that is faintly dappled by a light sweat. The whole thing is sweet, sour, musky, just a little bit fetid, and a tiny bit dirty, all at the same time. But it truly doesn’t smell like stale body odor. A citric rose note, laden with rich, almost syrupy honey, peeps up from the musky amber base. There is just the faintest hint of a floral, rosy, vanillic powder sprinkled on top. Lovely flickers of sweetness come from the patchouli, and it mixes with the mildest, most minute touch of cumin. The whole bouquet sits atop the gorgeously plush, velvety warmth of the castoreum and the sweet nuttiness of the labdanum amber. It’s all sexy as hell, and significantly tamer than I had expected.

Source: narutoforums.com

Source: narutoforums.com

The ambered base is beautiful. It’s gloriously rich from the ambergris which, like the labdanum, is enriched by the warm plushness of the velvety castoreum, as well as by the naturally sweet muskiness of the ambrette seeds. That said, the ambergris doesn’t smell very concentrated or profound. It lacks the salty, wet, sweet, slightly sweaty muskiness of anything more than just a few drops of ambergris. At times, I wonder if it’s the real thing at all.

Perhaps the best — and, certainly, the most fascinating — part is the slightly urinous note from the civet. I realise that sounds odd and strange, and maybe you just have to be a really obsessed perfumista, but there is some appeal to that sour aroma. Just as really rich, really buttery food needs a dash of acidity to create a balance, so too does really rich perfumery. Here, the civet adds a really well-modulated edge that initially isn’t really like urine, but more like a sweet, little sour, almost vinegary, feline muskiness. To my surprise, it’s not rendered skanky or raunchy by the costus root which can sometimes take on a sharply feral aspect. (I likened its effects in Amouage’s Opus VII to “panther pee.”)  Here, there is just the slightest musky dirtiness, perhaps akin to the smell of “dirty hair” that costus sometimes evokes, but it’s far from strong and certainly not over-powering. Still, I imagine that those who hate animalic notes in even the smallest dose will probably keel over from Muscs Koublai Khan’s combination of civet and costus.

"Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract" by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within, click on photo.)

“Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract” by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within, click on photo.)

Ten minutes into its development, Muscs Koublai Khan radiates an unusual bouquet of richly sweet, lightly vanillic, almost citrusy, powdered rose mixed with the scent of a warm, musky body. The combination of the civet with the powdered rose and the amber keeps triggering thoughts of Bal à Versailles, the legendary scent whose vintage form sought to replicate the scent of aristocrats at Versailles who used strong floral powders to mask their lack of hygiene. It’s often said that courtiers at Louis XIV’s Versailles palace would relieve themselves in corners without the slightest hesitation, and that is another aroma that Bal à Versailles sought to recreate in its nuances. I wish I had a vintage sample to compare to Muscs Koublai Khan, but my memory tells me that Bal à Versailles was a much more extreme, raunchy, dirty, skanky proposition. Muscs Koublai Khan is much better balanced, and far, far less dirty. Furthermore, the urinous note from the civet and costus root is too mild and too sweetened to evoke the same aroma. And, just to be clear, nothing in Muscs Koublai Khan reminded me of a urinal.

Source: Zavvi.com

Source: Zavvi.com

Twenty minutes in, Muscs Koublai Khan becomes muskier in a more rounded way, taking on a velvety, smooth, deep quality that is as luxurious as it is sensuous. It really feels like the scent of warmed bodies under a cozy, thick, fur blanket. For all the talk about sweat or urinous edges, the thing that Muscs Koublai Khan truly evokes is the scent of skin itself. Not stale, sweaty skin, but skin that is heated and just barely sweaty from perhaps a romp under the sheets. Yes, the perfume has some animalistic tendencies, but nothing about it evokes testicular “ball sweat,” anal secretions, or fecal notes. Just heated bodies intertwined in intimacy.

