Tableau de Parfums/Andy Tauer Ingrid: Antique Florals

Ingrid is a fragrance from Tableau de Parfums, the collaboration between the Swiss perfumer, Andy Tauer, and the American, Memphis-based, indie filmmaker, Brian Pera (who is also a perfume blogger at I Smell Therefore I Am).

Women's Picture. Source: Fragrantica.

Women’s Picture. Source: Fragrantica.

There are three Tableau fragrances (Miriam, Loretta, and Ingrid) and, as the Tableau Parfums website at Evelyn Avenue explains, each one is an olfactory representation of a particular female character in Brian Pera’s film series, Woman’s Picture. According to the website, “Woman’s Picture is an anthology film inspired by classic women’s films of the thirties, forties, and fifties. The story is divided into three sections, each of which presents a portrait of a specific female character.” I’d previously reviewed the tuberose Loretta, but couldn’t wait to try Ingrid given its oriental notes.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Ingrid was released late in 2013, and is an eau de parfum in concentration. Tableau de Parfums describes the scent as follows:

A fragrant floral gem in an elegant oriental casket, Ingrid is a rich woody floral inspired by classical scents of the fifties, full of contrasts. Draperies of citrus and spices open the stage for sensual frangipani and roses, with hints of lily of the valley adding softness to the flower heart. These rich feminine notes are anchored by a chord of precious woods and resins in the base. Vanilla, tolu and sandalwood add an exotic twist, and underline with the contrasting lines of dark cistus and smoky balsamic styrax the feminine melody. […]

Andy Tauer on Ingrid: “Ingrid is unique, a strong character, yet soft and feminine. She is a beautiful woman, who developed her style, found herself, she is present and demanding, with a past full of questions, unanswered. Her flower is frangipani. I have no doubt.”

Fragrantica and Luckyscent say the notes are:

Bergamot, orange, lemon, cinnamon, clove, Frangipani [or Plumeria], rose, lily of the valley [Muguet], sandalwood, tolu [balsam], cistus, vanilla, styrax

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Ingrid opens on my skin with lily of the valley and dust, followed by an oddly stale, sharp, leathered, sweetness that smells like styrax resin that has gone a bit off or turned rancid. Seconds later, there is ISO E Super, more dust, a vanillic sweetness, and powdered rose. The lily of the valley tries to add some freshness but it is such a delicate aroma and cannot counter the other elements. My overall sense is of extremely musty, fusty, sweet dust with an odd edge. It’s hard to describe but, to me, it smells like the stale air in a dusty attic that hasn’t been opened in decades. The ISO E Super is a light touch, and isn’t responsible for any of this at all.

Yet, at the same time, there is an undercurrent that is sickly sweet. I suspect the latter stems from the frangipani or plumeria, a flower whose scent I find sickly and quite difficult in general unless it’s handled very lightly. Here, the plumeria isn’t individually distinct in Ingrid’s opening moments, but I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for that particular, nauseating, cloying touch. It injects its syrup from a distance into the faintly leathered, “off” dark notes and the arid dust, creating a combination that I find quite discordant and just plain odd.

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Other elements are smoothly blended into the background. There are flickers of cloves with a touch of cinnamon. Much more pronounced is the old-fashioned floral soapiness that dances all around. A soft touch of sweetened citruses lurks in the shadows, alongside the rose. The primary bouquet, however, is of ancient, antique dust with lily of the valley, followed by a touch of fusty greenness and soapiness, all nestled within the strong embrace of stale, somewhat rancid, dark sweetness.

I’m finding it incredibly hard to convey precisely because I can’t explain why I’m smelling what I am, or the extent of the strange combination. It’s akin to the fustiest of mineralised oakmoss, infused with styrax resin gone rancid, cloying sweetness, prickly aromachemicals, vanilla, flowers that feel dried and pressed in an ancient book, soap, and some strange dark element, all doused with the dust of ages.

There is an oldness to the aroma that reminds me of an old lady’s clothes in a closet that she hasn’t opened in years, but the dusty fabrics still carry the lingering traces of her floral perfume and the soap on her skin. I almost never find fragrances to be “old lady,” and it is a pejorative term that I find offensive, but if ever I were to use it, it would be for Ingrid. Most people give that label to heavy orientals or powdery scents, like Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue. I’ve never agreed with that and if I’m using the term here, it’s for a very different reason: the fetid dustiness of accumulated years. I’ve tried Ingrid twice, and with different quantities each time, but on both occasions, I had enormous difficulty with the opening because of that one reason.

The famous, recently discovered Paris apartment, untouched and unopened for 70 years. Source: DailyMail.com http://tinyurl.com/cweo355

The famous, recently discovered Paris apartment, untouched and unopened for 70 years. Source: DailyMail.com http://tinyurl.com/cweo355

Twenty-five minutes in, Ingrid starts to change. The stale, sharp mustiness ceases to be the leading note, though it is still substantial and enormous. It now shares center stage with the soapiness and florals. The frangipani or plumeria makes its first appearance in a distinct way; the orange grows a whiff more noticeable; and the sweetened powder becomes more dominant. Then, the cloves rise up from the base, and… oh boy. I love cloves, passionately, but the note here takes on a medicinal undertone that strongly reminds me of American, clove-based, dentistry analgesics. At the same time, it’s pungent and, yes, dusty. In fact, it merely compounds Ingrid’s overall odd staleness, creating an aura of fusty antiques, florals with old-fashioned soap, strange sweetness, and spice.

Woman's dusty, antique dressing table and perfumes from the Paris time-capsule apartment. Source: Daily Mail.

Woman’s dusty, antique dressing table and perfumes from the Paris time-capsule apartment. Source: Daily Mail.

Ingrid finally softens about 45 minutes in, and the sillage drops. From a moderately strong opening, it now hovers two inches above the skin as a blur of powdered, sweet florals with medicinal, pungent cloves and a strong dash of vanilla powder over a slightly warm base. Nothing in the latter translates to my nose as richly ambered or darkly resinous. This is not the labdanum of Dior’s Mitzah or Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan. It’s not the smoky, leathered styrax resin that I’ve encountered in other perfumes either. In fact, Ingrid’s colour visuals would be powdered pastels with ribbons of brownness from the cloves, and greyness from the dust.

To my relief, the fusty staleness slowly diffuses and weakens, making Ingrid a touch easier to bear. At the 90-minute mark, Ingrid merely smells like old-fashioned, 1930s-style, feminine, powdered florals, instead of being dominated by dust from that same era. The perfume remains largely the same for several more hours to come, though the plumeria or frangipani takes the lead as the main flower, followed by the rose. The always subtle muguet has faded away completely, while the soapiness retreats to the sidelines. However, the cloves continue to blast away, though, thankfully, they’ve lost their medicinal undertone. Lurking all about is an amorphous, indistinct, dry woodiness that has the tiniest hint of something smoky about it. It’s hard to detect though, given the sweetened powder that now infuses Ingrid from top to bottom.

Plumeria or frangipani.

Plumeria or frangipani.

Ingrid’s notes slowly grow hazy and abstract, with only the plumeria and cloves really standing out. If you smell really hard and up close, the rose pops up once in a while in the background to add a very muted, muffled hint of Damask-like richness, but it’s usually indistinct on my skin. The plumeria feels unctuous, while the cloves now remind me of a Christmas baked ham. And the sweetened, vanillic powder infused them both. Yet, even those notes become blurry and nebulous around the end of the 4th hour. Soon, Ingrid turns into a soft, generalized, vaguely frangipani-like, floral powder with vanillic sweetness and cloves.

What is interesting, however, is the base which turns increasingly warm and ambered. It’s a largely abstract amber, to my nose. It doesn’t feel distinct or individual enough to separate out into labdanum amber at all, but just feels like a warm, spiced, slightly leathered, dry goldenness. Call me crazy, but the Tauerade signature seems to take on some Caronade similarities. Or perhaps the cloves in Ingrid are so dominant that, in conjunction with the growing amber, it makes parts of Ingrid resemble Caron‘s clove-based Poivre in its foundational elements. The big difference here is the plumeria with its nauseatingly sickly sweetness.

By the end of the 7th hour, Ingrid turns into a sweetened, powdery, floral oriental with plumeria nestled in a spiced ambered nest. It’s also a skin scent at this point. Oddly, the ISO E Super suddenly becomes much stronger, adding a prickly, peppered, jangling bit of dryness to the base, though it’s not enough to cut through the plumeria’s syrup. The cloves fold into the Tauer base which is actually quite nice, and well-balanced between the dry and warm elements. As a whole, though, the perfume is largely a nebulous blur of powdered, very sweet florals atop a warm base with some dryness and abstract spiciness. Ingrid remains largely unchanged until its end when, 11.25 hours from the start, it fades away as a blur of warm sweetness.

Skin chemistry is a funny thing, and I blame my own for whatever vagaries occurred with the dust, and the “off,” almost rancid, dark-sweet accord. I also need to repeat what regular readers know all too well: I don’t like scents that are either powdered florals, sweetened powder, or soapy. Having all five things together — at the same time — made Ingrid extremely difficult for me. I tried to like it, I really did, but my skin simply wouldn’t comply. The first time I wore it, with just a small amount, I came within inches of scrubbing it off after only 20 minutes, and it takes a lot for me to get to that level. To my surprise, the ISO E Super was very powerful at the lower dosage, but that wasn’t the problem at all. The difficulty was the dryness and fustiness which, in the opening 25 minutes, is excessive on my skin, regardless of the quantity used.

1930s Vancouver street photo by Foncie Pulice. Source:  chronicallyvintage.com (Link to website with a series of super cool 1930s street photos embedded within. Click on photo.)

1930s Vancouver street photo by Foncie Pulice. Source: chronicallyvintage.com (Link to website with a series of super cool 1930s street photos embedded within. Click on photo.)

In fact, the dry dustiness I experienced with Ingrid far surpassed anything in L’Air du Desert Marocain. Relatively speaking, that fragrance almost verges on the gourmand in comparison to Ingrid’s start on my skin. Plus, LDDM was never fusty or dated in feel. While Ingrid eventually loses its arid mustiness, it is simply replaced by old-fashioned floral powder and dusty cloves in a way that simply doesn’t work for my personal tastes. I kept imagining a woman from the 1930s or 1940s: older, relatively well-dressed, somewhat matronly in sensible clothing, and who had worn the same comfortingly powdered, floral scent since she was a young bride.

Others, however, seem to really like Ingrid, and had completely different perceptions or associations. The review on the blog, I Scent You A Day, reads, in part:

Ingrid is earthy and reminds me of birch or tar or dried bracken. There is winter spice too, but not in a chintzy Christmas way, you’ll be relieved to know. The Rose is prevalent, and as with other Tauer scents, no Rose is the same twice.  In this case, the Rose reminds me of dried petals in a pot pourri- they have gone paper thin and their colour has faded but their scent has gone faintly peppery. Nevertheless it can still be recognised as Rose.

Ingrid is rich and spicy, but dry rather than sweet. It left me thinking I could smell the deep dark scent of Myrrh, but it may have been the resinous Styrax which is used so beautifully.

