30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 12: Hermés Hermessence Ambre Narguile


Today we’ve got several inches of snow sitting on the ground, and I’m not a cold-weather kind of person, so I wanted something warm and rich to scent my favorite big, comfy sweater. Hermés Hermessence Ambre Narguile is perfect. I’m probably never going to come out of my pocket for a $255 bottle, even though it is the big 100ml/3.4 ounce size, with as few bitterly cold days as we get in this part of the country, but I’m so glad I had the sample today.

Released in 2004, Ambre Narguile, like the rest of the Hermessence line, was created to evoke a certain place in the world. The term Narguile refers to a water pipe used in some areas in the Middle East, in which tobacco is smoked with flavors of spices, honey, and fruits. From that description, I’d have expected the tobacco note in it to be more prominent than it is, but I’m relieved to find otherwise.

This is a scent that does beautifully in winter and really needs the cold and damp. I tried it previously, in the fall, and thought it was too much cloying caramel. Today, I get that caramel note, but not as prominently, underneath the honey and cinnamon. There’s some rum there, and that benzoin-vanilla-tonka bean combo that I love, with faint traces of tobacco, coumarin, musk, and a floral note that is apparently orchid. To be honest, the cinnamon-caramel-vanilla combination reminds me a little bit of apple pie, in the best way.

As with all the Hermessence scents, longevity is an issue, but wearing it in the kind of weather where it smells appropriate takes care of that pretty well; all perfumes tend to stay on better in the cold. The projection is reasonable but not loud, and it’s a great snow day scent. I’d rate it a lot higher if I could afford a full bottle, but the company has a great sample policy and will let you try it before you buy.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2004

Availability: Hermes boutiques and hermes.com

Overall rating: 7.5/10


30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 11: Ineke Gilded Lily


I’m really enjoying this sample pack from Ineke, and I decided to do another one today. Released in 2010, Gilded Lily belongs to a family of fragrances called chypre, a term that dates back to the Roman era but is often credited to Coty’s iconic scent of the same name from 1917. (Guerlain actually had two pre-1917 fragrances with chypre in the name, but that’s another argument.) Basically, the classic chypre definition is that it’s a five-part harmony of citrus in the opening, plus floral notes, oakmoss, something woody that usually ends up being patchouli, and an animalic edge that comes from labdanum, musk, or amber. There is a great about the chypre fragrance family here, though I do have some minor quibbles with it in a few places.

Gilded Lily isn’t one where the stages of the fragrance are clearly divided. More than “I can’t detect this note until the drydown” as in some scents, the scent pyramid in this is more of a sliding scale. If I read the description, I’d expect to only smell the elemi resin, grapefruit, rhubarb, and pineapple in the opening, and that probably would have been off-putting to me. (Elemi sounds unfamiliar, but it’s often used in fragrance to balance out sweet notes. See also Spicebomb, where it cuts the sweetness of the tobacco note, or Eau Duelle by Diptyque, where it gives the vanilla its dry, resinous character that blends so well with the juniper and spices.) I do smell those notes in the opening, but I also pick up the lily heart, and hints of the labdanum, oakmoss, and patchouli. In fact, the spicy, earthy oakmoss that’s supposedly a base note is prominent throughout. I’m happy with that, because I’m a wearer of Chanel No. 19 and used to love Mitsouko with a passion before I quit smoking and my skin chemistry changed. If you’re not as familiar with oakmoss, though, it might be a bit intimidating, possibly even a bit old-fashioned to your nose.

Two sprays of it put the projection right at arm’s length, though I did get a compliment from a customer at work when I went to help her fasten a necklace. Like other Ineke scents I’ve tried, it lasted easily through an 8-hour workday, and was still detectable on my skin when I got home. I’m not as madly in love with this one as I am with Evening Edged in Gold, but it’s a beautiful fragrance and an excellent example of a modern chypre.

The technical stuff:

Perfumer: Ineke Ruhland

Availability: Ineke.com and select boutiques

Overall rating: 7/10

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 10: Ineke Field Notes from Paris

field notes

After falling in love yesterday with Evening Edged in Gold, I was excited to try another out of the Ineke sample set. Field Notes From Paris was launched in 2009 in homage to Ineke’s years in Paris, studying the art of perfumery, and it carries the slogan, “Life measured out in coffee spoons.” Like several in the line, it’s not marketed to one gender or another, which I like.

