Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Clinique Aromatics in White: fragrance review

It's easy to get immersed in the White Bear Problem while reading Clinique's laconic message for their newer fragrance Aromatics in White.

 Pretty. Intense.

 What does your mind "read"? Pretty intense, right?

As Dostoevsky wrote in 1863, "Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute."

In a way Aromatics in White is both things; both at once, but not one stressing itself upon the other.
It's a quite decent and very contemporary modernization of what has been the Great Dragon of the Clinique stable of thoroughbreds, Aromatics Elixir. The company is of course owned by the Lauder Group and the same IFF perfumers, like the legendary Bernand Chant have worked for both outfits ~the archetype is his handiwork, as is Aramis for men -another Lauder offshoot-, Lauder's own Azuree perfume and Alliage.

The classic Aromatics Elixir, is the scent that half of Athens, Greece, smells of. (The other half smells of car exhaust, lush jasmine vines, roasted coffee and charcoal smoke from diners. It'd make a pretty intense and pretty great perfume; indie perfumers take note!) Its commercial success is uncanny, for decades on end; it can't be just a generational thing, but something much more ingrained in the country and its cultural "chypre" heritage. After all history is a hard subject to shoot down...

Hardcore chypres are nothing if not head-strong, and thus the original is much derided, polarizing its audience; from mad love to "old lady" slurs of disgust, "a dream to some, a nightmare to others!".
The need for what I call "chypres nouveaux" was therefore latent all through the 2000s and the smashing success of Narciso Rodriguez for Her recalibrated what we consider a "modern chypre fragrance". (It's basically a floral woody musky and if you have guessed by now that Aromatics in White is one, you'd be more or less correct).

Consequently the senior Aromatics, with its dynamite rose-n'-patchouli core, had already been lightened with Aromatics Elixir Sheer Velvet Philtre Sensuel (try saying that quickly three times) from 2006 and Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve from 2011. The arrival of the new edition couldn't skip the sophisticated contemporary style that recently begat things like Si perfume by Armani or La Panthere by Cartier.

"I have always been fascinated with the magic of Aromatics Elixir and its attraction on the skin. I wanted to convey that feeling with a new, modern composition," stated perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu on the occasion of creating Aromatics in White.

Aromatics in White is particularly musky (and I'm glad fellow blogger Persolaise agrees), intensely patcoulisized and quite sweet in a sort of arabesque way, though not quite (no leaden "amber note"). Notice the prolonged, very pleasant powdery-soapy drydown that is simple but not simplistic. Its volume is turned down, yet its impact is keenly felt. And if you think you're not smelling it after a while, lean in cause it keeps itself alive on clothes like crazy.
All of these definitely put Aromatics in White into the contemporary map of worth-whiles (and the fluid, mother-of-pearl like austerity of the bottle is a bonus), but it might never really surpass the Sacred Beast that speaks the Charm of Making. Some things are immortal, even if they're not for everyone.

Fragrance Notes for Clinique Aromatics in White:
Top: Sichuan pepper, violet leaves, labdanum
Heart: rose, orange blossom, patchouli
Base: leather, musk, grey amber, benzoin, vanilla. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Twin Peaks: Korres Pure Cotton & Prada Infusion d'Iris

Do you associate iris the fragrance note with pure cotton? You should. Today's comparison involves two fragrances which share the same olfactory core in a language that has become Morse code for comfort, effortless elegance and sophisticated grooming.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s the scent of "groomed female" involved some floral aldehydic fragrance with the powerful blanched aspect of something termed White Linen (and we will revert to that) or First by Van Cleef & Arpels (or even Chanel No.5 for the purists), while still topping everything with the garland of sweet ladylike flowers. It probably involved matching ensembles, genuine supple kid skin leather goods and a 18K gold trinity ring by Cartier.
Our Millenial rotation has dispensed with the niceties and the romantic semiotics of flowers (especially since the metrosexual male partook in female ritual) and appreciates the "clean" "dry" feel minus the glamour and the hard cash. Enter the iris and white musk brigade that has been hammering down our collective nose door for a full on decade as the new code for "groomed".

via Korres Instagram

The "cotton" mention is thus explained; the former hot iron on a starched linen shirt coming from aldehydes is now smothered into the downy soft fabric softener feel of irones on freshly laundered cotton sheets (irones form the main constituent in the scent of iris/orris). You can casually stroll any super-market aisle and pick up any product in the body products range or even the laundry detergents/fabric softeners; "cotton" is code for lots of irones and white musks. Case in point? Carrefour's Cotton shower gel, for one.

