Linden Calling – and a giveaway!


– a review of Andy Tauer’s ‘Zeta

Spring…has sprung, and as it has, as it does every time and every year, it takes me by surprise. The Japanese cherry trees are bursting out in all their girlish, pink powder puff blossoms, the morello cherries are dusting off those winter blahs in blinding, bridal white, and everywhere I turn, nature has exploded in every shade of tender green.

Two short months from now, high summer will arrive. When everything that grows and everything that lives is at its most alive and aware, when the trees turn a darker, denser shade of green and the linden trees begin to bloom.

Summer has so many scents and smells. The sharp tang of cold lemonade on a hot day, fresh-mowed grass after rain, the coconut aroma of sunscreen and that salty kiss of sea and sand, the sharp smell of ozone during a thunderstorm or the verdant zing of a tomato plant soaked in earth and sunshine. All of them evoke ‘summer’ in whatever sense of the word, but to me, nothing quite spells ‘summer’ and ‘magic’ quite so much as linden trees in bloom.

In my native Denmark, you will find linden trees nearly everywhere you go. The long driveways of centuries-old manor houses are planted with linden trees and so are winding country roads, city parks are packed with them, apartment buildings have them planted in courtyards and playgrounds. Linden trees and linden blossom everywhere, and no one I know can resist them when they bloom in all their gold-green glory, even for a moment. Toddlers and tearaways alike will stop in their tracks, look up, and for once be entirely present to breathe in that complex, green, heady scent.

This is what Andy Tauer chose to recreate in ‘Zeta’. In a unique correspondance with natural perfumer Mandy Aftel and thanks to Nathan Branch, we have been privy to their creative processes from the beginning, as they both chose their individual interpretations and the challenges they encountered and shared along the way.

Many linden-themed perfumes choose the green route, and forget that linden blossoms positively drip nectar as they bloom, nectar that is often used in linden blossom honey, with a unique flavor and aroma all its own.

Zeta is not one of those. If you’re familiar with Andy Tauer’s creations, you know they are often tenacious, bold and sometimes with the half-life of certain radioactive isotopes.

A bright green zap of bergamot wakes you up right out of the bottle, but this is no usual citrus, because in no time at all, a flawlessly orchestrated linden blossom accord grows and blooms by the heat of your skin, so much, you look around and wonder where you are. It’s much less sharp and loud than most linden blossom perfumes, and right when you, too, are caught dead in your tracks to just this one moment breathe…that honeyed nectar drips down upon you and wraps you in a gold-green glow as soft as a two-ply cashmere shawl, as sweet as a drop of honey on your tongue, and as heated as a perfect high summer day. Zeta isn’t just olfactory sunshine, it is olfactory heat, but it’s never obvious, it’s never loud and it’s never overwhelming. Instead, it’s ethereal as air. I can imagine Titania in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ dabbing this behind her ears, before she quarreled with Oberon.

Meanwhile, one very mortal human – yours truly – is blown away by two things. First, that linden blossom can be so heartstoppingly beautiful, so green, so sweet and so soft. And second…

I am the original Honey Monster. There are a few notes in perfumery I can’t personally stand to wear, and I tend to avoid those when I can. And then there is the one note that refuses to wear me under any circumstances and in any form. (Maybe I was a queen bee in an earlier life. I wouldn’t be surprised!)

Honey. Honey is amped up to 11+ on my skin, it grows and grows and grows like some sentient, alien life form until it’s all I can smell and all I will smell – for days. Even if this honey is unlike any other honey I’ve met in perfumery, even if it’s more blossom nectar than honey…this love affair, alas, is very much unrequited. So I shall take solace in those other Tauers that do love me and my Honey Monster skin, but I say this now – Zeta is as incomparable, as beautiful and as perfect as the warm shade under a blooming linden tree on that one day of the summer that you will never, ever forget.

But once in a high summer moon, a perfume can be created with such care, such love and such utter joy, it takes your breath away and makes you grateful to be alive to share such marvels, to sense and appreciate that alchymistic ease with essence and oil, plant and potion, regardless of whether or not you can wear it. It’s a testament to both the spirit of the concept – the genie in the bottle, if you will – and the spirit of the perfumer, and Zeta has so much utter joie de vivre, I’m amazed to find it confined to such a tiny glass vial.

Therefore, because it’s Spring, because this perfume is Spring personified as well as the liquid embodiment of Summer, and because I am a firm believer in the rule of ‘Give!’, since it rhymes with ‘Live!’, Scent Less Sensibilities is hosting its first ever giveaway. I have two retail samples of ‘Zeta’ to give away to my readers. I could be boring, and let random.org determine the outcome. I could use my magic 8-ball, or even my Tarot cards. I have a better idea. I will send each of those two samples – that I won fair and square myself – to the two most creative continuations of the sentence ‘I love Spring because…’

So I do. Sometimes, it’s pretty…magnificent to be reminded!

For as Pablo Neruda once wrote…


Let the wax raise 

green statues, let the honey 

drip in infinite tongues, let the ocean be a big comb

and the Earth a tunic of flowers…


And Andy Tauer responded:

“Linden shade in June –
sweet rose petals and the light
of Syracusa.

