Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

20 Carats 20 Quilates 20Ks Vintage Dana Perfume Review

Note: This post has been edited.

One of the most famous stories about Dana erfume is that of its first perfume, Tabu. It’s said that Serra asked Jean Carles to create ‘un parfum de puta’, and Carles brought him Tabu. Since then clever magazine advertisements for Dana perfumes stated the perfume was designed just for a specific type or even a specific coloring, of woman. I'm not sure that was an idea of Serra's so much as an idea of clever marketing men. There were more than 50 Dana perfumes created but it seems that the majority of these had limited release only in Europe (or France), so most of these I've only seen in photographs. From what I've gleaned there were only about 10 Dana perfumes released here in USA. These were Tabu (1932), 20 Carats (1933), Canoe (1935), Emir (1936), Platine (193x), Sirocco Donna (1942), Voo Doo (194X), Priorite (1949), Imposible (1950) and Ambush (1955). The dates indicate when these perfumes were created, not when they debuted in America. Of those, I've only smelled Tabu, Emir, Ambush, Canoe, Platine and 20 Carats- hardly a fair sampling of all this house had to offer in its prime.

Probably the most familiar and accessible of all of Dana’s original scents is Tabu. The sensation that Tabu created may have cast a shadow on those scents that were released soon afterwards. There are so many I haven't smelled yet... of those VooDoo, Sirocco Donna, Priorite and Imposible, all US releases, remain high on my “most wanted” to-sniff list. Of course I'd love to find any of the beautiful old French Dana perfumes even more.

But of those I've tried the two that captivated me right away were 20 CARATS (20Ks) and Platine! They are kind of nifty also being the only paired fragrances I know of among the Dana creations. Each perfume is named for a precious metal and speaking to the luxury and presentation values of this brand, each perfume came with large flakes of real gold or platinum swirling around in the perfume. Uber modern designer-perfumer Solange Azagury-Partridge has given us another pair of perfumes with precious materials incorporated into them by putting diamond dust into her very delicious (psychadelic candy amber) chypre perfume, Stoned and meteorite dust into it's partner, the lovely Cosmos.

Dana's 20 Carats came out in 1933. But in this time perfumes were produced and sold in perhaps only one shop and for Dana that was in Paris. So American women did not even know about these perfumes until they received them from boyfriends and husbands stationed in France during the War. In the late 1940s Dana began to export a select number of its perfumes, including 20 Carats, to America. It surprised me to learn that 20 Carats continued to be a best selling luxury scent in high-end department stores here in the US until the 1980s when it was discontinued! But my bottle of 20 Carats came in a numbered box (#3302) from the late 1940s or early 1950s. It’s the cologne version which according to the box was “blended in the USA from imported essences”. The bottle had lain neglected on my back shelf for the past couple of years; I'd haul it out periodically but I never cracked the thick cardboard seal open. Then, just before Christmas this year, I snagged a pristine, sealed bottle of Platine (which I'd never heard of either). Something about having this beautiful pair inspired me. So right then, I popped the bottles open. As soon as I smelled 20 Carats, I knew right away that this perfume was fully wearable and had to be immortalized here on TVPV..

