Histoires de Parfums 1828 (Jules Verne)

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

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

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

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

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

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

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

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

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

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

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

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com -

Source: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com –

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

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

Source: topwalls.net

Source: topwalls.net

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

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

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

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

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

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

Source: Nathan Branch.

Source: Nathan Branch.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: picstopin.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DETAILS:
Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1828 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, €87, or £75; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all order anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1828 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1828 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfums1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy both sizes of 1828, as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1828, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) offers the 60 ml bottle, and also sells 14 ml decants of 1828 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. Alas, 1828 is not one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells 1828, along with a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £125 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1828 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1828 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for 120 ml, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1828 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.
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Histoires de Parfums 1899 Ernest Hemingway

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

1899 is the year of Ernest Hemingway‘s birth, and also the name of the newest fragrance from Histoires de Parfums, a French niche perfume house founded by Gérald Ghislain. It is a company whose perfumes are often entitled simply with a date in history, the year in which a legendary figure was born. This fall, they tackled Ernest Hemingway. I absolutely loathe the man for his personal life and character, but I was intrigued by how his essence might be encapsulated on an olfactory level. So when I saw a bottle of 1899 while visiting Jovoy Paris, I eagerly tested it on paper. My initial impression was far from favorable, but scented strips rarely tell an accurate tale, so I asked for a sample. I thought things might change upon a proper test. They did not, in large part. While I now see more to 1899 Ernest Hemingway than I did then, I’m still not particularly enthused.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

1899 is the creation of Gérard Ghislain, and is an eau de parfum. Histoires de Parfums’ full description for the scent, along with its notes, is as follows:

The top notes of Italian bergamot, juniper and pepper are intended to be the aperitif that sparks the conversation and awakens the palate in anticipation of the meal. Following “Papa” from Spain to Italy with Mediterranean scents that evaporate to leave place to a darker mood, where the amber and vetiver mixed is reminiscent of the waxed wood of a Cuban bar top. The exotic meets the familiar, the tropical heat is cooled off by a glass of scotch. 

Top Note: Italian bergamot, juniper, black pepper

Heart Note: Orange blossom, Florentine Iris, Cinnamon

Base Note: Vanilla, Vetiver, amber

Juniper tree needles with berries. Source: nhm.ac.uk

Juniper tree needles with berries. Source: nhm.ac.uk

1899 Hemingway opens on my skin with a cocktail of salty sea crispness and hesperidic citrus freshness. First and foremost is juniper, yielding a green, pungent, pine-y, very outdoorsy aroma. It is infused with fruits, perhaps from actual juniper berries themselves, but also with crisp, lemony bergamot. I tested 1899 three times and, on the last occasion, juicy oranges were also quite noticeable, adding a fruited, sweet touch to juniper’s foresty, green, spicy, peppered aroma. Seconds later, black pepper, green vetiver, and a touch of floral iris join the mix.

Juniper.

Juniper.

1899 Hemingway has the initial profile of a very masculine cologne, but with greater heft and less thinness in its body. It is a profile that I struggle with, if I am honest. Juniper is not something that will make me jump up and down in ecstacy, and neither do black peppercorns or iris. Still, it’s a very rugged, outdoorsy, masculine aroma and I can see why they chose it for Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway in Switzerland, 1927. Source: Wikipedia entry for Hemingway's "Fifty Grand."

Ernest Hemingway in Switzerland, 1927. Source: Wikipedia entry for Hemingway’s “Fifty Grand.”

Five minutes in, other elements become noticeable. Hints of orange blossom flit about with a slightly bitter, dark, pungent and piquant undertone that resembles neroli more than any indolic, lush, white floral bomb. In 1899’s depths, the vanilla slowly starts to stir. Up top, the vetiver becomes much more pronounced. It’s not earthy, damp, and rooty at all. Actually, when combined with the sharp, fresh citruses and the piney, almost cedar-like aroma of juniper, the vetiver feels very green. To me, the three notes together create the mineralized accord of the vetiver in Terre d’Hermès, only with a much more Alpine feel. During his first marriage, Hemingway went often to Switzerland, and there is something of that clean, fresh, crisp mountain air in 1899. You can almost see the vast forests of Switzerland before your eyes, only these are not snowy but dotted with orange and lemon trees as well.

1899 is a very well-blended fragrance that doesn’t always develop in the exact same manner. In my three tests, some of the notes varied in strength or in the order of their appearance. Take, for example, the iris. During my first test, it was barely a factor for most of 1899’s lifespan, popping up only occasionally at the perfume’s edges but without any substantial heft whatsoever. In my second test, it was quite pronounced in the end, adding a powdery touch to the perfume’s sweet final stage. In my third one, however, the iris suddenly appeared noticeably right from the start, adding its floral coolness to the Alpine meadows. Another note that seemed to vary in its character was the orange blossom which consistently seemed more fruited than floral, except the first time around when it manifested itself in both ways.

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com

Nonetheless, 1899 does have some uniform aspects to its development. About 10 minutes in, the fragrance turns warmer and starts to lose its cologne-like sharpness. A touch of cinnamon appears, the amber awakens from its slumber, and the vanilla starts its slow rise to the surface. Warmth and sweetness slowly start to creep over 1899, like a wave inching up a sandy beach. The amber, vanilla and cinnamon may not be noticeable in any profound, individual way, but they have an indirect effect on the other notes. They make the orange blossom lose some of its piquant, bitter, neroli-like undertone, and soften the sharpness of the juniper, while adding a touch of spice. At times, the overall effect is almost like Viktor & Rolf‘s Spicebomb, but not quite.    

Suddenly, 25 minutes in, the warm notes flood the surface and 1899 changes into a much different fragrance. Gone is the purely cologne-like scent with its crisp, citrus, woody, masculine profile. Now, there are oriental and floral touches. First up is the orange blossom which stops feeling purely like a ripe, juicy, sweet fruit, and more like the actual white flower. It adds a sensuous touch to Hemingway’s face, like a warm, seductive caress across his unshaved whiskers redolent of his woody, piney, vetiver, lemon aftershave. While the main note remains the peppery, spicy juniper, it’s now been infused with cinnamon and amber as well.

Ernest Hemingway with a bull in Spain in 1927. Source: middletontimes.com

Ernest Hemingway with a bull in Spain in 1927. Source: middletontimes.com

1899 Hemingway’s shift is complete at the 40-minute mark when the vanilla bursts onto the scene like a white bull running into a Pamplona arena. From Switzerland, we’ve suddenly landed in Spain where Hemingway spent so much time in the 1930s. The land of Seville oranges, orange blossoms, groves of green, dry warmth, and languid sensuality — it’s all here, under the top layer of rugged, outdoorsy juniper-lemon cologne. I know Histoires de Parfums gives the perfume’s geographic trajectory as Spain to Italy to Cuba, but I’m sticking with Switzerland to Spain, with crisp Alpine forests taking on a more Mediterranean sensual warmth. I have to say, I find the olfactory symbolism quite impressive on an intellectual level.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

I just wish I liked the actual smell. For me, the opening was too much like cologne, but uninteresting cologne. The juniper was too sharp and turpentine-like at times, and didn’t even have the appeal of a gin-and-tonic. I liked even less 1899’s new combination of vanilla with crushed juniper needles, trailed closely by cinnamon, then by orange blossoms, oranges, lemons and amber. Honestly, it made me feel queasy, each and every time. Something about the combination felt cloying in its sweetness, somewhat odd in its polar opposite parts, and simply not appealing at the end of the day. Perhaps I’m simply not a fan of juniper mixed with vanilla, gooey oranges, unctuous orange blossoms, and cinnamon. It is the main profile of 1899 Hemingway for hours and hours, and I really wanted it to stop.

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

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

1899 Hemingway brought to mind two other Histoires de Parfums’ scents, but for very different reasons. Like many from the line, the fragrance is not revolutionary or edgy, but has a gracefulness about it — regardless of whether you like the notes or not. Like its siblings, 1899 is potent at the start, while also being incredibly airy in weight and very well blended. In that way, it resembles Ambre 114. Yet, at its core, 1899 is thematically quite close to 1725 Casanova in its transition from masculine to soft, unisex, and almost gourmand in nature. It’s that powerful vanillic base that both fragrances share, after a very crisp start. However, 1899 is significantly more masculine in my opinion, even at its end, thanks to the woody juniper. 1725 Casanova is smoother, more truly unisex with its lavender, more gourmand at its base, and much better balanced in my opinion. It never felt cloying, or a war of extreme, opposite notes.

That brings me to what may be my fundamental issue with 1899 Hemingway: it doesn’t know who it wants to be. It took me a while (and three tests) to suddenly realise that the perfume is trying to be all things to all people. It straddles so many different genres: masculine cologne, oriental, woody outdoorsy, gourmand, and many hybrid versions thereof. But it can’t seem to make up its mind. I don’t have a problem with the fact that Histoires de Parfums has made a fragrance with a commercial, mainstream character — some people on Fragrantica think that 1899 is like Spicebomb — but I struggle with the perfume’s fragmented, confused identity. Perhaps that makes it very Hemingway after all; the writer was known to be a complex set of contradictions with a highly insecure, sometimes utterly neurotic side. (I am trying so, so hard to be polite about the man!)

Getting back to the perfume’s development, there really isn’t a lot more to say. Until its end, 1899 remains a scent that is primarily vanilla, juniper and some form of orange (or orange blossom) infused with a hint of cinnamon, all atop an amber base. At the 1.5 hour mark, its sillage drops, the perfume feels thinner, its edges blur, and the notes are not easily separable in a distinct, individual way. Three hours in, 1899 hovers just barely atop the skin. The sillage isn’t impressive as a whole with 1899 unless you apply a lot. Eventually, 1899 Hemingway fades away in some sort of sweetness and with an average lifespan of about 7.5 hours.

The very end, however, seems to differ in terms of its olfactory specifics from wearing to wearing, perhaps as a result of the quantity applied. In one test, using 3 average sprays from the small atomizer, 1899 ended just after 7 hours in a blur of woody, juniper and vanilla. In another test, using 2 tiny sprays, it took a mere 6 hours for 1899 to die, ending in a powdery, floral, iris-y vanilla blur. In my last test, using 4 big sprays, 1899 lasted longer, just under 9 hours, before fading away with orange-y sweetness and nothing else. The atomizer’s hole is very small, so the quantity applied is probably much smaller than from an actual bottle. It would probably range between 1.5 big smears from a dab vial to about 4 very small, narrow ones.

