Ipso Olfacto

fragrant musings


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Blandly Literal: Jil Sander Sun

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I’ve been intrigued by Jil Sander Sun for a while now. It’s one of those classic 90’s scents that still has a cult following, and it frequently comes up on “cheapie but goodie” fragrance lists. I’ve always been drawn to scents that are made to smell like skin- clean skin, dirty skin, or, in this case, sun-warmed skin. I like how conceptual that point of inspiration is, rather than simply replicating an exact, isolated smell. Looking at the note listing for Sun, also, paints a picture of a complex, multi-faceted fragrance (carnation! Benzoin! Ylang-ylang!) Unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed when I finally came around to trying it.

Sun just smells… Bland. And sometimes, actually off-putting. I suppose it has all the right elements to get across that “skin sweetened by the sun” quality- it has sweet, creaminess, powder, resins, woods, light, spicy florals… But all of these elements just never feel quite balanced- like an inexperienced chef trying to follow a recipe by just eyeballing everything, rather than measuring. I also feel like the sweetness is overdone- especially in the opening. It has a grating, chalky quality to it. Think of the smell of opening a bottle of Tums. Yeah, not the sweetness I was looking for. It actually kind of smells like all of Sun‘s notes have been pulverized and crushed into a tums-like pellet. You don’t get the distinct, powdery almond sweetness of the heliotrope, nor do you get the real warm, resinous creaminess of the benzoin- the personalities of each individual note has been beaten into submission. Sun also doesn’t go through very noticeable development- it just dries down slightly less sweet, and gets a little more pleasant and woody by the end. But it still just ends up smelling like the residue from some generic, sweet suntan lotion- which, admittedly, fits the bottle design. Sun is most tolerable once it hits the 4 or 5 hour mark, where it becomes a soft skinscent that lingers for a few more hours.

Sun can be found very cheaply online- I got my bottle for less than $15. And that’s the thing- this review is for the current formulation of Sun. I’m sure that back when Sun was more popular (and therefore, more profitable) it was probably a better scent. But, alas, it’s current formulation is nothing impressive. Sun, despite seemingly containing every note under the sun, weirdly just ends up being boring.

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Vacation in a Bottle: Yves Rocher Monoi EDT & Body Oil

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Ah, the proverbial “tropical vacation.” When most people think about “getting away from it all,” their imagination conjures up an exotic somewhere with plenty of sea, sun, and relaxation. Unfortunately, in reality, we don’t all have the time and/or money to travel to, say, Tahiti, for a summer getaway. Luckily, French beauty brand Yves Rocher offers an affordable way to feel a bit of island relaxation at home with their Monoi line of lush, tiare scented products.

If you’re looking for an exotic, tropical summer floral, you can’t do much better than tiare flower (also known as Tahitian gardenia.) Tiare is a rich, creamy white floral that has a hint of fruitiness, similar to tuberose.  In both the Monoi Eau de Vahines EDT ($33) and Monoi de Tahiti body oil ($17), the tiare takes center stage, resulting in a full-bodied, vivid white floral scent that feels natural, never overpowering. This is thanks to the fact that they both contain a high concentration of tiare essential oils (keeping with Yves Rocher’s “natural, botanical” brand image.)

Both the Monoi Eau de Vahines EDT and the Monoi de Tahiti body oil smell very similar- they both, at the end of the day, are mostly just creamy, tiare goodness. In the oil, the white floral creaminess is perfectly combined with nutty, also creamy coconut- giving it just a hint of sweetness. The EDT also has a hint of coconut milkiness, but it veers more towards a vanillic sweetness. There’s also a pronounced fruitiness to the EDT that reminds me of opening a fresh, slightly under-ripe peach. They are both lovely, feeling like a sweet, summer breeze- but I think that I actually prefer the scent of the body oil in it’s simplicity. It just pairs so perfectly with the natural smell of warm, sun-kissed skin.

