In the Search for the Perfect Peony

What did we do when Fragrantica wasn’t around to helpfully provide a list of notes for perfumes we tried? I don’t know about you, but back then I didn’t think much about the notes. Usually I paid attention to whether the perfume reminds me of any other perfume I know (I still do that) but unless it was what we now know as a “soliflore”, I rarely thought twice about the composition of perfumes I tested or wore.

When I first smelled Estee Lauder Pleasures Intense soon after it was released, I immediately said that it smelled of peonies. I liked it and planned to eventually buy a bottle but it never came to it. And only a couple of days ago, when I started thinking about this post, I remembered Pleasures Intense and decided to check the notes. Peony is the first one mentioned in the Fragrantica’s list. I haven’t smelled Pleasures Intense in about 10 years so I don’t know how badly it was reformulated since then. But in 2002 it was unmistakably peony perfume. And so far it is the only one that I recognize as such.

Pink Peopny

When I was growing up, peonies were very popular flowers for summer bouquets. By my recollections they weren’t romantic flowers (that place was taken by roses, tulips or lily of the valley), but they weren’t too formal or official either (for that we had carnations, gladioli and calla lilies). Peonies were more in the home décor or hostess gifts category. But thanks to their great aroma, they were liked and appreciated.

In the Northern California peonies are rare: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing here and in the last several years I would occasionally come across peony bouquets at a store or somebody’s house. So the flower wasn’t on my mind too often, and I wasn’t purposefully looking for perfume with peony in a leading role. But I would try those that happen to come into my orbit.

Vert Pivoine by Histoires de Parfums was supposed to be all about peony: as little as one can trust a list of notes, when you see the same “peony” mentioned three times – once for each position of the pyramid – it is hard not to expect to get at least some recognizable scent. But no. The closest it gets to peony is by being awfully soap-y – exactly the way some rose perfumes turn out on my skin (and peony are said to have a sweet rose-like scent). I’ll give them the “green” part thought.

Peony & Blush Suede by Jo Malone got into my perfume wardrobe by chance. I find it rather pleasant and wear from time to time but to some extent it was a disappointment: before I tested it for the first time I expected it would be more like Blackberry & Bay or English Pear & Freesia (in terms of intensity) than one of those evanescent blooms that the brand releases every year. I think I hoped for a love child of the original Bottega Veneta and Cacharel‘s Noa fleur. Unfortunately, Peony & Blush Suede is rather a delicate whisper than an assertive statement. Jessica (NST) in her review says that it “might not win over anyone who was really looking forward to a fruity fragrance, or who likes her florals to be very airy and clean, but it will probably appeal to wearers of feminine florals who have just browsed the Chloé and Balenciaga counters and not found anything quite to their liking,” and I completely agree with her, especially after testing perfume I’m covering next.

Peonies

Nobody will accuse Pivoine Suzhou from Armani Prive line of not being fruity enough. On application it feels like it’s dripping with juice. Pivoine Suzhou is young, bright and uncomplicated. Compared to it, Peony & Blush Suede seems like a very adult perfume. Interestingly, while both perfumes smell nothing like peonies I know, about an hour into the development, when Pivoine Suzhou‘s fruitiness subsides a little, for a while these two smell very similar, which makes me think that either they use the same artificial ingredient that is supposed to convey “peony” note, or they recreate the same peony cultivar, with which I’m not familiar. I would recommend this perfume for those who like the fruity-floral genre. Read Steve’s (The Scented Hound) review: his take on this perfume is very close to how I feel about Pivoine Suzhou.

Though I haven’t found perfume with a perfect peony note, the search wasn’t completely in vain: I discovered perfume that I liked very much. Peony Angel by Thierry Mugler. I had the sample of this limited edition perfume for many years but, discouraged by my experience with Violet Angel, I kept this one classified “One day when I have absolutely nothing to test” (it is an actual category in my perfume database, if you were wondering). I tested it for this post and discovered that I like it very much. While having many facets in common with the original Angel (which I love), it’s softer, less gourmand and more floral (the Mugler’s “not-a-single-flower-has-been-harmed” type of floral, I mean). Oh, and it doesn’t smell of peony either.

