Sunday, February 12, 2012

most fragrant birthday

Friday was my 31st birthday. I was lucky enough to be treated to several days of birthday goodness. Thursday night, I celebrated with a lovely dinner at The Atlantic with Andrew. Saturday we had Andrew's family over for a visit (celebrating both my birthday and his brother's). The adorable mini cake above is courtesy of Andrew's parents. On my actual birthday, I had a coffee & cake date with my BFF Alissa and then took myself shopping. Major shopping.

Over the last month or so I have developed a serious obsession with perfume. I used to think that I didn't like perfume, but in the last couple of years after discovering Terre d'Hermes and OLO (thanks to my lady blogger friends!), I have had my mind and senses opened. It turns out that I really just didn't like cheap generic perfume. My recent descent into complete perfume madness started with an innocent visit to Holt Renfrew to sniff the L'eau d'Orange Verte at the Hermes counter, which I'd remembered liking when I originally sampled the Terre. That led to a conversation with a sales associate who lured me over to the Frederic Malle area. He showed me the Bigarade Concentree (because it is somewhat similar to the Orange Verte and was also designed by Jean Claude Ellena, who is the nose for Hermes). It was extraordinary. He also showed me some others from the line, which were completely fascinating and beautiful.

I decided that I needed to properly sample the Bigarade for a few days on my skin before investing in a bottle. They had no samples available at Holts, so I had to track down a sample on the internet. One thing lead to another, and after countless hours reading perfume blogs and reviews, here I am with at least 50 samples I've ordered from various places, a growing short-list of must-get fragrances, and a hunger to smell more and learn more. I had planned to treat myself to the Bigarade for my birthday, but couldn't just stop at that. I decided that I also *needed* the Accord Oud from Byredo. I fell in love with my sample, and find it particularly well-suited to cooler weather, so I just couldn't wait to buy it. Between these two bottles, and the bottle of Dark Wave from OLO that is on its way to me in the mail right now (Thanks Mom & Dad!!), I'm a very happy (and good smelling) girl. And, as evinced by this much longer than usual post, I'm eager to talk about perfume, so I would be thrilled if any of you would share your thoughts, feelings, favourite scents, etc. in the comments!

In case you are curious about what these things actually smell like, here are my completely amateur impressions:

Bigarade Concentree (Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle) - notes: bitter orange, rose, cedar, hay.
I've read a review that compared this perfume to the smell of a cab driver eating an orange. Not exactly the image it forms for me, but I can see where that comparison comes from. It is a dirty, earthy orange that really connects with the body. The opening is the most real and vibrant orange I've smelled in a perfume, more like the orange rind than the juice. Often, intense citrus perfume smells hurt my sinuses, but this just smells completely natural and amazing. As it dries down the other notes add layers of depth and really give me the sense that it is somehow amplifying some part of my own skin smell (in a good way). I get the feeling that this is the kind of scent that could have a very different effect depending on one's skin chemistry. For me, it is never too bitter or sweet, and becomes warm and woody and slightly spicy, with a hint of citrus keeping the memory of the initial exhilarating opening notes alive for a long time.

Accord Oud (Byredo) - notes: blackberry, saffron, rum, leather accord, clary sage, patchouli, powdery musks
This scent is rich and luscious and quite masculine. Even though the blackberry note is pretty dominant, I would not call it fruity. It reminds me of cassis liquor, leather and resinous wood. I find it hard to elaborate much on this one. The notes as listed are already pretty evocative. It is both intense and strong, but soft and supple. Pretty sexy.

Dark Wave (OLO) - notes: cardamom, vetiver, woods
This one is woody, warm and dry. Very dry. Dusty, even - in a good way. It smells ancient and deep and comforting. I love it.


  1. mmm, i love perfume, and i can't get enough of it, either! i made my own at the one-of-a-kind show with aromachology about 2 years ago, and i love it so much i only wear it for special occasions. it feels like a secret, to smell like no one else in the world (from perfume, haha). i've been meaning to check OLO out, and also the andrea maack perfumes at mjolk (i like that i can smell them before trying them!) did you manage to smell dark wave before purchasing it? i always like the idea of certain scents, but the actuality of them has disappointed sometimes. ANYWAY. sorry to have written you a book! happy belated birthday, and congrats on the new (scent-) you! :)

    1. Thank you! I love the idea of a personally blended scent. I'd love to do that one day. I tried Dark Wave in a pack of four samples that OLO sells. They offer a few different combinations. The samples themselves last quite a while too, since they are perfume oil, and quite concentrated. Also, Robber carries OLO, so you could test most of them there. I actually tried the Andrea Maack scents at Mjolk last weekend. Some are really interesting, and some are quite pretty. They are definitely worth a sniff. None stood out as particularly perfect for me so far, but I think I will try a couple of them again next time I visit the store. It's definitely important to try perfumes before buying. It's amazing how different they can smell on different people's skin!

