30 Days of Scent 2.0, Make-up day: Jo Malone Velvet Rose and Oud Vs. Armani Prive Rose d’Arabie

velvet roserose d arabie

After noting the similarities between Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose and Oud Cologne Intense and Armani Privé Rose d’Arabie, I had to try them head-to-head (or nose-to-wrist, I suppose). And since I’ve slacked horribly on finishing up the 30 Days series, I figured I’d do a makeup post that compares the two.

Oud is an interesting note. It’s a resin that the agarwood tree produces when it develops a bacterial or fungal infection. Sounds appealing, right? But it has been used in fragrances in the Middle East and traditional medicine in Asia for centuries. It gives an earthy character that really sets off a rose fragrance. I make no claim that either of the scents I’m writing up here is a quintessential rose-oud perfume, as the oud is more subtle in both, but it’s a classic combination in Middle Eastern perfumery that has only become popular in the West in the past 5 years or so.

In one corner, wearing the gold cap and label, we have Armani Privé Rose d’Arabie, a 2010 release available in limited quantities at high-end department stores. The scent features notes of rose, oud, vanilla, and patchouli. It comes in a 100ml bottle for $290.

In the other, we have Jo Malone Velvet Rose and Oud Cologne Intense, also available at high-end department stores. Released in 2012, its notes are rose, oud, praline, and clove. It also comes in a 100ml bottle, retailing for $155.

At the opening, they’re almost identical, with the rose dominating and the oud very mild, just keeping the rose from being too sweet. As the scents dry down, however, Velvet Rose and Oud stays sweet from the praline note, with the clove coming in to give it some warmth. With Rose d’Arabie, however, the oud and the patchouli collide to make an earthy, almost sharp kind of smell that I don’t particularly like, with the vanilla almost entirely disappearing until late in the drydown. Once the vanilla comes back in, I enjoyed it, but I wish it hadn’t been overpowered by the patchouli.

Overall, I think that despite the higher price of the Rose d’Arabie, the Velvet Rose and Oud appeals to me more. They’re both excellent quality, but I just can’t see myself wearing Rose d’Arabie. My verdict: Jo Malone wins this one, no contest.


30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 16: Hermes Hiris


Those who’ve been reading for a while know that I’m a sucker for a good iris note, and that I’ll try basically anything Hermes puts out. So it was inevitable that I’d eventually review Hiris, from 1999. Like most by Hermes, it’s not inexpensive by any means, but it’s not as obscene as, say, a Bond No. 9 or an Amouage. The perfumer who worked on it, Olivia Giacobetti, also did L’Artisan’s Jour de Fete, which I quite enjoyed.

As one would expect, Hiris is, obviously, all about the iris. It’s in the top notes along with some coriander and carnation to give it that 90s spicy-floral thing, along with some amber for smoothness. Then it appears again in the heart, with rose and a hint of orange blossom. The only thing I dislike about this is that I’m really disappointed in how the base plays out. Five hours in, this gorgeous, upscale powder heaven morphs into Jeanne Arthes Love Generation Rock, which I found disappointing even for a $10 drugstore thing. It’s the way the vanilla in the base plays off the woods around it that I don’t quite like, and while other people are talking about a prominent honey note in the base of Hiris, it doesn’t come out to play at all on me.

In terms of performance, it’s fantastic. The projection is just how I like it, and unlike other Hermes scents I’ve tried, it hangs on all day. I think this could be a love if the finish weren’t so disappointing. As it is, I’ll probably finish my decant at some point, but I doubt I’ll buy a bottle.

The technical stuff:

Released: 1999

Availability: high-end department stores and Hermes boutiques

Perfumer: Olivia Giacobetti

Overall rating: 6/10

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 15: Carven Le Parfum


I received a sample of Carven Le Parfum several months ago from a perfume rep at Neiman Marcus at South Park, because she wanted my opinion on it. Honestly, I don’t understand the body of Francis Kurkdjian’s work as a perfumer. On one end of the spectrum, he created his own line, with APOM Pour Femme being so beautiful it takes my breath away, and the Elie Saab scents I love. On the other end, there’s Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male…and this.

Carven is a house that’s been around for decades. Their premiere fragrance, Ma Griffe, was launched in 1946. This is a perfume house with a long and solid history, and they don’t have to remake anyone else’s work to do well. However, with Le Parfum, that’s exactly what it feels like they’ve done. It’s a generic patchouli white floral that smells like they were trying to remake Coco Mademoiselle (which I also dislike) and missed.