By the same token, nothing about the cumin note makes me think of unwashed, stale body odor. In fact, the cumin is almost imperceptible on my skin which normally amplifies the note. It’s not even a millimeter like the rancid, wholly intimate, extremely dirty note of unwashed genitalia that it triggered in Vero Profumo‘s Rubj eau de parfum. Nor is it like the stale armpit sweat of Frederic Malle‘s Bigarade Concentrée. Granted, the cumin here is not the pure, dusty spice of something like Parfum d’Empire‘s Ambre Russe, but its muted, emasculated nature and the way it flickers just once in a blue moon in the background is hardly what I was expecting.

Photo: Lydia Roberts, 2011. Source: Tumblr http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/lydia-roberts

Photo: Lydia Roberts, 2011. Source: Tumblr http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/lydia-roberts

Muscs Koublai Khan remains relatively unchanged in its core essence for a large portion of its development. It is a beautifully sweetened rose scent flecked by vanilla powder and a citric, slightly urinous civet note, all atop a gorgeously plush, velvety, rich amber base that radiates the warmth of heated, musky skin. The notes fluctuate in prominence, intensity and strength, but Muscs Koublai Khan on my skin is primarily a musky amber fragrance with rose and vanilla. The civet note waxes and wanes, reaching its highest peak around the middle of the second hour where it definitely feels a little sharper than it did originally. Then, it becomes tamer, softer, and richer, perhaps thanks to the castoreum which casts out its warm tendrils to enrich everything it touches. There is also a subtle leathery undertone to Muscs Koublai Khan which becomes more noticeable at the end of the first hour and which feels a little raw at times. It, too, becomes gentler, sweeter, and warmer after a while, thanks to the amber’s plush embrace.

"Theequus" - photo by David Sinclair, via Crossed Wires Tumblr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Theequus” – photo by David Sinclair, via Crossed Wires Tumblr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

For all that the sophisticated elegance of Muscs Koublai Khan evokes historical figures covered by rich furs, it also calls to mind a more personal memory for me. Something about the overall combination of notes reminds me of riding. If you’ve ever been a horseman, you’ll know the aroma, especially after a gallop in the warm sun. The musky smell of a horse’s warm body, just lightly veiled by sweat, that is sweet but, yet, just a little sour as well. The soft heat of his muscular neck, combined with the faintest whiff of leather from the saddle and harness, all bundled up with a golden muskiness. That aroma is a subtle undertone of Muscs Koublai Khan for a brief time around the 90-minute mark and in an extremely mild form, even though the fragrance bouquet is primarily radiating the sweetest rose, its light touch of vanillic powder, and a plush, ambered base.

The overall combination is far too civilized and sophisticated to evoke the pillaging, raping, filthy brutality of the Mongol hordes. For me, one needs to go down a little later in history to a later Slavic legend, Catherine the Great, whose sensual appetites were almost matched by her passion for the hunt and for refined luxury. Muscs Koublai Khan would have very much suited the Great Catherine from its floral, vanillic rose that is powdered like her face, to the languid, feline heat of warmed bodies intertwined under blankets of the richest Russian furs.

Model, Bregje Heinen, photographed by Jean-François Campos for Flair November 2010.

Model, Bregje Heinen, photographed by Jean-François Campos for Flair November 2010.

Perhaps the most surprising change with Muscs Koublai Khan is how the volume quickly decreases to a purring hum. Less than forty minutes into its development, Muscs Koublai Khan seems to get a little blurry around the edges and the sillage drops quite a lot, though its smell is still extremely potent up close, thanks to the civet. At the end of the second hour, the perfume is so airy and lightweight that it feels far weaker than a hardcore oriental eau de parfum. In fact, Muscs Koublai Khan is far sheerer than I had expected. It lacks the opaque, baroque heaviness of Maison Francis Kurkdjian‘s ravishing Absolue Pour Le Soir, another animalic, musky, amber oriental fragrance but one which is, ultimately, night and day apart from Muscs Koublai Khan. Absolue Pour Le Soir is actually much dirtier than Muscs Koublai Khan, not to mention heavily spiced, more floral, and infused with almost as much beautiful sandalwood as it is with musk and amber. Muscs Koublai Khan is tamer, more linear, more muted, and much less complex, though it is beautiful in a very different way and perhaps more refined than the Absolue with its more hardcore, slightly beastly edge.