Infusion d'Iris doesn't smell particularly iris-y. truth be told. That is, it's not the starchy pasta-and-sourdough feel one gets from orris, the dried rhizome "resinous" extraction coming after macerating the roots, even though the perfume's whole marketing standpoint stresses that technique ("infusion" etc. though if you notice, in the "list" of "ingredients" on the packaging iris/orris isn't mentioned). It's a powerfully woody resinous "clean" smelling entity with formidable attributes that do not proclaim their presence.  Benzoin, cedar notes and a hint of incense resin give warmth-coolness contrasts and copious tenacity and I suspect musk does too. This is also what I smell from the Korres Pure Cotton fragrance and the scratchy (but in a good way) lily of the valley aromachemical that signifies "I feel pretty, oh so pretty".

Beyond perfumery tropes, nevertheless, there is a very practical, tangible reason why Perfume Shrine's smell-alike perfumes articles, Twin Peaks, are so popular and this post is one such case. The full effect of the well-established best-seller by Prada comes at the fraction of the price in the newer incarnation by Korres! In fact Korres is probably playing on one of their older eaux de toilette, Iris Lily of the Valley Cotton. 

If you have been following our blog for years, you surely recall our dinosaur-worthy article of how much perfume actually costs. The internet has since erupted on similar breakdowns of cost vs. retail price, but beyond the pure logistics, any dedicated fan will tell you you're paying not for the raw materials but for the expertise, the know how, the tradition, the beautiful aesthetics...in the end for the sheer experience. (And that's why if you haven't read The Aesthetic Principle you really should). Price is irrelevant if you truly love what you get.

from the Wallpaper "Clean Slate" editorial featuring Korres products, via Korres Instagram

And yet, how do you explain two perfumes that are so close in scent that opting for one when having your eyes closed wouldn't produce a micro-grimace (lips falling down on one side, eyes rolling up) of distrustful apprehension?  Of course lots of other brands and companies have cottoned on (can't help the pun) to the success of the Prada Infusion d'Iris, not least Prada itself (mainly with their Infusion d'Homme). Chanel for one seems to have revitalized the No.19 perfume stable with Chanel No.19 Poudre, a scent which smells more like something from Prada (a soap devised by Prada) than traditional Chanel (a soap referencing Chanel)...and feel free to call me reductionist if you like, since I'm sorta sacrilegiously "reducing" both to soap. (Though soap is hard business to get right). And I'm coming round to the beginning of my parsing treatise; it's probably Dove and their classic soap scent which has inspired this whole genre. Something fluffy, soft, powdery and full of irones, lily of the valley, orange flower and white musks.

Fragrantica categorizes Korres Pure Cotton (part of the newly launched Eau de Cologne range) into the "aromatic spicy" fragrances and gives (the official) notes of mandarin orange (on top), iris (in the heart) and amber (in the base). It is an eau de cologne edition in a biggish bottle in the familiar elegant Korres aesthetics with a matte black rubber spraying mechanism. It smells and performs exactly the same as Prada's original Infusion d'Iris eau de parfum. Perfumephiles on a budget, rejoice!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Acqua di Parma Ginepro di Sardegna: Growing Icicles ~fragrance review

If the popular ice princess Elsa from Disney's Frozen had a scent, Ginepro di Sardegna by Acqua di Parma would be it; the spontaneous eruption of icicles and snow flakes that come whirling at the flick of her hand is within the fragrance's intentional scope. There is one scene in the movie in particular that perfectly evokes for me the feel of the Ginepro scent: the other main character, Anna, alongside a comic snowman and the friend-who-will-dawn-as-boyfriend-material-in-the end (surely a time honored trope) enter a forest where ice curtains of icicles hanging from the tree branches tinkle in the frosty air like piano glissandos.

pic via

This goosebumps producing, intensely fresh yet at once highly spicy fragrance from Acqua di Parma feels like a slice of Iceland in the midst of a heatwave when wearing even a chiffon top over tap pants feels like too much. Perfect for the southern summers, then! The unisex fragrance is part of the mostly fabulous Blu Mediterraneo line which includes the unusual Mirto di Panarea, a personal favorite, as well as the ultra popular Mandorlo di Sicilia,  the light-hearted Arancia di Capri and the nicely introverted woody scent Fico di Amalfi.
Ginepro di Saregna (Juniper of Sardinia) recalls the now discontinued Cipresso di Toscana from the same line and no wonder since its basic aromatic "note", juniper belongs to the family of cypresses, trees traditionally tied to the Mediterranean paysage, part of which is the isle of Sardinia/Sardegna. I'm not sure if this was a move to satisfy the lost customers of Cipresso or a plea to new ones who are attracted by new, new, new.

