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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UNFORGETTABLE ~ Iris des Champs by Parfums Houbigant Paris

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The rap of his camel crop on the rim of her pith helmet brought her into focus. His sun bleached blue eyes narrowed to a cutting beam and frightened her. He handed her the canteen with a scruffy scowl.

In this place where there is no word for ice and snow the North Africans call it, the anvil of the Sun, the part of the Sahara where nothing lives.  Here dying men see many things real and unreal. The few who have survived tell of smelling the beautiful scent of austerely cool flowers dappled in dew in the heat driven deliriums of the desert.

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“We are going to have to get rid of that ridiculous luggage of yours.” He said.  “The camels are more important, and the porters too.”

“My Louis Vuitton?”  She said trying to focus on the shimmering horizon. A field of purple flowers shot through with yellow seemed for a moment to be there, far in the distance. It looked like fields near the villa she had stayed in last spring in Tuscany.

“If you want to live to see the next oasis Miss Lord, then yes, your Louis Vuitton.”

Against everyone’s advice Kelly Lord had hired the cold distant and dangerous Daniel Taggart to lead her across the Sahara to find the lost perfumed city of Mjal Eeyrys. The place where the legend says perfume was first created five thousand years ago. He had strongly advised her not bring her frivolous fashions on an expedition but to pack light and dress for the heat. This was not a society safari that most of the Newport 400 whom she was intimate with indulged in, but a life and death proposition. Scorpions and cobras had not the slightest interest in what was the height of fashion of the 1932 Paris season. A Chanel suit or a Schiaparelli ensemble was taboo when tomb hunting. She thought at the time the tall cool blond man was absurd. She never went anywhere without looking her best.

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Things had changed after 500 miles under a cloudless sky and over the blistered sands. She was shedding her silks to find out just what kind of woman she was.

“All right then…” She looked as his craggy bronzed face. It was the kind of hard chiseled face she would have never found attractive back home in Philadelphia. “Dump it, dump it all.”  She said feeling giddy and free.

He turned in his saddle and called back to the porter’s in Arabic. At once they began to cut the leather bound Paris fancies loose.

“Wait!”   She called. “Not the smallest bag, the one with the Houbigant perfume and the negligee.”

He looked at her and for the first time all day gave her that crooked smile she was learning to like.

“I might need that… you never know.”

He snapped his crop on the camel’s rump and shouted. “Yalla Yalla” The camel bellowed and galloped ahead.  He looked back over his shoulder to Kelly. He was still smiling.

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  ***

Yesterday October 11th I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Michal Gizinski and Hilary Randall at the Houbigant launch at Neiman Marcus San Francisco of the gorgeous new scent Iris des Champs. I do want to clarify here that when I mentioned in my video in the previous post about the dinner I attended hosted by Michal and I said he worked for several companies in fact what I meant was that he is the representative for Houbigant, 10 Corso Como and Perris Monte Carlo exclusively at Neiman’s.

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The presentation of the eau de perfume and the essential Parfum was beautifully arranged with Iris and the stunning bottles and boxes. The royal blue and yellow are the colors and on the inside of the wonderful box and along the inside purple and yellow irises are the theme of the design.

I did get to sample the eau de perfume at the San Francisco Perfume Salon dinner last week and it was wonderful to smell it again yesterday as Michal and Hilary took be through the journey of the Iris.

Iris is one of the most expensive ingredients in perfume because it is so difficult to extract the scent from the flower. In truth the fragrance is extracted from the root of the flower called rhizomes, not the flower itself. At harvesting there is barely any scent at all from the rhizomes. They are gently unearthed cleaned and cut by hand, then dried in the sun. After this first drying process they are placed in cloth bags for further drying and aging. This stage takes three years after which they are distilled into a butter like form called beurre d’iris. Only then does the wonderful note of Iris emerge to enchant and captivate the nose. The entire process takes up to 5 years to complete from planting to the creation of the beurre. Now we move on to the making of the perfume which in and of itself is a very time consuming process.

