Archive for December 2015

30 Days of Scent – Day Nineteen – A Pause, for Christmas   Leave a comment

Last Friday was Christmas, and rather than telling you which scent I wore I wanted to write about the scents I was given for Christmas, and also muse on the giving of fragrance to others.

I have a wishlist on Amazon, as many people do, and I tend to spell out which scents I like in case a friend or family member is inspired to gift me something because giving fragrances to other people is fraught with peril.  What smells good to one person may not to another, and even if it smells good in the bottle, or on a tester strip, an amazing perfume can go south quickly on someone’s skin if their skin chemistry isn’t exactly right for all of the chemicals involved.  Because, let’s face it: even if the scent we dab in all the right places is made of entirely natural ingredients, we’re still applying foreign substances to ourselves and hoping it will come out smelling lovely.  And we get it wrong so often – sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes because we want so badly for something to work when it doesn’t, and sometimes because we gave something to someone without consulting them.

Consider, if you will, White Linen, by Estée Lauder.  This was my mother’s signature scent when I was growing up, and it smelled amazing on her – floral and woody, green and powdery, with just a touch of aldehydes.  It was everything I wanted for myself in a perfume, and it was the one scent of hers she wouldn’t let me try on.  I would ask her, and she would divert me with another scent, one that was not as special to her, and I finally stopped asking but vowed that, when I got old enough, I would wear it myself.

And then, one day, my parents took my brothers on vacation and left me home for a week because I had to work, and I took the chance to spray myself with the fragrance I’d been coveting since I was too young to wear any scent but Ivory soap.  And it was horrible – the combination of notes that worked so well on my mother went terribly wrong on me; White Linen was too sharp, and the aldehydes were super strong when mixed with my skin chemistry, and all the things I loved about it on my mother were things I hated on myself.  But, a few months later, I tried it again with the same result.

And again a year later.  And again two years after that.  And again, and again, and again because I so wanted it to work.  In fact, the last time I tried it was just two years ago, with the same result…and a friend of mine asked me when I was going to stop torturing myself my wearing something that I know I can’t wear.

I stopped my longing for White Linen, and its many derivatives that I also tried, that day, and went back to enjoying what works on me and leaving what doesn’t behind.  For the most part.  Recent reviews not included.

I don’t think my mother knew what she was doing when she wouldn’t let me try it out as a child, but I do think she (subconsciously) realized that something might go oddly with our relationship if we ended up wearing the same fragrance.  Or, hell, maybe she just didn’t want to share.  Either way, I should have taken the hint, regardless of the reasoning behind it: White Linen is not for me.  And, with all of the other lovely Estée Lauder scents that do work on me, I’m okay with that.  Now, anyway.

So, I’m specific about what scents I want to own, and rarely include anything on my list that I don’t already know goes well with my skin chemistry; I default to try before I buy, and it hasn’t failed me.  Which brings me to the fact that I did end up with two new scents as Christmas gifts, along with one I specifically requested.

From my husband, who reads my wishlist, La Chasse Aux Papillions by L’Artisan Parfumeur.  I reviewed it back in March of 2015.

From my son, Wild Madagascar Vanilla by Bath & Body Works, which was new to me.  The jasmine it purports to have excites me, but the sandalwood worries me a bit.

From my mother, Waterlily Sun by Estée Lauder which I’ve wanted but not tried because of my wariness of musk.  Fortunately, it’s in a rollerball.

I will be wearing, and reviewing, all of these in the next few days.  And, potentially, some others, too – because my in-laws decided to encourage me to shop for my own gift this year, and there are some decants over at The Perfumed Court that are calling my name.

So, to all who read my meandering musings over here at Eating Monsters, here’s to a wonderfully scented Holiday Season, and if you’re planning to give the gift of scent, take note from the words of J.B. Smoove:

“Perfume works with the chemistry of your lady and your lady alone. They go together. You don’t want to embarrass your lady. You bring the wrong perfume home, you put it on her, and it smells like garbage truck juice.”

