A Waft of Dystopia

metropolis2

- a review of Robert Piguet’s Futur

Back in the early Pleistocene era, when yours truly was defining myself in many different ways, I decided early on that in order to choose my great perfume loves, there was only one way to do it – to choose something as far removed from my mother’s particular tastes and inclinations as I could get. My Scorpio mother was very much a diehard lover of bold Oriental perfumes, and although I could agree on the bold (not least for the impact effect), Orientals, for all their opulence were a bit much for a fourteen-year-old bookworm ingénue.

My ideas ran to more intellectual fare, something that defied explication and didn’t hint at promises I had no idea how to deliver. But what to choose? Floral-centric fragrances seemed grandmotherly to me at the time, Orientals were out of the question, and I was nowhere bold enough to cross the gender divide of the perfume counter, but luckily for me, I was at the right time and the right place…

This was the moment: A late afternoon in early May on the Pont Neuf in Paris in the late Seventies. Maman and I had spent the day at Versailles and both Trianons, and were simply strolling along in the May sunshine, thinking about all we had seen, talking about the wonders that awaited the next day at Guerlain and Dior, drinking in that revelation that was Paris on a sunny May afternoon.

Which was when I saw her walking towards us. Tall, blonde, effortlessly striding on the cobblestones in impossibly high heels and an impossibly ravishing outfit that exuded Bohemian Chic in capital letters – green panne velvet harem pants, an embroidered gold velvet tunic of flawless cut and precision, about five pounds of gold costume jewelry and a perfectly maquillaged face that could easily launch a thousand ships.

I had never seen anyone so beautiful in my fourteen years, or someone so defiantly stylish. But what struck me as she passed in a cumulus cloud with a wink at the gawking teenager was her perfume.

It was everything, she was everything I could ever aspire to being, everything I wanted in the woman I was to become, everything my immaculately groomed mother was not. It was, I came to discover later, a green aldehydic chypre of impeccable pedigree and make, made by that same couturier and designer who dreamed up her breathlessly beautiful clothes.

That was the moment I sold my soul to the greens and the chypres.

The next day, I chose Jicky – at the time, a gorgeously green Drrty Grrl if there ever were – as my first “proper” perfume. Many others followed in quick succession: the original Miss Dior, Vent Vert, Ma Griffe, Fidji, Cabochard, Ivoire, Dioressence, Chanel no. 19, Silences, Paloma Picasso’s Mon Parfum, Bandit… say the words “green” and “chypre”, and I’d be there in a heartbeat to set my paycheck on fire, even the very one worn by that unknown beauty on the Pont Neuf – Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche.

So this new wonder on my desk should have been a slam dunk, a home run, as obvious a love as any of those gloriously green galbanum bombshells I love and adore to this very day.

No.

So far as I’m concerned, the storied house of Robert Piguet should be right up there with the all-time greats in perfumery – mainly because he had the surpassing great judgment to choose Germaine Cellier to work with. Bandit ranks among my ‘desert island perfumes’ – if I could only choose ten, Bandit would surely be one of them.

Futur should likewise be an instant love – after all, isn’t it a green? Isn’t it a Piguet? Isn’t it the perfect recipe for pouring resolve and titanium into my spine and proclaiming to the world:

I may be only 5’1” and blonde, but you mess with me at your peril…

I wish it were otherwise, wish it were something else, wish things could have been so very, very different.

Futur was originally created in 1967, at a time when that nebulous term ‘the future’ was more style than substance, when relentless optimism overrode any dystopian rumblings in the underground, and the future looked so bright we all would have to wear shades.

What it was, I can’t say, but what it is…is a simulacrum. In other words, there’s a great idea in there somewhere, but I’m damned if I can find it in the first three hours.

Futur begins as a hot, soapy, sudsy, synthetic green mess that teeters on the brink of squeaky clean. You can mention bergamot, ‘green notes’ and jasmine until this cow goes home, but this green future is nothing so much as a rather dishy (in several senses), classy soap. It smells like the world’s cleanest, most immaculate machine. All gleaming chrome and a peerless reflection, but what is it reflecting?

That squeaky clean, man-made machine, that’s what. As it develops, it gets woodier and even slightly mossy without ever once descending into anything that might be called oakmoss territory. It’s just enough to qualify as a chypre by the skin of its teeth, but never loses that soapy blast of the opening. Somewhere near the bottom, it grows darker with more of a pine tree feel, and somewhere around here, I get the idea. I’m just not sure I like it that much.

That great, dystopian and highly romantic film, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis comes to mind, not so much in its vision of an unlikely future that’s ostensibly only thirteen years away, but of the dichotomy between the real Maria and the robot Maria, wreaking havoc in the pleasure district of Yoshiwara.

