The New Site Is Up, But….

“Houston, we have a problem.” The new site is up, and all the old posts have been moved over. Unfortunately, there are glitches. The main one is that you may have to re-subscribe, re-follow, or re-sign up again, as I’m not sure if the Transfer request that I put in has worked. I remember another blog, Australian Perfume Junkies, having a similar problem when they went to a self-hosting site.

Since I’m not seeing a list of subscribers on the new site administrative page, I worry that many or all of you may need to sign up again, just to be certain. Those of you who are particularly interested in the new Amouage offering, Opus VIII, which was just released may want to do so soon, as that will be the first review on the new blog.

To go to the new blog, you can click on this: Kafkaesque. For your records, the full URL is: http://www.kafkaesqueblog.com/

I really apologise for all this, and I hope I don’t lose too many of you. I am seeking help for the problem, as well as for the fact that I’m suddenly not getting email notifications of any comments that have been posted (on either site). Thanks to my Tech Wizard friends, the other snafu of the URL links to all the old reviews being broken and not re-directing to the new site has been fixed. Hopefully, the rest of the growing pains will also be minor and short-lived in nature.

I wish you all a happy Saturday and weekend. On that note, I should get back to the brand new Opus VIII with its fascinating mix of contrasts and contradictions. A new Opus as a new review for a new blog. It seems quite fitting. Happy weekend everyone!

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WordPress Issues, Self-Hosting & Future Plans

[UPDATE 3/17 — I’ve been informed that people who subscribed to the old blog via WordPress Follows can’t be transferred over to the new site. Transfers seem limited to email subscribers. So, I’m afraid any of you who read via WordPress will have to re-subscribe if you want to receive notification of new posts. Unfortunately, the new platform doesn’t seem to have anything analogous to the old “Like” or “Follow” option, and none of the “Plug-Ins” that I’ve looked into thus far are similar. They all center around email subscription. I know some people are not keen on that, so please accept my apologies on the inconvenience. I will understand if you choose not to follow the new blog as a result.

UPDATE: 3/15 — “Houston, we have a problem.” The new site is up, and all the old posts have been moved over. Unfortunately, there are glitches. The main one is that you may have to re-subscribe, re-follow, or re-sign up again, as I’m not sure if the Transfer request that I put in has worked. I remember another blog, Australian Perfume Junkies, having a similar problem when they went to a self-hosting site.

Since I’m not seeing a list of subscribers on the new site administrative page, I worry that many or all of you may need to sign up again, just to be certain. Those of you who are particularly interested in the new Amouage offering, Opus VIII, which was just released may want to do so soon, as that will be the first review on the new blog.

To go to the new blog, you can click on this: Kafkaesque. For your records, the full URL is: http://www.kafkaesqueblog.com/

I really apologise for all this, and I hope I don’t lose too many of you. I am seeking help for the problem, as well as for the fact that I’m suddenly not getting email notifications of any comments that have been posted (on either site). Thanks to my Tech Wizard friends, the other snafu of the URL links to all the old reviews being broken and not re-directing to the new site has been fixed. Hopefully, the rest of the growing pains will also be minor and short-lived in nature.

I wish you all a happy Saturday and weekend. On that note, I should get back to the brand new Opus VIII with its fascinating mix of contrasts and contradictions. A new Opus as a new review for a new blog. It seems quite fitting. Happy weekend everyone!]

As some of you realised, the blog was “suspended” by WordPress in the wee hours of the night, and all posts “archived” or hidden. I received no explanation other than a giant red banner across my Administrator’s Dashboard informing me that I had violated WordPress’ TOS (Terms of Service), and that I was henceforth locked out of the entire system. There are no words to convey the degree of my shock, panic, and confusion.

The problem turned out to be a simple name in a caption to my new Tom Ford post that I provided as a source for one of the photos of the champaca flower. I gave the name of a site (which I no longer dare even mention out of paranoia at this point) called MonsterM______________. (There is also a P in that long name.) The site is on WordPress’s automatic red-flag list, and is blocked out of concerns that links to it would lead users to experience malware, viruses, trojans and the like. I certainly understand and commend them for their attempts to protect people.

Just to clarify, though, in my case, I never provided a URL or link, but a mere reference name in a photo caption. It was enough, however, for the system to shut down my entire account within a minute of the post being published. The blog was archived or hidden, I was locked out, and I was greeted everywhere with a big red banner telling me that I had been suspended for violating their Terms of Service. What that precise violation may be, they didn’t say. They merely pointed me to their lengthy TOS page which listed pornography, hacking, and all sorts of inapplicable activities.

WordPress’ red banner did, however, include the gentle hint that I may want to consider taking a hike and hosting my own site elsewhere. To that end, they said they would kindly give me a brief period of time in which to retrieve my files (by means of some complicated, technical gobbledygook that went completely over my head) before all my work would be lost forever.

Thankfully, now, everything is now resolved. WordPress promptly assisted me this morning, acknowledged how inadvertent everything was, and returned the site back to normal. (So you can now read that Tom Ford Champaca Absolute review, if you’re interested.) But last night left a mark.

Those hellish and incredibly stressful hours forced me to do something that I had been thinking about for a while: self-hosting the blog. In simple terms, that means that I get my own url or “.com” name. The blog becomes its own thing with its own site, rather than an adjunct of WordPress. I’ve long hated the current url and name for the site (AKafkaesqueLife), but I had few options when first began. Franz Kafka is too popular, Kafkaesque is too well-known of a literary or philosophical reference, and seemingly every variation on either name was already taken. It’s driven me a little crazy that people call the blog: A Kafkaesque; AKafkaesque; Kafkaesque Life; or any of the other multitude of things that I’ve seen. But who can blame them? Not everyone reads the “About Me” section in which I clarify the issue of the name vs the URL. Besides, in everyday life, URLs generally are a site’s real name.

Things are going to change in that regard. I have registered a new name and a new domain on a new self-hosting site called DreamHost. The url will be very simple: KafkaesqueBlog.com. But everything else should remain exactly the same in terms of WordPress publishing the actual posts.

Nothing should change for any of you as readers. What is going to happen may take a few days, but, fingers crossed, everything should transfer over to the new self-hosting site. All of it, from the old posts, archived information, comments, links, format, followers, subscriptions, and more. (Perhaps that will also fix my current WordPress problem of never getting email notifications of new posts on other blogs. To all of you other bloggers, that is the main reason why I haven’t commented lately on your new posts. I never get emails about them! WordPress won’t answer my queries about it, either.)

All of this should happen behind the scenes, and none of you should even realise anything is different as things move over. If you click on an old post, you should be redirected automatically to its page with the new URL address. You should still get WordPress notification of my new posts, and you can still comment as you did before. However, those of you who follow the blog via an RSS feed or blog reader may need to update the url. I’m afraid I don’t really know how that works.

I’m not going to be doing any of this technical work, as I am an utter idiot when it comes to computer programming. Actually, “utter idiot” probably doesn’t begin to cover it. In this arena — as well as in everything to do with the nightmare of last night, and the self-hosting, domain, registration, start-up, technical aspects — I am wholly indebted to the Temptalia Team.

Christine of Temptalia is a dear friend of mine who walked me through everything starting at midnight last night and for hours thereafter. She suggested the best service for me to start up my own site, and explained the pages and pages of different computing, domain, programming, download, plug-in, and hosting information. She held my hand through my panic at the veritable tsunami of overwhelming technicalities, none of which helped my latent anxiety disorder one bit. (WordPress’ alarming TOS “support” (ha!) pages didn’t facilitate things in that regard, either.) Christine patiently stayed up for hours to help me with all of it, and I’m incredibly grateful.

I’m equally indebted to her husband, Shaun. He is a tech wizard who generously (and totally crazily, masochistically) volunteered to help me with all the programming aspects. He will be transferring everything from WordPress to the new site, and the amount of work involved is substantial. I’m a relative stranger to him, so I’m stunned by his kindness. I honestly don’t have the words to convey the extent of my gratitude for his help, as well as for Christine’s. It will be solely thanks to the two of them that I will be able to give you a new and, hopefully, better Kafkaesque in a few days time.

So, to all of you who emailed or contacted me with concern about my “suspension,” that is the whole silly saga. Moral of the story: never mention a site whose name starts with MonsterM, lest automatic computer systems have a fit and start flashing red. More importantly, be grateful for friends who are always there for you.

Here’s looking forward to the launch of a new Kafkaesque.

Art, Beauty & Perfumes: The Genius of Roberto Greco

Sometimes, you stumble upon art of such great beauty that you stop in your tracks with awe. Art can move you deeply, whether it is from the sensuality that you see portrayed, the boldness of colours, the inherent drama of juxtaposed images, or the sheer talent that is involved. Last week, I came across a photographer whose works transcended mere pictures and involved actual Art. It left me speechless. In an extremely hectic week, his photographs (if one can even call them that) felt almost like a port in the storm, a place where I could seek quiet refuge to soothe my frazzled soul.

Candice Swanepoel in "Strict" by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

Candice Swanepoel in “Strict” by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

I rarely talk about my love for photography, even to my friends, but I’ve had it since childhood. Other people’s photography, to be clear, as I have no talent of my own in this field whatsoever. I started by admiring the nature photography of Ansel Adams and the photojournalism of Robert Doisneau, then developed a particular interest in fashion and art photography. I have a huge passion for the works of the late, great Herb Ritts who is my absolute favorite, though I also really like Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton. These days, I can fall down the rabbit-hole for hours staring at the strong, sexy women of Mert & Marcus, a brilliant duo who may be aesthetic sons of both of those last legends combined and whose work I’ve used a number of time for the blog.

Last week, I was calmly minding my own business, going about my work, when I received a very lovely email. I often receive notes from perfume lovers who want to talk about some of their favorite fragrances or to occasionally ask me a question. This one was from a chap called Roberto Greco who wrote that he was a photographer and a perfume addict who really appreciated my reviews. He added that he thought he’d share a link to some small photographs that he’d taken a year ago for himself. The mention of photographs was nothing big; it was all understated, presented more like a little vanity project that he’d done privately out of his love of perfumery and that he merely wanted to share with another perfume lover.

