Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!


Red-Hot Romance: Serge Lutens Rousse

Rousse explores cinnamon’s spice aspect. The top notes are candied–think Hot Tamales–with the composition getting drier and spicier as it wears, until it is ultimately warm and creamy at the base with the scent of cinnamon starring throughout. The official notes are listed as mandarin, cinnamon, cloves, spices, floral and aromatic notes, fruit, cinnamon wood, precious woods, amber, musk, and vanilla. If it sounds gourmand, it isn’t. It is, in fact, quite dry. Dry, spice-centric fragrances can feel like an big, empty cathedral on a cold day. Rousse hangs some curtains on the cathedral’s windows, carpets the floor, and cushions the pews with some throw pillows.

It opens with a blast of cinnamon. As it mellows, tendrils of vanilla and musk creep in. This is also where I smell the juicy orange of the mandarin, a bright spot of orange on a pallet of muted maroons and russets. A woody heart keeps the cinnamon nice and hot and out of bakery territory. The vanilla, musk, and amber gradually intensify until they’re on nearly equal footing with the spices. By the drydown, they’ve eclipsed the spices altogether. Rousse is warm, but feels sheer rather than heavy, so you could wear it year-round, although I find it works best for fall.

What makes this fragrance particularly intriguing is a left-of-center lipstick accord, which is waxy and vaguely floral. I can’t help but think of a bold, matte red lipstick on a smoking hot redhead. Think Christina Hendricks in full retro glam makeup as Mad Men’s Joan. What could be better for Valentine’s Day?

If all this red doesn’t rev your engine, Frederic Malle Noir Epices is a similarly spicy unisex perfume that dials down the cinnamon and swaps Rousse’s creamy base notes for patchouli, cedar, and sandalwood.

Bombshell imagery aside, this scent is squarely unisex. Released in 2007, it is part of French perfume house Serge Lutens’ export range (meaning it is available outside of Europe). House nose Christopher Sheldrake composed it. Lucky ducks who live in Paris can go to the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido to sample Rousse or buy a bottle. The rest of us can buy samples at The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasantt and full bottles at ucky ScentBeauty Habit, orAedes. for $120. Parfum 1 sells it for $108. Some Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus stores carry Serge Lutens exports.

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!


Perfume and Memory: Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel Review

Herbaceous, rugged, and tethered to the earth that inspired it, Fleurs de Sel reminds me of my hometown. But my tiny coastal town perpetually shrouded in fog was not what perfumer Lyn Harris had in mind when she created this fragrance: hers was. She has a family home in Batz sur Mer, a small village in Brittany, France, where she says she spent her happiest times. She composed Fleurs de Sel using materials found at the nearby salt marshes. It was released in 2007.

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel is a fragrance I never would have worn as early as a year ago, and now I count it among my favorites. Name aside, it isn’t floral—at least not in any obvious sense—and its opening is smoky. I hate smoke. Red thyme gives it an antiseptic edge that I’m also not fond of. Up until falling in love with Fleurs de Sel, I liked my perfumes floral, or at least sweet. Fleurs de Sel is pungent and aromatic. It didn’t fit my idea of how a perfume should smell. But I kept thinking about those salt marshes that inspired it, and the estuary I grew up near. Nostalgia led me to take a second sniff, and then a third. Once I got past the nose-crinkling opening, I was combing the internet for a discontinued bottle.

In addition to the smoke, Fleurs de Sel opens with a bundle of herbs and a kick of ambrette seed. I’ve learned to appreciate the opening, but I don’t really love Fleurs de Sel until about 20 minutes in, when the smoke evaporates and the wildflowers blossom behind a curtain of herbs. The herbs have such clarity that this fragrance still feels modern, in spite of its country roots. The antiseptic quality mellows considerably as the fragrance wears.

Extended exposure to Fleurs de Sel will make you think Harris’s family home is actually near a salt mine—it is very, very salty. The big salt accord is buoyed by the host of herbs from the top notes: red thyme, rosemary, and clary sage. The “fleurs” are there, but not so distinguishable that I could pick them out note-by-note, although the official notes list iris, narcissus, and rose. Rather, they form a sheer backdrop to the earthier aspects of the fragrance; herbs and salt are what take center stage.

