Perfume News: Dior Discontinues Mitzah & Vetiver (La Collection Privée)

There has been endless talk on the internet about the situation with Dior’s beloved Mitzah from the Privee line (also known as La Collection Couturier). Three months ago, I spoke with the head Dior Sales Assistant at the Las Vegas boutique, Karina, who had just returned from a training session in Paris. She told me that Mitzah was not being discontinued. She asked Paris for me, again, and they said no, it was not being discontinued.

Karina just called me from Las Vegas, and told me that the company has officially decided to continue Mitzah. They had thought about discontinuing Grand Bal, but ended up opting for Mitzah instead. Just as shocking, they are also going to discontinue one of their biggest sellers from La Privée line: Vetiver. Someone from Paris has come to the Las Vegas store for a training session (pertaining, in part, to Gris Montaigne, the big new hit for the Privée line), and brought with them the official news of the company’s decision. Vetiver (which I reviewed here) is apparently one of the most popular Privée perfumes, so Karina has absolutely no explanation for its discontinuation.

You can order both perfumes from the Dior website, but I would honestly just call Karina at the Las Vegas boutique. Her direct number is (702) 734-1102 and her full name is Karina Lake. She will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. (Tell her the blogger, Kafka, sent you and she may throw in a few more.) By ordering from the store, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! But she may be busy with that Dior training with the Paris adviser for the next few days, so I have the general store number below.

Mitzah comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. I specifically asked how many bottles were left of each fragrance. This is what I was told:

Mitzah: 12 bottles of the Small size; 10 bottles of the Big.

Vetiver: 8 Small bottles; and 8 of the Big.

And that’s it for the one Dior boutique in all of the U.S. Of course, you can still order from Dior online, but Karina isn’t sure what their stock is like or how much longer they will still have bottles.

I’m pretty stunned by the news. My hands are shaking a little as I type this. Actually, I think Karina is even more stunned than I am. She said they told her, and confirmed with a straight face, three months ago that Mitzah would absolutely remain. She kept hearing rumours, but discounted it, especially after her trip to Paris. Whatever led to the company’s decision, those who love either fragrance should buy it now because the prices will skyrocket on places like eBay. Those of you who have been undecided on Mitzah can read my review of it, or order samples quickly from Surrender to Chance while you decide. But I would do it soon. If you love labdanum and incense, if you’re a fan of perfumes in the mold of Chanel’s Coromandel, then I think you’d love Mitzah. Unfortunately for us, Dior doesn’t seem to share our passion for it.

Perfume News – The Fragrance Foundation’s 2013 FiFi Awards: List of Finalists

CaFleureBon (“CFB”) has just posted the names of all the FiFi perfume award finalists for 2013. For those who aren’t aware, the FiFis (or, as they are now known, The Fragrance Foundation) awards honour perfume in different categories, much like the Oscars.

To quote Wikipedia, “The FiFi Awards are an annual event sponsored by The Fragrance Foundation which honor the fragrance industry’s creative achievements and is the most prominent and prestigious celebratory event of the fragrance industry. These awards have been held annually in New York City since 1973 and are attended by around 1,000 members of the international fragrance community, designers and celebrities from the fashion, theatre, film, or television industries.” So, just like the Oscars celebrate the prior year in movie-making, the Fragrance Foundation will recognize perfumery from 2012 with their 2013 finalists and awards.

Relying on a report from Women’s Wear Daily, CFB writes that

[t]he top five finalists in each category will be announced at the Finalist Breakfast, April 19 ,2013 at the Mandarin Oriental.  The winners will be named at The Fragrance Foundation Awards 2013 on June 12 at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center.The event, hosted this year by actress Christine Baranski, will also honor Allure editor in chief, Linda Wells for her contributions to the fragrance industry.

The finalists are:

Fragrance of the Year: Women’s Luxury
ALIEN Essence Absolue by Thierry Mugler (Clarins Fragrance Group)
Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilée (Beauté Prestige International)
Bond No. 9 Central Park West (Laurice & Co./Bond No. 9 New York) Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec 
Chanel Coco Noir  Perfumer Jaques Polge
Florabotanica by Balenciaga Paris (Coty Prestige)
Gucci Premiere (P&G Prestige Products)
Hermès L’Ambre Des Merveilles (Beauté Prestige International) Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena 
Jivago Rose Gold (Ilana Jivago Inc.)
Miss Dior Le Parfum by Dior
Tom Ford Café Rose by Tom Ford Beauty  Perfumer Antoine Lie

Fragrance of the Year: Women’s Prestige
Coach Poppy Blossom by Aramis & Designer Fragrances (The Estée Lauder Companies)
Dahlia Noir EDT (LVMH Fragrance Brands)
Dolce and Gabbana Pour Femme (P&G Prestige Products)
DOT Marc Jacobs (Coty Prestige)
Issey Miyake Pleats Please (Beauté Prestige International)
Jimmy Choo Eau De Toilette (Interparfums Luxury Brands)
La Petite Robe Noire by Guerlain
L.I.L.Y by Stella McCartney
MARCHESA parfum d’extase by Sephora  Perfumer Annie Buzantian 
Midnight Fleur by NEST Fine Fragrances Perfumer Jerome Epinette

Fragrance of the Year: Women’s Popular
Christina Aguilera Red Sin (P&G Prestige Products)
Forever Red by Bath & Body Works
GAP Established 1969 (Inter Parfums USA)
Halle Berry Closer (Coty Beauty)
Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend (Elizabeth Arden)
Pink Friday Nicki Minaj (Elizabeth Arden)
Seduction Dark Orchid by Victoria’s Secret
So Elixir Purple (Yves Rocher Amérique du Nord inc.)
Unplugged for Her (Avon Products, Inc.)
Victorinox Swiss Army (Victoria Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc.)

Fragrance of the Year: Men’s Luxury
Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilée (Beauté Prestige International)
Bond No. 9 New York Musk (Laurice & Co./Bond No.9 New York) Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec 
Colonia Intensa Oud by Acqua Di Parma
Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Italian Bergamot by Aramis & Designer Fragrances (The Estée Lauder Companies)

Fragrance of the Year: Men’s Prestige
Acqua di Giò Essenza by Giorgio Armani  Perfumer Alberto Morillas 
Chanel Allure Homme Sport Eau Extrême
Code Ultimate by Giorgio Armani
Dolce & Gabbana the one for men Sport (P&G Prestige Products)
ENCOUNTER Calvin Klein (Coty Prestige)
Lacoste L.12.12 Rouge (P&G Prestige Products)
Montblanc Legend (Interparfums Luxury Brands)
Play Sport by Parfums Givenchy
Spice Bomb by Viktor & Rolf  Perfumer Olivier Polge
Tom Ford Noir (Tom Ford Beauty)

Fragrance of the Year: Men’s Popular
GAP Established 1969 (Inter Parfums USA)
James Bond 007 (P&G Prestige Products)
Paris for Men by Bath & Body Works
Perry Ellis Aqua (Falic Fashion Group)
Playboy VIP for Him (Coty)
ROCKS by Original Penguin (Falic Fashion Group)
Unplugged for Him (Avon Products, Inc.)

