Rubj, Baby!

-       a review of vero profumo’s Rubj in parfum and eau de parfum

The List. Every perfume writer or blogger has it. That list of the ones you’re dying to try, the list of the lines you somehow missed in your endless curiosity of Things That Must Be Sniffed, Perfumes To Experience, olfactory epiphanies that beg to be discovered, because you never know where the next love may find you, grab you and dip you to the floor in a tango swoon.

Even I have that list, and well before I even began to write about perfume, I had my own little dirty secret, a habit of mine I’d indulge when no one was looking. I’d sneak off into cyberspace and on to the websites of those wonders that intrigued me most, the ones I had this intuition about, the ones I somehow knew in that locked, private drawer of my heart would be another kind of love in waiting, and once there, I would dream of the day when I could breathe in their beauties whenever I liked, dream of the day I would own those marvels, to love, cherish and adore forevermore.

To be fair, it was an exercise in a refined kind of torture. Yet nothing kept me away. Every so often, I’d have to fall down that rabbit hole of my imagination and dream those impossible dreams…of gardens and flowers and transport to elsewhere and otherwise, of fraught emotion glowing in the space above my skin and through its own unique alchemy breathing that new, improved more beautiful me into being, exuding those new possibilities I can dare to believe in and believe I have the power to manifest.

In my personal top three Dirty Perfume Browsing Secrets was Swiss perfumer Vero Kern’s website vero profumo, and at the very top of her work and my wish list was…Rubj. Even then, even before my own perfume journey began, I had a hunch that told me…Rubj would be special, would be magical, would be one to steal my heart away and never, ever give it back!

My perdition wasn’t helped at all when my friend Lucy of Indieperfumes wrote me to say that Rubj would get me in so much trouble, that it was the quintessence of everything that spelled my perfume doom and quite a lot that described my own personality, that it really, truly did have my soul stamped all over it.

Lo and behold, a little luck and outrageous fortune landed me samples of Rubj in extrait and eau de parfum, and lo and behold…I’m really in trouble now!

Any reader of this blog will know my love of orange blossom. It is without a doubt the most represented flower in my ever-growing collection of florals, and many of my greatest perfume loves are orange blossoms. Something about their heady, opulent aura and unapologetic sensuality connects with this writer’s soul in ways I can scarcely articulate except to say that if I were a flower, I would surely bloom on an orange tree.

Even so, even with what I now know, love and have experienced, nothing could quite have prepared me for Rubj – or indeed what makes Vero Kern so unique as a perfumer. I first discovered her through her new launch ‘Mito’, but I quickly discovered that personal touch, that ribbon of soul that runs through all her creations, even though they are otherwise not at all alike.

The territory is as familiar as a well-beloved face…Moroccan orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, a delicate, clever touch of tuberose. But Rubj is nothing like those other orange blossom gals, and sings her siren song in a different key. I can tell all those heartbreaker chords are there, but surely this is a song I’ve never heard before?

Lush, luscious, lascivious orange blossom…something about this calls for synonyms and similes beginning with the letter L…or should that be P for Pure Peerless Pleasure?

Pleasure proven by that diaphanous, silky veil of jasmine and tuberose, but don’t be fooled – neither of those two divas are at all obvious and merely add their own sweet soprano harmonies to Rubj’s star of the show. It would have been too easy, too apparent to turn up their volume in the mix, and to a mind that has been fantasizing about this very perfume for a very long time, this lifts Rubj into the stratosphere of As Good As It Ever, Ever Gets.

Don’t be fooled. Rubj will cocoon you in its incandescent pleasures, but as she blooms and you bloom right along with her, she makes no attempt to hide that other secret folded into her charming laugh and those pearl white flowers, and that is her sensuous, seductive side, the one not you nor anyone audacious enough to get closer will be able to resist. The sexy allure of musk breathes its intimations of promises and passions she may even want to show or keep, but from the joyous opening to the starlit aura of the far drydown many hours later, the orange blossom beats its floral heartbeat throughout.

Rubj in eau de parfum – contrary to what you might expect in an eau de parfum, which is usually simply a lesser concentration – is different enough to be another perfume. In eau de parfum, Rubj is greener, brighter and much more diffusive. I’m not sure whether the tangy petitgrain is added or it is the passionfruit that makes it sharper and fruitier, but even this Rubj is far, far removed from ‘fruity-floral’ clichés. This Rubj is every bit as luscious – and even more playful than her sister, daring you to define her in that laugh she leaves behind on your skin.

