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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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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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!

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!

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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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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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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.