Willem Kalf, (1619-1693)  "Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate." The Getty Museum. Source: Wikipedia.

Willem Kalf, (1619-1693) “Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate.” The Getty Museum. Source: Wikipedia.

I clicked on the link, and… GOOD GOD! In fact, those were close to the actual words that I said to myself, since I just about fell over in my chair at what I saw. The next words which blasted through my mind were “Vermeer,” “Rembrandt,” and “Dutch Old Masters.” I was captivated, and wrote back to Mr. Greco with my astonishment. He’s an incredibly sweet man with excessive modesty, if you ask me, as he seemed rather amazed at my response. He shyly shared a few more of his photos and his main website, where I discovered further treasures, both perfume-related and otherwise.

I decided that I wanted as many people to see his work as possible, and asked him if he would mind if I highlighted his photos in a post on the blog. He has generously given me permission, and let me pick the images that I wanted to use, including several that were commissioned for commercial use by perfume houses, fashion designers, magazines or the like. (I insisted that he put a watermark and his name on them, lest they get stolen. Mr. Greco has a much kinder view of human nature than I do, but he put in a tiny one so that it wouldn’t ruin your enjoyment of the images.)

I’m really so happy to be able to share his work with you, because I think the word “talented” doesn’t even begin to describe him. So, I’ll start with the very first, initial photographs that I saw and that impressed me so much with their evocation of the classical still life painting tradition.

Roberto Greco Coco

Roberto Greco Tom Ford Still Life 2Roberto Greco Coco Noir Still Life

Roberto Greco Diptyque Still LifeLook at his eye for details, from the giant beetle on the corner which matches the colour of the velvet in the next photo:Roberto Greco Tom Ford Still Life  1There is no doubt that Mr. Greco is influenced by the Old Masters and the baroque tradition of still-life paintings. Some of the commercial work on his website makes that abundantly clear. Each work has such depth, richness, and dark luxuriousness, but I also love the extremely bold, powerful imagery. It hits you right off the bat, from contrast of colours, the unexpected juxtapositions, and those tiny, minute details that you only pick up if you look closer upon a second or third viewing. Honestly, I think this is actual Art, with a capital letter, more than just a mere photograph:

"Budgie and Pomegranate."

“Budgie and Pomegranate.”

"Girl and Grapes."

“Girl and Grapes.”

Look at how the juices from the grape stain her thigh, in the photo above, and the luminescent light of her skin that speaks more to painting than photography. I think Vermeer and his Dutch brethren would be so impressed by Mr. Greco’s Girl with Grapes.

Yet, Mr. Greco doesn’t slavishly copy the classical Baroque tradition. He turns it upside down by inserting animals or unexpected details into his still-lifes.

Roberto Greco __Still life with rats

“Still life with rats.”

"Still life with Discus fish."

“Still life with Discus fish.”

Commercial work for others can sometimes require an artist to restrain himself or to edit his voice, but I think Mr. Greco’s work remains powerful and still demonstrates his overall aesthetic beautifully.

Commissioned by Les Echos magazine.

Commissioned by Les Echos magazine.

"Bloody Wood" for the perfume house, Les Liquides Imaginaires

“Bloody Wood” for the perfume house, Les Liquides Imaginaires

"Bello Rabelo" for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

“Bello Rabelo” for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

"Dom Rosa" for Les Liquides Imaginaires

“Dom Rosa” for Les Liquides Imaginaires

For fashion designer, Nunzio del Prete.

Photo commissioned by the fashion designer, Nunzio del Prete.

Commissioned by Les Restos d'Occase.

Commissioned by Les Restos d’Occase.

Photo commissioned by Oriza L. Legrand.

Photo commissioned by Oriza L. Legrand.

The funny thing about that last photo is that I actually saw it while I was in the Oriza L. Legrand boutique last fall in Paris. I distinctly remember the crown, and doing a double-take at it, thinking to myself, “What a fantastic picture. I wonder who took it?” The world is a very small, funny place at times.

Roberto Greco Cuir de RussieI asked Mr. Greco about himself. His website biography talks about the exhibitions that he’s had, or the galleries that have proudly shown his work, but it doesn’t say much about the man himself. It’s clear he was educated in Switzerland, and that he now spends his time between Paris and Geneva, but little else. So, I asked Mr. Greco to write a tiny bit about himself, how he came to love perfume so much, and his aesthetic approach. English is not his primary language, but I think he managed beautifully:

I think it all started when, as a kid, my mother sprayed her perfume on my pillow to help me wait a long holiday absence. This smell was a picture, her face.

I’m a south Italian, but I was born in Geneva, Switzerland. At 15, I made studies in horticulture, but art was never really far. Indeed, I studied in 2 different art schools in Switzerland, and nature has a prominent place in my artistic work from the beginning.

Whether plants or animals in my childhood, the smell they gave off always fascinated me. Just a look at the steam emanating of a pile of wet leaves when it’s cold outside, will make you able to capture the complexity of all these organic things that surround us. All these smells are images. I will keep forever in my mind, and now I try to transcribe them in my art.

Once, an art director told me that my way of creating was the same as a perfumer. Different intensities which punctuate the picture. Here a detail, another one there, and then the rhythm starts to give the tempo and make an harmony …much like top notes , heart notes and base notes of a fragrance.

Recently, I found interesting to add a scent during my last personal exhibition. All the space was immersed in an animal and sweat scent. I make it by mixing different scents, and hidden some manure everywhere.

Today I am often asked to photograph perfumes, and it is a joy for me to marry two passions. Interpret the world of a fragrance while playing with the codes of art is an exciting challenge!

"Eaux Sanguines" for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

“Eaux Sanguines” for Les Liquides Imaginaires.

Currently I am very attracted to odours that remind me of my past. For example, olibanum incense is quite an obsession, probably because all those years I came to the church (Bois d’Encens by Armani Privé, Wazamba by Parfum D’ EmpireOlibanum by Profumum and Sancti by Les Liquides Imaginaires ). Woods and plants are also very present (Chêne and Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens, Virgilio by Diptyque).

Recently, I bought a perfume because when I smelled it, it referred me immediately to my Italian grandmother. It was obvious : this blend of lilies, dusty incense, wet clothes drying in the sun… It was her ! At least her image, because she doesn’t wear any perfume, and this is exactly for this kind of situation that I love and need perfume. (It was Relique d’Amour by Oriza L. Legrand ).

Now I live and work in Paris, and for a perfume addict like me, what could I expect more? [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]

Like every artist with depth, there is more to Mr. Greco than just baroque images or still lifes. He doesn’t limit himself to one particular thing, because photography is, at its heart, all about self-expression, a way to reveal different sides of oneself. Some of his perfume photos demonstrate a meditative, almost mystical quality, like the Chanel Cuir de Russie above, or the Opium photo below. Perfume bottles hidden by smoke, or the mists of time, perhaps. Others reflect a very modern sensibility with sleek minimalism or an almost textural, liquid feel.

Roberto Greco OpiumRoberto Greco FahrenheitRoberto Greco Calvin Klein CK One

"Blue Armani."

“Blue Armani.”

Then, there is the joyous mood of his hyper-saturated, pastel photos. The candied simplicity of their pop cultural, Andy Warhol-like brightness is brilliantly intercut with the unexpectedness of hair — hair twisted to grow like living bushes or sculptured into sleek, architectural waves:

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Valentino. Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

Valentino. Photo with Olivier Schawalder, hairstylist.

These are only a fraction of the multi-faceted things that Mr. Greco has done. You can see more of his artistic and exhibition work on his current website, but also on his earlier one that is devoted to some of his other projects, whether his personal perfume pictures, his fashion photography, videos, or the like.

One of my favorite things about blogging is the people who I meet, and the passions that they share with me. When I opened up that first email from Mr. Greco and diffidently clicked on the link enclosed, I had no expectations of anything. Humble, little photographs is essentially how he conveyed himself to me. I certainly didn’t expect to be blown away by Art, with a capital A. But that is what it is. Mr. Greco paints with his lens: textures, layers, moods, richness, and passion.

There is enormous depth and sensuality underlying his images, but a naughty, mischievous sense of humour, too, with the unexpected touches like the white mice in one of the still-life tableaux. (The piece is entitled “Still life with rats,” but they are cute little mice, not ugly rats, so I’m ignoring the official title.) Mr. Greco also throws in little “Easter egg” elements that reward the careful viewer who takes a second or third look, like the gigantic cicada (I thought it was a moth) hovering at the corner of the bowl of strawberries in his hanging Fish and Vegetable still-life for Les Restos d’Occase. I can look at his photos again and again, always finding new meaning or symbolism. A pink rose that drips like wax downwards, in contrast to the rigid, still, vertical legs going up of the dead bird in the corner. Or, the meatiness of the cherries that lie symbolically stabbed and bloodied by shards of glass in the photo, “Bloody Wood” for Les Liquides Imaginaires. So damn clever!

Many artists are temperamental creatures driven by ego or moods, and photographers are not necessarily an exception. I should know, as I have one in the family; a former fashion photographer who was even the legendary Helmut Newton’s assistant at one point. (If you want to talk about utterly crazy, egomaniacal geniuses, the late Helmut Newton might have topped the list.)

Yet, Mr. Greco seems to be quite a different sort of artist. Granted, I’ve only had email communication with him, but his modesty and consistently humble nature are striking. He is totally lacking in pretentious artifice or arrogance. All he sought to do in contacting me was to privately share his passion for perfumery. I’m the one who insisted on featuring him on the blog, because I thought that many of you would be as impressed as I was. And I really hope you have been. I also hope that you will share in the comments anything that struck you, moved you, or was a favorite, as well as the reasons why. If you have a message for Mr. Greco, please feel free to leave that, too. All artists love to hear feedback, or to learn about the emotional response that their creations evoke.

The great Ansel Adams once said, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” In the case of Roberto Greco, you can add perfumes to that list as well.

Disclosure: All photos used by permission. Full rights are reserved to Mr. Greco, and nothing may be used without his express authorization. Please don’t steal and not give credit!

