Perfume Review: Penhaligon Vaara

Source: mariyatourtravels.com -

Jodhpur, India. Source: mariyatourtravels.com –

There once was a Maharaja who loved his granddaughter very much. So much so, that her mere birth felt like the occasion to celebrate with something special. He commissioned a famous perfumer to create a scent in her name, honouring both his granddaughter and the land that he loved so much. It is the story of Vaara, the new creation of Bertrand Duchaufour for the old, famous British perfume house, Penhaligon.

Source: telegraphindia.com.

Source: telegraphindia.com.

The perfume site, CaFleureBon, explains the tale:

Vaara,  was inspired by the Royal House of Marwar-Jodphur in Rajasthan when  His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II desired a scent to commemorate the birth of his granddaughter, Vaara and to reflect his family’s deep love and connection with Jodhpur. Vaara offers a unique glimpse into this aromatic world of the Maharaja.

Bertrand travelled to Jodhpur to explore the life of a Maharaja; visiting historic forts, family palaces, exotic gardens and bustling city markets. His journey provided him with an abundance of inspiration for the fragrance and the end result, Vaara, cleverly captures the spirit of this fascinating part of India.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Source: aboutrajasthan.in

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur. Source: aboutrajasthan.in

I absolutely adore Jodhpur, which I found to be one of the most magical places in India, so I couldn’t wait to try Vaara. Penhaligon‘s description merely added to my excitement:

The fragrance begins with a delicious blend of coriander and carrot seeds, creamy saffron and juicy quince: ingredients discovered during his trips to local markets in Jodhpur. The heart of Vaara belongs to the gardens of Balsamand, the Maharaja’s summer palace, with two glorious roses blended elegantly with a billowing white note of Indian magnolia, a touch of freesia and a whisper of iris. The fragrance settles into a luscious combination of honey, white musks and resins dripping over an aromatic base of tonka, cedarwood and sandalwood.

According to Penhaligon and Luckyscent, the notes in Vaara include:

Quince, Rosewater, Carrot Seed, Coriander Seed, Saffron, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Bulgarian Rose, Freesia, Indian Magnolia, Peony, Iris, Honey, White Musk, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Benzoin Resin, Tonka Bean.

Source: imgshowcase.blogspot.com

Source: imgshowcase.blogspot.com

Vaara opens on my skin with quince and a watery rose. For those who may be unfamiliar with the smell of quince, it has an aroma between pear and apple with a honeyed undertone. For some, the smell feels fresh but exotically spicy, while, for others, quince has an aroma that slightly resembles pineapples, citruses, or lemon blossoms. In Vaara, the quince does indeed smell like something between an apple or a pear, though it’s closer to the latter for me and has a faint tinge of lemon blossoms. The rose note in the fragrance is delicate, sweet, very pink in feel, and extremely watery in characteristic. It’s syrupy and strong in a way that feels a lot like a tea-rose. Its watery aspect doesn’t feel dewy or metallic, but the end result is something that feels like a waterlogged pastel.

Source: Dennis 7 Dees Gardening center. dennis7dees.com

Source: Dennis 7 Dees Gardening center. dennis7dees.com

Dancing all around the fragrance are strong whiffs of the accompanying players. First and foremost is a carroty smell of iris, followed by violets. The latter doesn’t last for more than a few minutes because it is bulldozed over by the onslaught of a clean, white musk that smells cheap, chemical, and synthetic. It has a sharp tone to it and strongly evokes hairspray. Quickly, it infuses all the other notes from the quince to the rose and iris. It does the same to the peony which arrives on the scene, smelling very fresh, syrupy, and quite similar to the roses. There is a small whiff of freesia, too. The floral notes all feel very young, feminine, and flirty — too much so for me. I’m having visions of teenage girls in the ’80s wearing big, chintzy, cabbage rose dresses from Laura Ashley.

Making a valiant attempt to prevent Vaara from dissolving completely and thoroughly into floral hairspray are a few whispers of other notes. There is the merest tinge of something lemony from the magnolia. That said, I never smell the flower in its full, creamy, velvety, floral richness, so perhaps the note really is a subset of the quince. I have no idea. About ten minutes in, the saffron appears, adding a subtle touch of spiciness. Five minutes later, the hairspray stops acting like an advance scouting team for a Panzer unit, loses a little of its forcefulness, and lets a few of the other notes shine through. The pear-lemon blossomy quince regains its place as the star of the show, followed by the chorus of pink roses, sweetly carroted iris, purple violets, and syrupy white peonies. Despite the minor, momentary pop of saffron, Vaara doesn’t feel remotely oriental to me. Not once was I transported to Jodhpur or felt the warm breath of India. Instead, Vaara conjures up a large, full-blossomed, bridal bouquet of quince and florals all wrapped up with clean, white, musk hairspray like a bow. While the musk may make Vaara feel fresh and bright, it also makes it smell quite cheap to my nose.

Source: oncewedd.com

Source: oncewedd.com

Twenty minutes into Vaara’s development, the perfume shifts a little. The carroty undertones rise in prominence, strengthening the iris note. Yet, the latter feels as floral as it does carroty. It’s probably the impact of all the other notes which seem to grow in sweetness, as well as in strength. The potency of the pastel florals makes Vaara a scent that is primarily floral in nature, then perhaps fruity-floral, but never one that seems even remotely “oriental” to me.

Linda Evans as "Krystle Carrington" in Dynasty. Source: Kootation.com

Linda Evans as “Krystle Carrington” in Dynasty. Source: Kootation.com

What it really does is conjure up the past. Vaara has such a British, Sloane Ranger, 1980s feel. A young, shy, Lady Diana, circa 1981, might have worn Vaara in her youth — except the fragrance is probably too potent and forceful in strength. A better choice might be the very blonde, sweet Krystle Carrington from the old television show, Dynasty — except Vaara smells too commercial for the wife of a corporate magnate. Then again, Vaara’s increasingly strong undertones of floral hairspray might suit the bouffant-loving Crystal quite well.

The sad thing is that Vaara might have been quite decent without the cheapness and the low-quality, girly, super-feminine ingredients. At its heart, there is a kernel of a truly lovely scent. Unfortunately, Bertrand Duchaufour already built on that kernel, and already made that fragrance. It’s Mohur from Neela Vermeire Créations. Mohur has an extremely similar opening to Vaara, so similar, in fact, that I was initially taken aback. Ignoring Vaara’s brief spasm of quince, and considering only the opening forty minutes, the two fragrances overlap to a sharp extent. Mohur has the exact same sweet, syrupy, watery, pink tea-rose, followed by carroty notes, iris, and purple violets. The similarities largely end there, however, as Mohur’s violet undertone feels deep, haunting and rich, and evokes old, classic Guerlain scents. Mohur has a flicker of oud, a hint of almonds, and a more successful, substantial spice note, instead of the minuscule pop of saffron given by Vaara. Those are the very minor differences, however.

The substantial and main ones are the fact that Mohur never feels even remotely synthetic, chemical, or cheap. The fragrance sits atop bucketfuls of the most precious, rare, almost extinct, genuine Mysore sandalwood — not a whisper of which is to be found in Vaara, no matter what its note list may claim. Mohur is luxe, sophisticated, endlessly elegant, very expensive in feel, and layered with complexity. Vaara lacks all of that. It feels like a shrill pre-teen jumping up and down at the skirts of its big, elegant sister, clamouring at a high pitch to be allowed to join in the fun. Oh, and did I mention the ’80s? The pre-teen is a big-haired, twelve-year old with lots of hairspray, and a hell of a sharp voice.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

One reason for that sharpness is the use of ISO E Super, an aromachemical synthetic that some perfumers use as a “super-floralizer” and to add longevity to weak floral notes. To my chagrin, ISO E Super is present in Vaara to quite a significant degree. It not only amplifies the loudness of the white musk, but it adds to the forcefulness of floral notes (like iris or freesia) that, by themselves, are quite weak, dainty, little things. Given that I only dabbed on about 2.5 large smears of Vaara, I can’t get over its seriously intense potency during the first hour. Unfortunately, the loud buzziness of the synthetic combines with the equally synthetic white musk to give me one very intense headache. I don’t always get headaches from ISO E Super, but I do when a lot is used. Or, when a perfume is very cheap….

At the end of the first hour, Vaara starts its final transformation. All traces of a fruited element vanish from the top, as the quince becomes a muted blip in the horizon. Now, the scent is a quartet of rose, rose-like peony, carroty-floral iris, and violets — all infused with white hairspray musk. Vaara’s edges have started to blur, and the notes begin to overlap. Just after the 90-minute mark, the rose takes over as the main and dominant element, followed by white musk and ISO E Super, with only subtle whiffs of the other florals. With every passing half hour, the scent devolves further into a simple tea-rose scent that is simultaneously extremely syrupy sweet, somewhat watery, and, also, quite fresh and clean. I’m singularly unimpressed with any of it. What’s odd is that Vaara is muted in feel, while still very strong in power. No doubt, it’s thanks to the chemical Panzer unit that is stomping its way up my nose to the back of my throbbing skull.

Source: wallpaperswide.com

Source: wallpaperswide.com

And that’s really the end of the story. Not a whiff of sandalwood, nary a hint of benzoin sweetness and vanilla, no tonka bean, no discernible magnolia, and no cedarwood. Vaara merely becomes more nebulous: a shapeless, very commercial-smelling, very amorphous blur of sweet roses, and white musk. It stays that way in one linear, simple line until the 8.5 hour mark, when dripping, sweet honey makes an appearance. The base feels rounder and warmer, too, but it’s never anything specific. At most, one can say that ISO E Super’s “woody hum” (as Luca Turin describes the note) vibrates a little in the base along with some warmth. In its final hours, Vaara turns powdery with a slightly sour undertone and mixed with an abstract hint of rose. All in all, the fragrance lasted just short of 11.75 hours, a length of time which is quite rare for a pure floral on my perfume-consuming skin but which is further testament to all the synthetics underlying it. The sillage was generally high and good for most of Vaara’s life, though it had a 1980s powerhouse forcefulness for its initial hour.

