Tom Ford Violet Blonde

When Tom Ford announced the release of his Signature Collection of perfumes in the fall of 2011, his first creation seemed to complement his new make-up line. It was Violet Blonde, a fragrance that ostensibly celebrated the delicate world of the flower that it was named after. Even the print ads seemed to support that point. Appearances can be deceiving.

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source:

Lara Stone photographed by Mert & Marcus. Source:

According to the Tom Ford press release quoted by Nordstrom, Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum meant to represent “a new era of feminine glamour.” The description goes on to read:

Tom Ford Violet Blonde is an opulent fragrance that reveals a stunning new facet of violet: ravishing, intriguing elegance. Made with some of the most precious ingredients in the world, it is crafted according to the finest traditions of European perfumery.

Top notes: violet leaf absolute, Italian mandarin and baie rose.
Middle Notes: Tuscan orris [iris] absolute, Tuscan orris butter and jasmin sambac sampaquita.
Bottom Notes: benzoin, cedarwood, vetiver absolute, silkolide and soft suede.



Violet Blonde opens on my skin with a potent burst of green, crunchy, leafy, and peppery notes. You can almost feel the fuzzy, soft leaves of a bunch of violets or pansies, except they are covered with pepper. The scent of the actual violets themselves, however, feels hidden and muffled, as though they were shielded behind the leafy green notes. On my skin, they are a whisper of a suggestion at best, feeling dewy and faintly earthy. The violets and their powerful green leaves are all nestled at the base of a dry tree, though the note doesn’t feel very much like cedar to me but more akin to an abstract woodiness. Seconds later, sweetness seeps through like a creeping puddle approaching the flowers, covering them with a delicate, thin syrup. It’s not ridiculously sweet or gourmand; it’s more like clear corn syrup than heavy, gooey honey.

Pink peppercorns. Source:

Pink peppercorns. Source:

The purple, green, and brown canvas is quickly splattered with splotches of pink from the pink peppercorns, and with cream from a slightly sharp musk. It’s not the clean or white variety, but it has the subtlest touch of freshness about it, serving to lift up the other notes to make them seem lighter than they actually are. As regular readers know, I’m not at all a fan of synthetic musks, and my nose is very sensitive to their strength, so I’m not a fan of this part of Violet Blonde. Thankfully, the note is relatively minor at this point, though that ends up changing later.

Deep in the base, there lurks an extremely subtle vein of fruitiness. It is indistinct and abstract, but it certainly doesn’t smell like mandarin to me. What’s interesting is how the combination of the pink pepper berries and the musk have created the feel of a general pink fruitiness that is lightly spiced. There is a subtle jamminess to the fruit, too, almost as if purple, fruited patchouli had been used.

Violet Leaf via

Violet Leaf via

All those notes lurk behind the peppery green leaves which are the dominant focus of the scent in the early minutes. The violet flower itself is very elusive, and it becomes even more so 8 minutes into the perfume’s development when the jasmine arrives. It is syrupy, sweet, and very heady. I love big white flowers, so I’m rather thrilled by all this, but the strength of the jasmine basically dooms the violet from every having a chance at a solo act on center stage. In fact, the violet slinks off to the sidelines with a whimper and basically sits out much of the rest of the fragrance like some sort of very embarrassed wallflower. It’s rather disappointing, but perhaps it’s a function of skin chemistry.

Trailing behind the jasmine is the first suggestion of something powdered. Orris is often used in makeup as a fixative and has a powdered aroma, as does iris. Here, there is the tiniest whisper of a rose-iris makeup powder undertone, though it is extremely subtle. Honestly, almost every note in this perfume is subtle and muted on my skin except for the crunchy, peppered leaves in the beginning, and then the jasmine and the musk.

Violet Blonde is quite potent in its opening moments. I used 3 decent sprays from a tiny atomizer, an amount which equals 2 small squirts from an actual bottle. Violet Blonde wafts about me in a billowy, potent cloud that feels as light as a feather, though it is extremely strong in smell. The airy weight of the fragrance is definitely misleading. Violet Blonde’s projection is initially good, wafting about 4 inches above the skin, though that starts to change extremely quickly. As you will see, the opening forcefulness is not characteristic of the scent as a whole.



The jasmine soon becomes Violet Blonde’s driving force. Within 20 minutes, its sweetness cuts through a good portion of the perfume’s greenness. Oddly, I can smell more of the actual violet flower now — as opposed to its leaves — than I did at the start, though it keeps playing a peekaboo game with me from the sidelines. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the strongest, I would put the violet note at a 3.5 now, perhaps a 4 for a brief moment. It had begun as a 1.5, so it is an improvement, but it’s all very relative. At the same time, the powder and cedar elements also grow stronger. As a whole, Violet Blonde smells of sweet florals dominated by jasmine and thoroughly infused with leafy, peppered, violet leaves. The main bouquet is lightly flecked by powder, cedar, the violet flower itself, pink peppered berries, and a touch of fresh musk.

Jasmine Rouge.

Jasmine Rouge.

Violet Blonde feels like a juxtaposition of contrasts: heavy but light; headily floral but crisply fresh; sweetly dewy but peppered green; a touch earthy but also a touch powdered; understated and, yet, bold as well. It has that signature Tom Ford opulence, but it is ratcheted down from the levels of many of his Private Blend fragrances. Violet Blonde is not demure, but it is also not particularly flashy or va-va-voom either. Those last two words are what I’d use to describe Violet Blonde’s sibling in the Signature Collection line, Jasmine Rouge, which was released shortly afterwards and which is spectacularly heady in its intensity and punch. Violet Blonde is not. Yet, it feels much less subdued than Tom Ford’s recently discontinued Private Blend Black Violet. On my skin, the latter was quite anemic, muted, and quiet indeed. It also had extremely disappointing projection that didn’t feel like a Tom Ford fragrance at all, never mind one of his Private Blend ones.

Violet Blonde seems to fall midway on the Tom Ford spectrum of power, heaviness, and projection, especially after 40 minutes when it turns much softer. The sillage slowly drops to about 1-2 inches above the skin. The perfume’s weight feels as though it has been cut by 30%, perhaps because the jasmine has now blended into the overall fragrance and has lost a lot of its syrupy sweetness. The powder notes are now much stronger, too.

Sketch: Walter Logeman at

Sketch: Walter Logeman at

At the end of the first hour, Violet Blonde turns more abstract, and the notes all blur into each other. The sillage drops even further. The overall bouquet is of a woody, slightly powdered jasmine with musk. It is only lightly flecked by green, leafy, peppered notes, and they grow increasingly weak. The powder isn’t enormous; we’re not talking Guerlainade levels by any means. It feels more like a light dusting over the jasmine than a strong, core element. One thing is for certain, the iris is not showing its strong, cold, carroty, or dank facets at all. As for the rose, it’s really a no-show on my skin, though there is sometimes a suggestion of it lurking about the powder. I suspect that is merely my mind making a mental association with the sort of powdery rose smell that some makeup or lipsticks can have.

Violet Blonde is very pretty, but I’m really not keen on the growing forcefulness of the musk which pushes aside the green leafiness, the powder, and everything else it sees. Everything but the jasmine. The musk smells sharp to my nose, and is definitely synthetic. Thankfully, it’s not the fresh, white, laundry, “clean” type, or I’d go out of my mind. Still, it grows stronger and stronger as time passes. All too soon, Violet Blonde devolves to a simple jasmine musk on my skin with some abstract woody notes.

Violet Blonde is a very linear scent whose core essence doesn’t change during the rest of its evolution. All that happens is that the jasmine and musk fluctuate in terms of their strength. At times, Violet Blonde feels as though it has turned wholly abstract, and the notes (other than that musk) have lost all individual shape or identity. To be precise, it starts to smell like nothing more than a generic “floral, woody musk” on my skin. At other times, however, the jasmine appears as a distinct element, before it sinks back down into the general cloud. At the start of the 2nd hour, Violet Blonde’s sillage hovers just an inch above the skin. 60 minutes later, the perfume turns into a complete skin scent. It’s quite a surprise to have a Tom Ford fragrance turn so discreet after 120 minutes.

Catherine Jeltes Painting, "Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape." Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

Catherine Jeltes Painting, “Modern Brown Abstract Painting WinterScape.” Etsy Store, GalleryZooArt, linked within. (Click on photo.)

For hours, Violet Blonde continues its trajectory as a simple, sweet, powdered jasmine scent with abstract woodiness and sharp musk. By the end of the 5th hour, there are a two small changes in the base. First, a creamy undertone appears which is lovely. It’s like sweetened woods with a distinct vanillic edge. The latter clearly stems from the benzoin listed in the notes. Second, there is a subtle vein of jammy sweetness that reappears deep down. I can’t pinpoint the source, but, again, it almost feels like a touch of fruit-chouli or purple patchouli. As a whole, Violet Blonde is now an abstract floral scent on a base of creamy woods that are lightly flecked by a vanillic benzoin and strongly infused with fresh musk. The jasmine is just barely distinguishable; all the rest of the notes have faded away or turned wholly indistinct.

The musk starts to finally mellow out and pipe down by the middle of the 7th hour. To my surprise, the violet flower makes a brief, 30-minute reappearance on the sidelines. I guess it was waiting for the musk to shut up in order to make a visit, but it’s still a very shy, quiet, and muted affair. As a whole, Violet Blonde remains on its simple course: a sweet floral musk with creamy woods. The powder fades away by the middle of the 9th hour, as does a lot of the musk, leaving only creamy floral sweetness as the perfume’s dominant characteristic. Violet Blonde remains that way until the end when it dies in a blur of something vaguely floral. All in all, it lasted just over 11.25 hours with very soft, discreet sillage after the end of the 2nd hour.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Photo: Temptalia, with grateful thanks.

Violet Blonde has generally received very good reviews. I’ll start with my friend, Temptalia, who isn’t even particularly into floral scents but who found Violet Blonde to be “elegant, polished, and subtly feminine–ultimately, a sophisticated, layered scent that’s not as heavy or as daunting as Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection, but in some ways, more refined.” Her review reads, in part:

It opened with strong burst of floral notes with a sweetened, fruit-laced edge over a backdrop of peppery greens. There was an inkling of the greenness from the violet leaf when it opened, but it quickly transitioned to fragrant, floral jasmine, which was the prevailing note on my skin for some time. The jasmine blended with the rooty qualities of the orris (iris root), so it was cool and just softer than crisp; like the first few days of fall, where the air coolly caresses and you realize the seasons have just changed.

I appreciated the damp, mustiness the orris notes imparted–they enhanced the depth and added another layer of nuance.  It made it distinctly autumnal for me [….]  It’s fresh and green and lovely.

Violet Blonde encapsulates some of those qualities–the freshness and green crispness of autumn–but it is more floral than anything else.  It never turned achingly sweet, which is a direction that tends to remind me of youthfulness, and instead, it evolved to an earthy jasmine with soft, creamy woods that took away some of the edginess of the opening of the scent but made it more wearable.

We had an extremely similar experience, right down to the lovely creamy touch that arrives in Violet Blonde’s drydown. I agree fully with her sentiment that Violet Blonde feels elegant, while not being as heavy or intense as many of the Private Blend line. Where we differ is in the feeling of autumn, as I felt Violet Blonde felt more like Spring, but that’s all an emotional, subjective response. (Plus, I’m writing this at the arrival of Spring, so I’m definitely being influenced by that factor. The perfume was released in Autumn 2011, so that might have played a role in the early reviews.)



Autumn was also on the mind of Bois de Jasmin who gave Violet Blonde a positive review as well:

Although the perfume is called Violet Blonde, the violet in this composition figures more as a green, crunchy leaf, rather than the raspberry redolent flower. As the fragrance settles into the skin, there is a flash of soft, tender violet petals. The delicate sweetness is a very appealing counterpoint to the peppery-green layers that follow. Soon, a strong jasmine note gives its rich hue to the floral and green notes. The cool iris lends Violet Blonde its austere, earthy quality, and when contrasted with the plush jasmine, the effect is memorable and surprising.

The wet, green woody notes underpin the radiant floral core of Violet Blonde, giving it an autumnal feeling of chrysanthemum petals clinging to damp earth. While the leafy and peppery sparkle persists throughout the perfume’s development, there is a musky softness to the drydown that makes Violet Blonde less edgy than it might have appeared initially. It is both a plus and a minus, because while the softness makes the fragrance more wearable, it also reduces its character. Like Balenciaga Paris, Violet Blonde feels too timid to truly make a statement. On the other hand, even if it does not strike me as a bombshell perfume, Violet Blonde is a well-crafted composition. Elegant and polished, it would make a great daytime perfume, a comfortable silk slip of a fragrance.



For Now Smell This, Violet Blonde was “polished chic,” and their review reads, in part, as follows:

Violet Blonde is soft and cushy-powdery, as is the current fashion, but it’s loudly so, in keeping with Tom Ford’s aesthetic. […] The opening is a heady mix of citrus, sweet fruit, violet leaf and violet (violet fans take note: it does smell like violet in the early stages). It’s green early on, and peppery throughout. The fruit notes soften as the top notes dissipate, and the violet fades into a jasmine-heavy floral mixed with a dry, peppery iris. The jasmine is clean, with fruity undertones, and it’s strong rather than rich: the ad copy repeatedly uses the word opulence, but it’s a decidedly modern sort of opulence. The base is pale earthy woods, smooth and creamy, and mostly clean — as was the case with White Patchouli, the earthy notes are there, but they’ve been worked over with a fine-toothed comb; there’s no must or skank whatsoever. […][¶]

Violet Blonde in particular has that same feel of “polished chic” that verges on formal (formal, polished and chic also feature in the ad copy). I likened Black Orchid to a ball gown, and White Patchouli to the upscale New York all-in-black look (trousers, a black turtleneck and boots, big sunglasses, sleek hair, one big piece of jewelry). Violet Blonde, the purple-tinged advertising notwithstanding, I’d put in shades of beige and tan, something rather like the perfectly tailored ladies-who-lunch [wear.][…]



I very much agree with her sentiment of a polished chic that is rather in-between things. It relates back to my point on how Violet Blonde feels as though it is midway on the spectrum between something like Jasmine Rouge (or the bold Private Blends), and the more understated fragrances in the line. For whatever reason, the image which repeatedly came to my mind was that of Sharon Stone from the Oscars long ago in 1998, when she made news by pairing her husband’s simple, white, crisp GAP shirt with an opulent Vera Wang ball gown in violet.    