On my skin, the base notes of Ingrid are Clove, dried Roses, Resin and Frangipani. It’s rich, dark and mysterious yet the ingredients have been used lightly enough not to overwhelm.

If further proof were ever needed for how skin chemistry makes everything different from person to person, consider the experience of WAFT… What a Fragrance Fanatic Thinks:

Andy Tauer has created a fragrance that is all  at once foody , pillowy , warm , comforting – in a word delicious . Ingrid just fits my mood and makes me want glue my nose to my wrist . Ingrid never frowns , never argues nor challenges .
This fragrance flows from sunshine and tart nectar and I loved it at first whiff . The frangipani note is so perfect…It lasts a good six hours on skin ( probably longer if you don’t cook or wash dishes – I do .) Ingrid reminds me of a fluffy whipped cream and rice confection called Glorified Rice , which has bits of tart mandarin slices in it .
If I had any complaint it would be the early drydown of Ingrid falls a little flat , but eventually smooths out .

On Fragrantica, there is only one review for Ingrid thus far:

The Cloves and Frangipani make this a great choice for Autumn and Winter. I didn’t get any Lily of The Valley: to me this is dark and full of shadows and mystery.

Ingrid wasn’t my cup of tea, but we’re all different and have different tastes, not to mention different skin chemistry. So, if Ingrid’s notes sound appealing to you, and if you enjoy either frangipani or some of Andy Tauer’s drier fragrances, then give her a sniff. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ingrid is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that costs $160 or €135, and which comes with a free DVD and movie poster. Ingrid is also available in a small 7 ml travel spray that costs $40. In the U.S.: you can buy Ingrid in all sizes directly from Tableau de Parfums, along with Luckyscent. Tableau de Parfums only ships domestically. I’ve read that the line is also sold at Portland’s The Perfume House, but it is not listed on their website. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can find Ingrid at Germany’s First in Fragrance which sells the perfume for €135.00 and the travel size for €39. It too carries samples. In the UK, Scent & Sensibility carries Tableau de Parfums, and sells Ingrid for £110, with the purse spray for £25. In Italy, you can find the Tableau de Parfums line at Milan’s Profumi Import, but I’m not clear about price or if they have an e-store. Tableau de Parfums fragrances are also sold at a handful of other locations in Europe, from Marie-Antoinette in Paris, to Switzerland and Lithuania. You can find that information on the company’s websiteSamples: You can get a sample of Ingrid from Luckyscent for $4 for a 0.7 ml vial, or The Perfumed Court, where prices start at $6.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Loretta is not sold at Surrender to Chance.
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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!

Tauer Perfumes PHI Une Rose de Kandahar

Dior Haute Couture 2007 by Galliano. Source: theberry.com

Dior Haute Couture 2007 by Galliano. Source: theberry.com

A jewel glowing orange, pink and red, nestled in the embrace of emerald green. A woman wearing the most feminine of opulent haute couture ball gowns. A Paris café whose decadent apricot tart is based in the richest of vanilla custards and lightly flecked with almonds. The faintest curls of smoke floating in the crisp fall air from a pipe whose tobacco is infused with sweetened fruit. Seemingly unconnected images, but images that are all rooted in one fragrance. 

PHI Une Rose de Kandahar (hereinafter sometimes just “PHI“) is a new eau de parfum from Andy Tauer, the founder and nose behind the much-adored Swiss niche house, Tauer Perfumes. PHI is one of Mr. Tauer’s “Collectibles,” a perfume that will be produced in limited quantities due to the rarity of some of its ingredients. As Andy Tauer explains on his website:

Phi is a luxurious scent, inspired by a natural extract of roses produced in Afghanistan’s rose region, Nangarhar. This rose oil is extremely rare and of highest quality. Inspired by these roses, growing in a dry and rough land, Phi is a rare gem, complementing contrasting lines, rich in natural raw materials that add depth and authenticity. Due to the limited amount of the rose oil, une rose de Kandahar is not guaranteed to be available all the time.

PHI. Photo: Hypoluxe.

PHI. Photo: Hypoluxe.

On Fragrantica, PHI is classified as floral, but it seems more accurate to me to call it a chypre with oriental and gourmand touches, or a hybrid. The Tauer website supports this impression, describing PHI as having both “woody and gourmand notes,” along with such chypre standbys as mossy patchouli, and such oriental highlights as ambergris. The perfume’s full list of notes are as follows:

Top: apricot, cinnamon, bitter almond, and bergamot;

Middle: rose of Kandahar essential oil, Bulgaria rose absolute, Bourbon geranium, and dried tobacco leaves;

Base: patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, tonka beans, musk, and ambergris.

Source: forwallpaper.com

Source: forwallpaper.com

I tested PHI three times, and, each time, it opens on my skin with a forceful, jewel-like glow of ruby reds, soft pinks, blushing peachy-orange, and emerald greens. The red and pink visuals come from the most concentrated rose essences, feeling sweet and spicy all at once. The soft peachy-orange is from the apricot, which is tart, juicy, and tangy. Apricot is a note that I rarely see used in perfumery, and I’m a bit of a sucker for it. Here, it’s absolutely beautiful, feeling like bushels of the fruit have been rendered down into a smooth, concentrated purée.

The two shining stars of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar are nestled in a cocoon of emerald green foliage that is pungent, peppered, spicy, and dark. The base is filled with notes that smell like soft, fresh, plush oakmoss, thanks to the effects of patchouli. Yet, to my surprise, something about it also has the darkly mineralized, grey, musty feel of actual oakmoss (or mousse de chene), even though there is no such note in the fragrance. Rounding out the imagery of leaves surrounding a flower is the geranium. It smells like the flower’s fuzzy, green leaves with their piquant, peppery, spicy, pungent aroma. 

Source: forwallpaper.com

Source: forwallpaper.com

The green accords are covered with a heavy dose of Mr. Tauer’s beloved ISO E Super. Though it was less dominant in some wearings than in others, it was always a part of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. I will never (ever!) share Mr. Tauer’s views on the ghastly synthetic, but I’m relieved to say that it didn’t give me a headache in PHI, despite its sometimes heavy touch. In many ways, the aromachemical that he believes is the perfect photo-finishing touch does work here. It doesn’t smell antiseptic or like pink rubber bandages the way it sometimes can, but, rather, like something that is extremely peppery and a bit spiky. It underscores the feel of the other notes and amplifies, in specific, the geranium.

Source: Patisserie Deschamps, France.

Source: Patisserie Deschamps, France.

Five minutes into PHI’s development, the hints of vanilla that lurk below the surface explode onto the top. It smells just like highly buttered, rich vanilla custard. My skin always amplifies base notes, and I noticed that the vanilla was never prominent on a friend who I let try PHI. On her skin, the perfume’s opening was all rose and greenery, with very little apricot and absolutely no vanilla extract or vanilla custard. PHI was lovely on her skin, but I enjoyed the custard that showed up on me. Something about its combination with the apricot purée that is lightly sprinkled with sweet, spicy cinnamon brought to mind the glazed French apricot tarts that I would have when I lived in Paris. It’s a deliciously edible touch that just verges on the gourmand, and it adds a tasty richness to PHI.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

The overall combination with the deep rose and the oakmoss also made me think of Amouage‘s new Fate Woman which is another rose chypre with fruited overtones and a slightly gourmand vanilla base. The two perfumes are very different in their notes and core, but something about them feels similar in the opening moments. They both have a very intense chypre start with concentrated roses and fruited notes over a dark green heart with touches of rich vanilla. They also share an opulent, luxurious, feminine character that is very sophisticated, and have great sillage and potency in their opening phase. From 3 small sprays, PHI bloomed in a cloud about 4-5 inches around me, perhaps a little more, and it remained that way for about 40 minutes. It was very potent up close, but always extremely airy in feel and weight.

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Forty minutes in, PHI starts to change. There are quiet pops of vetiver in the base that add a different touch to the dark foliage around the floral-fruity notes. The base elements now feel a bit less pungent and peppered, more dry and woody. There are also the very smallest, faintest hints of dark, dry tobacco lurking about deep down. Neither note, however, is very prominent in an individual way at this stage, and they never detract from the main trio of apricot, rose, and patchouli-moss.

Around the same time, there is the first whisper of an almond note that will become increasingly more prominent in PHI’s development. The nut is bitter but sweet and fresh, and it adds another delicious gourmand touch to the vanilla and apricot purée. The vanilla has also started to change, probably due to the impact of the drier notes at the periphery. The note is now airier, softer, more like whipped vanilla mousse than thick, buttered, rich custard.

At the end of the first hour, PHI is a smooth bouquet with top notes of apricot purée, spicy rose, and mossy-patchouli-geranium-ISO E Super, and bottom notes of almonds, vanilla mousse, woody vetiver, dry tobacco, and musk in the base. The sillage has dropped, and the perfume hovers about 1.5 inches above the skin, though it is extremely potent and strong when sniffed up close. It’s a beautifully refined, elegant bouquet that is never too sweet and never quite as simple as it appears from a distance.

Source: rbgstock.com

Source: rbgstock.com

PHI remains that way for another few hours, never changing drastically in its core essence, though some of the notes (like the cinnamon) fluctuate in prominence. The notes blur and overlap, blending seamlessly into each other, with only the apricot and the rose really standing out as significant forces in a very distinctive, individual way. It feels very gauzy on the skin, and I must confess that I wish PHI were not quite so sheer and intimate quite so soon; I was rather entranced with it, and wanted more, more, more! Instead, it feels as though the apricot or the rose take turns peeking out seductively like a glimpse of the lace trim on lingerie under a beautiful, jewel-toned dress. I wanted less sheer lace and sheer silk, and much more heavy velvet, but it is a matter of personal preference. PHI is clearly intended to be an elegant, refined fragrance without a sonic, nuclear blast — and it succeeds in its goal admirably.

Source: rexfabrics.com

Source: rexfabrics.com

PHI continues to soften and change. Midway during the third hour, PHI turns into a skin scent of cinnamon-flecked apricots and almonds, atop a sheer vanilla base. The rose is still there, but it is secondary to the other notes and has retreated to the sidelines. Unfortunately for me, the ISO E Super remains like a haze over everything. At the 6.5 hour mark, a dryness creeps into the perfume as flickers of tobacco return. It’s sweetened and mild, like fruited pipe tobacco infused with a large dollop of apricots. There is also a quiet touch of cinnamon mixed in. The vanilla has largely disappeared, but its place has been taken by ambergris with its wonderfully salty, sweet, golden character. A sexy muskiness dances all around. The perfumed jewel now gleams with gold, bronzed apricot, and light brown. All greens and pinks have vanished, leaving PHI as a subtle oriental with dryness and just a touch of warm sweetness.

