Summer Series Part 2: Shalimar Showdown

Welcome to Perfume Polytechnic’s Summer Series. I’m taking a break over summer from writing new posts, but instead of stopping publishing altogether, I want to share with you some of my favourite posts from this year and earlier. I hope you enjoy reading them; you may even come across something you missed the first time round!

Today I’m sharing a post of mine from early 2015, Shalimar Showdown: The Originals and The Flankers Battle it Out, in which I compare and review eight different kinds of Shalimar (vintage, contemporary, different strengths and flankers) and one vintage Emeraude. It was fun to write and I hope you find it fun to read!

Shalimar Showdown is my most read post on Perfume Polytechnic. It’s interesting to read if you like Shalimar but don’t know which one to buy, or if you’re interested in collecting many of the different Shalimars, or even if you just want to find out what some of the differences are between them all. Obviously I haven’t reviewed every Shalimar there is: I do hope in a future post to review a few more of my vintage bottles and also the Shalimar flankers that have been released recently. But for now, pour yourself a cuppa, find a comfy chair, and enjoy the journey that is Shalimar ShowdownContinue reading

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Shalimar Showdown: The Originals and The Flankers Battle it Out

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to...

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to… Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle.

Shalimar by Guerlain is my favourite fragrance of all time. It is the fragrance that got me interested in the notion of fragrance as an olfactory art, so I owe it a lot. So many words have been devoted to the history of Shalimar, the making of it, and the many versions of it over the 90 years it has been in production, that I hardly need to go into much of that now. Instead, here is a bit of trivia about this much loved fragrance:

  • Shalimar was created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain.
  • Shalimar is similar to Guerlain’s own Jicky (1889) with a mega-dose of vanilla added, although rumour also has it that it was based upon the formula for Francois Coty’s Emeraude, created in 1921.
  • Shalimar is often called the Queen of Orientals, or the reference oriental fragrance.
  • Shalimar is one of Guerlain’s bestselling products.

You can read more about the Shalimar and Emeraude connection over at The Perfume Vault, and ponder the origins of this iconic fragrance. If you want to look up the particular notes and ingredients used in Shalimar, Emeraude, or any of the flankers from my review, head on over to Fragrantica. It should be noted that this blog post is more for the seasoned perfume aficianado, in that it assumes some knowledge of Shalimar and its flankers, and how they smell.

Yesterday afternoon I tested eight versions of Shalimar, including four flankers, and one version of Coty’s Emeraude. I didn’t include Jicky in my survey this time, although it is remarkably similar to Shalimar.

I sprayed the originals on my left arm, and the flankers on my right. I wrote my initial impressions down over the first five minutes or so after spraying, and then came back to the fragrances after a period of about ninety minutes to see how they developed and changed over time.

The Originals

shal_originals

Shalimar Originals and Emeraude by Coty

Emeraude

Emeraude Cologne Spray

1. Emeraude Cologne Spray by Coty

I have a vintage bottle of Emeraude – I’m guessing it dates from the 80s by the look of the bottle and the lettering on the sticker underneath. As far as Emeraude goes it’s not very old and it may not be the best version out there. Coty sold out (financially and creatively) a long time ago and sadly their classic and iconic fragrances have all but been destroyed over recent decades. However, this version seems quite good and it’s an interesting reference point to start my adventure from.

At first spray: it’s very much like Shalimar, but is softer, lighter and more powdery. There is less of the discordant harshness that I find in Shalimar, which is what I think makes Shalimar a great fragrance. I smell Johnson’s Baby Powder here, a zesty bergamot and a hint of fresh lemon is well blended with the vanilla and amber, and I also detect opoponax. If I didn’t know this was Emeraude, I might mistake this for a vintage (20-30 years old) Shalimar, in an EDT concentration. It’s yummy, but it’s not outstanding!

