A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

*******

The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

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THE MAN IN THE SILVER BENTLEY ~ Bentley For Men Intense

Ivory white in the moonlight the poplar trees in their winter nakedness seemed to be leaning in over the road that lead away from town.  Reaching their arms overhead to hide the moon from view of anyone under their cover. The effect was that of theatrical branch shadows cast down upon a platinum ribbon of concrete. Edward Henry Porter the forth pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator pushing the British engine into a well-tuned purr. The headlights of the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1 reach ahead though the night all the way to the curve looming ahead next to the entrance of the long-abandoned Newport estate known as Wicker Hill.

As the car took the tight curve at 47 and a half miles per hour the tires screamed, the high beams flashed across the old lion gate that blocked the drive up to Wicker Hill.  Edward laughed contemptuously as he pushed the peddle to the floor heading for 80. The leather seat next to him still smelled of Sage Benton of the Newport Benton’s. that smell precisely being of her crushed geranium corsage and spilt rum from the flask in her Mark Cross purse. To Edward, in fact, it reeked of her silly, spoiled, entitled Bryn Mar bitchiness which when pressed she insisted was merely “being cute”.

She was drunk more times than not and only then would she show just how rotten money had made her. Tonight, was the capper. She had mocked a busy boy and called him a dirty Mick to his face from the center of the dance floor where she was doing a sloppy rhumba with Carl Everett. Another example of monied inanity. Incensed by her outburst Edward left the dinner dance with her stumbling and calling after him. In the car, she opened her flask to take another drink.

“What’s the matter Eddie Honey? Aren’t you having a good time?”  Edward snatched the flask away spilling most of the liquor on the leather car seat and the rest on her Ceil Chapman evening gown.

“Eddie my dress! You’ve ruined it. Daddy is going to kill you!”

“Get out of the car.”  He said just loud enough for her to hear.

“What?”

“Get the hell out of my car!”

He was through with her, with the country club, with Harvard Law, and most of all with his parents mansion on Belleview Avenue. He couldn’t stand any of it. Of the privileged life that had always seemed somehow wrong but everyone told him was so right. So them, so him.

When he reached the New England Turnpike he turned the Bentley south toward New York. By dawn he was driving over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Once he reached New York he realized it was much too close to Newport. Where he was going had to be somewhere far away. Where he could be free, write like he always wanted to. Someplace where people did something with their lives, where there was a different beat. The clip of the tires on the concrete seams of the road seemed to match the beat of his heart. The Beat. The West, The Beat.  The West.

A week later Edward sat in a sunny window of Vesuvio Cafe on Columbus Street. He had found a job as a door man at the Hungry i. As good a place as any in San Francisco to begin an alive life. He was finally going places, the kind of places with the kind of people he belonged to. The Beat was in his soul. The only thing he had left of his past was the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1. He would have to sell it soon not that he wanted to. But for the first time in his life, he needed the money.

***      ***     ***

Bentley For Men Intense was created as a flanker to Bentley For Men in 2013 by perfumer Nathalie Lorson for the prestigious British car company Bentley. Lorson is a prolific nose who has a massive number of perfumes in her credits. She has designed for everyone from Lalique, Encre Noire to Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium.  In fact, she is the nose behind every fragrance in the line for Bentley.

(NATHALIE LORSON)

So, I was intrigued to try a fragrance from this house to see how it stacks up against some of her other fragrances and against other automobile perfumes such as Jaguar, and Ferrari. (Porsche is out of the running as I have not yet tested it.)

I must say I am pleasantly surprised in some ways and not so much in others. First off, the bottle is simply amazing, elegantly heavy glass on a luxurious level. Beautiful silver topping of the top fourth of the glass with the Bentley winged B logo deeply etched and very hefty silver cap. The design echoes the lines and beauty of a Bentley, just as it should. Here the house has trounced its competition in Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari who’s bottles overall are a disappointment.  The bottle is smart, sleek, and chic. Simply put, the chassis is classy.

What is under the hood? Well this is where it gets interesting. At first sniff I was sold. As well, on initial wearing is was humming along quite nicely. Then on my second outing in my new Bentley For Men Intense there were some potholes in the tarmac. Then on the third through fifth test drives it was much the same thing. I loved it some of the time and I was sometimes put off by it. What can be the problem?  The only thing I can say is that it dances between something brilliant and gorgeous and then slips at other times into a kind of ho hum slump. Dust in the carburetor?  Or maybe it is simply the driver?

1959 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL S1

Let’s concentrate on the good things, on the best test drive, today in fact. Bentley Intense opens with a great peppery African Geranium that is speckled with, black pepper. This makes it sharp and attention grabbing. Which is what fragrance houses want their top notes to be. (the notes that sell a fragrance to the average customer) But that isn’t all, added in is a rich, boldly thick dose of incense.  Intense incense if fact gives it elevated wings. I loved that combo of the incense match with the overdose of pepper and geranium. A stunning opening.

This opening that becomes almost boozy lasts 30 to 40 minutes before it evolves into the cruising speed of mid notes.  The lux interior of the Bentley automobile in perfumed notes. Super fine, highly polished Leather of the highest quality. The kind of leather you can sink into for a nice long ride is enhanced by a leathery aromatic clary sage which adds a sexy depth. Labdanum is brushed over these two notes bringing in a fine combo accord of even more leather steeped in an amber like wash.

The dry-down is an exceptionally fine with noticeable dose of patchouli, and silky sandalwood finishes off the base with cedar shavings giving it a kind of somber aromatic heat.  This ride is indeed smooth and well-appointed, leaving Jaguar and Ferrari in the dust. (Of those I have sampled at least.)

So that is Bentley For Men Intense when it is purring along on my skin on a rainy day like this. So, what is the problem. Why am I of two minds about this EDT? Perhaps is it simply the season in which I am testing this fragrance. Early Spring. On the sunny warm days, Bentley For Men Intense battled with my skin until well in to the late middle notes where it finally ran smooth. But on a rain cool day like today it works beautifully. So, the lesion I have learned thanks to Bentley For Men Intense is this.  Some fragrances really do fall into seasonal boxes. When I love Bentley, I am very much in love, and when I hate it, I am reminded of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” when she says to Johnny Farrow, “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

Well, lets not get that dramatic, I’m not going to die from this fragrance. But, with Bentley For Men Intense, it’s, what else can I say? A classic love/hate relationship. And at this moment, I love it.