2013 in Review: Best of & Favorites Lists

Source: ronienfoque.com.br

Source: ronienfoque.com.br

The end of the year is almost upon us, so it seems like a good time for a “Year in Review” post with a list of favorites. I can’t say it has been easy for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I always struggle with lists, both in terms of placement and selecting the thing which will take that last spot. For another, I think I may be a little fickle in terms of my favorites, as perfumery can be as much about mood as other subjective factors.

In the case of fragrances that debuted in 2013, it’s been even harder. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed by the vast majority of the new releases that I tested, and the ones I did enjoy wouldn’t amount to a full ten in number. I’m not going to put something on a list simply and solely to round out the numbers, especially if I was underwhelmed with the scent in question or thought it had some serious problems. Take, for example, Tom Ford‘s Shanghai Lily from the Atelier d’Orient line. It is a scent that I liked the most out of Tom Ford’s various new collections this year, but that is a relative thing, not an absolute thing. Just because I liked it more than the rest of the 2013 Tom Fords doesn’t mean I would classify the scent as one of the best of the year. I certainly wouldn’t include Plum Japonais which I found to be a badly done, distorted copy of my beloved Fille en Aiguilles from Serge Lutens.

Mohur pure parfum extrait. Source: Fragrantica.

Mohur pure parfum extrait. Source: Fragrantica.

Another problem is that I’m not sure I should include one scent that was supposed to be released this year, and which I adored when I got to test it, but whose release was subsequently pushed back until Spring 2014. It is Neela Vermeire‘s Mohur Extrait, the formerly named Mohur Esprit. It would definitely be in my list of top 2013 favorites, and I considered saving it for the Best of 2014. In the end, I’ve cheated by including it here for 2013 with an asterisk next to its name.

In reality, my absolute favorite fragrances came from a wide range of years, but since this is the first year of the blog, everything was technically “new” for the purposes of my reviews. So, I’m going to do two lists or, to be more technically accurate, 2.5 lists: my top fragrances released in 2013, even if the number falls short of ten; then my personal top 10 of the perfumes I covered in 2013, followed by the next 15 for an overall top 25 favorites.

TOP NEW RELEASES OF 2013:

  1. Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

    Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

    LM Parfums Hard Leather. Lust in the woods. A scent that, despite the “leather” in its name, is really more about dark woods, oud, incense, and sandalwood, than it is about leather. That said, the stunning, lusty leather and animalic musk give Hard Leather the best opening of a fragrance that I’ve tried in years. Pure, utter sex appeal, and lust. Sex in a bottle. An opening that sweeps me off my feet each time I smell it, and a gorgeous drydown as well. The middle stage isn’t particularly my cup of tea, but if one takes the scent as a whole and judges things on the basis of how intensely one wants a full bottle, then Hard Leather has to come in at first place. That said, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. For one thing, I think Hard Leather skews very masculine in nature, and even some men may find it excessively dry, dark, or animalic, but I loved it and it is my favorite new fragrance of 2013.

  2. Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2013. Source: FlipZone and Tweets.seraph.me

    Dress: Rami Kadi Haute Couture 2013. Source: FlipZone.

    Neela Vermeire Mohur Extrait**  I like the regular Mohur eau de parfum, but Mohur Extrait is profoundly stronger, deeper, and richer. It has a va-va-voom oomph that transforms the pale, quiet, restrained, sometimes excessively delicate rose Mohur into Cinderella at the ball. A Cinderella with a diva’s charisma, and wearing the most opulent ball gown and jewels around. Mohur Extrait is a deep, rich, potent blend of roses, with real Mysore sandalwood, iris, and violets. There is a touch of leather, smoky elemi, and pepper to prevent it from being too dainty or femme, and the whole thing sits on an ambered base that is faintly milky but always infused with that beautiful, rich, creamy Mysore sandalwood. Mohur Extrait is simply beautiful, and a head-turner.  **I’m cheating, as Mohur Extrait’s release has been pushed back until 2014, but dammit, it debuted at the Milan Esxence show, so I’m going to include it in my list of 2013 releases.

  3. Source: Philolog at Traumwerk.Stanford.eduViktoria Minya Hedonist. A stunningly golden, happy, but refined, sophisticated, lush, floral oriental, Hedonist sparkles and soothes at the same time. It opens with Bourbon-like, boozy, dark honeycombs that are infused with lush peach, heady jasmine, citrus notes and some orange blossom, all perfectly blended in a soft, golden cloud. It eventually turns into a honey, beeswax and vanilla scent that soothes you in its soft sweetness. Whenever I wear it, I feel calmer, more relaxed, like a cat stretching out in the warmth of the sun. Hedonist has a truly classique feel of haute perfumery, but it never feels dated or old-fashioned, in my opinion. It is elegant and opulent without being excessive, heady but perfectly balanced, and sparkles in a way that reminds me both of champagne and the sunniest of skies in the South of France. Truly beautiful, and a stunning debut from Viktoria Minya.
  4. Source: it.forwallpaper.com

    Source: it.forwallpaper.com

    Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. Elfish green and the floor of a fairy forest filled with the essence of nature in a delicate but strong bouquet of oakmoss, wet leaves, mushrooms, herbs, a strip of dark leather taken over by nature’s minted greens, and a touch of balsamic resins. It’s really hard to describe in many ways, as this is not a traditional chypre, and may be the most unusual, otherworldly scent I’ve encountered. Chypre Mousse stopped me in my tracks, made me turn around on my way to the mecca of Serge Lutens to buy my bell jar, and became something I had to have after a mere 15 minutes, further tests or development be damned. Chypre Mousse won’t be for everyone, but those who love it will experience an incredibly potent, extremely green fragrance that lasts an enormous amount of time for such a seemingly delicate, ethereal scent.

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

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

    Amouage Fate Woman. Fate Woman is a beautiful chypre-oriental hybrid that starts off as a very restrained, cool, aloof scent that smells of citruses, oakmoss, and cool daffodils. Like shedding a sculptured black dress to reveal the sensuous lingerie underneath, Fate Woman turns warmer, more opulent, and sensuous with roses, jasmine, animalic notes, and creamy vanilla that is almost gourmand-like at times. The sensual, sophisticated heart turns warmer and more golden as the fragrance ends on labdanum amber, vanilla, and soft musk in a creamy blend that feels like cuddles after a heated night. I’m not a fan of the soapiness that appears at one point, but Fate Woman is a beautiful scent that starts off as controlled restraint before ending in warm abandon.

  6. Mary Cassat. "Mother Playing With Child."

    Mary Cassat. “Mother Playing With Child.”

    Neela Vermeire Ashoka. Ashoka is a creamy, milky fig and sandalwood fragrance with incense, peppered woods, iris, and other subtle tonalities. It has an enormously comforting vibe that feels like a mother’s warm embrace. It is not my favorite NVC creation, as it is far from my personal style which is much better suited to Neela Vermeire’s bolder, spicier creations. However, it is very well done, and an elegant fragrance that is definitely one of the top releases of the year as a whole. If any of the other NVC perfumes have felt too intense, too oriental, complicated, or fiery, then Ashoka will be for you.

  7. Source: ambafrance-kz.org

    Source: ambafrance-kz.org

    Lys Epona Lys Epona. Lys Epona is from a new French perfume house by the same name and sponsored by Jovoy Paris. It is a beautiful scent that caught my attention from the moment I sniffed it at Jovoy and, despite its sillage flaws and longevity problems, it is very well-done, extremely evocative, and has a very vintage vibe. It is also original, taking delicate white lilies, and infusing them with dark, animalic leather, and grassy, outdoorsy elements ranging from hay to daffodils, grass, and amber. The scent is supposed to replicate the dance between a courtesan and a Hussar cavalry officer in France’s elite Republican Guard. For me, however, it conjured up a Celtic princess astride a large white stallion, garbed in a softly burnished, slightly musky, brown leather cuirass, and draped with white lilies. Her skirt is made of hay, wheat and grass; her skin is coated in ambered oil; and her long hair braided with daffodils that matched the flowers in her horse’s mane. Truly, very well done, and the vintage, antique bottles from the 1930s are a perfect accompaniment to the scent.

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

    Photo: LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within.)

    Tauer Perfumes PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. Andy Tauer’s PHI is a deep, spicy apricot-rose confection with rich vanilla mousse, dark green elements that almost feel mossy, and oriental flourishes ranging from tobacco to cinnamon and ambergris. It’s far from your usual rose scent, and I’d argue that the deep, dark flower isn’t even the main star of the show at times. PHI is a vibrant, sophisticated Oriental-hybrid with the faintest gourmand touches in a rich blend that that even those who don’t particularly like rose fragrances might enjoy.

  9. Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

    Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

    Parfums Retro Grand Cuir. Contradictions and paradoxes lie at the heart of Grand Cuir, which explores leather from one end of the spectrum to the other under the most civilized and sophisticated of veneers. It starts as raw leather coated with birch tar and pungent herbs before turning into the expensive, new black leather of a biker’s jacket, then burnished, softly aged leather with amber, before ending up as the most refined of creamy Italian suedes infused with amber, lavender, and skin-like musk. It’s a journey that is at once animalic and aldehydic, soapy clean, beginning as a masculine scent that is an aromatic, herbal fougère with leather, before it transforms into something very different. And the whole thing is done sotto voce, with the quiet firmness of a confident man who doesn’t believe he has to be flashy and loud to draw attention to himself. Very well done, and very refined.

MY PERSONAL TOP 10 FOR 2013:

Perfume reviewing is subjective by nature, but whittling down those personal choices into a favorites list is even more so. No-one ever agrees fully on a Top Ten list, whether it’s for movies, television shows, food, or some other category, and perfume is no different. So, I don’t expect any of you to agree with everything or even some of the things on this list, but these are my absolute favorites out of the modern, non-vintage scents available on the market and that I’ve tried this year.