The only downside is longevity. The EDT doesn’t last more than a few hours on skin (longer on clothes, as always.) The oil, I think, lasts a little longer. I also hate the bottle for the oil, as it’s hard to dispense without getting it everywhere. Sillage is low- close to the skin. As expected, both the oil and EDT are lovely layered together. I see these more as “summer fun” scents- their function is to enjoy applying them- to relax and celebrate the smells of summer. And with Autumn on the horizon, I’ll enjoy every last drop of carefree, summer breeze while I can.


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Fragonard Miranda (EDT)- A Non-Suntan Lotion Coconut Scent!

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Sweet, milky vanilla scents aren’t just for wintertime! As you all know, my penchant for sweet, rich gourmands often is at odds with the blistering heat of Arizona summers. Miranda to the rescue! From the classic French house of Fragonard, Miranda is a perfect contradiction, in that it manages to be an indulgently creamy, vanilla and coconut scent while also feeling fresh and breezy.

In the opening of Miranda, I get a green, non-sweet citrus zing. It almost feels waxy, like smelling the skin or the rind of an unripe lime.  Then, a milky, sweet coconut note emerges. It’s not heavy or syrupy – just that light, milky sweetness of opening a fresh coconut. The vanilla shows up to add sweet, gourmand delight. It’s not a cheap smelling vanilla, but it’s definitely a gourmand, almost ice-cream-like one.  As Miranda dries down, the vanilla gets more rich, and some oppoponax (sweet myrrh) adds a lovely balsalmic, resinous sweetness that isn’t too cloying. Some light white florals are in the mix somewhere, but don’t emerge in any pronounced way. At the end of the day,  Miranda really is all about the vanilla and coconut, but the secondary players (waxy citrus, light florals, resins) are just enough to prevent it from being a more generic coconut suntan lotion type of scent.

Miranda is also rather light – you can kind of just spray away with it, without worrying about choking people out. It’s certainly not a body spray or anything, it’s just not a terribly dense or monstrous scent- I tend to get around 4-5 hours out of it. This lightness makes Miranda perfect for the summer heat, but it can certainly be worn year round. And at around 60 bucks for a huge, 200 ml (!) bottle, this summer indulgence can be enjoyed with no guilt.


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Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere- The Perfect Modern Update

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Updating a classic fragrance for the younger crowd is an intimidating venture on its own – let alone when it involves updating Chanel No.5, probably THE most iconic fragrance on earth. Now, I know Chanel released No.5 L’eau recently, but I think they already hit the nail on the head as far as updating No.5 with 2015’s Eau Premiere . L’eau is nice, but a bit too far removed from No.5- it ends up feeling like more of a neutered version than a cool, modern take. Eau Premiere is certainly lighter and easier to wear than the original No.5 EDT and EDP, but it still has that distinct No.5 DNA, as well as, most importantly, it’s attitude. 

Upon spraying Eau Premiere,  your nose is tickled by lemony, fizzy, aldehydes that are a genius modernization of the OG No.5’s often nostril-burning ones. Here, they feel buoyant and fresh, like a crisp glass of champagne. Buttery ylang-ylang eventually emerges, along with some light rose and Jasmine.  In the drydown, Eau Premiere skips out on the more dated notes of the original: the animalic civet, the musty oakmoss- and instead presents a slightly creamy base of sandalwood, vetiver, and vanilla. Think of Eau Premiere as the Konmari’d version of No.5- it gives you that classic smell, only streamlined (and probably more likely to “spark joy” with most of today’s noses.)

The magic of Eau Premiere is that it smells classic but not dated.  Let’s face it, No.5, although an icon, can smell kind if jarring to “the youths” of today – it just smells so blatantly from another era of perfumery. I mean, when was the last time we had a major mainstream release that was aldehyde-based, or that even contained civet? Eau Premiere is also incredibly versatile – it feels just as at home with a tee shirt and jeans as with a ballgown. So, even as a millennial-friendly update, Eau Premiere is still as chic and classic as ever. 


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Womanity- A Refreshingly Weird Summer Scent

 

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Womanity by Thierry Mugler is an infamously weird, wacky fragrance that actually isn’t that weird. It’s certainly unique- there’s not really anything else out there that smells like it. But there are so many overwrought reviews of this one that insist that its downright disgusting- that it smells of rotten fish, puke, and/or “dirty vagina.” Hoookay. No. (And uh, maybe see a gyno?) What Womanity is is an incredibly unique, fresh beach scent that conveys summer without resorting to cheesy coconut/suntan lotion vibes.