20 Carats- The Review:

‘Carat’ can refer to either gold or gemstones. But with the gold flakes and rich color, you can tell it’s named after the metal. Yet I can just as easily picture it being named after a gorgeous (red!) 20 carat gemstone. And how does 20 Carats (20ks) smell? The first notes to fill my nose sweet orange, cherry, whisky and tobacco, followed immediately by the spicy-powdery, almost rubbery nutmeg brought to mind images from an upscale 1920's speakeasy- sipping on a Manhattan cocktail, the muted horns, the smoky room. The scent releases a relaxed, warm glow that says the party has been on a while. Myrrh and fennel (or anise), and tangetes or another herbaceous flower adds some depth to the impression of rich spice.
But the heart of this fragrance opens up to reveal fully a carnation theme with cinnamon, precious balsamic and root beer notes, accompanied by powdery sweet helitrope and patchouli. The dry down has a nice touch of woody, rooty vetiver to accompany the sweet balsams, tonka and patchouli. Powdery musks and a tiny bit of animal (civet?) are also apparent. Hours later the fragrance has fully settled leaving only traces of the sweet powdery heliotrope, vanilla like tonka and cinnamon on the skin. In reading about this scent, I noticed a few people referred to it as a fougere, which if you're unsure, is described as: Fougère means "fern" in French, is a fragrance family including fresh, floral, herbaceous and woody/warm elements, typically blended with notes like: bergamot oakmoss, lavender, coumarin, tonka bean, sandalwood, and geranium. While a fern doesn't have a distinctive smell per this particular fragrance classification implies a mossy green, forest-like aroma(quote from BellaSugar.com) There may be oakmoss in this blend but what I smell is vetiver, I'm almost sure and it is not enough to make a green or foresty base.
Instead, I find this to be a seductive cheerful perfume, relaxed and rich (as I mentioned)- if you picture a cocktail, a cigarette, the allure of gold jewelry against tanned skin, you will get the picture. I think Terracotta by Guerlain is along the same lines. 20 carats completes a picture of a woman of grace, ease and enjoying the good life circa 1933. If Serra had Tabu created as the perfect perfume for a puta, then I will try to guess for what sort of beautiful woman this perfume would have been made… It could only be Renee Perle! Ms. Perle was the famous and fabulous muse of Jacques Henri Lartigue. They met in 1930 and the rest was captured and immortalized by his photographs of her. Laird Borrelli on style.com wrote that, “'Jacques Henri Lartigue… called her "angel". The revered photographer met his muse in 1930 on the Rue de la Pompe. He thought she was Mexican, but he guessed wrong; Perle was Romanian, and a model once employed by the French dressmaker Doeuillet. "She is beautiful," Lartigue told his diary. "The small mouth with the full painted lips! The ebony black eyes. From under her fur coat comes a warmth of perfume. The head looks petite on her long neck."
20 Carats came out 3 years after the pair met, but they were still together at that time. As I imagine it: the lovers are together shopping in Paris. They stroll along the rue de la paix perhaps stopping off before lunch at the Les Parfums Dana shop on 9, rue de la Paix. Renee picks up a perfume bottle; she is drawn to the golden flotsam contained within – it matches the gold on her arm. But before can purchase the perfume for her, it is lifted from his hands and presented to her with a flourish by the perfumer… He has just finished 20 Carats, his latest creation, and brought it to Javier Serra in the show room of the Les Parfums shop. And looking up, he sees before him the vision of the woman he made the perfume for. Or so goes my romantic dream. At least it’s plausible.
I enjoy wearing 20 Carats way more than I might expect to, given its formula is nearly 75 year old. But Carnation is a favorite of mine and this perfume has a precious amber musky golden deliciousness to it. It’s furry but not like wild animal fur; it’s like the soft, luxurious belly fur of a contented house cat. It might be a tad powdery (“old lady”) for today's hip younger perfumistas but I hope somewhere someone under the age of 30 is wearing 20 Carats and loving it for all it is. Look for my review of Platine, coming next.

Photo Credits:

1. 1954 Tabu magazine ad
2. 1952 Dana Perfumes magazine ad
3. 1960s Dana 20 Carats magazine ad (no photo credit available)
4, 5 Renee Perle (photos by Jacques Henri Lartigue both early 1930s)
6. 1970s Dana 20 Carats magazine ad
7. the Orange Cat

A Short History: The House of Dana Perfumes

Dana Logo circa 1940-1950 (photo credit: Uncle Sam Jones)

Dana Perfumes – The History:
The House of Dana was founded in 1921 by Javier Serra in Barcelona, Spain. Serra had worked previously as director of Myrurgia but he left there to open his own house. Serra chose the name Dana for his business because it was short, good sounding in all languages and could be easily tied to perfume and beauty themes- according to the Museu del Perfum, Dana was: "in Greek mythology the nymph that was planted flowers along the Mediterranean. Dana in ancient Egypt of the pharaohs, was the name given to women who are distinguished for their beauty. Dana in Afghanistan means sweet awakening. Dana is the name of an island in the Pacific, where, apparently, the youth has no sunset. Dana in the old and mysterious Basque language, means success." Furthermore, Dana means white pearl in Arabic and in Buddhism, Dana refers to the practice of generosity! For the company’s logo Serra chose a dramatic Greek-inspired Art Deco drawing of a woman's head taken from a sculpture by Mariano Andreu. He also engaged the most talented perfumers to create original scents according to his requests and packaged his products gracefully.

