Agent Provacateur is a scent I’ve known since the early days of my perfumania.
Please don’t think that because I’ve gone in a new direction that my obsession with fragrance has subsided, or ceased to exist. I’m much more picky about what I spend time with, and I don’t go out looking for whatever is new and interesting, but fragrance is still a major part of my life and my experience. I’m writing about AP, which is my SOTE; my SOTD was DK Gold (ebay, <$10, shipped).
AP was one of the first fragrances, as a full-bottle, that entered my collection during the early days of perfumista-hood, and it’s one of the few full-bottles to remain from those days. It wasn’t very long ago–only four years–but in my little world, that was my book of Genesis. A lot has happened since then.
AP is a scent that I brought in early, and that I’ve kept. Perfume is like gold, in a way; it retains it’s value. it’s resale value is static, and , as we know, can rise over time. It’s an unusual stock, but anyone who had a bottle of Chaos before it was re-released understands exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve kept AP over the years because… why? I rarely wear it, and I’ve removed from my collection other early fragrances that, in actuality, I liked better than I do AP.
Yet AP holds it’s position. That pink, egg-shaped ceramic hand-grenade keeps it’s own along side Amouage, L’Artisan, Puredistance, uncle Serge, Ormonde Jayne… and the rest. It holds it’s spot. Why? At this point, everything that’s in my collection maintains it’s spot for a reason. I went John Galliano on my collection, before my move to Texas and after my divorce, and only the strongest survived the brutality of my culling.
What I think of the actual smell of the fragrance is irrelevant. Why I keep and wear AP (as I am now), is that it reminds me of my ex-husband.
Those of you that have been with me awhile, as many of you have, remember when I announced my divorce. It was only a month before that announcement that I was asking for your help picking out a birthday fragrance for the same man. Today, a little over a year later, I’ll admit that I haven’t spoken to that man since. Not because I didn’t want to; but because he asked me to remove myself from his life. His fear, as he put it, was that we would become my parents. You see, my mother and father are soul-mates, or so my dad believes, yet they’ve never been able to be together. He’s heart-broken over her still, and has never married. She’s had many partners and even a husband since… well, the main thing to understand is that my ex-husband fears that he’ll never be free from me if we stay in touch; like my parents.
Agent Provacateur is a perfume that reminds me of my ex-husband, and I keep the fragrance because I love my ex-husband. As I have from the beginning, and as I probably always will. We weren’t good together, we didn’t fit. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t love.
AP is the fragrance that I bought while I was exploring rose fragrances, and that I never truly loved. But he loved it, and when I wore it, he took note. So, on this eve of my birthday, a year since I last saw my first-husband, I wear a fragrance that he loved. Because… no matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with, he’s part of me still. And I’m okay with that. I’m loyal to him, still, even in this new context. Perhaps not in the way he would choose for me… Nonetheless.
AP isn’t really my thing. It’s representative. Because, sometimes, I do what isn’t exactly my thing. When you love someone, you do little things for them, as well as big things. AP was one of those little things. In actuality, it kinda makes me nauseous.
Now, there’s a new guy. He always comments positively on Silences. This is good, because I wear it a lot.
10 Corso Como is one of my absolute favorite perfumes. The notes include sandalwood, frankincense, musk, vetiver, geranium, rose, and Malay oud. Developed in 1999 by Olivier Gillotin for the Carla Sozzani’s brand, this fragrance has inspired somewhat of a cult following. I find it to be sexy, extremely sensual, and slightly off-kilter because of its strangeness. It opens with a woody sweetness juxtaposed with an herbal sour note. It’s balmy sandalwood that’s been pickled. Simultaneously, it is rich woods with dry medicinal bursts. The rose and geranium make their debut about halfway through and it evolves into a more feminine scent, albeit only for a short while. The geranium, in second-long bursts, gives off an almost fecal quality, which adds to the curious masterpiece that is 10 Corso Como. Vetiver and musk keep the transformation earthy and grounded. The base on me is all wood, musk, oud, and sharp dryness. The oud provides an otherworldly aspect to this wonderful concoction. This fragrance would be the perfect complement to a brooding Italian fashionista who wears all black and enormous circular black shades everywhere she goes; whether it be to work, having wine at a sexy café in the evening, or to an underground Venetian-style masquerade à la Eyes Wide Shut.
10 Corso Como, all in all is a bizarre, musky, woody sandalwood. It’s a lovely date scent for you weirdos as it isn’t too overpowering and sits very close to the skin. A perfect lure for leaning in closer.
