Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tea for Three

I have long been enamored of the chunky and somewhat over-the-top style of Bulgari jewelry. In the 80s, although I could neither afford it nor wear it, I was all about the big, beautiful gemstones and would routinely tear Bulgari ads out of magazines and post them on my closet door to admire. It was not at all surprising to me that Bulgari would make the decision to extend their flair for things beautiful to the world of perfume.

Their first scent, released in the early 90s, was Au Thé Vert, based on green tea. This was followed, in 2002 by Au Thé Blanc, and Au Thé Rouge in 2006 (among others).

Au Thé Vert
Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, cardamom, Jamaican pepper, Bulgarian rose, Spanish jasmine, green tea, oakmoss, tonka beans, beeswax

Au Thé Vert opens with bright green citrus and unexpectedly spicy cardamom and pepper notes - seldom have I smelled a more true and obvious cardamom in a perfume.  There's a hint of jasmine and a pinch of rose.  Together these notes combine to form what we recognize as the now-ubiquitous smell of green tea, although I've never encountered a green tea that smells like this.  (Genmaicha is my favorite, and the fragrance often reminds me of a light fish stock.  Maybe because I'm usually eating sushi while drinking it.) The drydown has the honeyed sweetness of beeswax over the citrusy tea accord.  Quite summery and fresh.

Au Thé Blanc
Notes: Artemisia leaves, white tea, ablemosk, white pepper, ambergris, musk

Far more subtle and delicate than Au Thé Vert, Au Thé Blanc opens with a gentle white floral reminiscent of honeysuckle, reminding me of a warm spring day in the garden.  There is the tiniest bit of spicy white pepper and, I suppose, white tea.  (Does white tea have much of a scent?)  The drydown is sweetly musky, with the presence of both ambrette seed (ablemosk) and musk notes.  I like this one quite a bit.

Au Thé Rouge

Notes: pink pepper, orange, bergamot, red tea accord, fig pulp, walnut, musk

When I first smelled this on a paper strip at Sephora, I thought it was like being splashed with a glass of the world's best iced tea. On skin, the tea scent is strong, honey-sweetened with a touch of bergamot--but not enough to turn it into a cup of Earl Grey--and the luscious greenness of fresh fig. There's a slight bite of floral pink peppercorn, and an overall vanillaic softness in the drydown. Absolutely delicious.  It's a toss-up whether I prefer this one or Au Thé Blanc, but all three are beautiful scents worthy of the Bulgari name.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha

The Aroma M line was created with the Japanese sensibility in mind. Or so says the marketing info. It also says that the Geisha perfumes and perfume oils are made with quality essential oils and no synthetics. Unfortunately, anything that comes in perfume oil format always reminds me of hippie shops. This is pretty much the case with most Aroma M fragrances. My opinions of each of the eleven scents in the line follows...take with the usual grain of salt, as no two noses or skin reactions are alike and YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Geisha Rouge (oil) Notes: Tonka bean, tobacco, vanilla, sandalwood, cinnamon, star of anise, clove Perfume oils that smell of sandalwood, cinnamon, and clove smack of head shop to me, and this one is no different. If you like that sort of thing, this fragrance might turn you on. For me, however, serious blech.

Geisha Marron (oil) Notes: grapefruit, mandarin, bergamot, muguet, japanese magnolia, spicy chestnut blossom One major surprise in the lot: Marron is an extremely pleasant white floral (coming from someone who doesn't like floral scents) with a strong muguet (lily of the valley) fragrance and slight hints of citrus. It gives the sensation of a bouquet of fragrant blooms. The drydown is lovely, with the muguet softening and a bit of the bergamot coming to the surface. I think this frag is a bit strong at first, at least for me, but I thought this one was pretty nice.

Geisha Green (oil) Notes: absinthe, black currant, violet, mandarin, amber, tonka This opens with the strong anise-y scent of absinthe in the foreground, and while that is still strong, the softness of the vanilla-like tonka makes itself known. There's also a slight bite of black currant (Note to those who may be thinking of other things whey they see this word, those tiny dried raisiny things one can buy in a box at the grocery store labeled "currants" are not currants. They're raisins. Currents are a completely different fruit and are eaten fresh. They have a tart flavor and a complex berry-like aroma with a touch of the medicinal. Think blackberries and you'll be close-ish.) The absinthe stays strong even in the drydown, when the amber creeps and the floral scent of violets can be discerned. An interesting scent, but in the end it becomes altogether too powdery for my tastes.

Geisha Blue (oil) Notes: blue chamomile, green tea, leafy greens, jasmine, honey Blue starts out with the sweet floral scent of chamomile mixed with a touch of honey. The next layer of scent holds the jasmine, more honey, and a drop of green tea. The overall composition is a soft floral with just a touch of sweetness.

