Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Would You Wear It?

Still too busy for blogging, alas. Even though I have several reviews partially written, and an idea simmering for a post comparing a handful of lavenders, too many other obligations are tugging at my pant legs just now. M. and I will be heading to Boston tomorrow for a couple of well-needed days of eating, shopping, and museum visiting in a city that actually has ample opportunity for all of the above (unlike our beloved L-town). Unfortunately, even a couple of days of vacation invariably means finalizing more work than is humanly possible before leaving. Its a vicious, vicious cycle ... If any of you know of someone who is interested in financially supporting a poor overworked boi who just wants to read all day, send them my way. I can be very endearing when I want to be ...

In the meantime, here's a little perfume humor courtesy of The Onion.

The question is: If Authorité were real, would you wear it?

Monday, April 13, 2009


Because I've been incredibly busy for the last week, I haven't had the time to post any new reviews. I will be back soon, though. I promise.

In the meantime, check out my updates to the entries on Hanae Mori HM for Men and Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte. I added my thoughts on HM's eau de parfum concentration, as well as Concentré d'Orange Verte, the eau de toilette reimagining of Hermes' classic eau de cologne.

See you soon!

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Clumsily-Written Love Letter to Encens Flamboyant

It’s been nearly two weeks since Julie turned me on to the magnificence that is Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant. We had a little perfume party at her house a few Saturdays ago, after meeting up at the Zen Center we both attend. It was a good day, and I enjoyed it immensely. Julie lives out in the middle of nowhere, and you have to drive on all sorts of windy back roads through hills and farmland to get there. It’s a gorgeous drive that was all the more pleasurable because the weather was perfect – sunny and crisp, so that the cool March air blowing into my open car window just barely cut through my thin Army surplus jacket, teasing my skin awake. Like I said … perfect.

Once we got to Julie’s house, I got to smell dozens of really cool perfumes, many of which I’d love to spend more time sampling. I sniffed Safran Troublant and Arabie and Ambre Sultan and Jicky and Frapin 1270 and Passage d’Enfer and A.G.’s Neroli and Dzongka! and Dzing! and Timbuktu and so many other interesting fragrances. I made paper samples of them, and will probably try them all more extensively down the line. It was just really fun and exciting to expose my nose to so many new scent experiences. By far, though, the star of the day was Encens Flamboyant. It was the first thing Julie had me smell, and it’s what I was wearing when I left for the day. She was even kind enough to send me home with a largish spray sample (as well as a small bottle of Eau d’Orange Verte moisturizing lotion, which I’ve been enjoying along with my own bottle of the cologne – thanks!).

Encens Flamboyant was more than love at first sniff. It was absolute ecstatic bliss at first sniff. I can understand why Julie has been so anxious to read my review. She got to see the effect the stuff had on me … the way I couldn’t keep from pressing my nose to my wrist every few seconds, because it was just too damn good to resist. What I have been able to resist is writing about it. I find it much easier to write about things I hate or only marginally like than about things I love. Loving something creates pressure, makes me feel that whatever I write won’t be able to do justice to the beloved thing itself. How can mere words ever convey that quality that lifts a sense experience beyond “Yes, that is nice,” and into the territory of “Holy Christ, that’s unbelievable!”

The top of Encens Flamboyant is as close to perfect as I think any fragrance could be, with the rich, smoky frankincense, the freshness of the balsam fir, and the peppery spices that make the back of my throat tingle. I thought Terre d’Hermes smelled deep and meditative, but this has it beat, hands down. Encens Flamboyant smells like the most meticulously crafted incense imaginable being burnt under a clear starlit sky at the top the most secluded, pristine, coniferous mountaintop in the world. I wanted everything I own - no, everything I touch - to smell like Encens Flamboyant.

I don’t know why they called it “flamboyant,” which makes me think of the fabulousness of drag queens or the trashiness of Vegas. If I had named this, I would have called it Samadhi (“meditative absorption”), even though, just like Shiseido’s Zen and Guerlain’s Samsara, the name would have been mocked by Rod over at The Worst Horse (a great, funny blog that documents the intersection of Buddhism and popular culture, including the all-too-common crass misuse of Buddhist terminology and imagery in marketing). I don’t care. If satori had a smell, that smell would be Encens Flmaboyant.

I’m used to wearing colognes and eaux de toilette, so it was a surprise to me how long this eau de parfum lasts. I put some on yesterday afternoon, and I could still smell it when I woke up this morning. I think a trace of it may have even lingered after my shower. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t know. I put more on this morning, and am still loving it.

If I have any criticism of Encens Flamboyant at all, it’s that the base is a touch too smooth and sweet for me. I would prefer for some of that delicious pine to stay put through the drydown. If I’d made this, I would have put some cedar at the bottom, so it maintained a little bit of bite throughout. That said, even the somewhat powdery base of this composition smells wonderful. And the pine and peppery notes I like so much do hang around for quite a while. The heart of this fragrance probably lasts longer than the entire lifespan of many others I’ve tried.