Much love,


30 Days of Scent – Day Eighteen – Cardinal by James Heeley   Leave a comment

Last Thursday, Christmas Eve, I wore Cardinal by James Heeley.  It, like all of my other Heeley scents, came from The Perfumed Court in a decant set. lists the main accords of Cardinal as balsamic, smoky, amber, warm spicy, and fresh spicy.  Their description of the scent is quite accurate, as words on a screen go: “Cardinal by James Heeley is a timeless fragrance of incense and labdanum. Underlayer of linen gives it purity and a mixture of grey amber, patchouli and vetiver give it elegance.  Top notes: rose, black pepper and aldehydes; middle notes: labdanum and incense; base notes: vetiver, amber and patchouli…”  I think, though, that I like the first line of description from the manufacturer best:

Incense enrobed in folds of white linen.

The first thing I thought of when I smelled Cardinal was a censer, and I imagine it is no surprise that the designer himself noted (during an interview with Lena Brombacher) that he was inspired to create it during a service at L’Eglise Saint-Gervais – Saint Protais in Paris.  Cardinal is incense in a bottle – it is wafting clouds in the aisles, candle-lit spaces, and ritual.  It is low singing, and prayer, and space-out-of-time.  It is a scent for occasions, solemn or otherwise so long as they are steeped in ceremony.

Cardinal is also the kyphi burning near my open window in honor of things more profound than can be explained in a short time…or in words, for that matter, and that’s the reason I’m thinking it will become a ritual scent for me.  I know I cannot do justice to a full bottle – it’s not meant for everyday wear – but the decant will most likely last me for some time.

On me, Cardinal is ambergris and smoke in an “incense burner” fashion, with hints of vetiver and black pepper.  The patchouli is not overwhelming, once again proving that Heeley knows how to use it to bolster a scent without having it smell like the inside of a tent at Burning Man.  I’d recommend you try it out – if it works, it will be an amazing experience.

30 Days of Scent – Day Seventeen – Iris de Nuit by James Heeley   Leave a comment

Last Wednesday, I wore Iris de Nuit by James Heeley.  I purchased it as a decant in a group with other of Heeley’s fragrances from The Perfumed Court. lists the main accords of Iris de Nuit as powdery, musky, floral, woody, and amber.  Their description of this scent says, “Rare and refined, sensual and discreet perfume, Iris de Nuit is a perfectly blended composition dedicated to this flower.  Angelica grain and ambrette open the composition up, followed by the heart of iris root, violet and carrot. The base is composed of grey amber and white cedar…”  James goes a step further and notes that men will get a scent that is “Classical, literary, romantic. ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray’” while women will note that it is “Sensual, delicate, creative and individual.”  And, even though Iris de Nuit wasn’t exactly what I expected, I can’t argue that it matches the descriptions in almost an uncanny way.

I love irises – I grow two kinds in my front flower bed, and I am tempted every year to sow the entire thing in rhizomes that will grow so thick that all the other plants that want to come up will be smothered.  I love their greenery, which I never cut back, and their gorgeous, heavy blooms, and the scent that comes off my Siberian hybrids is like walking into heaven.  The problem with my love for them, though, is that I’ve not found anything I can wear to match them: there is no manufactured scent, no bottled perfume, no fragrance, no matter how carefully crafted, that I’ve found that even comes close.  And yet, Iris de Nuit is successful in evoking, for me, the idea of irises in a symbolic way, not unlike a worshiper of a particular deity might place something on a shrine to remind them of that deity – a cow for Brighid, perhaps, or a cat for Bast.

(Or, perhaps, an aardvark for quite another god altogether.)

Iris de Nuit, on my skin, is powdery and floral, with a base of ambergris that is actually the most reminiscent of the flower for which it is named.  It is the ambergris, this time not trying to devour my soul, that makes the fragrance – all the herbaceousness mixed with Iris Absolute and Violet float above a solid foundation.  The white cedar that is also in the mix is incidental – I get no hint of it at all.  So, yes, unexpected, but perhaps in just the right way – I expect to bring out Iris de Nuit on those days when I want to be reminded to nurture and cultivate carefully.

Or, else, perhaps I’ll bring it out again when my irises are in bloom.

