El Attarine

3 of Cups

I drew this card today, and a little while later I dabbed the ground-glass stopper of El Attarine across my skin: wrist, left and right; neck– both sides, just under the ears.


Together, we can do anything.


Three years ago, I found Sheila’s blog for the first time.

It was one of those rare moments where I found a writer whose every word I was determined to read. This had only happened twice before– with the Mother Ship, Now Smell This, and then with Bee. While there were many blogs I was reading and keeping up with, and many writers I loved, these stood out. NST was my introduction to a brave new sensory world, and Bee and Sheila, in turn, would become profoundly influential in my life. I fell in love with Sheila’s writing, and soon discovered she had written a novel.

I read that novel in it’s serialized, blog-post size installments, and I loved it. I mean really loved it. Carrie-Meredith and I went head-to-head in competition for number one fan; we decided to share the spot, and some perfume too. We’ll always have CdG Tar!

The novel was good. So tantalizingly did Sheila describe the scent of ‘Dev’, it inspired a global collaborative project : Devilscent. Indie perfumers used her prose as creative brief– and what results! (Check out the above link to see all the perfumers and reviewers involved.)

Despite it’s growing popularity, Quantum Demonology wasn’t getting published. Which seemed crazy to me, because it deserves it’s spot on the bookstore shelves–and on bestseller lists. Suddenly, I found myself in a place I’d never been before. I was free, and I had some money, and I knew that I wanted to put that money to work. But how? If I could do anything, what would I do…?

Sheila Eggenberger, QD author

Sheila Eggenberger

It wasn’t a hard decision. I knew that I wanted to publish Sheila’s book, and, looking back, I’m embarrassed at my audacity. Who am I? Nobody. But who I am is irrelevant (thankfully). The book must be published. And by golly, why not me? So I screwed up my courage and asked.

She said yes. I’m still astonished.

And here we are. The book has gotten this far because of the support of the perfume community, and now I’m going to ask for a little more help. We’re going to press the day after Thanksgiving, and Quantum Demonology lays down on Tuesday, 12.17.13. Together, we can do this.

Here’s what I’m asking: every single dollar counts, and if everyone is willing to pledge a dollar, and get everyone they know to do the same, it’ll boost the “popularity” of the campaign. Lots of pledges, even in the smallest amount, is how we get attention. And, the more attention we get, the more money we raise. Right now we’re on schedule for delivery on my shoe-string budget. But Quantum Demonology, and it’s authoress, deserve the best.

…one of the most important things you can do for your campaign is to manipulate its popularity on Kickstarter.  Most projects that make it onto one of Kickstarter’s lists (project of the day, projects we love, etc.) make their money.  The only list that I’ve seen that can be manipulated is the popularity lists.  Those seem to be directly related to how many donors you get in a specific period of time, and have nothing to do with total money raised.  If you have control over a decent number of backers (friends/family), then try to get them lined up to donate all around the time your project gets posted.  This will get you pushed up onto the popular list in your category and will also show others interested in donating that there is a large amount of excitement and interest related to your project. “

Kickstarter Addict, Daniel McGauley

Let’s make it happen! Whether you pledge a dollar or five-hundred, your name will be printed on the fly-leaf inside the book. So everyone who picks it up knows what’s behind it, and what went into it.

It takes a village– help us spread the word!


Pledge on Kickstarter :: Check out our Ad campaign :: Devilscent :: Nigel’s Flight

A special thanks to all of you who have already pledged! Thank you for your belief and your support, your enthusiasm, and your friendship. It means everything!!!

He Who Smelt It: Episode 8 – Shock and Ahhh!


This review’s short and sweet because – well – my experience with L’Eau Serge Lutens was. Let me break it down.

Day 1 – Hmmm. This is interesting. Lemon zest and… What is that? It’s woodsy, but not like anything I’ve sampled before. Pencil shavings! That’s it! Pencil shavings. Ok. I’m sure that’s not the intent here, but what do I know? Only that I’m intrigued.

