Fragrance family tree: Kenzo Flower and Kenzo Flower Tag (perfume reviews)

Oh dear me, I do love some poppies. It's what makes me drawn to Flower, by Kenzo.  Not that it smells like poppies, mind you, because poppies don't smell like anything, really. Wait... I'm getting ahead of myself. This is going to be a little discussion of two sisters - closer in relation than the last sisters I talked about here. These sisters are both from the Kenzo family: Flower and her newest sibling, Flower Tag.

Flower the skunk, from Bambi.
Let's start at the beginning, with Flower. It was created in 2000 by perfumer Alberto Morillas and is now considered the flagship scent for the line. The Flower flacons, designed by French sculptor Serge Mansau, are iconic in my opinion. I'm sure you've seen them, even if you haven't smelled the perfume? They are elegant, sleek, subdued, but somehow quite eye-catching. I intend to buy most of the scents from the Flower line and think they'll make a lovely vignette on a dresser, don't you?

Just as the bottle is gently curving, pretty, and chic, so is the perfume inside. Flower is powdery violet and soft rose, reminiscent of vintage powders. Other notes include wild hawthorn, cassie, opopanax, white musk, hedione, and cyclosal, all of which add to that clean, streamlined, yet uber-feminine aura.

Flower wears long and well, losing it's initial bright and green crispness quickly but hanging around as a powdery second skin for ages. It's not over-bearing, but definitely present. I believe sillage is minimal, but when I cross my own path I can smell it - and it's soft, soothing, and lovely.

From what I've read, Flower is meant to be a tie-in between rural, country life (wildflowers) and city life. I think the bottle and scent both do this incredibly well.

If you think that sounds good...
Which brings us to flankers. Naturally, since Flower does well, Kenzo had to spin-off the original with slightly-tweaked versions. 

  • Flower Essentielle, from 2008,  basically dials up the primary characteristics of Flower with notes of Damask rose, jasmine, vanilla, musk, black pepper, pink pepper and incense. 
  • 2008 also brought Winter Flowers, which used the same principal as the original but using flora typically found in the cooler season. Notes for Winter Flowers include Bulgarian rose, Parma violet, mandarin, violet leaf, mimosa, camellia, hellebore rose, patchouli, absolute vanilla, and white musk. 
  • There have been occasional other seasonal versions of Flower, too: Summer, Spring... where's Autumn?! 
  • There was a Flower Oriental (with notes of flowers, incense, violets, bulgarian rose, pepper, and vanilla) from 2005 - it has a black poppy on the bottle and box and I need it!
  • For the artists in the group, Flower Edition d`Artisteswhich, and correct me please if I'm wrong, was the same scent, just packaged and bottled differentlly: three painters (Pierre Mornet, Rebecca Dautreme, Lorenzo Mattotti) created special works for Kenzo
I may be missing some flankers. Clearly, Kenzo knows Flower was a good thing and wants to capitalize on it!

And now they have introduced...

Flower Tag
Brand new this Summer (2011), Flower Tag still has that lovely new car smell. Wait! No, it doesn't! But it is new. The urban-country juxtaposition is still in play, but more urban-leaning. Tag references the art of graffiti, whose artists "tag" walls with their work. 

Flower Tag is not identical to Flower (good, because what would be the point?!). It's - brace yourself - been made youth-friendly. Not for kids, mind you, but for that very special group of young adults who have plenty of expendable income. Luckily, this isn't PINK, but it is a fruity floral. I know that makes perfumistas reel, but hang on for a bit, ok?

Notes for Flower Tag are: mandarin, blackcurrant, rhubarb, jasmine, peony, lily of the valley, tea, vanilla and musk. It definitely starts with mandarin - a nice juicy blast. For awhile, that note predominates, which makes me happy. A sparkly and peppy mandarin is a lovely way to start the day. I never get much lily of the valley in this, but the tea adds a nice twist to the florals. As the scent ages on the skin, the tea gets stronger (at least on me) and almost hay-like, before settling down into a sweet and subtle musk.

