One Thousand Scents

Friday, July 26, 2013

No No No Yes: Three More Fueguias (and a surprise)

Darwin's notes are listed as "cedar, grapefruit, vetiver", and in truth that just about sums it up. The grapefruit top is a bit toilety (in an interesting way, just a bare whiff of pee), the vetiver adds a bright-green sharpness, and the cedar dominates the whole composition. Simple and shallow, no depth at all, but very nice, though it's hard to see how it could be $150 worth of nice.

Ballena de la Pampa is said to be constructed around "musk, grass notes, ambergris": it starts off with a pleasant golden glow and then immediately turns into laundry musk, the exact smell of a big scoop of laundry detergent, sneezy and harsh. It is hard to conceive of this as anything but a huge waste of money, the manufacturer's for having created something so pared-down and wretched, yours if you should happen to buy it.*

Pampa Humeda supposedly smells of "leaf, eucalyptus and rosemary", but I can't tell because I didn't get a sample of it: to my considerable surprise I discovered that Luckyscent messed up my sample bag and accidentally sent me a vial of Etat Libre d'Orange's Jasmine et Cigarette instead. Let's pretend that Pampa Humeda is fantastic (it could happen) and move on to the ELdO, since I see I've mentioned it a few times but never actually written about it.

You wouldn't be out of line if you expected Jasmin et Cigarette to smell like a femme fatale: red lipstick, fur, whiskey-soaked voice, wreathed in dark jasmine perfume and cigarette smoke. But nothing of the sort! Instead, you get a big unfurling of bright jasmine coupled with the sunny peachfuzz smell of apricots, followed quickly by the sunwarmed-hay smell of tobacco. There is a faint trail of smoke underneath, but mostly it is cured but unburned tobacco, golden brown and glorious.

After the first bloom of the top notes, it sits reasonably close to the skin, the sort of scent that makes others lean in closer. It is heady, yes, but not femme fatale at all: the freshness of the fruity jasmine may skew it to the women's side of the aisle for some, but coupled with the outdoorsy, masculine tobacco, it's fascinatingly unisex. Despite the olfactory references to sunshine and peach orchards and tobacco fields, this is evening wear, I think: a bit too sultry for the office, a bit too mysterious for the daytime, it would sit well on someone with places to go after dark.

*I apologize, but just a little, for harping endlessly on the cost of these things: they seem so hideously overpriced for what they are, and I can't seem to get over it. The Etat scent is a third the price of the Fueguias, and yet it is so much better than either of them — and in fact with last week's exception, better than any Fueguia I've smelled yet — that the asking price for the latter seems almost criminal. You can get sixteen ten-mL bottles of Etat for the price of one small Fueguia. Manufacturers and vendors may of course charge what they like, but there is something very wrong with that equation.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Carmen Miranda's Hat: Mbucuruya by Fueguia 1833

Mbucuruya means "passionflower", and the scent by that name is meant to smell of passionfruit. I don't know exactly what passionfruit smells like, alas, but Mbucuruya smells like a creamy, fruity milkshake: the fruit notes suggest pineapple and mango and papaya, and I'm sure there are other tropical things in there as well. It is vividly sharp at the very top, with a fleeting top note giving the suggestion of a just-peeled mandarin orange and a strange hint of vitamin B, and then it relaxes into a lush milkshake of tropical fruit and vanilla ice cream, sweet but never cloying. It lasts an extraordinarily long time, hour after hour of this creamy-fresh concoction.

Mbucuruya calls to mind a Comptoir Sud Pacifique scent such as Vanille Peach or Vanille Pineapple, but far more complex and varied. It is pure joy, one of the brightest, most ecstatic things I have smelled in quite some time, miles beyond the standard fruity floral of today, and the first thing I've smelled from the Fueguia 1933 line that I really thought was worth what they were asking for it.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Montezuma's Pride: Xocoatl by Fueguia 1833

Xocoatl is the Aztec word from which our "chocolate" derives, and when you discover that a scent is called "Chocolate" you are naturally going to develop a few quick assumptions, all of which are wrong in the case of Xocoatl. You will be expecting it to smell sweet, rich and vanilla-drenched and gourmand — chocolatey, in other words. And it is none of those things: it is herbal and dry, with a core of dusty cocoa and a decided patchouli-and-wood base. It isn't as complicated as I would like it to be: it suggests a Serge Lutens scent, if Serge were having an off day. (And Lutens has of course already done a chocolate-patchouli scent, Borneo 1834, which I just can't wear: too much of the wrong kind of patchouli.)

Xocoatl hovers somewhere between Borneo 1834 and the alas-discontinued cocoa-vanilla-patchouli Cocoon by Yves Rocher, and I should be thinking that it's a kind of knockoff, or at least nothing new, and yet I find it magnetically attractive: I took pleasure in every drop of my sample and found myself wishing I had more. I still cannot get over that price point (see below), but if you are looking for a subtle and fascinating scent that is purely unisex and not like anything else I know of on the market, this could be just the thing.

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Friday, July 05, 2013

His and Hers: El Mono de la Tinta and La Cautiva by Fueguia 1833

There are 18 scents in the Fueguia 1833 collection, and I am not going to spin them out over 18 weeks, so after last week's starter we'll probably just have them in twos and threes instead.

El Mono de la Tinta, "The Ink Monkey", is named for a Borges story about a creature that haunts writers and drinks from their inkwells. It doesn't smell like ink: it smells like a Comme des Garçons scent, for better or worse. My initial reaction was, "Ugh — what the hell is that? It smells like urine. Worse. Fermented urine." Once the human-filth aspect has burned away — and it does, in a few minutes – a dark cedar-and-sandalwood quality is revealed and the whole thing settles down to a dry, austere, spicy wood scent, masculine and bafflingly sexy, a Cistercian monk with a close-cropped beard and bedroom eyes. I'd wear it: I'd just put a clothespin on my nose for ten minutes or so.

La Cautiva, "The Captive", knows how to make a good first impression: it starts off with an immensely cheerful blast of tart blackcurrant and sugary vanilla. It's basically a huge mass of fruity cotton candy. It is charming and bright and huge. But then it just keeps being this never-ending cloud of tart-sweet, almost a parody of modern drugstore perfumery for young women, and the pleasure starts to wear thin. There's no development at all: it just deflates, eventually. It's so single-minded and ultimately boring that I don't believe for an instant anyone could wear this repeatedly and not get tired of it, which is bad enough, but that it costs what it does ($150 for 30 mL, $240 for 100 mL) is borderline criminal.

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