Monday, July 30, 2007
Containing notes of chocolate bean, licorice, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, banana, white pear, lilac, cassie, heliotrope, sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla and fruity musk, one would expect quite a gourmand fragrance. However, on my skin Coeur d'été generally qualifies as a delicate and soft, green floral. The top notes create a melange of greenery and fruit, with white pear, lemon and cassie holding front and center. As the fragrance dries, lilac and chocolate bean become apparent and their glorious interplay is worth singing about. This fragrance truly develops over time, and what remains on the skin after a few hours, while not long-lasting, is as delicate as baby's breath.
It is important to remember that this fragrance was created to be soft and delicate, for it most certainly lacks any real depth with resonating base notes. Rather, it strikes me as ethereal, like a cloud hovering around its wearer, intermittently and ever so lightly reminding her of its presence. One could also compare it to angel's wings. Quite perfect for the heart of summer, indeed! It compares to another favorite of mine for summer, the dewy green Calvin Klein Eternity Summer 2005. The only downfall of Coeur d'été is its lack of longevity, for I certainly enjoy the first hour of wear, yet it seems to disappear within a few short hours. Again, another hallmark of a subtle scent.
Overall, Coeur d'été is beautifully blended, a masterful merging of notes really. The notes as listed are deceiving so try this one for yourself to discover its light as a feather, soft floral fragrance.
Miller Harris Coeur d'été is available at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and online at luckyscent.com. A 100mL bottle retails for $120.
Image sources: luckyscent.com, angel statue from the Vatican - northstargallery.com.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The opening of Heliotrope immediately transports me to my grandmother's kitchen. She was my step-father's mother yet you would never know I was not one of her own, save for my fair skin and red hair contrasted with her olive skin. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Southern Italy and although she was born on U.S. soil, she did her best to retain her Italian roots. She was an incredible cook, waking up at six a.m. on Sundays to prepare pasta, meats, salads and sweets for the dozens of children and grandchildren that would chaotically dine in her home.
My favorite time to spend with Louise was Saturday, the day devoted to baking. Whether it was an extravagant wedding cake for a customer who paid her, her delectable pizelles, or the undeniably decadent chocolate chip cookies she made "for the kids," her kitchen always smelled scrumptious. As I walked into her home, the kitchen was the first room I entered. It seemed to warmly embrace me as she did, for I always felt completely safe and comforted there. I would watch her with wide-eyed amazement, periodically and deftly sample her work and chit chat about everything under the sun while she cracked jokes and made witty comments. Quite honestly, some of the most precious moments of my life were spent in Louise's kitchen. It's smell? Pure bliss.
What I describe is quite a lot to live up to and while not an exact match, Heliotrope immediately and loudly bursts forth with almond and vanilla, like the smell of Louise's warm pizelle iron with a fresh new stack of the Italian cookies right next to it. Although I have never smelled a heliotrope flower, the top and heart of this fragrance are undeniably gourmand, sweet, creamy and boozy. The heavy vanilla remains for hours and when it dissipates, what is left is an undeniably cool, fresh scent, reminiscent of baby powder on my skin. It is as if the warm kitchen suddenly becomes a cool, damp garden of scented, powdery delights, not particularly flowers. I never quite detect the orange blossom, jasmine or rose described by the sample card, for the dry down lacks floral definition. Rather it becomes smooth, cool and pleasant. The entire effect creates quite a contrast with its strong, warm beginning followed by its indescribable cool and powdery dry down. Although I do not plan on purchasing a bottle anytime soon, I will consider a decant for days I long to be back in the arms of the ambrosial kitchen of my youth.
Etro Heliotrope is available at a discounted rate on fragrancenet.com. A 3.3 oz. bottle runs for $50.19.
Image sources - Pizelles - dominicsdesserts.com; fragrancenet.com
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Until today. Two compliments in one day. How is that possible? After months of no fragrance love other than from my darling husband?
My theory is that I finally wore a fragrance that sings with my chemistry. It is what I consider an "oldie but a goodie," it does not bear the prestigious honor of being niche, ridiculously expensive or difficult to find, yet it deserves just as much reverence as any other fragrance in my collection. It is Bvlgari Pour Femme.