(photo credit: passionforperfume.com)

He was set to compete with the best in the world so on August 22, 1932 Serra released to the world the first Dana perfume, Tabu. The House of Dana, located in Paris went on to release a string of nearly 50 original perfumes through the 1950s, among the best known in the USA are Tabu(1932), 20 Carats (1933), Canoe (1935), Emir (1936), Platine (193x), Sirocco Donna (1942), VooDoo (194X), Priorite (1949), Imposible (1950) and Ambush (1955). Jean Carles who had composed many outstanding perfumes of the modern era such as Shocking de Schiaparelli, Ma Griffe and Miss Dior, created three of the early Dana perfumes: Tabu, Emir and Canoe. (The perfumers who made the many other of his early perfumes have seemingly been forgotten.)

Benckiser, a German family-run company that produced mostly chemicals and soaps acquired Dana at some point in the 1980s. A few of the more popular Dana perfumes were still produced but the Benckiser group finally sold what was left of Dana to Renaissance Cosmetics Inc in 1995.

Renaissance had begun as a pet project of Thomas Bonoma’s. Bonoma, was the former head of Harvard's MBA program and a well thought of marketing expert. He was especially interested in perfumes and had an idea that if he purchased as many small ‘Mom-and-Pop' cosmetic companies (those who’d created successful perfume products but that had fallen out of production) as he could and new products under the familiar names of those old favorites, he would tap into consumer nostalgia- and find a ready market for the companies new goods.

Soon after taking over the Cosmar Corp in 1994, Renaissance began to get into perfumes. First they bought 12 fragrances from Houbigant. Things went well and the company went on an “acquisition binge” in 1995 at which time they acquired Dana. The company had planned to grow the brand aggressively. But in 1997, at the age of 50, Bonoma, the company's founder and visionary, died suddenly. The company soon floundered and by 2000 it had been put up for auction. However, Dana didn't languish; a private Florida investment group snapped it up right away and 'New Dana' was born. New Dana continues today to produce many of the best loved “classic perfumes” that you can see in mostly drugstores and cheaper department stores throughout America and Canada. They have continued to expand their catalog of lower-end fragrances with the addition of more recently discontinued releases. Some of their most popular current scents include Love's Baby Soft, Navy, Toujours Moi, Chantilly, British Sterling, English Leather. They even make perfumes named for 2 reformulated Canoe and Tabu.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chandler Burr (and I) on the Nature of Scent

(Photo of ChandlerBurr, from narrativemagazine.com) I always read Mr. Burr's perfume reviews and articles with keen interest however I had not yet read anything from his book, The Emperor of Scent. But today I stumbled upon some of it and it got me thinking about just how it is that we can smell...

Note: Blogging is new to me so forgive the bumbs... I've been cleaning up some html tags, and edited some content of this piece, to clarify my points and add a few examples.

(photo credit: Robin at words-worth)
BTW: she does NOT let her dog eat chocolate!

For your information: Talktothevet.com says 100-150 mg/kg of theobromine(related to theophillin and caffine) can cause a lethal toxic reaction in dogs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz. (other types are considerably stronger). Using 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose, if a 2 pound dog ate 2 ounces of pure milk chocolate, that would be the lethal toxic amount; since a Hershey's bar weighs 1.5 ounces, that's a full bar and a half of chocolate, in one sitting... but I'm sure there are dogs who would be able to accomplish this... So take care! I've found there are quite a few human foods that a dog might try eat, that can harm him including onions, avocados, stone fruit pits and lots of other stuff like house plants and out door shrubs. Since most puppies love to chew things, you've got to be quick; I've been 'outfoxed' a few times by my canine friends, too. But I digress.