Geisha Blanche (oil) Notes: lychee, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang ylang A white floral with slightly sweet fruity undertones, very gentle and powdery, not unlike the smell of Johnson & Johnson baby products (baby lotion comes immediately to mind). In the drydown, the powderyness subsides and the hyacinth takes over. This scent is not particularly jasmine-like, which I think is a plus.

Geisha Pink (oil) Notes: sugared plum, orange, vanilla Pink is quite different from most of the other Geisha scents because it lacks a floral aspect. The opening notes are of orange and plum, the latter perhaps a little on the unripe side. Overall, however, I find the fruit smell off-putting and the whole scent a bit too sweet.

Geisha Noire (oil) Notes: black amber, sandalwood, tonka bean An initially spicy scent with an opening volley of black amber followed quickly by a powdery sandalwood and tonka bean. The scent starts out mysterious but turns familiar very quickly, becoming a scent not unlike Shalimar, soft and feminine.
Geisha Violet (oil) Notes: violet, lilac, lotus, chocolate A somewhat powdery and sweet violet aroma with warmth behind it...somehow it almost smells like unripe bananas to me before it becomes more obviously chocolate. The lilac is subtle, and the lotus adds a bit of green. On drydown, the floral aroma takes over and the violets smell like cheap candies.

Geisha O-Cha (perfume) Notes: Japanese green tea, sweet orange, clary sage A very subtle scent of orange tea, more orange than tea at first. At drydown, however, up comes the bitterness of finely powdered Japanese green tea. It smells like the taste of green tea ice cream. Interesting, but I'm not sure I want to go around smelling like that. This fragrance is extremely fleeting in hour later, I could no longer smell it.

Geisha Nobara-Cha (perfume) Notes: rose, sandalwood, amber A very soft but obvious rose with the slight woodsiness of sandalwood and the warmth of amber. Pleasant, but certainly not groundbreaking...especially not for $72. It could use less rose and more amber, for my tastes. The sandalwood becomes more pronounced in the drydown, but doesn't necessarily improve this fragrance.

Geisha Hana-Cha (perfume) Notes: jasmine, bergamot An odd combination. The bergamot is very much Earl Grey tea in this, but the jasmine is not true and smells more like mothballs. The drydown gets weirder and smells of balloons or rubber bands. Yuck.
I dunno. I don't really see any "Japanese sensibility" in this line. But what do I know? Maybe they like to smell bad/odd/weird. Apart from Marron, none of these perfume oils will touch my skin again. Anyone else have experience with Aroma M? I'd like to know...leave a comment!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Aquolina Blue Sugar

Notes: bergamot, tangerine leaves, star anise, ginger, licorice, patchouli leaves, lavender, heliotrope, coriander, caramel, vanilla, cedarwood, tonka bean

After the huge success of Pink Sugar, Aquolina has put out a man's version, called, similarly enough, Blue Sugar. The opening notes are strongly anise-y, both the woody herbal tones of star anise and a sweeter licorice. There are also hints of citrus and lavender hiding behind the anise. Overall, however Blue Sugar is a woodsy scent wrapped in a cloud of cotton candy. It's sweet, like it's sister fragrance, and I can't imagine any man wearing it. (Neither can Mr. Minx.) On me it's quite nice, very different. Almost like a less-obnoxious, heavily-sugared Polo for women, if one could imagine such a fragrance.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Betsey Johnson Parfum

Wacky fashion designer Betsey Johnson, known for her whimsical clothing, as well as costuming Edie Sedgwick in Ciao! Manhattan, and turning cartwheels at the end of her fashion shows, brought out her Parfum in 2006.

It is obviously a indulgence in fantasy. Ms. Johnson, currently in her mid-60s, never looked as good as in this extravaganza of the airbrush featured in advertisements for her scent, one of the currently popular fruity floral blends so often marketed to the younger crowd.

Notes: grapefruit, tangerine, blackcurrant, pear, freesia, lily of the valley, apple, cedarwood, sandalwood, amber, musk, praline

Parfum is an almost (ok, not almost) obnoxiously-sweet fruity floral, the fragrance equivalent of a bowl of Fruit Loops. A cacophony of sweet scents jump out at once - pear, citrus, blackcurrent, praline - and despite being rather ordinary fruits, the freesia and muguet give them an air of the tropics. Exactly the type of fruity floral I cannot abide.

After the initial Fruit Loop blast settles a bit, the fragrance more resembles a girly umbrella drink, still fruity and still very sweet, but at least not as strong. And the drydown is actually quite pleasant, still fruity, but tempered with a soft musk and hints of woods. Not my cup of tea at all, but those who are not affected by cloying scents (and those under the age of 14) will probably love it.


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