If robots wore perfume, this would be for the robot Maria. Not so much a woman as the simulacrum of one with a bitterly green, evil agenda. She was just real enough to fool the workers, the easily duped, the wretched creatures who saw only what they so desperately wanted to believe. She’s emerged from her pedestal and stalks out on gleaming chrome feet to take over the world. Be afraid!

I’ll pass on this waft of bleak and bitter dystopian future and console myself with another animal of imperfect biological origins.

Bandit.

Notes: Neroli, bergamot, green notes, jasmine, ylang ylang, violet, violet leaf, vetiver, patchouli, Virginia cedar.

Robert Piguet Futur was originally released in 1967 and recreated in 2009 by perfumer Aurelien Guichard.

With special thanks to Nick Gilbert, who made it possible.

Original image taken from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film ‘Metropolis’.

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Save the Genie from extinction! Find out more here and also there. 

The White Jade Empress


- a review of Robert Piguet’s ‘Fracas’

When I was a teenager, my mother had a best friend who intrigued me no end. At that age, I was perpetually looking for clues to this whole thing called ‘Woman’, traits and ticks I should aspire to or imitate, and there was something about this woman that told me she might have a few answers.

She was the physical opposite of my mother in many ways, tall and Junoesque where my mother was petite, darkly exotic with Spanish gypsy looks to match, danced flamenco in her spare time, and always trailed clouds of some very heady perfumes. I can remember she wore Estée Lauder’s Cinnabar when my mother wore Shalimar and Mitsouko, and another one I recall that entered the room a good ten minutes before she even got out of her car, something exotic and nearly overpowering in its intensity, something nearly frightening to a teenaged girl.

For years and years I swore it was Fracas, one of those immortal perfumes that so many seem to have an opinion about. Only fairly recently did I realize it wasn’t Fracas at all, but the original Chloé in parfum form, but even as a teenager, I recognized one very important element both perfumes had in common.

The tuberose.

Victorian mothers in the India of the Raj, so the story goes, forbade their virginal daughters to even smell tuberose, lest they get the kind of ideas that did not encompass lying back on their wedding night thinking of England.

Likewise, at the perfumed court of Louis XIV, hedges of tuberose were planted along the colonnade of the Grand Trianon of Versailles at Madame de Montespan’s behest, until courtiers began to swoon and even that notorious royal mistress had to concede defeat. “Not tonight, your Majesty. I have such a terrible headache…”

The tuberose has a heady, haunting scent unlike any other flower. It shares a few similiarities with jasmine, but unlike jasmine, it has a distinct opening blast that some people call gasoline/burnt rubber and others call mentholated mothball or bitter wintergreen, and right before you curl your lip with disdain and wrinkle your nose in disgust, it blooms into such ghostly, toe-curling, spine-chilling beauty there’s nothing you can do but surrender.

Once upon a time, I hated anything overtly floral. Once upon a time, I hated tuberose precisely because of that rubber/gasoline/mothball facet. Once upon a time, there was a time I had never tried one of the greatest tuberoses of them all – Tubereuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens. One day I took the plunge. And hated it! Still, I kept trying. There was something I wasn’t getting, some secret I couldn’t find just yet…

Until that one day it bloomed past the rubber and the wintergreen, and kapow!, I was done in by that sucker punch of beauty…I’ve loved tuberose ever since, in perfumes such as Carnal Flower (although that has a coconut angle that sometimes turns on me), Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, or recently, the stunning Cepes and Tuberose by Aftelier.

Time to grow up, time to evolve, damn it, so when I had a chance, I requested a sample of Piguet’s Fracas.

Fracas is universally considered the gold standard of tuberose. Germaine Cellier, she of the elegant, green/leather chypre whip known as Bandit as well as the ultimate galbanum known as Vent Vert for Balmain, created Fracas in 1948, and just like her other two creations, it was an instant, influential hit. It has since been reformulated, like everything worth loving these days, but just as with Bandit, this version has been re-orchestrated with great care and the utmost respect for Cellier’s original classic.

I was lucky enough to receive Fracas in both eau de parfum and parfum versions so I could compare the two, and braced myself for the onslaught. It had taken me this long to sum up the courage to try it. Come on…how bad could it be?

Bad? What bad? What was I afraid of? What on Planet Earth was all this fuss about? Why is Fracas considered such a love/hate prospect?

The fact is, if you hate big, blousy florals, Fracas won’t change your mind. If the idea of a breathtaking bouquet of Loud, Proud, Grand, Glorious Blooms strikes terror in your heart, Fracas might induce nightmares of femme-eating flowers straight out of a blood-curdling Roger Corman movie.

