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.

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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.

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Mandarine Glaciale Five Gold Stars *****

CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE ~ CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22

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Red and white automobile lights glittered in the rain choked gutters, like discarded diamonds and rubies being swept into the parched sewers of the city.  Long into the morning the three globed very elegant Parisian streetlamps along Market Street shown in a warm glow of amber which added a ribbon of gold to the rubies and diamonds in the street. The rain danced in sheets across the wide road snatching dead sycamore leaves from the nearly barren trees to bring them down to earth.  The first rains of January were the best rains of the year. So all of San Francisco agreed and no one loved the gray skies and perpetual twilight of a rainstorm more than Matt Simmons.

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(Market Street ~ Artist  Hsin-Yao Tseng)

Wrapped in a long black Dior overcoat, with a white Pashmina scarf artfully arranged around his neck he made the dash across market at Stockton just as the yellow light turned red causing an Uber driver to swerve out of his path. The diver having just missed him peeled off toward “Twitterville” up at 10th in a shower of curses. Blithely unaware as the soundtrack of “Two For The Road” blasted through his earbuds he turned on to Eddy street. Diamond like raindrops sputtered from the ends of his Louis Vuitton Giboulées Umbrella. He felt filled with love for his city and radiated a joy for life that was infectious to almost everyone. This delight in life made him seem twenty years younger than fifty nine.

Seated at his favorite table in the warm cozy wood paneled old San Francisco glamour that was John’s Grill he ordered his usual, a Vesper martini.  He smilingly told Tommy  to make it three Vespers and that he would wait for his friends to arrive before ordering lunch.   Marie and Holly would be joining him for a fun run through the Union Square department stores on a perfume hunt. They usually met up about once a month to catch up, have lunch and go shopping. It was something to do on a Sunday.

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Tommy set the Vesper before him just as Matt noticed that there was beautiful piano music drifting down from the second floor.

“Live music in the afternoon Tommy? I thought that was only in the evenings. That wonderful Jazz I can’t get enough of.”

“We are trying it out on the weekends. You like it?”

“Lovely.”

Tommy vanished to the bar. As Matt sipped his cocktail he recognized the song. “Call Me Irresponsible” by‎ Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Matt began to hum along.

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(Artist~ Seth Couture)

Just as the martini glass reached his lower lip for a second sip everything seemed to slow down around him. The glass wavered in his hand. He looked down at the swirl of lemon peel. His hand was shaking.

Had it really been only four years? Were there days now when he forgot to think of him? It was true, he didn’t think of him the first thing upon waking anymore. Matt set the martini on the white table cloth, took out his wallet and opened it. Richard’s movie star smile beamed up at him through worn and brittle plastic.   Eyes as blue as the skies over Paris and that noble nose that gave his face gravity as well as beauty.  Everything was still now only the rain outside and the piano playing.  He could hear Richard singing to him over the phone from Manhattan his broad baritone just as he used to on Sunday mornings.  His voice would come cross the Catskills and zoom effortlessly over the Great Plains. It soared over the Rockies, dipped low into the deserts of Nevada and finally climbed the over the steep shear eastern Sierra’s caressing a high note so effortlessly only to slip sweetly, softly into Matt’s waiting ear in San Francisco.

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“Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
Throw in undependable too.”

Matt recalled the dream they shared of Richard moving to San Francisco, the promise to marry and build a mature life together. The dream that never came true

“Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well, I’m not too clever; I just adore you.”

Richard’s last three voice mails still lived Matt’s on phone, the last one from the hospital where he died so suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
Rainbows I’m inclined to pursue.”

Richard’s photo glowed more beautifully than the golden streetlights on Market and it was more precious than any diamonds and rubies that were ensconced behind the rain spattered windows of Bvlgari and Cartier.

“Call me irresponsible; yes, I’m unreliable
But it’s undeniably true: I’m irresponsibly mad for you.”

Holly’s voice broke the spell. The lights brightened and the world sped up again. Marie was just behind her with a big smile.

“Sorry we are late. What a storm! It is coming down like the end of the world out there. How are you darling man?”

Matt slowly and gently closed his wallet and placed it in his coat pocket over his heart.

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 ( Hsin-Yao Tseng)

***

It is a perfume of lost love and rainy afternoons. Of missed trains to warmer climates and of melancholy cocktails in the twilight when everything turns lavender in the last moments of the day. It is a beauty that rivals its creators most famous creation. No.5.  Rumor has it that it was in the lineup for Coco Chanel to try when she chose No.5 to be her first perfume launch. If that is true it is no surprise for Chanel No.22 crated by Ernest Beaux released only a year after No.5, in 1922 is a more somber, romantic and even wistfully sad cousin to No.5.

Where No.5 is stunningly glamourous and breathtaking, No.22 is of a less obvious beauty. It has mystery a, blue dreamy sad mystery.

It opens with a gorgeous Aldehyde note that is less of a blast than you get in No.5. It is more like a breeze coming up from a damp garden after a rainstorm. In this breeze are carried the lovely floral note of Lily of the Valley and a fresh sharp Neroli. It is a dewy sun dappled and perfect opening to the beauty that is to follow.

Ylang ylang dominates the middle where it shimmers in all its golden glory supported by the famous Chanel jasmine, a subtle rich rose is denuded of its thorns and then there is the tuberose. This is not your grandmother’s screechy tuberose. Now that may surprise you being that this fragrance is from 1922 but in its reissue of 2007 by Jacques Polge it is a stubble touch of the tuberose that comes to lay close to the heart of the fragrance.

The bitter note that gives No.22 is melancholy is in the dry down where a crunchy dry vetiver marries with a creamy vanilla note. This is for me where the dance of the rising vetiver and the dying flower notes make this such a stunning fragrance. Sorrowfully dreamy and beautiful in its somewhat dramatic case of the blues, it likes feeling slightly tragic for after all it has lived in the shadows of No. 5 all these years.  Like that old Frank Sinatra song, No. 22 is “Glad To Be Unhappy.”

