Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What I've been ______, plus mini-reviews



Reading: Heroines by Kate Zambreno (I'm planning to do a combination review/review-of-reviews of this; stay tuned) and The Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (very funny, Waugh-like; portrays much of the same world as The Stranger's Child but without the bloated prose and generally infuriating what-is-the-point-ness that forced me to abandon after 200 pages ... I also abandoned A Visit from the Goon Squad, which felt, sorry!, a little Claire-Messud-amateur-hour to me, after 40 pp or so, meaning I haven't finished a book of prose yet this year, but these two are finishers).

Watching: The last episode of Downton Abbey (I'm so done with this stupid show!). Return to Oz. MSCL. (Regression Town.)

Eating: Tacos. Lots of tacos. And roasted red potatoes.

Listening: One weekend in December we were reorganizing our bookshelves and John suggested we put on some Christmas music. So I put on Jesus Christ Superstar. We've both had it stuck in our heads pretty much ever since. We told our friend Aaron it's better than the bible.

Sniffing: Samples samples samples! See below. (Thanks to perfume friends Heather F. and Suzanne at Eiderdown Press for setting me up with these!)


Olfactive Studio Lumiere Blanche: The second I sprayed this on, it reminded me of something, and I started racking my brain to figure out what, searching through my bottles for its doppelganger. Then I remembered that all perfumes with a cardamom note remind me of each other. Cardamom isn't as warm as some other spice notes (cinnamon and clove in particular); instead it has a delicate, lemony quality. For whatever reason, the material is less mutable than other top notes – when I smell bergamot or aldehydes, I don't instantly think of every other perfume that contains bergamot or aldehydes. (The closet equivalent would probably be galbanum, which always smells exactly like galbanum.) Cardamom is frequently paired with incense and amber (as in YSL Nu and Ormonde Jayne Woman) as part of rich, unfolding oriental compositions. But here, as the name would imply (White Light – the perfume was supposedly inspired by the photo above), the treatment is pale, each material chosen for its olfactory whiteness (chalky orris, the blanched almond note of heliotrope, clean musk). But the overall impression is an accord halfway between sweet citrus and cedar. The cardamom is so lemon-forward it almost approaches the grapefruit in Bal d'Afrique, though not as juicy; at other times the woodiness makes this feel like a morning version of Dior Dolce Vita. After a while, my nose gets tired of it and it's harder to smell. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin suggests this might be a common problem. 

Montale Boise Vanille: From the name, you'd expect Montale's Boise Vanille to be in the same ballpark as Serge Lutens' Un Bois Vanille – a woody vanilla; a smoky gourmand. You'd be way off though. This inexplicably named perfume is actually an aromatic fougere. It smells like a slice of Third Man, Caron's classic and beautiful masculine from 1985, though not as rich (Third Man is almost overbearingly so) or soapy. But the basic accord is there – bracing, dry lavender and peppery spice with a pillowy backdrop of coumarin and patchouli. No one on earth would smell this blind and pin it as a vanilla fragrance, or a feminine for that matter. Nonetheless, I really like it. I used to find fougeres impossible to wear, about as comfortable as a three-piece suit cut for a 6' man. But lately I've been craving the smell of Third Man – our bottle lives on John's dresser, but hasn't been getting much wear lately, as he's been favoring newer toys (especially Chergui). This Montale is still manly, but seems whittled down in size, cut to my scale, not just comfortable but comforting. Anyway, who needs another vanilla?

Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental: Months ago Victoria told me in a comment that Vetiver Oriental has a myrrh note, which piqued my interest. Indeed, it feels like a cross between Messe de Minuit and whatever ingredients are common to all Lutens' orientals – various fruity and woody and musky materials adding up to a dusky, boozy haze. I like that smell in most of its incarnations, and I like it here too, though it kind of feels like the naked base of Chergui and/or Santal Majuscule with fewer top notes to distinguish it. Sniffed blind an hour or so in, I'd pin any one of them as a Lutens, but I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference. Side by side, Santal Majuscule is a bit higher-pitched, so to speak, with more of an apricot brandy feel, whereas VO at times reminds me of immortelle (maple syrup). I've seen dark, baroque versions of vetiver before – notably in Tauer's Vetiver Dance – but here the vetiver is nearly unrecognizable, so dense and almost chocolatey is the treatment. Unfortunately, if you get too intimate with it (as in making actual nostril-to-arm contact) it smells a bit plasticky. Could that be our friend Mr. Vetiver? Overall, yummy but unnecessary, unless for some reason you'd like to think of yourself as someone who likes vetiver, when in fact you don't.