In its final moments, PHI is merely a nebulous blur of sweetness with abstract dry, woody touches, and a hint of something vaguely fruited. All in all, it lasted just short of 7.75 hours on my perfume consuming skin with 3 small sprays, and around 6.5 hours with less. The sillage starts off as extremely strong, before dropping with every hour to something that is quite soft in feel. And I enjoyed every bit of it, despite the ISO E Supercrappy. Andy Tauer’s exquisite Une Rose Chyprée remains my absolute favorite from the line, but it has very close competition with this new PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. Both of them are absolutely beautiful fragrances whose sophistication always evoke Haute Couture elegance to me. I would absolutely wear them myself, and I say this as someone who isn’t particularly enamoured with rose scents to begin with!

If you’re a man and think that all this sounds too feminine for you, you might be surprised. Though PHI is too new to have a lot of reviews out, one blogger found the perfume to be a masculine rose with a gourmand touch. The Scented Hound wrote:

WHAT I SMELL: PHI goes on with a rather flattened apricot with tinges of cinnamon and almond.  It’s kind of a muted sweetness in that when you smell it, it seems layered with the cinnamon hovering on top.  At this point, I’m thinking PHI is nice (nice = just OK), rather personal and relatively close to the skin, and more apricot than rose which I think is a bit strange.  Then at about the 10 to 15 minute mark, the rose begins to bloom.  And bloom it does.  It’s like the rose suddenly opens its petals and unleashes its glorious fragrance.  I don’t think I have ever experienced a rose fragrance that literally unfolds on my skin that way PHI does and I love it.  The rose is rounded and deep, and to me more masculine than feminine and rather gourmand.  But wait, we’re not done yet, after some more time, the rose becomes creamy.  Still further, PHI reveals its patchouli, making the fragrance a bit sweeter and more heady as its mixed with vanilla and amber gris.  Hours later, add in some tonka for a bit of a growl that helps to take the edge off of the sweetness.  In the end PHI ends up big, but not loud.  This rose is no wallflower, but she’s demure enough to be a bit coy.

The other blog review already out for PHI is an unequivocable rave from I Scent You A Day who writes:

PHI Rose de Kandahar has a Middle Eastern richness to it. Initially it’s honeyed Roses and Almonds and dried Apricots: it reminds me of a scented Souk. At first this edible combination was very Turkish Delight, just for a moment.  But what happens next is that it transforms into, unless I’m mistaken, something not unlike a good Arabian Oud.  I often find Oud too strong for me, but in Rose de Kandahar it’s like a robust backdrop to something altogether more delicate. The irony is that there is no Oud in it, but the combination of Tobacco, Ambergris, Vetiver and Patchouli gives this a very rich and almost prickly base.  It’s like serving an aromatic Bacchanalian feast on a rough granite table.

I think that “prickly” edge that she references is the bloody ISO E Super that Mr. Tauer loves to stick into everything. It also explains why she associated PHI with oud, since the synthetic is used by many perfume houses to accompany their agarwood or woody creations. (Montale, I’m looking at you in particular, but Parfumerie Generale, you’re almost just as bad. And Amouage, you’re not off the hook either, after Opus VII.)

Early reviews on Fragrantica are equally positive. One commentator writes how PHI “is a very unique apricot rose scent. I’ve never smelled another rose like it and I have dozens of rose perfumes in my collection.” Someone much less fond of rose perfumes is equally enthusiastic, saying: “I often find rose scents either too sweet,too watery or too green and wan but no-one does the deep, dark sensual fragrance of a rose like Andy. His roses are blood RED and seriously velvety. […] I will be ordering myself a FB asap.”

I share their enthusiasm, and am considering getting PHI as part of Mr. Tauer’s new Explorer Set. While the perfume costs $141 or €105.30 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, it is also available as part of a set of three 15 ml bottles for $138 or €102. (See the Details section below.) You can choose between a number of different Tauer fragrances, and I have to admit that Une Rose Chyprée is calling my name just as much as PHI. Whether you get one 50 ml bottle for $141 or a total of 45 ml of three different perfumes for a little bit less, I think it’s quite a decent deal given the quality and richness of the ingredients.

All in all, I’m a big fan of PHI. Its apricot-rose chypre opening is elegant, sophisticated, full-bodied, and opulent; its gourmand stage is delectable, creamy and smooth; and its oriental finish is sexy with a touch of masculinity. It’s lovely — from start to finish.

DISCLOSURE: My sample of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar was provided courtesy of Hypoluxe. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: PHI Une Rose de Kandahar is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that is currently exclusive to the Tauer website where it costs Fr. 130.00 / USD 141.70 / EUR 105.30. The perfume is available now for pre-order. It will remain a Tauer online exclusive for 2013. (See note below at the very end for a special exception in the UK.) Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar for: Fr. 6.00 / USD 6.50 / EUR 4.90. Please note that the Tauer website can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now. The website explains that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria, and cannot ship “Great Britain, UK, Russia, Belgium and the Czech Republic.” As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes in 1.5 ml spray vials, and that set includes a sample of PHI. There is free shipping to most places in the world, and the 5 perfume samples of your choice costs: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.80 / EUR 25.10. Lastly, there is now the new Explorer Set of 3 perfumes of your choice (including PHI Une Rose de Kandahar) for Fr. 126.00 / USD 138.00 / EUR 102.00. Each perfume comes in 15 ml spray bottles, and I think Tauer Perfumes can ship the set to more places, thanks to the fact that the 15 ml size won’t be a problem for many countries’ postal regulations (which have problems with full bottles). The exceptions, unfortunately, are Italy, UK, Russia, Spain. The full details are:
Can’t decide which scent to get? Is a sample just not enough? We cannot ship full, 50 ml, bottles to your country? Here’s the treat: Get a set of 3 EXPLORER size scents, in solid glass flacons with a fine spray and a little metal cap : 15 ml each with free choice(*) of scents from Tauer range, shipped inside our in decorative glide-cover metal box. The perfect gift! And the best: It comes with free shipment(**)
UK Availability: you can order a sample vial of PHI, or pre-order a full bottle from Scent and Sensibility. It sells the perfume for £115, with samples available for £4.50.
Samples: As of 11/21/13, Surrender to Chance now offers samples of PHI, starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Tableau de Parfums/Andy Tauer Loretta

Collaborations across different art forms and platforms are always intriguing. I think it is even more so when two different artists use the same source of inspiration to create works in two different mediums. Tableau de Parfums is one such collaboration, consisting of a perfume and movie pairing between the Swiss perfumer, Andy Tauer, and the American, Memphis-based, indie filmmaker, Brian Pera (who is also a perfume blogger at I Smell Therefore I Am).

Source: Tauerperfumes.com

Source: Tauerperfumes.com

There are three Tableau perfumes (Miriam, Loretta, and Ingrid) and, as the Tableau Parfums website at Evelyn Avenue explains, each one is an olfactory portrait “inspired by the films of Pera’s ongoing series, Woman’s Picture.” According to the website, “Woman’s Picture is an anthology film inspired by classic women’s films of the thirties, forties, and fifties. The story is divided into three sections, each of which presents a portrait of a specific female character.” The Miriam perfume is supposed to be quite heavily aldehydic, so I eschewed that one, and opted for Loretta which is an eau de parfum released in 2012 and which is supposed to be centered around tuberose. It’s my favorite flower, but the fragrance also has orange blossom (another winner in my book), ambergris, and other appealing notes.

Loretta‘s cinematographic tale is about a young woman by that same name who works in a motel. It comes in three parts, two of which are posted here. As Fragrantica summarizes: “She is shy and withdrawn, but creates her own life in a fantasy world where she danced and falls in love with a man. She is sensual, sexy and seductive, but she has a secretive dark side.” The reason why that’s important is because of the way the perfume is intended to reflect her light and dark sides. According to the press release quoted by Now Smell This:

Like the film, Loretta the fragrance explores the way fantasy and reality inform each other in an interplay of light and dark impulses and energies. In the film, the character of Loretta, played by Amy LaVere, deals with a difficult, mysterious past by transforming it into a dream world of possibility and romantic adventure. The balance between the past and her fantastic reinvention of it is delicate, fraught with tensions, where childlike naivete and adult awareness twist and curl into increasingly complex sensual patterns. Fragrance becomes an important gateway into this transformed world.

Andy Tauer on Loretta: “Loretta is an incredibly sensual and erotic story, in which a daydream world becomes a powerful, seductive reality. In Loretta’s world there is music, dance, romantic intimacy, soft light and a natural, childlike shyness confronted with somewhat dark, adult realities. Loretta’s flower is tuberose, and I wanted this fragrance to be as dark and mysterious, as opulent and seductive as her reveries themselves.”

It all sounds fascinating and intriguing, doesn’t it? Alas, I did not share Loretta’s adventures with the fragrance, not even remotely, which is a sad disappointment given the story, the tantalizingly dark aspects to the short films, and the wonderful notes in the fragrance. Those notes, as compiled from Luckyscent, Fragrantica, that press release, and The Perfumed Court, include:

ripe dark fruit, velvet rose, cinnamon, clove, coriander, spicy tuberose, orange blossom,  patchouli, woody notes, ambergris, leather, vanilla, and sweetened orris root.

Source: Boston.com

Source: Boston.com

Loretta opens on my skin with an explosion of grape juice that smells exactly like the American brand, Welch’s, in concentrated form. It’s as though a thousand kilos of Concord grape have been distilled down with about a gallon of sugar into a treacly syrup. There are lots of perfume explanations for the aroma, from the use of methyl anthranilate that occurs naturally in tuberose, to the amplifying effect of the dark fruits like plum. I’m sure the use of fruited patchouli had some indirect effect on the combination as well. Either way, I’m not a fan, and it doesn’t make me happy how prominent the grape juice accord is for a vast portion of the perfume’s lifespan.

Source: tastefood.info

Source: tastefood.info

In the immediate seconds after that unbelievably sweet burst of grapes, other notes are introduced. There are candied dark fruits, led by plum, and covered with more sugar, followed by coriander, some amorphous dark notes, and hints of cinnamon. A very hesitant orange blossom peeks her head through the curtains, along with touches of vetiver and sugared orris root, but all three remain on the sidelines for fear that they’ll be plowed down by the stampede of grape and crystallized dark fruits. Have I mentioned sugar yet? God, it seems to be seeping out from so many different corners! Take the orris root which is where one commonly gets the approximation of an iris smell. Here, on my skin, the note doesn’t smell so much of the flower, but of some sugared root. There is also a vague hint of some darkened, aged leather lurking about, but that too is sweetened. It’s simply too, too much for me.

Hovering all around is a wafting floral bouquet. It never feels like tuberose in the traditional sense, and it’s not like typical orange blossom or rose, either. In fact, it’s simply an abstract floral sweetness without much shape, delineation, or substance. It simply smells fruited and cloyingly sweet. (Have I discussed sugar, lately?)

Thirty minutes in, Loretta shifts a little. The leathery undertones temporarily become more prominent, along with amorphous, abstract woody notes and the blasted ISO E Super that Mr. Tauer loves so much. The latter isn’t overwhelming though, nor particularly strong, and it certainly isn’t medicinal in any way. Frankly, I think the reason why it doesn’t smell very noticeable is because not even that synthetic horror can compete with the saccharine grape juice and its bulldozer effect upon everything in its path.