Heaven help you, you can’t. All you can do is surrender to her many charms and whims, and that’s all you need to do.

Other reviews have called Rubj a diva, a filmstar perfume who stops everyone in their tracks and calls attention to herself. I don’t see her that way at all.

Divas to my mind have too much to prove, too much to declare, are all too busy tooting their virtues (or vices!) to listen to anything or anyone else. They’re too predictable by their very diva status, and Rubj to me (and let me say it – it is indeed, very much…me!) is far too intelligent and much too mischievous to be that apparent.

She is a lilting, laughing, love affair of a perfume in either version and a laughing, not at all conventional woman. She doesn’t need to rewrite the rules for herself, has no need to prove anything at all except the marvel of that laugh and that definite echo of mischief and sumptuous allure she leaves in her wake in either version. Much like the timelessly beautiful Evelyn Tripp in the image I’ve chosen for my review. Look closely, and you’ll surely discover that laughing imp in her eyes…

As for me, I’m doomed. All I can do is to sing along with this particular song (that she surely inspired?) and dream my perfumed dreams of that fatal, flawless, perfect day…

Rubj, baby, when will you be mine?

Notes for Rubj: (in parfum): Moroccan orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, musk.

In eau de parfum: Passionfruit, and likely a few more wonders Vero chooses not to reveal! ;-)

Rubj in extrait and eau de parfum is available from Luckyscent, Jovoy Paris, the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie of Harrods,  First in Fragrance and Campomarzio70. A full list of retailers is available from the vero profumo website, or by contacting Campomarzio70. 

With thanks to Campomarzio70, and to the always inspiring Vero Kern.

Original image of Evelyn Tripp from myvintagevogue. Photoshop: my own.

Orange Blossom Special

-  a getaway vacation into the heart of a favorite flower

Of all the many fragrant memories of my South Florida childhood, one in particular has stuck in my mind and stayed with me even today, as a redolent symbol of all that is …happy.

I was ten or eleven at the time, and it was a day I had forgotten my house keys, so I had to wait in the back yard for my mother to arrive home from work. It must have been late March or early April, for the citrus tree orchard in our back yard was in full bloom. We had grapefruit trees, lemon trees, lime trees, and a stand of orange trees that stood at least twenty feet tall. They all required careful navigating to climb – those trees had spiky thorns – but I had long since found a path up the trunk and onto a favorite branch, and that’s where I chose to wait.

It was a heady late afternoon out there beneath the orange tree canopy, the slanting sunlight beating down upon those trees from that breathless blue Florida sky. Everywhere around me, the no less heady, nearly narcotic fragrance of orange blossom in all its many shades…the soapy floral, the hint of the orange zest behind it, the thick, sensuous, indolic aspect that somehow stupefied me to such an extent I have no memory of how long I sat there, only that as I sat on that branch and waited, I was aware of only one thing – the simple joy of breathing in, of inhaling all that was supremely beautiful and supremely happy, which was precisely how I felt.

No matter how much my life attempts to drag me down and chew me out, nothing, but nothing makes me happier in an instant like orange blossom.

Orange blossom – and its kissing cousin, neroli, which is the water-distilled extract of the bitter orange and lighter and less indolic – has been used for centuries in perfumes and soaps, so much that an overdose can easily lead you to dismiss an orange-blossom fragrance as ‘soapy’. It adds its own power-packed punch to countless famous perfumes as one of the four boldest white florals – rose, jasmine, tuberose and…orange blossom. Robert Piguet’s Fracas – that reference tuberose – gets a good deal of its divalicious oomph from orange blossom, as does Caron’s classic Narcisse Noir, although in Narcisse Noir’s case, the orange blossom is a dark and dangerously erotic creature of the night. I never have understood why orange blossom is such a symbol of innocence, unless it’s that orange blossom tends to soothe frazzled bridal nerves, since so far as I’m concerned, it’s a very erotic flower…

A while ago, I posed a question on one of the Facebook fragrance groups about orange blossom. We generally agreed on the orange blossom gold standard  – my absolute favorite orange blossom, which is Serge Lutens’ Fleurs d’Oranger. This is the orange blossom I recall from that afternoon that burned itself into my memory, the rose, the jasmine and the tuberose somehow all adding up to all the nuances contained in that one fatally fragrant blossom – and the cumin (a deal-breaker for some) adding its own intimations of carnal intent. This is no blushing ingénue orange blossom, this is an opulently sensuous creature in full bloom beneath the orange trees, just waiting to lure you in…which might explain why I’ve likely ‘wasted’ a good portion of a bell jar spraying it on my pillow before bed. Sweet dreams indeed!