LE ROI DES DIAMANTS ~ Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations

 

A thick blue mist clung to the tall trees like uncarded wool and muffled the predawn calls of the forest birds as they fluttered and fussed themselves to wakefulness. It moved slowly, lazily, like a taffeta silk encased courtesan through the lower wilder gardens making its way up to the chateau of Versailles. With cool fingers it caressed the cream-colored stone and pressed against the wavy glass of the windows. There it condensed into impersonal tears and sensuously slid down the glass to puddle on the windowsill. At one glowing window the little puddles reflected the candlelit room within the palace. A tiny image of the scene within shimmered in the puddle  of the only room in the palace where the occupant was awake. The Sun King was up before the Sun.

Louis XIV King of all France was sitting up in bed. Beside him gently mumbling in her sleep was his mistress Madame de Montespan. He paid not a note of attention to her and had completely forgotten to wake her to send her off before the courtiers were to arrive to  Rituality  wake and dress him.  The thing that held him in rapt attention, that had kept him awake since three in the morning was pinched between his thumb and index finger. A 115.16-carat blue diamond. It fascinated him by its uncut beauty.  The story of its travels and how Jean-Baptiste Tavernier had brought it and along with it  many fabulous tales from the court of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of Mogul India.

He turned the diamond this way and that to see how the light from the candles danced a merry minuet within the stone. The King threw back the bedclothes and slipped into his brocade robe then walked to the window. He held the diamond toward the blue misty imperceptibly brightening eastern sky to study it. He squinted his eyes and tired to pierce the heart of the diamond with his mind.

“Your majesty, this stone is but a pale shard in comparison to the beauty of India.” Louis recalled the voice of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier when the afternoon before he had presented the king for a certain price the priceless stone. “There are colors in India unknown in the west, the music of the court is like nothing you have ever heard. It is like the universe is singing with golden bells and  flutes of sandalwood and ivory. The women are unsurpassed in beauty and grace. The cities are vast and teaming with vibrant excitement. In the midst of all of this cacophony of smells and sights and sounds there is the great Taj Mahal. An edifice of such sparkling splendor that I am left with nothing but a melancholy  whisper in my heart when I think of it.”

The King smiled to himself and pressed the stone against the windowpane and moved his head toward it as if he were about to look into a spyglass. The world took on a violet blue hue. Cool and calm and of such beauty he wanted to live within the diamond forever.

There he stood his face pressed against the window lost within the magic of the stone.

“You shall my symbol of France, of the enduring monarchy that shall last forever.” He said softly to the stone. “You shall bring glory to my rein and prosperity to my people.”

“And how will I do all of that? I am just a woman.”

The king startled turned to see Madame de Montespan sitting up, her knees drawn up to her chin, arms encircling them. She was sleepy eyed and smiling.

“Indeed, how shall you do all of that my dear.” He put the diamond in his robe pocket and patted the pocket for luck.

“Come now my dear, the courtiers will be here any moment and you must be gone. After all there is my wife to consider.”

“What do you have in your pocket?” she demanded coyly.

“Nothing of consequence.”

“It’s that diamond. Oh, Louie please let me hold it.”

He laughed and walked to the edge of the bed and handed her the diamond. Her eyes danced across the stone in glittering madness captivated by the stone.

“Louis may I have it. Will you give it to me in a necklace or on a pin? Oh please!”

“No… I am the State, and this diamond is, in essence the heart of France. It belongs not to me but to France.”

“Oh! You are hopeless!”

“On the contrary, my dear. I am filled with hope.”

At that moment, the door to the King’s chamber silently opened just as the King leaned down to kiss Madame de Montespan. Three aristocratic heads of the King’s bedchamber peeked in. Eyes widened, the three heads then retreated and very gently closed the door. The royal dressing would have to wait.

***

Neela Vermeire Creations with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour have over the years since the House was launched created perfumes that are inspired by India but with a French Flair and chic. The new fragrance Rahele (2016) is no exception. Travel is what Rahele means and this fragrance was sparked by three 17th Century French travelers to India. Jean Thévenot, Francois Bernier, and the man responsible for bringing the premier crown jewel of France to King Louis XIV and what became finally the Hope Diamond, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Rahele is a foral woody and earthy fragrance that rises to an interesting level of stylish sophistication. It is bright, pure and ozonic to my nose. It does remind me of travel, that wonderful smell you experience when you first exit an international airport and breath in the air of a strange foreign city. It has a blend of both Western Europe and the Asian sub-continent. It is fluid each time I wear it. Some times I am in Paris and other times I am in  Jaipur.

We begin our trip with a bright almost ripe yet on the edge of green mandarin. Cardamom which falls on the spicy side complements the citrus.  Then from Ancient markets comes the once rare and precious spice note of cinnamon. I love how this plays against the slightly metallic violet leaf note in the opening.

The midway point of the trip with Rahele is a pure lush Indian garden after the monsoon. A peachy exotic Osmanthis is surrounded by the reddest of rose, a velvet rose in fact and completely devoid of thorns. A fleshy sensual magnolia note hovers above this garden, It is moist and nearly dripping in the heat and there in the heart of this rises up a sweet almost hypnotic jasmine.  The kind of jasmine that lifts the senses in the night. The earth below is introduced with purple notes of violet and rooty dry Iris. At this point the flower notes shimmer and move forward and recede in the most interesting way.

When we reach our final destination in the base there is a somber smooth finish of patchouli leaves that are packed in layers of oakmoss, silky aromatic sandalwood and resinous crisp cedar. This nearly finishes the perfume but all is not over. The dominating note here and what constantly rises though out the fragrance is a refined supple leather note. It never over powers the perfume but rather carries the perfume in subtle grace. It seems in the first hour to suddenly die, yet by hour two and beyond it returns to tease and tantalize for many hours to come. It in fact it  undulates on the skin. This is pure magic and quite interesting.

Indeed, subtlety is the hallmark of this elegant fragrance. By no means is Rahele ever overpowering or demanding. It is suggestive, intuitive, and lightly sensual. A perfect fragrance for both discerning men of taste and chic women of elegant refinement.

 (photo above and below from Fragrantica)

(Neela Vermeire)

THE MAN IN THE BLACK MUSTANG ~ Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

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The dead never return.

On the morning of March 27, 1964 Marie-Anne Lefèvre was started to see her husband in the small café in Megève. After all he had been dead for five years.

Claude was in the resistance during the War and it was his job to report on possible Nazi collaborators. He had mistaken Marie-Anne for a woman he was assigned to follow. He tailed after her expecting that she was going to meet her German lover at the Ritz, when in fact she was simply going to 31 Rue Cambon behind the Ritz to buy a bottle of perfume for her mother. As he followed he tried to ignore the sway in her walk and how her chestnut hair bounced as it caught the late Autumn sunlight. When his mistake became clear to him that he was after the wrong woman he followed her to the Place de la Concorde where with clever machinations around one of the fountains he managed to bump into her causing her to drop her shopping bag breaking the bottle of Sycamore. He took her back to Chanel and bought her a new bottle. Within the month, they were married.