While the perfume is getting a little darker on some levels, it’s also getting a little lighter on other ones. There is the subtle introduction of a powdery element that smells both vaguely floral in nature and slightly vanillic. Lurking underneath is a jarring hint of something that really resembles cooked celery to my nose. Perhaps it is the result of the combination of the vetiver with coriander, orris, and leather, but there is a definite vegetal quality in the base. Alongside it is a faintly sour nuance underlying the fragrance’s woodiness, but the latter is so vague, it’s hard to really analyze.

Source: LTphotographs Etsy store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: LTphotographs Etsy store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

At the 90-minute mark, the notes blur, the perfume falls flat, and starts to feel thin. Loretta is still primarily a grape floral with dark fruits and increasingly soft spices, but the patchouli starts to feel more prominent. It doesn’t feel dark, dirty, and chewy like black patchouli, but it’s not wholly fruity and purple, either. Equally noticeable is the powder which is more sugared than anything akin to orris or makeup powder. In his blog entry about the making of Loretta, Mr. Tauer said he used benzyl acetate (a natural component of tuberose) to create a soft, sweet powdery note that lasts throughout the perfume’s development. He succeeded, because it does. Underneath all this are hints of something rooty, but they’re not distinguishable as either orris or vetiver. There are also whispers of darkened leather and vanilla flittering about, but they feel nebulous as well.

Source: theberry.com

Source: theberry.com

By the start of the 3rd hour, Loretta is an abstract, intangible, amorphous bouquet. The notes feel flat, muted, and vague. The fragrance itself hovers just an inch or two above the skin, though it is still very potent when sniffed up close. For the most part, Loretta is a candy, bubblegum floral, thanks to the overall combination of sweet powder, fruits, and flowers. It has little delineation or definition, and not a single bit of it feels like the woman in the tale with her dark side, her quiet eroticism, and her fantasies of seduction. To the extent that Loretta, the woman, had a “soft light and a natural, childlike shyness,” that part is covered, but the seductive, languidly fleshy, heady, opulent and erotic side of such indolic flowers as tuberose and orange blossom? There is not a whisper of it on my skin. I’m quite saddened, not only because of my love for both flowers, but because I know how much work went into the fragrance. Andy Tauer’s blog has a detailed perfume breakdown of what he did to the tuberose, and the other elements he used. All the “tuberose specials” that he talks about, along with the concentrated orange blossom absolute, somehow got lost in translation on my skin. I’m not alone in that, but we’ll get to other people’s experiences in a moment.

Juicy Fruit gumFor a long time, I was very confused as to why Fragrantica classified Loretta as a floral oriental, but things became clearer at the end of the fourth hour. Until that point, Loretta had gone from being a cloying, unbearably sweet, fruity scent with vague florals, to just plain, powdered Juicy Fruit with less sweetness and still vague florals. At the end of the fourth hour, however, Loretta veers sharply and abruptly into a whole new category when the amber rises to the surface. In less than an hour, it takes over completely. Loretta is now sweet powdered amber with a lingering trace of Juicy Fruit gum. There are hints of a jammy, patchouli-infused rose that pop up every now and then, but they’re fleeting and extremely muted. For the most part, Loretta is merely soft, hazy, sugar-powdered amber, and it remains that way until its dying moments when it is nothing more than powdered sweetness. All in all, it lasted Loretta lasted just shy of 11.5 hours on my skin. It had moderate sillage throughout most of its lifetime, though it was generally quite potent if you sniffed it up close for much of the first 7 hours.

I’m not the only person who found Loretta to be dominated by an incredibly sweet grape note and, to a lesser extent, sweet powder. The Scented Hound had the same reaction, and, like me, found the remaining notes to be hard to pull out from under the deluge. In his very diplomatic review, he wrote:

Loretta opens with candied tart sweetness.  It’s bright with just a tinge of sour.  Quickly it moves into grape soda.  Really???  Then quickly again, the grape soda is met with a light powder.  […] Thankfully, the grape soda is met with a bit of warmth that helps to anchor the sweetness.  The plum (which to me smells like grape soda) completely dominates and therefore makes it hard for me to pick out additional notes even though I know they’re there as the fragrance starts to even out.  Finally, Loretta settles down some to reveal a lightly sweetened patchouli woodiness tinged with a bit of what seems to be some coriander.  [¶]

Loretta confuses me.  I don’t hate her and I don’t love her and am struggling with when I would want to wear her. I keep reading about the tuberose in this, but that is completely escaping me.  Finally, besides grape soda, Loretta reminds me of what the penny candy aisle at the Ben Franklin store used to smell like.  Not for me, but I could see someone else digging this for its uniqueness.

On Fragrantica, there is more talk about the fragrance’s sweetness and oddness. To give just one example:

This smells to me as if I was carrying grape flavor Crush inside of a black leather pouch. It’s very weird and dissonant, like an orchestra tuning before a show.

I get a strong leather note, with a sweet plum and tuberose accord. Super strange perfume… it’s sweet, sweet, sweet, but in an airy kind of way that only orange blossom has. It’s also screechy and spicy. I’m reminded of extremely synthetic gummy candies and that’s fun. This is truly a scent for an original individual, I think, while being very sexy and confident. Who can pull this off!!?? It’s all over the place, colorful and confusing, but mesmerizing, like an acid trip. I keep on sniffing it and I get this highly enjoyable repulsion/attraction duality. I love that. 

Another trippy perfume that wears me instead of me wearing it… smells just like a purple gummy bear stuck to my black leather jacket. Fun times.

Others talk about how the fragrance smells of “spicy tutti-fruity” gum, sticky sweetness, a greasy oily nuance, or black rubber notes. One commentator finds that “the plum overtakes everything and with the other warm resinous notes it smells of decadence- overripe fruit right on the verge of rotting.” Well, I agree that Loretta has a tutti-fruitti gum note, but, for me, the scent is not “fun times” as stated in the quote above, and I can see why one reviewer finds it “unwearable.” Even apart from the fragrance’s nebulous haziness, I don’t want a weird “acid trip… repulsion/attraction duality” with “purple gummy bears” for $160 for a 1.7 oz bottle. I don’t mind very different, weird fragrances if they smell good, but a cloyingly sweet scent that makes me feel I just got three cavities is not my cup of tea at any price.   

Source: weheartit.com

Source: weheartit.com

My personal tastes notwithstanding, Loretta is not a bad fragrance, and I think it would be well suited for a young woman who is looking for something different, quirky, and playful. It’s definitely original and unconventional enough to venture into the “fun” category. In fact, I can see CosPlayers dressed up as Japanese anime characters enjoying the scent, or, perhaps, Lolita types. Whether they’d want to pay $160 for the experience, I have no idea. People who love extremely sweet fruity-florals, powdery sugar scents, or Welch’s grape juice may also want to give Loretta a sniff. For everyone else, especially men, I wouldn’t recommend Loretta.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Loretta is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that costs $160 or €135, and which comes with a DVD and movie poster. Loretta also comes in a small 7 ml travel spray that costs $40. In the U.S.: you can buy Loretta from Luckyscent or Portland’s The Perfume House. However, neither Loretta nor Tableau de Parfums as a whole is listed on The Perfume House’s website. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can find Loretta at Germany’s First in Fragrance which sells the perfume for €135.00 and the travel size for €39. It too carries samples. In the UK, Scent & Sensibility carries Tableau de Parfums, and sells Loretta for £110.00. In Italy, you can find the fragrance at Milan’s Profumi Import, but I’m not clear about price or if they have an e-store. Tableau de Parfums fragrances are also sold at a handful of other locations in Europe, from Marie-Antoinette in Paris, to Switzerland and Lithuania. You can find that information on the company’s websiteSamples: I obtained my sample from The Perfumed Court, but I no longer see the fragrance listed on the website. The only available option is a Loretta Soap. Loretta is not sold at Surrender to Chance, so your best bet seems to be Luckyscent which sells samples for $4.

Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Chyprée: Bewitching Opulence

“‘Tis the last rose of summer,” once wrote the famous 19th-century Irish poet, Thomas Moore, in a poem that later inspired everyone from Beethoven to Felix Mendelssohn. The line definitely comes to mind when I wore Une Rose Chyprée, a spectacular chypre-oriental hybrid that features an autumnal, amber rose. Yet, that is only one part of the story.

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

At the same time, Une Rose Chyprée also conjured up everything from a coquettish, youthful, warm Audrey Hepburn in the 1960s, to thoughts of a woman’s warm, heated flesh as revealed by an opulent, dramatic dress cut low enough to seduce. It is a scent that is surprisingly playful and welcoming for a chypre — normally a very cool, haughty, aloof fragrance family — but Une Rose Chyprée is graced by an oriental seductiveness as well. I’m not one who goes weak in the knees for chypres, let alone scents that are primarily rose-centric in nature, but Une Rose Chyprée may be the best rose I have smelled in years and it completely swept me off my feet.

Source: Tauer Perfumes

Source: Tauer Perfumes

Une Rose Chyprée (sometimes written as “08 Une Rose Chyprée“) is an eau de parfum released in 2009 by Andy Tauer, the founder and nose behind the much-adored Swiss niche house, Tauer PerfumesOn Fragrantica, the fragrance is classified as chypre floral, but it seems more accurate to me to call it a chypre-oriental hybrid. The Tauer website supports this impression, describing Une Rose Chyprée as:

An exclusive oriental rose on a vintage chypre chord.
Une Rose Chyprée is a modern vintage perfume. It reaches back to the craft of traditional high perfumery, using a luxurious setting of raw materials. At the same time, I wanted it to be a rose of today, that speaks our language.

According to Luckyscent, the notes in Une Rose Chyprée include:

Rosa Damascena Absolute and essential oil, Bay, Cinnamon, Bergamot, Lemon, Clementine, Bourbon Geranium, Labdanum, Oak Moss, Patchouli, Vetiver, and Vanilla.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

I tested Une Rose Chyprée three times, and, each time, it opens on my skin with a bouquet that’s so sultry and exquisite, it feels like a growl that eventually turns into a sensuous purr. There is smoky incense intertwined with the peppery, spicy bite of fuzzy, green geranium leaves, followed by tart, green, unripe lemons and rose. The rose begins this journey as something green and mossy, but soon takes on a bubblegum, fruity undertone. There are momentary flickers of a purple grape underlying the flower’s tightly closed bud, perhaps from the patchouli or something like methyl anthranilate, but they are soon replaced by hints of sweet clementine.

Photo: Arbyreed on Flickr, (Website link embedded within, click on photo.)

Photo: Arbyreed on Flickr, (Website link embedded within, click on photo.)

Every part of the citrus is there: the sweet, sun-ripened, heavy pulp; the squirting oil of its zested, slightly bitter rind; and the candied flesh, crystallized with hints of dark, earthy, chewy, black patchouli. The smorgasborg of notes swirls into the geranium, adding brightness to its piquant verdancy in a combination that has me utterly enraptured. Sweet but peppered, orange but green, zesty but spicy, sun-laden warmth but fuzzy, leafy darkness. It’s a chiaroscuro of light and dark that weaves its intoxicating, unexpected, and original thread throughout a good portion of Une Rose Chyprée’s early hours, and I can’t get enough.

