Thursday, December 24, 2009

Red & Green for Christmas: Guerlain Fleur de Feu & Mitsouko

'Tis the season for all things red and green, and this Christmas my fancy is taken with this pair of color-correct Guerlains- Mitsouko (originally ~1919 and which mostly needs no introduction) and the less well known Fleur de Feu (1948, give or take). I love the magenta-pink jot of color on the Fleur de Feu (Fire Flower) bottle and the emerald-teal dot on the Mitsouko bottle. Both the bottles contain eau de cologne, which, as you might guess, is light. With Guerlain sometimes I don't mind the EDC concentration- when the scents are strong and assertive, the lighter sillage and lack of staying power isn't that much of a problem. And since I like to switch scents throughout the day I actually like the lighter formulations. Mitsouko is an especially good candidate for the eau de cologne treatment and the flavor remains true to the other Mitsouko examples I've known. Mitsouko, if you haven't smelt it yet, is a leathery chypre sandwich of dry peach opening and a sweet peach dry down, with mossy-forest, smoke and incense laden facets \layered in between. It has real depth, a tough and tender scent that is something to be appreciated as it develops over time. Needless to say, a big love... It represents the quiet, eventide part of my Christmas journey, filling the contemplative stillness and anticipation of a celebration to come..

As for it's sister scent,  Fleur de Feu (Fire Flower) is a lesser known Guerlain. It was released soon after WWII ended and not too many years later, it was discontinued. Many other
Guerlains are better known and more commonly discussed, so much that I've been scarcely aware of it's existance. Fleur de Feu somehow lacked the enduring charm that many of the other classic Guerlain perfumes seem to have had in plenty. I cannot even be certain that my example is well enough preserved to be a true representation of the oroginal scent particularly without a second source to compare it to. But from what I can smell, it isn't what I'd expect from something called Fleur de Feu because it is such a very soft type of scent. Perhaps I have anosmia to some key component? Although I was finally able to smell it distinctly, I had to decant the cologne and spray the entire inside of my shearing hat before I was able to catch and examine this perfume up close! It has some warmth but if I were to assign a color to this scent, it would be a rather pale yellow. I smell the iris and an almost lemony rose, along with touches of ylang and jasmine.It makes me think of  Chanel No. 5, more than any other Guerlain perfumes I know.  My cold is still bothering me a little, so I plan to resniffing but so far I can't get any carnation. It has a certain Maquillage quality almost as if its guerlainade was created with aldehydes rather than vanilla. I wonder how well it sold in the 1950s? Despite being so light, it still smells good enough to make someone crave an extra helping of hugs. I plan on wearing it, and the Mitsouko, plenty in the upcoming year and the big EDC bottles means I can splash them on with abandon.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Thanks to and for the old Guerlain ads!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Œillets, Rouge et Blanc: Vintage Carnation Perfume Roundup for Winter Solstice

It's nearly Christmas day, and I'm just ending a terrible two week cold that robbed me of my olfactory senses for the last week and a half... hence the posts bereft of much content in terms of out right perfume reviews. So today in order to celebrate the joy of the approaching Christmas and reflect on this time to give thanks for all and renew wishes for peace on this Earth, I pulled a clutch of my vintage carnation scents from the vault today to review in round up. Their rich warmth is an especially welcome sensation after the routine of constant sneezing and nose blowing of the past few days. The photo above is admittedly rough but it serves as a reference for the line up.

First from the left is a small vial of vintage Avon Crimson Carnation. It is an 1/8 oz bottle, made in USA of what I believe is perfume. Very sweet, lilac, honey and orange scented carnation with a plumy rose heart and neat little civet-musky- honey bottom- no powder here! This is a mightly spicy little hot-sauce number of a carnation- too bad it seems to be pretty little known or discussed. I wonder with that name if it didn't go with a lipstick shade? Next in line is a nearly identical bottle but the 1/4 oz size, is the carnation made by La-Tausca, the Genesee Trading company brand of drug-store variety perfumes. It came in the smart gold box pictured behind it. This is a pale tinny scent with nail polish remover notes and a little peppery stale floral and a harsh musky base. Without any comparison, it reads as 'vintage carnation' but nothing special, but standing next to better scents, it really suffers. The third bottle from the left is a funky chunky nearly square presentation I love, the top a large gold cube, the bottle, a shorter glass cube that looks purple thanks to the color of the juice inside it. By Chambly Creations of Chicago, Illinois it is Sweden Carnation, in what is labeled skin parfum. It is 1/2 oz size. It smells like a drier herbal tinged composition, the carnation is rosy and slightly bruised. It also feels watery and smells a little soapy, the spice increases as it dries.

Next and to the front is a little gold embellished bottle of Nina Ricci perfume, it is not for sure to mke that this is the better known L'Air du Temps- it is a little old. This is a sharp-sweet white carnation with strong lily of the valley notes and a perfumey, emotion heightening sense to it, if that makes sense. Next is Prince Matchebelli Potpourri, a syrupy oily carnation scent (it is bath oil, after all)  that is heavy on the rose and lemony facets- geramium?, with a fatter quality, less spice, not firey but nearly grape-figgy sweetness. It dries down spicier with rum notes. You can find this one on line occasionally for not too much $, the bottle is precious with little stars embossed all over and it would make for a yummy bath!

Slightly in fron of the round Potpourri bottle is a small vial of Caron Poivre- this may not be technically discontinued, but I'm not sure, it could be as well. Nevertheless it is certainly spice and it is here among my carnations- now this one comes across almost medicinal at first. It has a true tiger balm note that some people say smells like bandaides, it's almost rubbery and mentholated. Tearing on under those fumes is more spice, pepper, cloves and burnt tobacco with soft honey traces. A proper perfume with enough presence that a man could easily wear it. Behind and to the right of this is another Caron creation- the incomparable Bellodgia- a 1960 era purse parfum of 1/4 oz. Here the true honeysuckle tinged sweetness of carnaations drunk on narcissus and still perfectly pink in their cinnamon teaberry spice. This is indeed the queen of the carnations, with a tart bum of a base.  Finally last in line across the front, Floris Malmaison. Here is another type of red carnation, with an animal nearly bo type note, not too strong with a dry bay leaf tinged carnation, it dries down with a strong note of finely milled french soap in perfect counterbalance to the animal scent that lasts in equal measure, a very mature & sophisticated carnation.

In the back of my photo are lined with some additional perfume favorites of mine that all owe quite a bit of their nature to a pursausive note of carnation: Left to right far rear: M de Molinard- a foresty pine, moss and carnation concoction, very white. Next, Givenchy Indecence parfum mini- this vanilla sandalwood overdosed floral is buttery cinnamon nearly narcotic confection of ylang and carnation bliss. A step down to the right you can't see my little carnation-leather by Robert Piguet, Bandit- the original bad boy of carnation scents, in a ~5ml parfum vial, with strong green-weedy notes that grows surprisingly agreeable as roasted notes of leather and coffee emerge. Lastly, Zadig parfum 1/2 oz by Emilio Pucci. This perfume is a creamy symphony while alluding  to a creamy sumptuous carnation with caramel tones has notes of ylang jasmine and musk. And finally not pictured, but closing my round-up of carnations for Christmas nonetheless is Estee Lauder's Spellbound parfum, with notes of stewed fruits, pimentos, fire smoke and civet, it takes carnation into the dark, edible realm.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Friday, December 18, 2009

TOVA OLD Original Perfume. What Happened?

Tova, for those of you who don't pay any attention to QVC or MUA, is the wife of Ernest Borgnine. He's the actor who won a best oscar for playing "Marty" in the early 1950s. But, back to Tova, she has this line of among other things, perfumes, on QVC. She's been selling her special Tova Original or Tova Signature, there for the past 15 years or so. I originally came across what's known as the "old formula" for Tova Signature perfume. I was immediately struck by a sort of hybridized musk-sandalwood with a light bergamot and possibly jasmine opening. The entire thing struck me as weightless, like a certain type of musk (the kind that plays hide and seek with you all day) with a cool citrusy opening. It felt like sort of an extreme abbreviation and a sugarless abstraction of Shalimar. Then the change came. First came an almost cheesier bottle, sort of a budget Narcisco Rodriguez style but clear with pink stripes. Then the smell- a cheap, harsh, wacked-out detergent, chemical bug spray. Now I've come to realize, the change (away from macrocyclic musks?) to a newer musk and probably less sandalwood are to blame. The proportions are all off now, even if nothing else has changed, it threw everything off about this fragrance. But the thing is, it "cooks" over time and actually improves, coming closer (but never really reaching) the greatness of the former version. But now there are many flankers and even single note variations (among them, sandalwood and jasmine, natch.) And I don't know that any of them really capture any of that old Tova magic. I usually do not trash fragrances here. But today I cam across a perfume-related product of Tova's and I'm so dissapointed in the lack of quality that I had to blog about it.. I'm speaking of her perfume powder pendant. It sounded so promising, but after opening the package, what was I thinking? Powder perfume? Sure, maybe... A pendant- possibly, especially if the production quality of the item is high. But unfortunately here it isn't and nothing came together. The pendant materials, espcially the silk cord and it's hideously ugly closure, look and feel cheap; also the powder cartridges are small and not very scented. Unlike Tova, who is herself a beautiful woman, the pendant does not live up to the former glory of Tova Original 3 ingredient Signature perfume.  It's a bittersweet moment here in the vault since in this case, things have changed, but not for the better.

Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Shopping Tips for Vintage Perfume; giving the gift of fragrance.

Besides a lovely string of pearls (and in today's economy, these may no longer be affordable for most of us), are few gifts that could be more sentimental than the gift of a beloved bottle of scent. Unfortunately in today's world, perfumes tend to have a short life on the shelf and an even shorter promotional life. By the time you realize you've got a hankering to give a special someone a particular scent, it may not still be available at your local mall, and chances are, if it is, it has been reformulated and no longer smells like the original version of your memories. What to do? Well my advice is to buy vintage fragrance, of course!

But as much as I applaud and celebrate vintage scents, I'll admit they aren't always easy to find! You can't just pick up the phone and order them brought to your room on a silver platter, and there are some pitfalls to avoid when it comes to getting your hands on the good stuff. So in this season of givining, let's review some of the basics of buying vintage, hard to find and discontinued scents; hopefully a few of you will add your own tips in the posting comments sections below.

First of all- where to buy... I recommend if you're just hunting around for treasure, without a specific fragrance in mind, that you tour your local resources first. Your best local resource is likely to be your cities second hand and thrift stores. Now if you really, really want to find something, but you're not even sure what you want to find, just go look... and be prepared to go often. Make it a part of your regular routine, stop by a couple of times a week, on the way to or from work for example and chances are you'll benefit from frequent visits to your targeted stores. I don't visit all the thrift stores in my town- I won't have time! But I've picked one or two that are located well for me and those are the shops I frequent. If you're lucky, you'll also find antique shops or malls located locally. My next favorite venue? Antique fairs and flea markets. These can be more difficult to locate and many only operate on a given weekend or during a peak season, so check your local area, or google for fairs near you. These are well worth an occasional trip, and I've always profited from the first visit. If you live close to the outlet or even within a days drive, lost luggage outlets are a source of many surprising treasures. Again, google will lead you there!

Next in line for me are local garage and estate sales. Check your local newpaper classifieds every weekend if you choose to venture out for this particular brand of bargin hunt and consider investing in a Garmin or TomTom. As fun as this form of treasure hunt can be, these are no longer a super source for me - mostly because they require a LOT of leg work and valuable weekend time that I don't really have so I personally don't look there as much as I used to, but you might be surprised at what you'll find if you have the time and energy. I have had great luck at those venues, however.

Now if you ar eseeking something a little more current, but no longer in stock at your local Nordstroms, what you need is a quick visist to the outlet stores such as Marshall's, TJMax, Ross or your area's version of those stores. These places can't be beat when it comes to a great place to find recently discontinued and sold out perfumes and scented products at steep discounts. I am surprised every time I stop in, but again, smart shoppers go frequently to find the really desirable items (and we aren't the only ones out there looking, competition can be stiff and I get the feeling more than a few of the finds from theses sources end up online with high mark-ups.) But why not do your own leg-work and be someone's scented Santa this year!

Now, if you are looking for a specific vintage perfume, such as pre-IFRA, oakmoss enriched Mitsouku, then you really have to use your online resources. I've listed some of the best, most reliable sites I've patronized at the top of this blog but that's just a handfull of the sites that are out there. I'm also soliciting you for additions as I'd like to increase the list, in case you're charitable enough to share and name names.

Then there are the giants, EBay and Craigslist. Scary as it can be, Ebay is still the safest and dare I say it, the best. I've heard nightmares about Craigslist; NEVER agree to meet anyone in person and be careful in every contact you make - I've never consumated a deal for perfume there but I've looked around a bit. One problem I have with Craigslist is that many folks list perfumes without photos, which makes it hard to judge if you're even interested. But I think it may be getting better. Of course, keep all activies limited to buying by mail and at least you'll stay in control of your personal safety. But as far as buyer protection, I think Ebay still beats CL. But especially on Ebay keep an eye on the seller's location- sadly, it seems that some exotic and far away places are more prone to internet graft on Ebay than others... Pay attention to seller feedback too of course, and look at the seller's other items and completed listings FIRST not after making that bid. Also, ask questions before buying anything.

Now I am by no means an Ebay expert, so ask around as you can probably find someone you know personally who is... but I've recently learned that there are some fine points to the rules to selling and buying there. For example it is NOT good form to ask anybody to sell you anything privately. I love perfume people and I always tend to think we're special, so my bias is to protect us- for example, thinking about ways to save the seller money in Ebay fees. But really, I guess EBay when you think about it, Ebay needs to make their money too. So I know now, after making a suggestion that someone invoice me for something  as yet unlisted, directly through paypal, that this technically violates one of Ebay's many policies. And from other experiences, I can tell you that Ebay is like a sleeping giant. You don't want to wake the giant. Again, I can see why profit wise, but be careful and learn from me, don't let your mania and love for a purchase make you do or say anthing rash, or step over any bounds.