After ninety minutes it smells quite wan. The amber is there, as is a touch of baby powder vanilla, but any interesting qualities have faded and it just smells simple and a bit stale. My guess is Coty was already using inferior ingredients (compared to Guerlain) during the period this bottle was made. It just doesn’t cut the mustard in comparison to any of the Shalimars, sadly. Maybe one day I’ll get to smell an older, better Emeraude.

shal_edt

Shalimar Eau de Toilette from 2000

2. Shalimar Eau de Toilette refill bottle from 2000

On first spray: this smells harsher than the Emeraude. It’s much more complex and I immediately notice a touch of civet, an unmistakable fecal note. The bergamot has a real edge to it, which contributes to the harshness. It’s much stronger than the Emeraude too. I smell leather, but it’s not concocted from birch tar; it has a softer, gentler, new leather handbag smell. The bergamot, amber and vanilla are the most dominant notes in the first few minutes, more or less equally.

After ninety minutes this is really interesting and is still moderately strong on my skin, which is great for an Eau de Toilette. It’s quite savoury for a Shalimar, and I can smell distinct layers of fragrance notes hovering over one another: amber at the base, a powdery soft vanilla in the middle, and a muted, yet still present bergamot adding a little bit of pizzazz up the top. This is good stuff.

Shal_EDC

Shalimar Eau de Cologne c. 1990s and missing its label

3. Shalimar Eau de Cologne c. 1990s

Wowzers! At first sniff this is harsher again; there’s almost a hint of bug spray, and a very sharp leather note, but it quickly calms down to become a soft and rounded scent. The bergamot is much softer than in the Eau de Toilette. I’ve heard that natural, untampered-with bergamot was more rounded and complex than the version used in fragrance today, which has had its potentially skin-harming photosensitive molecules removed from it. I wonder if it’s been used here? It certainly doesn’t have the screechiness of the bergamot used in the newer versions of Shalimar. Overall, this version of Shalimar is much quieter in volume, being a cologne (the weakest concentration of fragrance), and the ingredients are more blended. I almost get a hint of licorice here, which is odd: I’ve never noticed licorice in Shalimar before! As with the Eau de Toilette (EDT), the bergamot, vanilla and amber are equally blended together, with no one note dominating. This is a divine skin scent. I’d love to splash it on lavishly all over and have someone think this was how I actually smelled, naturally.

After ninety minutes this has almost gone. A faint whisper of vanillic amber is barely detectable in the crook of my elbow.

Shal_parfum

Shalimar Parfum from 2010

4. Shalimar Parfum from 2010

The first big difference I notice between this and the other Shalimars is an overtly strong, warm animalic smell. It’s civet again, but here it’s immediately dominant. Then a fresh, lemony bergamot swiftly rises up and hovers above the sweetly warm animalic smell. Amber appears and tussles with the civet for dominance. The vanilla sits there in the background quietly, supporting the composition. This is a very sophisticated and well-balanced fragrance. It’s strong, but as there is less alcohol in this parfum-strength Shalimar and a correspondingly higher proportion of delectable, smelly ingredients to enjoy, we don’t have to wait very long for the alcohol to evaporate before we can dive in, nose first, and enjoy the fragrance. Shalimar parfum is rich and refined.

After ninety minutes this is a cuddly, warm, sophisticated joy to smell. It’s faded quite a bit, but an almost sweet, vanillic amber wafts up from my skin. The civet has toned down considerably (only adding warmth, but no poopiness to the mix) and the bergamot has left the room entirely.

This is a scent that I use on special occasions only. It’s beautiful and well crafted.

Shal_EDP

Shalimar Eau de Parfum, current version

5. Shalimar Eau de Parfum – current version

This is the exact fragrance (year and concentration) that got me excited about perfume, and which made me realise that fragrance can be an olfactory art. It’s the version of Shalimar that I wear most. But do I still love it the most, after this showdown?

There’s something quite rough and intense and dark about this brew. Goodness, I do love it so. I smell not only quite a strident bergamot and a touch of lemon, but rough, masculine woods, leather made from birch tar, smoke, strong amber, and quite a bit of civet. It’s so exotic and passionate: a mix of fresh and almost fetid, sweet and savoury, light and dark. The vanilla is only just starting to peek its head out at about two minutes in. At this stage the Eau de Parfum could be a unisex fragrance. Perhaps it’s this straddling of camps that I like about Shalimar: it’s such a great mix of so many seemingly contrary things that it’s not easily classifiable or even describable.