Source: wallpapersnatural.com

Source: wallpapersnatural.com

At the heart of Une Rose Chyprée’s tapestry is the rose. It 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. It is a rose that smells like bubblegum at times, like grapes once in a while, and even like bananas or earthy mushrooms in different tests.   

Une Rose Chyprée is a swirling kaleidoscope of all those things, and then some. This is a fragrance with so many facets and dimensions, it made my head spin. It made me test the perfume twice, doubting that it was possible that I was accurately smelling such nuances (bubblegum? mushrooms?), and it left me quite awed. It was so fabulous, I have worn it for a third time, almost draining my sample that a very kind, generous reader of the blog — the lovely “Dubaiscents” — gave me as a gift. I even went to see what The Ultimate Perfume Snobs — aka, my parents — thought of it, and if you think my reaction is fervent, you should have seen theirs! My father actually put Tristan und Isolde on pause to ask about the perfume — and few things distract my father from his Wagner.

Source: hqwalpapers.com

Source: hqwalpapers.com

I think the real appeal of Une Rose Chyprée is that it’s not a haughty fragrance. A number of classic or vintage chypres keep you at a distance with oakmoss that can be coldly pungent, fusty, or slightly dusty, or with galbanum that can feel as sharp as the crack of black leather whip. 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. The perfume’s opening is that of a chypre suited to Audrey Hepburn whose slim elegance and classic style never hid her sparkling, elfish beauty and approachable warmth. From Eliza Doolittle going to the ball in a tiara, to Holly Golightly, to Audrey herself in her perfect little black Givenchy dress with a radiant smile, Une Rose Chyprée combines the refined elegance of a classic chypre with a warmth that is open, modern, bright, and always approachable.

It’s not all a bed of roses, however. There are thorns in the form of a synthetic or two that lurks in the perfume’s base. At first, around the 40-minute mark, there is merely a sharp note that is hard to pinpoint, but which gives me a dull ache behind my eyes. It feels woody, but not exactly like ISO E Super at first. Soon, unfortunately, the aroma-chemical’s telltale peppery, humming buzz makes itself noticeable, along with a rhythmic jack-knife drilling through my skull. It lasts for hours and, since I don’t always get an ISO E Super headache unless there is a hell of a lot of the synthetic at play, I rue one more time Mr. Tauer’s love for the bloody note. (No, Mr. Tauer, not everyone thinks it serves as a wonderful photoshop-like finishing touch!) Given the forcefulness of the synthetic carrion vulture circling around my head, I suspect that there is something else going on as well, like Ambroxan. Whatever the specific synthetics in question, it’s a testament to Une Rose Chyprée that I don’t care in the slightest. That says a lot. Regular readers know that I think the rampant use of ISO E Super in perfumery is akin to an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, and that I despise the majority of fragrances that include it. But Une Rose Chyprée is special.

Around the same time that the devil’s chemical minions pop up their blasted head, Une Rose Chyprée starts to slowly morph. First, it’s just a question of feel, as the notes start to blur and overlap each other. Then, the fragrance starts to turn more gauzy, like a sheer veil of garnet red and mossy green gliding in the air like a kite. Yet, despite the breezy weight of the fragrance, Une Rose Chyprée is incredibly potent and pulsates its bouquet out across a room in a beautiful juxtaposition of airiness with strength. Perhaps the best way to describe it is like a cloud that billows out several feet around you, with notes that reflect brightness, lightness and dark.

Vanilla Custard. Source: Sacchef's Blog.

Vanilla Custard.
Source: Sacchef’s Blog.

Another change is that Une Rose Chyprée starts to manifest faintly gourmand undertones. Vanilla starts to rise to the surface; it’s beautifully creamy, rich, and custardy, with such a ripe sweetness that it almost takes on a banana custard aspect on occasion. At the same time, a sugared, floral powder quality creeps into the scent. When it combines with the vanilla custard, the sun-sweetened clementine, the rose, geranium, and the cinnamon, the result is something that actually smells of pink bubblegum. One reason may stem from the patchouli which feels fruity on occasion, but whatever the cause, there is a definite candied, pink, bubblegum tonality to the rose that manifested itself on all three occasions that I tested Une Rose Chyprée. Somehow, it adds to the fragrance’s playful, flirtatious open side, underscoring once again what an unusual sort of chypre this is and how it straddles different perfume families.

"Rose Reflections" by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

“Rose Reflections” by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

Yet, despite the quiet, fruited undertones, Une Rose Chyprée is still primarily a rose scent with green notes that are wrapped up in a ribbon of black smokiness. A third verdant element pops up around the 90-minute mark: vetiver. It’s simultaneously a bit earthy, musky, and rooty all in one, a swirl of dark greens and browns. I suspect that it’s responsible for the occasional mushroom nuance I detect, but what makes it really special is the way it interacts with the vanilla. Vetiver and vanilla are an old, established combination in perfumery, but it’s done extremely well here in conjunction with the other notes. It works particularly well with the flickers of spicy, peppered geranium leaves and the fading whisper of juicy citruses. And, somewhere in this complicated, unusual, multi-faceted mix is a hint of beeswax from the labdanum.

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

The beeswax heralds the arrival of the final, and most substantial, change to the fragrance. One hour and forty-five minutes into Une Rose Chyprée’s development, the amber becomes prominent, lending a golden hue to the rose’s glossy garnet and mossy, emerald gleam. The labdanum here doesn’t have any of its usual, typical characteristics; it has no leathery, nutty, animalic, musky, masculine or dirty undertones. Instead, it’s merely a smooth, rich glow, infused with that sweet vanilla custard and a tinge of fruited patchouli. Resinously deep, it sweeps through the fragrance like a coursing river of molten, amber lava flecked with hints of cinnamon, beeswax, vanilla, and earthy vetiver. As the sweeter, warmer elements surge forward, the geranium-oakmoss-clementine trio weaken in strength, and Une Rose Chyprée loses some of its youthful, coquettish playfulness. Slowly, the fragrance starts to turn into an Oriental that is more seductive and openly sensual.

The labdanum grows stronger and stronger until, at the start of the fifth hour, it completely transforms that mossy, smoky, slightly bubblegum, fruited rose. Une Rose Chyprée has become primarily an amber scent, emitting a caramel tonality mixed with vanilla custard, patchouli, and a hint of floral powder. The rose is almost wholly abstract now, feeling like a supporting player on the sidelines. The green notes have receded or faded completely away, leaving a scent that is resinous and almost chewy in feel. The patchouli that was once almost fruity has now turned into my absolute favorite kind: black, dark, faintly spiced, lightly musky and smoky, and completely chewy. It folds and melts into the amber and vanilla custard, creating a very sexy, sumptuously rich scent.

Dior Couture. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for "Dior Couture," a  book by Ingrid Sischy, Patrick Demarchelier.

Dior Couture. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for “Dior Couture,” a book by Ingrid Sischy, Patrick Demarchelier.

Something about the fragrance’s dramatic opulence and warm, sensuous creaminess makes me think of the suggestion of a woman’s golden, musky, voluptuous flesh languidly spilling out from a deep décolleté. Une Rose Chyprée is no longer a gamine, playful Audrey Hepburn rose. Instead, it’s now an oriental seductress in an amber and patchouli haute couture ball gown tantalizing you with suggestions of heated warmth and musky, sweet abandon. And the fragrance remains that way until its very end. Around the 7.5 hour mark, the fragrance turns into a hazy blur of golden sweetness that hovers right above the skin. Powdery touches (that I really don’t like) come and go, until the 9th hour, when Une Rose Chyprée begins its final change into a simple wisp of lightly powdered amber.

All in all, Une Rose Chyprée consistently lasted over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. During the first test, I applied 4 large smears of the scent, and the perfume lasted well over 16.5 hours. The sillage was monstrously huge, wafting a good 2-3 feet across the room, and it remained that way until the 5th hour when it dropped to about 3-4 inches above the skin. Even when Une Rose Chyprée was closer to the skin, it was still extremely potent. In fact, the fragrance only became a skin scent on me around the middle of the 9th hour. All in all, the longevity was utterly astounding, especially given how voraciously my skin eats perfume, but it is also further proof of the synthetics underlying the mix.

The second time around, I applied my usual quantity of two large smears, and Une Rose Chyprée lasted just over 12.75 hours. There was a difference in the perfume’s development, as the ISO E Super seemed substantially more prominent, and the top notes (particularly the geranium-moss-clementine accord) were significantly weaker. By the same token, the perfume seemed much smokier and a wee bit more spiced at a lower dosage, while the fruited notes were more muted. In addition, the powdery quality to the fragrance crept in much sooner, as did the resinous amber undertones. In short, if you use a small quantity of Une Rose Chyprée, your skin may not bring out the fragrance’s top notes in quite the same way and the fragrance may lose some of its more beautiful nuances. Other than those small issues of strength and timing, the core essence of Une Rose Chyprée remained unchanged. With the lesser dosage, the sillage dropped faster, and the fragrance became a skin scent around the 6th hour, but it was always very potent in feel and it still lasted an incredibly long time.

My experiences with Une Rose Chyprée differs from that of a few people. For one thing, there are dramatically polar opposite accounts about the perfume’s sillage and duration. On both Luckyscent and Fragrantica, a number of people think the perfume simply doesn’t last and has weak projection. In fact, going by the votes on Fragrantica, the majority find the Une Rose Chyprée’s longevity is merely “moderate.” Even more people, combined, think that the perfume’s duration is “poor” or “weak.” My response to that is the same as one disbelieving reviewer’s reaction: I “can’t believe what im seeing.” The explanation may lay in the quantity used. My own experiences, and the 2nd test in particular, make me think that applying a very drop or two of the fragrance will curtail its potency, in addition to hiding its nuances and layers. Still, skin chemistry is a tricky and deeply individual thing, so be warned that some people have problems with Une Rose Chyprée’s projection and duration.

As for the fragrance itself, general commentators seem split on its appeal, with some finding it to be too heavy and old, while others think it is the most beautiful, “extravagant” or “3D” rose they’ve encountered. It will all depend on your benchmarks. I wouldn’t recommend Une Rose Chyprée to anyone looking for a light, fresh rose fragrance, nor to those looking for something edgy, revolutionary, or quirky. Une Rose Chyprée was intentionally created to be a modern twist on a very classic, traditional style of perfumery, and it succeeds in that goal beautifully. This is a fragrance with a heavy, vintage feel, so those who want a light, youthful, simple fruity-floral should not bother one iota. But, if you’re looking for an over-the-top glowing jewel of a rose that throws out more notes than a diamond hit by the sun, or if you’re looking for an opulent scent with a wickedly sensuous, seductive, “come hither” allure, then Une Rose Chyprée is for you. I’d also like add that anyone who was deeply disappointed in Frederic Malle‘s much-vaunted (and, in my opinion, hugely over-hyped) rose fragrance, Portrait of a Lady, should run to try Mr. Tauer’s stunner. This is how it’s done!

