Mid-2014 Best & Favorites List

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

We’re more than half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a nice time for a mid-year look at some of the perfumes that caught my attention. I used to do a list of favorite things that I had tried after every 100 posts, but that practice has fallen by the wayside due to the demands of my schedule. A few weeks ago, I was thinking of some of the fragrances I have covered since the beginning of the year, and the ones on my personal list of things to buy, so it seemed like a good time for an updated list.

Perfume reviewing is subjective and personal by its very nature, so winnowing fragrances down to a list like this is even more so. My criteria for selection varied. Some of the fragrances were not really for me, but I think they’re good examples of their genre and done very well. Others are on the list for the most subjective reason of all: I either bought full bottles for myself, plan to get them, or would love to do so, if their high price were not a consideration. Ranking things is an utter nightmare, but the Top Four are firmly placed in accordance with my feelings. The remainder of the perfumes are generally ranked within one to two slots, plus or minus, of where they are in my wholly subjective estimation. None of the 25 fragrances on this list are based on their date of official release, but on what I’ve covered since January 1st through to the end of June. And all of them are current releases, not vintage fragrances.

FAVORITES OF 2014 THUS FAR:

  1. Photo: stonehousetiles.co.uk

    Photo: stonehousetiles.co.uk

    SHL 777 BLACK GEMSTONE is my favorite fragrance that I’ve tried this year. An opening of black, smoky, tarry darkness is pierced by an astonishingly vibrant, bright yellow beam of concentrated, juicy, tangy lemon. The rest of the scent is a superb blend of shape-shifting notes, dominated by spicy patchouli, incense, and rich amber. Cedar, myrrh, saffron, tonka sweetness, and a touch of eucalyptus all dance around before the perfume transitions to a smoky, spicy, ambered richness in the drydown. It is layer upon layer of goldenness upon a deep base that feels like the darkest resins have turned to velvet or satin. Black Gemstone was love at first sniff for me, and a fragrance which I adore from start to finish. My black bottle is one of the treasures in my collection, and something I turn to whenever I want to be transported away by a really powerful, potent darkness.

  2. Source: whoniversefanon.wikia.com/  Original artist unknown.

    Source: whoniversefanon.wikia.com/ Original artist unknown.

    TIE. ROJA DOVE NUWA & SHL 777 O HIRA. Roja Dove’s NUWA is not a scent that I’d recommend to most people, as it is a fiercely concentrated cumin bomb. Galactic levels of cumin, in fact. (Plus, it has an astronomical price tag that puts it firmly out of most people’s reach, including my own.) I’ve always respected the luxuriousness and high-quality of Roja Dove fragrances, but none of them moved me enormously or passionately until Nuwa. It is a Fallen Angel whose demonic, blackened, smoky, tarry, leathered opening reminded me of the darkness of Black Gemstone, but with the addition of an avalanche of spices. That powerful, intense opening slowly makes way for a spicy, skanky, ambered but also mossy chypre heart which is beautifully opulent. The two things together make Nuwa slightly different than Rochas’ vintage chypre, Femme, which it definitely resembles on my skin. Similarities notwithstanding, I loved every bit of Nuwa and its stupendous richness. It was my Waterloo when it came to the Roja Dove line, and I would buy it in a heartbeat if I didn’t have to sell an organ (or two) to do so. I have to repeat, however, that Nuwa is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

SHL 777‘s O HIRA is the Incredible Hulk of ambers, in my opinion, and in a class all by itself. A labdanum monster, O Hira has far more elements than the mere, umbrella description, “fossilized amber,” that is given on the official one note list. Its labdanum is seamlessly blended with darkened woods and treacly, sticky, blackened resins. The end result is a civilized veneer of baroque, bronzed opulence which hides animalic, smoky, musky, and leathered elements, as well as a strongly blackened, slightly dirty heart. I think it’s absolutely stunning, drop-dead sexy, an utter beast, and it would be at the top of my “To Buy” list if the price were not so terrifying.

  1. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    PARFUMS MDCI CHYPRE PALATIN. A truly spectacular chypre with jaw-dropping amounts of oakmoss, thanks to Bertrand Duchaufour‘s use of a technique that takes out the regulated, EU/IFRA restricted atranol molecule. The result is an  endless sea of true, green mousse de chene in a mix that is as baroque and opulent as it is seamless. Yet, there is far more to Chypre Palatin than mere oakmoss. It opens with bright, sun-sweetened tangerines, zesty lemon, and tons of smoky sweetness from styrax resin, but slowly takes on a subtle animalic tinge through the use of costus root (a big part of Kouros‘ legend) and castoreum. The multi-faceted mix is finished off with delicate florals, a touch of vanilla, boozy touches, spicy patchouli, and a definite streak of leathered darkness in the base. It’s a stunner, one that defies simple characterization in a mere paragraph, and it is going to be the next fragrance that I buy for myself.   

  2. "Ophelia" by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

    “Ophelia” by Arthur Hughes. Source: preraphaelitesisterhood.com

    HIRAM GREEN MOON BLOOM. Moon Bloom would definitely have been on my Best of 2013 list had I tried it at the time. I’m a sucker for the BWF genre (Big White Florals), and tuberose is my absolute favorite flower in nature. Frederic Malle’s much-beloved Carnal Flower has never impressed me much, but Moon Bloom is simply spectacular in its delicacy, richness, and depth. There is greenness that feels like dewy gardenia, along with blackness from the deconstructed tuberose, and perfectly calibrated milkiness from coconut that is never — not once — unctuous, buttery, gooey, or something resembling sun tan lotion. Moon Bloom is a masterfully created mix of lightness and darkness, richness and delicacy, that evokes a Pre-Raphaelite’s Ophelia. Those of you who have always been terrified of tuberose fragrances may be surprised by Moon Beam because is it not a divaesque Fracas white bomb that assaults you. (I adore vintage Fracas, but it definitely is a Maria Callas fragrance!) Instead, Moon Beam is a romantic beauty that is incredibly smooth, well-calibrated, refined, and polished. One thing that is astonishing is the fact that it is an all-natural fragrance; it doesn’t feel like it with its depth, body, and longevity. As a whole, I cannot rave about Moon Beam enough. Truly lovely, masterfully done, and another one that I will one day purchase for myself.

  3. Source: drawingforkids.org

    Source: drawingforkids.org

    MASQUE MONTECRISTO. A brilliant, animalic fragrance that is positively feral at times, in the best way possible. Montecristo evokes a dry jungle where a leather and fur-clad warrior travels through fields of tobacco, spices, dusty woods, and lemony florals, all drenched with honey, booziness, and golden, musky warmth. Cumin, a powerful urinous note, and a distinct raunchiness make Montecristo a scent that is not for everyone, but it’s rather magnificent, in my opinion, especially because of the multi-faceted river of leather that runs through it. The golden drydown evoking the feel of heated, warmed skin is particularly splendid, far outweighing anything in the lighter, significantly tamer MKK from Serge Lutens. Montecristo is enormously bold, quite fascinating, very powerful, and masterfully done, in my opinion.

  4. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    PARFUMERIE GENERALE COZE. A patch head’s dream, but also far more, Coze is an incredibly rich, resinous oriental with beautiful warmth that straddles the line between an oriental and a gourmand in a perfectly calibrated mix of spices, warmth, dryness, and sweetness. It opens with a fierce, concentrated explosion of nutmeg and cloves, then black pepper, chili flakes, and patchouli. In their trail is the sweet aroma of dried tobacco that smells like tobacco leaves drizzled with honey after being soaked in rich vanilla extract. The whole thing is lovely, but becomes even better when the cocoa arrives. It resembles rich slabs of semi-sweet chocolate, as well as dusty cocoa powder. As the Madagascar vanilla and chocolate infuse the top notes, the spicy patchouli turns earthier. Tying the whole thing together like a bundle are sweet grassy notes, presumably from the hemp. Coze has apparently been reformulated and weakened, but I loved it enough to I succumb to a bottle for myself

  5. "Yellow jag" by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

    “Yellow jag” by Nancy Simmons Smith. http://simmonssmith.com/gallery/abstracts/

    SHL 777 KHOL DE BAHREIN. I’m generally not one for iris scents, but Khol de Bahrein is special. A study of light and dark, of coolness and warmth, Khol de Bahrein takes the stony aspects of iris and marries it to the warmth and richness of amber, then dusts them off with heaping mounds of sweetened heliotrope and vanillic tonka powder. I’m a sucker for heliotrope, so I fell for the perfume’s coziness and quasi-gourmand flourish, but Khol de Bahrein is first and foremost a study of cool elegance and sophistication. Its enormously rich notes are blended seamlessly, are perfectly balanced, and are held in check by a discreet softness that feels very refined. Khol de Bahrein is the very first (and only) iris fragrance that I’ve ever liked, but hardcore iris lovers rave about it even more. I personally would recommend it for fans of heliotrope as much as those who love iris.

