Premier Figuier by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Oh so sexy, oh so smooth. This surrounds me like a swath of satin and makes me feel like the most alluring thing in the room. It is creamy without being rich - it's not buttery or heady, just creamy, heavy cream on fresh figs creamy. The sandalwood, lime and coconut offset the fig notes to perfection, imparting a little spicy wood, a nuttiness, a fleeting twist of zest. This is the first L'Artisan I bought for myself and something I'll always consider the line's "number one" although they do so many other great ones as well. Great year-round, not too light or heavy; the fig makes it work for fall or winter, the coconut and lime for spring or summer. Absolute and unadulterated perfection in fragrance.

Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent

Rive Gauche is more chypre than anything else to me, though its' typically considered a floral aldehyde. It is not sweet, not especially smoky and not green either; all the flower (including magnolia, gardenia, geranium, rose, ylang and lily of the valley) and green notes smell a bit smoked, as if they've been dipped in incense. A powdery, sharp rope of iris and tonka, dusted up even further by aldehydes, run through all. It's got some character in common with Cabochard and Chanel 19, though I like Rive Gauche better. Still, it wasn't a major favorite of mine until I layered it over a Bourbon vanilla lotion one day - and then it truly came alive. The Bourbon vanilla is smoky, too, like the fragrance, but adds that jot of sweetness - not too much, just enough - that this scent seems to call out for. I have never worn it any way but then since then and highly recommend trying it this way. I am, by the way, referring to the "old" verison of Rive Gauche; I have not yet tried the reformulated one that's supposed to be a lighter take on this fragrance. The old heavy one's just fine by me!

Paris by Yves Saint Laurent

I always found Paris too florally and close until I started wearing some of the lighter spinoff limited edition versions like Paris Premieres Roses. The roses and other florals in the Paris family are unique in character - I find them almost candy-like, but as in very good and expensive French candy, pastilles and so on, rather than jelly beans or common hard candies. They are also warm and glowing, effusive without necessarily being overly heavy or ripe. Lovely in their own ways - just took a little getting used to for me. Paris is a scent that accomplishes being delicate without going wimpy or wishy-washy, a lesson that plenty of other water-logged aquatic fruity-florals could stand to learn! Notes include rose petals, orange blossom, mimosa, cassia, hyacinth, violet, ylang, lily, linden, iris, heliotrope, amber, musk, moss.

Paris Premières Roses 2003 by Yves Saint Laurent

This fragrance is about the first rose buds in spring, delicate and a little tentative, perfumed but not heady. Sometimes "young rose" scents can err on the side of being too green and so a little musty, but not this one; the infusion of a good deal of violet with its powdery qualities keeps this scent just airy and floaty enough to carry you right into printemps at the Tuileries. The base is pretty much inconsequential, not noticeable against the profusion of flowers and not really missed. Interesting, I find this fragrance to be plenty strong enough for an EDT; it applies with quite a bit of scent and certainly doesn't fade away quickly. But the sillage is minimal; it honestly stays as close to the skin as any scent I've ever tried. I have gone through almost all of the huge four-ounce bottle and have enjoyed this fragrance more and more, to the point where I may strongly consider repurchasing it - if I can find any more of it - when I run out of my current supply.

Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice by Guerlain

Kind of a cute idea for a fragrance - evergreen trees, sugar cookies, smoky fireplaces - but it's a little too novel for me, along the same lines as those appliqued sweaters that people only wear for Christmas. The pairing of heavy pines with gourmand ingredients is a little jarring and contrived to me, something of a disconnect; each category of notes has its place but together they seem strange. That's what I pretty much think of the scent - it's just a little strange. I like the briskness of the evergreen notes and here they manage to avoid feeling oily and disinfectant-like; they actually have a nice sparkling quality. And I like the base section, which is about sugar and spice - including ginger - and that smokiness from the incense. I think the base notes alone could have carried this sense, actually. It would have worked out fine. I wear it maybe once a year - guess when?! Hint: I put it on before I set out the cookies and milk for you-know-who.