A winner will be announced on May 4th.

A Zodiac Guide to ‘Fumes


- An irreverent – and tongue-in-cheek – guide to the rest of the world’s scented disasters!

Have you ever read descriptions of what perfumes your Zodiac sign is supposed to go for and thought:

‘They’ve got to be kidding, right? Me and Bal à Versailles??? Over my dead, decaying Diors!’

Have you ever wondered what mind-blowing insights might be offered if someone ever dared to write the whole truth and nothing but – about what we truly, really wear?

Wonder no longer! For Scent Less Sensibilities dares where others wrinkle their noses! What’s the worst thing that can happen – apart from litigation? Based on decades of experience and about 130 lbs of blarney, here’s your ultimate guide to knowing with your nose.

Aries
Rams often attack in full daylight, horns first and consequences be damned!. You always know where you stand with a Ram – right in front of their own self-interest. So when it comes to perfume, Rams of either sex are bold, brash and in your face and at the epicenter of every universe you’ve never heard of. Naturally, a personal perfume should reflect that. Male Rams prove it was no accident Chanel came up with ‘Egoíste’, and it suits them perfectly. Female Rams tend to exorcise a tad more restraint. Agent Provocateur’s ‘Boudoir’, for instance. Or Jean Desprèz ‘Bal à Versailles’.

Taurus
You think that anyone born under the sign of a placid, cud-chewing herbivore would be placid, plain and simple. You would be wrong. The undisputed sensualists of the Zodiac, Taurus l-o-v-e-s anything pertaining to the senses. You draw your own conclusions – at your peril. For Taurus, too much of everything can be…wonderful. So long as it’s classy, elegant, and smells like the million dollars they will surely own some day. Male Bulls stick with the tried-and-true, such as Givenchy Homme, and the very womanly Taurus will love, worship and adore the epically elegant, maximalist approach of Amouage’s Epic Woman. She is. You have been warned.

Gemini
The important thing to remember in dealing with Geminis is that you are always dealing with at least two people at any given moment in time, and those two – or four, or ten! – can’t agree on anything, never mind perfume! So Geminis can be all over the map. Male Geminis tend to avoid anything in the slightest floral like the plague, including the women who wear them. Fleeting, flirty and gone in sixty seconds suits their style, if not their entire M.O. If it’s something they put on and forget about, so much the better. Fougères suit their style, so long as they’re not too demanding, as well as citrus-based scents like Guerlain’s Eau de Cèdrat or Eau Impèriale. For lady Geminis, it’s whatever they darn well please – or whichever one of their many heads is yelling loudest at the time. It could be Shalimar – or it could be Tabac Blond. It could be something summery and g-r-e-e-n, such as Olympic Orchids’ A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Cancer
There are two types of Cancer. Either they are so square, strait-laced and moody, you can hear the whalebone in their metaphorical corsets creak when they breathe, or they are way out in the far outfield of avant-garde (and they’re still moody). There is no middle ground with the Crab. You may or may not come to know about the bizarre five-ring circus going on inside them. Just remember to pay attention to the phase of the moon when dealing with a Cancer of either gender and plan accordingly. It’s no fun in the middle of a hot date when Mr. Crab metamorphoses into a werewolf – or worse. He would appreciate Guerlain’s Habit Rouge, if he’s strait-laced. He might wear Yohji Homme if he’s the other kind. Female crabs know they’re tasty as well as female, and like their perfumes to reflect that. By Kilian’s Back to Black Aphrodisiac would fit the bill, so would Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. The fruity kind of lady Crab might like the tropical tang of Olympic Orchids’ Luzonica. If Lady Crab gets her claws in you, just don’t forget that she only smells sweet…

Leo
“L’ètat, c’est moi,” stated Louis XIV, and Leo would amend that to “Le monde, c’est moi!” The Diva of the Zodiac, Leo makes the world go round and the sun rise and set, and for the love of Guerlain or Leo, don’t ever forget to appreciate it, once an hour, if not more! Leos loom Large and In Charge, in their own over-inflated imaginations not least, so for a perfume, they want whichever fragrant bicycle pump can inflate their egos the most. Amouage Gold for Men or Dior Homme Intense works when or if their own leonine musk isn’t enough to overwhelm the unsuspecting, and for those Leo diva ladies, perfume powerhouses such as Givenchy’s Amarige, Amouage Gold for Women, Guerlain Samsara and Dior’s Poison float their boats, and Piguet’s Fracas. SInce gold is the color of Leo, she might also go for Olympic Orchids’ Golden Cattleya.

Virgo
Virgos have a not altogether deserved reputation as prudes, which is a bit unfair. They’re not prudish at all, they’re discriminating, which is nowhere the same thing. Like the other earth signs, their tastes tend toward the classic rather than the startling, and the less they have to think about them, the better – so long as they know they smell good, if they’re not on an anti-perfume kick and wear no scents at all. Male Virgos like Guerlain’s Vetiver, unless they’re too worried (Virgos are always worried) they might be considered odd, in which case, they’ll choose Cool Water – or Hugo Boss. Educate them, please. Female Virgos – no virgins, no matter what you’ve heard – love restrained, lady-like florals, such as Issey Miyake’s A Scent, Penhaligon’s Bluebell or Dior’s Diorissimo. If they don’t go over to the Dark Side of the Force of Patchouli and choose Prada.