Muscs Koublai Khan soon starts to take on quite an abstract aura. At the start of the third hour, the fragrance is a soft, nebulous blur of amber, vanilla and quietly animalic musk. The flecks of a citric, civet-infused, and lightly powdered rose start to recede, slowly become less and less noticeable. By the start of the third hour, the rose is largely gone, leaving behind only an ambered, powdered, vanilla musk with a hint of civet. And there Muscs Koublai Khan remains for hours and hours, turning more and more abstract and amorphous. It soon loses the civet, becoming just an musky, powdery, sweet amber fragrance. Though Muscs Koublai Khan’s sillage hovered just above the skin for the second and third hours, its projection drops even more. (That said, I dabbed it on, and, apparently, it’s a very different issue if you spray Muscs Koublai Khan.) Around the sixth hour, the ambery perfume becomes a complete skin scent. By its very end, almost exactly 12.5 hours from its opening, Muscs Koublai Khan is just a hint of a sweetened, musky powder, and nothing more.

I think Muscs Koublai Khan — and the extreme reactions to it — need to be placed in context. For one thing, the average perfume user nowadays is used to a very different sort of musk in perfumery. Clean, white musks abound, and the extent of something ostensibly “dirty” is probably Narcisco Rodriguez‘s musk For Her. Muscs Koublai Khan is a whole different kettle of fish. Perfumes with civet (and even castoreum) are no longer common in perfumery, so people aren’t so exposed to what musk used to be all about when perfumes like Bal à Versailles and its cohorts celebrated the skank provided by civet, castoreum and real Tonkin deer musk. For animal cruelty and ethical reasons, many of those ingredients are no longer used and their scent has to be replicated through vegetal musks like ambrette seeds. I’m glad for that, but it does mean that exposure to a dirty sort of musk — even through vegetal recreation — can trigger a repulsed response in those who expect musk to have the modern, common characteristics of white, laundry-clean freshness.

Muscs Koublai Khan is not a perfume that I would recommend to everyone. Those who are brand new to perfumery may find the civet and musk accords repulsive. Those who are experienced perfumistas, but who feel that even the smallest drop of something animalic in their perfumes renders it unbearably “dirty,” will undoubtedly feel the same way. But those who adore true Orientals and who can appreciate some animalic nuances should absolutely try it. Don’t let Muscs Koublai Khan’s dangerous reputation keep you away. I think you will be like a lot of bloggers who have tried Muscs Koublai Khan and wondered: what is all the Sturm und Drang about?

Take, for example, the review at Pere de Pierre where the blogger clearly was prepared to be blown away by Muscs Koublai Khan’s terrible reputation:

Of all the “bad boy” fragrances, the outlaws, the ones whose whispered descriptions contain the words “unwashed” and “crotch”, often in succession, and sometimes with “of a Mongolian horseman after three days of burning, raping and pillaging” appended, it may be that none has a more salacious reputation than Muscs Koublaï Khän.

Thus, it was with great anticipation that I first pulled the stopper on a sample. Civet and castoreum? Bring it!

The first sniff of the vial seemed promising; yes, there was civet in there.

On application, though, it seemed much like Kiehl’s Musk Oil, a similarity that has been noted by many a reviewer before. A simple floral musk, nothing terrible or even animalic about it.

Fortunately, it did not take long before MKK began to develop, something that Kiehl’s does not ever seem to do, on me anyway.

