“Belle d’ Opium” by Yves Saint Laurent

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Category: Oriental Woody

Notes: Casablanca lily, gardenia, mandarin, jasmine, incense, white pepper, peach, tobacco, patchouli, amber, sandalwood.

ImageBottle: I. Love. This. Talk dirty to me, soft blue glass and gold and ostentatious red wick. You minx. Sexy, solid construction, with a touch of mystique and a cartload of panache. *****

The Fragrance: Never was there a flanker so fabulous, my Darlings. Unlike its shouty predecessor, Belle d’Opium features a much more muted incense note, and plays its sexiness close to the chest. Sweet simplistic peach and gardenia barely peep out from behind the bolder pepper and tobacco, creating a delicious spicy sweet aura that glows softly on the skin. The heartbreak? The magic doesn’t last. In fact, it’s distressingly brief, like sending Cinderella to the ball at quarter to nine, and kicking her out half an hour later. Instead of leaving a glass slipper, the scent quietly simplifies and slips away, with only a faint powdery wood to indicate it was ever there at all. A terrible tease. ****

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“Classique” by Jean Paul Gaultier

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Category: Oriental Floral

Notes: orange blossom, anise, ginger, rose, pear, mandarin orange, plum, orchid, iris, vanilla, ylang-ylang, amber, musk.

The Bottle: Now, you all know this bottle is just about the best thing to ever happen to me. Had a purse like this in tenth grade, and it was my absolute favorite thing. Shapely, just lacy and fussy enough, and about ten and half steps past divine. Adore. *****Image

The Scent: There’s a warm, lightly spicy sensuality here that is in no way cheapened by the sickly sweet many designers feel the need to pair with their more daring elements. Ginger is downplayed but perceptible, and lightly masked by delicate plum and orange blossom. The anise rounds out the experience by striking just the right saucy note in duet with an almost virginal orchid. Teases the nose like a well brought-up lady in the process of forgetting her manners. *****

“Dune” by Christian Dior

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Category: Oriental Floral

Notes: Rosewood, sandalwood, aldehydes, peony, mandarin orange, amber, vanilla, nd.221benzoin, rose, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, patchouli, musk, bergamot.

The Bottle: Stout and pudgy, it is one of those early nineties fireplug-shaped things that I hate so very, very much. One extra star for the warm quality that radiates from the amber glass.  **

The Scent: So woody, you could almost nail it to the wall, my loves. A musky, almost masculine quality exists as well, but it frames the scent in a delicious, shivery sort of way. A little exotic, a lot sensual, and softly earthy. The fragrance I most closely associate it with is the Arizona desert after rain, something you should all try to experience before you have sniffed and spritzed your last. ****

“Acqua di Gioia” by Giorgio Armani

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Category: Floral

Notes: Lemon, mint, jasmine, peony, pink pepper, sugar, labdanum, cedar.

The Bottle: A lovely natural simplicity of design, not over-ornamented. Although I have a great weakness for some other more ornate flacon creations, the simple mingling of coloured and clear glass in this piece is distinctly eye catching. Everything about this nd.8442bottle’s appearance evokes the image of cool water. A certain metallic reflective quality also means that it doubles as a mirror for the hopelessly vain (read: me). ****

The Scent: A charming floral with a predictably aquatic and ethereal quality in the dry down. Refreshing and minty, it’s a bit like floating on your back in a lake at night, and having a warm floral breeze blow across your face. Of course, for those of you in whom that comparison may induce nausea or snorts of derision, Acqua di Gioia might also be likened to bathing in a lemon finger-bowl into which someone has just up-ended a particularly minty mojito. Only your sense of romance can determine which description rings true. ***

 

Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

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Category: Oriental Spicy

Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin orange, lily of the valley, myrrh, opoponax, jasmine, carnation, patchouli, amber, vanilla.

The Bottle: A composition perhaps best described as solid yet toned – clean lines that could almost be called masculine. An earthy, glowing effect with the glass that I would simply adore if it were any other color. ****

The Fragrance: The carnation hurled itself at me, earning itself an immediate thumbs down. Opium grew on me a little as it unleashed a smokier, smoldering quality a moment or two later, but the oppressive floral presence lingered. The heavy myrrh clings to all nearby surfaces and permeates the very air long after it’s sprayed. It may actually still be clinging stubbornly to my hair as I write this. The trouble is that Opium very much dates itself, a bit like strutting around in a cravat, or toting your boom box on your shoulder. Nothing wrong with it, but perhaps best done behind closed doors. **

“Romance” by Ralph Lauren

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Category: Floral fruity

Notes: Ginger, lemon, chamomile, yellow freesia, rose, lily, carnation, white violet, lotus,  patchouli, oakmoss, white musk, a blend of exotic woods.