Libra
Mirror, mirror on the wall…To Libra, the world is their mirror, and they are the fairest of them all. So reluctant to commit are they, they often suffer a chronic case of indecisiveness in terms of perfume and just buy one of everything. It’s only fair. Male Libras are the peacocks of the Zodiac, perpetually in front of their mirrors, and often, that mirror will be you. Dior’s Eau Sauvage, YSL Opium for Men, Cerruti 1881…“Darling, I can’t decide. What do YOU think?” It will drive you nuts, or he will. Lady Libras, unlike their male counterparts, are basically made with titanium spines and go to great lengths to hide that fact. It might be used as leverage later. They choose very feminine, classic scents to slay the unsuspecting (that would be you, if you’re dating a Libra), such as Annick Goutal’s L’Heure Exquise, or Chanel no. 5 if they’re that kind of Libra. Or maybe Olympic Orchids’ Red Cattleya, if they’re the other kind.

Scorpio
It can’t be entirely coincidental that in my several decades of experience, I’ve encountered not a few male Scorpios who all had a thing for…skank. Not just on themselves but on their victims, too. Scorpios redefine the word ‘intense’. They live their lives on the edge and on the fringe. If a male Scorpio has his sights on you, resistance will be futile. You might be assimilated. You certainly won’t forget that encounter in a hurry, nor will you forget his choice of scent. This is the guy who would choose Knize Ten, Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, YSL Homme, M7, Dior’s Eau Noire or Byredo Baudelaire. Lady Scorpios do their best to live up to their own salacious reputations by selecting the kind of over-the-top scents even female Leos might pass over, such as Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, Boxeuses, Arabie or À La Nuit. Whatever it takes to undo you – and she will!

Sagittarius
Happy-go-lucky – and often insanely lucky – Sagittarius canters through life, hooves in mouth, with packed mental suitcases full of opinions he or she will certainly let you know all about. Any Sagittarius has a spectacular talent for saying the exact right thing – at the worst possible time. So long as it’s time to go – and they will, as soon as they find something or someone more interesting than you. When he’s not busy puncturing your pretentions, male Archers might try to tack you up in other ways with green, woody scents such as Lagerfeld for Men, Serge Lutens’ Chêne or Creed’s Green Irish Tweed. Female Sags of all persuasions were thrilled to discover Cartier’s Les Heures IV – L’Heure Fougeuse. All the horse of their own centaur origins, and a fragrant roll in the hay, too! Giddyup!

Capricorn
A male Capricorn is a throwback to another era, the era of Manly with a capital M. Or male chauvinist, if you prefer, just so long as you remember who’s in charge – he is. At all times and at all costs. This is the guy who will wear Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsieur, Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, or Serge Lutens’ Gris Clair. He’ll never let you know about his need for control until it’s too late or you’re hooked, whichever comes first. The same can be said for lady Goats – but they’re not above showing themselves and their intentions a bit more, by choosing Robert Piguet’s Bandit, Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle or vintage Cabochard. Don’t forget – she’s in charge, too. Now you know!

Aquarius
The uncontested loonies of the Zodiac, surely it was an Aquarius who cooked up the idea for the entire line of Etat Libre d’Orange – and most of the advertising copy, too. They love to shock or just surprise, in their unorthodox behavior, in their likewise radical opinions, or else just their unorthodox choice of perfumes. The men may choose very frilly, feminine scents, and the women may choose rather masculine ones. Or vice versa. Or both at once. The only thing to expect with an Aquarius of either gender is the unexpected. By Kilian’s A Taste of Heaven, Lush Breath of God, Escentric Molecules, Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque, Worth Courtesan – anything goes, and a lot of things do! I once met an Aquarius man who wore ELdO’s Secretions Magnifiques – for the pleasure it gave him. Needless to say, he left the party alone…I also once had an Aquarius girlfriend who adored Paloma Picasso’s eponymous perfume, so you never know…Expect the unexpected!

Pisces
It’s all too easy to dismiss Pisces as the flaky, fluffy-bunny, space cadets of the Zodiac, an impression they usually do nothing whatsoever to dispel. Like the water that is their element, they adapt to whatever container they’re poured into. That will be your last and most fatal mistake with a Pisces. Right when you think you have them all figured out, they will have disappeared…into a silver school of other fish, or in a cloud of black ink like a squid, but they will be…gone. Push them too far, and you’ll find yourself the metaphorical seal dinner of the biggest, badass orca on Planet Earth, and you will be tossed like a volleyball in the surf before you’re breakfast. Male Pisces, so I’ve noticed, like incense perfumes, especially if they’re of the more unusual kind, such as Andy Tauer’s Incense Extrème, or Serge Lutens’ Encens et Lavande, which made one Pisces cry when I introduced him to it. He now refuses to wear anything else. Female Pisces veer toward hyperfeminine, such as Jean Patou’s Joy and Guerlain’s Mitsouko, or ethereal, like Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist or Bois de Violette. But do yourself a favor before you fall for a female Pisces. She only looks like the human equivalent of an angora sweater. There’s an orca lurking underneath!