Robert Piguet Visa: For the first 30 seconds after spraying Visa on my arm I was thinking, Oh hell no. This very post-Angel perfume (Aurelien Guichard's 2007 reinvention of a 1945 classic) starts off smelling like Angel with even more cotton candy, and chewable vitamin -style fruity notes along for the ride as well. I was regretting not spraying it on paper first, but, shockingly, this quickly settles into something rather appealing. First, the worst of the Flintstone-fruit offenders burn off; then, a soft, fluffy, floral-vanillic baby powder accord, much like the one in Mona di Orio's Musc, makes itself known, with impressive projection. This is a gourmand to be sure, but an odd one. It puts me in mind of Mauboussin, a Christine Nagel oriental that I could never get entirely comfortable with – same long, milky-woody drydown, but Mauboussin's vitamin notes don't fade so mercifully quickly, making it much harder for me to stomach. (I swapped that bottle away.) Visa's leather note is subtle, but detectable. It's kind of trashy-sexy, in a baby-talk way. A nice surprise. Note that the drydown has nuclear tenacity – suddenly refreshing itself and becoming obvious again a good 24 hours later.

SOTD: Lush Lust. Metallic jasmine and honey. Smells like blown-out speakers. 

16 comments:

  1. "Smells like blown-out speakers," ugh, Elisa, I so love when you write about perfume!

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    1. I realized after I wrote that, I should have made it clear I meant IN A GOOD WAY!

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    2. I got that! And I mean "ugh" in a good way also! Like, ugh, so good.

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  2. I don't know if they're better than the Bible (what's better than the King James?), but what are better than a pulpit-pounding sermon like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" are those Black Sabbath songs that feel like the pitbull jaws of Hell snapping shut on your throat. Songs on Master of Reality, for example.

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  3. Jesus Christ Superstar is Easter music.

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    1. I know, but there'd be no Easter without Christmas.

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  4. Reading the most recent issued (number 4) of Rowboat Magazine: Poetry in Translation, which I'm liking. (I stumbled across issue number three a little while back, and liked it enough that I immediately ordered the first two issues.)

    Also reading The Language of Rain and Wind, book of poems by John Krumberger, published by The Backwaters Press, which I'm also liking.

    Apart from those, I've been reading several of Alan Furst's novels, spy/intrigue novels that take place in Europe during the 1930's and 1940's. I'm enjoying them, they're well-researched (i.e. the historical background and detail, what it was like to be in a room or on a train back then, what kinds of cars the police in Paris drove, etc.) The one I'm currently reading is Dark Voyage, which takes place mostly on a Dutch merchant ship and in the various port towns (Alexandria, Tangier, Lisbon) where it stops. Furst's novels are nicely written, they move along well.

    Ate some raspberries a little bit ago this evening. I've been seeking out corn muffins a lot.

    Been a little while since I've sat down and listened to music -- I think the last thing I listened to was probably some Simon and Garfunkel. Also a couple of CD's by Diane Jarvi, a local musician poet friend (she publishes her poems under her name Diane Jarvenpa). She plays kantele and sings Finnish folks songs and also songs she's written herself, among other things. Bright sparkling music, sometimes a little darker, warm full voice.

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    1. For a second I thought you said "British sparkling music" and I thought it was a genre I'd never heard of!

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    2. At a junk shop recently I picked up S. and G.'s first LP, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. Interesting to hear the early acoustic version of "The Sound of Silence" and to read G.'s letter to Simon on the back of the jacket. It's a battered LP, but I like that. It's like an old weather-beaten house.

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  5. Nuclear tenacity is a pretty apt description. :)

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  6. Really enjoyed hearing your takes on these perfumes, Elisa, and thrilled to know there is at least one other blogger who digs Montale Boise Vanille (actually there are a few, but 'tis a very wee group). :) I take it that Heather F. is a fan too?

    Btw, your description of cardamom is very much how I perceive the note (as having a lemony piquancy and a coolness). I'm always surprised to hear people describe it as warm or even as spicy, as it has its own delicate perfumey scent to me that seems so different from all other spices. I'll have to sample Lumiere Blanche at some point -- it sounds quite intriguing.

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    1. Thanks Suzanne! I think Heather passed her decant on to me because she was not a fan -- I had never even heard of it and had no expectations, but I ended up loving it! I need to explore the Montale line more, though I understand it's like 80% oud....

      Agreed on cardamom's delicacy.

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  7. Haha, Lust is my friend's signature scent, and she has connections to the music industry. I am not sure I dare mention that image... though I can relate!

    Btw, the last time I tried "whiffs of indolic sillage" on Siri, a propos of my friend's penchant for Lust, it came back as "with supervision Daleks village".

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    1. Ha! Siri must know in her heart that "sillage" doesn't rhyme with "village" -- perhaps she was spoofing you!

      I saw some perfumer the other day recommend that brides stick to "rose and jasmine" for their wedding day, nothing "too sexy." I thought, what?! To my nose, jasmine actually SMELLS LIKE SEX

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    2. Lilies of the valley.

      Oh, the dreams I could dream...

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