Seattle Sniff Spree Part 1: Barneys (Frederic Malle, Byredo, Arquiste, L’Artisan)

Dear Scent Diary,

A semi-planned, semi-spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle materialized this past weekend and not only provided the opportunity for some perfume scouting and recreational sniffing, but also to meet a fellow perfumista. Live. In the flesh. With the ability to speak to one another, not through comments on a blog, but in real time over a table, and eventually over a Frederic Malle counter. (Those lucky enough to have friends who aren’t bewildered by your perfume hobby might not understand how exciting this was.)

DSC03408Dasi and I met at the entrance to Barneys (natch). After an enjoyable exchange of non-perfume related info (she’s as interesting and intelligent as I’d imagined) we descended upon the fragrance department where Dasi is a regular visitor (natch again).

Seattle’s Barneys is a small, intimate store with a very well-curated selection of, well, everything they sell. If you’re interested in drooling over shoes or handbags, they have the ones to do it over (read Celine ‘it’ bags and Isabel Marant shoes). Their fragrance section is the equivalent. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an ‘it’ fragrance, but the ones they do carry are very much coveted.

DSC03406

Frederic Malle

DSC03399

Arquiste

DSC03398

Byredo

DSC03401

L’Artisan Parfumeur, Serge Lutens

I’ve been itching to try some of the fragrances in the Arquiste line and finally got a chance to take a sniff. I tried Anima Dulcis on skin (but was not as impressed as I wanted to be). None of them particularly grabbed me to be honest – more testing is required.

Dasi has ruined Seville a L’Aube for me. If you have it, go take a whiff. Now smell it again and see if you smell tortillas. Yep. Same thing happened to me. Sorry. You can blame Dasi.

DSC03395

A Frederic Malle scent chamber.

I came dangerously close to buying Frederic Malle’s En Passant on first sniff. Gorgeous ethereal, watery lilac that is very soft up close and has a beautiful billowy, feminine sillage. Managed to stay coy for now. It’s only a matter of time, however.

On this day, it was the Byredo line that seemed to get the better of both of us. We tested each of them and spent all too much time trying to figure out the vegetal note that seems to dominate Pulp (it’s green pepper). But it was Gypsy Water that stole Dasi’s heart and Bal D’Afrique is the one that followed me home (biased review to come).

Kudos to the Barneys staff who knew just when to help and when to leave us to our happy huffing.

All in all, it was a perfumista’s dream date.

It hates me: Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle

Dear Scent Diary,

I’m a bit stunned. I’ve been anticipating a mutual love affair with this scent from the moment it appeared on Frederic Malle’s website. I’ve even had moments of blind-buy weakness after having Facebook fragrance group conversations with those who adore it.

If this fragrance loves you, it will put its sandalwood foot forward and let its vanilla gourmandiness support, not star.

imagesimages-3images-1

If it hates you, as it does me, it will try to choke you to death in the car on the way home from picking up your decant at the post office with a cloud of overly sweet vanilla cake frosting/marshmallow/cupcake/waffle cone.

Unknown-1Once sprayed on skin, the sweetness persists, but now buttressed by a burning rubber accord that takes about a half hour to die down. Mercifully, things do settle and I can sense the sandalwood stepping in, as if being the voice of reason and pulling all the other notes by the collar, off my face. From that point on, everything becomes much more civil.

t.33Now that the sandalwood has things under control, the sweet vanilla frosting becomes more sheer and the freshly baked white cake it’s spread on top of starts to dominate. At this point in the development, I’m so olfactorially relieved that I think for a second that I could actually be friends with this fragrance. Maybe just polite acquaintances, we’ll see.

The perfume universe obviously thought I needed to be taught a lesson and decided to do it with this fragrance. I’m clearly overly susceptible to ‘the idea’ of a perfume from a well-respected niche house and the hype that often warrants. I needed a memorable reminder that fragrance preference is supremely individual and is based on a lifetime of perceptions and associations, making it impossible for any two people to have the exact same experience with a perfume. I also needed a good slap upside the head regarding skin chemistry. I don’t recall hearing anyone mention a ‘burning rubber accord’.

As evidence, these bloggers had completely different experiences with this scent: Now Smell This, Grain de Musc, Bois de Jasmin.

I was given a rather ungentle talking to by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass in the comments of one of my posts where I considered blind buying this perfume. She was so right. Lesson learned.

Sniff spree: Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Tom Ford, Hermes, Comme des Garcons

A day killed in Vancouver.

A day killed in Vancouver.