Caveat: All content written thoroughly tongue-in-cheek!

The B Day wishlist


If wishes were fishes, we’d all throw nets in the sea…

In an ideal world, birthdays would always be special occasions to celebrate each other. Birthday parties would always turn out perfect, presents would always be perfectly chosen, and everyone would leave happy and stuffed with cake and goodwill towards man – and woman. Rather than look into the mirror every morning with something akin to terror, our most beautiful selves would beam right back at us, every day and every birthday.

And I am the Queen of Roumania.

Two days from now, That Day will arrive, the day I dread more than any other day in the year, dread it with a leaden heart and a leaden sense of dread. The day. The B day. The day I’d prefer to stay in bed with the covers over my head and just forget about the whole darn thing. I’ll happily remind anyone within earshot that it’s also Shakespeare’s birthday and even recite several words of deathless prose, or that Max Planck – who invented quantum physics – and Shirley Temple have a birthday, too. Me…fugeddaboudit! It’s just a day, and the sooner it’s over with, the better!

But I can dream…I can park those childish expectations in a corner and dream of all the grown-up things I wish I could have for a birthday in that best of all possible worlds in my imagination. Just don’t forget the cake!

To make my birthday perfume wishlist, a perfume has to be…very special, simply because ever after, I’ll associate it with that day, and not everything I try makes the list, even if I like it. Here are the ones that do – this year at least!

In My Dreams, Maybe

Amouage Ubar.
It hasn’t happened often – in fact, I can’t remember if it ever did – that a perfume made me cry, but Ubar did. For no other reason than I find it so breathtakingly beautiful, it breaks my heart.
Once, I laughed off Amouage for being overpriced and overhyped. That won’t happen again, since the three I’ve tried so far – Ubar, Epic Woman and Lyric Woman – have been flawless liquid artistry in a bottle, and although one was not for me, the other two are staggering. Epic can wait a while longer. Ubar can’t. I used to think they don’t make ‘perfume’ any more. Was I ever wrong! And they inspired three stories, which are among the better things I’ve written in my life.

One of everything:
Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Orris Noir.
I can’t decide. I want them both. I want them NOW. In every possible permutation, in any way I can. Tolu is smooth as satinwood, Orris Noir is quite possibly the Greatest Iris Ever Created. They last and last and last, and never make me feel less than perfectly happy and drop-dead sexy (Orris Noir is swoon-worthy) in my skin.
With the birthday I can look forward to, the importance of ‘happy’ can’t be underestimated. Don’t get me started on drop-dead sexy…

Serge Lutens Boxeuses and Ambre Sultan
If ever one perfume house were responsible for my slippery slide into ‘fanatic ‘fumehead’ status, it would be Serge Lutens. Uncle Serge has a lot to answer for. Challenging, shape-shifter scents that unfold like Proust novels, with layers and layers of meaning and evolution. Boxeuses should be everything I dislike in perfume – the complete antithesis of the green-chypre-anti-floral me. Instead, it’s one of the best leathers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
Ambre Sultan – well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a zillion times? I hate amber. I mean…I HATE amber. Too sweet, too heady, too obvious, too…much. Blergh! And then I met this amber, and it was over. I’ve graduated to another amber (Olympic Amber, by the severely under-rated Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids) that really floats my boat, but Ambre Sultan is my personal Khadine, my Empress of ambers. That bell jar can’t happen fast enough. And my decant is on its last sprays. I may cry.

Robert Piguet Bandit
Before I became “sophisticated” – or else just a raging, demanding, perfumoholic snob – my favorite perfume family of all time was undoubtedly anything containing galbanum, orris and an oakmoss base. Green chypres, in other words, ruled my world, and they still get a lot of love.
I remembered Bandit from my wilder single days, so when opportunity came knocking, I was very much looking forward to trying it again. Reformulated, yes, but not so you’d notice, drop the bottle and scream in outrage. Audacious, outrageous and bold, and she’s gotta have it, yes she does. I like to think of Bandit as my metaphorical riding crop for keeping the rest of the world in line…Now, if only I could rustle up the courage to try Fracas…

Andy Tauer Incense Extrème and Orange Star
Saying this with the supreme arrogance that comes with only having tried two of his line, I’ll say it again. Andy Tauer is a genius.
One of the greatest incenses ever, and one of the greatest orange/orange blossoms in the history of perfume, and when it comes to orange blossom and my love of orange, that says a lot. Two samples of Zeta are on their way, and I can’t wait to try them, either. Put me out of my misery and get me one of each, please. Or if you could, just one of everything! Who loves you, Andy? I do!