Image note: A Shinto shrine clouded with incense smoke.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More Adventures at the Head Shop

It seems the Nag Champa and hemp jewelry vibe of Czech & Speake's No. 88 isn't limited to just their signature fragrance. After trying a few of the other samples from the package they sent me the other day, I've found the cloying cheap incense accord to be key in the composition of both Neroli and Frankincense & Myrrh, as well. While No. 88 is at least tolerable, though, these other two are disgusting - absolute scrubbers. The recipe for both Neroli and Frankincense & Myrrh - which I can barely tell apart - seems to be, "crack open a bottle of No. 88, squirt a stale bottle of personal lubricant into it until the mixture smells like toilet bowl cleaner, bottle it, add sexy marketing copy and serve!" Too bad. I love real incense smells (I'll get to Encens Flamboyant soon, Julie, I promise), and I think I like neroli, too. Sadly, neither of these colognes smell anything like their names, or Czech & Speake's ad copy, suggest.

Image note: More head shoppy fun.

No. 88 is Like ... Dude, Don't Bogart the Bugles!

Once upon a time, the world seemed like a simpler place. I believed world peace was achievable, if only all our leaders would just get together and toke up. "Multiculturalism" meant buying cheap Moroccan handicrafts from some stoned guy who kept staring at my friends' tits (no one ever stared at my tits). I lusted after cute rich girls who wore Birkenstocks and flowy dresses, and who pretended it didn't matter that they went to such expensive colleges. They were straight, but still made me hemp jewelry and sometimes kissed me if they'd had a couple of drinks (because they were open-minded like that).

Czech & Speake's No. 88 smells like something I would have worn back then, if I'd heard of it, and if it didn't cost $130 a bottle. It's an overly-sweet, one-dimensional scent that reminds me of a hemp bracelet that's been sitting next to the incense display at some cheesy head shop with dancing bears painted on the windows. The smell is nice enough, for what it is ... unfortunately, "what it is" is a cologne for painfully self-aware, horny 19-year-olds who think Nag Champa incense represents the apex of worldly and exotic fragrances.

Image note: As long as cute college girls continue to make ugly hemp jewelry, there will still be good in the world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Czech & Speake's Cuba is the Smell of Heat, Sex, Mojitos, Mambo, and Cigars

I feel like taking a break from the Hermes for a bit, and I did give a quick teaser of Czech & Speake’s Cuba yesterday, so I should probably end the suspense and commence with a full review.

Before I even tried Cuba, BitterGrace described it to me as “quite a mélange – sweet, spicy, green, animalic, etc. Kinda smells like a Havana nightclub, circa 1950.” I include her words here because, really, I couldn’t have said it better, myself. Cuba has all of the olfactory elements I associate with a hot night in tropics. The notes of tobacco, lime, rum, and mint come together in a way that evokes mojitos and Cuban cigars. The vetiver and other vegetative and woody components bring to mind palm trees emitting their fragrance on a warm tropical breeze, while the animalic thread is suggestive of sweat and aggressive sexuality. And something in there smells like green bananas to me, though I’m not sure that was intentional.

As I said yesterday, Cuba is an intensely interesting cologne. Nothing about it is even remotely dull. Czech & Speake markets it as a unisex fragrance, but it smells like pure testosterone to me. I suspect it takes a big personality to wear Cuba well, and I don’t think I could pull it off in a thousand years. It’s definitely a work of art, though, for painting such a perfect picture of a very specific time and place.

Image note: I wanted to use something sexy here – a vintage photo of people dancing a mambo or something – but nothing really fit the bill, so this is just a cool iconic photo that seemed to capture the appropriate era. Many thanks to Belgian photographer Ulrik De Wachter, who kindly shared this photo over at Stock Exchange.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Love Free Stuff!

I just got home from work to find a package in the mail from the folks at Czech & Speake, a London-based bathroom fittings company that also makes perfumes.

I had completely forgotten that I signed up for the company's mailing list after receiving a sample of their unisex fragrance Cuba from BitterGrace a few weeks ago. I haven't blogged about Cuba yet, but I will. It's an incredibly interesting fragrance, though probably not one I could really pull off. I let Julie smell it last week, though, and she seemed to really like it a lot. (Julie, you can have my new sample, now that I have two). More on the Cuba later ...

When I signed up for samples on the Czech & Speake Web site, I thought they might send off one or two samples somewhere down the line. What I got was a huge package filled with a carded sample of each of the nine fragrances in their aromatics line, along with a marketing booklet and a handwritten note. All of it came wrapped in marbelized tissue paper held together by a C&S stamped foil seal. Talk about a warm welcome!

Several of the fragrances look very interesting to me, especially Oxford & Cambridge, Neroli, Citrus Paradisi, and Frankincense & Myrrh. My partner, M., seems quite impressed with Dark Rose. She just put some on, and it does smell lovely. Very sensual. (Maybe I'll have to depart from my format and review a few girly smells down the line ...)

Anyway, if anyone wants a cadre of free samples, visit the Czech & Speake Web site and click on the samples tab. And if anyone from Czech & Speake sees this, thanks! I'll be reviewing these goodies in weeks to come. (If any of you other perfumeries are reading this, feel free to email me for my address).