1899 Ernest Hemingway is too new for there to be comparative reviews that I can show you. The fragrance’s Basenotes entry (on the old Huddler Archive) doesn’t have any comments from those who have tried it. Fragrantica‘s early discussion thus far seems to focus on the extent to which it is like Spicebomb. Some think it’s a much better version. One person (“deadidol“) thinks 1899 Hemingway is well-done, but largely a bore. I agree with parts of his assessment:

More often than not, this brand misses the mark for me, and Hemingway’s a bit of a snooze. When HdP step outside they box, they truly innovate, but too many of their scents strike me as pleasant, run-of-the-mill affairs that are solid value for money, but aren’t contributing anything new. This is a mildly boozy oriental with a powdery iris note and a hefty amount of spices. There are some floral undertones that are met with a dry fruit note to spin the scent as opulent, but it’s linear and doesn’t really do anything to distinguish itself from the more powdery offerings of Dior, ByKilian etc. Also, the connection to Hemingway is a total mystery as there’s nothing rugged, troublesome or even narratalogical at work here, and it’s certainly not very masculine or virile. With that said, it’s a practical addition to the line as it’s big and amiable, bearing notable similarities to Bois d’Argent, but it’s not going to have much appeal for those who are hoping for another Petroleum, Marquis de Sade, Ambrarem, or Ambre 114. Durable and great value (another one of HdP’s strong points), but ultimately too pleasant, too powdery, and too prosaic.

I think 1899 Hemingway is much more rugged and outdoorsy than he does, but I do agree that the fragrance is merely a pleasant, “run-of-the-mill” scent with some “amiable” features. Just how amiable will depend on what you think of the central juniper note, and its interaction with the vanilla and spices. It’s not my cup of tea.

Nonetheless, I have to agree with another Fragrantica commentator in giving kudos to Histoires de Parfum for avoiding the usual, traditional clichés about Hemingway. It would have been all too easy to make a fragrance centered on cigars and rum. And, in my opinion, the company has actually succeeded in encapsulating parts of Hemingway’s life and contradictory character. They’ve created a perfectly pleasant fragrance that will probably be very sexy on some men’s skin. Unfortunately, I find it hard to sum up enthusiasm for more than that.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: 1899 Hemingway is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125 or €87; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a fantastic sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1899 Hemingway is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit also offers both sizes of 1899. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of 1725 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find 1899 Hemingway at the Grooming Clinic for GBP £124 for 120 ml. Roullier-White in London carries some of the HdP line, but I didn’t see Hemingway on their website. For the rest of Europe, you can find it at Jovoy Paris for €87 or €145, depending on size, or at First in Fragrance which only has the larger 100 ml bottle of Hemingway at €145. For all other countries, Histoires de Parfums vast Store Locator lists retailers from South Africa to the Netherlands, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance doesn’t yet carry the fragrance as it is too new, but you can order from Luckyscent in the meantime.

Creed Aventus Cologne

Source: Basenotes

Source: Basenotes

I fear I may have to go into perfume Witness Protection after this one. The power of Creed, and the worship of its fragrance, Aventus, in particular, is such that anything short of blind, unswerving, unqualified adoration seems to upset a few of its fans. Well, let’s get this over with then: I like Aventus and think it’s a perfectly pleasant — even occasionally pretty — fragrance that I would enjoy wearing. I also think it’s an over-hyped, simple, thin, linear scent that carries with it some frustrating issues, and which isn’t worth the high price.

There, I said it: I think Aventus is over-hyped. In fact, I firmly believe that, if Aventus were ever sniffed blindly in an unmarked, plain flacon located in Macy’s or some mall, some of its admirers may not be quite so uncritical. In my eyes, the hype and the reputation (“panty-dropper”) are as much a part of Aventus as its famous pineapple note. Furthermore, to be honest, I find the blind, cultish worship of some of its younger acolytes, and their aggressive response to those who don’t share their unqualified adoration, to be extremely off-putting. With that said, I shall henceforth walk and sleep with a Kevlar vest….

Creed is a fragrance house with a long and storied history, dating back to 1760. According to the biographical blurb quoted by Bergdorf Goodman, the house is unusual in a few different ways:

Olivier Creed with son, Erwin. Source: Vanity Fair.

Olivier Creed with son, Erwin. Source: Vanity Fair.

Founded in 1760 and passed from father to son, Creed is the world’s only privately held luxury fragrance dynasty. Based in Paris, the company today is led by Olivier Creed, a sixth-generation master perfumer.  […] Using the infusion technique (which has been abandoned by the modern industry), Creed weighs, mixes, macerates, and filters everything by hand. They also use the highest percentage of natural components in the prestigious French perfume industry..

For Aventus, Creed says it was inspired by “the dramatic life of a great, historic emperor, who waged war, peace and romance on terms he set, riding to power on horseback.” The fragrance seems to have been created primarily by Erwin Creed, the young, seventh-generation Creed perfumer, with input from his father, Olivier. The website states:

Royal but not imposing, CREED Aventus is made with ingredients hand selected worldwide by Erwin CREED, seventh generation of CREED and its future chief. Essences he chose were shipped to CREED’s French workshop, where father and son created Aventus using hand production methods that date to the founding of CREED in 1760.

According to Luckyscent, the fragrance is an eau de parfum, and its notes include:

black currant, bergamot, apple, pineapple, rose, birch, jasmine, patchouli, musk, oak moss, ambergris and vanilla.

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

Aventus opens on my skin with a burst of zesty, crisp, fresh bergamot, followed by the sweetness of pineapple and a hint of tart, green black currant. There is a quiet earthiness lurking about that feels like vetiver, but it is only a momentary impression. The primary bouquet is an incredibly pretty, airy, bright blend of bergamot’s crisp freshness infused with the succulent, pulpy, juiciness of pineapple. The fragrance feels very sheer and thin, though, so I added another huge smear (which almost emptied the rest of my vial) to the two large ones from my dab vial, for a total of 3 extremely large smears all up my forearm.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

In just a few minutes, hints of oakmoss start to flitter about. It’s not fresh, springy, bright green moss, but rather something that feels like the real oakmoss absolute with its slightly mineralized, faintly salty, grey, musty characteristics. It smells a lot like tree bark and grey lichen. Quickly, it turns the citric, fruity freshness of Aventus into something drier and more layered. It almost feels akin to an aromatic fougère, minus its usual lavender underpinnings.

It also continues to feel very thin. I’ve read of men applying 10-12 big sprays of Aventus in one go and, at the time, I merely thought them to be extremely exuberant. Now, however, I understand it better. While aerosolisation definitely adds to a fragrance’s potency and longevity, Aventus seems like a scent that may well benefit from 10-12 sprays to give it some body and depth. I realise that I’m at a disadvantage in dabbing it, but I did put on quite a bit. Frankly, I’m keep struggling to believe that Aventus is ostensibly an eau de parfum, not a cologne (despite its name) or an eau de toilette.

Silver birch tree. My own photo. Fjällnäs, Sweden.

Silver birch tree. My own photo. Fjällnäs, Sweden.

Ten minutes in, Aventus is an extremely well-blended, elegant, refined blur of crisp, cologne-like citrus with dry, fusty, slightly mineralized oakmoss and hints of pineapple. There is a subtle woodiness in the base that reveals itself five minutes later as birch. It smells just like a smoky tree-bark with the faintest, tiniest nuance of ashiness. Birch can often have a tarry, phenolic character that makes it a common feature in leather fragrances, but not here. The note really calls to mind the delicate, silvery tree I saw in Sweden instead of anything dark, thick, and viscously tarry. Its advent turns the fragrance into a very mossy, woody scent with a subtle nuance of smokiness mixed with the crispness of citrus. The latter is quite muted now on my skin, and there are only subtle flickers of pineapple that occasionally pop up to add some countering sweetness. I wish there were more of the pineapple because it’s truly a beautiful touch and it adds an extremely interesting, original contrast to the woody-mossy accord. As a side note, the apple accord never appeared once on my skin, and the early hint of black-currant has faded away almost entirely.

Aventus remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. It’s a well-blended, airy, light swirl of birch and oakmoss, trailed by a crisp citrus note, pineapple, and a tinge of ashiness. To my happiness, the pineapple makes a more significant reappearance during the second hour for about thirty minutes before it sinks back into the overall bouquet. At the 2.5 hour point, the sillage drops and Aventus hovers about 2 inches above the skin. The notes no longer feel discrete, have started to overlap, and have lost all distinctive shape. Aventus, as a whole, feels wholly insubstantial in body, and is simply a nebulous haze of three primary notes: birch, oakmoss, and pineapple.

"Yellow jag" by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

“Yellow jag” by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

Despite the linearity of its core essence, there are a few, extremely subtle, changes in Aventus’ development. For a brief moment, at the start of the third hour, vanilla peeks its head around the curtain, but it’s pretty much a muted wallflower. For the most part, it serves only to have an indirect effect on the overall fragrance, adding some sweetness to the drier, woodier elements. It never screams “vanilla,” in any substantial, concrete way at all. But then, nothing about this fragrance feels substantial. At the end of the third hour, the jasmine makes a quiet appearance but, like the vanilla, it’s a mere suggestion more than a distinct, significant part of the fragrance. Around the same time, Aventus turns into a complete skin scent, calling to mind a balloon that has deflated.

Source: es.123rf.com

Source: es.123rf.com

From the 3.75 hour mark onwards, Aventus is a hazy, sheer, thin whisper of something vaguely mossy, woody, ashy, and fruity with a minuscule hint of sweet jasmine. I had to really inhale forcefully at my arm, with my nose right on the skin, to detect even that. Without such strenuous effort, I found it completely impossible to delineate any of the notes. Aventus remained a muted, flat blur until its very end when it was the merest suggestion of something vaguely fruity. All in all, it lasted just short of 5.5 hours on my skin, with extremely weak sillage after the first hour. I couldn’t detect any amber, musk, rose, or patchouli at any point in the fragrance’s development.