I’ve struggled for hours over the placement and order, because I can be fickle and prefer some scents over others depending on mood. After re-testing a number of these, I think I have the order set, more or less, with the caveat that there may be a standard deviation of +1 or -1 for the fragrances listed. In other words, on one day, a fragrance coming in at #4 may be at #3 or #5 from one day to the next, but not really more than that. Then again, I can be a little fickle, ranking things is an utter nightmare, and who knows if this would be the precise order in two months from now? I did my best for now, however, so this is the list thus far.

  1. LM Parfums Hard Leather. As noted in my description above, I think this is sexy as hell. I’ll spare you additional heated descriptions, as I quite lose my cool whenever it comes to this fragrance.
  2. Source: high-definition-wallpapers.info

    Source: high-definition-wallpapers.info

    Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. At first sniff, Fille en Aiguilles is Christmas in a bottle, from the pine tree before the fire to sugar-plum treats. Look closer, though, and you’ll find Fille en Aiguilles is really all about the frankincense. Spiralling swirls of dark smoke weave its way around the pine, the crushed needles on the forest floor, and the plummy fruits infused with ginger and spices. There is warmth and sweetness, despite the chill in the snowy forest outside. From start to finish, Fille en Aiguilles is my favorite scent from my favorite house. To my amusement, each and every time that I’ve taken perfume samples to share with friends, Fille en Aiguilles is consistently the one that men fall for. The last time I sprayed Fille en Aiguilles on someone, there were precisely 6 women sniffing his neck, his arms, and his chest. I practically had to fight him from grabbing my travel decant there and then for himself. Yet, Fille en Aiguilles is wholly unisex in nature; out of all the people I know who wear it, the vast majority are women.  

  3. Source: Warren Photographic at WarrenPhotographic.co.uk

    Source: Warren Photographic at WarrenPhotographic.co.uk

    Puredistance M. A masterpiece from Roja Dove, M has a citric chypre opening reminiscent of Hermès’ vintage Bel Ami that turns to a rich, smooth leather that briefly smells like the most expensive car seats. Soon, the leather is burnished by cognac, becoming soft, rich, and oiled with honeyed roses, jasmine, spices, and beeswax. At times, it feels a little like Serge LutensCuir Mauresque (see below at #11), but the leather phase doesn’t dominate the scent. In my opinion, the true essence of M is a molten, oriental labdanum amber. Simply stunning, from start to finish, and one of my favorite fragrances. I believe that M is unisex in nature, thanks to the florals and the honeyed amber drydown with cinnamon-dusted vanilla, but it will depend on one’s yardstick. Those who love pure florals, powdery scents, or gourmands will probably consider M to skew masculine. 

  4. Source: Huffington Post.

    Source: Huffington Post.

    Neela Vermeire Trayee. Someone once called Trayee a “force of nature,” in a slightly overwhelmed, stunned tone, and I think that’s quite true. The Bertrand Duchaufour creation is fiery, spicy, smoky, dusty, and woody, dominated by genuine, almost rare Mysore sandalwood in copious amounts that runs through the fragrance from top to bottom like a luscious red-gold vein. There are also two different kinds of Jasmine absolute, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, frankincense, oud, amber, and a plethora of other notes, all superbly blended into a bouquet that is dry, dusty, spicy, sweet, and smoky. Trayee is intense, no doubt about it, but in its later development, it loses its dry, dusty, spiced smokiness, softens and turns warm with smooth, creamy sandalwood, and deep, slightly smoky amber. Trayee is a tempestuous, stormy, fiery, rich mix that I find utterly mesmerizing. If the perfume were a woman, she’d probably be the famous, legendary diva, Maria Callas, with a touch of the young Sophia Loren in all her hot-heated, Italian ways and a dash of the fierce Mistral wind. It is definitely a force of nature that evokes India in all its multi-faceted, complicated splendour.

  5. Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

    Photo: Jon Gonzo on Flickr. (Site link embedded within photo.)

    Amouage Tribute attar. Perhaps the smokiest of the smoky greats, Tribute reminds me of Darth Vader’s perfect rose, a rose thoroughly infused with darkness and smoke. It’s utterly spectacular, though the variations in batch numbers is troublesome, leading some versions to be out-of-balance and with such disproportionate smokiness that a handful of people have reported experiencing an almost ashtray-like note. Still, the version I tested was magnificent, and makes Tribute my favorite Amouage scent thus far.

  6. Source: 123rf.com photos.

    Source: 123rf.com photos.

    Chanel Coromandel (Les Exclusifs). My favorite, modern Chanel scent is Coromandel, hands down and by a landslide. It’s probably no surprise, as it is made by my favorite perfumer, the brilliant Christopher Sheldrake who normally works with Serge Lutens. Coromandel begins on an intense frankincense note before turning into a milky Chai tea dusted with white chocolate powder and infused with deep, mellow patchouli. It is my favorite sort of patchouli with its nutty, smoky, woody, spicy, ambered warmth, instead of that vile purple, fruited, syrupy, fruit-chouli. The whole mix is perhaps the most refined, addictive, creamy patchouli-incense fragrance I have encountered. If I could take a bath in Coromandel nightly, I would, because I find something endlessly soothing and indulgent about its ambered, golden warmth.

  7. Source: layoutsparks.com

    Source: layoutsparks.com

    Serge Lutens Fourreau Noir. Nothing in Fourreau Noir should make it a fragrance that I would like, as I normally despise lavender with a fiery passion. I’m actually quite phobic about the note, and the mere mention of the word makes me shudder. But there is magic in Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s touch, and the two wizards created the most beautiful scent imaginable. It helps that Fourreau Noir is ultimately not about the lavender at all, in my opinion, but about the incense. From the very first moment, until the fragrance’s end in a cloud of spiced, mellow, patchouli infused with amber and vanilla, the dark tendrils of black smoke weave their way around you. It also helps that the dried lavender transforms into creamy lavender ice-cream with almonds. The real gem in Fourreau Noir, however, is that incense and ambered-patchouli cocoon at the heart of the scent. It says something when a lavender-phobe can love a fragrance with a note they despise; it says more when they go out of their way to purchase an expensive bell jar of it. Which I did….  

  8. Source: materialicious.com

    Source: materialicious.com

    Téo Cabanel Alahine. A Moroccan souk filled with spices under a turquoise sky. Sumptuous, dark, red roses concentrated to their headiest essence. Golden amber as far as the eye can see with rich, dark, toffee’d caramel, labdanum amber. A powerfully start of incredibly booziness, but a finish that is pure, vintage Bal à Versailles without the skank or dirtiness. Alahine is a fiery, spicy, incredibly complex, oriental monster that may require a bit of Stockholm Syndrome to love. Spray on too much, she’ll blow out your nose, or traumatize you. Don’t give her enough time or tests, and you’ll be misled into thinking she is all booziness, Moroccan spices, and smoke. It seems to require four tests to understand Alahine, and not be overpowered by her intense, smoldering start. It can take time to see that her real nature is the most sophisticated of slinky black dresses, cut low and deep, with a va-va-voom glamour that is opulent, French classicism at its best. Yet, Alahine ends as a really plush, soft, golden, slightly powdered warmth that is as rich as a cashmere, camel overcoat. Don’t let the roses fool you; Alahine is unisex, and I know a number of very masculine men who love its boozy, spiced fieriness deeply.

  9. Source: e-boolean.org

    Source: e-boolean.org

    Dior Mitzah (La Collection Privée). A start of dark incense that belongs in a Chinese temple, followed by an ode to labdanum amber in all its richness. Labdanum is the true form of amber, and Mitzah highlights all of its facets from honeyed, toffee’d, slightly dirty, occasionally leathery, and deeply warm in an incredibly refined blend that is also infused with smoke, roses, and patchouli. It’s a wave of richness that made Mitzah much loved, and I find it utterly baffling that Dior decided to discontinue one of its most popular scents. However, you can still find Mitzah online and at Dior boutiques while supplies last, so if you haven’t tried the scent and you love amber, I urge you to get a sample as soon as you can.

  10. Oriza L. Legrand Chypre Mousse. (See above. Or, better yet, read the review, as this is one scent that is very hard to describe.) 

THE NEXT 15 FOR THE LIST OF THE TOP 25.

  1. Source: hamillgallery.com

    Source: hamillgallery.com

    Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Cuir Mauresque is a shamefully under-appreciated fragrance, in my opinion. It’s one of my favorite leather scents, and, apparently, Serge Lutens’ own choice of perfume to wear. He and Christopher Sheldrake focus on taming animalic leather by infusing it first with clove-studded oranges and spices, then hefty amounts of heady jasmine absolute and orange blossoms. He uses powder to cut through the animalic skank and civet, keeping it perfectly balanced, while also weaving in dark incense, styrax, cedar and ambered resins. The resulting combination resembles Bal à Versailles at times, and oozes pure sex appeal, in my opinion. Cuir Mauresque is wholly unisex in nature. Some men find the leather too powdery, while some women find the skank to be a little too much. It will depend on your tastes. I’ve started using my parents — aka The Ultimate Perfume Snobs who taught me about perfumery to begin with– as my yardstick for other people’s perception of “skank” and leather. My father who finds Hard Leather to be too animalic and “dirty” has Cuir Mauresque as his second favorite leather scent after Puredistance M. In contrast, my mother (who adores Hard Leather and doesn’t find it to be “dirty” at all) thinks Cuir Mauresque is feminine sex appeal and utterly addictive. Your yardstick may vary, but if you love leather fragrances and some skank, then you really should try Cuir Mauresque.

  2. Viktoria Minya Hedonist. (See above.)
  3. "Abstract streams of gold." Photo: Jason Tockey. Site: jstimages.wordpress.com

    “Abstract streams of gold.” Photo: Jason Tockey. Site: jstimages.wordpress.com

    Profumum Roma Ambra Aurea. Profumum’s ode to goldenness focuses not on amber, but on ambergris in all its deep, rich, salty, musky glory. It’s a very different matter and aroma, as my review tries to make clear. Ambra Aurea is the thickest, most golden, opaque, intense, salty-caramel amber fragrance around, a veritable deluge of one note heightened to its most concentrated essence with 43%-46% perfume oils. It’s a linear, non-stop soliflore that coats your skin for hours on end, emitting a slight smokiness from incense. There are strong undertones of labdanum amber that are, alternatively, nutty, toffee’d, honeyed, faintly dirty, and almost chocolate-y at times. In its final stage, Ambra Aurea smells of amber and incense with beeswax, saltiness, and sweetness. Lovely on its own, and lovely when used as a layering base, Ambra Aurea is the single richest amber on the market. It blows all the others out of the water, in my opinion, especially Serge LutensAmbre Sultan which also has a labdanum focus but which is like water in comparison.  