The Bottle: This was clearly dreamed up by someone highly boring in about ten seconds – it would probably depress me deeply to know how much they were paid for it. Really? For a fragrance called “Romance”, you want a clear, unadorned bottle with a boxy shape, and zero personality? Even ugly would be better than boring.  *

The Fragrance: A powerful floral with ginger spice edges, Romance comes out swinging, but quickly backs up. Like a doomed summer fling, hot and heavy quickly cools, giving way to a musky, drowsily sensual scent. Although classified as a floral fruity, the lemon here is exceedingly muted, and there is (Thank the Good Lord) no hint of the carnation that is apparently blended in there somewhere. I hesitate to say it, because I know it’s impossible, but Romance’s drydown has an almost… hormonal quality to it – not beautiful, but dusky and fascinating beyond what I am able to explain. Do I love it? Truthfully no, but I find it strangely alluring all the same. ***

Idole d’Armani by Giorgio Armani

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Category: Floral

Notes: mandarin, pear, ginger, saffron, jasmine, vetiver

The Bottle: Nothing particularly exotic or even classic about this – it’s played entirely safely. A neat, tight, compact little package that offends no one. It doesn’t seem to me to radiate pure femininity, as the designer claims was his intention – rather the opposite in fact. The most feminine women I know tend not to be neat, compact, or tight, and they tend to freely and frequently offend whomever they choose. ***

The Fragrance: This is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for it claims to be a Floral, but comes across entirely as an Oriental in composition. Proud and rather more exotic than I was anticipating, Idole sashays in with ginger and sashays out with saffron, a highly spiced and organic composition. Rather like a veiled woman, it brims with intrigue, and is crowned by a muted sensuality. The pear is an uneasy guest in the midst of headier, earthy spice blends, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’m not sure I’d seek to wear it myself, because I tend to like my scents a little racier, less covered up. That said, it’s a nice one – the sort of scent that lingers under desert palms. ****

“Truth or Dare” by Madonna

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Category: Oriental Floral

Notes: Tuberose, peony, neroli, jasmine, lily, benzoin, vanilla, amber musk.

The Bottle: Who doesn’t love a deliciously couture white plastic coffin? **

The Fragrance: No fragility here, friends. A tuberose bullet between the eyes, this is really a garden tantrum for the ages. The white floral opening practically stamps its feet at you, an attention seeker from the word go. That said…. I rather like it. It’s bold and awful and everything I would expect from Madonna in a bottle, and yet in its awfulness there is also a kind of vindictive, glorious awesomeness. It will never be mistaken for anything else, with the possible exception of Robert Piguet’s Fracas. Even then, Truth or Dare is rougher edged and less well-blended, the harley-riding cousin of Piguet’s more sophisticated creation. The primary target audience of this fragrance is in their thirties and forties, as it’s not a scent most younger ladies could carry off with any confidence. Here are the only acceptable times to wear this fragrance:

1. When you are a high-powered female executive headed to a party/event/board meeting where you aim to crush some poor intern/your executive VP. This is NOT a man magnet, ladies.

2. When you are Madonna.

Spritz this one ONCE. A heavy hand here will result in migraines for all, and anaphylaxis for most. ***

“Bright Crystal” by Versace

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Category: Floral Fruity

Notes: Yuzu, pomegranate, magnolia, peony, lotus, musk, amber, mahogany.

The Bottle: I was hit with a strange feeling of solidarity when I saw this one, possibly because we are both so clearly top-heavy and slightly unbalanced. Not a bad little package. I mean the bottle, of course.  ****

The Fragrance: The initial crispness is all yuzu, with a light pomegranate drifiting in a moment later. The two together create a curious, almost bubbly effect. I was strangely reminded of a light, fizzy champagne. A fresh, spicy element is also present, though it mellows considerably in the dry-down. Pink pepper? Not according to the listed notes, but I sense it just the same. Breezy enough to wear on a hot day, and cheerful as a morning lark, before I throw my shoe at it. ****

“Jimmy Choo” by Jimmy Choo

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Category: Chypre Fruity

Notes: Mandarin, pear, green blend, orchid, toffee, patchouli

The Bottle: A pin-less grenade, for some reason. Not really sure what the rationale was there, but that’s what I see. It’s certainly not an explosive scent.   ***

The Fragrance: The is one that is truly, deeply JUICY. There is no other word for it. Pear that makes you want to salivate all over the poor sales clerk’s shoes, tongue out. So powerful is the initial fruity bouquet that it all but masks the unobtrusive, floaty orchid, which emerges only after you’ve dived head-first into the pear bin at your local supermarket in a fit of pique. Bit awkward, that. All that said, it is hardly surprising that Jimmy Choo is known for his brilliant shoes and other accessories – for all its juicy glory, this fragrance lacks the stamina, originality and complexity to be a featured showpiece/stopper. As an accessory, it works, pleasing the nostrils without commanding too much attention. Pair with a bright clutch, and sky-high heels. ****