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Since the end of the War they had lived a life of small luxuries and great charm for 15 years in Paris on the Rue d’Édimbourg. It was an exciting time they shared, He a leading actor in La Comédie-Française and she with her little art gallery L’oeil d’or on the Avenue George V near the Café Francis. It was a whirlwind of openings both theatrical and artistic that keep their relationship alive and vibrant. For each of their passions gave them an exciting day away which afforded a meeting in the evening filled with shared stories of glories and sometimes disappointments. Equal but separate lives that encompassed love without suffocating it. Then quite suddenly in the winter of 1958 Claude became ill. Within mere weeks he was gone.

Marie-Anne stayed on for the next five years in the apartment on the Rue d’Edimbourg until at fifty-eight she decided she had enough of the lights of Paris. She sold the gallery to a young assistant and transferred her life to the small ski resort of Megève. She moved in to a modest Chalet near the Résidence Maeva Le Mont d’Arbois. It was a quite solitary life of reading, a little writing to friends in Paris, afternoon walks and always the café in the morning for café au lait and croissants. And every day, each day without fail she thought of Claude.

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But this morning her somnambulistic existence was shattered. The trip bell over the door chimed, there was a shiver of cold air on her cheek as the door swung open. A crunch of snow encrusted boots as a man walked past her where she sat, his coat brushed her shoulder.  There was the conversant smell of Eucalyptus, pink pepper and vanilla. His smell. She ignored the olfactory recognition and continued to read her book as her coffee cooled.

The man ordered his coffee and even though he whispered his voice, a warm baritone nearly filled the room, It tugged at her right ear and she looked up from her book. At first, she only noted that he was a handsome man of about fifty-two. Well-proportioned and of medium height with wavy black hair that was slightly silver at the temples. She looked back down to her novel. The scent of the man grew slightly insistent and blended with the smell of roasted coffee beans and fresh warm pastry.  She looked up again, he was sitting facing the window as the sun broke through the clouds momentarily while the snow fell beyond his profile.  It was Claude’s profile almost to the exact slope of his forehead down to his strong neck and prominent Adam’s apple.  She starred only long enough to drink in the sight of this man who so resembled her love, her Claude. She pulled her eyes away and let them rest on the page of her book without reading a single word.

She sat there until he left without looking up again.  The trip bell rang and the door swung open, a blast of winter air and then it swung shut with a dull crunch of snow and old wood. She looked up again and watched as he walked across the square and got into a black Mustang. Sleek and wild surrounded by Peugeots, Ferraris and Citroens it rumbled a steamy exhaust and the red glow of its taillights winked. It was strange and beautiful and seemed to be made of sacred fire. When he drove away, Marie-Anne looked back down to her book. She re-read the top line on page 156 then closed the book.

Maybe she would see him again. But she hoped she would not.

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*   *   *

Someone asked me recently how I would compare classic fragrance to what is being made today and I immediately thought of Bruno Fazzolari. He is one of the new perfumers of the last five years who is on to something wonderful. A creative process in perfumery that is both modern and classical at the same time.

I first met Bruno at the SF ARTISAN PERFUME SALON 2013 where he was launching his line. I was immediately taken by the beauty and sophistication of his work, especially in Au Dela.  His work for a new perfumer was eons ahead of everyone else at that event. What I smelled in that particular fragrance was a time machine to 1947. I was smelling a timeless new perfume by Christian Dior. I was smelling a master’s work. Lighting in a bottle, and I knew I was there and very lucky to witness the birth of a star.17125439_1766590433656861_2798002693187043328_n

(BRUNO FAZZOLARI)

What Dior did in fashion by bringing glamour and yards of fabric back to the forefront of fashion after the horrors and austerity of World War II was to create the “New Look” a term coined by Carmel Snow of American Vogue to describe the romantic new movement of the mid-20th Century.  Bruno Fazzolari in a very real way in the early 21st Century, is doing what Dior did. He is creating the “Nouveau Sens” in perfumery. He is bringing romanticism and glamour to the niche market in a way that is both classic and modern. And I for one could not be more thrilled.

In his new fragrance, Feu Secret I find the magic has reached a new level of beauty and artistry. It is a dry and warm beauty. Opening with dangerous and bitter touch of hemlock which is punctuated with a sharp jab of green Spruce. This is a fleeting tease to the arrival of a warm burning leaves note of the most amazing eucalyptus. A smell I grew up with in Southern California where in the summer the Eucalyptus trees seem to give off a smoky smoldering scent.

The middle gets even better. A light spice not leaning toward ginger is provided by a turmeric note, spiced up with pink pepper. But here is the kicker, Iris. This note that usually takes on a lip stick, Max Factor quality is this time not in the back-stage dressing room on the dressing table waiting to go on at all. No, this Iris is wrapped up in that burning eucalyptus and the combination becomes the sacred heart of this fire. The supporting base notes of Himalayan cedar, burch tar and a rich thick as butter vanilla round out this fragrance and bring it all home in style.

It is completely wearable for any occasion from day to evening, Full enough for the colder months but certainly something I would wear in the height of summer, that fire, that smoke is so perfect for the season.

So to answer my friend who wanted to know what I love that is both modern and classic, J’dore Feu Secret. And I adore the work of Bruno Fazzolari, the master perfumer of San Francisco.

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HANGING AROUND – MUSK PURE by Tom Ford

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The screams of the horses where horrifying as they plunged into the cavernous canyon. Lily Chu’s British protector had pushed her ahead of himself at the last moment of their dash across the rope bridge. The force of that final shove sent her into the side of the mountain and she fell in a bruised heap within a sheltering crevice.   The pursuing Chinese solders could not see her from the opposite side of the gorge where they had shot the support ropes of the suspension bridge causing its collapse.

Lily didn’t move. Some instinct within her held her plastered into the crevice holding her breath. She could hear the Chinese talking loudly and laughing on the other side. Slowly she counted to ten as their voices trailed away. They were leaving. The wind chaffed her ears. Only then did Lily realize that the Nepalese men must have fallen to their deaths with the horses.

“Is it safe? Are they gone?

No one answered. It was cold and silent save for the very faint sound of the laughing Chinese. Lily’s hand covered her mouth in horror. He had fallen with the Nepalese and the horses. She was utterly alone on the side of a frozen mountain in Nepal.

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“Hey…HEY!” an urgent horse cry ravaged the wind. “Lily?”

“Oh, my God! Where are you?”