In the Real World
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Antiu/Sousinon – 1000 Lilies
I can think of not a few lines I have yet to experience. Anything L’Artisan, Neil Morris, most Byredos. Odin NY, Xerjoff. Natural perfumers such as Joanne Bassett, Lord’s Jester, Sonoma Scent Studio, Aftelier…That’s what a sense of adventure is for, right? But of all those untried discoveries to make, one independent perfumer intrigues me no end – Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, Dawn recreated several perfumes based on recipes from ancient Egypt. Of all of these, two in particular stand out and loom large in my imagination: Antiu and Sosinon – 1000 Lilies. Antiu is galbanum based, and I worship and adore galbanum. I’ve entered a draw on Dawn’s blog for a bottle of Antiu, and I have big hopes for this one.
Then, there is…Sousinon – 1000 Lilies. Lilies – not Casablanca nor stargazer lilies but Easter or Madonna lilies are my favorite flowers. A very long time ago, Laura Biagiotti created a scent called ‘Fiori Bianchi’, which was one of the truest representations of Madonna lilies ever made. I went through five 50 ml bottles, and if that’s not l-o-v-e…According to the lovely Olfactoria, whose judgment I trust, Sousinon is a very true Madonna lily scent, which is right about where Dawn Spencer Hurwitz had me. Madonna lily? Did someone say…Madonna lily? Sousinon was used to perfume Cleopatra’s sails as she sailed down the Nile. If it was good enough for Cleopatra’s sails, it’s good enough to propel me down the Nile of my own life…Crocodiles, be warned!

Olympic Orchids’ Golden Cattleya
As my blog posts attest, I can’t say enough hyperbole about Doc Elly’s creations. Every single one I’ve tried has been meticulously constructed and executed with all due care, and all of them – even the ones I can’t wear or aren’t me – are beautiful. Light as air or crystal solid, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. I have four on my personal wishlist, and of those four, Golden Cattleya takes the cake. It’s an orchid! It’s orange! And vanilla, sandalwood and a whole lot else besides. I’m in love.

Die before trying…
I hope this won’t happen, but nevertheless, there are a few I’d kill to try. Amouage Dia, Gold, Reflection Woman, Jubilation XXV – bring ‘em on! Who knows what stories they may tell? Odin NY 04-Petrana. It’s an iris. It’s a black iris. It’s something I must try…Tabac Blond. Lord’s Jester Daphne. And…

What else? A new MacBook Pro to replace my geriatric PowerBook, all the great books I have yet to read, an agent and a publisher, my Devil wrapped up in puff pastry and chocolate ganache…:)

Because if my nearly forty-eight years have taught me anything, it’s the wisdom of that ancient admonition…

Be careful what you wish for! You will get it!

About the image: I have a nickname at work. They call me the Dragon! Since I do know how to fly and have been known to spit fire at not much provocation! And that dragon…is a cake, if you can believe it. It seemed to fit…

Black Candy


- a review of Yohji Yamamoto’s ‘Yohji Homme’

It’s not exactly a state secret I’m a big fan of some masculines, or those who are officially dubbed ‘unisex’ but can be worn by either gender. I wore Eau Sauvage. I wore Guerlain’s Vetiver long before that was the fashionable thing to do, and even longer before Guerlain came out with ‘Vetiver pour Elle’. I adore Dior Homme in both the ordinary and Intense versions, I love Yves Saint Laurent’s M7, and if you push me hard enough, I will admit to a secret admiration for Gaultier’s ‘Fleur du Mâle’.

Wear what you love, never mind the label.

In the great gender-divide category, there is one that towers over them all, the one I never hope to be without, the one that blew my nose to smithereens and threw me to the floor because it was the most unusual perfume I had ever met at that time, and even today, there is nothing remotely like…Serge Lutens’ ‘Chêne’. Chêne is one of my invisible armor scents, one I wear when I want to make sure I can handle whatever the day might throw my way and I’m not in any particular girlie frame of mind. I adore it so, I wrote it into the storyline of my book, which means even the Devil had only good things to say about it. It’s green and sappy – never a bad thing in my book. It contains a suspicious amount of smoke and booze, a rum note, I think, but it’s not sweet, as rummy scents so often are, or if it is, it’s just enough to sand down the wood so you don’t get splinters up your nose when you inhale, and inhale, you certainly will. Not frilly, not feminine, nor even especially butch. Just the entire tree and the rum that soaked into the barrel that tree made and a touch of smoke from the pitch resin used to seal it tight. It’s great on me, and I can only imagine how it would work for a man.

There is nothing quite like it. So I thought, and polished my halo.

Some time ago, I received a care package from the devious Dee of Beauty on the Outside, and there were several things that rearranged my synapses in more ways than one. And one I simply couldn’t leave alone, it was so strange and so compelling and so perfectly weird and weirdly…perfect. I wore it to bed one night and dreamed of it. I’d tell you the rest of the dream, but this is a perfume blog.

Licorice as a note usually makes me scream and run for cover. (Although I do like to eat it on occasion, just not the US version. Twizzlers need not apply.) If I continue that line of thought and add coffee, lavender, coriander, cinnamon and rum, it all adds up to one of the finer WTF moments in my perfumed history. No. No way. Never. Not if Hell freezes, which it won’t. The entire combination screams wrong, wrong, wrong in the direst of basso profundos.