You may think some of my critical harshness for Vaara stems from my issues with ISO E Super, or perhaps from my disdain for cheap synthetics as a whole. You’d be mistaken. It’s not just me. Bois de Jasmin gave Vaara a rare 3 stars, something I haven’t seen in a while. She, too, noted both the cheapness of the scent and its early similarities to Mohur:

…[W]hy is Vaara such a wallflower? Etro has already tried to take us to Rajasthan with its recent fragrance, but the violet and rose combination never got past the South of France. Despite its promises, Vaara doesn’t even cross the Channel. It’s soft spoken and mild, a perfume for someone who really doesn’t like orientals or anything richer than frozen yogurt. […][¶]

… [I]f the drydown either had more curves (or to put it bluntly, if Penhaligon’s had spared more pennies for the juice), Vaara would have been terrific. But instead of taking me for a ride, Vaara meanders around rose and settles for a well-behaved drydown of raspy woods and laundry musk.  It’s surprisingly clean, considering that we’re talking about an India inspired perfume. There is not even a hint of the bonfire smoke that pervades most Indian cities, nor the opulent incense hanging around the temples. At best, it’s a neatly packaged idea of India, without any messy bits.

These messy bits, however, make other Duchaufour fragrances much more compelling, whether it’s the sultry Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose, playful L’Artisan Traversée du Bosphore, or even Vaara’s older sister, Neela Vermeire Mohur.  By contrast, Penhaligon’s is a more commercial and approachable brand than the others I’ve mentioned, so Vaara’s garden party exoticism is not accidental. That Vaara is the low-budget version of Mohur is also not surprising.

Source: BrownThomas.com

Source: BrownThomas.com

I think she’s being far, far too kind, and extremely diplomatic. But, if you parse that review, you’ll find the blunt truth hiding behind the extreme tactfulness. Vaara is a “low-budget,” “commercial,” “wallflower” with “laundry musk” that is the result of Penhaligon not sparing enough pennies. In my opinion, it’s definitely commercial, belongs in a mall, and is far over-priced at $125 and $160. The extremely cheap-looking gold bow on the bottle (metal? plastic?) doesn’t help.

The early assessments from those who have tried Vaara are much more enthusiastic. On Fragrantica, all three of the reviews thus far are positive and two of the three come from men. One chap happily compared Vaara to that 1980s monster Poison, writing: “Here the honeyed plum has been replaced by quince but I would not be surprised to learn Duchaufour has made use of the same lush alpha- and beta-damascone combination of the Dior masterpiece.” Well, I certainly agree with his choice of decades….

The other two praise Vaara as well, with one gushing about how Vaara was not “a heavy, cloying oriental monster. No, [Duchaufour] mastered a truly delightful, fruity, wet and juicy, interesting and compelling new age world scent” with fruits, florals, and woods. His subsequent rave about the quince element makes me think that he experienced substantially more of it than I did. I’m not very surprised; my skin tends to emphasize and amplify basenotes, which may be one explanation for why the white musk was so dominant for me. If your skin brings out the top notes, perhaps Vaara will be more of fruity scent for you as well. If it doesn’t, then welcome to my world of laundry-clean musk and floral hairspray. As a side note about those three positive Fragrantica reviews, one of the commentators does admit that Vaara doesn’t end well: “The dry down, however, is less magical, with the blurry trace of roses and the prominence of powdery and balmy notes.” 

On Luckyscent, the only comment thus far sums up a little of what I feel:

This is mostly rose on my skin. A sweet tea rose type fragrance. Not what I was expecting. Seems pretty linear with not much scent development. Disappointing!

To me, smelling cheap is worse than being linear or being simple. Smelling of floral hairspray and rose “laundry musk” (to use Bois de Jasmin’s phrase) is just as bad. I plan on getting over the whole ghastly ordeal by putting on some Mohur instead.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Vaara is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle that retails for $125 or £85; and a 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle that costs $160 or £120. I believe the fragrance will fully launch in mid-August 2013, though it is already available from Penhaligon and from some retailers.  Penhaligon: You can buy Vaara directly from Penhaligon which sells the fragrance in both sizes. They also have a U.S. Penhaligon site which offers free shipping on all orders over $100. Penhaligon also provides a Store Locator Guide which lists shops from Canada and Korea to Indonesia, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Australia, Turkey, Hong Kong, and all of Europe which carry its products. In the U.S.: Vaara is already available at Luckyscent which sells both sizes, along with a sample. Vaara will launch at some select Saks Fifth Avenue stores on August 19th, and a little later at Gumps. In New York, the Penhaligon line is available at Aedes, Saks, Chocheng, Eisler Chemist, and some other shops. I don’t believe they have Vaara yet. In Washington D.C or Baltimore, Penhaligon is sold at Sterling & Burke, and Loafers & Lace, respectively. Vaara is also already available in the large $160 size at ShopLondons. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the Penhaligon line is carried at The Perfume Shoppe and Beauty Bar Cosmetics (which doesn’t have an online retail website), but the Perfume Shoppe has no listing Vaara yet. In Europe, Vaara is already available at London’s Harvey Nichols in the small 50 ml size, and from Ireland’s Brown Thomas in the large size for €140. In France, the Penhaligon line is sold at Paris’ niche boutique store, Nose, as well as at Les Galleries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, Printemps, and other stores listed in Penhaligon’s vendor page. A number of those stores’ online page show no listings for Vaara yet, as it is too new. For all other locations throughout Europe and beyond, you can check Penhaligon’s Stockist listings for a location near you. Samples: You can obtain samples from a number of the links listed up above. I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Vaara starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial. 

Perfume Review – Serge Lutens Bois de Violette

VioletsIn the heart of the cedar forest, one tree towered above all the rest. Its dark, dry bark was peppered, and sometimes spiced with cinnamon, with cardamom that was so rich, it almost verged on chocolate, and with sappy sweetness. The gnarled tangle of its ancient roots protectively surrounded the forest’s greatest treasure: a large bunch of African violets that cast a purple glow that shone like a beacon. Its fragrant smell took over the darkness, lending the forest its name amongst the villagers: “Bois de Violette,” the forest of violets.

The smell was powerful but dainty, delicately airy but dense, and filled with layers that danced in a play of light and dark. The purple petals were bedazzled by fat prisms of dew, creating a watery, purple sweetness. The leaves were dark green, and spicy with the crackling pepper that matched the aroma of the trees around it. And its heart was so sweet, it was fruited, honeyed, and syrupy. From the freshness of succulent, fleshy, ripe peaches hanging on the vine to the sweetness of dark, stewed, glazed fruit, the violet syrup ran like purple blood through the veins of both the flower and the trees. A delicate mist of powder fluttered around the edges, like a darting Tinkerbell who popped up here and there, but who ultimately decided her presence wasn’t needed in the festive play of dainty floral violets, violet syrup, dewy, green, watery, violet freshness, and dark, peppered woods.

Source: modavesen.com

Source: modavesen.com

That is Bois de Violette, an eau de parfum that was created by Serge Lutens‘ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, and released in 1992. Though it is primarily an expensive Paris Bell Jar perfume that is exclusive to Serge Lutens’ Paris headquarters, Bois de Violette came out at some point in a regular, import-version, 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle that is easily available and sometimes discounted online.

Serge Lutens Bois de VioletteSerge Lutens describes Bois de Violette on his website as follows:

Full of vim and vigor.

Once again – and I’m repeating myself – femininity worked its way into this composition, by way of its leaves and a few flowers, whose color – a charming discovery made in a secluded thicket – won me over. A vigorous fragrance, it never gives up!

There is a reason why Uncle Serge says he’s repeating himself, and it’s something that is an important context for the fragrance. Bois de Violette is one of a quartet of “Bois” or wood fragrances to follow from Lutens’ ground-breaking, debut perfume, Féminité du Bois for Shiseido. It is a highly admired, much-loved fragrance which essentially served as the mothership for all the Bois siblings which followed.

Luca Turin, the famous perfume critic, has a very useful explanation of the history of the Bois line, their perfume structure, and how Bois de Violette differs from the rest. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, he talks of how the “woody-fruity structure of Féminité du Bois was first devised by the perfumer Pierre Bourdon, … and then passed on to perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, who developed it with Lutens… to keep it as dark and transparent as possible.” When Lutens decided to open his own perfume house, he needed more perfumes for his line, and decided to do variations on his uber-successful Féminité.

Enter the technique known as overdosage, widely propagated by Bourdon, in which a backstage component in one perfume is moved to the forefront in a new composition, a sort of rotation in perfume space. From Féminité du Bois came four variations, three of which create new effects by bold-typing one of the components of the original: musk (Bois et Musc), fruit (Bois et Fruits), amber (Bois Oriental).

[¶] The fourth, Bois de Violette, differs because the woody-fruity violet smell of methyl ionone recapitulates and intensifies the rest of the fragrance. Its rotation takes place around the center; the stained-glass mandala is perfected by a violet gem around which everything dances. [New paragraph spacing added.]