Best Packaging of the Year: Women’s
Amazon Lily by NEST Fine Fragrances
Betsy Johnson Too Too Pretty (Inter Parfums USA)
Brooks Brothers Miss Madison (Inter Parfums USA)
Chanel Coco Noir
Donna Karan Woman by Aramis & Designer Fragrances (The Estée Lauder Companies)
Flora Garden by Gucci (P&G Prestige Products)
Florabotanica by Balenciaga Paris (Coty Prestige)
Gucci Premiere (P&G Prestige Products)
Issey Miyake Pleats Please (Beauté Prestige International)
Pink Friday Nicki Minaj (Elizabeth Arden)

Best Packaging of the Year: Men’s (due to a tie there are 11 finalists)
Acqua di Giò Essenza by Giorgio Armani
Bond No. 9 New York Musk (Laurice & Co./Bond No.9 New York)
Code Ultimate by Giorgio Armani
Dolce & Gabbana the one for men Sport (P&G Prestige Products)
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Sport (Beauté Prestige International)
James Bond 007 (P&G Prestige Products)
Lacoste L.12.12 Rouge (P&G Prestige Products)
Montblanc Legend (Interparfums Luxury Brands)
Playboy VIP for Him (Coty)
Unplugged for Him (Avon Products, Inc.)
Victorinox Swiss Army Forest ( Victorinox Swiss Army, Inc.)

Media Campaign of the Year: Women’s
Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme (P&G Prestige Products)
Donna Karan Woman by Aramis & Designer Fragrances (The Estée Lauder Companies)
Gucci Premiere (P&G Prestige Products)
Issey Miyake Pleats Please (Beauté Prestige International)
J’adore by Dior
Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend (Elizabeth Arden)
Lady Gaga FAME (Coty)
Pink Friday Nicki Minaj (Elizabeth Arden)
Victoria’s Secret Angel Gold (Victoria’s Secret)
Wonderstruck Enchanted Taylor Swift (Elizabeth Arden)

Media Campaign of the Year: Men’s
Acqua di Giò Essenza by Giorgio Armani
Chanel Allure Homme Sport Eau Extrême
Code Ultimate by Giorgio Armani
Dolce & Gabbana the one for men Sport (P&G Prestige Products)
ENCOUNTER Calvin Klein (Coty Prestige)
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Sport (Beauté Prestige International)
James Bond 007 (P&G Prestige Products)
Lacoste L.12.12 Rouge (P&G Prestige Products)
Montblanc Legend (Interparfums Luxury Brands)

Interior Scent Collection of the Year
AERIN Home Fragrance Collection by NEST Fragrances
After Midnight Candle Collection by NEST Fragrances
Cider Lane Home Fragrance Collection by Bath & Body Works
i.relax Aroma Diffuser by Oregon Scientific
R. Nichols Candle Collection by R. Nichols Candles
Ralph Lauren Home Fragrance Collection by Maesa
Sa Majesté La Rose by Belle Fleur New York
The American Boardwalk Candle Collection by Bath & Body Works

Bath & Body Line of the Year
Crabtree & Evelyn West Indian Lime by Crabtree & Evelyn
Forever Red by Bath & Body Works
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Sport (Beauté Prestige International)
PINK wild & breezy by Victoria’s Secret

Fragrance Hall of Fame
A*MEN by Thierry Mugler (Clarins Fragrance Group)
Annick Goutal Petite Chérie (Beauté Prestige International)
Jivago 24K (Ilana Jivago Inc.)
Red Door by Elizabeth Arden

(source: Women’s Wear Daily)

NICHE/INDIE perfumes:

I should add that the 2013 FiFi award finalists for the niche “Indie” category were announced long ago and consisted of the following fragrances:

”Indie” is defined as an established brand that has been on the market for at least two years, is not distributed or owned by a large company and is sold in one to 50 stores in the U.S.

The official 30 Indie fragrance nominees recognized by The Fragrance Foundation and the Indie committee are:

  • Amber Oud by Kilian (By Kilian Inc.)
  • Boutonnière No. 7—Arquiste Parfumeur (Arquiste Parfumeur)
  • Bowmakers by D.S. & Durga (D.S. & Durga)
  • Broderie by Hayari Paris (Hayari Paris)
  • “Calling All Angels” April Aromatics (April Aromatics)
  • Cuirelle—Ramon Monegal Barcelona (Ramon Monegal Perfumes Barcelona)
  • Eau de Flog, Opus Oils (Opus Oils)
  • Eau Monumentale by Thirdman (Third Man Inc.)
  • Edward Bess “Eau La La” (Edward Bess)
  • Glam Monster (Donato Style LLC)
  • Ineke Hothouse Flower (Ineke LLC)
  • Intimacy eau de parfum (JoAnne Bassett)
  • Lady Day by Maria Candida Gentile (Maria Candida Gentile)
  • Le Cherche Midi No. 30 Eau D’Hive (Le Cherche Midi)
  • “Le Smoking” for Denver Art Museum (DSH Perfumes)
  • Lightscape Ulrich Lang New York (Ulrich Lang New York)
  • Meadow & Fir—Phoenix Botanicals (Phoenix Botanicals)
  • Moss Gown—Providence Perfume Co. (Providence Perfume Co.)
  • Purusa Root by Sebastian Signs (Sebastian Signs Fragrances Company LLC)
  • Qajar Rose—Lalun Naturals, Inc. (Parfums Lalun, Lalun Naturals, Inc.)
  • Raw Spirit”Firetree” Fragrance Oil (World Senses Pty Ltd.)
  • Rima XI—Carner Barcelona (Carner Barcelona)
  • Rodin, L. Rodin, LLC (Rodin Olio Lusso)
  • Speakeasy by P. Frapin & Cie (P. Frapin & Cie)
  • Strawberry Passion by Skye Botanicals (Skye Botanicals)
  • Terrasse A St-Germain, Jul et Mad (Jul et Mad)
  • Trayee, Neela Vermeire Creation (Neela Vermeire Creations)
  • Treazon by Ayala Moriel Parfums (Ayala Moriel Parfums)
  • Wild Roses by Aftelier Perfumes (Aftelier Perfumes)
  • Woody by Smell Bent (Smell Bent)

The winner was announced on January 28, 2013 and was By Kilian’s Amber Oud.


Sale: “Surrender to Chance” Anniversary Sale & Sample Sets To Consider

If any of you are interested in trying out some perfume, the sample site Surrender to Chance is having a sale where everything is 20% off for today only (April 3rd), then 15% off on April 4th, and finally 10% off for April 5th through April 7th. You have to use the applicable codes which I will list below and the rates/codes change as of Midnight EST (Eastern Standard Time).

The information I received in the email provides the codes and states:

We have loved serving you this past year, you make Surrender to Chance a joy for us every single day.

As a thank you, our Anniversary Sale starts NOW with the following codes!
20% discount April 3 until midnight EST with code ONEYEAR
15% discount April 4 until midnight EST with code CELEBRATE
10% discount April 5 through midnight EST April 7 with code ANNIVERSARY
From our deeply grateful, appreciative and sometimes skunky perfume scented homes to yours,
Patty, Lisa, Shirley, Diney, Kristin, Abby, Mike, Kelsey, Harry & Alex.

Website: Surrender to Chance.

The site has everything imaginable and the best shipping rates, in my opinion: $2.95 within the US (no matter how big or small your order). However, with the recent and giant rate increases by the US Postal Service for international shipping, Surrender to Chance has had to raise its international shipping charges to $12.95 for any orders under $150, and just a little bit higher for orders over $150.