  4. Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

    Gisele Bundchen for Vogue Turkey March 2011. Photo: the always incredible Mert & Marcus.

    LM Parfums Sensual Orchid. A seductive floral oriental, Sensual Orchid is centered on the eponymous flower. On my skin, the orchid is a delicate, pastel, floral note that feels as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is followed by the richest ylang-ylang; custardy vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; bitter, green-white almonds; and boozy cognac fruitedness. The final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady. For me, Sensual Orchid is all about dressing to undress, and to seduce. It is a scent that definitely skews feminine in nature, though I know a number of men to love it as well.

  5. George drawing via Vogue Italia.

    George drawing via Vogue Italia.

    Jardins d’Ecrivains George. Feminine orange blossoms turned masculine in an ode to George Sand. The potent flowers are transformed into something leathered, dark, and faintly dirty with tobacco, resins, and more. From a mentholated beginning with neroli, George slowly takes on paper, coffee, and tobacco notes, followed by heliotrope, myrrh and Peru Balsam in a play of hardness and softness, lightness and dark, masculine and feminine. Leathered orange blossoms is quite an original take on the usually indolic flowers, and I was taken enough by George to buy a full bottle. Some find the scent far too masculine for a woman, which rather defeats the whole point of a fragrance meant to reflect the particular character of George Sand. I think it’s unisex, though you have to like your neroli and orange blossoms with a dark, dirty edge.

  6. Source: 123rf.com

    Source: 123rf.com

    Arabian Oud Kalemat. Kalemat is a fantastically affordable, easy, rich oriental centered on a honeyed amber with tobacco, incense, and dry cedar tonalities. It opens with dark berries that smell like blueberry purée, infused with honey and incense, then a rich, deep Damascena rose joins the party. Eventually, Kalemat turns into a non-powdery, more concentrated version of Serge Lutens’ tobacco-y Chergui with touches of Hermes’ Ambre Narguilé, Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, and, for some, Amouage’s Interlude Man. There is a subtle whiff of oud underlying the mix, along with dried cedar. Heady and potent at first, Kalemat becomes a sheer cloud that envelopes you in a golden haze of sweetness, dryness, woodiness and incense. It lasts for hours and hours, smells incredibly expensive, and is highly affordable. If you love ambers, tobacco-incense fragrances, or sweet scent like any of those mentioned above (including Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille), then you really should give Kalemat a sniff.

  7. Arabian Horse tumblr_m7dtkdCrFl1rwt5gqo1_500Amouage Jubilation XXV (Men). I love Jubilation XXV, and always regret that it has very little longevity on my wonky skin. What a beautiful opening! Dark oranges infused with incense, balsamic resins, cedar, patchouli, ambergris and a faint touch of oud in a deep, rich blend that often makes me think of HermèsElixir de Merveilles, but better. A few hours later, Jubilation XXV takes you to the wintery outdoors, with a large stone campfire amidst a dark, dry Guaiac forest, a brisk, chill in the air and the smell of burning leaves. There is a slightly medicinal, synthetic, pink band-aids undertone to the oud, but the fragrance is really well done as a whole. If Jubilation XXV lasted on my skin beyond a mere 5.5 hours, it would be ranked much higher.   
  8. Painting by Holly Anderson. "Spherical Romance Art Set" via Artbarrage.com. (Website link embedded within.)

    Painting by Holly Anderson. “Spherical Romance Art Set” via Artbarrage.com. (Website link embedded within.)

    Nasomatto Black Afgano. In essence, Black Afgano is a super-concentrated, richer, deeper version of YSL‘s fabled M7 in its original, vintage form. It’s a smoky plethora of darkness from the dark, quasi/fake “hashish” elements and cherry-cola labdanum amber with all its nutty, toffee’d undertones, to the incense, the oud (supplemented by Norlimbanol), leather tonalities, and resinous sweetness. I didn’t enjoy the synthetic nuances to the oud or the Norlimbanol, but I liked the fragrance as a whole. It seems Black Afgano may have been reformulated to dilute some of its super smokiness and render the fragrance more sweet, as it wasn’t the dark monster of brutish repute that I had expected. If it has changed, then perhaps the reformulation merely makes it more unisex. Those looking for a version of vintage M7 with deeper potency, sillage, and longevity, should definitely check out Black Afgano.   

  9. Source: Wallpapers4desktop.net

    Source: Wallpapers4desktop.net

    Serge Lutens De Profundis. A hauntingly delicate, evocative floral that captures the essence of flowers in purple twilight and feels like a call to Spring. It opens with its core note, chrysanthemums. that have been blended with violets, green notes, white lilies, and sweet, wet earth. Lurking at the edges are peonies, chamomile flowers, incense, a dash of light roses, a whisper of purple lilacs, and some ISO E Super. The flowers feel incredibly dewy and light, almost tender and soft. It is as though they are just waking up, releasing the airiest of delicate floral scents. De Profundis is, at the start, a cool fragrance that is almost chilly in its delicacy. As time passes, however, the floral aroma becomes stronger, more robust, almost as if the flowers have fully bloomed in the sunlight. The dew has evaporated, the petals unfurled, and the meadow floor comes to life with earthy softness, light smoke, and every bit of green around. De Profundis is a bit too watery for my personal tastes, and I’m generally not one for pure florals, but it’s hard not to be swayed by its pale, ethereal delicacy. It is really a hauntingly elegant scent.    

  10. Source: YouTube.com

    Source: YouTube.com

    Dior Ambre Nuit (La Collection Privée). If Mitzah was Dior’s ode to labdanum amber, then Ambre Nuit must be its homage to ambergris. On my skin, Ambre Nuit is smoky, liqueured, salty-sweet amber, with dry woods and a quiet touch of delicate roses that have been rendered a little fiery from pepper and a little sweet from patchouli. It is laced with black incense, creating a mix that evokes parts of Chanel’s Coromandel. There is something extremely sensuous about Ambre Nuit which often makes me think of the Argentinian tango. The ambergris’ special, unique features evoke the warmth of heated, slightly musky skin that has been rendered just the faintest bit salty from sweat. The incense conjures up the smoky, dark feel of those dance rooms, while the gaiac and cedar replicate the incredibly smooth, wooden floors that the dancers glide across. The rose never features much on my skin, though it does on others. On me, the patchouli is more prominent with its spicy, sweet, often chocolate-y mellowness. It’s a beautiful combination, and my second favorite scent from Dior’s refined Privée line.

  11. Painting by Gyula Tornai (1861-1928): "In the Harem."

    Painting by Gyula Tornai (1861-1928): “In the Harem.”

    Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour Le Soir. Described by some as beastly, by others as “dirty,” Absolue Pour Le Soir is my favorite from MFK, but how you respond to it will depend very much on your personal yardstick for honey, cumin, and animalic notes. For me, Absolue conjures up the heart of a Turkish harem besieged by musky, leather-armoured warriors. They bang on the sandalwood doors which open to release spirals of incense, as honey-swathed concubines approach to tempt with deep roses and indolic ylang-ylang. Absolue Pour Le Soir begins as an instant war between warm human flesh, the mysteries of floral-draped women, sweet honeyed intimacy, animalic leather, and feral, musky masculinity. As if tamed, the fragrance later softens to a creamy, spiced sandalwood infused with honey, dark resins, frankincense, and a dollop of roses. It’s lovely, though I’ve found myself holding it at more of a distance these days, perhaps because of the sharpness of the honey which is a core element of the scent. Still, if you want a truly skanky Oriental with the most golden of ambered hues and endless layers of complexity, you should rush to try Absolue Pour Le Soir.

  12. Amouage Fate Woman. (See description above.)
  13. Source: wallpapersnatural.com

    Source: wallpapersnatural.com

    Tauer Perfumes’ Une Rose Chyprée. I’m generally not one for rose scents, but Andy Tauer’s Une Rose Chyprée is an exception. It’s a spectacular chypre-oriental hybrid that features an autumnal, ambered rose nestled in the mossiest of green cocoons. The fragrance swirls all around you in a veiled shimmer of greens, garnet red, earthiness, and mossy trees — all rolled into one. This is a green rose whose petals were crushed into the damp, wet soil of the forest floor; a rose that lies nestled amidst fresh, just slightly mineralized, faintly bittersweet mosses; a rose infused with the concentrated essence of a thousand dark green, slightly spicy, peppered leaves, then sprinkled with hints of alternatively tart and zesty citruses. It is a rose that is fruited, but spiced with cinnamon, and wrapped with the tendrils of black incense. Some chypres can be haughty, cold, aloof numbers that keep you at a distance. Une Rose Chyprée is almost a coquettish chypre that beckons you with a sweet smile, despite the emeralds and rubies glowing around her elegant, rosy throat. If it didn’t have an enormous amount of ISO E Super and didn’t give me a ferocious, piercing headache, I would definitely be tempted to buy a full bottle. Nonetheless, it’s an absolutely beautiful scent, and my favorite from Andy Tauer.  

  14. Tauer Perfumes’ PHI – Une Rose de Kandahar. (See description above.)
  15. Edward Steichen photo, 1931. Molyneux dress. The Condé Nast collection.

    Edward Steichen photo, 1931. Molyneux dress. The Condé Nast collection.

