Happy Thanksgiving & 20% Off Surrender to Chance Sale

Hello everyone. To my readers in America, Happy Thanksgiving! For others amongst you, Happy Hanukkah! I hope you’ve had a wonderful day, filled with warmth, laughter, good food, delicious desserts, and much relaxation.

The Hairy German would like to wish all of you — regardless of location, nationality, or beliefs — a lovely Friday and weekend to come. He also insisted that I share this photo of one of his brethren:

Source: Dogs for Law Enforcement on Facebook.

Source: Dogs for Law Enforcement on Facebook.

Frankly, I think my Teutonic Overlord is much more dashing:

Z2012_2

Z2012

These days, Thanksgiving in America can be as much about shopping and sales as it is about family and loved ones. Surrender to Chance is having one of its very limited-time, big specials that I thought you may want to know about. International readers, this would be a good thing for you, too, as Surrender to Chance ships globally for a flat fee of $12.95 which comes to about €9.

The sale starts right this minute on Thursday, November 28th, and the details are as follows:

Starting now until midnight Eastern Time, Friday, November 29, take 20% off everything in the store with code gobblegobble.  

 November 30 and December 1 (through midnight Eastern time), take 15% off with code ourthanks.  

In addition, they say:

As our small way of thanking you, from December 1 through the 25th, we will pick out randomly a recipient from each day’s orders for a gift from us.  Some of the gifts we have this year are really special – Serge Lutens complete wax sample sets; Francis Kurkdijan, Penhaligon’s, Nest, Tocca, Mona di Orio, Atelier, A Dozen Roses minis; Tom Ford deluxe atomizers; Penhaligon’s sample set; Fragonard mini set; By Kilian sample set; fragrance sample gift bag; and more!

The site has just received the new Puredistance BLACK, for those of you interested in testing the fragrance.

After this limited-time sale ends, you can still order things at a discount. The December discount codes are:

5% off with code prettylights

8% off orders totaling more than $75 with code holidaycheer

Cannot be combined with any other code!

For those of you who may be new to Surrender to Chance (STC) and who don’t know where to start, the site has numerous different sample sets divided by house, perfume note, brand or more. This would be a great time to try out some niche perfumes, especially in sampler sets for things like Serge Lutens, Amouage, Profumum Roma, Neela Vermeire, JAR, Ormonde Jayne, Mona di Orio, Guerlain’s prestige lines, Le Labo, Frederic Malle, Dior’s Privé line, Chanel’s Exclusifs, Roja Dove, and more. Or, you can opt to try a wide range of things based on a favorite note, like amber or florals.

To that end, I’ll copy over the information from an old post which has the direct links to various different sets offered by STC, so that you’ll have a place to start. I don’t think the pricing listed in the original links from a few months ago will have changed, but you can check:

SAMPLE SETS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER:

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

Serge Lutens Exclusive Bell Jar Fragrances Sampler Set, pick any 5 in 1/2 ml vials for $18.99. I highly recommend this set, which includes some personal favorites like Fourreau Noir, De Profundis and more.

I have to give some love to my favorite Winter Serge Lutens fragrance, Fille en Aiguilles, in single form at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. I adore this scent, own it, and it is one of my favorite perfumes as a whole. You can read my review of Fille en Aiguilles to learn more about why it’s perfect for Christmas.

Serge Lutens Non-Export Les Sompteaux Series with Muscs Koublai Khan, Cuir Mauresque (which I love), and Ambre Sultan for $11.99. I have this set and I think it’s a good one, though the vials are the usual 1/2 ml for Lutens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Profumum Roma fragrances offered by STC.

Viktoria Minya’s Hedonist.

All Neela Vermeire perfumes, including a 4 Sample Set of all her current fragrances (Ashoka as well) for $25.99. The vials are 1/2 ml each.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland Sampler Set of 12 winter fragrances in 1/2 ml vials for $28.99.

A Jack Frost winter fragrance set of 10 fragrances in 1/2 ml vials presented in a gift box for $21.99.

