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 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 3: Narciso Rodriguez for Her EDT

narciso rodriguez

Today I’m wearing Narciso Rodriguez  for Her in the original eau de toilette concentration. Cuban-American designer Rodriguez released it in partnership with Shiseido in 2003, following it with For Him in 2007 and various flankers later on. It’s widely available and is part of the current Sephora Favorites sampler in the dark pink box.

Supposedly the notes break down as follows: top notes of osmanthus, orange blossom, and bergamot; heart of musk and amber; base of vetiver and vanilla. I’m not getting that at all. The musk in it is so loud that it overpowers everything else, and I get only the barest hint of floral notes. The amber, vetiver, and vanilla are completely lost on me. If that were what I was looking for, I’d be a lot more inclined to go with Yves Rocher Comme Une Evidence for half the price. It’s very linear, with the musk dominating the whole scent from beginning to end. I don’t get any development out of it at all. It’s just OH HEY LOTS OF MUSK…and a little bit of floral something. It reminds me of an Avon roll-on deodorant I had once, more than a designer perfume. I’m really disappointed, especially seeing that Francis Kurkdjian was one of the perfumers who worked on it, because his private line is amazing (APOM Pour Femme? OMG BEAUTIFUL).

Unfortunately, its performance more than makes up for the quality of the scent. Six hours in, it’s still going strong on me, and I feel like I’m walking around in a cloud of it. It’s not one I hate, but there are plenty of other musk-dominant florals that are equally well-constructed for significantly less money, so I’m going to pass on this one.

As an interesting side note, a friend of mine informs me that musk-based perfumes are used quite frequently for habitat enrichment for big cats. My cats don’t know they’re not big, apparently, because both of them were GLUED to me while I was wearing this, with the bolder of the two repeatedly trying to lick my wrists. So approach with caution if you live with cats, unless you’re THAT flavor of crazy cat lady.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2003

Availability: Widespread, department store and perfume retail

Perfumers: Francis Kurkdjian, Christine Nagel

Overall rating: 4/10

30 Days of Scent 2.0, day 2: Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black


After my experience with Elizabeth and James Nirvana White last summer, I was looking forward to trying Nirvana Black. Normally I don’t tend to like celebrity fragrances (Madonna’s Truth or Dare and Queen Latifah’s Queen being notable exceptions), but the freebie of Nirvana White impressed me enough that I thought it would be worthwhile to check out the Olsen twins’ other fragrance. Plus, it came in the newest Sephora Sampler, so that’s a plus.*

This isn’t a complicated or subtle fragrance. Its notes of violet, sandalwood, and vanilla are pretty simple, but they’re blended to good effect. My first impression was of a watered-down Dior Addict, with the prominent sandalwood note and the vanilla. For some reason, on me, the violets just fade to the background on me, a great disappointment since I love a powdery note. It’s a very linear fragrance, smelling just the same 4 hours in as it did when first sprayed, and I usually prefer something with some progression to it. However, it’s fairly well-executed, and a good example of a dry vanilla without the gourmand sweetness that often comes with that note.

If a bottle of this cost $35 like any other celebrity fragrance, I’d be on that like white on rice, because on days like today when there’s snow on the ground, it works beautifully. At two sprays, the projection is out to about arm’s length. I get a solid 4-5 hours of wear out of the eau de parfum, which is pretty average. However, with it having so little complexity, I don’t think it’s worth the $75 for the 50ml bottle. I may pick up the rollerball at some point, though.

The technical stuff:

Released: 2013

Availability: exclusive to Sephora

Perfumer: Pierre Negrin

Overall rating: 6/10

*I do recommend the Sephora Samplers very highly, particularly if there is more than one scent in them that you’re interested in trying. They include an assortment of samples, along with a voucher for a full bottle of the one you like best. At about $50-60 for the sampler, it’s definitely worth looking at, since you’re paying the same as you would for one bottle but trying out 10-14 of them before you buy. With the most recent one I got, there were 4 scents in it that I wanted to try, and the one that I settled on for my full bottle was one I completely didn’t expect to like.

30 Days of Scent, the remix, day 1: Dior Midnight Poison, or, How I stopped worrying and learned to love the consignment shops

My longtime Stylies will remember last year and my mostly-successful attempt to blog a new fragrance every day for 30 days. (I made it to…24, I think?) Since I’ve changed out quite a bit of my collection since then, I’m going to do another round. Today’s scent is the sadly discontinued Dior Midnight Poison, which I happened to luck into at the relatively new Clothes Mentor at Arboretum this past weekend. (I also scored a vintage bottle of Shalimar EDT, which I’ll review later.) I definitely recommend checking the name-brand resale shops such as Clothes Mentor for fragrances, because they sometimes get in some very nice ones–I know, because I’ve sold to them before, and I know how low they price the good stuff.


Midnight Poison was launched in 2007 as a flanker to the iconic Poison from 1985. It opens up with a fleeting hint of mandarin orange and bergamot, and with my warmer-than-average skin, I do mean fleeting–I barely got a hint of the citrus notes as the juice hit my skin, but the patchouli, rose, and amber are prominent all the way through. Now, I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with patchouli, though it’s definitely growing on me. (I’ve always said that Angel smelled like someone had tried to cover up her rank BO by dousing herself in every cheap, fruity body spray on the market.) This patchouli doesn’t smell like dirty hippie, though–it’s more mellow and earthy, with the amber rounding out the sharp edges and the rose giving it a definite feminine twist. At the very tail end of the drydown, as the patchouli is starting to soften, I also get a hint of vanilla, though not very noticeable.

