Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Spring o'Clock Somewhere (Mini-Reviews)

Although it continues to snow once or twice a week here and it's currently 19 degrees, I'm in a horrible mood and have a chronic nosebleed, I've been testing some springy floral scents. I make no claims toward objectivity or perspective this week, for what it's worth.


Guerlain Champs Elysees - I've had a sample of this tucked away for a couple of years, and finally pulled it out of storage when Victoria Frolova mentioned it in a post on mimosa at Bois de Jasmin. Not the simple, raspy spring floral of L'Artisan's Mimosa pour Moi, nor the more intense, gourmand treatment of mimosa as in YSL's Cinema, Champs Elysees is a shrill, rosy mimosa floral with fruity apple-pear top notes, very close in effect to DKNY Be Delicious or the nicer niche version of the same idea, Rose d'Ete from Parfume de Rosine. Luca Turin called it "the second-worst perfume Guerlain ever made." Certainly, it has none of the depth of a typical Guerlain and smells a bit like a high-school bathroom (hairspray and body splash). But it's nonetheless kind of pretty in its way (as is Roucel's Be Delicious – which, to be fair, post-dates both CE and RdE). I don't wear stuff this high-pitched, but I don't find it particularly offensive either.

Vero Profumo Mito - An intensely green citrus chypre, like Parfum d'Empire's recent Azemour but with much more bitter bite in the top notes. In citrus terms, this translates to more of the peel and less of the juice. As is often the case in contemporary chypres, the galbanum is doing as much work as the oakmoss. Very well done, but this really isn't my kind of thing, and when I do want something in this genre, I'll take the earthy, herbal Eau Dynamisante or the smooth resinous lemon of Monsieur Balmain at something like 1/10 the price.

MCMC Noble - A good, natural jasmine soliflore has the same clean/dirty dichotomy as a good musk: equal parts fresh, lovely petals and a dirty, human, post-sex kind of smell. Noble is supposed to involve vetiver and incense and "chai tea" among other things, but all I really smell is jasmine, unadorned, in all its soap-meets-crotch glory. Except that I don't personally experience jasmine as glorious, perhaps because it doesn't grow around where I grow up. So this is merely nice to me. If you're a jasmine lover, though, this may be just the thing.

Michael Storer Stephanie - I don't really understand this fragrance yet, but I'm writing about it anyway. For a white floral (a gardenia construction, necessarily, since gardenias don't yield oil), it's very surprising – most perfumes in the genre exploit the creamy, falling-apart end of the life cycle of a white flower, when the sweet headiness almost approaches rot. Stephanie, instead, feels like a blossom that hasn't really opened yet, green and waxy, almost like the grassy, slightly bitter note of extra virgin olive oil. It's not indolic, and it's not sweet. Initially, it's really rather austere, especially for a tropical floral. The drydown, however, smells uncannily like Champagne de Bois. When Natalie gave me my decant, she told me as much, and sure enough, the ghost of Laurie Erickson emerges after an hour or so. Oddly, the listed notes for Stephanie don't include any base materials, but there must be a good dose of something woody – cedar? sandalwood? – in here interacting with the jasmine. What gives, Michael Storer? Very interesting, though I can't comment on how realistic it smells – El Paso isn't known for gardenias either.

Tauer Perfumes Zeta - Oh dear. You know I'm a Tauer lover from way back, but the combination of strident citrus and linden blossom in the top notes here conspires to turn into cleaning products on my arm. I'm sure this is full of natural materials; all the same it gives me lab chemical vibes. Better as the lemon burns off a bit, but still too close to furniture polish for me. Many people love this one. More for you all, I guess! 

DelRae Amoureuse - Amoureuse combines the waxy, woody green of Stephanie, the faint animalic stank of Noble, and the complex, honey-like sweetness of some white flowers into something very much like the warm, humid air in the tropical conservatory at the Denver Botanic Gardens right down the street. A surprising tangerine note weaves in and out of perception, so at one moment it smells strikingly like a hothouse flower, and the next more like an abstract, made perfume. I find it reminds me very much of Tauer's Carillon pour une Ange, another juicy green spring floral built of similar materials. Like eating a creamsicle in an overgrown garden – overblown, even. Can flowers be blowsy? Why does this perfume make me think of B words, like buxom? Why do I think of "blowsy" as a positive word when the dictionary suggests it's used for slut-shaming? In linguistics, the idea that phonemes carry meaning in themselves is known as "sound symbolism" or "phonosemantics." When a group of words with similar meaning all start with the same sound (as in slip, slide, slosh, slurry, etc., or blowsy, buxom, boisterous, bootylicious...) that's called "clustering." The more you know!

Gardenia image via miamism

8 comments:

  1. Blowsy is slut-shaming?? I always thought it meant "hot mess", which to me has positive connotations. Who knew?

    I have two bottles of Champs-Elysees. I have no idea how I got them.

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    1. Me too! I always picture a fun broad in a gauzy blouse with lots of cleavage and a husky voice. Kind of a Mae West thing, but sloppier. But the #1 google result defines it as: "1. (esp of a woman) untidy in appearance; slovenly or sluttish. 2. (of a woman) ruddy in complexion; red-faced."

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  2. yes! i'm sorry you're feeling lousy (and not blowsy (in the Mae West way you'd imagined)), but i do love when you do mini-reviews, & thanks especially for the lesson on phonosemantics and the hit of soapy-crotchy jasmine.

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    1. Thanks E! It's supposed to be like 80 or something this weekend, in the insane way of the weather here, so that should improve my mood somewhat. I'll be sure to go out and get some sun damage.

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  3. Elisa, I don't blame you for being in a horrible mood. For me, weather is everything (I shouldn't put as much emphasis on it as I do, but having grown up on a farm and spent so much time being weather-dependent, it's how I am). Here's wishing you sunshine, warmth and sinus relief. :)

    I loved your description of Amoureuse - I thought you conveyed it perfectly. I've been crazy about that scent for what seems like forever, and it is indeed blowsy. (Thank God flowers are such slutty little things!)

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    1. White flowers especially! Thank you Suzanne :)

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  4. Elisa, I heard that Serge Lutens is coming out with a new perfume. Something called "berlin girl" or something like that. Prickly rose with a spicy pepper or something like that. Exciting.

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    1. Chad, yes, La Fille de Berlin! It's actually already out but I haven't gotten my greasy paws on a sample yet. It sounds great.

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