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Chic and Chypre: Fragrance and Love
by Sadi Ranson
TokyoMilk at Marcel
2. Two New & You
My first stop was to check out some local shops to see what is happening in the
world of perfume that I might like at the moment. I stopped in at the boutique
Marcel, on Hope Street in Providence (Rhode Island). There, I found two
independent perfumers who are excellent: West Third Brand/Societe de Senteur
TokyoMilk has a great number of perfumes, generally comprised of five distinct
notes. Some of the bottles are black with a white illustration printed on the glass,
others are clear with a black illustration on the glass. In the duskier darker range I
found “Kabuki”, “Dead Sexy”, and “Eden” – all of which had a delightfully complex
rather spicy chord, which ended as a warm, dry smell that is both distinctive and
very wearable. “Dead Sexy”, my favorite by far, is dark and musky and oaky and
smells like skin and rumpled sheets and oak furniture and fireplaces and making
love in the afternoon. It doesn’t smell too much like fragrance; so it’s not perfumy or
heavy as I would have expected it to be.
The mark of a good perfumer is when perfume doesn’t smell like perfume at all but
rather mixes naturally and synergistically with your natural body oils, which are
variable from person-to-person (which is why the same fragrance will smell different
depending on who is wearing it). Another factor in how perfume smells is not just
the quality of essential oils used to make the fragrance (synthetics will never
replace true essential oils in perfumery no matter how we try: some smells are near
impossible to duplicate and even if one does manage to do it the success is short-lived
and the note turns to a false or sour or overly sweet note. True essential oils
may change but they retain their basic character and integrity. “Dead Sexy” comes
3. in a clear glass bottle with a skull and crossbones on the front. All of TokyoMilk’s
fragrances come in chic black or clear bottles with a simple illustration that varies
for each fragrance. The line is affordable, not too difficult to find, and endlessly
Tokyo Milk products can be found at select retailers (Sephora is one, if in
Providence visit Marcel) or on the company Web site.
Marcel also introduced me to West Third Brand who are excellent makers of
perfume. The company was founded in 2008 as a base platform for nose Michael
Loring Probst to create his signature fragrances. You can find all of the West Third
Brand fragrances on the company Web site.
Societe de Senteur
Societe de Senteur was created in 2013. At Marcel on Hope Street you’ll find of
“First Arrow”, “Road Trip”, “Love First”, and “Beautiful Savages” (which has a
distinct tuberose top-note that echoes to the tuberose-intense “Fracas” ) all by West
Third Brand/Society de Senteur.
“Love First” was the most memorable of all of these fragrances. It has a very
elusive, hard to capture top-note of really fresh lilac that is still damp with the night’s
dew or with rain. Unlike a lot of perfume oils that smell very dry if not really pure or if
synthetic, Societe de Sentuer’s “First Love” retains a distinctive wet lilac smell.
“First Love” is a blend of tamarind blossom & pepper with subtle hints of rose,
cranberry plus wood notes blended with patchouli hints of vanilla, black violet, and
4. Fans of more woody notes with hints of tobacco and leather will want to check out
“Road Trip” which has a rich, layered effect and smells like a fabulous love affair
with a backdrop of a vintage car with real wood panels and aged leather interior and
of silk and skin. Incredibly sexy with individual notes of white musk, patchouli, and
star anise hints of iris, osmanthus layered with sandalwood, vetiver, and cedar.
You can check out the perfume notes in all of West Third’s fragrances by clicking on
the perfume you are interested in at the company’s Web site at
http://www.westthirdbrand.com/pages/fragrances. To see all fragrances made by
West Third visit the main company page.
Classics: Forever New
Some classics that I turn to again and again and that have the most natural smell to
my nose are “Chanel No. 5” (women), “Chanel Pour Homme” (men); “Eau Savage”
(unisex but made for men), “Shalimar”, “Nuit de Noel” by Caron, “L’heure Bleu” by
Guerlain, and almost anything made by the London-based perfumer Penhaligon’s.
Most of what I prefer falls into the chypre family of fragrances, a term derived from
the French word for Cyprus. All chypre fragrances are comprised of the following
combination of essential oils: bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum. This
family of fragrances is named after a perfume by Francois Coty. Some famous
chypre fragrances are “Mitsouko”, “Chanel No 19”, “Chanel No 5”, “Aqua de
Parma”, “Ivoire” de Balmain.
The group of Chanel fragrances are excellent and I think can be worn by men or
women. I long made a habit of wearing Chanel’s fabulously light and not-at –all
cloying men’s fragrance, “Chanel Pour Homme”. Like “Chanel No. 5” or the greener
No. 19 or the more powdery (but I think discontinued) No. 22, “Chanel Pour
Homme” just smells the way skin should smell. It smells a little powdery a little
musky sort of light but not too light and most of all it smells clean without having a
heavy citrus or ozone note. Chanel No. 5 is the same way: powdery light, sort of
brings to mind orris root. You can find most of the Chanel fragrances either online or
at fine department stores. Once in a while I find one at a drug store somewhere,
particularly in larger and older drug stores in really urban areas. They seem to
always be covered in a layer of dust and hidden in the back shelf, as if no-one
wanted them. The truth is few people think to look at Walgreens or Rite Aid and it’s
the smart shopper who asks (I’ve had them retrieved from the back room, their
perfect white boxes layered with store-room dust). If you want to be sure, though,
check out Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus or Macy’s or most big department
stores. You can also almost always find them for sale online and there are many
companies who make essential oil blends that are facsimiles or “like” these
fragrances but without the alcohol.