Say it doesn’t, that you like your big, blousy florals, say you even like tuberose.

Say you’re a cynic, as I usually do, and few things surprise you. Fracas…did.

Because it is…beauty in a bottle. From the green opening to the opulent, white-floral heart all the way to a mossy, sweet drydown, Fracas is nothing less than breathtaking, nothing less than a flawless, stunning perfume that puts the tuberose front and center beneath a Klieg light on a red-carpet moment, while her ladies-in-waiting – and such ladies they are, too – sink to their feet around her in an admiring swoon that never detracts from the main attraction – Her Empress of Tuberose in all her heady, outrageous splendor. Since they are all present and accounted for, the supporting players that read like a Who’s Who of heart notes ensure that Fracas never becomes too one-dimensional and keep it complex and intriguing, never too sweet or too much. Having said that, wear wisely. This stuff is built to last, proof they don’t make them quite like this any more.

Suddenly, I understand the motivation about the Victorian tabu against tuberose. It gives you such…ideas…This is drop-dead, faint-making sexy, borderline over-the-top but never quite, incredibly classy and always, always the epitome of everything beautiful in tuberose. There is a slightly bitter tinge behind the blooms, a wintergreen touch I’ve recognized from other tuberose perfumes that is highlighted in the parfum, but either version sings in perfect pitch and timbre one stellar aria of that White Jade Empress of all man-devouring flowers…

Make no mistake. Fracas, I came to discover, is a man-eater. Apart from one man I know who doesn’t much care for florals at all, this stuff is devastating on practically everyone else. It will put the va-va in your voom, it will bring grown men to their knees, it will make indelible impressions. As it does, you will walk a lot taller, a lot sexier, you might even convince yourself to wear heels and stockings, silk slip and a garter belt to match.

It’s that kind of perfume. What the hey….live a little. Be sexy. Wear Fracas. Slay ‘em! They will be helpless to resist! It will stay with you and never stray, and it will never be less than a peerless perfection of a perfume to highlight that flower of all flowers…

That White Jade Empress called…tuberose.

Notes according to Basenotes:
Top: Bergamot, mandarin, hyacinth, green notes
Heart: Tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, lily of the valley, white iris, violet, jonquil, carnation, coriander, peach, osmanthus, pink geranium
Base: Musk, cedar, moss, sandalwood, orris, vetiver, tolu balsam

Robert Piguet Fracas is available in many locations, and can often be found at online discounters without breaking the bank, unless you buy it in parfum. A big hug and thank you to Suzanne of Perfume Journal, who gave me the chance to try it in both versions.

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Starting today, Scent Less Sensibilities is taking a badly needed break for a few days, as yours truly indulges her Inner Rock Chick and predilection for a Primeval Force from New Jersey. I shall return over the weekend, and that’s a promise! Stay tuned for grab-bag mini reviews, another spotlight on another amazing Indie perfumer, and yet more fragrant wonders to come!

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…

Wicked Pussycat


Once upon a time, I was the sort of woman who had…adventures, shall we say. They did not involve anything so daring as climbing Mount Everest, white-water rafting in Brazil or rappelling off sheer cliff faces straight into the Atlantic, but they were sometimes very nearly as dangerous! There are many ways to have adventures, as I’m sure you know! Since I had a background in the netherworld, it would follow that my adventures were of a more cerebral and, well…netherwordly kind.

In the course of those adventures, a friend gifted me with a bottle of perfume suitable for that kind of adventure. It was nothing available in Copenhagen, nothing I had come across before, and it was – perfect. Perfect for the headspace that came with it, perfect for the part I had to dress for this kind of adventure, cerebral, complex, complicated – just plain…perfect.

That was Robert Piguet’s “Bandit”, and there was, in those heady, single days of living dangerously in the early Nineties, no perfume more perfect for dotting the is and crossing the ts of donning the whole domme mindset, the final accessory to the leather, the six-inch spikes and fishnets, the occasional latex outfit that involved things like extra help and a serious dose of unscented baby powder. It was leathery but not entirely, it was ashy yet not completely, it was strange and rubbery and compelling in a way not many perfumes had the ovaries to be in those days, and not many women had the ovaries to wear it.

Wearing “Bandit”, I became a completely different woman. Not my Pollyanna usual self, not my other absent-minded self, but this other…woman, who liked the dark and the darkly erotic, who liked to push buttons, take control and walk on the wild side and see where it would take her – often into territory a good deal more dangerous and thrilling than any sheer cliff face by the Atlantic.

Oh, yes.

Somewhere along the line, I gave “Bandit” away to a girlfriend who would appreciate its take-no-prisoners qualities, who could carry it off with aplomb and èlan, and life got in the way, as it sometimes does.

