In Pursuit of Perfume: YSL Opium

Like Dior Poison, YSL Opium assaults the nose on first contact. Seriously, it reeks of alcohol and poison, and while softer scents take a while to break down, Opium stayed full-strength for a couple hours at least. When it did, it started smelling of cinnamon, almost soft with some bitter on the side (but that might be my skin). It was intruiging, but kind of off-putting at the same time–almost Poison Lite.

Who is this for? Somebody who wants a drastic change from florals, but who doesn’t want to be obnoxious about it. It would be fun to wear this with a frilly dress and mary janes, to balance out any latent girlishness. Opium is formal smelling, so it would probably work best in a structured environment, but you might be able to get away with it for a casual outfit because of the patchouli.

» Breakdown: Mandarin orange, Bergamot, Lily of the valley. Jasmine, Carnation, Myrrh. Vanilla, Patchouli, Opoponaux, Amber.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? Didn’t get a chance to ask him. Doubtful, though.

» Verdict: In the middle between intense and obnoxious, providing you don’t spray on too much. Not my favorite.


In Pursuit of Perfume: Vera Wang Princess

20 February 2009 <!–enna–> Edit

Vera Wang Princess was definitely not as “prissy prissy princess” as I expected: not too strong, not too floral. It’s very feminine and almost old-fashioned; it made me want to dress up in gloves and a hat and throw a tea party. It almost reminds me of a white wine, like a Sauvingnon Blanc, with a salty/smoky flavor in the background. It’s definitely not too sweet, not overpowering or cloying–the word that came to mind was mellow (but not in a drug trip kind of way). I think it’s the dark chocolate and musk; they temper the assertiveness of the flower scents. For some strange reason I am reminded of markers, and I don’t know why.

Unlike Flowerbomb, Princess doesn’t diffuse too far and invade a room. It would be a good one to use if you were a nurse, I think, because it would counteract hospital-y smells but not make anyone sneeze with its invasiveness.

The bottle is really pretty. The heart shape seems like it would be hard to use, but it’s not, and would look really swelegant on a dressing table.

» Breakdown: Water Lily, Lady Apple, Mandarin Meringue, Golden Apricot Skin, Ripe Pink Guava, Tahitian Flower, Wild Tuberose, Dark Chocolate, Pink Frosting Accord, Precious Amber, Forbidden Woods, Royal Musk Captive, Chiffon Vanilla.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? “Light. If I don’t hate it, it must be good.”

» Verdict: Laid-ba

In Pursuit of Perfume: Dior Poison

I almost physically recoiled when I first put this one on. From the name and the almost dangerous looking bottle I knew I was in for a ride, but I was not expecting the “it burnsss usss” reaction from my nasal membranes. It’s definitely not a perfume for wallflowers: it has presence. But while it started out superstrong, the intense bitterness wore off after a while; it was almost powdery smelling at the end, like the tail end of cough syrup.

As for my own reaction, after the initial “eww get it offfff!” I kind of acclimated to it. I quickly realized that there is no reason perfume has to smell pretty or nice, just like clothes don’t necessarily have to be flattering or beautiful. Perfume, like clothes, can make a statement. Poison was so ridiculously different it was like I was wearing an inside joke. When it started to fade, I actually found myself liking it, in a kind of perverse way

After the initial run, I decided I wanted to try it again (it’s growing on me!). It’s not the kind of perfume you could wear every day– it’s too strong and too weird. I get a kind of perverse pleasure out of the way everybody recoils when they smell it. (It would be the perfect perfume to wear when you get dragged out to a night on the town against your will.)

» Breakdown: Orange blossom, honey, cinnamon, coriander, pepper, plum, rosewood, rose, tuberose, wild berries, cistus labdanum, carnation, jasmine, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, vanilla, heliotrope and opopanax.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? “Bad smell from my childhood.”

» Verdict: So mindbendingly wrong it’s almost right.

In Pursuit of Perfume: Vera Wang Princess

Vera Wang Princess was definitely not as “prissy prissy princess” as I expected: not too strong, not too floral. It’s very feminine and almost old-fashioned; it made me want to dress up in gloves and a hat and throw a tea party. It almost reminds me of a white wine, like a Sauvingnon Blanc, with a salty/smoky flavor in the background. It’s definitely not too sweet, not overpowering or cloying–the word that came to mind was mellow (but not in a drug trip kind of way). I think it’s the dark chocolate and musk; they temper the assertiveness of the flower scents. For some strange reason I am reminded of markers, and I don’t know why.

Unlike Flowerbomb, Princess doesn’t diffuse too far and invade a room. It would be a good one to use if you were a nurse, I think, because it would counteract hospital-y smells but not make anyone sneeze with its invasiveness.

The bottle is really pretty. The heart shape seems like it would be hard to use, but it’s not, and would look really swelegant on a dressing table.

» Breakdown: Water Lily, Lady Apple, Mandarin Meringue, Golden Apricot Skin, Ripe Pink Guava, Tahitian Flower, Wild Tuberose, Dark Chocolate, Pink Frosting Accord, Precious Amber, Forbidden Woods, Royal Musk Captive, Chiffon Vanilla.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? “Light. If I don’t hate it, it must be good.”

