Wednesday, December 17, 2008


So how am I just hearing today that Burger King, of all companies, has a body spray out called Flame?! This is like the kind of thing I would have known about some time ago and looked forward to. Anyway, I'm guessing that apparently it must have a grilled meat accord in it, because its tag line is "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat." Craziness. So what does it smell like?

Yes, I happened to get a bottle today. And I gotta say, I'm terribly disappointed in the size--it's .17oz, just a bit bigger than a good tester size. I guess it's sold in small bits because it's a marketing stunt. The design is great, though. Anyway, before I tell you how it smells, you need to forget everything you've read or heard about it and let go of any preconceptions. Because you've probably heard people say that it must stink or smell cheap or smell like beef fat. And you may have a preconception that nothing that costs $3.99 can smell very good, especially if it's from Burger King. So forget all of that. How does it smell????

It smells great. Not like meat, though, which is kinda disappointing. It actually smells a lot like Gucci Envy for Men. Specifically, it smells like a combination of Envy and Burning Leaves by Demeter. I've said before that Burning Leaves, depending on what you're thinking when you smell it, can make you think of a fire of wood and leaves OR it can make you think of barbecue-flavor potato chips. Because it essentially smells like smoke flavoring. Flame smells smoky and woody, but you don't really smell barbecue from it. If you're thinking smoke flavor when you smell it, you might see how that odor could be in there, but it doesn't give you that general impression. Right as you spray it on there's the smoke and the wood, but also a light cedary note not dissimilar to the opening of Joseph Abboud for Men (the crisp opening wood note, not the sour musky drydown). The smoke/wood smell sticks around, and maybe doesn't soften enough as it fades, but if you like a smoky wood note, that's fine. I don't get a whole lot more from it, so it's too spare if you judge it against a favorite perfume. But you could layer it very easily. In fact, you could wear it alone and you'd be fine.

Fine until you have occasion to tell people what it is. Then, of course, you'll get people telling you you smell like meat, or that it smells like a cheap cologne you're wearing. That's just people. Try this: have people smell it and tell them it's the new Chanel. Or tell them it's something you saw at Barney's. I guarantee they will rave. But then you could douse yourself in Lysol and some people would go gaga over it if you told them it was Chanel. Too many people think that the quality of any fragrance is directly related to the label.

Interestingly, I had one of my roommates smell it--the one whose sense of smell exceeds that of an alien robot bloodhound, and I asked her what it smelled like. Without telling her what it was, of course. "It smells like cologne," she said. No hint of grilled meat, even after I told her what it was. So there you have it.

At any rate, I would go out and get some just to say that you had some of it, for when it's no longer sold. It's fun to smell it, and the concept is hilarious. So, I must say, is the website, Be sure to spray the bottle a few times when you go to it. The site is really well done. Actually, I think the whole campaign is well done.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Le Labo!

Okej, today I went to Le Labo in SoHo today for the first time. Wow! Such a cool experience. At first I just smelled a couple of their scents, both of which I liked very much--Iris and Labdanum (although I didn't so much like the drydown of Labdanum--it started to smell very "sports ambery" to me; actually it reminded me a LOT of the first cologne I ever owned: Rookie by Avon. At first that was charming, but I wouldn't plop down SoHo prices for Rookie when I could just buy a certain amber from Aphrodisia and get a similar effect). But, of course, the real fun was in smelling the raw materials behind the counter. I smelled calone (which does smell wonderfully aquatic), ethyl vanillin (I'd known of this before; calone too--this smells like whipped cream or marshmallow, a light, sweet vanillic smell with none of the complexity of vanilla extract), a musk that I'd read about but never smelled and did NOT smell powdery, fresh, floral or any of the adjectives you'd expect to describe "modern" musks, tuberose absolute, mimosa absolute, neroli bigarade, tonka abolute, leather base, and some hexylene that really did smell like just-cut grass--Hexanal? Oh, and Iso E Super. They didn't have helional, and I didn't see hydroxycitronellal. And I can't remember if we smelled dihydromyrcinol (I probably got that name way wrong--it's the odor that's in all the men's colognes today). (Oh yes, it was I and Jason Atkins, the lifestyle editor for The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment.) And I may have missed some that we smelled. It was wonderful, though, and I had to say that I was surprised that some of the raw materials smelled so nice on their own. Of course I'm thinking of the single-note synthetics like Hexanal and calone. Calone smelled lovely--I can see why it was so extensively used in the 90s, maybe 80s. I believe that Luca Turin says that Calone has the peculiar property of smelling stronger the more you smell it. So that a cologne that smelled really interesting and amazing in the 90s now smells all of Calone. Well, that's how I understand that he meant it. I wasn't surprised that some of the ones smelled faint (I could barely detect benzyl salicylate, which Jason and I had just before read in Perfumes: The Guide that it was the main event in L'Air du Temps, and that some people are anosmic for it but can detect its presence in a blend), because I'd smelled ambroxan and cashmeran before, and they both didn't smell as strong as their effects in perfumes suggest. Iso E Super didn't smell strong to me either, but it was surprisingly pleasant for a single woody-smelling chemical (it seems like those are often harsh alone, but I don't have enough experience to know)--it just smelled like dry, dusty wood.