When I received the series of M. Micallef vanilla-based fragrances, the sophisticate in me immediately ranked them by name alone. Vanilla Leather finished just off the podium, earning the lone, shameful, green Honorable Mention ribbon. I knew I’d loathe it.
M. Micallef Vanilla Leather.
The moniker is spot on. It screams,” High sucrose content!” If the name leaves any doubt, a quick whiff assures it. That alone could raise the blood sugar to dangerous levels. If you stepped out in the hellish Texas summer wearing it, you’d attract ants, bees, or any number of other sweet-seeking bite/sting-happy pests. Law should require that it come with an Epipen.
Fortunately, it’s not yet summer. So I gave it try.
I was promptly taken back to 1993. I saw the nervous, awkward, uncertain, 100 pound Adam slinking towards the doors of high school for the first time. He hadn’t a care or a clue, and wouldn’t for some time. I cringed. Then I giggled as the real reason for this vision presented itself. Just before opening the doors to that new world, 1993 Adam reaches into his pocket and fetches some Binaca breath spray. Of course! That was when my two year addiction began. It was always there in my pocket… not because I was expecting my lips to mingle with a girl’s or because it had alcohol in it so I was basically drinking at school like I told my friends, but because I liked the taste. I was so cool.
I actually wrestled with the idea of investigating Vanilla Leather’s worth as a breath freshener. Maybe it could be the first dual threat perfume/breath freshener? I was seeing lots of $$$. Much like my vision, though, the idea quickly faded away. I carried on with my day and after a few minutes forgot all about the scent. I suspect that, because it was so sweet and familiar, I became easily acclimated to it. I spent that first day thinking someone was making gingerbread in my office – which is quite alright until you remember you’re not employed at a bakery and that it’s you who smells like molasses and ginger. I kept attributing it to outside sources. It’s just doesn’t seem like it could be bottled up. It’s most unique in that aspect.
Late that afternoon, I asked a few of my closer co-workers to share their opinions. A couple found it quite nice. Who doesn’t like the smell of baked goods? One commented that it smelled like a perfume, and not a cologne (she was technically correct, although this scent isn’t, in my opinion, distinctly feminine). The guy in the cubicle next to me thoroughly disliked it. His comment, “I feel like I could chew it,” made sense to me. It is robust.
The scent, though a meal in and of itself, is pleasing enough, so I gladly put it on for a second day. My feelings didn’t change. I still felt like I was working in Candyland. Sometime around 11:00, after multiple mugs of mocha, I took a potty break. As I stood at a urinal, a co-worker entered and, correctly applying men’s room etiquette, assured there was a urinal between us before proceeding with his own bladder evac. A few seconds in, he asked this: “What smells like a White Russian?” I knew it was me, and I think that says it all. Of all the smells vying for attention in a men’s public restroom, he noticed this. That was the dagger. I couldn’t do it anymore. I zipped up and fled. It’s another great scent that’s simply not for me. I think his observation gives the most apt description of the Vanilla Leather, though I’d modify it a tad. It’s more of a White Russian with a splash of spiced rum. The drink is too sweet for me to begin with. Walking around smelling like one is completely unacceptable.
Hello everyone, I’d just like to take a few words to introduce myself. My name is Chére and I’m the newest contributor here at BoTO. I’m really excited to be a part of this blog as well as the fragrance community. I recently met Danielle in what I feel was a moment of serendipity. We discovered each others love of scent and the need to share it with others. The rest is history and now I’m here. I hope you enjoy my first post as well as all of the others to come. Cheers!
Le Parfum Couture takes you on a sophisticated and somehow whimsical journey. At the opening it’s a sparkling origin of vibrant citrus and spicy cinnamon. Both cinnamon and citrus in scent are known as invigorators, so it’s as if these top notes are saying, “Hey you, take note, awaken”. The initial effervescence of the citrus (tangerine, specifically) gives way to a sweetness. Still beautiful, as it mingles with cinnamon. Together they morph into a more complex, warmer state. There you find powdery sweet orange blossoms, soft honey, majestic rose, and animalis. This is the interesting part of the journey. Like a complex well-orchestrated symphony the heart notes (and still some remnants of the head notes) take turns being solo and then in unison deliver beautiful music. One moment you smell the rose, then it goes earthy, then spicy, then rich honey. As it settles into your skin, you detect more earth. I get tiny hints of metallic oud and maybe some woody cedar. The base notes include creamy amber, sandalwood, patchouli and white musk. These being my favorite scents, I loved the base of course. It starts to become animalic with intermittent bursts of honey. It becomes that skin scent that you wake up with, but add a touch of refinement. It’s Audrey Hepburn’s morning skin scent in a nutshell. This magnificent specimen leads you through tangerine dreams into spicy cinnamon plains, subdued by honey-dripping sweetness, into a forest of woods, amber, and musk.
