Femme Rochas (vintage)

I was introduced to this frag about 5 years ago by a fragrant friend whom I consider my perfume mentor though I was in no way ready for it back then. It smelled sweaty and dirty. But I’ve come a long way in the past 2 years as far as chypres and animalics are concerned and this one is loaded with both!

Though it’s considered a chypre fruity, and it really is fruity for a chypre, it’s also loaded with cumin that gives it a real dirty twist. Fragrantica has it listed as a “leather” note but I couldn’t disagree more. I own lots of leather goods and have worn many leather frags and this is definitely cumin, not leather.

The play of cumin on oakmoss reminds me of Alexander McQueens Kingdom, though Kingdom is much drier, brittle, dusty almost. Femme is humid, chewy, and rich in comparison. ¡Muy rico!

But Femme gets compared to Mitsouko the most and while they are both fruity chypres with peach notes, Femme has a lot more going on than Mitsy, being much more fruity since it also features a plum note not to mention all that cumin. The fruity notes give it a chewy, jammy, boozy feel.

kingdom

Did I mention the cumin? Haha I read a review on Fragrantica recently where one perfumista compared Femme to the smell of her armpits after eating curry hahaha. I died lol. French perfumes are known for layering the sweet over the skank, most immortalized with the use of civet in the icons Shalimar and Chanel No 5. Femme followed right in their trails, being released roughly two decades after them.

Femme is NOT for everyone clearly as she is no dainty lady. She’s a femme fatale, but classy, sultry, and not afraid to get her hands dirty. She works for a living. She’s on the go, never idle. That dirty note can only be compared to the infamous Putain des Palaces from the House of Etat Libre d’ Orange, ohhh la la! Haha. While these two fragrances do not actually smell similar at all, I do think they have a comparable level of the skank factor. PdP being a leather note and Femme being cumin.

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After coming around to Mitsouko the last few months I HAD to revisit Femme, which I still had that sample given to me 5 years ago and this time around I fell head over heels for it. I went online and ordered a vintage bottle right away. The bonus here is that it’s not expensive at all but definitely does not smell like a cheap perfume. I paid $40 USD for 100ml, “new old stock” vintage with the gold cap.

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Josephine Baker with her pet cheetah, “Chiquita”.

When I think of Femme, I think Josephine Baker but not in the banana skirt. No, she’s a little older here and on the run during WWII after her beloved France was under German occupation. She’s in North Africa, fighting for the French resistance, using her celebrity status as an entertainer to gather intel, a spy of sorts in the tradition of the one and only and oh so infamous, Mata Hari. She’s still a lady but she’s working up a sweat, but not from dancing but fighting for the things she believes in.

Femme is not some damsel in distress, teeny-bopper syrup spray. This is a classic chypre for the people, it’s affirdable, attainable. It’s a favorite pair of broken in dress flats, it’s lived in, comfortable, sexy, and so very feminine. This is leather and lace and will make you smell sophisticated and even a little intimidating. Femme is the scent of a confident, independant, intelligent woman that knows how to handle her business. She is her own boss though men still trip over themselves trying to open the door for her. And best of all, it’s soooo easy to get your hands on. I feel zero guilt spraying without reserve. Grab yourself a vintage bottle before I buy them all 😉 lol.

Year: 1943

Season: All

Top: Cumin,Apricot, Plum, Cinnamon, Cumin, Peach, Bergamot, Lemon, Rosewood

Heart: Rosemary, Carnation, Cumin, Iris, Jasmine, Clove, Ylang, Rose, Cumin

Base: Leather, Cumin, Amber, Patchouli, Musk, Benzoin, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Cumin

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Love in White Creed

I am a Scorpio. And while I don’t actually put much stock into astrology, I HAVE always been drawn to the idea of duality, which is supposedly a very Scorpio thing to be. Sock and buskin (drama masks), Baphomet, the scale of Anubis, Yin and yang, etc. (You get the idea hopefully.) So when I fell in love with Love in Black and purchased it while on vacation, I ended up buying Love in White as well. Because hello, black and white. I needed the balance haha. I really thought it was some kind of flanker, some type of yin to this yang. But nope. It’s not. Anyways, that’s the entire reason I bought it. Hello buyers remorse because I paid full retail too. Ouch!