As for that bottle I keep prattling on about, for this flanker it's red glass with graffiti-style tagging representing the iconic poppy and the word "flower" over and over and over. Pretty!

Flower Tag is what I consider "a proper flanker". It's a tweaked version of the original, where the ties to the original are still apparent. So let's compare them, shall we? I have Flower on my right arm, Flower Tag on my left...
more Banksy. i'm addicted.

Where Flower is soft and powdery, Flower Tag is brighter and sharper. Where Flower is classically floral, Flower Tag is... well, less so. It's not that peonies aren't classic, but they surely aren't on the same level as the delightfully retro violets and roses of the original. Where Flower wears forever, softly wafting, Flower Tag is not as tenacious and sits closer to the skin. However, both scents are fairly streamlined, both are chic, and both are wearable in most situations.

Both are well-done scents - clever, lively without being noisy. I suspect the "younger version" prose and "fruity-floral" descriptor will keep many a perfumista away, but I hope the tea note draws a few of them back. I think this is a pretty good perfume and I'm pleased to have it.

I will stop before saying "If you like Flower you'll like Flower Tag". I suspect if you enjoy fruity scents and you like Flower, you may like Flower Tag. I also think that if you enjoy the old-fashioned-modern twist of  Flower and luxuriate in its powderiness, you may not like Flower Tag, because that just-opened-a-vintage-compact smell is not here.

Tell me: do you like Flower? Have you tried any of the other flankers? How about Flower Tag? And have you ever eaten those candied Parma violets? 

PS: Wouldn't the Kenzo Amour and Kenzo Amour Indian Holi bottles look great on my dresser, too? :)
Warum has a horseshoe hanging from her neck and has already won a sample of this lovely scent. She suggested I redraw for the Pandora sample, and so I did. Congrats to our new winner, the lovely Muse in Wooden Shoes! Lady Muse, please email me at so I can have Dawn mail you your sample.

Shalimar - the pink one. (A perfume review)

I've gotta be honest with you: this perfume review has been hard to write. It's not that Shalimar Parfum Initial is terrible, which is why I usually have trouble writing a review. It's not really complicated, either, which often makes reviewing a challenge.

In fact, I really like Shalimar PI! It should be easy to write this puppy up!

So I settled down at the park this morning, while Lulu played. That lasted 3 minutes. Literally. My writing time and the kid's slide time were ruined by some nasty yellow jackets. They wouldn't leave us alone!! A ringing endorsement for Shalimar PI, though, right?

Anyway, I was thinking about how to describe Shalimar Parfum Initial and then I started thinking of that kid from grade school. You probably had one like her in your school. She had an older sister who was going through school just a few grades ahead. The problem, if you want to call it that, was that the big sister was good at everything. And I do mean everything. Honor Roll. Soccer star. Musical prodigy. She could even glue felt without making a mess. She had it all!

So when the younger sister hit the school, all of the teachers knew what to expect: excellence! Only... having an older sister, or cousin, or father, or grandmother who is good at something doesn't mean we are. Nowadays we, I hope, realize that everyone learns differently. Everyone has different talents and different challenges. That poor little sister had a lot to live up to, and sometimes she did - but sometimes she didn't. And that's ok. She was pretty awesome and a lot of fun!

Which brings us back to Shalimar Parfum Initial. As the name suggests, it's meant to be a version of Guerlain's famous Shalimar.  Talk about living up to your big sister! First of all, she's quite a bit older. She launched in 1925. And she's not just successful - she's iconic. Love her or hate her, she's a legend!

As a side note, Shalimar also outshines her older brother! Jicky, which I actually love even more than Shalimar, was created in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain. It was a unisex scent, as were they all at the time, possibly named after Aimé's uncle, Jacques, who went by Jicky. This fabulous perfume opens with bergamot, lemon and some famously gorgeous lavender. Luscious rose and jasmine melt into orris and some vetiver. It's the base that's most delicious, though, in my opinion. Civet is the famous ingredient, and it's joined by a leathery, ambery, somewhat smoky vanilla-tinged sexiness. Delicious!