Autumn Sampler Set focusing on smoky or incense fragrances. 10 fragrances in 1/2 ml vials for $24.99.

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

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

JAR, the exclusive, legendary jewellery brand that I talked about in this post, is also offered on STC, from Bolt of Lightening talked about in the television show, Hannibal, to Jarling, Golconda, and others.

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

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

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

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

Tom Ford’s new Atelier d’Orient collection.

All Tom Ford fragrances on the site.

Vanilla Niche Perfume Set of 20 for $52.99.

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

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

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

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

Amouage Men’s Sampler for $22.99.

The entries for all the fragrances with Patchouli.

Decanting Supplies and empty sample vials for your own use.

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

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

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

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

3 of Roja Dove’s own perfumes — Scandal, Unspoken & Enslaved — for $11.49.

Puredistance perfumes starting at $3.99 each.

One of my absolute favorite boozy amber perfumes: Teo Cabanel’s Alahine starting at $3.99 for a vial.

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

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

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

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

Ormonde Jayne Pick 3 Sample set for $10.99.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Sample Set of 8 for $19.99.

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

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

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

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

Histoires de Parfums Sample Set of 5 for $22.99.

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

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

Vera Profumo sample set of 3 for $12.99.

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

M. Micallef Sample Set of 3 for $14.99.

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

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

The page with all their Vintage or Discontinued Fragrances.

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

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

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

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

Patchouli Set of 11 Niche/High End and rich fragrances for $41.99, along with a 9 Patchouli Set for $31.49 which are all in 1 ml vials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page with the overall categories of sample sets.

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Modern Trends in Perfume – Part IV: Oud/Aoud – Elegant Wood or Medicinal Sexiness?

While the Fresh & Clean scents outlined in Part III have been around for almost two decades, our final category involves the very latest and hottest trend in the perfume industry: Oud or Aoud fragrances. These scents use, Agarwood, one of the oldest ingredients and most expensive ingredients in the world, and its distillation is responsible for a truly different, modern fragrance.

In its purest incantation, it can evoke a cold campfire in the outdoors. At times, it can have a definitely medicinal element to its woodiness, smelling of bandaids or, in one case, reminding me of a lime disinfectant sprayed in a cold, steely hospital morgue and creating the olfactory equivalent of Chernobyl on my arm. If done well and with the right body chemistry, it can descend into smoky, incense-y, sweet, leathery richness. Oud is always expensive and used mainly by the more niche perfume houses. It can also be an extremely polarising scent. In fact, the most controversial, polarising Oud fragrance of all may be the Tom Ford-created YSL “M7,” a cologne whose very advertising campaign broke all the rules by featuring a hairy, nude male model in full frontal… er… glory. We will get to that bit later.

Let’s start at the beginning. While spellings may vary, Aoud and Oud (I’ve even seen Oudh!) both refer to Agarwood which is an extremely ancient element found in the East. No-one explains its heritage, characteristics and its current usage half as well as the experts at CaFleureBon, so I will just link to their marvelous, brilliant analysis of it here. To make a long story short, however, Fragrantica states that Agarwood “is reputed to be the most expensive wood in the world” and that Oud is the “pathological secretion of the aquillaria tree, a rich, musty woody-nutty scent that is highly prized in the Middle East. In commercial perfumery it’s safe to say all ‘oud’ is a recreated synthetic note.”

There are an increasing number of different Oud/Aoud fragrances on the market these days, from the 2011 Creed offering for men (Royal Oud) to Tom Ford. But the majority of the oud scents come from even more niche houses, from Juliette Has a Gun (founded by Nina Ricci’s great-grandson), to Montale, to the offerings of the Sultan of Oman who founded the ultra-exclusive niche house, Amouage, reputed to be the most expensive fragrance line in the world. If “clean and fresh” is a more commercial, mass-market scent, then ancient Oud goes the exact opposite way. It’s hardly surprising given the expensive nature of the ingredient.