So Le Labo was a riot for me--I love learning about raw materials in perfumery. The girl behind the counter used to compound perfumes, so it was great to hear her talk about that. Anyway, after LL J and I went to Bloomingdales, where I smelled a buncha stuff I've smelled before, and then to Enfleurage, where I looked at stuff. I noticed that Pacifica, which has started producing eau de toilettes for their candle scents (!), has come out with one of those for their Mexican Cocoa scent. I'd burned the MC scent before, and liked the almonditude to it, so I gave that one a try. Well, it starts out with a gigantic supersweet cherry-almond boat that you get in. Really, it's strong and kinda screechy. You get in the boat, which sails on a river of this sweet floral-spice smell, the kind that makes you think something-with-the-word-eugenol writ huge in glowing pink letters; it's reminiscent of Demeter Orchid: super sweet spicy-floral; nice but bare, and a little cloying. Well beneath this river, at the floor, is something that smells maybe like chocolate. Or maybe vanilla or maybe amber. It's hard to tell, since it seems like you never see the ground--that weird spicy floral note, which I think is in there to suggest the "cinnamon and clove" that the box says is in the scent, seems to last FOREVER. But smelling it, even though it's not something you smell and go immediately, "chocolate" (like you do with Amour de Cacao by Sud Pacifique, which on the drydown smells, ecstatically, of Cocoa Krispies), you can kinda convince yourself it's chocolate because the name of the scent is Mexican Cocoa. Anyway, I don't like it. I mean, I do, but that spicy floral note just ruins the concept. Personally I could find the scent pleasant, and I think you can pull it off well only by layering it, but if you wanted something cheap to wear for when you want to wear perfume but not expensive perfume, or if you just wanted to indulge in the sweetness on a rainy day when you're just ambling around or something, then this might work. But you could also make it work for a more important occasion by layering it with stuff that's better done. You could layer it with Amour de Cacao, if you don't mind walking around smelling like superamazing cereal. And why should do, really?? I frankly don't understand why people don't like gourmand fragrances as true gourmand notes---People say things like, "I don't want to walk around smelling like chocolate cake!!" But why not?? Chocolate cake smells great. People have great associations with it. And speaking as someone who's worn creamy vanillic stuff and almondy stuff and cocoa stuff, I LOVE fragrances that really smell like food (and not a tiny-initial-burst-of-food that quickly craps out into something powdery, like all those "cake batter" scents do; sometimes you can find a cheap vanillic scent that will make you smell like Lucky Charms, but you have to luck out); I think they're unique in the kind of lift you can get when you perceive them through the day. And everytime I smell Amour de Cacao or Vanille Amande, some part of me just instantly relaxes. But anyway, if you want to mix this with amber and then spray a very chocolatey or vanillic scent over it, I think it could really work. If you mixed them well it could become a signature scent. Of course that doesn't change the fact that the scent isn't good enough to work when you want to wear something good. Of course, you'd be stunned if a scent inspired by a CANDLE were that good. At least I would be. (Although I have to say, I TOTES covet Feu de Bois by Diptyque, and I think I'd wear it if it's available in eau de whatever.)

Oh yes, and in my run-on sentences I completely forgot--Le Labo has some $520 kit with li'l bottles of all the raw materials they have behind the counter (presumably so the consumer can educate him or herself on raw materials. Who would do that but a scent geek like me?! Also, why can't you make scents with said raw materials?! They don't sell them individually, as far as I could tell and I could be wrong, and I don't think you can blend them. WTF?!?) (also, [yeah, yet another set-o-parentheses] why do they mix the perfume "fresh" for you?!?! It's not a smoothie!!! Isn't perfume supposed to "macerate"?? I think they just pour the ready made perfume for you--no "mixing" involved). So someone out there can get that for me for Christmas. There you go.

And that's my beep for now.


PS: GAK! How could I not mention that I smelled castoreum at Le Labo?!?!? I have to say--it wasn't offensive at all. I mean, I could see how some might find it so, but I think Luca Turin had it right when he called it the olfactory equivalent of brown. It smelled animal, but more leathery than fecal. I wish I had some. Get me that for Christmas too! And since I mentioned Castoreum, we also smelled the civet, which smelled just like the (CHEAP) civet at that other place, which smelled just like the civet at Symrise. So you don't have to spend out da pants to get a perfectly good artificial civet. Ditto for mimosa--LL's mimosa absolute smelled remarkably similar to the oil at Caswell Massey.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Symrise Part II

OK I guess I should get to the latest Sniffapalooza thing at Symrise, which I'm calling Symrise Part II right now.

This was quite possibly the best presentation I could imagine from a flavor/fragrance manufacturer (for the most part) aside from just being let loose and allowed to smell the raw materials. It was about (and I may misremember things, so there's your warning. I'm just winging it; I ain't no journamalist) luxury scents, and they were letting us smell some scents that they've pitched to their clients for 'inspiration.' One of the groups they were pitching was luxury scents--one of the qualifications for luxury was long-lastingness; another was quality of materials. Quality of materials. Think on that one. Because that was what made this presentation so great--we got to smell some scents made out of top-quality, expensive materials. Scents that no accounting department in a company that sells fragrances would greenlight. So basically we were smelling perfumes to expensive to ever be mass-market produced.