Field Notes From Paris opens up with sharp bergamot and spicy coriander, with a hint of orange blossom. I’ve seen other reviewers comment that for them, the orange blossom was more prominent than the bergamot, but I’ve commented before that my skin tends to amplify citrus notes. As the top notes mellow out, it’s tobacco and cedar, with a bit of patchouli, reminding me quite a bit of L’Occitane’s long-discontinued Notre Flore Cedre cologne marketed to men. The base is beeswax, leather, and a dry, resinous combination of tonka bean and vanilla.

I like this scent a lot, but I don’t feel like it quite has the softness I need to be able to pull it off. It’s something I think I’d rather smell on someone else than on myself. I feel like it’s got a little too much sharpness to the spicy opening, and a little too much tobacco and leather, to really fit me. My sister pulls off tobacco-cedar scents beautifully, and my bottle of Notre Flore Cedre actually found a permanent home with her when it didn’t work out for me. For myself, though, it smells more like being wrapped in a man’s leather jacket than wearing my own perfume.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2009

Availability: Ineke.com and select online and brick-and-mortar boutiques

Perfumer: Ineke Ruhland

Overall rating: 7/10–absolutely beautiful, just not me

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 9: Ineke Evening Edged In Gold

evening edged in gold

I’m not even going to lie, I was pretty excited to have a little bit of my tax refund to drop on Amazon, and even more so when I found this “scent library” sampler kit from San Francisco indie perfume house Ineke. Born in Canada and trained in a university program for fragrance in France, Ineke Ruhland did an apprenticeship in a French perfume house and then moved to San Francisco, where she creates her own line of fragrances. For an indie line, they’re quite reasonable, too–if you buy the sampler through Amazon, as I did, it’s roughly $15 for 8 samples, or if you get it directly, it’s $25 with a $15 coupon for the full bottle. The full bottle is $90 for 75ml/2.5oz, which is a very generously sized bottle for the price.

I’m always willing to support a small business, but I wasn’t sure at all what to expect here. I get a little nervous when reviews bring up the word “fruity,” envisioning some cloyingly sweet, synthetic mall-store mess, but that couldn’t be farther from what I get here. The fruit in the top note isn’t some cheap, bubblegum-smelling berry, but a rich, dark plum with a note of osmanthus giving it a floral softness. As the opening fades, a heart of saffron, datura flower, and a hint of cinnamon give it a sexy, spicy vibe, making me feel attractive and sensual just for wearing it. The woods, leather, and Midnight Candy flower at the base make it feel almost dirty, but in a good way, very alluring.

I had no idea I was going to like this, and I do think it would be a little over-the-top for work. But for an evening out for drinks with friends, or for dinner, I love it. It’s not a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of scent, definitely more of a black-dress-and-heels perfume, but for me, this one scent was worth the price of the sampler, and I’m definitely going to be buying a full bottle.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2007

Availability: Directly through Ineke or in select online and brick-and-mortar specialty boutiques

Perfumer: Ineke Ruhland

Overall rating: 9/10

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 8: Prada Candy EDP

candy edp

I don’t often change my mind radically on a fragrance, but when I first tried Prada Candy, I disliked it pretty strongly. I thought the caramel note in it smelled a bit cheap. To be fair, the weather today is about 30 degrees cooler than it was the first time I sampled it, and that makes a difference, but my only motivation in trying it on again was that it had come in my Sephora sampler, and I didn’t want to pick and choose which ones to review. I’m surprisingly glad I did.