Life has been piling up the serendipitous events so quickly that I can hardly keep track of them…
As you know, I’ve recently signed off–for the most part–from BoTO, along with my long-time partner in pleasure, Anne-Marie. I’d been feeling an overwhelming sense that Beauty on The Outside wasn’t done, and because of this, it was hard for me to move away from it; I knew that it didn’t belong on the back-burner. So I kept my mind open, believing that someone or something would come along…
The other night when I was out with Lorien, we met and became instant friends with two guys and a gal. After just a few minutes of talking, I discovered a perfumista in my midst! What luck! I asked her about blogging, and she said that she’d been thinking about starting; she’d been in the midst for three years, and had been feeling the rumblings of wanting to add her voice. It was then that I made her a proposition: give BoTO a try? We’ve got the best audience, wonderful commenters and followers, and we want to keep delighting them!
I managed to convince her
I’m so pleased to introduce:
You’ll be hearing from her very soon!
photo by Lorien.
Danielle has let us all know about changes at BoTO, and it’s my turn to sign off too.
Danielle invited me to keep BoTO going but I’m finding that things have changed for me too. It’s hard to say why. Just that the urge to write about perfume is not there any more. I so admire all those faithful bloggers who write every day in many cases, for years, about perfume. I get so much joy out of their work and I admire them all so much. My first sip of coffee each morning would not be the same without a perfume blog in front of me. I’m not going to name these fabulous, witty, erudite, knowledgeable people. You know who they are and I know you love them too.
Another reason I’ve been writing less about perfume is that at last I have been buying less. I’m in a slower and more contented phase, and have come to terms with the fact that I cannot afford most of the high end niche lines now. It’s not just the perfume itself, it’s the shipping costs – and the shipping restrictions – that make things harder. So I have been digging down and rediscovering and re-testing many of the wonderful perfumes I already own.
My interest always tended to be good mainstream perfumes and I urge you all not to shrug off the mainstream stuff right under your noses: the classic Lauders, the Kenzos, the mainline Chanels, Hermeses and Guerlains, some of the Chloes, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Elie Saab, Oscar de la Renta, Balmain, Jacomo, Narcisso Rodriguez … some offerings from Dior (Dune!), VC&A, and YSL, even the odd celebuscent. There are some great beauties, and satisfying workaholic fragrances, in there. They are not expensive and they leave you money left over for other important things, like food, books, movies, music … and paying the gas bill on time! (Insert red face here.)
And then there’s the inexpensive niche houses. I wonder if it is a co-incidence that many of them are led by women? Sonoma Scent Studio. Parfums de Nicolai. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Olympic Orchids. Ineke Ruhland. Well, I leave you with that thought.
My heartfelt thanks go to my fellow BoTO writers, Dionne, Adam and and especially, of course, Danielle, whom I met over a discussion of L’Heure Bleue and who generously invited me to join her blog and made me the recipient of many gifts of perfume, much more than I could return. Two stand out: a nearly full bottle of vintage Miss Dior, if you please, and a sample of Rochas Femme. This she tossed in with some other samples, little realising what a difference Femme would make to my life.
That first sniff of Femme brought instant recognition of my scented other half. It happened about a year ago while I was sitting in this very chair. It’s the only fragrance I have felt like that about. Again, Femme is not expensive, and perhaps it’s not even that special – many people hate Olivier Cresp’s cumin-infused re-orchestration of Rouditska’s 1944 classic, released in 1989.
But for me it’s love and I have kept Danielle’s sample vial, still with a few souvenir drops in it even though I now possess a FB. I hope everyone gets to experience that wonderful moment of instant perfume love.
I’ll be seeing you in the comments threads, but in the meantime I wish you all the best on your scented journeys.
It’s been a while.
I got my muse back, and in one of my last posts (was it my last post?) I said that I knew it would be different this time around. At the time, I didn’t know what I meant when I said that (you don’t know what you don’t know, my friend Saundra always says), but now I do. I knew that a shift had happened, and that it was powerfully good for me, and I thought it would happen here, on BoTO.
Perfume remains, for me, an exquisite pleasure–an essential part of my daily life, a thing that will always be with me. Knowing that when I pick up a bottle (or decant, or sample), a story will unfold under my nose. Whether it was a story by Robyn, or Angela, a story from Birgit, Victoria, or Sheila (I remember the image from the first post I read–it was a woman in a tuxedo!), those stories come back to me when the spell of the fragrance is released in the air. Yes, spell. What perfumers wrought in oil and alcohol, these, and others, wrought in words. A spell on paper requires magic to bring it to life, and I think we did it together for a while.
