Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540

Standard perfumista wisdom warns against wearing one of your favorite perfumes on first dates. That way, if the date goes badly, you don’t risk tainting one of your tried and trues with a negative association. (I still can’t touch Lush Tuca Tuca after a particularly rough OKCupid date at a Lord of the Rings-themed restaurant, during which I was lectured about the Singularity for longer than Return of the King. EXTENDED EDITION.)

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In keeping with this principle, I decided on Baccarat Rouge, a scent I had spent very little time with, for the first date with my now-boyfriend Garrett. (This is the first time I’ve mentioned a boyfriend on the blog since college. I will be so mad if he dumps me tomorrow.)

No turning back now- meet Garrett, everyone!

Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian has described Baccarat Rouge as “burnt strawberry jam”, and that’s wonderfully accurate. Baccarat Rouge opens with a mouthwatering caramelized effect, candied with just a touch of savory. Fascinatingly, Baccarat Rouge is based around a very common ingredient, ethyl maltol, the sweet core of mainstream blockbusters like Thierry Mugler Angel and Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb. But where Angel and Flowerbomb are massive, hulking fragrances, Baccarat’s sweetness is airy, streamlined. It’s candy, but it’s polished, subtle candy, like a delicate toile of sugar on a Michelin-rated dessert. The burnt strawberry jam never fades away, but it’s gradually given depth by a quiet, fresh jasmine note, which just so happens to be the only kind of jasmine I can tolerate.

The ultimate proof of Baccarat Rouge’s allure? After a few months, Garrett ordered his own bottle.

What are your go-to date fragrances? Any scents you’ve had to banish after bad first dates?

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. 

An Economic Anxiety Diary

Two weeks of national chaos, as charted by my retail therapy.

January 22, 2017

Retail Therapy: Everlane Sweater Dress

My beautiful friend Katri stops by the shop for tea. I show her my pictures from the Women’s March on Washington the day before. “You look just like your mom,” Katri says. My mother’s smile in the picture is as wide as her “Feminist” sticker.

January 26, 2017

Retail Therapy: Crazy Sexy Wool in Stonewash Blue, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, Snotgirl #2

My current nervous habit, brutalizing my cuticles with tweezers, has one fatal flaw: eventually you run out of cuticles. Knitting seems like a healthier way to keep my hands busy, even if the only thing I currently know how to knit are increasingly long rectangles (“scarves” seems overly generous). As rumored, Looped Yarn Works (a very cute yarn shop in Dupont Circle) is 100% sold out of pink yarn.

My favorite D.C. comic book shop, Fantom Comics, is just a few blocks away, and today they’re donating 15% of the days’ sales to Planned Parenthood in honor of the March for Life downtown. I pick up the new Squirrel Girl and a back-issue of Snotgirl. (Don’t let the gross name scare you away from a delicious murder mystery!)

January 27, 2017

Retail Therapy: The Ordinary Retinol 1% and 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil

Woke up to an executive order banning Syrian refugees. Donated to the ACLU between bites of cereal. Both sets of grandparents are WWII refugees; my father’s father from Ukraine, my mother’s mother from Sicily. Are we still the country that welcomed them? I decide that I will face the coming days with clear goddamn skin. Will report back on the retinol.

January 28, 2017

Retail Therapy: Jane Mai Motivational Notebook

The first day of the Lunar New Year. The shop is pleasantly busy all day, and my boyfriend and parents meet me for shabu-shabu after work. Life feels more full than I could ever deserve. Apparently pomelos symbolize abundance and prosperity during the Lunar New Year, so I make sure to hose myself down with Atelier Cologne Pomelo Paradis. It’s a charmingly familiar tradition as a Jew; pomegranates (with their many seeds) are a Rosh Hashana symbol of abundance.

January 31, 2017

Retail Therapy: Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

A lot of my first fragrance loves have drifted back onto my radar recently. Lipstick Rose, the first Frederic Malle I ever tried, sweet-talked me into bringing it home at Aedes de Venustas last month. And when New Haarlem, which I wore to freaking prom, dropped below $100 on FragranceNet, I had to click “buy”. Is it nostalgia? An escape to years that felt less troubled and uncertain?

The night of the inauguration, the unsinkable Alyssa Harad visited Arielle Shoshana for a reading of her memoir, Coming To My Senses. The last passage she chose was a list of inalienable rights to which every perfume wearer is entitled, which ends, “The right, when she wants it, to take up some space.” New Haarlem, for better or for worse, sure does take up space. This brazen frappachino of a perfume is a talisman around my wrist, a reminder that I have space to fill and ground to hold, too.

Alyssa Harad + enraptured audience.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored (could you tell?) and does not contain affiliate links.

Bulgari Omnia

I never expected to be able to write this post! The perfume gods are cruel and fickle, and Bulgari Omnia (the 2003 original) is one of their many casualties. Omnia was discontinued years before I ever knew I needed it. (Inexplicably, a good seven Omnia flankers are all still on the market, fruitfully multiplying.) So when Omnia popped up in an unusually great RueLaLa sale last week, I pounced! It was a risky little blind buy, but Omnia is everything I could have hoped for: an unsweetened chai latte of a scent, with gorgeous heaps of saffron, a splash of almond milk, and the gentlest dusting of spices.

Its closest living relative is probably Etat Libre d’Orange Tom of Finland (switch out the leather for woods), or a much paler L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two. Omnia is very light, but has surprisingly decent lasting power.

If I had to guess why such a gem was discontinued, I’d speculate that Omnia might not have fit particularly comfortably into the mainstream feminine fragrance mold. With little sweetness and no florals, it lacks any of the more obvious “THIS IS A LADY PERFUME WE PROMISE” signifiers. Which reminds me a little of Marni, another quality sheer, spicy perfume that quickly disappeared from department store shelves despite adorable packaging and aggressive marketing. Maybe someday, mainstream perfumery will have more of a space for more androgynous beauty. Until that day comes, $48.29 on FragranceNet, y’all!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My Omnia decant comes from a split with lovely fragrant friends.

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

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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.