The longevity of No. 22 is very long, lasting on my skin a good 12 to 14 hours. The projection is not overpowering but at about a foot to eighteen inches. It is noticeable in tight quarters for sure but on the street it has a subtle grace about it. It is balsamic, aldehydic and powdery but not overtly so. It is a powdery scent for the faint of heart who shy away from the powder perfumes in general.  And as with almost all of the Les Exclusifs line No.22 works well on a man or a woman. If that man or woman is in the mood to be blue and sophisticated with an air of mystery about them.

CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22 ~ FIVE STARS *****

NO 22

THE EMPTY VIAL ~ Don D’Amour by FL Parfums

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“Did you hear about Tawny Sommers?” Autumn Gold said looking over the rim of her second martini glass in mid lunch at the Garden Court.

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Desperate to shed a few pounds before the San Francisco Symphony Gala she was once again on a Martini and Salad diet.

“Yes I did!” Dodi Turner nearly dropped her fork loaded with Lobster Bisque. “She’s left John, and she is moving down from the ranch in Saint Helena to live all alone in that monstrosity on Broadway.”

Autumn waved to the waiter for a third martini.  “That House!” It sat there for decades empty like a moldering Florentine palazzo. Nobody would buy it. The only thing I can remember ever happening there was the decorator showcase a few years back. It must have cost a fortune to redecorate when John bought the house from the Mitchell family for Tawny . ”

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‘Oh darling you are too young to remember,” Dodi said knowing full well that Autumn was old enough to remember The Flood. “But that’s the house Lori De Leo said her husband Marvin had the guy hold up in whom she claimed Mavin hired to have her murdered. It is right across the street from their old place. What an over the top messy circus that divorce was.  She is a Princess in some tiny Eastern European country now.” Dodi tossed a cool disapproving look at the complexly tattooed arm of the waiter as he delivered Autumn’s drink. “But back to Tawny and our divorce du jour, you can’t deny that old place has the best views of the Golden Gate.”

~   ~   ~ 

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Tawny could smell the fresh flowers in the foyer as she climbed the stairs at 2901 Broadway. Echoing laughter floated up from the kitchen. The staff must be having lunch, she thought.  Other than her butler, maids and the cook she was completely alone in the house. She loved the place, as big and ridiculous as it was there was something very warm and safe about it. It was all she needed now. Now that her fifteen year marriage was finally and blessedly finished. What a relief to be alone.  Yes she had all she needed.

Sitting at her dressing table on the following morning of her return she applied the finishing touches to her staying in look. A little mascara and lipstick. That was all she needed. She thought about what to do next. Did she want to date right away or develop a mysterious reputation as the gorgeous ex-Mrs. Sommers who never left here mansion on the far end of Broadway at the top of Pacific Heights?  Did she want to do volunteer work at the de Young Museum or maybe at a hopsital?

What perfume to wear today? Her usual favorites sat before her their bottles glinting in the warm lamp light that gave a little sunshine glow to the foggy morning.

Yes what to do next…what to do? Should she go to New York on a shopping spree? Visit her parents in Rome? They always spent the spring in Rome.

She opened the curved and carved drawer of the Louis XV dressing table …the drawer where she keep her most precious things. And began to rummage though it…where was it? The one thing she needed today.

Maybe she wouldn’t travel just yet. Maybe too soon to see other men. Maybe she would redecorate the house. Ann Getty has a design business. No, too fussy. Maybe Cheryl Du Cote, she has fabulous taste. Where is that Perfume?

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Fingers digging in the drawer she began to panic. Where is my Don D’Amour? Buried in the back under an old handkerchief of her grandmother’s she felt the tiny glass vial. Relief, safe, home. It was all she needed. That very special little sample bottle of perfume she had been sent by her friend Marjorie in New York. Tawny smiled and thought I really must get a full bottle. There is something about it that touched her same way Puccini’s music touched her. She pulled the vial from the drawer and found that it was empty.

She held the glass vial up to look at it…not a drop was left, it was bone dry. She opened it, hoping that there would be a glorious whisper of the fragrance still inside. Tawny put her nose to the lip of the vial and found the faintest memory was still there. She began to cry.

It was all she really needed

***

Don d’Amour is a fragrance created by Fabio Luisi for his line FL Parfums. Fabio is a most interesting person. By night he is a perfumer who creates with passion wonderful perfumes in his home overlooking Central Park in New York. And by day he is a Grammy Award winning conductor and musician. He is currently the principle conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This man is always busy making beauty from the invisible, music and perfume.

Fabio sent me samples of his entire line of 24 perfumes to test and review. It has been a huge adventure and taken some time to explore them all. For now I am going to review the one that is most interesting to me. Don d’Amour.

This perfume is a woody chypre from his “private collection” series.  Consisting of only four notes it is masterful, classical within a modern theme and very lovely. My favorite of the entire line.

It opens rich and with a lush rose, full and vibrant and something of a dark rose as if it is blooming at midnight. This is complemented by an expensive smooth and velvety tobacco. An almost boozy tobacco that carries a fruity edge. There is added to this the hypnotic beauty of a really gorgeous amber that brings an elevated sophistication and elegance to this perfume. All is supported by layers and layers of crinkly yummy patchouli. Here is a blending of the feminine and the masculine, the rose and the tobacco that along with the other two notes make this wearable for both men and women.

The sillage is fine, not too in your face but rather an elegant invitation to follow the source of that marvelous perfume. Longevity on my skin clocked in at between six and seven hours. Here in this area it works beautifully in expressing just what you want and need in a fine perfume.

Don D’Amour is perhaps the most elevated, elegant and evocative of the perfumes in the FL house. To me it is at the pinnacle of olfactory beauty. Something rare and precious. It sings on my skin and opens my mind to the world of both dreams and imagination. There is something indeed musical in the notes and creation of Don D’Amour that I find stunning and at times moving.  Truly a wonderful experience in the realm of perfume created by a truly talented nose.