  6. Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

    Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

    PROFUMUM ROMA ANTICO CARUSO. Antico Caruso is a stand-out in a line that specializes in rich fragrances. It opens with a retro, barber-shop bouquet centered on powerful, aromatic fougère notes with bright citruses, aromatic herbs, and lavender. The whole thing is dusted off with soapy lather, and is far too clean for my personal tastes, but it takes a mere 75 minutes for the opening to fade to a deluge of creaminess that is truly special. Almond custard, equally creamy, soft woods, and airy vanilla mousse lie at the heart of Antico Caruso, pulsating out with silky smoothness for hours to come in a way that is really delicious. What a drydown! I can’t rave enough about that almond-vanilla duet. I thought it was compulsively sniffable.

  7. Source: dragonw.wikia.com

    Source: dragonw.wikia.com

    AMOUAGE JOURNEY MAN. Journey Man grabs you from the very start with a fiery boldness that feels like a Chinese dragon roaring at you. Sichuan peppers with a definite bite are tossed into boozy, lightly fruited cognac that pulsates a golden warmth. The rich spiciness is countered with very dry woods, smoky incense, dusty cardamom, and a definite streak of blackened, leathery resins in the base. It’s a spectacular opening! However, I must be honest and repeat what I wrote in my review, which is that the drydown that begins at the third hour is much less special. The boozy, spicy boldness eventually fades to a soft tonka creaminess flecked with abstract woods and a touch of amber. It’s pleasant, but not as appealing for me personally as that spicy debut (with its distant kinship to some other perfume favorites of mine). Still, Journey Man is definitely one of the better fragrances that I’ve tried this year and very well-done, so it fully deserves a place on this list.

THE NEXT 15 FOR THE LIST OF THE TOP 25:

  1. Source: creativity103.com

    Source: creativity103.com

    SHL 777 SOLEIL DE JEDDAH. Soleil de Jeddah is a supernova of ultra-bright, glowing citruses, tangy fruits, green touches, and richness, all countered by a darkened, smoky streak of leatheriness in the base. I’m not generally one for citric or fruity fragrances, but it’s hard for one’s jaw not to drop at the concentrated richness, sunniness, and brightness of this perfume’s opening. On my skin, Soleil de Jeddah opens with juicy apricots that are tangy with jamminess, followed by very tart, sour, zesty lemon, and something distinctly resembling green mangoes, followed by iris, more iris, a light dusting of iris powder, chamomile, and a touch of woodiness. The whole thing is set upon a smoky leather base made up of styrax, birch, and isobutyl quinoline, with a wisp of smokiness, and a hint of animalic civet. Yet, despite the dark undercurrent, the overall impression you get from sniffing Soleil de Jeddah is of brightness. It is a glowing orb of citruses and golden warmth, all infused with incredible richness. It is beautifully done.

  2. Photo: Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, Megan Cleaver, via Tastykitchen.com

    Photo: Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, Megan Cleaver, via Tastykitchen.com

    PATRICIA DE NICOLAI AMBER OUD. If I were to choose things solely on the basis of how much they stick in my head and beckon to me, Patricia de Nicolai’s Amber Oud would probably be in my Top Five. This extremely simple, utterly uncomplicated, misleadingly named lavender-vanilla-patchouli perfume became a small obsession of mine. Whenever I was stressed, frazzled, or upset, this is the perfume that I wanted to wear. Whenever I was fed up with thinking and analysing perfumes, this is the cozy comfort that I sought. I really don’t think you could get anything more simple than lavender ice-cream which is really what Amber Oud is, despite the claims in its name. (No, there is not an ounce of actual agarwood in this scent. Not one.) I’m on the record about my decades-long issues with lavender, but what gets me in the case of Amber Oud is the vanilla, tonka sweetness, and light touches of spicy, brown patchouli. A minuscule sprinkling of golden amber is the final touch to this scent that envelops you in endless coziness and sweet warmth. It is like the best parts of Jicky‘s lavender-tonka heart, only without its animalic civet touches and with the benefit of tons of deep, warm, lightly spiced, golden patchouli. It is also like a much sweeter, more vanillic, less ambered Fourreau Noir (Serge Lutens), but without the latter’s incense smokiness. Far before I actually bought a full bottle, I couldn’t get Amber Oud out of my head. Its effect on me defies logic, but I’m telling you, something about this seamlessly smooth, elegant mix lowers my blood pressure and makes everything seem like it’s going to be all right.

  3. Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

    Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

    GROSSMITH SHEM-EL-NESSIM. Originally issued in 1906, Shem-el-Nessim is heavily influenced and inspired by Guerlain’s legendary L’Heure Bleue, which came out a few years before. There are definite differences, however, most noticeably in Shem-el-Nessim’s more overtly floral mix that is sweeter, and not peppery, woody, or melancholic in any way. Rich neroli orange blossoms swirl together with geranium, roses, deep bergamot, orris, and plush patchouli greenness to create an opulent, luxurious floriental worthy of a queen in a bygone era. I find it truly beautiful, carrying the full weight of its 108 year old history in its powdered floral start, but ending with a very timeless, perhaps even modern, finish of creamy neroli-vanilla mousse. Shem-el-Nessim is not for everyone, and most definitely not for modern tastes. But for women who bemoan the loss of the vintage greats, it is a fragrance that they must try. Luca Turin loves it too, and recently awarded it Four Stars.

  4. Painter: Henry Asencio, 1972. Source:  http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2013/02/Henry-Asencio.html

    Painter: Henry Asencio, 1972. Source: tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com

    TIE: SHL 777 OUMMA & ROSE DE PETRA. Yes, there is a lot of SHL 777 on this list, but it is a brand that thoroughly impressed me this year with its superb quality, intense richness, seamless blending, and sophistication. Oumma and Rose de Petra are two very different takes on roses. The first, Oumma, is a blackened, smoky, oud fragrance that is strongly middle-eastern with only a tiny kernel of a smoked, withered rose nestled deep under the veneer of dark woodiness and smoke. The second, Rose de Petra, is a stunningly spiced, rich, smoky rose that begins with similarities to Malle’s Portrait of a Lady (but far better) before transitioning to an Amouage-like Lyric-Epic combination. I’m not one for rose-centric fragrances at all, but Rose de Petra really caught my attention with its spiced, smoky, slightly dusty, and really elegant nature. And Oumma is an incredibly complex, quite masculine, wholly Middle Eastern scent that, on my skin, was dominated more by the smoke and oud woods than by the roses. Yet, it is also a shape-shifter that changes from wearing to wearing. I recommend both of them for different reasons.

  1. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    ROJA DOVE CREATION-E OR ENIGMA POUR HOMME. The best way I can describe Creation-E is with the introduction to my review: “Rivers of brandy and tobacco flow out like tributaries to a sea made of spicy, crystallized ginger and dark plum molasses. An ambered wind blows, making the waves froth white peaks made of vanilla mousse, while the sky rains down cardamom, more ginger, and soft cocoa. Eventually, the brandy river dries up, leaving a sea of Christmas plum pudding that crashes onto shores of pure tobacco in a land called Enigma.” It’s a profoundly rich fragrance with a distant kinship to such scents as Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille, Kilian‘s Apple Brandy, and Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, all rolled into one. I would have absolutely adore this scent had it not been for a streak of aroma-chemicals in the base, probably from the tobacco, that I struggled with when I applied less of Enigma. As a whole, though, it’s a very opulent, regal fragrance that makes you feel like dressing up in a velvet smoking jacket, putting on a silk ascot, and taking out a pipe. In short, it makes you feel a little like you’ve suddenly turned into Roja Dove himself. For some crazy reason, however, Enigma doesn’t move me personally, perhaps because it is a little too much like boozy Christmas plum pudding and Tobacco Vanille at times, but there is no denying its richness and quality.

  2. Photo: my own.

    Photo: my own.

    LM PARFUMS ULTIMATE SEDUCTION. Ultimate Seduction is meant to be a gourmand fragrance with a praline-vanilla heart amidst a sea of juicy fruits, sweet roses, dewy violets, and jammy patchouli, lightly flecked with a touch of dry woods. On my skin, though, it was primarily a rich rose scent with strong cassis and jammy fruitchouli that later turns into an abstract fruity-floral with a lusciously silky, airy, vanilla mousse, and only occasional whispers of green tartness. It’s a very soft, discreet scent whose middle phase evokes a sea of petals, all pink, white, peach and cream, with a touch of lingering fruity redness, and endless creamy vanilla. In its drydown, Ultimate Seduction is primarily just a vanilla scent, lightly infused with a pink rosiness. The whole thing has a seamless smoothness that is genuinely impressive. I personally may not be drawn to rose-patchouli fragrances, or those with a hazy or discreet nature, but I think Ultimate Seduction is a high-quality fragrance that is extremely well-done. 

  3. Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

    Mata Hari, 1905, via Pinterest.

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO TAWAF. Perhaps the best jasmine soliflore that I’ve tried in a while, Tawaf has a truly spectacular, heady, and completely narcotic opening of floral richness and sweetness, all infused with a touch of  skanky, indolic, blackened naughtiness. The overall effect feels like something wickedly voluptuous. If ever a jasmine were so fleshy that it amounted to a courtesan’s pillowy breasts heaving above the top of a tight corset, it would be Tawaf. There is a decadent excessiveness, overt carnality, and lush ripeness that positively oozes fleshiness. The white togated courtesans of Nero’s Rome would have drowned themselves in Tawaf while the city burned and he fiddled. And it definitely feels like the perfect scent for one of the greatest seductresses of all time, Mata Hari. Tawaf is a true beauty that rather took my breath away, but the problem is that all that headiness fades on my skin after 90 minutes or so, though the drydown is pretty with its soft floralcy, creamy myrrh and beeswax. If the gorgeous opening lasted and if Tawaf didn’t have generally weak sillage, it would be far, far, far higher on this list.