As a whole, my reactions are mixed: I thought Aventus was an extremely pretty scent at the beginning with an overall refined bent; I loved the evanescent pineapple bits; I wished the fragrance had more body, depth, and nuance; and I can see how it might be a wonderful scent for spring or in the hot, humid months of summer. I also thought Aventus to be extremely simple, linear, and faintly dull. Moreover, the longevity was a huge disappointment, and I really struggle with believing that Aventus is an eau de parfum and not a thin, weak cologne.

I’m not alone in terms of Aventus’ limited longevity on my skin. For a large number of people on Fragrantica, Aventus lasts between three and six hours. The precise breakdown of votes in the longevity department is as follows:

  • 29 for “poor” (30 min-1 hr)
  • 23 for “weak” (1-2 hrs)
  • 106 for “moderate” (3-6 hrs)
  • 228 for “long lasting” (7-12 hrs)
  • 80 for “very long lasting” (12+ hrs)

Clearly, this is a fragrance that requires spraying, not dabbing, and a hell of a lot of spraying at that, but do I want something that requires 5-10 applications (of any kind) to be detectable and to really last? More to the point, is it financially feasible? A tiny 1 oz/30 ml bottle of Aventus costs $165, and that won’t last very long if I need to use a large number of sprays each time for the scent to have some traction on my skin. Still, Aventus is available in a large 4 oz/120 ml bottle from one online retailer for $188 which is a much more practical, affordable price for such a light, airy, summer-perfect scent. But then another issue arises: can one trust that bottle? Not only are there apparently tons of fakes on the market, especially on eBay, but, apparently, the scent of Aventus can vary from batch to batch.

The issue of batch numbers and variations is something that comes up frequently when talking about Creed fragrances, and Aventus, in specific. My sample came from Surrender to Chance and was purchased a while ago, so I’m not sure which batch it came from. Surrender to Chance says that it buys most of its bottles directly from Creed, or, if not, then from Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t know what to make of the batch issue or the way people pour over the numbers, with some being able to spout off the differences at the top of their head. The whole thing seems to be an incredible pain in the tush if true. How does one deal with such uncertainty? Plus, there seems to be the implication that one won’t even get an authentic Creed bottle if one buys it from anywhere else but the store itself or a few high-end stores. So that discounted bottle I mentioned earlier might as well not exist and, even if it’s authentic, who know what it will smell like? 

Making matters more complicated still are some commentators who argue that there is no such thing as batch variations. Take, for example, these two very interesting arguments from different Fragrantica commentators:

  • I don’t buy into batch variations I’ve smelled Z01 all the way up to the 2013 batches and its all the same.
  •  Forget about batch variations because that’s just a way for the fanboys to discredit your opinion.
Aventus batch numbers, via Basenotes.

An example of Aventus batch numbers, via the Basenotes thread.

If there really is no difference between batches, then why is there a 36-page discussion on Basenotes devoted solely to the different lots and how they smell? There seem to be too many firmly convinced people for the variations to be mere figments of their imagination. Either way, buying a Creed fragrance, but Aventus in particular, seems to entail a lot of work. As one person in that Basenotes thread joked, “[i]t’s almost like buying a car….” I can only shudder.

For me, the more interesting thing is the comment by the second Fragrantica poster quoted above regarding fanboys discrediting other people’s opinions. It supports something that has always really bothered me: I’ve seen some nasty behavior when it comes to Creed. Not by everyone, mind you, and not across the board, but enough to be truly noticeable as a small trend. In one group I occasionally read, a member was attacked as not knowing her stuff or being a real perfumista because she was underwhelmed by Creed as a brand. Elsewhere, I’ve seen chest-thumping braggadocio from some Creed fans about how Aventus is a total “panty-dropper” (a phrase that I find utterly revolting), or comments to the effect of “real men wear Aventus,” as if anyone who dislikes the fragrance isn’t a real man. The fans who display either type of cocky, superior, disparaging, or obsessive behavior tend to be on the younger side, but age is no excuse. As many of my usual readers know, I adore Serge Lutens fragrances, but I don’t like all of them, I had problems with a number of them, and have even given a few the ultimate, negative criticism: “boring.” Moreover, I’ve never attacked someone who dislikes a Serge Lutens fragrance that I love.

So, why does Aventus inspire such blind worship in some quarters? I think the hype has taken on a life all of its own, and has created a snowballing effect quite similar to that of Nasomatto‘s Black Afgano. Like Aventus, Black Afgano carries a certain sort of macho reputation that a few of its younger fanboys seem to use as a reflection of their own toughness or masculinity. It’s as if they think the fragrance’s reputation — “panty-dropper” in the case of Aventus, and super-macho edginess with the lure of the forbidden in the case of Black Afgano — will rub off on them, give them a sort of street cred, or enhance their own masculinity. Yet, one can question or dislike Black Afgano without some of its fans turning on you with pitchforks. Creed, however, seems to be in a class all its own.

In the case of Aventus, some have stated that the fragrance appeals to a younger crowd than Creed’s older, more traditional offerings, so perhaps age and immaturity have something to do with it, too. One blogger, The Scentrist, found Aventus to be very much Erwin Creed’s fragrance, more than his father’s, and that it “skewed toward a younger audience.” Either way, the hype is bad enough, without adding in the related, chest-thumping aggressiveness and defensiveness of what a friend of mine calls “a few bad apples.” Yet, there are enough of those bad apples to completely put him off trying any more Creed fragrances. I completely understand. I’ve had a sample of Aventus and Green Irish Tweed for over nine months, and it’s been hard to get motivated to go near either one.

On some levels, I know it’s not fair. As noted up above, Aventus is a really pretty scent at times, and I think its fresh, light, airy crispness would make it a nice choice in hot weather. In fact, I would probably wear Aventus if a bottle ever fell into my lap, especially if it were a bottle large enough for me to practically bathe in the scent as is clearly necessary for my skin. Nonetheless, to consider Aventus the Be-All, End-All, the Holy Grail, and the best fragrance ever made? I think that goes too far. To attack other perfumistas for not bowing at the altar of Aventus goes even farther still. In fact, I really have wonder if some of the fanboys would adore Aventus quite so unilaterally and unconditionally if they ever smelled it in an unmarked, unlabeled, plain bottle in the corner of Macy’s and priced at $50? I suspect a blind test would be quite revealing.

At the end of the day, however, fragrance is a wholly subjective issue. While I would normally link to a variety of different blog reviews or countering experiences to give you some sort of sense of what people think about Aventus, I won’t in this case. The fragrance is too well-known, there is too much of a polarity between those who worship it and those who think it’s over-hyped, and there is the added complication of possible batch variations. The bottom line is that you either love it, or you don’t. If you’re one of those people who thinks Aventus is the best thing to exist in every possible solar system, I’m very happy you’ve found something you love so much. We should all have fragrances like that! My opinion is different: I think it’s an extremely pleasant, elegant, refined fragrance that is also linear, simple, mundane, ultimately unexciting, and not worth the cost. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my bulletproof vest, and go into hiding….

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Aventus is available in a variety of different sizes. It comes in: 1 oz/30 ml ($165);  2.5 oz/ 75 ml ($275); 4 oz/120 ml ($330); 8.4 oz/250 ml ($445); and 17 oz/500 ml ($675). Discount Retailers: You can purchase Aventus at a substantial discount in the 4 oz size directly from Amazon (US) which sells the 4 oz bottle for $188.30, instead of $320, or in the 2.5 oz size for $179.95 from a third-party vendor. You can find Aventus at a slightly less discounted price from FragranceNet which sells the bottle for $214.36 with a coupon. In the U.S.: You can buy Aventus directly from Creed (US) which offers free shipping and samples with any purchase. Aventus is also offered in 4 sizes from Bergdorf GoodmanNeiman Marcus, and Luckyscent, starting with the 1 oz bottle. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Creed is carried at a number of different stores. You can find one near you using the Creed Store Locator. In the UK, you can purchase all Creed products directly from the company at its London boutique. Aventus is also available from Creed’s UK online website, or from Harrods. Other UK and Irish stockists are listed on the Creed UK Stockists website. Prices start at £95 for the smallest size. In France, Aventus is carried at Creed’s Paris boutique on the Champs-Elysée. For all other countries, I had difficulty finding stockists on either the US or UK Creed websites. Plus, both sites offer very limited shipping, geographically. The American site only ships to the US, its territories, and Canada; the UK one only to UK locations. I couldn’t find an International Creed version, or any way of finding official vendors in other countries. So, I suppose you can try FragranceNet which ships worldwide, and has a number of different country-specific sites. Just go to the link, click at the tiny flag icon at the very top right-hand side of the page, and choose your country. Samples: Aventus is available from Surrender to Chance starting at $3 for a 1/2 ml vial. They say that they obtain their bottles directly from the Madison Avenue Creed boutique, or from either Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman.

Les Escales de Dior: Pondichéry, Portofino, Parati & Marquises (The Cruise Collection)

Dior is a perfume house that I like quite a bit, and to which I’m bound by the ties of childhood nostalgia. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across the name of a Dior perfume that was wholly new to me, Pondichery, and I sat up in excitement when I read about it. A trip to India through tea, cardamon, jasmine and sandalwood, all done in a refreshing summer manner…. It called to me like the sirens to Odysseus. It didn’t take me long to realise that Dior had a whole, rarely discussed Cruise Collection of eau de toilettes that it had initially released back in 2008 called Les Escales de Dior, and which now numbered four in all: Escale à Pondichéry, Escale à Portofino, Escale à Parati, and Escale aux Marquises. The PR press copy, as quoted by Harrods, explains the collection’s style:

Les Escales de Dior is a Collection of fresh and sophisticated fragrances, inspired by the casual chic style of the Dior Couture Cruise Collection. In each destination that inspires an “Escale”, François Demachy, Dior’s Perfumer-Creator, selects the highest raw materials, exclusive to the Dior House.

Three of the four Escale fragrances. Source: mujerglobal.com

Three of the four Escale fragrances. Source: mujerglobal.com

I tend to become a little obsessed with things so, even though I still have quite a few of Dior’s wonderful, Privé Collection to get through, I became determined to get my hands on Les Escales de Dior. (The line is sometimes called The Cruise Collection on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) When Dior’s wonderful Karina Lake called me from the Las Vegas boutique with some news about a fragrance, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to beg for samples of the Escale collection.

