Le Labo Ylang 49

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I am learning the coolest stuff at Osswald, y’all. Like, I always thought that chypre perfumes were defined by the presence of oakmoss, but it turns out that the word “chypre” comes from a legend involving the Cyprus island. Apparently the Greek goddess Aphrodite wanted to destroy everything that might possibly compete with her beauty, so she razed every flower on Cyprus. (It only sounds bad until you remember all the weird shit Zeus used to do.) So, in keeping with this myth, chypre fragrances were originally defined by the absence of floral notes!

Le Labo Ylang 49 is a floral chypre (which seems like it should be an oxymoron, but for some reason no one ever consults me on these matters). Semantics aside, the structure works very well- the ylang-ylang softens the sharp bite of the oakmoss, and the oakmoss keeps the ylang-ylang’s sweetness in check. What’s curious about Ylang 49 is that the oakmoss actually disappears approximately halfway through the perfume’s life, causing Ylang 49 to transition into a simpler heady white floral fragrance. But for those initial hours, Ylang 49 is every inch the proper chypre fragrance, guaranteed to send young whippersnappers off shrieking “old lady” faster than you can say “ageism”. My young whippersnapper tastes prefer Le Labo’s other new release, Lys 41, but I applaud Le Labo for releasing a true chypre fragrance, and I rejoice for the perfumistas who have been waiting for one.

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Juicy Couture Juicy Couture

I remember Juicy Couture’s glory days (approximately 2003-2006) very well. We’re talking the The Simple Life era, when walking around in a Juicy tracksuit and Uggs was fashion-forward rather than hopelessly tacky and accessorizing with a chihuahua was mandatory. Sadly, time has not been kind to Juicy Couture. Paris Hilton went to jail; The Simple Life was cancelled. We gradually came to the realization that Uggs are more hideous than stylish, and purse-size chihuahuas can be a little annoying.

While Juicy Couture may no longer hold the sway it once did, its fragrance line remains very successful. Juicy’s first fragrance, the self-titled Juicy Couture, debuted in 2006. It is still my favorite of the Juicy fragrances. I’ve always liked the way this perfume smells. Juicy Couture pairs an excessively sugary watermelon note with an elegant tuberose note. The tuberose actually makes Juicy Couture a little too sophisticated for its target audience- many of the MakeupAlley reviews call it “old lady”. Still, this ain’t Coty Chypre. If you do not like sweet fragrances, stay far, far away. Someone at the Juicy factory was a little heavy-handed with the sugar.

Disclaimer: I got my sample of Juicy Couture from Nordstrom.

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.