Voleur de Roses by L'Artisan Parfumeur

So fine in so many ways, so impressively different and beautifully sultry yet of the earth and real. Voleur de Rose strikes me as one of those medieval scents, something drawn from an herbalist's special potion and made from the deepest red rose petals gathered beneath a full moon, spiced with a mythical beast's breath of patchouli and sweetened so delicately with exquitely ripe pulp of black plums (assuming they had plums back then - ?!) Every note in this fragrance lives up to its reputation; the patch isn't stinky, the rose not florid or musty, the plum not sour or sticky. Voleur de Rose is a special, special fragrance and worth every single penny it costs. I'm slightly in awe of its incredibly sensuous aura.

Les Nuits d'Hadrien by Annick Goutal

There is something of the ancient in this fragrance, something that seems to go back to cultures from long ago, and that makes it fascinating to me. It's very herbal - even verging on the medicinal during the opening phase but in a way that really works. With a blend of bergamot, lemon, cypress, basil, cumin and juniper, the character of this tends toward aromatic spices and herbs, the kinds of things people in ancient Rome or India may have scented themselves with or burned in urns as incense (which is also a note here - beautiful, not at all woodsmoky.) Of course, too much of a good thing is too much, so there are vanilla, amber and white musk to sweeten, smooth, balance out the other half of the composition. This is not a feminine fragrance in the way we think of them nowadays, but that could have been worn by an elegant woman - or man - of centuries ago. Splendid work from the house of Annick Goutal.

Orchidée Blanc by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Once you fall in love with this scent, prepare to love if for life. I was not so wild about it at first; the iris in it is heady, powdery and yet a tiny bit sharp and also very gently earthy, like the ground as it smells when thawing out in spring. But I soon learned this was part of its charm, particularly in the way it interacts with the light drizzle of honey and softly sweet vanilla and jasmine. This smells a bit retro, as if it's stepped into the 21st century from another time. Perhaps the 1940s - sometimes it reminds me of a lady's face powder from that time, something tinted very lightly pink. If you try this, be patient with it; many people are turned off of it at first and dismiss it because it's such an unusual composition, but treat it gently and let it grow into itself before you decide.

La Chasse aux Papillons by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Rolling around in a bed of the loveliest flowers couldn;t possibly smell better than this fragrance. Seriously, I have walked by huge, incredibly lush floral arrangements while wearing this, and have attributed the sublime scent in the air to the flowers themselves only to relaize, once past, that it was my La Chasse Aux Papillons that smelled so very wonderful. Nice, rich tuberose is tempered with the honey-like stunner linden blossom, and orange blossom lends its slightly spicy cleanness to a sweet night-blooming jasmine. And that's it; from just these four notes, a floral symphony of unparalleled beauty. Given its nature, it does not linger on the skin as long as I'd like, but that's fine. I love it nonetheless. (BTW, L'Artisan now makes an intense version with a heavier tuberose note.)

Eau Fantasque by Fragonard

Eau Fantasque is fantastic, truly, such a clean and pure-smelling scent that I can't imagine going through a warm weather season now without it. Truth be told, I didn't love it at first, as the freesia note plays a larger role than I ordinarily would like. But it's not really such a big deal once you get accustomed to it, and the rest of the notes are just so incredibly clear that they seem to have emerged from a crystalline spring somewhere. Even the black currant, so often a round and warmish note, is effervescent here. The grapefruit in particular is very crisp and refreshing and gives the scent a rather green character; it's not so much an identifiably fruit or floral scent, more just green and clean as a fresh-snapped flower stem. Lovely!

Cabochard by Grès

This is a very interesting scent that's built on the same sort of mossy, leathery, smoky foundation as Robert Piguet Bandit and Caron Tabac Blonde. Unfortunately, for me Cabochard is too chypre, too leathery, too smoky and not well suited to my personality or skin. I feel as though I just smell like a big old leather saddle that's had a few ashtrays dumped on it. This is not a desired effect for me when I wear fragrance! But it's worth trying at least once if you get the chance - it can be devastatingly sexy on those who wear it well. And it comes in a big, heavy column of a bottle that just feels powerful and entirely self-assured, as does the fragrance. Notes include aldehydes, spices, jasmine, rose, ylang, orris, gernaium, leather, tobacco, amber, patchouli, musk, moss, vetiver and castoreum.