I’ve been working through them, and they’re generally nice eau de toilettes with some very pretty bits, an uncomplicated nature, and a somewhat commercial bent. There’s nothing wrong with them, especially for their low price and large size, and commercial perfume buyers seem to adore a number of them — but they’re not for me. Given how simple they are, I thought I’d provide a relatively brief synopsis of the four fragrances in a single post, instead of treating each one individually to a lengthy, in-depth review. 

ESCALE À PONDICHERY

Escale à Pondichéry (hereinafter referred to simply as “Pondichery“) was released in 2009, and is categorized by Dior as a “green floral citrus.” Dior describes it as:

An olfactive immersion in India. François Demachy was inspired by the black tea extract during his journey in India: a fresh, sophisticated and elegant note. The new fragrance, Escale à Pondichéry, is rich in natural essences coming from the Indian continent, selected by the Dior House for their superior quality: cardamon essence, sandalwood essence and jasmine sambac absolute.

Source: fann.sk

Source: fann.sk

Pondichery opens on my skin with black tea, the juiciest bergamot, and nutty cardamon. The notes combine to create a strong but delicate aroma of tea with lemon that is just barely milky in undertone and lightly spiced with cardamom. It feels crisp, refreshing, juicy, aromatic, and airy, all at once. A subtle hint of white musk stirs in the base, smelling simultaneously clean and a little bit floral. I’m not a fan of white musk, even in subtle doses, but I can see why it was added. It helps accentuate the impression of a breezy, summer cruise. In fact, Pondicherry really evokes the crisp, well-starched, ironed whites of boat or cruise people, or the colonial past of the British in one their warm, Empire territories. Cricketers in India, or colonialists in the West Indies, are as much a fit for the visuals of crisp white as a modern-day cruise.

The tea accord is lovely but, for me, the white musk competes dominates just as much and ruins it all. My skin tends to amplify the synthetic, and I’m not a fan of  “fresh, clean” notes, no matter how popular they may be with the general public. For large stretches of time in Pondichery, it’s hard for me to smell much below the tidal wave of white crispness. Whenever I succeed, the tea is quite lovely with its strong undertones of refreshing lemon. About ten minutes into Pondichery’s development, the fragrance turns into a very summery, clean citrus scent with tea and an abstract floral note. Unfortunately, the latter never feels like jasmine, let alone concentrated Jasmine Sambac Absolute. Instead, the note is sharp, slightly chemical in nuance, potent in all the wrong ways, and yet, mutedly restrained in terms of an actual floral character. It is like a hygienically clean, fresh, unnatural jasmine, if you will, reinforced by laboratory-created white musk and infused with something disagreeably synthetic and lemony. (Yes, I have a strong bias against commercial synthetics!)

Tea with milkThankfully, Pondichery improves in time, and becomes quite pretty on occasion. After that difficult opening, the fragrance eventually settles into place and loses some of its synthetic and laundry-clean musk overtones. At the end of the second hour, Pondichery is a tea fragrance with slightly milky, lemony undertones, accompanied by fresh floral musk. There are occasional hints of creamy, white woods in the base, but they are abstract and certainly can’t be distinguished as real sandalwood. On occasion, the milky, sweet, creamy tea note is accompanied by something that smells like almonds, but it is subtle. Once in a while, a flicker of warm, lightly spiced nuttiness stirs in Pondichery’s base, but it never feels like cardamom (which has long lost any individual distinctiveness), so it must be that fake, ersatz “sandalwood” synthetic used to replicate the almost extinct Mysore wood. In its drydown stage, Pondichery grows more abstract, amorphous, and hazy, turning into a simple clean, white, musky woodiness.

All in all, Pondichery lasted just short of 10.75 hours on my skin, which might be surprising for an eau de toilette, except my skin hangs onto white musk like the damn plague. For the same reason, Pondichery had moderate projection for as long as the first 6 hours, wafting a few inches above the skin, before it turned into a discrete skin scent. On Fragrantica, the majority of voters found Pondichery’s longevity to be “moderate,” and its sillage to be “soft,” followed by “moderate” as the next choice.

Pondichery seems to be an extremely popular summer fragrance, with Fragrantica commentators loving its tea notes, its refreshing citrus tones, and the depth added by its subtle woody base. Men like it as much as women, so it’s quite unisex in its appeal. On the Nordstrom site, buyers positively rave about how wonderfully fresh, light, and beautiful Pondichery is, and the number of times the word “fresh” is used in a positive manner underscores to me one more time just how much the casual perfume buyer loves clean, white musk in commercial perfumery. If that is your taste, you should absolutely check out Pondichery. It’s versatile, affordable, and easy to wear. Parts of it are quite pretty, and I can see why the tea accord appeals to so many people.

ESCALE À PORTOFINO

Source: goldparfumer.ru

Source: goldparfumer.ru

Escale à Portofino (hereinafter just simply “Portofino“) was the very first Escale fragrance. It was launched in 2008, and is described by Dior as an “aromatic citrus” that is an “invigorating burst of sweet freshness.” The notes, according to Fragrantica, are as follows:

Top notes are bergamot, petitgrain and lemon; middle notes are almond, orange blossom and juniper berries; base notes are cedar, cypress, galbanum, caraway and musk.

Portofino opens on my skin with every possible part of a citrus tree: neroli with its bitter, spicy greenness, followed by regular, feminine, sweet orange blossoms; crisp, aromatic lemon; juicy, sun-ripened bergamot; and quiet hints of the woody twigs from the petitgrain. There are subtle flickers in the base that almost seem like sharp galbanum and something mossy. There are muted whispers of cedar lurking below, as well, accompanied by white musk. I don’t detect any almonds, nor cypress with its slightly piney characteristics.

Orange blossoms via the Pattersonfoundation.org.

Orange blossoms via the Pattersonfoundation.org.

The whole thing is a very clean, refreshing, bright, summery, aromatic citrus that feels like an eau de cologne, though it initially has the strength and richness of an eau de toilette. At the end of the first hour, Portofino becomes simpler and hazier, devolving into a neroli and orange blossom fragrance with soft white musk. At the 90-minute mark, Portofino turns into a complete skin scent. There are fluctuating levels of orange blossom and white musk, but no woodiness and no almonds. It remains that way to the end when, in its final moments, Portofino dies away merely as a clean citrus musk. All in all, the fragrance lasted just short of 6 hours on my skin, and I seem to be one of the lucky ones.

On Fragrantica, most people seem to love Portofino, though there are a complaints about the fragrance’s weak longevity and projection. Some people found Portofino to be far “too citrusy,” a few thought it smelled artificially synthetic in its lemony nature, and seven people complained that it smelled like lemony dishwashing liquid or lemon furniture cleaner. (Actually, I stopped counting after the 7th one, as there are a lot of reviews for Portofino on the site.) A large number of people (28) compared Portofino to an old eau de cologne dating back to 1792: 4711 Original Eau de Cologne by Maurer & Wirtz. I haven’t tried the fragrance to know how it similar it is, but Portofino with its orange blossoms seems much warmer to me than a pure cologne with its brisker, crisper, thinner nature. Still, as a whole, the majority of Fragrantica commentators spoke positively and appreciatively about how Portofino was “refreshing,” “light,” “chilly,” “elegant,” “luxurious,” and/or perfect for summer. The word “fresh” was used repeatedly, as well. Again, it’s not my thing, but if that’s your style, you may want to consider giving Portofino a sniff.

ESCALE À PARATI

Source: cosmetics-parfum.com

Source: cosmetics-parfum.com

Escale à Parati (hereinafter just “Parati“) is an eau de toilette that was released in 2012. Fragrantica explains the perfume’s name, its inspiration, and its notes:

Parati (or Paraty) is historical and touristic town in Brazil, situated on the Green Coast (Costa Verde) near Rio de Janeiro.

Francois Demachy, the Dior in-house perfumer, found the inspiration for this fragrance in vivid and pastel colors of the landscape, laughter, wind, music, samba and sea. The fragrance captures Brazilian exotics with citrus and woody notes of bitter orange, lemon, petit grain, rosewood, mint, cinnamon, red berries and tonka bean.

Source: my-parfum.net.ua

Source: my-parfum.net.ua

Parati opens on my skin with lemons and oranges. It’s juicy, fresh, bright, and light, and seems well-suited to summer. Quickly, the citrus bouquet is followed by warm, sweet woodiness, and hints of mint. There is something a little synthetic in feel in the basenotes, but it’s minor. Quiet whispers of slightly bitter, woody, petitgrain twigs lurk about, but they never detract from the overall cool and fresh nature of the fragrance.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

In less than ten minutes, however, Parati turns warmer and creamy in feel. The tonka bean adds a soft sweetness, though it doesn’t reflects a vanilla characteristic at this stage. Now, Parati is a creamy citrus fragrance dominated by a blood orange tonality, and accompanied by cinnamon and soft, muted rosewood. Around the 90-minute mark, the fragrance starts to gain more vanillic overturns, turning into a creamy, orange scent with soft woods and a subtle dusting of cinnamon, all cocooned in a warm, custardy vanilla. Parati remains that way largely towards its end, turning more abstract, hazy and soft until it is merely a trace of sweet vanillic woodiness. All in all, Parati lasted just over 4.5 hours on me, with soft, discreet sillage throughout.

On Fragrantica, people seem to have experienced a substantially more citrusy fragrance than I did. In fact, a number of commentators compare Parati to a cologne with its dominant, simple, citric blast. A handful mention the cinnamon and Parati’s warm woodiness, but they’re not many. As a whole, there doesn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm for Parati as there is for the rest of Dior’s Escale fragrances, but the scent is only a year old while others, like Portofino, have been around for quite a while now. I liked parts of Parati because its warmer, slightly sweeter nature didn’t feel as “fresh and clean” to me as some of the other crisp, light, citric scents, but it’s clearly a matter of personal taste.

ESCALE AUX MARQUISES

Source: Marieclaire.it

Source: Marieclaire.it

Escale Aux Marquises (hereinafter just “Marquises“) was launched in 2010, and is a warm, floral citrus eau de toilette. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows:

blood orange, pink pepper, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, coriander, elemi resin, benzoin, amalfi lemon and tiare flower.