Lest all this sound like Violet Blonde is filled with nothing but fabulousness, let me make clear that the perfume isn’t for everyone. Obviously, you must like both jasmine and powder, and you should not expect a ton of the actual violet flower. Some people seem to struggle with the peppered, green leaves, as witnessed by a few comments on Fragrantica, while others have problems with other aspects of the scent, including its weak sillage. Some of the negative reviews: 

  • The first hour is a torture for me – can’t put up with e cold top notes? However, it becomes more and more unique as it warms up on the skin and blends into the chemistry of the skin. a dry down seems to me very similar to Chanel Allure.. Overall, very interesting and intriguing fragrance. Love it on someone else, rather than on me.
  • Its nice enough but I am slightly disappointed by this ‘mousy’ perfume – I expected Violet Blonde to smell sharp, fresh and more blueish… But its very subtle – it opens with diffuse powder and hints of muted violet. The dry down on my skin is very sweet and musky – like condensed milk. Its much better on clothing – then the violet is more detectable and it has a nice smoky quality.
  • I really really like this perfume but it is so weak… It wears like an eau de cologne on me, I must be anosmic to a fragrance for the first time in my life? [¶] Contrary to several reviewers here I adore the sharp opening. It’s a sexy car screeching to a halt, a dyed, blonde wearing something inappropriate opening the door mid-breaking. It’s awesome and exciting. [¶] After the promising beginning it stays and pleasantly tingles my senses for about 2 hours with suede and iris and a few aldehydic background notes but unfortunately fizzles out shortly after. The bodylicious Blonde becomes a shrinking violet….
  • Bananas, honey, spices, old makeup…the opening on this scent is so awful that I can’t even justify the drydown.
  • My nose does not translate this opening well at all. It just smells like nondescript perfume to me. Nothing stands out for a solid 15 minutes, it is just kind of a mish-mosh of different notes that do not really compliment or play upon each other. They all seem to be competing for first place and nothing is really winning. But if a winner must be chosen I guess it would be the pink pepper. [¶] It finally settles into a soft powdery violet/iris/jasmine that smells nice and rather polite and feminine. But it is nothing exciting or distinct. It just kinda smells like “perfume”.
  • 1972 beauty parlor top note. [¶] As an obsessed gardener, I cannot pick out a violet note at any point and the overall feeling is perfectly fine for downtown big city USA. And it’s not that I despise it, really, if I worked in an urban sophisticated environment and wanted to project the image of a confidant, don’t-mess-with-me woman, this would be perfect. As it is, it’s too mature for me at age fifty.

For every one of those negative reviews (or, in some cases, quasi-negative, mixed reviews), I can show you two more positive ones from other people on Fragrantica. Even the ones that start negatively soon turn positive. Then, there are the many who write long, gushing, rave reviews, calling Violet Blonde “classy,” or a “masterpiece.” My gut feeling about the negative reactions is that the peppered, powdered leafy notes are a stumbling block for some people, coming across as either harsh, too strong, or “beauty parlor”-like, before the jasmine’s sweetness cuts through it.

I’m also going to add that the musk (yes, that bloody musk!) creates a foundational element that feels similar to so many other fragrances out there, especially in conjunction to the creamy woods. I think that would explain the handful of comments comparing Violet Blonde’s drydown with Chanel‘s Allure. Honestly, when you’re getting into the “floral, woody musk” genre, when the florals turn abstract and indistinct, but sit upon a creamy wood base infused with that musk… well, they all end up smelling somewhat similar and generic. It’s not a positive thing in my eyes, and is one of the main reasons why I have such problems with the over-use of the musk in commercial scents.

I may not be as keen for Violet Blonde as some people out there, but I did thoroughly enjoy parts of it. While it doesn’t fit my tastes, I think people who enjoy very feminine, soft, powdered florals may want to give Violet Blonde a sniff. Those of you who love jasmine, in particular, may want to seek it out at one of the many department stores which carries the fragrance. Violet Blonde is a generally elegant, uncomplicated, feminine fragrance which is very well-priced for Tom Ford. It feels as refined as his Private Blend line, but for half the price, particularly as you can find it highly discounted at such places as Amazon or FragranceNet. As you can see in the Details section below, a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle retails for around $110 but can be found for as low as $67. In contrast, Tom Ford’s Private Blend fragrances in that same size retail for $210, and usually can’t be found discounted at all.

 All in all, it’s a pretty scent that should suit some people very well. 

Cost & Availability: Violet Blonde is an eau de parfum which generally comes 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml, 1.7 oz/50 ml, and 3.4 oz/100 ml. In the U.S.: you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora where it costs $72, $110, or $155, depending on size. Violet Blonde is also sold at Nordstrom in the larger $110 and $155 bottles. Other regular retailers include SaksNeiman Marcus, Macy’s, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman. Discount PricesAmazon discounts the $110 bottle for around $67 and it is supposedly sold by “Tom Ford.” Amazon also sells the tiny 1 oz/30 ml bottle for $56 through a 3rd party vendor. Another discount site is FragranceNet which sells Violet Blonde for roughly $69 and $101 in the larger sizes, with a coupon. FragranceNet has numerous different subsites by country, from Canada to Australia, the UK, EU, South Africa, and Scandinavian countries. To find the discounted price for your country, go to the little flag icon at the very, very top of the page on the far right, click it, choose your nation’s flag, and you’ll be taken to the site appropriate for you with its huge discounted rates. Outside the U.S.: You can find Violet Blonde discounted at various FragranceNet country sites. (See above.) For regular retailers: In Canada, you can find Violet Blonde at Sephora which sells it for CAD$68, CAD$120, or CAD$163, depending on size. I believe Tom Ford is also carried at Holt Renfrew. In the UK, Violet Blonde is priced at £50, £70, or £100, depending on the size of the bottle. You can buy it at House of Fraser for £70 for the 50 ml size. Violet Blonde is sold at Harrods or Selfridges in all 3 sizes. In France, you can find the entire Tom Ford line at Sephora, including Violet Blonde. Premiere Avenue sells the large size of Violet Blonde. Tom Ford is carried throughout the Middle East and Asia, but his website is currently undergoing a change, so I can’t give you his store locator guide for a location near you. SamplesSurrender to Chance sells Violet Blonde for $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also go to any of the department stores listed above to give it a test sniff.

Review En Bref: Serge Lutens Laine de Verre

My Reviews en Bref are always for scents that, for whatever reason, may not warrant one of my more exhaustive, detailed assessments. This time, it’s for the brand new Serge Lutens‘ fragrance, Laine de Verre, which was released in February 2014.

Fiberglass. Source:

Fiberglass. Source:

Laine de Verre is an eau de parfum created by Christopher Sheldrake, and the third in Serge Lutens’ Eaux series. A number of people have described the L’Eau (or Water) series as anti-perfumes, and I think that’s quite accurate. It is always one of the many reasons why I struggle with Laine de Verre, a perfume inspired by fiber-glass. Yes, fiber-glass or glass wool insulation, and no, I’m not joking.

The Serge Lutens website describes Laine de Verre in the usual abstract terms:

It is only after he had been penetrated by the winter that, laying down his arms, the Lord of Glass came to place
at the feet of the Lady of Wool flowers and ferns which had frosted on him.



Luckyscent has a much more detailed olfactory assessment, along with their guess at Laine de Verre’s notes:

A fragrance named after an insulating material? That’s what “laine de verre” means: glass wool. […] His third offering in the Eaux series expresses “a domestic quarrel between my feminine and my masculine” sides, the maestro explains: the Lord of Glass, offering the ferns and flowers etched on his body by frost to the Lady of Wool.

The result is as playfully weird and avant-garde as you’d expect, with a huge aldehydic burst in the top notes – the odorant equivalent of orange soda pop bubbles fizzing in your nose. A whiff of ozone, the slightest hint of metal-tinge rose… There are shards of glass in that ball of mohair wool!

But just when you’re shivering, the “wool” half of the equation kicks in, or rather, rises in a fuzzy haze of musk and cashmeran – one of the most attractive and complex synthetic notes, musky, woody, ambery with comforting a hint of dustiness…

[Notes]: Citrus notes, aldehydes, musks, cashmeran.

I don’t agree with their characterization of the perfume as a whole, but I think their description of cashmeran is quite accurate given how the synthetic manifests itself here. As for the note list, I don’t think it is complete, especially as they themselves mention roses. They’re right, there is a very clear floral presence that lurks about Laine de Verre’s edges. It is a pale, watery, pink rose, and it is joined by other notes which that list omits as well. Very synthetic notes….



I’m going to say this as candidly and bluntly as possible, upfront: I’m the wrong target audience for a “fragrance” like this. Laine de Verre is about as much “me” as I am Marilyn Monroe or Vladimir Putin. There was always zero chance that I would like it, and I knew that from the start. I don’t like aldehydes, I can’t abide white musk, I have very limited tolerance for synthetics, and absolutely none for synthetics in massive, walloping, high doses. I don’t enjoy scratchy fiberglass, or metallic textures. I also can’t fathom the whole concept of spending a lot of money on a perfume that doesn’t smell at all of perfume, of a fragrance that is intentionally made to be an “anti-perfume.” With a niche price tag to boot. I simply cannot bear any of those elements, individually, let alone all combined into one. Which is perhaps why Laine de Verre was essentially a scrubber on me from the very first moment, though I actually stuck through with it to the bitter end.



Laine de Verre opens on my skin with a Wagnerian level of aggressive, soapy aldehydes. They are cold, icy, and definitely manage to convey the sensation of scratchy, glass and metallic wool shards that pierce you through the nose. One reason why is the almost equally aggressive dose of synthetic, clean, white musk. In the trail of the dominant two notes comes a bright, fresh, lemony aroma, along with a nebulous, elusive hint of floracy that feels very dewy and watery. Dust lurks in the corners, next to a sense of dry woodiness, though both are extremely subtle at this point. The whole thing feels very gauzy and translucent in colour, but extremely sharp and strong in terms of the actual notes. In fact, every single time I smell the icy cocktail, I experience a searing pain through my head, and it takes only 5 minutes for a powerful headache to be my constant companion. That clean, white musk is just a killer.

Woolite Delicates via

Woolite Delicates via

The aldehydes are interesting, at least on an intellectual level and at first. They initially create a very classique, slightly elegant, old-time, vintage feel to the scent, especially in conjunction with the sharp, crisp, lemony notes and the hint of something rosy. The aldehydes truly smell a lot more like actual fizzy molecules in the opening minute than anything else, but it takes less than 2 minutes for the soapy undertone to rise to the top. Before a full 3 minutes have passed, Laine de Verre takes on a definite “Woolite Delicates” aroma. I know because I went to check the bottle in my laundry room. The nebulous floral aroma is different, and Woolite doesn’t have the zesty citric element, but there is no doubt in my mind: my arm was reeking massive amounts of something not too far off from Woolite.



At first, Laine de Verre’s soapy, clean detergent smell bore the same sort of delicacy that Woolite has, but that doesn’t last for long. Exactly 15 minutes into the perfume’s development, the Woolite turned into concentrated Tide laundry cleaner. Specifically, the HE concentrated version with Febreeze. I know, because I own that too, and I compared the Lutens fragrance torturing me on my arm with the bottle in my laundry room. Tide has a much more aggressive, thickly soapy aroma than the more gentle Woolite Delicates, and Laine de Verre was painfully close. Its olfactory bouquet also wasn’t particularly helped by the slightly dusty quality that lurks in the perfume’s background, along with an abstract, dry woodiness.

Both of them are a bit of a contradiction to the very liquidy, wet feel to Laine de Verre. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the perfume also contained Calone, because there is a very aquatic nuance to Laine de Verre. It helps underscore the very designer feel to the scent, as if it were some sort of distant Acqua di Gio relative, or a more expensive version of the Clean brand of fragrances with their focus on white, laundry-based anti-perfumes. None of this is a compliment in my eyes, by the way….



Laine de Verre is quite potent at first, but the perfume also feels very gauzy in weight. The sillage only wafts about 2-3 inches at first, then drops at the end of the first hour to sit about an inch above the skin. It turns into a skin scent near the end of the 2nd hour, which fully in line with the goal of creating an intimate anti-perfume that is an “Eau” in nature.

Laine de Verre does improve, thankfully, though not drastically. Something happens around the start of the second hour where the aggressive quality of Tide laundry detergent softens, and the perfume takes on a more balanced, elegant feel. It feels like a super-light crystal, if that makes sense. It is still painfully soapy on my skin with a sharp, clean, white musk, but I can see how some people might now see this as a very elegant scent. An olfactory version of minimalistic, cubist art, perhaps.

I know the woman who would wear this, and it would probably be one of my best friends who is incredibly fashionable but who hates wearing perfume. She never does — ever — though the last time I saw her she casually asked what I would recommend were she ever to change her mind. Something minimalistic, sleek and elegant that wasn’t really perfume. I had no suggestions for her then, because everything I considered seemed too much like actual fragrance, no matter how light or fresh. Now, though, I finally have a name. Laine de Verre is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to smell of anything at all, while simultaneously giving off some sort of indescribable, elusively intangible, elegant vibe to match her sleek, streamlined, elegant clothes.

Bounce dryer sheets.

Bounce dryer sheets.

Laine de Verre continues its up and down trajectory. By the end of the 2nd hour, that brief moment of elegance vanishes, and the perfume turns into a skin scent which has progressed from Woolite to Tide to, now, Bounce dryer sheets. It’s all the fault of that damn white musk, which seems to take over. As a whole, Laine de Verre is a soapy, vaguely floral, dry scent with strongly synthetic “clean” notes.



Then, it gets better again, relatively speaking. The impression of Bounce dryer sheets dissipates by the start of the 5th hour, probably because abstract elements of sweetness arrive to dull the white musk. Laine de Verre is a now a nice, delicate, feminine, aldehydic floral musk. I can’t easily pinpoint the flowers. There was always a subtle touch of a dewy, pale pink rose from the start, but is it now joined by jasmine perhaps? There is something sweeter and deeper that goes beyond the rose, aldehydes and cashmeran wood accords, but it’s so muffled and muted that it’s hard to distinguish. In fact, even the rose and wood elements are hard to detect from afar, as everything is blended quite seamlessly together. None of it is my cup of tea, but at least it smells relatively elegant from afar.



The one thing I can genuinely say is quite nice about Laine de Verre is the drydown. In its final 90 minutes, the perfume radiates a softly creamy wood note that is very pretty. There is still plenty of that revolting white musk, but Laine de Verre now has a wonderfully soft texture that feels fuzzy, like the thinnest cream chenille blanket. It’s far too soft to feel even like wool. Actually, it calls to mind fresh cotton wisps that you see in those films about cotton plantations. In its final hour, Laine de Verre is as much about a textural sensation as an actual smell. It is a soft, creamy, wispy, woody scent with clean freshness. All in all, Laine de Verre lasted just short of 8 hours on my skin, thanks mostly to the white musk and synthetics which my skin clings onto like mad.

Generally, in my full reviews, I like to provide other people’s perspectives on a scent, but I rarely do that in the Reviews en Bref and I’m not going to do so here. You can look up the comments on Fragrantica, if you’d like. I’m simply not that enthused about Laine de Verre to spend a substantial amount of my time talking about it, though I find it less horrifying and traumatic than the equally soapy, sharp, synthetic, white musk La Vierge de Fer that was released last Fall. At least this one isn’t priced at $310. Both fragrances, however, are what I personally consider to be “scrubbers.” Serge Lutens is one of my favorite houses, and there is no-one whom I worship more on a personal level than Monsieur Lutens himself, so disliking one of his perfumes is always painful. But I’m afraid I do.

As a whole, I suspect Laine de Verre won’t impress the hardcore Lutens fan who originally fell in love with the house because of its complex, rich signature. The L’Eau series hasn’t been a hit with any Lutens lovers that I personally know, perhaps because “anti-perfume perfumes” seems to contradict the very point of buying a Serge Lutens to begin with. I don’t think Laine de Verre will make the vast majority of them change their minds. However, if you actually hate perfume, you may want to give it a try.

Cost & Availability: Laine de Verre is a eau de parfum that comes two sizes: in a 1.7 oz/50 ml size that costs $110, €75, or £67; and a 100 ml/3.4 oz size which costs $160, €105 or £94. U.S. sellers: Laine de Verre is available in both sizes at Luckyscent. The Lutens line is also always available at Barneys and Aedes, but I don’t see Laine de Verre listed at the time of this review. The perfume is also not yet shown on the U.S. Serge Lutens website. Outside the U.S.: the International Serge Lutens website has Laine de Verre in the small and large sizes. In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe always carries the Lutens line, but Laine de Verre is too new to be listed. In the UK, Harvey Nichols implies it is the exclusive carrier of Laine de Verre which it offers in both sizes. In France, you can find the regular Lutens line at Sephora, but there is also the online retailer, Premiere Avenue, which has the large size for €105. For other countries, you can use the Store Locator on the Lutens website. Samples: Samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial, as well as at Luckyscent.

Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

On occasion, I’ll come across a perfume whose most striking characteristic for me is a textural one. Instead of specific notes or a movement of change throughout the stages, the perfume merely evokes a lovely creaminess that is almost devoid of an actual olfactory smell. That is the case for me with Orris Noir, a fragrance from Ormonde Jayne that is meant to be so “haunting” that it “defies description.” I’m afraid it fell far short of such a description in my eyes, but, then, in all fairness, what fragrance could positively live up to that line?

Ormonde Jayne is a high-end, niche London perfume house founded by Linda Pilkington in 2002. All her perfumes are created in conjunction with Geza Schoen, and Orris Noir is no exception. The fragrance was released in 2006, and is available in two concentrations: pure parfum (with 30% fragrance oils) and eau de parfum (25%). This review is for the eau de parfum.

Black Iris via

Black Iris via

Ormonde Jayne’s website describes Orris Noir as follows:

Orris Noir – so haunting, it almost defies description.

The Iris flower is named after the Greek Goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Gods and the Black Iris of Amman is the Royal symbol of the Kings of Jordan. Thriving in a landscape of ample sun, it is a rich, purple black flower of smouldering beauty.

This dark, spicy Oriental scent is for those who want to leave their mark.

A spellbinding perfume, Orris Noir is a rich, seductive aria of unmistakable individuality, not for shrinking violets.

Top Notes: Davana, pink pepper, coriander seed, bergamot
Heart Notes: Iris, [jasmine] sambac absolute, pimento berries, bay
Base Notes: Incense, myrrh, patchouli, chinese cedar, gaiac.



Orris Noir opens on my skin with black peppered lemon and cream, followed by a touch of pink peppercorn berries and a whisper of fruit. A spectral hint of rooty iris pops up at the edges, but it is very subtle. It carries the tiniest undertone of sweet carrots, I think, but the iris note as a whole is so muffled that it may well be my imagination. Certainly, when I’ve tested Orris Noir in the past using only a small quantity, none of it showed up. Instead, the main bouquet smells to me of a very milky, creamy tea with lemon, a vague and nebulous floralacy, pink peppercorns, and a touch of something fruity.



The issue of quantity impacting notes is interesting when it comes to Orris Noir because I noted differences based on that amount of scent that I apply. When I applied only a small quantity (perhaps 1/3 of a 1 ml vial), there was a brief suggestion of something fiery or biting from the pimento chili peppers, but it was so fleeting that it too may have just been imagined. At the same time, there was a more distinct puff of black incense in the background, but you had to sniff extremely hard and long to really detect it. Both elements, however, were minor and barely lasted.

In contrast, I could definitely detect the iris when I applied a greater amount of Orris Noir. (I used about 2/3rds of a 1 ml vial.) Regardless of quantity, however, and taken as a whole, the iris feels like a tertiary, very quiet, very muted player on the sidelines. For a fragrance that is intended to be a dark homage to iris, I’m afraid that Orris Noir was really everything but that for the majority of its development on my skin.

Davana. Source:

Davana. Source:

Instead, the primary bouquet of Orris Noir in its opening hour on my skin is extremely creamy Earl Grey tea. Not milky, for the textural quality of the fragrance goes beyond a merely lactonic quality, but rich, smooth cream. It’s infused with lemon, pepper, and, after 20 minutes, by the Davana. I happen to really like the last note, and I think Davana is an element that should be used more often in perfumery. It is an Indian flower with a very lush, velvety, floral smell and a fruity undertone, most specifically of apricots. Here, with Orris Noir, the apricot tonality is extremely subtle at first and the main aroma is of a petal-soft, vaguely tropical flower with endless creaminess.

Orris Noir remains that way for the next few hours, largely unchanged except for the sillage and subtle variations in the notes. It’s all lemon-pepper cream with davana florals, and an increasingly strong sense of fruitiness. The iris lingers like a ghost in the back, as does the cedar. In fact, the two together generally impart a wholly abstract, nebulous undertone of a woody, floral musk, but neither note stands out on my skin with any individual character. I would never sniff Orris Noir and think, “Ah, Iris,” because the flower is practically a nonentity on me after the first hour.

At the start of the second hour, the sillage drops to an inch or two above the skin, though the perfume is easily detectable if sniffed up close. The only major change occurs about 2.5 hours in, when there is the first, very muffled suggestion of jasmine. Orris Noir’s main characteristic continues to be a very smooth, textural creaminess, though it is becoming increasingly difficult to pull it apart into a specific, actual olfactory note. It also now feels more nebulously woody than purely floral in nature.



About 3.5 hours in, Orris Noir is a creamy, lemony, floral skin scent with light touches of jasmine, soft abstract woodiness, and a slightly fruited nuance. It remains that way until the end of the 6th hour when the jasmine finally steps out of the shadows, and takes over. There are lingering traces of the davana, but Orris Noir is primarily a very sheer, blurry wisp of sweet jasmine woody musk. The perfume remains that way until its very end. It lasted 8.75 hours with a large quantity, and just over 7.75 hours with a smaller amount.

Orris Noir is very pretty, easy-going, approachable, and smooth, but it is also a bit underwhelming, if I’m to be honest. Its creaminess was its most distinctive feature for me, and something that I enjoyed a lot. Plus, to my relief, Orris Noir had only the most microscopic drop of ISO E Super, unlike some Ormonde Jayne fragrances which practically ooze it out of every pore. Orris Noir was well-balanced, had some pretty bits, and was perfectly pleasant as a whole. Yet, I really wasn’t moved; none of it sings or stands out for me.

Tania Sanchez seems to have had much greater problems with Orris Noir. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, she classifies Orris Noir as a “peppery cedar” and gives it a low 2 stars. Her reviews states:

The name combines two of the biggest recent trends: orris (iris-root butter) is showing up everywhere, and so are perfumes named Something Noir (or Black Thingamajig). The trouble is that there’s nothing particularly iris or noir about this. Instead, it smells like lemon and pepper with an oily-woody background, slightly chemical and faceless, a rare misstep for the excellent Ormonde Jayne line.

I really don’t think it’s that bad, not by any means, though I do agree with the “faceless” part. I think my feelings would be different if I experienced a lot (or even some) incense in the fragrance, but I did not. Like Tania Sanchez, I thought Orris Noir was lemony-pepper, albeit with davana creaminess, some jasmine, and a nebulous woody musk.

Other bloggers, however, definitely experienced more incense, spiciness, and darkness than I did. Whether you read Eyeliner on a Cat, Bois de Jasmin, or The Non-Blonde, they seem to have detected a more sultry, quasi-oriental fragrance, though no-one thinks that the iris dominates or that Orris Noir is particularly bold. The bloggers all liked Orris Noir, and Bois de Jasmin’s review is quite representative of the general consensus:

Even if Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir does not present its promised black iris, it more than makes up for it with its exquisite combination of spices, incense ashes and velvety woods. Its form crafted out of resinous and balsamic notes is nevertheless rendered as luminous and weightless, like silk, rather than wool.

The spicy notes provide an opulent leitmotif that persists as Orris Noir develops. They frame the lemony green top notes and foil the sheer floral heart. The echoes of sweet warmth of allspice can be noticed in the rich woody base. The chilly breath of iris is quite a subtle accent in this vivid arrangement, yet it lends a certain restraint. Incense, smooth and smoky, envelops the composition in its translucent dark veil.

My skin seems to have brought out more of the davana creaminess than anyone else, especially as compared to those on Basenotes. They generally like Orris Noir, though not everyone gushes enthusiasm. Take the review by “Alfarom” who writes, in part:

No iris whatsoever, not “noir” at all.

That being said, if you’re fine with a peppery-woody-incensey fragrance dominated by a nice, yet unquestionably synthetic vibe, this is a pretty decent composition. Kinda dry yet, somewhat, slightly powdery, woody and incensey with nice piquant undertones. Far from being a masterpiece yet nice.

A number of women absolutely adore the scent, though a few think they detect a “rose” note which I suspect might be the davana at play. One of the more positive reviews reads:

Three words to describe Orris Noir: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Lighter than its name implies, but spellbinding nonetheless, ON skims along the surface of the skin so deftly I kept expecting it would disappear entirely any minute. Instead it became creamier as it opened up, and was still marvelously “there” hours after I first put it on. It is a beautiful blend of light spices and delicate exotic florals, the pink pepper, coriander and powdery iris (fortunately more iris than powder) definitely come through on me.

On Fragrantica, there is the same generally positive response to Orris Noir. Interestingly, a greater number of commentators picked up on the creaminess and the “candied, fruity” elements in the scent, while one reviewer, “Cohibadad,” also detected plenty of iris. Generally, a number of people seemed to think Orris Noir was quite oriental in feel, which just goes to show you the importance of one’s personal and definitional standards. For me, Orris Noir isn’t remotely oriental, even if one doesn’t use brands like Amouage as a baseline. For me, it’s a floral woody musk. I think that it is all going to depend on your skin chemistry and on your personal standards.

Orris Noir isn’t my personal cup of tea, but it’s a nice fragrance and those who like airy, creamy, discreet florals may want to give it a try. I think it skews somewhat feminine, as do some men on Basenotes, but it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. It is a very approachable scent that is versatile, and could also be worn to the office without making waves.

Disclosure: I was sent Orris Noir for review by Ormonde Jayne, but I had previously purchased my own sample from Surrender to Chance, and that is what I used for this review. In all cases, I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

Cost & Availability: Orris Noir is available in a 50 ml flacon of either parfum extrait or eau de parfum. The EDP price for the regular bottle (without the gold stopper) is $126 or £80. There is also a 4 x 10 ml travel set of Orris Noir that costs $100 or £64, a body cream of the scent, and other accompanying body products. Finally, there is a full Discovery Set that costs $75 or £48 for 2 ml sample sprays of the entire Ormonde Jayne line. It comes with free world-wide shipping. Orris Noir can be purchased directly from the Ormonde Jayne website, its two stores in London, and from HarrodsIn the U.S.: Ormonde Jayne is not carried by any stores in the U.S. at the moment. You would have order from London, but unfortunately, UK postal regulations for any perfume weighing over 50 ml is extremely high. The shipping cost to the U.S. will run you over $50, though that does not apply to the sample set. Elsewhere in Europe: Ormonde Jayne fragrances are carried by Senteurs d’Ailleurs in Brussels (though it has ceased its online e-sales), and by Zurich’s Osswald. For other vendors from Spain to Italy, Norway, Germany (where a large number of different retailers carry the line) and various other European countries, you can use the Ormonde Jayne’s Store LocatorSamplesSurrender to Chance sells samples of Orris Noir EDP starting at $3.99 for 1/2 ml. They also carry the Pure Parfum version.

Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme

Rose Anonyme via the Atelier website.

Rose Anonyme via the Atelier website.

There are some houses that simply leave you cold, generating an apathetic indifference at best, and a raging dislike the rest of the time. Atelier Cologne is one of those for me, a brand that I find whiter than rice a good portion of the time with perfectly serviceable fragrances that are burdened by an incredibly mundane, safe, pedestrian character. For me, they never stand out except, on occasion, in the absolute worst way possible. (A future review for Mistral Patchouli will make that very clear.) A few Atelier scents (like Orange Sanguine) have brief moments that are utterly gorgeous, but all of them inevitably devolve into an incredibly boring, linear singularity marked by a signature accord that drives me insane. Rose Anonyme is one of the most beloved in the line, and it is one of the better Atelier fragrances that I’ve tried. The scale is wholly relative, however, and “better” for Atelier Cologne means very little in my view in an absolute sense.

Atelier Cologne was started in 2010 by founders and romantic partners, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. It is the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to fragrances in the classic cologne formulation. As many perfumistas know, eau de cologne is typically the mildest, weakest form of fragrance, so the creators decided to take it one step beyond. They created a whole new formulation of perfumery called the Cologne Absolue which seeks to amplify the freshness of a cologne with the longevity of an eau de parfum through the use of a much higher percentage of essential oils. Instead of using the usual 5%-7% levels, Atelier injects between 12% to 18% fragrance oils in their creations, while still maintaining a certain freshness. In my opinion, they achieve the latter through what seems to be a signature base accord of soapy, clean, fresh white musk. It is a signature that I’ve found in all their scents, and one which perpetually gives me a headache. More importantly, it smells bloody cheap.

Rose Anonyme, 30 ml bottle via Amazon.

Rose Anonyme, 30 ml bottle via Amazon.

Rose Anonyme was created by Jérome Epinette, and released in 2012. It is an eau de cologne absolue that contains 18% concentrated perfume oils, a level which is akin to that of some eau de parfums. Atelier Cologne describes the scent quite simply: 

Rose Anonyme, a breathtaking seductress caught in a stolen affair between light and dark, Turkish Rose Absolute sparkles and intrigues beneath notes of spicy Ginger, enwrapped in sultry veil of Velvet Oud, Indonesian Patchouli, mystic Papyrus and Somalian Incense.

Atelier says that the full list of notes is:

Calabrian bergamot, Chinese ginger, Turkish rose essence, Turkish rose absolue, Somali incense, velvet oud accord, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, benzoin from Laos.



Rose Anonyme opens on my skin with a rose turned jammy and concentrated with the vile, dreaded, purple fruit-chouli. It is syrupy, excessively sweet, and smells strongly of grapes and fruit molasses. The duo are infused with a brief pop of crisp bergamot and, more importantly a whole lot of an arid, acrid papyrus. The latter smells both like ancient parchment paper and something wholly aroma-chemical in nature. Moments later, a soft, emasculated “oud” arrives, followed by the lightest whisper of candied ginger. Deep in the base, there are traces of a soapy tonality.

The whole thing is oddly acrid, jammy, syrupy, soft, intense, and candied, all at once. There are definite resemblances at this point to Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir in the richness of the blood-red rose infused with a grapey darkness, purple patchouli, and the merest flicker of muffled oud. However, the Tom Ford fragrance feels infinitely more luxurious, rich, deep, and smooth. It has no jangly rough edges, or notes of aroma-chemical aridity. It is also not cloying sweet, as the purple patchouli is much better calibrated. Later, as Rose Anonyme develops, it loses that kinship even more, as Noir de Noir takes on a powdered, violet quality that makes the fragrance resemble Turkish Delight.

Papyrus plant via wikicommons.

Papyrus plant via wikicommons.

In a number of perfumes, the attempt to create a “papyrus” impression is done through the use of something called Cypriol, an essential oil (or, sometimes, a synthetic) derived from the roots of the Cyperus scariosus plant. The latter is known in English as cypriol and in Hindi as Nagarmotha, and it is a member of the papyrus family. (You can read more about it on The Perfume Shrine‘s analysis of cypriol.) The only reason why I’m bringing it up here is many fragrances that claim to have “oud” really don’t. Andy Tauer argues that the vast majority just use a drop of “oudh” in a cypriol base. On his blog, he once wrote:

Often, “oudh” is used as a tag allowing brands to charge more because somehow everybody seems to think that perfume lovers are willing to pay extra for a fragrance with oudh notes. This does not make sense as there is not much oudh in anything. Yet, consumers pay the extra$$$ and are told that they get the exclusive fragrance with this expensive ingredient. This is wrong.

Apart from a drop or two, the rest of the “oudh” is bases, often with cypriol, in varying qualities, far away from the “real thing”. The real thing does not find its way into perfumes that you buy in your perfumery.

Atelier Cologne has the honesty to admit that Rose Anonyme only contains a “velvet oud accord,” but given the inclusion of “papyrus” and the way that particular note smells on my skin, I’d bet the whole thing is one laboratory-driven concoction. You definitely smell “papyrus” in Rose Anonyme, but if you’re expecting a significant oud aroma — let alone a genuine one — you’ll be sorely disappointed. On my skin, Rose Anonyme is merely fluctuating degrees of jammy rose infused with purple fruit-chouli and synthetic, acrid “papyrus.” And I cannot tell you how sick to death I am of fragrances that are essentially rose-patchouli soliflores.



The things that comes to mind repeatedly in the opening hour of Rose Anonyme are candy and soap. The richest, gooey-est, chewy, almost grapey candy sitting side by site with a bar of floral soap, close enough for the candy to pick up its small traces. The two are wrapped in a dry, acrid-smelling paper that almost has a grassy whisper to it. Something about the scent gives me a headache, though I’m not sure if it’s from the cloying sweetness or the cheap white musk that I find in so many Atelier scents. It is a synthetic cleanness that is always soapy at its core and, in this particular case, smells like really strong, sweetened, car freshener aerosol. If you’ve ever gone to a car wash and gotten the “rose” spray option for the inside of your vehicle, you’ll know a bit of what I mean.

Fruit molasses or jam. Source:

Fruit molasses or jam. Source:

The sweetness is intense, though I blame some of that on my skin. It always amplifies base notes, including anything sweet, and purple patchouli in particular. That said, I’ve noticed that the more you apply of Rose Anonyme, the worse it gets. With 2 sprays from my tiny atomizer or the equivalent of one good spray from a bottle, the sweetness is far too excessive for my personal tastes, but not so much as to make me want to scrub off the perfume. With 3 tiny sprays, however, amounting to 2 sprays from a proper bottle, the perfume is utterly unbearable. And there is no escape from it either, because Rose Anonyme initialy wafts a good 4-5 inches (regardless of quantity) in a dense cloud of rose jamminess.

Thirty minutes in, Rose Anonyme is a syrupy rose patchouli scent, with a subtle note of biting dryness and aridity, and the merest suggestion of some eunuch, emasculated “oud.” Unfortunately for me, it is now also trumpeting that Atelier signature of clean, fresh musk which always gives me a headache. Ignoring my personal sensitivity to white musk, I always find the note to have such an incredibly cheap feel. Any number of generic, mainstream, $50 floral scents in Sephora have it, perhaps because it is a way to comply with the modern mania for “freshness” at little to no cost to the manufacturer.

Speaking of Sephora, Atelier Cologne is now carried there, which says something. And the line has increased its prices so that the small 1 oz bottle now costs $75. Atelier may pretend to be “niche,” but it really is not. Plus, Rose Anonyme has a wholly generic, pedestrian profile that imitates a million other boring rose-patchouli-white musk scents also carried at Sephora. The degree of my boredom knows no bounds.



Rose Anonyme is an extremely linear scent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you like the notes in question, but, in this case, I don’t. The main changes in the perfume are one of degree. The sillage drops after 90 minutes, and the perfume feels softer, more pillowy, though it is still diabetically sweet. It is a candied rose-fruitchouli scent with a miniscule drop of bergamot atop a dry papyrus base that feels peppered and a bit acrid. The whole thing is nestled in a cocoon of fresh cleanness. None of it smells opulent, luxe, rich or special to me. The blasted concoction turns into a skin scent after 4 hours, and continues on its singular path with all the determination of a red bulldozer. I’m so utterly bored, I contemplate making a list of how many scents out there might have been a model for Atelier to copy, but there are too many choices.

The one saving grace to this endless stream of banality is Rose Anonyme’s final drydown. In its last two hours, it turns into a genuinely pretty blend of a soft, dusty rose-patchouli dusted with chocolate powder. It’s lovely, and I wish it had been the dominant heart of the annoying scent. All in all, Rose Anonyme lasted 12.5 hours with 3 small sprays from the atomizer, and 10.25 with 2 smaller ones. I gave it two full, proper, focused tests, but I’ve also worn it a few times prior just casually for myself. (Only to scrub it off after 2 hours. That syrupy sweetness is revoltingly excessive on my skin.)

My feelings about Rose Anonyme are very, very far from the common consensus on the fragrance. It seems to tie with Orange Sanguine as many people’s favorite from the line. I concede fully that skin chemistry, amplification of the purple patchouli, my dislike of the note and of white musk, and my leeriness of rose scents are all to blame. However, I refuse to change my stance on Rose Anonyme’s utterly generic, common profile. And I point to Fragrantica where the (admittedly very positive) discussion of Rose Anonyme brings up a plethora of comparable fragrances. First and foremost, Juliet Has A Gun‘s Midnight Oud. Other names that come up are Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir, Montale Red Aoud, Thierry Mugler‘s Angel La Rose, Thierry Mugler‘s Amen line, Sisley Lune or de Soir, New York Oud, and several others.

Yet, Fragrantica commentators seem to overwhelmingly adore the softness and sweetness of Rose Anonyme. Even those who note the perfume’s linearity, its soapy quality, or the “synthetic” “metallic musk, love it. The one wholly negative review comes from “Sherapop,” who had great difficulty with the papyrus element:

Atelier Cologne ROSE ANONYME “cologne absolue” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) opens with a striking resemblance to Thierry Mugler Jardin d’Etoiles entry ANGEL LA ROSE. The first word out of my mouth was actually: patchouli. Then the rose swept in and I felt as though I really was wearing the Mugler flanker for a couple of minutes.

ROSE ANONYME continues to develop, however. What I perceive next is the emergence of a very strong and dominant papyrus note. Because focal papyrus is rare in my experience of perfumes, I have a very strong memory of it, and it appears most markedly of all in Jessica Simpson FANCY NIGHTS. I’d thought that the reason why I did not take to that perfume was because it was a vat-produced Parlux juice. Now, after sniffing ROSE ANONYME, I think that it must be the papyrus which makes me less than enthused about that perfume, too.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what exactly it was that I was smelling, but once I did, the connection to FANCY NIGHTS seemed unmistakeable.

One negative review, and that’s it. So, I’m clearly in the minority, and that’s fine. I find Atelier’s stuff dull as soapy dishwater, but Rose Anonyme is obviously everyone else’s rose candy.

If you like Juliet Has A Gun fragrances or are looking for a very jammy, lush, slightly clean rose scent, then you may want to give Rose Anonyme a try. It has an extremely emasculated (read, virtually non-existent) oud accord, but Atelier compensates by providing instead quite a bit of dry papyrus. It’s not enough to counter the diabolical intensity of the fruit-chouli, but that seems to be what makes the rose note so “velvety” in most people’s eyes. The perfume is definitely unisex (men seem to adore it), and has good longevity. However, I’d be extremely careful with the quantity that you apply if you want to wear Rose Anonyme to work. Also, if you have any issues with clean white musks, you may want to test the perfume first. However, if you’re not a lover of rose-fruitchouli or syrupy sweetness, then you can join me in the pariah’s corner and we can yawn ourselves to sleep.

Cost & Availability: Rose Anonyme is a concentrated cologne that comes in 3 sizes: 1 oz/30 ml for $75, 3.3 oz/100 ml for $130; and a giant 6.7 oz/200 ml for $195. You can buy Rose Anonyme directly from the Atelier Cologne website. In terms of freebies, if you buy the massive 6.7 oz bottle, the company says it will give you: “a travel spray refilled with the Cologne Absolue of your choice in its leather pouch engraved with your name or initials.” The travel spray is, in fact, the 30 ml/1 oz bottle. The company also sells various Gift and Travel Sets, such as a refillable 1 oz/30 ml travel size in a box with soap, postcards, leather pouch, etc. starting at $95 for Rose Anonyme, or a travel box of 7 travel minis that are each 7.5 ml for prices starting at $95. The company sells samples (in a set of all their 11 perfumes in small vials for $20), a $3 sample of Rose Anonyme, candles, and more. I can’t find shipping information or costs. As a side note, Atelier has a few shops: at least one in Paris, and also one in New York. In the U.S.: You can find Rose Anonyme at SephoraLuckyscentBeautyBarNeiman MarcusBirchbox, and Bergdorf Goodman (which also carries soap and candle forms). Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find it on Sephora.Canada at prices starting at CAD$80 for the small 1 oz bottle, CAD$135 for the large 3.3 oz bottle, and CAD$205 for the massive 6.7 oz bottle. In France, you can find Orange Sanguine at Sephora.Fr for €60,50 for the small 1 oz/30 ml bottle and €100 for the 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle. Other Sephoras may also carry it, though I didn’t see it on some like Sephora Mexico or Singapore. You can use the International Sephora site to look up the branch near you, from Greece to Spain. In France, Les Galleries also carries the Atelier line. In the UK, you can find Rose Anonyme at Selfridges where prices start at £100 for the 100 ml/3.3 oz size bottle. Liberty London and Les Senteurs only have the giant 200 ml size, but the latter sells samples. In the Netherlands, the Atelier line is carried at Skin Cosmetics, in Germany at First in Fragrance or Essenza Nobile. For all other countries, you can use the Store Vendor locator on the Atelier website to find retailers near you. Atelier Cologne fragrances are sold by vendors from Etiket in Canada to those in Tokyo, Shanghai, Poland, Italy, Russia, Romania and more. However, I couldn’t find any sites in Australia or the Middle East listed on the company website. Samples: a number of the vendors listed above have samples for sale. Surrender to Chance sells vials starting at $3 for 1 ml.

Reviews en Bref: Imaginary Authors Memoirs of a Trespasser & Soft Lawn

As always, my Reviews en Bref are for scents that — for whatever reason — didn’t warrant a full, exhaustive, detailed review. I recently tried out some fragrances from Imaginary Authors, an American indie line begun in 2012 by perfumer, Josh Meyers. In another post, I looked at Cape Heartache and The Cobra & The Canary. This time, I will focus on Memoirs of a Trespasser, and Soft Lawn.

According to its website, the Imaginary Authors line was “born from the concept of scent as art and art as provocation.” Each fragrance is entitled with the name of a book, penned by an imaginary author who does not actually exist. All the fragrances are eau de parfum in concentration, and a vast majority were released in 2012.


Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Memoirs of a Trespasser is meant to be an author’s memoir of his exotic travels, with a hallucinatory bent. The fragrance is an oriental vanilla, and its notes are:

Madagascar Vanilla, Guaiacwood, Myrrh, Benzoin Resin, Ambrette Seeds & Oak Barrels.

Memoirs of a Trespasser opens on my skin with vanilla, a weird fruitiness, musky sweetness, and oak. There is a momentary booziness, followed then a soft, creamy guaiac wood. The whole thing is laced with a scratchy, synthetic, aroma-chemical hum that is common to many of the Imaginary Authors fragrances, and which them so difficult for me. Here, it is dry, but sweet, with only a trace of the peppered element distinctive to ISO E Super. Yet, at the same time, the note is extremely dry, as if another aromachemical is responsible. Perhaps it is ISO E’s drier relative, Kephalis, but whatever it is, each and every time I smell Memoirs of a Trespasser up close, the inside of my nose feels raw, bloodied and scraped.

Within minutes, Memoirs of a Trespasser turns into a cloying, sickly Bourbon vanilla with a subtle tinge of soapy, cold myrrh, followed by smoky, woody notes and peppered, dry aromachemicals. I find the whole combination oddly nauseating, perhaps because the vanilla smells like a really cheap version of Madagascar extract with a hot, buttered rum undertone. I’m also not keen on the unexpected fruited nuance that smells like oranges, peaches, and Tang juice all in one. It doesn’t last long, perhaps 25-30 minutes, but it perplexes me the whole time. Out of all the notes, I like the oak element the best, but that is not saying much.

Towards the end of the second hour, Memoirs of a Trespasser shifts with the woody elements bypassing the vanilla and taking its place as the dominant accord. The primary bouquet is of lightly smoked guaiac wood, followed by myrrh and a touch of thin, dry vanilla, all infused with ISO E-like synthetics. The guaiac is difficult for me here, especially as it takes on an increasingly stale sourness as time goes by, which meshes oddly with the dry-sweetness of the other elements. A clean, white muskiness also starts to become noticeable, adding to the fragrance’s synthetic hum.

By the end of the 5th hour, Memoirs of a Trespasser is really various forms of sour, dry, smoky woodiness with a light sweetness and only a suggestion of vanilla extract. It remains that way for a while, until suddenly the vanilla returns at the start of the 8th hour. From that point until its end, almost 12 hours from the start, Memoirs of a Trespasser is a dry vanilla scent imbued by an abstract woodiness and a hint of powder.

I didn’t enjoy any of it, probably because I had the same extremely strong physical pain in my nose that I did to testing The Cobra & The Canary. I don’t know if it is an issue of the quantity of synthetics used in Imaginary Authors’ fragrances, or something else, but the degree of my reaction to the line far exceeds what I normally experience. This is not like the occasional headaches I get from ISO E Super when a vast quantity is used, but something akin to my more serious reaction to the super chemical Norlimbanol, and its relative, Kephalis.

Few people share my sensitivity to chemicals, and many are anosmic to things like ISO E Super. Yet, even without the synthetics, I wasn’t impressed by Memoirs of a Trespasser. It was simplistic, uninteresting, quite cloying at first, and discordant as a whole. It never felt refined or sophisticated. It was simply…. there.


IA Soft LawnSoft Lawn is described in the context of an imaginary author in 1916 who attended Princeton University and was a tennis champion. The notes are:

NOTES: Linden Blossom, Laurel & Ivy leaves, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Fresh Tennis Balls & Clay Court.

Soft Lawn opens on my skin with freshness and green notes that are crisp, bright, and aromatic. On occasion, they are almost a little herbal, as there is a minty nuance lurking underneath at the start. Then, a soft floral creeps in, along with a clean, fuzzy, synthetic element. Hints of vetiver, grassiness, and ISO E Super dance around the edges. The floral note initially smells only vaguely like linden blossom, but not as sweet, lemony, or honeyed as it usually is. As a whole, Soft Lawn truly smells like a freshly opened can of tennis balls with linden, vetiver, green elements, and synthetics.

Linden blossom. Source:

Linden blossom. Source:

As time passes, the fragrance shifts a little, though not by much and primarily in a textural way. The lemon undertone to the linden blossom becomes more prominent, along with the overall floral aspect. As a whole, though, the notes are very blurred, lacking delineation, clearness, and force. In contrast, the ISO E Super and its peppered touch are much more distinct, noticeable in a clear, separate way that stands out.



The oddest thing about Soft Lawn for me is how the fragrance’s texture is its primary smell. It’s hard to explain, but Soft Lawn soon turns into something wholly fuzzy in feel. It’s an amorphous, indistinct blur of floral greenness. The fuzziness of the tennis ball texture is its actual smell, though its infused with that fresh, green floracy. The whole thing is imbued with a synthetic freshness that is initially sweet, delicate, and light.

There really isn’t much more to Soft Lawn than that. The fragrance never changes in any substantial way on my skin, and I tested it twice. It’s linear, simplistic, and uncomplicated, though Soft Lawn is not completely terrible from afar in the beginning as some sort of extremely generic, green freshness, I suppose. Up close, however, it smells industrial to my nose, with the aromachemicals increasingly dominating the scent. Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, but Soft Lawn does smell almost entirely of tennis balls on me after the first hour. All in all, the perfume generally lasted about 11-12 hours on my skin, with moderate sillage throughout, but I didn’t apply a lot due to my problems with all the synthetics in the IA line.

My experiences with the Imaginary Authors line led me to ask a family member for a Zyrtec anti-allergy pill before my second test of Soft Lawn, in case I had potentially developed allergies for the very first time in my life. Nope, that was not the cause of my pain. I was fine until I smelled Soft Lawn up close, and then…. bam, it felt as though someone had taken a straight razor to the skin inside my nose.  Even without the synthetics though, I find it hard to summon up much enthusiasm for the fragrance. I’m not keen to smell like tennis balls, I don’t like Soft Lawn’s lack of nuance or definition, and it’s a damn boring scent from start to finish. I’m afraid I simply don’t get it.


My primary problem with the Imaginary Authors line is obviously the physical pain I experienced but, even apart from that, I struggled with the scents as a whole. None of them felt sophisticated, refined, or elegant to me. Each one seemed to merely exist, as if a combination of related (and sometimes random) notes were put together primarily with an eye to meeting a plot line about a tennis champion or an imaginary person who went on travels to exotic places. It’s hard to explain because it’s not about a scent being unfinished or amateurish, though some element of both seems to be the case with each of the fragrances.

Rather, it’s more about the feel of the perfumes as something lifeless on the skin. Some of them lack a defining identity or force beyond the novelty factor, whether it is “tennis balls” or the unusualness of the hodge-podge combinations. The Cobra & The Canary seemed to have the greatest actual or developed character out of those that I’ve tried, but it is not an approachable, easy fragrance in my opinion. I could see more of the original story and goal in The Cobra & The Canary, but the rest transported me nowhere, evoked nothing, and felt as if they were merely just… there.

I understand wanting to do something different and experimental, about wanting to create a novel fragrance that is outside the usual box. I think that’s laudable, but being different for the sake of being different doesn’t always work. Successful execution is also key, as they often tell chefs on shows like “Top Chef” when they are trying to be different but fall flat on their face with some utterly peculiar combination.

Still, the Imaginary Authors line has enough fans for all of this to be a highly subjective matter of personal opinion. At the end of the day, the fragrances simply don’t work for me.

Cost & Availability: Each of the fragrances is an eau de parfum that comes in a 60 ml bottle that costs $85. You can purchase them directly from Imaginary Authors. The company also offers a sample service, where each perfume costs $6 per vial with the full set of 8 priced at $35. Imaginary Authors’ full line is carried by several Portland retailers, along with Parfums1, which ships overseas, though at a high price. The line is also carried at Brooklyn’s Twisted Lily. You can find other US vendors, along with some Canadian ones, at Imaginary Authors’ Stockist site. There are no European retailers listed. Samples: In addition to the sites listed above, you Surrender to Chance sells several scents from line, including Soft Lawn, and Memoirs of a Trespasser, for $4.25 for a 1 ml vial.

Oriza L. Legrand: Relique d’Amour, Oeillet Louis XV, Jardins d’Armide & Deja Le Printemps

Yesterday, we looked at three fragrances from Oriza L. Legrand, starting with their mossy masterpiece, Chypre Mousse. Today, I thought we’d take a look at some of their more traditional floral scents. I should confess at the outset that pure florals aren’t generally my preferred fragrance group, so I responded much less to these than to Oriza L. Legrand chypre and orientals. However, they’re all very well done, with elegance and sophistication, and they have that unusual Oriza character that makes all the fragrances stand out as something very different from the rest of the things currently on the market.


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

The fragrance of an old chapel of a Cistercian abbey. Cold stone walls covered with damp moss. Waxed wood of the altar and old pews ornate with carvings. Linseed oil in lamps. Air smelling of incense and myrrh. But how fresh and spicy the smell of white royal lilies on this background! Subtle floral scent with green accents of leaves and powdery touches of yellow pollen. The beam of light breaks through the stained glass and illuminates this olfactory tumult of feelings varying from exaltation to humility and back. The silence which creates a sense of the divine call.

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

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

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

I’ve changed my mind on the accuracy of Oriza’s description for Relique d’Amour, a fragrance that, for me, is really a lily scent first and foremost. I now think there is quite a bit of truth to the backstory, especially that ray of light illuminating the white flowers. I’ve also changed my order of favorites for the Oriza Legrand fragrances, moving Relique d’Amour up to third place in lieu of Reve d’Ossian. The simple reason is that Relique d’Amour has the oddest, and most Lutens-like, twist on white lilies, and I find it fascinating.

In a nutshell, if Serge Lutens took an enormous armful of white lilies to an old, dusty French church, accidentally dropped them along with a bottle of black pepper, and got on his knees on the waxed wooden floor to pick them all up, he would probably have been inspired to make Relique d’Amour, a completely different take on an Avignon church scent.



My mental categorization of Relique d’Amour as a “lily” scent means that I’m consistently and continuously startled by its opening, to the point that I have to sometimes pick up the vial to ensure I haven’t sprayed on the wrong perfume. I’m not a fan of the opening, but then I’m not a huge fan in general of olibanum, white incense fragrances with their dusty, aloof, very High Church feel. And the opening 5 minutes of Relique d’Amour are tough for me. It begins with a veritable explosion of black pepper that is so intense, you could sneeze. On its heels, other notes soon follow: herbs, freshly crushed pine needles, floral powder, and something almost aldehydic.

The Gegherd Monastery. Source:

The Gegherd Monastery. Source:

The troop’s rear guard is quickly brought up by a tidal wave of dust and white incense, in a combination that feels very similar to the early notes in Reve d’Ossian. It’s the olibanum-opoponax duo of myrrh cousins, infused with the dust of ages in a very old monastery filled with parchment scrolls. Black pepper is sprinkled all over the top of this ancient, olfactory tapestry, while underneath lurks the slow start of something floral. Oriza L. Legrand is completely accurate in describing the overall combination in those early moments as “the smell of an old chapel of Cistercian abbey.”



Thankfully, it’s a very brief thing. Five minutes into that sharp, difficult start, Relique d’Amour changes. It’s as if a ray of light beamed through the heavy particles of dust in the old monastry, shining a tunnel of white on a single vase filled with while lilies. It stands in the corner, its stamen heavy with yellow pollen, and the beam of light releases its sweet fragrance into the air. Suddenly, a wave of sweet, dewy, pollen-laden white lilies rolls over the intense cocktail of black pepper, dust motes, and dry, cold, white, slightly soapy High Church incense.

Relique d’Amour is suddenly transformed into something very different, centered on a dewy, sometimes dry, sometimes metallic, lily infused with incense. To me, it’s unusual the way the traditionally indolent white flowers have had their syrupy sweetness and narcotic opulence dried out by cold incense. There is more to the scent and flowers than that, however. There is a also drop of what feels like honey (undoubtedly from the wax element), alongside sweetened woods and a touch of floral powder. Lurking underneath are flickers of bright, fresh grassiness, evocative of summer and contrasting sharply with the feel of very old wood that has been cleaned with a gentle film of soap before being waxed to a high shine. It’s an odd mix but it is also oddly appealing, though it takes a few tries to get used to it.

Close-up of the pollen on a lily's stamen. Source:

Close-up of the pollen on a lily’s stamen. Source:

The combination of lilies blended with dust, sweet pollen, old wood, slightly honeyed, waxed wood, and undertones of soapiness feels like a complex set of contradictions. That’s probably why I repeatedly think that Relique d’Amour is the sort of startling paradox that Serge Lutens would do. The difference is that this twisted lily feels very old in nature, though that is probably a result of the dust and myrrh combination. Then again, Bertrand Duchaufour used that to great success in his (overly praised) Dzonghka, so perhaps Relique d’Amour isn’t actually so dated after all. 