There are hundreds of decants and samples in my cabinet. From Birgit, Tara, and Daisy, Suzanne, Carrie Meredith, Undina, Denise Hamilton (Fracas! I tried SO hard!), Victoria, and Anne-Marie (my rock–thank you Anne-Marie). These and many more of you touched my life, and you come back to me even when I’m just picking up the bottles and examining their labels. Provenance.
The perfume community gave me Provenance. Perfumistas, and the perfume community, gave me the place to exist and grow and evolve, surrounded by true generosity and shared passionate enthusiasm. I feel like I grew up, in the few short years since BoTO started (which for me, marked my effort to become a member of the perfume community). The community grew to accommodate me, and I’m so grateful for that. To have shared my voice with some of the best people on the earth. Perfumistas take the time to stop and smell the roses. They take the time to live in the magic of life.
I hope that some of you will join me as I follow my muse into the next adventure: Energy & Matter. There I’m sharing what I’m doing, including The Modern Witch project– the thing that’s become my consuming occupation and passion…
Anne-Marie will be signing off as well (you’ll have a letter from her here soon), but BoTO will continue on–Adam will continue to share his snapshots of life through the lens of whatever fragrance I’ve delivered to him (he’s a saint), and his style will open doors for a whole new audience of fragrance lovers–manly dads who play softball and write screenplays that their kids will want to watch; and Dionne, well, Dionne weaves magic in everything she does (try to stop her!).
Oh, and one last thing: I’ll be flying out to Oregon in April, to take Josh Meyer up on his offer to create a custom fragrance for James Franco. That will be a Vlog post, which will appear here, on Energy & Matter, and Facebook, and Twitter, and YouTube, and… well, we’ll be seeing you then.
It’s been the ride of a lifetime. Thank you for reading, for responding to my comments on your blogs, for sharing one of life’s truly great pleasures with me–perfume.
I consider myself a man of simple tastes. There’s nothing particularly fantastic about the things I like. That’s not to say that I have no taste, or bad taste. Quite the contrary in my mind. I’m not one who needs the newest, biggest, or baddest, of anything. I’m not trendy, but my preferences don’t stray from the norm in any garish way either. I pride myself on standing apart, of being my own man, but not with any pomp or flash.
My wedding band has a raised ridge running down the middle that sets it apart in the tiniest of ways. If I were a millionaire, my dream car would still be a Jeep Wrangler. I love the sparse prose of Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy, but James Joyce and William Gaddis give me fits – Reading Ulysses is like trying to watch ten different TVs at the same time, each tuned in to a different program, some with subtitles, and all with the volume cranked up to 11. I love the raw emotion of the blues, but progressive jazz gives me tachycardia. I get all giddy when I stumble across a rare vintage t-shirt at Goodwill, but that new $200 pair of shoes or designer dress shirt that people can’t live without does nothing for me.
I’d prefer to call myself refined, however, refinement seems a lofty pedestal on which to place myself. My refinement sits in the corner, waiting patiently and gathering dust. Maybe I’ll get to dust it off one day. Maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’m modestly refined? Somewhat refined? I don’t know. It’s subjective. To me, the word “refined” implies an appreciation and understanding of the finer things. The refined have a supreme knowledge of scotch or wine, culinary art, fashion trends, German auto engineering, European stock markets, sailing, French new wave cinema, artists of the Renaissance, or a plethora of other things that I don’t possess. There’s a sophistication there I can’t self-apply. The refined are geeks in a sense, but what they geek out about allows them to rise above this term. Geeks love Star Wars and Joss Whedon. The refined prefer 8 1/2 and Jean-Luc Godard. Jocks (sports geeks) love football and basketball. The refined prefer jai alai or polo. The refined like progressive jazz, and books that require them to read other books to make sense of them.
Anyway, like I’m prone to do, I’ve hijacked the logic train and taken its passengers on a ride deep into some dark and far-reaching corner of tangent land. Let’s get this wayward train back on track.
I was accompanied last week by M. Micaleff Vanilla Orient. It had me at first spritz. The reason is simple. It didn’t try too hard to impress. Every other scent I’ve reviewed up to this point has come out swinging fists of fury. Most have been quite haughty with their initial barrage of competing scents, each vying to overwhelm and conquer the others. Some pull back on the reigns, but some continue to offend. M. Micaeff Vanilla Orient was a different breed altogether. I was shocked at how inoffensive this one was. I thought initial pungency was just a thing. Lesson #56 learned. I got the vanilla. I got the spice, but just enough of each. Both have the power to overwhelm, which was a concern when I first read the label (especially the vanilla, which I typically disdain). I was wrong. They completely balance each other out and, because of this, never overwhelm. There’s nothing flashy about this fragrance. It’s laid-back, singular, interesting, but not too complex. It’s this simplicity that makes it perfect. It’s this simplicity that sets it apart. It’s more of a side dish than an entrée, but it tastes just as good. It’s a Jeep Wrangler. It’s a vintage t-shirt. It’s blues music. It’s me.