Mr. Burr goes on to explain the role evolution plays in all this trouble:

"So evolution has by now selected for you a complete, fixed genetic library of enzymes that will bind to and deal with a fixed list of molecules. (It's not an exact one-to-one enzyme-to-foodstuff ratio, but it's precise enough that it's why your dog famously can't digest chocolate, a culinary product his wolf ancestors never ate: evolution never selected for dogs an enzyme that recognized the shape of chocolate's molecules, so if you feed them these molecules, they get sick.) And if just one enzyme is missing, you end up with nasty, sometimes lethal, diseases and disorders" —

He's right. But one of the hallmarks of any living systems is its ability to adapt to changes in its environment. It turns out that we share a considerable amount of DNA material with all other living things. And the wolf (or dog) carries most of what we have, too! It turns out we even have something like 90% (or 75% or some god-awful high percent) of the DNA of corn!! So all living things are really very connected. And under the right conditions it seems to me the dog should be able to adapt to eat many things not intended for his diet. He's a master survivor, after all. In a world marked by upheavals, such as land mass shifts and ice-ages and global warming, it's hard to believe that anything would be able to survive well without the ability to deal with novelty, right?

Blame my background in medical science, but I think immediately of our immune system when I think about novelty; it's specifically designed to deal with all the novel molecules we encounter- even mutated viruses that have never existed anywhere on earth before. This ever vigilant, ever alert army circulates throughall all loactinos of our bodies, on the lookout for any foreign molecules- to them, anything that isn't you is alien, novel and suspect. It nearly instantly detects and decides which molecules are dangerous and which can be tolerated (or welcomed). Every baby begins life dependent but the taste and smell senses are turned on from the first. Every infant must taste and smell new things and begins to discriminate right away. So smell must be adapted especially to detect and deal with novelty: what smells like a nipple, what doesn't, even which breast, left or right; Mothers will tell you, babies know these things.

(oh dear, I lost the credit for this pic when I was editing! But at least I can tell you these dogs have responsible owners and they are eating "Doggy Safe" chocolate pops!)

Going back to dogs: When a dog is exposed to chocolate, he may find he likes it. I would never give chocolate to any dog but my own dogs are inquisitive little bandits (with great noses) and several bags of Pepperidge Farm chocolate chunk cookies have disappeared around our house, thanks to them. Luckily every one of the guilty doggy pack survived (...I've never even seen one of them get sick for their elicit binges!) Apparently doggy treat manufactures are also aware of the canine's forbidden love of chocolate and they now make Dog-Safe chocolate treats (I guess they've removed the offensive, Theobromine).

But back to scent: since it must work with novelty, perhaps it is the same way our immune system does. And how does our immune system do that, by the way? It's helped because ultimately everything within the universe is composed from a relatively small set of elements. When a scientist creates an entirely novel molecule for us to smell, it has been made from these same known building blocks. Organic chemistry is built around predicting how these chemical groups combine, figuring out the rules of how substances form, so we can predict how chemical groups will stick together, break apart and re-combine under different condtions... So, our sense of smell wouldn't try to analyze molecules as entire entities; rather it has to recognize the building blocks, and have a set of rules as to how those materials combine in order to predict (or decode) how any novel combination of building blocks ought to smell (similar to knowing something with such and such a backbone structure can smell like green if it's a straight chain, like sweet citrus if it's branched and minty if it's double bonded. When we read, we apply phonics rules in kcuh that way to translate and pronounce novel words we encounter correctly and fluently the first time we read them from print. In the same way, we can instantly know a unique scent (understanding it as sweet, soft vs sharp, sour etc... by comparing the new compound according to the components and using rules to predict, interpret how they smell).

I can recognize and remember a new face the same way; my visual receptors detect the interaction of light and shape along plane surfaces, noting buldges and recesses, allowing me to view, analyze and react to the novel face aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually, simultaneously and instantly and to memorize it forever. From then on, I should be able to recognize that face, distingush it from any other novel or known face (no matter how similar the faces are...). With practice the majorit yof us even learn to tell identical twin apart, but finer distinctions can require practice. In a similar way we may analyze and categorize smells.

