Déjà vu, Episode 4: des pairs, dis-pair, Despair

 

In the Episode 1 of the o Déjà vu series to explain how I see those scents that I feature in the series I cited Daphne du Maurier‘s book The Scapegoat. The plot concerns an Englishman who meets his double, a French aristocrat, while visiting France, and is forced into changing places with him… Today’s episode calls for another literature reference but I’ll get to it later.

Half a year ago, soon after I introduced my lemmings for the upcoming release of Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee in one of the Weekly round-up episodes, I was contacted by a person from Beauté Prestige International’s PR department. She asked for my address to send me press information and a sample. It was my first ever contact from PR people and it was about the perfume I was so anxious to try. Probably you can imagine my feelings. But being paranoid as I am, before responding I checked the name and the e-mail address. Everything was legit so I replied and started waiting… Well, the sample has never arrived but at least I felt thrilled for a while.

Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

A month later Natalie (Another Perfume Blog) brought a small vial of Nuit Etoilee to our perfume sniffing rendezvous. I applied it to my wrist, inhaled – and immediately thought that it reminded me of another perfume that I already had in my collection.

As soon as I bought Nuit Etoilee I contacted my blogo-friends who previously helped me with similar projects and asked them to participate in another blind testing. They agreed and I sent them two color-coded spray vials – green and blue. The main question I asked was: Do you think these perfumes smell similar? I have an input from three bloggers so I recruited Rusty to help with visuals (click to enlarge).

Rusty and Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

Natalie of Another Perfume Blog:

To start off, and hopefully this doesn’t matter, but I feel pretty sure I know both of these. I believe the blue one is Nuit Etoilee. It has that kind’ve minty orange feeling at first, and then it is sappy and piney and quickly dries down to a certain ingredient that I smell in a lot of things and cannot figure out what it is. I think I’ve mentioned it to you before. It smells to me like hot dry cleaned clothes. Whatever it is, this ingredient is very prominent in the blue one and in Chanel Jersey.

Wearing the blue one side by side with the green one makes me smell something in the blue one that I don’t think I would have otherwise (and if blue is Nuit Etoilee, I never smelled this before in it), and that is tobacco. I feel like I sense some tobacco in the blue one when I wear it next to the green one. The green one, though, to me is very much tobacco (and the blue one isn’t). And the green is very chewy and dense and sweet, with a thicker sweetness than the blue one.

I think they have something else in common as well for a little while. I don’t know what it is. The closest I can come to an association is very weird: maple and raisins. People sometimes speak about berry as a component of tobacco, and maybe this is what they are talking about. I don’t know. Then, it goes away and they are very different again.

Overall, they smell somewhat similar to me, but less so than Gold and Climat (the reference is to the Episode 2 – Undina).

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

Judith of the unseen censer:

The answer to your question is yes, I do think that right at the beginning they have a similar green-galbanum-carnation-peppery thing that could be considered similar. The stuff in the green vial is so MUCH MORE than the stuff in the blue vial that even that first shot of peppery green is a lot more three-dimensional, to my nose, than the blue vial; but there is a similarity, enough that I would believe some of the same ingredients were used to get the effect, though the blue vial develops so much more simply and sheerly and the green vial develops immediately into the “swamp accord” that makes me think it must be Amouage Honour Woman or something in that line.

The blue vial turns into a VERY powdery iris, which for some reason reminds me of Prada Infusion d’Iris but I think must be Iris Silver Mist or another one of those very classic irises that I have smelled but do not wear and do not like. IT’S A LOT OF IRIS. The green vial has more of a general floral quality to it (which is why I think it might be Honour rather than Interlude Woman) and at the far drydown, where the blue vial is just trying to hit me over the head with powdery iris and makes me want to walk away, the green vial has settled into more of a clean woody base and what might very well be a bit of iris might be what is filling in the background of the wood and giving it that “clean” touch without there being a musk or something similar (I don’t think the clean note is musk but would be willing to hear that I am wrong). I think that it’s iris because it has something of the feel of Chanel No. 19 about the cleanness – it’s not a modern laundry clean, more of a soft/crisp vegetal clean that I associate with iris.

For the record, I don’t think these scents smell at all alike, but these two structural elements – the opening green, and the iris – seem to make them something like third cousins once removed, or something.

Rusty and Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee

Suzanne of Eiderdown Press:

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet the farm that the perfume in the green vial is Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles.  The first words I wrote down on smelling the green vial fragrance were: “woody, spicy, amber, rum raisins, cedar or some kind of really dry wood … so dry and camphorous, it reminds me of oud.”  The first two fragrances it made me think of were Amouage Opus VI and Serge Lutens Borneo 1834.  In fact, it was hard for me to get off that track for a while … I kept thinking, deep, woody amber with patchouli.  But after a while, the camphor seemed more like the tingliness of pine, and the scent was so spicy that I began to focus in these two directions, which is what led to pull out a dab sample that Birgit once sent me of Fille en Aiguilles.  Funny thing is, when Birgit sent me that sample, I remember not liking the combination of sweetness and woods — and now, I am utterly infatuated.  If indeed the fragrance in the green vial is Fille en Aiguilles, then all I can say is, what a difference spraying makes!  In either case, I now madly want Fille en Aiguilles and whatever is in that green vial you sent.  Deep, sensuous, masculine leaning … I’d better stop there. ;-)