But there are other orange blossom specials, and here they are for your delectation…some famous, some not so much, some innocent and flirty, some of them not quite so innocuous…

Joyous Orange

Mona di Orio ‘Jabu’

Jabu – the Zulu word for ‘joy’ – was created in 2009 by the epically talented niche perfumer Mona di Orio, who tragically died last year. No tragedy lurks within ‘Jabu’, which was made to benefit the Dutch charity ‘Orange Babies’ for African HIV-positive mothers and their babies. Jabu is a glorious, complex, grand, glowing Oriental of an orange blossom, from its laughing beginnings of petitgrain through its honeyed, swirling heart of orange blossom, rose and coconut all the way to the feather-soft drydown of benzoin, myrrh and sandalwood. Coconut can be a deal-breaker for me, but here, I have no complaints – everything works in perfect harmony, and everything spells precisely what it says on the bottle – which is…joy. It is virtually impossible to be blue when wearing this, and if that’s not an accolade, what is?

Jabu – in the ‘main’ collection of Mona di Orio perfumes – will be re-released along with the other perfumes in Mona’s main line in 2013.

Notes for Jabu: Orange blossom, monoi oil, petitgrain, Damascus rose, honey, amyris, plum, myrrh, benzoin

The Drop Dead Elegant Orange

Hermès 24 Faubourg

If every luxury perfume brand needs a Great Big White Floral, then 24 Faubourg is surely Hermès’ contribution. Made by Maurice Roucel in 1995, this is a unique throwback to those elegant, supremely French perfumes of yore when ladies who lunched wore couture, carried Hermès bags, and wore fragrant statements that left an emphatic presence in the room behind them. Make no mistake – this is no ingénue orange blossom, this one is all woman, and she roars even when she whispers! It starts with a seamless fruity-floral effervescent blast – there’s no other way to describe it – and then. And then, it grows. And it glows. And it grows. Blooming into a luscious, lilting blend of thick orange blossom, gardenia and jasmine, with black elder adding its own earthier segue to its chypre-tinged drydown hours and hours later of orris, sandalwood, amber, patchouli and vanilla. I really don’t do it anything near the justice it clearly deserves when I wear it barefaced in my leopard-print pjs – 24 Faubourg somehow demands a flawless maquillage, great hair, grand clothes and high heels – something to accentuate its stunning sillage, outstanding longevity and eternally stylish structure. Wear it for when you want to make a definite impression no one forgets in a hurry! Preferably with Louboutin heels, but Manolos might do in a pinch…

Notes for 24 Faubourg: Orange, peach hyacinth, ylang ylang, bergamot, black elder, iris, jasmine, orange blossom, gardenia, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, vanilla.

The Limited Edition Orange

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Fleurs d’Oranger

There should be laws against limited editions I only discover after it’s way too late to do anything about procuring them. But on the other hand…what wonders would I miss? L’Artisan Parfumeur’s ’s special edition tribute to an exceptional Tunisian orange blossom harvest is what. L’Artisan puts the orange blossom – one spectacular orange blossom – front and center of this composition by Anne Flipo, and it’s all orange blossom, all the time! Lush, flirty, ripe, borderline naughty orange blossom, neroli, petitgrain – it’s the whole tree and all the flowers, too – and it’s glorious – and gorgeously linear –  stuff. If I have any complaints – apart from being nearly impossible to find any longer – it’s that it doesn’t last nearly long enough to suit me, which only means that one bottle will be too many and two not nearly enough!

Notes for L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Fleurs d’Oranger: Orange, petitgrain, neroli, orange blossom, almond.