White Peony

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

WTD, Episode 4.2: In the Search for the Perfect Violet

If I look back and think about it, I always had two distinct associations for violets. They co-existed in my mind as if they belonged to the completely different subjects, not affecting each other.  A violet is a completely boring, slightly wilted small flower in the pot on a window sill. A violet is a tender flower somehow related to romantic love, Paris (street flower girls), Toulouse (violettes de Toulouse) and all such things that seem romantic when you’re young. But somehow neither of these two associations ever included a smell. I never thought of violets as of flowers that have a scent. Most likely, because the only variety I’ve ever been close to didn’t have any. So in this quest for the perfect violet perfume I’m not searching for the most realistic rendition of a violet since I still have no idea how that flower smells. I’m looking for the best implementation of the idea of a violet. Based on a commonality in all the violet perfumes I tested I reconstructed this note for myself.

Violets in a pot

As I did it before for lilac and linden I combine this episode of the Weeklong Test Drive (it features two Tom Ford’s violet-centered perfumes) with my periodic Single Note Exploration for the violet note in perfumes.

Blanc Violette by Histoires de Parfums – notes include violet, bergamot, iris, ylang-ylang, star anise, sandalwood, vanilla, musk and rice powder. It smells very clean and slightly powdery. There is some musk that feels too much from time to time but I do not smell it every time. Blanc Violette is an uncomplicated nice scent with medium sillage and tenacity (it stays on my skin for 3-4 hours). I can see a small bottle of this perfume in my collection after I’m done with the sample. I have to applaud Histoires de Parfumes for releasing small bottles (14 ml) for a reasonable price. For a real review of Blanc Violette read Eiderdown Press

Verte Violette by L’Artisan Parfumeur  – created in 2000 by Anne Flipo, notes include violet leaves, raspberry leaves, rose, heliotrope, cedar, iris, white musk. It’s fresh, very light, bright and happy fragrance with a nice violet note that starts a little dirty but then clears up and stays as a nice skin scent. Verte Violette is the easiest and lightest scent out of all I tried. Like many other L’Artisan’s perfumes it’s fleeting: I can barely smell it after an hour. I like Verte Violette but I think it’s too expensive to bathe in it. So, unless a bottle falls from the sky… For a real review read Now Smell This.

Violet Blonde by Tom Ford  – created in 2011, notes include violet leaf, Italian mandarin, pink pepper,  Tuscan iris absolute, Tuscan orris butter, Sambac jasmine, sampaquita, musk, suede, cedar, vetiver and benzoin. There is no personal story between me and Violet Blonde, everything happened very fast: I knew about the upcoming release, I went to the store, tried Violet Blond, liked it and jumped on a split as soon as I saw one. I enjoy wearing it. Violet Blond has a very good longevity – more than 8 hours on my skin. Had the juice (or at least a bottle) been purple, it would have been an immediate full bottle purchase. Now I plan to go through my small decant and if I still like it I’ll buy a bottle of Violet Blond for my collection. All the great reviews for Violet Blond that I read, I read after I made up my mind about this perfume (and I feel a little proud of myself because of that) but since they all are so recent I’ll skip even my “not-a-review” impressions part and just provide links to the reviews on friendly blogs: Olfactoria’s Travels, The Candy Perfume Boy, Bonkers About Perfumes.

Wood Violet by Sonoma Scent Studio – created in 2008 by Laurie Erickson, notes include violet, plum, cedar, cinnamon, clove, sandalwood, violet leaf and musk. I tried Wood Violet for the first time in winter (our Northern California winter, but still). I liked what I identified for myself as a “violet” component of the perfume in the opening and then in the dry down phases but in the middle something smelled too… dirty (?) and unpleasant. I put the sample aside for a while. One sunny warm day I decided to give Wood Violet another try; and this time the earthy smell felt right in place: it was a scent of spring. For a very short time in the beginning I smell some sweetness but then it goes away and the scent stays on my skin green and woodsy for the next 3-4 hours. Wood Violet is quiet and powerful at the same time. I do not need a full bottle of this perfume but a nice purse spray one day will find its way into my collection.