This would be a great time to try out some niche perfumes, especially in sampler sets for things like Serge Lutens, Ormonde Jayne, Mona di Orio, Guerlain’s prestige lines, Chanel’s Exclusifs and more.


Below are links to various sample sets, sorted either by brand or by note, along with some good sets for beginners who are just starting to enter the world of perfumery. I will continue to update this list for a little while longer with additional sets and perfumes you may want to consider:

Luca Turin/Tania Sanchez’s Perfume Guide’s 4 & 5 star perfumes: Out of 200 perfumes, broken down into category, choose any 3 for $9.99 (or 2 orders of 3 for $18.98, 3 orders of 3 for….)

Same thing for just the top 5 star rated perfumes, divided by category or list.

Serge Lutens Non-Export Les Sompteaux Series with

  • Muscs Koublai Khan,

  • Cuir Mauresque (which I love), and

  • Ambre Sultan for $11.99. I have this set and I think it’s a good one, though the vials are the usual 1/2 ml for Lutens.

Serge Lutens 5 Fleurs Nobles Sampler Set for $19.99, from Tubereuse Criminelle to Rose de Nuit, Un Lys and more. Or, you can go for 8 Lutens Non-Export Floral fragrances (most of which are available here in the US, so don’t let the title put you off) for $26.99 and that includes the beautifully purple De Profundis carnation scent, among others.

Serge Lutens Non-Export Set of 3 for $11.50 with Borneo 1834, Chergui, and Fumerie Turque.

Serge Lutens Non-Export Pick Any Five Samples for $18.99.

Serge Lutens Les Eaux Boisees Series of 7 perfumes for $27.99, including Chene, Bois Oriental, Bois de Violette, Bois et Fruits, and more.

Serge Lutens Export Gateway Sampler Pack (4) for $15.00 including Ambre Sultan. Note, however, that they say 4 but only 3 perfumes are listed. I don’t know why.

All Serge Lutens with several pages to go through if you want to pick individually.

Chanel Pick 6 (with a large number of Les Exclusifs on the list) for $16.99.

Chanel’s Les Exclusifs set (minus the new 1932 which few people seemed to like much, including myself) for $36.99.

Tom Ford Private Blend Sample Set (any 5 out of the 23 with 1/2 ml vials) for $13.99:  (this is a great price, I think, especially as it is discounted from $14.99, so you save a little more. But the vials are small.)

Tom Ford Private Blend Sample Set (19 of them in 1/2 ml vials) for $49.99.

Vanilla Niche Perfume Set of 20 for $52.99.

Amber – Comprehensive set of 20 niche classics – for $42.99.

Amber – Women’s Sample Set of 12 for $24.99 (and it includes my beloved Alahine!) or a Set of 5 not so interesting ones for $12.99.

Sex & Perfume – Pick 2 of any animalic scent from various houses like Amouage to Mona Di Orio, Nasomatto and more for $8.99. (Scroll to the bottom of their page for links to more perfumes that are meant to evoke your inner vamp or sexy side.)

Pick 10 out of 100 fragrances that “every perfumista must try” (their words, not mine) for $29.95.

The page with lists of various Oriental or Woody Oriental sets that they have.

Floral – Pick Your Flower – Spicy, Aldehydic, Woody & More – Pick 3 for $9.99.

The legendary Roja Dove’s recommendations of 10 scents from the past 100 years that he believes to be the true classics of their decade. Roja Dove’s recommendations of 10 in 1 ml vials each for $29.99.

More Roja Dove choices of “Classics through the Centuries” with Set 1, Set 2 and Set 3 of fragrances (with a gift box) that he thinks are legends. The sets have 13, 18 and 16 perfumes each, respectively, and are in the $24-$29 range.

3 of Roja Dove’s own perfumes — Scandal, Unspoken & Enslaved — for $11.49. (I’m sooooo getting this one!)

Puredistance perfumes starting at $3.99 each.

One of my absolute favorite boozy amber perfumes and which I just bought a full bottle of: Teo Cabanel’s Alahine starting at $3.99 for a vial.

Dior’s Privée line or, as they call it, Le Collection Couturier fragrances. The full Sampler set of 13 is $35.99 but you can also buy them individually starting at $3. Mitzah, Grand Bal, Patchouli Imperiale, Bois d’Argent, Rose Isphanan are all very popular.

Frederic Malle perfumes, along with a Gateway Sampler set of 3 for $16.49 or a set of 4 carded 2ml samples for $23.99.

Le Labo City Exclusives Sampler — a set of 6 (I think) for $19.99 but they are only 1/4 ml vials.

Sonoma Scent Studio — all perfumes listed along with various sample sets.

Amouage Library Collection Sampler of 6 for $19.99 (I was actually preparing a review of one of the Library collection and I think there may be a better sampler set for the size of the vials elsewhere for $30 but with this sale, you may want to opt for Surrender to Chance instead).

Amouage Women’s Sampler Set of 8 for $29.99.

Amouage Men’s Sampler for $22.99.

Ormonde Jayne Pick 3 Sample set for $10.99.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Sample Set of 8 for $19.99.

Guerlain Set of 4 Classics (in non-vintage, reformulated version) for $14.99 or Set of 7 for $19.99.

Guerlain niche L’Art et La Matiere Collection sampler set of 8 for $37.99

Guerlain’s niche Elixir Charnel Collection – sample set of all 4 predominantly gourmand fragrances in the line for $17.99. (This is a pretty good deal if you like gourmand fragrances.)

Guerlain’s niche Desert d’Orient Collection — all 3 fragrances in the line for $12.99.

Histoires de Parfums Sample Set of 5 for $22.99.

Arquiste Sampler Set – the full 7 perfumes in a set for $33.99.

Link to all of the perfumes by Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes but, alas, no sample sets.

Vera Profumo sample set of 3 for $12.99.

Orange Blossoms – Comprehensive Set of Luxury/High-End perfumes — 14 for $39.99.

M. Micallef Sample Set of 3 for $14.99.

Etat Libre d’Orange Sample Set of 5 for $18.99.

Robert Piguet La Nouvelle Collection Sample Set of 5 for $22.99.

CaFleureBon Scents of Seduction Editorial Sampler — 12 curated scents chosen by the editors of CFB for $29.99.

Oriental Fougère Set for Men — High End Luxury Sampler which includes a Clive Christian — 10 for $23.99 but they are 1/4 ml vials.

Parfums de Nicolaii (the Guerlain grand-daughter/niece) with any 3 of her perfumes for $9.99 but, be careful as not all of these are currently sold on her website since she seems to have opted for more “Intense” versions of some of them. However, things like the Fig, Vanilla Tonka, or New York fragrances are still there are quite popular.

Rose Perfumes – “9 breathtaking fragrances” for $36.99; a set of 7 Dark, Dirty niche Roses for $29.99; 6 Bulgarian Rose fragrances for $14.99; or a Beginner’s Set of 7 for $15.99

Patchouli Set of 11 Niche/High End and rich fragrances for $41.99, along with a small, somewhat boring Beginner’s set of 3 for $9.99 (though I do think the Serge Lutens is a good one). Intermediary Patchouli set of 9 niche fragrances for $28.99.

24 Best Perfume Masterpieces selected by the late, great Guy Roberts for $33.99. They’re not the vintage formulation but they’re a fantastic way to start on some legendary classics.

10 Best Niche Perfumes for a Beginner in 1/2 ml vials for $21.99. (It’s their list of what they think would be 10 good ones to start with.)