This scent launched in 1994 and contains notes of violet, orange blossom, jasmine tea, rose, bergamot, citrus, tuberose, vetiver and musk. Essentially, each and every note I adore, making their exquisite combination glorious. Pour Femme definitely qualifies as a clean floral, not too heady, not too sweet and understated enough for any occasion. No need to wait for this beauty to develop. It starts out good and ends up just as good. Remembering my love of pretty things, it is no wonder Pour Femme has been a solid contender for my holy grail scent for so long. What an unabashedly pretty and feminine scent!
Bvlgari Pour Femme is widely available online through internet discounters and in department stores. The EDP is available in 1.7 oz. size for $86 but can be found for much less.
Image sources: violet - netstate.com; ellegishop.it
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Absinth was by far the winner - a rich, decadent, very earthy and interesting mix of notes that truly graced my nose and tickled my fancy. "The result of a quest to stimulate irresponsible behavior" as noted on the box, this one is beautifully unique. Because a list of notes is not available, my description will have to suffice. It offers a simultaneously creamy, nutty and earthy bouquet, slightly resembling almonds but not as sweet. Something green exists there as well as something dirty. I picture fresh moss freshly lifted from the earth with plenty of moist dirt underneath. The effect is undeniably sensual yet the nutty notes add fun and flirtation.
This scent is oddly comforting to me, evoking the sounds and smells of the autumn outdoor parties my parents frequented. I recall leather jackets, golden colors and trees as far as the eye could see, rich food and lots of warm arms to embrace me. Oh, and some "irresponsible behavior." If the bouquet of Absinth had a color, it would be deep aubergine, like the leaves that grace trees at the peak of autumn.
This scent requires a sophisticated ensemble and a plan. I certainly have not found it an every day scent and my reluctance to wear it at all has simply been an effort to do it justice. Triple digit heat would detract from it horribly. I will savor this one during the cool, crisp days of November in the desert, when the days are shorter, the nights longer and the opportunities to wear a leather jacket abound. Nasomatto Absinth will remind me of the season I miss most and the reasons I miss it. Don't get me wrong, this is not strictly an autumn scent. I predict countless perfumistas will want to add it to their winter rotation as well.
Much to my delight, Absinth is offered in parfum concentration. The scent remains fairly consistent yet softens over time. Positively gorgeous!
As I suspected, I have been unable to locate one bottle of Nasomatto Abinth in the U.S. If any of you are able to find it, please let me know!
Image source: yunphoto.net
Thursday, July 19, 2007
To call this fragrance juicy does not do it justice. It evokes the most succulent of peaches, the ripest of melons, the most colorful of mangos and the most tantalizing of passion fruits. It is ripeness in a bottle that awakens the senses. Offering a beautiful description is the box within which my coveted bottle sits:
Perfect Nectar is a fresh, sexy blend of tropical fruits, white flowers and oceanic musk that sets the wearer aglow with the dazzlingly lush fragrance of an island paradise. A scent that is at once succulent and clean, it transports the wearer to a place where crashing surf and trees dripping with exotic fruits are bathed in golden sunlight.
Those liking more complex fragrance may find this a little too ... well ... simple. However, for ridiculously and oppressively hot summer days like those of the last week, it offers refined refreshment and a very interesting, sexy twist on personal fragrance. The white flowers and oceanic musk, while not prominent, offer just enough balance to the tangy and juicy notes so that the wearer does not feel, for lack of a better description, like a majestic piece of fruit.
One of the aspects I love about Sarah's line is that none of her fragrances could be called unoriginal. Rather they offer a statement individualized to each person. In fact, with her Palette Trio you can experiment with various notes to create your own signature fragrance.
Creative Scentualization Perfect Nectar can be found at http://www.creativescent.com/. A 1.7 fl. oz. bottle retails for $75.
Image sources: Passion fruit - naturesflavors.com; ripe tropical fruit - familyfun.go.com
Monday, July 09, 2007
With notes of Damascus rose, lily of the valley and florentine iris, the fragrance develops in a fairly linear fashion from start to finish with one exception: the top is very sweet. The opening may turn off those averse to sweet scents. Despite that, lovers of floral fragrances will delight in its interesting and fresh heart that juxtaposes the feminine, ancient beauty of rose to somewhat cold lily of the valley. Florentine iris is thrown into the mix as well, along with its leaves and the dirt from which it grows. Because of the latter interesting twist, I refrain from describing this fragrance as clean and yet, I am tempted to do so for there is nothing unrefined about it. Rather this blend strikes me as ethereal, not earthy, elegant and timeless.