Ava Gardner.

Ava Gardner.

If you think all this fuss is from a blogger with an over-active imagination, you’d be mistaken. For one thing, as I said at the start, I don’t particularly like rose fragrances to begin with, and chypres are not my favorite category. More importantly, however, reviews from everyday perfume users gush just as much about the fragrance as do all the bloggers out there (and trust me, the bloggers lose their knickers for Une Rose Chyprée). On MakeupAlley, where the fragrance has a perfect 5.0 score with 8 reviews, one apt description of the scent succinctly reads:

This fragrance is gorgeous and dark. It is sexy, animalic, and gutsy. If I had to give you a visual, I would say Ava Gardner in her prime.
Haunting, fascinating, utterly gorgeous.

I personally would go with 1950s Audrey Hepburn for the fragrance’s chypre opening stage, but let’s not quibble. She’s absolutely and completely right about Ava Gardner for the middle and end stages.

That said, don’t interpret these comparisons as something that feels dated and old. Another raving MakeupAlley review talks about how the scent felt just as appropriate in a grunge pit and jazz club, as it did at the opera:

I tend to avoid roses as they are often too pink and polite to my nose [….]. Une Rose Chyprée is different. Despite its wide range of notes that feel like a salute to different fragrance families, it is a unique interpretation that does not have a futile attempt to satisfy the chyprée and gourmand lovers at the same time- how horrendous would that be! On the contary, it is a tremendous blend that hints at an intelligent crossroad but does its own thing in a versatile way. On me, the oakmoss base gives a fantastic depth to the vintage rose but the result is just like modern classical music sounds to my ears. I am a music lover and I have worn this to the opera. I felt like I was dressed in velvet. I wore it to a couple of grunge and noise gigs with deep V necks and felt super accessible and unreachable at the same time. It also goes well with jazz clubs. My next plan is to stock this masterpiece, be forced to declare bankruptcy and feel completely untouchable at the courtroom i.e. I am addicted.

Finally, if any of these references or photos make you think that guys can’t pull off Une Rose Chyprée, think again. But don’t take just my word for it; the award-winning blogger, Persolaise, thinks so, too. In a comment on Basenotes (where Une Rose Chyprée has a 91% approval rating), he gives it 5-stars and writes:

The ghosts of all the old, bewitching Guerlains are to be found in Une Rose Chyprée, a pitch-perfect manifestation of pure sensuality. My initial reaction to it was to let out a gasp of astonishment and exclaim, “I don’t think I’ve got enough noses with which to smell this.” Yes, in simplistic terms, it’s a rose, but then, a rose is a rose is a rose… Earthy and sparkling, this is a substance of gilt-edged richness, which also accomplishes the feat of remaining unabashedly unisex throughout its development.

I completely agree. Une Rose Chyprée is unabashedly unisex with the luxurious, opulent quality and elegance of a vintage Guerlain, while still retaining a very modern drama and oomph. It’s got a refined elegance that turns into a deep-throated growl of sensuality. And it has enough prismatic nuances that you will, indeed, think you need a few more noses with which to smell it.

Source: hdwallpaperes.com

Source: hdwallpaperes.com

One downside to the fragrance is that it’s not cheap for the small size at $140 for a 30 ml/ 1 oz bottle. That said, it is an eau de parfum in concentration, and a tiny amount of Une Rose Chyprée goes a long, long way. Plus, the ingredients are extremely expensive. At the fragrance’s launch in 2009, Mr. Tauer said that each hand-packaged bottle contains one pound of steam-distilled rose petals, as well as rosa damascena absolute. In one of his recent blog entries, he wrote that his rose base “comes to 450 Francs per kilo. That’s the price you have to pay for a real rose base. Actually, compared to the rose absolute per se it is a bargain (rose absolute sells for about 4000 $ [.]” That costly rose damascena absolute is a big part of Une Rose Chyprée, as well. In short, the reason why the fragrance costs so much is the same reason why the rose glows like a jewel: it’s got the real stuff in there, and in huge quantities to boot.

I could write several thousand more words about the beauty of this scent, and why it feels so special. I’ll spare you that. The bottom line is that Une Rose Chyprée may be, at its heart, an essentially simple green-then-ambered rose, but it’s greater than the sum of its parts. To expand on the line from the poet, Thomas Moore, ’tis the last rose of summer whose refined green-red brightness has now given way into autumn’s sultry red-golden amber. It’s also the sexiest, most compelling, addictive, mesmerizing, bewitching rose-centric scent that this rose-skeptic has smelled in a long, long time. I bow down at Mr. Tauer’s feet in utter admiration.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Une Rose Chyprée is an eau de parfum that comes in a 30 ml/1 oz bottle that costs $140 or €95.60 (if purchased from the Tauer website). In the U.S.: you can buy Une Rose Chyprée from Luckyscent or MinNewYork, as well as directly from Tauer Perfumes where it is cheaper at $128.60. (See further details down below in the Tauer section.) Luckyscent also sell a sample vial for $3, and MiN for $5. Samples are available from The Perfumed Court as well, starting at $8.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. It is not sold at Surrender to Chance. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, the full line of Tauer Perfumes is available at Saltridges which sells Une Rose Chyprée for CAD$168. I think Saltridges may be the exclusive Canadian vendor for Tauer, but I’m not sure. In Europe, you can find Une Rose Chyprée at France’s Premiere Avenue for €99, while Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €105.00. It too carries samples. In the UK, Les Senteurs sells Une Rose Chyprée for £99.00, along with samples. In Italy, you can find the fragrance at Vittoria Profumi which sells Une Rose Chyprée for €104. In Russia, the Tauer line of fragrances is available at 1st Original. The Tauer website’s store locator also provides locations in over 10 countries — ranging from France and the Netherlands to Russia, Singapore, the UK, Poland, Romania, Spain and more — where its products are available. You can find that list of stores here.
Cost & Availability from the Tauer Website: The Tauer Perfumes website lists the cost of the 30 ml/1 oz bottle as: Fr. 118.00 / USD 128.60 / EUR 95.60. Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of Une Rose Chyprée for: Fr. 5.00 / USD 5.50 / EUR 4.10. Though they used to ship to most places in the world, you need to know that they can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now. The website explains that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria and cannot ship “Great Britain, UK, Russia, Belgium and the Czech Republic.” As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes (for free shipping to most places in the world) which you can choose at will for: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.80 / EUR 25.10. The website provides the following information:
Free selection: It is your choice to pick a set of 5 DISCOVERY SIZE perfume samples in glass spray vials. 1.5 ml each (0.75 ml of 0.75 ml of UNE ROSE CHYPRÉE or UNE ROSE VERMEILLE or CARILLON POUR UN ANGE) are at your disposal. Pick any scents from the Tauer perfumes range. The amounts of 1.5 (0.75 ml) are minimal amounts. Usually , we will ship around 2 ml (1ml). The DISCOVERY size vials are spray vials and will allow you to enjoy our fragrances for several days.Packaging: The DISCOVERY SET comes in a glide-cover metal box for optimal protection.Shipment: This product ships for free within 24 hours after we received your order world wide. Exceptions: Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Belgium, Czech Republic.

Perfume Review – Lonestar Memories by Tauer Perfumes: Mad Max Meets Sticky Orange

Mad Max the Road Warrior. On an arid desert road, he takes out a flame thrower to burn rubber, asphalt and cars, then relaxes in victory on some very expensive, myrrh-infused, leather car seats before eating some orange sticky toffee pudding and napping in a vanillic-amber haze. That was the essence of my experience with Lonestar Memories from Tauer Perfumes, a fragrance that is actually intended to be an ode to the Wild West and cowboys. For me, it was Mad Max, and then the Queen’s tea. And, surprising as this may sound, it actually works a little.

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Scene from Mad Max 2 via cinemasights.com

Lonestar Memories (sometimes written as “03 Lonestar Memories”) is a unisex fragrance by Andy Tauer, a molecular biologist with a PhD who left the world of science in 2005 to become a perfumer. Lonestar Memories was his second creation and released in 2006. It received a 4-star rating from the renowned perfume critic, Luca Turin, who described it as a “wonderfully warm… smoky carnation” in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.

andy-tauer-03-lonestar-memoriesOn Fragrantica, Lonestar Memories is classified as a “woody chypre” and described as a call to the American West, leather and old jeans. The Tauer website adds more detail:

An ode on birchtar: True and unique, rich and lasting
The scent of a lonesome rider, wearing old jeans and leather jacket, after a long day on the horse in the dry woods, preparing his coffee on the open, smoky fire.

Lonestar Memories’ notes include:

Geranium, Carrot seed, Clary sage, Birchtar, Cistus [or labdanum], Jasmine, Cedar wood, Myrrh, Tonka, Vetiver, Sandalwood.

Silver birch tree. Source: my own photograph.

Silver birch tree. Source: my own photograph.

Birch is a big part of Lonestar Memories, as are the geranium and clary sage. According to Fragrantica, the odor of birch is that of “cooked” wood, and is “a phenolic, tarry smelling ingredient mostly used in the production of leather scents, some chypres and some masculine fragrances.” Clary sage also has a leather undertone, but it is a herbaceous plant that often smells like lavender.

Lonestar Memories opens on my skin with burning rubber, burning orange plastic and the smell of soldering. I’d read repeated references to the odor of electronic soldering — the taking of a high-intensity flame to meld together either pipes, wiring or electronic components — in comments on Luckyscent, but I hadn’t quite believed them. I certainly do now. The comparison truly does apply:

  • Solderingthis one smells like my electronics class – lots of burning plastic and soldering irons
  • the smoky smell is reminiscent of an electronics class (specifically solder smoke)
  • Lonestar Memories absolutely reminds me of the air-exhaust of a laundromat- which I love, so I might buy a bottle.

The source of the smell is the combination of that tarry, smoky birch tar with pungent geranium. The two notes go hand-in-hand for much of Lonestar Memories’ opening hours, though in the opening minutes, the birch tar rules all. It’s not mentholated or camphorous, the way it is in Santa Maria Novella‘s similar Ambra, but, rather, just like black rubber that has been singed along with soldered electronics and plastic-coated wires. My skin cycles through notes rather quickly, so, on me, it only lasted 15 minutes but it seems to have lasted considerably longer on some other people. The overall effect is to make Lonestar Memories not a call to the Wild West or Brokeback Mountain cowboys by a campfire, but, rather, to Mad Max in some futuristic, post-apocalyptic world of asphalt, metal, leather and black rubber.

Mad Max 2.

Mad Max 2.

Accompanying the tarry note is strong, slightly bitter geranium, followed soon thereafter by cedar wood and some syrupy, sweet note that feels like myrrh mixed with tonka, tar and smoke. The sweetness grows with every moment, as syrupy myrrh spreads its resinous, ambery touch. At times, there is almost a vanillic touch to the syrup.