After ninety minutes this is still a complex and beautiful fragrance. It’s faded a bit, but is still quite noticeable with my nose a good six inches or so from my shoulder. Any rough edges have faded, and the vanilla is rising up to take on a starring role, alongside the ever-present, very dry and savoury amber.

I’m at the half-way point now, so I take a break for my nose’s sake. My left arm smells incredible, like it’s been coated with lemon meringue tart and Johnson’s Baby Powder. I feel lopsided with fragrance on only one side of my body!

The Flankers

shalimar_flankers

The Flankers

shal_mexique

Shalimar Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique from 2013

1. Shalimar Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique from 2013

I get an intense civet burst at first spray and almost a hint of cumin-like body odour deep in the background. I’m trying to smell the chocolate that’s listed in the notes but I’m struggling at this stage – perhaps all I can smell of it is a powdery, earthy cocoa smell, very faint. The bergamot is quite strident again and reminds me of that used in the Eau de Parfum (EDP). It’s on an equal footing with the civet and the amber is strong too. This flanker is very similar to the current EDP version of Shalimar at first spray, but with certain elements skewed or enhanced, especially the civet. If I didn’t know it was a flanker, I would probably just think it was another version of Shalimar that I didn’t already know well. It mellows reasonably quickly and the sweeter lolly-tones are emerging a couple of minutes in.

About ninety minutes in this fragrance has mellowed significantly and the animalic elements have blended beautifully with the caramel and chocolate notes, both of which are quite prominent now. It’s like a warmer, sweeter, lolly shop version of Shalimar, with amber and vanilla still intact, but in the background.

shalimar_eau

Eau de Shalimar from 2011

2. Eau de Shalimar from 2011

Holy lemon starburst! This is lemon sherbet lollies and bright golden sunlight and a zesty bottle of sweet lemonade being opened on a hot day, all at once! The fizz! The sweetness! Underneath it all, like a layer of bedrock, is the signature Shalimar trademark blend of vanilla and amber, but it’s quite well disguised on first spray. This is edible!

Ninety minutes in this is more diminished than I would like: it’s now a soft, lovely melange of lemon, amber and vanilla, but it’s only sniffable about an inch from my skin.

shal_PI

Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum – current version

3. Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum – current version

Oh! This is so dark and rich and intensely delicious. This fragrance, while it shares a name with Shalimar, is not particularly like the original. Its darkness, richness and complexity equals that of the current Shalimar Eau de Parfum, even if the two do not smell particularly closely related. I visualise dark purple velvet swathes of fabric when I smell this. Shalimar Parfum Initial contains enormous quantities of iris and molasses-infused caramel, which delightfully combine to give the impression of licorice. There’s a hint of bergamot, and though it’s kept in the background, it certainly creates a frisson with the warmer ingredients, including the ever-present vanilla and a rich, almost savoury amber. While this flanker contains gourmand ingredients, it’s far too complex and interesting to place firmly in the category of gourmand. Oriental-gourmand, perhaps?

After ninety minutes the licorice note has toned down, to leave a lovely combination of dark caramel and savoury amber. The iris is still strong and compliments this duet, and is now displaying a powdery quality that wasn’t present earlier.

And the winner of the prettiest bottle award goes to...

Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau Si Sensuelle from 2013

4. Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle from 2013 (Eau de Toilette)

This is a flanker of a flanker of a flanker: first there was Shalimar Parfum Initial, then Shalimar Parfum Initial L’eau, and then this one. Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau Si Sensuelle is, confusingly, the same fragrance as Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau; apparently it was merely repackaged in 2013 in a gorgeously girlish pink frosted bottle with an impossibly soft feather tassle. This fragrance also wins the contest for the silliest, longest fragrance name in history. But apart from all of this, SPILSS, as I shall now call it, is not a complete frippery. The iris is much softer here than in Shalimar Parfum Initial and shares centre stage with a more buttery caramel. As a result, the licorice effect is much more subdued in this version of the fragrance. Bergamot plays a supporting role here too, though it’s much subtler than in any of the original Shalimars, and vanilla is also in the background. Where has the amber gone? I’m not sure I can detect it at all, nor am I certain that it’s meant to even have any.