In the remainder of that Five-Star review, Luca Turin talks of the day he bought his bottle of Bois de Violette and how he felt as though he were “carrying the most precious object in the world.” He also adds how Bourdon’s fifth perfume sketch or proposal for the Féminité/Bois series accidentally wound up becoming Dior‘s Dolce Vita. But perhaps the truly intriguing part of the review is the sense one has of the usually acerbic, disdainful, haughty, and wholly unimpressionable Luca Turin — “His Majesty” as he is sometimes known — being completely humbled by Bois de Violette. It’s not something one sees very often in his summations, and it says quite a bit about the perfume.

Source: underthemagnifier.wordpress.com

Source: underthemagnifier.wordpress.com

Fragrantica classifies Bois de Violette as a Woody Floral Musk, and says that its notes consist of “violet, violet leaf and cedar.” I see that simple trio mentioned almost across the board in the note listings for Bois de Violette, but I also came across a few references to orange blossom. It intrigued me, especially as one never knows the full, official listing of ingredients in Serge Lutens’ fragrances. So, being a little OCD, I did some digging, and found a surprisingly lengthy list on a few sites. According to The Perfume House (which sells one of those rare, small 1.7 oz bottles of Bois de Violette), the perfume actually includes:

Cedarwood, violet leaf, candied plum, peach, orange blossom, rose, violet, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, musk, vanilla, honey.

It’s a very different matter, wouldn’t you say? In the vial, Bois de Violette smells of violets, its green leaves, and something dewy. On the skin, however, the perfume opens as a rich, complex bouquet of dried fruit, violets, violet powder, wet violet petals, the green of the leaves, the wet, damp earth surrounding it, and violet syrup. In the background, there are subtle flickers of orange blossom, peach, sweet tea rose, musk, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey. The perfume feels simultaneously light, dark, airy, sheer, and thick– all at once. Yet, its projection is so subtle, delicate and light that I actually had to double my usual dose (to about 4.5 large, dabbed smears) to get all the nuances.

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The delicacy of the violets is stunning. Fragile, dainty, watery, airy, and, yet, that dark, dense, syrupy shadow lurks behind them. In a strange way, it feels almost ominous, this pretense of delicate fragility with a big, hulking, dark shadow looming broodingly from behind the thicket of equally dark trees. The forest that initially felt a little in the distance starts to inch closer as the opening minutes pass by. It’s cedar, but it’s more than just simply dry, peppered woods. The tree is dark from spices like cardamom, and the merest hint of fiery cloves. The two work in conjunction with the sweetness of the dark fruits, the syrupy violet, and the drizzled honey to create an unexpected impression of something like cardamom-patchouli-chocolate. It’s subtle, muted and short-lived, but cardamom chocolate definitely comes to mind in those opening moments.

Also lurking in the shadows, in a slightly bewildering juxtaposition to the rest of those notes, is a hint of delicately feminine violet powder. It’s as if Snow White’s compact and violet-orris lipstick had suddenly fallen on the wet, damp floor of a dark, peppered, cedar-cardamom forest, lying nestled amongst dark, haunting violets in an interplay of feminine and masculine, light and shadows. I’m not a huge fan of powdery notes, no matter how light and sheer, so my favorite part of Bois de Violette in the opening minutes may be the more delicate aspect of the flowers themselves. Both the violets and its leaves have a wet, earthy greenness that feels wonderfully fresh and natural. It’s as if they’ve been spackled by dew and by hints of sweetly dark, fresh, early morning soil.

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

Yet, there are flickers of fruit that start to stir in the background, and which soon add a different nuance to the notes. At first, it’s merely the usual Sheldrake/Lutens base of candied prunes and plums, but soon, less than fifteen minutes into the perfume’s development, there is the peach. It feels bright, sweet, succulent but, also, as fresh as if it were still hanging on the tree. It’s lovely, and reminds me of a note in a vintage classic, but I’m hard pressed to figure out which one. It’s not the peachy intensity or potent sweetness of YSL‘s Champagne/Yvresse, nor of Hèrmes24 Faubourg, and certainly not Guerlain‘s Mitsouko, but there is something frustratingly familiar about it. Whatever the similarity, the peach note is a perfect accompaniment to the violets, adding to their delicate sweetness in a way that sometimes fits better than the darker, candied, syrupy plums or prunes.

Cedar forest via British Columbia's Ministry of Forestry, for.gov.bc.ca.

Cedar forest via British Columbia’s Ministry of Forestry, for.gov.bc.ca.

Around this time, the honey begins its slow rise from Bois de Violette’s depths. It’s not heavy or dark, but, rather, sweet, fragrant, and almost floral in nature. Bois de Violette has suddenly turned incredibly fruited and sweet. In fact, the violets feel quite overshadowed in a distinct, individual way. No longer front and center, they lurk behind the honeyed fruits, both fresh and stewed, and the dark cedar trees infused with spices. The cedar is, to my slight regret, supplemented by ISO E Super and it’s initially strong enough to make my head throb a little. That said, it’s not too much as a whole, just enough to underscore the woodiness of the base and to amplify the note of pepper which begins to emerge. That subtle nuance of pepper is almost everywhere, from the delicate, green spiciness of the leaves to the cedar base, and it adds an interesting contrast to Bois de Violette’s floral, fruited, honeyed, wet, earthy and powdered tones.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

The perfume’s aquatic undertone is really pretty. It’s as though Bois de Violette’s violet syrup can’t dispel the early morning dew on the flower’s petals. The watery, pastel effect is almost a little discordant amidst the peaches, stewed fruits, honey, and peppered woods. As that combination grows stronger, the aquatic element starts to grow weaker, along with the violet powder. Both recede to the background where they will pop up from time to time like a Jack in the Box, but generally they are just subtle, indirect effects on the perfume’s main composition.

The same thing happens with the green leaves which give a really good fight to the stronger, sweeter notes. They refuse to vanish completely, appearing every now and then in a lovely touch of slightly pungent, very peppered freshness. It feels as if you’ve taken a violet’s actual leaves, and crushed them between your fingers to release their subtle oil. That aroma remains throughout much of Bois de Violette’s development, but it’s rarely front and center as it is in the opening 30 minutes. Instead, it lurks in the background, a mere supporting player to the flower and cedared woods.

As time progresses, the notes wax and wane, hitting certain peaks before ebbing away like the tide. First it is the spices which melt into the background forty minutes into Bois de Violette’s development, no longer noticeable in an individual, distinct manner. Instead, they simply add an indirect effect to the richness and complexity of the sweet base. Then, it’s the turn of the musk. Exactly one hour in, the musk appears, feeling neither white nor dark and animalic. Instead, it’s sweet, and strangely indolic in a way. It grows and grows in strength for the next two hours, imbuing everything it touches with a fine mist, until it, too, fades into an amorphous, nebulous, background effect.

Source: shamshyan.com

Source: shamshyan.com

At the 90-minute mark, Bois de Violet starts to change quite dramatically in feel. The perfume feels more subdued, not to mention muted. All the edges have blurred, making the fragrance feel like an out-of-focus swirl of violet sweetness, musk, and dry, spicy, sweetened, peppered woods. It’s hard to know where one note begins and another ends, as they overlap into each other. There are no longer any distinct fruity, peachy, aquatic, leafy, green, spicy, or powdery touches that can be pulled out. Not all those notes are dead, however. Exactly two hours into Bois de Violette’s development, the powder re-emerges. It’s as if it had to wait for the forceful top layer — the dark woods, the fruit, the violet syrup, and the spices — to retreat in prominence before it had a chance to unfurl. The overall result is a soft, slightly powdery, violet fragrance with a hint of fresh, green violet leaves and a lightly sprinkling of pepper (and ISO E Super), all atop a base of violet syrup and woody, peppered cedar.

The perfume turns gauzier and more abstract with every hour. Around the 3.75 hour mark, Bois de Violette is a nebulous, amorphous blend of violets, lightly dusted with a hint of powder and musk, and infused with a vague sense of something green. It’s a soft, muted, sheer, airy combination that floats like transparent purple gauze above the skin. A short time later, at the five-hour mark, Bois de Violette is nothing more than an abstract, sweet, floral musk.

The perfume remains that way until its very end, exactly 7 hours from its start. The sillage was initially moderate before fading to something very soft, discreet, and unobtrusive. And, remember, I had to apply double my usual amount with Bois de Violette (to almost 5 very large dabs in all) to get those numbers. On Fragrantica, there is a mixed assessment of both the projection and duration, with the most votes (10) ascribed to “moderate” longevity and soft sillage (10), followed by moderate (9). One commentator notes that Bois de Violette lasted a mere 2 hours on his skin, but 8 hours on his clothes, with sillage that dropped after 10 minutes to become extremely close to the skin. I suspect that Bois de Violette is a fragrance which will require a lot of sprays to really last, but which will always be extremely discreet and unobtrusive in projection.

Monin Sirop de Violette. Source: us.monin.com

Monin Sirop de Violette. Source: us.monin.com

I like Bois de Violette, but something holds me back from being really impressed. I can’t pinpoint what the problem is. Perhaps it’s the way Bois de Violette went from being so incredibly sweet at first, to becoming a little too blurry, nebulous, and simple. Perhaps it’s because I felt as though the delicate, fresh, natural beauty of the violet flower was initially overshadowed and, then, later, felt so vague that it was like grasping at the wind. And, yet, none of those characterisations are the full story or, maybe, even fair. Bois de Violette is extremely pretty at times, deliciously mouth-watering at other times, and almost delicately…. something. Perhaps if the floral and green aspects to the violet were stronger, I could use the word “haunting,” but Bois de Violette never arises to that level for me. Maybe if it were less syrupy sweet for a good chunk of its development, it could feel like the stained glass window that Luca Turin references with such admiration. Perhaps it’s because the perfume seems like all things violet at once, and, yet, it’s not one single thing at all. It tries to be the full violet from petals to leaf to the earthy damp soil and the trees around it; but it’s also fruited and syrupy, peppered and woody. Maybe it should stick to one thing or the other? Or, maybe, I would have been happier with a more delicate, haunting, pure floral, a violet version of the flowers in the lyrical, stunning, moving and utterly poetic Lutens’ beauty, De Profundis. I don’t know what it is about Bois de Violette, because I certainly like it and would wear it, but I’m not swept off my feet.