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CBS Video about Fabio Luisi

LINK TO FL PARFUMS

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A ROUGH PATCH ~ Tom Ford, Patchouli Absolu

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“That mink is going to come in handy when the road starts the climb.” He winked and then nodded to slats in the side of the truck. Lilly Chu looked through them and saw the wall of mountains that crossed the southern horizon from end to end. The full moon reflected off the snow covered peaks in a ghostly glow causing them to look like mountains on the moon. The mere sight of them made it seem even colder. She pulled the collar of her coat up around her chin. “Wherever we are it is coming in handy right now. Where are we?”

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“We are in the back of a sheep truck on the Friendship Highway the only way out of China into India. In short we are in Tibet. Before we reach the border crossing we will have to lie on the floor and cover ourselves with that hay.”

“Can’t we just use our passports?” The wet hay smelled of sheep dung.

“No, too dangerous now after Dunhuang and Shanghai.” He said in a voice as cold as the bodies of the two men who he killed there.

Lily had forfeited her canary diamond ring to bribe their way out of Dunhuang. She lost her luggage in the Gobi the only thing she had left was her mink. Not only were they being pursued by the hit men hired by those she had robbed back in the States but by the Chinese police as well.  They didn’t react well to foreigners killing thugs in China..

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She shivered more from fright than cold. “I could certainly use a bath and some….”

He laughed. “Forget about it. If we make it to India alive you can bathe in a fountain of perfume.”

“Do I smell that bad?”

“I can’t smell anything but these sheep.” She looked at her Englishman who was her only chance of survival. “After all we have been through, won’t you, tell me your name?”

LILY CHU

“I told you before; who I am is not important Lily. My mission is get get you to safety.”

The truck hit a pothole sending the sheep into a panic. He reached out and pulled her back to his side of the truck as the headlights from passing cars lit his eyes.  The sapphire in them had turned to ice. She saw a flash of her reflection in his eyes. Sudden darkness and in the blackness he pulled her closer.

“Please tell me your name…” she whispered.

“If you insist, but once you know my name I will have to kill you.”

She laughed for the first time in days. He formed his hand into the shape of a gun and touched her lips with the tip of his index finger.

“My name is….”

The truck lurched again then a squeal of worn metal as the driver slammed on the breaks. The sheep began to scramble and scream. The doors on the back of the truck flew open in a blare of blinding light. All that Lily could see were the dull black barrels of automatic rifles pointed at her.

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     ***

Patchouli Absolu by Tom Ford is a challenge for me. A huge whack across the nose of dried patchouli leaves. It is bold and rude and at times a dirty. There is a bit of the back end of a truck full of sheep in there as well. It is a late night ride down a rough road to a rendezvous with a mean and dirty lover on the wrong side of town. And sometimes that can be just right.

Created in 2014 this eau de parfum develops in an interesting way. It opens with of rush of WOW that almost turned me off. At the opening top notes of Bay leafy, rosemary and Moss are burned to a crisp in a hot skillet. The only thing that really lingers is the moss, dirty wet moss that is steaming as it assaults the senses. Yes, a very hot skillet and when the mid notes hit with that huge patchouli, laid on and layered over Guaiac wood, Violet wood, Cashmere wood and Cypriol it is amazing. A flaming pyre that is almost stupefying in its swirl of lush crushed leaves and burning wood. There is a moment of familiar behind the redwood curtain patchouli oil and madras bedspreads, a bit of Humboldt County in the 1970’s that floated toward the surface to tease my memories of those day.  It took a few tokes of dreaminess and settled to the bottom and let the bad boy come out to play.

Here is where it rose above the old hippie patchouli and moved into a modern more sophisticated range with just a hint of danger. The base notes of Tonka bean, amber, musk and a tough long lasting but supple leather bring it all together without ever taking off the edge. There is that underlying feeling in the dry down that it could turn dirty again, rough you up and whisper things that only you want to hear at three in the morning. It is an exciting fragrance, a challenging fragrance, a damn sexy fragrance.

Long lasting, yes like a 20 year old boy on his first trip to the Bunny Ranch. Sillage is large and in charge. This is not a perfume that everyone can wear, but if you have the big boy pants to pull it off then you will shine. For the rest of us…well it’s Mister Toad’s wild ride through the patchouli patch on the way to Storyville.

Exciting, dangerous, big and bold Patcholui Absolu is something special, rare and wonderful. But I wouldn’t wear it on a first date, After all,  I am not that kind of guy. But on the third date yes!

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STARSHINE ~ JICKY by Guerlain

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Hot red lipstick kisses on cold white marble. Scott was suddenly moved to silent weeping  by that expression of love and farewell expressed by countless lips that had be pressed as near as possible to what was left of Marilyn Monroe.

The tears took him by surprise.

“Dude look he’s crying.”  Three angelic punked out skateboarders who on occasion glided into Westwood Village Memorial Park stood in a slouching tableau looking about as out of place as Roman Catholic priests on roller skates in a fashion show.

“Shush, be quiet man, he’s mourning her.”

The tears were not for the woman whose image graced his childhood bedroom walls, not really, it was more than that.  He had just six months ago divorced his husband and recently the one who loved him without question or judgement had passed. Miss Opal Gardner, his sweet dog. That was part of it yes, but deep down, below all of that recent pain, he could feel that he was morning something much more significant, something lost.

  ***

He heard the rumble of distaste that always accompanied his father’s entrance into the kitchen. His father would find Scotty every morning wrapped up in dreams of an escape to New York, submerged to his eyebrows in a world of movie made glamour behind is copy of Vogue magazine.

Scotty read Vogue and Andy Warhol’s Interview religiously and always at the breakfast table.  How could you not start a day in the suburbs of Philadelphia any other way? At least that was how little Scotty looked at it. Someday his middle-class truck driver dad would get it, would understand. Would not scowl and disapprove. Every morning with with his father’s rumble Scotty breathed in that hope. His father’s disapproval was once again deflected with the armor of glamour that was Vogue.

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Just about the only physical palpable magic at home was his mother’s perfume that enveloped him in layers of dreaminess. He would watch her applying her makeup for her Saturday night out.  Durring her fascinating transformation into something chic and glamorous he would wait for the final thrilling moment that Yves Saint Laurent shared with him in the forbidden exotic bottle. Opium! Yet this small amount of magic wasn’t enough for the outsider child who didn’t know how to make friends, who when he looked at Marilyn Monroe’s champagne shine knew that when he grew up, he wanted to be a hairdresser. He loved his parents and with an understanding beyond his years he knew that to them he was like a baby from Mars that was left on their front porch as a present they had no idea how to unwrap.

