Ipso Olfacto

fragrant musings


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The Price Superiority Complex

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Anyone who’s spent enough time in a fragrance hobby knows just how expensive a single bottle can get. Oh, how naive I was when my awareness of fragrances was limited to the selections at Ulta- where a $100 Chanel was the most exorbitantly expensive fragrance option. Now, I don’t even bat an eye at $200 niches (not that I can afford them, they just don’t surprise me anymore. ) Combine an (often) expensive, niche hobby with a completely subjective way of judging said items, and you have an ideal environment for snobbery to flourish. It’s not difficult to find people who will make remarks like: “Oh, you simply haven’t LIVED until you’ve smelled Amouage’s Homage Attar ($400+)” while simultaneously snubbing their noses at your “mainstream,” cheaper fragrance choices. The reality is, you can find great fragrances at any price point, and price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality.

I think that there’s always going to be that need to justify spending a huge amount of money on something “frivolous” like fragrance. Although, the “mainstreaming” of many niche brands like Byredo and Diptyque have likely lessened the “stigma.” Still, there’s often this need to assert that there’s something just so objectively better about fragrances that cost 200, 300, 400(!!!) dollars than their cheaper, designer or, heaven forbid, drug-store brethren.

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Two great woody gourmands: PG Praline de Santal ($125) and Britney Spears Fantasy The Naughty Remix ($10)

But you know what? I’d pit Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose ($10) against Jo Malone Red Roses ($95) any day (Tea Rose even lasts longer.) The sweet, fruity fun of Viktor and Rolf Bon Bon ($95) can also just as easily be found in Britney Spears Fantasy ($10 at discounters.) Want a jammy, gourmand rose scent? Mancera Roses Vanille or Roses Chocolate ($100+) are lovely, but Kyse Perfumes Confit de Rose ($52) is just as beautiful (and delicious!) Anyway, you get my point. I think that you learn more by smelling more- at all price points. What actually determines a perfume’s price is much more complicated than the literal cost of materials for the liquid in the bottle, which highly varies depending on economies of scale. And just because a material is rare or hard to find doesn’t mean it will necessarily smell better to you.

Now, even though you can find a great fragrance at virtually any price- if you’re like me and sample things across the board, it’s always possible to end up falling IN LOVE with one of the really expensive ones. At that point, it’s simply up to you to decide if you love that scent enough to spend that kinda dough. It’s kind of like if you want to buy art for your home- a $200 painting from a local artist isn’t objectively lesser “quality” than a $10,000 one from a more famous artist (one has much greater resale value- in the moment, but you know what I mean.) Assuming you could buy both, you may get just as much, or more enjoyment out of the $200 paining than having the more pricey one.  And sometimes, you can only afford the $200 one. I see perfumes as a similar, artistic investment. I find Amouage Lilac Love to be delightful, but I’m not exactly in a place in my life where I can plop down $400 for a bottle. At this time, I’m fine with enjoying some scents without owning full bottles.

Anyway, my point is that, although this hobby can get expensive, you can still enjoy and explore plenty of great fragrances at many price points. The availability of decants and samples also means that we can own a bit of even the super expensive scents without committing to a full bottle. Ultimately, fragrance is subjective, and we should all go a-sniffing with both open nostrils and open minds.


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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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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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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.


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My Top 6 Summer Gourmands!

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The phrase “Summer Gourmand” may seem like an oxymoron- but this ride or die gourmie has been able to find plenty of satisfyingly yummy gourmands to get me through the summer heat. The secret is gourmand notes that are sweet without being sticky, paired with fresh, light notes like mint, fresh fruit, or green/medicinal accords. Below are 6 of my favorite yummy summer picks (clockwise from bottom left):

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First up are the EDT and EDP from Salvatore Ferragamo’s Signorina line. These are what I call delightfully generic. Yeah, they’re kind of just typical fruitchouli gourmands, but they’re so adorably girly, and actually quite distinct. And that bottle? Total vanity table eye-candy. The EDP is a lovely creamy strawberry-flan type of smell, along with some well-behaved patchouli and a hint of what smells like a tea note (maybe the peony and pink pepper?) The EDT is a crisp, milky rice pudding with a hint of tartness thanks to litchi fruit, along with a fresh watery rose accord.  Ciao Bella!

