Sorry I haven’t been posting, but the workload as a graduate student at Yale University is just crazy! I’ll be back after mid-term exams are over (in about a month’s time)!
Some months back, I received a few samples from an upcoming fragrance company based in London called Signature Fragrances. I’d recorded my initial thoughts on paper back then, but never got round to posting as I was in the midst of final examinations. And then summer came by and I had to deal with moving back to Singapore, and finally preparation for my move to the USA. But reading Lukasz’ reviews of two of their fragrances over at Chemist in the Bottle reminded me of my backlog, and since I had some time to spare, I decided to post my thoughts. Even now, though, the brand hasn’t been properly launched, since the webpage still lists the fragrance oils as “coming soon”. Well, I guess we all operate on different time scales.
So, here are my thoughts on three of the fragrance oils. As a warning, let it be said that it starts out rather rough, but then gets better.
If you haven’t already read my interview with Mark Buxton, do pop on down to Basenotes to read it! You can click here to be directed to it. Also, this wasn’t in the article, but I had a fantastic time hanging out with Sabine who writes over at Iridescentrics. It was especially memorable for me because this was the last opportunity I had to meet up with a dear friend before leaving the UK. We talked about everything and everything, both in Roullier White and over dinner at the Italian restaurant near by, which served quite an excellent pasta.
Let me know what you think of Mark Buxton and his fragrances! Also, should I do more Fun Interviews with perfumers, or stick to the serious stuff?
I haven’t posted in a gazillion years, not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve been swamped with my move to the USA. First there were the visa applications, which involved so many bureaucratic processes that I must be wholly covered in sticky red tape at this point. Then there was the packing – how do you fit your entire life for one year in one suitcase that can only weigh 23kg? And finally, there was the meeting up with friends and spending time with family whom I wouldn’t be seeing for an entire year. So yes, blogging kinda took a backseat.
Right now, though, I’m sitting in a room in New Haven, Connecticut, with plenty of time to spare before University Life starts (I’m doing a Masters program at Yale University), so I can share a bit about what it’s like down here. After a grueling flight that lasted more than 24 hours, followed by a 3.5 hour shuttle bus ride from JFK Airport to New Haven, I was exhausted beyond belief. Checking in to the student dormitory wasn’t the breeze I expected it to be, as I had to lug my suitcase up and down three times – the first time I went up, I realised they hadn’t given me the keys to my room, the second time, I thought my keys didn’t fit, so I went down again to get them changed, whereupon they checked and told me that it DID fit, so I went up a third time and voila, fit they did.
I was pretty sure I smelt quite funky at that point, so the first thing I did was to hit the showers. After getting cleaned up, and upon returning to the room, I noticed that the room smelt rather strange (and it still does), with the odor emanating from the mini-fridge that sat in the corner. I suppose that’s what you get when you let mould grow in a fridge and when you leave a jar of mayo to rot over the summer. Not the most fragrant of starts. I cleaned out the fridge, but the smell still remains. I’m just waiting for Tuesday to arrive, when I can take the bus out to the nearest mall (which is an hour away) to perhaps get some room scents from Bath and Body Works.
Then there are the fragrances I brought over. I didn’t bring any full bottles over due to a lack of luggage space, but I packed some decants to hopefully last me the year. It was an agonizing process to whittle down my choices down to 10, but eventually I managed. I made my decisions based on a number of criteria:
- Wearability. Would I wear these fragrances often? Being the fickle-minded person that I am, I rarely repeat the fragrances I wear in a month, so the fragrances I chose would have to be those I wouldn’t mind wearing more frequently.
- Uniqueness. The fragrances had to be somewhat different from one another. No point choosing 10 vetivers to wear, or 10 tuberoses.
- Likeability. I had to really like these fragrances, which seems kind of like a no-brainer, but when you’re limited to 10 choices, you want to make sure that you do feel really happy whenever you wear any of them.
- Versatility. These were the fragrances that I had to wear all the time, be it summer or winter, day or evening. They had to be fragrances that I could wear whenever, wherever.
- Emotional Resonance. The fragrances have to move me emotionally.
So, what fragrant selections did I make for my stay in the USA?
- Frederic Malle Carnal Flower
The diva tuberose that always brings me much joy, when I want to smell resplendent and to stand out. I have a thing for tuberose, and Carnal Flower is one of the best.
- Frederic Malle L’Eau d’Hiver
L’Eau d’Hiver is what I wear when I just want to smell good without offending anyone’s dainty olfactory sensibilities. With its amorphous, sheer haze of iris and heliotrope, it makes for excellent wearing in the heat.
- Ormonde Jayne Woman
Is there anything quite like bewitching as Ormonde Jayne Woman, with its unique note of black hemlock and woody witchiness?
- Guerlain L’Heure Bleue
I wear L’Heure Bleue everywhere, even when I’m out doing grocery shopping. I figure this is the one I’ll run out of first.
- Guerlain Après l’Ondée
This ethereal beauty is what I pop out when I’m feeling melancholic, sometimes when I’m lonely.
- L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville à l’Aube
Is there anything quite as cheerful as Séville à l’Aube? This orange blossom bombshell ticks every one of my boxes and lifts my spirits whenever I wear it.
- Vero Profumo Rozy EDP
There’s something dirty and skanky about this rose that seduces me.
- Vero Profumo Mito Voile d’Extrait
I had to have at least one green scent with me, and this was it.
- Histoires de Parfums Moulin Rouge 1889
Cherry-tinged iris, powder and blush. For a throwback to the past.
- Le Labo Labdanum 18
My go-to powdery animalic scent that’s like a fur coat (not that I wear fur).
