Ipso Olfacto

fragrant musings


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My Top Boudoir Scents

“Boudoir” is one of my favorite scent genres. Even before my more involved fragrance exploration, I was always drawn towards anything evocative of vintage glamour: waxy lipstick, warm face powder, boozy vanilla… These qualities are perfume at its most “perfumey” and womanly, embodying that grown-up, elegant mystique that gets many young girls intrigued by the mysterious elixirs on their mother’s dressing tables. Although, my mom never wore perfume, so I think the perfume bottle-shaped hole in my heart was extra large in my case. So, I’ve acquired a number of boudoir scents over the years that have filled that olfactory void:

First up, we have Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier:

Classique WEB

Classique is a classic boudoir scent – the EDP, that is. The EDP is harder to find than the EDT, but it’s worth it. Its a rich, complex vanilla that’s evocative of a burlesque dancer dolling herself up for the night. There’s heady orange blossom and orchid, boozy vanilla, and a heavy dose of spicy rum. It’s rich, spicy, a bit powdery, but surprisingly not too heavy or overwhelming. It has a bit of a vintage nail varnish thing going on that tickles your nostrils a bit- back when nail polish was scented. I can’t help but think of Jennifer Lawrence’s character in American Hustle:

Next up, we have Lipstick On by Maison Martin Margiela:

lipstick on WEB

If Classique is a burlesque dancer getting ready for a wild night, then Lipstick On is her more introverted sister. Lipstick On is a very evocative scent – it opens with waxy iris and vanillic powder that vividly replicates the scent of vintage lipstick. Heliotrope provides a lovely touch of almond and cherry tartness, while rice powder adds a “starchiness” rather than talcum-powderiness. The composition is kept from being too sweet and soft with the addition of bitter galbanum. The overall feel is very warm- it feels like the olfactory equivalent of blushing. Absolutely gorgeous, and a must-smell for anyone into makeup scents.

Next up is another cosmetic scent: Misia by Chanel:

misia web

which I sadly only have this adorable miniature of. Misia has that same warm, makeup quality of Lipstick On, but is much more powdery thanks to a heavy emphasis on violets. There’s also a pronounced tart rasberry sweetness that makes the composition even more delightfully girly. Misia truly evokes the smell of vintage face powder, with just a hint of lipstick.

A kind of runner-up is Angel Liqueur de Parfum by Mugler:

Angel Liqueuer WEB

It’s not as obviously “boudoir” as the others, but it still embodies that spirit. As you can imagine, this flanker is boozier than the original. It’s much drier, and has a subtle woodyness that recalls an aged liqueur.  Most prominent, though, is the honey. Non-sweet, slightly animalic honey. It’s drop dead gorgeous, and, in true Mugler fashion, incredibly potent. Perfect for a femme fatale putting on her “war paint” for the night.

I love how some fragrances have the ability to evoke a specific feeling or place. No matter how casual your lifestyle, being able to access a little vintage glamour via a scent is such an enjoyable form of “time travel!”

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Stash by SJP- The Celebrity Niche Scent

stash sweater WEB

 The prevailing formula for virtually every celebrity fragrance release seems to be: make it cheap, make it sweet, make it boring. These fragrances are all too often just concocted as a quick cash grab, based entirely on the popularity of the “celeb” promoting it. They’re like a manufactured pop band created based on an aging record exec’s idea of what’s cool and “hip.”

Stash is a notable exception to this vicious celebrity-fragrance cycle. It’s dry, woody, totally unisex, even a tad masculine- with barely any sweetness. There is no caramel, no cupcake, not even any vanilla! Which means that Stash never had a ghost of a chance at being a huge seller. Which is such a shame, because it’s a wonderfully cozy, unique, and actually quite “on trend” scent. Who knew Sarah Jessica Parker would make the perfect unisex-woody-aromatic alternative for Brooklyn hipsters who are tired of paying big $$$ for Santal 33.

Stash starts off very dry, woody, and peppery, with just the tiniest twist of grapefruit, to add just a bit of zing. As it settles down, Stash actually smells remarkably like fresh coconut rind- dry, woody, nutty, and just a touch creamy. Stash also has an interesting warm/ cool quality. It’s heavy cedar, balsamic resins, and smoky incense certainly feel “warm,” but there’s also a bit of a “chilly,” aromatic quality to it that can be found in a lot of men’s fragrances. This is thanks to aromatic rosemary and masculine, cool vetiver. Stash‘s unisex woody-incense-aromatic-ness makes it feel a bit like something Comme Des Garcons would release.