Unless it’s the now sadly discontinued Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto, which is so wrong, it’s perfect. Just like Chêne, there really isn’t anything else remotely like it.

You know this will end in tears, right? Because Yohji Homme is the closest thing to bottled rock’n’roll and so-bad-it’s-awesome I have yet to encounter.

I’ve met a few bad-boy perfumes in my day. There was the Aramis my first-ever boyfriend wore, some years later followed by Drakkar Noir. Don’t get me started on Kouros. Tuscany for Men. Cool Water. Caron’s Le 3. Homme, which worked very well for a certain man. A rather sexy former father-in-law who swore by Mouchoir de Monsieur.

I’m reminded of a passage I wrote in ‘Quantum Demonology’, describing certain musical Primeval Forces of the Universe. There’s cool. Cool is worthy of interest, but no cigar. All the way up to the ones who loom so large and powerful, that only the description Primeval Force will do.

Here it is in a bottle, a Primeval Force of Fumes. Fougère but not, licorice/anise, but so much more, cinnamon and rum and it should all be a spectacular, greenish black, very profane mess. If the reviews on Basenotes are anything to go by, there are a quite a few people who think it is.

Let ‘em. I’m in the mood to throw all caution to the wind and tie myself to these railroad tracks. Oh, baby…bring it on! The sweet and the bitter, the bracing green of lavender and the sweet-bitter rummy-yummy utter alien strangeness grabs me by the nose and does not take no for an answer.

Black candy, the kind that kills you for anything less dangerous forever, the kind you can’t forget. So wrong it’s right, so strange it’s perfect, such a total, heartbreaking rotter of a scent, and I am. Helpless. To. Resist, caught in its midnight black glare.

We shall love truly and madly and forever and a spray, and then…not even the finest linen Mouchoir of any Monsieur will provide comfort for my broken heart.

Like so many rock’n’rollers, Yohji Homme, alas, is…no more. I did a bit of research and discovered the going rate for the few bottles that are left. Pass the smelling salts of every single insipid man-scent created ever since, and just leave me to my misery already.

Black candy of a very dangerous kind, black candy that died on the vine…and then departed, leaving me to soak my entire box of Kleenex.

Sniff. I still have Chêne. I should count my blessings.

Notes according to Fragrantica: Coriander, lavender, bergamot, anise, cinnamon, licorice, leather, rum.
Image: Licorice Candy Twist

Thanks to Dee The Devious for sending it to me. Or maybe not…;)

An Open Letter to the Editor of Women’s Health

An open letter to the editor of Women’s Health magazine

An article in the Beauty section of the April edition of Women’s Health, entitled ‘Your Perfect Scent’ was brought to my attention by a friend and fellow blogger, and several statements in the article as well as the overall tone compelled me to write you.

The article attempts to categorize women in a range of ages – from their teens until ‘40+’ according to perfume category, arguing that throughout their lives, women prioritize their fragrance choices differently and gravitate towards the perfumes that reflect those priorities. It then proceeds to cite various perfumes currently available that might appeal, and this is where I feel compelled to protest – both at the underlying assumptions that teenagers want to impersonate walking cupcakes, that women in their thirties wear perfume to feel ‘sexy and secure’ and finally the statement that women in their forties wear perfume to feel ‘elegant’.

Women at any age read magazines such as yours for information and inspiration in their lifestyle choices, and few of them are entirely aware that for print media in a competitive digital age, advertising revenue takes pride of place over relevant content. As a consequence of perfume being formulated to target certain demographics and as a result of what you choose to advocate in your editorial pages, the perfumes sold in department stores and mall chain stores are all indistinguishable from one another. One sweet, fruity floral scent segues seamlessly into the next sweet, fruity floral, and only the name of the designer on the label is interchangeable. So women are shortchanged from both sides of that equation – by the major designer houses that are often the only luxury these women can afford, and by the very magazines they read for inspiration promoting only the brands they already advertise on their pages.

The problem is that neither your readers in general nor women in particular are thrilled about being defined in demographic terms, any more than teenaged girls can be lumped into cupcake fragrance categories, women in their thirties need to feel ‘sexy or ‘secure’ or ‘forty+’ women – a term I personally find more than slightly condescending – want to be considered ‘elegant’ above all other reasons for wearing perfume.

What surprises me more than any other aspect of a very important issue in general, namely the stereotyping of women in the media, is that we live in an individualistic age. As women and as individuals, the opportunity to make individual choices that reflect our unique selves has never been greater, and this includes the very subject matter of your article – perfume. What is more, as social media change how we are informed and entertained and inspired to make those choices, creating and maintaining a dialogue with your readers is a valuable tool to retain the very readership that underlies your role in that media landscape, whether on a newsstand or on the Web.

There is a rich and invaluable resource available to any journalist interested in her subject matter – perfume blogs. We would quite happily have participated and in the process been thrilled to share what we know – that you are not doomed to ‘elegance’ simply for a diminished sense of smell – a claim I find quite unsubstantiated by scientific evidence in the article or in my personal experience, nor are you compelled to waft cupcake as a teenager, simply because there’s nothing else to choose from. There’s not too much else to choose from in the mainstream market because a tiny number of companies determine what scents land on department store shelves, and if one sweet, fruity floral scent becomes a success, it must therefore follow – so dictate the laws of the marketing briefs of these companies promoting this or that ‘exclusive designer’ – that only sweet, fruity, floral perfumes will do.