MKK shuffled its accords and painted scenes with them. However, they were not dramatic, sharply pitched scenes of lust and conquest; they were more like dreamy landscapes with dark clouds scudding through a sky above shifting fields of roses and poppies. Sensual, yes, but more of a lazy Sunday afternoon lovers’ feast than a frenzied, climactic battle. […][¶]

In subsequent wearings, only once did the civet ever really raise its head, and it was glorious; I wouldn’t mind if it did it more often. But mostly, this is a sultry, sometimes even sweet, and floral musk.

Kiehl’s Musk is not the only fragrance to which Musc Koublai Khan has been compared. The other one is Frederic Malle‘s Musc Ravageur. I haven’t tried it yet, but the general consensus seems to be that there are differences. The blogger, The Candy Perfume Boy, did a comparison of the two fragrances, and his section on the Serge Lutens begins with: “I just can’t see what all of the fuss is about.” He found Musc Koublai Khan to be disappointing in its tameness, and not particularly filthy. As a gourmand lover, he far preferred Malle’s Musc Ravageur with its “edible” characteristics. On Fragrantica, one reviewer writes about the Lutens: “it’s similar to Musc Ravageur, but Koublai Khan is rounder and deeper (and more discreet) while MR is more playful and contemporary.”

Speaking of Fragrantica, one commentator clearly shares my experience with horses, writing in a review that I’ve reformatted only for the sake of trying to keep things shorter:

I fell in love with it. [¶] Maybe it will be easier for those of you who are familiar with horses to comprehend what I will try to describe.

First wave, it smelled like a horse with saddle and all that has been running a mile on a sunny summer day. Since I love horses and their smell, well, it didn’t bother me at all. Au contraire. [¶] It was musc and a bit sweet and also a bit “sweaty”. [¶] Then the dry down became very soft and almost powdery, almost buttery. In the middle of the composition I also smelled like hay and kind of what it would smell like when you walk in a wild field in summer.

So for me, that perfum is very comforting. [¶] The funny part is that my husband thinks the same as me when it come to the smell of this perfume. He says that it also smell “very clean”!? [¶] My best friend (women) love the first “snif” then she looked at me with a strange look on her face and she says that she also smell like “pee”?????!!!. And at last my best friend (man) told me it smells like baby powder!!

I think Musc Koublai Khan is all those things: sweetly horse-y (but in a really subtle, muted way), summery, almost clean in the sense that it evokes a person’s skin scent more than body odour, but with slightly urinous nuances, and sufficient powder that a handful of people may think it resembles baby powder towards the end.

The Non-Blonde, however, didn’t smell anything horsey about the fragrance at all. Her review talks about how clean it actually smells, but also cautions about over-application:

If you google Muscs Kublai Khan and dig enough, you would find colorful reviews, mentions of horses, genitalia and horses’ genitalia. Which is where I make the “whatcha talking ’bout?” face.

I cannot argue with the fact MKK smells “raw”, which probably translates to “animalic” for some. I’ve heard rumors of cumin, but I don’t get any at all. Quite the opposite, actually, if we agree that a cumin note in perfume represents the dirty and the sweaty. What I’m getting is actually clean, sweet and warm. The dirty part is not the scent itself, but the warm skin feel it evokes and all the things one might associate with a skin in this state. In his review for Perfume Smellin’ Things, my scent twin Tom called it “clean bodies in compromising positions”, and that’s exactly right.

[…] On my skin it’s a thing of beauty and has nothing to do with the great unwashed. It’s also incredibly strong and persistent, even after the big show of the ultra sweet top notes fades away.

It’s so strong, actually, that anything more than a couple of dabs can get extremely distracting. Over apply and you will keep smelling MKK, thinking about MKK, feeling MKK. It will occupy your thoughts in a NSFW way, so be careful. Another word of warning: Muscs Kublai Khan is meant to be dabbed and not sprayed. I’m saying this as someone who prefers to spray just about anything and regularly decants parfum extracts into mini atomizers. I did the same with MKK and it’s just wrong. You don’t want to cover a lot of skin with this, and spraying releases way too much. 