There was one that was made mostly with orris if I remember. When I smelled it, it actually smelled like this very cheap synthetic orris that I got at a health food store years ago, except fuller and softer. It was really lovely! It brought to mind Hiris by hermes, and also carrot seed oil. I really liked it, and kept smelling the strip throughout the presentation; it only got better. Then there was one built around immortelle absolute, which is wonderful and smells darker and deeper than the essential oil that I'm used to (and slightly prefer). It smelled closer to labdanum, but still had a distinct caramellic backnote. There was one that was supposed to smell like a classic floral, and did, in the sense that it smelled like it could've been launched in 1950 (in the good way). There was one greenish one with seaweed, that smelled so clear and fresh and beautiful that I was just bowled over. There was another floral meant to smell like a stargazer lily, and it DID! It smelled as exactly like a lily as I could ever imagine. It was made with all synthetics too, which is interesting.

The last group of fragrances they showed us was themed around something like "Less Is More." Basically here they showed us scents built around Symrise branded compounds--there were quite a few built around ambroxan, one around cashmeran and one with ambroxan and timber propanol. I've smelled ambroxan and TP before, and I could smell them in these. Ambroxan is pleasant, but kind of spare to be building scents with it as a dominant. The whole exercise seemed kinda masturbatory in their part--because there weren't real perfumes in these raw materials, and I don't really know what they were after by showing us stuff built with only ambroxan (the branded name is something different, like Ambroxide)--I mean, it's not THAT great alone. (It's supposed to be magical BLENDED with other notes--providing a fixative effect but also making the upper notes pop.) And I think I remember reading somewhere that it's going a little out of fashion in perfumes. Also, they said that it's really expensive, but I wasn't so sure about that--if you look on some resellers' sites, you can see generics of it, and to look at their prices, it doesn't look expensive at all. Compare it to a jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, beeswax, ambrette or even cassis absolute, and I think it compares well. It surely compares well to real ambergris, which I'm sure costs a fortune. So anyway, smelling those scents was kinda perfunctory, since once you smelled the scent that was nearly all ambroxide, everything else smelled the same.

There was one scent in this part that I really didn't like, and everyone else in the room seemed to have a different reaction. it was this one with a metallic-woody note on top and a dry woody drydown. I found it very unpleasant--it smelled metallic and harsh, and just like really piquant synthy wood notes screaching. But other people in the room found it very sexy and were bordering on the salacious in their comments. I couldn't smell the sexiness. I couldn't smell the leather in it, unless it was that "burnt wood" flavor of leather. I just did NOT get what everyone else smelled in it. Maybe I'm anosmic for something.

Anyway, one of the best parts came at the end, when I got to smell some raw materials: cashmeran, cocoa absolute, bran absolute, tiare absolute, immortelle absolute and a few others. Wow, that was cool. I couldn't smell much of cashmeran--isn't that interesting? That these are really strong, uber-longlasting base notes that don't smell strong by themselves, but really do amazing things to blends? I think it's fascinating. Cocoa: like very dark chocolate--I so wish I had some of this. Bran absolute--I think it's called son, actually. Interesting. Tiare--wow, this is great. I've never smelled the actual flower, but this stuff really does smell like a flower. Immortelle--like I said, deeper/darker than the essential oil; lovely.

And that's the Symrise beep.



So a few weeks ago I decided that I would FINALLY get a bottle of Bel Ami, which I've been pining for since there was different packaging and I DRENCHED myself in in Paris. It was a Sunday, and i went directly to the Hermes store, which was closed. Dammit! But then I walked down to Barney's, where I've never bought anything in my life and I wasn't even sure it was a real store, and I found it there. So I bought it. But the cool thing was that I saw all these scents that I was only dimly aware of--either I'd heard of them, seen them once or twice before or read about them in Perfumes: The Guide. So I started smelling.

I forget the name, but apparently there's a perfume line where the owner just let the perfumers do their thing and he didn't mess with it. So the perfumes have their own names, but also the name of the perfumer on them. Jean-Claude Ellena did one or two. I think someone named Roudnitska did another. Well, some of these are just divine. The Gardenia one is great---it's like gardenia, but when I first smelled it I got tuberose. And not the flower, but more like the notes that are in the natural oil that you might smell at Enfleurage (though not the enfleurage tuberose)--inky, indolic maybe, very green and not altogether pleasant. Of course, these notes are blended well with the rest of it, and the whole thing works. Good stuff. There was a musk one that I liked too. Another thing I really liked at Barneys was something from the Bois 1920 line I think it's called (yes, the salesperson pronounced it "boyz"), and it smelled of evergreen and firewood. Interestingly, when I first smelled it the word "phenolic" filled my head, because it smells distincly smoky, but also almost like a chemical leather, somewhat similar to the Baseball Glove oil that CB I Hate Perfume makes, which itself smells like leather shoes or car seats, but with a weird, chemical nuance. And it smells weirder and muskier when it starts to degrade, which is remarkably quickly compared to pretty much every other fragrance you'd pay for, even drugstore brands. I loved it when I smelled it, and I was telling a friend about it, and I mentioned that when I smelled Sycomore by Chanel, I was all like, "For that price I could make this." Because you know that making your own will ALWAYS cost more than buying it prefab. But with Sycomore it cost so much that I knew I could make it with stuff like galbanum and diluent; it just wouldn't be as long-lasting. Anyway.... I remember saying that I could make that but not this Bois 1920 one. And then my friend smelled it and he was like, "You could make this. You HAVE made this with that leather oil you had." And I was like, "Hmmm, yeah. He's right. Because that leather was extremely phenolic...." Interesting.