The rising sun’s rays were creeping down the walls of the mountains as she scrambled out from the crevasse onto the narrow horse path. The bridge was gone and only two ropes dangled over the edge of the precipice where once the bridge had been.

“I’m just hanging around waiting for the coast to be clear.

She dropped to her knees and crawled to the edge and looked over the side. There, hanging onto a few wooden cross slats of what remained of the bridge was the British Agent. And hanging on to his back was Atash. Far below the river raged having long moments before swallowed up the men and horses and carried them away.

“Atash, climb up over me and then you and Lily can help me up. Hurry I don’t think….” Before he could finish Atash was scrambling over him up to Lily’s outstretched hand.

“Come on Jim” Atash called out to his friend as he and Lily reached down to help him up.

“So, that is his mysterious name!” Lilly thought as his fingers just reached hers.

“Yes, come on Jim you owe me that perfume bath you promised me and I can’t very well have it without you?”

He laughed as the morning sun hit him square in the face.

The ping of lead on rock ricocheted into a sorrowful echo. The three looked back down the gorge to see a lone Chinese solder at the far bend. He must have been the last in line and looked back in time to see the three survivors.

“COME ON!” Atash urged.

Jim was up and over in a flash, grabbing Lily and Atash they dashed and dogged a fusillade of bullets to the next bend that lead to higher ground and the interior of Nepal.

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***

Lily stood next to the little duty free shop in the Lukla Airport. It was closed. Locked inside there were bottles of perfume lined up along the back wall. Lilly laughed.  “Who would have dreamed that in this backwater there would be Chanel, Dior, and Tom Ford and… that it would be closed.” She really wanted to freshen up if only with a spritz or two of perfume.

“Religious holy day Miss.” Atash said looking in with her. “I wear Savage Miss, It is very popular here in Nepal.”

“Come on Miss Chu” Jim said. We have to say goodbye to Atash and get on board before the weather changes. Its a long flight to Jaipur.”

Lilly looked out onto what passed for a tarmac and a very short runway that ended on the edge of a cliff. A small single engine plane quivered as like a dead leaf as a gust of wind hit it from the side.  “Isn’t there another way to get to Jaipur?”

“To India? No, not from here. Don’t worry only one in six flight are lost takeoff out of Lukla.”

Twenty minutes later Lily Chu rapped in her mink up to her chin sat huddled next to Jim as he guided the rickety plane down the runway at break neck speed toward the abyss. She grabbed the sides of her seat as the asphalt slipped further and further towards its end.

“Pull UP!” She screamed. “We’re running out of runway!”

Jim let out a whoop and grinned as he pulled the stick towards him at the very last second. Everything solid fell away beneath the plane as it bounced into very heavy turbulence and began to climb hesitantly towards the misty blanket that hid the Himalayas from view.

“Well Lilly next stop Jaipur, unless we hit the mountain hidden somewhere in that cloud.”

Lily squeezed her eyes shut.

“Oh and by the way, my name isn’t Jim.”

At a window next to the Duty Free overlooking the runway a man stood watching as the plane disappeared into the clouds.  He walked to the ticket desk and bought a one way ticket on the next plane to Jaipur.

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***

Tom Ford’s Musk Pure is one of four of the 2009 Private Blend White Musk collection.  To me it is something of a cliffhanger. What do I mean by that? Well it starts off rather generic fresh and boring and with a very acetate vibe radiating out in the opening. That I did not like at all. In fact, I thought my sample had gone off and turned. I was going to dismiss it and wash if off but got distracted by my morning routine and headed out to the Post Office to pick up a package from Paris. Thus, I forgot to give it the heave ho

At about an hour into the life of the fragrance I noticed while standing in line at the Post Office that a warm and wonderful scent was wafting about me. I wondered what the woman in front of me was wearing and was about to ask her when I realized that it was my perfume that was delighting my senses. .  I am glad that I ended up unintentionally giving it a chance to bloom on my skin. At that point when it began to reveal itself I was hanging on every moment of the development not sure just where it was going but hooked never the less for the duration of the adventure. A real cliffhanger!

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The fragrance opens with the top notes of Bergamot, pepper, and ylang-ylang. Where that acetate accord came from I can’t say unless the unfortunate smell is the result of those three notes? Who’s to say? I could just be my skin chemistry saying whoa wait a moment. If you too get that accord…wait a moment.  The mid notes are where the magic comes in. Sambac Jasmin, Lily of the Valley (Muguet) a beautiful Oris butter that radiates warmth when it mixed with a golden bee’s wax note. I was simply stunned at this point and drove home in a delicious cloud.

As beautiful as that first radiation that enveloped me was it was nothing compared to the dry down.  This immensely gorgeous beauty last a ridiculously long time. I put it on at 8 am and it is now 10 pm and the dry down is ripe, warm, and hypnotic. This is NOT your typical laundry fresh musk. Here the Musk is baked with benzoin and a rather woody rather than vanilic tonka bean.  I have spent the day discovering my wrist pressed to my nose repeatedly and smiling in delight at what this perfume does. It is enticing, delightful, and mysteriously compelling. It leads me on and on deeper and deeper into its warm beating beautiful heart.

Musk Pure might just be my most favorite Tom Ford Fragrance. To me it is a day to night scent because the longer you wear it the more complex and mysterious it becomes Perfect for winter and fall in my estimation. As for gender, marketed to women in my view it works for both sexes. With glowing balsamic, woody accords at the end that just make this one so very memorable.

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LUKLA IS A REAL AIRPORT IN NEPAL AND CONSIDERED THE MOST DANGEROUS IN THE WORLD.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF A TAKE OFF ON A GOOD DAY.

HUMMINGBIRDS IN AUGUST ~ Hummingbird by Zoologist

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At fifty-three beats per second the wings of the hummingbird warmed the air around the Honeysuckle flowers ten degrees higher than the 98.6  that was the normal temperature in most boys. Twelve-year-old Craig Thomas leaned on the window sill of his best friends Ricky De Fiore’s bedroom window watching the tiny bird flit and flutter about the yellow and fuchsia colored flowers.  Ricky sitting on one of the twin beds behind him was setting up the Monopoly board for the game they were about to play.

Clackity clang! The old swamp cooler in the back of the house complained as it tried to cool the sweltering small tract house. Then came the bang! Mrs. Di Fiore called from the kitchen where she was stewing plums, for Rickey to go out back and reattach the fan belt that keep the antiquated contraction going.  The temperature instantly began to climb in the room. Craig flung open the window scaring off the Hummingbird. He leaned out into the dry oven heat of that summer of 1962. There was not even a hint of a breeze up from Huntington Beach . Only the the smell of roses, lilacs and peony flowers that grew at the front of the house distracted Craig slightly from the sweltering August air.