You may think all this gushing and raving is bias from bloggers who are Lutens groupies, but that would not be true. Take the blogger, Pour Monsieur, who says he flat-out hates Lutens fragrances, and finds “them overly complex, pretentious and unwearable.” Yet, he writes that “Muscs Koublai Khan is the one huge exception, and is truly a special scent.  It is the best musk fragrance in the world, hands down.” [Emphasis added.] In his review, he explains why:

This is more “body smell” rather than “body odor”.  It reminds me of the smell of sweat on clean, warm, tanned skin.

It’s a complex scent, but not the ego trip of the other Lutens fragrances I’ve tried.  The sense of perfect balance and complexity in Muscs Koublai Khan is amazing, and makes it so comforting to wear.  It smells like there are several different types of musk used in MKK – light, heavy, white, dark, etc..  They’re all unified by soft floral and herbal notes, which add depth to the scent and prevent it from smelling like someone’s asshole. […][¶]

Muscs Koublai Khan is not only the most wearable Serge Lutens perfume I’ve ever smelled.  It’s perhaps the most wearable scent I’ve ever worn, period.  This is a fragrance, more than any other I’ve tried, that absolutely must be worn on skin, and that’s because it smells like skin.  When you wear this, it becomes a part of you, smelling like it’s part of your body.  It’s both extremely masculine and extremely feminine, depending on who’s wearing it, and it melds itself to its wearer.  I can’t imagine Muscs Koublai Khan smelling unsuitable on anybody.  So it’s both daring and suitable for anyone.  Think about what an incredible acheivement that is for a perfumer.

I don’t agree that Muscs Koublai Khan is the most wearable Lutens, but I think many of his other points are true.

I’ve spent all this time covering other people’s assessments of Muscs Koublai Khan’s tameness for a reason. The horror stories don’t always apply, and it’s not just me with my heavy bias towards Orientals and my love for Serge Lutens. Even those who can’t stand Lutens fragrances think this one is special. And I’m definitely not alone in finding all the Sturm und Drang about MKK’s supposed terrors to be very different from the reality on one’s skin. But I cannot repeat enough, this is not a perfume to try if you’re looking for something totally clean and without the slightest bit of animalic edge. Laundry-fresh it is not! And if you’ve never encountered civet or are new to niche perfumery, then you may be in for a shock. In fact, I suspect you’ll think it smells of poo.

However, for those who adore Orientals and have some perfume experience, I beg you not to believe all the stories about Muscs Koublai Khan, and to give it a test sniff. Uncle Serge is completely right when he says: “Pay no attention to [the musks’] aggressiveness: once on the skin, they retract their claws in favor of padded paws.” It’s very true, and that’s why I’d wear Muscs Koublai Khan in a heartbeat if I had a bottle. The perfume has enormous sexiness (the Non-Blonde is right in saying it triggers NSFW thoughts or images), and a sort of fascinating, raw animal magnetism that is simultaneously very refined as well. Muscs Koublai Khan is also totally unisex, and has great longevity. Lastly, for U.S. buyers, it is easily available — and often at a discount, in fact — so there are no accessibility barriers.

So, try it and, when you do, I doubt that you’ll think of the ravaging, filthy Mongol hordes. But your thoughts may not be totally clean, either….

 