Day 2 – There’s a citrus sweet and sour going on here.  I‘ve warmed to this fast. There’s something different and wonderfully masculine about it. The sweetness pairs well with the (for lack of a better description) pencil shavings. I love the visual of the discarded remnants of a now sharpened tool. To me it symbolizes grit and determination, callouses and sweat, blood and tears. Corny? Maybe, but these things no doubt have an effect on our feelings. Not drinking coffee tomorrow, but I feel like this fragrance will be a great substitute. I’ll get out of bed for this one.

Day 3 – Devastation. It’s empty! This is impossible and infuriating! I stood in the bathroom and, refusing to believe it was gone, pushed the little button of this friggin atomizer 237 times before finally letting it go. AHHH!

Quite a mystery. What could possibly have happened?

  1. It spent too much time basking in the threshold-of-hell Texas heat while in transit, and all but two days worth evaporated.
  2. Dee liked this one herself and, tapping her fingertips together and unleashing a malevolent chuckle, snuck a few sprays before sending it on to me.
  3. I got a faulty sample. Harumpf.

It’s all very bittersweet. I discovered a wonderful new scent, but feel like I was scammed out of getting to spend more time with it. Oh, well. On to the next.

Dark Obsession (for men), Calvin Klein


On the airplane back from Vegas, The Guy tore open a scent strip from the  GQ in his lap. Without asking, he raised it to my nose, nodding his head as he watched my intake of breath, my first impression. He said, “Smells the same.”

It’s true. Dark Obsession reminds me, too, of the original.

This late-in-the-apparently-still-active-game flanker is a little too sweet. But it’s also got a raspy edge that peeks out after the top-notes burn off to reveal smoldering… vetiver? If you called it a fruitchouli for guys,  I wouldn’t argue. But I’d also say that it’s a remixed distillation of a bunch of good bits and pieces. Is that the pepper from Carbone de Balmain?

I like this new incarnation, but it feels a little bit dated– weirdly, as the original still sparkles…

In the apartment, able to relax after finally getting home, I opened up GQ again. Finding the page with the perfume ad,  I did something wild: I ordered a tester-bottle off the eBay app from my phone.

I confess, I think I’d prefer this on The Guy’s neck above my own.

Fall: Sniff List

Ruben Ireland

My Fall sniff-list is only belated if you don’t live in the southern portion of the United States. Down here, it’s still premature: yesterday it was 90, and today it’s 85 degrees in Austin– still warm to be thinking about Fall fragrances, but since I’ve exchanged my short pants for long pants, I figure it’s time to put away the Coup de Foudre ’til Spring.

This is what I’m loving in my Texan pseudo-fall…

Imaginary Authors, Cape Heartache. With notes of Hemlock and Fir, it’s witchy-vibe is getting me in the mood for upcoming All Souls Day a little less than a month away.

Puredistance, Black. The new offering from ultra-luxury Austrian perfume house extraordinaire, Black is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the niche house: excellence. Witchy in a completely different way from Cape Heartache, Black is a dusty oriental with luscious flourishes. If Chanel Antaeus had an affair with PG14 Iris Taizo, their sexy love child would put on a purple velvet robe, and call itself Black.

L’Artisan, Traversée du Bosphore. I can’t believe it’s been three years since I fell in love with this perfume. It absolutely stands the test of time, and has become a staple in my annual fall line-up. Iris, leather, saffron? Yes, yes, yes.

I’ve been wearing Jacomo Silences PDT, CDG Avignon, and Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin in heavy rotation for a few months now, and it’s finally okay to admit it. Powerfully sexy, each of these, and appropriate for most any venue. Silences is one of those rare fragrances in my collection that gets drained, and I really ought to buy in bulk. Time to head over to evilBay…

print by Ruben Ireland.

Fall: Look Now

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For most of you, Fall has been well underway for at least a month. We do things different down here in Texas. Here’s the look I’m sporting as I transition through the Texas still-hot-fall, into Texas somewhat-cooler-fall (ACL here I come!).


Cleanse: I’ve returned once again to an old favorite, Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser for general cleansing. I’m also using the MAC Makeup Remover Wipes, useful for getting rid of that awesomely stubborn water-proof mascara.

Treat: Retinol, by prescription, 3x per week (as always). What’s new: Skinmedica TNS Recovery Complex.

