30 Days of Scent, Day Twelve: Stella by Stella McCartney

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Today I decided to go for Stella by Stella McCartney ($50-92, Sephora). I was lucky with this one, because I got in while the rollerball was still available, and it’s gone from Sephora’s website. I know a lot of people are leery of buying rollerballs, but I have so many different perfumes that buying a full-size bottle the first time I purchase a scent is usually not the best idea. I like buying smaller sizes wherever possible, at least on the first go-round, so that I can see if it’s something I’ll really wear regularly. If I run out of the rollerball/mini/whatever, then I can go back and get a full bottle.

Stella is a scent that is all about the rose. That’s a good thing for me, because roses are my favorite flower and quite possibly my favorite fragrance note. (Seriously, if it has a prominent rose note and is well done, I’ll wear it.) There’s also mandarin orange in the opening, peony in the heart, and amber in the drydown, but this perfume is rose all the way through. The rose-amber base reminded me a bit of the way-expensive and hard to find Ce Soir Ou Jamais by Annick Goutal, but without the boozy pear.

This isn’t a light, fresh, citrusy rose, or a straight-up one-note rose (what’s referred to in perfumery as a soliflore–Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose at one end of the price range and Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare on the other are prime examples)–it’s deepened and richened by the amber, and the peony gives the floral heart some complexity.

The projection on this one is pretty average, as long as I’m careful not to overdo it, which is easy to do with a rollerball. It lasts fairly well on me, about 6-7 hours. I think I’d probably rank it higher if I had never had my now-empty decant of Ce Soir Ou Jamais, because that’s a lot more complex ambery rose, but as it is I’ll give it 7.5/10.

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30 Days of Scent, Day Eleven: Diesel Loverdose

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Today I’m wearing Loverdose by Diesel ($35-58, Fragrancenet.com). I have a sample of this, and if it’s been discontinued for the regular retail market, it must be recently, because I could have sworn I saw it in Sephora last time I was there, and that was *maybe* a month ago. But I went looking for a link today, and the only places that still carry it are the online discounters and Diesel’s own website.

Loverdose opens up with a touch of mandarin and a strong star anise note, with a hint of soft spice. The heart is mostly licorice, with some jasmine and gardenia. At the base, it’s a mix of licorice liqueur, vanilla, ambroxan (synthetic stand-in for ambergris, though a lot of outlets swore it was amber–not the same thing!), and wood.

For me, this scent is all about the licorice, and it’s a good thing, because that’s a note I really like. It’s the same reason I’m so fond of most of Lolita Lempicka’s scents. I will say, though, that the use of mandarin in the opening rather than the cherry in Lolita Lempicka Le Premier Parfum really changes the direction that the scent goes. It’s lighter, and the white floral heart rather than the violet and iris of LPP makes it more of a tease than a soft snuggle. For all its food-like notes, I wouldn’t necessarily classify Loverdose in the category of “smells like something good to eat,” but it definitely has an addictive edge.

Performance-wise, it’s fairly average. Three sprays for arm’s length projection, lasting about 5-6 hours. The thing about it being discontinued is that it’s easy to come by fairly inexpensively these days. If you’re a fan of a licorice note, it’s definitely worth checking out. I’d rate it a solid 8/10.

30 Days of Scent, Day Ten: Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir

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Today I’m wearing Mon Jasmin Noir by Bvlgari ($48-107, Bvlgari), released in 2011 as a lighter, softer follow-up to their popular Jasmin Noir from 2008. I couldn’t wear Jasmin Noir to save my life–too big a gardenia opening, too dirty a jasmine note, and too heavy a base–but Mon Jasmin Noir is very sexy on me.

The scent lists an opening of lily and the valley and citron, and I get maybe a trace of that, but for me this one is all about that strong, slightly dirty jasmine note. When a jasmine goes a little bit dirty like that, it’s the presence of a molecule called indole, that you don’t smell on the fresh flower but is concentrated during the distillation process. That’s part of why it’s so common to cut natural jasmine with a synthetic or with citrus, because a white flower (jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, etc.) that’s too indolic will have almost a fecal quality to it, and nobody really wants to smell like that. But with Mon Jasmin Noir there’s a very good balance. The base is made up of nougat and musk with a little bit of cedar and patchouli.

If I could change one thing about this scent, it would be the longevity. It’s definitely one that, in warm weather, I have to spray on my clothes rather than on my skin. It does great on skin in the winter, when it’s too cold to evaporate off as quickly, but when it’s warm I get 3-4 hours out of it at most. For the current season I’d rate it 6/10, but 8/10 overall.

30 Days of Scent, Day Nine: Bath and Body Works French Lavender & Honey

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Let me start off by saying that I’m picky about fruity florals, which means that at the lower end of the price range, my options are a bit limited. French Lavender And Honey ($39.50, Bath and Body Works) is one that does a lot better than I expected. The opening has a lot of fruit to it, with notes of mandarin, melon, and blackberry, but the violet leaf keeps it from being too fruity and sweet. (Not going to lie, though, this scent is on the sweet side all the way down.) In the heart, the lavender comes out, along with nectarine and some hints of lily of the valley and jasmine. The base is mostly honey, with some musk and oak.

