Saturday, February 11th, 2012

By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor

Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!


Have a Fragrant Valentine’s Day!

It doesn’t matter what your plans for Valentine’s Day are. Whether you like to go out for an elegant evening or prefer to do a cozy night in (or if, like me, you plan to curl up with a Colin Firth movie and a bottle of wine) there’s no reason you shouldn’t be happy about the way you smell!

For a splash of delicate sensuality, try By Kilian, Liaisons Dangereuses ($225.00). With top notes of ripe plum and rose of Damascus, this fragrance evokes the sense of a leisurely stroll through the grounds at Versailles. Like the French court, this fragrance is decadent, yet not completely reckless or hedonist. Liaisons Dangereuses settles into the smoothest of blends as the florals mix with the base notes of vanilla and white musk. I find that this fragrance wears close to the skin, and all the better too! Spraying this on is like wearing the most charming secret.

For an elegant night out, try Tom Ford, Noir de Noir ($195.00). This is another rose-centered fragrance, but the striking thing about Noir de Noir is the sense of effervescence it conveys. The effervescence is an interesting touch, as it gives the impression of keeping the rose somehow alive on the skin. Darker notes like patchouli and something chocolatey (yum!) creep in during the dry down, but the rose note just lasts and lasts. Noir de Noir is like a glass of champagne with a rose petal floating on top. In other words, the essence of luxury.

Forget the red hot candies, go for Serge Lutens, Rousse ($120.00) if you’re looking for a taste of spicy sweetness. Rousse is a showcase for cinnamon, but the fragrance never becomes too overpowering, as it uses a base of amber, vanilla and musk to anchor the spice. At times the heat of the cinnamon comes across quite strongly. At other times, the amber and musk peek through, adding mild sweetness and depth to the composition. For a fragrance focused on spice, Rousse is more sexy than foodie. Cinnamon has never been so sophisticated or so compelling.

If you’re in the mood to go bold, try L’Artisan Parfumeur, Poivre Piquant ($145.00). This offering from L’Artisan combines white pepper with milk and honey and is for true spice lovers. This opens with a blast of powdery pepper but, the next time I lean in to smell my wrist, I only get soft notes of milk and honey. This fragrance never settles into a smooth blend and it isn’t meant to. This is a composition that not only embraces discord, but celebrates it. The juxtaposition of intense spice with mild sweetness is striking and addictive—I can’t stop smelling my wrist when wearing this. In the end, discord renders Poivre Piquant surprisingly seductive.

Note: I realize that full bottles of each of these fragrances are pretty pricey and I am by no means recommending that you rush out and drop $200 on a bottle of perfume! I myself have samples of each of these. I recommend Luckyscent for samples of the L’Artisan and By Kilian, and The Perfumed Court for Serge Lutens and Tom Ford.

Monday, January 9th, 2012

By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor

Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!


Guerlain Jicky: A Life-Changing Scent

Confusion is not an emotion I expect to feel when sampling a fragrance, but that was exactly my experience the first time I came across Guerlain Jicky (Eau de Toilette, $98; Eau de Parfum, $122; Pure Parfum, $317). I had never before experienced such enticing notes mixed with something a little strange, something a little off-putting. The thing is, that jarring note wasn’t quite off-putting enough. It was off-putting in an interesting way, in a good way, if that’s possible! Jicky was the first fragrance I found to be truly compelling precisely because of its oddness.

Making its debut in 1889, Jicky is the oldest fragrance in continuous production. Guerlain attaches a romantic history to it: Aimé Guerlain fell in love with a girl while studying in England. Her nickname was Jicky. It was an unrequited love, and Aimé was obligated to return to his family in France. Still, he wanted to memorialize his first love, and thus he created Jicky. Who can say if this is the true story? But if it is the truth, Jicky must have been a unique woman because her namesake fragrance is anything but typical.

Containing notes of bergamot, lavender, civet, and vanilla, Jicky is famously divisive. It was initially a complete flop with women. Jicky was much more successful with men during its early years, and Guerlain now classifies it as unisex. Jicky’s contentiousness comes from the sense that it smells ‘dirty’ both in the sense that people find it too reminiscent of sex and too much like actual dirt. The animalic civet note is the troublemaker here, but I actually love this note in Jicky!

To me, the civet brings much needed balance to the fragrance. Jicky’s opening is a whirlwind of lemon, bergamot, and lavender. It’s intoxicating, but it teeters on the brink of smelling too medicinal. When the civet kicks in, it anchors the fragrance with more warmth and depth. There is an undeniably ‘dirty’ aspect to the civet but, again, balance is the key to Jicky. The cool lavender top note persists well into wear time and blends effortlessly with the warmth of the civet.

The Jicky Eau de Toilette is a bright and sparkling composition that focuses more on the citrus top notes, while the Eau de Parfum is more civet-heavy, and the extrait of pure parfum emphasizes the herbal lavender note. I have worn and enjoyed all three concentrations at different times; it simply depends on your mood as to which one you would prefer.

Any and all of Guerlain’s classic fragrances are worthy of the life-changer moniker but Jicky is the one that speaks to me. Jicky is not straight-forward or easy to love. I have returned to this fragrance again and again, and each time I feel simultaneously puzzled, pleased, frustrated, and seduced. But I love Jicky in all its beautiful strangeness. Worn at the right moment, there is nothing like it.

 

Friday, December 9th, 2011

By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor

Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!


3 Must-Have Fall Fragrances

Autumn is in full-swing and, even though we still get plenty of sunlight during the day, there’s a palpable cooler edge to everything that has me craving fragrances with more warmth and depth. At this time of year, I want something I can cozy up to and wrap around myself. Here are a few of my Fall favorites from niche brands:

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two ($145.00): This fragrance starts out with a smoky, earthy kick that smells exactly like jumping into a pile of leaves. When the honey note appears things balance things out and you get the sensation of drinking sweetened black tea. Tea for Two gradually becomes more restrained until you get the feeling that you’re sitting next to a fireplace drinking milky Earl Grey and snacking on ginger snaps. This fragrance is cozy but sophisticated. You’re not curled up in your PJs with a mug, rather you’re wearing a smoking jacket and sipping politely out of a china teacup.

Diptyque Eau Duelle ($88.00): Diptyque is better known for their gorgeous scented candles, but their line of fragrances is equally well-appointed. Eau Duelle or ‘duality of water’ interlaces vanilla with cold peppery spices and warm frankincense. It opens with a burst of peppercorn and black tea. There are two types of vanilla here: bourbon and firnat, but they play shy and do not emerge right away. The vanilla reveals itself about an hour into wear-time, as the incense note takes on a different texture and changes from aromatic to creamy and substantial. The dry-down contains both powdery sweetness (that’s the firnat) and boozy syrup (that’s the bourbon!) but this fragrance never becomes overly sweet thanks to lingering hints of spicy peppercorn.

Miller Harris Feuilles de Tabac ($95.00):  True to its name, this fragrance opens with a strong waft of smoky tobacco but, don’t worry, this is not your grandfather’s tobacco pipe. The official Miller Harris description for this scent mentions Parisian brasseries and that’s exactly what this tobacco note evokes. Feuilles de Tabac will take you to a brasserie on the Left Bank where you’re sipping a café au lait (or some French wine!) while the scent of clove cigarettes hovers in the air. The pine needle note here balances out the smoke and shows that it is possible to do a fresh smelling tobacco scent. Feuilles de Tabac is a skin scent, meaning people will have to get close to notice this but, on some occasions, that intimacy may be exactly what you want!