Halloween by Halloween

If you're expecting anything remotely reminiscent of jack o'lanterns, woodsmoke, bobbing for apples, even anything vaguely resembling autumn in general - keep moving, because you won't find it here! The color of the juice, a very lilac shade of purple, is a dead giveaway. Halloween is an aquatic, ozonic floral - about as anti-autumn as you can get. The topnotes? Lime, green banana and "seas of Alaska." That must mean something glacial. Got it. Other notes include magnolia, lily of the valley, tuberose and pink pepper. Actually, the fragrance itself is nice enough, so long as you understand what it's about; it's pleasantly different from the usual aquatic fruit-florals, has a little more character to it. I can't think of anything else it closely resembles, but if you're familiar with Coty Ghost Myst (which I actually don't like, and which is also very innappropriately named as it's about as ghostly as Mickey Mouse) and Herve Leger, which has a strangely surreal sense of smelling not quite of the natural world (i.e. synthetic - but in an interesting rather than jarring way), Halloween comes off as a hybrid of those two. It really and sincerely does; I have all three and have done the experimenting myself!

All About Eve by Joop!

Let's face it, apple is just not a really exciting note. Perhaps because it smells so familiar, it just doesn't have the same impact as other notes do. And so apple scents, at least to me, can seem boring after a while - not very challenging, not very provocative. All About Eve is one of those, particularly because this already pretty mellow note of apple is further rounded off with a very soft-focus cinnamon, a cozy vanilla, a light and airy jasmine and a velvety, just barely earthy vetiver. The whole composition just envelops you, soothes you, doesn't get sharp, doesn't change, certainly doesn't turn on you. And yes, that gets dull after a while. But then, in my case, I'll stop wearing it for a while and then, all of the sudden - start thinking about it again. It may be super-soft and none too challenging, but you know, some days you just need to go with that flow. Some people find this fragrance to be as blend as fruit-scented shampoo but sometimes that sort of blandness just really works for me!

Jovan Musk for Women by Jovan

My favorite drugstore musk if not favorite musk in any segment. If you love the smell of Breck shampoo - heck, if you even remember the smell of Breck shampoo - then you must, must try this musk. (Some feel it's more like Flex shampoo from Revlon - and I can see, or smell, where that's coming from though I find/found Flex to be just a little spicier than Breck or the Jovan Musk itself.) It's clean and balsam-y sweet and a little honeyish; I've read that there are flowers among the notes and I'd have to guess they were of the white floral variety. You can wear this alone - I use the oil version - or with other fragrances or layered with scented lotions, what have you. There's very little it doesn't smell good with and on its own, it's just glorious. No musky noxiousness, no heaviness or oiliness whatsoever - honest. A musk among musks.

White Musk for Women by Jovan

Another fabulous musk from Jovan! While the regular "plain" musk from Jovan is my favorite from this brand, the white musk runs a tight second. This is soft white musk, pillowy and a teeny bit baby powdery and sweet - much different from a fresh white musk, which is often more sparkly, zippy, not sweet at all, tending more toward soapy-fresh. The Jovan version is full of honeyish florals - jasmine, honeysuckle, ylang ylang - and this bouquet rests on a base of amber, woods, aldehydes and, yes, musk. And the complexity comes through in the fragrance, too; it amazes me sometimes as to how some of the really inexpensive drugstore scents out there seem to be so much more thoughtfully blended that much higher-end products. We all hear that from time to time and Jovan White Musk really takes that point home. Where this musk truly shines as as a layering scent with vanilla - either another vanilla fragrance or a vanilla body lotion, anything from a drugstore brand (St. Ives is nice, as is the one from Body Fantasies) to something like a Molinard vanilla. It's so incredible smelling a combination that it must be tried to be believed.