Like all of the Poison scents, this one is a projection bomb, so one spray was more than enough. Surprisingly enough, it has pretty good longevity for an eau de toilette, lasting me the whole work day. I started to feel like it had worn off around 5pm, but a few minutes later a coworker complimented me on it, so apparently it was just olfactory fatigue making me not smell it.

I feel like I’d be more comfortable and less self-conscious wearing this out in the evening sometime, but definitely not a club/dancing kind of thing. It’s really made for this time of year, rather than in summer when that already-powerful projection would have been overpowering. At one spray, it’s safe enough for work, though the day job being in a jewelry store means that I have a glass case between me and anyone with whom I’d be interacting, so the projection isn’t overwhelming. As far as the scent itself, I originally bought it only because it’s so sought after post-discontinuation that I knew I could swap it for something good, but I quickly changed my mind when it hit my skin. It’s sexy without being skanky, earthy without being dirty, feminine without being overly girly. Shame on LVMH/Dior for discontinuing this beauty!

The technical stuff:

Release date: 2007

Discontinued: 2013-2014

Perfumers: Jacques Cavallier/Oliver Cresp (Firmenich), Francois Demachy (LVMH)

Overall rating: 8/10, would be more if it were readily available.

Product Road Test: Guerlain Shalimar EDP


Created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain, Shalimar is one of the world’s top-selling fragrances, and one that’s always intimidated me a little. It’s Guerlain’s most famous scent, by far, and one that I’d previously associated with old ladies, even though I’ve worn several of its flankers in the past and been quite impressed. I’m always a little nervous about testing out perfumes that have animal notes such as leather accords, civet, or castoreum in them, so I’m woman enough to admit that the idea of Shalimar scared me. Once I read that it had been reformulated, though, my curiosity got ahead of my fear, and I’m rather glad it did.

Many of the classic Guerlain fragrances have similar notes and structure; Jicky, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit, and (to a lesser extent) Mitsouko all have what Jacques Guerlain termed Guerlinade, the combination of bergamot, jasmine, rose, iris, tonka bean, vanilla, animal notes, and resin, in a specific balance. With Shalimar, that bergamot in the opening is paired with lemon, mandarin, and cedar, and interestingly enough, while the slightly medicinal edge that many classic Guerlain scents have dries down quickly, that citrusy tang stays with the scent throughout.

As that brief opening starts to fade, the Guerlinade really starts to come into focus. With this one, it’s weighted in such a way that it reads all the way down as a dark, smoky vanilla-and-incense thing, It used to be that the animal notes at the base of Shalimar were leather and civet, and while the leather’s still there (and quite prominent, I might add), in recent years they’ve traded the civet out for castoreum. So instead of the slightly dirty animal note that’s found at the base of Chanel No. 5, Guerlain is using one that’s often used as a flavor enhancer in vanilla ice cream. It’s still big and dark, but it doesn’t have that slightly musty undertone that puts people off many of the classics.

The one downside to the reformulation of Shalimar is that while the change from civet to castoreum makes it easier to wear, the new formulation doesn’t last very long at all. While I get excellent projection out of it (one spray is enough for me!), I end up having to reapply at lunchtime, and that’s just annoying in a fragrance that’s traditionally such a powerhouse. Spraying it on clothes makes it last longer, but I wouldn’t recommend it, because Shalimar really needs the opportunity to develop on skin in order for a wearer to fully appreciate the beauty of the perfume. Overall, 8.5/10, with points deducted only for longevity and the weirdness of the opening. With this one being such a success, it makes me want to go through and test more of the Guerlain classics that I’d written off as unwearable.

30 Days of Scent, Day Sixteen: Armani Code For Women

I feel like I may have been a little hasty in my judgment. Yes, the new formulation of Armani Code for Women ($45-82, Ulta) is slightly different from the original, but I think I got a little too caught up in “old Code” the first time I tried the current version, and gave up on it when it didn’t smell like my magic juice from seven years ago. I didn’t give it a fair chance, until today.

The scent opens up with bitter African orange, sweet Italian orange, and jasmine. This is the part where I was kind of iffy the first time I tried the new version, because the top notes linger on me a bit longer than they did in the original formula, and I wasn’t expecting quite as much citrus. It’s actually very pretty at this phase, just different from what I’d expected. Approaching it with the attitude of experiencing a new fragrance, rather than “but it’s just not the same,” I really enjoy the change. The heart is made up of orange blossom, jasmine sambac, and ginger, giving it a heady sweetness that is a little much for outdoor stuff during the summer, but I work indoors in the air conditioning, so it worked great for me. The very best part of Code, though, which hasn’t changed at all and is every bit as beautiful as I remembered, is the honey-vanilla-sandalwood base.

Code is a fairly close-to-the-skin scent, but the lasting power on it is pretty good. It stuck around today for about seven hours, which isn’t spectacular for an EDP, but it’s above average. I love this scent, and I shouldn’t have been so quick to write it off just because the top notes don’t give way as quickly anymore. I’m going to give it 8.5/10, and will definitely be getting a full bottle of this at some point. (Also, as a side note: if you wear fragrances marketed to men, Armani Code For Men is one of the sexiest of the bunch. Too much for the heat this time of year, but it’s FANTASTIC.)