Scintillating strawberry baby powder. Brilliant, with a delicate dissonance that shifts between sparkling floral dust and sweet berry syrup, for hours and hours. Chaotic, with the lure of a candy shaped bar of soap, and easily worn by anyone from age 9 to 90–
–unless if you happened to be in elementary school in 1980. Because this smells exactly like Strawberry Shortcake doll hair.
Here’s another dissonant Insolence that works well:
A tropical fruit freshie that disappears from the skin in 30 minutes, leaving a sour baby-spit-up stain on clothes. I get none of the promised ylang-ylang or crystalline lagoon waters, and I’m rather annoyed about the whole experience.
The brand website irritated me even more, with its suggestions for layering this scent with others in the latest collection. At $140 a bottle, we’re paying you to properly blend the fragrance, Guerlain.
A good bad mood song. (The whole album is awesome.)
Big boss benzoin that morphs into cuddly cloves, and swanky.
Splashes on with spiced sipping vodka and a squeal of brand new tires, (I should probably spell it tyres, because these are definitely fancy imports) and cracks a leather licorice whip at everyone for a while. Then it relaxes, and slowly settles just above the skin with soft smoky vanilla powder–rich sweet incense ash–and whispers complements all day long.
I’m crushing hard on this one. Very unisex, but wouldn’t be offended by the assumption of male pronouns.
This grunge oldie is smoky and sweet, with a nice aggressive edge.
Grapefruit pith in the best way, a smart bitterness that slides to sweet throughout the day.
There’s a weirdness, a uniqueness to it that is almost distracting–I’m sniffing my wrist every few seconds, wondering if it still smells the same as the last huff I took. (How much of my enjoyment is just an oxygen rush?)
The performance is a lot of fun. Begins like an herba fresca cologne, a bright wake me up of citrus zest with a tart bite of fruit, then it cools down to a few inches above the skin and stays there, slowly growing soft with vanilla, with the tenacity of an eau de parfum.
Wonderful. Marketed to women, but would be delightful on anyone.
There’s a very fun generational skip with Shalimar Souffle–a fresh take on bygone fashion–that reminds me of the ultra-feminine girls who wear ’50’s pinup dresses in modern prints at the car shows.
This “Breath of Perfume” opens with lovely light citrus and jasmine, that soon gets interrupted by a peppery note that feels discordant–like it’s my skin, somehow, that is objectionable–but does fade in a few hours, leaving behind rich vanilla cake with lemon icing for the rest of the day.
Retro yet fresh at the same time, but weird on me. (One often sees “It doesn’t work with my body’s chemistry,” in reviews, but I rather feel that with this one I’m the one at fault.) I gifted my big bottle, but kept the mini. Maybe I’ll improve with age.
1919. House of Guerlain, Paris France. Nobody: Jacques: Here’s gunpowder and blood, coffin-woods and grave-moss, because War. Nobody: (blinks) Jacques: And some peaches and jasmine so it’s pretty.
Wow. Guerlain’s iconic Mitsouko is goth as Hell. Opens with the sharp tang of citrus and peaches–bright coins to pay the ferryman–but made sanguine with roses. Funeral flowers bloom, more roses and lilac and jasmine, and slowly dry to cedar box dust. At the end, embalming spices rise from the skin, and ash smoke–the powdery residue of battle–until they fade to moss and lichen on headstones.
For elegant widows, death obsessed poets and wannbe undertakers.
This cheerful little tune is surprisingly dark–John Cale’s classic made modern by Owen Pallett.
I’m horribly intimidated by people who worship at the altar of Guerlain.
They say, “Mitsuoko, a classic of the genre,” and “L’Heure Bleue is my universal reference,” in reverent tones. I nod silently and try to look discerning while hoping my Lolita Lempicka or LUSH holds against my nervous sweat.
I keep trying Shalimar–vintage bottles and new–and sometimes it’s cedar sawdust and vanilla powder, and sometimes it’s leathery old lemons and oddly sweet turpentine.
I’ve just never gotten a “feel” for the stuff. It lasts forever on the skin, projects like mad, and reminds everybody else of somewhere, some time, or someone, but I’ve never understood the magic.
Everything wonderful is in there–a citrus opening, earthy rose and patchy iris in the middle, smoke and civet and balsam on the bottom–but there’s never that gestalt moment when the scent becomes more than the sum of its parts.
So I keep sniffing it, hoping for the a-ha understanding, when my novice schnozz graduates to full-on fragonista, capital-N-Nose, and maybe I will see the light that is Guerlain.
Shalimar was introduced in 1925, when Paris was overrun with American jazz and the années folles of art and entertainment following the Great War.
Gershwin hit Europe with Rhapsody in Blue that same year.
This father-son duo do a great piano arrangement.
Paul Newman wore this one.
Nice bergamot and neroli with a hit of waxy lemon polish at the end–basically 4711 driven by a race car rather than a horse-drawn carriage–and fades into the distance just as fast.