Stash doesn’t go through any crazy development- it’s pretty linear. It just kind of melds into your skin, giving a gorgeously woodsy, slightly musky “worn in” feel. This vibe, combined with the fact that it’s completely unisex, actually makes Stash feel a bit sexy, in that effortless “perfectly tousled bedhead” kind of way.  I’ve been reaching for it a lot this winter, as it’s just that perfect sweater scent that feels appropriate for most any occasion. However, the dry, slightly cool quality of Stash could make it appropriate even for warm weather. Sillage is soft, and longevity is actually good- about 6 hours, but by then it is a skin scent. However, with Stash being so affordable (there are giftsets all over TJ Maxx and Marshalls right now,) I don’t mind indulging in a few vigorous applications (and re-applications!) In developing Stash, Sarah Jessica Parker (who is actually very active in developing her fragrances) said that she asked “how do you capture [the scent of] a sweater that has been worn by somebody that’s absorbed musk or patchouli?” I would say that with Stash, Parker has beautifully answered that question.

stash WEB


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Butter in a Bottle: Kyse Perfumes “Frollino Lavanda”

Frollino lavanda WEB

First of all, if you’re a gourmand lover, then Kyse Perfumes, the indie brand run by perfumer Terri Bozo, needs to be on your radar. A good number of Terri’s creations are more gourmand (and better executed) than most gourmands out there. With Frollino Lavanda, Terri has managed to bottle an aroma that I didn’t think possible- butter. Specifically, the smell of warm butter baked in shortbread or cookie form.

You get the buttery cookie deliciousness on first spray- no need to wait for a dry down. There’s a lemon-like tartness in the opening, as well as a bit of a resinous, sweet waxy note thanks to, well, beeswax. And then there’s the delectable smell of rich, buttery shortbread. Just when you think Frollino Lavanda is too much, too indulgent, the freshly floral, aromatic scent of lavender cuts through the heavy sweetness and settles beautifully into the drydown. You’re left with a perfectly wearable, sweet-but-not-too-sweet gourmand. That’s the mouthwatering genius of Frollino Lavanda– it’s yummy and gourmand – perhaps still too much so unless you’re a true gourmie- but it remains a composed perfume rather than a dull and obvious facsimile of sweet treats.

Making something not gourmand seem mouthwatering, and conversely, adding gourmand elements to decidedly non-gourmand notes is one of my favorite things to find in a fragrance. There’s something about a fragrance that is yummy but not blatantly literal that’s so enticing. Frollino Lavanda perfectly hits that sweet spot, being much more than just butter in a bottle.


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Can’t Handle the Perfume? Buy the Lotion!

Aromatics lotion WEB

There are some fragrances that are just too much- especially those beauties from decades past. Heavy hitters like vintage classic Aromatics Elixir by clinique are wildly complex, overstuffed, and perhaps too bold for modern noses. Despite the current formulation likely being a tad tamer than back in the day, I still struggle with wearing this chypre powerhouse filled to the brim with oakmoss, woods, patchouli, and much more. Only one spray- a half spray even- is appropriate. Problem is, when you have to apply in pathetic little half-squirts, you don’t get to experience that satisfying, all-over feeling of the fragrance enveloping you. The solution? Buy the damn lotion!

I tend to forget about the body products for any given fragrance. I kinda get tunnel vision and all I can see is beautiful potions in pretty glass bottles. Lotion? Psh, my cetaphil is fine. Body wash? Eh, my dove soap works just as well. I dunno, to me, perfume is a luxurious indulgence, while lotion and body wash and such are toiletries- mere utilities. So, I’ve never really cared to spend my perfume-dollars on these products.

Buuuuut, the Aromatics Elixir body smoother is just… heaven, and worth every penny, in my opinion. It gives you that enchanted forest, chypre magic of the perfume, only in a much easier to digest form. Applied all over, it creates that perfect “cloud” of scent around you without it being overwhelming to you or anyone else. And it lingers as a skinscent for hours and hours. It’s such a unique aroma – I call it a “clean forest.” Earthy oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver, and various florals provide the “forest” while soapy aldehydes provide the “clean.” It’s definitely an old fashioned perfume, but I don’t mind. Sometimes old classics can be hard to grapple with, and I’m happy that I can indulge in this beauty all I want- while getting smooth, supple skin at the same time!

Aromatics cropv WEB


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A True Flower Bomb: Chloe Narcisse

Narcisse1 WEB

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.

Narcisse2 WEB


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Blandly Literal: Jil Sander Sun

Jil Sander Sun WEB

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

monoi duo WEB

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.