After ninety minutes this is a softer, sweeter version of Shalimar Parfum Initial. I smell mostly caramel and a soft powdery iris. It’s lovely and is moderately strong for an Eau de Toilette after an hour and a half.

And the Winner Is…

So, which Shalimar wins the showdown? Both the original Shalimar Eau de Parfum (current formula) and the Shalimar Parfum Initial Eau de Parfum tickled my fancy the most. Shalimar EDP is complex, rich and interesting, remains interesting through its development and drydown, and exhibits a range of qualities and ingredients that create both friction and harmony. It’s a perfect blend of opposites, and it works incredibly well. Shalimar Parfum Initial is not quite as complex but is equally distinct in character as Shalimar EDP, and yet they are both dark and intense creatures. I love how the edible, gourmand ingredients of Shalimar Parfum Initial are offset with more classical perfume ingredients such as iris and bergamot. Again, it’s a beautiful blend of somewhat oppositional forces that somehow coalesce to create a marvellous composition. These two favourite versions are followed closely by the utter beauty and warm sophistication of the 2010 Shalimar Parfum, with its balanced and elegant use of exquisite raw materials.

There is no doubt that I love and enjoy wearing every one of the fragrances I’ve reviewed today, and this has been such a fun and educational experiment for me. I’ve been able to study, for the first time, the subtle and not-so-subtle differences and similarities between various versions of the original Shalimar and some of the flankers. I have a new take on all of them thanks to this exercise and I do hope it’s been interesting for you too!

Which Shalimar is your favourite? Do you own a version that I don’t have? If so, or if you have a different take on things, let me know in the comments box below!

O’Driù Blind Sniff Challenge

blindfolded

Recently, a fellow perfume enthusiast loaned me a compendium of samples by independent Italian perfume house O’Driù. O’Driù is a rather controversial perfume house: in 2013 they released the divisive Peety – a fragrance that is supposed to be “completed” or supplemented, or “personalised” even, by adding 1ml of the owner’s urine.

Manneken Pis - Bruxelles - Belgique

Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Myrabella

O’Driù describes itself thus (all text quoted from the O’Driù website):

O’DRIÙ is a project by PLEASURE FACTORY, the Italian specialty communications company part of CnC GROUP (www.cnc-group.it) devoted to well being and leisure market.

With O’DRIÙ, the PLEASURE FACTORY aim is to create a new brand in niche perfumery directed to demanding customers, that yearn for really exclusive products.

So, the O’DRIÙ philosophy is simple: high quality, original products, made to create intense emotions, produced in limited series to be rare and identify their customers.

Starting from ancient recipes, Angelo Orazio Pregoni – the perfume creator – designed intensely emotional fragrances that are truly alive and that create a unique, continuously changing, personal aura.

While I didn’t have Peety in my slightly older sample set, I did have access to seven fragrances that contained some very unusual, conceptual fragrance notes. These notes were things like “bitter battle”, “the nightmare that reveals the pleasure” and “the hug of a woman”. As a practising composer and someone with a long involvement and education in the arts, these kinds of concepts excite me. Clearly these more experimental notes are supposed to express a feeling, an event, or some other thing, rather than strictly representing an ingredient that is in the fragrance. As well as these more conceptual ingredients, the perfumes also contain the kinds of notes we are normally accustomed to finding in perfumery: flowers, woods, spices, incense and so on.

Battle_of_Ridgeway

The Battle of Ridgeway. 1869 illustration from Library and Archives Canada. Public Domain.