  4. Source: brookstone.com

    Source: brookstone.com

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO MILANO CAFFE. An incredibly bold, dark scent with expresso coffee, spicy patchouli, rich vetiver, and dry woods, Milano Caffé made me do a double-take from the first sniff.  It is a visual plethora of dark colours from the blackness of bitter expresso and licorice, to the mahogany of deep woods, the green-blackness of patchouli and smoky vetiver, and the darkness of black chocolate. Subtle hints of goldenness flit about from amber and vanilla, but on my skin, they are mere fireflies in the dark forest. Mentholated peppermint lingers in the air, while myrrh emits tiny puffs of smokiness. Touches of burnt resins and birch tar or cade run through the base, adding to the chewiness of the bouquet which is heavily dusted with cocoa on my skin. Milano Caffé’s concentrated darkness might make it slightly challenging for some, but perfect for anyone who loves really bold, intense fragrances centered on patchouli, coffee, and vetiver.

  5. "Romance" by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com

    “Romance” by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com

    AMOUAGE EPIC WOMAN. Epic is a lush, deep oriental rose fragrance with great spiciness, a veil of black incense, dusty oud, and velvety richness. Smoky dark orris, tea, jasmine, rich patchouli, geranium, and an increasingly prominent streak of vanilla custard are some of the other elements. Epic carries its name well, in my opinion, and is beautifully done. In truth, this would be far, far higher on the list if my personal skin chemistry didn’t make the guaiac wood take on the smell of pickles. It’s not powerful, but it’s noticeable and constant enough to ruin things for me personally, especially in conjunction with some of the dustiness and the touch of soapiness at the end. None of those things appeal to me personally, but it’s hard to deny that Epic smolders with richness and complexity. (It was created by the same nose, Daniel Maurel, who did Lyric Woman, and the two share a distant kinship, though Epic is considerably darker, spicier, and drier, in my opinion.) Most people trying Epic do not experience pickles or the other issues that I’ve mentioned, so those of you who enjoy very oriental, rich, rose fragrances may want to give it a sniff. As a side note, I think Epic’s profound spiciness, incense smokiness, and dryness make it very unisex in nature.

  6. Source: lewallpaper.com

    Source: lewallpaper.com

    LOREE RODKIN GOTHIC I. A beautiful, deep vanilla fragrance touched lightly by the warmth of spicy patchouli, Gothic I (as in the roman numeral) is an incredibly cozy scent. I’m not particularly one for vanilla, but the richness of the note here vaguely resembles that in Profumum Roma’s much beloved Dulcis in Fundo, but without any excessive sweetness or heavy waffle cone tonalities, and with the addition of patchouli. Gothic I is a scent that you can find at rather affordable prices on eBay, and one I strongly recommend to those who like deep, smooth vanillas with spice and golden warmth, but without cloying sugar. It’s definitely one that I have on my list to get for myself sometime. As a side note, I tried Gothic II which I had expected to love much more, as I’m a huge “patch head” and this version is supposed to be smokier and spicier. They are more similar than unlike, in my opinion, but something about Gothic II is not quite as appealing. I haven’t figured out why yet, but Gothic I is the one that I’d recommend.

  7. "Rush" movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

    “Rush” movie still, via developersaccomplice.co.uk

    SANTA MARIA NOVELLA NOSTALGIA. Nostalgia is a motorcar leather, birch tar, and vanilla fragrance that I keep thinking about, thanks to its truly race-car elements from burning, rubber tires to a surprisingly addictive touch of gasoline. You’d never imagine that a whiff of gasoline could smell so good, but it does. (No, really, it does!) Never fear, though, that fantastic race-car opening doesn’t last long (alas), and the vanilla steps in to create something that has often been compared to the much-beloved Bvlgari’s Black. I found Nostalgia to have faint, small similarities to Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories, but with a slightly more classical approach. As a whole, Nostalgia evoked everything from Mario Andretti and F1 races, to classic Steve McQueen and Paul Newman cool. It is very well-done, and with an excellent price, so it’s a shame that this fragrance doesn’t get the attention than it deserves, especially amongst guys who like leather, birch tar fragrances, or some of the darker scents mentioned here.

  8. Natalie Portman by Mert & Marcus for W magazine, 2006. Source: photochronograph.ru

    Natalie Portman by Mert & Marcus for W magazine, 2006. Source: photochronograph.ru

    DSH PERFUMES EUPHORISME D’OPIUM (The YSL Retrospective Collection). Euphorisme d’Opium is perhaps the best bet amongst modern, recent creations for those who miss vintage Opium. There are differences, however. The goddess’ daughter is more restrained, more lady-like, though it doesn’t give up all of the original’s sultriness. The best part of Euphorisme d’Opium is its opening which bursts forth with cloves, black pepper, pink pepper, and the bite of fiery chilis. They are followed by orange and bergamot, both of which have been infused with patchouli and incense, and the whole thing lies on a base of golden amber. The perfume soon turns more floral, beginning with delicate pink roses, trailed by hints of jasmine and ylang-ylang. The most prominent thing, however, is a dark, blood-red carnation which practical swaggers into an arena dominated by bold spices and black incense. It’s an absolutely gorgeous opening, but DSH perfumes are incredibly discreet and soft on my skin. If Euphorisme d’Opium had greater strength or sillage, it would be placed much higher on this list.

  9. Cigar humidor room. Source: fivepalms.com

    Cigar humidor room. Source: fivepalms.com

    LA VIA DEL PROFUMO TABAC. Tabac is a multi-faceted exploration of tobacco which opens with its floral and green, grassy facets before turning into a woody, resinous, slightly smoky, and very chewy tobacco fragrance with serious heft in its notes. It made me think of Cuba, or of humidor rooms with shelves of boxed Monte Cristo or Cohiba cigars. However, the beautiful drydown takes you to a Southern plantation and centers on the gingerbread aroma of tobacco leaves drying in the sun, a rare thing in a sea of sweetened, fruited pipe tobacco fragrances which may be why Luca Turin loves it so much, rating it Four Stars in his Guide. Tabac is well done and intriguing, from start to finish.

  10. Pink meringues. Source: misslemon.eu

    Pink meringues. Source: misslemon.eu

    GUERLAIN CUIR BELUGACuir Beluga is a cashmere cloud of cream and pink, with the soothing comfort of Mary Poppins telling you take a spoonful of sugar at bedtime. There is no medicine to go with that sweetness in this case, only marzipan treats, powdered heliotrope meringues, and vanilla milk. It’s an absolutely addictive spoonful of deliciousness that, alas, fades away to a lingering whisper all too quickly. Were it not for Cuir Beluga’s weak sillage and iffy longevity, it would be much higher on this list, as I think it’s lovely. Fellow fans of heliotrope really should try this one. Just don’t expect an actual leather scent, because this is most definitely not one, in my opinion. 

Source: Zedge.com

Source: Zedge.com

Honourable Mentions: Oriza L. Legrand‘s Muguet Fleuri (a softer, more floral, dewy, lily-of-the-valley cousin to Chypre Mousse, and a Spring scent that evokes fairy forests of green); Oriza L. Legrand‘s Foin Fraichement Coupé (a beautifully classic aromatic fougère with green grasses, spicy star anise, hay, citruses, a vetiver-like note and cleanness, all over a creamy base); Guerlain Jicky EDP (Modern Version)(the legendary aromatic fougère which takes lavender, gives it a skanky, civet edge, and then dusts it with tonka vanilla); Frapin 1270 (a gorgeously boozy, amber-cognac fragrance with lush, caramelized oranges, stewed fruits, a dusting of cocoa, and a touch of woodiness that eventually turns into a rich vanilla-tonka scent); DSH Perfumes Le Smoking (YSL Retrospective Collection)(a gender-bending chypre-oriental whose green galbanum opening quickly turns into a darkly balsamic fragrance centered on tobacco drizzled with honey, intertwined with leather, and then nestled in plush, rich oakmoss); and Caron Poivre Extrait (Modern Version)(a clove-pepper-spice bomb that starts off feeling almost like a classical cologne before it turns warm, rich, and soft with a touch of florals and powder).

So, that’s the round-up for the first half of the year. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year may bring.

Part II: The Perfume Industry & EU Regulations

source: girlandboything.com

source: girlandboything.com

There is a new Reuters article on the situation involving the EU regulations, but this one focuses heavily on what the response of various perfumers or perfume houses, along with measures that they’ve taken to deal with the potential oakmoss ban. In Part I of what seems likely to be an ongoing series of mine on this issue, I focused on Frederic Malle versus LVMH, Chanel, and L’Oreal, based on various reports by Reuters’ Astrid Wendlandt. This time, she has spoken to other perfumers like Parfums d’Empire‘s Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, Maurice Roucel, and Patricia de Nicolaï in a piece entitled, What’s in a scent? Perfume makers adapt to EU rules.”