Chypres: A Beginner’s Guide to Oakmoss: 9 samples of the most famous Classics for $27.99.

Four whole pages of different sets for Beginners categorized by perfume note, from Amber to Saffron, peony to geranium. 

– I’m not completely convinced on this next one but Perfume Posse selected 22 Classic and Niche Beginner Scents by type which are sold in a gift box for $44.99. I don’t think some of those would be on my Beginner Intro list, but I believe in giving people options.

Page with the overall categories of sample sets.

Perfumes – ISO E Super: Antiseptic Horror, Aphrodisiac Pheromone or Nothingness?

Bleach, morgue disinfectant, medicinal antiseptic, camphorous muscle rub, copy toner, rubbing alcohol, headache-inducing toxicity, furniture varnish — or — velvety, sweet woods, smooth amber, a super floralizer, or a completely invisible skin scent that acts like a pheromone and aphrodisiac.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

Those are the two faces of ISO E Super, an aromachemical which may be one of the great unofficial or secret ingredients in perfumery. Only a perfume addict is likely to know the name but — whether you are a hardcore perfumista or someone new to the world of fragrances — chances are that you’ve smelled ISO E Super. You simply may not have known it.

So, what is it? It is an aromachemical or a synthetic that is being used, more and more frequently, in perfumery. The Perfume Shrine has in-depth discussion of ISO E Super which is a good place for someone to start if they want to know the full details, but Elena Vosnaki also provides a shorter summary on Fragrantica:

Iso E Super® is the trademark name of aromachemical 7-acetyl, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8-octahydro-1,1,6,7-tetramethyl naphthalene and you can easily guess why the short code-name was invented for use instead of its long organic chemistry name. According to International Fragrances and Flavors who produce and patented Iso E Super smells:

‘Smooth, woody, amber with unique aspects giving a ‘velvet’ like sensation. Used to impart fullness and subtle strength to fragrances. Superb floralizer found in the majority of newer fine fragrances and also useful in soaps. Richer in the desirable gamma isomer than isocyclemone e’. IFF

Odor profile: Synthetic note with cedar woody, abstract facets that create a fuzz on skin, extending and helping a fragrance composition radiate from the skin, very popular with modern fragrances.

The biggest surprise however comes when someone smells Iso E Super in isolation: how almost non-existent a smell Iso-E Super has (not something one would describe as a concrete smell) and at the same time how unapologetically synthetic, perhaps vaguely cedar-like, slightly sweet, nuanced, even peppery in combination with other notes it smells when you really notice it.

There is a lot of talk about how ISO E Super is, in the words of Allure magazine “the sweet smell of… nothing,” or about how its neutralness can have the crazy effect of being like a pheromone.

I don’t think any of those descriptions go far enough. Have you ever smelled a perfume where there seemed a distinct element of rubbing alcohol underneath a note of peppery wood? If so, that may very well have been ISO E Super. On my skin, large amounts of ISO E Super turn into: purely medicinal antiseptic that are reminiscent of a visit to the hospital; rubbery pink bandaids; camphorous medicine; sharply peppered woods; and what they use to scrub your skin before a vaccination shot — all combined into one. It can be loud, screechy, toxic and so powerful that astronauts in space could detect it. In small amounts, however, the shrillness of the alcohol recedes just a little to add a quiet, woody, velvety note that is highly peppered like cedar. But it is still there, still smells synthetic, and still evokes rubbing alcohol in fleeting wisps.

Some people are anosmic to ISO E Super, at least in small amounts, which means that they can’t really smell the note. The problem, however, is that there are a number of people who get severe headaches from the synthetic, even when they can’t detect it. Even more of a problem is that ISO E Super is usually not listed as an official note in a perfume list — at least, not unless it’s used in a significant quantity or the perfumer feels like being candid.

OJ MontabacoThe issue of ISO E Super came up last week in the comments discussing Ormonde Jayne’s Montabaco. As I said then, and repeat now, I do not consider myself an expert on the note, but the gallons and gallons of the aromachemical in that perfume provided a rapid crash-training course. Prior to Montabaco, I had smelled the rubbing alcohol aspect of peppered woods many a time before, but never officially and to that immense degree. Montabaco has now made me acutely aware of the synthetic in any quantity, great or small. It also made me realise that some of the perfumes that I’d struggled with in the past due to their hospital-disinfectant, sharply medicinal, toxic characteristics — Montale‘s Aoud Lime and Aoud Blossoms, I’m looking straight at you — were perfumes that must have contained massive amounts of ISO E. When I compared Aoud Lime to Chernobyl and said that a mere drop could be detected out in space by the astronauts on the Space Station, that was the synthetic at play. It’s so obvious now, in hindsight….

But how is one to know if the note isn’t listed in the perfume and if one isn’t an expert on synthetics? What if one is just an average consumer who gets headaches from certain scents, but doesn’t know what to avoid just by looking at perfume notes? How can they know in the future with certainty if ISO E is rarely mentioned? That was the question raised by one of the readers to the blog, Jackie, who tried Ormonde Jayne‘s Ta’if and said that she got the exact same headache that she continuously got every time she wore Chanel‘s Chance Eau Tendre. At first, she thought it might be the rose note, but she hasn’t always had that problem with other rose fragrances. So, I mentioned the possibility of the culprit being ISO E Super. She had never heard of the aromachemical before but, when she investigated further, concluded that it might be the cause. Then she asked me, how she could ever know with certainty whether a perfume has it, so that she can avoid it? Her question is the reason for this post but, unfortunately, I have no answer.

The best measure of clarity that I can provide (and it is almost nothing, alas) is that certain types or families of perfumes are particularly susceptible to the “super floralizer” or “smooth woody” aspects of the synthetic. In my opinion, and speaking as a non-expert on ISO E Super, I think pure florals are the most likely to have ISO E Super in them; and the likelihood is increased even more if they are a mass-market perfume. Woody perfumes with things like vetiver, oud/agarwood, cypress or cedar are the next category where ISO E Super may provide some benefits in a perfumer’s mind, but it’s not quite as certain of a possibility across the board. I think gourmands may be the least likely category, simply by virtue of their ingredients.

None of that, however, is a rule set in stone that you can count on. There are plenty of niche perfumes which may have ISO E Super. I recently tested Dior‘s floral New Look 1947 from the prestige Privée line which definitely includes some ISO E Super, and that’s hardly a mass-market fragrance that you’ll find at Sephora or Macy’s. So, perhaps a better bet is to know your perfumers, as well as the categories of fragrances likely to have ISO E Super.

There are certain famous noses who are well-known to adore using the synthetic. Jacques Polge of Chanel is one. As a result, if you’re tempted by a Chanel floral scent — especially one in the mass-market line — be aware that there is a good chance it will have the synthetic. To wit, something like Chanel‘s Chance Eau Tendre which started this whole thing.

Geza Schoen is another admirer. No perfume incorporates more of the synthetic than the famous or infamous Molecules 01 for Escentric Molecules, a fragrance that is essentially 100% ISO E Super diluted in solvent. The recent news that he helped make most of Ormonde Jayne‘s established line of 12 perfumes may explain why that brand is also frequently mentioned in the discussion of ISO E. In fact, a while ago, I stumbled across a post on the I Smell Therefore I Am blog where a few people said that they got headaches from almost all the Ormonde Jaynes (except Tiare and Frangipani) due to the molecule.