Violet Angel by Thierry Mugler – created in 2005 by Francoise Caron, notes include violet leaves, crystallized sugar, violet, woody note, patchouli and vanilla. Violet Angel smells as if original Angel ate a whole garden of violets. Wait… If I remember it correctly, it did eat the whole garden of different flowers – roses, peonies, violets and lilies. But let’s look just at this act of gluttony. Violet Angel is slightly less sweet than the original perfume, it has some woodsy note and, if you concentrate very hard or have another violet perfume for the reference on, let’s say, another wrist, you can smell some violets, sugared violets. But Angel’s signature caramel (in case of Angel Violet it’s called crystallized sugar – which is the same thing)-patchouli-vanilla is too prominent and too recognizable. I haven’t tried other flowers yet but, in my mind, violets are the least suited to be an Angel modifier. It isn’t different or special enough for either Angel fans or Angel haters. I’ll stick to my beloved Angel EdP.

Black Violet by Tom Ford – created in 2007 as a part of the original Private Blend collection, notes include bergamot, citruses, fruity notes, violet, oakmoss and woodsy notes. It opens a citrus scent blended into sweet fruity notes, then almost immediately citrus goes away leaving slightly dryer but still sweet enough floral scent with a nice wood note. For me Black Violet is not a transparent scent, it has substance. I think “dark” part suits it well (though I remember reading the opposite opinion from other reviewers). I like Black Violet it the most 2-3 hours into wearing. It lasts for 12+ hours on the skin. In the final phase (and only there) it smells similar to Violet Blonde.  I want to add Black Violet to my collection but, the same as Ines from All I am – a redhead, who recently reviewed Black Violet, I’m not ready to pay the price of a 50 ml bottle (and I do not need a bigger bottle – which would make price per ml much more tolerable). So if anybody comes across a friendly split of this perfume, please let me know.

Do you have a favorite violet perfume? If you’ve reviewed it on your blog, please share a link.

See all episodes:
Weeklong Test Drives, Season 4: Tom Ford
WTD, Episode 4.1: Neroli Portofino and Jasmine Rouge by Tom Ford
WTD, Episode 4.3: Noir de Noir, Oud Wood and Arabian Wood by Tom Ford

Angel of Jealousy

Silence is screaming
I’ll bat an eye and cast my spell
The Devils are dreaming
Dreaming of a blue angel

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Blue Angel#

Many years ago a friend of mine introduced him to me. You know how we usually try to find familiar features for something new or unfamiliar? “It tastes like chicken” or “She reminds me of my class-mate’s younger sister.” He was unusual. He was different. I was intrigued but I couldn’t place him into any familiar context. And it bothered me. Or maybe I was just too much of a good girl back then and wasn’t adventurous enough for him. Anyway, it didn’t work out between us.

Ben Affleck as angel in DogmaI met him again five years later. I wasn’t surprised to see him here, a half-world away from where I got to know him. A lot has changed since we met first and this time something just clicked. I fell in love. I made him a part of my life. I wanted him to accompany me everywhere – nights out, birthdays, parties. I wanted all my friends to meet him. I was so happy… until one of my girlfriends confessed that she felt she was falling for him. I know I didn’t have any real reasons for it, I know it was irrational but I panicked: what if she gets him? We belonged to the same crowd; we would be coming to the same events.

Have you ever been in the situation when you find yourself wearing the same piece of clothing (a blouse, a dress or a tie – though I’m not sure if it has the same meaning for men as it does for women) as somebody else in the group? I have. In my high school years at a dance party I met a girl wearing almost an identical top (just the color of a pattern was different). It was a big party and probably nobody else had noticed that fact but my evening was ruined: most of my efforts went to monitoring her relocations and trying to keep my distance from her. And that was just a top. Can you imagine how I would have felt if I had to be in the same room with my friend wearing the same perfume?!!  My Angel?!!

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