  2. Such a cute, classic cake!

    Whoa, I had no idea Bryedo was available here! I have been wanting to try that Oud. I love how intense your research was, and I love how you've described them. I wish I had a better vocabulary for this sort of thing.

    On my birthday I too made a trip to Holt's to sniff a bunch of perfume, but I sprayed a Diptyque one on myself that smelled so much like a room spray that I ended up grumpy (well, it was my birthday anyway, so I was already grumpy). I did really love the Tom Ford scents at Harry Rosen. His Oud Wood is amazing.

    I'm curious about the Andrea Maack ones. Can I invite myself over to sniff your samples!? I have a birthday present for you anyway!

    Right now I'm all about the Victory Wolf from OLO. I love the masculine, leathery, smoky scents in winter.

  3. I didn't know that Byredo was at Holts either, until after I had ordered some samples from an online decant place, thinking that was the only way I'd be able to smell them. I think they maybe just started carrying it relatively recently? I'm really not a very good writer, but I think certain scents are easier to write about because they are so personally evocative. Others, not so much. Also, all this reading about fragrance has helped me to understand what I'm smelling, which helps to describe it.

    I've only sniffed a few Diptyques so far. Today I'm wearing a sample of L'Ombre Dans l'Eau, which I really like a lot. For me it's a really fresh, wet, green, rose. My favourite rose scent so far. I think it's going on my wish list. I'm eager to try more Tom Fords. I have a sample of Santal Blush that I ordered online, which is really nice. I'll have to try the Oud Wood next!

    I only have one actual Andrea Maack sample. The other four I just sprayed on myself at Mjolk (one on each wrist, and each elbow -ha!). But I have many other interesting samples to sniff. We should definitely have a sample sniffing date at my place! I would love that. I'll be in touch...

    I have a sample of Victory Wolf (from a 4 pack), which, I agree, is fantastic and sooo nice for winter.

    Yay! I'm loving all this perfume chat. I've been boring poor Andrew with this stuff for weeks, and he's just not remotely interested.

    1. No, your descriptions were so evocative of wonderful smells and feelings... You know, I was thinking that I want to bring back The Body Shop's White Musk! It's time.

    2. Thanks! I haven't smelled White Musk in ages. Definitely need to try it again. Such a classic!

  4. What a beautiful post and a beautiful birthday! I love Byredo too!! Have you looked at any Le Labo scents? They're available at No6 by Gee in Rosedale and I adore them too (they mix them right there for you and put a custom label on every bottle, which is gimmicky in a way I adore!) Oh, I'm afraid I share your perfume addiction. I'm dying to splurge on Bal d'Afrique from Byredo...

    1. Thanks Jane! I haven't tried Le Labo yet, but I really want to! I'm especially interested in Rose 31. Bal d'Afrique is so beautiful! You should get it!! (I'm a terrible influence - ha ha) That may be a future purchase for me as well. I've only been sampling for a month, and already I've found too many fragrances that I want! I'm trying to limit myself to my one favourite from each house (not every house, but the ones I feel a particular affinity towards), and filling certain essential categories, like finding the perfect rose for me or my favourite sandalwood (and pacing those selections as slowly and responsibly as I can - I'm faaaar from having an unlimited disposable income), but it's hard to hold back with brands like Byredo, that have so many scents that I love. I can definitely see how some people end up with collections of hundreds of bottles, although I could never afford for my addiction to reach anywhere near that level.

  5. Happy belated Birthday, Carly!

    I have so much to learn about perfumes, I've just eased my way in with OLO's foret, daphne and valens. Your descriptions are beautiful. I have never smelt Byredo, maybe I will make my way over to Holt's soon to do just that.

  6. I love your descriptions. I enjoyed the novel "Perfume" as well.