So I bought the Bel Ami, and it's a good thing that I went there, because I got all these testers. There was one for Ralph Lauren something or other, but I think I gave it away because it was too fresh. And there was another that was sickeningly fresh and I gave that away even faster. But there were these three Italian scents which were breathtaking, but ridiculously costly: there was Cuomo (I may screw these names up), a leathery-sounding one; Tabaco, self-explanatory, and Sushi Imperiale, a gingery spicy one. Cuomo: hated it. It smelled leathery only in the sense that English Leather smells leathery. In fact, it kinda smelled soapy. Gross. Tabaco: amazing. It smells just like pipe tobacco, but in a general way. It really smells like it has a crapload of tonka in it. In fact, I was afraid that if I put too much on I might get some kinda coumarin sickness. But it's just lovely. And long-lasting too. Sushi Imperiale: brill. Love it. Just brill. But all of these retail for I think about $140/oz. That's a rip. They're very pleasant, but not innovative enough to pay that kind of money for. Forget it. Another great tester I got was for Five O'Clock au Gingembre, and I can't really say what it smells like at this point, because everytime I smelled it I smelled something new that is a favorite scent of mine: labdanum, spice, tobacco, helichrysium, hay/beeswax, tonka.... I was like, "OK, this scent can't possibly be/have all these things. Something is coloring the way I'm smelling this. I can't smell it if I'm thinking 'labdanum' and get an objective reading. I'm gonna have to smell this again later." And I haven't smelled it that much since, but there is that possibility that it's an absolutely brilliant scent that is life-changing. (OK, not "life-changing"...) I do have to note that I wore it one day and had that experience of thinking, "Who is wearing that amazing perfume?!? Is it the UPS man? Is it someone in the building? Is there some cake from another dimension somewhere? ...OMG, it's ME!!!!!" So that's a good sign. It, however, is also around $140 an oz, so forget that. I suppose if I really wanted a tonka like scent I could just mix tonka, flouve and helichrysium into some diluent and have something natural-but-not peak performance.

Anyway, in spite of all those testers, I'm really, really, really happy that I finally own some Bel Ami. Because even though it's apparently been reformulated in recent years (I'm not sure if I've ever smelled the original), I still love love love the way it smells. When I put it on I think mostly of this particular notion I have of a hay/labdanum accord, and I lerv that. Even with the citrus notes and the cumin, which I'm not sure I detect well. I also like the fact that it's not typically sweet, nor is it "fresh."

And that's the beep.

Pier One

So I went to Pier One today cuz I gotta smell all the new xmas shizz. Damn, what a disappointment. I seem to remember that once upon a time Pier One had maybe a cool scent here and there, but now I'm wondering whether I've been mistaken the whole time. Didn't they have a great foliage scent once? Anyway, I was smelling their new Christmas stuff, and it's a wreck. The whole store is a wreck, in scent terms anyway. There were about 8 different names for Christmas scents, most of which weren't even available to smell. But really, how different could they smell? Christmas scents pretty much always have the same accords--citrus-spice, cranberry-citrus or spice, fir balsam. They're so ingrained that if you look for applications for certain raw materials, sometimes "Christmas blends" will come up. Anyway, no one seems to do all that much around these themes--the evergreen smells are pretty standard and decorated either with cinnamon or cranberry notes. The citrus spice and cranberry notes are similarly joined. And sometimes someone tries to throw them all together, but that seldom works. Oh, and there's the very predictable evergreen-cedar combination that seems to sell, but for the life of me I can't understand why. Cedar can smell like saunas, hamster cages and sometimes vaguely woody notes, but it doesn't evoke Christmas for me. I would like to see more of the evergreen-firewood accord, and maybe someone could do more with a cinnamon-tonka blend, since cassia cinnamon is so high in coumarin. Or more of a spiced plum accord. OR, if you're going for that "sparkling pine" type scent, why not combine evergreen with fresh crisp green notes or ozonic notes, as opposed to peppermint? I mean, wouldn't pine/ozone work better? Of course, when you're talking about combining crisp green with evergreen, you do run the risk of coming up with a smell that evokes Chinese food. The Body Shop had one a few Christmases ago that smelled like that.

Anyway, back to Pier One. So firstly, they had about 8 different "Holiday This or That" smells, but they probably revolved around only 2 accords. Then I went to the other candles. ....When did Pier One start selling Yankee Candle and White Barn candles? Odd. Anyway, those were no better. It's like they decided that they just wanted to sell what everyone will buy instead of something interesting. Secondly, there's no secondly, so I don't know why I said firstly there. Going on to thirdsley.... So when I was looking at the regular candles I came across one called Vanilla Tonka. Great, I thought, something cheap and easy (just plop vanillin and coumarin together, right?); it should smell good. Well, I think it was misnamed. Instead of Vanilla Tonka, perhaps it should've been called something like "Caramel Furanone 1%."