Now I do suggest establishing and exchanging email information with any friendly sellers you meet who seem like "real" perfume people, because Ebay isn't likely to be there for us forever. There is legal movement on the EBay front regarding preventing people from selling perfumes there. Some people even think Ebay may pull the rug out on the vintage and all second hand fragrance trading in the near future, as they did with people selling decants and samples a few years back.  If you look for samples on Ebay today, you'll see quite a few sample listings have crept back onto the site, however that could change at a moment's notice. It would be sad if EBay does pull it's plug on used perfumes,as it really is the greatest resource we have...

Despite, or perhaps precisely because it's status as the world's best market place for vintage perfumes, I also see a great number of spurious ads for rare older fragrances on Ebay. Reports of fakery and fraudulent versions of bottles, refilled with who knows what, abounds there. Often those questionable listings neglect or misspell the name of the perfume or maker, and if you look often enough, you can develop a sixth sense for the "bad" listings. I recently found a seller using the term "group" in their seller name (something like eocgroup93, for example) listing "rare perfume" with photographs of fabuluos, hard to find scents but not mentioning the name of the house (Dior, Chanel, Hermes etc) in the title of the ad or giving any text with the ad; it looked very fishy to me and so I avoid those types of deals. Also watch out for sellers from other countries, since many will not allow liquids to be shipped across international borders. I had one experience with a seller sending me an empty the perfume bottle (that had been advertised with perfume in it!), after failing to mention in his ad that he always drains the bottles before sending them!!!! So from now on, I look for sellers within the US only. Also, insure your packages in case the package is damaged in shipping.

With those caveats aside, I've gotten many great deals on many genuine, just-as-advertised super fantastic perfumes on Ebay. Personally I can accept the few bum deals I've come across as the cost of doing business in such an anonymous, impersonal market place. I try to be prudent and careful, and so far my experiences with buying vintage perfumes on Ebay has been worthwhile overall. Now I'm asking as many of you that care to, please add your experiences in the comments below so as many as possible can benefit. I'm a firm believer in doing unto others, and I certainly want to pass along to you what has so richly enhanced my experiences seeking vintage fragance treasures. Whichever way you go, good luck and happy hunting!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jean D'Albret CASAQUE Perfume

I'm wearing Jean D"Albret's classic Casaque today. There isn't any good reason for choosing it except possibly I'm still vibing on blue notes, thinking about last week's Candlelight perfume. Casaque doesn't have any lilac in it per se but there's hyacinth and typically it's blue. I suspect hyacinth is closely related to narcissus, or jonquil, and it usually reminds me of pure sunshine. It's not exactly a lemony warm sunshine feeling but rather a radiant flower full-to-brimming over with nectar feeling that seduces everything it touches. Used in perfume, it creates a lush, full bodied scent bursting and juicy. Besides the hyacinth, I can pick out the lily of the valley, jasmine, ylang-ylang and rose. It's a non-foody, non-fruity, non-vanilla, nectar fest. When I check the official notes of Casaque, mimosa and citrus, lemon  and bergamot are also listed. Of course they are there in the composition, lending a sour-sweet (nearly urinous, but not quite) honey embellishment to the green floral. This perfume opens in a rush, all the notes hitting you quickly and swirling about before the lemon honey thins things out a bit. Some people report this scent is soapy- I know there's supposed to be some carnation in it , but I don't see it as having a clean or creamy flavor. In fact it can go a little animalish with me, that honey thing growing more intense as the floral sugar rush dies down. The lily of the valley is a pure delight here. It is delicate and almost high-pitched but just delectible, trending towards Serge Lutens' Un Lys, in that by turns the lily smells more like a true lily flower, or tiger lily and less like LOV. The dry-down retains a bit of the floral brightness and honey sour, but it is very mild, anchored by a soft sandalwood and musk. The scent is surprisingly light for all the richness I decribe and actually it is the type of thing a young girl could wear in the spring or summer. The perfume is purer, sweeter smelling, more LOV, like good, old school formulation Diorissimo parfum, just very very nice. The EDC is really good, too, with maybe a little plumy underbody and a lighter, fresher form, but otherwise very true to the perfume.  I understand Irma Shorell has the license for Casaque but I've never smelt her version.   The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Note: I have a bad habit of posting vintage perfume ads for you to view for free and in context of a perfume discussion. I apologize for providing freebies to you but I love free information and I hate the ruthless elimination of free information from the 'net. It'll be the death of the darn thing, when everything gets covered up with a fee per view banner! I for one am not in favor, I'm more of a pirate than a prince (or princess) , I guess. So these are some of the last perfme advertising images you'll see from the vintage ads. The bottle is my photo.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Colonial Dames, the First California Perfume Company?

I am enchanted by a new find this week, a wonderful vintage Lilac perfume with the evocative name Candle Light made by Colonial Dames. Marietta Bosworth Willats, an American stage actress, established the company in San Francisco in 1886.  Her picture, as well as some additional historical insights and photographs, is still featured on the official Colonial Dames website ( Colonial Dames was one of the first companies of its kind, particularly on the West Coast to offer its clients high quality skin care, toiletry products. In fact, the California Perfume Company- now Avon- is often touted as the first American perfume and tioletry company. It was also established in 1886 although contrary to it's name, on the East coast. However on the west coast  which was considerably less civilized at that time, Colonial Dames quickly became a favorite of Californian women. Actresses like Marietta and other modern-minded gals especially flocked to Colonial Dames seeking to enhance their natural charms. By the 1920s the company relocated closer to the heart of California's burgeoning film industry- Los Angeles. There Colonial Dames became an early favorite among professional make-up men and prop handlers, flourishing through the 1930s and 40s. In fact the company is still in existance although their current product line appears to consist solely of vitamin E oil and creams.

This photohgraph from the 1936 Three Stooges film short "Slippery Silks" provides us a glimpse of Colonial Dames products and among the jars, several perfume bottles. Reportedly the company produced a few perfumes after World War II, including Bachelor Button and Tra-La (1946), French Quarter (1956) and Cloud 7 (1961). Note that my own bottle has a foil/paper label, is made of very thin glass and has a panelled hand-blown mold construction. It has a tiny cut glass stopper as well. Considering its style and construction I estimate my Colonial Dames perfume bottle is from the 1930s. I was delighted to find the scent of the perfume seems to be well preserved!