Source: rmwebed.com.au

Source: rmwebed.com.au

Tiaré is a large component of the scent, so it may be helpful to briefly discuss its aroma. The flower is a tropical, Tahitian kind of gardenia whose scent is often associated with suntan lotion due to its use in Monoi-type of products. It has a creamy, rich aromaa that can sometimes feel like coconut or custardy vanilla, but which isn’t actually much like either. It’s a very lush, indolic, heady scent, and it lies at the heart of Marquises.

Blood Orange via FragranticaThe Dior fragrance opens on my skin with bright, juicy, slightly tart blood orange. There are hints of pink peppercorn, but Marquises is quickly infused by a heady blast of creamy, lush tiaré. The overall effect is to turn Marquises into something that distinctly resembles an exotic, orange-vanilla popsicle. Soon after, lovely whiffs of fresh, slightly spicy ginger follow, along with cloves, cardamon, and bitter nutmeg. Subtle tinges of lemon and fruity pink pepper berries lurk underneath.

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

The spices, however, are quite prominent and, within minutes, I’ve gone from smelling like an orange popsicle to some sort of spiced butter cookie. It’s the result of the tiaré’s very buttery undertones, combined with the nutmeg in particular. Behind the sweet, spicy, buttery, slightly vanillic warmth are bursts of juicy, tart, fresh citruses, though they sometimes feel like a Jack in the Box, popping up only occasionally and in varying strengths. On my skin, Marquises is never a full-on, predominantly citric scent, and is much more about the tiaré and spices.

Ten minutes in, Marquises is creamy, tropical, lush, sweet, very heady and slightly indolic, with buttery vanilla sweetness, loads of dusky spices, and a slight undertone of citric freshness. Ginger adds a quiet zing, especially in conjunction with the blood orange, while the nutmeg adds a slightly bitter edge that helps cut through some of the heady, unctuous richness. Sometimes the scent feels quite floral, but I’m still struck by the occasional impression that I smell like a shortbread butter cookie sprinkled with nutmeg. It’s not bad at all, especially as Marquises has enough dryness, spice and citruses to keep the scent from feeling gourmand in any way. The whole thing is very airy, bright, and heady.

Thirty minutes in, Marquises shifts a little. There is suddenly a quiet woodiness that stirs in the base and, surprisingly, it has quite a smoky aroma. It smells a little acrid, a bit sharp, and reminds me of the scent of burning leaves in the fall. It comes from the elemi, and it feels a little disconcerting in the midst of all the Tahitian floral creaminess mixed in with butter cookie and orange popsicle accords. Then again, I suppose those last three things are an unusual combination, in and of themselves.

Source: Kootation.com

Source: Kootation.com

At the 90-minute mark, Marquises settles into its main, final bouquet: tiaré backed by strong hints of blood orange (that has a slightly neroli and orange blossom undertone), with subtle spices and woodiness, all flecked by a vanilla creaminess. It’s a soft blur of muted notes that all overlap each other, never feeling individually distinct. Marquises hugs the skin as a discreet whisper, turning increasingly soft until it’s nothing more than a sweet, vaguely creamy floral citrus scent with some amorphous woodiness. All in all, it lasted just over 3.75 hours, which is pretty much in line with many reports on Fragrantica, though one poor soul said Marquises died after a mere 30 minutes.

Marquises seems hugely adored by those who have tried it on Fragrantica, many of whom call it “beautiful.” For a few people, it’s actually their favorite from the Escale collection. As a whole, commentators find it citrusy, fresh, and elegant, though some find the spices to dominate, and a rare few think the fragrance smells masculine. Judging by the votes, the main notes that people have experienced are: tiaré (54), blood orange (52), and lemon (51), followed by ginger (43), nutmeg (41), and cardamon (41). The common complaint, however, is that Marquises barely lasts on the skin. Yet, some people find the scent to be lovely and luxurious enough to warrant re-application during the day, and Dior certainly sells Marquises in a generous size at a decent enough price for that to be an option. (The smallest bottle is 75 ml/ 2.5 oz in size and costs $75, £56.00, and about €67,90.) I thought the scent was quite pretty at times, and it never felt very synthetic, so if you’re looking for a warm, airy citrus fragrance with a bit of a quirk, then Marquises may be right up your alley.

ALL IN ALL:

I liked small bits in each of the Dior fragrances, and thought they were generally pretty on occasion. None of them are revolutionary, original, edgy, complex, nuanced, or of luxurious depth, but I don’t think a commercial, summery Cruise line of fresh, citrusy eau de toilettes is meant to be. That said, neither light, crisp citruses nor fragrances that scream “fresh and clean” are to my personal taste, especially when white musk is involved. However, the commercial mass-market taste is for precisely such fragrances, so the Escale collection is aimed at a specific target audience.

For those who appreciate such scents, the Dior eau de toilettes seem ideal, especially for summer. They’re light, easy to wear, versatile, unisex, and affordable (especially given how the “small” Dior size is almost an ounce more than the starting size of most brands). Les Escales may have iffy longevity, depending on the particular fragrance in question and on your personal skin chemistry, but eau de toilettes have moderate longevity in general. As for sillage, the Dior style is for very discreet, soft fragrances as a whole — something which makes them ideal for anyone concerned about wearing fragrances to work, or those who prefer merely a subtle suggestion of scent. All in all, they are well-suited to a particular perfume style and taste.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Escale fragrances are all eau de toilette in concentration, and are available at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and select department stores. The fragrances generally come in two sizes: a 75 ml/ 2.5 oz bottle which costs $75, £56.00, and about €67,90; and a 4.25 fl oz/125 ml which costs $98 or €91. (There is a massive 200 ml bottle as well, but I can’t find pricing on that and few places seem to carry it online.)  In the U.S.: the Escale line of fragrances can be found at select department stores, Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [(702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you free Dior perfume samples, free shipping, and you’ll pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. (I get nothing for recommending her, by the way. I merely think she’s wonderful, and I’ve bought from her myself.) Elsewhere, you can find the full Escale line at Macy’s (though I don’t know how many of the stores carry the fragrances in-house), and two of the fragrances (Pondichery and Portofino) are also available at Nordstrom. A friend in San Francisco informed me that he had difficulty finding the Cruise Collection in department stores, and located them actually at Disneyland, so not every Nordstrom or Macy’s may have them. As a side note, a large 4.2 oz tester bottle of Pontichery is on sale at FragranceNet for $66.46 with a coupon. The others may be similarly discounted on that site, so you may want to check. Outside of the US: In the UK, you can find the Escale Collection at Harrods where prices start at £56.00. In France, you can find the Escale line at French Sephora which sells the 75 ml bottles for €67,90 and the larger 125 ml bottles for €96,90. The link will take you to the Pondicherry entry, but you can find the other fragrances from the Escale link shown midway down on the page. In addition, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a store near you.
Samples: If you want to give any of the Escale fragrances a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $2.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Review En Bref: Vero Profumo Kiki Eau de Parfum

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for a fragrance that, for whatever reason, didn’t warrant one of my long, exhaustive, detailed assessments. In this case, it’s Vero Profumo‘s Kiki Eau de Parfum.

Cannes

Kiki takes me back to my childhood. It returns me to the sun-drenched hills and promenades of Cannes, to the Croisette where we’d sit at Le Festival to have a sandwich, and to the hills where our villa’s long driveway was lined with enormous lavender bushes and mimosa trees. Sun, blue skies, the glitter of turquoise waters, the relaxing heat of a city made fragrant by the flowers that surrounded you everywhere — those are all parts of my childhood summers in Cannes, a city that is just a 15-minute car ride from Grasse whose famous floral fields have made it the perfume-making center of the world.

Unfortunately, not all aspects of that trip down memory lane are pleasant. My time in Cannes created a strong backlash against lavender that, at times, seemed to besiege me from every nook, cranny, drawer, cupboard, kitchen, restaurant, boutique, promenade, street, house, garden, market, and every other possible, conceivable location imaginable. It was well-nigh unbearable to someone with a sensitive nose, and it left a definite mark. Since that time, I cannot stand lavender unless it’s done really well and is not abrasive. That’s not the case for Kiki, a fragrance whose opening I briefly struggled with before it turned into a plain, pretty, banal blur.

Vero Profumo Kiki EDP

Source: Luckyscent.

Vero Profumo (sometimes written with odd punctuation as “.vero.profumo.“) is a Swiss niche perfume line that was established in 2007 with three pure parfums called Onda, Kiki, and Rubj. Kiki in Eau de Parfum form came along three years later, in 2010, and the new concentration had a new formula and notes to go along with it. This time, there was passion fruit — which is probably why Fragrantica puts Kiki in the “aromatic fruity” category. Luckyscent provides the full list of notes:

Lavender essential oil, bergamot, citron, passion fruit, lavender absolute, geranium, caramel, patchouli, musk.

Source: 123rf.com

Dried lavender in a marché in Provence. Source: 123rf.com

Kiki Eau de Parfum opens on my skin with a sonic boom of sharp, pungent, herbal, almost medicinal, dried lavender. In less than a minute, however, it is infused by a strange, intense sweetness that just barely hints at being caramel. The bitter, harsh dried lavender of the sachets that plagued my childhood summers — the exact type of lavender I despise the most — is on full show here. It continues unabated for a few minutes until suddenly, drastically and quite dramatically, it starts to soften. It’s now slightly gentler, warmer, sweeter, rounder, and subtly flecked by a tart, tangy fruitness and by the merest floral whisper from the geranium. 

The fruit notes are interesting. Fresh citruses are mixed into the tart, tangy, sweet, and slightly musky character of the passion fruit. Quickly, they start to infuse the lavender, creating a potent bouquet of bracing, sharp, pungently dry, forceful, but sweetly fragrant lavender with tart, sensuously musky passion fruit and general sweetness. The caramel, patchouli, and subtle, slightly spicy, floral tones of the geranium work in the background, having an indirect effect but never being forcefully noticeable in their own right. It underscores how well-blended Vero Profumo fragrances always are, but it also marks the beginning of something that becomes problematic later on: blurriness. We’ll get to that later. 