DETAILS:
General Cost & Discounted Sales Prices: Muscs Koublaï Khan is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes: a 1.7 oz/50 ml size and a larger 2.5 oz/75 ml bell jar version. The retail price for the 1.7 oz size is $140, or €99, with the 75 ml bell jar going for $300 or €140. However, Muscs Koublaï Khan is currently on sale at FragranceX where the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle is priced at $113.99. The price is also reduced at Parfum1 which sells the 1.7 oz bottle for $126 with a 10%-off coupon for new customers. I don’t know how long these specials will last.
Serge Lutens: you can find Muscs Koublaï Khan in both sizes on the U.S. and International Lutens website (with non-english language options also available). 
U.S. sellers: Muscs Koublaï Khan is available in the 50 ml size for $140 at Luckyscent, Barney’s (which also sells the expensive bell jar version), and Aedes.
Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find Muscs Koublaï Khan at The Perfume Shoppe for what is US $140, since it is primarily an American business with a Vancouver branch. They also offer some interesting sample or travel options for Lutens perfumes. For Europe and Australia, it gets harder. The perfume seems to be deemed “Limited Edition” for many European vendors, in the sense that MKK was originally a Paris exclusive and limited for sale elsewhere in Europe. So, it has not been easy for me to find online vendors. In the UK, I can’t find Muscs Koublaï Khan listed at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Liberty or Les Senteurs — shops which normally carry most Lutens fragrances. However, in France, Premiere Avenue sells it for €96 and I believe they ship world-wide, or at least through the Euro zone. 
Samples: You can test out Muscs Koublaï Khan by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. There is also a Lutens Sample Set for $18.99 where the vials are also 1/2 ml each, but you get your choice of 5 Lutens Non-Export fragrances (ie, those that are Paris exclusives).

Perfume Review – Amouage Fate (Woman)

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source:  Glamscheck.com

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Paris Vogue, September 2010 issue. Source: Glamscheck.com

She stared at the rumpled bed which bore the traces of their scent. As the light streamed through the windows of their hotel room at the George V, she saw the trail of clothes leading to the scene of their final tryst. She recalled how crisp, aloof and controlled she had been at the start in her sleek, sculptured, black, couture dress, smelling of citruses, oakmoss and cool daffodils. The notes were as sparkling and cool as lemonade, or the champagne that chilled by the window nook, until he began kissing her neck…

She remembered how her limbs melted when he unzipped her dress, warming the daffodil scent until the roses and jasmine came out, infused by a musk that softly mimicked that of her own body. Flecks of rich, warm, smooth castoreum flickered like the flame of the candles that he had lit around their bed. Subtle touches of leather stirred like the trim on the expensive lingerie that he admired with a gleam in his eye — lingerie as black as the trails of sweetened incense that ran through her fragrance.

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source: bkrw.com

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the September 2010 issue of Vogue Paris. Source: bkrw.com

She thought of how he had gently placed soft, lush, velvety, pink roses around her body, framing her with their heady scent. He kissed her with all the spiciness of chili pepper and cinnamon, the scent of his soap mixing with their fire, with her musk, with the tendrils of incense and smoke, with the honey that he drizzled on her trembling stomach. She thought of their passion and how, when it was over, he had gently covered her body with the sheer, silky sheet that smelled of creamy vanilla and powder. She had been fated to meet him, she had been fated to succumb, she had been fated to have the affair end in the apex of passionate heat, and she was fated to forever remember him when she put on her fragrance. Fate.

Fate (Woman) is the latest release from the royal perfume house of Amouage and will be released worldwide in July. I received a sample thanks to one of my readers, “Dubaiscents,” who generously sent me a sample of both the men and women’s versions. Yesterday, I reviewed Fate for Men which is a very sophisticated, dry, woody fragrance centered on the immortelle flower. Fate for Women (hereinafter just “Fate” for the purposes of this review) is very different, but equally elegant and sophisticated. It is a chypre-oriental hybrid created by Dorothée Piot and which Amouage describes as follows: 

Amouage Fate Woman with BoxFate for Woman is a chypre oriental with a rich floral heart intensified by a dark and destructive accord resonating with the tumultuous unknown.

Top notes: bergamot, cinnamon, chilli, pepper.

Heart notes: rose, narcissus [daffodil], jasmine, frankincense, labdanum.

Base notes: vanilla bean, frankincense, benzoin, castoreum, patchouli, oakmoss, leather.