At the very first whiff, I detected a strong animal, indolic note, and worried about the wearability of the perfume. But it was only a trace of fish, from the really sticky residue that had accumulated at the neck of the container. As soon as I dabbed some of fresher juice from inside the container onto my skin, I detected a much sweeter scent. At first, I had an impression of a jasmine, almost jonquil like scent, a spicy floral with a fruity, almost frambois quality. The perfume has a piercing intensity, animalic-turpentine touches and something harsher and woody, possibly vetiver, in the base. Yet the overall effect is sweet and floral and thoroughly wearable. As it wears, an ambery "play-doh" base with mild bready undertones emerges. I can detect a small amount of what may be fir balsam in the dry down as well. I asked my husband to give it a sniff in its full-on sweet phase- he's my 'control subject', and he said it smelled of fresh cut pine wood shavings and a spicy, incensy flowers.  He also gave it a thumbs up for wearability. Lilac is a classic flower that many of our grandmothers used in their own home brewed perfume concoctions and it has been largely ignored in fine modern perfumery. Aside from being lovely to look at, it is one of those flowers blessed with a complex nature and creates a soliflor that can smell like a fully developed composition. Candlelight is a lovely, rich and complex lilac. For as much as I can smell, the quality of the juice is apparent. For me, this is an important find because it speaks to the early history and high quality of commerical perfumery in California. I would say this humble creation rivals a period Caron in quality, which it reminds me of very much in terms of scent character.
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Note: photographs of Miss Bosworth and the Three Stooges were borrowed from the Colonial Dames webiste, although the Three Stooges footage is available elsewhere. The shot of Candlelight Perfume bottle is my husband's.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Original Ungaro Perfume

You're looking at one of my new perfume cabinets which figures into my Ungaro story.
The original Ungaro perfume came out in 1977. I'm not sure when it was discontinued but occasionally you can still find it from the usual on-line suspect (E***). The bottles are gem-like, deep sapphire blue glass with an elegant pattern, topped by brilliant emerald green glass stopper (for the EDP, like mine above). The EDP is dressed up with a ruby pink ribbon at its neck, the EDT has a green plastic cap and a gold metal band instead. Save the plastic cover over the neck of the glass stopper, the presentation is quite opulent. Suggestive of gemstones and finely hung fabrics, it is as rich as the scent it houses. Released in 1977, Ungaro is very much in the style of 1980s powerhouse scents- and like Ungaro's fashions of the same period, it was a few years ahead of its time. Also like his fashions, this first scent was a melange of all good things, marrying complex layers of ingredients like precious florals, spices and woods.

The scent opens with aldehydes, rose, coriander, orange blossom, jasmine, neroli, bergamot and lemon, followed by middle notes of iris, turkish rose and lily-of-the-valley. The composition rests on a base of sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, cedar and cardamom. An oriental fragrance, the notes promise something decadent and festive and Ungaro does not disappoint. Indeed, it is a sumptuous treat for those who like their poisons thick and sweet. In fact before I checked the dates, I thought Ungaro Women might have been a nod to Doir's iconic Poison. But considering the Ungaro preceded Dior's creation by over 20 years, perhaps it was the other way around. And although my initial perception was that the two scents were nearly identical, in smelling them side by side, I found that Poison actually does have a rather bitter heart, and so it is quite well named; Ungaro on the other hand is pure confectionery bliss. The spiciness is tamped down (no patchouli here!) and tightly wrapped up in a rosy Turkish delight, powdered with Iris sugar crystals, swimming in a bowl of vanilla-flecked musk cream. Maybe the bowl is made of wood, because it is classified as a woody oriental. But it's really a gourmand's scent, a fantasy of floralized nougat.

Ungaro is very sweet and it's longevity is stunning as well. The bottle you see in the top photo toppled over and an ounce or so of the EDP soaked into our new home's carpet right under the new perfum cabinet, so the whole area is embued with it. The rose, vanilla, musk and sandalwood have lasted longest and I keep catching whiffs of it as I walk by.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Le FEU D'Issey

Just a short post today- I'm wearing Le Feu D'Issey after wearing Aimez-Moi for Thanksgiving and most of Black Friday. The anise and rose notes shared by both bridges the two scents beautifully. But the thing that drew me to this 1998 Issey Miyake release was the bottle. A solid Lucite globe of reddish orange, it reminds me of a Christmas tree ornament. The firey orb also reminds me of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean on a cool fall evening. But despite the sun metaphor, Le Feu resonates cold to me- it's a frosty solar scent, if that makes sense. The heart of Le Feu is Bulgarian Rose and fresh Coriander, which creates a "modern contrast of energy and sensuality." Le Feu is an easy wearing, casual perfume, although it has a quirky, almost medicinal opening which fades quickly to reveal woody rose facets, smoothed over with a subtle milky-salty caramel note. Although it was created in 1998 and has been discontinued, Le Feu is incredibly well blended and perfectly balanced. It is one of the few perfumes I would describe as futuristic (even today, it remains so). Jacques Cavallier created Le Feu and he has authored a number of other perfumes that I've owned and admired including YSL's Cinema and Nu, Jean Paul Galtier's Women, Alexander McQueen's Kingdom, Stella by Stella McCartney, and Givenchy's Hot Couture. Unfortunately for those who haven't smelt it, Le Feu is something of a cult scent, and it commands ridiculously inflated prices on EBay. Sadly I haven't been able to find a substitute but Clarins' Eau Dynamisante may come close (I don't have any on hand to compare to it directly). So, what rare vintage, discontinued or throw-back scents have you been wearing this holiday?

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Removing Frozen or Stuck Perfume Stoppers

Recently Melissa asked me how can you remove a stuck stopper from a perfume bottle. Hopefully I can help out since I've tried quite a few methods, so let's run down the list.

When I first encountered stuck stoppers, I was told to try ice or cooling the bottle. I guess the thought is that the glass will retract and things should loosen up a bit. Well, cooling methods haven't worked for me. Running a bottle under warm water may work- if the lid is a threaded plastic or metal type and dried perfume residue is causing the lid to remain stuck-tight. Then it's just a matter of heating up the metal or plastic and twisting it off. The water might damage any paper label that's there, so keep a towel handy.

But the real challenge occurs when you run across a ground glass stopper that has become stuck or frozen in the neck of the bottle. I've even cut the cord on a sealed bottle only to find the stopper is frozen in place. So what to do? If you can access enough of the underside of the stopper, which is not always easy, old Chanel pamphlets (which used to come tucked into the perfume bottle box), advised you to tap evenly all around the stopper while applying gentle pressure until it comes unstuck. Good luck with this method! It probably works but I found it's difficult to pull off- you need some special kind of tool small and weighty enough to tap on such a small area and it requires major-league dexterity. The method perfected by my husband, which seems to work best, requires two identical pry tools- try two butter knife blades or two identical pocketknife blades. He lines the bottle up (I hold it) and works the two blade edges along opposite sides of the bottle (that's 180 degrees apart) nestling the edge of the blade right at the stopper and neck junction. He does it so the handles of each knife are on opposite sides of the bottle. Then he quickly, firmly, evenly pushes up on one knife handle while simultaneously pushing down on the other. The resultant force pops the stopper off the bottle, usually on the first try. But he isn't shy or hesitant about the movement- I think you might just chip pr break off the stopper top if you aren't smooth and decisive. I might recommend wrapping the top of the stopper or taping it up first if you do try this, so the top isn't damaged as it flies off the bottle and lands on the floor. Another technique I've used, for smaller bottles with round stoppers (like a small bottle of Poison perfume), is to wrap the stopper top in soft cloth, grasp it with a small pliers and gently turn it off. This method is easy, so you might want to give it a try first but don't use too much pressure or you will snap the stopper off at the neck for sure. Good luck but remember, no matter which method you try- you do run the risk of chipping, cracking or worse yet, breaking off the stopper top. Below you see the tragic result of an attempted removal gone wrong. That being said, the two knife method has never damaged a bottle of mine.