However, what I found most intriguing of all in the article was Ms. Wendlandt’s subtle hint of a potential bias in the SCCS group (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safetywhose original 2012 proposals started this mad dash towards increasingly draconian EU restrictions. So I looked into the group, and Ms. Wendlandt may have a point. I’ll discuss all that, as well as provide analysis from others regarding the iffy science underlying the SCCS’ theories. There will also be a brief tangent of my own to look at the wealth of several perfume companies who would seem to have every incentive to join in a united front against the EU measures, but are doing next to nothing.

BACKGROUND:

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Oakmoss or tree moss.

Very briefly, however, let’s start with some background if you’re unfamiliar with the convoluted details of the EU situation. As I noted in an 2014 piece I wrote on perfume regulation, a 2012 Advisory Committee had offered certain draconian suggestions to the EU regulatory body on widespread restrictions of 12 ingredients. These were mere suggestions, but, as I talked about in a 2013 post, it had already led the perfume industry to begin changes to formulas of existing perfumes. To bring you up to date on the current situation, and to put it in a nutshell:

  1. the EU is currently contemplating banning 3 things: two compounds in oakmoss and tree moss, as well as HICC (otherwise known as lyral), a synthetic that replicates the smell of lily of the valley (muguet). To be specific, in the case of oakmoss, what the EU is targeting are two core compounds, atranol and chloroatranol. (Any oakmoss that is stripped of these elements can be used, but I doubt the process is affordable enough to be widely available to everyone.)
  2. The EU is deliberating on how much 9 other key, very essential ingredients should be restricted and to what levels they should be limited. As Ms. Wendlandt wrote in an earlier Reuters article a few weeks back, these other ingredients include citral, found in lemon and tangerine oils; coumarin, found in tropical tonka beans; and eugenol, found in rose oil.”
  3. Finally, they are trying to determine what sort of perfume lists and labeling should be required.

THE PERFUMERS:

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d'Empire. Source: monbazarunlimited.com

Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d’Empire. Source: monbazarunlimited.com

The new Reuters article, “What’s in a scent?”, had some interesting comments from Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, founder and “nose” at Parfum d’Empire, especially with regard to countermeasures he is considering to replace the scent of oakmoss: seaweed.

Seaweed may not be the first ingredient that springs to mind for perfume. But algae are among obscure ingredients to which perfume makers are turning to preserve the scent of their fragrances in the face of new EU anti-allergy restrictions. [...][¶]

“I am crazy about oak moss, it is one of my favorite ingredients,” says Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, perfume creator or “nose” at his niche Parfum d’Empire brand. A 100 ml bottle of scent costs 120 euros.

Corticchiato, like many other “noses,” is anxious about the new wave of potentially costly rules emanating from Brussels. [...][¶]

One solution for oak moss, Corticchiato says, is to add a touch of algae as its wet, iodized smell coupled with other ingredients, can help recreate oak moss’ moldy character.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Equally interesting to me was the fact that more perfumers are slowly going on the record to admit that they’ve reformulated fragrances already. Patricia de Nicolai, for example, points directly to the oakmoss and lyral/HICC issues as reasons for why she’s changed two fragrances. (At least, two that she’s willing to mention by name….)

She says she has never received a complaint about allergy but has reformulated some of her best sellers such as New York and Eau d’Ete because they used oak moss and lyral respectively.

She’s not the only one speaking out about forced reformulation:

“Many perfumes have had to be reformulated even though they were considered masterpieces due to changing legislation,” said Olivier Maure, head of Accords et Parfums, a supplier of major brands including Dior based in Grasse, likening it to “changing the colors of the Mona Lisa”.

In Part I, I noted the sharp change in LVMH‘s comments over the course of the last year or so on the issue of EU perfume regulations. This time, LVMH flat-out refused to make any comment whatsoever, as did its subsidiaries Dior and Guerlain. Perhaps they realized that their sudden shift in the wind had become too obvious. As for the other big brands, Hermès and L’Oreal said nothing at all, which is fully in keeping with their constant silence on the issue, no matter what the year or article.

Chanel's Jacques Polge. Source: papierblog.papierdoll.net

Chanel’s Jacques Polge. Source: papierblog.papierdoll.net

So consider me shocked when Chanel actually said something this time around. In fact, there are direct quotes from Jacques Polge, though they follow the standard line that you’d expect and nothing of any substance:

Chanel said it stopped using lyral in 2010 and has been evolving its formulas in anticipation of new rules.

“At Chanel, we follow very closely talks about regulation and scientific findings concerning raw materials,” Jacques Polge, Chanel’s chief perfume creator for 36 years, said in an emailed response to questions.

Polge said Chanel controls its formulas and supply chains to ensure its natural oak moss is bereft of the allergens targeted by Brussels. That way, “we can respect the original scent”.

Maurice Roucel. Source: Charitybuzz.com

Maurice Roucel. Source: Charitybuzz.com

One of the most famous noses around, Maurice Roucel, seems to have a response to that line of argument:

But “once you change an ingredient or two it can be very difficult to keep the scent absolutely intact, especially if those ingredients played an important role in defining the scent,” says Maurice Roucel, creator of many perfumes including L’Instant for Guerlain and Hermes’s 24 Faubourg.

A few years ago, Roucel reformulated Dior’s Fahrenheit perfume to remove lyral along with a few other ingredients and he is now working on the reformulation of about eight perfumes to make them meet new regulation.

“Big brands tell me: replace this and that and make sure it smells the same and costs the same to produce,” Roucel said.

“NO UNITED FRONT”:

Source: corporateeurope.org

Source: corporateeurope.org

I’ve written about the EU perfume regulations about 5 or 6 times by now, and the issue of cigarettes comes up each time, whether from me or from readers in the comments. So, I have to admit, I snorted rather gleefully when Ms. Wendlandt raised the matter bluntly in her article:

Some inside the perfume industry say lobby groups representing the interests of tobacco firms are better financed and better organized than those representing perfume makers.

One reason is the sheer size of the global cigarette industry. In sales terms, it is more than three times the size of the perfume industry. Cigarette lobby groups include the tobacco manufacturers’ association and the tobacco retailer’s alliance.

By comparison, perfume makers rely on Cosmetics Europe, a bulky organization that represents 4,000 companies including deodorant, toothpaste and perfume providers which have very disparate interests.

Even within the perfume industry, there is no united front as some brands are more affected than others by IFRA and new EU regulation.

One of the industry’s biggest players, L’Oreal, says it uses mainly synthetic ingredients in its perfumes. These ingredients raise fewer allergy concerns than natural products found in niche perfumes and brands such as Chanel and LVMH’s Dior and Guerlain.

Another issue is that perfumes are not protected by intellectual property rights. The composition of a perfume is not legally recognized as a “creation of the mind” but rather an industrial formula that can be replicated and altered.

Source: deceptology.com

Source: deceptology.com

I’m afraid I don’t understand how that last argument relates to the issue of the perfume industry not having adequate lobbies to support their interests. Cigarettes — whether Marlboro, Lucky Strike, Gitanes, or some menthol contraption — are products that might well be considered to have an individual “industry formula” which can be replicated. To my knowledge, they aren’t a patentable product, and there are certainly knock-offs floating around that I’ve seen myself. Yet, that doesn’t stop Phillip-Morris and its brethren from having a powerful lobbying presence. To me, the IP (intellectual property) concerns pertain more to the labeling issue and the third-prong of the upcoming EU regulations. It has nothing to do with the size or power of lobbying groups.

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Even if the perfume industry is not as large or as wealthy as the tobacco one, it still doesn’t explain to me why they can’t unite in a common cause. (Well, not L’Oreal whose stuff is replete with synthetics, but I’ll spare you a repetition of my views on that company.) For everyone else, there is ample money at stake to warrant a joining of arms, even if it’s done behind the scenes to avoid potentially negative PR from some tabloid banners. Consider an article in Euronews from June 2013 which discusses the financial cost of the upcoming regulations to just the French perfume industry alone:

There are 2,500 lavender producers in France, covering 20,000 hectars. Grasse is considered by many to be the “capital of perfumes”. It is close to the lavender flower growing regions and home to Robertet, a world leader in natural fragrance production and perfume design. Their 22 branches worldwide turnover 400 million euros a year.

Robertet workers were shocked at the SCCS report with its long list of allergenic substances to declare, limit or ban. To adapt, the French perfume industry would need to pay up to 100 million euros, according to one of the directors. The cost to Robertet would be approximately five million euros. [Emphasis added by me.]

Source: 4-traders.com

Source: 4-traders.com

People keep talking about the wealth of the aromachemical companies who are IFRA supporters, like Givaudan, to which I keep countering with the amount of money on the other side of the aisle. Forbes puts LVMH‘s worth at $28.4 billion as of November 2013 is worth. In my article on Coco Chanel, I noted how Forbes estimated the wealth of the Wertheimer brothers who privately own the company lock, stock, and barrel at roughly $19 billion. Businessweek estimated Hermès’ worth in 2012 at $19.1 billion. Coming in at a much lower level is Robertet which Businessweek says had $389.5 million in 2013 revenues. It may be less than LVMH, but it’s still nothing to scoff at. Plus, Robertet’s core business is based on natural fragrance oils, and they are based in Grasse which is currently seeking UNESCO World Heritage protection against the financial depredations already wrought by the EU proposals.

Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, owners of Chanel. Source: forbes.com

Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, owners of Chanel. Source: forbes.com

When you add in the financial impact on all the various smaller perfume houses, there is a lot of money in total on the side of those who have a vested interest in preventing more draconian EU measures from passing. The amount that Chanel makes just from Chanel No. 5 alone is something that should interest its Wertheimer owners. In addition, there is the fact that many of these fashion houses rely desperately on their beauty and fragrance sales to support their costly haute couture lines that hemorrhage money but provide a necessary prestige. For example, I highly doubt Armani could never keep up his Privé couture line if a bottle of Acqua di Gio were not selling something like every 8 or 20 seconds in this world. (I read that once in an article, but I can’t find it now to quote you the exact number.)

My point is, the perfume industry may not be as large as the tobacco one, but there is certainly enough wealth amongst certain groups to justify a united front. Why isn’t there one? There may be a split in the industry with those like L’Oreal and Givaudan on one side, but reformulation is a costly enough affair to warrant companies on the other side stepping forward.

The fact that they haven’t is starting to seem suspiciously strange under the circumstances. I have to admit, I’m starting to inch towards the camp of those who have been saying all along that the big perfume houses will benefit in the long run from lower production costs if they have to use more synthetics and if natural ingredients are drastically curtailed in their allowed percentages. Perhaps the companies are simply giving in, or perhaps they see the current wave of reformulations as a temporary financial setback which they will compensate for with decreased expenses down the road.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Viktoria Minya. Source: Fragrantica.

Whatever the reason, I think the ones it hurts the most are the smaller niche perfumers, the ones we rely upon for truly creative or high-quality fragrances. Perfume houses like Parfums de Nicolai and Andy Tauer (who has written repeatedly on his blog about the serious impact of even current EU regulations on a business like his, including the cellophane rules for his packaging). Or, professional noses like Viktoria Minya who has had to tell clients that she can’t make something according to their specifications because the ingredients are illegal or heavily restricted in the EU. And, then, of course, we have poor Marc-Antoine Corticchiato resorting bloody seaweed as a solution to his perfume woes.

BIAS & NORTH-SOUTH PERFUME LINES:

The most fascinating part of the Reuters article pertains to the SCCS advisory committee (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) whose extremely draconian proposals in 2012 made everything so much worse. The new Reuters article states:

The European Union denies targeting perfume any more than any other industry and says its new regulation seeks to address scientists’ and doctors’ concerns about the health hazards related to the use of perfume. [...][¶]

[However,] Some industry executives say Brussels’ recent focus on the perfume industry stems from its main advisory body, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). Many of the committee’s members come from northern countries such as Sweden and Denmark where there is opposition to perfume on health grounds.

“Clearly, there are more experts at the SCCS who are based in northern Europe than in the south but it is not a deliberate choice,” said David Hudson, spokesman for consumer policy at the European Commission. “We strive for geographic and gender balance but the primary selection criteria is expertise.”

Perfume is not as important to the economies of northern Europe as it is to southern countries. Perfumes and cosmetics are among France’s top five exports and the southern city of Grasse is the historic capital of the perfume industry where many leading brands such as Chanel, Hermes and Dior source their essences.

Added to that, research shows people from northern regions tend to be more vulnerable to allergies than those living around the Mediterranean. One theory is that people in northern countries are more susceptible because of their lifestyle and generally cleaner environment.

I don’t know about you, but my jaw dropped at the Reuters statements and their implications. So Scandinavians who oppose perfume on general health grounds are influencing proposals that would impact the entire EU and, by its ripple effects, perfumery around the world? The bloody bastards. If it’s true, that is….

Chairman of the EU's SCCS group, Prof. Thomas Platzek.

Chairman of the EU’s SCCS group, Prof. Thomas Platzek.

I looked into the members of the group, as listed on the SCCS website, and I don’t think that one can say that a majority come from Sweden or Denmark. However, there is no doubt that ALL the current members are geographically based in Northern Europe, even if two seem to be of Indian or South Asian ancestry. Here are the SCCS members and their country, as stated by the organization itself:

  1. Dr Ulrike Bernauer: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  2. Dr Qasim Chaudhry: The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Sand Hutton, United Kingdom.
  3. Dr Pieter Coenraads: University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
  4. Prof. Gisela Degen: Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo), Dortmund, Germany.
  5. Dr Maria Dusinska: Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Kjeller, Norway.
  6. Dr Werner Lilienblum: Retired.
  7. Dr Andreas Luch: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  8. Dr Elsa Nielsen: Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark.
  9. Prof. Thomas Platzek: Chair of the Committee : Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.
  10. Dr Suresh Rastogi: Vice-Chair of the Committee: Retired [Location seems to be Denmark according to a Google search.]
  11. Dr Christophe Rousselle: French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES), Maisons-Alfort, France.
  12. Dr Jan Van Benthem: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
SCCS member, Dr. Bernauer from Germany.

SCCS member, Dr. Bernauer from Germany.

Out of those 12 people, 5 are Germans (if you include Dr. Werner Lilienblum whose location is not listed but which I looked up). After that: 2 are Dutch, 2 are Danish, 1 is Norwegian, 1 is French, and 1 is British (and of South Asian, Indian or Pakistani origins). Not a Spaniard, Greek, or Sicilian amongst the lot. While there are two South Asians of possibly Indian or Pakistani ancestry, one has to admit that the panel’s composition is heavily skewed in one direction.

What is more troublesome is the very real likelihood that all these doctors or scientists . used unsound, highly limited data as the basis for their ruthlessly stringent 2012 proposals to the EU. I’m wholly unqualified to speak to the underlying science, but Mark Behnke has an advanced degree in chemistry and wrote about this issue for his site, Colognoisseur:

The data used to determine the allergen potential of these molecules is scientifically and statistically unsound. [...] The studies these bans and restrictions have been based on were performed one time at one concentration on 25 patients with no controls, positive or negative! This is what makes me shake my head as this is not good scientific practice and the conclusions made are very preliminary and possibly incorrect.

An even bigger flaw is the idea that it’s really only 23 molecules, so what? If these single molecules are restricted and banned it will have a ripple effect throughout many more raw materials. A natural oil is not a single molecule it is a combination of as many as hundreds of individual molecules. Any one of which could be identified as one of the “bad 23” which would then make that natural oil unusable as well. [...]

Even I know that you need controls in a scientific study, but there seem to have been none used here. And only a one-time test on a mere 25 patients?! It’s rather astonishing.

Source: cosmeticsdesign-europe.com

Source: cosmeticsdesign-europe.com

As for the medical data, a reader of the blog, “Colin,” provided a response to that in a comment to one of my prior articles. He wrote:

Most people who may be allergic to perfumes or specific scent chemicals have a skin reaction which is not dangerous or life-threatening in any way. A brief review of medical literature reveals only two, yes that is TWO, reported cases of anaphylaxis, which is the severe, life-threatening kind of allergic reaction. One occurred in a health care worker when a patient sprayed her directly in the face with 3 sprays of perfume (I’m completely serious, look it up–Lessenger JE. Occupational acute anaphylactic reaction to assault by perfume spray in the face. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001;14:137-40). The other occurred when a mother sprayed her 2-month infant in the face with cologne. Neither of these would be considered by anyone to be a customary use of fragrance. Incidentally, in the case of the infant, the cologne contained menthol which was the ingredient the authors suspected to have been the main factor in triggering this response. Is menthol even on the list of ingredients of concern? Should any chemical be regulated if, in the recorded history of humanity, there have been but 2 cases recorded of any anaphylactic reaction and in both cases the perfume was being misused?

SCCS Dr.  Pieter Coenraads.

SCCS Dr. Pieter Coenraads.

So, a geographic (and skin tone) imbalance amongst the SCCS, and their reliance on faulty science involving 25 people as proof, even though there have been only 2 instances in medical history of life-threatening reactions to perfumery. If you ask me, the SCCS and their northern issues lie behind all of this. If perfume were up there with automotive engineering as one of Germany’s leading industries, you can bet that they would not do anything so ridiculous as they are doing now. And obviously the fair-haired, pale Dutch or Scandinavians are going to care more about “research [that] shows people from northern regions tend to be more vulnerable to allergies than those living around the Mediterranean,” to quote the Reuters article.

I think it’s going to be important for more and more perfume houses or noses to speak out. The EU legislators in Brussels have not yet finalized their legislation, and they previously indicated that they were interested in hearing from people in the industry with the 90-day period that ended in May. The fight over oakmoss is lost, but there are still the 9 or so ingredients whose restriction levels are being considered, including such key components as lavender, certain citrus oils, compounds in rose oil, and coumarin from tonka beans. In my opinion, the only small hope in making the EU legislators put forth more moderate legislation lies in having numerous figures in the perfume industry speak out to the media, drawing attention to the situation and, more importantly, to the severe economic loss that might issue. I think a media campaign is something that  Brussels could not easily dismiss.