Caterina de Medici resembles Floris Florissa, yet it lacks the earthy bottom notes of amber, light woods and spices. I cannot compare it to the umpteen white florals I own, for this scent has a purer, more realistic quality about it that has been stripped from most modern blends. Caterina de Medici is most certainly a daytime fragrance due to its lighter than air yet lush qualities. I can spritz this one generously and it never offends those around me. My only wish is that I could purchase my next full bottle in Florence at the original store - Spezierie Erboristerie Palazzo Vecchio http://www.spezieriepalazzovecchio.it/ - where it retails for just 20 Euro! The simple packaging will always remind me of the day I strolled through Piazza della Signora and thought this incredible perfumery was just an herb shop! That puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
Caterina de Medici can be found on various fragrance websites including beautyhabit and bigelowchemists. A 50mL bottle retails for $89.
Image sources: lusciouscargo.com; my own image of me in front of the iPdF altar with my bag of goodies
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Fleur de Narcisse was developed in 2006 by Anne Flipo, creator of L'Artisan's La Chasse Aux Paupillons and Ananas Fizz, both of which I own and love. It was released as a Limited Edition in a gorgeous bottle. The notes include green notes, blackcurrant, hay, cassie, iris, tobacco, moss and leather. The top notes resemble cumin to my nose but they are fleeting and lead to much more interesting accords with some patience. What follows is a playful interaction between blackcurrant, hay, cassie and tobacco to create an interesting olfactory combination of greenery and smoke. The unexpected smokey accord lingers for a full half an hour, beautifully giving way to a soft almost undetectable fragrance which, when I plant my nose to my wrist, eludes me. Rather, I must wait for this scent to waft up and when it does, it is delightful, playful and subtly feminine. Unmistakeable iris and other flowers (narcissus perhaps?) blend smoothly and lightly with the leathery base. Fleur de Narcisse represents an interesting combination of seemingly incompatable components, that when brought together create a gorgeous composition.
For a girl who loves fairly safe white floral and citrus scents, this scent deviates from my norm just enough yet gives me a full dose of what I love in the end. It reminds me of Serge Lutens Daim Blond with a floral accord added. Fleur de Narcisse was composed to be unisex and not one I expected to like after glancing at the notes. Yet it is glorious! It strikes me as a very classy and sophisticated woman's signature scent, a woman with effortless style and grace, who loves mainstream fashion yet longs to have fun and perhaps indulges her naughty side once in a blue moon. I am not talking Paris Hilton or Britney Spears get-ahold-of-yourself-and-go-to-AA naughty, but rather Mrs. Robinson-à-la-The Graduate-flirting-with-young-men naughty, before the flirting develops into an affair. Mysterious yet playful, sexy yet transparent, Fleur de Narcisse quickly goes on my "to buy when I strike it rich" list.
Special Note: My sincere gratitude to LBD for sharing her newly found love!
L'Artisan Fleur de Narcisse can be found at luckyscent.com. A 100mL LE bottle retails for $295.
Image sources: lamurefavorite.com; Dustin Hoffman and the beautiful Anne Bancroft in The Graduate dannymiller.typepad.com
Friday, July 06, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I must boast a little. My husband has truly made a name for himself in this tiny little town. It is where he learned to cook and speak Italian and it is responsible for his intense love of Italian soil. I was fortunate enough to meet and dine with family and friends who were so instrumental in shaping his ideals and values, his culinary talent and his language skills. To see Gaggio Montano through the joyful eyes of those who live there by spending time in their homes was truly an invaluable experience. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all who so graciously welcomed us.
Our time in Gaggio offered us a physical and emotional respite and cleansing. Clean, mountain air, genuinely warm, interested people and simple yet delectable food filled our days and nights in Gaggio. From the bird calls that woke us, to the green, rolling hills that streched as far as the eye could see, Gaggio Montano made an indelible impression upon my soul.
One of the most notable characteristics of this country is the abundance of flowers, fruit and wildlife. Roses, geraniums, hydrangeas and wild flowers seemed to bloom everywhere! After taking a closer look at the umpteen rose bushes I came across, it appeared that they literally grew on their own without a lot of care and concern by a gardener. I took many photos of the flowers that beautified my days. Because of the abundance of fruit, many restaurants offered a bowl overflowing with peaches, bananas, apples and cherries as dessert. This charmed me as well as I repeatedly watched servers deliver what would cost a fortune in the U.S.
