Friday, November 9, 2012

Mini-Reviews: Spice Girls (and a Spice Boy)


SOIVOHLE Rosa sur Reuse – I love Liz Zorn’s work, so when I saw that this relatively recent composition was getting lots of love on the blogs, I had to have some, rose (rosa) and tuberose (tubereuse) being my favorite floral notes. I bought a small bottle unsniffed while she was running a special, and I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since. Zorn has an uncanny knack for re-creating smells from my childhood: Sonoran Leather smells like gunpowder, like a skeet club in the desert of New Mexico where I spent many afternoons in the early 80s; Meerschaum reminds me powerfully of my dad, of old work gloves and man-hobbies like hunting and car repair. Oddly enough, RsR too recalls my Southwestern youth – there’s something about the combination of fiery cinnamon, fruity-sweet raspberry-rose, and creamy tuberose absolute (which can smell mentholated, woody, or even meaty depending on which aspects you play up) that results in a tamale accord. I know! It’s crazy, but I swear in the top notes, Rosa sur Reuse smells like Hot Tamales two ways – like Red Hots, like Goldschläger, but also like corn masa and red chile. However, this is one of those classically structured perfumes that changes a lot over time. Eventually it ends up feeling like a variation on Feminite du Bois (see below) or the closely related Poussiere de Rose from Parfums de Rosine: creamy cedar, warm spice, and soft fruit. But for the first few hours, it’s one of those rare perfumes that doesn’t smell like any other perfume out there.

Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis – One of the first perfumes dear Elizabeth shared with me was a hefty sample of Bois de Paradis, which I emptied to write this review. I remember that the first time I wore it a couple of years ago, I was gravely disappointed, because it was a beautiful warm, sunny day and BdP is definitely a winter perfume. I haven’t made that mistake again, and it’s lovely on cold, crisp days when coziness is in order. Bois de Paradis is basically Christmas potpourri in perfume form – it smells like a spiced warm punch my family used to make in a crock pot for holiday gatherings, a combination of apple cider, cranberry juice and mulling spices. What differentiates it from all the other cinnamon-spicy woody scents out there (Feminite du Bois and friends) is the berry note – there’s a bit of Byredo Pulp in here. I love tart fruit notes, blackcurrant in particular, and it gives the whole composition a bracing freshness, such that I think of this as a scent for frosty days rather than nights. Can’t you just see a cardinal alighting on the snow-dusted holly bush? I thought so.

By the way, the last few milliliters I was hanging onto smell slightly less magenta-bright and slightly more spicy-dusty (a bit like old Christmas decorations kept in a wooden chest) in the top notes than I remember, so it’s worth noting that this one might degrade a bit over time (or we can blame it on the plastic purse spray). In any case it all evens out in the drydown, which smells like berries and vanilla. This is a good one and I’m sorry to see it go. Perhaps more will find its way into my life.

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb – Spicebomb was released earlier this year as the male counterpart to 2004’s Flowerbomb. The truth about Flowerbomb is that I never remember what it smells like, beyond it being sweet in a post-Angel, post-Hanae Mori way, but it’s not as jolie-laide as Angel or as beautiful as Hanae Mori. Cute rarely cuts it with me, and I can only assume it owes its continued popularity to the existence of a large number of women who want something slightly less recognizable than Coco Mademoiselle. Thankfully, Spicebomb smells nothing like Flowerbomb, and nothing like most other mainstream masculines on the market, which tend to be abrasively "fresh." Despite the name, it’s not really a spice bomb. Instead it’s a gently spicy tobacco fragrance with a niche-y heritage, reminding me of L’Artisan Tea for Two, though not as aggressively BBQ-smoky, and even a little of Serge Lutens Chergui, though not as rich as all that. Basically it smells like leathery gingerbread, and what’s not to like about that? It's definitely not so great as to unseat my all-time favorite tobacco frangrance, Laurie Erickson's Tabac Aurea – it commits the same flaw as a lot of mainstream fragrances I like, making use of some synthetic material that causes it to smell less delicious up close and on skin than it does on paper, mostly in the top notes. Once it settles in it’s got a lovely almond-vanilla vibe which must be due to tonka bean (see also Midnight in Paris). Considering the source, I was fairly blown away.

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique – Parfumerie Generale is known for its gourmands, and Un Crime Exotique (sent my way by Ines – aren’t perfume bloggers just the most generous people in the world?) is a complex gourmand that pairs a burning hot cinnamon note with the smell of fruity tea (osmanthus). The effect is almost piercing – there’s a vaguely uncomfortable, metallic edge to this fragrance. I suppose the titular “exotic crime” is the act of stabbing someone and then drowning them in molten honey. There’s also something doughy about this, especially in the drydown, like hot glazed doughnuts. I should admit, at this point, that spice notes are tricky for me – they can get overbearing really quickly, reminding me of Dentyne and scented candles. Clove seems especially easy to overdo, and I like it best when it’s the subtlest accent (as in the aforementioned Tabac Aurea). The dosing on the pumpkin pie spice in Un Crime Exotique edges just past wearable for me. If I want a festive eggnog perfume, I prefer the balance of citrus, spice, and creamy notes in Roucel’s Oro for Roberto Cavalli.

Shiseido Feminite du Bois – My decant of the original Shiseido version of FdB, now housed by Serge Lutens, comes via another kindred spirit, Alyssa Harad (whose name, by the way, rhymes with mine, and not the way you think). When you smell all the variations it spawned, something always leaps out as a little funky – Dior Dolce Vita, which I love, is both sweeter and somehow sweaty; Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant has more clove plus a weird buttery note. But Feminite du Bois is a smooth, balanced whole; it seems calm and assured in itself – a perfume with perfect posture. If, like me, you always think spicy fragrances smell like candles, this is a great lesson in the potential of the genre. It’s not a gourmand; the cinnamon is there, and the “dried plum” (we don’t call them prunes anymore, don’t you know), but it doesn’t smell like cinnamon-raisin bread. FdB, or “femininity of wood,” really is about the wood. My favorite part is the musky, animalic growl of the drydown; it’s somehow fuzzy. Along with Belle en Rykiel and Incense Rose, this is one of my top comfort picks for airplane travel, on the cuffs of a cozy sweater. Yes, I wear perfume on the plane. Suck it, haters.

7 comments:

  1. "Leathery gingerbread"--that's the best description of Spicebomb I've read anywhere!

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    1. I loved it so much, I put "leathery gingerbread" in a poem today at Poems While You Wait.

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    2. Fun! Wish I could read the whole poem.

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    3. I'll let you know when it's up on the Tumblr!

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  2. Spicebomb is soooo good for a mainstream masculine. And now I clearly have to try Tabac Aurea, as you recommended in the NST poll!

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    1. If you like Spicebomb you'll love Tabac Aurea!

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