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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In the Search for the Perfect Fig

I love figs. Everybody who lives in my house loves figs including my cat Rusty. When he was six months old once he stole a piece of fig with goat cheese on it and tried to run away. His mouth was hardly big enough to hold his loot, I don’t know why he didn’t just lick cheese off it, but he ran as fast as he could while holding on to that fig. In the end he dropped it but still managed to eat cheese.

Several weeks ago after reading one of the fig perfumes reviews, I realized that even though I love and eat figs in all possible ways – fresh fruits, fig gem, fig yogurt, fig balsamic vinegar or chocolate covered figs – I can’t imagine how figs smell. I know what is considered a fig scent in perfumery – personal and home ambiance fragrances, candles or soaps – but I couldn’t remember a scent of an actual fruit.

I tried to rectify the situation but a fig season was suddenly over, figs disappeared from the farmer’s market and those I found in a store didn’t smell.

Fig on a treeOn my recent trip to Sonoma I found a fig tree that still had some fruits. I took a picture (see on the left), picked the fig, bit it, sniffed it and then ate completely. I couldn’t smell much. Either it was a wrong fig or maybe I’m anosmic to some component of this particular scent but I could vaguely smell some rather vegetal aroma – and that was it. I wouldn’t want to wear that scent realistically recreated as a perfume. Probably I’ll have to settle for eating figs without a smell and smelling their perfume version.

On the way home I stopped by Sonoma Scent Studio and bought a perfect example of such perfume version.

Fig Tree by Sonoma Scent Studio – created in 2011 by Laurie Erickson, notes include green fig, vanilla, cedar, patchouli, tonka and musk.  I loved the scent the first time I smelled it from a sample and knew I would get it for my collection. For real reviews read EauMG. But I want to recommend trying this perfume even to those who used to have problems with SSS’s base: in my opinion, Fig Tree is very different from other Sonoma Scent Studio’s perfumes. It’s sheer enough to be worn in warmer weather but, at the same time, has enough substance for the colder months. I got a very stylish 5 ml purse spray and it’ll do for now: Fig Tree has a fair tenacity on my skin (3-4 hours). For me Fig Tree is a perfect fig perfume.

I also bought a jar of Fig Tree Shea Body cream. It smells exactly the same as the perfume. I enjoy the texture of the cream but since I do not like to use scented body product too often (it’s too much of a commitment for me) I started using Fig Tree shea butter as my hand cream before I go to bed. I think Sonoma Scent Studio’s body products will make great gifts for somebody to whom you want to give a scented present but not sure about their perfume tastes.

Fig Tree perfume and cream by Sonoma Scent StudioOther perfumes with a prominent fig note:

Ninfeo Mio by Annick Goutal – created in 2009 by Isabelle Doyen, notes include citron, lemon, petitgrain, bitter orange, galbanum, lavender, lentisque, fig, lemon wood and musk. I read many positive reviews before I got to try Ninfeo Mio. I liked that matte green bottle and really hoped to like the perfume. I didn’t. I approached it several times: it smells very nice on a blotter. But Ninfeo Mio is one of those Annick Goutal’s perfumes that I just cannot stand on my skin. I was so upset by that fact that I even gave away my sample. Of course, now, when stores around do not carry it any more, I started having doubts: should I test it again? Will I like it more if I try it now? I will test it again one day (it is a beautiful bottle…)

Birgit from Olfactoria’s Travels had similar but milder reaction but for Robin from NST Ninfeo Mio worked much better.

Un Jardin en Méditerranée by Hermès – created in 2003 by Jean-Claude Ellena, notes include fig woods and leaves, orange blossom, bergamot and white oleander. If one good thing came out of my trying Ninfeo Mio resolutely, it was that I finally came around to liking Un Jardin en Mediterranee. It’s not the most straight-forward connection: I just happened to test these too in parallel. I thought they had something in common and while testing I discovered that this Ellena’s creation develops very nicely on my skin. I might even pick up a small bottle of Un Jardin en Mediterranee eventually.

This is Birgit’s review that inspired me to test Un Jardin en Mediterranee again.

Green FigWild Fig & Cassis by Jo Malone – created in 2002 by Jo Malone, notes include cassis, cherry, grass, hyacinth, cyclamen, jasmine, pine tree, patchouli, cedar, amber and musk. That was the second full bottle from Jo Malone line that I added to my collection. It was the first fig perfume I’d ever smelled so it might influence me but Wild Fig & Cassis is probably my most favorite fig fragrance as of now (followed by Fig Tree). I think it is underappreciated. It’s interesting and complex enough to stand in the same line with other more popular fig perfumes. Wild Fig & Cassis is a green and slightly bitter fragrance. I do not detect any sweetness but YMMV since I’m known for not smelling some sweet notes where others get an overdose.

Philosykos by Diptyque – created in 1996 by Olivia Giacobetti, notes include fig tree leaves, wood and white cedar. I know that this one is almost an iconic fig fragrance; Philosykos gets mentioned every time when fig in perfumes is discussed. I was inclined to like it long before I tried it. Then I bought a sample. It is a nice perfume. But it’s a little too… flat(?) for my taste. And a little sweeter than I’d like it to be. So while appreciating this perfume I don’t think I’ll even use up my sample.

For real (and positive) reviews read NST and Olfactoria’s Travels (Birgit also reviews here two other fig fragrances which I haven’t tried).

Winter FigWomanity and Womanity Taste of Fragrance (Le Goût du Parfum) by Thierry Mugler – created in 2010 and 2011 correspondently, notes include citrus notes, green notes, fig, caviar accord, animal notes, aquatic notes, woodsy notes, oriental notes and sunny notes (whatever it means) – for the original Womanity and some marketing variations on the same notes plus “fig chutney” for Womanity Le Goût du Parfum. I find this perfume (well, both of them since after testing them in parallel several times I do not see much difference between them in 15 minutes of wearing) very interesting and unusual. I read many negative reviews and I tried Womanity again and again in spite of them. It smells… interesting. I think Thierry Mugler again managed to create something different, maybe not as revolutionary as Angel but still original enough. But I do not want to wear it. I thought I wanted to buy a small bottle of either version of Womanity for my collection but then after reading Ari’s review and testing both perfumes again I realized I wouldn’t wear any of them.

What is your favorite fig perfume? If you reviewed any of these or other fig-centric perfumes feel free to give a link to you post.

Images: first two my own; last two by a friend of mine lyukum