Supposedly, Jacques Guerlain was playing around with a new synthetic vanilla, ethyl vanillin, and dumped some into Jicky. Not just some - a lot. An "overdose". And thus Shalimar was born (maybe, if the story is true). It's still smooth, ambery, sensual goodness, like Jicky, but sweeter, with less herbaceous bite.

pardon the smudgey label. it was ruined by crappy packing
and a leak in the mail. :(
Shalimar is often considered "an old lady perfume". Oh man, that kills me to write. How?! It's smooth, it's sexy, it's a little raunchy (thank you civet!). I suspect it's not that it's old-fashioned, rather it just doesn't fit in with the jeans and t-shirts in current fashion. Shame, since it's so damn good! And on a personal note, I wear it with jeans, thankyouverymuch. But the truth is, Shalimar is A Big Perfume. It's not terribly subtle, nor is it going to melt into your skin.

So, what do the kids wear these days? Pink pepper;  fruity celeb scents; fruitchoulis - if most bloggers are to be believed. And someone is wearing those scents, because they're the top sellers at the moment. Classic perfumes are often revamped or "updated" to give them a fighting chance in the current market. And that, folks is how Shalimar Parfum Initial was born. It's meant to be a training bra of sorts, meant to bridge young women into the land of grown-up lingerie, er... I mean perfume. I kind of got lost in my own metaphor there, but I think you catch my drift. Plus, it's pink, so the kids will love it (or so say the marketing geniuses).

This pink Shalimar isn't the first Shalimar flanker (like a tv sitcom spin-off), but it's the only one I have tried. I do have a somewhat vintage Shalimar edt (it's not current - probably from the 90's) and a more vintage Shalimar edc (from the 70's according to this source, which is awesome, btw). And now Shalimar Parfum Initial.

Here's the official notes list for Parfum Initial: created of citruses, green notes, flowers, woody accords and oriental scents. Starting from citruses, the composition adds zest of bergamot and orange. Rose flowers and jasmine enjoy embrace of woody accords of vetiver and patchouli, while oriental notes of vanilla, white musk and luscious tonka give seductive warmth to the whole composition. Green notes provide a fresher tone to the composition.

What do I smell? A light and sparkly citrus opening, with fruity facets. Nice. Pretty. Fresh. Youthful, but not childish or bratty. There's iris (not orris) and some lovely woodiness. No civet, here. Instead you'll find patchouli - pretty stuff, not head-shoppy or sharp. The base is pretty signature Guerlain fare: there's a little extra musk with that vanilla and tonka, but it's recognizably Guerlain. I have all three of my Shalimars on right now, and the Parfum Initial has a drydown that's definitely like my Shalimar edt, just sweeter and softer and a little lighter. The more vintage edc, though is a further branch on the family tree. It's definitely wafting that civet that neither of the newer perfumes are putting out, but still has that vanilla-tonka yumminess that makes me want to sniff it constantly.

No matter what anyone says, Parfum Initial is somewhat reminiscent of the original Shalimar. It's got that decadent, almost foody aspect to it. It's not quite as sticky and nowhere near as dirty, but it's definitely an oriental fragrance. Is it the same? No. Not at all. The younger sister is a little more green and has a lovely softness. Her older sister had bolder characteristics and was a little more Knowing if you catch my drift.

Just as that girl from my gradeschool was very different from her sister in many, many ways, Parfum Initial is not really similar to Shalimar at first glance. Look at them a little more closely though, and you'll see the similarities, just as you could eventually notice that both sisters had the same freckles and sense of humor. Sisters, but different.

I really wish Guerlain hadn't named this Shalimar. I get it. I understand why they want to draw younger folk toward their products. It's important and it's probably quite challenging. After all, Parfum Initial smells nothing like Justin Beiber's perfume, nor does it smell like those cute little L.A.M.B. perfumes Gwen Stefani puts out, or really any of the perfumes you'll smell in your local high school. But it doesn't really smell enough  like Shalimar, either - at least not enough to be considered a flanker. Then again, it is a great gateway into the Guerlain signature drydown, AKA "Guerlainade". And once the kids are hooked, watch out!