There’s a quote from the film High Fidelity that popped into my head at the beginning of the week, and it wouldn’t leave me alone. I feel it’s worth mentioning, so I’ll go out with it. Midway through the film, Rob Gordon, the distressed and contrite narrator says this about his ex-girlfriend: “She didn’t make me miserable, or anxious, or ill-at-ease. And you know, it sounds boring, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t spectacular, either. It was just – good. But really good.” I think that adequately describes the relationship I’d like to have with my cologne. I could have that with M. Micallef Vanilla Orient.
PS – Dee, you sneaky little monkey. This is a fragrance for women (as are some others I’ll write about soon). Had I not researched in advance, it would never have crossed my mind that this was even a possibility. Lesson # 57 – I can’t always tell a masculine fragrance from a feminine one. That being said, I’m curious. What do the ladies out there think of this one?
Sometimes I love opening my email. Oh, Chanel. Keep ‘em coming.
Today was a perfect day to be wearing Parfums de Nicolaï’s Le Temps d’une Fête.
It was not that I had anything in particular to celebrate. It was just a normal working day . But it was a perfect summer’s day where I live. After a crisp morning the temperature rose to a cloudless 29 degrees (84F), and as I write this the evening is still and golden. Days like today are special.
A reviewer on Fragrantica thinks Le Temps d’une Fête (‘the time of a celebration’) is like ‘like a secret party happening on a warm night in May’. I love this idea. It would be a night like tonight, golden and sweet, and you can’t help but follow the sound of laughter rippling from somewhere close by … down there, is it? … across the grass under the trees by the river. Le Temps d’une Fête. This is the time and place for it.
As I was thinking about this today, suddenly the gardening books of Beverley Nichols sprang to mind. Who is he? (Yes, he.) He was all sorts of things: an English author, memoirist, playwright, composer, journalist, gardener, cat fancier, and lover of flowers, especially winter-blooming flowers. He is probably most famous for his gardening books, which are all based (sometimes in a semi-fictionalised way) on various gardens he owned from the 1930s to the 1970s. The first and perhaps the best-known was Down the Garden Path. But they all had the most delightful titles, such as A Village in a Valley, Merry Hall, Laughter on the Stairs, and Sunlight in the Lawn.
The books are not technical manuals, although there is plenty of gardening advice if you want it. They are more like rambles around the garden with the author there to charm you with his gardening lore and wicked gossip about his neighbours. All are written with that classic dry English humour. His first book was about his first garden and he deliberately wrote it swiftly, before he had learned too much about gardens, before he could:
dilate, with tedious prolixity, on the root formation of the winter aconite, instead of trying to catch on paper the glint of its gold through the snow, as I remember it last winter, like a fistful of largesse thrown over a satin quilt.
But Nichols’ life was not all laughter and roses. His father had been an alcoholic and in 1972 Nichols published a book about this (Father Figure). I read it years ago and found it so distressing I’ve blocked out the memory, except that I think Nichols claims that as a child he tried to murder his father.
Perhaps his gardening and his books allowed Nichols distance himself from all that through the joy of planting and creating. His gardening books are a celebration of living.
Le Temps d’une Fête is joyful, but not exactly ‘sunshine in a bottle’, to me at least. The opening is green and a little sharp. Golden sunshine is filtered through deep shade. Top notes are galbanum and opoponax, so there is your green and your honeyed sweet right there. Narcissus and jasmine are at the heart: warm, sexy, human. The base is darkened – ‘earthened’, to my nose – with patchouli, woody notes, sandalwood and (apparently) oakmoss. You won’t turn up to this party in your best frock because with your host you will want to stoop among the flowers, dab the soil, nip a few deadheads and twitch out the odd weed.
Le Temps is not a pretentiously priced fragrance so if you have not already, do try it if you can. Beverley Nichols’ books can often be bought second hand, including on eBay, and an outfit called Timber Press has re-published many of the gardening books.
PS: I do have something to celebrate after all. My bottle of Hermes’ 24 Faubourg arrived! I had been saving up for it. I got the EDP in a 30ml bottle and I think the bottle design works wonderfully in this small size. It is so charming! Yay me.