Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

For ten glorious minutes, No. 5 L’Eau is exactly as promised: No. 5 with an Instagram filter. Brightened, a little desaturated. A sheer, slender No. 5, brimming with the signature sparkling aldehydes, paler than its predecessors. For those first ten minutes, I found L’Eau undeniably lovely, and would have happily recommended it to anyone who prefers No. 5’s effervescent top notes to the golden warmth of its drydown. But the family resemblance quickly fades, and L’Eau softens into a wisp of a white floral with a cloud of that white musk Chanel is so damn fond of lately.

No. 5 L’Eau is unambitiously pretty. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want in a perfume. But it’s not what I want from a No. 5. The original No. 5 revolutionized the definitions of femininity in perfumery, liberating women from floral fragrances. Taming that rebel yell into L’Eau’s tasteful whisper doesn’t sit quite right with me. I don’t like seeing L’Eau’s wonderfully distinctive opening smoothed into unremarkable pleasantness, especially in light of Chanel’s declaration that “No. 5 L’Eau is the No. 5 of today.” Because this demurely bland little fragrance is not the No. 5 we need today. We need the trailblazing No. 5, the No. 5 that put some steel in your spine. Now more than ever.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My No. 5 L’Eau sample was acquired at Sephora. 

Tom Ford Ombre Leather 16


Tom Ford gets a fair amount of sass here on Scents of Self (see: “grody mustache” and “unworthy of a Drake verse“), so it’s nice to get to do a positive review this time! (Don’t think this means I’m softening on the stubble, Tom. I know you’re capable of beard greatness.)

Why would you not look like this if you could look like this??
What do I have to do to make you embrace the beard, Tom? Do I have to buy a bottle of Tobacco Vanille? Okay, you talked me into it. 

Ombre Leather 16, the new Private Blend inspired by Tom’s 2016 fall runway, is a superbly plush leather. It’s not a rough, tanner’s leather (think Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories, or Tom Ford’s own Tuscan Leather), and it’s not a delicate, handbag suede (Cuir de Lancome, Bottega Veneta). Ombre Leather 16 is a sofa leather, as smooth as the finest leather upholstery. Other notes listed include violet leaf, jasmine sambac, and cardamom, but they keep their heads down; it’s really all about the leather. Is Ombre Leather 16 worth $225 for 1.7 ounces? Only you can make that call. Does it smell like it could be? I have to say it does.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I tested Ombre Leather 16 at my local Nordstrom.

An Anniversary Thank You

September 26, 2015!

The party’s not until November 5, but today is the actual one year mark for Arielle Shoshana. When I open the shop this morning, I’ll see your faces smiling at me from the Polaroids on the shelves. I’ll see the cash register that my mom manned for seven straight Saturdays after we opened. I’ll see the shelf lights that my dad spent hours soldering into place. I’ll see the exquisitely organized drawers that my best friend Daisy came all the way down from New York to help us set up. I look at the shop that they and you and I have kept open for an entire year, and I feel completely overcome.

Thank you to each and every one of the 1,483 people who’ve chosen a fragrance at Arielle Shoshana in the last year. Thank you for proving that D.C. was ready to smell more interesting. Thank you for the utter privilege of getting to meet you and talk with you and sniff with you. Today and every day, I feel so, so lucky to have you.

Missoni Eau de Toilette

Ten years ago, Missoni released a daring, excellent fragrance by the immensely talented Maurice Roucel. It was a pretty drastic flop, discontinued by 2011. Missoni has clearly learned their lesson: no good perfumes ever again! Instead, we get Escada summer release rejects. Missoni Eau de Toilette is a juicy, more-than-a-little-plastic-y pear-based fruity floral. It smells fine, if very Bath and Body Works, but it feels a little like wearing a full Juicy Couture tracksuit in 2016. Like, oh, are we still doing that? Are we still doing cash-grab fruity florals? I thought we were doing cash-grab gourmands now.

Maybe that’s too harsh. If an interesting and quality fragrance didn’t succeed, I gueeeeeess I can see how going in the complete opposite direction could seem like the right answer. But forgettable perfume is never the answer. Not in the age of 1,620 annual fragrance releases. (And that’s just 2014’s number.)

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored (clearly!) and does not contain affiliate links. I tested Missoni Eau de Toilette at my local Bloomingdale’s.

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon and Rose


Time of death: September 9, 2015. “The celebrity party is over,” WWD pronounced, citing the $100 million drop in celebrity fragrance sales between 2011 and 2015. It’s time for the afterparty, a more exclusive gathering of celebrities who made smarter decisions about their fragrance lines. At the top of the guest list are the Olsen twins, those plucky slow lorises behind Elizabeth and James.

Downright uncanny.

Nirvana Bourbon and Rose are the latest in a long line of shrewd choices over at Elizabeth and James. Rather than flooding the market with flankers after the huge success of the original Nirvana fragrances, the Olsens took a respectable three years to develop the next pair. The happy result: two solid-quality fragrances that actually surpass the originals.

Nirvana Bourbon is the clear breakout star of the duo. It’s a sheer, woody vanilla, closely related to niche vanillas like Arquiste The Architects Club and Le Labo Vanille 44. This is very good stuff, especially for the price ($25 rollerballs are yet another smart Olsen decision). Nirvana Rose is an elegantly musty rose; think warmer and less fresh than Stella McCartney Stella. I prefer Nirvana Bourbon for myself, but I respect the creative risk behind Nirvana Rose. Young American customers tend to be suspicious of rose notes, and while Nirvana Rose certainly isn’t heavy, it’s not a light, fresh rose, either.

That’s the secret to the Nirvana fragrances’ success, I think. They’re not lowest common denominator scents. They respect our intelligence. The nosedive in celebrity perfume sales is a lesson to brands who insult the customer’s intelligence by slapping a celebrity’s name on increasingly awful juice. You can’t get away with that anymore. Party on, Olsens!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I tested Nirvana Bourbon and Rose at my local Sephora.