Chandler Burr goes on: "So smell must be incredibly important for us," notes NIH geneticist Dean Hamer, "to devote so much of our DNA to it. The only comparable system—and this was the big surprise to everyone—is the immune system, and we all know why it's important to fight off invaders."

(photo title: Smell001, from wolfcountry.net)

Up to this point I've been blissfully ignorant of the work that's been done in smell, but now I see Luca Turin says anyone can take a crack at this (to figure out how we smell. He says he's got it, and I can't wait to read his book, another Christmas present this year, as my family finally begins to 'get' me perfume related gifts! I agree with the genetists- the immune system is the best model. If the scientists were more generalists, (and Sunday quarterbacks, like me) they might not have been too surprised. Either way, be it via the nose or some other route, you've got to identify all invaders first. That's what the immune system does and that's what smell must do. Afterall, smell is an early detection system, a way to know the world before sight, sound or touch is required. Even from a distance, if you smell smoke, you know there’s fire. Up close, it's a way to tell who has been in the den- even in the dark, or when you weren't there. Interestingly, our sense of smell is unqie in that it is the only spot in the entire body where our CNS (that's our Central Nervous System, the Big Boss) actually comes into physical contact with the outside world without benefit of the 'blood-brain barrier' to protect it. So it is actually designed as a portal where exotic airborne substances mix directly with our nuerons, bathing them in the actual scent chemicals directly. I would not be surprised to learn that immune cells themselves heavily populate that area as well, and help with the process of sequestering and maybe processing the scent chemicals.

So the poets were right in a way, the power of scent is it's magical sillage that can announce, linger behind, travel up our noses into our brains, and even trigger long-lost memories and emotions. Scent remains forever tethered to its source yet it moves through the air as well, ghost like, leaving an indelible trace behind. Hidden from all other senses, it guides us directly to the source like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs...

I intend to read further into The Emperor of Scent and Lucia Turin's The Secret of Scent. Scent has been something so personal for me for so long, and now I'm finally stepping out into the warm light, of the writers and bloggers who share my passion. It has been fascinating so far and I'm sure every one has a lot more to say! I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my own post (and a double review!) on Dana.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coty Emeraude vs Guerlain Shalimar


Emeraude, as portrayed by Marylin (uncredited studio shot)

Shalimar, as portrayed by Marilyn (photo credit: Bert Stern, 1962)

If a picture is worth a thousand words then these two photographs of Marilyn Monroe say more than enough about how I feel Emeraude and Shalimar stack up against each other. They are remarkably similar and a side-by-side sniff should be enough to convince you can that they must be related in some way. So what's the story about these two "twin" scents? Emeraude was created by Francois Coty in 1921; Shalimar by Jacques Guerlain was born four years later in 1925. At first it would seem perhaps natural that Emeraude would be the older, wiser sister and Shalimar the younger impetuous one. But if a well-loved story is true, Shalimar was actually created when a large quantity of some newly synthesized vanilla was unintentionally dumped into a vat of Jicky. Jicky was composed by Aime Guerlain in 1889. It is widely credited as the world's first 'modern' perfume.

Jicky Composition
Top: Lemon, Mandarin, Bergamot, Rosewood
Middle: Orris, Jasmin, Patchouli, Rose, Vetiver
Base: Leather, Amber, Civet, Tonka, Incense, Benzoin (from BaseNotes.net)

The revolutionary fact of Jicky wasn't it's individual elements- all these ingredients had been used in perfumery before; rather it was the way things were combined- new synthetics mixed with traditional distillations, the merging of yin and yang elements, masculine with feminine. This bold blend of florals and aromatics, on a base of feral/sour animal against sweet balsam was seen as a radical departure from the gentle single note flower waters and the zesty citrus/herbal colognes popular at that time. Women initially rejected this scent feeling it was too masculine. Guerlain's current version of Jicky has been softened by a dose of vanilla in the base and other changes. So if the story is true, from Jicky (1889) came Guerlain's masterpiece Shalimar(1925). Shalimar is said to be a love sonnet Jacques Guerlain composed for his young bride.