    Puredistance Opardu. I’m not the sort to be deeply moved by pure florals, but Opardu has one of the most beautiful openings in the genre that I’ve encountered in years. It almost gave me whiplash as I smelled the bouquet of lilacs — vast fields of purple with a scent that was concentrated, pure, and incredibly delicate. It was followed by violets, tuberose, jasmine, lush gardenia and heliotrope in a stunning mix. It is pure, unadulterated, classique, haute elegance that calls back to the golden age of perfumery. On my skin, unfortunately, that spectacular start lasts only a brief hour before it fades, and then sheer, vaguely floral powderiness takes over. If there were a way to capture and retain that beginning, Opardu would undoubtedly be in my Top 10. As it is, I think it’s a beautifully feminine fragrance with Puredistance’s signature touch of great refinement, elegance, and luxuriousness.

So, that’s my Year in Review. I may end up having a separate post next week that divides fragrances into categories, from Ambers and Leathers, to Floral Orientals, Pure Florals, Gourmands, and the like. I’m still undecided, as I know it will take forever to compile, and some genres may only have one or two entries in it. Others may have far too many to choose from. In case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to focus on Orientals, and I rarely stick my toe into such fields as foodie gourmands, crisp colognes, or aldehydic fragrances. Plus, many Orientals are either hybrids or have two or more dominant elements that can make the scent fall into different categories. As a result, I’m not sure how useful or precise such a list will be, but we shall see.

As the year draws to a close, I want to wish you all Happy Holidays. I hope that the upcoming year brings you endless joy, peace, prosperity, good health, success, love and laughter. Thank you for staying on this journey with me, and here’s to a great 2014!

Kafkaesque Turns One – Anniversary & Giveaway

A year ago today, on December 6, 2012, I began Kafkaesque and started this little journey. Despite lengthy reviews (that are increasingly becoming even longer) and despite my peculiar obsession with details, many of you have been with me from the start. Others are newer readers who have been a joy to get to know. I appreciate each and every one of you, and your support has gotten me through some rough patches when I was less than enthused about this whole endeavor. (There was a period of time this summer….).

So, coming up after a review of the past year, I’d like to thank you with a giveaway. It’s far smaller than what you deserve, but I’m afraid it’s been a very expensive year for me due to some non-perfume related matters. I wish I could give you all a gift in appreciation, but, alas, that is not possible.

[UPDATE 12/9 Random.Org has spoken and the winner of the drawing is ELLEN. Please contact me with your choice of gift.]

THE YEAR IN REVIEW – THE STATS, THE POSTS
& THE AMUSING ODDITIES:

Some of you love numbers (you know who you are), so I thought I’d share a few with you. This is actually my 310th post in 365 days. I think my numbers would be better if I hadn’t gone away on vacation for more than 2 weeks. 😉 I’ve tried to figure out how many perfumes I’ve reviewed, but it hasn’t been easy. There are 292 posts with the tag “perfume review,” but I’ve had a number of posts that discussed more than one fragrance. I recall at least 10 posts covering 2 perfumes, 5 posts that covered 3 fragrances, and at least 4 early posts that briefly summarized 5 or more. So, at a conservative estimate, I estimate that I must have reviewed, either in-depth or en bref, at least 350 perfumes.

Out of all those reviews, the vast majority have not been raves. Prior to going on holiday and returning with samples of things that I liked or that seemed interesting on the surface, I had a lot more negative reviews all in a row. At a rough guess, I’ve estimated that only 1 out of every 15 reviews prior to my trip was a wholly positive one for a fragrance that I absolutely loved, would wear myself, or would buy. Perhaps 1 out of 18 if we’re going by things that I liked enough to end up getting for myself, or that are on my dream wish-list. The rest of the reviews were either highly qualified, or extremely negative. Since my return with perfumes that I’ve bought or liked enough to ask for samples of, the numbers have improved a little, but I suspect that won’t last for long, once I return to blindly ordering samples of things to test.

In one year, I’ve had 313,540 hits (at last check), and some of those are the result of extremely amusing searches. I’ve kept an ongoing record of the more unusual or obsessive ones that have brought people to the blog, and I think you may get a laugh out of a lot of them. A few may make you blink at the spelling, smile about the things people look for (like ancient dandruff shampoo from the 1980s), or just simply make you scratch your head.

The following are all copied verbatim and without change. The number in parentheses at the end of the line is the number of times that one search led to the blog:

  • recreating the smell of a dirty vigina
  • dark magic death perfume
  • what part of his body would another woman’s perfume be on
  • muscle man sex art (x4)
  • gay bodybuilding masturbution
  • giant gay muscle (x3)
  • morph gay muscles (x9)
  • hairy gay (x10)
  • how long before jacking off after getting a prince albert
  • semen of men uncensored
  • fat peeing lion! (x2)
  • aphrodisiac spray forming mating ceremony erotic family friend sub indo
  • classic sex (x71) — [as opposed to unclassic sex??]
  • classicsex (x13)
  • Calling a man soft as a pussycat
  • hi honey, i remember what i want, frankincense, there is a store called amouage, that sell the best from oman
  • jicky coitus
  • can anyone justify the hefty price tag on tom ford’s perfumes (x4)
  • leathermen gay fetish
  • Tom Ford’s genitals
  • Tom Ford crotch smell (x2)
  • perfume that smells like female genitals (x2)
  • genital scented perfume (x4)
  • genitalia perfume (x12)
  • genital perfumes (x11)
  • medicated dandruff shampoo from 1980’s in orange/brown bottle (x2)
  • hairy gay semen
  • war child ‘charity’ co- founded by member of royal family involved in arms lobby for bosnian muslims (x6)
  • agarwood aroma lengthen penis (x6)
  • french perfumes of human sweat and penis (x4)
  • decomposition smell in female body during sex
  • ladies in mohair sex bondage photos
  • m.pornduh japanese indian
  • a customer has reject his order of roast beef, he want a replacement of chicken fricassee. how would you deal with this difficulty and solve the problem (x11)
  • panty dropping cologne in a square black bottle
  • boy man sex
  • www. fatewoman sex images.com (x7) – [I added a space to remove any link to whatever site that may be in case it’s infected with malware.]
  • germany sex drops for female love sex liquid in bangalore/mysore retail shops names and address list (x3)
  • pictures of adam levine’s feet (x2)
  • lisa raye feet (x13)
  • what time to tobacco leaves on iris open tomorrow but i did
  • dirty sex hair
  • queen elizabeth small penis artificial insemination teaspoon

Now, you may wonder what on earth I’ve written that could possibly lead people to Kafkaesque with some those searches. Well, between the old historical articles in the archives on royalty, history, and gastronomy, and the discussion of Patrick Suskind’s rather gothic classic, Perfume, I’ve covered a wide range of different subjects that could trigger those hits. Still, there are some oddities there, no? I try not to judge people or what they may do in their private lives, but I’ll never understand the desire to know what a dead woman’s decomposing body may smell like during sex. I also don’t understand why Google somehow thinks that one of my articles may help this budding necrophiliac or future serial killer.

For that matter, I don’t think I can help anyone with a foot fetish, or in search of a giant morphing gay muscle. My usefulness seems to be much better suited to those many (many!) people who want to know which perfumes smell like genitalia…. 😉  

Amusing oddities aside, the vast majority of people seem to come to the blog to learn about perfumery, the perfume industry, or Serge Lutens’ Chergui in specific (which says something about Chergui!). Out of the 309 posts prior to today, the top 3 are:

A Beginner’s Guide To Perfume: How to Train Your Nose, Learn Your Perfume Profile, & More 5,527
Perfume News: 2013 Fragrance Sales Figures, Revenue & Fragrance Markets 4,989
Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Chergui: The Desert Wind 4,855
GIVEAWAY:

So, onto the fun stuff! To thank you for your kindness, your friendship, your patience, and your support, I’d like to have a little Anniversary giveaway.

One (1) reader will get a $50 e-gift certificate to your choice of either Surrender to Chance or Beauty Encounter. I chose those sites for two reasons. One, I have a slight phobia about going to the post office. I realise that sounds ridiculous, but you would understand if you lived where I do, knew the highway logistics for the post office closest to me, and had to go through all the hoops I have to go through every time I want to send a package. In short, I love many of you, but I don’t love you enough to brave the United States Post Office — during the insanity of the holiday season, no less!

Second, and equally important, I wanted a site that would be useful to any international reader who may win. Surrender to Chance has almost no limitations on where they will ship, while Beauty Encounter ships to more than 30 countries and has some great discounts on a wide variety of niche lines. Whether you choose samples as a way to explore more lines or newly released fragrances, or whether you decide to put the money towards the purchase of a full bottle of perfume, I hope you find something you like. If the winner has a different site in mind, perhaps one that carries a perfume they already want or that offers a better price on that fragrance, I’d be happy to go with their retail choice so long as it offers e-cards.

WHO CAN ENTER:

My purpose with this giveaway is to say thank you to those who have been on this journey with me through all these long months, so I have the following limitations on who can join. The Giveaway is open only to the following people:

  • Anyone who has either subscribed to the blog via email, or who has “liked” the Kafkaesque Facebook page as of yesterday, December 5th;
  • Anyone who lurks, hasn’t feel comfortable enough to officially post a comment, but quietly emails me at Kafkaesque on the side to talk about perfumery or something I’ve written; and/or
  • Anyone who has left 3 or more comments as of yesterday, December 5th, on the blog or its Facebook page, whether you are officially signed up or not. This way, those who follow by a Blog Reader, but who comment, can also be included.

Your geographic location does not matter.

Since I get almost no traffic from the blog’s Twitter account, I’m not going to include those people who follow on Twitter unless they have personally and directly communicated with me on that site in some way as of yesterday.

WHAT, WHEN & HOW:

If you fall into any of the categories above, all you have to do enter is to leave a comment here on the blog using your regular posting name, your Facebook name, or the email with which you subscribed to follow Kafkaesque. I will check any unfamiliar names or email addresses against the official WordPress or Facebook lists out of general fairness to others.

The entry period starts today, Friday December 6th, and will last until Sunday, December 8th, at 11:59 p.m. CST, my time, in the U.S. I will choose a name via Random.org, and announce the winner in an update to this post on Monday, December 9th. You then have 2 days to contact me by email at AKafkaesqueLife @ gmail . com (all one word, scrunched together) with the email address to which you’d like the e-gift certificate sent.