So yeah. That was my visit to Pier One. Totally disappointing.

But if you'd like to know where to get the GOOD Christmas smells, I'll tell you:
There aren't any.
Seriously, there really aren't. There's nothing particularly innovative out there, even at the upper price ranges. There is ONE Christmas scent that I distinctly like, and I buy it every year: Crabtree and Evelyn's Noel. Now, there should be an umlaut there, and I think that most of what they do is kinda old-fashioned and heavy-handed (with the exception of that Island scent they have out now. It's not a perfect scent, but it's very pretty. It's citrusy enough that I would consider using it, even though it's kinda feminine. But it's nice. In the vein of, but not as lush as, Beyond Paradise. Hmmm, I hope I didn't commit heresy by saying that), I do quite like Noel. I read it as an evergreen smell with a very dominant drydown of frankincense. There's some citrus and cranberry in there too, I believe, but really, it's the frankincense that's the star. It's very nice, and refreshingly strong--both diffusive and long-lasting. Be careful if you buy it, though: don't store it with the dropper on. The oil will eat through the rubber. Store it with the cap. Now how does the oil eat through it? Dunno. Not sure if it's something in the scent or in the diluent, but I've seen it happen with one other C&E scent, also with that frankincense base. Anyway, I totally endorse this Christmas scent. Most of the others are pretty interchangeable. I like the candle and wax tart versions of Christmas Wreath by Yankee Candle, but it doesn't smell exactly right in it's other iterations, namely the plug-in, the oil and the car thing.


Thursday, October 09, 2008


OK, I'd REALLY be remiss if I didn't mention this. A few weeks ago Sniffapalooza had an event that was hands-down my favorite one so far. Even more so than the Estée Lauder one. It was a lunchtime thing where we went to Symrise and they gave us a presentation on what they're working on re: the Russian market. Because apparently the next big markets for fragrances are BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India and China. I don't have any of the materials here with me, so I'm going to have to do this from memory, but you'll have to deal with it, because as I said in the last post, I have the svårmod. In fact, you can just call me Evald the Svårmod, and draw a big sorglig brontosaurus to represent me.

Anyway, the theme of the presentation was Russia, so we walk in and there's some cool Russian stuff, and they gave us a li'l "refresher course" on Russian history, which no one in America knows about, so it was more like a brief overview. (No one in America really knows anything about any other country, and most of us get our own history wrong. And yes, I speak for every citizen in every state of this land. Just yesterday I learned that Thomas Jefferson was on the penny cuz he, like, wrote the Constitution and not for that beer that he makes. ...Or was it wigs??) Then we went into the room for the real presentation. And it was probably then that we got the overview, but who can remember anything about history....

Then we got a PowerPoint presentation and a movie. Or a movie and then a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever. Then they showed us li'l mockups from marketing about the scents they've developed to appeal to the Russian market, and what the idea behind them was. The mockups looked, well, like mockups. They were probably done at the last minute, because I was sitting there thinking, "I could do better Photoshop than this. I've DONE better Photoshop than this!" But then I remembered how everywhere I've worked, nothing ever got done until the last minute. Surely their presentations to actual perfume houses will be better. I wish I could remember the actual titles of the juices and what not, but I can't. I know they did some by season, and then there were some that were done with a different theme in mind. Then they passed around scent strips with the juices on them and asked us what we thought. w00t!

I was actually vocal. Usually I just kinda draw back, because I assume everyone else knows what they're talking about and I'm just an idiot. After all, in spite of the fact that I can probably identify more odors than your average person, my olfactory sense per se isn't really all that sensitive. And I'm not confident that I can describe why exactly I like a scent---I mean, I'm better than people I know who aren't into scents, who just say, "I like it. I don't know why. I don't know what it smells like. I just like it." So I don't speak up all that much. But this time I actually did.

What of the actual scents? Well, this happened months ago, and since I don't have the li'l booklet they gave us in front of me, I dont' remember what most of them are. I do remember that one smelled like something out of Bath & Body Works, which made sense considering that Symrise makes stuff for them. And another one for women smelled dark and woody, which I like, because you never see that these days. (I want to declare a War on the Perfumes of the 90s--those "fresh," "clean" scents that smell of nothing. I mean, was there ever a bigger swindle than Zirh's cologne for men? Top notes: Alcohol. Middle and Bottom Notes: Void. I don't necessarily want to bring back that powerhouse 80s type of perfume, although I DO like them; but I want that fresh, clean, aquatic bullshit to take a vacation. Gimme funk. Gimme strong, earthy, woody, animal scents. Spicy florals that you can drown in. Honey and tonka and smoke and myrrh. And let's retire that whole line that goes by the name of "Clean." Hey, it's a Depression, so let's have some more scents like Youth Dew. There. There's my screed for now. You'll hear more of it soonly, I'm sure.) There was a scent that smelled just like Baby Doll to me. And a men's one that I quite liked--kind of autumnal, maybe a little "Christmasy" (oh how I hate it when people use that word! now here I am using it!). I wish we'd gotten li'l bottles, but they were just rough drafts.