Much to my dismay, I was unable to satisfy my need for quick meals, large showers and large cups of sweetened coffee. Everything in Gaggio is steadfast yet simple. The Italians value food, therefore they prioritize the time taken to eat it. To order a meal "to go" would simply be a shame to the art of breaking bread together, and therefore it is just not possible in Gaggio Montano. In addition, it is by simplifying life that the people here devote time to what matters most, spending time conversing face-to-face with family and friends. Coffee bars are the meeting place. The espresso served there? Steadfast and simple - high quality beans, tiny little cups, no fuss, no fluff. Compared to my fast-paced, large coffee and activity filled days at home, I found it refreshing despite my resistance. Consequently, Gaggio Montano is characterized in my mind as simple, cheerful, gorgeous, meaningful, charming, and fresh.
The fragrance to depict this town is from Les Parfums de Rosine collection, a less obvious, fresh and beautiful line that focuses on one note and does it extremely well: the rose. Considering the abundance of roses I saw as well as the overwhelming amount of greenery and fruit, my choice is Roseberry. "An eau with a definitely joyful and stimulating fragrance. It brings a waft of good mood. It opens with the green notes of blackcurrant bud and blue chamomile. The classic heart resumes the floral accord of Turkish rose, dog rose, and raspberry leaf absolute. Its sillage is amplified in the sandalwood and vetiver" according to La Mure Favorite.com. After hearing about my experiences in Gaggio, I think you would agree the scent fits.
Image sources: My own photos taken around Gaggio Montano, Italy
Monday, July 02, 2007
As Mr.TMH and I walked the streets and photographed the beautiful architecture, I said to him, "This is like Rome without all of the hassle." One of the most charming aspects of Florence are a few cobblestoned walkways and streets that don't permit vehicles. It creates a sort of oasis protecting tourists from noise and air pollution, giving them ample energy and ability to shop and enjoy the charms of the city. Thus, Florence caters to tourists very well. I even enjoyed an American breakfast there! And yet, I did not buy what you would expect to buy in Florence. Most are drawn to Fendi, Bvlgari, Dolce & Gabbana and the like, as well as the infinite amount of jewelry and paper products. (Tip: Do not buy expensive jewelry in Florence if you can avoid it. It is marked up much higher than you will find in Bologna, just a train ride away.)
As my husband wrote last week, we were on a quest for the bulk of the morning to find i Profumi di Firenze. Much to our dismay, none of the sales associates at department stores or commercial "perfumeries" had any idea to what we were referring when we asked where to find them. As we strolled through Piazza della Signoria, an herbal shop caught my eye and I mentioned we should go in there. He said, "No, that's just an herb shop" so we continued exploring the Piazza. As we passed it a second time, I said, "I know you think it's an herb shop but I must go in there. It looks really interesting." Funny how our stories differ! Lo and behold, there we found ourselves in front of the i Profumi di Firenze altar of scent! My husband's story is accurate from here. ;-)
Something about testing this historic line in Florence allowed me to revisit scents I had passed on at other times. The three that I have added to my collection include Talco Delicato, Spezie di Medici and Caterina de Medici, all unique and interesting in their own right.
To select a fragrance that defines this city is perhaps the most difficult of all cities in Italy. Florence is so charismatic that I struggle even giving it a persona. What persists in my mind after exploring it and reading an incredible novel, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, are its rich art work, original literature and political influence. A lush, romantic, powerful and feminine city, Florence defies a unilateral lable. And yet, if I must, I will describe it with the following fragrance: Caterina de Medici - partly because both the fragrance and Caterina originate there, but also because the fragrance notes are dynamic, feminine and lush. The following description is from C.O. Bigelow's website: "Exquisite ambrosial floral bouquet, named for its benefactress and faithfully replicated from the 16th century secret formula. Deliciously lush, its floral elegance evokes all that is luxurious and royal. Timeless beauty, day or night. Damascus Rose, Lily of the Valley, Iris of Florence (the City’s symbol) ." Good enough. I adore Florence and must go back.
Image source: "Dante and Beatrice", 1883 by Henry Holiday from www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. This amazing artwork holds significance for us. My husband has oft compared me to Beatrice after studying Dante during his PhD coursework. We even (poorly) tried to duplicate the painting when we were in Florence, sans the costumes! Dante's literature had significant influence on Florentine history.