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Iris des Champs opens with a hint of bergamot, a light rose, accompanied by muted notes of lily of the valley that ring softly and lovely in the background as they are joined by a few shakes of pink pepper. This is all very brief and subtle like a flourish of muted French horns announcing the arrival of Le Roi Iris étincelant.

The king Iris enters from the very beginning of the perfume and with his court of beauties in attendance, Jasmine and ylang ylang. He shines from a throne of sandalwood and amber, as he holds court over the skin in magisterial beauty. In the later part of his reign, the dry down is a beautiful blend of vanilla that creams the sandalwood and amber and mellows into a sleepy slumber on a woody bed laid over with a soft duvet of musk.

Iris is a magnificent note that is often found in women’s perfumes but always to me gives them a cool austere masculine strength. It has made an appearance in men’s fragrance before, such as Dior Homme.  This note like the blue fire from the moon in the 1965 film “She” burns cold and does not consume but rather gives an immortal grandeur and life to a perfume. It is often called the powdery cool blonde of the perfume world when the note is included in a perfume of a feminine bent. In point of fact Hilary Randall found in her encounter with Iris des Champs and scent image of  the inside of Grace Kelly’s Hermes bag that she carried on the day she steamed into the harbor of Monaco to marry Prince Rainier.

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Yes I too see that, a hint of leather that one often gets from Iris. It gives this perfume strength and authority with out overpowering its beauty. Yes there is a powdery aspect to it but gentleman isn’t it time to embrace the powder. It is after all a staple of the barbershop experience.

Iris des Champs, which translates to filed of iris is the perfect perfume for any woman of elegant sophistication who posses an air of grace and élan. Or any young lady who aspires to project those attributes. And for men?

The baritone beauty of Johnny Hartman singing “Unforgettable” comes to mind when I smell this perfume and in that song I find one last image. Kelly Lord and Daniel Taggart are floating across a moonlit terrace in the South of France in an effortless foxtrot that leads to a kiss under the stars. In their search for the lost city of Mjal Eeyrys they found an unexpected match in each other. And in the iris blue morning while she sleeps, he finds her bottle of Iris des Champs and smiles. As he sprays it on his sunburned chest, he too becomes, unforgettable.

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Iris des Champs ~ Five Platinum Stars *****

THE SECRETARY OF STYLE ~ Cassini for Men by Oleg Cassini

“Fashion anticipates … elegance is a state of mind.”

He was born in Pairs the son of a Russian Count and an Italian Countess. As a child he moved from Paris to Florence Italy where his mother opened her own design house. “I had to change my taste from caviar to linguini” He quipped later. As a young man he fled Italy after winning a duel arriving in New York in 1936 “with only a tuxedo, two tennis rackets and talent.”

 

(VERONICA LAKE IN “I WANTED WINGS”)

By the time he appeared in Hollywood in the early 40’s his talent at tennis lead him to a meeting with the head of Paramount studios who was looking for a new designer for his studio. The first film he designed for was the famous “I Wanted Wings” staring Veronica Lake and her peek-a-boo hairdo, which he claimed to invent. Some of his other films were, “The Razor’s Edge”, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”  and “The Shanghai Gesture” all staring his soon to be wife Gene Tierney. Over his lengthy career he designed for films such stars as Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn Monroe all the way to contemporary luminaries such as Kim Basinger and Taylor Swift. All of this would be enough to put him in the ranks of the greats yet the greatest achievements were yet to come.

(WITH WIFE NO.2 GENE TIERNEY 1948)

After World War II he opened a ready to wear design house in New York while still working in Hollywood. In 1961 he was appointed by Jacqueline Kennedy as her personal couturier for her new position as First Lady of the United States of America. He created a look for her that was international and timeless which resonates today as the look of Camelot. “All I remember about those days are nerves, and Jackie on the phone ‘Hurry, hurry, Oleg, I’ve got nothing to wear’,” (She loved French haute couture but was told that as first lady she would be wise to wear only American designs.) “I dressed Jackie to be a star in a major film, which she was, the most famous first lady of all time. I became her secretary of style”.

