Bond No 9 Fire Island


Chinatown is widely acknowledged to be the most creative (and the most attractively packaged) fragrance in the Bond No 9 line-up. I believe that Fire Island is the runner-up in both categories. Fire Island, which contains notes of cardamom, neroli, white musk, tuberose, and patchouli, has a rather clever shtick: it smells exactly like Ambre Solaire , the famous French sunscreen. “But Ari,” I hear you asking, “Why would anyone want to smell like sunscreen?” I’m so glad you asked, darling readers. It turns out that sunscreen can smell pretty dang good! Also, I have a Cullen-esque fear of sun damage, so the smell of sunscreen makes me feel safe and protected.

Just putting this out there: real vampires do not “sparkle”. They have blonde hair and incredible bone structure and are named Spike and oh my God Buffy the Vampire Slayer why did you leave my life.

The most prominent note in Fire Island is tuberose, traditionally a ball-buster of a scent. Fire Island feels far more mellow, more casual, and more sensual than its tuberose peers. Imagine how Fracas, an ultra-glamorous but slightly imperious tuberose, would smell after laying out on a private beach in the Hamptons for a few hours. Fire Island perfectly embodies those Michael Kors ads, which generally feature unbearably chic women disembarking from private planes or hanging off the side of a yacht.

Disclaimer: I got my sample of Fire Island from the fantastic Chevy Chase Saks. Fire Island is available in 50 and 100 ml bottles at select Saks Fifth Avenues and Bond No 9 boutiques.

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Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse/Champagne

This is about as good as it gets, in my opinion. Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse was created by Sophia Grojsman in 1993, initially debuting under the name “Champagne”. The Champagne lobby wasn’t really feeling that, so YSL was forced to rechristen this fabulous perfume with a much less attractive name. Champagne is my very favorite drink. I always think of Holly Golightley drinking champagne before breakfast in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, her effervescent charm as intoxicating as those delightful bubbles.

On that note, just to give y’all a quick sense of who I am and what I bring to this site, I will say that while I often mention Marilyn Monroe in reviews, in truth I have much more in common with Audrey Hepburn (or, if you’re a Gossip Girl fan, I’m much more of a Blair than a Serena). Even as a blonde, I wasn’t quite come-hither enough to be a Marilyn. On the other hand, those classic Audrey standbys- pearls, big brown eyes, and wickedly flirtatious banter- have never failed me yet.

Anyway, back to Yvresse! Does Yvresse actually smell like champagne? Not really, although the drydown does smell quite a bit like wine. Rather, Yvresse captures the excitement of champagne, that feeling that you are about to break into giggles. Yvresse opens with glittering aldehydes and a blast of what Robin at Now Smell This identifies at nectarine, which almost feels like the tickle of champagne bubbles. It then becomes lusciously peachy and golden- fans of the juicy peach note in Bond No 9’s Chinatown will love this. There is also a supremely creamy vanilla note that reminded me very much of Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose, one of my all-time favorites. The anise note is barely detectable, so don’t let that scare you off.

With basenotes of oakmoss and patchouli, Yvresse definitely falls under the category of chypre. However, the chypre reputation for “difficult” perfumes is all wrong for Yvresse. It is nothing but a delight from start to finish. To me, Yvresse sends a very clear message: “Why yes, I am impossibly glamorous. I probably have a mysterious past and some thoroughly delightful eccentricities.”

Yvresse is no longer sold in U.S. stores, although you can still find it on the Yves Saint Laurent website ($60 for 2 oz). However, it is very widely available at reputable online perfume discounters for around $20 for 2 oz. This is a frankly unbelievable price for such a stunner.

Disclaimer: I swapped for my bottle of Yvresse.

Bond No 9 Chinatown

When I was in California for Christmas this winter, we saw the new Terry Gilliam movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. It was strange, and very good, but mostly sad, because as everyone knows it was the last movie in which Heath Ledger appeared. As I watched, I really felt the loss.

British supermodel Lily Cole had a big part in this movie, and I can’t lie: I was pretty skeptical going in. When was the last time you saw a model do so much as a half-decent job as an actress? They gave Giselle all of, what, one line in The Devil Wears Prada? But to her credit, Ms. Cole was just fantastic. And more relevantly to this review, her character, Valentina, looks just like I imagine Bond No 9 Chinatown would if it was a person and not a perfume.

Valentina is a gypsy of a girl- flaming red hair, colorful, patched-up rags for clothes, a face that grabs and holds your attention. In my mind, Chinatown would be far from a conventional beauty (Lily Cole is actually quite weird looking). But like Valentina, some wild and indefinable quality about her compells all of the boys, even Heath Ledger, to promptly fall in love.