Fire & Ice by Revlon

Inspired by the hot-yet-cool red lipstick of the same name by Revlon. Does the fragrance run hot and cold as well? Not really, at least in the sense I'd think of hot and cold smelling, something like fiery cinnamon and cool mint, which might not actually smell all that great together! Very mouthwashy. For this scent, "Sharp and Sweet" might be a more descriptive name, as it blasts out of the bottle with one of those very nose-tingling types of orangey-vanilla-sandalwood salvos. I used to despise fragrances that opened this way and consider them a bit tacky until I realized what I was smelling; now I don't have much of an issue with them. They're just heady is all. From there, Fire and Ice burns down to a warm, pretty decently balanced oriental that offsets a tuberose-magnolia heart with woods, spices and maybe a little musk. If you've ever smelled or used Emeraude by Coty, Fire and Ice is a nearly identical fragrance, with the only difference being Emeraude's heart of jasmine. Fire and Ice is still pretty easily found online; I don't see it much in regular drugstores but online retailers seem to have plenty of it.

No. 2 Jasmine & Rose Honey by Trish McEvoy

Is this still around? I haven't seen it anywhere in a while, though admittedly I haven't been looking all that hard. It's actually one of my favorite floral fragrances, perhaps the one very Sambac jasmine-intense scent that I've ever really been crazy about. And the rose honey - well, if you are a fan of Nahema and/or Ombre Rose, this is certainly one to be tried. I used to receive endless positive comments on this fragrance; it's got a warm, engaging sense about it, a genuine inner glow. Sounds corny perhaps, but there was just something about it that reached out and drew in people - even those people usually a little on the dour and/or reticent side - and made them smile. Very linear, with maybe a little lemony something in the opening notes, but not at all boring thanks to what seemed to be extremely high quality, very long-lasting ingredients.

Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens

Some Serge Lutens fragrances I like, some I actively dislike. But a few remind me of Chevy Chase's character in "Caddyshack" when he says, "There's a subtle perfection in everything I do." Serge Lutens and Co., you've done just such a subtly perfect job with Ambre Sultan. Now, I love amber in all its incarnations; I've never met one I didn't like, in fact. But this one is special - endlessly resinous, palpably viscous, almost binding in its beauty. It's got to be one of the best quality ambers available anywhere; it just smells expensive. And unlike some of Lutens' other "weirdly clever" topnote juxtapositions - which can at times seem like they're just trying way too hard to be strange - I love the spicy-savory arrangement of herbals here, the oregano, bay leaf, coriander and myrtle. They evoke the souk with its overflowing, fragrant spice stalls and that just adds to the whole experience of wearing this fragrance. I daresay this probably is and will be one of my favorite, most prized ambers. C'est parfait.

Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca by Guerlain

For me, this is just another case of nice but not as nice as...fragrances. Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca runs a very second to the ultimate grass-lemon-mint-herbal fragrance in my lexicon, L'Artisan L'Eau de L'Artisan. And for subtle reasons too - though ones that end up making all the difference in the world. Big thing: the type of grass note most prominent in each. L'Artisan's is fresh-cut timothy hay grass in the field, the truest grass scent there is to me, a little piquant, very fragrant, barely sweet. Herba Fresca's is just too sweet for me, more clover than grass. (Admittedly, I'm a bit of a freak about these things - I grew up with horses so I have very specific ideas about what grass, hay, etc scents I prefer.) Why this is an issue has to do with the way this note carries through the composition and plays with the other notes involved; the purely grassy grass in the L'Artisan just works better with the mint, lemon and basil notes - all of which are also in the Herba. The Herba Fresca's cloverish grass just comes off as too sweet for me in this context. Honestly, though, most more normal and less obssessive individuals would not be bothered by this. So please don't let my weird review stop you from trying this fragrance! Also to note - The Body Shop has a scent called Minteva that is close to being a carbon copy of Herba Fresca.