Then after the presentations and the initial smelling, we got to ask more questions. The presentation was done by a couple of marketing people, but there were a couple perfumers there too. Perfumers! And perhaps the marketing people need to spend more time with the perfumers, or at least they learn how to pronounce the word homme. Speaking of words, though, I learned a new one: floralcy. OK, not so much a new word, but a new form. I probably would have said flowerfulinessitude. :P

Then they served some food, which was good for me because I had major cottonmouth and needed to eat and drink something. Here are two cool things: Someone mentioned No 5, by Chanel. I mentioned that I don't particularly like it all that much. I mean, I sort of like it, because I've gotten used to it, but when I first smelled it I did NOT see what the fuss was all about (of course I knew it was the aldehydes, but while those were piquant and novel at the time, that they are no longer). Anyway, they said that when they do blind tests in focus groups and they include No 5, no one likes it. They have the same reaction I do: "It smells old lady. Soapy. Powdery." Interesting. But what was more interesting was when somehow civet got mentioned. And the woman asked me if I wanted to smell some. YES!!!!!!!!!!!! So she went and got it and opened the bottle and put it on a strip. Now, I thought the whole room was going to smell like feces at that point, but no. I smelled it and it just smelled like a rotten tooth. Not so offensive as you'd expect, given its reputation. It was probably a dilution. And I would have to assume it was a synthetic reproduction, because no one makes civet oil anymore, do they? But here's where it gets interesting: I'd smelled something called civet before at some wiccan store where they sell essential oils and synths (it's on 9th street---their "deer's tongue" {um, it's actually "deertongue," but whatever} smells very coumariny. Their tonka smells.... sort of like frankincense. Odd, because you'd think the tonka would smell more coumariny), and I'd assumed that it wasn't very close to what anyone would call a civet accord. It smelled unpleasant, but not like I'd expected, and nowhwhere near as strong as I expected, and someone with me said it smelled "like old people." At the time I thought she or he meant like diapers, but I think now that civet has a bit of a naphtalene smell to it, and I certainly associate that--it's basically the smell of moth balls--with old people. Anyway, I thought the Symrise civet smelled much like the wiccan one, so I went back to the wiccan store, and sure enough, they smelled identical. So if you want some civet, go there. But if you want the civet without the glycol or myristate or whatever it's diluted in, you have to find a raw materials supplier. OR just go to Enfleurage, now that I think about it! Because while they don't have civet, I'm TOLD that they had some real ambergris, and that it might just smell like locker room. I don't know what that says about the quality of the ambergris, but it's certainly cool to discover something that actually smells unpleasant.

And anyway, that was the bagoosh with that. Glorp.


I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the stuff I saw recently at Enfleurage. They now have a tuberose enfleurage (as opposed to the regular one, which I guess is steam distillation?) oil, which smells..... [wait for it].... like tuberose! Like the actual flower! WOW!!! I've not seen anything like this before. I don't find the tuberose oil they've carried up to now particularly pleasant--I can kinda smell the link to tuberose, but I don't smell the actual flower. It smells green and earthy and maybe a little inky. But the enfleurage oil (which is done with vegetable oil instead of animal fat; I'm told it would smell better if it were done in animal fat) smells like the actual flower. I was stunned when I smelled it. So of course I went to the neroli enfleurage, which didn't thrill me like the tuberose did. I smelled a neroli bigarade oil once in Atlanta (and never since) that actually smelled like orange blossoms (remember I grew up in Florida, so I know--or I knew, at least--what an orange grove in bloom smells like), and I was hoping I'd have this experience with this stuff, but I didn't. It just smelled like the regular petitgrain/neroli type thing you see everywhere. Maybe a little softer, but it didn't stick in my mind enough to remember. All that said, it's been so long since I've smelled real orange blossoms (and I might not smell them again--there's some virus attacking Florida's citrus crops, or so I'm told; anyway, most of the orange groves that were there when I was growing up have given way to {over}development, so they're disappearing nonetheless) that I don't particularly recall exactly what they smell like. I feel like if I smelled an oil that really smells like orangeflower (neroli, orangeflower, orange blossom... I use the terms interchangeably) that I would notice it, though. Like, if my mom had worn No 5 and for years I kept smelling imitations, and then smelled the real thing, I think I'd notice. ... Or maybe not. But I digress. I have the svårmod now, so you the reader may have to endure digressions.

I think there was also a gardenia enfleurage. And if there was and I'm not misremembering, it too smelled like the actual flower. We had gardenia and hibiscuses in the yard when I was growing up, so I know the smell of gardenia. I also know that hibiscus flower has no smell. (I think the root has one, though.) So when you go to a perfume place that has an "absolute" of hibiscus, and I'm looking at you, Williamsburg, it's probably an absolute of horseshit.