Moisture: MAC Mineralize Charged Water Face and Body Lotion


Face: My Lowbrow-Lust selection, L’Oréal Magic Nude Liquid Powder (#316, Nude Beige). So lightweight I almost can’t tell I’ve got foundation on, Magic Nude looks perfect every time. It boasts broad spectrum SPF 18, which makes me happy. Add a smidgen of MAC Ladyblush blushcreme, and I’m set.

Lips:  I start with Skinmedica TNS LipPlump System (from my PS), followed by Mac Hug Me. Pulls off the “my lips but better” effect, and is by far the best nude I’ve found to date. The Lustre formula is moisturizing and smells like vanilla cake. Yum!

Eyes: BeneFit They’re Real Mascara, L’Oreal Infallible Eyeliner. Sometimes I get wild and break out the Urban Decay Naked2 Palette.


Cleanse: Kerastase, Cristalliste (aka, the Pink bottles). My hair looks and feels better than it has in a long time. Prepare yourself for sticker-shock, and trust me when I say the shampoo and conditioner are solid investments.

Treat: Kerastase, Cristalliste Lumière Liquide. Supposedly inspired by Blake Lively’s hair in Gossip Girl, this stuff is made for long hair. I like it a lot, but haven’t decided yet if it’s worth the hefty price-tag ($59 from my hairdresser).

Style: No bangs, high, messy bun finished with Elnett. Because I’m always ready for horseback-riding, or that new 5-star restaurant downtown. Also, I splurged on a CHI hairdryer.

beauty on the outside: what now?

It’s time to fill in some blank spots.

Life is much more than cool pictures on instagram; I feel lucky to be where I am right now, but to be honest, the picture I’ve shared has been unbalanced. Here’s to finding balance.

BOTO began while I was finishing my BS at PSU.

It was born on a gloomy day during Spring Break, sunlight tentatively peeking through the blinds of our SE Portland townhouse. It was just a few months before my wedding, and it was during one of the most challenging periods of my life.

School was tough: I was trying to finish my pre-med requirements, and prepping for the MCAT. Seasonal Affective Disorder was still clinging to me with it’s cold, vise-like grip. Out of nowhere, my formerly supportive fiance dropped a bomb– he didn’t want to be married to a medical student, or to a MD. Suddenly, I had to choose between the thing I’d been working towards for years, and the man I loved. Invitations had been out for months, plane tickets and travel plans had already been made by my family. What choice did I have?

I felt utterly helpless.

I sat down and started a blog.

Later, after the wedding, BOTO evolved into a perfume blog and I deleted most of my early posts. I channeled my energy into exploring something beautiful, something safe–no dangerous introspection about my emotional state: just beautiful perfume! While my world was crumbling, I focused on a pleasure I could access– fragrance.

He broke up with me before the wedding. He broke up with me again after we got back from the honeymoon. Few people know this. He broke up with me whenever I got out of line. I almost didn’t survive him, and have the hospital bracelet (9/19/09) to prove it. What gave me hope, what got me through, was the writing.

BOTO was the thing that helped me get through–the people who came into my life because of it gave me courage and hope. After the divorce, I walked away from this space. I think maybe because I wanted a fresh start. My personal policy has been, No looking back! But that’s not quite right: BOTO tugs at me, as it always has.

Beauty on the Outside is a tool: I used it to focus on something I could control–pleasure for pleasures sake, and what that pleasure experience did for my internal self. Ultimately, it helped me find freedom.

What now? The answer eludes me. Perfume remains a major part of my life: yesterday I wore Puredistance Black, and I bought a bottle of CK Dark Obsession off eBay for 30-bucks. I’ve managed to convince Josh Meyer to work with me again on a new perfume project, and I’ve got The Guy wearing Kilian.

What any of this means for BOTO, I’m still figuring out. It may evolve into something completely different, but I’m still here. I’m hitting the reset button, and I’m hopeful about whatever comes next.

SOTD: L’Artisan’s Coeur de Vétiver Sacré, from Birgit.

I wore heartache to Vegas


Cape Heartache, that is.

The latest in the still moderate line-up from Imaginary Authors, I first experienced the fragrance in Josh Meyer’s basement laboratory in Portland, Oregon.