I get the sense that many in the perfume community see Bois de Violette as the most perfectly balanced, beautiful violet fragrance around. Whether it’s the handful of bloggers who have reviewed the scent, or those on MakeupAlley who, by and large, adore the fragrance, Bois de Violette is much-loved. On MakeupAlley, for example, 72 people give the perfume an overall rating  of 4.2 out of 5, which is pretty high for such a large number of reviews. The general feeling is that the flowers are dark, sexy, sweet, and perfectly countered by the cedar woods. For example:

  • Sexy, dark violets, perfectly balanced – never cloying or candied and never so intense as to hit people over the head.
  • There’s a period of time in the beginning when the violets are just too much, but once that settles down, this is a beautiful violet-wood fragrance, perfectly balanced and blended.
  • My favorite Serge Lutens. Sweetened (but not overly sweet) violets and woods, mainly cedar. So smooth! It’s warm and snuggy, perfect for winter. Strong yet close to skin, just the type of scent I adore.
  • Candied violets and cedar. Starts out playful and nostalgic, babyish in a vintage way.The violets are effervescent and floating, just loosely tethered to the very grounded cedar. On me, the violets don’t settle down for hours, but when they finally nestle into the wood, it is revelatory, surprising, with perfectly balanced almost austere taste. The scent is romantic and old-fashioned, but not quite a grandmother scent. Instead, it’s like digging in the attic and finding an old wooden chest, filled with mementos of your grandmother’s secret wild life.
  • What a beauty this is! An exquisitely balanced composition of cedar and violet – neither too sweet nor too dry – Bois de Violette has a a wonderful mellow tone to it. The scent is clean, focussed and rounded; it is not a candy-sweet violet or over-green on me, and there is no powder – this violet is deep and true to life. The cedar, too, is warm and pure. Bois de Violette is a wonderfully elegant, tranquil scent[.]
  • A singlular and unique composition of cedar, violet leaves and violet flowers. Ethereal, vivacious and sparkling.
    I was stunned at the super intense cedar note that came through at first. It sure is a woody blast and in those first few seconds lacks any violet. The cedar note is at first so intense that it is almost body odorish but in a good way. Then the violet sweetness emerges and remains playful throughout the rest of the development. The fragrance becomes super sexy[….]

    Source: allthepages.org

    Source: allthepages.org

  • I don’t get a pronounced cedar note like others here. I smell REAL, fresh violet in all it’s glory. [¶] Not typically a lover of florals, I would have to say that this is the best violet scent that I’ve ever had the pleasure to sample. [¶] Full bottle worthy!

Over at Basenotes, Bois de Violette receives equally high numbers and, yet, I get  the sense that people are not quite as enamoured. Moreover, “well-balanced” does not seem to the majority consensus, by any means! Out of 24 reviews, 75% give it five stars, while 25% give it three stars. The fragrance is repeatedly compared to its mother, Féminité du Bois (which many find to be extremely similar), but also to some other violet perfumes. Yet, despite those five-star ratings, quite a few commentators seem to prefer the mothership perfume. As for the “candied” sweetness of the violets, a number of people find it to be “cloying” or excessive. (“Killer sweetness” was one description of it, and it was not said as a positive.) On occasion, there will be a handful who find the note to be fresh and natural, but they aren’t many. Obviously, how Bois de Violette manifests itself will all depend on your skin chemistry, and the extent to which it amplifies or mutes the sweet basenotes. Mine always opts for amplification, and, clearly, Bois de Violette with its syrup is no exception.

Though I wish the perfume were a little fresher, I do recommend Bois de Violette, especially for those who like somewhat sweet fragrances but not full-blown gourmand ones. The cedar, green, peppery, and watery elements provide some balance, depth, and complexity, ensuring that Bois de Violette is more than just candied, syrupy violets. And, it differs from many violet fragrances out there which are primarily powdery and, therefore, somewhat old-fashioned in feel. Bois de Violette can be worn by men and women alike, it’s versatile for day or night, and its low sillage makes it extremely office-appropriate. I’m somewhat dubious about the fragrance’s longevity, though the fact that you can buy it relatively cheaply in a regular bottle (as opposed to the exclusive, uber-expensive Bell Jars) means that you can spray on enough of the perfume to give it greater duration.

All in all, it’s definitely a fragrance worth looking into. If you’ve never tried Serge Lutens before, Bois de Violette is a surprisingly wearable fragrance that could be a good entry point into the line. And, for those who are experienced perfumistas, the range of the violet’s nuances — from petal to leaf, and all the things around it — may win your heart.

DETAILS:
General Cost & Discounted Sales Prices: Bois de Violette is an eau de parfum that Serge Lutens now offers only in the large 2.5 oz/75 ml bell jar version that costs $300, or €135. However, you can still find the smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle (that is either a special edition bottle or something now discontinued) on some U.S. and European perfume websites. It retails at $200, but you can also find it on sale at a much lower price. Bois de Violette is currently on sale at Amazon which sells it directly, and not through third-party vendors, for $94.79. It is also on sale at FragranceNet where the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle is priced at $97.19 with free domestic shipping and free international shipping for order over $100. The price is also reduced at Sears which sells Bois de Violette for $95.95 through a third-party vendor with $6.95 shipping. FragranceX sells the 1.7 oz bottle for $96.92. I don’t know how long these specials will last.
Serge Lutens: You can find Bois de Violette in the bell jar option on the U.S. and International Lutens website (with non-english language options also available). It’s priced at $300 or €135.
U.S. sellers: Bois de Violette is available at Barney’s in the bell jar format which costs $300. The site has a notice which states: “This product is only available for purchase at the Madison Avenue Store located at 660 Madison Avenue. The phone number for the Serge Lutens Boutique is (212) 833-2425.” However, you can find the special 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for $200 at LuckyscentAedesBeautyhabit, the Perfume House, and Shop Rescue Spa.
Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find Bois de Violette at The Perfume Shoppe for what is US$200, since it is primarily an American business with a Vancouver branch. They also offer some interesting sample or travel options for Lutens perfumes. For Europe, it gets harder. I get the sense that the perfume is seen as “Limited Edition” for many European vendors, in the sense that Bois de Violette is now a Paris Bell Jar Exclusive and, thus, limited for sale elsewhere in Europe. However, I did find a few vendors which carry the old or special edition 1.5 oz/50 ml size. In the UK, Bois de Violette isn’t listed at Harrods, but the 50 ml bottle is available at Liberty and UK 5th Village, both of which sell Bois de Violette for £105. In France, Premiere Avenue sells it for €106, and I believe they ship world-wide, or at least through the Euro zone. In Belgium, Bois de Violette is exclusive to Senteurs d’Ailleurs which sells the 50 ml bottle for €110. In Australia, you can get Bois de Violette on sale from FragranceNet for AUD$105.99 with free shipping.
Samples: You can test out Bois de Violette by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. It is also included as an option in a Lutens Sample Set for $18.99 where the vials are also 1/2 ml each, but you get your choice of 5 Lutens Non-Export fragrances (ie, those that are Paris exclusives).

Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist: Futuristic Iris

Source: freepspwallpapers.info

Source: freepspwallpapers.info

Otherworldly. Cold as icy vodka. Hard as steel. Silvered like mist from outer space. That is the hypnotically strange, fascinating and, yes, a little bizarre opening to the famous Iris Silver Mist from Serge Lutens. It’s perhaps the most famous of all the Lutens Bell Jar fragrances, an iris fragrance taken to such extremes that it feels very futuristic at the start. All I could think of in its opening moments is how Serge Lutens had created the perfect scent for a Star Wars stormtrooper or a Terminator cyborg. And, strange as that may sound, that’s my favorite part. A Terminator cyborg sipping vodka in outer space while wearing Iris Silver Mist. 

Rare, Limited-Edition, Bell Jar for Iris Silver Mist. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Rare, Limited-Edition, Bell Jar for Iris Silver Mist. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Iris Silver Mist was released in 1994, and is one of the few Lutens fragrances not created by Christopher Sheldrake. It was made by Maurice Roucel, a famous perfumer responsible for such fragrances as Frederic Malle‘s Musc Ravageur, Guerlain‘s L’Instant, Hèrmes24 Faubourg (one of my favorites), Gucci Envy, RochasTocade, Bond No. 9‘s Haarlem, and many more. Iris Silver Mist is one of the Serge Lutens’ Paris Exclusives in a bell jar form, though it can actually be purchased outside of France, either from Barney’s New York or directly from Serge Lutens’ international and U.S. websites.

The Lutens website describes Iris Silver Mist as follows:

You can’t see a thing, but the scent tells the story.

Gleams of silver in a fine mist. Under our very eyes, powdery notes are transformed into an iridescent fragrance..

The current, available bell jar for Iris Silver Mist.

The current, available bell jar for Iris Silver Mist.