Field of NarcissusFate opens on my skin with a burst of yellow: fresh, crisp citrus notes, and the sunniest of daffodils. There is a momentary flicker of something sour that is soon replaced by spiciness, rose infused with patchouli, oakmoss, stirrings of a quiet, soft leather note, and a touch of musk. The oakmoss is a subtle swirl of nuances: fresh, green, slightly mineralized, and grey. The castoreum is smooth, warm, ever so slightly animalic, and sweet.

The true stars, however, are the yellow notes. The bergamot starts off crisply but, within minutes, turns softer, warmer and spicier, evoking the scent of lemonade that has been sweetened by the sun and by honey. At the same time, a subtle hint of vanillic powder at its base also makes me think of powdered lemonade crystals. Swirling all around it is the daffodil note that starts off being fresh and cool, but, like everything else in Fate, soon turns warmer, spicier, richer. In its footsteps is a delicate rose that is never as sweet as a tea rose, but also never as jammy, fruited, or liqueured as a dark damask rose. It feels like the headiest of pink roses, except it has the crisp, fresh zestiness of lemon. Both flowers are flecked by a mossy patchouli which works from the background to turn Fate into a very smooth, lush, velvety chypre fragrance.

Source: freehdwalls.net

Source: freehdwalls.net

Slowly, slowly, the base notes turn Fate into something warmer, richer, and spicier. As the rose note gains in strength, stepping on the center stage to share the spotlight with the daffodil, jasmine takes its place in the wings. Lurking further in the shadows is a subtle layer of soapiness. About twenty minutes in, like a brash understudy late to a rehearsal, chili stumbles in. Red, spicy, and adding a perfect touch of subtle heat, the red pepper bumps into the floral notes, warming them even further. In its wake is a shy incense note. It is far from the usual sharp, powerful frankincense so prevalent in many Amouage scents. Instead, the smoke is sweetened, soft, subtle, and verging on sunny.

Source: Kootation.com

Source: Kootation.com

Forty minutes in, Fate starts to slowly strip off its formal, crisp, citric-oakmoss, chypre veneer to bring out its oriental underwear. Like passionate kisses warming a lover’s body, the daffodil-rose bouquet turn more and more sensual, dancing on slightly musked skin. Infused by bergamot, trailed by jasmine, flecked by spicy chili pepper along with sweetened smoke and a shiver of vanilla, Fate is lushly heady, potent, incredibly elegant, and slightly haughty, but reeking of sensuous stirrings. The oakmoss and patchouli are still highly evident in the base, but the other notes feel alive with an oriental silkiness that evokes the most seductive of lingerie peeking out from underneath an elegant black dress. 

"Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract" by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within, click on photo.)

“Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract” by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

At the two-hour mark, Fate shifts a little. The florals turn red with warmth and sweetness. Cinnamon replaces the chili on their velvety petals. But, to my slight disappointment, the underlying soapiness becomes much more pronounced. On a more positive note, Fate also begins to take on quite an ambered hue. The labdanum starts to rise to the surface, emitting a lightly honeyed aroma that mixes beautifully with the amber, the plushly sensuous castoreum, the musk, and the patchouli. The incense is still subtle, light and sweetened, and it still remains largely in the background.

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Three and a half hours in, the base notes fully rise to the surface. Fate becomes a labdanum, oakmoss, and patchouli amber fragrance infused with rich, sweet, velvety, floral nuances, along with musk and a quiet tinge of soapiness. The labdanum’s honeyed characteristics have been largely replaced by a nutty, almost chestnut-like undertone that is a perfect counterpoint to the dry, but plush, oakmoss-patchouli.

Source: Superstock.com

Source: Superstock.com

Slowly, slowly, like a flower unfurling its petals over the span of hours in the sun, Fate turns softer, more ambered, more golden. The barely animalic musk underlying the scent melts even further into the skin, the labdanum glows like bronzed gold, and the vanillic benzoin adds a radiating shimmer to the now muted, very abstract, gauzy florals.  By the start of the ninth hour, the final stage has begun, and Fate is a sensuous skin veil of rich vanilla cream flecked with powder, golden amber, and a light, heated, sweetened muskiness.