30 Days of Scent – Day Sixteen – L’Ombre dans L’Eau by Diptyque   Leave a comment

Last Tuesday, I wore L’Ombre dans L’Eau by Diptyque.  It’s a decant I received from a reader, along with a number of other Diptyque fragrances, and it came from The Perfumed Court. lists the main accords of L’Ombre dans L’Eau as green, aromatic, fruity, rose, and soft spicy.  Their description of this scent states that “L’Ombre Dans L’Eau (“Shadow in the water”) is a female fragrance from 1983, based on the unusual and beautiful harmony of black currant leaf and Bulgarian rose, which blend perfectly together. This perfume was created by Serge Kalouguine, a famous French perfumer who dedicated 30 years of his life to the house of Fragonard…

I wish L’Ombre dans L’Eau smelled like its description – rose with black currant leaf sounds like a lovely, if heady, combination.  Unfortunately, this scent leaves much to be desired – it smells like a quintessential 80s department store and much as I loved shopping with my friends, we almost never stuck around the perfume counters in Strawbridge’s (formerly Strawbridge & Clothier) for exactly this reason.

(I also want to point out here that the demise of Strawbridge’s is exactly why I hate Macy’s and refuse to shop there…and I suspect there are Marshall Field’s fans out there who agree with me.  But, I digress.)

On me, L’Ombre dans L’Eau is all aromatic and no floral, despite the manufacturer’s description of what this scent is supposed to be.  I get no greenery, and no rose, although there is a hint of rising sap among the other notes.  Whatever is in the base takes hold of my skin and doesn’t let go…but as Diptyque hasn’t cancelled it I can only assume that there are people out there who get from it the thing I don’t, and that there are enough of them to make production profitable.

30 Days of Scent – Day Fifteen – Menthe Fraîche by James Heeley   Leave a comment

On Monday, I wore Menthe Fraîche by James Heeley.  It was part of the Heeley decant set I bought from The Perfumed Court. lists the main accords of Menthe Fraîche as green, aromatic, fresh spicy, citrus, woody, and ozonic.  Their description of this scent is short and to the point: “Universal and modern, natural and ultra fresh unisex fragrance.  Top notes are mint leaf and Sicilian bergamot. The heart contains lotus and mate, and the base is formed of white cedar.”  I won’t copy over the manufacturer’s description, but I find it just slightly more useful despite using what looks like twice as many words.

I have wanted a mint perfume since I read Almost French and Christian Lacroix’s description, to the author, of growing up in southern France.  He talks about the feel of the region, the colors, and mentions that his grandmother wore mint perfume…and I never even knew such a thing existed.  What must it be like, I wondered, and decided at that point that I would one day own such a thing.  It took me another couple of years, though, before I discovered that Heeley’s collection included Menthe Fraîche and that I could acquire a decant to try it out.

Menthe Fraîche is everything I love about mint without being “curiously strong” – despite the claim of peppermint this is not your partner’s Altoid tin;  I get more spearmint than anything.  There is a light citrus component from the bergamot that makes me wonder what would happen if it were replaced with a citrus mint – lemon mint, perhaps, or orange mint.  That’s not to say the bergamot doesn’t fit, though.  I get more freesia than lotus, which gives Menthe Fraîche an airiness I’d like to wear more often.

Of course, every time I enjoy a Heeley scent I mourn the price point – it falls into that “probably better as a gift but who will buy it for me” category, and I probably won’t be owning a full-size bottle any time soon.

30 Days of Scent – Day Fourteen – Midnight Fleur by Nest   2 comments

Last Friday, I wore Midnight Fleur by Nest.  It’s a sample I was sent by the manufacturer when I wrote to them asking where I could find their fragrances.

(Incidentally, I highly recommend writing to manufacturers when you want to try something out but don’t know where to find it.  They’ll usually respond by sending you a sample – this is how I got my Nest samples, and also how I got two samples from Hermès.) lists the main accords of Midnight Fleur as amber, floral, patchouli, woody, and animalic.  Their description of this scent is short, but to the point: “…The nose behind this fragrance is Jerome Epinette. Top note is jasmine; middle notes are vanilla orchid and exotic woods; base notes are patchouli and black amber.”  Epinette has put together a number of perfumes, most of which I’ve not tried, but I may just have to remedy that fact.

Midnight Fleur actually reminds me of an Yves Rocher scent I had as a teenager called Ispahan, but Ispahan’s accords are described very differently on Fragrantica: yellow floral, sweet, fresh spicy, floral, vanilla, and powdery.  The only thing the descriptions have in common is “floral”, and yet I swear that I wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart if I didn’t know which was which.  Or, at least, this is what I remember – it could be that they’re actually not that similar.  Memory, even olfactory, is a funny thing.