 The Great Escape

Dior Cruise Collection Escale à Portofino

In my fevered imagination – all evidence in my life to the contrary – I have what I’ve come to call ‘perfect moments’ – those fantasies of being somewhere infinitely glamorous, wearing something equally devastating, standing on a balcony overlooking the limitless blue Adriatic with a Bellini in my hand exuding effortless ‘du chien’, a French term that implies something slightly better, cooler and much more fashionable than mere ‘chic’. Chic can be acquired with a little help, ‘du chien’ is something you either have or you don’t. Needless to say, that never happened. Yet if any perfume takes me ‘there’ to that balcony and that fantasy, surely it’s Dior’s Escale à Portofino, created by Francois Demachy in 2008. It was one of the first remotely exclusive perfumes I ever bought for myself, and it is a very unique and uniquely summery vacation-in-a-bottle, with its entire orange tree from leaves to blossoms bottled up and tied around a milky, transparent green almond note so wrong, it’s utterly right, a while before it whispers its twilit song of darkest summery green some hours later. It could last a bit longer, this is true…but isn’t that just another excuse for another hit of fantasy?

Notes for Escale à Portofino: Bergamot, petitgrain, lemon, orange blossom, almond, juniper berries, cedar, cypress, galbanum, caraway and musk

A Vial with a View

Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino

Although I can’t quite put my finger on precisely what causes it, something about the few Tom Ford’s Private Blend of perfumes I’ve tried tend to rub my fragrant fur in a few wrong directions. It isn’t that they’re not meticulously crafted (Neroli Portofino was created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux), or truly horrible or cheap-smelling, which they’re not. It could be their prohibitive price tag, or else that I’m just not a Tom Ford kind of woman. For one, I’m too short – and too busty, if not quite blonde enough. But if anything could persuade me otherwise, it just might be Neroli Portofino, tacky, tasteless advertising notwithstanding. Neroli Portofino is neither tacky nor tasteless, but instead, another tribute to the deathless, posh summer cool of Italy’s Amalfi coast, and lo and behold…you are all there with that breathtaking balcony view and all of a damn near flawless orange blossom dream yourself. Strangely enough, neroli isn’t listed as a note at all, but orange blossom – the plush, heady, slightly soapy sort of orange blossom – certainly is. It’s pretty linear from start to ambery finish, but who cares with that picture perfect Portofino view?

Notes for Neroli Portofino: Bergamot, mandarin orange, African orange blossom, amber.

 The British Art of Understatement

Penhaligon’s Anthology Collection Orange Blossom

From the overtly stated to the softly sotto voce…Bertrand Duchaufour’s reorchestrated ‘Orange Blossom’ for Penhaligon’s is as soft and as soothing as a down duvet. It’s a light, flirtatious orange blossom that lures you in and surprises you with all the tales that can be told about ‘orange’ and ‘blossom’. It begins clean, cologne-bright and full of light – no intimations of sexpot here, or so you surmise – but that’s nowhere all it is and not at all where it stays as it evolves past those squeaky-clean beginnings into a pas-de-deux of petitgrain and cardamom, tied around an orange blossom that seems more neroli than ‘orange blossom’ to my nose. It’s understated, never obvious, and supremely suited for the mood of summery, flirty and light-hearted laughter that seems to go with long, sunny days and warm, delicious nights. You won’t be knocking anyone over with this, but you won’t overwhelm with your presence either, and that sometimes has its own undeniable appeal. I’ve loved it and worn it when other orange blossom perfumes might seem a bit much in the heat – in other words, when understated is precisely the kind of statement I want to make!

Notes for Penhaligon’s Anthology Collection Orange Blossom: Calabrian orange, bergamot, peach, rose, cardamom.

Many fragrant multiverses lie in waiting within that simple term ‘orange blossom’. Some others I wear, adore and have reviewed include Olympic Orchids‘ ‘Golden Cattleya’ and ‘Emergence’, Andy Tauer’s ‘Orange Star’, Opus Oils’ ‘Giggle Water’ and of course, the Gold Standard… Serge Lutens‘Fleurs d’Oranger’.  Coming up on the Genie –  yet another orange blossom-centric perfume, but this one is so special, it deserves its own review!

Do you have your own orange blossom moments, too?

With thanks and love to the Great Facilitators…Ruth, Carlos and Amy, for making this review possible, and the many comments to my question on my favorite FB group! <3

Orange Bomb!

- a review of Tauer Perfumes‘Orange Star’

Associations can be a dangerous thing. When I close my eyes, touch my nose and think of the word ‘orange’, very definite memories come to mind.