Shalimar Composition
Top note : Bergamot, Mandarin, Cedar, Lemon
Middle note : Patchouli, Jasmine, Rose, Orris
Base note : Vanilla, Benzoin, Peru Balsam, Leather (Ozmos version)

Jacques Guerlain increased the vanilla and added softness to re-create Jicky as Shalimar- a smoldering exotic but in keeping with the romantic feminine ideals of his day.

This is Guerlain's side of the story and even though Shalimar has been reformulated many times the essential form of Shalimar remains unchanged. If you are new to vintage perfumes, watch out for older or poorly decanted examples of Shalimar. It can age badly and when it does, ends up rancid and unwearable.

Emeraude's tale is less well know than Shalimar's perhaps but we do know that Coty began to create his perfumes around 1904 and Emeraude came out 4 years prior to Shalimar in 1921. By this time Coty had already composed a number of successful fragrances but Emeraude remains probably his most widely known, beloved and enduring creation.

Emeraude Composition:
Top notes: orange, bergamot and lemon;
Middle notes: jasmine, ylang ylang, rose and brazilian rosewood; (I say Iris/orris as well)
Base notes: amber, sandalwood, patchouli, opoponax, benzoin and vanilla. (from Fragrantica.com)

So is Emeraude an entirely new type developed by the mind of Coty alone or did it begin as an inspired copy (directly or indirectly) of Guerlain's influential Jicky? Or is Shalimar just Guerlain's redux of Coty's latest sensation? Comparing the listed notes above verifies the two perfumes have in common the citrus top with a jasmine, rose heart, subtle spices and a base that features vanilla and benzoin. The differences arise from Shalimar's use of a tart bergamot/cedar at the top, the addition of prominent leather notes and the extravagant, sublime balsam/vanilla base (more smokey, incense tinged). Emeraude has ylang and rosewood. There is only a hint of leather or skin, and a base of patchouli, myrrh, amber and sandalwood added (more spicy, less smoky). Perhaps you begin to sense the perfumers witchery the many different sometimes archane ways to combine and layer seemingly disparate notes to invent similar feeling scents...

The Review:

(photo credit: Uncle Sam Jones)

For reference my review is based on the perfume versions in the photograph above. The tiny bottle of Emeraude is a proper vintage version maybe around 1930-1940s. It was produced in Paris. I don't know the strength but it is called Emeraude de Coty. The Shalimar is a later eau de toilette. It comes in the bottle with vertical lines and black shoulders. I may be superstitious but I prefer Shalimar that comes in this bottle (was it the French version?). The larger bottle of Emeraude is a US 1960 - 1970s drug store version. Emeraude is extremely clean and pleasing at it's opening- lime, the ripe sweet fruit joined by the linden blossoms, with tiny hints of bell pepper and marmalade. Very soon the green begins to go cool and powdery as the first faint wintergreen/minty nuances appear. The iris/orris adds a violet/rose-lipstick facet; although sometimes I smell root beer instead at this stage (also a facet of the iris). The root beer/wintergreen aspect is what some people smell as a cola note. Inside of this lemon-lime soda smelling scent is tucked a clean almost soapy theme that gives the composition a more adult quality. The coolness creates a mist like sugar water mixed with absinthe. Creamy/nutty notes from the woods help to create an illusion- limes lingering upon the cleanest warmest skin, covered now in lace and powder, and lipstick but still so fresh from the bath that the odors of soap and toothpaste linger faintly in the air.