And that's the glorp for now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stetson Rich Suede

You know what?  He really is a sexy guy. I don't think those teeth are real, though.I confess. I'm really interested in Stetson again after reading the reviews of the various Stetson concoctions in Perfumes: The Guide. One point for thought: I never realized that Stetson was very feminine. I think TS reviews it (I don't remember her name), and she goes on that it's very much like a rich women's oriental. I'll have to smell it again. I remember liking it a lot when I was young. But it's the kind of thing you can't really wear today, because even though it's rich and warm (and I do have to smell it again, because I don't recall exactly what it smells like), it's just too recognizable. I tried smelling it a few years ago, hoping to maybe get a bottle and be able to wear it--my thinking was that maybe people had forgotten it and it was wearable again. Kind of like Aramis is wearable again---it no longer reminds you of your grandfather, because if you're old enough for it to do that, then your grandfather is probably dead. Or maybe just I've changed, which is probably the case. I used to really like Aramis in the summer and only in the summer. Like I like Polo at Christmastime, but only at Christmastime.

Back to Stetson. They mention another release of Stetson, Stetson Untamed, which I'd seen in the drugstore but never bothered to smell. Well, they say it smells of toasted marshmallows, cardboard and woods. That sounds awesome! I've got to find me some of this and smell it.

The coolest Stetson development, however, has to be a new release from them that just came out, after the book was published, apparently: Stetson Rich Suede. I saw this the other day, and today was able to smell it. And guess what? I love it! Maybe it's the name, but to me it smells mostly just like dry wood, and a bit of leather/suede/something like that. A little bit like Cuiron, back in the day. I think it might have some citrus in the beginning too, because everything does. But I love how it's mostly just dry woody. I hope it sticks around. I'm going to look for a bigger bottle. At the very least, this is the kind of thing you can layer--i.e., spray on your undershirts or beneath your clothes or whatever, before spraying something compatible (Bel Ami, perhaps?) on your skin and outer clothes, depending on the kind of impact you like to make. (A note on impact: I am emphatically NOT that person who sprays the cologne in the air and tiptoes through it like a dancer in the Nutcracker. Oh HELL to the first Noel!!!! I've done that on days, say, when I've had job interviews, but mostly I'm a drencher. When I was younger, I wanted my scent to have a KAPOW!BLAMN!!! impact--to introduce me into a room. I got away from that. ....But I'm kind of getting back into it. I think it's just part of Original Ed Shepp. Maybe it's the Southerner in me, who wants to go overboard with everything. Or maybe it's the me who wants to be noticed. Or the me who wants to walk all over people. Or maybe it's the fact that I came of age in the 80s. Who knows... It could be a midlife-crisis. Shudder!!!!! Let's not talk about those...)

And here's the best part about Rich Suede: you can get a free sample! Just go here, or to (where you'll see Tom Brady plastered all over the place looking preposterous--I mean, sexy, yes, but why would you wear a big leather coat with no shirt underneath?!?! Well, I guess if I had a kickin body maybe I would. ....Or wouldn't. Because it's so impractical! Alas!!!! Does it sound like I'm yelling, "GET OFF MY LAWN!!!" Were we talking about midlife crises?), and fill out their litle dinkley-doo, and I guess they'll send you a sample. Hopefully it will arrive in fewer than 6-8 weeks. Remember when it took 6-8 weeks for stuff to arrive in the mail?!?! Thanks cod that email changed all that. So get a free sample and all that blingblongtiddlewiddle, and see what you think.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Cartier's Roadster

So here's a brief overview of the last Sniffapalooza event I went to, which was Cartier introducing its new scent, Roadster. Now, I lerv Cartier scents--Eau de Cartier Concentree was my fave for a really long time, and I've had a couple bottles of Declaration--so I was excited. In fact, I'd seen the ad for Roadster at Bloomingdales before I heard of the event. So when I got word of the event, in which someone from Cartier would be telling us about the history of the company and about the new fragrance, I was breathless. AND they were serving breakfast!!! w00t w00t!!!!

Anyway, so I show up at Bloomingdales (where the event was held) just in time to get a seat next to my friends. They started serving the coffee while this woman from Cartier spoke to us about the company. Great, whatever. I wasn't really interested in that, but it's fine. They then passed around bottles of the scent, and as we all sprayed them on our hands or whatever, we looked at each other to gauge everyone's reactions. "I don't smell anything" was repeated. I looked at the bottom of the bottle, and sure enough, it said "Factice," so those were just models. Oh, the bottle! Well, you can check it out when you see it--it's made to evoke a car or something, but the fragrance is actually named after the Cartier Roadster watch. I didn't know anything about a watch, but wow, talk about tacky. Hermes names a scent after a bag and now Cartier does so after a watch? What's next? Aisle 3 by K-Mart??

So the woman talks and breakfast, which seemed to be catered by lower-end McDonalds, was served. Then she goes into the scent. I remember seeing a ridiculous movie montage, the point of which escaped me, and then her going into her spiel. So here's Cartier's thing about how they're representing the fragrance: They're not describing it in terms of top, middle and base notes, because it "doesn't have those." Um, OK. (Never mind that the whole top/middle/base notes thing is pretty much marketing crap anyway; I think Luca Turin wrote that in so many words, and when I read it I was like, "Yeah, I alwayskinda thought that.") No, they constructed the fragrance in four Cs, to correspond with the ways one judges a diamond (because Cartier was "the king of jewelers and the jeweler to kings"? Or something like that. You'd think I'd remember--she repeated it enough.)--cut, clarity, color and coherence. No, wait, carats. I can never remember that one. So she went into the "notes" then--"So what's the 'cut'? Right! It's bergamot!!!" What a bunch of crap. I zoned out. I couldn't believe we were being asked to participate in this ridiculousness. Come on Cartier, we like fragrance--that doesn't mean we're brain dead. I really did feel a bit insulted by the crap she was shoveling. And if anyone from Cartier is reading this, get your marketing department under control. Seriously.