When taken on her own merit and not compared to her big sister, Parfum Initial is really, really good. Delicious! I can't stop wearing it, and it even worked well in the hot weather where the original Shalimar was stifling and overly-sticky. I do love a multi-seasonal oriental fragrance! Try it. You might like it. Just don't compare her to her big sister - it's not fair.

Shalimar Parfum Initial. Yellow jacket approved!

Disclosure: I bought this with my own money. And I'd do it again!

Announcing the winner of the Pandora (by DSH) sample!

Warum, contact me at and provide me your address, please, so I can let Dawn know! Congrats. :)

It's Raining Men (hallelujah?) (A LUSH body product review)

OK, ladies and gents, it's no secret that I loves me some LUSH products. It's also no secret that many of you don't. For some of you, it's the overwhelming scent of the store itself that drives you mad. Them's the perils of a highly-evolved nose, I suppose. Yankee Candle, Bath & Body Works LUSH - they're all a swirling assault on ye olde nasal passages, no? But once you break down the products and assess them on an individual basis, there are definitely a few gems to be found. I think this is one of them.

It's Raining Men is one of LUSH's awesome combo products that can be used as a bath gel or as a shampoo (some work well in the bathtub, too). I've tried almost all of them and found a few favorites and a few that I really didn't care for. I will note: if you have colored hair, these aren't a great shampoo unless you're trying to strip the color (but then again, I only use "color-protective" shampoos). Another note: if you have kids, these go over really well when you find a scent your little doodlebugs enjoy!

I assume the name comes from the title to The Weather Girls' well-known one hit wonder, "It's Raining Men". I hope. Otherwise, it's really odd that two groups came up with the same very unusual concept. Am I right? I really can't for the life of me figure out what the song has to do with the scent, and I've given up trying. If you have any ideas on that, please share them in the comments!

This low-lather cleanser smells like caramel, in my opinion. It's lightly floral and fairly sweet. Yummy, really. LUSH says "toffee fudge" but I don't get any chocolatey nuances here - your mileage may vary. The scent is based on the popular LUSH soap Honey I Washed the Kids. The fragrance is, frankly, unimpressive -and maybe off-putting- when huffed from the top of the bottle, but when water comes into play I think it really sings. If you're trying it in the store, take it to the sink and suds up! They don't mind!

It's Raining Men does leave a light, lingering scent on the skin (unlike many bath gels/washes). I have done two otherwise unscented days and enjoyed light wafts of It's Raining Men into the afternoon on both days. I found the scent of this wash works well with some gourmand perfumes and some of my orientals (it's really fun with Shalimar PI). It even plays well with a few florals (I like it with Tauer's Zeta).

Did I forget to mention these tidbits? It's Raining Men is gently moisturizing. It's honey-colored and there's honey in it (so unlike many LUSH items, it's not vegan-friendly in case you're checking). It's also got lotus blossom in it, which LUSH claims is soothing. I have to agree.

Beware, though, my smelly friends: this pretty product is a limited edition goodie. Once it's gone, it's gone. (Boo!)  Hopefully, like my favorite soap, Snowcake, it will be a seasonal product that we see each year. Or better yet, maybe it will become a permanent part of the line-up.<--- It IS permanent now. YAY!

LUSH It's Raining Men: 3.3oz - $9.95, 8.4oz - $17.95; 16.9oz - $27.95

Lyrics to It's Raining Men are after the jump in case you have a pressing need...

Pandora: Outside of the box. A new natural perfume by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

image source
There was a heavy container - some say it was a box, others describe it as a jar. It doesn't matter, really. What's important is that it held things in. The lid was heavy,  I imagine, with the weight of it all. When she opened it, she didn't expect what happened. Some say she deserved it, but others whisper that they thought it would happen all along and that it ended up being a good thing. 

The brief was specific: all-natural ingredients - and only certain ones at that. The perfumer, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, looked at this list of modern naturals and, despite the limitations, decided to reconceive the traditional mouuse de saxe formula. Not exactly picking the low fruit! The resultant scent, the one I received to test, is 97.5% natural.