END OF THE YEAR:

It’s been a fun year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next one has in store. There are a few things to do first, however. In a few weeks, I’ll come out with some of my personal “Best of” lists soon, from an overall Top Ten or, maybe, if I’m simply unable to choose, a Top 15 or Top 25. Perhaps I’ll do all three with a Top 10 that also includes the next 15. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll also try to do a Top 5 by genre or category, whether chypre, leather, amber, or some other note.

Since I generally believe that all fragrances are unisex and a matter of personal style or taste, I’m not going to separate things out by masculine or feminine. I know men who wear Carnal Flower, Shalimar, or Rubj, just as I know women who wear Black Afgano, Sycomore, or Bois d’Ascece. It’s insulting to the vast majority of readers to pigeon-hole them into narrow categories, or to assume that they don’t have the taste or experience-level to appreciate a wide variety of genres. Gender classifications are outdated, and it’s not my issue if some people have narrow, wholly subjective perceptions about what fragrance is appropriate for men or for women. (Yes, this is a subject that irritates me.)

A small part of me would also like to do a Top 10 “Worst of” List, but that’s not very nice. Plus, I’m not sure I could narrow things down that much. My number one choice would probably be a small fragrance that I haven’t officially reviewed, simply because I refuse to revisit the ordeal. All I’ll say is that its name begins with the last letter of the alphabet. Then again, Ormonde Jayne’s Montabaco left a permanent scar and ongoing trauma regarding ISO E Super, while YSL’s Noble Leather made me want to stab someone. So, let’s just forget about the truly unpleasant ones.

Lists aside, in the more immediate future, I’m going to subject all of you to my personal obsession with patchouli by covering at least 7 (real, non-purple) patchouli scents in the next 10-14 days. I apologise in advance to those of you who don’t care for the note. To ease your pain, I’ll try to intersperse the reviews with coverage of some other types of fragrances, including one vintage favorite.

So, that’s it for the last 365 days. Thank you all for sticking by me, and for all your encouragement. I really couldn’t have done this without you. I mean that quite sincerely. Without all of you — the regulars, the friends (old and new), and those who lurk but who send me emails to let me know that they appreciated something I wrote — I would have stopped long ago.

Happy holidays, and let’s have even more fun in 2014!

I’m Back! Vacation Round-Up: Camargue & Paris

La Tour Eiffel

Photo: my own.

The best holidays are often the ones that transport you, emotionally more than just physically. Such was the case with my vacation which I ended up extending because…. well, it was Paris, and that pretty much explains everything, no?

As some of you may remember, my trip began with a mystery destination which ended up being the Camargue region in France. It’s somewhat near the Provence area and the South of France, though it is north of St. Tropez, south of Arles, and near Nimes. The Camargue has Western Europe’s largest river delta, filled with marshes, and is famous for its wild-life (which includes flamingos), nature reserves, black bulls, and, especially, its all-white Camargue horses.

Camargue riders in traditional costume. Photo: my own.

Camargue riders in traditional costume. Photo: my own.

Aigues-Mortes city walls and rampart. We stayed in a little hotel down to  the right of the photo, past the greenery and café. Photo: Wikicommons

Aigues-Mortes city walls and rampart. We stayed in a little hotel down to the right of the photo, past the greenery and café. Photo: Wikicommons

We stayed in a town called Aigues-Mortes, a fortified, walled, medieval city dating back to the 1200s but even referred to in Roman times. It is a town whose military significance made it the starting point for King Louis IX of France to launch the Seventh Crusades in 1248. Our group descended upon the town like a horde of ravaging crusaders, though we were hell-bent on having fun and reconnecting with each other, rather than engaging in religious conquest. It was wonderful to see some of my childhood and university friends again, as most are sprawled out all over the world, and a few I hadn’t seen in over 25 years! We got to explore the region a little, from the beaches about 45 minutes away to other parts closer to Aigues-Mortes, ate fantastic food, got very little sleep, and, in my case, essentially survived on double expressos. (No, seriously, I started each day with 5 double expressos, and continued to drink them throughout the day, which should tell you a little about how sleep-deprived I was throughout my trip.)

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There was a costume party one night, where the theme was “Pairs.” You and a partner had to dress as a “pair” of something. I had one of the most boring costumes around, as I went with a concept costume of being the opposite of my partner. In contrast, some people really went all out, and the results were absolutely fantastic despite being almost entirely created from scratch: Salvador Dali and his muse/wife, Gala (sometimes called Gaia) in very surreal, Dali-esque attire with frogs, lobsters, and insects; Agatha Christie (such an unbelievably accurate, detailed Agatha Christie!!) and Hercule Poirot; the team of Clockwork Orange; “a pair of tits” (don’t ask how that was done!); and even “a deer in the headlights,” with actual headlights on the costume that turned on and off when pressed.

Photo: my own.

Part of the feast on the beach in Camargue. Photo: my own.

When our somewhat bedraggled, exhausted, hung-over group finally arrived back in Paris, I made my way to my high school friend’s house where I was greeted with a huge hug and platters of cheese. I had told you before I left of my plan to eat my body weight in cheese — and I think I came close. Judging by some of the photos on my camera, I may have more of an obsession with French cheese than even I had suspected. I certainly seemed quite insane to my friend’s young children who couldn’t understand why I was photographing the dairy products, and making guttural sounds of joy. Another friend definitely thought I was off my rocker with my obsession, but, really, there is absolutely nothing comparable in the United States, even at places like Whole Foods and Central Market. Oddly enough, my camera seems to share my appreciation for cheese and food because the many (many!!!) photos I took of food on the trip all came out crystal clear, while a significant portion of my shots of perfume stores, boutiques and bottles came out quite blurred. (Happily, shots of the Louvre pyramid in early evening came out perfectly, though the lighting accidentally verged on the “artistic” more than on the useful or accurate….)

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

All of this talk about my camera dying and its occasionally wonky, blurred photos is really a warning for when I start posting said photos in an upcoming series I plan to do on both Paris perfume shopping and the food I had on my trip in general. The cheese photos amount to what a friend of mine called “cheese porn,” (they are!), but I also managed to get some lovely shots of: an outdoor Paris market; Ladurée and Pierre Hermé macaron/chocolate shops; pictures of the menus from the French god and “Chef of the Century,” Joel Robuchon, at his Michelin-starred Atelier (which I did not have the fortune (metaphorically or financially) to go to, but which I admired from afar); some tasty Lebanese food at a restaurant with the perfumer, Neela Vermeire; and the incredible feast one Sunday at the beach in Camargue on the first part of my trip. There is also a photo of the giant cheese and ham quiche that my friend made from scratch with the fluffiest, highest, golden, buttery crust, and which turns out to be the best quiche I’ve ever had. (I still dream a little of that quiche!) But, again, my tiny, pocket camera seems to be dying, and it was always obstinate to begin with in terms of lighting issues, so I hope you will forgive some poor photos on occasion.

I didn’t just eat while in Paris, though I know it sounds that way. I had the good fortune to meet with three perfumers, and I was even invited to one’s perfume studio where I saw the large “organ” of essential oils and concentrates. All of that will be the focus of an upcoming post. I also visited a large number of perfume shops and individual houses. Serge Lutens, naturally, was my first stop and warranted a second pilgrimage as well because, Good God, it’s impossible to decide what to do when faced with an array of bell jars! (No, seriously, it’s not possible in one session!)

In addition, I went to JAR which was a fabulously cool experience, IUNX at the Hotel Costes, Oriza L. Legrand, Frederick Malle, Arabian OudReminiscence, Esteban, Parfums de Nicolai, Etat Libre d’Orange, Guerlain, Sephora, Annick Goutal, and more. I visited niche perfume boutiques like Colette, Nose, Marie-Antoinette (which I loved!), Sens Unique, and Jovoy — and between the lot, managed to sniff perfumes from the well-known and accessible, to less famous or accessible brands like Nu_Be, Lys Epona, Parfums de Marly (except for the ISO E Super-filled Herod which I intentionally avoided), Alexandre J., PhaedonJovoy, and Memo Paris. I didn’t find the time to test all that I wanted to, particularly with skin being so limited, but I sniffed well over 50 perfumes in one day alone. (Thank God for coffee beans!) I took photos whenever possible or permitted of the store interiors and their bottles (and, on one occasion, surreptitiously), but I think my rush to avoid imposing on people or being a nuisance is an additional reason why some of the photos are a bit blurry. (Yes, I’m frustrated over that!)

Perfume shopping in Paris is an utterly unreal experience. Paris itself can be a sensory overload, especially if you are a hedonist or lover of aesthetic beauty. When you throw nostalgic memories of all the years that I lived in Paris — then add in the sheer excess of amazing perfumes from every nook and cranny you can behold — into that mix, you can imagine the result. My senses were inflamed to the point that I think they almost imploded from a surfeit of beauty and joy. It’s a lovely problem to have, but it also means that I’m not sure I can do the whole Paris experience justice. I don’t have a single photo, nor even a series of words, that can convey what it was really like. I will try, though, with a series of posts about the various perfume boutiques I visited, and what the shopping experience is like in such places as, for example, Jovoy, JAR, Marie-Antoinette, or Guerlain (which was consistently my worst time in Paris). I will also have a post on the three perfumers I met. And, finally, I will have a very photo-heavy food post, unless you’d be more interested in reading that first. The post may not involve a lot of textual explanation, and perhaps it may not make total sense beyond just a plethora of “food porn” photos, but I hope it will let you visually live vicariously through some of the things I saw and/or tasted while on my trip. (I’m warning you, though, there are well over 25 photos of cheese alone!)

I didn’t get the opportunity to visit any museums, though one of the reasons why I had extended my trip was to do precisely that. In the end, events with friends really dominated the schedule, and I was glad for that because I had the chance to spend a lot amount of time with some people who matter very dearly to me. I did, however, end up at the Louvre at closing time one day, and it was a sight to see. Even at the late hour, the palace’s enormous square was filled with people. The four pyramids (three being quite small) were beautiful in the late afternoon light. (Some thumbnail photos are below which you can click upon to expand to full size on a separate page.)