Process

Anyway, as a fun idea, I decided to subject myself, and my perfume-illiterate partner (his words), Olly Technic, to a blind sniff challenge, with the aim of seeing if we could actually detect these very interesting, conceptual notes, or the emotion or thing that they were supposed to arouse or refer to. As these conceptual notes are something that neither a perfumista, nor a perfume-illiterate person would know or be able to necessarily recognise (to my knowledge they don’t actually exist, nor have they been “expressed” or used in any other fragrance so far), I thought Olly’s opinion would be just as valid as mine. As it turned out, Olly not only had some fascinating smell-based observations, but he also made space-or-place analogies from each fragrance. That is, he wrote down the sense of place or space (or bodily sensation) that each fragrance evoked in him. I found this fascinating, and an interesting way to talk about fragrance, and I hope you do too.

We sniffed each sample, on skin, one by one, and wrote notes about our impressions of what we were sniffing. We had no access to the actual fragrance notes (conceptual or conservative), which were listed separately on cards. All we knew was the name of the fragrance as listed on the vial. We allowed ourselves no more than 2 minutes to write down our first impressions.

Once we’d done this we had a look at the corresponding notes for the fragrance, as listed on the card, and shared our impressions with each other. It was a fun experiment and we had very different impressions at times. Our idea of what we were smelling was often very different to the actual notes in the fragrance too. Here is a transcript of our O’Driù blind sniff challenge:

Sample 1 – Ladamo

Polly says: “Woah! Strong, so strong. Potent! Patchouli? I smell birch tar and cough syrup. It’s sweet, in a cough syrup kind of way (bitter too!). Masculine. Wood varnish.”

Olly says: “Hot celery, spicy Christmas pudding wafted over as you applied the sample, roses. It starts to smell like maple syrup a little later. This one has a homey feel.”

Actual notes

top: earth, roots, wind, magnolia, ginger
middle: liquorice, sandalwood, tobacco, the hug of a woman
base: mimosa, juniper, lichens, a bath in the water

Verdict

Did we smell any of this? Not terribly much. The “earth” note was probably the patchouli, as patchouli has a tendency to smell like dark, dug earth. The ginger may have triggered Olly’s “Christmas pudding” reaction, and maybe the liquorice reminded me of cough syrup. Sadly, neither of us detected “the hug of a woman” or “a bath in the water”. Oh well.

Sample 2 – Leva

Polly says: “Reeling back, my head recoils, but not in disgust. It’s cool, warm, leathery, there’s menthol, camphor, something repellant and bodily and metallic. Blood? Hyper-natural blood orange!”

Olly says: “I smell antiseptic, cool mint, sarsaparilla, lemon with funk. This one feels spacious but busy, like Flinders Street Railway Station.”

Actual notes

top: grapefruit, jasmine, black pepper, under the sun
middle: curcuma, vanilla, jatamansi, the nightmare that reveals the pleasure
base: lemongrass, benzoin, broad bean, a smell in the wood

Verdict

After one hour, this one has settled a lot. It’s sweeter and more balanced; fruity, woody, bitter, yet still quite strange. Olly and I both picked up on citrus notes, and something cool (menthol/mint/camphor), which doesn’t really match anything in the notes. The bloody smell that I thought I detected at first sniff may well be intended to represent the surreal note “the nightmare that reveals the pleasure”.

Sample 3 – Vis et Honor

Polly says: “Mould and fish and female private parts, woods, and floor polish and incense. It’s warm and cool and fishy and off. It smells a bit like Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant but is much more flamboyant and animalic! It reminds me of an old carpet that’s been pissed on by animals years ago and has never been cleaned.”

Olly says: “Warm, mouldy, pine, rubber. Incense. It feels like being in a phone booth – one of those old style, fully enclosed ones. Fairly snug.”