Lavender at a Provence marché. Source: Picstopin.com

Sachets of dried lavender at a Provence marché. Source: Picstopin.com

Ten minutes into Kiki’s development, the only distinctive, individual notes are passion fruit and lavender ensconced in an amorphous, airy sweetness. It never feels as though there is full-on caramel in Kiki; there is nothing at all like the rich, heavy, unctuous gooeyiness of the caramel you find in desserts. Actually, it rather feels as though the caramel is infused with vanilla, whipped into a frothy, bubbly, foam-like airiness. It’s extremely pretty, but very subtle. So subtle that it fails to ever fully tame the forceful pungency of that lavender. Even with the sweet notes that infuse it, the lavender is still too much like those Grasse dried sachets of my nightmares with their sharp, abrasive, aggressive, herbal blasts that assault everything they touch. (Maybe I need therapy for my feelings of hostility towards the poor plant?)

Kiki continues its bilateral focus for a while longer. At the twenty-minute mark, the perfume is bracing lavender, soft lavender, sweetened lavender, and fruity lavender, lightly infused with sweet musk and sweetness. If my words sound repetitive and redundant, it’s because they’re meant to be. Kiki is primarily and predominantly one singular theme with only minor, subtle variations. In the background, hints of citruses twinkle like dainty, tiny lights one sees in distant hills. Soft patchouli darts around like a firefly. A very pretty, plush, warn, snuggly softness stirs at the base, feeling as cozy as a cashmere throw. The whole thing is subsumed into a very powerful, potent, forceful combination that is, simultaneously, very airy and very lightweight in feel. Objectively, it’s very pretty; intellectually, I can’t find any of it to be very complex or interesting.

Less than an hour into Kiki’s development, it all starts to turn a little hazy. The perfume’s texture feels creamy, soft, and smooth, but the notes are increasingly blurry. There are a lot of very well-blended perfumes where the elements don’t feel quite so nebulous, intangible, abstract and amorphous. At least, not quite so soon. Kiki has turned into an almost hazy blur of soft, sweet, musky floralness that just barely hints at lavender. Once in a blue moon, the vanillic caramel pops up like a ghost to feel a little more concrete, but it is incredibly fleeting. There is a sweet musk, presumably from the passion fruit, but it has no concrete basis. Even the hint of lavender feels like a flittering, darting thing that you’re trying to grab onto, but it keeps slipping away. It’s an exercise in frustration to pin anything down beyond the general, abstract, creamy, floral sweetness. Even Casper the Friendly Ghost has more structure to his shape and form.

That’s all there is to Kiki on my skin. For the next few hours, its mellow, creamy, floral sweetness darts about like a will o’ the wisp, becoming closer and closer to the skin. It’s a pretty smell, but it’s nothing more than that. The word “boring” actually comes to mind. Exactly 3.75 minutes into the perfume’s development, Kiki is nothing more than sweet, musky vanilla on my skin. It lingers on, soft as a gauzy whisper, for another few hours, then dies completely just over the 6.75 hour mark.

Some of you may think that I can’t objectively and fairly judge a perfume that is centered around a note I dislike so much. You may have a point. However, if reviewers only focused on things they knew they would like, then every magazine, newspaper or website would have to hire thousands of sub-specialists. That’s simply not reality. Perfume reviewing is, by its very nature, even more subjective than most fields, but that doesn’t mean my issues with a particular note automatically doom a fragrance. I loathe ISO E Super, but I’ve given good reviews for a number of fragrances with the dreaded note. I am not a passionate iris fan, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving a few perfumes built around it, either. And, regular readers will know that I have very much appreciated a couple of fragrances which showcased lavender. I gave enormous praise to Histoires de Parfums‘ 1725 Casanova, a lavender aromatic fougère which just barely straddles the gourmand category with its vanilla. It’s lovely enough that I’ve actually considered wearing it. I also greatly admired and liked Santa Maria Novella‘s Ambra which has lavender with neroli and birch tar. And I’ve adored a number of fragrances that have clary sage, a lavender-like plant, or which have featured lavender in conjunction with other notes. So, I don’t hate all perfumes with lavender, but they have to be really good ones to get over my lack of enthusiasm for the note.

At the end of the day, Kiki simply isn’t all that special in my opinion. What manifested itself on my skin was pretty, yes, but it’s neither interesting nor complex. I think the whole thing actually verges on the plain and banal. And that is a far greater problem to me than a brief twenty-minute struggle with the lavender at the beginning. So, Kiki is a complete pass. I’ll stick to Vero Profumo’s honey-vetiver chypre, Onda, whose complexities, nuances, range, and beauty made my jaw drop. It’s a brilliant fragrance that has my heartiest admiration, intellectually and emotionally. Kiki does not.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Kiki fragrance being reviewed here is only the Eau de Parfum version and retails for $200 or €125 (often more from different European vendors) for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. In the U.S.: Kiki is available at Luckyscent for $200 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. (The Vero Profumo website does not seem to sell the perfumes.) 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.” I checked the website for Campomarzio70 and it doesn’t seem to sell the perfumes online, since I could find no “online cart” (so to speak), no pricing options or no way to purchase the perfumes, but you can try to check for yourself. 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 Kiki (and the full Vero Profumo line along with samples) at London’s Bloom Perfumery which sells the Eau de Parfum for £138.00. In Paris, at Jovoy Paris, Kiki retails for €145. In the Netherlands, you can find it at Leanne Tio Haute Parfumerie where it costs €150. In Italy, you can find it at Alla Violetta boutique for €125. Germany’s First In Fragrance sells Kiki EDP for €150, but they also carry the complete Vero Profumo line, offers sample sets, and ship throughout the world. Samples: I obtained Kiki from Surrender to Chance as part of Vero Profumo Three-Perfume Sample Set (Onda, Rubj, and Kiki); the set is only for the EDP concentration and prices begin $13.99 for a 1/2 ml vial of each. Surrender to Chance also sells Kiki EDP individually starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial, and up.

Perfume Reviews – Dior Leather Oud & Granville (La Collection Privée)

John Wayne riding through the arid desert canyons of New Mexico. Gary Cooper in a suit in the bracing, brisk air of Normandie. Two very different images of two very different men stemming from two very different fragrances in Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The fragrances are Leather Oud and Granville, and both were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, to reflect different aspects of the life of Christian Dior.

LEATHER OUD:

Dior Leather OudDior describes the scent as follows:

Christian Dior searched the world, looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. Like the Designer, the Perfumer chooses the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is Oud Wood from Indonesia. Highly powerful, vibrant and deep, Oud Wood is rare and particularly recognizable by the leather scents that it diffuses when burned. Using this unique wood, François Demachy created an intensely masculine fragrance, with strong character in which Leather notes intertwine with those of Gaiac Wood, Cedar and Sandalwood.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

Cardamom, Clove, Leather, Indonesian Oud wood, Gaiac Wood, Civet, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Birch, Cedar, Vetiver, Amyris, Beeswax, Amber and Labdanum.

According to Wikipedia, Amyris is a type of flowering plant or tree that is sometimes called torchwood, and whose trunk emits a type of balsam resin that is often also called elemi. Civet, as many perfumistas know, can have a very musky, animalic aroma that can border on the fecal if used in excess, but which can also lend plush warmth to the depths of a perfume if handled right. 

Leather Oud is sometimes described as an intensely animalistic fragrance, redolent of civet, but the Dior Privé line is not known for extreme, sharp, forceful, or loud notes of any kind — and Leather Oud is no exception. On my skin, it is almost entirely a dry, dusty, woody fragrance with nuances of dry leather and the subtlest inflections of oud, all barely sweetened with a dusty, dusky cardamom. Animalic? Not by a long shot.

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Leather Oud opens on my skin with a sour note like lemons, followed immediately thereafter by varying degrees of dry oud, bitter cloves, dusty cardamom, peppered and dry cypress, and slightly smoked gaiac wood. The top notes in the initial minutes smell a little rancid, though never fecal or wholly civet-like. There is a subtle, feline urinous edge, but it doesn’t last very long, either. Instead, Leather Oud starts pulsating out different layers of dry, smoky, peppered woods. There are subtle tinges of a rooty, dark vetiver, along with an equally dark, almost sour-smelling patchouli, and the merest suggestion of a herbal, floral element. The latter makes me think strongly of clary sage whose dry, lavendery veneer has a leathery undertone. The thing I find unpleasant in Leather Oud is the sour citric note that remains throughout much of the perfume’s development, and which impacts most of the remaining notes.

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

As for the leather, well, it’s there, but it is incredibly subtle. It’s not soft, warm, supple, sweetly aged and rich, but it’s also not black, raw, fecal or pungent, either. It verges on rawhide at times, feeling slightly phenolic and tarry due to the birch wood, but it’s a lot milder than I had expected. It’s also incredibly muted on my skin, overpowered in large part by the cornucopia of dry woods. In fact, the woods impact the feel of the leather to a large extent, turning it into something that feels dry, cracked and antique, instead of anything supple and rich.     

Forty minutes into Leather Oud’s development, there are subtle changes, though never to the perfume’s primary core. The agarwood (oud) which initially felt a little sharp now softens and takes on a slightly creamy feel, almost like cheese, before it eventually turns into something that is simply dry in feel. It is completely overshadowed by the dry gaiac wood with its smoky edges and which evokes images of burning leaves. Accompanying it is a peppered cedar. In the background, the cloves add a touch of bitterness around to the wood notes, and the cardamom brings in an extra layer of dustiness. 

Soon after the one-hour mark, Leather Oud turns softer, creamier, and smoother. It’s very much as though someone had buffed and polished all the rough edges out of the wood. The thread of sour lemon remains, but all the other notes, right down to the bitter cloves, seem more refined. The leather and the oud are mere flickering touches — so much so that I’d never consider Leather Oud to be either a true agarwood fragrance or a leather one. Their muted nature reminds me strongly of By Kilian‘s oud fragrances where the element is a mere background suggestion; if you’re expecting an oud like those offered by Montale, or a serious leather fragrance, then I think you’ll be sorely disappointed. As always Dior offers an extremely refined, smooth interpretation of notes in a well-blended fragrance that is meant to be rather discreet, unobtrusive, and the epitome of moderation. Leather Oud is no exception, right down to its sillage which becomes moderate-to-low around the 90-minute mark.