All in all, Fate lasted an astronomical 13.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. The sillage was monstrous at first, wafting several feet across the room. It was heady, narcotic, sweet, but also very dry and crisp initially, before slowly turning more languorous, more sensuous, more oriental. Fate’s projection is powerful, even if it isn’t nuclear-tipped in the way of some Amouage floral scents (like Ubar, for example), but it did soften by the start of the third hour. My sample was a spray (and aerosolization adds to a fragrance’s power), but I think Fate would be forceful even if dabbed on. It didn’t become a skin scent on me until the start of the sixth hour, though it was still very noticeable when I brought my arm close to my nose. Fate only became hard to detect and somewhat abstract towards the end of the eighth hour, though it lingered on for almost another five hours in a very silken, muted, sheer form.

I think Fate Woman is an astoundingly beautiful, complex, refined fragrance — a sophisticated chypre-oriental which combines the best elements of both categories. It is perfectly balanced: never too sweet or too dry, never too indolent or spiced, never too charged by patchouli, musk, or castoreum. I was a little surprised by the softness of the frankincense smoke, especially as my skin normally tends to amplify the note, but I’m also glad that Amouage chose to mute its signature base accord. Fate doesn’t need it; the beauty of the fragrance lies, in part, in how pitch-perfect it is across the wide spectrum of its notes. (As a side note, the perfume stunned The Ultimate Perfume Snob, a.k.a my mother, who interrupted a conversation to ask “what is that smell?”, then shook her head and blinked in disbelief at Fate’s beauty, asked to smell it several more times, wanted to know where to buy it, and finally lost all reserved, British aloofness to become practically passionate in her raves. Trust me, it rarely happens.)

Something about Fate draws you in for another sniff, again and again, especially when its sensuous, warm heart starts to bloom. Yet, there is also a refined, cool sophistication in its opening which makes it very much one of those scents that feels like protective armor, if that makes any sense. Again and again, I have the vision of a cool, confident, wealthy woman, perfectly groomed and sophisticated in the elegantly cut, structured, designer black dress that is the uniform of choice for some Parisienne women. And I see her stripping off her armor to reveal the seductive satin and black lace lingerie below which she then peels off entirely to reveal her smooth, softly musked, lightly powdered, silky, amber skin. Control and abandon, French style.

Yet, for all that imagery and despite the gender classification in the perfume’s name, I happen to think Fate Woman is quite unisex in nature, and a scent which would be very seductive on a man as well. The same visual would apply to a man, only he’s cloaked in a dark Armani suit with a crisp white shirt, and looks a little like Hugh Jackman…. Regardless of gender, Fate is a very wearable fragrance, though I think its powerful projection may make it a little too much for the office unless you’re very careful with amount you spray. It would, however, be perfect to wear on a date or to seduce.

Lest any of this was even remotely ambiguous, let me put it plainly: you need to try Fate Woman. Like its male counterpart (Fate Man), it shows why Amouage is one of the leaders of the perfume pack. With its sophisticated, nuanced, complex, often innovative and intellectual, but always luxurious and opulent fragrances, Amouage is really one of the best perfume houses out there. And, under the deft, brilliant direction of Christopher Chong, I doubt that’s going to change any time soon. 

 

DETAILS:
Availability & Stores: Fate (Woman) is an eau de parfum and is available in two sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml which costs $310 or €240; or 3.4 oz/100 ml eau de parfum which costs $375 or €290. As of the time of this post, the perfume is not yet officially released beyond the Amouage website and boutiques, but it will be widely available as of July 2013, according to CaFleureBon. At the present time, the perfume is unfortunately sold out on Amouage online, but I’m sure that will be remedied soon. I will update this post with retail links much later when the perfume is officially released and becomes widely available.