No-one can rely on the big houses like LVMH or Chanel to lead what’s left of the charge in the final months ahead, and I think that sad fact is starting to sink in across the industry. As Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfum d’Empire stated in that Reuters article: “I expected big groups to take the initiative on this matter but it turns out that they are the most risk averse[.]”

Mr. Corticchiato, Frederic Malle, Patricia de Nicolai, Maurice Roucel, and a handful of others deserve enormous praise for their public stance. They certainly have my respect and admiration, which is more than I can say for both the SCCS and some of the companies mentioned here.

4160 Tuesdays The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)

The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)” is quite a name for a fragrance, and a tall order to boot, subjective humble opinions notwithstanding. I personally don’t share the sentiment described in the title, but “The Sexiest Scent” (as I shall call it here for reasons of simplicity and speed) from 4160 Tuesdays is not a bad perfume, and has some enjoyable aspects. I can’t say the same for 4160 Tuesday’s other vanilla scent, The Dark Heart of Old Havana, which I shall cover in a different review.

Source: The Daily Mail.

Source: The Daily Mail.

4160 Tuesdays is a small, British house founded in 2013 by Sarah McCartney, who spent 14 years as the head writer for Lush. Her new venture is essentially a one-woman show, as she creates the perfumes, apparently bottles them herself from what I’ve read, and deals with all aspects of the business. On her website, she explains about the history, philosophy, and name of her house:

Sarah had been writing about perfume for 15 years, then started making the scents she’d described in her novel, fragrances that reminded the characters of a happy time. Then friends started asking her to make perfumes to capture their own happy times. [...][¶]

The name: if we live until we’re 80, we have 4160 Tuesdays.

That’s all. Let’s not waste them.

Let’s use them to write, think, make and do lovely things. Or, if that sounds great but you don’t have time, to buy lovely things that other makers have put together.

On a Tuesday, do something different.

4160 Tuesdays is all about being creative: mindful observation, nerd-like fascination, endless exploration and – fingers crossed – mixing it all up and having good ideas. At least once a week. If we can’t be bright and brilliant every day, at least let’s have a crack at making Tuesdays interesting.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

The Sexiest Scent is one of fifteen eau de parfums released last year by the fledgling perfume house, and its name stems from a remark by a journalist who loved the fragrance. Sarah McCartney explains the story briefly on her website, along with the perfume’s notes:

Woody oriental
It started life as the background for a bespoke fragrance event we did with The Gin Garden. It was specially designed to be smooth, unassuming, quiet, sensual and to stay close to the skin. (We would take this, then add the gin botanicals to make a gin inspired scent.) But then we did a special event for two VIP guests, and one was a journalist. She liked it on its own, as did many of the other visitors, and declared it, “the sexiest scent ever!” and so it came to be named.

Hints of citrus, of wood, of soft sweetness and a sensual musky ambergris blend. It’s all heart.

Ingredients: Alcohol, Parfum, Citral, Limonene, Linalool.
top notes: bergamot
heart notes: woods
base notes: vanilla/ambergris

There are two things left off that list, in my opinion. First, and most importantly, ISO E Super. Lots (and lots) of ISO E Super. Second, clean, white musk. I’m not alone in my beliefs, either. On Fragrantica, white musk garners the most votes (19) for any single ingredient in The Sexiest Scent, followed by vanilla at 15. And several commentators find the perfume to have enormous similarities to Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, which is practically 100% ISO E Supercrappy.

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

ISO E Super. Source: Fragrantica

Regular readers know my feelings about both those elements, especially the latter when it appears in vast quantities. As I’ve written in the past, some people find ISO E Super to have an aphrodisiac or pheromone-like quality, while others are largely anosmic to its aroma. (Lucky devils). Even those who can detect it often don’t have problems that I do, perhaps because of the fact that the chemical’s very large molecules can block out the nose’s receptors. It is one reason why fragrances with a lot of ISO E Super can be hard to detect when smelt up close for too long, but are easier to notice from a distance or with some time between sniffs. Significant quantities of the aromachemical are thereby sometimes responsible for what I describe as a “ghost scent,” a fragrance which seems to vanish away completely for a while, only to pop back up a few hours later.

Source: Nathan Branch.

Source: Nathan Branch.

As a whole, ISO E Super’s smell can vary, from the “woody buzz” described by Luca Turin, to a very peppered woodiness, or pure rubbing alcohol with a revoltingly medicinal, antiseptic vibe. Some people think it smells of somewhat sweet skin, though that’s never happened to me. On me, the particular aroma varies from fragrance to fragrance, and often depends on the amount that is used. The greater the quantity, the more it smells like rubbing alcohol, and the more that it is guaranteed to give me a raging migraine. I have made it abundantly clear that I do not like fragrances with hefty amounts of aromachemicals or ISO E Super, and that I will criticize them sharply.

It is in this context that I say that 4160 Tuesday’s fragrance isn’t bad, relatively speaking, and almost pleasant on occasion. It don’t find it to be “The Sexiest Scent on the Planet” (let alone “Ever“) and yes, the ISO E Super acts up in all its problematic ways, including its ghostly dance, but I have smelled substantially worse things in my life. I certainly don’t think perfume is anywhere close to being as bad as Molecules 01, the absolutely terrifying Ormonde Jayne Montabaco (which cemented my ISO E Super trauma and whose name pains me to this day), other Ormonde Jaynes, the nightmarish Montale Lime Aoud (which I deem to be an olfactory Chernobyl), or several scents from Andy Tauer, Imaginary Authors, Parfumerie Generale, or Montale.

Art: Byron JonJorian at http://www.byronjorjorian.com/detail/5217.html

Art: Byron JonJorian at http://www.byronjorjorian.com/detail/5217.html

In fact, “The Sexiest Scent” is an approachable, almost fluffy, somewhat decent vanilla with fluctuating levels of sunny lemon and dry woodiness. It’s an extremely simple scent, without much complexity or depth, but it’s quite pleasant at times. At least, when I can smell it. And, yes, I actually am as surprised as I seem, because I fully expected “The Sexiest Scent” to be a full-scale trauma between its two problematic notes. What is pleasant about the perfume is that it isn’t a cloying, sugar-fest with saccharine-sweet, candy cane vanilla that will put you into a diabetic coma. It opens with visuals of sunny light from the juicy bergamot, even if its freshness is amplified by a clean, white musk. Then, later, it turns significantly drier and woodier in nature. So, onto the specifics.

Painting by Moon Beom via lostateminor.com

Painting by Moon Beom via lostateminor.com

“The Sexiest Scent” opens on my skin as lemony vanilla with cedar, ISO E Super, and white musk. There is a sunny, almost child-like innocence in the brightness of its lemon notes and in the fluffy, softness of its airy vanilla. While the latter is thankfully free from the cotton-candy vibe, there is a heavy synthetic feel to the scent as a whole, especially when sniffed up close. In fact, the white musk is almost as prominent as the ISO E Super at first. Yet, to my surprise given the quantities in question, neither one is particularly harsh or strident. In fact, there is only an occasional nuance of antiseptic rubbing alcohol to the aromachemical. By the same token, the white musk never turns into the dreaded hairspray note.

What’s pretty about the start is the juicy richness of the lemon which infuses every part of the vanilla, creating an endless vista of yellow in my mind’s eye. The vanilla is perfectly balanced as a counterpart, even if both notes are sometimes overwhelmed by…. yes, you guessed it. Lurking in the sidelines is the cedar which is initially quite pleasant, though it later takes on a subtle nuance of pencil shavings.

Painting by Moon Beom via lostateminor.com

Painting by Moon Beom via lostateminor.com

“The Sexiest Scent” changes slowly, though its core essence remains largely the same. The bright bergamot-lemon fades roughly 30 minutes into its development, while the woody notes grow stronger, vying with the vanilla and ISO E Super for dominance. The perfume is now largely a woody vanilla with aromachemicals, white musk, and a touch of citrus. It turns slowly drier in nature, as the cedar and the ISO E Super’s woody undertones become more prominent. By the 2.5 hour mark, it is largely just a dry vanilla fragrance with some woodiness.

“The Sexiest Scent” is an airy fragrance with initially moderate sillage that soon turns quite discreet. Using the equivalent of 2 good smears, the perfume projected about 3 inches, but it weakened substantially after 30 minutes. At that point, it hovered a mere inch at best above my skin. Roughly 75 minutes into its development, the perfume turned into a skin scent that became hard to detect.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

And that is due primarily to the ISO E Super. Not its actual aroma, but the way it can turn scents into a ghost act when a lot of it is used. On my skin, The Sexiest Scent in the World starts to fade in and out as early as the end of the first hour. There is so much ISO E that the extra-large molecules overwhelmed my nose, and blocked out the remainder of the notes. I frequently had to take pauses, go aside, or sniff something else entirely and then come back to the scent later in order to detect it. I was almost certain the perfume had permanently vanished from my skin around the 2.5 hour mark, and, in fact, it actually did “disappear” for a good 60 minutes. Then, suddenly, “The Sexiest Scent” returned as a blur of slightly dry, woody vanilla. It lingered as a subtle skin scent for a short while longer, then died away completely right at the end of the 4th hour and the start of the 5th.