Musk Eau de Toilette by Alyssa Ashley

I have nothing but love for Alyssa Ashley musk. Close in character to my number one drugstore musk choice, Jovan Musk, Alyssa Ashley is shampoo-ish (think Breck, Wella Baslam, Revlon Flex) with notes of balsam and maybe a tiny touch of soap. What makes the Ashley different enough from Jovan to merit having and loving both is a touch of powderiness and a little, almost barely perceptible trace of spiciness (don't think "spiced musk" though, because it's not like that at all.) It's just a little softer than Jovan, with the little spicy warmth a bit reminiscent of the also-great Coty Wild Musk. Given the fabulousness of this fragrance (which I wear in oil form, by the way), I'm dying to try the Ashley rendition of vanilla. I need to track that down one of these days it's got to be amazing!

Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

Meh - this vanilla freak is underwhelmed. Serge Lutens' legions would probably draw me, quarter me and roast my remains at the stake for this, but if you think you might want to try this particualr vanilla type on for size, save yourself a jillion dollars and start with a $5 bottle of Body Fantasies Vanilla Sugar Fantasy, available at drugstores everywhere. No, of course it's not as good as the Lutens - but profile-wise, it's not all that hugely different a scent. Both are cool, woody vanillas dashed with coconut and sandalwood; the only major compositional difference is Lutens' addition of a black licorice note, which makes his vanilla a little darker than the Body Fantasies. And if you just can't stomach the idea of comparing caviar to tuna, then at least look into Calypso Vanille - which again, brings together low-warmth vanilla with coconut and a bit of wood, though the orange blossom and greens throw a slightly more tropical feeling to the Calypso. And if you still can't deal with anything other than high-end, at least check out Annick Goutal's Vanille Exquise first and possibly save yourself a few dollars - though the Goutal is thinner and more plasticky and in fact thoroughly unpleasant in many ways. Or else just go ahead and take the plunge on Bois Vanille, but don't go into it expecting anything very rich, warm, fragrant or gourmand. This is as much wood as it is vanilla and it's just not all that enticing.

New Musk for Women by Prince Matchabelli

New Musk is basically a tuberose-musk blend, a fragrance combination that can also be found in Body Fantasies Tuberose-Musk Fantasy. Both fragrances are made by the same company, Parfums de Coeur, and so are in all likelihood built around the same base of ingredients. However, they're not completely identical; the Body Fantasies version, which is very nice on its own, is a little bit sweeter and more florally than the New Musk. Conversely, New Musk is muskier and cleaner. Some find it comparable to Coty's Sand and Sable and I get the resemblance to some extent, save for the fact that Sand and Sable's musk-less. Both are similarly not too sweet, though. Those who like the "buttery" quality that Sand and Sable captures so well should find the New Musk pretty nice, too.

Fresh White Musk by Prince Matchabelli

A crisp and sparkling rendition of white musk and one that wears on hour after hour; beware overapplying this one as it can be a bit strong and even a bit sickening in overlay large doses. Unlike other creamier, sweeter white musks, Fresh White Musk has very little that's mellow or sweet; it's supposed to be a blend of white floral and musk but I think it's a little too soapy to fit that description. Extremely clean, extremely fresh, quite nice. But again, watch with application' I have a little bottle of this but the sprayer mechanism is on the aggressive side, if you know what I mean. A good deal of fragrance releases when you apply, so either hold the bottle out and as far away as possible when spraying or else do an air-spray-and-walk-through routine. You'll be glad you did.

Touch of Pink by Lacoste

Woo-hoo - finally, a fruity floral that breaks form the banal pack and shows a little rebellious streak! I love this fragrance to death because it's got a zesty-earthy edge to it that breaks up its otherwise typical, though very nice, arrangement of fruits and florals. The blood orange top note itself has a little zip to it, and the coriander leaves and cardamom bring the spiciness for sure. But I have a feeling the "secret ingredient" is carrot seed, which imparts an almost patchouli-like zing to the composition, something that's dry, earthy, clean and spicy all at the same time. It's just great, and doesn't get all rotten-hot and B.O. like in its blending with the jasmine, violet and vanilla notes. There's nothing "pink" about this scent whatsoever - it's not girly, frilly, pretty or delicate in the least. Of course, there's a time and place for all of that, but not when you're wearing this fragrance. Very sportif, it makes me feel like grabbing a racquet and hitting the tennis courts - yet it's classy and elegant enough to wear for a post-game lunch or cocktails, too.

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