If Emeraude is the scent of a woman fresh from the shower, then Shalimar reveals that same woman later in the evening...
Shalimar is indeed somewhat shocking compared to the quietude that is Emeraude. In Shalimar everything has been amped up. The opening citrus blast is enough to peel lacquer! It's so potent that at first you suspect highly narcotic white flowers wait to ambush you but it all dissipates quickly to reveal a smoldering oriental rather than a killer flower bomb. Shalimar carries scent echos of the nightclubs of the roaring 20s... lingering smoke (and possibly you might catch the faintest traces of the sour, stale urine and worse because she had to step onto the dirty city streets) but this bombshell has returned home safe and sound. A hint of sweet lime still hovers about her delicate skin but it's mixed with tangy sweat. She is in the library now, with a warm fire. The scent of the leather furniture surrounds her, mingles with her scent - why, she is eating...vanilla ice cream! Now you are not sure if this woman is a femme fatal or a mostly innocent woman-child... I confess to prefer Shalimar to Emeraude. Yes, the tiny puffs of sour/ugly in Shalimar actually saves it from being too sweet and plainly pretty. The sourness disappears on my skin however this scent is one that really does smell differently depending on it's age, formula, your skin - everything seems to affect it. Usually you can tell after a few tries if Shalimar is going to work it's magic for you. But if it tends to go sour on you, then perhaps Emeraude will suit you better. With me, it goes too far the opposite way and develops the same too-sweet root beer note as Tabu can. While Shalimar is still produced and easy to find you have to search a little harder for Emeraude. In the US it can still be found pretty easily at several online perfume e-tailors and of course, on Ebay... but I always encourage you to get out and take a look around your town. And be sure to let me know what you think of what you find;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Russian Leather perfumes redux

A quicky follow up on the Russian Leather post and a few newer leather perfumes- I've gotten a chance to smell the new Les Exclusives Chanel Cuir de Russie and the first thing that struck me was the very prominent green hyacinth note at the top. I will guess it is acetaldehyde phenylethyl propyl acetal- probably the wrong spelling but close enough and I can't spell check it of course! But now that I've smelt it in the modern version I detect it in the vintage extrait as well. The vintage Imerial Del Oro Russian Leather Cologne is sweet and balsamic, less floral and less complete than CdR but costs a fraction while smelling similarly rich. Imperial remains a great vintage choice for those who like a balsamic and woody leather scent that is very easy to wear.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mandel Brother Chicago Vintage Perfumes: Come to Me

Sorry for the dark grainy photo above... This is a vintage bottle of an Eau de Toilette "Come to Me". This bottle (I guess 1930's vintage) came from Mandel Brothers, a now defunct "fancy" department store in Chicago that imported and blended scents. I have seen some beautiful and usually large bottles from Mandel Bros advertised on-line usually for hundreds of dollars, with "no name" fragrances. But this bottle came to me from a friend who got it from an antiques dealer and since it's stopper had been stuck for ages, and the bottle is not spectacular she considered it trash. I figured I'd give opening it a shot since my husband has developed a pretty good technique for removing these frozen stoppers, but the stopper on this bottle has an extra long neck and the bottle had a weak small lip. So in this case we had no choice but to drill it out and extract the fluid. The scent inside? I must admit it is somewhat a disappointment- big fizzy nose-crinkling top, faint non descript soapy and spice florals and a mild amber dry down. I guess the name- Come to Me, mislead me. I expected a sweet sillage, something with Heliotrope in it or almondy. But instead, it seems a little bit of almost everything from citrus to leather to aldehydes but it seems somehow pale and wan. I may need to try it again later.

Upcoming : Shalimar vs Emerdaude

This will be an upcoming post. Octavian on 1000fragrances recently asked a question about the relationship between these two famous scents. How much did the Coty scent influence the Guerlain creation or vice-versa? I stay away from Guerlain history because there are so many better informed sources and besides, I focus mainly on the "off the beaten path" USA fragances (but I will continue to include perfumes from all over the world depending only on what I discover.) But Coty is one of my go to guys for great vintage USA perfumes. Besides, what could Mr. Coty's Emerald masterpiece add to Jacques Guerlain's inspiration for perhaps the greatest commercially produced perfume of all time- Shalimar?
So I have a slightly different mission/obsession: to figure out how (and if) the earlier "vintage" versions of each of these somewhat quirky, love em/hate em "citrus oriental" scent twins
stack up against their modern reformulated versions. I'm still testing everything out so tune in for results later this month (I hope!)