Fleurs de Sel’s musky base comes courtesy of ambrette seed, with a woody assist from vetiver, which to my nose usually smells dry and earthy, but here is rendered as wet, freshly dug earth. There is a touch of leather.

It is not my signature scent—I’m incapable of olfactory monogamy—but it is the fragrance I consider the most “me.” When I wear it, I smell like where I came from.

Ambrette seed—the soul of Fleurs de Sel —is expensive, and I suspect it’s partially to blame for the unusually high price tag. Miller Harris perfumes typically retail for about $100. If you’re up for paying full price, £110.00 for 3.4 oz of eau de parfum (about $170, plus international shipping), you can order directly from Miller Harris. Or you can pick it up for about $20 less and save on shipping at online discounters Overstock and Fragrance X.

What perfumes conjure memories for you? Are you willing to give a challenging fragrance like Fleurs de Sel a try, or multiple tries?

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!


An Introduction to L’Artisan Parfumeur

French perfume house L’Artisan has turned out everything from cult classics like Dzing! to critical darling Timbuktu. I’ve sampled most of their fragrances, I own two bottles, and my to-buy list contains another three. Bertrand Duchaufour is the current nose. Two members of his travel-inspired series: Dzongkha and Traversee du Bosphore, wowed me. A turkish delight note is Traversée du Bosphore’s big selling point, but it’s the curious tulip note that piqued my interest and sent me down the rabbit hole of perfumes interpreting what is essentially an odorless flower. Dzongkha marries two of my favorite notes, leather and iris. It is a contemplative fragrance that smells like nothing else. And I’ve never loved an opening the way I love Dzing!’s burst of vanilla and cardboard. And when the horse barn smells of hay, leather, and sawdust chime in, I love it even more. Like Traversee de Bosphore and Dzongkha. All three are on my to-buy list.

L’Artisan has something for everyone (or, if you’re a perfumista, everything for someone). There’s the conventionally pretty candied violets of Verte Violette and the flamboyantly pretty Drôle de Rose. Drôle de Rose was my first L’Artisan purchase and my second niche fragrance acquisition, marking the time I became seriously interested in perfume. I love this pink juice with its giddy burst of violets, roses, and powder, but it can get tedious as the day wears on. What was a fun choice in the bright hustle of the morning can set my teeth on edge by 3:00.

I get the most mileage out of The pour un Été, a fragrance I didn’t have much patience for the first time I sniffed it. It was too sheer–I felt I couldn’t get a proper whiff and that it was too literally tea, anyway. I’m glad I revisited it; it’s as close as I’ll ever get to a signature scent. The pour un Été is a soft, sweet dream of summer with bitter green tea dregs to keep it interesting. The jasmine is soft and round, without the indolic, smothering sweetness that usually puts me off of jasmine fragrances. The pour un Été lifts my spirits at the office and carries me through the weekend. It is it comforting in the winter and refreshing in the summer.

My only quarrel is with Havana Vanille. With its smooth duet of vanilla and tobacco, Havana Vanille would full-bottle-worthy if it didn’t turn to banana and root beer on me. Also a member of Duchaufour’s travel series, he composed this fragrance in 2009 as an homage to Cuba. Timbuktu I can appreciate but wouldn’t wear. Smokey isn’t my thing, even when it’s as well-executed as it is in Timbuktu.

L’Artisan values creativity. They can release something as niche as Poivre Piquant, a wan floral that overdosed on pepper, or as amiable as La Chasse aux Papillons, a creamy white floral with droves of fans. Fragrances like Mûre et Musc (an unlikely partnership of berries and musk) set trends, and fragrances like Premier Figuier (a tree branch laden with ripe figs) perfected them. Because most of the line’s fragrances are offered only as eau de toilettes, there’s a transparency that pervades even the cream-drenched spices of Safran Troublant and the huge, earthy patchouli note that opens Patchouli Patch. It’s a signature that, to my mind, marks a perfume as a L’Artisan.