I traveled to Portland to work with Josh on our joint project: a bespoke fragrance for James Franco. Never mind that it was me & Josh doing the speaking, and James Franco merely inspiring through his varied projects. While we were narrowing down the mods, we’d take periodic breaks, step away to the work bench.

The truth about that: it was like going to Disney World as an 8-year-old. Giddy barely describes my childish glee as I sniffed the raw ingredients of my favorite fragrances. I got to sniff Josh’s personal collection (he’s a total perfumista, I don’t care how straight he is with his lovely girlfriend), I got to sniff specialty stuff he’d done for private clients (a menswear store, a museum commissioned project, et cetera), and I got to sniff what he was working on.

He handled the vial across the setting area, then waited for my response.

I sank back into the couch the moment it hit my prefrontal cortex. Immediately, I called it melancholic, purplish, and what is that note? Plummy, lush, evergreen? “Fir,” he confirmed for me.  Ahhh… fir does it for me every time.

Supposedly, in druid astrology, I’m a Fir Tree. Whatever the reason, I love fir wherever I find it.

Josh doesn’t mention iris in the notes list for this new addition, but that first moment of sniffing it blind in the basement has stuck with me. A silvery arrow striking ripe flesh, or an axe parting lively evergreen? Knowing about the perfume, its name and notes, has done something new to my perspective. Though that first blind-sniff is long gone, its ghostly trail snakes through my memory. Cape Heartache, it is named. As I experience this incarnation, I can tell you that it’s something… whole. It’s balanced, and it’s beautiful–even if it is pierced with melancholy.

I chose the sample of CH as my Vegas scent, and I chose well. This was my first trip with The Guy; which may on the surface seem melodramatic. But let me tell you why I chose it.

Evergreens are the trees that never shed, never go to sleep. They are alive and vibrant all year long, through centuries of life. Being awake that long, never being able to take a break, or look away from the life unfolding around them, I imagine evergreen trees as melancholic yes, but also wise and hopeful. When you’ve seen it all, you’re pretty much unshakable; the most essential beauty shines through.

Ok, so I like drama. Deal with it. The perfume smells great. ;)

He (and a Special Guest She) Who Smelt It – Episode 7: Send Me No Flowers

Mae West

The first of the M. Micallef vanilla based fragrances I spent time with was Vanilla Flower.

Even the sound of this one made me quiver. Vanilla Flower? Gardens and Sugar? Pansies and honey? Sounds like my worst nightmare. Maybe it’s self-fulfilling prophecy, but it turned out I was right. This one really overwhelmed me. I gave it up after a day, which I admit, is a pretty cowardly thing to do. I honestly didn’t have the heart for it. One day – that’s not enough time to give any scent its just due. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it… at least for a few days… right scentophiles? I have no excuse, and I humbly apologize for my lack of effort here, but I simply couldn’t summon the desire to see this sample through to the last drop. The Vanilla Flower and I weren’t meant to be. I can’t explain it any other way.

I knew any review I posted with so little effort (and thus, insight) wouldn’t be fit for print. Jeers and pejorative comments would rule the day. So what was I to do? I languished over the question a bit before the answer presented itself. I’d give someone else a shot, and, at the same time, allow the Vanilla Flower its fair shake. I knew there was only one person I could trust with this endeavor. She’s wonderful. She’s talented. She’s one of a kind – my good friend, Alix.

I passed the reigns over to her, and she finished off the sample for me. Here’s what she had to say:

My first whiff of this fragrance reminded me of classical music. My first impression was that I was lost between the notes of Chopin’s Nocturne. The fragrance notes initially take me to a magical place in the clouds but then the low notes bring me back down to an earthy and lush garden with mysterious corners. I could feel the fragrance enveloping me in an embrace of warmth and intimacy. It seems simple at first but it is very sophisticated. This fragrance should not be worn for light occasions or people who are timid. In a way it reminded me of my grandmother who, despite her small stature, had a commanding presence.