Colonial Drug: Where To Find It
5. Colonial Drug: Where To Find It
You can find pretty much any perfume or cologne or fragrance at Colonial Drug.
Colonial Drug was (and still is) famous. It For more than sixty years, Colonial
existed as a little shop in in Cambridge Massachusetts not too far from Harvard that
had big, glass-front windows and inside shelves of glass and wood that were
layered with rare and exotic perfumes. I used to go in there and smell everything –
they had fragrances that had long been discontinued and others that were just plain
hard to find. This fact and the fact of their very caring employees and owners (who
seemed always to be working) made Colonial perhaps the best place to go if you
were either already educated about fragrance and knew what you were looking for
OR if you weren’t but wanted to find someone who was. Either way, you couldn’t
lose at Colonial.
They have since moved (sadly closing their Harvard Square doors in 2012), they
are now based in Newton, Massachusetts at 360 Watertown Street Rte 16, Newton,
MA 02458. You can reach them by phone at: (617) 864-2222.
Madame Rochas and Femme
I used to find “Madame Rochas”, a fabulous fragrance for women at Colonial Drug.
It was actually the fragrance “Femme” by Rochas that attracted me to this company.
Madame Rochas was first created by Guy Robert in about 1960 then it reappeared
in 1989 in a second formulation. The fragrance is a complex blend of aldehydes,
bergamot, lemon and neroli at the top. The middle notes are flowery: jasmine, rose,
tuberose, Lily-of-the-valley, Oriss root, ylang-ylang, violet and narcissus, whilst the
base touches us with sandalwood, vetiver, musk, along with the accords of cedar,
oakmoss and tonka beans. I tend to think of Rochas as slightly more feminine than
most of the chypre family of fragrances and quite grown up and quite feminine
without being flowery.
The best fragrance by Rochas to my mind remained, however, the complex
“Femme” which had top-notes of peach mixed with cumin which produced such a
wonderful and unexpected and very sort of antique smell, really traditional and sexy
without being overwhelming at all. I’d still buy it but be warned that the formulation
has changed and there are quite a few complaints among those in the know who
knew the fragrance in it’s original formulation. I can only speak to the old
formulation (look for “Femme” by Rochas circa in 1989, apparently the last year in
which the original formulation was made) which was fantastic and can probably still
be found if you’re willing to do a little leg-work.
In other classic fragrances that are versatile I like “Shalimar” which is woody and
mellow and oakmossy and smoky without being too tobacco heavy. “Shalimar”,
made by Guerlain, was created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain to honor the love
between Emperor Shahjahan and hjis wife Mumtaz Mahal. The story has it that
Prince Khurram (Shagjahan) was in his twenties when he became entranced by a
6. young girl whose name was Arjumand Banu. Utterly under Arjumand’s spell, the
prince married her and her name was changed to Mumtaz Mahal (which means
Jewel of the Palace). The couple were largely inseparable and lived a a near-perfect
love until Shahjahan died when giving birth to their fourteenth child. Utterly
devastated, the Prince built the Taj Mahal as a tribute to his wife and their unending
love. The perfume “Shalimar” derives its name from The Gardens of Shalimar,
which was Mumtaz’s favorite garden. It is a blend of lemon, bergamot, jasmine, may
rose, oppoponax, tonka bean, vanilla, iris, Peru balsam, and grey amber.
“Shalimar” is a classic and you can find it online or in most department stores and
most of the time at your local CVS pharmacy (most have a perfume case in which
the perfumes are locked up – ask someone at the counter for help). Fortunately
“Shalimar” is still in it and is still very affordable. You can purchase “Shalimar” online
very easily at this retailer and at Macy’s which has all “Shalimar” products, including
the body cream which in this case is actually quite worth it. The same is true for
“Femme” by Rochas which has an excellent body cream.
Chanel No. 19
In the greener notes I really like “Chanel No. 19” which is a green, chypre fragrance.
It comes in a silver bottle, has quite a strong top note of galbanum. You may or may
not like the smell of galbanam. The first requirement is that you like most chypre
smells. “Chanel No. 19” boils down to a really sexy skin smell that has always
smelled to me like the way a sexy confident and natural woman ought smell. At first
application “Chanel No. 19” always makes me think of Paris or New York City in the
summer and how my neck always gets slighty damp below the hairline. It is like that
and a simple ivory silk blouse and clear skin and light eyes and gin and tonic. It isn’t
trying to be sexy yet it succeeds where many (if not most) other fragrances that are
trying to be sexy fail. Perhaps that is because like most things that are sexy and
most people who have any charisma, it seems effortless even if it isn’t. It should
seem effortless. Trying too hard almost never succeeds. There is an almost
unstudied casualness behind true chic.
You can find all of the still-current Chanel fragrances and special offers on the
company’s Web site at Chanel.com and some more information about Chanel
fragrances at Fragrantica.
Fragrance and fragrance oils and scents in general, whether candles or perfume or
skin lotions or even cleaning products, change my day and how I feel and whether
or not I am productive and happy and even some major life events as I began this
article, like falling in love (or not).
Change your world today by finding the fragrance that is absolutely right for you.
I’ve listed some of my favorites here – so stay sweet and chypre and fall in-love and
keep an eye out for my next piece on scented and perfumed candles and fragrance
oils (and burners) for the home.