On Fragrantica, there is a lot of love for The Sexiest Scent, with some commentators raving about the vanilla’s richness, its woody aspects, or the boozy element that a few posters detected. Others, however, find the cedar to render the fragrance rather masculine in nature; note the perfume’s short duration or skin scent characteristics; or talk about its similarity to the ISO E Super-centric Molecule 01. A lot of people spend a significant amount of time discussing the perfume’s name, or that of 4160 Tuesdays as a whole. There are many critics. I personally really like what 4160 Tuesdays’ name symbolizes, because I think it’s a very positive message about life and living it to its fullest. That said, I do think there is an overly clever, intentionally manipulative marketing aspect to the actual perfume’s title, and it would be disingenuous if anyone were to pretend otherwise.

Moleule 01. Source: mygazeta.com

Moleule 01. Source: mygazeta.com

Ultimately, however, none of that is particularly relevant to the issue of how “The Sexiest Scent” actually smells or to its quality, so here is a sampling of the various opinions about the fragrance itself:

  • I’m surprised to see the iso-e-super isn’t used in this perfume as it smells very similar to Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, but with a dash of vanilla. Anyway if you don’t know what iso-e-super smells like, it’s basically a peppery, woody, musky smell. I like that this has vanilla, but I think if I were to buy either of these I’d go with Molecule 01 simply because it has better sillage and longevity.
  • I find this quite masculine with a cedar type of note the most persistent. It does seem to want some top note so I layered it with some Rose cologne and that set it off quite well. Not very strong and only the darkest woody notes persist beyond an hour.
  • Drydown smells like Molecule01 with spicy vanilla. Sexy by association.
  • IMHO; this is one of the best vanillas out there, and I have many! It’s a gorgeous, woody vanilla with a slight boozy note. Very cozy, and comforting. It kind of reminds me of sitting beside a campfire on a cool evening. Perfect for fall, and I would love to get a bottle. [¶] Vanilla lovers, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried this one. It’s amazing!
  • This is a beautifully addictive citrus and vanilla that has me sniffing my arm all day. Clearly high quality ingredients and great longevity on my skin.
  • It’s crazy but occasionally you open a sample and go YES. This is it, I love this. [...] Straight away my husband said bonfires, and now I read that we are not alone in thinking this. It’s familiar, comforting, simple, complex, creamy, uplifting, cozy, known, and yet different and unique.
  • this, in my opinion, is done very very well. Goes on smooth, rich, “full”, it is not at all watery or insipid. Lovely natural smelling vanilla, this smells expensive, the bergamot lifts it and makes it light and airy, and the woody notes give it a firm grounding and depth preventing it from floating off into the total fluffy-bunny arena! The musks add a warm sensuous note, and all together, with the 4160Tuesdays base recognisable in all their scents this makes for a really good perfume.
Source: wallpaperscraft.com

Source: wallpaperscraft.com

On Basenotes, there are two reviews which are split down the middle. The first one is sharply negative, and talks about how the “dreadful” white musk ruins the scent with its resemblance to “those god-awful plug-in air fresheners,” as well as the perfume’s linear nature and short duration:

This is definitely overhyped, I think.

On initial application, there is a full, fresh bergamot, not too sharp, but smooth and clean. After about 15 minutes this goodwill is utterly destroyed by a dreadful, off-key white musk that reminds me of those god-awful plug-in air fresheners. Luckily, vanilla arrives to smooth this off and finally vetiver lingers in the background. The sillage is weak after the bergamot and the longevity only around 2-3 hours.

This is very much a feminine scent (and this comes from a guy who wears Black Orchid) and is linear in delivery and execution. All mouth and no trousers, IMHO.

Cedar. Source: mlewallpapers.com

Cedar. Source: mlewallpapers.com

The second review is more positive, though:

Cedarwood seems to be the main player here but the whole fragance has a ‘musky’ feel. I’m a little worried about the longevity — I need to give it a proper day’s wear. [Snip irrelevant part about the perfume's title.]

Very nice indeed and, yes — it is sexy

On MakeupAlley, there is only one review thus far which rates The Sexiest Scent with 2 lipsticks out of 5, and essentially finds the perfume to be pleasant, over-marketed kitsch that is more boring than anything else. The review reads, in part:

It’s likeable and smells . . . nice. But this is sexy only in a very obvious, well-it-has-vanilla-so-it-must-be-sexy way. There’s nothing complex or interesting to it, and ultimately I don’t recommend it because the lasting power is terrible, and it’s . . . well, BORING. The scent is good enough, and I probably will use up my sample, but I wouldn’t buy a full bottle of this frgrance. In MY honest opinion, I’ve tried a few samples from this line, and I think it’s more kitsch and marketing than substance.

There are many more reviews out there for The Sexiest Scent, most of which are almost entirely raves from British bloggers.

My assessment is that The Sexiest Scent is pleasant, incredibly simplistic, and terribly over-hyped. It’s better than what I thought it would be, but that may well be because I braced myself and expected to be brutalized, thanks to all the comparisons to Molecule 01 and my personal aromachemical issues. Still, it’s not a bad scent, and there are some nice bits that float in and out of the woody haze. On the other hand, I do not think it smells particularly expensive, and $90 for 50 ml of heavy aromachemicals with vanilla and a fleeting touch of lemon seems a little high. I also wonder if perhaps a few of the rave reviews have been subconsciously influenced by the perfume’s name.

At the end of the day, The Sexiest Scent is not my cup of tea, but if you enjoy woody vanilla scents and don’t mind a lot of synthetics, then give it a sniff. You may like its initial lemony sunniness and its subsequent dryness, especially if you’ve been looking for a vanilla scent that isn’t extremely sweet or cloying.

Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Sexiest Scent is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle for $88 or $90, but is available overseas in a 100 ml bottle that costs £90. In the U.S.: you can find it at Luckyscent, which is the exclusive U.S. distributor for 4160 Tuesdays and also sells samples. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, you can find the whole line of 4160 Tuesdays at IndieScents which sells The Sexiest Scent for $88 (possibly CAD pricing?), in addition to a $60 sample set of all 15 fragrances in a 1.5 ml spray vial. In the U.K., 4160 Tuesdays’ E-Shop has the perfume in a variety of different forms and sizes, ranging from 30 ml bottle for a £40 to 100 ml, or a “Commitment Phobe” set of minis. There are also various sample formats in much smaller sizes, like a £5 vial. In London, Roullier White sells the 100 ml bottle for £90. The 4160 Tuesday line is also available at Les Senteurs. For all other countries, your best bet is Luckyscent which ships worldwide. Samples: Luckyscent sells samples at the link provided above, as do a few of the other sites mentioned here.

Givenchy Ambre Tigre (The Atelier Collection)

Source: Now Smell This.

Source: Now Smell This.

Ambre Tigré (hereinafter just “Ambre Tigre”) is one of seven fragrances in a new prestige collection from Givenchy called the Atelier de Givenchy. Each of the fragrances is inspired by the couture house’s past, and by its most famous muse, Audrey Hepburn. According to LVMH, Givenchy’s corporate overlord, each bottle comes with a design sketch, intended to convey the feel of the fabrics used by the house and its couture traditions, and each perfume is meant to highlight one particular note.

Source: Saks Fifth Avenue

Source: Saks Fifth Avenue

It should be obvious which element is the focus of Ambre Tigre. The Givenchy press release quoted by Harrods describes the eau de parfum as follows:

Source: Tatler magazine, Russia, at Tatler.ru.

Source: Tatler magazine, Russia, at Tatler.ru.

Suggestive of lush nature and animal impulses, Ambre Tigré is a feline fantasy, a call for passion.

Amber evokes the bewitching, magnetic sensuality of Givenchy Couture skin and fur prints, while the fullness of vanilla and the animality of labdanum ciste soften the amber’s fervour, completely melting into it, as a leopard’s spots blend into its coat.

Ambre Tigré awakens our most sensual instincts, preparing us for enchantment of all kinds.

Source: The Nez Deluxe blog.

Source: The Nez Deluxe blog.

According to Fragrantica and that press release, Ambre Tigre has only 3 notes: amber, vanilla, and labdanum, inspired by fur, leather and animal prints. I don’t think it’s true, and I believe that there are far more ingredients to Ambre Tigre, even if they are subtle and far from being the main players. I’m not alone in that suspicion. The Polish blog, Nez Deluxe, writes (in translated form, thanks to Google) the following:

Disclosure of only three notes makes the person focuses only on them and treat perfume as a single-note composition. [...] Ambre Tigre has a 100% more ingredients and more notes from those declared officially. Apart from certain herbs more than enough space for cedar, musk, patchouli, sandalwood perhaps …

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

I agree with much of that, particularly the cedar, patchouli, and clean musk because Ambre Tigré opens on my skin with more than mere labdanum, or even the ambergris that Givenchy intends when it uses the generic term “amber.” Ambre Tigre begins with clean, fresh amber sweetness infused with a definite whiff of something floral. I can’t place the flower fully because it is stripped down, sanitized, and faceless. My guess is that it is a rose geranium, for there is something rosy about it but, also, very subtle green, slightly bitter nuances. (I suspect that note may be the same as the “herbs” referenced by the Polish blog review listed up above.)