"Dry Lake Bed" by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

“Dry Lake Bed” by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

Though parts of Leather Oud, like the cardamom become slightly sweeter, the perfume’s essence remains unchanged for the remainder of its lifespan. It is a dusty, arid, woody fragrance infused with dry smoke and sprinkled with barely sweetened cardamom. Around the sixth hour, the bouquet of woods is joined by warm beeswax, but it does little to enrichen the fragrance. Leather Oud evokes, in part, the scent of a dusty bookstore with reams of old, dry paper and, visually, a desert in the old Wild West. For some reason, I keep seeing John Wayne in my mind’s eye. And he stays there for the next 12 hours, until the perfume starts to slowly fade away. In its final moments, Leather Oud is a simple cardamom muskiness, and nothing more. All in all, the fragrance lasted just under 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with soft sillage throughout.

John Wayne in "Hondo" via cinemaforever.com

John Wayne in “Hondo” via cinemaforever.com

Leather Oud is far, far too dry for my personal tastes, but I think it’s a beautifully crafted, well-blended fragrance that is a highly refined take on dry, smoky woods. It seems to be one of the more beloved Dior fragrances, and men go crazy for it, though some on Fragrantica bemoan its dusty nature. A few commentators talk about intense civet notes, but most seem to find it quite manageable and muted. One commentator who is well used to civet, can “sniff it out a mile away,” and loves it wrote that he couldn’t detect any at all; in contrast, another noted a “creamy, fecal” undertone to the fragrance, while a third who despises civet says it is done so beautifully in Leather Oud that it is the first civet fragrance he loved. Obviously, this is a fragrance that you have to try for yourself in order to assess how the note will work out for you. I will say this, however: my skin tends to amplify base notes, especially the more animalistic ones, and I don’t think the animalic dirtiness was strong by any means!

Plus, it simply isn’t the Dior style or signature. None of the Dior Privé line of fragrances are meant to be extreme in any way; they’re meant to be the epitome of refinement and smoothness. And that certainly seems to the majority consensus on Leather Oud on Fragrantica. Their raves are simply too effusively long and gushing for me to quote in any coherent way, so I’ll just say that men who enjoy super dry fragrances (think Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain levels of dryness) with the subtlest tinge of oud, leather, and musk should definitely try out Leather Oud. I don’t think this would really work for most women, however, as the fragrance definitely veers towards the deep end of the masculine spectrum.

GRANVILLE:

Granville is technically supposed to be a women’s fragrance, but its deeply aromatic, invigorating, herbal, woody nature makes it much more suitable for a man, in my opinion.

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Dior describes the perfume and its inspiration as follows:

The House where Christian Dior spent his childhood is located in Granville, in the Normandy region. Built overlooking the cliffs, it is surrounded by pine trees and has a view of the sea. Inspired by this site that is so dear to the Creator, François Demachy chose to create a fresh, invigorating and aromatic fragrance. “I not only wanted an aromatic fragrance, as the estate has an abundance of pine trees, but also one that is exceptionally invigorating and extremely fresh. The gusts of wind, the waves that are constantly breaking against the rocks… Nature, in Granville, is anything but serene. This fragrance is like the wind that blows through Granville.”

Dior GranvilleThe notes in Granville, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

mandarin, Sicilian lemon, White thyme, rosemary, pine needles, black pepper, sandalwood and gorse.

I’m used to “gorse” being another name for a Scottish bush or brushwood, but Fragrantica tells me that it’s also called Dyer’s Greenwood which has a dry, bracken-like aroma similar to “broom” (which, in itself, has a dry, hay-like scent). Either way, I don’t think it’s a prominent part of Granville which is dominated primarily by a strong eucalyptus-like, mentholated note infused with lemon and herbal touches. 

Granville opens on my skin with beautifully sweetened lemon. It has a sunny, bright, fresh warmth to it that is simply lovely. Within seconds, it is infused by strongly aromatic, herbal notes from the thyme, to a subtle glimmer of rosemary, and something quietly floral which feels very much like dry lavender. Granville has a strong resemblance at first to Dior‘s Eau Sauvage, but that quickly dissipates under an onslaught of fresh, camphorous pine with a decidedly eucalyptus-like character. It feels extremely sharp in comparison to the smoothness and richness of the lemon aromatics. Dry, slightly honeyed, hay-like elements from the broom/gorse and cracked black pepper are the final elements to round out the invigorating bouquet. 

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Granville’s primary essence remains the same throughout most of the perfume’s lifespan. The only difference is the degree to which certain notes can compete with each other, though they have no chance to overcome the piney, mentholated, eucalyptus top note at all. Around the forty minute mark, there is the introduction of ISO E Super which eventually fades away after a few hours. Later, there is a much stronger impression of a faintly floral tinge to the herbs lurking in the background. In fact, I can’t help but think that herbaceous lavender is a hidden note, and its combination with the slightly tarry, mentholated pine note strongly calls to mind Santa Maria Novella‘s cologne, Ambra, which is dominated by an extremely similar, tarry, mentholated birch note atop lavender and citrus.

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

At the start of the second hour, Granville becomes smoother, softer, better rounded. It loses its sharp edges, but it retains a certain fresh briskness. It feels rather old-fashioned, conjuring up images of a very refined, classical, suave, debonair gentleman — like Gary Cooper — in a bracing, outdoors environment like the coastal cliffs of Normandie. At the same time, however, it also evokes a very old-fashioned European pharmacy, which is a distinctly less appealing impression. As a whole, Granville is a very linear fragrance that never changes much from start to finish. In its final hours, it’s nothing more than an abstract, woody muskiness with faint flickers of pine. All in all, Granville lasted just over 11 hours, and the sillage after the first forty minutes was moderate-to-low.

Granville doesn’t seem to have a very enthusiastic reception on Fragrantica — and I don’t blame them. I do think it’s better than some of the extremely negative comparisons to scrubbers, hospitals, bathroom cleaners, medicine, chemical astringents, and Ayurvedic Tooth powder that are listed, but it’s not a fantastic, super-duper fragrance nonetheless. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from great, either. I think the fairest (and, certainly, the most positive) description for Granville comes from the commentator, “alfarom,” who writes:

An high-end version of Pino Silvestre aimed to the ladies (well, sort of).

I’ve to admit the above sentence may sound disencouraging to someone but let me say Granville is terrific. It’s a classy herbal/citrus with resinous undertones that opens with a sparkling lemon joined by leafy green citruses. In this phase it may somehow bring to mind of classic Eau De Cologne type of stuff but when you’re just about to dismiss it because of this, pine and some culinary herbs (thyme and rosemary) join the party leading the fragrance to other territories. Slightly minty (menthol), bitter, dark green and much closer to Pino Silvestre than to an EDC.

That being said, Granville is not exactly up my alley, but if you’re into bright piney fragrances this is an extremely solid option. Originally aimed to the ladies but definitely more masculine.

I’ve never tried Pino Silvestre, and I smell eucalyptus far more than mint, but his description is pretty spot-on as a whole.  And Granville isn’t up my alley, either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and try it unless you are really obsessed with mentholated pine or eucalyptus notes. In all honesty, I think Granville is a rather mediocre showing in the Privé line.

 

DETAILS:
Leather Oud is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. So is Granville. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. In the U.S.: both fragrances can be found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, though I don’t know if the SF Neiman Marcus carries all of them.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Leather Oud available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Leather Oud a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. Granville is also available for the same price. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review: Mona di Orio Eau Absolue (Les Nombres d’Or)

A lazy day in the sun. The summer’s heat brings out the spiciness of the sugar cane and Jamaican bay trees in the distance. Oranges and lemons hang heavy from the trees in a grove nearby. As the heat warms your body even further, you stretch out on your chaise lounge by the pool and reach for a refreshing glass of lemonade. And then you slather sweet, citrus-infused honey on yourself as if it were suntan lotion.

knstrct.com

knstrct.com

Images of sun, heat, honey and citrus are what come to mind when I wear Eau Absolue, the latest release from Mona di Orio and part of her Nombres d’Or Collection. Mona di Orio was an extremely talented perfumer who died tragically at the age of 41 in 2011 from post-surgical complications. Yet, the new Eau Absolue is her creation, based on a formula made by Ms. Orio before her death as an ode to the Mediterranean. According to an article on Now Smell This, Mona di Orio’s business partner and the company’s co-founder,Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, was determined to remain faithful to her formula, her vision, her style and her legacy, so her formula has not been altered in any way.

Mona di Orio Eau AbsoluePart of that Mona di Orio signature style is something called “Chiaroscuro.” It is a term which refers to the interplay between dark and light, and a way of creating depth or three-dimensionality by using sharp, bold contrasts. The chiaroscuro construction is very much at play in Eau Absolue which is described on the Mona di Orio website as a “Hesperide Woody Balsamic” with the following character:

Eau Absolue is a memoir steeped in Mona di Orio’s love for the Mediterranean. Composed in her signature olfactory chiaroscuro construction, the scent envelopes in joyous warmth.

Eau Absolue effervesces like a summer breeze carrying a zestful bouquet of bergamot, mandarin, clementine and Petitgrain. These bright, convivial citruses splash against the epicurean spice of pink peppercorn.

The scent becomes earthy and softly floral, with whispers of geranium, dry vetiver and balsamic St Thomas Bay Leaf. The nocturnal shade intensifies, arching ever deeper, until plunging directly into a caress of cistus labdanum, the ambry smell of the Mediterranean, and sensual musk, an elegant and intoxicating denouement.

Eau Absolue Notes:
Sicilian bergamot, clementine and Petitgrain Citronnier, Litsea Cubeba from China, Egyptian geranium, vetiver from Java & Haiti, Jamaican St. Thomas Bay Leaf, pink peppercorn from Peru, cedar wood from Virginia, musk, cistus labdanum.

A brief explanation of some of these notes may be useful. According to my research, Litsea Cubeba (or “May Chang”) oil comes from an evergreen tree or shrub native to China. It possesses a lemon-like odor that has sometimes been compared to lemongrass or lemon verbena, thought it is supposedly sweeter than lemongrass. As for Jamaican St. Thomas Bay Leaf (Pimenta racemosa), its aroma isn’t like that of the dried leaves used in cooking. Instead, it is said to have a spicy, balsam-like odor that is like a resin, though some say it’s also a little like cloves due to all the eugenol in the plant.

