A fragrance obsessive’s guide: Part 2

December 17, 2009 at 2:00 am 14 comments

Alrighty! I’ve had some amazing comments and reaction to my various posts on perfumes with a number of requests to post more. So today I will cover more perfumes I think are worth a sniff, if not worthy of purchase. If you’ve missed out on earlier posts, go here for Part 1 of my guide and here for my rant against celebrity and brand name perfumes. Make sure to read the comments as some readers have suggested favourite scents. I’m off this week to sniff Tom Ford’s fragrances because Woody3D left a comment about how good they are (particularly Arabian Wood).

Now remember: I’m no perfumer. Just a girl who’s had a lifelong love affair with perfumes courtesy of my grandmother (who had a perfume shop) and my mother, who would not have dreamt of getting out of bed without a spray of her beloved Zibelene (by Weil before it was reformulated and turned into a shadow of its former self).  In this post, I’m going to include some perfumes I’ve discovered from independent perfumers (ie not the DREADED brands or celebrity perfumes, blah) and some Arabian or Middle Eastern perfume oils. I’ve been toying with these for a year or so now.

More posts will follow but today in no particular order:

  • L’air du désert marocain by Tauer Perfumes (Switzerland). You can read my full review here. This is a unisex perfume if you ask me. One whiff of this scent and you’re swept off to the sands of Morocco and the heady smells of the spice souk. It’s an intense, sensual oriental with wonderful smokey notes and tinged with coriander, petitgrain, lemon, bergamot, jasmin, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver, vanille, patchouli and ambergris. All working together in perfect harmony in a cedar and vetiver base and with an amber background. This is a brilliant perfume IMHO.
  • Visa by Robert Piguet. I don’t like the name of this perfume but once you move past that, you end up with a velvety, fruity chypre that has hints of peach and pear. Visa was originally created by Germaine Cellier in 1945 (an amazing French perfumer who also created other wonderful scents like my beloved Fracas; Coeur-Joie by Nina Ricci; and Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain. These perfumes are classics from the 1940s and 1950s). But back to Visa, which is a modern recreation. It is slightly sweet for me but it’s flirty and vivacious. When I first sprayed it, I thought bleh, it’s just like all the modern “I want to smell like a fruit bowl” type perfumes. But once it settles, interesting notes emerge with immortelle being prominent. It’s really quite a seductive perfume.
  • Ahebbak by Ajmal (a Middle Eastern fragrance house). Ahebbak apparently means “I love you” and this oriental perfume oil is indeed a very romantic, opulent scent. I had to go all the way to Abu Dhabi to get this (well, I was on my way to Morocco to run a workshop so I went via Abu Dhabi). With oriental perfume oils, you just need a dab, then wait 5 minutes for the dry-down. This concentrated oil is full of musky, floral and citrus notes. The citrus is the top note and then you experience the warm, spicy middle note and finally the lingering, soft musky sandalwood base note. Although I love this perfume, I think it’s been created more for the young, spirited woman (which does not imply I’m some old goat – rather someone who prefers a more confident, punchy fragrance).
  • Ubar by Amouage (a fragrance house established by a member of the Omani royal family in 1983). I discovered this perfume about 7 years ago before, quelle horreur, it was discontinued. I bombarded Amouage with emails as I’m sure many other lovers of this gorgeous scent did. Ubar has now been relaunched (thank goodness, I don’t have to get on yet another plane to Abu Dhabi to get my hands on it). Ubar is named after the long lost ancient Arabian frankincense trading city of Ubar, so you get the idea: exotic, spicy, heady, seductive, playful, evocative, mysterious, warm desert nights under a silvery moon – okay getting carried away. I’m not quite sure how to describe this beauty because I have not whiffed the re-launched version. I have an unopened bottle of the original 1995 Ubar (I’ve been through about 4 bottles to date) – the first notes you experience are honey, rose,  jasmine and vanilla followed closely by lily of the valley.  What I loved about the original Ubar was the power and sensuousness of the civet base. I am hoping that the new version is not some watered-down muck but reviews give me confidence. It apparently opens with top notes of bergamot, lemon and lily-of-the-valley (I’m guessing less rose) before revealing the middle or heart notes of damascene rose and jasmine and then finishing with a civet and vanilla base.
  • Rumba by Balenciaga. I pull this out of my perfume wardrobe every so often; it’s an old stand-by for me.  It’s luxurious and elegant. I believe it was created in the 1980s so is full of sassiness and power (and probably shoulder-pads!). This is not a perfume for shrinking violets because its golden plum base swirls with the sweetness of orange blossom, tuberose, heliotrope, gardenia, vanilla and magnolia. There’s a smokiness to this rich scent, probably from the amber and musk, which temper Rumba’s sweetness. It could have turned into a disastrous, cloying, sickly sweet perfume without the darker, sensual base. When I wear it, this is one of the perfumes I’m often asked about.
  • Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez. Created in 1962, I think this was one of the first perfumes I hounded my mother to  buy for me when I was a teenager. And I think it’s a very overlooked perfume. This is a lush, woody oriental scent that causes you to ponder what it must have been like at the Palace of Versailles when Louis XIV reigned supreme – it’s aristocratic, elegant, flirtatious. I can imagine powdered and wigged women of the time before the French Revolution, engaging in some romantic court liaison with a Count or Prince, wearing Bal à Versailles. It’s a lavish concoction of roses and Grasse jasmine, with orange blossom, vanilla, sandalwood, musk, vetiver and patchouli (but don’t panic: it’s not that horrid patchouli oil that hippies wore in the 70s and God forbid I smelt on someone the other day as she wafted by. Nearly knocked me over). This perfume is for the sophisticated woman but I actually think a confident guy could pull off wearing this perfume: just a dab mind you. Because of its musky, dark leathery accords, just a little could be quite stunning on a guy.