Jean-Claude Ellena of Hermès is also a big fan of the note. According to the Perfume Shrine, he “has experimented with its magic properties many a time in the past to glorious effect: Terre d’Hermès, Poivre Samarkande and Déclaration are utilizing lots of it, exploring minimalism: the play of scents note-for-note with no sentimentality attached.” But these are only a few out of the many Hermès perfumes he has created, so clearly, one can’t simply eliminate all Ellena fragrances on the mere off-chance that it may have ISO E Super.

Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes may also use the aromachemical, since he raved about its benefits on his blog:

One of the well known molecules that you can use to add [an optimizing] layer is iso E Super. Many hate it, because they associate it with a particular type of perfumery (I think), some know its scent from the single molecule series, iso E super is No. 01, but mostly it is actually there, in the fragrance, where you do not really smell it but where it acts like a layer in photoshop.

It adds lift, and it soften all notes, and it brings out contrasts and optimizes a fragrance in quite a spectacular way. In a sense it is present by its effect, and less by its scent. It is not by chance that you find iso E Super in so many scents these days. Actually, the analogy to a photoshop layer is not so bad.

The Perfume Shrine lists a few of the perfumes officially known to have ISO E Super in them but states “Iso E Super is used in so many fragrances today that it would be hard to compile an actual list that would not bore everyone silly!” The perfumes on their list:

  • 1 Molecule 01 (escentric molecules, 2005) 100%
  • 2 Perles de Lalique (Lalique, 2007) 80%
  • 3 PoivreSamarcande (Herme`s, 2004) 71%
  • 4 Escentric 01 (escentric molecules, 2005) 65%
  • 5 Terre d’Hermes (Hermes, 2006) 55%
  • 6 Incense Kyoto (comme des garcons, 2002) 55%
  • 7 Incense Jaisalmer (comme des garcons, 2002) 51%
  • 8 Fierce for Men (Abercrombie & Fitch, 2002) 48%
  • 9 Kenzo Air (Kenzo, 2003) 48%
  • 10 Encrenoire (Lalique, 2006) 45%

Other perfumes mentioned in both the post and in the comments section are:

  • Lancome‘s Trésor, which may have been the first perfume to have significantly large amounts of ISO E in it;
  • Agent Provocateur‘s Maitresse;
  • Dior‘s Fahrenheit which has 25% ISO E Super in the compound;
  • Shiseido‘s Féminité du Bois which was created by Serge Lutens before he opened his own perfume house.

Fragrantica also has a list of some perfumes with the note, but its shortness means that it is far from inclusive. They mention:

  • Molecules 01 and 02 from Escentual Molecules;
  • Escentric 01 and 02 from Escentual Molecules;
  • Le Labo’s Another 13;
  • Prada’s Luna Rossa;
  • Slumberhouse’s Invisible Musk;
  • Neil Morris’ Rose Tattoo; and
  • Olivier & Co. Mousse

If we were to compile an unofficial, somewhat subjective list, based solely on my experiences, things said by others on a Basenotes thread, a Fragrantica thread, blogs, and Google searches, then other, additional perfumes with ISO E Super might also include:

  • Montale‘s Aoud Lime, Aoud Blossoms and Oriental Flowers.
  • Dior‘s New Look 1947 (though the ISO E is not unpleasant here to my nose and is quite subtle).
  • Bvlgari Homme;
  • Marc Jacob‘s Bang;
  • Ormonde Jayne‘s Ormonde Woman, Ormonde Man, Montabaco and, indeed, much of the line except Tiare and Frangipani.
  • Antonia’s FlowersTiempe Passate which is the basis of a discussion by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass who notes its similarity to Molecule 01.
  • Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bvlgari Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert Extreme.
  • Kenzo‘s Kenzo Air (see the Fragrantica thread linked up above for mention of this and all the subsequent perfumes listed below).
  • Dolce & Gabbana‘s Light Blue;
  • Diptyque Eau Duelle;
  • L`Occitane en Provence Eau d’Iparie;
  • Sisley Sisley Eau de 3;
  • Giorgio Armani Onde Mystere
  • Lancome Magnifique;
  • Le Labo Rose 31;
  • Dior Vetiver (La Collection Privée/La Collection Couturier);
  • Parfumerie Générale Djhenné;
  • Neela Vermeire Créations Ashoka;
  • Amouage Opus VII (The Library Collection); and
  • a number of Sonoma Scent Studio (SSS) woody fragrances, according to Laurie Erickson, the founder and nose.

Again, ISO E Super is rarely listed among a perfume’s official notes, so all of this is based simply on subjective, personal experience. But one has to start somewhere, and for those who can become ill from painful headaches triggered by a perfume containing the synthetic, something is better than nothing. At the very least, it will provide them with a starting point for further investigation if they see a fragrance mentioned on the list or in the comments.

So, can you help out? What perfumes have you smelled in which you detected ISO E Super? Are you like me where you can tolerate it in very minor amounts and can sometimes see its beneficial touch, but are repulsed by large quantities of the synthetic? Or are you anosmic to the scent? Are you unlucky enough to get headaches from it? If you adore it, what exactly about the note’s manifestation on your skin makes you such a huge fan?

Books: Patrick Suskind’s “Perfume” & Its Impact on Actual Perfume Creation

One of my favorite books that I’ve read in the last decade is the international best-seller, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind. Also known as Das Perfum or Le Parfum, the 1985 German novel is also one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read, a lyrical ode that explores the sense of smell in the most evocative, powerful way imaginable. As any perfume blogger can tell you, aroma is not an easy thing to convey. And, yet, Suskind manages brilliantly, re-creating the world of 18th-century France in all its horrors and fetid stink.

Suskind PerfumeThe book crosses and mixes several literary genres, from gothic to horror and the supernatural in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe. I find it difficult to adequately summarize the book (and we all know that brevity isn’t my forte!), so I’ll rely on Google books for a description that doesn’t give too much away:

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind’s classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man’s indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift-an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

It has garnered huge international praise from many, while others find it creepy, perfume bookdisturbing and truly revolting. Most of my friends who’ve read the book, even those who aren’t into perfume, adored it. In contrast, the good Christian, conservative, elderly Texan ladies in my book club were horrified by it. Horrified! Aghast! (I blame that mostly on the ending which I won’t discuss lest I spoil it for you.)

Amazon has an excerpt of the book’s opening paragraphs which illustrate the exquisite writing (as translated from Suskind’s original German) and his ability to evoke powerful imagery in such a way that you are transported back to Paris in the mid-1700s:

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name-in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade’s, for instance, or Saint-Just’s, Fouché’s, Bonaparte’s, etc.-has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, to wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent.

Scene from the movie, "Perfume." Source:

Scene from the movie, “Perfume.” Source:

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber pots. The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master’s wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter. For in the eighteenth century there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition, and so there was no human activity, either constructive or destructive, no manifestation of germinating or decaying life that was not accompanied by stench.

And of course the stench was foulest in Paris, for Paris was the largest city of France. And in turn there was a spot in Paris under the sway of a particularly fiendish stench: between the rue aux Fers and the rue de la Ferronnerie, the Cimetiere des Innocents to be exact. For eight hundred years the dead had been brought here from the Hotel-Dieu and from the surrounding parish churches, for eight hundred years, day in, day out, corpses by the dozens had been carted here and tossed into long ditches, stacked bone upon bone for eight hundred years in the tombs and charnel houses. Only later-on the eve of the Revolution, after several of the grave pits had caved in and the stench had driven the swollen graveyard’s neighbors to more than mere protest and to actual insurrection-was it finally closed and abandoned. Millions of bones and skulls were shoveled into the catacombs of Montmartre and in its place a food market was erected.