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The only place he truly could be himself, to step out of his star in disguise outfit he wore every day and shine was at his Godmother’s house.  The most magical place of his childhood. The walls of her bathroom were covered in autographs of old movie stars. Real autographs she had collected over the years. Judy, and Joan, Gable and Grable, Lana and Lucy. And so many more names he knew nothing about. But the glamour of that room and the magic in its walls seduced him. He made it his business to learn from is Godmother who each and every one of those stars where and just where they hung in the heavens of Hollywood. On Saturday mornings he would watch old movies on TV with her. It was his graduate school of glamour. The perfume that permeated her home, that enshrined the stars he came to love while watching with his Godmother the dreams they wove into his soul was, Shalimar.

“You know what Scotty,” She said to him one day while they watched Clark Gable and Marilyn drive off into the starry Nevada night.  “You have what Gable had. Something rare and beautiful. Starshine.”

***

The tryptic of skateboarders were gone now and he was alone with her. Maybe she wouldn’t mind if he took a selfie with her? Snap!

“Guardate qui è. Ora guarda bella con la rosa rossa. Giovane che si sa che è sepolto qui? Una grande stella, Marilyn Monroe.”

An old couple perhaps in their eighties sat down on the bench next to him and began a conversation with Scott as if he understood Italian. He smiled, he listened.

“ Siamo venuti da Italia a pagare il nostro rispetto per lei.”

It was suddenly joyous, Fellini had joined them and was directing the fadeout. Scott hugged the old couple.

“Puzzi meraviglioso. Si indossa Jicky.”

Scott laughed he somehow understood. “Yes I am wearing Jicky, It is a drug, it is a dream it is…magic.”

He said goodbye put his sad thoughts away and with Marilyn in his pocket walked out of the cemetery toward the next dream that waited for him in his blessed and lucky life.

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SCOTT PATRIC

 ***

Like Scott Patric said to the Italian couple, Jicky is a drug, a dream, it is magic. Created in 1889 by Aime Guerlain there are many stories associated with its creation. The most charming and melancholy is that he was inspired by lovely English girl Aime met while at university in England. But most likely he named it after his uncle Jacques whose nickname was Jicky. Aime is also the nose behind the beautiful Eau de Cologne du Coq, and several others from the Belle Epoch.

Yes it is of the gilded age, the belle epoch of Paris but it is anything but old and dated. Jicky is vibrant, rich and MODERN. Created in a time in perfumery when there were no genders applied to perfume…everyone wore Jicky. This fragrance in both its parfum and eau de toilet forms is spectacular on both men and women. It is of the now and always will be.

It opens with an herbal twang of rosemary blended in with mandarin orange, bergamot and lemon. Nice and safe yes? Not so fast there is something else, something coming up from eh bottom notes that just can’t wait to shine and sing. The spices and leather. List in the bottom they move forward in to the fading opening notes and take the lead of the middle notes.

The mid being a silky dark and dirty orris root that the leather notes latch on to. Brilliant. The spices from the base sift in with basil and Tonka creating a layer of swirling intoxicating vapors, a veil that blithely blankets each body it embraces creating a comforting caressing touch. A dry dusting of lavender on the petals of jasmine give it sparkle.

In the dry down the Leather and spices keep it warm and sensuous. There is sandalwood to add creamy smoothness along with a dash of vanilla, shimmering sunset amber and benzoin keep the embers of this masterpiece glowing long into the wee hours of its life.

Longevity for me is epic. Hours upon hours of bliss. The projection is at first impressive at about three feet then pulls in to about 18 inches for the long run. Perfect for a lady or gentleman who wants to give off an air of sophistication without the bullhorn. Jicky is something not everyone will love, it is different, challenging and more complex than most modern fragrances out there today. And yet for those of us who love the great classic perfumes of France it is essential.

Thanks to Scott Patric for sharing his memories of perfume and magic and for reminding me that Jicky is indeed wonder and bliss in a beautiful bottle.

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GOODMORNING STARSHINE!

DIRTY LITTLE SINS ~ It’s In His Kiss by Vickie Lester

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Stepping away from Perfume for a moment and into Memories of Hollywood past and present.

One of my favorite blogs to read is Beguiling Hollywood by Vickie Lester. If you love Hollywood history, Los Angeles architecture and great stories about the ins and outs of the Dream Machine you will fall in love with her blog.  Miss Lester published her fist novel about the city we both love in May 2014. Well it took me some time to get to it but it was well worth it.

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In the movies murder is clean and easy. They never show the scum and the blood. But when it happens in tensile town it’s about a cheap and dirty as it gets. There are many sins in Hollywood, dirty little sins.

In her first novel Vickie Lester spins an L.A. Noir with more curves than Lana Turner ever had. Packed with more danger than Mulholland Drive in a blinding rainstorm, “It’s In His Kiss” is a killer of a read that peels way the glamour and myth and reveals Hollywood’s dirty little sins.

Fast paced, well written and jam packed with a cast of unforgettable Hollywood characters that are so real you can almost guess who they just might be in real life. It is a case of murder and deception that transforms the reel into real.

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I took my time reading this one because it was simply so delicious. I loved the spunk and courage in the main character Anne Brown, who was born into this world of make believe and finds that love, sex and lies make a dangerous cocktail, a cocktail too many including her father and uncle know too well.  Her journey to solve a very personal murder is a story of self discovery as well as a who done it. That added an unexpected layer of complexity to the story that I very much enjoyed.

Each chapter is named with a song title that ties in delightfully with the tale. That was a real treat. Great characterizations replete with juicy back stories help to propel Anne and us thought the mystery.

The ending of “It’s In His Kiss” is brilliant and so surprising. Let’s just say, all my dreams came true in the end.  Enough said about that. Just read it.