I’ve tried a number of unisex Oud scents, thanks to the incredibly useful website, Surrender to Chance, which sells small vials or large “decants” of almost every scent imaginable – from department stores lines to the niche houses to the rare, discontinued and vintage. (I cannot recommend them enough and the shipping is a fantastic price for a fast turnaround: $2.95 for First Class Shipping on any order within the U.S., and starting at $5.95 for international shipping.) Thanks to them, I was able to try a selection of Oud/Aoud fragrances from such lines as By Kilian and Montale. By the way, you may be interested to know that Kilian is a scion of the famous Hennessy cognac dynasty. (The Hennessy company is now a part of the LVMH luxury conglomerate). You can find reviews for those Oud/Aoud fragrances here.

The very first mainstream fragrance to feature oud was M7 by YSL, under the direction

The abbreviated version of M7 ad that was run in most magazines. For the full, uncensored version see the review at One Thousand Scents, linked to below.

The abbreviated version of M7 ad that was run in most magazines. For the full, uncensored version see the review at One Thousand Scents, linked to below.

of Tom Ford. It was 2002, and I don’t think the mainstream market was ready for either an oud fragrance or for the way it was marketed. As CaFleureBon put it in the article linked to up above, “[i]t was a resounding failure at the time, although it would probably be very popular if it were introduced today due to the current market’s new familiarity with oud. It was apparently too much, too soon, as it was a very powerful fragrance, but it has a cult following to this day, due in part to its provocative ad campaign.”

One Thousand Scents has an excellent review of M7 that I highly recommend, though I should warn any readers who are at work that it features that absolutely NSFW, full-frontal photo which we’ll talk about momentarily. The review states that official list of notes for M7 are:

Top: Bergamot, mandarin, rosemary.
Middle: Vetiver, agarwood.
Base: Amber, musk, mandrake root. 

I was very impressed by One Thousand Scents‘ review. I have not smelled M7 in person, but absolutely want to now as a result. A close friend of mine who adores it (but is not sure he dares wear it out the house yet) sent me a few sprays on thick stationary and I loved the sweet, smoky notes that linger on it.  I asked him to write a guest review, but he felt he wasn’t enough of an expert to do M7 true justice. However, he kindly agreed to let me share some of his impressions which I thought added to M7’s intriguing nature. He found it:

weirdly intoxicating. Medicinal yes, perhaps smokey as well? Like dousing a campfire with some antibiotic perhaps” but not in a bad way. After some time, the incense came out but not in a strong, pungent way that would nauseate one. “It does still smell medicinal, but in a more intriguing and less abrasive way.” Like “a clean bandaid or like gauze with a mild ointment on it. But less potent and unpleasant. I’ve read some comments that liken it to a hospital, but I think that does it a disservice…. Someone on basenotes described M7 as both hypnotic and comforting and I utterly agree. I am totally under its spell. It’s definitely for cool/cold weather. […]  M7 makes me want to mysteriously wander the streets of Paris on a cold, rainy day while wearing a trenchcoat.

[In the very end though,] M7 is basically Grenouille’s final scent where people don’t know why they are descending into a giant orgy!

As you can see, M7 is a complicated, complex fragrance, and I bring it up not to review it per se (I can’t, I haven’t worn it!) but to demonstrate how far the market has changed today. In 2002, the perfume world — mainstream or even, perhaps, as a whole — was not ready for such an aggressive, confusing, novel scent. As One Thousand Scents noted, M7 is “a smoky, incensey, bristly, growling thing. You’ll either love it or hate it; there’s no in-between. It is not kidding.” (emphasis in the original.)

M7 might perhaps have had a chance in the mainstream world had it not been for “That Ad”! One Thousand Scents talks about, very amusingly, the British reaction:

Some people were a little less sanguine than the French. The British, for instance. This article about the ad in the Sunday Herald tried to keep its tone light and amused, but it smells like borderline panic to me; it really boils down to OH MY GOD IT’S A NAKED MAN IN A MAGAZINE AD AND HE’S NAKED AND YOU CAN SEE HIS DICK AND EVERYTHING OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD!