Here, then, on the most putrid spot in the whole kingdom, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born on July 17, 1738. It was one of the hottest days of the year. The heat lay leaden upon the graveyard, squeezing its putrefying vapor, a blend of rotting melon and the fetid odor of burnt animal horn, out into the nearby alleys. When the labor pains began, Grenouille’s mother was standing at a fish stall in the rue aux Fers, scaling whiting that she had just gutted. The fish, ostensibly taken that very morning from the Seine, already stank so vilely that the smell masked the odor of corpses. Grenouille’s mother, however, perceived the odor neither of the fish nor of the corpses, for her sense of smell had been utterly dulled, besides which her belly hurt, and the pain deadened all susceptibility to sensate impressions. She only wanted the pain to stop, she wanted to put this revolting birth behind her as quickly as possible. It was her fifth. She had effected all the others here at the fish booth, and all had been stillbirths or semi-stillbirths, for the bloody meat that emerged had not differed greatly from the fish guts that lay there already, nor had lived much longer, and by evening the whole mess had been shoveled away and carted off to the graveyard or down to the river. It would be much the same this day, and Grenouille’s mother, who was still a young woman, barely in her mid-twenties, and who still was quite pretty and had almost all her teeth in her mouth and some hair on her head and – except for gout and syphilis and a touch of consumption – suffered from no serious disease, who still hoped to live a while yet, perhaps a good five or ten years, and perhaps even to marry one day and as the honorable wife of a widower with a trade or some such to bear real children . . . Grenouille’s mother wished that it were already over. And when the final contractions began, she squatted down under the gutting table and there gave birth, as she had done four times before, and cut the newborn thing’s umbilical cord with her butcher knife. But then, on account of the heat and the stench, which she did not perceive as such but only as an unbearable, numbing something-like a field of lilies or a small room filled with too many daffodils-she grew faint, toppled to one side, fell out from under the table into the street, and lay there, knife in hand.

Born in blood to a woman who tried to murder him, and then later rejected by society, Grenouille’s life was not an easy one. It was rendered even more difficult by the fact that he had a supernatural sense of smell but no personal scent of his own. The latter made people shy away from him, finding him something unnatural and unnerving. From an orphanage to a poor house, to a brutal apprenticeship as a tanner’s assistant and more, Grenouille — the book’s hero, anti-hero or monster, depending on your view — led a life of constant hardship, isolation and social rejection.

There was no joy in his world except his ability to detect the very olfactory essence of every object around him: from rocks to brass knobs, from the smell of the water to the very essence of the wind. Yet, even that supernatural ability never gave him much purpose in life until, one day, he stumbled upon a red-haired virgin. And it changed everything. He fell in love with her aroma — the scent of pure love and infinite beauty — and was determined to replicate it in a bottle at any cost. Including murder. As the back of my copy of Perfume states:

It was after that first crime that he knew he was a genius – that he understood his destiny. He, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the fishmonger’s bastard, was to be the greatest perfumer of all time. For he possessed the power not just to create beautiful scents, but to distil the very essence of love itself.

And as the obsession began, so would it end….

His ensuing path, and the trail of bodies he left in his wake, is one you must discover for yourself, as I shan’t give away the tale.

Christophe LaudamielSource: NYT SmellBound

Christophe Laudamiel
Source: NYT SmellBound

It is hardly surprising that Perfume had an enormous impact on actual “noses” and perfumers in the industry. Take, for example, the obsession of Christophe Laudamiel. As Chandler Burr explains in a New York Times article entitled “Smellbound,” Laudamiel was transfixed by the book from the moment he read it in perfumery school. When he began work for the giant fragrance corporation I.F.F. (International Flavors and Fragrances) in 2000, he set out to systematically recreate the pivotal scenes of this murderer’s story in scents, one by one:

Laudamiel would work on the novel’s scents alone, on his own time, evenings, weekends. No one knew he was doing it. He spent nights in the lab, mixing and remixing to find, say, the exact smell of freshly tanned leather, and would go home at 6 a.m. The first scent he created was Ermite (Hermit), the smell of the cave: damp stone, moss, pine, mountain wind, cold. He created Amour and Psyche, the best-selling perfume that Grenouille copies perfectly from scratch in the novel. Strangest of all, however, was Virgin No. 1, the scent of the girl who sold those yellow plums in the Paris streets. Years ago, an I.F.F. scientist recruited two young female virgins and, with their parents’ permission, recorded their aroma using a polymer needle. Laudamiel found this scent on I.F.F.’s shelves, then added christophe_laudamiel_2the scents Süskind describes as clinging to the virgin’s skin: apricot, nuts, sea breeze.

[There was also] Human Existence. It was the scent the scentless Grenouille creates for himself. “You must remember,” Laudamiel says, “this character’s being born without a scent has made him terribly lonely, lost, ignored. Having his own scent makes him whole. It makes him human.” [Emphasis added.]

Perfume PosterThat was just the start. In 2006, the movie version of Perfume came out, with small roles for Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffmann. (It’s not a particularly good film. Really, it’s not! And I say that as someone who adores Alan Rickman. So, even though the film is easily available via NetFlix, read the book instead!) Perfume_Poster1_9407

Laudamiel met with the film’s German producer, Thomas Friedl, and with Vera Strubi, the head of Thierry Mugler perfumes. Laudamiel presented them with some of his Grenouille scents, and

[t]hey were mesmerized. They found themselves experiencing the book, its details and its characters. Strubi loved Laudamiel’s smells, the good as well as the bad.

It was agreed that Mugler would perfect 14 scents and package them in a special coffret — Paris 1738, Atelier Grimal and Orgie among them. But Strubi also wanted him to create a 15th scent for Thierry Mugler, a perfume that captured the essence of Süskind’s book. The obvious choice would be to try to create the perfume Grenouille makes from the scent of the murdered virgins. But that was impossible (by definition it didn’t exist), and not to mention, Strubi said, too pretentious.

Mugler Coffret set for "Perfume". Source: Fragrantica

Mugler Coffret set for “Perfume”. Source: Fragrantica

In 2006, the perfume blog, The Scented Salamander, posted a description of the final result, along with some of the Mugler press release:

In this boxed set of 15 fragrances, Thierry Mugler dares to present the novel’s 15 olfactory themes. ‘Disturbing, arousing, divine, sensual, icy… none of the fifteen compositions will leave you indifferent’…

The boxed set contains fourteen olfactory compositions bearing the names Baby, Paris 1738, Atelier Grimal, Virgin Number One, Boutique Baldini, Amor & Psyche, Nuit Napolitaine, Ermite, Salon Rouge, Human Existence, Absolu Jasmin, Sea, Noblesse, Orgie. Uncompromising fragrances evoking human warmth, love, sexuality, wealth, virginity and more… The fifteenth fragrance, ‘Aura’ is a creative interpretation of the bewitching magic spell cast by the ‘virtuoso, terrifying scent of Grenouille’, the murderous hero of Perfume. 84 ingredients compose its top-secret formula, by fragrance designers Christophe Laudamiel and Christophe Hornetz.