Chinatown is a juicy combination of peaches, bergamot, incense and sandalwood. It immediately reminded me of the most delicious plum tea that I once had. Unlike more “difficult” niche perfumes, Chinatown just plain smells good. One word of caution is that this “fruity chypre” is both very sweet and very strong. Although I think that the free spirited Chinatown is fabulous, it is a little too “hippie” for me personally. I fancy myself a little more polished, more of a Marilyn than a Brigitte Bardot. Chinatown would be perfect on some of the “boho” celebrities, like Jade Jagger, Sienna Miller, Erykah Badu.

Chinatown is often called the masterpiece of the Bond No 9 house, a line famous for gorgeous bottles and obscene pricing. It is not my personal favorite (that would be New Haarlem, which is essentially a wearable frappachino), but when I wore it for the first time in a while for this review, I was surprised and delighted by just how good it is.

Lolita Lempicka, L de Lolita Lempicka

If you were to ask me what the holiest site in Israel is, I wouldn’t respond with “The Western Wall” or “The Dome of the Rock”. Every woman knows that the most sacred place in our tiny, beloved country is the Michal Negrin store. Michal Negrin is primarily a jewelry store chain (although it seems to be expanding into the lifestyle business, with everything from clothing to wallpaper). The general theme appears to be wistful, old-fashioned pictures of women bedazzled by colorful rhinestones. It’s all very over the top, but somehow manages to stay on the right side of kitsch. I once spent a full hour there agonizing over whether I should buy the green version of the following 400 shekel ($100) decorative elephant. My best friend wisely dragged me away, but damned if I don’t miss that stupid elephant.

If the Michal Negrin store had a perfume line, it would undoubtedly be something like the Lolita Lempicka brand. Lolita Lempicka, with its stunning glass bottles and consistently interesting scents,  is somewhat of an oddity in the mainstream perfume world. Today I’ll be reviewing the original Lolita Lempicka, which was released in 1997 (which is freaking ancient in perfume years), and the newer L de Lolita Lempicka.

First up, Lolita Lempicka. In the wake of Angel, which was released in 1992, hundreds of copycats flooded the market, hoping to capitalize on Angel’s monstrous success. Lolita Lempicka has often been accused of being such a knockoff. I personally see no resemblance, although like Angel, Lolita seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it fragrance. I was solidly in the “hate” camp for many years. I thought it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever smelled. It was insanely sweet and smelled just like licorice (my least favorite note). I was legitimately puzzled as to how that gorgeous apple-shaped bottle could house such a revolting smell.

I finally retried it last weekend and am frankly feeling a little foolish. Lolita Lempicka is delicious and delicately pretty. It smells like sweet pastry dough and cherries. It is still very sweet, but when comparing it to L by Lolita Lempicka for this review, I was shocked to discover that Lolita Lempicka is actually less sweet and considerably softer. Luca Turin, a famous perfume critic, gave Lolita Lempicka one of his very rare five-star ratings in his “Perfumes: The Guide”. He declared it “the ideal accompaniment for flirtatious banter from prim girls in glasses.” As a lifelong four-eyes, I agree wholeheartedly. According to Basenotes, the notes are ivy, anise seed, violet, amarise, licorice, amarena, vetiver, tonka, vanilla and musk.

Unlike its predecessor, L de Lolita Lempicka gave me no trouble whatsoever. Created in 2006 by perfumer Maurice Roucel, L is imminently lovable. It begins with citrus and cinnamon, much like Maurice Roucel’s other masterpiece, Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur. L is far softer than Musc Ravageur, and for the most part smells much like freshly baked Snickerdoodle cookies. L would be rather generic, albeit delicious, if it were not for a curious salty note lurking in the background. That saltiness can be attributed to the immortelle flower, a note rarely seen in perfumery.

L is not quite as intellectual as her older sister, but she’s quite a crowd pleaser. My friends often ask to borrow perfume from me before we go out. They don’t want my Prada or Classique (“too heavy”) and they certainly don’t want my Yvresse or Chinatown. Inevitably they reach for the sweet, irresistible L.

Lolita Lempicka has a new scent, Si Lolita, which was released in France last summer but has no U.S. release date beyond “2010”. However, it has been getting very good reviews on other perfume blogs such as Perfume Posse, and the bottle is nothing short of stunning. I eagerly await its arrival.

Disclaimer: I own bottles of Lolita Lempicka and L de Lolita Lempicka, both purchased at Sephora.