Women’s Health is a magazine that has a broad scope – to promote a healthy, happy and fulfilled lifestyle for its readership that goes beyond the usual stereotypical ‘women’s magazines’. Even so, when you attempted to inform your readers about a very personal choice, you fell victim to that precise stereotyping, and ignored a perfect opportunity to elevate your editorial content a bit above the stereotypical content of any other women’s magazine currently available.

Which is why we read you, after all.

Yours sincerely,
Tarleisio, perfume blogger at Scent Less Sensibilities

This letter has also been published on the following participating blogs:

Bloody Frida
Olfactoria’s Travels
All I am – a redhead
Eyeliner on a Cat
Beauty on the Outside
Redolent of Spices

An Eternal April


A tale – and a review of sorts – of Puredistance ‘Antonia’

It started as so many days did, with that all-important question in front of her perfume cabinet early that morning. What to wear? What face did she want to show the world today of all days, today when she was off to the Eternal City where a rendez-vous awaited?

A rendez-vous that was as thoroughly unsuitable, as thoroughly anticipated and as delicious as a gourmet chocolate truffle.

She didn’t care. But she cared enough about the question to reflect for a moment in front of that cabinet. It would be Rome, one of her favorite cities in the world. Rome would be warm, and that ruled out other, more obvious choices. He would expect something seductive, something enticing him to bite. Expectations, she would have to teach him, could be dangerous.

No. Something…else, something else that reflected her slightly reckless mood this morning, something that would breathe possibilities and aspirations, something that breathed La Primavera on her aura, something that would put a spring in her step and sunshine in her heart where it had been winter for such a long time. Something the green of April leaves, the green of the dress she planned to wear. Something that would give her hope, that maybe this one, maybe this time, maybe now…it was time for a little fun, a little laughter, a little light.

So she had reached for that almost clinical glass vial, nestled within its white and green box, and a Botticelli Primavera wrapped herself around her like a flowering vine, shooting green sparks of sunlight across her skin, making her feel half her age and half her experience, which was his age exactly.

What was it, she thought later, sitting in the Roman sunshine later that afternoon, that made this perfume so enticing? Was it that verdant, lemony kick of galbanum, was it something that must have been hyacinth and orris, blooming all around her? Was it the practiced, flirtatious smile of the waiter taking her order on this Trastevere piazza, addressing her in caressing tones: ‘Signora…per piacere.’

Or was it that wearing this, feeling as she did, waiting for a friend poised to be a lover, that everything was easier in Rome on an April afternoon by the Lungotevere Raffaello Sanzio, where the linden trees sprouted leaves as tender as her newly exposed self, bursting out of a long winter’s sleep and the Tiber frothed below the embankment the same apple green as the dress she wore, the same green as this perfume and her hope?

That must be it, she decided halfway though her Campari soda. She thought not so long ago that hope was a luxury not even she could afford, that she was too old, too jaded, too cynical to ever hope again, no matter that spring was just around the corner.

But April was here now and she was here in Rome, a city that celebrated life in a country that loved it no less, exuding spring in her dress, La Primavera in her perfume, and in the delicious anticipation she could taste as clear as any Campari soda, as sharp as the slice of lemon in her glass, the same liquid gold as the sunshine on the piazza on a Roman afternoon.

Even here in the heart of Trastevere, spring was obvious in the foaming green of the flowerpots in the windows of the apartments above. The flower seller on the other side of the piazza was doing a brisk business in tulips and hyacinths. Hyacinths for the soul, went that old saying, and surely, there was hyacinth in the soul of this perfume? Hyacinth in her own soul even, when she saw him walking down the Via Gustavo Modena towards her, wearing a shirt she had bought for him in Milan, the exact green of his eyes and the exact green of her own dress.

He could be Italian almost with that dark hair and that proud, leggy stride, that strut of the shoulders men somehow lost past the age of thirty, a touch of Roman pride and braggadocio in the way he scanned the piazza looking for her.

He saw her then, sitting in the sun with her Campari, and his grin was as reckless as she felt on that Roman afternoon, as happy as the first rays of light on her skin after this endless, gray winter.

He grabbed her hand and kissed it with a flourish. “Cara!” he exclaimed with a grin.

“Sit down. Campari?” As he held her, as he kissed her, she could taste his anticipation.

“Of course! When in Rome…” He sat down next to her, and did not let go of her hand.

She could believe, on such a spring afternoon on a Trastevere piazza, that she was still young just a little longer, that those laughing green eyes would be there the next morning, like this verdant scent and this delicious moment.

This April would last eternal, just like the city itself, and their shared anticipation, the green of possibilities, green as that very special perfume she wore for a special, eternal April day.

With eternal thanks to Dee, who made it possible, and to another inspiration!