I thought I wouldn’t like Midnight Fleur when I first read about it, because it is meant to be solidly in the land of patchouli and I’ve gone on and on about my feelings on that subject.  On me, though, I get some amber and vanilla, a little bit of jasmine (but not enough to put it in the white floral category), and some notes of wood but no patchouli at all.  I can’t quite figure out if the creator of Midnight Fleur intended that to happen, or if it is just a skin chemistry thing  but whatever it is, I intend to keep wearing Midnight Fleur until my sample is gone.  I think it’s an occasion fragrance for me, or perhaps a mood enhancer – it won’t be a regular like some of Nest’s other scents, but it will always have a place in my collection.

30 Days of Scent – Day Thirteen – Lilac Path by Aerin Lauder   Leave a comment

Last Thursday, I wore Lilac Path by Aerin Lauder.  I bought the rollerball from Estée where it is part of the Aerin Lauder lifestyle brand. lists the main accords of Lilac Path as white floral, musky, green, amber, and powdery.  Their description of this scent says that the “…Inspiration behind Lilac Path is the lilac bush which blooms at her late grandmother Estée Lauder’s summer cottage. The perfume blooms with galbanum, creamy jasmine lactones, angelica seed oil and orange flower. The carton is decorated with design, “Marila,” which combines two unique designs to create a signature batik…

As much as I am a fan of Estée Lauder, I admit I was hesitant about trying anything from the Aerin brand – “lifestyle” brands just don’t sit well with me.  I don’t know any person who is all of one thing, no matter how often they go to Crate & Barrel, and the idea of a “lifestyle” brand just smacks of “put the person in the box and make them stay there”.  Of course, if you’ve read any of my non-scent blog posts, you know that my brain already defaults to putting people in boxes based on my relationship to them while also railing against the idea that anyone would try to put ME in a box.

What can I say?  I’m an enigma.

Anyway, it turns out that Lilac Path is a gorgeous scent and completely not in a box unless that box is labeled Fragrances I Will Wear Over and Over Again.  Like so many of the scents in the Estée Lauder fragrance line, Lilac Path is a gorgeous white floral scent with other delicious notes buoying it up.  There’s something about the way that the lilac mixes with the jasmine and the orange flower that makes it heady but not cloying – it reminds me of walking among the blooming lilacs at the Jardin Botanique in Montréal, and you all know how much I love a good olfactory memory.  Also: if there’s musk in this scent I cannot sense it, and that’s a good thing since musk tends to take a note from patchouli and try to overpower me whenever I wear it.

I’d recommend Lilac Path for anyone who’s ever wished that they could rub themselves with lilac flowers and come away smelling as gorgeous as a late-spring evening.

30 Days of Scent – Day Twelve – Oranges and Lemons, Say The Bells of St. Clement’s by James Heeley   Leave a comment

Last Wednesday, I wore Oranges and Lemons, Say The Bells of St. Clement’s (hereafter Oranges and Lemons) by James Heeley.  It’s a decant I bought from The Perfumed Court as part of a pack of different James Heeley fragrances. lists the main accords of Oranges and Lemons as citrus, aromatic, green, woody, and fresh.  Their description of the scent says that “…Oranges and Lemons Say The Bells of St. Clements Was introduced in 2010, made of refreshing notes of bergamot, lemon, orange, mandarin, neroli, petit grain, Earl Grey tea, ylang-ylang and vetiver…

One of the things I really like about James Heeley fragrances is that the bulk of them are intended to be for all genders (or, as most people say, “unisex”).  There’s a stereotype out there, even now, that women’s scents should be of a certain composition and men’s should be of another, and ne’er the twain shall meet…and it’s such bullshit when you think about how fragrance actually works.  One’s skin chemistry is not another’s, and it shouldn’t be a big deal if leather and tobacco work on me while vanilla and iris work on one of my male partners.

So, Oranges and Lemons is a scent I can see working on a number of people for different reasons.  When I tried it, I was hoping to get the Earl Grey tea notes, with bergamot and lemon; instead, I got orange and neroli, vetiver and lemon, and a hint of ylang-ylang.  This is not a bad thing, per se, but it isn’t really what I expected.  On me, there’s no tea at all, and there’s some bitterness that is really interesting, like biting into the rind of the orange itself.  I like it, but in a way that makes me think I won’t put it into my regular rotation – this is a scent for an occasion rather than for daily wear.  I won’t toss it, but the decant will probably last for quite some time.

