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

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 5: Burberry Brit for Men, revisited (electric boogaloo optional!)

brit

It’s pretty much a moral imperative that I start this post with a shoutout to my friend D., who, upon seeing the title of the first post of 30 Days 2.0, commented, “I’m impressed with how many titles that has. I predict an Electric Boogaloo by day 5.” Hence today’s title, and the main reason today’s scent is one I’ve briefly reviewed previously.

Burberry Brit for Men is one of the few male-marketed fragrances in the Western market that centers around a rose note. Interestingly, in Middle Eastern traditions, rose scents are considered to be masculine because of the rose, where Western fragrances, if they include it, are marketed as masculine in spite of containing rose. (A good example of a Middle Eastern-style rose fragrance put out by a European company would be Guerlain’s Rose Nacree du Desert, part of their exclusive Les Deserts d’Orient line.) That said, while it smells fantastic on a man, you all know that I don’t subscribe to the idea that fragrances have gender. Say it with me, Stylies: Wear what you love! I have no shame wearing men’s fragrances myself, but I do think this one should actually have been marketed as unisex.

This opens up with a good dose of ginger, along with a slightly less bold cardamom and some faint hints of citrus notes (mandarin and bergamot, per the description, but they’re light enough that I can’t identify them by scent, just that there’s some citrus there). As the top notes fade off, the rose kicks in, but so do the nutmeg and other spices, with a bit of cedar to keep it interesting. The official listing doesn’t say anything about it, but I feel like I almost pick up something a little bit powdery at this stage, but that’s something I get pretty often when a scent combines rose with warm spices. The base is tonka bean, more cedar, a bit of musk, some unnamed “exotic” wood note, and a very faint trace of patchouli.

Brit for Men isn’t one with monster projection, but in terms of longevity, it’s an absolute beast. I applied it 9 hours ago, and while it’s been a skin scent for the past 3, I can still detect it if I sniff for it. It has a very polite sillage, where with two sprays it can’t be smelled outside one’s own personal space, which is how I like it. It’s obvious that it’s by a British company, because it does beautifully in cool, damp weather. I can picture this being the scent of choice for Benedict Cumberbatch in his portrayal of a modern Sherlock Holmes. You know I’m a tough reviewer, and I don’t give 10s, but really, the only place I can see that Burberry missed the mark with this one is by marketing it as men’s rather than unisex.

It’s also worth noting that because of the mass availability of Burberry fragrances, there’s no need to ever pay department store┬ámarkup for this one. Retailers such as Perfumania carry it regularly, and the outlet stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s get this in all the time. Even barring that, there’s all kinds of discounting online for it, so there’s no need to pay full price.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2004

Availability: Practically everywhere

Perfumer: Antoine Maisondieu

Overall rating: 9.5/10–love it!

30 Days of Scent 2.0, Day 4: Thierry Mugler Alien

alien

Today’s scent is Alien by Thierry Mugler, released in 2005. Like its precursor, Angel, Alien has become the scent that launched a thousand flankers, but for me, the original Alien is the classic. If you look at the breakdown of the notes–jasmine top, woody heart, amber base–it looks so simple, but it’s rich and elegant and unique. One thing to be aware of with the Mugler fragrances, though, is that they’re all very sensitive to skin chemistry. There’s no such thing as a safe blind buy with a Thierry Mugler scent.

An interesting thing about Alien is that it’s available in a refillable bottle, and some retailers will actually have a refill station for your bottles of Angel and Alien. It’s not something you find with very many scents, and I think it’s a lovely touch, encouraging people to A. stay with the scent for the long term and B. reuse the first bottle instead of wasting resources.

The jasmine in the opening has almost a grape-soda aspect, similar to the jasmine in Givenchy’s Ange Ou Demon Le Secret Elixir, but without the medicinal tang that turns LSE to Dimetapp on my skin. As the wood heart takes over, the scent becomes drier, leaving just a tinge of floral sweetness as the scent progresses. Four hours in, I’m left with a cloud of soft, sensual amber with a lingering trace of wood to keep it from being cloying.

This isn’t a scent for everyday wear–I’d use one of its flankers, such as Alien Aqua Chic or Alien Extraordinaire, for that–but for a special occasion when you want to stand out from the crowd. The initial projection is a bit loud, but it settles down to polite levels after a bit. On me, it’s a longevity beast, lasting a solid 8 hours on a good day. I have to say that the bottle shape is a bit strange, reminding me of Gonzo’s family members in Muppets From Space, but with a name like Alien, it’s clear that they were going for an otherworldly concept. It’s not their fault that my thought processes run more towards Muppets than Area 51 for it.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2005

Availability: department stores and specialty retail

Perfumers: Dominique Ropion and Laurent Bruyere

Overall rating: 9/10