I was very late to the game in trying Womanity– I bought my bottle just last summer after acquiring and subsequently falling in love with my sample. The rather graphic reviews only made me want to try it more – after all, I was already a huge devotee to the other Mugler creation with a stinky reputation: Angel. I was morbidly excited to try my sample, bracing myself for something nasty and… hmmm… yeah, it’s a bit metallic… there’s a sweetness that’s a tad ripe… definite saltiness… but nothing gross. In fact, what I was met with was a lovely fresh, green, woody sweetness wrapped in that same cold-metallic-fruity quality found in Muglers Alien. Womanity has this weirdly metallic, sour nuance that reminds me of that feeling you get in your mouth after sucking on a sour warhead candy- it kind of makes your mouth water.  That’s thanks, I guess, to the full fig lineup featured in the notes- fig tree, fig leaf, and fig fruit, but the result isn’t exactly naturalistic. The metallic sweetness combines with an incredibly vivid, not aquatic, salty sea air accord. They call it “caviar” in the note listing, but it really feels like a cool, fresh beach breeze. Completely refreshing.

Now, even though I already stated that I completely disagree that Womanity smells like “dirty pussy”… I actually get where these people are coming from (hyperbolic as they are.) I think it’s pretty apparent that the concept behind Womanity was, shall we say ” the scent of a woman.” The pink juice, focus on the fig tree, the scent’s metallic nuance in the opening, the fact that ITS CALLED WOMANITY- yeah, they’re not exactly hiding it. But Womanity is no Secretions Magnifique- it doesn’t veer into vulgarity. Its just a lovely perfume inspired by something human. Like how Chanel No.5 (with both its soapy aldehydes and animalic civet) was inspired by the smell of a woman’s clean skin – even clean skin will have something dirty in there, because that’s what makes it human.

With Womanity, Mugler set out to make the first “savory” gourmand. The sweet/salty juxtaposition certainly provides that, but I’d say that what makes Womanity truly weird is how its a (summer!) gourmand that also feels (to some, vulgarly) human. In a world where summer fragrance options are mostly limited to generic fresh-ey citrus aquatics, Womanity, in all its ripe, metallic, salty glory is, ironically, a true breath of fresh air.

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Gap Close- The Bargain Summer Skinscent

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Unfortunately, my fragrance tastes don’t really align with the typical weather here in the desert. My absolute favorite scents are heavy, sweet, smokey, earthy, and rich. That’s all well and good, but when it’s triple digits outside and the sweat is rolling, those aren’t exactly the smells that you want mixing and mingling with your hot and heavy bad self. I’m not a huge “shower fresh” kind of gal, but sometimes ya just need to do shower fresh, for survival’s sake. A shower-fresh scent that I love? Gap Close. The kicker? It costs less than a movie ticket.

Like any fresh fragrance, Close opens with a citrusy, slightly aquatic zing. However, that goes away rather quickly to reveal a creamy, lotion-like scent. It honestly smells like freshly-lotioned skin after a shower- real skin- slightly salty, a bit creamy, and musky. This comes thanks to a lovely salt water note, along with some almond and fluffy, non-sweet vanilla. The whole package is tied together with soft, non-cloying white musk. It’s a very well blended scent, so these notes don’t take turns taking center stage, but all merge together in this lovely scent of healthy, clean skin. It’s so well balanced in that it’s fresh but not sporty, clean but not detergent-like.

As the name suggests, Close stays close to the skin- which is what you want on the hottest days where even a relatively light scent can become cloying. It lasts almost all day on clothes, but disappears from my skin in 3-4 hours. But at less than $10 for a 50 ml bottle (at my local TJ Maxx,) you can reapply with no guilt. So many sporty-fresh-aquatic scents just smell so.. robotic. Like, nobody naturally smells like calone. That’s why I’m so thrilled to have found my perfect summer skinscent- something to make me smell clean and fresh, but still human.