Lo and behold, these many years later, “Bandit” arrived in a sample set from First in Fragrance, and lo and behold, it is not ruined by reformulation.

There is something about certain green, galbanum-laden chypres that appeal in a good many ways to my inner fearless female – the one who never takes no for an answer, the one who is in perfect control of every situation, the one who always knows what to say, what to wear, and what to do once the door closes and there’s no turning back, he’s toast and he knows it and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Tomorrow, he’ll be breakfast, and he knows that, too!

My inner bitch, my inner domme, l-o-v-e-s chypres. Dee of Beauty on the Outside talks about another chypre that brings out her inner Maleficent, and I’m sure it’s glorious on her. Me – I’ll happily take Bandit. For the memories, for the sheer, compelling, complex strangeness of it, and for being created by Germaine Cellier – who surely put the B in Butch, Bitch and Bandit and not by accident.

Right out of the bottle, it has that smoky, dirty-ashtray vibe that should be utterly repellant, and yet is not. Bandit is not just smokin’, she smokes, too. So? You have a problem with that? Then you might have a problem with the rubbery, green facets of Bandit as well, and with the leather, because of course, Bandit is into leather…big time. Not exactly an overdose so much as just enough to unhinge you and unnerve you, the violet notes just soft enough to whisper in that low, sexy smoker’s voice. Bandit never raises her voice. She doesn’t have to. She walks into the room and you will automatically sit up straighter, pay very close attention and only just refrain from mentally pulling up your socks. Shut up. Did she give you permission to have an opinion, too?

I get the floral aspects, but Bandit is so dry teetering on bitter that it’s hard to tease out the flowers from the floorshow. They soften the leathery, ashy edges all the way through the drydown, still all about glove-soft black leather, warm above some very dangerous curves suggested by a touch of vetiver, myrrh and what smells like oakmoss. Can it be? Oakmoss? In this day and age? I don’t know how it can possibly be much else.

The reformulated eau de parfum, which is what I tested, is softer and not quite so butch as the original I remember. I seem to recall something nearly feral, but since my memories of Bandit are tied up, literally, with other memories, I could be wrong!

What I do know is this – holy (dead) COW, this is sexy. It plays in a slightly lower key than it used to, and that’s not a bad thing. I wore this to the office today (OMG, yes I did!), just to gauge the reactions I got, and Bandit is my new favorite chypre. The response was very gratifying. Those poor guys will have their heads spinning the rest of this week! It’s not quite so obvious as it used to be, and I don’t mind. I’m at the age where I don’t like to give too much away at the outset…;) First you have to lure them in…

So, as Bandit ‘walks her catgirls on leashes in leather’, to paraphrase one slightly cheesy video that captures its vibe perfectly, I do hereby solemnly declare…Bandit will very likely be one of my next two full-bottle purchases. It’s that good!

Because sometimes, I want to be that kind of woman, just for the thrill. Because I like those boots. And because…a little danger never hurt…too much! ;-)

Robert Piguet “Bandit” is available at many online retailers and sometimes at perfume discounters, too.

Coming Attractions


In the unlikely event anyone has been wondering, I have not forsaken you! As the snow has thawed, I’ve been snowed under elsewhere, and 36 hours in a day are just not…enough. This is not at all the same as saying I’m going to wimp out – so instead of a new perfume post, I’ll give you a sneak preview of what’s in store!

I know I’m on the road to perdition when…I spent the better part of an evening yesterday on First In Fragrance’s website, trying to decide what to try. Decisions, decisions…so many choices, and so little time.

But in the next few weeks, expect to see my takes on a few button pushers and the ones I ordered just because my curiosity is killing me.

Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels has a lot to answer for – among them, my curiosity over Amouage. Oh, that slope is so slippery and steep, and Epic Woman is on the list…and it’s all her fault! ;-)

Robert Piguet’s Bandit has been ‘walking her catgirls on leashes in leather‘…so I have to, I absolutely have to try this again, it’s been so long…

Byredo is a line I’ve never tried, but when someone pays an homage to one of my all-time favorite poets, I have to sit up and take notice! So…Baudelaire and Green are thrown in, too.

I’ve heard plenty of great things about Odin New York. C’mon. With a name like that, it’s like throwing a spear into a Viking horde in berserker mode. So in goes…Odin New York – 02 Owari.

Heeley is another line I’ve heard lots about…and just because the name tickles my fancy, I’ll start with Esprit de Tigre.

The fun won’t stop there. Another package from Olympic Orchids arrived today and is waiting for a pickup at my local post office tomorrow.

It will be glorious, I promise you!

So what are you, dear reader, dying to try? Let me know!

Image: Edmund Dulac, Psyche and Cerebus