The fragrance in the blue vial has pretty much thrown me for a loop.  It smells so familiar, as if its name ought to be on the tip of my tongue, yet I can’t figure it out. To my nose, this is a very light and airy fragrance that smells of tea, citrus, hay-like greens, spice that leans heavily on anise (with hints of other spices I’ll mention in a minute) and lots of clean white musk.  It reminds me of Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse in some ways, but I know it’s not that one, as it lacks leather and is sweeter than L’Heure Fogueuse. I thought in some ways it resembled Annick Goutal Mandragore, but Mandragore is deeper.  The blue vial fragrance also strikes me as cologne-like, and I find some resemblance to the samples you once sent me from Atelier — Trefle Pur and Bois Blonds — as it has elements of both of those in it.  In the end, I can’t identify it and I can’t detect much in the way of resemblance (or smell-alike notes) with the green vial fragrance, except for this: mid-way through its development, it has a similar smell in terms of spice notes: in both fragrances, I get hints of anise, wormwood/absinthe (which is obvously not a spice, but I’m lumping it here anyway), ginger, bay leaf, and a faint trace of lavender.  I find the anise and absinthe smell — a very green-like spicy smell — the thing that seems most common to both fragrances (in the green and blue vials).

Rusty and Serge Lutens Fille Aiguilles

Natalie was right: the blue vial contained Nuit Etoilee – created in 2012 by Isabelle Doyen, notes include citron, sweet orange, peppermint, Siberian pine (balsam fir and everlasting absolutes) and angelica seeds. And Suzanne was right: in the green vial it was Fille en Aiguilles – created in 2009 by Christopher Sheldrake, notes include Pine needles, vetiver, sugary sap, laurel, fir balsam, frankincense, candied fruit and spice. And all three contributors did not think these two perfumes had too much in common.

As I said in the beginning, the situation reminds me of a fiction book. Despair. It’s a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Hermann Karlovich, a Russian émigré businessman, meets a tramp in the city of Prague, whom he believes to be his exact double. […] After some time, Hermann shares with Felix a plan for both of them to profit off their shared likeness by having Felix briefly pretend to be Hermann. After that, though, Despair unwinds differently from The Scapegoat. After Felix is disguised as Hermann, Hermann kills Felix in order to collect the insurance money […]. But as it turns out, there is no resemblance whatsoever between the two men, the murder is not ‘perfect’, and the murderer is about to be captured by the police […]. If you keep reading Wikipedia article you’ll see from where I’ve got the idea of the title though I do not think they are correct: even though Nabokov is known for his love for playing with words in multiple languages, the novel was written in Russian and the English word used by him later in translation is just that – a translation the original title.

Nuit Etoilee and Fille en Aiguilles Twins

By now I wore both perfumes many times. I know that they aren’t identical. Perfumes I covered before in this series were much closer to each other than Nuit Etoilee and Fille en Aiguilles. I can tell one from the other and won’t mix them. I do not think owning both is redundant (did you see that beautiful blue bottle?!) But again and again when I test them in parallel I can’t help but thinking how much they have in common for my nose: they both smell of pine and fir – the scent I was looking for last year’s holiday season. This year I have two perfect perfumes for the upcoming season. I’m prepared.

 

Images: my own

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«О, Ёлочка!» – O Tannenbaum!

This post is a part of a Joint Blogging Event – O Tannenbaum!, a celebration of perfumes highlighting woody notes.

I grew up without Christmas. I knew of Christmas but I didn’t really know Christmas. It was something from another time (O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker) or another place (foreign movies, e.g. A Christmas Story, Die Hard) but it wasn’t a holiday celebrated in the country where I lived.

Instead we celebrated the New Year. It was one of the most popular and loved holidays. It resembled Christmas in many ways: there were traditional family gatherings, festive food and presents under the tree (mostly for kids but some adults exchanged gifts as well). We would buy a holiday tree around December 28 and set it up just in time for the New Year celebration and would keep until mid-January.

Winter WoodsWe didn’t have Christmas but we had winters – very cold and snowy one year; chilly and sludgy another. There whole city would be colored in grayscale tones – white sidewalks, gray roads and almost black tree branches against the whitish winter skies.  And it was so cozy to look at those bare branches through a window from warmth of a room while decorating a holiday tree. Just add a fireplace (we didn’t have those but I can “see” it now) and you’ll get the picture I paint in my mind when I think about Winter Woods perfume.

Winter Woods by Sonoma Scent Studio – created in 2008 (and updated in 2009) by Laurie Erickson, notes include guaiacwood, cedar, sandalwood, birch tar, cade, oakmoss absolute, castoreum, amber, labdanum absolute, vetiver, ambergris and musk.