Relique d’Amour’s sillage starts off as moderate, then turns soft. The fragrance is airy in weight, but initially potent and strong when smelled up close. Like a number of the Oriza fragrances, the sillage is far too intimate, polite, and low for my personal tastes. It also doesn’t last forever on my wonky, perfume-consuming skin. At the start of the second hour, Relique d’Amour hovers a bare inch above the skin, as soft as a nun’s white veil. It’s a bouquet of lilies infused by white church incense, the thinnest veneer of floral soap, green grass, and sweet pollen. An hour later, it’s a skin scent that is a blur of lily and sweet pollen.  All in all, Relique d’Amour lasted around 6.5 hours on me with 2 small sprays, and just barely over 7.75 with 4 large squirts. Something about all the Oriza L. Legrand perfumes — with the exception of the outstanding Chypre Mousse — doesn’t seem to work well with my personal skin chemistry. Others, however, seem to have much better luck, with a few consistently averaging between 10-12 hours from the same scents.



Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon tried four of Oriza’s floral fragrances at the start of the year, and Relique d’Amour was his favorite. (He concedes that they all have average longevity. In my opinion, Mr. Behnke’s skin normally retains scent like glue, at least as compared to my own, so I think that his estimate says something.) I largely agree with his review of Relique d’Amour which reads:

Relique d’Amour is my favorite of these first four releases but I think this will probably not be the most popular. My reasoning is that Relique d’Amour is that rare fragrance which seeks to paint a picture with olfactory notes. There is less of a pyramid in place and more of a sense of a specific place. I love poking around in old stone churches. When I have the opportunity to do this the smell of the stones covered in moss and the aged wood of the supporting timbers is a singular smell to me. Relique d’Amour is that moment of standing in an old abbey surrounded by the layers of residue from the oil lamps and censers. As I said Relique d’Amour really paints a singular picture and doesn’t really devlop so much as rise fully formed off of my skin. There is the raw pine of the timbers, a strong stony mineral aspect, a bit of lily, wisps of myrrh, elemi, and frankincense. All together they impart a weight of history and place upon Relique d’Amour and it is a place and time I want to visit often.

I don’t agree that Relique d’Amour would be the most difficult Oriza Legrand fragrance for people to like. (That would be Jardins d’Armide, in my opinion, but he didn’t test that one.) People actually seem to like Relique d’Amour a lot. For one thing, it is the fragrance that the famous beauty and French actress, Isabella Adjani, fell in love with and bought for herself. For another, there is enormous enthusiasm for the fragrance in the early comments on Fragrantica. One commentator who tested the perfume wrote:

The very first sniff is green, a freshly cut evergreen, not piney, not at all pine disinfectant-esque, second scent is a dusty old book, bookmarked with a love letter, left in an old church, it’s beautiful, incredibly atmospheric. You can see the daylight filtering through dust motes onto pews. It’s maybe not something you would wear on a first date, it is not the type of fragrance just anyone will understand. If you appreciate fragrance as an art form and not something you just splash on day after day, just because, then you may love to smell this for the pictures you will get from it.

The lilies come into the forefront soon after, enhancing the very church-y feel, but not sharp, as lilies can be, these are dominant but soft.

ETA, I reviewed before reading the description above, deliberately. I realise now after reading it looks like I just copied it! It is incredibly evocative and clearly does what the perfumer intended!

There are many similar descriptions of Relique d’Amour, all positive. I think the reviewer above is completely right in finding the fragrance to be more like an evocative mood than something easy that you can easily just spray on before you go to the supermarket. It’s not an every day perfume. It is not even the most approachable perfume. It is, however, very Serge Lutens-like in its twists and turns. I think it’s very original, and stands out a mile away.


Oeillet Louis XV.

Oeillet Louis XV.

Oriza L. Legrand’s roots go back to 1720 with the patronage and admiration of King Louis XV. So, in 1900, the house paid him homage with a carnation scent called Oeillet Louis XV. (The word for “carnation” in French is oeillet.)

Powdery and peppery, silky and spicy, Oeillet Louis XV soothes yet confuses with its paradoxes. Reminiscences of an ancient time, powder fades and gives way to spicy notes of clove. […]

White carnation is at the heart of this fragrance and is the source of its dichotomy. Symbol of true love under the monarchy, the flower embodied the fire of French Revolution. As a scent, white carnation is as intoxicating as the most subtle poison; a delicate blend of mandarin, monarchical iris and light wood chords, which cannot resist the violence of pepper and spicy clove. Pink carnation brings a note of bitterness, symbol of Mary’s sorrow. Legend has it the flower sprang where Mary’s tears fell as she saw Jesus carry the cross. […]

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Mandarin.

Heart notes: White Carnation, Carnation Absolute, White Orchid, Iris, Rose, Spicy Clove.

Base notes: Rice Powder, White Musk, White Honey, Woody Notes.



Oeillet Louis XV opens with sharpness. Great sharpness that feels as cold as ice. Like a blade that cuts through you, the fragrance bursts with the pungent, peppered, spicy, and metallic coolness of carnation. It seems simple and limited, perhaps deceptively so. The peppered carnation is infused with dewy floral elements, a light touch of powdered iris, and a damp greenness like young shoots. Something, somewhere feels like the tender sweetness of violets. Underneath the sharpness of the carnation and the bite of pepper, there is the subtle spiciness of cloves and the bitter sweetness of a neroli-like orange.

It all feels as cutting as a sharp crystal but, at the same time, there are glimpses of a spicy orange-brown, a peppered black, a tender violet, a powdery rose, and vistas of fresh, clean, crisp, grassy green. Soon, the iciness is softened and tamed by the floral powder which I think smells dated and old-fashioned. Actually, I find it to be a strange contrast with the pungency of the carnation, bitter cloves, spiced orange, and pepper. It pains me a little, but then my threshold tolerance for powder in perfumery is very low.

On my skin, Oeillet Louis XV doesn’t get much more complicated than that. In fact, from a distance, it eventually turns into something that is merely a cloud of carnation. Like many of the other Oriza L. Legrand florals, Oeillet Louis XV has weak longevity and average sillage on my skin. The fragrance is initially very potent up close, but there is only an small cloud around me, maybe about 3 inches. It soon turns soft and weak on my neurotic skin, a blur of carnation with a touch of floral (iris?) powder. It’s all very hazy, and fades away after 6.5 hours. As I’ve mentioned, my skin is not the norm. On Oeillet Louis XV’s Fragrantica page, the two votes thus far for longevity are split between “long lasting” and “very long lasting.” Sillage is put at “moderate” and “heavy,” though Mark Behnke found that Oeillet Louis XV … has sillage to burn.”

Mr. Behnke had a very different experience with Oeillet Louis XV than I did. Frankly, it sounds rather terrible to me, a plethora of powder that I’m glad I was spared. In his review, he wrote how it felt something suited to Madame de Pompadour, the King’s favorite mistress:

… Oeillet Louis XV is a very powdery focused fragrance and it feels in keeping with the famous hairstyle which bears her name as the powder keeps rising and rising until it is neatly arranged around clove and musk. Oeillet Louis XV begins with a double dose of carnation and then adds iris and rose. If you still don’t have enough powdery facets a heaping dose of rice powder is added. I’m not the biggest fan of powdery fragrances and I have to admit the early exuberance always took me right to the edge of my personal tolerance. Just as I thought it was too much the clove cleaved through all of the powder along with a sheer white musk and the powdery façade was laid bare. Now these two notes carry the development and the final stage is coated in a light bit of honey and balsam. If you love powdery fragrances Oeillet Louis XV should be on the top of your list to sample.

The only comment on Fragrantica for Oeillet Louis XV seems to convey an experience a wee bit closer to my own:

The carnation is treated here in the purest transparency and purest nature. The flower is like windswept, through the wild grasses, with large gray clouds in the sky. Really beautiful.    

The most detailed assessment I’ve seen for Oeillet Louis XV thus far comes from a commentator on Parfumo, “Drseid,” who seems to have had the best experience of all of us:

Oeillet Louis XV opens with a fruity orange and dewy rose tandem with a slight carnation undertone. As the fragrance enters the early heart the orange dissipates as the carnation takes the fore, building in intensity with the rose hanging around in the background bolstered by traces of additional clove spice and powdery iris support. As the composition reaches the late dry-down the slightly powdery iris dies but the now diminished carnation remains, joining prominent white musk with a vague natural woody undertone fading in and out through the end. Projection is average and longevity is very good at 9-11 hours on skin.

[…] The late dry-down is quite pleasant with the fragrance turning slightly sweet and just a tad woody, though the woods are quite subtle and at times elusive. The bottom line is the 120 euro per 100ml Oeillet Louis XV represents a mostly successful spiced carnation and rose presentation with just a touch of powder in the heart and a skillfully executed gentle light woody musk finish, earning a “very good” rating of 3.5 stars out of 5. Fans of fragrances like JHL by Aramis in particular will most likely enjoy this. [Emphasis in font to names added by me.]

I see very different perfume comparisons for Oeillet Louis XV. Something about its cold, cutting opening calls to mind the passing sniff I gave to Serge Lutens‘ icy carnation scent, Vitriol d’Oeillet which Fragrantica says has some similar notes in common: nutmeg, clove, pink pepper, pepper, paprika, carnation, wallflower, lily and ylang-ylang. For most people on Fragrantica, the Lutens fragrance is mostly a bouquet of carnation, pepper, and cloves, and Oeillet Louis XV can be that, too. The real similarity to me is in the iciness, the sharp coolness of the flower. Oeillet Louis XV, however, has significantly more powder, along with iris, rose and orange at its base, and subtle hints of some mysterious, grassy greenness that I can’t explain. For some inexplicable reason, for me, Vitriol d’Oeillet actually has the feel of some very old, vintage Guerlains in its floral powderiness, but without the latter’s Tonka vanillic signature and rounded warmth. As a whole, I think Oeillet Louis XV is well done, but it’s far from my personal tastes.


Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Oriza L. Legrand says that Jardins d’Armide is a floral tribute to legendary gardens. Their description reads, in part, as follows:

Les Jardins d’Armide was the symbol of beauty, lush and beautiful, full of fragrant flowers and the rarest species. […] The Queen of Flowers, Rose, is at the heart of this enchanting bouquet picked in the Garden of Armida.

Iris from Florence and Violet Wild powder their glycine and eyelets India, while Honey, Almond and musk bring this tempting elixir incomparable strength. [¶] Jardins D’Armide, unparalleled powdery fragrance of Oriza L. Legrand.

Top notes: Old Rose, Orange Blossom and Iris Powder.

Heart notes: Florentine iris, Violet Wild, Glycine and Carnation India.

Base notes: Honey, Almond, Tonka and Musk

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

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

They weren’t kidding about the powder. Jardins d’Armide was a scrubber on me after just one hour. In fact, the mere memory of it pains me, and not even for you, dear readers, will I relive the experience by testing it again in full.

So, I’ll merely share with you my early impressions that I wrote to a friend who was interested in the scent, along with bits of my notes. On me, Jardins d’Armide opens with a massive burst of spicy pepperiness from geranium, followed by rose. Then, 2 minutes later, there is a soapy note that is like really expensive floral soap, along with a touch of floral powder. Initially, both elements are minor, but they increase significantly with every passing moment.

For a minute or two, before they completely overwhelmed me, there was something to Jardins d’Armide’s pungently piquant, spicy geranium that brought to mind Grossmith Phul-Nana with its geranium fougère opening. However, that fragrance has a very heavy neroli start, while Jardins d’Armide is primarily rose geranium fragrance with a LOT of powder and floral soapiness. Something about that last part, with its almost artificial, synthetic element, hurts my head when smelled deeply up close and right on the skin.

There is an old-time, very dated feel to the scent. Normally, I don’t mind that, but, here, the forcefulness of that floral synthetic soapiness with its tinge of floral powder and its underlying sweetness feels claustrophobic and cloying to me. I think my problem is that there is a sharpness to the floral powderiness of Jardins d’Armide, perhaps due to the impact of the geranium’s pungency. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t bear the fragrance, and had to get it off my skin.

Ida Meister of Fragrantica liked Jardins d’Armide much more than I did, though she confesses that those who don’t like powder “must flee.” (They really should! And I’d add floral soap to that list, too!) In her Scented Snippets, she writes:

This is languishing perfume. Very old-school, living, breathing swooning powder.  […][¶]

Did Jean Laporte of L’Artisan Parfumeur glean inspiration from the 1905-vintage Jardins? His 1985 Orchidée Blanche has long since been discontinued, but the similarity in feel is remarkable. Orchidée’s silvery iris/honey volupté is sorely missed by die-hard perfumistas everywhere [notes: bergamot, magnolia, nectarine, iris, honey, vanilla]. I have two bottles tucked away with which to compare: eerie! And absolutely wonderful.

Jardins d’Armide is possibly among the most tenacious perfumes I have ever had the pleasure to experience; it goes on and on, chock-a-block with exquisite components. Lavishly sensual with elegant manners, we can discern every individual element, and yet the sum is so round, so perfectly pleasing and harmonious. Jardins d’Armide does not apologize for its “old-fashioned” goodness—it revels in it. If you are not fond of powdery scents, then you must flee. If, however, you long to be cloaked in fin de siècle fragrant generosity wantonly larger than life—then I think you really ought to sample this. Other powdery florals appear anemic—pale and wan, anorectic in her wake. She is a Grande Dame, a Gibson Girl among waifs.

All I can say is that, if Mark Behnke thought Oeillet Louis XV had powder, he should never try Jardins d’Armide. He would need therapy afterwards. I told you at the start of this series that Jardins d’Armide was the one Oriza L. Legrand fragrance that I had an extremely negative reaction to, and I meant it. There is old-fashioned, there is old-fashioned powder, and then there is the hell-on-earth powder and soapiness that is this fragrance. I can’t even bear to talk about it any more, so onto the last one.