Actual notes

top: bitter battle, smoked notes, chlorophyll, chamomile, fox fur
middle: olive, mimosa, myrtle, juniper, galbanum
base: laurel, cardamom, bitter almond, wormwood, incense, lichens

Verdict

The incense is very strong, and both Olly and myself detected it; thankfully there is incense in the base notes, so we are not going crazy, just yet. Now that I know wormwood is in it, I can smell it, and the smoky notes, but I couldn’t pick them out with a blind sniffing. Otherwise, sadly, I’m not sure this one fits the concept or that many of the notes are detectable. It is a wearable fragrance though, once the fishy, animalic and mouldy notes have worn off, which takes less than an hour, it’s actually quite pleasant: dry, resinous and incensy.

Sample 4 – Xvert

Polly says: “More recoil!  Female private parts again! Intensely fishy, and not in a good way. Salty. I detect a cool note again and something woody. I don’t like this one. This is very challenging! I smell a syrupy blood orange note.”

Olly says: “A fishy something-or-other is hidden in a spice shop, with a dash of maple syrup. It reminds me of hot concrete in summer.”

Actual notes

top notes: magnolia, dill, echo of dead leaves
Middle notes: tarragon, cardamom, any drug
base notes: hay, sandalwood, the degree of suffering with which a woman punishes who she loves

Verdict

Neither of us thinks that this matches the notes listed. Where is the fishy, salty note we are both smelling so strongly? Sadly, neither of us can detect “the degree of suffering with which a woman punishes who she loves”, though we both want to know what that would smell like. What a fun concept!

Sample 5 – Allegradonna

Polly says: “I smell smoke and burnt logs. Smoky tea – Lapsang Souchong! Do I detect a note of birch tar or leather? I’m picking up on that blood-orangey, cough-syrupy sweetness again, that note I’ve already detected in a couple of other samples, but here it’s more in the background. I also smell patchouli – deep dark chocolate and dug earth. Is there clove, or perhaps cinnamon too? This one is relatively pleasant. It’s strong, but all of the samples are: intensely strong and characterful. There is nothing subtle about any of these fragrances.”

Olly says: “Smoky orange. Nowhere.”

Actual notes

top: the last dream memories, jasmine, the sheets, the marketplace
middle: basil quiet, a cup of tea with a cinnamon biscuit, galbanum
base: mimosa, annual wormwood, the listening, the seduction

Verdict

This is the most wearable of the samples that we tried. The cinnamon biscuit note was quite apparent to me. Sadly, we cannot smell the conceptual notes of “the last dream memories”, or “the seduction”. We wish we could! This fragrance is gorgeously rich, sweet and spicy! It reminds me of Eau Lente by Diptyque.

Sample 6 – Linfedele Haiku (Melodia)

Polly says: “Do I smell citrus? There is something cool and camphoraceous here too. Urgh! It’s hitting me! Instant recoil… again! This is so strong and weird, like some kind of liniment or deep heat rub, but not pleasant. A herbal, medicinal smell. I can imagine a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor using something that smells like this.”

Olly says: “Incense in lemonade with a dash of salt. This one feels like a too-small sleeping bag.”

Actual notes

These are not listed in the categories top/middle/base notes. Instead, the back of this card has an extract from a music score on it and the notes are super-imposed randomly onto the image of the score.

The notes are: castoreum, incense, tonka, geranium, black pepper, carnation, pompecolo, pine, vanilla, patchouli, coffee, yerba mate, barley, sounds.

Verdict

Ah! The geranium is so obvious now that I know it’s in there – it’s that cool, camphoraceous smell that I know so well! Why could I not detect it?! The incense is also quite apparent to us both. Neither of us thinks this fragrance “smells” melodious or musical, which is a shame. This one is quite approachable and wearable after about 5 minutes on the skin.

Sample 7 – Jasmine Mean Time

Polly says: “This is jasmine at its best: gorgeously real and indolic, with a slight amount of rotting flesh in the deep dark background. It reminds me of a late spring evening, when the jasmine is in full bloom. There is also something a little cool and minty-fresh hovering behind the jasmine’s indolic overdose. Camphor? There’s not much else going on here. This fragrance is very rich and strong, as are all of the samples.”

Olly says: “Jasmine, but lemony-sharp. A hundred metre race track.”