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The sounds of kids playing down the street bounced of the sides of the houses on the block. The Good Humor ice-cream truck’s song floated along the curbs from three blocks away. By the eighth week of summer vacation It was all so predictable and boring. Spending every day at Ricky’s playing games and watching What’s My Line, Soupy Sales, and Rocky and Bullwinkle in the afternoon. Just about the only exciting thing to happen so far that summer was when his neighbor Mr. Ramirez got locked in his backyard bomb shelter for a week and everyone including his wife thought he had left town for another woman over in Tarzana.  Craig’s eyes drifted to the corner of Robin Avenue just as a 1955 pink Thunderbird raced around the corner. “Johnny Angel was blasting from the car radio.

Kiki Beaumont who was the prettiest girl in Westminster was behind the wheel. Most of the kids in the neighborhood thought she was cool because she had a summer job at Disneyland as Cinderella. Craig thought she wasn’t that pretty and besides, she was kind of stuck on herself. Sitting beside her, shirtless and glistening in the sun was Ricky’s brother, Tony De Fiore. Black hair still wet from the beach, tanned and muscular. He had a smile that was more dazzling than Ricky Nelson’s. And best of all, he was nice to Craig. Wispy voiced Shelley Fabares whispered “Johnny Angel” from the car radio. Craig took it all in, the car, the song, the girl, and Tony. The temperature jumped to 102.

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With an unlit cigarette clamped in his mouth Tony looked angry.  Kiki stared straight ahead expressionless beneath her sunglasses. The T-Bird purred undeterred by whatever had gone wrong at the beach. Shelley was still lamenting her Johnny Angel. Tony reached over and cut her off with an violent twist of the radio nob.

“It’s my favorite song.”  Kiki said between clenched teeth.

“I hate it. It’s stupid. They play it too much.”

“Get out of my car!”

With panther grace Tony took the cigarette from his mouth and put it behind his ear, opened the car door and rose to his five-foot eleven-and-a-half-inch glory. The sun’s rays ran like rain over his shoulders and back. His tan line peeked out just above the waistline of his black 501 jeans.

“Oh my goodness!” Craig thought. “Are they breaking up?”

“The Beach Boys rule.” Tony said with utterly cool conviction.

Blue smoke jetted from the burning tires of the T-Bird and in a shrieking streak of pink Kiki and her favorite song were gone. Tony looked down the street after her. Craig studied the back of his neck where it met the ear.  A tiny bead of sweat formed then let go to slide down to the trapezius and disappear over the edge of it to travel unseen over his chest.  The Good Humor Ice-cream song was coming around the corner.  Children ran into the street with dimes are quarters at the ready. The clackity clang sound of the swamp cooler came back on. Tony turned around and caught Craig watching him. He frowned and looked even more angry than he had in the T.Bird. The bottom of Craig’s stomach turned queasy and dropped in fear.

Then Tony smiled his teen idol smile then winked. “Girls! Why do we need them?”

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“I ah, I don’t know Tony.” Craig squeaked.  He watched as Tony walked toward the house gripped by the strange new feelings the mere sight of the seventeen-year-old teenager was causing in his heart.

“What ya looking at?” Ricky was standing behind him.

“Nothing.” Craig slammed down the window. “Let’s play Monopoly.”

  ***

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From the house of Zoologist comes a new Eau de Parfum, Hummingbird. The nose behind this fragrance is the wonderfully talented perfumer Shelley Waddington. She has in the past created some of my favorite fragrances for her own house, En Voyage.  The great neoclassic Zelda, New York Man and Fiore de Bellagio to name but three. Creator of the house of Zoologist, Victor Wong found in Shelly the perfect perfume to create this floral, gourmand laced with succulent fruity undertones.

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Perfumer Shelley Waddington

The fragrance opens in springtime beauty with a dominating lily-of-the-valley as fresh and bright a morning. There is a warmed by the sun Southern California vibe to it when the nature sweet notes of pear and juicy plum come in to play with hints of apple, cheery and citruses. Low tones of lilac rose and violet leaf add florals to set the scene in a garden any hummingbird would love.

As it progresses to the heart of the garden and the birds begin the ballet of wings and nectar as a gorgeous photo real honeysuckle opens to the air. Redolent with a honey that is natural, not cloying it is lush. Mimosa sweet and clear is joined by a luxurious full bloomed peony, this flower brings Dior like glamour to the fragrance. Full and voluminous. It enhances the other florals, the shy tulip and the sexy addictively yummy ylang-ylang. Here the garden of the hummingbirds is in full throttle glory.

At about an hour to an hour and a half the fragrance drops into a skin scent. Rich and cozy the sweetness fades into notes of woods. There is dry hay like coumarin. Cool even dryer moss, and blends of austere white woods and musk. The Amber in the scent is subtle adding a touch of warmth the way paving stones on a garden path reflect the heat of the sun at twilight. There is a creaminess in the sandalwood which is boosted by a dollop of whipped cream. Yes, whipped cream!

It takes a really well made Fruity floral gourmand to win me over as I am normally not a fan of the genre. Most are too sweet, to immature, too common in this age of sugar water passing as perfume. Yes, most hummingbirds will fall for sugar water feeders in a garden over real flowers because it is so easy. Yet there is always one or two birds with refined taste who seek out the true nectar of nature. Hummingbird by Zoologist is made of real flowers, and ripe fruit without the candy and sugar that I detest. This Hummingbird has won my heart.

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MY INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY WADDINGTON

JOHNNY ANGEL ~ SHELLEY FABARES

AT THE WINTER PALACE ~ Melancholy No. 60/3 by Nimere Parfums

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“Paris polishes pretty young things.” Countess Zoya Semyonova poked the old Count with the end of her fan.

“What my dear?” Slumped in his chair he sputtered. In a near dozing state he did not uncross his arms and barely looked up from under his bushy grey bristle brows.

“Oh you are impossible! I was talking about Tatiana Korneva. After her parents died her Aunt Sonja took her to Paris for a year. And now at 16 just look at her. She has returned to Petersburg a woman of charm and grace.”

The Count cast his lazy eyes in the direction of the young lady under the Countess’ scrutiny.  “Oh yes the Korneva girl. Lots of money there and not so bad to look at either.”

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Tatiana Korneva

 

“Oh yes my dear!” The Countess smirked. “Let’s not forget the family fortune. It is a shame she has no title otherwise the Tsar’s son might take an interest. Well the best her Aunt Sonja can hope for is a match with a no account forgotten prince or country count further down the line.