Iris Silver Mist is an iris soliflore, a fragrance centered around one key note, and few ingredient lists makes that as clear as the amusing one from Surrender to Chance which writes:

iris, cedar, clove, vetiver, iris, benzoin, incense, iris, white amber, clove, iris, iris, galbanum, iris, iris, more iris, little more iris, musk, Chinese spicebush and, um, more iris!

Other sites include different elements for the non-iris part of the equation. Compiling the notes from both Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This, the list seem to be:

iris pallida root, galbanum, cedar, sandalwood, clove, vetiver, labdanum, musk, benzoin, incense, and white amber

There is a famous story behind Iris Silver Mist’s creation which is pretty funny. As Surrender to Chance puts it:

Rumor has it that during the making of Iris Silver Mist, Serge Lutens kept telling Roucel that he didn’t have enough iris (pallida) in the fragrance, put more in, until Roucel dumped every iris compound he could find in it, took it back, and Serge pronounced it perfect, and that became Iris Silver Mist.

Then, there is Luca Turin’s version of the tale in Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. It’s useful because it also adds to the perfume’s feel and notes, while also describing what must have been a very stressful perfume collaboration :

Long before everyone started doing irises and (mostly) pseudo-irises, Lutens had commissioned an iris to end them all from Maurice Roucel. The story goes that Lutens pestered the perfumer to turn up the iris volume to the max, and Roucel in his desperation decided to put into the formula every material in his database that had the iris descriptor attached to it, including a seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival. The result was the powderiest, rootiest, most sinister iris imaginable, a huge gray ostrich-feather boa to wear with purple dévoré velvet at a poet’s funeral.

The “most sinister iris imaginable” — or perhaps, the most futuristic one. Iris Silver Mist opens on my skin as cold as iced vodka. The perfume actually has some of the drink’s same, lightly alcoholic, clear aroma when it is a thick, syrupy, frozen liquid, though it doesn’t smell like pure alcohol per se. The smell is simultaneously a little bit metallic in its nuances, artificial, synthetic, misty, and faintly powdery.

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Source: hdiphonewallpapers.us

Front and center, however, is iris’ most frequent characteristic: the scent of boiled carrots. The note has a strong undertone that is both watery and sweet at the same time. At times, it almost seems accompanied by the aroma of rooty turnips, as well. The accord is ensconced and cocooned by the earthy, green nuances of the galbanum. Frequently, galbanum can be sharply pungent, almost bitter, and abrasively green. Here, however, it merely feels like very damp, dark, loamy soil that is infused with a soft, watery, floral sweetness. It’s delicate, and very lovely. The whole combination is lightly dusted by powder which adds to the silvery whiteness of the visuals.

Source: wallpaperno.com

Source: wallpaperno.com

The metallic clang to the iris concentrate is fascinating. It not only counters the subtle rootiness and powderiness at the perfume’s base but, more importantly, it feels as hard and silvered as steel. I’ve never encountered an iris note quite like it before, so it must be that “seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival” which Luca Turin referenced in his book. Whatever the cause, the iris flower has been taken to silvery, grey extremes, amplified by the perfume equivalent of steroids, to smell completely alien. It’s more than just the thick, frozen vodka note infused with floral, boiled carrots and green earthiness, or even the feel of frozen metal. It’s something indescribable that just smells of the cold; an extreme, almost futuristic “cold.” The hard edge seems best suited for a futuristic world of ice, mist, silver, metal, and cyborgs, not to the world of today.

Harvesting the iris root. Source: Weleda UK

Harvesting the iris root. Source: Weleda UK

Iris Silver Mist doesn’t change much in its opening stage. At the five-minute mark, powder joins the icy metal brigade, as does a hint of cloves. The earthy, rooty, vegetal base of the fragrance is further emphasized by a touch of vetiver which carries the same tonalities. At the end of the first hour, the iris slowly softens, feeling a little buttery and much warmer. It starts to take on a faint veneer of soft kidskin suede. The note that I like to call “iced vodka” continues, but it’s slowly growing weaker. The same is true of that very cool, edgy, metallic, futuristic clang that adds such a unique tone to the fragrance. It’s still there, but its retreat makes Iris Silver Mist seem a little less otherworldly. I think something in the base elements is having an indirect effect, warming up the perfume, smoothing out its cool edges, and rendering it far safer and more traditional. Dommage.

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

As a soliflore, Iris Silver Mist is pretty true to its core bouquet, and doesn’t twist or turn substantially over time. It remains primarily a scent of vegetal iris, boiled carrots, powder, suede, moist earthiness, and rooty, almost turnip-like touches — all imbued with the merest hint of a light, soft musk. As the hours pass, Iris Silver Mist becomes sweeter, warmer, and more traditionally floral with the iris smelling a bit like really expensive, buttery, soft suede. Its carrot undertone remains, waxing and wanes in strength, sometimes feeling like a mere flicker, while at other times, it’s much stronger.

Around the second hour, the subtle powder and light musk notes in Iris Silver Mist become more prominent. At the same time, the galbanum and vetiver retreat to the background, their quiet, wet, fresh earthiness no longer noticeable in any strong, distinctive, individual way. Unfortunately, some combination of the light musk, the powder, and perhaps the muted earthiness of the fragrance leads Iris Silver Mist to take on a subtle soapy vibe. It’s not actual soap, to my nose, but  there is a definite aura or impression of extremely expensive French floral soap subtly wafting around — and I’m not a fan of it in the slightest.

More interesting is the start of something creamy in the base around the end of the second hour. It never smells like true, genuine Mysore sandalwood (or any particular wood for that matter), and it also doesn’t smell like vanilla. Instead, it smells like some nebulous, vague abstraction of both things combined: white woods that are creamily soft with just the bare hint of sweetness. Regular readers know my issues regarding the supposed “sandalwood” in most modern perfumes, so I suppose those creamy, vague, amorphous, wood notes are supposed to be the “sandalwood” mentioned on the perfume list. I refuse to acknowledge it as such. (Yes, I give in, I admit I’m a sandalwood snob. It’s Mysore, or nothing.)

Three hours in, Iris Silver Mist is a soft, buttery, lightly powdered, iris that is now warmed up and silky, almost purely floral in nature, and freed of its more vegetable-like characteristics in large part. The bouquet sits atop some muted, amorphous, creamy, beige woods with a flicker of light musk. Alas, the impression of very expensive floral soap still lingers around the edges. Equally sad, the lovely damp earthiness from the vetiver and galbanum is but a mere shadow in the background. Far below, in the base, stirs a trace of some vanilla that is sweet, but also a little bit dry. I don’t detect any amber anywhere at all. By the end of the fourth hour, the powder has largely disappeared and Iris Silver Mist is a lightly musky, vanilla-sweetened iris over creamy woods. It stays that way for a few more hours, until it dies away as just a faint trace of some abstract floral note with vanilla.

All in all, Iris Silver Mist lasted 7.25 hours on my skin with low sillage throughout. The projection was moderate at first, wafting about 2 inches from the skin, before quickly dropping at the end of the first hour to hover just above the skin. Iris Silver Mist became a skin scent just short of two hours into its development, and became extremely difficult to detect around the sixth hour. In fact, I thought it had died at one point soon thereafter, but the fragrance hung on doggedly, even if it did take some hard sniffs to find it. As a whole, its weight is airy, and feels as sheer as mist.

The Milky Way. Source: io9.com

The Milky Way. Source: io9.com

Iris Silver Mist is an extremely well-crafted, elegant, sophisticated perfume, but it’s not my personal cup of tea. I adored the first 30-40 minutes, and thought it was cool beyond belief — in all senses of the word. Alien, original, almost disconcerting, wholly futuristic, and so damn intriguing, you couldn’t stop sniffing your arm to figure it just what the hell was going on. A perfume that made me think of “Space, The Final Frontier,” cyborgs, stormtroopers, the icy mist of the Milky Way, and the 22nd century (or the 25th)? Bring it on!

Princess Grace. Photo source: Tumblr.

Princess Grace. Photo source: Tumblr.

But, the elegant, refined, sophisticated 20th century iris of expensive, grey suede gloves with flickers of carrots, French soap and vanilla that Iris Silver Mist soon turned into? Eh. Not so interesting, for me personally, even though it is truly very lovely as a swirling, delicate, elegant, sum total. If the lovely, earthy, wet greenness had remained, and if the impression of expensive soap had never shown up, perhaps I would feel differently. But, I’m not an iris fanatic at heart, so I find it hard to be moved by something that is so traditionally pretty. Yet, I’m sure the suede heart of buttery, floral, powdery, vanillic iris is the Iris Silver Mist that most people love; it’s the sane, approachable, easy, wearable, and normal part. In fact, I’d bet I’m rather an oddity in loving that strange beginning. After all, suede, flowery iris with its gobs of orris butter is the iris suited to the likes of Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, or extremely wealthy, well-dressed, sophisticated Parisiennes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of it, but it’s hardly as edgy or funky as futuristic, icy, vodka, metallic, cyborg iris from outer space.

Perfume bloggers and renowned experts like Luca Turin adore Iris Silver Mist, consistently rate it Five Stars, and wax rhapsodic over its brilliant beauty. Bois de Jasmin gives it the same rating, using words like “radiant” and “ethereal” in her review:

Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist is iris to the power of 10. Despite its raw strength it manages to convey the ethereal softness and exquisite silkiness that make iris one of the most prized materials in perfumery. […][¶] Orris butter has a powdery quality reminiscent of violets covered with chalk dust, but Iris Silver Mist manages to preserve an amazing clarity. It opens up on a sharp, vegetal note of galbanum that calls to mind sliced green peppers. Its vibrancy is underscored by an earthy pungency, which like a flash of chili on the tongue serves as a piquant accent. The voluptuous beauty of iris unfolds in the heart of the composition, foiled by rich woods and sheer amber. Although Iris Silver Mist begins with thunder, it takes a turn towards graceful softness. […][¶]

It is not a perfume with universal appeal, as it does not attempt to soften the vegetal chill of iris root as has been done in either the floral sweetness of The Different Company Bois d’Iris or the ladylike elegance of Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre. Embellishments, in fact, are unnecessary, for Iris Silver Mist does not attempt to be coy—it is striking and beautiful.