Ginepro di Sardegna is immersed in the vigorous gin & tonic feel of juniper berries, bitter aromatic and  tingling on the tongue, coupled with the eerily cooling feel of peppery spiciness. The peppery effect is not unlike the one in Poivre Samarcande (in the Hermessences collection by Hermes) so I'm hypothesizing that the effects of a clever use of Iso-E Super perfume ingredient are harnessed for all their worth, especially since cedar is the main woody note to underscore the composition. The after-feel is quite powdery, a soft, dry talc impression (I suspect white musk).
Further than a mere parsing of smells nevertheless Ginepro di Sardegna feels the way a Brâncuși looks, seamless and polished. Not entirely novel, one might argue, but pleasing all the same.

It's perfect for a seaside holiday under the scorching sun, the same as it's perfect on a gray winter day when you look forward to the snowflakes.

Lovers of Angeliques sous la Pluie by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Navegar by L'Artisan Parfumeur, Poivre Samarcande, Bang by Marc Jacobs, Juniper Sling by Penhaligon's and Piper Negrum by Lorenzo Villorezi should give Ginepro di Sardegna a try. More traditionally masculine feeling than feminine (apart from that powdery touch at the end), but who really pays attention when the back of your throat almost closes by the, welcome, dry frost?

Fragrance notes for Ginepro di Sardegna by Acqua di Parma:
Top: juniper berries, bergamot, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg
Heart: sage, cypress
Base: Virginia cedarwood

Interestingly the strength of Acqua di Parma is that although it was bought by LVMH as an existing company (and we all know what that means for historical houses) the basic core was developed post hoc and therefore great attention to detail and clever marketing paid off instead of backfiring. Bravo!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine:
Cool silken fragrances: Like Snowcapped Trees in the Ringing Winter Air
White Noise Fragrances
Acqua di Parma fragrance reviews & news

Monday, May 11, 2015

The winners of the Mother's Day draw...

I hope everyone had a lovely Mother's Day...There were 21 entries to the Tijon Mother's Day Contest, and each story was better than the next, as Jovan van Drielle told me in her email. However, there was one story that stood out amongst all the essays. The Grand Prize Winner of a $250.00 gift certificate to Tijon.com goes to: 
Rhonda Davis (Congratulations Rhonda!!)

Jovan also has other surprises up her sleeve: 
"In honor of Mother's Day and the birth of our new grandchild on May 9, 2015 - my partner and I are sending EVERYONE who entered our contest a surprise gift!

The winner and the following runners-up please contact Jovan via email (Jovan at Tijon dot com) providing the following information:

1) email address
2) full name
3) mailing address (no PO boxes please!)
4) phone number

The runner up winners are: 
Aaron Butler
All girl Mafia
Phyllis Iervello
Lorna Holliday-McGee
Diane Kehoe
Joan Mansbach
Linda Sliwowski
Richard Rendon
Sandy Vasalos
Ann Smith

Thanks to everyone for sharing their wonderful stories with us and Perfume Shrine!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Special Mother's Day Celebration: Lucky Draw

As usual with special commemorative days we host a lucky draw on Perfume Shrine today.
Courtesy of the ever gracious Jovan van Drielle of Tijon Fragrance Lab and Boutique, the draw involves Mothers inspired by the upcoming Mother's Day celebration this Sunday May 10th.

So, here's what you should do to enter the draw:

Tell us a story about your favorite Mother's Day Surprise!
Contest is open to everyone and winners will be drawn on May 10th.
Grand prize winner will receive a gift certificate worth $250 in products that can be used for ordering anything on the Tijon.com website. Since Jovan is very generous indeed, there may be more than one winner, so check it out!

Just to give you a taste I'm featuring below the Macaron Trinket Boxes (for whatever you may think of that fits in, from pills to hairpins) which come in assorted pastel colors.

And the Vintage-inspired Crystal Perfume Bottle Pendant Necklaces! Even better than looking like a true perfumephile, you can actually unscrew the top of the bottle and put a bit of perfume or essential oil in there for touch ups. Cool, huh?

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