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(click on the book cover for the book at Amazon)

I am looking forward to more from Vickie Lester, a new voice from the dream factory that is Hollywood. But in the meantime I can get my Hollywood history fix from her great blog Beguiling Hollywood at WordPress.

Here’s looking at you Kid!

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Vickie Lester

HOW INSENSITIVE…. Prada Amber Pour Homme

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At the door to Dior he tried to clear his mind and continue his morning walk along the Avenue Montaigne but it was no use.  As he strolled past the minuscule and austere square park next to Gorgio Armani he realized the street that usually made him happy did not make him happy on this very early clear late June morning. The lush green fingers of the Horse Chestnut tree leaves seemed to point down at him in disdain.

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The snappy click of his red soled Smoker Flats seemed not smart but rather muffled, scuffed and sad. He had been walking all night unable to sleep since the opera ended and he said goodnight her and then without much thought a sudden and final goodbye.

There were no tears this time, usually there were. No slap in the face. That too was de rigueur with some of them in fact it had never gone out of style. Euros had not been flung in his face. No name calling, no pleading, nothing. Nothing but that last look.

Ending an affair had never been so easy. And yet he could not sleep and only walking had gotten him through the night and to this early dawn under the accusatory trees. Rene Michel Petriz had no idea that for the first time in his life he was caught by something so foreign to him that he didn’t recognize what it was that would not leave him alone. His heart had no room for words like regret, guilt, remorse or the most dangerous word of all, love. He was built for speed, designed in fact to please the eye, to entice the touch and the sound of his voice had more than once obliterated a woman’s defenses. Born with the lucky combination of looks, charm, intelligence, and most importantly sans regret had made the most desirable gigolo in Paris. So this little fling he had ended, a gratis diversion from the wealthy women who kept him secure should have never started. It was best for all that he had killed it last night. And it was good for business. She had cost him a lot of time and money. He looked into the dark windows of Armani and was shocked when all he saw in them was the reflection of that last look in her eyes, not cold, not crushed, simply disappointment.

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  If only it were later in the day and the stores were open. Silk ties and fine linen shirts would take his mind off of her and that final look when he told her it was over. He walked on. The ruby geraniums on the balconies of The Hôtel Plaza Athénée glistened with diamond like touches of morning dew. He smiled remembering the rich Argentine woman whom in that very hotel had dropped her Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and ruby cocktail ring in his glass of champagne as payment for the night. It was a cold memory and his smile faded. He needed to get back to work.

For the rest of the way, to the end of the avenue he was oblivious to the passing windows of Bottega Veneta, and Prada filled with things he would never need. At the Place de l’Alma he crossed to the intersection of Avenue Montagne and Avenue George V and stopped in front of Chez Francis.

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It was just opening. He took a seat outside on the sidewalk just behind the green hedges. The young waiter brought him a coffee and then retreated back inside to leave Rene Michel uncharacteristically slouched in his chair long legs stretched out before him exposing his scuffed Louboutin soles, He took a sip of his liquid breakfast and contemplated the light traffic on the Pont de l’Alma. Slowly the flame of liberty across the place de l’Alma came into focus.

kvefr1466sIt marked the entrance to the tunnel where in 1997 Princess Diana died. On the balustrade above the entrance to the tunnel and just behind the Flame of Liberty thousands of messages were scrawled in many languages lamenting the loss of the Princess. Messages of love and farewell. The spot had become an unofficial memorial to her.  Rene Michel starred at the flame of Liberty, his coffee untouched turned cold.

When, the night before, he told her on the steps of the opera house that he was leaving her for good. She looked at him in disappointment.

“I love you.” She said.

He just stared at her in icy silence then turned and walked away. He walked all night.

Gregory fitoussi as Rene Michel Petriz

***

Prada Amber pour Homme (2006) created by perfumer Daniela (Roche) Andrier under the guidance of the head of Prada Miuccia Prada is an interesting fragrance to me. One that challenged me and in so doing became a good object lesion in the understanding that sometimes a perfume takes time. You see, I almost ended the affair before it began. How insensitive of me.

This oriental fougere is not a bold in your face amber based fragrance but rather a soft, distantly elegant men’s fragrance that in my first encounters left me disappointed.  This was a case of expectations from the name not at all from the actual understated beauty I came to know in this fragrance. Amber! Amber in the name of the fragrance was my downfall. Expectations. I forgot for a moment what I have learned in life about expectations. If you leave expectations at the door you will never be disappointed and often times you will in fact be surprised.

I was hoping for a full lush symphony of deep romantic amber such as one finds in Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior.  But in truth I can find no amber in the fragrance per se but rather an accord of amber created by the blending of notes. Thus it is more of an amber veil rather than a smooth polished and hard amber note.

The fragrance opens bright and bracing with a beautiful mandarin, neroli and bergamot combo that is given an interesting edge of masculine sweat that shimmers the citrus with a glistening dash of cardamom. This gives it a touch of the sensual. But the sweaty aspect is never off putting or in need of a bath but rather like the salty deliciousness of a lover’s skin. The opening lingers for some time before the mid-notes enter.

With the arrival of these mid-notes we are awash in clean soapy musk, which is sweetened by a spray of orange blossoms. There is a really great geranium here as well along with a touch of bitter green vetiver gives the fragrance its strong masculinity. This is layered over with an exotic surprise of myrrh that is just the right touch. This is one of the best soapy accords I have found. Very complex and rich without a detergent brashness to make it common.

In the dry down there is more sensuality but of the understated variety coming from labdanum. It is smooth and soothing as it meets a note that Prada is famous for, Leather. It is suede like leather and very expensive smelling. Sandalwood and saffron add elegance to the mix. There is, I have read supposed to be tonka, vanilla and patchouli in the fragrance but they escape my nose if there are in fact in the game.

The silage is not overwhelming but respectable. It entices notice to those nearby rather than commanding their attention.  Prada Amber Pour Homme lasts a very long time on my skin clocking in at a good solid ten hours. Its wearablitly and versatility ranges in my estimation from office wear to evening. You will find that it will carry you thought the workday and into evening with great ease and elegance.