So that was it, my perfume selection for my move to the USA!
What perfumes would you bring along with you if you had to live abroad for a year? What criteria would you use to help you make your choices?
~ The Smelly Vagabond
It’s often far too easy to rip apart cheap designer fragrances with one’s words, much less fragrances that call themselves “cheap”, or worse still, flankers with ditzy, nonsensical names like Cheap & Chic I Love Love (henceforth referred to simply as I Love Love). The question is: do I love I Love Love or do I not love I Love Love? (How’s that for a mouthful of love?) We’ll get to the answer near the end of this review.
She sits at her vanity table, powdering her nose.
The bed in her boudoir has been slept in, the scarlet satin sheets crumpled,
a suggestive hint of the previous night’s activities.
A little bit of rouge to accentuate her cheekbones
although she doesn’t really need it, flushed as she is.
Her lips are ruby red, pillowed and pouty;
she presses them together, plumps them
Face done, she starts on her nails, painting them a
deep crimson of passion and enticement
Let’s face it: Nuit de Tubéreuse is neither ‘nuit’ nor ‘tuberose’ in any sense of those words. Despite a somewhat promising opening, in which the floral notes sing together harmoniously, the whole choir falls apart into an off-key mess in less than five minutes, with a cheap orange blossom soap attempting to soprano its voice over the rest, but cracking nevertheless – the result is a sweet, faceless dreck that seems to have been cobbled together in a focus group… except L’Artisan Parfumeur doesn’t do focus groups. This is not the beautiful ‘abstraction’ that Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez speak of in describing Beyond Paradise in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide; rather, it is a clueless Bath and Body Works wannabe. Heck, I’ve smelt better Bath and Body Works fragrances that I’d much rather wear, thank you very much. To make matters worse, Nuit de Tubéreuse degenerates into a sweet vat of musk that further underscores the fragrance’s utter lack of direction, in the same way that a tourist visiting Paris for the first time tries to navigate his way around without a map, except the latter experience is far more enjoyable. Imagine my dismay when I found out that it was created by one of my favourite perfumers, Monsieur Bertrand Duchaufour. I guess even the best have their bad hair days. Avoid it if you actually like perfume.
~ The Smelly Vagabond
If one were to sum up Fourreau Noir in brief, it would be this: Lutens takes lavender and gives it his signature oriental treatment. It dispels lavender’s common associations with ‘grannies’ (hopefully that’s not what you lot think) and fusty scented drawers, and instead marries its herbal elements with a very edible tonka bean that is delectably creamy, and dare I say… fluffy. Throw some musk into the mix and we get a perfume that is thoroughly warming through and through. This lends it a quality that can best be described as the olfactory equivalent of a mink stole – not that I have worn one, nor ever intend to wear an animal – a furry coat for the coldest of winters.
But then midway through, the edibility gives way to the strangest olfactory flash mob – a turpentine note emerges, which I suspect to be the result of an interaction between the medicinal aspects of tonka bean and the herbal aspects of lavender, and the composition veers towards a woody dry down, which is pleasant enough. Once the surprise of the turpentine wears off, the mild shock on one’s face is replaced by the widest of grins that can only be an indication of the adrenaline stemming from a sensational roller coaster ride. I tend to have a hate-hate relationship with lavender, so it definitely is high praise when I say that this is my favourite lavender fragrance and that I actually love it. Sadly, as with most brands, prices have been inflating year-on-year, so all I can say is try it while you can still afford to.
~ The Smelly Vagabond
I’ve been really busy lately, between holidaying in Paris, then Milan, then Bologna, then Turin, and finally packing up my ENTIRE LIFE (including the perfume collection!) into boxes to be shipped back to Singapore. As such, I must really apologise for my lack of updates on the blog. I should be able to start writing again from 24th June onwards, which is when I’ll land in Singapore. I’ve started on a number of posts for the blog, so you can imagine what the backlog is like: a review of Vero Profumo’s Mito, my interview with Mark Buxton at Roullier White, my 2nd trip to Paris, including a guide to Le Marais, and vintage hunting in Milan, not to mention numerous other perfume reviews. Sigh. I wish I had more time to sit down and write, but as it is I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived. At the moment I have on my left arm Magnetic Scent’s Indigo and on my right arm I have Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque. I’m not quite sure what inspired that selection, but then again my head is mush.
I’ll make up for all of this with a huge giveaway when I’m finally settled in Singapore.
What do you wear when you’re just crazy busy?
~ The Smelly Vagabond
It’s been averaging a scorching 28 degrees celsius here in Paris – my face and arms are red from sunburn (forgot the sunscreen, and I can’t tan; I just burn and peel) and I’m constantly craving cold water. At times like this I wish I had a fragrance with me that has a ‘cooling effect’ – this reminded me of Coton Egyptien even as I sit in my Parisian hotel room typing out other things for the blog while my travel buddy snores loudly as he sleeps soundly in bed. I’m also craving good poems, so share them with me if you’ve recently come across any!
I spent days trying to write
the perfect letter for you.
I wrote and scratched out
words. I crumpled paper
until my floor started to think
it was a cotton field,
and I thought of inviting you
to come pick through it,
to see if you could find
the softness I was trying
to tell you about
but I was too afraid
your fingers would wear raw
on the bolls, that you would grow
tired of stooping
to pick up the things I’d grown
in my head
so I put an empty envelope
in your mailbox, and wrote
Love me, please,
on the outside,
– Gabriel Gadfly
“I wrote and scratched out words”
I’ve been wondering for some time what to write about Coton Egyptien by Phaedon. Did I love Coton Egyptien? Well, yes and no.
Coton Egyptien opens with the sheerest, most delicate…
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