And it's always worked. Except with one particularly old, square-shaped stopper on an older bottle (1800s) with no clearance between the stopper and the bottle (a short neck). In that case, I tried everything that I've told you about here and more but nothing worked. I held onto that bottle for quite a while, trying to decide what to do about it. I didn't want to ruin the bottle- it was so old. But the juice inside finally won over. I really wanted to smell it! So I went for the most extreme method I know- drilling and emptying. The procedure was achieved using a small masonry drill bit called a glass bit, that bores a round hole into glass. You need to build up a coffer damn on the glass so you can keep a puddle of lubricating fluid to cool and help the bit get through. To do it, make a ring of silicone putty, stick it to the glass area around where you'll drill into the glass. Fill the ring with a few drops of light machine oil, like 3-in-1, or another suitable fluid before you start. I held the bottle in place with more silicone putty. It went beautifully; I was able to drill through without any contamination by going slow, and I kept an absorbent towel nearby to soak away the oil as I got down to the last layers of glass. Then, I decanted the contents directly from the hole, plugged it up and I was able to display the 99% intact bottle. Well, I hope this helps at least one of you get into that bottle of perfume you've been hanging on to with the stuck stopper. Let me know how you do!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Is it Safe to Wear Old Perfume?

If you read down to the comments on my Chypre post, you will see a couple of my readers have asked some very good questions about vintage perfumes. So good, in fact, that I've decided to respond to those questions here in a separate post so more of you can share in the answers. Now for the disclaimer- I'm just sharing my own experiences and opinions; I do not recommend that anyone else should necessarily follow me! Use your own common sense and practice safety at all times.

OK, so let's get down to business. First, Alessandra asked about the safety of wearing vintage perfumes. The short answer is yes, it is safe to wear vintage perfumes.

Now for the long answer: it is safe, but only in as much as it is safe to wear any perfume. Skin can definitely become irritated by many different perfumes and other scented products, like soaps and creams, but that is regardless of the age of the product. I know that my skin can become irritated by a few perfumes, but they tend to be carnation-spicy scents (eugenol), chypres (oakmoss) and certain musk oils. The worst effects I've experienced amount to some slight burning sensations and in more extreme reactions, transient redness of the skin in the area where I applied. I've had problems when those scents are applied right after a shower or bath or in lavish amounts. I find the perfume in extrait or oil form can be especially problematic probably because the scent molecules are more concentrated in those formulas. I avoid applying over large areas, soft areas, untanned areas or along the insides of skin folds, or anywhere skin is often rubbed. But if one was actually to become allergic or chemically sensitive to a particular scent molecule or any scented product, old or new, the reactions could be quite severe. But I stress to you that for me it does not matter whether the product is old or new, just the particular ingredient.
On a tangentially related subject, I have read on many blogs the myth that perfumes expire quickly and must be discarded after a certain age. Well, I think that is just pure myth. Scents, especially fine scents, do change over time, just as fine wine or liquors change as they age. Certain scent molecules are more prominent in younger formulas, lending a boldness or brightness, while other notes are created and accumulate as things stew in their own juices. As some notes fade others emerge or become uncovered adding depth to the formula. So the character and color of a juice usually changes as it matures and ages.

As an industrial perfumer or any modern-day scent brander I can see where one would aim to capture a particular scent and set the scent profile in stone. In those cases, the formula might be designed specifically to be stable and consistent over time and from bottle to bottle as possible. It's fine for my Gain or Downey fabric softener but I reject that type of thinking in fine perfumery! I tend to think more like a vintner or gardener. You have to approach each harvest, each batch and each bottle of scent as it's own thing. You may know you prefer a certain type of wine or variety of flowers, but you probably also recognize that sometimes the scent or taste quality of these things are exceptional but sometimes, they are just OK. I say Carpe Diem provided you don't have to pay a premium for the bottle. The bottle or historical import of a presentation tends to impart most of the value in cases where vintage perfume bottles command premium prices. I am not a bottle collector, so I avoid those deals. But if you can manage to find a second hand bottle of perfume offered at a reasonable price, consider giving it a try. Because in the end, I've found that vintage perfume is a lot like life; things change, but mostly in predictable and agreeable ways.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perfume Musings (of an ex-smoker)

I'm not sure I've ever said it or even thought about it much but I used to be a smoker and I believe that's where my fascination with perfume began. I may have lacked a true appreciation for the dangers of that bad habit but I certainly realized the reek of smoke clinging to one's clothes, hair and hands was not pretty. I recall selecting my signature scents, partially on their ability to blend in with and mask the residue of my cigarettes. And so I leaned naturally towards sharp greens, smoky leathers and spicy orientals from early on. Those types of perfumes seemed best suited to masking fumes and after repeated wearings they became my preference. While my love of proper perfumes waned and laid dormant for a long time after I quit smoking, I continued to have a keen interest in incense and the head-shop variety of scented oils. Now it's been some time since my interest (being polite) in perfume has been rekindled but recently I found a nifty little bottle of Bandit parfum, that famous leather scent by Robert Piguet. This is the vintage version, not the horrifying newer release (which I keep, unopened and wrapped in it's cellophane- as a punishment, on my lower shelf). The tarry, almost skunky-tart green leather of the original version is mouth-watering. The scent memory is pure bliss as well: my smoker's hands redolent of comfortably roasted tobacco, my back warmed by the autumn sun, strolling through the Tenderloin, with a group of junky musician friends, on our way to a friend's flat. No bills and no cares- and an innocent ignorance of everything to come, the vigor of youth stinging in my blood. Those were the days, lol.
But Bandit was there with me, covering up every trace of indiscretion and adding a certain flare, an unexpected dash of style to my low-brow ways. So now of course Bandit is an old friend. It understands me and I understand it. I discovered other soul-sisters in the guise of scents, specters and members of my perfume-spirit family, scents that took me back to down-home and my soul's roots. At one time there was Halston Couture (never just Halston, only the Couture!) which was the first perfume I actually inducted into the Vintage Vault. I went into absolute panic mode when that one was discontinued; it was before the days of the internet and trying to locate a bottle of HC was a truly monumental project. Chanel's Cuir de Russie and Opium joined the select group, and most of my old-school chypres now belong as well. These are the scents I reach for first when I want to feel wise and witty and warm but no one seems to get it (or me). I guess this is more a perfume reminisce and a chance for me to sing the praises of the heavy perfumes, those strange brews that were authored for a purpose even it was just to challenge, whose makers weren't afraid to use potent ingredients in generous proportions, and who succeeded in creating masterpieces capable of not only masking the repellent odours that haunt our very existence, but also seducing us with the very same breath.
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

True Chypre Perfume (Vrai Chypre)

Today I dove into a real find- Vrai Chypre from Frédéric Geille. I've been wishing lately for an old chypre, a new one to add to my collection. One of truest of grails and just the type of plunder to see one through even the roughest of patches in one's pursuit of scented nirvana.... especially the pursuit of a vintage scented nirvana. And Geille A Paris is perfect for me- a really obscure name, circa 1930-40s. There is another Geille perfume, Cœur Caucasien or Cuir Caucasien from 1943, also by Frédéric Geille, pictured on the Museu del perfum site.