L’Artisan enjoys wide distribution for a niche brand, probably due to its mainstream tendencies. Its price point is higher than what you can expect from any given fragrance Sephora offers, but not unreasonably so. A 50 ml bottle typically retails for $95, a 100 ml for $145. Decants are of course available at The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant. I have personally purchased from Beautyhabit and Luckyscent and can recommend them highly. Aedes, Beautycafe, Blue Mercury, and Four Seasons are other reputable carriers of the L’Artisan line. Barney’s and Neiman Marcus are two department stores that carry the line, and some Nordstrom stores do, too.

Will you try this line? Have you tried it? Share your experiences in the comments!

Check out more photos!  Continue reading →

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

By Chelsea Nusbaum, 28, California

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!


Five Fragrances to Complete Your Halloween Costume

Round out your costume and up the authenticity ante with perfume! You wouldn’t dress as Marilyn Monroe and forgo red lipstick. And why round up a blond wig and a white halter dress only to ignore her favorite thing to wear: Chanel No. 5? Though No. 5 was a publicized favorite, Marilyn also wore Jean Patou Joy and Robert Piguet Fracas, a gorgeous tuberose and gardenia fragrance you can spritz on at Sephora before hitting the trick-or-treat circuit. For less widely available fragrances, The Perfumed Court, The Posh Peasant, and Lucky Scent are three reliable sources for decants—sample-sized glass vials of perfumes that cost about $4 a pop.

Here are five common costumes and the perfumes that go with them:

Flapper: These iconic party girls used to scent their cigarettes with Habanita, a fragrance from Molinard, who brewed it in 1921 for exactly that purpose. It came in scented satchels that slipped into a cigarette pack, or in liquid form with a glass rod that slid it along the cigarette. Fortunately, there’s no longer any need to light up to get that flapper flair: in 2005 Molinard re-released Habanita as an eau de toilette. Old-fashioned in the best possible way, Habanita smells like a plush oriental cocktail lounge and is as romantic as the time it came from and playful as the women it was made for.

Priest/Nun: Give your naughty nun costume some gravitas with Avignon. One of five fragrances from Comme des Garçons’ lauded Incense series, Avignon smells like the inside of a cathedral. It’s cool, airy, and dry, with frankincense and wisps of dust. It’s also unisex, so priests can spritz this one on their robes, too.

Vampire: Whether you’re Team Edward, Team Eric, or still swooning over Lestat, femmes and fellas rocking the undead look this year should accessorize their fangs with Caron Narcisse Noir. Rich and luscious but still clean, this inky floral is begging to be dabbed onto a pale throat. Bonus: Chanel maestro Karl Lagerfield wears Narcisse Noir, so if too many vampires show up to the party you can just say you’re him. The costume—and the look—are the same!

Witch: Dark, peppery, and teetering on the edge of decay, Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose evokes rose petals drying on black velvet deep in a medieval castle—the perfect scent for a witch. Paestum Rose leans feminine, but for Halloween wizards can wear it, too. If you’re leaning toward a witch of the Potter variety, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson to you and me) fronts Lancôme Trèsor Midnight Rose and swears up and down that’s what she really wears. Just beware that in spite of its beguiling name, purple bottle, and noir-tinged ads, Trèsor Midnight Rose is a jammy fruit cocktail of a fragrance, so would-be witches angling for gothic or scary need not apply.

Mermaid: Before Ariel there was The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Anderson’s titular heroine. Rejected by her prince, The Little Mermaid dissolved into foam rather than kill him and returned to her underwater home. Les Parfums de Rosine gem Ecume de Rose (Rose Foam, en anglais) features dune roses as a note and smells like a warm spring day at the beach. And when you wake up from your candy coma wondering why you’re wearing a fin, Ecume de Rose pairs beautifully with a sundress and espadrilles.

Have a better idea? Need help coming up with the perfect fragrance for your cowboy costume? Let us know in the comments!