A less censored version of the ad but this is still not the full, original one!

A less censored version of the ad but this is still not the full, original one!

If that was the British reaction, one cannot begin to fathom what the American one would have been!! Of course, that would require the full advert being shown here in America and that would have been highly unlikely given the puritanical mores. (The lingering effects of Janet Jackson’s “Nipplegate” are still not over!)

How did M7 have a chance to make it, and to introduce the mainstream, soccer dad world to Oud? It didn’t. Not a chance in hell. Even if the perfume notes hadn’t made it too alien for the time (mandrake root?!), that ad simply sealed its doom.

Poor M7, it was not only ahead of its time but, then, it suffered in inquity of being utterly emasculated. Adding insult to injury, a new version was put out in 2011: M7 Oud Absolu which, contrary to what its name would seem to imply, was most definitely not a more intense version of the original. By all accounts, it is a de-fanged meow of a scent as compared to the ROOOOOOOOOOOOAR of the original.

If 2002 was too soon for Oud, look at the market now. What a difference a decade makes! Givenchy, that old, extremely conservative house, now has Eaudemoiselle de Givenchy Bois de Oud! Demoiselle (or “young lady”) and oud… what a surprise. (Particularly from a house as conservative as Givenchy!) Givenchy is not alone. Dior, another mainstream house, has a Fahrenheit flanker, Fahrenheit Absolu, with Oud. Jil Sanders, Jo Malone, Armani, Calvin Klein (Euphoria Intense), Trish McAvoy, and even Juicy Couture (Dirty English) have now gotten into the act with fragrances containing some degree of oud.

But perhaps few things better epitomize the increasingly mainstream acceptance of Oud than the fact that, in 2009, Bath and Body Works came out with a fragrance whose notes include oud! Honestly, I’m not sure I believe it. And, yet, Fragrantica explicitly states that Bath & Body Work’s Twilight Woods includes “oud wood” in its dry notes. I’ve owned the candle version of Twilight Woods, and I don’t detect any oud — at least not proper, true oud which would seem to be far too expensive for such a line — but far be it for me to dispute the official ingredients for the perfume.

Regardless, the point remains the same. Oud is entering the mainstream in a way that was not imaginable at the time of M7’s launch, or even 5 years ago. And Oud fragrances are no longer extremely hard to find. Tom Ford now sells mainstream perfumes featuring oud (but not featuring male genitalia!) at Nordstrom’s and Saks. Juicy Couture’s Dirty English is available at Target and KMart. Interestingly, however, Sephora — that key destination for most mainstream beauty buyers in the U.S. — doesn’t carry Tom Ford’s Aoud perfume, though it does sells several of his other fragrances, and it doesn’t have any oud fragrance that I can remember seeing. (Perhaps Oud isn’t truly mainstream until it’s commonly sold at Macy’s and Sephora?)

I haven’t found the perfect Oud fragrance for me, though granted I’ve only tried 6 variations on it. It doesn’t help that my body seems to process the ingredient in a less than charming way. Most of the time, though not always, it is incredibly medicinal, bandaid-like, metallic, screechingly sharp and acrid with a peculiar lime note that really shouldn’t be there. (Particularly when lime isn’t listed as one of the ingredients in the perfume.) One iteration of it drove me to utter and complete madness. And not in a good way….  On many other people, however, oud can be sweet, woody, leathery, evocative of cold stone, vegetal, and/or very outdoorsy. I’m still on the hunt for one which will work on me and I will probably turn to Tom Ford’s Oud Wood next. I also plan on trying M7 for myself, if only to understand the huge polarising nature of the cult hit and to see if I fall into the camp of admirers.

Are you interested in trying Oud? If you have, do you have a favorite that you adore? What makes it so great and how does it smell on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any suggestions that you may have.

____________________________________________
For Part I: “Sugar, Spice & Even More Sugar,” go here.
For Part II, “Sweat, Genitalia, Dirty Sex & Decay,” go here.
For Part III, “Fresh & Natural, or Soapy Detergent?,” go here.