Vrai's bottle strikes me as a release rfom an earlier date. The tightly wrapped cord of silk under tarnished metal- silver washed copper perhaps- had essentially rotted and clotted around the sealed bottle. After sawing through the cord, I found the stopper was stuck... and a single chip along the outer edge of the stopper, as if someone previously had attempted to prize it loose with a pliers sometime earlier. But my husband has gotten pretty good at popping stuck stoppers off. So yeah, it yielded without any further damage to the bottle or lid, which is always a nice thing.

I love the name of this perfume as well, it translates to something like "True Chypre". We're always looking for a real chypre, aren't we? Coty did not originate the Chypre but I like to think he codified Chypre into mythological status. A large, sealed bottle of late 1920s Coty Chypre is still the centerpiece of my entire vintage collection, hundreds of bottles later. Magically, it was the second original period Coty Chypre I've came across. my husband actually brought that first bottle home to me. I found it sitting unceremoniously on the coffee table one frosty autumn morning, surrounded by silver coins, pocket knives and fishing lures... glittering like a precious crown jewel . The bottle was open and I took to wearing it just long enough before letting it go on to another collector, to become thoroughly enslaved to that authentic, old school style of chypre. Crepe de chine, vintage Femme and several other "no name" chypres have followed, plus the more accessible classic 'modern' chypres (Ysatis, Paloma Picasso et al.) But there's nothing like the real thing, baby.
I don't want to bore you to tears but especially if you don't already know how older chypres smell, you might like hear about the notes. Vrai is a leathery floral chypre. Chypre is a formula built around earthy patchouli and loamy, smooth oakmoss plus labdanum. Labdanum is a richly fragrant lichen-like substance that was first combed from the hair of goats who picked it up grazing on the Mediterranean rock-rose shrub. The patchouli is refined and sublime without any of the spikey, sinus penetrating fumes. This base is rounded out by the classic harmony of citrus against a floral. The rose begins dusty pale; the bergamot was shy at first but it bloomed thanks to a muggy evening. The leather has a savory/creamy tang similar to goat's milk and under it all is a surprisingly familiar musky finish. I just wish I could share it with a wider audience.
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass

Taking advantage of every day this week, I stopped by one of my favorite haunts and picked up a bottle of Elizabeth Arden's famous and much maligned perfume Blue Grass. Created sometimes around 1934 or 1936, the perfumer is George Fuchs (of Fragonard). Blue Grass was created in order to celebrate the scent of the grassy pasture fields where Arden bred her famous Thoroughbreds. To backtrack only a bit, Florence Graham (EA's given name) is somewhat a woman after my own heart. Short of stature- barely 5 feet tall, and fond of pink in her real life unlike the more famous red she used so prominently in her salons, she sought always to appear as youthful as possible, eschewing gray hair for a reliable honey blonde and dressing in sometimes outrageously girlish get-ups whenever she could construct an excuse to do so. I find it especially endearing that she insisted her beauty products be lavished on her horses.

Needless to say EA fascinates me, especially in regards to her well known rivalry with another hero of mine, the incomparable Helena Rubinstein. But today I am interested only in setting the record straight on Blue Grass. The bottle I found is not a long lost vintage treasure- I have run across those, too, but for the most part, the vintage BG I've found hasn't aged well, unlike our dear EA... Most examples I've come across are compressed, sour and smell terribly off. The older powder and occasionally the scented bath gel versions I find seem to hold up much better. But this isn't a problem because contrary to other online commenters, I do not find the newer version of BG lacking at all. According to the bottle I have, it is made in France and bottled through EA London.

And how does it smell? Well to me, it has exactly the smell I would hope for- cool and green, sublimely subtle and finishing off with a powdery velvet-ness similar to the feel of horse nuzzling your palm. To analyze it more in depth, I will say the lavender and jasmine are especially prominent on it's opening and these have been woven together in an herbal, juicy fruity and crisp green combination that seems to be so, so difficult to get just right in a perfume. I attribute it's true grassy character to a sweet (versus smokey) vetiver, backed up by a touch of cedar. The cooling powdery feel lingers throughout, I believe because the lavender matches perfectly to the vetiver and cedar, although none of these notes is allowed to come out too fully. All of it is held in check by a judicious blend of florals, so that the aforementioned jasmine, along with lily of the valley, rose and carnation do not play heavy roles, either. There is a definite citrus open thanks to neroli, bergamot boosted by geranium, aldehydes and orange blossom. One source adds laurel to the list of notes and I'm included to agree to it, playing wonderfully well with the cool herbal notes of lavender and sweet grass.

This scent improves with time although I find it wearable from the first. While it is cleaner than many scents I love, to my nose it has nothing in common with the new breed of clean. Instead, I can see it as a child of the 70's fitting in with the other soft green scents that dominated during that time (and that seem now impossible). Many people are ansmotic to some smells, perhaps this somehow plays in reverse as well. Possibly I can smell something most people miss in this newer formulation, or I miss something they smell, because it still smells classically balanced and well made. Perhaps that is what leads me into an easy love of a scent that so many decry? There really isn't any telling, without doing a live in person group sniffathon, which given my geographic location and schedule, is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Actually, it matters not because I'm going to take it just as it comes and wear my Blue Grass with enthusiasm.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Givenchy Organza and Chanel 22

It's been quite a while since I've had time or desire to post on anything. My animus towards vintage perfumes hasn't really diminished; my time and energy has just been focused in other directions. I don't intend to hold myself silent for the entire duration of this MEd program, but there might not be much in the way of regular posting until next summer, except during holidays. It's Fall Break this week and even so we've been living on the air conditioner until a sudden and welcomed cool down today.
Today I had a sudden craving for vintage Chanel No. 22- perfume. It's a favorite of mine although usually I just scrimp and wear the vintage 1970's EDT spray version. If you know it, you'll know I'm not really scrimping. One spray takes it as far as you'd want to go, which even in this heat is from morning to overnight and into the shower the next morning. But after wearing it a couple of times recently, today I decided I'd wear a little of the actual vintage parfum instead. Off I went in search of the coffret in which it sits along with it's siblings: Bois De Iles, Cuir De Russie and No 5. I removed the dainty oval crystal stopper and dabbed; as it settled in, the old magic returned. In this little vial the incense and vanilla of Madame Coco's true genius of a numbered fragrance have happily married the aldehydes have quieted down a bit. And it strikes me that there is something very similar between this Chanel creation and Givenchy's original Organza.
You see, I've been smelling Organza a lot lately. We've just purchased an older home in the country- the sort I've always imagined, by the way, but the point is that we bought it from a lovely lady from Spain, named Silvia. Now Silvia reminds me of what a world war II movie star would look like today, tottering on tiny high heels, surrounded by a cloud of blonde hair, long eyelashes and a generally regal bearing. From the first moment I met her, I thought she smelled really wonderful... very elegant and refined but maybe with a little hint of bombshell, too.

Generally I'm a little shy to ask new people about perfumes, but I really wanted to know what she was wearing. It was just like when you catch just a little bit of a melody when you're not really expecting it-suddenly I couldn't place a familiar scent. So finally I asked her what she was wearing and she replied, "Oh, something my husband bought for me; it's all I ever wear... it's by Givenchy... Organza, I think." But now I realize when she said it, I was expecting her to tell me it was No 22! Maybe other people have noticed the resemblance but I never did before. I even went home and discovered it's the sandalwood. I think. Sandalwood isn't something that hits you over the head with No 22 but over time I realize it's the thing that draws my nose back into the coat or scarf after I've put away after wearing it... Now I have another sleath sandal perfume to add in my arsenal, cloaked in a fine, but rich harmony of orientalized florals, just the way I tend to like them!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Perfume, this summer's latest crop...

Despite the lack of frequent posts this summer and my complaints to the contrary, there has been abundant spoil lately. Pictured on the tray, from left to right: 1962 OCCUR! by Avon, Secret d' Suzanne by Suzanne, Casaque by Jean d'Albret, Directoire by Charles of Ritz and Dorothy Gray's White Lilac. Many a scalding day has wiled away this season, whilst I've retreated into cool shadowy chambers to perfume the air around me and contemplate the spirits held within these bottles. I wouldn't want to restrain your imaginings of any of the perfumes, as each one deserves it's own spotlight. Casaque is possibly the best known of the set, of course after Avon's Occur!, which is one of Avon's best selling scents ever and some say Avon's last great scent. Reviews will follow along shortly for these, even if short- and yes, I've finally mailed off my last winner's package! So, how is your summer hunt for vintage treasure going?

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Monday, June 29, 2009

CIRO Perfumes: New Horizons

Today's feature comes from one of the classic yet lesser known perfume lines, Parfums Ciro; they featured unusual combinations, superior substances and memorable presentations. In their time, Ciro perfumes were considered a cut above the drugstore variety scents they competed against. Somewhat avaunt guard, what we might label 'niche' today; yet in a crowded field, their offerings were consistently well-received. In 1955, fragrances by Parfums Ciro were the focal point of Jay Thorpe's grand fashion pagent at the Palza Hotel. The show featured a trio of Jay Thorpe Originals, designer dresses inspired by and named after three of Ciro's most popular perfumes: Danger, Reflections and Surrender. The 'Ciro Blackamoor' wandered through the crowd, dressed in oriental finery, carrying perfumes on a silken pillow. The show provided a spectacular showcase for the perfumes and the promotional savvy of the man behind Parfums Ciro.

Ciro was the creation of one J.S. Wiedhopf. As a young man, Wiedhopf worked for the Alfred H. Smith Company, who were the only stateside importers of Djerkiss perfume. After he learned the business and perhaps sensing there were more lucrative opportunities, Wiedhopf struck out on his own. In 1921 he started his own business, Guy T Gibson Inc. There he began to import the exclusive Parisian brand Parfums Caron, which he sold to American customers in his New York retail shop. Soon Wiedhopf began offering perfumes under his own label, although the scents were actually being manufactured and bottled by Gamilla in France. In 1936, Wiedhopf renamed Guy T Gibson as Parfums Ciro. As the company prospered, Wiedkopf was able to reinvest in his product. He spared no expense enhancing Ciro perfumes by securing the best packaging and bottle designers of the time, notably Baccarat. The advertising images for Ciro were no exception to the overall quality that came to embody the brand.

Under Wiedhopf's creative direction Ciro continued to flourish throughout the war years and into the 1950s. During this time, Wiedhopf also worked to establish himself as an expert in the area of perfumes. He helped found the institution known as the Fragrance Foundation and in 1949 he was elected as it's first president. He also positioned himself as a key representative of the perfume industry by serving on the advisory committee of the War Production Board during World War II. Wiedhopf was also a pioneer in the area of research. He worked with chemists to develop new fragrance formats such as long lasting powder perfumes and conducted early market research to analyze consumer habits. Despite his pioneering efforts and many successes, he retired in 1955 and went to work as the president of Roure-Dupont Chemical, where he remained until 1963.

Ciro changed hands and in 1957 Ciro's new president, Donald L. Bryant, announced that the company was moving back to France. After the move overseas, there were fewer new releases and in 1961 Ciro released the last of their perfumes. The catalog of Parfums Ciro (1923 - 1961) includes: Ambre de Jadis and Doux Jasmin, Bouquet Antique, Maskee, Mirelevres, and Le Chypre du Nil, were all released in the early 1920s. L'Heure Romantique (1930) was followed by the super-successful scent Surrender, released in 1932.

Then another hit, Reflexions in 1933 followed by Camelia de Maroc in 1936. Danger, very popular at the time, a sweet but not-too-sweet oriental, and Trois Notes de Ciro were both released in 1938, New Horizons was released in 1941. After a ten year break came Acclaim in 1951, followed by One On The House in 1952. 'Esscent' was created by Ciro in the 1950s as a near-perfume strength cologne-like product, I believe it's water-based but with the strength of a good edt/edp. Described as a "new catagory of fragrance" Ciro's top sellers- Danger, New Horizons, Reflections and Surrender were all offered in the Esscent formulation. Ciro released the uber-spicy Richochet which was similar to EL's Youth Dew in 1955. Batiste and Bouffante were released in 1957, followed by Little Danger in 1958, Oh La La in 1959 and finally in 1961, Panorama and Tete a Tete.

Chevalier de la Nuit (Knight of the Night) deserves special mention because of it's stunning and highly prized presentation with a figural bottle depicting a knight in shining armor. The bottle came in various color combinations with an extravagant stopper including a feather-topped headdress.

But before you buy one of these, beware! Copies of the bottle have been forged and are being sold as originals for hundreds of dollars. I'm not sure whether you can see enough of the details from the photos on your monitors but there are a number of subtle differences between the genuine examples and the dupe.

In 1941 New Horizons was released with the tag line: "The perfume that carries you on and on..." New Horizons was a feminine release. The bottle design used iconic imagery: an eagle shaped stopper, and the sweeping, curved line of the bottle suggested a horizon.

The presentation seemed to say the woman who wears the perfume is free to explore new heights and view new horizons. I am lucky to have procured both a sealed parfum and a larger sealed bottle of the 'esscent' version of New Horizons.

I opened the parfum first and wore it several times before exploring the Esscent. When I finally tried the esscent, I recognized the fragrance immediately but it does not fully live up to the perfume version. It isn't a surprise, for those of us who've learned that very often, there are striking differences between the various formulations of most perfumes. I happen to prefer the parfum in this case but the esscent is extremely adequate, especially when atomized. New Horizons is best represented by its tag line- indeed, it carries you on and on... lifting and bolstering you as you float along an endless air-stream of flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

This bottle shows another unique bottle style of New Horizons- with the puffy, fluffy pink clouds, of a floral explosion, I think it fits the perfume better than the eagle bottle. The perfume has the soaring quality of Caron's Bellodgia... although it's not a soliflore, but rather a mixed floral with a very sweet and fresh quality. The freshness isn't represented by anything clean or marine, it's comes via a touch of pure aldehydes, just enough to clarify and amplify the composition, lifting the honeyed and deliciously polleny flowers into the air. Turkish Rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, carnation, violet and iris rush to greet the nose. There is a hint of dark green crushed leaves, but just barely, among the petals. The dancing parade of flowers circles on and on, finally ebbing into a doughy, creamy, soapy floral base- nothing heavy, just a sweet floral vapor trail that clings for a surprisingly long time. The suggestion of flight and the eagle image lead me to expect New Horizons to be more masculine, perhaps with some leather in it, similar to Caron's flight-themed En Avion. But this is a full-on, flower-power scent. If the name meant anything at all, perhaps it was to encourage the woman who would wear it, to soar high, to rise above, and to look always and only toward the new horizon, with the anticipation and promise of lush abundance to come.

New Horizons is a perfume I'll dab on and forget about, then smell later on, and wonder what on earth smells so good. If you're interested in the scent, try to find a smaller sealed parfum, like I did. It seems to keep rather well. The fascinating history behind this brand, the trailblazing practices of its founder, along with the beauty and quality of the products, makes Ciro perfumes memorable. The entire line is a treat to visit in retrospect, everything should be considered desirable. Luckily, there are still a number of Ciro perfumes available on the second hand and collector market, so if you are looking to build a good vintage collection of American fragrances especially, you can still find many excellent examples, in a range of price points. Highly Recommended.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Voodoo, the perfume: Revisited

To be honest, I tend to wear modern fragrances more often than vintage. But since I don't care too much for decants, if I'm buying something contemporary it's going to be full bottle purchase. That being the case, I try to only buy things that I think are really special. More and more now, I want to limit myself to perfumes that have a certain level of quality and a beautiful presentation that I believe is going to stand out even years from now.

(Mine says Patchouli on the side.) But I'm not wealthy so when I buy something like this, I'm expecting it will keep well enough that I'm going to be able to use it for years and then pass along whatever I don't use up to my niece. Perfume isn't cake, after all. Provided that it is genuinely a fine and well-crafted product, why shouldn't a perfume remain relatively stable for a [really, really] long time? Perfumes are more similar to honey or wine than other, more perishable cosmetics and food stuffs. I have a number of 50 to 70 year old fragrances that seem to be holding up quite well although I do notice the best ones tend to be those that were more costly, originally. But if the perfumes of today are going to be made of disposable ingredients without quality carriers so they begin to deteriorate even after only a year or two then perfume collecting as we know it is all but a thing of the past.

Despite these mildly torturous thoughts and my supposedly high standards in perfumery, I remain a complete and total sucker for (almost) anything vintage! Even though I say I'm only going to buy things that I like, or that smell good on me (or at least, to me), all too often I give in and end up lugging home another box full of half-offs and embarrassingly grimy containers of cloudy oil residues and worse... and I've done it too many times to count! But I swear to you that from now on, no matter what I say, that I'm not going to buy even one more miniature bottles-- don't even ask. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere and if I don't draw it at this point, you might as well look forward to seeing me on an upcoming episode of Obsessed!

And I still have scores of scents I've barely touched just sitting in the vault waiting for me. But despite my overstock piles, I'm suffering from an odd sort of ennui this summer. I've noticed just lately that it's become much harder to find new stuff, vintage-wise, to buy. This hasn't really ever been a problem before so I'm wondering if the recent down-turn has trickled down into the very farthest corners of even our second hand economy already? I don't know exactly what the cause is but hopefully it's only a matter of time before things start to turn up again. So I've been thinking lately about the slightly mundane things, like the scents that I actually wear in my everyday life but usually take for granted...

And since things are slow around here I've come up a little perfume game and of course there will be a prize for the winner. The photograph above contains an important clue as to the identity of a certain 'mystery perfume' that I've been wearing quite often lately. I won't say more about it than that, so this is going to be challenging enough that I may never have to make good on the prize I'm offering. So Good Luck! The first person who guesses the mystery scent correctly will receive a set of samples of some of the vintage scents I've reviewed here, the most prized of which will be a 1 ml sample of another favorite that I've been wearing again, lately- Dana's super rare-and-deserves-to-be-legendary vintage VuDu (Voodoo) parfum. There's only one caveat: I will post the identity of the mystery perfume in one week's time. At that point, the contest will expire, winner or no.

Now you might recall I did an earlier review of Vudu here on TVPV and I have to confess, I'm really loving this perfume. That it stacks up to anything modern, given it's age and our general changing tastes in perfume styles, I think is quiet amazing. On wearing Vudu again, there is an incense-y quality that I didn't focus on so much before, which positively hums next to the turgid, vulcanized tuberose that forms the heart of Vudu. I still consider this to be one of my most 'cherry' perfumes but it's an accent, really. The top notes seem more ordinary to me now as well- just some nice candied citrus paired with a cooling kiss of menthol from those narcotic whites, rather than the more adventurous herbs (basil, thyme??) I'd smelt so keenly before. I still get that odd human hair note, or is it more musty-mildewy now? The chypre base, a mossy, slightly powdery-resinous delight, still forms a perfect cradle, tenderly cupping and swirling all of those other scent notes into a coherent composition. Sometimes I write about a perfume like this one hoping to jar someone's memory or perhaps draw a few more examples of the fragrance out of the woodwork. And some times it even works out. But as for Voodoo, no. Apparently it has dropped away into a sad oblivion of nearly total extinction. Why? Was it just another fruity chypre in the end, and all too ordinary? Or maybe something closer to the opposite is closer to the truth... perhaps it was too extraordinary, too different? In fact, it seems that Voodoo was the most expensive of Dana's offerings stateside at the time of its USA release and if by chance it was brought back today I believe it would receive rave reviews.

CONTEST NOTE: Because I'd like someone to possibly win this contest: please read comments for an important clue, to which I'll add the initials C.J.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.