Robin from Now Smell This also calls Iris Silver Mist “ethereal,” writing:

Iris Silver Mist starts with damp, dirt-caked roots, spicy and peppery, with a touch of dry, mossy green. There is a slightly bitter, vegetal edge to the top notes that has been compared to the scent of raw turnips, and there is a hint of the metallic buzz that frequently accompanies iris. It is earthy, but not earth-bound; it has a sheerness about it that together with the resinous notes and sandalwood perfectly evokes the cold swirling mist implied by its name. The longer it is on the skin, the more vaporous it seems, so that both Hiris and Bois d’Iris seem comparatively heavy and weighted down. [¶] It is an unusual, intensely captivating fragrance.

I’d already written most of my review when I stumbled across a very different assessment from Perfume-Smellin’ Things. I was thrilled to read the title — “Alien Technology” — and to see that Iris Silver Mist’s opening evoked “distant planets” for her as well. Like me, Donna is not an iris lover, but, unlike me, she hated the opening and only barely enjoyed the normal part of the fragrance. Her wonderful, absolutely hilarious review reads, in part, as follows:

“Seven of Nine” on Star Trek: Voyager. The photo accompanies Perfume-Smellin’ Things’ review of Iris Silver Mist.

My first question was: is this really a perfume? It is? Then why doesn’t it smell, um, wearable? Like something that’s supposed to be put on your skin? It’s so very strange, like the atmosphere of a distant planet where humans need to wear space suits. Nothing about it is inviting to me but it is certainly oddly beautiful, a piece of chilly abstract art that hangs in a whitewashed gallery filled with cold blue light; you admire it from afar even if you are not sure what the artist meant by it, but you really don’t want to see it hanging on the wall in your own house. It would make you feel weird having something like that around all the time and it certainly would not go with the rest of your home décor, unless your name happens to be Seven of Nine.

I must admit that I am not an “iris person” when it comes to perfume. I like what it does to many compositions, but by itself it always seems remote, and sometimes even flat. There are only a couple of iris soliflore fragrances that I have really liked […][as] iris perfumes always seem to be aloof and bloodless. Iris Silver Mist begins with a super-cooled blast of iris that is immediately followed by a smell that is exactly like those Red Hots™ candies flavored with artificial cinnamon, creating an icy-hot pain rub effect, and then a very emphatic carrot chimes in, and an odor like a gutted Halloween pumpkin the morning after a heavy frost. It’s not until about half an hour later that it finally becomes eerily beautiful as it drifts through the air, but if I put my nose to my skin it is still iris root, carrot and little red candies. It’s the sillage alone that makes it work for me, floating in space and waiting for my breath to catch it, an otherworldly isotope of some rare element being distilled and refined out of the raw ore applied to my flesh. It is only then that I can appreciate the artistry that went into it, but it never comes close to adapting to my skin, as it simply sits on it refusing to make allowances for a mere mortal. There is a popular saying that you are no one until you have been ignored by a cat; now I know what it feels like to be ignored by a perfume.

That last sentence may be the best thing I’ve read in a while!

Source: hdwallpapersarena.com

Source: hdwallpapersarena.com

On Fragrantica, some people are even less enthused than she is about Iris Silver Mist. There are repeated comments about “public toilet hand soap,” rotting vegetables, and carrots. (Seriously, there is a lot of talk about liquid hand soap and carrots!) Several men also add that Iris Silver Mist is unwearably feminine in their eyes. But one woman wrote: “Iris Silver Mist smells like a carrot that got shoved into an electrical socket. I can’t say it’s friendly or wearable, but it does stand out from the crowd.” In fact, the issue of wearability comes up often, from both genders. As one male poster said, “Genius, but I wonder if I could ever really wear it? For the first time in a LONG time I was actually struck dumb by a fragrance.” And another admiringly compared it to conceptual art, with the full implication being that it was not particularly approachable.

Yet, the fans — and there are a number of them, men and women alike — write adoringly of Iris Silver Mist’s elegant austerity, its cool sophistication, its aloof chilliness, and the way the iris radiates different facets like a prism. They talk about the iris’ cool, green earthiness, or the violet nuances that some detect. Quite a few people bring up the sandalwood, though not everyone likes it. (One person described its aroma as “rotten teeth,” while another thought it soapy.) Some don’t find Iris Silver Mist to be chilly or cold at all, but poetically moving or transformative. The words “masterpiece,” “dreamy,” “beautiful,” “elegant,” “romantic” and mysterious are thrown around, with one calling Iris Silver Mist the perfect scent for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Actually, I can see that a little.)

I think the bottom line is that you have to be passionate about iris in all its manifestations to really love Iris Silver Mist. If you do, then you simply must try Serge Lutens’ brilliant masterpiece. If you aren’t a hardcore iris devotee, or if you only occasionally enjoy it in conjunction with some other notes, then I’m not sure Iris Silver Mist will be your cup of tea. Perhaps you’ll be intrigued by the alienness of the opening the way I was, but it’s equally possible that you’ll share the opinion of Perfume-Smellin’ Things and conclude that Iris Silver Mist is simply too difficult for most mere mortals. If so, you wouldn’t be alone. As always with Serge Lutens’ most storied and admired creations, some people need to admire them from a distance. A great distance. And, preferably, on somebody else.

   

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Iris Silver Mist is an eau de parfum that is part of the Serge Lutens “Paris Exclusives” line. It is only available in the larger 2.5 oz/75 ml Bell Jar size, and costs $300 or €140. You can buy Iris Silver Mist directly from the U.S. Serge Lutens website or from the International one.
In the U.S.: you can also find Iris Silver Mist sold exclusively at Barney’s New York store. The website has a notice stating: “This product is only available for purchase at the Madison Avenue Store located at 660 Madison Avenue. The phone number for the Serge Lutens Boutique is (212) 833-2425.”
Personal Shopper Options: Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass reminded me of Shop France Inc 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 perfumes (and 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. However, and this is significant, in the case of Lutens Bell Jars, the price is $225 instead. The amount reflects customs taxes that she pays each time, as well as a tiny, extra markup. It’s still cheaper than the $300 (not including tax) for the bell jar via Barney’s or the US Serge Lutens website.  Another caveat, however, is that Suzan is limited to only 10 bell jars per trip, via an arrangement with the Lutens house. There is a wait-list for the bell jars, but she goes every 6-8 weeks, so it’s not a ridiculously huge wait, I don’t think. If you have specific questions about the purchase of Lutens bell jars, or anything else, you can contact her at shopfranceinc@yahoo.com. As a side note, I have no affiliation with her, and receive nothing as a result of mentioning her.
Outside the US: In Europe, the price of Iris Silver Mist is considerably cheaper at €140 from the French Lutens website or from their Paris boutique. Other language options are available, though the Euro price for the item won’t change. To the best of my knowledge, the Paris Exclusives are not carried by any department store anywhere, and the only place to get them outside of Barney’s New York boutique is the Paris Serge Lutens store at Les Palais Royal. 
Samples: You can order samples of Iris Silver Mist from Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. I actually ordered mine as part of a Five Piece Non-Export Sampler Set, where you can choose 5 Lutens Paris Exclusives for a starting price of $18.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. 

Perfume Review: Armani Privé Les Éditions Couture Nuances (Limited Edition)

There is a great irony in calling a perfume “Nuances” when, for the vast majority of its life, it has none. Such is the case with the new, limited-edition, super expensive, ultra exclusive, iris fragrance from Giorgio Armani called Nuances. It is part of the prestige Privé line, and the even more exclusive sub-collection called Les Éditions Couture.

Armani Nuances 2

Nuances is an eau de parfum for men and women which was released in May 2013,  and which takes refined elegance to such stratospheric heights that it’s practically bloodless and gasping for oxygen. It made me think of a perfectly coiffed, elegant, eighty-year old dowager doddering away in seclusion on her aristocratic British estate; or of a very pale, elderly gigolo immaculately garbed in Armani who tries to fade as unobtrusively as possible into the background at a cocktail party while his current patron makes the rounds. Nuances is bloodless, simply bloodless. It’s just there — except when it’s not, because it’s decided to take off for a jaunt for and act like a ghost until it decides to grace you with its presence again.

But let’s start at the beginning. In typical Armani understatement, his website barely bothers to discuss the perfume in any detail other than a brief, completely unhelpful paragraph that bleats on about nuances, prisms, and the “juxtapositions of light and colour.” Thankfully, other sources don’t believe in his obsession with minimalism. For example, The Moodie Report says that the inspiration for the perfume was a piece of fabric, and explains how iris is the olfactory thread that needles its way through all three of the Armani Privé Couture fragrances:

Armani NuancesThe scent was inspired by an Armani fabric print, which featured in the designer’s latest fashion collection. The origin of the print was a photograph, taken using optical prisms and mirrors.

Each of the 1,000 signature bottles is dressed in the organza print; every pouch is unique, and adorned with leather ties. The lacquered green bottle is topped with a marble-like cap, in different shades of black, turquoise and anthracite. 

Iris is the key ingredient that connects all three Armani Privé Éditions Couture fragrances (Armani Privé La Femme Bleue features black iris; Armani Privé Nacre musky iris). 