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Tatiana and her Aunt were seated at a medium sized tea table near the French doors of the blue salon in the Winter Palace. They were taking tea with a small gathering of one hundred or so of Princess’ Anna’s closest friends. Tatiana barely knew the Princess but somehow with her Aunt’s influence found herself at the Tsar’s youngest daughters table, a rather plain girl of nearly eighteen.

“How did you find Paris? Was it lovely?” Princess Anna said in French. Punctuating her question with a sweet smile she waited for Tatiana’s response.

“Oh yes quite lovely Your Imperial Highness.” Natalie placed her tea cup onto the saucer before her. Schooled by her Aunt in Court etiquette she waited for the next question. Then without guile she blurted.  “But not as lovely at Saint Petersburg is in the winter.”  Aunt Sonja kicked Tatiana’s foot under the table.

The Princess laughed truly delighted in the girl’s boldness. “Ah yes I quite agree. Our harsh winters turn Petersburg into a wonderland. And Papa must have all those winter balls just to keep us warm. What is the theme for tonight’s ball? Oh I can’t remember. Tell me my dear, did you fall in love in Paris? The city has a reputation not unlike that of Cupid for putting pretty girls like you in romantic danger. Were there any young men who captured your heart.”

Tatiana was about to speak when she noticed a flash of gold and amber behind the Princess. She glanced to the French doors beyond her. There dressed in imperial uniforms where two men, one dark and the other blond. They were laughing and jostling each other in a contest to see who would open the door and enter first. At a flash of white teeth, the Earth’s spinning slowed to the beat of her heart. The sound of its beating filled her ears. A glint of sky blue eyes through the glass of the doors were quickly overtaken by hazel eyes, and the baritone song of the two men laughing rang out.

Tatiana quickly looked bat to the Princess. “No your Imperial Highness, I have….”   The door suddenly burst open with an explosion of laughter.  The two men nearly stumbled into the salon.   “I have never been in love.”

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Prince Pyotr

The Princess turned to the commotion behind her. “Petya! Georgiy! Whatever are you boys up to?”  The two men snapped to attention. But could not contain their smiles. Tatiana look from one handsome face to the other and could not decide which of the two men was more beautiful. There was a jolt within her chest as each of the men’s eyes carelessly passed over her. Their smiles like summer sun warmed the room turning it from blue to shimmering yellow. She blinked.

The Princess motioned the two men to her side.

“Honestly such ruffians. Ladies you all know my brother Prince Pyotr and my cousin Prince Georgiy.”  in unison the two men snapped their boots and gave a quick warm nod of the head to the ladies in general.

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Prince Georgiy

As an afterthought the Princess continued. “Oh, but I don’t believe you have met Miss Korneva. Tatiana, this is Petya and Georgiy. Two more useless boys I have never known. And look at you both. Snow on your boots and in your hair. And your uninforms are wet! Where you wrestling in the snow? And you are making a puddle on Papa precious parquet floor! Oh! I give up!”

Pyotr and Georgiy advanced around the table to Tatiana. They bowed and one and then the other took her hand to kiss. They smelled wonderful like tobacco and spices. Then in a flash of clairvoyant clarity she knew that one of them was going to make her very, unhappy. It would be the most beautiful unhappiness she would ever know. But which of the two would she love? she did not yet know.

“May I ask you Miss Korneva, are you coming to the ball tonight?” Prince Pyotr asked.

‘Yes you must Miss and promise all your dances to me.” Said Prince Georgiy.

 

 ***

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From the old Russian imperial city of St. Petersburg comes the perfume house of Nimere Parfums. The Venice of the north as it has been called was founded and built in Baroque splendor by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.  The city is famed for great art, architecture and history. Drama and beauty are the mortar between every stone in every building of this magnificent city. It is fitting that this house founded by Parfumeur Nikolay Eremin should come from such a place.  Mr. Eremin was kind enough to send me sample of the entire line and a few vials of new works. I have to say I as supremely impressed with the wide range of options from the classical to the very modern. There is something for everyone to love from the house of Nimere.

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Perfumer Nikolay Eremin

I have spent several months as Fall melted into Winter exploring the line. And at one point broke a vial of Eva while opening it and thus cutting a finger in the process. So that fragrance which I loved was lost to memory as it spilled over my desk.  The challenge for me was to narrow down the remaining fragrances to those I truly fell in love with. Among those were Sweet Kiss, a coconutty sweet rich perfume, Melancholy No. 60/3, Time Stood Still No.81 an animalic classically sexy fragrance, Killing Beauty, No Name H.M #2 (a new perfume) and Court Intrigues a masculine beauty smelling of leather boots freshly polished, spices and dry austere woods.  What I landed on finally for this review was Melancholy No. 60/3

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Founder of St. Petersburg, Tsar Peter The Great

   The perfume was inspired by a great love story of  between King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson. In particular, the love letters from Wallace to the king. (some of which were scented with spilt perfume) For me this perfume registers in the olfactory sense of the beauty of classic perfumes from the late 1800’s to the late 1930’s. Complex, hypnotic in the way the perfume unfolds and blooms on the skin. The life it has on the skin is sensual, romantic and slightly dangerous and naughty. It is in fact everything that a love affair possesses.

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Melancholy No,. 60/3 opens with a fresh spicy Indian Calamus, this note embraces with a carmine red, languorous Saffron from an Eastern Bazaar. It smells expensive right off the top. A rich exotic, near erotic opening that would have shocked the more prudish noses of the early 20th century. Without the traditional citrus in the opening this perfume has flesh impact. It is an erotic invitation to plunge head long into the sensual.

The heart of the fragrance is indigo in color shot through with gold treads like a veil from the far East. And like a veil it floats in floral rhapsodic blending of purple iris earthy and low. A powdery lighter purple of the more elevated violet. jasmine like nuances of a golden Ylang Ylang are tied deep into a green lush Palmarose note. Over this and rising from some deep desire buried and smoldering deep within Melancholy rises tendrils of heady incense. As it develops the florals are enhanced to near intoxicated perfection by this mysterious smoke.  The flowers are in fact by the arrival of the dry down, drunk on the incense.

In the final stage of the perfume we find a fascinating and quite crowed house of notes. Woods from the Cedar, Guayak, Sandalwood, and the Araucaria tree. More commonly know as a Monkey Puzzle Tree. These woods give the romantic feminine side of the perfume a strong twist toward the masculine. And that is nice because if makes the fragrance all the more interesting. There is a great patchouli here as well as a dry Nagarmotha (related to papyrus) the classic Oak Moss and vetiver vie for supremacy but are mellowed out my creamy not too sweet vanilla, and its cousin Tonka bean. All of this in the dry down is made all the more stunning by the soothing amber beauty of  Tolu Balsam. The perfume lasts on my skin around a good solid seven hours. the projection is at about eighteen to twenty five inches for around three hours. then if falls in upon itself to become an invitation at skin level.