She later posted some preliminary impressions of the 15 perfumes. In a nutshell, she found the scents “strangely beautiful” for the most part, though I personally thought she seemed less than enchanted by “Virgin #1.”

Victoria of Bois de Jasmin posted a comprehensive review of the Mugler/Laudamiel scents. She has fabulous descriptions of each perfume, so I encourage you to read her review in full, but here is her assessment of the critical Virgin #1 scent:

No. 1 Part I, Chapter 8 of “Perfume: The Story of A Murderer”

“A girl was sitting at the table cleaning yellow plums… A hundred thousand odors seemed worthless in the presence of this scent. It was pure beauty.”

In one of the interviews with Laudamiel, I read that the IFF team worked to capture the scent of a young girl’s navel via headspace (a technology designed for capturing and analyzing the aroma molecules in the air around the source of scent.) This novel accord was used in Virgin No. 1. While I was intrigued by the idea, nothing prepared me for the sheer beauty of the fragrance. The base of the composition is the most exquisite musky accord, milky like fresh cream, smooth like peach skin and warm like delicate cashmere. An intoxicatingly luscious plum is woven though the musky tapestry, lightening it and lending it an irresistibly playful facet. Although it is amazing on the blotter, on the skin, the fragrance reveals all of its beautiful facets in a panoramic manner. It is innocent, and yet it possesses a beguiling and sensual edge. It is subtle, yet its sillage is magnificent. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

On Fragrantica, those who have smelled Virgin #1 seem to have found it equally stunning. But, alas, we shall have to live vicariously through their experiences, since the perfumes are now akin to the Holy Grail and a unicorn, combined into one.

It’s not merely the obvious fact that they are no longer available; it seems they were always elusive. I read on Fragrantica that only 300 coffrets were produced, that they sold out in Europe in a week, and, at the time, cost $600 each. According to another poster on the site, one of those sets was valued at over $1,000 as of December 2011 when it was offered for sale. I’ve never seen a single one on eBay, though I’ve heard they do appear from time to time.

The point of all this is not to create an exercise in frustration — though, clearly, it may do that as well. The point is to demonstrate the incredible power of Suskind’s olfactory imagery and the extent to which his book can compel an obsession all of its own. It’s also intended to demonstrate the extent to which the book has influenced actual perfumers in the industry and how they have attempted to turn that most abstract of things — the literary image of something as evanescent as scent — into something concrete. In fact, I would bet anything that Etat Libre d’Orange’s infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques was influenced, at least in some part, by Suskind’s book. And, lastly, it shows just how far perfumery has come in modern times: harnessing the scent molecules of virgins. (With no actual bloodshed involved!)

If you are a perfumista and haven’t read Suskind’s brilliant book, I strongly urge you to do so. It will blow your mind! Even if you’re not particularly into perfume, you may still want to pick it up. Whether you find it brilliant or creepily disturbing beyond words, I can guarantee you one thing: it’s like nothing else you will ever read.

On Amazon US, “Perfume” currently costs $8.15. On Amazon Canada, it costs CDN $12.27. On Amazon UK, it costs £6.29. On Amazon France, “Le Parfum” costs EUR 5,32. It should be available on all the other Amazon sites as well, in addition to your local bookstores. 

Re-Blogged: “The Making of a Celebrity Fragrance”

Utterly fantastic, incredibly insightful and just bloody funny at times. You really need to read this to understand the nature of the celebrity fragrances flooding your department stores: from the role of the marketing group; the almost non-existent role of the celebrity; the establishment of a price-point for the perfume as almost an initial starting point with people then working backwards; the recent perfume releases by Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj; and the power of Coty. A few of the more amusing tidbits:
– “Just go to the fragrance counter of any department store. Most of the fragrances there fall into two categories: citrus-aquatic and spicy-oriental. On top of that, they all smell like each other.”
– An example of the sort of brief given to perfumers: “’A dark fragrance that expresses the mystery and drama enveloping Lady Gaga in her video Fame.’”
-“Often, along with the brief, perfumers are directed what the cost of the formula should be. Nevertheless, there is always an opportunity to make a cheap formula even cheaper. The easiest way to do this is to use only synthetics and this is exactly what most celebrity scent developers do.”
-Take the recent releases by Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Both fragrances come in horrendous bottles that can easily turn into weapons. They do catch the attention of the 14-year-olds though, so we can give a check mark next to “successful packaging”.
-“staff hired by the fragrance company promotes the fragrance and creates awareness about it. These would usually be the friendly people pushing under your nose strips of stuff you don’t want to smell. They are also the ones who make you smell a spicy-oriental when you are really asking them to show you a citrus-aromatic.”

Read the full article. It’s hilarious, but also a sadly true reflection of the state of commercial, mass-market perfumery where celebrity scents are predominating by what seems to be a huge, massive amount.



If you believe that celebrity fragrances are squeezed out by fairies from the petals of flowers and you are under 12, you are forgiven.  If you believe this and you are past puberty, you need help.  Even though few would be as naive as to believe that fairies are involved in creating a fragrance, even fewer are familiar with the process of making one.  Fragrance companies have done a great job enshrouding in mystery the creative and technical process of creating their masterpieces and duds.  After all, the business of selling perfume is really the business of selling the dream of something we want to experience, whether it is sensuality, coolness or comfort.

I couldn’t allow myself to believe in the story about fairies and magic.

As I was curious about the process of making a fragrance, from its inception to its release on the market, I couldn’t allow myself…

View original post 2,083 more words

Sneak Peek – Chanel’s 1932 Collection: Fine Jewels & The 1932 Perfume

In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Chanel launched her first collection of haute jewelry. It consisted of diamonds set in platinum and was shown in an exhibit entitled “Bijoux de Diamants.” In 2012, on the 80th Anniversary of that exhibit, Chanel debuted a new fine jewelry collection and, in homage, called it, quite simply, The 1932 Collection.

In February 2013, the perfume that went along with that jewelry launch will be released. It too is called, quite simply, 1932 and it is part of Chanel’s Les Exclusif line of fragrances. I have a sample of it already and will do a review sometime in the next 10 days but, in the meantime, I thought I would share some lovely photos I came across from Elle magazine as well as information first posted exclusively by the blog, The Scented Salamander.


coco chanelElle‘s October 2012 article states:

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the exhibit, Chanel has created a new collection of diamonds, pink sapphires, pearls and more, called the 1932 Collection. Though the gorgeous high-end baubles aren’t on display to the public—Chanel built a giant dome outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York to house the display starting next week (and for one week only)— you can view part of the collection right here. has a sneak peek at the goods and a look back at Coco Chanel’s (pictured) original exhibit from 1932.

You can see the full 42 photos of the original Chanel jewels on the Elle website (linked up above), but I thought I’d share a few of them here:

1. Star-themed jewelry on display at “Bijoux de Diamants” in 1932. Coco Chanel was often inspired by celestial motifs.

The Comète necklace created by Coco Chanel in 1932 for her “Bijoux de Diamants” exhibition. The 80th anniversary collection plays hommage to many of the same motifs which inspired Chanel, including stars, comets, and moons”:

“From the 1932 collection, the Cosmos watch in 18K white gold set with 537 brilliant-cut diamonds, 29 fancy-cut diamonds, and 31 princess-cut diamonds”:

“The Céleste brooch uses Coco Chanel’s heavenly motifs and showcases the solar system at work. Set in 18K white gold set with 881 brilliant-cut diamonds, 24 baguette-cut diamonds, a 79.3-carat Australian baroque cultured pearl, three Indonesian cultured pearls, and 15 Japanese cultured pearls”:


“The 2012 Comète necklace—which references the original 1932 piece—comes in 18K white gold set with a 14.8-carat round-cut diamond, 823 round-cut diamonds, and 34 princess-cut diamonds”:

2. Diamonds necklaces on mannequins. First up, the “Noeud Papillon necklace, displayed on a mannequin. Using wax busts instead of jewelry trays was considered revolutionary in 1932.