(SKETCH BY OLEG CASSINI OF HIS MOST FAMOUS CLIENT.)

In his time he married a movie star and had a famous affair with another star who would one day break her engagement to him to become her serine highness Princess Grace of Monaco. He created a look so classic that it is emulated by many today and he was the innovator of designer licensing. He brought color to men’s dress shirts. Vibrant hues where before only white was allowed.  He was in all essence the very first modern superstar American designer. He was the great Oleg Cassini.

(SHE DUMPED THE SON OF A COUNT & COUNTESS FOR A PRINCE)

(THE INAGURAL GOWN 1960)

One of the other things Oleg Cassini did in his pursuit to leave no stone un-turned was to create a few fragrances. One of which is Cassini for Men introduced in 1994. This is an Oriental Woody that opens brilliantly with notes of chamomile, mandarin orange, exotic apricot like osmanthus, basil and Brazilian rosewood. This rush of delight lasts about ten to fifteen minutes and it is really a glorious promise of things to come. The middle notes are sadly short-lived and the promise dies on the vine, Lavender, jasmine, lemon verbena and geranium become a muddle and die within an hour. The base notes for me barely make an appearance. The sandalwood is nil, with only traces of amber, musk and vanilla. The vetiver and incense for me never got a chance to dance by the time the ball was over. At best it could be used as an after bath or shower spritz. Within two hours the entire fragrance disappeared like a carnival in the night with the town sheriff in hot pursuit.

It is really a shame to see such a gorgeous presentation wither like the sunburned petals of a morning glory. For truly the bottle is a glamorous deco creation worthy of any star dressing room. But like too many Hollywood dreams it is made of smoke and mirrors and is forgotten by the time the lights come up.

“St. Francis of Assisi has always been an inspiration to me. He was a playboy, too.” Oleg Cassini

 

TWO SILVER STARS **

HIGH OCTANE SOPHISTICATION ON THE FRENCH RIVERA ~ Faconnable for Men

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant casually tearing along in a sporty convertible along the cliffs above Cannes in “To Catch A Thief”.

One lovely gloved hand of Miss Kelly lightly caressing the steering wheel at sixty miles an hour; is there anything more alluring or jam packed with high voltage glamour and seduction?

This is the epitome of what we think of as classic French Rivera high octane sophisticated élan. The lifestyle of the rich and famous before Robin Leach leached the soul out of it.

   There still remains an inkling of this lost allure within the elegantly crafted bottle of Faconnable for Men. One spray of this elixir of masculine elegance and you are transported to the south of France. It is twilight cocktails on the terrace of the Casino at Monte Carlo in a white Tux, a swim out to the float of the beach of the Carleton Hotel. It is the grand staircase and red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. It is serious as a high stakes game of Baccarat and as much fun as fireworks after midnight with a barefoot bejewled movie star at your side.

It opens bright and arrestingly with its well chosen top notes of mint, orange blossom and mandarin orange that does give it a smell of a well made martini.  That dissipates quickly into a lush intoxicating Mediterranean garden of jasmine geranium and rose. Toward the end of the middle Sandalwood announces the dry down followed shortly by rich amber and an ethereal musk that whirl seductively around the sandalwood in a smoky slinky dance. It lasted all night on my skin and I awoke The next morning with traces of the dry down still in evidence.

(CARY GRANT ~ A REAL GROWN UP)

Now listen boys, this one is for grown ups! Faconnable for Men is too subtle and complex for simpler younger tastes unless you are a young man who really wants to stand apart as original, daring and smart. In that case welcome to the world of men of confidence, wit, grace and disarming charm.


5 Platinum stars *****

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