Oriza Deja Le PrintempsOriza L. Legrand describes this fragrance as the essence of Spring:

A promenade in the woods awakening from a long winter sleep. Morning dew is glistening like beads on wild grasses which exude fresh flavor. The sun rises and its rays awaken wet flowers and the fragrant leaves of fig trees swaying by wind. Tree buds swollen with young leaves, flower buds ready to bloom, and the earth, with its smell of turf and twisted roots, full of vitality. The first lilies of the valley reveal themselves. It’s spring awakening. Spring has come.

Fragrance notes: Top notes: Mint, Orange Blossom, Chamomile. Middle notes: Fig Leaves, Clover, Mown Grass, Lily of the Valley, Galbanum. Base notes: Musk, Vetiver, Cedar, Moss.

Call me crazy, but the opening of Deja Le Printemps smells like Serge LutensIris Silver Mist to me. My notes are littered with “ISM??!!” notations, especially with regard to the first five minutes. On me, Deja Le Printemps exploded with a sharp, icy, alcohol-like blast that was just like frozen vodka, and just like that of the Lutens fragrance with its huge amounts of futuristic iris nitrile. That sharp, metallic, cold note is soon followed by sharp, pungent greenness from the galbanum, then by an oddly dewy, wet floral that must be the muguet or lily-of-the-valley. Greenness fills the base, with plushly soft oakmoss and the feeling of green sprouts pushing through the snow with Spring’s arrival. Flitting all about is a floral powder with a tinge of soapiness, and the slightest whisper of a pale, watery rose.

Despite the spring bouquet, there continues to be something that makes me think of iris. For whatever reason, Deja Le Printemps on my skin produced a very cold, rooty, almost carroty iris aroma, complete with its earthy, damp, icy feel and its touch of floral powder. I can’t account for it, and surely it’s the effect of the other accords, but I’m telling you…. Iris Silver Mist! That is only a part of Deja Le Printemps, however, as the pungent galbanum, delicate white florals, powder and green notes are equally significant.

Rex Preston, "Spring flowers, Bramley Wood" at

Rex Preston, “Spring flowers, Bramley Wood” at

At its heart, Deja Le Printemps is very much a Spring bouquet mixed with floral powder, and quite true to its description. Alas, it had low sillage on me, and poor longevity, clocking in just shy of 5 hours. In its final moments, it was nothing more than an abstract floral blur. I am not a huge fan of either green florals or many of the notes in Deja Le Printemps, particularly galbanum and iris, so I’m afraid I wasn’t enamoured by the scent. I’m not the target audience, however, and the fragrance is well-done as a whole. It’s also the Oriza L. Legrand scent that Catherine Deneuve fell in love with and bought for herself, so clearly it’s something that appeals to those with sophisticated tastes who enjoy green florals.

English countryside. Source: Pinterest.

English countryside. Source: Pinterest.

That conclusion is supported by the lone two reviews on Fragrantica. The first raves about the “retro” delicacy of the green florals, and how Deja Le Printemps is “the best Naturalist ‘pure green'” perfume, epitomizing a walk in the countryside between Spring showers. The second review is even more positive:

 This got my attention immediately! Probably because I’m in a phase of my life when I really enjoy green scents, and I love Nature. […] I fell in love with it after the first sniff. 🙂

The opening is very green and very fresh. I can smell grass, (fig) leaves, and clover. I don’t get much of mint. And I get no lily of the valley at all, but I really don’t mind. It’s probably somewhere there with the orange blossom making sure this green scent isn’t too green or sharp. But it doesn’t smell flowery or sweet at all. […]

This perfume is indeed like a walk through the countryside that’s awakening after a long winter. It’s very green, almost herbal, slightly woody, and actually quite subtle, yet very powerful. I adore it.

The fig note was much more prominent for the lone Parfumo review, as were the vetiver and a eucalyptus-like mint. “Drseid” writes:

Deja Le Printemps opens with what best can be described as a slightly aromatic eucalyptus-like mint and fig tandem with a fresh green grass undertone. As the fragrance enters the early heart the mint slowly fades, leaving the fig to directly mesh with the remaining green grass supported by resinous musky woody galbanum. As the composition progresses to the late dry-down a slightly sharp vetiver driven natural woody accord joins the remnants of the greens with a very faint tree moss undertone from the base adding weight to the relatively airy composition. Projection is on the low side of average, with average longevity at 6-8 hours on skin.

Deja Le Printemps did not exactly wow me when I first sprayed it on, but its eucalyptus-like fig and mint really does gain appeal as it gradually couples with the green grass and galbanum in the heart. That aside, it is the late dry-down with its welcome addition of vetiver and woods, however, that turns the composition into something special as they combine extremely well with the remaining greens and the aromatic fig. This whole effect indeed conjures visions of a spring countryside with fig trees in the background, green grassy fields and wild aromatic herbs growing within. The bottom line is the 120 euro per 100ml bottle Deja Le Printemps delivers what its name promises, earning a “very good” 3.5 stars out of 5 and a solid recommendation especially to lovers of fragrances like Eau de Campagne by Sisley. 

If you like green florals, then I think you’ll very much enjoy Deja Le Printemps. It’s not my personal style, but I can see the finesse and elegance. It’s a fresh, sophisticated scent that succeeds in its goal of encapsulating the essence of Spring.

Cost & Availability: All Oriza L. Legrand fragrances are eau de parfums with about 18% concentration. They come in a single size, 100 ml or 3.4 oz, and cost €120. You can buy them directly from Oriza’s e-Store that also offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. Oriza L. Legrand ships globally, as I’ve had readers order the sample set from all over. Other vendors in Europe: Oriza L. Legrand’s perfumes are also sold at Marie-Antoinette (which was my favorite perfume shop in Paris), as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands. For details on the Swedish store, you can check Oriza L. Legrand Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.

Lys Epona: Celtic Warriors of Spring

Source: Pinterest.

Source: Pinterest.

From her great height atop the cliffs, she could gaze at her realm and the fields of yellow, green and gold below her. The Celtic princess was astride a large white stallion, garbed in a softly burnished, slightly musky, brown leather cuirass, and draped with white lilies. Her skirt was made of hay, wheat and grass; her skin was coated in ambered oil; and her long hair braided with daffodils that matched the flowers in her horse’s mane. Behind her were her clansmen, giant warriors silent in leather and white flowers. As they rode down to pay homage to the shrine of Epona, the scent of their horses, leather, and lilies mingled in the air, floating like tendrils over the fields of daffodils, grass, wheat, and dry hay. It is the fragrance of Lys Epona.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

Lys Epona is a new 2013 eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Jovoy Paris. I stumbled upon it while browsing the store and, as you can read in my profile on Jovoy, it blew me away. I had been utterly overwhelmed by all the treasures in the store, and had experienced olfactory fatigue up to that point, but Lys Epona made me sit up and take notice. Jovoy was kind enough to give me a sample to test its duration on my perfume-eating skin, and I still love it as much as I did initially, though its intimate sillage is a great problem for me personally.

While most reports credit Lys Epona and its creation to François Hénin, Jovoy’s owner, in collaboration with the perfume nose, Amelie Bourgeois of Flair, there is actually a third person involved who is much more significant to the tale. A very passionate Parisian perfumista — who prefers to be known only as Annabelle — is responsible for the very idea behind the fragrance. In fact, the perfume is really part of her new brand, Lys Epona, and not a part of Jovoy’s personal line of fragrances at all.

Source: Le Figaro.

Source: Le Figaro.

The source of Annabelle’s inspiration explains a lot about the fragrance. As she told me in an email and also recounts on her site, Lys Epona, the whole thing began one day in Paris when she was walking near the stables of Le Garde Républicaine, or the Republican Guard, France’s elite mounted cavalry and honour unit. As the smells of horses, leather, hay, and a touch of urine hit her nose, a lady passed by her carrying an enormous bouquet of lilies. The aromas blended together into a magnificent whole which took away her breath. As Annabelle later wrote to me, it was “[l]ike a dance between an Hussar and a Courtisan!”


France’s Republican Guard. Source:

Garde Republicaine. Photo:

Garde Républicaine. Photo:

The unusual combination stayed in her head. Annabelle loves perfume, particularly vintage ones, but also niche fragrances, and had been a frequent visitor to Jovoy Paris from its very inception back in 2010. So, one day, she told its owner, François Hénin, about the incident, and he asked her if she wanted to try turning her idea into an actual perfume. He put her in touch with Amelie Bourgeois, a “nose” at Flair, and the two worked on perfecting her vision of the dance between leather, horses and lilies.

The result, Lys Epona, was originally meant to be a personal, one-time perfume for its creator, but a twist of fate involving some vintage bottles eventually led to a 100-bottle distribution released under Jovoy’s sponsorship or patronage. (More on those vintage bottles later.) Annabelle later began her blog site, Lys Epona, as a means of talking about the fragrance without stealing from its thunder by coming out as its official creator, but the sponsorship ties that began the collaboration have accidentally ended up giving Jovoy the credit in some people’s eyes. I made the same mistake myself until Annabelle clarified the situation for me in an email, so I wanted to set the record straight.

So, you may ask, what precisely is in it? Jovoy’s French-language page for Lys Epona has many more details than the English version which I had looked at originally, but it still doesn’t include the perfume’s full list of notes. Thanks to Fragrantica (which also accidentally credits the perfume to Jovoy), it seems Lys Epona has:

top notes of bergamot, lily and ravensara; middle notes of narcissus [daffodils], jasmine, ylang-ylang, wheat, hay and lily; and base notes of musk, labdanum, tobacco and cedar.

Ravensara. Source:

Ravensara. Source:

Ravensara is not something that I’m at all familiar with, but its aroma turns out to be a significant part of Lys Epona’s beginning. According to my research, it is a member of the Laurel family and its seeds are what we consider to be nutmeg. Ravensara’s aroma, however, is a somewhat medicinal, camphorous one with definite fruity overtones.

Lys Epona always opens on my skin in the same way, but its subsequent development was never precisely the same on each of the four occasions that I tested it. The first time I tested the fragrance, it opened with a burst of freshly crisp citruses, followed by dry hay, leather, and green notes that almost seem like oakmoss at times. There is a plush greenness to the notes that is far more than mere grassiness and really verges on a slightly dry, mossy feel. A few minutes later, the white lilies burst on the scene. While their almost dewy sweetness is potent, it never overwhelms the citric, chypre-like leather start. All around you, the leather swirls in a soft cloud of burnished, aged richness. There is a definite animalic edge in the opening minutes that makes me wonder if Lys Epona has a good dose of civet in it.



Three minutes later, a slightly mentholated note appears, followed by what I would swear were orange blossoms. In two of my four tests, the orange blossoms seemed quite noticeable to me, taking on a Serge Lutens-like mentholated aspect from its indoles. I realise now that it has to be the combination of the ravensara (with its supposed camphoraceous notes that have a fruity edge) with the white floral blast from the lilies. That “mentholated orange blossom” cocktail ended up being the primary floral note in Lys Epona’s start for the first hour but, oddly enough, my other two tests of Lys Epona never created that impression. Instead, what was much more noticeable was the hay which appeared right alongside the leather and lily.

Epona by "Brian." Original source or site unknown.

Epona by “Brian.” Original source or site unknown.

All my tests, however, led to one overall impression of Lys Epona in its opening phase: the Celtic warriors of spring. Each and every time, Lys Epona evoked the image of a countryside filled with dry haystacks, and lightly imbued with the green of rolling, grassy hills and forest moss. There was always the jangle of a horse’s leather reins and its slightly musky smell as you rode through the verdant fields of daffodils to a garden of lush, heady, white flowers. And, on all occasions, the fresh citric start that felt almost chypre and fougère-like with the green and hay overtones dissipated rapidly. What was left behind as the primary essence of the scent was an almost masculine, outdoorsy and leather-influenced take on indolic white florals, that was also sweetly feminine at the same time.

Clip from "Wrath of the Titans." Source:

Clip from “Wrath of the Titans.” Source:

Lys Epona is lush, sexy, strong, but also somewhat rugged. This isn’t a lusty courtesan’s white florals that she would wear while languidly reclining on a chaise lounge, nor the delicate flowers of an ethereal, weeping maiden. No sexpot bombshells, or prissily powdered old ladies would fit the scent either. No, this is more a strong Amazonian’s white florals, a beautiful warrior whose well-worn leather armour is covered by wreaths of lilies, and who lives in an outdoors world surrounded by the very essence of nature. It is most definitely the scent of Epona, the protector of horses who was also revered by pagan Celtic tribes as the goddess of fertility, strength and abundance, and whose two symbols are usually horses and wheat.

For the first half of its life, Lys Epona is primarily a perfectly modulated, beautifully blended swirl of lilies and leather that come together in bouquet beribboned with hay, grass, daffodils, and the most infinitesimal touch of animalic horsiness. At its heart and deepest depths, however, Lys Epona has labdanum amber which stirs from its waking sleep as early as thirty minutes into the perfume’s development. Just a hint, just a whisper, but its warmth is enough to consistently diffuse the chilled, mentholated, almost pepperminty undertones to the ravensara. In most of my trials, as the amber slowly, fractionally, made its way to the surface, the leather retreated in equal measure to the sidelines. At the same time, there are undercurrents of green that have the sweetness of freshly mowed grass in summer, and which swirl alongside the amber and the dry hay that lie just below the surface.



On top are the white lilies, shining like beacons of purity and freshness in all their glory. Their scent is never heavily indolic, never cloyingly sweet. This is not the lily of Serge LutensUn Lys, nor the lily of some recent creations like Le Labo‘s Lys 41 or Tom Ford‘s Shanghai Lily. It’s a flower that is simultaneously sweet, dewy, watery, almost a little fruity (thanks to the ravensara) but also a little dry (thanks to the hay).