Other elements soon follow. There is a strong blast of fruited patchouli whose rubied, slightly jammy sweetness amplifies the impression of a rose geranium and adds to Ambre Tigre’s initial floralcy. Then, moments later, the previously generic “amber” accord blooms and separates out into the toffee’d muskiness of labdanum arm-in-arm with the salty caramel aroma of ambergris. I don’t think the latter is wholly real or natural, as it is a thin note without ambergris’ true heft and marshy richness, but it’s not bad. Subtle suggestions of cedar lurk in the background. Clean musk and a wisp of vanilla are the finishing touches that tie the whole thing together.

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

In the opening stage, Ambre Tigre briefly reminds me of a more fruitchouli version of Dior‘s gorgeous Ambre Nuit from its prestige Privée Collection. The Givenchy scent is cleaner and far more rose-dominated that the Dior was on my skin, and not as heavily ambered in feel from the start. It’s also not as rich, full-bodied, and expensive smelling as the Ambre Nuit, and feels more like a commercial, mainstream designer fragrance. Certainly, its cleanness is wholly in keeping with such scents, as is its use of the mainstream staple of purple fruit-chouli.

Givenchy’s sanitized approach to labdanum and ambergris — two elements with dirty, musky, leathered and/or animalic tendencies in their true form — isn’t particularly surprising. After all, Givenchy is trying to compete with Dior, Chanel, and other couture houses who have all put out prestige, quasi-niche lines that take a refined approach. Yet, Givenchy went so much out of its way to trumpet the “animalic” nature of Ambre Tigre. “Feline”? Ha. Not even remotely.

Audrey Hepburn being fitted by Hubert de Givenchy. Source: style.rs

Audrey Hepburn being fitted by Hubert de Givenchy. Source: style.rs

I cannot stress enough, this is a safe, very French interpretation of amber. That said, I suspect a lot of people will find it to be a refined, smooth, elegant take on the notes, even if hardcore amber lovers will be disappointed with its extremely chaste, subdued, quiet, and dainty character. To be fair, given the supposed source of their inspiration, Ambre Tigre fits. It is definitely more akin to Audrey Hepburn than, say, Ava Gardner, Angelina Jolie, or someone oozing dark, raw, sex appeal.

Ambre Tigre isn’t a very complicated scent, nor one with endless twists and turns. In a nutshell, it simply becomes drier, woodier, and muskier in nature over the course of its development on my skin. The first change begins roughly 15 minutes into Ambre Tigre’s development, when the cedar rises up from the base. It smells wholly synthetic now, and even has a cypriol-like nuance that makes it briefly resemble a clean oud. At the same time, the ambergris’ caramel facets grow stronger, taking on a certain chewiness.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

As a whole, Ambre Tigre is now an equal-parts blend of caramel amber with fruited, jammy patchouli that is lightly flecked by labdanum’s toffee’d aroma, muskiness, dry woodiness, cleanness, and a microscopic dash of saltiness. There is a certain sharpness to the bouquet, either from the synthetic cedar or the white musk, but it is far from overpowering or long-lasting. While Ambre Tigre is a sweet scent with its caramel and toffee’d undertones, it never veers into the gourmand category. The woody elements, as well as the perfume’s thinness, prevent that.

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

Source: onlinefabricstore.net

In the hours that follow, the only changes which ensue are one of tiny, fractional degrees. At the start of the 3rd hour, Ambre Tigre is a soft amber with a touched of fruited floralcy and a light dusting of vanilla powderiness. Slowly, the patchouli, the sweet caramel, and its chewy richness begin to fade, while the cedar turns into a simple abstract “woodiness” and grows stronger. Ambre Tigre also becomes wispier in body, and loses what little richness it had. At the same time, the clean musk retreats to the sidelines, permitting the fragrance to feel a hair muskier in nature. A minuscule sliver of vanilla darts around the edges, but it doesn’t do much in the face of Ambre Tigre’s drier, woodier nature.

Ambre Tigre turns into a slightly musky, simple ambergris scent with a touch of dry woodiness, and it remains that way until its very end. All in all, it lasts just over 7.25 hours on my skin, but I continuously thought it was going to die after the end of the 4th hour. One reason why is that Ambre Tigre is an incredibly discreet scent. Even from the start, it is very soft in sillage. Using 2 big smears or the equivalent of 1 spray from an actual bottle, Ambre Tigre initially projects 2-3 inches. However, that number soon drops, and the perfume lies a bare inch above the skin after 90 minutes. At the start of the 3rd hour, Ambre Tigre is a discreet skin scent. Someone standing by you would have to put their nose almost right on your neck to notice the perfume, something which might be a plus except for the fact that you yourself may not be able to detect it.

I haven’t been able to find many detailed reviews for Ambre Tigre, as it is a new scent and not widely available. For Nez Deluxe, the Polish blog quoted up above, Ambre Tigre lost its “dry roots” after 15 minutes and turned sweeter, thanks to the appearance of vanilla. Their brief description reads, in part and in translated form via Google, as follows:

In the second phase, we feel the 10-15-the-minute, amber loses dry roots. I stand up for it even more balsam. Also increases the temperature of the composition. Hard lumps labdanum begin to melt and glisten in the bright note reminiscent of the smell of hot air over the dying campfire. In areas of “unisex” deviate slightly in the direction of “woman”. further part is even less seasoned, slightly sweet indeed. fluffy, soft notes of vanilla here are kind of cocoon. At the moment reminds me Jalaine patchouli and ambergris Regina Harris[.] [Emphasis to names added by me.]

Source: confessionletters.com

Source: confessionletters.com

On Fragrantica, there is only one review thus far which reads, in part, as follows:

First impressions; GORGEOUS! A quality amber, it does not scream “I am Givenchy”, rather, it mingles in the same circle as a lot of other high quality ambers by today’s niche houses. I am not feeling too much vanilla, it floats ever so softly in the background, while amber is the star of the show. A straight up, soft and creamy, slightly smoky, sexy amber.
The dry-down is a touch dry, resinous, with a whisper of powder.
Longevity is quite good, upwards of 3 hours on me, it takes a little time to warm up on the skin, peaking at around half an hour into application.
It is not as smoky as Roma Profumum’s Ambra Aurea, but I find it to be very similar. Definitely a unisex fragrance. [Emphasis to name added by me.]

The legendary gold "Amber Room" of the Tsars, St. Petersburg. Source: Wikipedia.

The legendary gold “Amber Room” of the Tsars, St. Petersburg. Source: Wikipedia.

I don’t find many similarities to Ambra Aurea besides the caramel character of the ambergris. The Profumum scent is like a massive, opaque, dense, solid gold tank, with a walloping amount of ambergris that feels like the perfume equivalent of the legendary Amber Room of the Tsars. It has the full salty, marshy, musky, chewy caramel qualities of the note, absolutely zero fruited patchouli, little woodiness, strong undertones of leathery labdanum toffee, and massive body as a whole. In comparison, Ambre Tigre is a thin, light, very chaste affair that sanitizes much of the ambergris, not to mention mutes the labdanum and then adds commercial, mainstream elements. It simply doesn’t smell the same, in my opinion.

Ambra Aurea

Ambra Aurea

Where my experience overlaps with that of the Fragrantica commentator is that we both encountered very little vanilla in Ambre Tigre, and had a soft scent that didn’t last particularly long. In fact, the longevity votes on Fragrantica for Ambre Tigre thus far are: 1 for “Weak” (1-2 hours), and 2 for “Moderate” (3-6 hours).

That’s not great, in my opinion. Ambra Aurea will last well over 15 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, and I’ve known others for whom the numbers are much higher. It’s also a significantly better, more opulent perfume that is a true amber soliflore — I would argue it is the gold standard for ambergris scents — and it isn’t much more expensive than the Givenchy. Ambre Tigre costs $220 for a 100 ml of eau de parfum. Ambra Aurea is $240 for a 100 ml of something that is pure parfum extrait with an astonishing 42% to 44% concentration. Hands down, it’s a better deal.

Ambre Tigre isn’t a bad perfume by any means. Not at all. It has some nice bits, with a refined, elegant feel. I simply think you can do far better for the price, longevity, and scent in question.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ambre Tigré is an eau de parfum that comes only in 100 ml/3.3 oz bottle that costs $220. In the U.S.: Ambre Tigre is exclusive to Saks Fifth Avenue, along with the rest of the Atelier Collection. Outside the U.S.: In the U.K., you can find Ambre Tigre at Harrods, which may also have an exclusive on the line. In France, I expect you can find the perfume at all Givenchy boutiques, and probably at the more expensive sections of places like Printemps. In the Middle East, I’ve read that Ambre Tigre and Givenchy are available at “leading beauty boutiques” in Dubai, though I have no specific names for you. I haven’t been able to find other online sites, but I assume the line will be available at any high-end department store that carries Givenchy fragrances. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells Ambre Tigre starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.