Clary Sage. Source: TreeFrogFarm.com

Clary Sage. Source: TreeFrogFarm.com

Lurking to the side is clary sage, feeling very herbaceous and very much like lavender. The combination of notes creates an odd dichotomy: pungent, floral geranium and herbal lavender, countered by syrupy amber and singed black rubber. Thanks to the growing sweetness from the syrup, the tarry birch accord soon softens and the black rubber begins to transform into the scent of expensive, leather car seats.

The effect of that syrupy myrrh resin on the bitter, pungent geranium creates the key characteristic of Lonestar Memories: an orange accord. At the start, it is slightly bitter and extremely similar to neroli. When combined with the lavender note from the clary sage and the now smoky aspect of the birch tar, the overall scent strongly parallels that of Santa Maria Novella‘s Ambra. There are differences, however, especially with that key orange accord. In Lonestar Memories, the note is sweetened and more akin to actual orange, with just the faintest touch of a bitter edge from the geranium. In Ambra, the note actually does stems from neroli (or bigarade); it is primarily bitter, not to mention quite woody as if petitgrain were used. Lonestar Memories is significantly richer, denser, heavier and thicker in feel and notes than the more airy Ambra which is an eau de cologne. Ambra is also much dryer, much less sweet, and has a mentholated aspect to the birch tar which Lonestar Memories lacks.

Source: Simplyrecipes.com

Source: Simplyrecipes.com

By the end of the first hour, Lonestar Memories is a rich, complex orange amber. It is triggers visions of orange — sticky, sweet, herbaceous, but also bitter, and backed by leather. It feels a lot like an English sticky toffee pudding sauce, thanks to the sweet, vanilla-infused, balsam-like resins which soften the edges of the aromatics and woody notes. Even better, the tarry feel from the birch has largely dissipated, replaced by a smoky woodiness. The changes lead me to think that Lonestar Memories is much more wearable and versatile than I had initially thought.

Unfortunately, that’s when the headache kicked in. I rarely get headaches from fragrances, not even from the ISO E Super which I despise. The few times it does happen, however, the culprit is always a synthetic. And something in Lonestar Memories’s amber base triggers an enormous, insistent throbbing in my temples that eventually leads up to a burning sensation in the bridge of my nose. I have to wonder if there is something like Ambroxan or a similar amber synthetic that is to blame. Whatever the reason, Lonestar Memories gave me a headache on both occasions when I tried it. And I am not alone. On Luckyscent, someone had a similar experience, writing: “the amber drydown is almost metallic, and that gave me a headache.” On Fragrantica, a commentator got a headache but from a very different triggering aroma: “smoky yes but I have a very strong boxed laundry detergent smell that is giving me a bad headache….two advils to heaven.”

Despite the headache, I enjoyed the finish and drydown of Lonestar Memories. The orange note fades a little in prominence to include some vaguely abstract floral element with smoke, vanilla, and caramel-y amber. In the last hours, Lonestar Memories turned into a custardy vanilla with benzoin over the lightest tinge of orange. The sillage of Lonestar Memories was quite strong in the first hour, then it softened and became relatively moderate. It turned into a skin scent about 4.5 hours into the perfume’s development. The longevity was good, too, lasting approximately 9 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. On others, I suspect Lonestar Memories would last for a significantly longer stretch of time as it can be quite a potent fragrance, depending on how much you apply. I would recommend using a light hand if you’re going to be wearing this to a conservative office environment.

There are very split reactions to Lonestar Memories, though the majority on both Luckyscent and Fragrantica seem to adore the fragrance. I think it will all depend on how you react to that difficult opening and, perhaps, how you feel about smoky barbeques. Some of the varied, quite polarized descriptions on Fragrantica may help you decide:

  • The initial burst of barbecue spice and heavy wood smoke quickly mellows into a fantastic earthy accord that is smoothed by myrrh and sweetened with jasmine.
  • Lonestar Memories smells like an Oilman wearing an amber fragrance at a barbecue (well, sort of). This is quite a challenging composition. It opens with a blast of spicy-smoky leather that smells halfaway between tear gas, tar, burnt rubber and, yes, barbecue. Myrrh and amber make their appearance right away adding a consistent dose of sweetness while the smoky feel remarks its presence throughout.
  • Tar, carrot seed, clary sage and wood with flowers place Lonestar Memories somewhere beyond leather. Knize Ten and Etat Libre’s Rien are mild in comparison. LM has a much more burnt quality than these two. ‘Tar’ and ‘burnt’ do to an extent add up to notes of snubbed cigarette and charcoal but the scent ultimately LM brings to mind is burnt wood. Not the smoke of burning wood, but old campfire. LM is nowhere near a daily fragrance for me. I honestly can’t even say that all moments of LM are pleasant. But it’s worth the experience of the top notes to get to the basenotes which lose the feel of charred things and petrochemicals. The base centers on a handsome severity that only a unsmiling, unsweetened floral can give.
  • Does not remind me of American West. Has a medical/hospital opening that I just cant get past. Bad stuff, stay away!
  • Hot afternoon sun in Texas, dust and dirt, melting blacktop tar, burning tires, smoke, and motorcycle exhaust. Sorry – but I think this is a Tauer fail for someone to actually wear.
  • Lonestar is a difficult perfume to understand. It is brash and in your face, but it also tells a story of the Wild West and Cowboys. Although the notes do not mention leather, there is a strong accord of smokey barbeque meat, and you can almost touch the embers on the fire. Like any wood fire, it can become choking at times but it also mesmerizes the wearer.  [¶] If this perfume were a person, it would swagger and wear ripped jeans.
  • If I would have met a man who wears THAT perfume I ve done everything to be his girl!! I smell all the fine things from the beginning: adventure, finest saddle horse leather,smoke, wood, incense, some wild jasmine.. and that man is taking me in his arms only to throw me on his mustang and then he d jump on that horse too and off we go … through the deserty dusty plains, the pine woods not far away along the the route and I get a feeling, that all my wishes will come true..we arrive at a camp fire and my man is sweating a little so his smell becomes sweeter and more cedar-like and I m melting in his arms again, my nose buried in his neck..and the mustang is giving a soft blow through his nostrils and I m in my smokey leathery horse heaven..Oh that perfume!

My experience was different from many of those described. On me, that difficult, tarry, smoked rubber, leathery opening didn’t last for very long, and the perfume was primarily a sticky orange amber. True, there was occasional bitterness from the geranium, along with smoke from the birch, subtle undertones of leather, and occasional dryness from the cedar wood, but none of those notes changed the primary essence of the fragrance.

As a side note, despite the many references to the masculine nature of the fragrance, there are a number of women who really enjoy Lonestar Memories. Yes, it skews a little more masculine than some unisex fragrances, especially with that tarry, burnt rubber opening, but the essence of the fragrance feels very unisex for me. I suppose it all depends on how the smoke, leather and rubber elements from the birch manifest themselves on your skin. It’s definitely an interesting scent to try, but also not one to buy blindly without a test. If Lonestar Memories doesn’t work out, but the underlying elements intrigues you, there is always Santa Maria Novella‘s woodier, dryer, airier, and more herbaceous, lavender-y, neroli Ambra to try.

Have you tried Lonestar Memories? If so, did the opening transport you to a cowboy’s barbeque on the range, or to Mad Max’s Thunderdome?

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability in General: Lonestar Memories is an eau de toilette. In the U.S., you can buy a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for $125 from Luckyscent or MinNewYork, as well as directly from Tauer Perfumes where it is cheaper at $102. (See further details below in the Tauer section.) Luckyscent also sell a sample vial for $3. Samples are available from Surrender to Chance as well, starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. In Europe, First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €95.00 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml, or for €190.00 for a 3.4/100 ml bottle from. It too carries samples. In the UK, Les Senteurs sells Lonestar Memories for £87.00, along with samples. The Tauer website’s store locator also provides locations in over 10 countries — ranging from France and the Netherlands to Russia, Singapore, the UK, Poland, Romania, Spain and more — where its products are available. You can find that list of stores here.

Cost & Availability from the Tauer Website: The Tauer Perfumes website lists the cost of the 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle as: Fr. 96.00 / USD 102.70 / EUR 77.80. Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of Lonestar Memories for: Fr. 6.00 / USD 6.50 / EUR 5.00. Though they used to ship to most places in the world, you need to know that they can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now. The website explains that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria and cannot ship “Great Britain, UK, Russia, Belgium and the Czech Republic.” As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes (for free shipping to most places in the world) which you can choose at will for: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.50 / EUR 25.70. The website provides the following information:

Free selection: It is your choice to pick a set of 5 DISCOVERY SIZE perfume samples in glass spray vials. 1.5 ml each (0.75 ml of 0.75 ml of UNE ROSE CHYPRÉE or UNE ROSE VERMEILLE or CARILLON POUR UN ANGE) are at your disposal. Pick any scents from the Tauer perfumes range. The amounts of 1.5 (0.75 ml) are minimal amounts. Usually , we will ship around 2 ml (1ml). The DISCOVERY size vials are spray vials and will allow you to enjoy our fragrances for several days.
Packaging: The DISCOVERY SET comes in a glide-cover metal box for optimal protection.
Shipment: This product ships for free within 24 hours after we received your order world wide. Exceptions: Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Belgium, Czech Republic.

Perfume Review: Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Desert Marocain

The desert is vast and still. Silence reigns under the thousand stars. Dawn is around theDesert Night Sky corner, and the Bedouins have just started to awake. Soon, they will feed the camels and put out their wares for trading. Soon, the sun will shine intensely upon the sandy dunes and the dry desert wind will pick up traces of the spices, mixing it with the dust and the scent of Morocco,Nomads filling the air with the riches of the ancient spice route and the mysteries of the desert.

That is the promise of L’Air du Desert Morocain Eau de Toilette Intense, a unisex Andy T L'Air Du D. M.fragrance by Tauer Perfumes. And it is a promise that it delivers upon, lock, stock and ten roaring barrels. It is an incredibly impressive perfume, created by a Swiss scientist who has absolutely zero formal training in perfume making, and it explains why both L’Air du Desert Marocain and the Tauer line of perfumes itself have become such a massive hit.

Tauer Perfumes was founded by Andy Tauer, a molecular biologist with a PhD who left the world of science in 2005 to become a perfumer. L’Air du Desert Marocain was his second creation, made to be a lighter version of his hit, Le Maroc pour Elle. And it has become not only adored, but, also, Andy Tauercritically acclaimed. It received a 5-star rating as a masterpiece from Luca Turin’s co-critic, Tania Sanchez, in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.  Surrender to Chance provides some interesting details on his start and his approach:

Tauer took a unique approach to marketing his fragrances, as have many indi [sic] perfumers.  He had no big ad budget for marketing, he didn’t have a relationship with Barneys or Bergdorf or any other big department store that could put his more luxurious perfumes in front of customers, so he went straight to the internet.

Marketing directly one on one, to perfume bloggers, fragrance forums, Tauer worked tirelessly to get his fragrances in front of the consumer that would appreciate them the most and then start working to get the knowledge of his great creations out in the world – the perfume community.  Once we love something, we talk about it.