Actual notes

top: Marrakesh, London, Brindisi
middle: Suez, Calcutta, Hong Kong
base: San Francisco, New York, Liverpool

Verdict

This concept is a complete mystery! The notes are represented by city names only.  Is this supposed to represent the smell of jasmine from all of these places? You know what? I don’t care; this is a gorgeous jasmine fragrance!

Conclusions

Olly and I had a lot of fun blind-sniffing the O’Driù samples. Some of them matched up a bit to their actual or conceptual fragrance notes, as listed, but more often than not, didn’t bear much relation to the notes or concepts. We had fun trying to name and describe what we were smelling anyway, and Olly had fun trying to think up a space-or-place analogy for each fragrance. To be honest, I think his observations are better than mine! O’Driù is a bold, experimental, daring fragrance house. I admire their courage to include conceptual, imaginary ingredients such as “any drug” or “the last dream memories” in their fragrances. It’s a difficult thing to do, to find analogies in art forms, in ways that are recognisable to the observer. I’m not sure it’s really succeeded here, but hats off to them for giving it a try.

O’Driù has a recognisable house style: it’s woody, generally masculine or unisex at least, with bitter and/or savoury notes. All the fragrances we tested are very strong. Many are quite odd, resulting in verbal and/or guttural reactions from us! We both found it hard to identify notes, unlike with traditional perfumes, as there are so many interesting and unusual ingredients and combinations in most of the fragrances. Olly and I both liked and loathed the samples. Several made me recoil: Ladamo, Leva, and Vis et Honor, though not necessarily in a bad way. Sometimes it was the strength of the ingredients, the sheer unusualness of them, or the way that they were combined. Others were softer and more wearable: both Jasmine Mean Time and Allegradonna definitely fell into the realm of wearable and lovely.

All in all, this was a really fun experiment. Have you tried any O’Driù fragrances? If so, what do you think of them? Have you ever blind-tested a fragrance and tried to guess what’s in it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments section below.

Perfume Review: Tuberose Fragrances by Histoires de Parfums – Part Two – Tubereuse 3: Animale

Tube_Rose_Snuff,_Brown_&_Williamson_Tobacco_Company,_Winston-Salem,_North_Carolina

“Tube Rose Snuff, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, Winston-Salem, North Carolina,” illustration published by the North Carolina State Fair Premium List 1920. Image courtesy of the Government and Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina. http://www.flickr.com/photos/statelibrarync/6185312167/

Introduction to Histoires de Parfums Reviews

A few months ago, in my Facebook perfume appreciation group, some of us took part in a perfume review challenge. In this group task, we each chose a fragrance house that we wanted to become more familiar with, and wrote a review on a different scent from that house, every day for seven days. I chose to review seven fragrances by the French company Histoires de Parfums. Over the past few weeks I’ve shared a few of these reviews with you at Perfume Polytechnic. Today’s review of Tubereuse 3 is the final installment of this series.

If you’re interested in reading some of my earlier reviews, click through to the following links:

1740: Marquis de Sade

Olympia

Part One of this “paired” review, in which I reviewed Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse and shared my thoughts on tuberose as an ingredient, can be found here. If you’re interested in some background information about Histoires de Parfums,  it can be found in this post. In this two-part review I will be sharing my thoughts and impressions of two of the Tuberose Trilogy fragrances by Histoires de Parfums, Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3. I won’t be reviewing Tubereuse 2: Virginale at this stage.

Part two – Tubereuse 3: Animale

Both Tubereuse 1 and Tubereuse 3 come from a series of three tuberose-centric perfumes created by Histoires de Parfums.