I grew up in Southern Florida, and at that time, you would be hard-pressed to find a backyard anywhere that didn’t contain at least one orange tree. These oranges did not look like the oranges we’re accustomed to buying every winter. They were more green than orange, with definite orange blotches, and even now, I can close my eyes and conjure up their taste of tart, sweet sunshine, or the smell of the blooming tree in all its white-green-gold bridal glory…heady, indolic, with a zesty hint of the wonders to come lurking in the blossoms.

I can remember another memory…a roadside stand somewhere on the road to Delphi in Greece on a blustery January day and a farmer selling bags of gargantuan, softball-sized oranges that glowed like jewels far down that road, oranges flavored with all the heat and toil of that blazing Mediterranean sun.

I think ‘orange’, and I automatically think ‘happy’ and I think ‘joy’. Both of these words and any of their synonyms all add up to…

I’m the world’s biggest sucker for…orange. Orange zest, orange blossom, neroli, petitgrain…whatever way it’s used – and indeed, orange on one incarnation or another is one of the most ubiquitous notes in perfume – will find me day-dreaming at the thought of inhaling happiness in a single sniff. I own not a few…a bell jar of Serge Lutens’ ‘Fleurs d’Oranger’, Bertrand Duchaufour’s ‘Orange Blossom’ for Penhaligon’s, Atelier Cologne’s Grand Neroli and Orange Sanguissime, Dior’s ‘Escale à Portofino’, the delicious orange accords of Aftelier’s ‘Candide’, ‘Tango’, ‘Oud Luban’, Doc Elly and her interpretation of the orange cattleya orchid…

Yes, I love, love, love orange! Now, if someone would ever dare to make a smoky, sultry orange-themed chypre…

Therefore, I was an accident waiting to happen when Andy Tauer launched ‘Orange Star’ in 2010. The idea of Andy+orange was enough to make me swoon with anticipation in front of my laptop as I read one glowing review after another. Somehow, a few drops managed to find their way to me, and it was…love. That tiny sample vial was gone in nothing flat. When I finally remembered to review it, I had nothing left.

This was no way to do an orange – or indeed Andy Tauer – the justice they both deserve. Recently, a decant found its way to my mailbox, and I was one happy blogger as I tore open that envelope and sprayed.

And hated it! Soap! LOTS…of super-luxe, beautiful, glorious…soap!

On the wall in front of me, I saw a neon sign blinking two very depressing messages.

“Philistine!” said one in Da-Glo orange neon. “And you dare to call yourself a perfumista!” said the other in equally pulsing Las Vegas orange.

Oh, the shame of it! My perfumista street cred would never, ever live this down! 

But before I could pack up all my samples, bottles and decants and send them off to more sophisticated, appreciative, far less Philistine homes and noses, I took a deep, deep breath. I know enough by now to know that first impressions can be misleading. I packed it away for a few days. It could have been the day, my mood, or my hormones playing tricks on my perceptions.

Over the next few weeks, I straightened my spine, re-schooled my nose, steeled my resolve and tried again. At some point, this orange finally dropped.

 ‘Orange Star’ is…there is no other way to put it – an orange pulse bomb. Take that as literally as you please.

Because this is every aspect of orange, every quintessence of Citrus Sinensis you could possible think of. A stop-motion orange movie played backwards in slow motion.

It’s biting into an exploding sensory orange bomb as you would bite into an apple, the bittersweet perfume of the rind, and the wet, sweet glories of the flesh as the juice runs down your chin. You are engulfed in some alternate universe of orange, mandarin and Clementine that fills your senses as far as you are able to perceive, and best of all, this marvelous stage lasts for quite some time, far longer than most other orange-centered perfumes I can name. Those thirty-second summer colognes with their thirty-second moments of glory turn green with envy.

The fun is nowhere over yet. A good long while later, as you revel in your own wafts of orange magnificence, this perfume begins to bloom, first softly and imperceptibly, like a far-off, ghostly memory of orange blossom, and then, those blooms open wider and wider, and you lie in sated bliss beneath the canopy of an orange grove in full bloom, swooning in that heady, sensual scent. The sun is shining, the birds are singing in the flawless blue above, and orange blossoms rain their delectable nectar down upon you as you inhale deep with every breath, joined by that earthy, bittersweet dark green of petitgrain and heated earth – this must be the lemongrass listed in those notes – and if optimism has one perfume note, this would be it. I don’t know how anyone could be blue as they breathe in that scent. All I know is I can’t. Blues? What blues? Happiness…is orange, and as any visual artist knows, the complementary color to blue is…orange!