Tauer was a blogger too, sharing with us, becoming a part of our community because, well, he was, he was completely one of us.

Tauer’s perfumes are inspired by his travels – Lonestar Memories is the American west, leather and old jeans.  Zeta is an ode to the gorgeous linden blossom – all sunshine, with no shadows, the best summer day of your life.  Le Maroc Pour elle is the smell of Morocco in the evening air.

So too is L’Air du Desert Marocain. It is definitely the smell of Morocco; it is also Moroccan archwayevocative and of extremely high quality. Yet, for all that I think this is one absolutely marvelous scent and for all that I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists in the beginning, I don’t think this is a scent for me. It is one of those rare perfumes that I think actually leans a little too masculine (despite being unisex) and it is also something that would be hard to wear every day. But, on the right man, though, I think that it would be rhapsody and heaven — the sort of scent that would make another woman or man want to sniff him for days on end and to dream of his scent. On a man, this is a fragrance that could make his spouse or significant other find it impossible to keep his or her hands to themselves.

Fragrantica classifies L’Air du Desert Marocain as an “Oriental Spicy.” The Tauer website provides the following notes:

HEAD NOTES

Coriander and cumin, carefully blended with petitgrain.

HEART NOTES

A warm heart note with rock rose and a hint of jasmine.

BODY NOTES

Dry cedar woods and vetiver, brilliantly joined on a fine ambergris background.

However, I have seen a far fuller listing of notes elsewhere. For example, Bois de Jasmin gives what seems a much more comprehensive list and that is what I’m going to work with:

coriander, petitgrain, bitter orange, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, labdanum, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver, vanilla, patchouli and ambergris.

L’Air du Desert Marocain opens with such forcefulness that my head spins. It is a good forcefulness, and I absolutely love it, but I recall Fragrantica‘s statement that this was made as a “lighter” version of Le Maroc Pour Elle and blink. Quite frankly, it is almost a little overwhelming in its spiciness, and I rarely say that. Yet, it explodes with such a marvelous opening that I find myself testing it out three different times on different places. And each opening was different.

The very first time, I got a very strong scent of orange petitgrain with spices. You can read more about petitgrain and all the various notes in the Glossary, but, in a nutshell, petitgrain is the distillation of the bitter twigs of a citrus tree, usually orange blossom. It is a woody, bitter, but highly aromatic scent. Here, the strongly woody, faintly bitter notes recall a wooded version of orange blossom. To Spice Market Moroccomy nose, there are also lovely saffron notes, mixed with spices. They are not easily identifiable, individually, but create an overall impression of a Middle Eastern spice market. The notes are sweet, but dry and far from cloying. There is, in fact, almost a smell of dust or dusty sand which suddenly explains one commentator on Fragrantica who disdainfully asked: “tell me, is one willing to smell like the baked, parched sediment that is sand?”

Tribal nomad smoking a hookah in the desert.

Tribal nomad smoking a hookah in the desert.

I happen to think that dry note is essential to cut through the extremely heady, powerful spice notes that are apparent from the very start. There are notes of woody, sweet incense and amber from the labdanum (also known as rockrose or cistus, and similar to ambergris). The incense in L’Air du Desert Marocain is some of the sweetest incense I’ve smelled in a while, perhaps because it is laden with the patchouli which is very rich, black, dirty, 70s kind of patchouli. The whole thing is very strong, and it never goes away, though it does fade to an underlying sweetness after about five hours. (Yes, this thing is a sillage and longevity monster!)

With the dust and wood undertones, I keep remembering an artsy, funky antique shop here Apothecary cabinetwhich sells hundred-year old wooden ApothCab2Chinese apothecary cabinets; they smell faintly dusty, woody, and carry the lingering traces of old spices. I go to my own spice cabinet and drawers, hoping to pinpoint exactly what spices I’m smelling here. I find nothing. My coriander does not smell exactly like the coriander in L’Air du Desert Marocain, and neither does my cumin. But those are mere powders and, from interviews that I’ve read with Andy Tauer, he seems to use the most expensive oils and distillations. It certainly smells like it. You can smell the incredible quality of the perfume.

My second try with L’Air du Desert Marocain yielded a totally different, but equally fascinating, opening burst. This time, I smell lemoned coriander and tea. Amazing Earl Grey tea with notes of bergamot, an ingredient which falls between orange and lemon in scent. There is Earl Grey but there is also something else, something smokier, darker and almost tarred. It evokes Lapsang Souchang, a black tea which Wikipedia says “is distinct from all other types of tea because lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour.” The black, bitter, smoky tea is tinged with pine notes but also the lightness of the bergamot and the piney aspect of cedar. I feel triumphant at finally pinning down one of the more elusive notes in the perfume, but I’m astounded at how different this opening is from my first go-round.

My third try yielded a mix of my prior two attempts. This time, the opening was of cedar, lemon, vetiver and pine needles with a strong element of dust. Actual dust! The wood and dust notes are complimented by the earthy sweetness and amber notes of the vetiver, but cedar is the predominant star here.

This undulating wave of shifting notes is, in my opinion, a characteristic of a “prismatic” scent. The Perfume Shrine has a very thorough explanation of scents which may appear linear but which, in reality, have prisms and shifting weights amongst several key components.

A variation on the linear scent is the “prism”/prismatic fragrance, whereupon you smell a humongous consistent effect all right, but when you squint this or that way, throughout the long duration, you seem to pick up some random note coming to the fore or regressing, then repeating again and again; a sort of “lather, rinse, repeat” to infinity. A good example of this sort of meticulously engineered effect is Chanel’s Allure Eau de Toilette (and not the thicker and less nuanced Eau de Parfum) where the evolution of fragrance notes defies any classical pyramidal structure scheme. There are six facets shimmering and overlapping with no one note predominating.

Here, with L’Air du Desert Marocain, sometimes the opening gave me notes like the petitgrain, orange and labdanum, sometimes bergamot, coriander and cedar, and sometimes a combination of all three, including the base or bottom notes (the heavier molecular compounds which last longer on the skin).

Regardless of which version I start out with, two hours in, the heart of L’Air du Desert Marocain starts to unfurl. It is pure labdanum, patchouli, and sweet incense with cedar and faint touches of cumin that, at this point, in no way smells like body odor or sweat. The overall impression is of spiced amber and perfumed wood. The sillage is slightly less overwhelming at this point, but there is still significant projection.

Three hours later, the cumin starts to turn and shift a little. There is a faint, tiny element of sweat that creeps in. If you’ve read any of my reviews for perfumes with cumin, you will know that I’m highly sensitive to the scent of cumin and its inevitable turn to a sweat note. It happens on me each and every time, whether it’s Serge Lutens’ Serge Noire or Amouage’s Jubiliation 25. And, each time, I struggle with it. Here, it is fainter than it was in Serge Noire but, still, 6.5 hours, I have to give a faintly worried sniff under my arms. It’s my own issue and my own neurosis because, again, my nose is extremely sensitive to cumin (it’s why I can rarely cook with it). Here, it’s very subtle, but the faint trace of body odor is definitely apparent at this point.

The cumin note doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the perfume’s dry-down which is rich and almost narcotically boozy in its smoky amber and patchouli. It’s not a cozy, “let’s snuggle under the blanket” sort of amber. This is far too incense-heavy for that. It’s more masculine and rugged — and much sexier. On a man, I can imagine his partner or spouse thinking, “let me nuzzle you, sniff you and run my hands over you.”

I can’t think of a celebrity whom I think embodies the L’Air du Desert Marocain man. This is not for Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, nor for the Marlboro Man or John Wayne. The character which consistently comes to mind is the Bedouin chief, Ardeth Bay, played by fehr5fehr4Oded Fehr in The Mummy (1999). Or Omar Sharif’s character in Lawrence of Arabia.

Women can certainly wear L’Air du Desert Marocain and, again, it is officially a unisex scent “for women and men,” but I don’t think the majority of women would find this to be something they could wear daily. In fact, some men on a Basenotes thread I read found that it was perhaps a little too much for them, too. That said, I think it’s a fantastic scent and well worth a sample for those who like their scents spicy and heady. It will take you to the deserts of Morocco and, if you’re lucky, make you feel like a Bedouin king.

DETAILS:

Sillage & Longevity: This thing lasts and lasts! My skin consumes perfume voraciously and, yet, L’Air du Desert Marocain had serious projection or sillage for the first 2.5 hours, then slightly less for the next hour, and only becoming close to the skin a little under 5 hours in. Nonetheless, it was still easily detectable at that point any time I brought my nose to my wrist. In terms of longevity, it lasted just under 10 hours on me, which is pretty remarkable. On others, the fragrance is reported to last eons with only a few sprays, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted a good 16 hours on someone, if not far more if you used a lot.

Cost & Availability in General: In the US, you can buy a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for $125 from Luckyscent and The Perfume Shoppe, as well as directly from Tauer Perfumes from February 2013 onwards. (See further details below in the Tauer section.) If you want to order now from Lucky Scent, please be aware that they are backlogged until the end of January 2013 on all orders for the perfume. They also sell a sample vial for $4. Samples are available from Surrender to Chance as well, starting at $5.99. In Europe, First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €95.00 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml, or for €190.00 for a 3.4/100 ml bottle from. It too carries samples. In the UK, Les Senteurs carries the Tauer line but the online website only seems to carry samples, not the full bottles. It may be different in the actual stores, but you will have to check. I don’t know about the shipping rates for any of those sites. The Tauer website’s store locator also provides locations in over 10 countries — ranging from France and the Netherlands to Russia, Singapore, the UK, Poland, Romania, Spain and more — where its products are available. You can find that list of stores here.

Cost & Availability from the Tauer Website: The Tauer Perfumes website lists the cost of the 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle as as: Fr. 96.00 / USD 103.70 / EUR 79.70. Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of L’Air du Desert Marocain for: Fr. 6.00 / USD 6.50 / EUR 5.00. Though they used to ship to most places in the world, you need to know that they can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now and that they will only be able to ship to the U.S. from February 2013 onwards. For various reasons due to a sudden problem with their shipping supplier, as of this post in January 2013, they say that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. They also state they they hope to remedy this situation soon.

As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes (for free shipping to most places in the world) which you can choose at will for: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.50 / EUR 25.70. The website provides the following information:

Free selection: It is your choice to pick a set of 5 DISCOVERY SIZE perfume samples in glass spray vials. 1.5 ml each (0.75 ml of 0.75 ml of UNE ROSE CHYPRÉE or UNE ROSE VERMEILLE or CARILLON POUR UN ANGE) are at your disposal. Pick any scents from the Tauer perfumes range. The amounts of 1.5 (0.75 ml) are minimal amounts. Usually , we will ship around 2 ml (1ml). The DISCOVERY size vials are spray vials and will allow you to enjoy our fragrances for several days.

Packaging: The DISCOVERY SET comes in a glide-cover metal box for optimal protection.

Shipment: This product ships for free within 24 hours after we received your order world wide. Exceptions: Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Belgium, Czech Republic.