So yeah, that last bit means I don’t like it. Not even a little bit. It’s such a weird fragrance. It doesn’t smell bad per se, but it surely doesn’t turn me on either. But I do my best to be as objective as possible here, so…

Love in White opens with an aquatic burst with oranges and florals. I typically dislike aquatic notes, there is no exception here. And although aquatic notes aren’t listed, this is how I perceive the fragrance nonetheless. The iris lends its coldness in the top while the magnolia sweetens it up (and I typically LOVE magnolia). Once it dries down it warms up a bit with a round creamy jasmine and lots of rice. Too much rice methinks. The ambergris also becomes very prominent during the heart and gives the whole composition a bit of saltiness. It smells clean and actually has sort of a detergent vibe to it. The final chapter consists of warm ambergris and vanilla that turn some what powdery in the base. Sandalwood is listed in the notes but I don’t pick up on it much.

Subjectively though, it smells like soapy salty rice and flowers. Eew. And I can’t seem to bring myself to love it, much less even like it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried haha. For three years in fact, I’ve revisited this perfume every few months to try and give it another go to see if I like it better in different weather but the results are still the same. No me gusta. Je n’aime pas. I just don’t like it.

There have only been two other fragrances before that I bought full bottles of and ended up either selling, or just giving away; Fleur d’ Oranger 27 by Le Labo and Forever and Ever Dior. So I’ve experienced this buyers remorse before and have become much more discerning to which fragrances I will bite the bullet for and spring for full bottles because of them. Love in White will get a few more chances before I decide to pass it along, but as of now, it doesn’t look like it will remain in my collection. C’est la vie lol.

Season: Summer, Spring
Top: Orange peel
Heart: Iris, Narcissus, Magnolia, Rice, Jasmine
Base: Sandalwood, Vanilla, Ambergris

Mitsouko Guerlain

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When it comes to writing down my thoughts and feelings about perfumes, I never approach the task flippantly, most especially when it comes to the older iconic fragrances. It took years before I felt I was ready to opine on Shalimar, for example. It’s been around longer than my grandmother after all and what could an inexperienced, beginner perfumista have to say about it anyway? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing worthy of paying any attention to anyway. And Mitsouko is even older than Shalimar, being released in 1919. I just don’t form opinions on things I don’t understand. And it took a long time for me to “get” Mitsouko, but alas, I finally understand.

When I was first introduced to this perfume over 5 years ago by Johnathan Nieto at the Guerlain boutique in Palazzo Vegas, my only thought was why on earth would anyone want to smell like this? I ended up buying Mon Precieux Nectar that visit lol. I knew nothing about Mitsoukos historical context, or what ingredients were even available at the time of its creation, nor the inspiration behind its name, or even its predecessor, Chypre de Coty. No, I knew none of these things and didn’t even consider their existance. All I knew was that it didn’t smell like the squeaky clean, sweetened concoctions that had been in vogue most of my life. To me it smelled sour, musty, and very very dated. And while it IS dated, now that I really understand oakmoss, it no longer smells sour and musty, but sweet and woodsy. I’ve actually grown to adore Mitsouko. 

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So you might ask, how on earth can something go from smelling bad to smelling good and the only thing that’s changed is a mindset? Well, the nose is funny that way. And really, it’s like anything else that’s an acquired taste. I mean, who really loves beer the first time they taste it? Or “stinky cheese”?

It wasn’t until I started tinkering around with essential oils and absolutes that I developed a love for oakmoss. And after I had tested an original, very rare-over 90 years old formula of Chypre de Coty, the original chypre of mass production, I was inspired to create my own chypre with all natural ingredients just to see what it would smell like. So I researched where to get the best (legit) EOs and Absolutes, researched basic chypre composition, and ended up ordering Patchouli and Oakmoss Absolute from Piping Rock and Labdanum, Cistus, and Bergamot from Gritmans along with a few others, and began my little experiment.

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My chypre experiment

Oakmoss has been mostly banned from perfumes in the last 10 years or so due to  alleged allergens, but after playing around in it for weeks, I can say I am in no way allergic to oakmoss. And what I discovered was that the Mitsouko I had originally tested was but a shadow of a ghost of its original self, for it contained little to no oakmoss. And oakmoss is an imperative ingredient in any true chypre. Like baking bread without flour, or spaghetti without any tomatoes, a chypre without oakmoss is not really a true chypre.

