Perfume: When Everything Old is New Again

Yves Saint Laurent Champagne advert

Every once in a while I open my perfume cabinet’s doors and am overwhelmed by the rows of bottles crammed shoulder to shoulder like glass soldiers. When it gets to be too much, I start giving bottles away. Rochas Tocade is an example. I bought it at an online discounter ages ago, but it was so sweet that it annoyed me. I swapped it away not long after. Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse is another example. I told myself that liked it a lot, but I rarely wore it. When I met someone who liked it better, I gave it away.

Earlier this week I found both Tocade and Yvresse (in its earlier incarnation, Champagne) at Goodwill and snapped them up. It had been so long since I’d smelled either one, and I as soon as I saw their bottles I missed them. Well, I won’t be giving them away again any time soon. Instead of cloying, Tocade smells almost golden on my skin and is just trashy enough to be fun. Champagne’s nectarine is so much juicier than I’d remembered, and its abundant moss is a deliciously fusty contrast.

Over the past six months, I’ve had a good time “shopping” in my own perfume collection and rediscovering fragrances I thought I knew…

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Lanvin Arpege ~ vintage fragrance review

Lanvin Arpege bottle

Vintage Lanvin Arpège has broken my heart more than once. From its inception in 1927 to its major reformulation in 1993, Arpège was well loved, which means that plenty of bottles lurk in thrift stores and antiques malls. The problem is that unlike her sister, My Sin, Arpège doesn’t age well. At last, after bearing the grief of one small Extrait turned to sour Madeira, one evaporated Extrait purse spray, and two fusty Arpège Eau de Toilettes, I found a bottle of Eau de Toilette that opens my eyes to what made Arpège so beloved. I’m hooked.

In 1927 to celebrate her daughter’s thirtieth birthday, Jeanne Lanvin asked André Fraysse — Lanvin’s house chemist — to create Arpège…

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Ys Uzac Satin Doll ~ fragrance review

Ys Uzac Satin Doll

A “spicy iris modern chypre” that “exquisitely mirrors Duke Ellington’s unforgettable masterpiece”? I adore iris, chypres, and Duke Ellington. Sign me up! At least, this is what I thought when I read the launch announcement about Ys Uzac Satin Doll in July. Satin Doll’s PR copy included another teaser, saying that the iris was “embraced by a bitter and dry tuberose.” I adore tuberose, too, but often it doesn’t sit right on me. Maybe a bitter and dry tuberose would be just the ticket. The rest of Satin Doll’s notes are entrancing, too. Besides iris and tuberose, they include pink pepper, elemi, pepper, rose, jasmine, myrrh, incense, patchouli, opoponax, and benzoin. Really, doesn’t this perfume sound perfect?

Sadly for me, although Satin Doll is nice, it doesn’t communicate the beauty, swing, and freakiness of Ellington’s song

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Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer ~ product review

Canvas & Concrete fragrance primer

Canvas & Concrete: Is it a new Comme des Garçons fragrance? The recipe for a DIY bomb shelter? No, Canvas & Concrete is a fragrance primer designed so that “scent will not mix with your ph or body funk” and “the scent is true to what you smelled in store or in a magazine and what the designer intended.” All over the product’s box and website is splashed “lasts all night.”

I’d like to believe I’m reasonably funk-free, and I prefer my fragrances to smell like they came from a bottle and not a magazine’s scent strip. Plus, at night when Canvas & Concrete purports to be doing its major work, I’m normally sleeping. But I do wear perfume during the day, and I was eager to give Canvas & Concrete a try. I love reapplying fragrance — a different fragrance, usually — after the office and when I’m home, but some of my favorite scents vanish well before lunch. Could Canvas & Concrete work for them…

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Mikmoi Vesper ~ fragrance review (and cocktail recipe)


To me, one of the most compelling aspects of fragrance is what an illusion the whole thing can be. Like the image that can be either a crone or a maiden depending on how you squint your eyes, a perfume can often smell like two things at once. Mikmoi Vesper is like that. Depending on the angle from which I approach it, Vesper smells like suede and rose or like a fresh crushed fig leaf. Either way, it’s intriguing.

Mikmoi is a San Francisco-based indie perfumery run by nose Michael Coyle, who goes by “Mik.” Coyle studied with Mandy Aftel and Yosh Han before launching Mikmoi…

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