Hours and hours later, you are still there in that mythical orchard, still with the ghost of juice running down your chin, still breathing in those staggering, beautiful blooms, still so happy it’s a wonder you can stand. Only now, ambery, incense hints creep in through the shadows deepening in the sunset of this perfect day, a suggestion of smoke, of sultry, sexy patchouli, a feather-light touch of vanilla glowing on your skin, glowing in the corners of that perma-smile on your face.

I’ve never known a perfume like ‘Orange Star’, never met an orange like this one, and I’ve never encountered an evolution like it. Forget everything you know about top, heart, and base notes…this one swirls and dances and bounces for hours, one constantly evolving, burnished surprise. When I inhale and think my happy thought of ‘amber-patchouli-and-is that tonka bean?’, it winks its zesty, saucy wink, and when I think ‘zest’, a puff of orange blossom takes my breath away. Like not a few Tauers I’ve encountered, this has the half-life of some radioactive isotopes. Not for the commitment-phobic, it will last, and last, and last, and l-a-s-t.

Not everyone will love this, and I can see why – there is a definite scaffolding of the famous ‘Tauerade’, which works for some people and not for others, so I can only state what I always say…try before you buy!

Back in my day, I planted Andy Tauer in my Perfume Pantheon for the genius that is ‘Incense Extrème’. Thanks to ‘Orange Star’, he’s still there, just glued a little tighter to that pedestal…I blanche to contemplate his many other creations…

If you have ever loved an orange, you should try it. Give it time, give it more than one chance, give yourself a chance to get to know it.

Let ‘Orange Star’ explode upon your skin, and blow those winter blahs to smithereens!

Because happiness…is an orange bomb!

Notes:

Top: Mandarin, Clementine

Heart: Lemongrass, orange flower

Base: Ambergris, tonka bean, vanilla

Incense isn’t listed, but I swear it’s there…

‘Orange Star is available from Luckyscent, First in Fragrance and directly from the Tauer Perfumes website. Samples are also for sale at all those locations.

The Gold Wreath of Gorgeous


- a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’
Does it ever happen to you…that you read a description of a perfume, a list of notes, and somewhere inside, something stirs and moves and sighs? Do you ever have an intuition that no matter what, you know it in your bones…this will be fantastic?

This past spring, I was lucky enough to receive a Discovery set of perfumes from one perfumer whose work intrigued me no end by description alone. The perfumer was Linda Pilkington, the house was Ormonde Jayne, and call it a hunch or a sense of foreboding, but somehow, some way, I knew it would be good.

With one exception, every one of them was so delicious and so compelling, I loved them all with a passion all spring and well into the summer. I loved them so much in fact, I couldn’t write about them. I’d look at that elegant black-gold Discovery set and sigh…sigh with regret over the size of my microscopic bank account, sigh that these perfumes could be so stunning, and sigh that I just knew I had to write about them – and a few dozen others, too.

The precarious thrills of a perfume blogger! So many perfumes, so many words to find, so little time…

This is why I’ve decided to nip my burgeoning sense of guilt in the bud and write about one of my favorite Ormonde Jaynes…‘Tolu’.

Tolu balsam, which is made from a tree native to Peru and Colombia, is a dark, tenacious resin that smells simultaneously sweet and woody-spicy with hints of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. It is one of my favorite base notes in perfumery precisely for that reason.

You can imagine that once I got my hands on Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’, I really did hope it would live up to that giddy sense of anticipation I conjured in my head from the notes. Please, let this be good, let it make my day brighter, let it make me swoon with its scented, sensual pleasures…

Reader, it was. It is. It did!

Tolu’ is, in a word – stunning. Ormonde Jayne lists it as a floral-oriental, and I can see why. It starts with a bracing little kick of juniper and a bright and mellow clary sage, before the orange blossom sashays in with promises of floral marvels to come – the orchid, which I can’t detect to be honest, the muguet, which adds a flirty, light-hearted note, and the decadent rose, which is most emphatically present, waltzing around the perfume in perfect step with the orange blossom just enough to intrigue me further.

Be still my beating heart, I thought the first time I tried it, be still!

My heart never listened. Instead, it beat faster.