What I ended up creating over those few weeks tinkering with EOs, was a very “rough around the edges”, unrefined hint of what Chypre de Coty was and I ended up developing a real love for oakmoss. But my experiment was very much lacking, and compared to Mitsouko, the most obvious thing lacking was the peaches.

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From my personal collection, Extrait & EdP Mitsouko, both vintage.

It’s funny how things are relative. Like how originally, Mitsouko was sour and musty to my nose with nothing sweet about it. But a side by side comparison of Mitsouko to Chypre de Coty, proved how much sweeter Mitsouko is than Coty because of the peach note. When you cut out all the sugar from your diet, things begin to taste sweeter. And that’s just what I experienced with my nose with my chypre creation experiments and  wearing Mitsouko and Coty. I avoided all the sweet gourmands and orientals for a while to focus on chypres, and all the little nuances began to really shine within them.

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Screenshot of notes from Fragrantica

The other facet of Mitsouko that I loved even before the fragrance itself grew on me, is the incredibly romantic inspiration behind the fragrance in the first place. Mitsouko was metaphorically meant by Jacques Guerlain, to ring in the end of WWI and to inspire hope for the future. The namesake, Mitsouko, came from the book, La Bataille by Claude Farrere.  It is a story of forbidden love between two lovers whose countries were at war against each other. From wiki:

       ” The story of Mitsouko is found in Farrère’s novel La Bataille (‘The Battle’, 1909), which is a romance based upon Japan modernization and westernization during the Meiji period and upon the 1905 naval Battle of Tsushima when the Imperial Japanese Navy defeated the Russian Imperial Navy . In Claude Farrère’s book ‘La Bataille’, Mitsouko was a beautiful Japanese woman whose name meant both ‘honey comb’ and ‘mystery’, who was married to a noble Japanese Navy officer and who had an ill-fated love affair with an English officer. ”           

la bataille        

So that brings me to how I grew to love and appreciate Mitsouko. And after swapping my reformulated EdP for a decant of Royal Extract, I decided to replace it with a vintage edp, that still contained all that glorious oakmoss. And I just looooove it! 

Mitsouko is definitely an acquired taste for the young noses of today, that have been spoiled by clean sugary sweet, mass market fragrances. Not only is it an acquired taste, it can be somewhat of a difficult taste to acquire because Mitsouko can be a bit on the temperamental side.  The notes that dominate can depend on the weather, humidity, and the moisture levels in ones skin.  Sometimes I get lots of peaches and Mitsy is sweet and well behaved, other times, I get more bergamot and vetiver, which do not play so nice on my skin. So if you try it out and do not like it at first, do yourself a favor and try again at another time. I’ve known lots of perfumistas that disliked Mitsy at first, but I don’t know many that didn’t grow to just love it.  There’s a good reason, after all, that it’s still in production after almost 100 years when many new fragrances get discontinued within a decade.  Despite its temperamental nature, Mitsouko is truly an endearing classic fragrance that I’m sure will be around many more years to come. 

mitsy2
Vintage Guerlain print Ad

Season: All

Top: Citrus, Jasmine, Bergamot, Rose

Heart: Lilac, Peach, Jasmine, Ylang, Rose

Base: Spices, Amber, Cinnamon, Vetiver, Oakmoss

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Vintage Guerlain print Ad

Top 10 of 2018

So I do this every year around this time and update my top 10 fragrances from the past 12 months. These are my most worn, “desert island” frags, flavor of the moment perfumes.

A few have remained steady in their places while a few have been kicked out and replaced. So without further ado, my top 10, in no particular order for 2018 are:

~Iris Poudre

~Attrape Cœur/Evasion/Guet Apens

~Mon Precieux Nectar

~Femme Rochas

~Encens Mythique d’ Orient

~Neroli Outrenoir

~Vol de Nuit EdT

~Muscs Koublai Khan

~Cuir Beluga

~Coco Noir

Here’s last years top 10!

Royal Extract Guerlain

Royal-Extract-Guerlain-Harrods-perfume-relaunch-exclusive-review

Royal Extract falls into a small group of anomalous perfumes Guerlain has released in limited productions over the years. Vol de Nuit Evasion, Attrape Cœur, Guet Apens, Royal Extract, and a few others too. They all have different names and different packaging but they are all essentially the exact same fragrance.