On its website, Histoires de Parfums (HdP) describes the tuberose flower as follows: “The mythical tuberose flower is a symbol of desire and dangerous pleasures. First discovered in Mexico thousands of years ago, tuberose is now cultivated worldwide, specifically in South India to be devoted to Gods, ceremonies and perfumes. A night-blooming plant that ends in a cluster of corolla flowers, tuberose only blooms once a year and requires meticulous care and cultivation. Tuberose’s fragrance is considered one of the most powerful floral scents and presents a noble challenge for any perfumer to bottle, yet has inspired many legendary fragrances. Tuberose emits a sweet and heady perfume, deeper after twilight when in full bloom. Its warm and velvety scent is sensual and spicy with a hint of sweetness and crystallized sugar. A powerful aphrodisiac, the green top notes gradually fold into a wild and bewitching deep bouquet of fragrance.” (text quoted from HdP’s website)

Tubereuse 3: Animale is a curious fragrance: it seems to straddle scent categories that are usually in opposition to one another. On the one hand, it’s like an 80s powerhouse fragrance: so rich, so intense, so strong, yet its intriguingly original blend of notes and high quality ingredients ensures it remains firmly in the niche camp. Gender-wise, it’s a true unisex fragrance, including sweeter fruity and floral notes (most often considered feminine) and stronger woody and herbaceous notes (usually considered masculine).

Tubereuse 3 is described by HdP thus:

“The mystical flower of the rituals and magic! The tuberose always provokes! More than a poison her nectar of honey is a real invitation to seduction! How not to feel bewitched when you face this mixture of blond Tobacco and Immortelle!” (text quoted from HdP’s website)

The listed notes are:

Top Notes: Tuberose, Neroli, Kumquat
Heart Notes: Tuberose, Aromatics, Prune
Base Notes: Tuberose, Blond Woods, Immortelle

I know this fragrance well, as I own a small travel-sized bottle, and I’ve worn it many times. Tubereuse 3 (T3), on first spray, is strong, one of the strongest and headiest fragrances I have experienced. At first, T3 emits a sweet yet savoury, boozy, rich aroma, and conjures up images of dark maple syrup (from the immortelle), shots of fine aged whisky, pipe tobacco and honey-soaked prunes.

The tobacco used in T3 hits you with a blast, and imparts a dry, masculine layer that balances out the sweet fruitiness of the other dominant notes (immortelle and prune). This tobacco note also reminds me of the old tins of cigarettes that my father once collected. As a child I used to enjoy opening the drawer in the enormously tall antique mahogany display cabinet in the dining room, pulling out one of the beautifully labelled flat tins, and opening it to reveal the dry, sweet, hay-like smell of the cigarettes. These cigarettes smelled nothing like those available in the modern packets and I revelled in these stolen sniffs, feeling like I was doing something slightly naughty, yet pleasurable.

The tuberose, as in Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse, plays a supporting role, but here, it is slightly stronger and more recognisable as tuberose. It’s still not indolic, but it imparts a strong sweetness and richness that matches the syrup of the immortelle and the warm intensity of the prune.

As for the remaining notes, I can’t detect them, so I must assume that either my skin doesn’t augment them, or they’re so well blended that they hide behind the dominant notes.

Longevity is excellent – T3 will last on clothes until you wash them, and for at least 4-6 hours on skin. Projection is enormous for the first couple of hours. You will easily fill a room in this fragrance. This, coupled with the longevity, means you don’t need to spray much of this fragrance for it to go a long way.

Tubereuse 3: Animale is a gorgeously rich, warm fragrance, marvellously comforting in cold weather, but also delicious in the summer, when its warm-dry-sweetness matches the heat of the sun.

As for the subtitle of this fragrance, “Animale”, I’m not sure that I would call T3 an animalic fragrance. Sure, it has the richness and depth that many true animalic fragrances often have, but there are no animal-derived or animal-redolent (whether natural or synthetically mimicked) ingredients here.

Tubereuse 1: Capricieuse and Tubereuse 3: Animale are now two of my favourite fragrances. HdP has used high quality ingredients and combined them in interesting compositions, exploring the note of tuberose in more subtle and unusual ways than many other perfume houses.

I’ve enjoyed discovering and reviewing these two fragrances from HdP’s Tuberose Trilogy. I’ve learnt that tuberose can play a variety of roles in a fragrance, and that it doesn’t always have to be a hot fuchsia mash-up of the indolic, overpowering, and tooth-achingly sweet.