One of my very favorite memories of Paris will remain an almost private concert I stumbled upon at the Louvre. While walking around one of the furthest pavilions of the palace, I heard the strains of some exquisite music, and I followed the sound to a wild-haired musician playing the cello in one of the passage ways. He was incredibly talented, and I just closed my eyes to listen to the sounds of Bach (and other composers) that floated over me. Whenever I opened them, I could see the baroque majesty and grandeur of the Louvre in front of me. The musician was a funny chap who was eccentric as hell, didn’t take kindly to requests (no Saint-Saens or Pachelbel), and extremely opinionated on various parts of the United States. Having brief conversations about Tucson, Arizona and Wichita, Kansas (??!) in the middle of a passageway of the Louvre built by Catherine de Medici while someone is tuning their cello is…. unexpected, to put it mildly. But it was incredibly enjoyable and memorable, from start to finish. In fact, I ended up staying for almost an hour, joined occasionally by a few, passing people who eventually moved on, but also one Scottish chap who stayed throughout and, like me, finally moved forward to sit at the base of one of the big columns in the passage. It was really just a concert for the two of us — and the Louvre herself. (I have a small 30-second video that I took with my cellphone, but I decided not to include it here as it’s only the end part of one piece and really doesn’t do the whole experience justice.) I had a few other “concerts” in Paris — like a performance by a classical, 7-string ensemble in the metro station — but nothing quite compared to that eccentric, grey-haired, opinionated cellist in the Louvre.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

While friends, Paris, and perfumes took up my days, my nights were varied. It was always spent with friends, but sometimes it was quiet, and sometimes it was not. One evening was spent watching Les Saveurs du Palais (or “Haute Cuisine“), a film about the female, personal chef of French President, François Mitterrand. One night it was dinner at the hipster Hotel du Nord (which is not an actual hotel) on the canals of St. Martin, one night it was me cooking for my hosts. Another night was dinner at the Fish Club which entailed different sorts of fish tapas, followed by a visit to the private, uber-exclusive, members-only club, Silencio, designed by David Lynch. The first part of my visit to Paris coincided with the end of Paris Fashion Week, so for a day or so, some portions of the city were filled with tall, sylph-like, haughty fashionistas and Silencio was no exception. It was quite a sight, though less so than at the painfully stylish “it” spot, the Hotel Costes, where I met one perfumer for tea. (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)

My favorite evening excursion, however, was a motorcycle ride through Paris near midnight, ending up at the base of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a beautiful structure by day, but, somehow, the full enormity of the technical details and artistry shows even more at night. I’ll leave you with one, very large photo I took, and hope that it can convey just a microscopic millimeter of the magic of Paris at night.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

  

Going on Holiday! Mysteries, Paris & Perfumes

Hello everyone. As you may have gathered from the rather abrupt change in my reviewing schedule over the last 10 days, something is up: I’m leaving on holiday Thursday! I’ve been frantically packing, unpacking, and packing some more — an ordeal I despise like few other things on earth — and generally have been running around like rather demented chicken. Thankfully, however, the end is finally in sight.

The Hairy German.

The Hairy German.

I’ll be away from Thursday, September 26th until Monday, October 7th. It will take me some time upon my return to get back in the swing of things, primarily because I will have to pay copious penance to The Hairy German for my departure. I’m worried about the welcome I’ll receive upon my return, because he does tend to hold a slight grudge over these sorts of things. He will be with his grandparents who always spoil him like mad, but I’m still very stressed about it all. The last time I left for 2 weeks, they couldn’t drag him away from the front door for the first 7 days, and he barely ate.

So, where am I going? It’s a two-part trip, and I’m being quite honest when I say that I don’t have the faintest clue where I’ll be for the first portion of it. It’s a Mystery Trip! No, seriously, it is. A friend is throwing a party, and all I know is that: I have to be Charles de Gaulle airport by 10:00 a.m. on Friday the 27th; I need a bathing suit; and I have to have a costume that fits a specific theme that they’ve given us. It’s a costume that has to be made (not bought) and, for this year’s party, you’re paired up with another guest (who is located halfway around the world) to work out the outfits in tandem. I was also informed that I might want to be careful about the perfume lest I attract some unwanted attention from animals. (I’m actually not sure if that last part was a joke, or a genuine warning. Oh dear.) Finally, I assume that, for various reasons involving the other guests, time, and past tradition, the location will be some place in Europe, but that’s only a guess. Personally, I think it will be some obscure beachy place in Portugal, Spain or the Canary Islands, perhaps even one of the islands on the Dalmatian Coast.

Source: hdwallpapers.in

Source: hdwallpapers.in

For the rest of the trip, I will be in Paris, my old home. I’ll be staying with one of my best friends from high school, whilst also seeing some childhood and university friends. I don’t know how much time I will have to go perfume shopping, but I’ve typed up a 9-page document with all the perfume addresses, metro stops, and even a step-by-step sort of walking route for both the Left Bank and the Right Bank.

Palais Royal staircase. Source: Scentbar.it

Serge Lutens at the Palais Royal. Source: Scentbar.it

The one place I know for certain that I’ll visit is Serge Lutens. Not only because it’s Serge Lutens and, therefore, my Mecca, but also because a close friend lives right around the corner! I had planned to get De Profundis, then possibly a second bell jar, but I’m now reconsidering my choice of perfumes. I love De Profundis, but I think I want an opulent, heavy Oriental or a woody fragrance. I do know that it will NOT be Miel de Bois…. <ahem>

Jovoy, Paris.

Jovoy, Paris.

After that, the rest of my schedule is unclear, partially because of my friends who are more of a priority for me. If I can carve out some time, Jovoy is at the top of my list, a list which also includes everything from JAR to such niche perfume boutiques as Sens Unique, Arabian OudMarie-Antoinette, and Nose. At Jovoy, I’m going to be seeking out the rest of the LM Parfums line, along with Roja Dove, Amouage, and lesser-known perfume houses. I’m particularly interested in Von Eusersdorff, which is supposed to have an excellent patchouli, as you can read in this review from the lovely Susie Baird of Epiphany. As for Roja Dove’s line, I’ve heard absolutely spectacular things about Diaghilev, but I’ve also been told that it costs €990 (or $1334 at today’s exchange rate), so… um… Good God!! I’m not sure if I want to be masochistic enough to even give it a testing sniff, lest I end up loving something that is wholly out of my reach.

Hotel Costes. Photo: Vlad Loteanu. Source: panoramio.com

Hotel Costes. Photo: Vlad Loteanu. Source: panoramio.com

In terms of perfume houses with their own presence in Paris, I have a special interest in Oriza LeGrand, IUNX (by Olivia Giacobetti, which is exclusive to the Hotel Costes), Parfums de Rosine (located conveniently close to Serge Lutens), Les Nereides, Reminiscence, The Different Company, and Teo Cabanel (due to my passionate love for their Alahine). I can’t recall if Reminiscence bought Ylang-Ylang, the jewellery house that made my old Holy Grail patchouli fragrance, but Reminiscence is well known for their own, so I hope to find something similar to the perfume that I used to wear and whose twin I have been hunting for over 20 years! Their Patchouli sounds wonderful, as does their Amber, and they’re priced extremely reasonably at €52, €76, or €105 for a 50 ml, 100 ml, or 200 ml bottle. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it’s similar to my old HG scent, despite missing the Mysore sandalwood which that one had, and Reminiscence’s unfortunate inclusion of the usually crap Australian variety.

Horizon by Oriza L. Legrand

Horizon by Oriza L. Legrand

As for Oriza L. Legrand, I’m fascinated by the return of this perfume house with some seriously ancient history. It was founded in 1720 under Louis XV, supplied several European royal courts and Napoleon III’s imperial court with their perfumes, won prizes at the World Fairs of 1889 and 1900, and is now making a return with scents that are supposed to have an old-school, luxurious, heavy richness to them. I’m mostly interested in the incense-y Reve d’Ossian out of the original line, and you can read about it at theCaFleureBon link above or at Fragrantica. I’ve also got my nose set on trying Horizons, a rich amber whose notes (according to Oriza) include: Bark bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose; Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli; Benzoin, Amber Gray, peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather. Fabulous, no? I really hope I’m not disappointed, especially as it’s a reasonable €120 for 100 ml. You can get samples of the full 7 fragrances in the range for €9, plus another €9 for shipping.

As for the big houses, Caron, Chanel, and Dior will be on the schedule if I have time. Then I suppose I’ll have to pop into Guerlain, but I’m completely skipping Hèrmes, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and Annick Goutal.

Ladurée

Ladurée

Food is extremely high on my list of things to focus on, too, perhaps even higher than perfume. Everything from Ladurée, to oysters, seared foie gras, really good steak tartare, Oeufs à la Meurette, Lebanese food, Tarte Tatin, and grotesque amounts of cheese. In fact, I have a plan to eat my own weight in as many gooey, creamy, hard, nutty, smelly cheeses and baguettes as I can get my hands on, until it’s too much even for this bread addict. (If you read in the newspaper of someone who died from excessive bread and cheese consumption whilst on holiday in Paris, you’ll know who it is.)

His Highness' fangs.

His Highness’ fangs.

In short, the order of my excitement is: my friends, being home, divine food, and then perfumery. Screwy priorities for a perfume blogger, no doubt, but c’est la vie. I look forward to telling you all about my trip when I come back, but you’ll have to give me a few days after October 7th to spoil The Giant, Disgruntled, Fanged One, to recuperate from jet lag, and to go through all the things that may have piled up in my absence. I hope to have a fun post up around October 9th or 10th about some of my adventures.

One last word: if any new readers comment on the blog but don’t see their comments posted or visible, it’s because first-time commentators must have their post manually approved as part of the anti-spam system. (If you knew how much spam I delete each day, you’d understand the necessity for the rule). I will have limited internet access for most of my trip (and probably none at all for the first part), so I won’t be able to get to or approve your comments during my absence. But I promise to read and clear everything upon my return, so don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on something in the meantime.

On that note, I have some packing to finish, and some perfumes to decant for my trip. Attracting the local wildlife? Phooey!