3. Random pieces that you can read more about on the website but which caught my eye:

You can see the remaining photos of past and present fine jewelry at the Elle website.


Onto the perfume! On February 1, 2013, Chanel will launch a new perfume as part of its Les Exclusifs perfume line. This one will be called, quite simply, 1932.

[UPDATE: I have now posted a preliminary, but long, review of 1932.]


MimiFrouFrou at the Scented Salamander seems to imply that February 1st launch date will apply only to Chanel’s Paris store. She states: “Chanel will launch a new perfume called 1932 from February 1, 2013 in France in their boutique collection created in 2006 entitled Les Exclusifs.” [Emphasis added]

I don’t know if the perfume will launch in U.S. Chanel boutiques at that time, but I do know that the perfume is already being sold over the internet with photos being posted on random sites. I’ve also read that Chanel handed out sample bottles of “1932” to guests at a special VIP showing of the special 1932 jewelry collection. I obtained my 10 ml decant from my eBay secret weapon, Deborah, who got it as part of a split with a friend in Michigan.

I haven’t tried my decant yet, as I prefer not to test out perfumes until I’m ready to focus on them in-depth for a full review. I also wanted to get some background on it beforehand from Chanel. So I contacted Chanel twice to ask them about the notes in the perfume. The responses indicated that either the Chanel representative had absolutely NO idea what I was talking about and had never heard of 1932, or that she couldn’t talk about it prior to its official launch. Despite my very clear question, I was simply given a run-down of the perfume notes in all the existing perfumes in the Les Exclusifs line. There was no reply to my more pointed follow-up question and email about 1932 in specific. (I’m a lawyer. I know how to ask follow-up questions that are pretty damn clear.) Silence and no response.

So, I set out to try to hunt down more information and do a little detective work. I had read that the perfume would center around jasmine and powder, but the Scented Salamander has much better and more detailed information:

In 2012, Chanel issued the high jewelry collection entitled the 1932 Collection featuring 80 pieces reprising this galactic inspiration to fête the 80th anniversary of the diamonds exhibition.

The Eau de Toilette follows this year; inspired by this homage to a forgotten chapter of the Chanel legacy it is described as a delicate powdery floral.

1932 centers on the ingredient jasmine, for which the house of Chanel is reputed to hold particularly exclusive harvesting rights in Grasse. The floral accord is said to have been worked upon, petal after petal, chiseled thanks to that other luxurious floral, iris. Vetiver and musks anchor the perfume.

Price: 130€ for 75 ml.

Via Marie-ClaireElleElle France

A bottle of 1932 was recently offered for sale on eBay. Here is a photo of the ingredients listed on the box:

Chanel 1932

The box adds to the possible list of ingredients. Between the notes mentioned on the Scented Salamander and those from the box, we seem to have:

Jasmine, vetiver, musk, coumarin, cloves (ie, eugenol), cinnamon (?), citrus (lemon and lime?) and some other technical things.

Those are some interesting notes. Some, like eugenol, I was previously aware of but the rest were too technical to mean anything to me. So, I decided to do some further detective work. From my understanding, eugenol (an essential oil found in cloves) is one of the main foundations of my beloved Opium and its use has been strictly limited in terms of quantity due to fears of it causing health problems in high doses. The Reuters article that was the foundation of my post on 2013 perfume changes, IFRA and the EU stated:

When it was launched in 1977, the original Opium was full of eugenol and also contained linalool, and limonene found in citruses. In large doses, Eugenol can cause liver damage, while oxidized linalool can cause exzema and prolonged exposure to pure limonene can irritate the skin.

Obviously, no perfume in 2013 will have any of those ingredients in anything remotely close to dangerous quantities. Not a chance in hell. Still, it’s interesting that Chanel’s 1932 will contain at least 3 of Opium’s more iffy notes: eugenol, linalool and limonene. Frankly, and speaking only for myself, I couldn’t care less if it means that 1932 will smell something like Opium!

Farnesol seems to be a similar target of IFRA attention. According to the Lisa Lise blog, it is one of those ingredients that IFRA is concerned enough by to mandate a sort of disclaimer notice on perfumes containing it. She states that farnesol is:

One of the 26
In perfumery, farnesol is used to anchor and enhance the components of a perfume. Because it is a key ingredient in perfumes (and therefore a possible allergen), it is one of the 26 specific fragrance ingredients that have to be declared according to the EU cosmetic directive.

[…] [Y]ou’ll find it in as a component of citronella, lemongrass, tuberose, rose (and more). It’s a versatile, controversial and complex ingredient.

Cinnamyl alcohol is another substance that, like bergamot and other ingredients, IFRA restricts in terms of quantity. According to Wikipedia, it can come from peru balsam, storax or cinnamon leaves, and its smell is “described as ‘sweet, balsam, hyacinth, spicy, green, powdery, cinnamic.'”

Alpha-isomethyl ionone is yet another IFRA-restricted ingredient that needs to be mentioned. I read on a number of sites that IFRA banned its use in perfumery, but research seems to indicate that that is an incorrect claim. Instead, as a few people have noted, it’s only its quantity which has been restricted. One Basenoter, Irina, also states that its use is permitted so long as there is a disclosure or notice on the box. She mentions that it is “a wonderful violet and orris root smelling material.”

Going down the list of ingredients, linalool is an essential oil which the Aroma Library classifies as a floral scent. It describes linalool as: “Fresh, floral, lavender, bergamot, coriander. Used in a wide variety of perfume’s. [sic] floral bouquet.”

According to the BASF, geraniol is an “aroma chemical for a floral and deep scent with a warm rose note.”

So, if you’re still with me, it seems that — based on all the various sources — the notes to Chanel’s “1932” are possibly:

Jasmine, rose, some possible rose enhancers (farnesol), bergamot (or lavender or coriander), cinnamon, cloves, violet or orris/iris, coumarin (hay), musk and possibly vetiver.

Again, I’m not going through the ingredients because I am personally concerned about allergens. I’m not. For myself, not even remotely. Plus, to me, learning the chemistry terms and the technical details of perfume is a bit like finding out how a sausage or hot-dog is made; I prefer just to eat it. In short, I’m merely trying to get a bloody clue of what’s in the damn perfume since Chanel refused or failed to answer my questions.

That said, I have to admit, I find it incredibly sad how many wonderful and key ingredients are the source of IFRA restrictions. Yes, they haven’t banned the use of the ingredients flat-out, but the quantities are so reduced nowadays that one has to wonder what “1932” would have been like if it had been made in…. well, 1932.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek at Chanel’s magnificent diamond jewelry and at “1932,” along with my attempts at playing amateur perfume detective. If you’re interested, I can get the perfume review up sooner rather than later and without waiting for some sort of official press release on the subject. Have a good week!

[Update: My review of 1932.]