Honestly, this isn’t a favorite of mine, because it is a little generic. (I mean, it’s Bath and Body Works, so that’s to be expected.) On the other hand, it’s one of the few fragrances I have that work when I have a migraine, and that’s saying something. Longevity is average (4-5 hours) and it stays pretty close to the skin, nothing anyone’s going to be standing in line next to me and comment on. Philosophy Pure Grace is a better lavender scent, in my opinion, but this one is nice. I’d give it 6/10.

30 Days of Scent, day Eight: Hermes Santal Massoia

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My scent for yesterday (which I didn’t get written up on time for personal reasons) was Santal Massoia, a fragrance from Hermès’ Hermessence line, that I got as a sample from the Hermès store at SouthPark. I’d have never gotten it if I’d had to pay full price for it–the Hermessence samples I have are among the most expensive fragrances I’ve tried, because they only come in the big 100ml/3.4 ounce size, and at $245, that’s a bit steep for me–but if you’ve got the money to drop, there are some gorgeous scents in that line.

Santal Massoia is a very linear scent, but it’s beautiful. The notes are listed as sandalwood, massoia wood (which has a woody thing going on but is also sweet and milky, reminiscent of peach and coconut), dulce de leche, and dried fruits. Like most of the Hermessence line, this one is very gender-neutral, focused on the wood notes rather than the fruit and candy. As much as I love sandalwood, and as many fragrances as I have that contain it, I’ve never quite smelled anything like this.

The one thing I’d change about the way Hermès does their samples is that this is a splash, so I don’t have a “this many sprays to get the projection I want” to give you, but this one stays pretty close to my skin. Longevity is average, 5 hours or so. The thing that I’d recommend this fragrance for is the uniqueness of the scent, not its performance; if I had a bottle rather than a splash sample, I’d be wearing it on my clothes rather than my skin, to make it last longer. One of the most beautiful perfumes in my collection, but because it’s so close to the skin and doesn’t last very well, I have to give it a 7/10.

30 Days of Scent, Day 7: Chanel No. 19 Eau de Toilette

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After the emotional ride that yesterday’s fragrance took me on, I felt like I needed something comforting. And  I know I’m probably the only one in the world who finds Chanel No. 19, especially in its eau de toilette concentration ($90, Nordstrom) to be comforting when Tresor In Love feels like too much of a challenge, but I love this scent and the feeling of strength it gives me. It’s rare that I’d finish a bottle of perfume, much less the big 100ml/3.4ounce that is the only size Chanel offers in this one. I left behind the first bottle I’d had, when I moved to St. Croix, but the one I bought in 2012, I finished all the way to the bottom. I mean, even if you figure that I ended up giving away 1/4 of the second bottle in decants (which is possible–I think everyone should try it at some point) then according to Now Smell This, I’ve worn it at least 220 times in the past two years. I’m scraping together enough money to buy a third bottle, but right now all I have is a sample.

Chanel No. 19 was released in 1970, the year before Mlle. Chanel’s death, and hit stores the following year. There was a rumor for many years that this had been created long before and had been Chanel’s own personal fragrance, but it’s one of those things that can never be confirmed for sure. What’s verifiable is that the 19 stands for her birthday, August 19, a Leo like me. It was billed as “Audacious and assertive. Never conventional.”

No. 19 starts off with a sharp bite of  cold galbanum, sharpened further by bergamot and sweetened slightly by neroli and hyacinth. It’s not a cuddly scent, by any means; the EDP may be fresh and green at the top, but the EDT carries a chill that commands attention. That galbanum opening bleeds over into the middle notes, pairing with dry orris root and iris, with a hint of a floral thing from rose, jasmine, narcissus, lily of the valley, and ylang-ylang (yeah, I had to look it up–the heart of this one is “galbanum and powdery iris/orris root with some florals,” and smelling it you’d never be able to pick up which ones) before drying down to a heart that’s mostly oakmoss, with identifiable notes of leather and vetiver, and traces of sandalwood, cedar, and musk.

Maybe in the EDP or pure parfum concentrations, where the galbanum isn’t nearly as strong and the rose note is more pronounced, I could see the “offbeat ingenue” that other reviewers have described, but to me, this is the scent of the ice queen who will eat you for breakfast. And sometimes, being HBIC (for those unfamiliar, that’s Head B**** In Charge) feels pretty damn good.

On me, “present but not leaving a cloud” means 3-4 sprays of No. 19. Being an eau de toilette, this doesn’t last as long as others, probably 4 hours or so, so if you’re going to wear it to work (which is where this one really shines), it’s worth filling a sample vial to reapply at lunch, or spraying it on your clothes instead of on skin. This has always been one of my absolute favorites, but I have to be fair in terms of the longevity and give it a 9 rather than the full 10.