Overall it is understated, sophisticated and accessible. Commercial and wearable by a wide range of men and women. It may not be what one expects. But it surprised me in its development once I let go of what I wanted it to be and allowed it to stand on its own and be what it is, a fine masculine fragrance.

Prada Amber Pour Homme Bottle

PRADA AMBER POUR HOMME

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

A SPLASH OF CAPRI ~ Smashingly Brilliant by Diana Vreeland

  DV

“He just quit! Balenciaga just shut up shop and quit.” Mona Bismarck’s voice was on the teeter-totter of emotions between tears and laughter. “No darling QUIT, Can you HEAR me? We have a bad connection. Cristóbal says no one has style any longer. It’s the hippies I tell you! They’ve killed fashion!”

Diana could hear Mona on the phone from the cool blue of the villa’s interior. Her voice tumbled past the chiffon drapes seeming to almost push them out against the incoming warm breeze and across the terrace to where Diana stood. It was the end of an era no doubt about that, If you wore Balenciaga you were the only woman in the room – no other woman existed. But now that he was finished how boring it would be to hang on to the past, with all the magnificence of today and tomorrow opening before the world.

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    The Bay of Naples sparkled all blue sapphires and white diamonds in the sun and in the distance Vesuvius wore a broad sunhat of flat white clouds.  Diana smiled to herself and walk to the edge of the terrace to where the path lead down the steep cliffs to the roman sea of Catullus’s poetry and Tiberius’ treachery. As far as she was concerned the hippies had great style and it was born from being positively original. The 60’s were the most exciting decade since her youth bubbled over in the 1920’s. The music, the colors the street fashion and Mick Jagger’s Lips! Positively Marvelous!

1968, was it really only two years ago that Reed died? Her first time back to Capri since then. There were so many wonderful times with Reed in Capri. Mona’s hissing rising voice plucked at her ears like stinging harpies. She looked up at the statue of Augustus perched on the precipice arm stretched out over the tops of the juniper trees that clung to the cliffs below. He was pointing to Sorrento. Suddenly she had to get away.

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   When she reached the beach the heat of the day was at its zenith. That wonderful caressing heat that snaked across the sea from Africa laden with the smell of flowering Italian lemon trees and climbing geraniums. She kicked off her sandals at the edge of the water and pushed her Chinese red lacquered toenails into the cool water.  She wiggled them watching with great amusement the rubies that were her toes dance under the turquoise salted waters. All of this in the wonderful light of Capri…well lighting is everything in a color.  She’d said that often enough.

Down she sat on the small marble white pebbles keeping her toes submerged and looked across the bay to the mountain that loomed over Pompeii. That was where she and Reed first saw the fresco of the slave girl in “Capri” Sandals. The easy sensuality of those ancient shoes worn by a young girl frozen in ashy time had impressed her as timeless, beautiful and somehow tender. She shut her eyes and drifted into the past.

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“You smell like Capri Diana.”

She opened her eyes to see Reed coming out of the Tyrrhenian Sea, golden tan, young and in love with life and with her.

Still sometimes a little shy of him she smiled with reserve.  “I have been making my own perfume out of bergamot and suede and germanium petals. Do you like it? I think it will be the hit of 1928.”

“The height of vanity, making your own perfume.” He teased and followed it with a wink.

“I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.”

With his intrinsic grace he descended to sit beside her looking every inch Apollo with his noble head blotting out the sun thus making it his crown. He leaned over and smelled her skin. “It is divine darling. Like summer after the rain.”

Diana watch him as he turned his face away and looked out over the bay. She wondered still that this marvelous man, had come into her life and found her as fascinating as she knew she was. “Do you like it here Reed?”

“No prohibition here and it is beautiful. I love it Diana.” He turned back to her.

“Prohibition. Insane idea. Try to keep me from taking a swallow of a cup of tea and I’ll drink the whole pot.”

Reed laughed. “You have wit my darling. That is one of your charms you know.”

“A funny person is funny only for so long, but a wit can sit down and go on being spellbinding forever. Witty talk is without question the most fascinating entertainment there is.”

He smiled and looked up at the ruins of the Villa Jovis.  “Do you like Capri?”

“Heaven on earth my love, utterly and completely divine. The only thing I find I like better than this island is London and like London only because it is so close to Paris. ”

“Then we shall come back again as often as we can.” Reed said as he turned back to her as a sunflower follows the sun. He leaned in to pull his young wife into his arms. She closed her eyes and inhaled.

“You also smell like Capri darling.” She said softly and looked up into his eyes “And it is smashingly brilliant.”

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(Reed and Diana Vreeland)

***

I have not been to Capri the island of the virgin daughters of Phorcys known as the Sirens.  But I have been very close, the Amalfi Coast. And if Capri smells anything like the junipers and lemon groves of Sorrento in spring then I know I would love it as much as Diana Vreeland did.

The new release Smashingly Brilliant by the house of Diana Vreeland was inspired by her love of Capri. Being the newest addition to the line this has burst upon the spring scene like the much anticipated release from winter’s grip that we have all been waiting for. This is a fragrance that will not merely carry one into spring, but on though the high heat of winter and into the lingering warm days of a fading fall. Smashingly Brilliant is the first fragrance from Diana Vreeland designed for both men and women. This is wonderful news, for though I truly believe that many in the line are uni-sex Smashingly Brilliant opens the doors to men of a less adventuresome nature. And that is great! This house should be discovered by everyone who loves magnificent perfumes.

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   The nose behind this Citrus Aromatic is Clement Gavarry who also created two of my other favorites in the line, Extravagance Russe and Simply Divine.   Amani Code, Prada Amber, Lovely Sara Jessica Parker and Black Violet Tom Ford are a few of his many highlights as a perfumer.

Clement Gavarry opens the fragance bright and sunny and very Italian with the top notes of Italian lemons, succulent Calabrian bergamot, summer warmed aromatic juniper berries and a true Italian touch, basil. It gleams and sparks on the skin, a real wake up happy and ready to go opening.