» Verdict: Laid-back floral. Not for me, but great for a chic girl with a flower obsession.

In Pursuit of Perfume: Marc Jacobs

Sephora.com says Marc Jacobs’ eponymous perfume is “lush and watery at once.” I think I understand this. (Does this mean I’m starting to understand perfume?!) The scent is not completely fleeting, but it’s not really ‘there’ either. It’s like smelling a ghost: one knows one just smelled something fairly pleasant, but it was gone before one had a chance to fully comprehend it.

I think, if I were to compare this perfume to a band…oh who are we kidding? Of course I’m going to compare this perfume with a band. Rock bands are traditionally made up of bass, guitar, drums and vocals. Many other instruments can be added for different effects or feels or instrumentation, but usually on top of the standard skeleton.  Occasionally, bands mess around with the basic formula: no singer, piano instead of guitar, no drums or bass. Sometimes (see: The White Stripes) musicians can get away with this. Other times, not so much–the music sounds adrift and aimless.

This perfume falls under the “not so much.” It smells like something nice (I really can’t remember what), but it doesn’t have an anchor, a grounding rod, something to fix it in the memory. It’s pleasant: that’s all.

And I’m really starting to think I don’t like musk.

» Breakdown: Gardenia, Wild Muguet, Skin Musk, Cedar, Ginger.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? “How old are you?” 23. “Do you want to smell like you’re 70?”

» Verdict: Meh. But it was worth trying for the conversation I had with a shoe salesman about Shakespeare and revenge tragedies.

In Pursuit of Perfume: Omnia Green Jade

Bvlgari’s Omnia Green Jade was one of the first fragrances I tried when I decided to get serious about finding a perfume for myself. I was first attracted to it because if its grassy notes–it smelled spring-like, fresh, and rather different from all the other perfumes I’d sniffed at that point. But once it was on my skin it turned harsh, like it had a Narcissa Malfoy-style bad attitude. It was really overbearing; perhaps it would do well with a lady with a far more forceful personality than mine.

One of the worst features was the bottle design. It was completely ridiculous. It’s impossible to hold it comfortably and work the spray nozzle at the same time. For an everyday perfume, I’m going to be spraying it quickly in the mornings while I’m dashing out the door. I don’t want to deal with an overly-fancy bottle. For the design alone, I wouldn’t buy the perfume.

» Breakdown: Spring Water, Green Mandarin, White Peony, Nasturtium, Pear Tree Flower, Jasmine Petals, Fresh Pistachio, White Woods, Musk.

» Does it pass the brother test? Nope.

» Verdict: Thumbs down.

In Pursuit of Perfume: Miss Dior Chérie

I smell like a bar. This was the thought that ran through my head the second after I spritzed my wrists with Miss Dior Chérie. I am not sure what Miss Dior does in her spare time, but it somehow gets her smelling like one of those little fruity drinks with a whiff of light beer on the side, and something more acrid…like sweat. I think Miss Dior was a rather petulant child too; the perfume smells like it’s missing something and is very put out without it.

To find out the source of these, ahem, interesting smells, I looked up the components. What I found was rather surprising. Caramelized popcorn? Strawberry sorbet? Seriously? The ingredient list makes it sound like you’d smell like a candy shop. And frankly, I don’t want to smell like either a candy shop or a bar. I’ll pass.

» Breakdown: Green Tangerine, Violette, Pink Jasmine, Patchouli, Crystalline Musk, Strawberry Leaves, Caramelized Popcorn, Strawberry Sorbet.

» Does it pass The Brother Test? Nope. “You smell like a candle.”

» Verdict: No. No no no no no.

In Pursuit of Perfume: Coco Mademoiselle

Today when I skimmed by the deserted perfume counter at Macy’s, I didn’t have any specific perfume in mind. I cruised around, sniffing bottles until one caught my fancy. I’ve always  been intrigued with the Chanel family of perfumes; my mom said she used to wear No. 5 in college, and the branding is so glamorous. But every time I smell No. 5, it doesn’t seem right. Instead I tried Coco Mademoiselle.

I’ve been wearing it for over eight hours now, and I’m still not sure if I like it or not. It’s definitely growing on me. When it first hit my skin, it seemed really overpowering and almost masculine. Over time, though, it mellowed out, and I can smell more soft, floral notes. It’s so complex–I can’t really pinpoint what I like about it, or what I dislike. I suspect that the Patchouli has something to do with why it jars my nose, but that seems to be part of why I like it–the balance between toughness and femininity. I didn’t know perfume could be this complicated!

I imagine that the woman who wears this scent on a regular basis has a take-no-prisoners approach to life. She’s a tough businesswoman and a harsh critic, but has the heart of a saint. This scent doesn’t feel right for the life of a college student. It would be better for days in an office, with suits and heels and pearls.

» Breakdown: Orange, Bergamot, Grapefruit. Litchi, Rose, Italian Jasmine. Indonesian Patchouli, Haitian Vetiver, Bourbon Vanilla, White Musk.

» Does it pass the brother test? Yes. The diffusion radius is pretty small, so it doesn’t invade a room.

» Verdict: Tentative thumbs up. Maybe when I have a ‘real’ job.