Among Guerlain collectors, it’s more of a third tier collection piece. Top tier being the über rare, $25k collection piece flacons, like Shalimar Indes & Merveilles or the L’Abeilles flacons, which are practically museum worthy pieces. Second tier being the Lalique or Baccarat crystal pieces and even the porcelain Mitsouko flacons, for example. But for regular folks like myself, THIS is top shelf stuff.

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Photo from my personal collection: VdN Evasion, Guet Apens, & Attrape Cœur.

I’ve had the pleasure of hunting down and owning three versions of this fragrance in Vol de Nuit Evasion in the traditional Cœur cap “L’heure bleue” bottle, Attrape Cœur in the Persiennes bee bottle, and Guet Apens in the cobalt blue lantern bottle. Royal Extract took several years to be able to test though because it’s such a limited exclusive and was only released to Harrods in London, so testers in the US are few and far between, much less full bottles. I was lucky to come across a decent size decant for swap on Fragrantica and I swapped my partial bottle of current formula Mitsouko EdP for it (which I’ve since replaced with a vintage full of oakmoss). To me, it was a great score because I’ve been dying to test it out and compare it to the others.

Guerlain is known for often releasing previously discontinued fragrances. But the re-releases more often than not come with some tweaking of the juice, meaning of course, reformulations. And this frag was tweaked every time it was released. It’s very obvious not only in the color of the juices, but in side by side comparisons. The scent itself, Royal Extract, is much more refined, cleaner, brighter and even sweeter than Guet Apens but it’s still that same fragrance I’ve come to love so much. Over the past 3 years, this perfume has become my most favorite fragrance to date. And not because of the “thrill of the chase” with it being such a rare, discontinued unicorn, but the scent itself is so incredibly gorgeous, it sends me into bliss. I could drown myself in this juice, figuratively speaking of course, ha. To me, it’s the most beautiful ambered vanilla I’ve ever had. And Guerlain is well known as the master of vanilla perfumes. From their iconic and historical flagship fragrance Shalimar to their coveted exclusives like Spiriteuse Double Vanille, Cuir Beluga, and Mon Precieux Nectar, which are considered some of the creme de la creme of exclusive vanilla perfumes and I own them all and truly love them all, but I love this one the most. I just really can’t get enough.

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Screenshot of Notes listed on Fragrantica

Though these are Orientals, Guet Apens and to a lesser degree, Evasion, are heavy with labdanum, giving them a woody chypre undercurrent, faint but detectable. Royal Extract on the other hand, leaves out this “dirty” bit and focuses more on the vanilla and peach. To my nose, it’s very similar to Mon Precieux Nectar in that they both carry the same sweet honey viscosity (not literally, in the thickness of the juice itself, but rather how it is perceived). They are about the same level of sweetness, brightness, though MPN features a prominent almond note, Royal Extract being peach. I would dare say they share the same base.

Though many perfumistas couldn’t care less about this relatively obscure little group of discontinued perfumes, much less this one incarnation of it, die-hard Guerlainophiles go nuts over this stuff and clearly I am in that latter group haha. Why is it that Guerlain continues to seduce and tease with these limited releases? Why change the name, the bottle, and presentation of this fragrance every time? Though I have no idea, I can say definitively that it lends an air of mystery and evasiveness even, to the entire “hoopla” surrounding this fragrance and its history. And it gives us Guerlainophiles sort of a scavenger hunt if you will, that adds notches to the perfumista belt of experience. Because the truth is, not many perfumistas will ever get a chance to try even one version of this fragrance, much less four versions of it. And yes, I am proud of this little accomplishment, truth be told haha.

In every case of collecting items, whatever they may be, there are always coveted pieces that are rare and highly sought after. From stamps to train sets, to art and even cars, perfume collecting is no different. So I feel very lucky and very grateful to that super Fragrantican that afforded me the opportunity to try out this rare and gorgeous fragrance. And even though I practically already knew what it was going to smell like before I even received it, I’m still super thrilled that I got to experience Royal Extract and its subtle differences for myself. ❤

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Photo credit to Monsieur Guerlain

* Fragrantica has this currently listed incorrectly as “Royal Extrait” instead of Royal Extract.