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   The heart note is a solo star center stage and in full spicy bloom. The aria in Vreeland Red that is a beautiful peppery geranium. It unfolds on the skin in stages like the blooms of the flower it comes from. Fluttering open at the rise of heat from the skin as the flowers do in the full glory of an adoring Mediterranean sun.

The geranium carries into the dry down that is as comfortable as a pair of those Capri sandals Mrs. Vreeland first saw in Pompeii. The suede note is soft and caressing on the skin and warms up the dry down in a creamy supple leather note. Not a hard biting leather but buffed relaxing leather like those fine perfect driving gloves one finally finds at Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus. A perfect fit on the skin. This wonderful leather is wrapped around fresh wood notes that add to the masculinity of this side of the scent. It is smart, bright and ready to go. Purely scintillating from top note to bottom.

Silage is low and close to the skin. With a fragrance like this made for the outdoors and sporting around in convertibles and on the tennis court who would want it any other way. For some the longevity may be an issue for on my skin it fades at between three and four hours. For me that is just the perfect excuse to refresh. In the words of Diana Vreeland, “Perfume is an extravagance.  But it’s odd that Americans, who God knows are an extravagant people, have never used scents properly.  They buy bottles, but they don’t splash it on.  Chanel always used to say, keep a bottle in your bag, and refresh yourself with it continually.”

And how refreshing Smashingly Brilliant is. Go ahead, splash it on!

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UNA NOTTE A ROMA ~ Le Gemme Bvlgari Haute Parfum

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Slick and glittering of ruby and emerald reflected from the traffic lights, the Via Veneto was empty after the predawn spring rain. Nick Abbot walked down the steps of the Excelc6ior Hotel and trough the porte-cochère filled with the thrill of his first morning in Rome. He could not sleep from the excitement that keep waking him to whisper “five days in Rome…why are you sleeping?”

On the sidewalk near to where he remembered Marcello had returned Ekberg to the Hotel in black and white a half a century or more ago, he smiled. It really was Rome…and it felt like coming home.  He looked up the street. Café de Paris was half hidden by the sycamore trees its sapphire blue neon swirling. The sidewalk before it held the memory of Valentino as a youth bumping into destiny and Giancarlo Giammetti on that very spot.

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Beyond was the ancient Porta Pinciana gate in the Aurelian walls that opened onto the Borghese gardens. He crossed the street and just past the Fellini plaque he turned down the Via Ludovisi.

A Ferrari convertible sped past sending a spray of water up from the street. Caught momentarily in the headlights the water arched over the sidewalk and became spray of diamonds as they fell in slow-motion into a pool of shimmering platinum. The woman driving waved to him her fingers fluttering bejeweled in amethyst. In the rear view mirror He caught her smile, so like Claudia Cardinale’s.  He walked on not knowing where he was going. He just wanted to feel and smell and embrace the city he had waited forty nine years to come home to at last.

The only sound was the click of his heels on the cobblestones.

“Marcello! Where are you?”

At the sound of her voice he stopped and turned in front of the Villa Maraini? Silence, only silence. The kind that only exists in a city as it breathes slowly in and out as it sleeps.  There was no one behind him. He walked on past the Hotel Eden and turned left along via Francesco Crispi. The sidewalk became narrow and kept him close to walls washed in citrine and terracotta. A shutter opened across the street as he turned the corner onto via Sistina and he caught a glimpse of a dark woman. She looked down at him and laughed and shutters closed. That laugh was so familiar. He stopped…wait a minute. He knew that laugh and that dark beautiful face. Anna Magnani! But that was impossible. He laughed softly, it must be jet lag he thought and walked on toward the obelisk up ahead. At the Hassler the street opened onto a small piazza.

“There you are! We have been waiting for you.”

He turned to see young Monica Vitti standing in front of the spinning gold and glass revolving doors of the Hassler. Smoking a cigarette, she was black and white film incarnate. No color except for spectacular Technicolor diamond and emerald necklace which she touched lightly with her right hand. There was a matching ring. And likewise the earrings danced from her ears matched the entire suite. She dropped her cigarette onto the cobblestones and walked right through him. Astonished Nick turned to watch as the Italian star skipped in her evening gown to meet Alain Delon who was waiting in the shadow of the obelisk.

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“I can’t believe……” Nick’s heart skipped five beats as he saw them walk to a flight of stairs then disappear down them. He ran to the stairs and was stunned by his first sight of the Spanish Steps as they tumbled and spilled before him down to the Piazza di Spagna.

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The celluloid phantoms of Vitti and Delon were gliding down the steps toward the Via dei Condotti. Nick stepped down onto the first marble step worn by centuries of those who walked before him. The air became light, and the sound of Nino Rota’s music filled the sky as the first touch of dawn rose at the top of the steps over the Trinità dei Monti . Nick was near euphoria as he moved down and down amid a parade of cinema dreams. Ingrid Bergman passed on his right carrying a parasol…from her neck hung diamonds to dazzle the most jaded eye. She smiled at Nick. From his left came Virna Lisi dripping in scintillating stones she smiled into his eyes. As she passed him she caressed his chin with the tip of a finger and priceless rubies winked from her ears. Legends from every era of film came and went as he descended. Joan Collins in black pearls, Sharon Stone in gold, Grace Kelly in sapphires, Romey Schenider resplendent in amethyst. Audrey Hepburn met him half way down and took his arm. She was eating a gelato on a cone and held it out to him to take a taste. It was like nothing he had ever tasted before. Audrey then led him to the bottom of the Spanish Steps to the man waiting below. She kissed his cheek and vanished in swirl of stars.

Richard Burton stood before him. As he turned to lead the way he spoke as only he could in that baritone made in heaven at Shakespeare’s suggestion.

“’We will have rings, and things, and fine array’”

Nick followed unbelieving and wanting to go on forever in whatever magic this was.

Richard Burton stopped half way down the first block and turned. He smiled.

Nick looked up at the building. One word over the door. BVLGARI.

“That is the only word Elizabeth knows in Italian.”  Burton said.

The music stopped, the street was deserted …they were all gone except for Nick.

A touch of breeze up from the Tiber tosseled his hair and whispered in his ear.

“Welcome to Rome.”