Ines from All I am – a redhead smells sweetness in Winter Woods. If it’s there I cannot smell this type of sweetness. For me it’s a pleasant combination of several woods: wood burning in a fireplace, wood log next to in a holder, Christmas tree by the window and even a snow-covered bough outside of the window.

Winter Woods is available from Sonoma Scent Studio website in multiple sizes (1 ml, 2.5ml, 5 ml, 17 ml and 34 ml). I’m using the 2.5 ml spray sample that I bought as a part of a very nice box set. It has a good tenacity so my sample will be enough for a while. When it’s done I’ll go for another one of a purse spray.

After we’ve moved to California, I remember it was so unusual that all the decorations were up early in December. Combined with heavy rains, evergreen plants and relatively warm weather the idea of celebrating Christmas hadn’t taken roots for a while.

Christmas TreeOur first year here we went to get a tree the next day after Christmas. We found it on the closest abandoned Christmas tree lot. It was free. When it was time to take it down (mid-January, remember?) we couldn’t figure out a way to dispose of it. Now it seems so trivial, I can think of many options – for that or any other “problem” but back then, several months in the country, it felt unsolvable. The best solution we found was to take it out to the balcony… It stayed there for another two years and became at some point a family joke.

For the second New Year here we tried to follow the same strategy (in the first part – getting a tree, with throwing it away we were smarter and did it in line with neighbors). It failed! I think it was a city ordinance that prevented lots’ owners from abandoning them again, even for a couple of days. So by the time we went looking for a tree everything was gone. The New Year would have been ruined for me if it weren’t for some neighbor who had no use for a Christmas tree a day or two after the holiday: we found a perfectly fresh tree next to a dumpster and not being too squeamish, brought it home, decorated it and let this tree fulfill its destiny the second time. How many other cut Christmas trees are getting the second chance?

When I’m thinking about that time one perfume comes to mind – Rush for Men. That was the first perfume I bought for my vSO here, and we both always thought it smelled of “ёлочка” (Tannenbaum).

Rush for Men by Gucci – created in 2000 by Daniela Roche-Andrier and Antoine Mainsondieu, notes include lavender, cypress, incense, cedarwood, patchouli, Okoumé wood, sandalwood and musk. Does it really smell like a pine or a fir tree? Not any more since now my nose can distinguish scents more precisely. But still when I carefully spray Rush from an almost empty bottle – that same bottle that I bought more than ten years ago – the first thought that crosses my mind is “it smells of “ёлочка.” Sadly Rush for Men has been discontinued and can be found only on eBay at the price that successfully cures nostalgia. As I’ve mentioned already, my bottle is almost empty and the staying power of the perfume decreased over years so I might buy another bottle if I come across it for a more reasonable price.

I haven’t found any real reviews for Gucci Rush for Men from any blogs I read. If you reviewed this perfume please share a link in your comment.

In the recent several years we started celebrating all winter holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year. We get (and sometimes even decorate) our holiday tree earlier in December; I kindle my Menorah for eight days; we attend a traditional Christmas Day dinner at our friends’ house (and even hosted it once when their house was being rebuilt); and we gather with our close friends to greet a New Year at 12 o’clock on December 31, eat, drink and exchange gifts trying to stay awake as long as we can.

Christmas Tree 2I love the scent of a Christmas tree. I wait the whole year for that one month that smells of pine or fir resin and needles. I look forward to decorating trees, both at the office and at home. And an olfactory experience is a big part of the joy.

This year everything is slightly off.

First, I made a decision (yes, it was all my doing, I have nobody to blame) to buy an artificial tree for our office. I had good reasons for that: while natural trees of the size we need do not survive with our AC/heating system, I found a perfect artificial tree that looks extremely lifelike. It doesn’t smell.

Then for my home I bought a beautiful real tree in a pot. After holidays we plan to either plant it on our backyard or keep it there in its pot for a year and use it again for the next holiday season. It’s very beautiful – just the right size, color and fluffiness. Guess what? IT DOESN’T SMELL!

How have I been coping with that mishap? Over the last couple of weeks while thinking about this post and then writing it, I was constantly wearing Winter Woods, Rush and especially Fille en Aiguilles.

Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens – created in 2009 by Christopher Sheldrake, notes include Pine needles, vetiver, sugary sap, laurel, fir balsam, frankincense, candied fruit and spice.

They say “Be careful what you wish for.” In my comment to Birgit’s wonderful review and giveaway I wrote “I still hope to find at least one SL’s perfume to love and to want to buy a FB.” I won that giveaway (once again – thank you, Birgit, for hosting it and thank you, Vanessa, for delivering it to me). I’m almost done with my Fille en Aiguilles sample vial and I definitely want need more! I won’t try to describe the scent: if you haven’t tried it yet read that review at Olfactoria’s Travels (link above) and then try it for yourself. I just want to say that I really enjoy Fille en Aiguilles and I’m grateful to it for helping me through this unscented holiday season.

Images: my own

If you haven’t done it yet, check out other Joint Blogging Event participants’ blogs: