Perfume to Weather the Holidays

Tis the Season

Oh, I know the holidays are about “joy” and “giving” and blah blah blah. At the risk of sounding like a real Scrooge, I dread this time of year. Sure, I love dinners with friends, fires, and long, dark evenings of conversation. But I loathe the obligation to appear to have a perfect life. Thoughtfully chosen gifts, gourmet dinners, flawless outfits, relentless cheer — all are expected to be delivered with a big smile, despite a crammed schedule, scowling crowds, and “The Little Drummer Boy” blaring nonstop from every storefront.

What I really want to do is stay home all December and watch old movies, but friends won’t let me. Besides starchy food and martinis, I find comfort in tiny moments, like decorating my Christmas tree this afternoon with an imaginative six-year-old who insisted on hanging a light switch he’d found in the basement. I depend on that, and on perfume.

Here are some of the fragrance categories I seek during the holidays…

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Divine Spirituelle ~ fragrance review

petals

When I think of Divine‘s target customer, I imagine an elegant, gentle-mannered woman who wears pearls with élan and not stuffiness, and who appreciates the nuances of a good Darjeeling. That sort of woman could be happy with any of Divine’s feminine offerings, most of which are classic florals, subtly blended, designed to comfort and enchant in a lovely yet conventional way. Put another way, there’s a good chance that no Divine fragrance has ever been smelled in a mosh pit. Divine Spirituelle is true to the house brand.

Perfumer Richard Ibañez developed Spirituelle. Its notes include spices, Sichuan and pink peppercorns, geranium, cistus, May rose absolute, Anatolian rose absolute, light amber, white musk, Texas cedar and incense. In brief, Spirituelle is a warm, tender rose…

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Parfums Montana Parfum de Peau ~ fragrance review

Montana Parfum de Peau

The best way I can sum up Parfums Montana Parfum de Peau (originally released as Montana) is like this: Imagine that Niki de Saint Phalle and La Nuit de Paco Rabanne had a daughter, and they amped her baby formula with steroids. Other kids at school made fun of her for her big nose, protruding eyes and exceptional height. And when she turned 19, she became a supermodel. Parfum de Peau may be the ultimate jolie laide fragrance.

Jean Guichard composed the original Montana perfume in 1986. It’s not clear when the name change took place, but by 1991 it was being referred to in the press as Parfum de Peau. It was apparently reformulated later in the 1990s by Edouard Fléchier, and has no doubt been tweaked since. Its notes include peach, cassis, plum, pepper, cardamom, ginger, rose, tuberose, jasmine, ylang ylang, carnation, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, civet, castoreum, amber, musk and frankincense.

In Perfume, Nigel Groom describes Parfum de Peau as an “avant-garde chypre.” As its list of notes hints, Parfum de Peau is something between a symphony and raucous nightclub…

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Bottega Veneta Knot ~ fragrance review

Bottega Veneta Knot

Bottega Veneta Knot has changed my view of orange blossom fragrances. For me, orange blossom often takes one of two directions: it’s either a sweet bridal concoction or a laundry-fresh soap monster.1 Knot is something else. Although it definitely focuses on orange blossom, it’s dry and herbal, yet holds a sweet, musky core deep in its dry down that gently harkens back to the original Bottega Veneta. If you ask me, Knot is one of the few rewards of department store perfumes.

Perfumer Daniela Andrier (Prada Infusion d’Iris, Prada Candy, Marni Marni) developed Knot. Its notes include clementine accord (mandarin, limette, neroli, and orange blossom), lavender, rose, peony, musk and tonka bean. Of all these notes, orange blossom rises to the top with its soapy-musky feel. But instead of coming off as a guest bathroom soap extravaganza, Knot feels classic in its subtle, clean-woody presence…

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Rochas Audace ~ fragrance review

Rochas Audace advert, 1970s

Last Friday I was leaving Powell’s when a street fashion photographer asked to take my photo. Now, I’m not a particularly fashionable dresser. That afternoon, I was wearing a variety of clashing plaids — a Pendleton skirt and a jacket from a Western wear store in Oklahoma among them, both culled from Goodwill — and a 1940s floral silk scarf. (I will point out that my boots were pretty great, though.) “Me?” I asked the photographer. “This?

“I like the crazy mix,” she said. “It works.”

That’s how I feel about Rochas Audace. On paper, it reads like a strident jumble of notes. On skin, it works…

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