This month’s Allure has an article with quotes from all of our perfume friends (Victoria Frolova, Mandy Aftel, Alyssa Harad, and Barbara Herman), so of course I had to pick it up. This issue also has another perfume-themed article, “Uncommon Scents”, that talks about gender-bending perfumes. It starts off promisingly enough: “Fragrance- complex, faceted, enigmatic fragrance- isn’t simply masculine or feminine… So why get all caught up in this his-or-hers business?” But not a paragraph later, the “Rules for Women” section offers the following advice: “You don’t want to smell like a cowboy. Avoid aggressive, muscular notes, such as leather and tobacco, and hightail it away from any scent that combines both. ‘These are what I call animalic scents, and they’re much too rugged for women’, says perfumer Jean-Claude Deville.” For once, men receive equally gendered advice: “Skip dessert. Gourmand notes (vanilla, chocolate) and fruits (apple, berry) have a sugary side so undeniably feminine that few men would feel comfortable wearing them.”
It’s odd and a bit disappointing to see this sort of limited thinking from Allure, whose fragrance coverage is usually miles ahead of other magazines (Frederic Malle has had an Allure column since 2007). I don’t know about y’all, but I think I’ll stick with my Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories over Monsieur Deville’s less “rugged” feminine fragrances, which include Baby Phat Goddess and Paris Hilton Can-Can. In general, I’m pretty over people telling women what they should or should not smell like. I’ve been re-reading Perfumes: The Guide recently for work, and I found myself getting annoyed with Luca Turin’s constant insistence that “women should not smell like flowers.” I do what I want, Luca! It’s sort of like when dudes say “Women shouldn’t wear makeup. Stop covering up your natural beauty.” Even if it’s a different message than the ones that women usually receive, you’re still telling me what to do.
Let’s finish with a poll based on the Allure article: ladies, what are your favorite “rugged” perfumes? Gentlemen, what are your favorite gourmands?
Have I mentioned that I like gin?
I thought I might have.
A Gin Fizz is a glamorously retro cocktail from New Orleans that consists of gin, sugar, lemon juice, and soda/tonic. (13.5% in Baltimore makes a gorgeous grapefruit Gin Fizz, if you’re ever in town.) Lubin Gin Fizz really does smell remarkably like a gin and tonic, meaning a prominent juniper note and nose-tickling aldehydes. Not to the extent that you’ll be labeled the office lush, of course; I think that anyone who didn’t know that this was supposed to be a gin perfume would simply interpret it as a refreshing, effervescent floral.
The original version of Gin Fizz was released by Lubin in 1955. I don’t know a thing about it, except that it was apparently good enough for Luca Turin to request its re-release in his Perfumes: The Guide. A Luckyscent review claims that the new Gin Fizz smells the same as the old, but has inferior lasting power. I actually get higher-than-average wear time with Gin Fizz, but if you don’t, the price ($150 for 100 ml) is decent enough for a niche perfume that you can feel okay about frequent reapplication.
Oh, and if you were wondering what happened to my gin masterpiece, it’s coming along quite nicely.
Beige has an (undeserved, I maintain) reputation for being the weakest of the Chanel Les Exclusifs line. Luca Turin called it “a total screwup” and declared that “it smells like a dated, dismal average of Ma Griffe, L’Air du Tempts, and Climat.” (It smells like none of these things. Like, at all.) Beige is also often denigrated as shampoo-like, which, well, if your shampoo smells like this, I want the name. To me, Beige is a luscious tropical white floral, like a smoother version of my beloved Kai or a less aquatic take on the original Marc Jacobs perfume. Beige is probably the most accessible of the Les Exclusifs- no prickly aldehydes or austere iris, just creamy white petals. It is sweet and lovely and wholly unobjectionable. Beige may not be the most unique perfume on the block, but it smells great, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the point of perfume? (Now, would I pay Chanel prices for it? Not while Kai is only $48.)
Perfumes: The Guide is a landmark. It is the only book of its kind, and I adore the vast majority of its 1,800 amusing, often poetic perfume reviews. But every work (except for Star Trek V) has its flaws, and Perfume’s greatest is its Mona di Orio reviews. (YEAH I SAID V WANNA FIGHT ABOUT IT NO OTHER STAR TREK FILM HUMANIZES MCCOY TO THE SAME EXTENT) Luca Turin’s criticism of Mona’s perfumes was bizarrely and cruelly personal. I refer to the following humorless swipe at Mona’s appearance: “Di Orio describes herself in her press materials as a ‘living Modigliani’, which, desirable or not, is clearly delusional.” (The weird part is that Mona di Orio actually did look quite a bit like Modigliani’s female subjects, which have similarly thin faces and dramatic noses.) I don’t care if Mona di Orio stood up Luca Turin’s favorite grandmother at the goddamn altar- it’s unbelievably inappropriate to disparage a perfumer’s physical appearance, which is entirely irrelevant to their work. These reviews seem even more callous in light of Mona di Orio’s unexpected death at the age of 42 in 2011.
I haven’t tried any of Mona di Orio’s earlier work. I have no idea if her first perfumes were as “hilariously bad” as Turin claims. I can only say that Vanille is very good. Vanille smells like boozy vanilla extract and cigarette smoke, with the emphasis on the smoke rather than the booze. This is a common enough perfume archetype, but I find Vanille unusually restrained for its genre. It is darker than L’Artisan Havana Vanille, and quieter than Guerlain Spirituese Double Vanille. The closest parallel I can draw is to MAC MV3, a fabulous and tragically discontinued leather vanilla. Vanille is better than beautiful- it’s mysterious, intriguing without being provocative. Highly recommended to those who prefer their vanillas dark.