Orange and lemon via Herbal Teas InternationalFrom the very first sniff, Eau Absolue is a rich lemon-honey fragrance. The honey is not dark but sweet, imbued with delicate floral notes and strong dashes of that litsea cubeba. It really smells as described: like lemongrass but sweeter; like verbena but richer and without any soapiness. It’s heady and beautiful. There is also a subtle, sweet muskiness underlying the notes. Slowly, slowly, as if on tiptoes, there is: a hint of juicy, fresh mandarin orange; the spicy resin of the St. Thomas Bay leaf; a ghostly bit of petitgrain with its bitter, woody nuance; and the merest pinches of cedar.

Source: Mobiwalt.com

Source: Mobiwalt.com

And that generally is the sum-total of the entire fragrance for most of its lifespan on my skin. Eau Absolue fluctuates in the depth, degree or intensity of some of its notes, but the primary bouquet remains the same with absolutely no change or additions. Even out of those original notes, the main, dominant scent on my skin is a lovely lemon-infused honey with spicy resin, orange and a whisper of musk — the remaining notes merely circle around the back like shadows in the sunlight. Around the 40 minute mark, the honey turns richer, deeper, and darker, while also taking on a slightly sulfurous nuance, similar to that in Vero Profumo‘s Onda. I don’t mind it, but it can be a little sharp for a while.

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Two hours into the perfume’s development, Eau Absolute softens, losing a bit of that edge, while simultaneously becoming even more resinous, spicy and balsamic as the St. Thomas bay leaf becomes much more prominent. Interestingly, there is also a sudden, but subtle, flicker of smokiness to the base which intensifies as times goes on. If Eau Absolue were a recipe, it would now be something like this: 2 cups of honey with 3 teaspoons of sun-sweetened lemon; 2 teaspoons of spicy resin; a teaspoon of warm, juicy orange; a teaspoon of dark smoke; and a dash of light, soft, sweet musk.

Source: 123rf.com

Caramelized sugar cane cubes. Source: 123rf.com

The perfume remains that way until the drydown starts at the top of the sixth hour when Eau Absolue turns into sweetened, spicy woodiness infused by smoky, caramelized honey and the merest hint of orange. The smoky nuance is fascinating because it’s almost like singed sugar cane, both the leaf and the sugar cubes itself. It’s beautifully warm, woody, dry, spicy, and molten — all at once. There is also an occasional note of melted wax, as if the honey had deepened to the point that it had turned into solid beeswax and then been melted. It’s not prominent and is just a subtext to the overall honey note, but it’s there. Another note that has deepened is the musk which has now taken on an ambery quality. It’s not animalic, raunchy or intimate at all on me, but feels more like the light muskiness from heated, sweetened skin. The whole combination is incredibly light and airy, though it is also a skin scent at this point.

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

Source: wallpapers.free-review.net

The drydown begins at the sixth hour, but Eau Absolue is by no means finished. On my voracious, perfume-consuming skin, Eau Absolute lasted almost another 8 hours! Granted, I frequently thought it had vanished, only to be surprised by its tenaciousness as it chugged away subtly and silently as the most infinitesimal veil. In its final three hours, Eau Absolue turned into general, abstract, nebulous, sweet muskiness and nothing more. All in all, it lasted just short of 14 hours on me, even if was an amorphous, sheer skin scent for eight of those hours. The longevity was astounding, especially as I did not apply any more than my usual quantity. In terms of sillage, it was quite powerful at the start, radiating out a good 5-6 inches for the first hour before becoming a little bit softer. Even when the perfume was wafting only an inch or so above my arm, the notes were still potent and very strong within that small cloud.

I am a sucker for honey fragrances, so I absolutely adored Eau Absolue, but I must advise caution when it comes to this perfume. Honey is one of those notes which can turn rancid, intimately animalic, funky, or sour on one’s skin, depending on skin chemistry. And the same applies to labdanum which can often manifest itself with a honey characteristic. I’ve noticed that my skin not only amplifies labdanum, but also minimizes the barnyard aspect, one of its many possible nuances. While I’m lucky that both honey and labdanum bloom on me, that’s not the case with everyone. Take, for example, a friend of mine who is an experienced perfumista and whose skin chemistry normally works well even with a rich, musky, labdanum, slightly animalic perfume like Maison Francis Kurkdjian‘s stunning Absolue Pour Le Soir. She had an atrocious experience with Mona di Orio’s Eau Absolue. She gave me permission to quote her private description to me: Eau Absolue “was instant nose wrinkling, gasping, rotten, fermented body odor and stinky shoes.” Oh dear.

I think my skin chemistry’s interaction with labdanum explains why I found “honey” to be the primary essence of Eau Absolue on me, while other reviewers had quite a different experience. For example, it was all green, citric, soapy, animalic notes for Now Smell This whose review reads, in part:

Eau Absolue is citrusy, but because of the perfume’s weight and other notes it smells to me more like a green fragrance with bergamot, lemon, and orange rather than like a classic Eau de Cologne. On first sniff, Eau Absolue is thick with a mélange of tart citrus rind and smashed green stems. Bay leaf smoothes away any sharp edges, and an underpinning of cedar casts an almost horsey-animalic note deep in the perfume’s heart.

All in all, Eau Absolue feels clean and green-fresh, reminding me of an expensive bar of artisanal soap. Over time the citrus ebbs, and the fragrance becomes a tiny bit sweeter but remains green. Eventually it gracefully fades, growing quieter, but still true to the perfume’s overall story. Like the other Mona di Orio fragrances I’ve tried, it’s dense and warm, not an airy tingle of citrus like, say, Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale.

Lucas of Chemist in the Bottle also got lots of green notes, along with a very pulpy citrus opening (that he briefly found to be reminiscent of household cleaners), then petitgrain, big doses of geranium, light cedar, a slightly burnt and mineralized amber and, in the final drydown, a “sweaty feel” to the base. He was not a fan.

As always, my experience was closest to that of The Non-Blonde (we really must have extremely similar skin), though she doesn’t seem to have experienced heaps of honey:

Eau Absolue opens with a rather misleading burst of citrus. It’s bracing and lemony, dry and slightly bitter like a very grownup drink. This early summer morning is followed closely by unfolding layers of crisp aromatics, woods and spices that surround and protect a resinous-incense core. Cistus labdanum can turn quite dirty and musky. In Eau Absolue Mona di Orio kept the barnyard at a safe distance, though there is an animalic presence in the late dry-down. Somehow the fragrance manages not to get its white shirt soiled even though it steps dangerously close at times.

The juxtaposition of clean and dirty notes makes the dry-down of Eau Absolue very enchanting. It’s warm and slightly ambery, you can almost feel and smell crumbling soil that has soaked sunshine and clean air all day. Eau Absolue is almost bursting with life– it’s zesty, peppery, and just animalic enough to feel the heartbeat under the surface.

Sunshine and warmth, after the start of a cool citrus drink. It’s very much what Eau Absolue evoked in me, too. And that impression extended as well to a reviewer on Fragrantica who called Eau Absolue “breathtakingly beautiful” with a “warm and summery… Mediterranean vibe[.]” (The only other review currently up on Fragrantica simply says: “it is a cologne, yet rather animalic.”) 

My suggestion to you is to try Eau Absolue if you know your skin chemistry works well with animalic notes, honey and/or labdanum. I didn’t think the perfume was animalic at all (beyond general, light muskiness), and The Non-Blonde thought Eau Absolue kept “the barnyard at a safe distance,” but if your skin tends to amplify those notes and, more importantly, if you hate the result, then you may feel the distance is not far enough. As for me, I adored Eau Absolue’s beautiful honey-citrus essence and plan on getting a decant for myself — something I’m not frequently inspired to do. I don’t think I’ll want to smell of honey every day and I don’t know how versatile it is, but I find something incredibly soothing, comforting, cozy and relaxing about Eau Absolue. I swear, I think my blood pressure and stress level went down two notches while wearing it. I give it two thumbs up.

DETAILS:
Cost, Sizes, Sets & Availability: Eau Absolue is an eau de parfum, and comes in a variety of different options and sizes. The full bottle is 3.4 oz/100 ml and costs $230, €160 or £135.00. It is available world-wide on the Mona di Orio website which also sells a 5 ml roll-on version for €12 or a Travel Set of 3 x 10ml bottles for €85. There is also a Nombres d’Or Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml bottles which is sold for €90 and, for the company’s website version at least, Eau Absolue is included. (Boxes from other vendors don’t seem to have been updated yet to include this brand new fragrance.) In the U.S.: you can find Eau Absolue at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and MinNewYork (which also offers free shipping within the US). All three places sell samples of the perfume. LuckyscentParfum1 sell the Discovery Set of 8 x 5ml roll-on bottles of the entire Nombres d’Or for $145, while MinNY discounts the set for $5 off, pricing it at $140. Luckyscent’s version of the box doesn’t currently include Eau Absolue since it is so new, so you may want to buy the set offered directly from Mona di Orio’s website if you’re interested in trying Eau Absolue as well. You can also purchase a bottle of Eau Absolue in the 100 ml size from Olfactif which has a perfume subscription service. Outside the U.S: In the UK, you can find Eau Absolue at Les Senteurs which sells it for £135.00 and which also carries a sample vial for sale. In Paris, I see Mona di Orio listed on the Marie Antoinette Paris website but can’t find prices or individual perfumes for the line. In the Netherlands, Eau Absolue is carried at Skin Cosmetics. For the rest of Europe, you can turn to Germany’s First in Fragrance which carries the perfume for €160.00, along with a sample for purchase. In the United Arab Emirates, the Mona di Orio line is sold at Harvey Nichols. In Australia, Eau Absolue is available at Melbourne’s Peony Haute Perfumerie for AUD $230. For all other countries from Russia to Spain, you can use the Store Locator guide on the company website. Samples: Samples are available at Surrender to Chance or The Perfumed Court (both of whom sells vials starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml), at Luckyscent, Parfum1, and many of the European retailers linked to above.