So what does the cologne smell like? Benzoin. Straight-up, fresh from the bottle benzoin like you can get at a lot of health food stores. Not a bad thing, not at all. But I kind of expected more. If you're not familiar with benzion (and usually for perfumery the benzoin Siam is the preferred material), it has a cocoa-vanilla, ambery smell with kind of a weird tone somewhere in there. When I had a friend smell it, and I asked how it smelled he said, "It's.... different." To which I replied, "Actually, it's rather familiar. It smells like cocoa-vanilla." But there was always that part of it which smelled peculiar to me--not the resiny amber part, but some kind of up top smell. Well, now I think I know what that smell is: mint. Because Cartier's Roadster apparently has bergamot, mint, labdanum and vanilla, making it I guess an ambery fougere. The Cartier person stressed that it was a fougere, and equally stressed that that was the the best selling category for men's fragrances in the U.S. Oh--I didn't realize that was the reason for making a fragrance. So we're supposed to accept the romantic cut/color/clary/carat/crap while knowing that you made it in this fragrance category not because you find it particularly beautiful, or because you have something to say in it, but that it's the best-selling category.

Anyway, I think that minty is what that off smell in benzoin is. Because I started to smell the mint in Roadster after a while. I still don't smell the bergamot. But to sum, basically the scent smells like good benzoin made sprayable and more effusive and long-lasting. Nothing more. I didn't get the emotional impact from it that I got from Eau de Cartier Concentree and Declaration. It's a fine scent, but I wouldn't buy it. I'd buy more Eau, maybe more Declaration (although I'm kinda tired of it now), I might would buy Pasha Fraicheur Menthe (but probably not--I'd probably buy Polo or Aramis first), but I don't think I'd drop coin for this. And since we're talking about what I'd buy, I would also buy Bel Ami and Equipage by Hermes, Yatagan by Caron, and possibly Incense Avignon by Comme des Garcons. And any scent that, when sprayed on my commputer, would magically put in all the diacritical markings that I'm too lazy to do right now.

That's pretty much all I can recall from that event. They gave us a gift bag with testers and a small purse which I promptly gave away in Central Park (You'd be surprised how difficult it is just to give away a purse). I LERVED the Baiser du Dragon (where have you been all my life?!), in spite of the fact that Turin hates it (he hates Spellbound too, but I'll NEVER give that up, even though I don't actually own any; maybe I should say I'll never give up the dream of owning a bottle to spray on my sheets); I thought the Declaration body wash didn't work well for the fragrance; I didn't really smell the Delices eau Fruitee, and I didn't smell the Must. And since I mentioned Luca Turn (yeah, I keep referring to Perfumes, the Guide, which I never bought but flip through all the time), I'm really wanting to get another bottle of Stetson and give it a try. I hearted it when I was super young. And I'd love to try Stetson Untamed, because it's supposed to smell like toasted marshmallows and cardboard. And of course, Stetson Suede, which I just saw tonight and isn't in the book, and couldn't possibly live up to its name, but you never know, right?

And that's the beep for now.


Doppin Science!

Before I talk about recent stuffs, I thought I'd drop a li'l science, since smell seems to be all in the science these days.

First, a thinglet I got form Very Short List, which has proven to be really cool. They talked about a book called If There Ever Was: A Book of Extinct and Impossible Smells. It's "a scratch and sniff book of 14 extinct and impossible smells including the smell of the sun, communism, and extinct flowers. The book accompanies the exhibition of the same name curated by Reg Vardy Gallery (April – June 2008) and involved a collaboration with 11 fragrance designers and organisations such as NASA and International Flavors and Fragrances." Sounds awesome. I wonder how long the scratch-n-sniff thingies last, though. At 12 pounds, I suppose it's worth trying out. But what's the smell of communism????

So that's first. Secondly, a science story that I didn't get around to looking at until forever after it was published. The findings? Apparently, wearing too much perfume could be a sign of depression, resulting from anosmia. From the article: “Our scientific findings suggest that women who are depressed are also losing their sense of smell, and may overcompensate by using more perfume,” explains researcher Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, a member of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. “We also believe that depression has biological roots and may be an immune system response to certain physiological cues.”

Interesting. I always suspected that wearing too much perfume may correlate with unhappiness, but I never suspected that it would with depression, especially depression resulting from anosmia. So why did I think that? From my own unscientific observation: In so many places I've worked, I noticed that the ladies in housekeeping would walk around wearing lush evening perfumes, and I figured that they did to ameliorate the suckiness of their jobs. Because I would wear a lot of cologne or perfume at my jobs (which I hated) too, because it gave you at least a little bit of pleasure. So I assumed there might be a connection. Who knew?!

And that's the scent beep for the moment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grand Re-Opening


Well, I have more time now, and I can't stop yammering on about scents, so I guess this blog shall be re-opening soonly. Stay tuned for the next post.

Ed Shepp