Overall, I felt very comfortable in this fragrance. It was strong at first then it tapered off nicely and became more subtle which was good because I was afraid I would get a raging headache from smelling it for hours on end. I would definitely wear this fragrance because I love the sweetness of it. For me, it was a wonderful pairing of something feminine: Floral but anchored in something so strong and comforting, the Vanilla.

We decided to play the “If this was a…” game with the Vanilla Flower just for fun, so I figured I’d close with that. Here are our answers:

687073-nicole-kidman-moulin-rougeIf this was a celebrity it would be – Alix says Mae West. I say Paris Hilton (and that Mae West is the perfect answer. Ahhh! That should have been mine).

If this was a song it would be – Alix says “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. I say “On the Good Ship Lollipop” by Shirley Temple.

If this was a movie it would be – Alix says “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.” I say “Moulin Rouge.”

If this was a book it would be – Alix says “Gigi” by Colette. I say anything by Nicholas Sparks.

If this was a dessert it would be – Alix says Belgian dark chocolate cake. I say Cream puffs with vanilla filling, and maybe a scoop of blue bell vanilla bean ice cream on the side for good measure.

That’s all folks! I’d like to send out a great big thank you to Alix, without whom this would not have been possible. I hope somehow we pulled this episode off.

Hope to see you next time!

He Who Smelt It – Episode 6: Vanilla H2Ewww


I tried Greek yogurt for the first time recently. It’s an abomination. So as not to appear insensitive toward foreign cultures, I sampled Icelandic yogurt as well. Guess what? It’s every bit as repugnant. I have wondered if what I’ve attempted to choke down is a bastardized Americanization or an authentic import, but considering its popularity, does it even matter? Every grocer’s cooler is packed with the stuff. People can’t seem to get enough of it. I can’t seem to get it at all. If the international yogurt community prefers it this way, shame on them. If America has created this glop and passed it off as an exotic delicacy, then shame on us.

It’s not like I ask a lot from my yogurt either. Two things matter: taste and texture. This stuff egregiously offends on both accounts. It’s the consistency of spackle and tastes like it’s already begun the trek south toward sour. After you swallow, it somehow gets worse and pulls a sort of sadistic magic trick. A barf-like aftertaste hits that’s beyond anything we should be expected to endure for the sake of digestive health. Few substances can claim to taste like vomit on the way in. This is one of them.  Each bite caused me to break out in a cold sweat and had me smacking my lips to rid my gills of the taste. I even let loose a few of those wispy after-vomit spits that always seem necessary after you’ve retched.

This brief diatribe is a pretty good metaphor for my feelings about M. Micallef Vanilla Marine.

It all starts innocently enough – sweet, flowery, but with a touch of spice. It’s very much the twin of M. Micallef Vanilla Flower – maybe not identical, but with the only difference being the subtle hint of fruit the Vanilla Flower gives off, at least fraternal. Thirty minutes in, though, whatever resemblance they shared quickly vanishes. The spice disappears and its sweet flowery elements grow stronger. As if that wasn’t frou frou enough, it then whips out its own magic wand. It waves it through the air and a powdery scent permeates your world and whisks your mind away to some far off, frilly land of unicorns and rainbows.

Funny thing is, I had actually been hastened to this place before.

My grandmother used to take two hours to get ready every morning.  The days when we planned a breakfast out, the rest of the family would wait patiently, hoping maybe that would be the day she shifted things into turbo. That day never came. We’d eventually begin to huff and roll our eyes at one another, but we never made a fuss about things. She was just too sweet. When she’d finally rise from her cushy pillow-covered throne and emerge, those of us who hadn’t passed out from hunger were hit full on by a scented powder cloud that was so thick and pungent it took the rest of the day to dissipate. I’m not sure which combo of soaps, perfumes, antiperspirant/deodorants, powders, or other chemicals made up the low-hanging nimbus that enveloped us, but I think most of them ended up in M. Micallef Vanilla Marine.

This scent, like Greek yogurt, takes a faulty step right from the beginning and quickly sprints off in a direction I’m unwilling to follow. But, as is always the case, what do I know? I’m the foremost authority on neither… but for the bad taste they’ve left in my mouth, I give each an emphatic thumb down.

SOTE: Agent Provacateur


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).

I digress.

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.

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