Whatever story you find in Melancholy No. 60/3, be it the forbidden love of a king for a commoner or the fresh first stirrings of erotic young love this perfume is something truly lovely. More beautiful that I can describe it brings me back to my tiny vial seeking yet another story, another romance to explore, to burn out, lose and find again in my ongoing love affair with Perfume.

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You can contact Niemere Parfums on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/NimereParfums/

Or email Nikolay Eremin for sales information at: ereminn75@mail.ru

THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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Annapurna Massif Panorama

An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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CARELESS BEAUTY ~ Cologne Intense by Houbigant

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Hothouse lilies white in the window seemed almost invisible against the falling snow beyond the arches of the portico along Rue Royale.  Durocher’s was famous for the best flowers in Paris and the most beautiful blooms of roses and lilies flown in from the greenhouses in the South of France.

 

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Madame Durocher looked beyond the lilies to the other side of the street where Noël Boulet stood in the snow watching the shop. She smiled, Poor boy, utterly and hopelessly crushed by his infatuation with Alizée, the young girl who helped Madame in the afternoons.

The door opened with a gust of snowflakes borne upon icy wind.

“Good day Monsieur, how can I help you?” Madame Durocher put her glasses that rested on a chain around her neck on the bridge of her nose then as was her odd custom dropped her head so as to look over the top of them.

“I would like an arrangement of Freesia and Lilly of the Valley; they are for my housekeeper.”

As Madame set about writing up the order for whom she knew, without asking his name, was Rene Michel Petriz. He and that actress were all over the news. She didn’t care much for his kind or that American Actress ether. “A notorious gigolo and a cinema harlot on the downslide of life.” she would say, if anyone cared to know her opinion.

Alizée came from the back of the shop carrying a huge bunch of Hyacinths for the client she was helping. Rene Michel at first barely took note of her. He turned to look at the lilies in the window and was amused to see a young man with his nose pressed against the glass. He was dreamily gazing at the girl with the Hyacinths.  Rene Michel then turned his eyes back upon the subject of the boy’s adoration.

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It amused him even more to note that she had barely noticed the boy. Her only reaction to his presence on the sidewalk under the portico was when she looked at him only once, to wrinkle her nose as if she smelled something slightly sour. Then without her even being aware of what followed, she smiled sweetly to herself. It struck Rene Michel that she was indeed, for a girl of maybe at the most 17, an exceptional beauty.

Madame presented him with his flowers perfectly wrapped in cellophane and white ribbons. “I hope your house keeper likes them Monsieur.”

He paid her and turned to leave. The boy in the window seemed now literally to be frozen to the glass.

Rene Michel could not let this moment pass. He turned back to the counter. Madame Durocher was gone only Alizée remained. She was arranging a small bouquet of Forget Me Nots.  And all the while giving the boy outside a disapproving look.

“Why don’t you invite him in?” Said Rene in his most seductive professional voice. The one he used with his new clients. “He looks cold out there.”

She was taken aback. “Who?”

“That poor love struck young man at the window.”

“Oh Noël?  He is a nuisance.” She smiled up at Rene and suddenly was caught simultaneously by his charm and good looks and being so caught it followed that she recognized him. A little gasp as she tried but failed to recover her composure.    “He is just a boy.” She said softly. She dropped the bouquet and smiled into his hazel eyes that were ringed in gold.

“When I was young and just like that boy there was a girl like you in a little shop.  Had she been kind to me rather than cruel, well both our lives might have been different.  We might have been…happy.” He gave her a glittering smile.  “Ah well I suppose it is the way of things Mademoiselle. To be so pretty and young and so quick to break a heart so carelessly. Au revoir. “

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Photograph JOEL SAGET

As he passed through the door out into the snow Alizée, looked after the handsome man who all of Paris adored as a scoundrel. Then her eyes shifted to Noël Boulet.  He smiled his funny crooked smile, that when she narrowed her eye she could see was a rather handsome and kind smile. But still he was annoying. Sometimes.

“Madame my I go for my lunch early?”

“Yes I suppose but be back in half an hour.”

She walked out of the shop and turned to face a shivering, smiling, wonderstruck Noël.  Alizée took his rough woolen gloved hand in hers. “Would   you like to come with me for a cup of hot chocolate?”

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   ***

 

The nose behind the new masculine fragrance by Houbigant, Cologne Intense is Luca Maffei. He is a young nose in the fragrance industry that is making a name for himself with such stunning fragrances as Perris Monte Carlo’s Oud Imperial and Rose de Taif. What he has created in Cologne Intense is something brilliant bold and breathtaking. The presentation of the fragrance which comes in both Eau de Parfum and Extrait Parfum is classically elegant. The 100 mil bottle is the same sophisticated masculine bottle that was created for Houbigant’s 2010 re-release of the exquisite Fougere Royale from 1882. The juice is darker in Cologne Intense which only adds a golden richness to the presentation. Just as the No.5 bottle is used for other perfumes by Chanel so it is that Houbigant is presenting this release in the same bottle as Fougere Royale. This smart marketing gives a certain instant house recognition. You see the bottle and you know the house at once. Class and sophistication are assured.

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(Luca Maffei creator of my favorite fragrance release of 2015 ~ Photo Cafleurebon)

The parfum is classified as a citrus aromatic. I agree, it opens with sharp crisp summer freshness of Sicilian lemons, a bitter bite of Calabrian bergamot which sparks brilliantly on the skin then gives way to the wonderful green petitgrain and Moroccan neroli. It is a show of green citrusy skyrockets that shimmer as they rise and sparkle as they fall way to reveal the center of this fragrance.

 

Here within the heart in this classic a savory tarragon takes the center stage. It is richly blended into a complex dance with red pepper, a touch of lavender, and a whiff of Indian Jasmine. Oh that Jasmine is nice if subtle, as it should be. And the pepper is sharp adding depth to the tarragon and lavender.  I love the middle of this fragrance but my love turns to obsession when we reach the dry down.

 

In the bottom notes I find a fine and creative blend by Luca Maffei that make this a truly memorable release of 2015. The two magical notes he introduces to the fragrance are a bitter Mat Tea and lush deep and hypnotic incense.  The effect with the fading mid notes is sheer olfactory heaven. The longevity on my skin last between 6 to 8 hours. the sillage is at about 18 inches.

 

Cologne Intense is one of my top favorite releases of last year. It is a beautiful addition to the venerable and historic house of Houbigant that is both a tip of the hat to past classics, an era of refinement and grace but also embodies a youthful modern vibe.