The press release quoted by Harrods adds even further information and detail:

Inspired by this season’s fashion collection, Armani Prive Nuances is a brilliant reflection of the multi-faceted world of Giorgio Armani. Each of the 1,000 signature bottles comes dressed in the organza print, specially selected from Mr. Armani’s workshops in Milan. Within the pouch, the bottle itself is a work of art. Its cap, reminiscent of smooth marble, is crafted in three colours of resin making each one of them unique.

The fragrance uncovers a woody-iris accord, build around Italian orris absolute. A juxtaposition of different notes reveal an enveloping fragrance, sophisticated yet radiant, with a light note of androgyny in its woody base.

Armani doesn’t bother to list the notes for Nuances, but the sum total — as compiled from the Moodie report and Fragrantica — seems to be:

Italian orris absolute, bergamot, cinnamon, heliotrope, vetiver, vanilla, cocoa, benzoin and sandalwood.

Source: Kootation.com

Source: Kootation.com

Nuances opens on my skin with a brief flash of bergamot, followed by iris. The latter is floral, rooty, earthy, and lightly powdered all at once. Within minutes, the iris is warmed by vanilla, but it is the louder, more dominant influence of vetiver which initially has the greatest impact. When combined with the iris, it creates an earthiness that feels almost like that of damp soil.

Heliotrope. Source: bestflowerwallpapers.com

Heliotrope. Source: bestflowerwallpapers.com

The iris keeps flickering and changing in these early moments. One minute, it is infused by fresh bergamot, the next by a light, musky vanilla, then by earthy notes. Once in a while, it feels infused by an amorphous woodiness. Generally, however, Nuances is merely different degrees of floral rootiness backed by vanilla.

The vanilla is interesting because it’s a very light, sheer, dry note, but whiffs of other elements lurk underneath. Something warmer, richer, softer and creamier. It’s not custard, cinnamon, or cocoa, but some indecipherable combination of all of them. A few minutes later, the vanilla is joined by heliotrope which adds a strong element of sweet almonds that almost borders on pate d’amande or marzipan.

At the thirty minute mark, Nuances starts to shift a little. Now, it is primarily a woody, musky, iris fragrance with lightly powdered, almond-y heliotrope and vanilla. The rooty, earthy undertones have become much less dominant, as has the vetiver. Taking their place instead is a light sprinkling of white cocoa powder with the faintest dash of cinnamon. Nuances remains this way for the next hour without any significant change — except in the base. It is always an amorphous, abstract, woody muskiness infused by vanilla, but there is something increasingly unpleasant about it. There is a subtle nuance that, in some indescribable manner, feels a little cheap and almost synthetic, but not quite. Perhaps, it is the musk which reminds me of the white version in a lot of inexpensive, mass-market fragrances. Or, perhaps, it is the vanilla which feels surprisingly low quality for such an expensive fragrance. Adding to the subtle flickers of something unpleasant lurking down below is a humming in the base. Luca Turin once described ISO E Super as a “low woody hum,” and that is precisely how it is here. Later, alas, my synthetic nemesis makes a far greater appearance, resulting in a charming 2 hour headache.

Right around the 90-minute mark, Nuances becomes a skin scent and, by the two-hour one, it is nothing more than a faded, muted, almost abstract, woody muskiness with a soft, lightly powdered, floral veil that just barely — barely — translates to iris. There are no concrete, distinct, individual traces of sandalwood, vetiver, cocoa, cinnamon, or anything else for that matter.

Then, three hours in, Nuances vanishes. I put my arm right to my nostrils, and sniffed like a man dying for oxygen. I sniffed like the very best German Shepherd K9 in a drug squad. Nope, caput, finito, basta. I thought to myself, “okay, so much for longevity,” and shrugged. Then, lo’ and behold, an hour later, Nuances decides to suddenly come back. I have no idea where it decided to go, or why it decided to flounce off, but it apparently decided to revisit my arm. A few of the Chanel Exclusifs like to play “ghost,” as I call it (31 Rue Cambon, I’m looking at you in particular!), and clearly, Nuances is the same sort of animal. But, once Nuances decided to stay, it bloody well wouldn’t give up! All in all, it remained — in a nebulous, abstract, musky, woody, slightly powdered, monotonous, faintly iris-y hum — for another 11.5 hours. Granted, I had to practically inhale at my arm like a rabid, frothing, deranged animal to detect it a lot of the time, but it was absolutely there, no question about it.

Normally, I would test a fragrance with these sorts of odd characteristics at least twice — but I really couldn’t muster up the energy for Nuances. It’s not just that the perfume gave me a headache at one point from the subtle flickers of ISO E Super in the base; it’s mostly because Nuances was driving me a little mad with its linear refinement. It is so well-coiffed, so perfectly smooth, immaculate, conservative, sophisticatedly dull and unobtrusive, it verges on the mundane. I kept thinking of George Hamilton or Giorgio Armani having all the blood sucked out and replaced by embalming fluids, until they lost their perfect tans and their lifeless corpses were propped up on a chair somewhere. In fairness, I think a hardcore iris addict would probably love Nuances. Of course, that assumes that they could easily and consistently detect it on their skin — something about which I’m highly dubious. Yet, I think even they would admit that there are, in fact, few nuances to the fragrance, and that it is rather limited in both depth and range.

All of this makes Nuances shockingly over-priced. Yes, I understand it’s not only Armani Privé, but also limited-edition with only 1000 bottles made. But it’s £500.00! Nuances is not listed at all on the U.S. Armani website, so if we’re to go by the current exchange rate, that’s $760! If you want to pay a small fortune for an iris fragrance with actual nuances, and which is just slightly less difficult to obtain, then may I point you in the direction of Ormonde Jayne‘s Tsarina from the new Four Corners of The Earth Collection? It’s a lovely, incredibly elegant, sophisticated iris scent with layers, and without the many, varied problems of the Armani one. Plus, Tsarina is cheaper, too. (Well, purely on a relative scale of things….)

As you can tell, I was not a fan of Nuances. If it were a $100 (or even $150) bottle of perfume, and you were a hardcore iris addict who didn’t mind a really conservative, boring, but elegant, iris soliflore, then I’d definitely recommend giving Nuances a try to see if the nonexistent sillage and peculiar longevity issues work out for you. As it is, however, then no. Simply no.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Nuances is a limited-edition Eau de Parfum that only comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. I can’t find pricing in U.S. dollars, but it costs £500.00 or Swiss CHF 690. Nuances is shown on the International Armani Beauty website and on its UK Beauty site (where it is currently sold out). However, neither Nuances nor the rest of the Privé Couture line is shown on Armani’s U.S. website somehow. Plus, I can’t seem to figure out if you can purchase the perfume from the non-UK, international website directly, as I don’t see a button to click and put the fragrance into a cart. Armani has an Index Website listing with versions for Asia, Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere that you may want to use to see if Nuances is listed for your location. In the U.S.: Nuances will undoubtedly be sold at any Armani boutique that carries the Privé Collection line of fragrances. Outside the U.S.: Nuances is currently available at Harrods. I know it is available in the Middle East. Normally, I try to provide as many online retail links as possible, but in the case of Nuances, it proved to be a little hard. And, to be honest, I wasn’t very motivated.

Perfume Review: gs03 by Geza Schoen for biehl. parfumkunstwerke

Photo: Sohrab Ghotbi. Used with permission.

Photo: Sohrab Ghotbi. Used with permission.

Perfume as art. Individuality, purity, modernity without the limitations of commercialism, and uniqueness. It that may not be for the masses, but that is not the goal of biehl. parfumkunstwerke. (For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the house as “Biehl” in this review, even if the capitalization is not the official form of the name.) Biehl is a German niche perfume house founded by Thorsten Biehl who explicitly sought to create “an olfactory gallery. a free space for perfume artists” to be artists without commercial, mass-market considerations. To that end, it has given free rein to some of the most avant-garde perfumers, like Geza Schoen (or “Geza Schön”), to pursue a more intellectual approach to perfumery.

Geza Schoen. Source: Hypoluxe.

Geza Schoen. Source: Hypoluxe.

To me, the house has a vision that seems very German in its ethos of avant-garde minimalism and purity. That trend is reflected in both the intentionally fluid, minimalistic packaging of the bottles and in the perfumes’ names. As the website states: “no borrowed concepts of super-model dream worlds. no extravagant packaging frills. no try-hard bottle design. instead we concentrate on what is essential – the perfume.” Each fragrance comes in a minimalist bottle, and is named simply after the initials of the perfumer, followed by the index number of his works.

Thus, the new perfume, gs03, stands for Geza Schoen and for the fact that it is his third creation for the perfume house. It is part of Biehl’s Young Savages collection which also includes fragrances by Mark Buxton and Patricia Choux, and two others by Geza Schoen, for a total of eight fragrances in all. gs03 is the very latest addition to the line, an eau de parfum that seeks to reinvent and restructure the concept of eau de cologne — only with 20% concentrated perfume oil. As the press release explains, in part:

gs03

gs03

Scope: to rejuvenate the ‘eau de cologne’ theme for the 3rd millennium. […]

It was however a complex restructuring process to modernize such a well-known scent. The traditional, overpowering freshness of orange flower, neroli, and citrus notes needed the depth, warmth, and lasciviousness of modern musk notes, benzoe siam, moss, and castoreum. The result: ostensibly clear and innocent – provocatively innocent, disrespectful – how beautiful.

