Siwa was part of a breathtaking Memo Paris discovery set that was included in my Sniffapalooza goodie bag. I oohed, aahed, and promptly forgot about it. For two years. Please, hold your applause.
Siwa is a little tricky to explain. It’s a floral with a lot of vanilla, but it’s not a sweet floral. Instead, it’s a fresh, lush narcissus fragrance and a vanilla fragrance. The two components don’t combine or interact; you experience both at the same time. It’s a very cool effect! Sadly, Siwa’s more dramatic listed notes (whiskey lactone and popcorn accord) are completely undetectable. The only comparison I can think of is Hermessence Vanille Galante, but Vanille Galante is sweeter, more blended. Oh, and Cartier Baiser Volé, but Baiser Volé smells much more artificial.
Siwa is really quite lovely, but there are two major problems. First is lasting power. Siwa has the worst lasting power of any fragrance that I’ve ever tried in my life. It was gone from my skin in literally 20 minutes. At the $210 price point, that’s pretty inexcusable. Which brings us to Problem 2. $210 for 75 ml isn’t unprecedented for niche perfumery, but if I’m spending more than $200, I would probably just go for the Hermessence ($255/100 ml).
Carven Le Parfum is an average-but-pleasant fruity white floral. It opens with juicy top notes (the official notes say mandarin, but the best my nose can do is “non-berry fruit”) and segues into a high-pitched bouquet that thins out over time. Carven Le Parfum instantly reminded me of Elie Saab, another Francis Kurkdjian creation, but a side-by-side comparison confirmed that the two fragrances are actually more different than similar. Elie Saab is thicker, sweeter, and more distinctive than the fresher Carven Le Parfum.
Carven Le Parfum probably wouldn’t be my first choice for a white floral, since there are quite a few great options in that category right now (Jour de Hermes, Cartier Baiser Vole, the aforementioned Elie Saab), but I’m always happy to see a brand choose to release a white floral over another fruitchouli. I’m also really taken with that elegant ad.
I go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, it’s always nice to see a lily fragrance. They seem to have fallen out of style in recent years, but I’ve always enjoyed their innocent-girls-in-white-sundresses appeal. Unlike the ubiquitous rose, which is inextricably linked to the most generic kinds of romance, lilies evoke elegance and gracefulness. With Diorissimo reformulated and Donna Karan Gold discontinued, many of the once-great lily perfumes are now lost to us. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Cartier Baiser Vole is not the Lily Messiah. It is not the fantastic lily fragrance that will usher in the Second Coming of Diorissimo. It is a perfectly pleasant lily perfume, at least at first.
Baiser Vole starts out as a gorgeously ethereal lily scent, so photorealistic that you can almost feel the orange fur of the stamens. Unfortunately, after half an hour or so, Baiser Vole takes on a more artificial, scented-feminine-products vibe. I’m thinking that the budget ran out with the topnotes. Despite this eventual descent into Tampax territory, Baiser Vole is one of the nicer mainstream lily fragrances. As I said before, this ain’t Diorissimo, but it does have a prim prettiness to it. It strikes me as ideal for the kind of woman who doesn’t mind being seen as a bit aloof.