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WINTER IN ROME ~ Mandarine Glaciale by Atelier Cologne

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Rene Michel Petriz had a flat look, dead eyes smiled at her. The rich American Actress who was on the beginning of her long slow decline from Goddess to “who was she?”, handed him a parting gift. She had enjoyed her fling with the Parisian Gentleman for hire and she understood that it was nothing more than a business arrangement. Besides the French and English Press had caught wind of her liaison dangereuses. It was time to pay him off and board the plane for Rome before she made a fool of herself on TMZ.  He took the red box from her not looking at it. Something from Cartier to add to his collection that might come in handy when his long slow decline began.

ca. 1960s, New York City, New York, USA --- French actress Anouk Aimee wearing hip-length coat made from the tails of Russian sable; bracelets by Jack Gilbert. --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

Rolling along the partially closed Via Imperiale in the back of a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce Rosaline Roclaire looked out the window the view of the shattered ruins of the Imperial Forum whizzing past. She sighed and sank back into the lush warm cushion created by her grey Russian sable coat. Rome was not a disappointment even on a cold and overcast February it always made her happy. A good place to forget the loss of time and youth amid so many broken stones.  She noticed the street vendors along the side of the road selling postcards and tacky knick knacks in the cold.

“Alberto, stop the car.”

“But Signora there is no parking here.”

“Then pull over and let me out. I want to walk.”

“It is not wise, lots of tourists here. They will recognize you and you will be mobbed.”

“I don’t care, Stop the car!”

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photo by Giorgio Clamenti

She overpaid a sweet old man who had no idea she was the biggest movie star in the world for an accordion folded set of picture postcards of Rome.  Rosaline dropped the twelve Euro at the Forum gate then sauntered down the pitched path into the Forum between the temple of Antonius and Faustina and the stumps of marble that were all that was left of the Basilica Amelia. She pulled the collar of her sable up to her chin. The Roman winter air was much colder than It looked it, much colder. Despite Alberto’s warning the Forum was devoid of tourist. She was all alone. She wandered on taking in the shapes of crumbled temples and tried to imagine what they might have looked like two thousand years ago. Much more impressive than the false fronted forum she’d seen at Cinecitta, she was positively sure of that.

At the entrance to the Palatine she caught a glimpse of a little girl all in white running up the path ahead. She turned and smiled at Rosaline. And with a laugh she skipped ahead. There was something so familiar about the way the girl laughed.

“She must be very cold in that skimpy white dress and sandals.” Rosaline thought as she climbed up to the top of the hill where the fountain stood at the entrance of the Farnese Gardens its waters frozen over. There was music, in the distance beyond the gardens. Percussion and reeds, and then a voice singing in… was it Latin? She followed the sounds that led her to the ruins of the house of Augustus. She could just barely see down into part of what remained of the atrium.

“This way, come this way….”

 

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The music suddenly expired, she turned to see who had spoken to her. There was no one there. It began to snow. She walked on through the ruins of the imperial palaces. Snowflakes drifted down to settle on her hair, and the shoulders of her sable coat. She came to the lookout over the Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill beyond. One of her favorite views of Rome. She lit a cigarette and watched the early rush hour traffic race along the Via Del Circo Massimo. Headlights flickered in the low light, taillights winked. She stood there dreamily alone and at peace for a long time as the snow fell. By the time she realized that it was getting dark the snow had completely covered the ground. She turned to go back. There before here were foot prints in the snow. Someone with very small feet had come up behind her and stood there watching her and was now gone.  Then she heard the little girl laughing from very far way.

“This way, come this way…”

She never found the little girl, she was always just turning a corner or running too fast and far ahead. Finally Rosaline did find her way back to the Excelsior on the Via Veneto where Paparazzi lay in wait for her.

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“Ah well,” she thought  “the little Parisian scandal has reached Rome.”  As they rushed screaming her name like hungry seagulls she smiled and endured the onslaught.

Rosaline looked back over her shoulder and swept her sable in a dramatic arc when she reached the top steps in the Port Coacher and struck a pose. She then gave the little boys of the Press a grand movie star go to hell glamour smile. The photos made the tabloids but she didn’t care, her walk in the ruins had been the most fun she had known in a very long time.

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***

A new presentation from Atelier Cologne last year (2015) one of four in their exclusive Collection Azur   release though Sephora (also available Atelier Cologne’s website), Mandarine Glaciale is a summer time fragrance perfect for a snowy winter day by which to conjure up the warm sunny shores of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  It is romantic, enticing, and filled with passion and desire. All the things we find so appealing when the weather grows frosty. Not to say that Mandarine Glaciale is not right for the spring and summer. Well in fact this spicy bright as sunshine over Ischia fragrance is perfect all year round.

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It splashes across the skin in stunning opening notes of Delicious Mandarin orange, tart, succulent Sicilian Lemon, and bitter green Calabrian Bergamot all of these together are so reminiscent to me of the smells one gets in the spring and summer along the coast of Italy from Castellammare di Stabia to Positano.

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The heart of this fragrance is where we get a spicy bite, the romance of the fragrance dwells here. There is a sharp almost peppery Ginger that shoots into the air like Italian fireworks, a creamy Jasmine adds glamour, and greet sharp Petitgrain from Paraguay keeps it lively and sparkling. In the dry down there is a grassy earthy touch of Heart of Vetiver, a rich dark Oakmoss adds depth and weight, and it is all topped off with a very subtle touch of White Amber. This Amber gives a creamy sophistication to the ending of the fragrance leaving you wanting to spray it on again.

The nose behind this stunning fragrance is Burgundy born Jérôme Epinette

Jerome-Epinette-new-Pic-Aug-20121-001who was educated in the art of perfumery in Grasse at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. He is known for such creations as Bal d’Afrique by Byredo, and Fougere by Jovoy Paris. He has done seven fragrances for Atelier Cologne as well including Sud Magnolia.

Mandarine Glaciale along with Sud Magnolia, Figuier Ardent, and Cedar Atlas all presented by Atelier Colognes in their Collection Azur.   Each fragrance was inspired by places in the south warmer climates. From the American South to Morocco, Southern Italy and the south of France. So there is certainly more beautiful fragrances to explore in the collection.

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For me it is a perfectly blended pure perfume not a cologne as is often the common mistake people make when it comes to Atelier Cologne’s fragrances.  The pure perfume therefore gives it a fine life on the skin of about six to eight hours. The sillage is moderate but when you get up close quite enticing, inviting and invigorating.  Mandarine Glaciale for me is a winner for any season. A Beauty that will be a part of my collection for years to come.

Mandaerine Glaciale

 

Mandarine Glaciale Five Gold Stars *****

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