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Next up is a recent love of mine: Replica: Tea Escape from Maison Martin Margiela. This is such a specific, highly unique fragrance. Ever had matcha (japanese green tea) flavored bubble tea, or green tea mochi ice cream? That’s basically what this smells like. It has that distinct green earthiness of matcha, combined with a lovely, milky sweet rice accord. A hint of mint in the opening adds some more palpable freshness.

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Now we’re gonna take a right into Mugler-ville, because when you want great gourmands, there’s not really a better house to turn to than Thierry Mugler. First up is Angel Eau Sucre- which is kind of Angel for people who hate Angel- in that it doesn’t really smell like it at all. But, that’s okay, because it’s wonderful in its own right. An incredibly accurate tart, sweet berry sorbet accord swirls with toasted meringue and light patchouli to create a sweet scent that feels like a refreshing, cold dessert.

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Our next stop in Mugler-ville is the somewhat controversial Womanity. I think some people not really knowing what to think of its “caviar” note is solely responsible for some of Womanity’s vocal bad reviews saying that it smells “like rotten fish,” because there’s absolutely nothing fishy about it (caviar doesn’t even smell/taste like fish, you plebes!) Womanity is simply a lovely, sweet, breezy beach scent. It has fruity notes of fig, as well as green and woody notes combined with, yes, a “caviar” accord, which just translates to the smell of fresh, salty sea air. It’s a bit weird, in true Mugler fashion, but still totally wearable.

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And last, we have Angel Eau de Toilette– the lighter, fresher version of Angel. For fans of the EDP, this one hits all the right beats while using milder, easier to wear notes. Fresh crisp berries, nutty praline, and clean, mentholated patchouli mingle together to create a much more well-behaved, and yes, summer appropriate, Angel.

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What about you? Let me know your favorite summer gourmands, or just general summer scents, in the comments!


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Review: Angel Eau De Toilette

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Probably everything that can ever be said about Angel EDP by Thierry Mugler has already been said at this point. Everything from “this smells like the pheromones of aphrodite herself- plus it cleared my skin and saved my marriage!” to “smells like nasty B.O. and rotten fruit, and also it killed my family. ” You will either love or loathe that distinctively asymmetrical star bottle and the sweet, fruity, earthy juice inside. I happen to love Angel in all its forms. Probably my favorite, though, is a version that I think people tend to forget about for no good reason given the fact that it’s infinitely easier to wear: Angel EDT.

Angel EDT is the ideal EDT version of a bold, rich EDP fragrance in my view- it still retains the key characteristics of the EDP while softening its rough edges (and Angel EDP sure has a lot of them!) In a world where the EDT version of an EDP is often a totally, confusingly different fragrance, Angel EDT is clearly, proudly related to Angel- she’s just a bit less unhinged.

That polarizing dirty, gritty patchouli found in the EDP is replaced here with a cleaner, more medicinal version that nudges the scent more to the masculine side. Those overripe, sweaty berries from the EDP are now more fresh and crisp. And that ridiculous cornucopia of random syrupy, sugary gourmand notes is replaced with a single, much more well tolerated one: praline. This adds just the right amount of sweet, slightly chocolatey gourmand yumminess without the heavy syrup. Like in the EDP, the EDT is dominated by patchouli, but that menthol, medicinal quality that it’s given is quite refreshing. One of my favorite things about Angel in general is that it’s a gourmand that doesn’t smell literally edible. It smells yummy in many ways, but has enough earth and human grime going on to prevent me from feeling like a walking cake. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a walking cake. You do you.

But yes, you can sweat in this and not smell completely disgusting. Even though Mugler has released a number of good “summer” flankers of Angel, I think that the EDT is kind of the “true” summer Angel- in that it provides maximum Angel DNA while still being summer appropriate. Angel EDP is kind of the last thing anyone would think of when looking for a summer perfume- so it’s surprising to have the EDT where it still feels like Angel EDP, just much easier to tango with. And given that it still has that trademark beastly longevity that we’ve all come to expect from Mugler, It feels great for this gourmand-lover to be able to have my dirty patchouli cake, and eat it too- even in summer.