Although, now that I think about it, I wonder if it would work on my son?  He’s still searching for a scent to call his own now that he’s old enough to be out of the Axe phase.  Maybe it is time for a decant or two in his stocking.

30 Days of Scent – Day Eleven – Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake by DS & Durga   Leave a comment

On Tuesday, I wore Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake by DS & Durga.  It’s a decant I bought from The Perfumed Court in my endless quest for aquatic scents. lists the main accords of Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake as woody, aquatic, fresh, earthy, and herbal.  Their description of this scent was definitely copied from the manufacturer’s website:

“Up pale grey mountain, through silver fog, bracken, bramble, dry heather shrub, past gravestone pile from forgotten time, facing west in whipping wind, the small black lake keeps witch’s ring, where the doomed king looked out to sea, Fenian blood in turf, the chilling quiet, the cry of hounds.

fog-on-stone, water pepper, lichen
heather shrub, beechwood, bramble
flower, marsh violet
coastal air, chilled water, purslane

Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake was launched in 2013.”

A little over the top in my opinion, but I get what they’re trying to evoke.  And, honestly, Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake (mostly) lives up to it.

I’d not heard of DS & Durga before trying this scent, and so I checked out the About section on their site.  It appears that DS is the parfumeur and Durga is the designer, and together they wanted to create small-batch, niche scents from “premium sourced raw materials.”  There’s some information on what inspired them to start the brand, along with some flowery language about “distilling designs into the architecture of fragrances” and writing “songs in scent”…but it doesn’t drive me away.  Then again, it was the fragrance that drew me there in the first place.

Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is not huge right out of the gate – but I wouldn’t expect anything different from an eau de parfum with “fog-on-stone” as a top note.  The water pepper and lichen are apparent but ethereal – it takes a good hour for this scent to settle on me and decide where it wants to go.  That’s not to say it is different every time I wear it, but the potential feels like it is there for Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake to bend itself not only to the skin chemistry of the person wearing it, but also to the environment.  On Tuesday, it was unseasonably warm in these parts for December, and I swear that I could almost feel this fragrance figuring out what would best suit the circumstances.

The accords Fragrantica attributes to Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake are accurate, at least on me, but I really think this is a scent that is better experienced than reviewed…despite how wordy I appear to have gotten in this post.  If you want to try it out, I suggest you check out DS & Durga’s retailers page and find somewhere near you that carries their line…or else check out The Perfumed Court.

30 Days of Scent – Day Ten – Petale Noir by Agent Provocateur   Leave a comment

(You’ve probably noticed, by now, that 30 Days of Scent this time around is skipping weekends.  I apologize for not carrying it for thirty straight days; my weekends have become so busy that I appear to be using them to play catch-up.)

And, apparently I’m behind again.

On Monday, I wore Petale Noir by Agent Provocateur.  It’s a decant I bought from The Perfumed Court. lists the main accords of Petale Noir as floral, woody, green, aquatic, rose, and ozonic.  Their description of this scent states that “…Petale Noir by Agent Provocateur is a Oriental Floral fragrance for women. Petale Noir was launched in 2012. Top notes are lotus, magnolia, violet leaf, hyacinth, mandarin orange and bergamot; middle notes are rose, ylang-ylang, neroli, heliotrope, osmanthus, orris root, lily-of-the-valley and; base notes are leather, ginger, amber, tobacco leaf, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, labdanum, musk and benzoin.

Petale Noir is one of those scents that I love when I first put it on, but hate by the end of the day.  The reasons are varied, depending on the day, but two things always stick out: (1) the violet leaf and lotus are gorgeous in the top; (2) the patchouli (eventually) takes over and tries to eat my face.  It doesn’t matter how much I put on, or where I dab it – the top notes make me sing and fall in love with Petale Noir, but the base notes make me want to curl up in a corner and cry.  Clearly, the relationship I have with this scent is not a healthy one…evidenced by the fact that I keep re-trying it over and over and OVER again.

Honestly, I need to give this one to someone who appreciates patchouli and is able to withstand it – it’s just too much for me, and the heartbreak I go through ever time I wear it just isn’t worth it anymore.