Ipso Olfacto

fragrant musings


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Stash by SJP- The Celebrity Niche Scent

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 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.

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Butter in a Bottle: Kyse Perfumes “Frollino Lavanda”

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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!

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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!

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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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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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Your Skin but Better: Bruno Acampora Musc

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I discovered Musc by Italian perfumer Bruno Acampora by accident.  It was one of those “wild cards” that I threw into a large sample order.  I was intrigued because YouTuber Katie Puckrik (come back to us, Katie!) said that it was her favorite perfume at the time- that it was a sexy, lived-in musk that smelled like “clean, slept-in sheets.”  So, I thought it was at least worth a sniff. And lo and behold, I fell in love!

What you first notice with Musc is that it’s, well, musty. It specifically opens with the distinct smell of mushrooms, fresh from the earth. Now, musty doesn’t really sound like something you’d exactly seek out from a perfume. But I find that dank earthiness to be addictive, in the same way that the sweaty, sweet earthiness of Mugler’s Angel sure sounds like it’d be disgusting, when in reality,  it’s what you’ve been craving all your life.

However, if you aren’t a fan of smelling like a mushroom forest, then you’re in luck. The musty-ness settles down considerably after 20 minutes or so, allowing dry, powdery sandalwood to emerge. There’s wisps of spicy clove and the tiniest hint of creamy vanilla. It smells a bit vintage, without feeling dated. But of course, all of this is wrapped up in a comforting, “lived-in” musk. This isn’t a clean laundry musk, nor is it a fluffy, candy musk that you find in a lot of generic gourmands nowadays. It’s human, but not dirty. And it effectively blurs the individual notes so that you’re left with a full, distinct scent.

I feel like Musc makes me smell like I’m staying in a cabin in the woods, and I’ve just taken a morning walk through the forest (maybe foraging for mushrooms!)  There’s morning dew on the vegetation, and in the air. So, I’ve been outside, but not exerted myself. Afterwards, I take a nap with the window open, letting the moist smells of the forest mingle with the ambient, cozy smells of home. Musc is how I think I’d smell after all that. Although it stays pretty close to the skin, Musc has great longevity, keeping me in my relaxing fantasy cabin all day long- and sometimes into the next morning!

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