Puredistance Antonia is available at Luckyscent, the Puredistance website, and First in Fragrance.

Image of Lungotevere Rafffaello Sanzio in April, erboristeriaedaltro.com

A Lively Afternoon


- a review of Cartier’s Les Heures de Parfum – L’Heure Fougueuse IV

Once upon a sunny summer afternoon a very long time ago, life was…much less complicated. Every day was a new adventure, a new discovery, a new way of immersing myself into the world and my surroundings. It was a time without artifice or pretense, a time without disguises or subterfuge, a time to love without inhibitions and as passionately as only a pre-pubescent girl can, and the only scent yours truly ever wore or even wanted to wear was the all-pervasive, sweet and heady aroma of…horse.

In those days, I had a horse. I lived for that horse, a storm-gray Trakhener horse named Becky, who had a past as a showjumper and event horse, and what she knew, she taught me. She had a soft mouth and a sweet disposition, could stop on a dime and we even had fun playing polo for a few dizzying months, although I missed the ball more often than I hit it. We hunted – a particular kind of bloodless ‘fox hunt’ called Hubertus hunting where a rider is deemed ‘it’ – the fox – and the rest of the hunting party chases after him or her through water jumps and over fences, hedges and logs. I managed to survive three hunts before she spooked right in front of a water jump because of a squirrel, and I sailed in spectacular fashion – jacket, boots, hat and all – over her head, over the jump and into three feet of very icy, muddy water. Becky knew tricks from dressage and how to gauge a fence perfectly, and in all my time with her, I only fell twice, all my own fault. I can still hear my grandfather’s voice when I think of her. “Heels down, knees in, shoulders back, back straight, give her some rein!”

We were happiest, she and I, when I took her out after school on exercise rides, through the woods and over neighboring fences, and there was nothing but the birds in the air and the open fields calling, nothing but a girl on a horse who always understood her perfectly, or was it a centaur who knew that when the reins loosed and a soft nudge of the heel came, it was time to let loose, to feel the wind in our faces as we went from a gentle walk to a canter and then to a glorious gallop as smooth as silk and we became one creature, one entity called freedom.

I can remember the cold, rainy days of winter after our rides when I took her back into the warm stable and rubbed her down with straw and a chamois cloth, and how she would nuzzle my neck and blow in my ear before she sniffed in my pocket for apples and carrots, and even if I switched pockets just to tease her, she knew where to look. I remember the night I slept with her in her stall and rubbed her back the spring night she foaled a perfect rowan filly into my arms. I remember the sweet smells of straw and hay, the endless task of maintaining tack with saddle soap and polish cloths, the heavy wheelbarrow when I mucked out the stalls, the scent of hoof oil and how she would shine before an event, all clean and brushed and burnished, her coat gleaming like a satin thundercloud.

I remember, because Cartier’s L’Heure Fougueuse takes me there in an instant to so many memories, all of them happy, all of them horsey, all of them – perfect, as only memories can be.

Cartier and Mathilde Laurent called this ‘The Spirited Hour’, but to me it should have been called…The Laughing Horse. And such an elegant compilation of all that the word ‘horse’ implies. The sweet, green grass of a summer meadow early in the morning, the dark green of the beech trees over the bridle path, the scent of warm, breathing, lovable animal, and the dusty, sunshine perfume of hay – it’s all there and takes me – all there.

Out of the bottle, it is slightly flowery and very green – the green of lavender and bergamot evoking that summer meadow, and right when I think it’s more than slightly good, it’s damn near perfect, comes that horsey laugh and all the bales of hay my memory of Becky can summon. Hay on a day of sunshine and promise, hay in a hayloft on a rainy, windy day, curled up with a book when I wanted the world to disappear. L’Heure Fougueuse is leathery, but unlike any leather I’ve ever met – this is more hide – the living, breathing, whinnying hide of a dearly beloved horse, but it’s more than that – it’s the smell of unadulterated joy, a joy with few inhibitions and no agenda or secret purpose but just a moment in time to savor, to be happy, to connect with a favorite four-legged friend. A moment just to…be, to breathe, to celebrate life.

After the hay, I’ll catch glimpses of horse and horse laugh, a stunningly beautiful drydown of…I-don’t-know-what-and-who-cares-when-it’s-gorgeous?

This is so unusual, so distinctive and so different from just about everything else my nose has met these past few months. This is a perfume to make happy, and so far as I’m concerned, that’s precisely what it does – makes me happy, happy as I once was when happiness was so much easier and life was so much lighter.

Mathilde Laurent has made a masterpiece of a perfume. Name me one that contains horsehair – or a leather scent that’s alive. Just as Becky once was (she died at the ripe age of 21, sweet until the end), just as I was once totally and completely alive in my own centaur moment, nothing but me, my horse and a wide-open horizon. It was perfectly simple – unlike this perfume, which is complex and simple – and it was always…perfectly enough.

Thanks to Suzanne of the Perfume Journal, for giving me the opportunity to try it!

Notes: Magnolia, bergamot, horsehair accord (!!), vetiver, yerba maté, musk, lavender, coumarin, oakmoss

Photo: © Brett Simson