Ipso Olfacto

fragrant musings


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A True Flower Bomb: Chloe Narcisse

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90’s powerhouse Narcisse by Chloe distinguishes itself from the brands rather tame modern offerings. I’ve always been kind of indifferent to the wildly popular soapy- -musky-fruity rose that is (modern) Chloe. It’s perfectly pleasant but ends up being a bit bland, so I’ve never felt the need to own it. Imagine my surprise when I blind bought a bottle of Chloe Narcisse towards the beginning of my fragrance collecting, and was met with a bold explosion of rich, narcotic yellow flowers, spices, and apricot syrup.

Narcisse has that classic powerhouse quality in that it’s opening is… difficult. This is actually one of things that I find distinguishes a lot of mainstream fragrances from the 90s and earlier from what’s popular today. Fragrances of the past weren’t as afraid of being a bit prickly when you first met them. So many fragrances now have the pressure of having to smell great straight out of the bottle, on a blotter, lest a potential buyer write it off for the hundreds of other options within easy reach.

Nope, Narcisse is a bit of a grower. It opens with strong apricot syrup- thick, warm, almost like cough syrup when mixed with the spicy, clove-like bitterness of carnation. Weather the storm for about 20 minutes, and the distinct smell of daffodils emerges to temper the syrup. It’s incredibly naturalistic- you get the whole daffodil package: the crisp, almost celery-like quality of the stem, the greenness of the leaves, and, of course, that unique spicy, pollen-filled yellow flower itself. There’s also marigold in there, along with tolu balsam, to provide some oriental, resinous sweetness. It’s a heavy yellow floral- in fact, when I first smelled Narcisse, the phrase “flower bomb” came to mind. Then, I remembered there’s already a fragrance called Flower Bomb that doesn’t really live up to that name.

Longevity is true to powerhouse status- Narcisse lasts all day, and just gets better and better as it dries down. In the real stretch, it reveals the slight woody creaminess of sandalwood. In a world of mostly roses, gardenia, and tuberose, the idea of a daffodil based scent, or any yellow floral really, feels exotic and intriguing. Plus, a heavy, unabashedly feminine powerhouse floral feels almost edgy among today’s mostly clean, restrained, unisex floral offerings. And that bottle! So gorgeous. AND when that bottle can be yours for around $15? Chloe Narcisse is a rarity: a high quality, bold fragrance that won’t break the bank.

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Bargain Fragrances: Tea Rose ($10!)

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This is for all you rose lovers out there. Tea Rose by Perfumers Workshop is a classic “cheapie but goodie.” Long lasting, potent, and incredibly naturalistic – if you want that smell of a bouquet of fresh, pink roses, then Tea Rose is your scent.

Now, a “tea rose” is actually just a type of rose. I say this because a good number of people end up buying/testing this fragrance because they think it’s some sort of rosey, tea scent. Its not. 

Nope, Tea Rose is straight up rosey roses and basically nothing else. Perhaps a hint of powder, a pinch of woods. It actually has a bit of a turkish delight feel (rose flavored, of course.) But this isn’t a jammy, gourmand rose or a powdery, vintage one. It’s green and fresh – like the smell of a bouquet, fresh from the florists freezer. 

Does Tea Rose go through any crazy stages of development? No. Is it an artistic, avant-garde marvel? Nah. It’s wonderful in its simplicity, monster longevity, and incredible value. As the Brits would say, “it does what it says on the tin.” Sometimes, simple pleasures can be the most satisfying.


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Vintage Finds: Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

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Recently, I hit the estate sale jackpot and found two huge splash bottles of vintage Guerlain L’heure Bleue. The classic Guerlain bottles are simply stunning. Most of their modern ones are, too, but these just have that vintage elegance that goes so perfectly with the scent inside.

The bottle with the heart shaped stopper is the extrait, and was designed by Raymond Guerlain himself along with famous French crystal company Baccarat. I’m not sure how old my bottle is, but it looks like it’s from the 70s or earlier.

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The juice inside? Divine. Its soft, powdery, and blue. The scent fits the name here- “L’heure Bleue” being French for “the blue hour” or twilight. I can smell fluffy, blue/purple flowers. The light, sweet nuttiness of heliotrope, powdery iris, and hint of “Guerlain-ade” vanilla take center stage. There’s also some anise to add a bit of bite. Truly a lovely fragrance! It looks like L’heure Bleue is my Guerlain. Good thing, too, as Shalimar didn’t work for me.

The round bottle is the flacon montre or “watch” bottle used for most cologne concentrations. These were used from 1936 all the way to 1999, so who knows how old mine really is. The label looks decently aged, so maybe 1980 or earlier? The juice in this one is essentially the same as the extrait, only less rich and more transparent (not exactly a surprise from the EDC.)

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I just love finding gems like these at estate sales. These lovely bottles were likely treasured and refilled multiple times, in contrast to most perfume bottles nowadays that are seemingly made to be discarded after use. Although splash bottles don’t preserve your precious perfume as well as sprays, there’s just something so glamorous about dabbing your neck with a crystal stopper that I’m finding it hard to care!


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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.