I wore this Sunday, and asked several male friends their opinions, as I was trying to find something useful to say about it. The more positive of the two reviews was, “Meh, I don’t really smell it much.” Luckily, it’s not a fragrance with beast-mode projection or longevity, so I wasn’t stuck with it all day.  Skip this one; it’s a waste of time and money.

The technical stuff:

Release date: 2013

Availability: higher-end department stores

Perfumer: Francis Kurkdjian

Overall rating: 3/10

30 Days of Scent, Day 14: Madonna Truth or Dare

truth or dare

I’m not typically a fan of big white florals, but when I found Truth or Dare on clearance at TJMaxx for under $10, I figured it was worth a shot. Madonna released this in 2012 in collaboration with Coty and perfumer Stephen Nilsen of Givaudan, and while it’s a good time for a celebrity to be getting into the fragrance game, the best time for Madonna herself to have done it would have been about 10 years ago, when she still had the market for it. It’s an excellent example of its style, well executed for a good price, but it’s already discontinued, because Madonna just doesn’t have the star power anymore to market her own fragrance.

Truth or Dare starts out with a big burst of creamy, buttery tuberose and sweet gardenia, with a hint of neroli. That tuberose stays with it all the way down and has led some reviewers to compare it to Robert Piguet’s classic Fracas, but I disagree. I feel like Truth or Dare is a lot sweeter and more innocent than the bold, sensual Fracas. As it wears on, a heart of jasmine and benzoin enters the mix, with faint wisps of lily here and there. The base is mostly vanilla, with some amber and supposedly some undetectable-to-me musk.

It’s rather rare for me to wear something that’s unapologetically white floral without a headache, but this is actually rather pleasant, if outside my comfort zone. As I’ve said, the projection is rather loud, but longevity wise, it’s fairly standard, about 6 hours or so in cold weather. I’d be terrified to wear this in spring or summer, though–I think it would choke me. All in all, it’s a good choice for the price, but I can usually scrounge up a little extra money to do better.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2012

Availability: Discontinued 2014, mostly at discounters now

Perfumer: Stephen Nilsen (Givaudan)

Overall rating: 5.5/10

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 13: Tom Ford Black Orchid

black orchid

My Friday started out with Hothouse Flower by Ineke, but one of my coworkers was really snippy about it. Apparently the indole molecule that’s in a gardenia scent bugged her (that’s the one that can make white florals smell a little bit dirty), because she called my perfume “nasty.” And admittedly, big white florals aren’t for everyone. So for the sake of getting along with people, I scrubbed it.

I happened to have a sample of Tom Ford Black Orchid with me, that I’d been meaning to try out. I’ve been dubious about Tom Ford scents in the past, because Sahara Noir was really weird on me, and the Private Collection is both a little too dirty and WAY too expensive. However, the sample of Black Orchid came in my last Sephora sampler, and the notes intrigued me.

Rather than being signed by an individual perfumer, Black Orchid was developed by a fragrance development firm called Givaudan, and released by Tom Ford in 2006. It opens up with an earthy tuber note, with traces of gardenia, jasmine, and ylang-ylang, a hint of blackcurrant, and supposedly there are citrus notes in that top, but I didn’t pick them up. Strange, because usually, if there’s citrus, it’s LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS on my skin. As it dries down, the namesake note of orchid kicks in, with notes of spice and dried fruits, giving it a warm, intoxicating sweetness that plays particularly well as it bleeds into the chocolate-patchouli-incense base with hints of vanilla, sandalwood, vetiver, and amber.

Black Orchid isn’t innocent and friendly and inoffensive. It’s dark and sensual and strange, and a little bit addictive. She doesn’t smile shyly from across the room, inviting you to come closer. She stalks across the floor in her stilettos, pinning you against the wall as she kisses you passionately. This isn’t an obnoxious projection monster, but working in close quarters with others as I do, people noticed, and I got several compliments through the day. I thought it had faded to a skin scent after a few hours, but then a customer commented on it again, so perhaps not. And that’s with my standard two-spray limit, which almost always stays close enough to my skin that people don’t notice until they’re within touching distance. So the projection is a little bolder than i usually prefer. That may be due to my warm skin, though, because it also didn’t quite last the whole day. It was a very respectable 6 hours, which is quite normal for an EDP, just not extraordinary. I’ve ordered a full bottle of Jeanne Arthes Love Never Dies Gold, which is pretty similar notes-wise, but I like this well enough that I may end up buying it too at some point. Even with the need to experiment a little on how to wear it for the projection level I prefer, I think I can see myself having a really good time with this.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2006

Perfumers: Givaudan

Availability: department stores and specialty retailers

Overall rating: 8/10

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