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  ***

The new haute perfume collection of perfumes by Bvlgari is inspired by the iconic stones for which the Roman jewelry house is famous for. Six fragrances from six stones that create what Bvlgari calls “The Bvlgari Gems Road”.

The collection is called Le Gemme (The Gems) and it is something to celebrate.  The house known for adorning the necks, ears, wrists and fingers of most if not all of the legends of the 20th century and beyond has in the past impressed us with such fragrances as the amazing Bvlgari Black, The Jasmine Noir collection, The Aqua collection and Bvlgari Man collection and Omnia.  But with this new and very exclusive release the house is concentrating on perfumes that represent the very core of the Bvlgari brand. The soul of chic that is Bvlgari jewelry.

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First in the lineup is Ashlemah, (sweet dreams) is based on the amethyst. A stone associated with divinity, spirituality and purity. This perfume is the aristocrat of the line. It is highly sophisticated in nature and wears on the skin with regal beauty. Purple after all is the color of kings. The notes are lavender essence, Iris absolute and musk. No muddle of too many symphonic notes but rather a chamber piece of clarity and beauty. It opens in Lavender but the star in the evening sky is the imperial cool beauty of a lovely iris note. This is held aloft on the skin by a clean clear musk.

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Sunlight over Capri, Joy and la dolce vita are what we find in our second fragrance Maravilla (delight / marvelous ). The stone that we explore here is the golden Citrine, the stone of intelligence, and sunny disposition. In fact this chypre fragrance is my favorite of the line, bright, effervescent and shooting light and joy right off the skin. This is a lemon grove hugging the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast. The notes of Italian Lemon tree, Orange flower absolute are married to a playful and yet grounded rich patchouli. Again just three major notes and what a magic marriage of notes these three are. The patchouli with the two citrus notes is a brilliant move by the perfumer Daniella Andrier who is the nose for the entire collection. It is woodsy and warm. This will be a huge summer and spring hit.

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Mystery and solitude are Calaluna, the moonstone. The goddess, this stone is associated with magnetism, and intuition. Calaluna is also a beautiful isolated bay on the island of Sardinia. Azure waters and white warm sands are the signature of this place where the cliffs dotted with caves falls it the sea. This fragrance of White Iris, almond flavored Heliotrope and Sandalwood is warm and lonely. Not the sad kind of lonely but the self-possessed solitude of one who lives comfortably in one’s own skin. This is a very contemplative fragrance. When I wear it I feel the doors of introspection and discovery unlock and open before me. Truly beautiful, and again only three notes that blend to do all of this. Less is becoming the minimalist’s everything. That everything embodied here is the pinnacle of cool and chic.

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Lilaia was a Naiad of Spring to the Greeks and Romans. A fresh water nymph and daughter of the river Kephisos. She also lends her name to this green fresh fragrance by Bvlgari. Lilaia is inspired by the green Peridot a gem of rebirth and change. So fittingly this is a beautiful aromatic slightly fruity perfume. The notes are Galbanum, Mastic absolute, mint, bitter orange and musk. The Mastic give the aromatic resinous galbanum a full round lushness of a green Mediterranean forest of pine and cedar like accords. This to me smells like the umbrella pines on the Palatine hill in Rome. There in the Farnese gardens at the top of the hill just before you enter the ruins of the imperial palaces there is an overlook perched over the Forum. At that spot, under those umbrella pines you are enveloped in the most wonderful woody green scent. This to me is where Lilaia now lives singing her song in harmonious lovely notes.

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The Pink Tourmaline is a spitfire stone from Brazil, and at Bvlgari they call her, Amarena. In Italian, Morello Cherry. She is all about heat and glamour and a big bold flower in her hair. This fragrance sambas on the skin to a wonderful tune created by the notes of Amarena Cherry, Violet, Rose Centifolia and Tuberose. This is a glamorous floral that becomes more entrancing after the sun sets. In fact there is a rather playful war of the roses going on here. A tug of war between the temperamental rose and the heavy lidded languorous tuberose. But as you move into the fragrance the two kiss and make up ending in a rather intricate sexy tango. For a winter seduction under the stars in the Borghese gardens wrapped in chinchilla. Well look no further, is your arsenal of love.

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From across the empire and beyond the deserts of the Middle East came spices and the rarest of gems to tantalize and intoxicate the aristocrats and emperors of Rome. For thousands of years and to this day the markets of Rome such as the open air market at the Campo de’ Fiori are filled with wonderful smells. Here in the last presentation of Le Gemme, Bvlgari dazzles us with the exotic Noorah. Inspired by the Silk Road between China and Rome one particular stone made its way through the East to the capital on the Tiber. That stone was Turquoise. Noorah means the “exuberance of the heavens” and what a perfect name for this exotic sensual perfume. Galbanum, cardamom, and vanilla found in the markets of Rome are lush and interesting here in the opening. I pick up a rich sweet tobacco note along with the very intriguing note of candied dates from Arabia. The caravan from Petra has arrived! This one when it first hits the skin is a bit biting but settles down nicely into a warm embracing and very inviting scent.

I found it interesting with each fragrance in the line that they vary in intensity and each as it should for what it is. Some lighter as in the Maravilla and others bold and deep such as in Amarena. With them all I found the longevity to range from good to excellent. The most interesting aspect of that would be that at about five or so hours they seemed to die but then about twenty minutes later they bloomed anew. I found that delightful. In all they last between eight to twelve hours on my skin. Projection is fine Amerena being the one to push out the most. So there is, in this respect something to please almost any taste in that regard. Marketed to women for the most part they all, to me work well as unisex scents. So fellows don’t be shy, step up and try some truly wonderful fragrances to wear with that great Bvlgari watch.

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The line is making its U.S. debut this month April 2015 in a select number of Bloomingdales across the country. As for Europe I am under the impression it has already launched. The beautiful Bvlgari 6-piece Collection box of 10ml sprayers is available at $260. A 30ml bottle retails at $155 and the 100ml bottle at $310

Le Gemme Bvlgari collection has been a joy to explore. A wonderful olfactory journey though the past and present along a road paved with jewels, gems and memories.

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