So seamlessly, so stealthily, so imperceptibly did the drydown arrive about a half hour later while I was distracted by life and other hazards, that it was only in passing I noticed what has to be one of the most heartbreaking, breathtaking, faintmaking drydowns I’ve ever encountered in a perfume.

Time for the tolu that gives ‘Tolu’ its name, its spicy-woody-sweet aura whirling around and around tonka bean with its vanilla flair, golden frankincense (another all-time favorite base note) and what’s listed as ‘amber’ and I detect as a labdanum accord. I’m not a major amber perfume fan girl, but surely there’s amber and there’s this…amber. It wraps around the skin like a golden aura of cashmere and silk, spicy-sweet, ultra-rich and intoxicating, and I never, ever want it to come to an end.

‘Tolu’ in the eau de parfum is very long lasting and tenacious, unabashedly womanly but not frilly or ‘girlie’, and like not a few Ormonde Jaynes, sultry, sexy and deliciously seductive. I wore this a while ago to meet with a platonic male friend, and he asked me in no uncertain terms to move slightly away. He said my perfume gave him ideas…

That’s the kind of reaction I always hope for!

The more I’ve worn ‘Tolu’ – far too much if the diminishing level in my sample vial is any indication – the more I’ve come to see it as a golden perfume, not just in color but in terms of its aura. Linda Pilkington recommends it for autumn wear, and I can understand why…something about that golden, warm cashmere/silk aura that goes so beautifully with the cool, gold light of October. I’ve worn it for big presentation days, and I’ve worn it for evening wear, and I have to say – wear this wisely. It’s that…sultry. And that sexy!

I’m at that thankless age where I’ll do whatever it takes to amp up the oomph. With ‘Tolu’, it’s like donning that golden wreath of myrtle, sacred to Aphrodite, found in Philip II’s tomb in Vergina. I suspect it was worn by a woman – myrtle crowns were considered propitious for women in Hellenistic Greece – and I like to think that the woman who wore it put it on last to lend a little of Aphrodite’s irresistible beauty as well…one golden wreath of gorgeousness, as if to say…this way, a woman walks, leaving an irresistible aura behind.

I don’t have a golden wreath of myrtle, nor do I have any of Aphrodite’s beauty to borrow, but for a little while longer, I have Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tolu’.

A golden wreath of gorgeous I can claim for my own!

Notes:
Top: Juniper berry, orange blossom, clary sage
Heart: Orchid, Moroccan rose, muguet
Base: Tolu, tonka bean, golden frankincense, amber

Disclosure: Sample provided by Ormonde Jayne for review.

Ormonde Jayne ‘Tolu’ is available in several permutations from the Ormonde Jayne website, and from Senteurs d’Aillleurs in Brussels. Ormonde Jayne ships worldwide.

Image: Gold myrtle wreath found in Philip II of Macedon’s tomb in Vergina, 4th century B.C.E, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

L’Eau Déesse – Goddess Water

A review of Serge Lutens’ Fleurs D’Oranger

My mother always said I’d come to no good. My mother also said that one should never underestimate the importance of a very good bra – and a killer perfume.

She was right in both instances. Then again, in a certain manner of speaking, it’s all her fault anyway. She should never have taken me to Paris, never have taken me to Dior and Guerlain, never have bought me my first bottles of Miss Dior and Jicky, never, ever worn so many of the glorious perfumes I will always associate with her – Fidji, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noire, First. As a child, I remember sneaking into her closet and closing the door, breathing in Eau de Maman, and thinking – if this was what womanhood smelled like, it couldn’t possibly be bad.

Now that I’m a woman grown, now that my mother has passed away, now I discover that – it is. Not just bad – but horrific.

Because now, I have graduated into the perfumeaholic equivalent of heroin, of crack cocaine, of…one is far too many and two not nearly enough.

Now, I own my first bell jar of Serge Lutens, and it’s all a slippery downhill ski jump from here. My bank account may never recover.

Back when I first grew addicted to perfume blogs, one name kept coming up. Serge Lutens. The sweet, occult secret of the initiated few. It was said that Serge Lutens perfumes were emotions bottled, olfactory journeys caught in glass, the epitome of what all true perfumes should be, but in this over-regulated, mass-market, youth-obsessed fruitchouli age, so rarely are. They are not mass market, not made to definite demographics, not…common.