What’s interesting to me is how the lily can change its role in the perfume’s development from one day to the next and, more importantly, in its accompanying nuances. In my first test, as well as when I blindly sprayed it in Jovoy, Lys Epona seemed a scent that was dominated initially by orange blossoms with the lilies taking a back seat until the start of the second hour. In my second test, the lily was much more dominant from the start, then later joined by jasmine around the middle of the third hour. In my third and fourth tests, the lily was present again from the start, but its strength waxed and waned like a wave hitting the beach. It was also primarily backed by daffodils, instead of the other floral notes.

The leather is very much the same way. In my second and fourth tests, it was very pronounced through much of Lys Epona’s first three hours, and even occasionally dominated the lily. At other times, however, it receded to the sidelines after the first forty minutes, remaining as a constant second layer but never dominating. In all instances, its animalic opening was quickly tamed, and it felt like a very smooth, rounded note.

All of this should make one thing very clear: Lys Epona is what I call a very “prismatic scent.” It throws off different notes at different times like rays of light bouncing off crystals hit by the sun. I suspect different elements would dominate at different stages and upon different wearings. It’s the sign of a beautifully crafted perfume that is blended perfectly and whose great depths are in perfect harmony. Nonetheless, it would probably be more useful to you if I gave you a traditional rundown of its development, even if the analysis covers how it appeared on only one occasion. So, let’s take my third test of Lys Epona and go from there.

Lys Epona opened with its usual burst of fresh, crisp but juicy bergamot. Soon thereafter, there was the animalic leather with its slightly urinous, civet-like undertones, musk, and a hint of sweet florals. At first, the latter is a haze in which daffodils (or narcissus) is only vaguely distinguishable. Minutes later, there are the slow stirrings of lily, which are soon overtaken by a slightly camphorous, mentholated note heralding the arrival of the ravensara. There is an underlying fruitiness which, when combine with the citruses and white florals, again gives off the impression of orange blossoms. This time, however, it’s incredibly fleeting, and the hint of Tiger’s Balm medicated, mentholated salve is much more apparent. It swirls with the jangle of a leather saddle, the musk, the daffodil and lilies, creating a truly unique take on indolic flowers.



Fifteen minutes in, the hay, wheat, and grass elements arrive. When combined with the daffodils, they create a freshness that really feels like spring. At the same time, something about the combination of the ravensara and the grass once again evokes soft, plush oakmoss for me. However, the lilies now bloom in full force, as if they’d been awakened by the sun, and their almost watery, dewy sweetness counteracts that passing impression of a chypre. The hay also starts to shine, pushing aside the bergamot and citric notes to the side. At the same time, the civet-like urinous undertone fades away, as the leather takes on an almost burnished, rounded feel.

Epona, with her horse and her wheat. Created by Janet Chui. Source:

Epona, with her horse and her wheat. Created by Janet Chui. Source:

By the end of the first hour, the leather and the lily are dancing a tango, sensuously interwoven together, while the hay, grass, ravensara and daffodils clap from the sidelines. Far away, at the periphery, in the shadows, the labdanum amber wakes up at the noise and raises its head. Moment by moment, it draws closer to the stage, until it fully pushes aside the ravensara with its mentholated edge, and shines the light of its warmth onto the other players.

Things change further at the middle of the second hour. Lys Epona’s lily focus is now infused with jasmine, amber, hay, and the slow rumblings of tobacco in the base. From time to time, a juicy, citric sweetness pops back up, but the sweet spring-like aroma of daffodils is much more constant. The leather is now completely off center-stage, hidden behind the flowers, and the daffodil/narcissus in particular. Yet, it is subtly complemented by the somewhat nutty, leathery characteristics of labdanum. This is a leather that is now no longer animalic and musky, but rather just a suggestion. The labdanum is the same way for it lacks its slightly dirty, almost masculine essence at this stage. Instead, its aroma is more of regular, slightly sweetened, soft amber.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. "Smoke and Lily" series. Source:

Photo: Henry Hargreaves Photography. “Smoke and Lily” series. Source:

It takes a while for the labdanum to appear in all its beautiful glory. (Labdanum is my absolute favorite kind of amber precisely because of its unique aroma.) At the end of the third hour, Lys Epona turns into a scent that is primarily golden amber in focus, where the labdanum has turned the lily’s whiteness into a burnished bronze. The fragrance is a gorgeous glow of molten nuttiness and amber, infused with touches of lily, labdanum’s honeyed nuance, and musk. Flickers of leather, hay, grass, tobacco and an abstract woodiness dance all around. Lys Epona remains that way largely until its very final stage when it’s merely a blur of amber with minute traces of tobacco and hay. The lily has mostly faded away, as has the leather. At the very end, only the golden amber is left, like a sunset fading on the Celts.

Lys Epona is wonderfully original and extremely beautiful, but it also has some problems for me on a personal level. I repeatedly struggled with the sillage and longevity. Now, I have perfume-eating skin, but I rarely have a problem with sillage. And Lys Epona has very soft sillage! Obviously, projection is a very personal matter, but I can give you only my personal reaction, which is that Lys Epona becomes too soft too quickly. Each and every time, on all four tests, Lys Epona became an intimate scent after a mere one hour. One hour! It’s far, far too soon, in my opinion. Soft sillage that hovers only an inch or so above your skin is acceptable after a few hours and, in my ideal world, would be best after about 6-8 hours, but one hour?!

Spraying versus dabbing is not the answer, either. In general, aerosolisation adds to a perfume’s strength and longevity, but all my tests involved sprays from the small atomizer that Jovoy kindly made for me. So, while the perfume itself comes in a dab bottle (if memory serves me correctly), I was using the method that best amplifies a perfume’s projection. And that method gave me a mere hour or 75 minutes of a moderate perfume cloud! For people like myself who prefer a little more of a power to their fragrances, I think Lys Epona’s rapidly dropping sillage might be a little disappointing.

I should also add that increased quantity did not make much of a difference. I applied an average of 4 squirts from my 2 ml spray vial each time. During my fourth test, it almost felt as though the perfume were evaporating from my skin, as it became less potent and noticeable within a mere 15 minutes. Was the air conditioning too high, and the temperature too cold for Lys Epona to really bloom? To counter the possibility, I added two additional sprays, for a total of 6 sampler sprays (or what might be 3 big sprays from an actual bottle, depending on the size of its hole). No difference. Lys Epona was a lovely, albeit very soft, cloud for just 60 minutes, and then dropped in force. At all times, it was airy in weight and feel, never thick or opaque, and its final stages coated the skin like a gauzy whisper. Personally, I wish it had been a little less airy and sheer, but Lys Epona is not meant to be a baroque, molten, heavy scent.

In addition to the sillage issue, the longevity wasn’t great on my skin either, but that is obviously much more of a personal outcome due to my wonky skin chemistry. On average, Lys Epona lasted between 6.5 hours and 7.75 hours, depending on the quantity that I used. I may have perfume-consuming skin, but I’ve certainly found a number of brands and fragrances that have lasted 12+ hours on me, even up to 16 hours in small, lingering spots, and often with a significantly smaller quantity of liquid than I used here. The fact that Lys Epona is not exactly cheap (€225), is only 65 ml (just over 2.1 oz), and would require a lot of sprays for the perfume to really last on me means that I would go through that bottle quite quickly. For me, it’s a concern, and the primary reason why I won’t consider buying Lys Epona for myself.

In my exchanges with the absolutely lovely, incredibly sweet, outgoing and very vibrant Annabelle, I mentioned the sillage and longevity issues. She was surprised to hear that I thought Lys Epona was very soft. Apparently, her friend tells her that she can’t spray Lys Epona when they’re going to be in the small confines of a car because it’s too strong. But sillage is a very subjective, personal matter, so it really depends on how one defines “strong” and the yardsticks used therein. Annabelle mentioned that she was not fond of the ’80s powerhouse scents, after one too many bad experiences being cloistered at 7 a.m. in the elevator with a neighbor who sprayed on too much. Now, me, in comparison, I hope to die being covered and drenched in vintage ’70s Opium, and I love Amouage scents, so obviously I have a very different interpretation of the perfect sillage.

What was interesting to me is something else that Annabelle mentioned as a specific goal for the perfume’s structure. She wanted a very strong, powerful opening, almost like a sort of Lutens-like “Lys Criminelle.” Yet, she intentionally sought to make that opening later turn into something soft and intimate for symbolic reasons, as if the “lily and horse, after a race, finally tamed each other.” I admire that intellectually, and think it’s rather a brilliant piece of olfactory meaning. I also think she fully accomplished her goal, because the two notes did tame each other in each of my tests.

John Collier, "Queen Guinevere's Maying" (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

John Collier, “Queen Guinevere’s Maying” (1900). Source: Wikipedia.

At the end of the day, issues of sillage and longevity are all a matter of personal preference. Some people absolutely hate perfumes that are too strong, with Amouage-like intensity and forcefulness. They specifically seek more unobtrusive fragrances that are like a suggestive, personal whisper, or that might be something they could wear to work without bothering colleagues. Lys Epona would definitely qualify. I also think that it would work perfectly on both a man and a woman. It is rugged and outdoorsy with its spring-like touches and leather, but it is also beautifully feminine and elegant.

In short, nothing I’ve said here about the sillage or airiness should change the main bottom line: Lys Epona is a gorgeous scent that is incredibly original, creative, different, and elegant. The radiating prisms of its notes, its beautifully evocative nature, its depths, and its very classique, old-school sophistication are a stunning achievement for a first time perfume creator, and Annabelle’s passionate love for perfumery shows in every drop. Amelie Bourgeois’ talents (and supposed love for horses) also show, so both of them deserve much praise in my opinion. If you end up buying Lys Epona, I think you will have a truly original creation on your hands which will stand out in your collection. I haven’t quite come across anything like it.

Lys Epona also happens to be a very lovely looking perfume in terms of its packaging. From the moment I held the bottle in my hands, I felt as though I had a rare, vintage treasure of great character. From the black-and-gold, scrolled letters on the label, to the Lalique-like, clouded crystal stopper, Lys Epona is beautiful. For me, its look not only conjures up images of the golden age of perfumery, but also serves as a wonderful parallel to the scent itself whose sophisticated, complex, very nuanced structure give it a very classique feel.

Lys Epona. Photo courtesy of Annabelle.

Lys Epona. Photo courtesy of Annabelle.

There is another story behind the Lys Epona bottles, and I think the tale is significant because it explains the limited nature of the perfume’s production. As noted up above, Lys Epona was originally intended to be a one-time thing made only for Annabelle in a labour of love. As Annabelle explained to me in an email, things changed one day when François Hénin called her and asked her to come to Jovoy, as he had a little surprise for her. There, he gave her something in a very yellowed, dirty newspaper. It was an old bottle. But there was more.

That very first, original bottle wrapped in paper. Source:

That very first, original bottle wrapped in paper. Source:

A friend of Mr. Henin’s could sell them a whole box of real vintage bottles from the Brosse glass factory and dating back to the 1930s! There were only 108 of them, and due to their age, some were not in a state that could be offered to customers, but there were at least 100 good, genuinely antique bottles. (You can see the original, untouched bottles in a post on that subject on Annabelle’s site.) As a final coincidence and sign, the newspaper that the first bottle was put in was a page from 1934 that talked about a horse race. It was all too perfect, especially for Annabelle who loves vintage perfumes. So, they decided to make a limited, one-time distribution with those 100 antique bottles.

The very aged nature of the bottles means that there is a tiny, remote chance that they won’t all be completely, utterly perfect. I have a blog friend who ordered Lys Epona blindly, and who was disappointed to see two red dots or marks on the crystal stopper. Jovoy dealt with the situation in a professional manner and replaced the bottle, but I think my friend might have been a little less disappointed if he had known the origins and backstory for those bottles. They certainly have a unique touch and character, much like any antique, and their potential flaw simply adds to their charm in my opinion. So, if you get one that is less than perfect, remember that it is one of a very rare set that is over 80 years old!

All in all, I definitely recommend giving Lys Epona a sniff if you love lilies and/or leather. Those of you in the States can actually order a sample from Surrender to Chance to test it out, but buying it won’t be quite as easy since Jovoy does not ship outside the E.U. However, they are very fond of any “EU cousins” that you may have, so perhaps you can see if a friend will help out in terms of lending their shipping address. There is also a personal shopper option that I explain further in the Details section below. I should add that I don’t know how many bottles of Lys Epona remain, especially as it was released a few months ago, but I’ve seen enough internet interest in the scent for me to urge you to hurry if you’re serious about it. I think it’s more than just a lily scent, more than a leather, or the fraction of its parts. I think it’s an evocative journey back in time. It’s up to you whether you’re taken to a world of Celtic warriors surrounded by nature, or to that of Napoleonic cavalry officers wooing languid courtesans draped with lilies. 

Note: my sample of Lys Epona was provided to me by Jovoy Paris, but they didn’t know I was going to do a review of the fragrance. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: Lys Epona is an eau de parfum that is exclusive to Jovoy Paris. It comes in a 65 ml/ 2.1 oz size, is limited in quantity, and costs €225. Jovoy does not ship to the U.S. unfortunately, but are happy to mail to any “EU cousins” (as they amusingly put it, right down to the quotes) that you may have.
Samples: In the U.S., samples are available from Surrender to Chance which sells Lys Epona starting at $9.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.
Personal Shopper Options: One option for you to consider if you’re a U.S. resident who is interested in buying Lys Epona is to use a personal shopper who goes to France every month. Shop France Inc is run by Suzan, a very reputable, extremely professional, personal shopper who has been used by a number of perfumistas. She will go to France, and buy you fragrances (or other luxury items like Hermès scarves, etc.) that are otherwise hard to find at a reasonable price. Shop France Inc. normally charges a 10% commission on top of the item’s price with 50% being required as a down payment. If you have specific questions, you can contact her at As a side note, I have no affiliation with her, and receive nothing as a result of mentioning her.