Head: Fresh yet tender Neroli, orange flower absolue, mandarine, juniper, schinus molle [pink peppercorns].
Heart: Lustrous elegance. A fusion of iris absolue, rose oil and hedione.
Fond: Sophisticated sensuality. Vetiver, castoreum, musk, benzoe siam, moss, tonka, cedarwood.

Juniper.

Juniper.

gs03 opens on my skin with sparkling green, white and yellow notes. Hedione with its lemony nuances flits about with soft, translucent orange blossoms and greener neroli in a heavy veil of soap. Hints of evergreen and juniper evoke a snowy, white mountain top, as does the underlying musk with its clean freshness. Interestingly, the juniper smells not only of pine trees (or evergreen), but also of gin.

The bouquet shines as brightly as a pristine, white, Alpine landscape, channeling the outdoors with such a crispness that it almost feels as though you were crunching on snow. Yet, despite the brisk, outdoors-y overtones, there are also flickers of warmth from the sweet orange blossom. Thanks to the sparkling, green effect of the hedione and the edgy, almost aquatic coolness of the juniper, it’s never indolent, thick, or syrupy, but, instead, airy and green. The overall impression is of a fragrance that is extremely aromatic, light, clean, energizing and fresh, but also incredibly soapy. Far, far too much so for my own personal tastes. (Soapiness is only a step below the dreaded ISO E Super in my estimation….)

Source: picstopin.com

Source: picstopin.com

What’s interesting about gs03 as a whole — and what starts to become noticeable less than five minutes into the perfume’s development — is the chiaroscuro effect. Contrasts abound all over the place: light and dark; crisp cologne but with a parfum feel; airy, breezy twists on indolic, usually heavy essences like orange blossom; and alpine, white coolness with warmer, peppery, or deeper hues. Flashes of darkness start to emerge, first with subtle whiffs of vetiver and moss in the base, almost paralleling the brisk evergreen and juniper lurking about the top. Then, slowly, slowly, hints of castoreum — a most unusual element in this sort of mix. In general, and as Fragrantica explains, castoreum has an aroma which can range from animalistic and leathery, to fruited, musky, or sweetly carnal. Here, in gs03, it creates more of a feel, if that makes sense: warm, plush, velvet, and languid. It never smells like raw, animalistic leather; instead, there is the subtlest hint of warm suede to its plushness.

Thirty minutes in, gs03 shifts a little. There is a soft breath of fruity, pink peppercorns, and, alas for me, the start of ISO E Super. Geza Schoen clearly loves the blasted aromachemical like nothing else in the world, and I guessed it would be an inevitable part of gs03, but still, I had held out hope that just once (once!) he may stop hugging it to his bosom like treasured gold. Nope, it’s in there. The quantity is not the scarring, utterly traumatic nightmare that it was in his Montabaco for Ormonde Jayne, but there is enough ISO E Super to give me a headache — which doesn’t happen to me unless a perfume has quite a bit of the bloody stuff. Still, on a positive note, and to my relief, the ISO E Super is relatively bearable in gs03, smell-wise. It’s not an antiseptic horror that evokes hospitals or chemistry experiments, there is no rubbing alcohol nuance, and it doesn’t smell abrasive or harsh. In fact, it is simply a low-level, throbbing, woody hum (to paraphrase how Luca Turin once described ISO E Super) that adds a velvety touch to the base. Still, those of you who always get searing migraines from the note (or from the Ormonde Jayne line) should take heed.

As time passes, gs03 begins to reflect different elements. Around the start of the second hour, the perfume turns warmer, softer, woodier and more layered. On the surface, the primary bouquet is still a soapy orange blossom, gin, and lemon triptych, but there are far greater nuances lurking below. The cedar element is much more prominent and peppery; the white musk smells much warmer and less bracingly clean; the oakmoss starts to make its presence noticeable with a grey, dry nuance; and there is a faintest tinge of bitter greenness hovering around the edges. Even one of the top notes — the lemon — has changed a little. It now smells a lot like lemon verbena, thanks to a rather creamy richness that has taken over.

Source: picstopin.com

Source: picstopin.com

All these elements change the visuals from that of a pristine, cool, crisp, outdoor scene high atop a snowy Alpine mountain speckled with pine and juniper trees, to something that takes further below in a fragrant valley warmed by the sun. The image is further underscored around the middle of the third hour when gs03 turns into a very woody, musky scent. The top notes are rather amorphous and abstract, but they are supported by a slightly rooty vetiver and an increasingly prominent iris note. The soapy orange blossom has receded to the background, along with the lemon note, adding a muted floral touch.

Starting in the fourth hour and all the way through to the middle of the seventh, gs03 turns into a lovely iris fragrance. The note is neither powdery, nor really very rooty. Rather, it’s cool, faintly floral, restrained and strongly evocative of buttery, grey suede. It adds to the overall feel of gs03 in this second stage as something plush, velvety and smooth, instead of being hygienically fresh. The perfume no long evokes the scent of a man’s skin right after he’s taken a shower and then splashed on a citric cologne. Instead, gs03 now radiates a sort of controlled warmth and perfumed softness that is elegant, sophisticated, and refined. It’s hard to explain, and I’m undoubtedly not doing it justice, but I’m starting to agree with the press release description of gs03 as “lascivious purity, warm, subtle, hidden seduction.” Well, “lascivious” goes too far (and I’d personally use the word “refined” instead), but the rest of it is certainly very accurate. There is something about the richness of that iris absolute which adds smoothness and elegance to gs03.

Source: wallpaper777.com

Source: wallpaper777.com

The perfume remains as an iris scent backed by vetiver, gin, woody musk, soapiness, and darting flickers of orange blossom for another few hours, softening all the while. By the end, gs03 is simply an amorphous, soapy, musky scent with the faintest impression of something woody flittering about its edges. All in all, gs03 lasted just under 10.25 hours on my voracious skin, and the sillage was generally moderate. The perfume only became a skin scent around the seventh hour, which is pretty good indeed.

As noted at the start, gs03 is a brand new fragrance; in fact, it was launched in Berlin just a few weeks ago. On Fragrantica, the only person who has tried it thus far considered it to be a fresh, uplifting, earthy cologne that turned muskier over time. In a separate article for Fragrantica, The Perfume Shrine‘s Elena Vosnaki found a few parallels with Jean-Claude Ellena‘s fragrances, but, ultimately, far greater differences in overall style and approach. Her experience with gs03 is actually quite similar to mine, minus the deluge of soapiness and the issue of the ISO E Super. Her review reads, in part, as follows:

The top note is as clear as a church bell pealing on a mountain top in the Alps, but at the same time quite soft, comprised of a pink pepper note (allied to what can only come across as sweet lemon to my nose) which reveals a less sharp than citrus, slightly fruity-rosy scent carried far by the scent of the alcohol carrier. The rejuvenating scent of juniper gives an herbal accent that recalls the bracing feel of downing a good gin. The lemony touch just aids in bringing forth the herbal aspects of juniper berries. […] The gin and tonic combination is as perennially pleasing as a button-down oxford shirt in white; it just works in any situation, on any wearer. It’s also effortless […] [¶]

… It seems to me that there is also a bitterish artemisia hint, a tickling of the sinuses which aids the pungent freshness of GS03; it would serve as both a contrast and a modifier, rendering the juniper fresher and the rest fruitier by contrast. The anchoring elements consist of the musky-woody hum which we have come to associate with Geza Schoen, with an added layer of castoreum, just enough to give interest. […]

GS03 has Geza Schoen’s signature style all over it: fused into the skin, it gains in warmth and sensuality as the body heats up; always on the brink of consciousness but never quite openly there. I catch whiffs now and then and if I lean over the spots I sprayed it’s most definitely there, but it doesn’t come across as “you’re wearing perfume.”

I agree with almost all of it, but especially with her last paragraph: gs03 really does melt into the skin as something that is like an elegant, clean extension of your own, slightly warmed body, only with a subtle hint of musky, woody florals.

Given my personal tastes, I’m far from the target audience for gs03, but I think those who are in that group will like it. It’s a good perfume which completely meets Biehl’s stated goals of taking an eau de cologne and re-imagining it as something with greater depth, warmth and modernity. gs03 is also intended to be something elegant for casual, perhaps daytime, use — and I can see that as well. It’s absolutely unisex, versatile, and easy to wear. Those who are looking for something very fresh, clean, and understated, but with a soft, refined, floral, woody touch will undoubtedly enjoy it quite a bit. And its moderate sillage combined with excellent good longevity makes gs03 perfect for office wear. In fact, there is such a professional feel to its restrained, elegance that I keep visualizing a banker in an expensive, dark business suit. It certainly is a fragrance that morphs drastically from that opening image of a crisp, cool snowy Alpine landscape dotted by pine trees and with orange blossom as the sole burst of bright colour. And the iris part is very pretty, indeed. My only word of caution is that you have to really like soapy scents and clean, white musk. If you do, then give gs03 a sniff. 

DISCLOSURE: Perfume sample, courtesy of Hypoluxe. I do not do paid reviews. As always, I make it clear in advance to the perfume company or to distributors that there is no guarantee of a positive review — or even any review at all. My first obligation is to my readers, and to be completely candid in my opinions.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: gs03 is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.3 fl oz bottle and which retails for $195 or €150. In the U.S.: gs03 is available at Lucky Scent, Osswald NYC (but not yet listed on their online website), Avery Fine Perfumery New Orleans, Blackbird Ballard Seattle, and Henri Bendel NYC (also not yet listed on their website), with selected additional stores to follow. In Europe: gs03 is obviously available at Thorsten Biehl’s biehl. parfumkunstwerke in Hamburg, though their website does not seem to have an e-store. It is also carried at Essenza Nobile for €150.