I’ve found with Candy, as with many scents, that the note listing is a vast oversimplification of what’s obviously in it. The only notes listed on Prada’s website or on Fragrantica are a musk top note, a benzoin heart, and a caramel base, but there’s no way that’s all there is to it. The opening is a bit too sweet to be pure musk, and I definitely smell the powdery note that Prada has in so many of their fragrances. In fact, I’m getting a pretty strong impression of their iconic Infusion d’Iris, plus a faint caramel at the base. (I’m not entirely surprised–Daniela Andrier was the perfumer working on both.) In the summer, it was overly-sweet and cloying, but this time of year, it’s very rich and soft. It’s not a complicated scent, but it’s not the bare-bones thing that the note listing would have me assume. It’s rather inoffensive, not loud at any stage and a true skin scent at 4 hours in. My only real problem with it is that the best I can say about it is that it’s nice. I have no complaints about it in this weather, and it works reasonably well, but there’s nothing to make it fantastic.

I can see myself reaching for this on a jeans-and-sweater kind of day. It’s a very comfortable scent, though nowhere near as dramatic or glamorous as the ad campaigns would have you believe. I’m not planning to buy a huge bottle of it, but I can see myself picking up a small bottle if I find a deal on it.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2011

Availability: Widespread

Perfumer: Daniela Roche Andrier

Overall rating: 6.5/10

30 Days of Scent, Day 7: Balenciaga B.

balenciaga b

Since I’m on a new-releases kick lately, I figured I’d review B. by Balenciaga, another late-2014 release. While their Florabotanica is one of only a few that make me wrinkle my nose and go, “Oh, god, no,” Balenciaga Paris and Balenciaga Paris L’Essence are both quite lovely, I thought it was worth checking into their newest release.

B. opens up with violet leaf, lily of the valley, and a slightly odd green note that I had a hard time pinning down, except “green with a little bit of a buttery undertone.” The official listing says it’s edamame, which I’d never have thought of putting in a fragrance, but it smells more grassy to me than anything. The heart is soft cedar and powdery, earthy orris root, and the base is cashmere wood and ambrette seed.

I always find it interesting when green notes take on that slightly buttery tinge. More than anything, this reminds me of the super-green Madison Square Park by Bond No. 9, which costs at least twice as much even after discounts. Like MSP, though, the longevity on it isn’t great. It was a skin scent of wood and earth by three hours in, and I had to reapply at lunch. I hesitate to speculate on how long this would last in warmer spring weather, though that’s when the notes would truly shine. The scent itself is very interesting, but I doubt I’ll be buying a full bottle when the rollerball I have is finished. I really like how it smells, but it just doesn’t hold up enough to give a good rating.

The technical stuff:

Release date: October 2014

Availability: Department stores and specialty retailers

Perfumer: Domitille Bertier

Overall rating: 5/10

30 Days of Scent, Day 6: Chloe Love Story

There are times, upon reviewing a newly released fragrance, that one has a moment of wondering where it has been all one’s life. And then there are fragrances like the new Love Story by Chloe, that make a reviewer why they even attempted to wear something so banal. It’s a shame, because typically I like Chloe scents, but this, I ended up scrubbing after about four hours. I almost never do that, but it had no personality.

Officially, it’s made up of an orange blossom opening, a heart of neroli and stephanotis (which is a tropical white flower also known as Madagascar jasmine), and a base of cedar and musk. That’s not what I get from it. I get cheap shampoo, from beginning to end. It’s poorly blended, obviously synthetic, and incredibly boring. If I’d paid for it, instead of getting the mini for free with my Sephora reward points, I’d want my money back, because it’s not worth spending designer prices when I can get that same insipid impression from a $10 Jeanne Arthes perfume from the drugstore. (And actually, some of the Jeanne Arthes scents aren’t bad, though I’m still mad that they don’t distribute Guipure & Silk in the US market. That one was a dead ringer for Hypnotic Poison, but at $10 instead of $80, and longer lasting. I’ll be so sad when I run out.)

I really don’t understand this “clean and soapy” trend. The newest Shalimar flanker, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, is similarly light and overly clean, and with it they’ve completely gutted the concept of Shalimar. I also don’t understand how this came from Anne Flipo, who’s worked on other fragrances such as Loverdose, YSL L’Homme, and La Vie Est Belle, which I enjoy specifically because they have all the personality and originality this one lacks. Four hours in, I ended up scrubbing it off using a Bath and Body Works hand soap that far exceeded it in personality.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2014

Availability: department stores and specialty retailers

Perfumer: Anne Flipo

Overall rating: 2/10