So keep talking to me – what are your favourite scents?

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A frugalicious Christmas Dirty little secrets

14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. creativespark  |  December 17, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I’m going to tempt you to come to Singapore Kim.

    We could go into the Arab district to get some oils custom blended. And the bottles are beautiful.

    And we have a “blind tasting” shop, where they take you through the perfumes without showing you what they are.

    L’air du désert marocain sounds like something I’d like… can’t wait to see (smell?) it somewhere. And Tom Ford sounds like something I should test too.

    =) M

  • 2. creativespark  |  December 17, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Oh… and I didn’t answer your question. I have two Chanel fragrances that I love… one in the day and one at night.

  • 3. thinkingshift  |  December 17, 2009 at 9:11 am

    ok Marc, you’re on…should I come to Singapore again, we’re off to the Arab district. Love the sound of the custom blending.
    Many guys email me for suggestions – so can you tell us what the two Chanel fragrances you wear are?

  • 4. Woody3D  |  December 24, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I will amend a little information about my experience with layering some of the:


    Basically I now have my own home Apothecary or even ‘Atelier’!

    1) ‘MUSK PURE’. It is Powerful and as the name suggest being ‘pure’ it LAYERS Well! I find that >UNDER< any sCENT mUSK pURE turns up the volume giving 'close to the skin' fragrances (like the Mugeut Blanc previously mentioned) MORE SILLAGE! Musk is Magic used SPARINGLY!!! The Lightest Tap on the sprayer gives the sparkling effect w/ the overload possible with so powerful a tool in the parfumer's arsenal. (mixed analogies there hehe)

  • 5. Woody3D  |  December 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    2) I love the TUSCAN LEATHER, It is the smell of every fine night I have ever dressed up, gone out, on a boat or to ‘The Magic Castle’ etc…. etc. also smells like SHOPPING funnily enough (someone said I smell like I had pased by a Chanel Counter… I was wearing Tuscan Leather that Day!!) The person obviously associated fine suede and leather smells with a dept. store., fine products etc.

    3) the ‘OUD WOOD’ is some Good Wood! it is one of those fragrances that you have to avoid smelling too close to the wrist for about 15mins-1/2 hour. Then, SNIFF AWAY.
    NON-STOP. For 24 Hours! (LASTS!) This one evolves with Individual chemistry enormously from what i have ‘smelled’. . It is GREAT Layered with the ‘Tuscan Leather’

  • 6. Woody3D  |  December 24, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    4) The ‘TOBACCO VANILLE’ – This one is another ‘evolver’ but it gets less sweet and much warmer over time. >>>I do not wear this on on my skin<<<, (Even though Brad Pitt wears this one!) rather, I use it as a room aromarizer in a diffuser etc. It makes my room smell like an beautiful ancient but oft used library / reading room / study. It has Sweet Wood Sap, Spices too. Surprisingly More than just 'tobacco'.. Reminds me of a great party I went to at "The Cuban Club". I love the smell of my studio / study now!

  • 7. Woody3D  |  December 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    5) BOIS MAROCAIN, I got one of these a couple months ago from SELFRIDGES in LONDON (The Big LONDON / OXFORD Store. A Lovely AMERICAN (!) Girl named Adrienne helped me , she was happy to hear another American voice! ;~) —> I had hoped after reading about BOIS MAROCAIN’s notes etc, that it would be an update of GUCCI POUR HOMME (Original – Created by TOM FORD in 2003). I was not dissapointed. With a Sparkling New Peppery Kick That arises out of a bed of Warm Red Cedar and Exotic Thuya Wood. IT LAYERS PERFECTLY WITH GUCCI HOMME. Smell this on one hand then the other on the other, then you’ll realize this is what TOM FORD Would have made in 2003 if Maison de GUCC I (as it were…) would have been willing to let him use the finest sourced exotic ingredients. (Not to mention the Eau De Parfum strength!)

  • 8. thinkingshift  |  December 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Woody3D you simply must tell us what you do for a living! so great to hear from a guy who knows his scents so very well. You’d best join Marc and me in Singapore 🙂

    So I am down to 3 Tom Ford scents, having spent the better part of last week, sniffing – Arabian Wood, Oud Wood and Black Orchid. But also maybe Noir de Noir. Would you layer any of these? any suggestions?

