Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Transitioning Hermes fragrance from hot to cool weather: From Eau de Merveilles to Elixir and L'Ambre

The prevailing advantage of the concept for Eau de Merveilles by Hermes was presenting a fragrance marketed to women that did not emit a single floral note. True, it did include a violet ionone effect which veers into the woody spectrum, but the general impression of the scent was an orange ade-sprinkled, woody-amber, salty skin-scent. The execution was so successful that it begat its own series of flanker fragrances, among which two at least present their individual accomplishments with the excellence expected out of the master stroke of perfumer genius; so good are they, that they could be appreciated without prior knowledge of their ancestor.

Elixir de Merveilles came out in 2006 and possesses that odd twist: the woody structure is given a steeping into sweeter materials, yet the resulting effect isn't really sweet at all. The chypre-reminiscent earthy note of patchouli gives a grounding to the orange ode of the original; in fact it coerces it into recalling more of the rind of the fruit than the juice. The rind is by its very nature resinous, thus colliding with the other resinous materials in the background, providing that much needed liaison. But because orange rind is lightly bitterish and refreshing, akin to the scent of fresh sweat, Elixir de Merveilles becomes perfect for summer when one's body is slick with sweat, mingling with the humidity of the environment the over-ripeness and the loaded pong of the vegetal matter, but retaining its lived-in chic. And for reasons of having exactly that earthy, bookish quality about it, it's perfect for transitioning into fall seamlessly.

L'Ambre de Merveilles (2012) on the other hand presents a transparently warm halo on its wearer, which puts the golden light of a late autumnal day over tender skin, much like Faure's Sicilienne does for the mood of a melancholy Sunday afternoon when the hands of the clock seem stuck in molasses...The patchouli subsists, attenuated, tipsy with balsamic caramel sweetness. The traditional labdanum that provides the backbone of the "amber" chord gives L'Ambre a subtly animalistic touch, the feral eyebrows contrasting with the square-jawed heavy-set face of a rather carnal beauty. It's what one dreams of when the galloping of an imaginary carriage is drawing further away and feeling the eerie sensation of just what it takes "to win friends and influence people." The combined sense of ease and unease. Priceless really.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 
L'Ambre des Merveilles by Hermes perfume review
Frequent Questions: The various Hermes Merveilles flankers & limited editions
Hermes perfume reviews & news

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Body Shop Indian Night Jasmine: fragrance review

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." This quote by Indian author Arundhati Roy is one of my favorite ones, shedding light where despair has cast its long, oppressing shadow. Scent also works the same way, transforming the mundane or the forsaken into sparkle and comfort. And when that comes with no requests of owning heaps of cash the size of the Koh-i-Noor jewel from Andhra Padesh, rejoice for all involved! One such case is Indian Night Jasmine by The Body Shop, possibly the nicest fragrance in the company's current rotation.

theberry.com via

Jasmine by its very nature is a precious essence to harvest; the delicate flowers need not see the heat of the day, as they emit their strongest scent during the cloistered shadows of the night. They get picked by hand, they wilt and brown easily, emitting their narcotic scent while they die... literally dying in scent. Modern technology has managed to isolate and replicate the sweetest and freshest elements of this natural wonder and to create fragrances that come at a competitive price point.

Indian Night Jasmine by The Body Shop manages to smell smooth, lush and orientalized, befitting the imagery of wild shrubberies growing out of control somewhere in India, the "moonshine in the garden". The air is dewy, warm and heavy with the promise of romance. Eyes kohl-sooted, glimmer under the canopy of fringed lashes; skin sleek with anticipatory sweat. This could be the night.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Perfume Creation: How Focus Groups Work

If you've been reading about perfume and fragrance creation for some time (and if you've been following the Perfume Shrine specifically) you must have come across the mention of focus groups, employed by large companies like L'Oreal or such, to test the "mods" supplied by the laboratory in order to gauge whether the perfumer and his/her team should go back to the drawing board or not.

I have managed to unearth through some research a few concrete examples of just how this works exactly. The following pictures you will see are the actual questionnaires that people participating in focus groups (people off the street, so to speak, without perfumery training) were asked to fill. As you can see, and as has been mentioned on the Perfume Shrine before, the purpose of the focus group and the tool for gauging market reactions is always within the perimeters of comparison. It's always against a current best-seller. This makes for much perfume sameness to be sure; we tackled that in the past as well. But at least now you can see with your own eyes.

The two rival companies below are Lancome/L'Oreal and Dior/LVMH. They're a bit older but the point remains. Makes for fascinating commentary I bet!

Right click and open in new window to see in full size. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Estee Lauder Pleasures: fragrance review

Can there be a fragrance "fit for every woman in every season and at every moment"? A long, long time ago, this held true through the notion of the "signature scent", the olfactory equivalent of a calling card. During the 1990s - smack in the middle of which Pleasures was launched by American champion of the cosmetics counter, Estee Lauder - this notion had fallen sideways in favor of the cash-bringing concept of a "fragrance wardrobe".

photo by Edward Steichen via

Much as the hereby contradicting brief therefore foretold of a foible in capturing "the moment", the commercial success of Pleasures was cemented in reinforced concrete. And even the scent somewhat hints at the smell of concrete itself. But let me explain.

A fragrance for every season and every moment, for every woman, is by definition somewhat inoffensive, crowd pleasing, middle of the road. No big ripples, no histrionics, but no soft whisper either; it should be recognizably shared, coveted as the mark of the Aristotelean kalos kagathos. Alberto Morillas is the perfumers' equivalent of kalos kagathos, in the very best sense. Or maybe he's just got the touch of Midas, everything he touches turns to gold; there's that, too.

Pleasures owes its immaculate sheen to a preponderance of aldehydes, those frothy, citrusy, soapy materials handed down from mother's and grandmother's perfume, soaked into copious amounts of musk for clean starchiness that recalls the smell of wet concrete after the rain. It's Morillas's Spanish background (with a hand from Annie Byzantian) that is the rock-bed on which the double notion of clean yet piquant rests, and which forms the reigning glory of Pleasures. The rising peppery warmth (highlighted on an already warm skin) thanks to the unusual but tiny addition of the mesmerizing and pricey karo-karounde extract and the soft pink pepper (i.e. baie rose) add to the more prim aspects to create something that is beyond scrubbed clean, it's handsome.

You can also read about one of the print advertisements of Pleasures seen through an Art History lens on this link.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What Our Winners Win in Draws...A Video

We are hosting many draws on Perfume Shrine over the course of the year (it's a great way to have the lurkers delurk!) but none is more impressive than those which have the backing up of Tijon. Our last giveaway with the Beach Bag full of goodies was phenomenal and the grand prize winner Amelia Fortes did a super cute video opening up her prize package on air. She has posted the video full of sweet appreciation on Youtube. Thanks for the shout out Amelia and enjoy all your great goodies courtesy of Tijon Fragrance Lab and Boutique in good health!

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