Dear Scent Diary,

I started my smellathon at Holt Renfrew where my mission was to sniff and potentially buy the new Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle. It wasn’t meant to be, however as the damn thing hasn’t arrived in Canada yet. My credit card was forced to wait impatiently in my wallet. I didn’t spend much time at the Malle counter after the bad news, though both Portrait of a Lady (mmm, dark, spicy, complex) and Bigarade Concentree (wow, citrus zest!) were calling my name.

I shuffled a few steps to the Tom Ford counter for a few huffs there. I managed to resist buying Santal Blush on the spot (love at first sniff, but let’s date first) – and I was surprised to like Oud wood as much as I did. There was no inky, medicinal oud note blasting my head off the way I’d become accustomed by the Montales I’ve tried. This is a smooth, friendly oud that I’d like to get to know.

A few more steps and I was at the Promised Land.

holt renfrew chanel perfume counter

images

I let the SA ‘sell me’ on giving the Les Exclusifs line a try. OH, ALL right. Bois des Illes (hmmm, I love sandalwood but I’m strangely not in love), then 31 Rue Cambon (oooh, sophisticated chypre) then No. 18 (unsettling at first, drying down to gorgeousness), Bel Respiro (ahhh, plush aromatic), and Sycamore (mmm, luxe vetiver and cedar). I was confused by my lukewarm reaction to Bois des Illes (the other scent I thought was my destiny) again leaving my credit card in my wallet unexpectedly.

Chanel samples in tow, I sauntered over to the Hermes counter where I was lured for a sniff of Jour d’Hermes (see my reaction here), Elixir des Merveilles and Ambre des Merveilles. As an Eau des Merveilles fan, a comparison diary entry is, as Brad Pitt says, inevitable.

Roden Grey

Roden Grey

After a little window shopping in Gastown (a cobblestoned historic district with many shops), I wandered into Roden Grey – a men’s boutique that happens to carry the entire line of Comme des Garcons fragrances. By now, my wallet was practically jumping out of my purse and when I spied the CdG Incense series, a purchase, I feared, was imminent. I’ve always admired the CdG Incenses and was excited to take a comparison sniff. Avignon, as everyone will tell you, is pure catholic mass. Jaisalmer is sweet and spicy with lots of cardamom and fresh wood – a contender. Kyoto is dry, cedar-y, meditative, spiritual and something I’d fallen for on a previous trip. It was the winner – and is my newest baby.

It’s been a good day in my books when my feet are killing me and my nose is tired.

Dries Van Noten and Frederic Malle interview

Dear Scent Diary,

Click on the link in the text to see the interview.

Click on the link in the text to see the interview.

Okay, I think the blind buy urge for this scent has passed. But only because I’ve planned a trip to Vancouver this month and expect to sniff and buy. It’s nice to have control over my impulses again. Here’s an interview with Dries and Freddie that’s a bit too long for its own good but definitely worth a watch for as long as it your interest carries you.

Blind buy danger: Dries Van Noten Frederic Malle

Dear Scent Diary,

nd.17481I know it’s not wise to buy online without sniffing first – $200 is a lot to bet on my fickle nose loving this fragrance. But let me make my case, Diary. The reviews I’ve read say it’s a gorgeous sandalwood gourmand that’s long lasting, but not overpowering. You know how much I adore sandalwood, Diary. And you know I love sandalwood for its buttery quality, and this sounds like that aspect has only been enhanced. Here’s a transcript of a conversation I had with someone on Facebook Fragrance Friends who had just received hers (also a blind buy):

Her: “SOTD: The new Malle/Dries perfume came yesterday. Just beautiful!!!!!!!!!!! Warm, spicy, creamy. Def a vanilla perfume but for grown-ups, the sandalwood is gorgeous and does thread itself thoughout the entire perfume start to finish.”

Me: “More vanilla pod than vanilla cupcake? Equal amounts vanilla and sandalwood or more vanilla?”

Her: “More vanilla cupcake but truly not too sweet. I am not usually a fan of goumand let alone gourmand vanillas; ie. I do not like, actually dislike, Guerlain’s SDV or even Luten’s Un Bois Vanille but this one with the citrus, sandalwood and other spices evens out the cupcake type vanilla used in it. The Grain de Musc review mentions smelling something freshly baked vs. a full in your face sweetness and I would say this is very accurate. Mmmm to my nose I get more sandalwood but that may be because this sandalwood is sooooooooooooo good. I can’t think of a sandalwood recently that’s this good. Maybe I notice it more than the vanilla because of that but that may be just my nose. I will say I think the sandalwood as more of a major player in this as it weaves its way from inception to drydown.”

See Diary? I’m dead meat.