These epiphanies are not advertised and in a few cases, rather discombobulating as perfumes go. So…some long time later, I made an effort to investigate the brouhaha for myself, draw my own conclusions and sample them for myself.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to determine that in my quest for liquid divinity, my perpetual search for something as unusual and unique as myself, Absolute Essence of Tarleisio, I had, at last, arrived.

It was just a matter of time before I had my hot little hands on The Drug – a bell jar but which one? So many of them and so little cash.

So when I finished my first ever novel – all 170000+ words, and in less than nine months – I decreed that my carrot henceforward would be a bell jar of Serge for every completed book, and another – it is to be hoped – for every time I have a hardcover copy in my hand.

A good thing I’m just young enough to be prolific, because so far, nine bottles have my name on them, and those are just the ones I’ve tried.

Alors – a bell jar. I finally decided on the one that completely swept me off my feet from the second I tried it – Fleurs D’Oranger. Orange, bergamot, lemon and all citrus notes have always been my favorites, and orange trees are my favorite trees. I blame my Florida childhood.

Orange blossom is one of the most used notes in perfumes. You would be hard-pressed to name a few classics that don’t contain at least a little. Orange blossom can be…innocent, bridal, fresh, summery, invigorating or – ask anyone with access to an orange grove in full bloom – heady and dizzying.

A few years ago, I invested in a bottle of Dior’s ‘Escale à Portofino’, another orange blossom perfume, and loved it. Sultry, however, was not a word I would use to describe it. It was flirty, lighthearted, summery sunshine in a bottle.

Staring a long, dismal winter in the face in the not-too-distant future, heady sounded like just what I needed to put the va-va in my voom.

My precious arrived the day before yesterday. I almost swooned with pleasure, and that was before I had even opened the box.

I was not disappointed. Because this is the scent of Happy In A Bottle, distilled Absolute Essence of Tarleisio. From the first exuberant arpeggio of true orange blossom and the swelling orchestra of jasmine and tuberose building to a honeyed bright yellow-orange crescendo and finally, to a zesty drydown of orange and nutmeg, this is – heavenly. Not in the light, flirty, fashionable way of Escale á Portofino, nothing in the least like Prada’s wan, anorexic Infusion de Fleurs d’Oranger, this is hot-blooded, sultry, sexy, all-out w-o-m-a-n, drawing honeybees and testosterone bombs by the dozen. Small children will come closer and snuggle on your lap, strange men will ask for your phone number and a dinner date yesterday, just so they can breathe it in. Resistance will be futile. They will be assimilated. Other women will eye you askance, wondering what on Earth is THAT…that breath of celestial happy you exude?

Some have complained about the note of cumin that sneaks in, adding a touch of human sweat to the proceedings, but on me, the cumin combines with the nutmeg to become spicy and smoky, and I don’t get so much as a whiff of skank, or if I do, I could care less.

And that was only three drops. Three drops applied with a cotton swab that permeated my entire apartment, my clothes and even my pillow thirty-six hours later, wafting through my dreams. This is potent to the max. So potent, so outrageously sexy, I really can’t see this on anyone under the age of thirty-five. It takes experience to handle this kind of mojo with conviction. It takes confidence to handle this kind of sillage. A little dab will do you, and if you spray, spray wisely, otherwise your surroundings will be swooning.

On my skin, which usually eats citrus-based scents in nothing flat, it lasted over twenty-four hours, and on cloth, even longer. The orange blossom is apparent from the first seconds all the way to the far drydown, and that’s another unusual thing about this perfume. It’s all about the orange blossom, but it is not boring, not bland, not one-dimensional.

I breathe it in, and I am all of a piece, happy, comfortable in my devastatingly sexy skin, wafting blossom and promises I may or may not keep, knowing I have become – if only for a while – a Goddess walking the Earth.

If this perfume were a Tarot card, it would be the Queen of Wands. Self-contained, sexy, secure, creative, inspiring and strong.

A lot like the woman I try to be. So I better finish off those bestsellers…

Fleurs D’Oranger, an eau de parfum, is in the export line of Serge Lutens perfumes, and available in the 50 ml oblong bottle at Barneys NYC, Luckyscent and Aedes in the US, and at Salons Shiseido in Paris. The 75 ml bell jar – the limited edition – is only available to customers in Europe. I have read elsewhere that there is a definite difference in strength between the oblong bottle and the bell jar, with the bell jar being stronger.

Image: Parfums Serge Lutens, Salons Shiseido, Palais Royal, Paris