Maria Candida Gentile Hanbury ~ perfume review

Giardini Botanici Hanbury

When I first started out in perfume, it was possible to aspire to some level of “literacy”, as a consumer. That is, you could, if you spent a reasonable amount of time, energy (and money), acquaint yourself with the major brands — niche, mainstream and indie — and smell at least some portion of their products. It used to be fairly rare that a commenter (or contributor) at Now Smell This would mention a brand I’d never heard of, and I usually had at least a passing familiarity with any fragrance that came up for discussion.

These days, even determining which brands are “important” enough to bother with is a Herculean task. Commenters mention perfumes I’ve never heard of, much less smelled, every day (and I would not be at all surprised if many readers here smelled far more product than I do). When Jessica decided to review Gershwin by the Italian niche line Maria Candida Gentile, the brand was hardly even on my radar. I’ve now smelled two of their fragrances: Hanbury and Sideris…

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L’Occitane Passionate Jasmine, Subtle Violet and Fleur d’Or & Acacia shea hand creams ~ scented body product review

L'Occitane Passionate Jasmine, Subtle Violet and Fleur d'Or & Acacia shea hand creams

I am a little surprised to see we’ve never reviewed one of L’Occitane’s shea butter hand creams, but hey, most of you are probably familiar with the product — according to L’Occitane, they sell one every three seconds. It’s a thick hand cream in a metal tube, sometimes with colorful decorations, sometimes without. The formula is 20% shea butter,1 but it sinks in nicely and doesn’t leave hands greasy. And it works, or at least, I find that it works quickly when my hands are parched in the winter.2 The metal tubes seem to hold up pretty well, which is more than I can say for some metal tube hand creams, which split along the sides before you’ve finished the product.3

Happily for perfumistas, L’Occitane regularly introduces new limited edition fragrances — actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried the “regular”, non-scented version, but I often have one of the 30 ml travel tubes, in one scent or another, tucked in my purse…

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L’Occitane Fleur d’Or & Acacia and Ambre & Santal ~ fragrance reviews

L’Occitane Fleur d’Or & Acacia and Ambre & Santal

Earlier this year, L’Occitane launched a new line of perfumes — La Collection de Grasse; the collection started off with four fragrances and now has doubled in size.1 I’ve only had the chance to spend quality time with two of the perfumes: Fleur d’Or & Acacia and Ambre & Santal.

Fleur d’Or & Acacia

(lemon, bergamot, mimosa, acacia, white woods, musk)

Fleur d’Or & Acacia begins with, and maintains, an intense acacia-mimosa accord; and at first, this accord smells genuine (natural). The lemon note in Fleur d’Or & Acacia’s opening serves as a momentary “booster” for the florals. After Fleur d’Or & Acacia’s authentic-smelling acacia-mimosa notes vanish, and that happens quickly, they are replaced by acacia-mimosa ‘chemicals’ that soar into space, and up through my nasal passages…

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Caron Farnesiana ~ fragrance review

Caron Farnesiana advertCaron urn

Farnesiana was one of the first modern fragrances inspired by the mimosa flower, that notoriously difficult-to-replicate fluffy yellow bloom. According to Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg’s volume on Caron, Farnesiana was created by perfumer Michel Morsetti in 1947; its composition includes notes of mimosa, black currant, bergamot, jasmine, violet, lily of the valley, lilac, vanilla, sandalwood, opopanax, hay, and musk (although the Caron website currently only lists mimosa, sandalwood, and hay). The name “Farnesiana” refers to acacia farnesiana, the botanical name for a particular variety of mimosa; it is also, Caron suggests, evocative of Rome’s grand Farnese Palace.

That juxtaposition of a simple flower and a Renaissance palazzo seems appropriate to me, since I’ve always considered Farnesiana a sophisticated comfort scent, an unusual floral-gourmand (or “fleurmand,” as I like to call this perfume sub-genre). To my nose, Farnesiana begins with a powdery, pollen-like mimosa note and with accords of sun-warmed hay and grass. Oddly enough, this green-tinged phase reminds me of certain fragrances from Santa Maria Novella, like Ginestra (Broom) or Fieno (Hay), that evoke meadow-like landscapes. Farnesiana’s heart opens up to reveal the sweetly resinous opoponax…

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5 perfumes: Mimosa

yellow mimosa

I have always liked mimosa in fragrances. Rather, I should clarify: I have always liked Acacia farnesiana (cassie) and/or scents with heliotropin. The term “mimosa” is a bit of a moving target, even in botany, as there are about 400 species or cultivars of plants under this genus, mostly with pink or mauve flowers, in addition to many other shrubs or trees that produce poofy, cartoonish blossoms and were historically lumped in under the name by the public — silk tree being an example. The sweet, warm, powdery smell we encounter in perfumery, with its facets of almond, honey, violet, craft paste and fresh cucumber, comes from distillation of the soft, feathery yellow petal clusters of the acacia species that most of us in the West know as mimosa flowers. One of my most vivid and happy memories of visits to France is the bushels of mimosa branches tossed out during “La Bataille de Fleurs” or flower parade during the Carnaval de Nice, which winds its way along what must be one of the world’s most beautiful thoroughfares, the Promenade des Anglais.

For all its cheerful straight-forwardness, mimosa appears to be a hard note to use in perfume. There are very few credible soliflores and many mainstream fragrances with a strong mimosa presence come off as airheaded and shampoo-like. With the IFRA restrictions on heliotropin, it has become even more difficult, if not impossible, to base a fragrance around the flower. Looking to include perfumes with some availability in this list, I found that almost all the mimosa fragrances I’d enjoyed at the beginning of my perfume education in the mid-noughties were discontinued or reformulated. Caron Farnesiana, long the great classic of mimosa perfumes, has gone through so many versions that it is hard to keep track of them all…

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