  • 9. Woody3D  |  December 25, 2009 at 6:05 am

    ‘BLACK ORCHID’ Is Absolutely Incredible. Magic. It makes me think of Narcisse Noir (Original 1911 House of CARON) must have been like when it was ‘new’. I had a bottle of NARCISSE NOIR that I bought for one of my 4 Sisters. I think that Black Orchid Layered w/ the Private Blend ‘AMBER ABSOLUTE’ would be an Earth Shattering Dark Warm Elixer >Much like Narcisse Noir, but Infinitely more moderrn.

    I am a Digital Character Animator and a Visual Effects Artist. I started out in Painting. Then 20 years ago, (20 yrs old) I switched from a Paintbrush to a Computer Pen and have been doing everything from Animating for TV Commercials, Video Games, Films ever since. Thank you for the Compliment about my ‘Scent Sense’. That was a nice little X-Mas gift!

  • 10. thinkingshift  |  December 26, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Woody3D thx for taking the time to leave comments about fragrances. Feel free to update us on any great finds. Hah, funny you should mention Narcisse Noir – I was going to mention this in one of my posts. But I bought a bottle recently and..I’m suspicious…I think it’s been reformulated because it’s simply not what I remember.
    I will go this coming week and test out the layering of Black Orchid with Amber Absolute – seems to me you’re a pretty good nose, so I’m sure this will be a stunning combination. Black Orchid I thought was gorgeous.
    You confirmed what I also thought – I thought you might be an artist or musician. But either way, someone creative and interesting.
    Merry Xmas to you!!

  • 11. Woody3D  |  January 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm





  • 12. Woody3D  |  February 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Since no one seems to be commenting, II’ll mention another combination I have discovered lately. Someone may enojy the idea! I have been wearing WHITE SUEDE Layered with ‘The Different Company’s ”Rose Poivrée”

    Tom Fords White Suede is: White Suede/Leather, Rose, Musk, Amber

    The Different Company’s Rose Poivrée is: Rose (=110Lbs of Damascus Rose Petals (Harvested between May & July, Mediterranean region) per 250ml, Rose Berries, Pepper, Coriander, Vetiver and civet,

    Another great find recently: I got bottle #507 of L’artisan Parfumers Limited numbered ‘Harvest’ edition of IRIS PALLIDA 2007 (The iris rhizomes in the ROOTS! 😮 ) were harvested in 2007 but take 3 years to process, hence the 2910 release of a vintage harvest from 2007,….
    It is only my second Soliflore fragrance (& I just learned the term – I may be new to Fragrance Appreciation, but i’m making up for lost time ;~)
    I love the Iris Pallida 2007 almost as much as the Muguet Blanc (Van Cleef & Arpels) mentioned in the first edition of this blog.

  • 13. Tim  |  August 15, 2011 at 1:21 am

    I totally agree that L’air du desert marocain is unisex. I had purchased a sample of it and immediately fell in love with it. I just bought a bottle of it 2 weeks ago and while this might sound wasteful and even strange, I enjoy wearing it to bed just to enjoy it as I fall asleep. On a less passionate note, the folks at a certain upscale retailer managed to sell me on purchasing a bottle of Robert Piguet’s Visa. In the store it smelled completely different than it does at home. Obviously, I am male…but Visa, at least on me, is much too feminine. Any suggestions for layering? My options so far are giving it as a gift…an expensive one at that…and hope that one of my female friends loves it….or as someone mentioned above, perhaps I could use it as a room spray or in a reed diffuser??? Although even at that, I never purchase any powdery or sweet floral home scents :-/
    I did spray my 2 sweet labs with it….they swim all the time so there isn’t any doggie smell to them 😉
    Any thoughts?

  • 14. thinkingshift  |  August 15, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Hi Tim glad to hear from a guy who uses L’air du desert marocain – I thought it would be a wonderful unisex scent and how wonderful you wear it to bed (I don’t find this strange or wasteful at all!).
    As for Visa – yes, it’s a bit deceiving because it has quite a powdery fruity floral punch to it that isn’t at first discernible. I think the Ylang Ylang in it keeps it from being a sickly floral though. Frankly, I’d keep using it on the doggies – great idea.

    IMHO men can wear everything except tuberose (so don’t go near Piguet’s Fracas). Although you could try layering Givenchy’s Monsieur de Givenchy over VISA to temper down the fruity florals – I think that could be quite interesting. Or I’m wondering if Dolce & Gabbana’s The One EDP might work, as it’s a very warm oriental scent. Othere ideas: Burberry for Men; Keiko Mecheri’s Peau de Peche; Guerlain’s Mitsouko.

    Obviously, you’re a guy who has the confidence and pizzazz to wear a female fragrance and pull it off. So if you find any of the above works, let me know. Other readers might leave some suggestions too.


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