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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Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh ~ fragrance review

Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh

This fragrance was created with our home as a base, our lives, our travels, all the smells and scents we’ve sort of collected along the way…we always wanted our house to be some sort of warm wooden place where you can’t really tell if we started living there in the seventies or now.1 — Inez & Vinoodh

Byredo’s 2013 fragrance launch 1996 Inez & Vinoodh came, like many recent niche scents, rather weighted with backstory. It was inspired by the disquieting photograph shown on the outer packaging, titled ‘Kirsten, 1996′ and taken by Dutch fashion photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, but inspired also by their lives and the notes they liked — it was originally intended as a holiday gift for their friends and came in a wooden box with the photograph under the lid.2 The fragrance itself is a warm woody oriental that’s a must-try for iris fans — I would have included it in my Best of 2013 if I’d managed to smell it in time…

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Skin on Skin ~ perfume review

lart-skin-skin-2

Long-time perfumistas, what were the “big” niche brands when you started out? My own perfume addiction took hold on the fragrance board in MakeupAlley in 2003, and at that time, as I saw it, the “big four” were basically Diptyque, Serge Lutens, Frédéric Malle and L’Artisan Parfumeur.1 When one of those four brands released a new fragrance, perfumistas sat up and took notice, and everyone did their best to get their hands on a sample as soon as samples were available to be had.

It’s a different world now. There are approximately three times as many fragrance launches every year, and so many niche brands have sprouted up — and in some cases, vanished again just as quickly — that it’s impossible to keep track of them all. Diptyque, Serge Lutens, Frédéric Malle and L’Artisan Parfumeur are still big names, but even venerable old brands can no longer rest on their laurels what with all the product out there competing for attention. It takes some doing to keep the affections of your long-time customers and still attract new business.

L’Artisan Parfumeur kept my affections for a good long time, but lately, I’ve been puzzled by exactly what they’re doing over there. Many of their beloved series — the limited edition summer fragrances, the travel fragrances (Bois Farine, Timbuktu, Dzongkha), the harvest perfumes — appear to be in remission, and it looks like they are phasing out a number of my favorite scents…

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Penhaligon’s Iris Prima ~ perfume review

Penhaligon's Iris Prima Spirit of the Ballet

Iris Prima launched last fall, one of two 2013 fragrances from British niche house Penhaligon’s (the other was Vaara). I’m always happy to see a new iris, especially a unisex one. Iris Prima, like Vaara, has a great backstory: it was developed in collaboration with, and inspired by, the English National Ballet, and the tag line is “The spirit of the ballet. Bottled.” This of course made for all sorts of ballet-related promotional activities, including the lovely “ballet flash mob” at Saks in San Francisco and the liberal use of ballet shoes for displays (see here and here).

That said, Penhaligon’s is admittedly not one of my favorite perfume houses. Other than Vaara, which I was lukewarm about, the only other Penhaligon’s scent I’ve ever reviewed was Lily & Spice, which I was, likewise, lukewarm about, and the only Penhaligon’s fragrance that has ever made my buy list was perfumer Olivia Giacobetti’s brilliant spice-fest Elixir

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Atelier Cologne Silver Iris ~ fragrance review

atelier-silver-iris

Sometimes I think iris perfumes should come with rootiness scales, with ten being “Smells like a head of dirty hair” and one being “You mean there’s iris in here? I thought that was grape juice.” Perhaps perfume houses could post labels along the line of “This fragrance rates a 9 for rootiness” (Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist) or “This fragrance registers 2.5 on a 10 turnip scale” (Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre). With this scale and information about the fragrance’s fruit, powder, cream, and earth, the iris lover would be able to quickly zero in on a few to sample from the growing number of iris soliflores on the market.

On the rootiness scale, I would give Atelier Cologne Silver Iris a solid 6, making it a good bet for most fans of iris perfumes and a terrific introduction for the iris newbie. Silver Iris’s rootiness is present but never veers toward the odor of composting carrots. That said, the iris aficionado might find his or her attention wandering before long…

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