Out of the box came horrible, awful things. Jealousy. Hatred. Crime. Fear. Insanity. Greed. Lies. Some say these evils were accompanied by a terrible smell, but I can't say for certain.

Mousse de Saxe: A perfume base created with "geranium, licorice, leather, iodine and vanillin" according to perfume house Caron, who has used it in many of their creations. Perfume historian Octavian Coifan describes it this way: "The formula works like the classic 19th fougère perfume: a citrus bergamot top, a geranium rosy heart, a strong dose of coumarine and sweet notes, and a woody base with sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, methyl ionone, some spicy clove notes, a nitro musk note and a small jasmine-ylang facet - but no aromatic lavender note. The presence of an anise note combined with the general sweetness and the smoky IBQ might give a licorice effect."

She had so much. Beautiful. Talented. Creative. Bold. Curious. As with many like her, she may not have realized how much she really had. One she had let it all out of the box, I'm sure some people thought it would be all over. Maybe she did, too. How wrong... 

This scent, Pandora, is classic. In it, you get the great vintage flavor of a classic base, mousse de saxe, some traditional notes - bergamot at the top, rose, jasmine in the middle-  and other notes often thought of as "retro": aldehydes, ambergris, and that beautiful oakmoss! So as you see, Pandora is classic. And it's modern. Check out the ozone and peppers (so 2011!). Breathe in the green tea absolute. Experience the modern (read: not Indian) sandalwoods from Australia and Africa. Pandora is classic and it's modern. It's the perfect melding of the two, actually.
As with many things, if you focus on the bad you'll miss the good. Once the box was open, once everything was out, it was easy to focus on the bad. There was fear, anger and, I'm guessing, a little tinge of loneliness. A second look, though, showed that there was another result - the one I suspect she would cling to.

The first thing I smell is the oakmoss. It's always the oakmoss that I smell first when it's there, though it so rarely is these days. Oakmoss was the base of so many fine perfumes -before its use was limited so stridently by IFRA. Smelling it, my nose always passes a message to my brain: VINTAGE! CLASSIC! SEXY! And so it is with this one. Swirling, sultry, sexy oakmoss announces its presence and sets the stage immediately. You know what's coming, and if you're into this kind of perfume your heart starts to race. 

It was given to her by Zeus as a wedding gift. She had long thought the box (or jar, whatever...) was the gift. She now realized she'd been looking at it all wrong. Despite the bad, the evil, the whole point of the thing was the hope. The truth. The gift was bringing it all out in the open and moving past the bad - leaving it to those who deserve it and focusing on the hope. I'm sure the gods are smiling.

Pandora is Dawn's first release after her removal from the Natural Perfumer's Guild. Having been freed from her limitations in this project, she transcended her original plan for this perfume. Having been freed from limitations in her professional alliances, she has transcended anything she has ever created. I told her this weekend that I think it is her best so far. I say "so far" because this scent is not her last, and I have complete confidence that she's getting more in touch with her muses. I have faith that her work is getting more complex, more beautiful. I have hope that the best is yet to come. Hope.

Odilon Redon's "Pandora"
Dawn's inspiration for the scent.
DSH Pandora:

Top: ruby fruits (botanical accord), bergamot, aldehyde, spice notes, ozone, violet leaf absolute,
davana, cassis bid, green and pink pepper

Heart: rose de mai absolute, juhi jasmine, linden blossom absolute, yerba maté absolute,
cabreuva wood, orris co2, green tea absolute

Base: mousse de saxe accord (botanical) , cyperus, fossilized amber absolute, ambergris tincture, patchouli co2, vetiver co2, muhuhu, australian sandalwood, tonka bean absolute, oakmoss green, vanilla absolute.

Read other reviews of this brand new scent, Pandora, here:
Enter your thoughts on what you've read here or on one of the other participating blogs, or your reflections on Pandora and her box (jug), or your thoughts on mousse de saxe or, hell, write anything you want. Each commenter will be entered into a drawing for a 3ml mini-sprayer of Pandora! The winner will be selected on Saturday, September 17.