Vanille Insensée: A vanilla perfume for the 15+ Set (by Atelier Cologne)

I must be on a vanilla kick. I recently reviewed my new favorite bodywash Vanilla Botanique, by DSH. Today, I'm back with another vanilla, this time one you can spray or splash on. 

I mentioned the other day that I have horrific flashbacks to the early 90s when everyone and their mother were doused in vanilla-scented chemical soup. Luckily, that trend has been put to rest. I hardly ever smell someone wearing vanilla these days. 

I think I may be past my twitchiness about the scent. And thank goodness! Right now, as I type, I'm freshly showered and quite relaxed, wafting the blend of my gourmand shower gel, Vanilla Botanique, and a gorgeous and nuanced vanilla perfume.

“He wove through the crowd when suddenly his heart quickened. That scent. It was hers. He had worn it first until she stole it for herself. Now, there she was before him and the magic of years past came flooding back in a moment.”

Today, my vanilla perfume is Vanilla Insensée by Atelier Cologne

The name,Vanilla Insensée, is translated to "insane vanilla" or "crazy vanilla" and does not have anything at all to do with incense (which one may assume by reading the name too quickly or with no clue at all about French*).

* I fulfill both criteria for having needed clarification myself.
I read too quickly and my French is non-existent.

Vanille Insensée, an electrical current runs through the subtle sweetness of vanilla, jasmine and fresh lime to bond with rich oak moss, woods and spicy coriander. 

Top notes:Lime, cedrat. coriander
Heart notes:Jasmine, vetiver and oak moss
Base notes:Vanilla from Madagascar, oak wood and amber

I smell a delicious flash of citrus for just a moment when I applyVanilla Insensée. There's enough there to just barely register it, at least when the scent is dabbed on from a sample vial.  Perhaps spraying or splashing with wild abandon communicates more of the lime advertised in the top notes. 

Quickly, this fragrances melts into a unique, special creature. This is no heavy, enveloping vanilla. There is no blanket of sweetness, no foody denseness. Vanilla Insensée is as soft as the lightest silk. 

There's jasmine in this blend, but only a touch. The same goes for the vetiver that keeps this scent slightly green and very clean. Vanilla Insensée sits on a bed of amber, but again we're witnessing something very buoyant. This amber grounds the rest of the scent without pulling it down or warming it up too much. I considerVanilla Insensée a pretty darned good feat of magic. It's vanilla without being sweet or cloying or heavy. Perfect for warm weather, it also stands its ground in the cool weather. 


It's interesting: Birgit, who travels the scented land as "Olfactoria" says spraying this scent always brings to mind a transparent glass orb. Since the first time I ever tried Vanilla Insensée , I see a constantly-moving, multifaceted round prism, kind of like a disco ball, but transparent and hollow. You can easily sense that it is lightweight and bright, but it is also nuanced and delights in catching and tossing the light to and fro.

Atelier Cologne describes their range as a completely unique classification: Cologne Absolues. They share the same bright citrus characteristics of a classic cologne, a style created three-hundred years ago, but they have the long wear and sillage of a more dense scent blend. Where a traditional cologne would have a mere 5% of it's recipe come from perfume oils, Cologne Absolues incorporate a whopping 12-20% which is equivalent to the concentrations usually labeled either eau de parfum or pure parfume. The Atelier Cologne scents are artfully balanced: the scents never feel heavy but wear as long as some perfumes. For the record: Cologone Absolues are totally "unisex". 


The only thing insane about this vanilla perfume is that it is insanely beautiful. 

If you're at all in the market for a grown-up vanilla gourmand that wafts brightly and lasts and lasts, here you go. And even if you don't think you're interested, you may want to give it a go. It certainly surprised me! 

One not-so-polite leather: Jolie Madame (Balmain)

A while ago, I entertained myself by writing about two "polite" leather perfumes I love. And I do love them. But I love even more a dirty leather. Kind of the olfactory equivalent of this:

I like my leathers best when they're a bit naughty. Rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. Or maybe not even a heart of gold. Rough and rougher is fine. Bedroom eyes don't hurt.

My favorite dirty leather is a bit polarizing. A lot of perfumistas love the stuff, but I know a lot of "normal" people get that wide-eyed, nostrils-flaring look that usually comes right before a quick goodbye or a dash to open the window. Let's just say this one is not exactly "work friendly".

Jolie Madame is something I wear whenever the hell I want (I already have no perfume fear, but this one makes me even ballsier). Others may feel it's best suited for evening. Maybe midnight. In a barn.

As a little clue as to what you might be in for, here is a quote from March of Perfume Posse:
"Jolie Madame was the nastiest, skankiest piece of liquid hell that had graced my wrist..."

She goes on to point out that she later fell head over heels for it. That's a familiar story.

I stumbled upon a bottle of the vintage, viscous and dark and hiding in plain sight in an antique store. I picked it up, bought it, went home, sprayed and... wow. That stuff is just weird.

I read about Jolie Madame from time to time, and as I developed more perfumista cred, I started loving "the skank". Jolie Madame has skank. Take a look...

Top notes: artemisia, coriander, gardenia, neroli and bergamot 
middle notes:  tuberose, narcissus, orris root, jasmine and rose 
base notes: leather, patchouli, musk, coconut, civet, oakmoss, castoreum, and vetiver

Ah! The skank trifecta: musk, civet, and castoreum!

I have three bottles of the stuff now. Clearly, I "learned to love it". It wasn't hard. Jolie Madame is dark. It's a little mean. It's also very, very different from the department store perfumes I was used to (to which I now say "thank God!").

All of my bottles of Jolie Madame smell pretty different. One is not as jagged and rough. I don't like it as much as I like the others. The two I love, while different, are still identifiable as being the same perfume. They're both powerful. Really powerful. One drop is plenty, two is insta-bombshell. Three is probably too much.

My Jolie Madame bottles are all "vintage", though I have not bothered to try to find out how old each is. From what I understand, the modern version is still Jolie Madame, though maybe a bit more green and bright than the vintage.

Like most people, I'd classify this as a violet-leather perfume. The juxtaposition of the feminine violets (often considered "girly") against the dark and dirty leather is, quite simply, perfection.

Jolie Madame was created in 1953 by perfume genius Germain Cellier, who also dreamt up the incredibly beautiful and very significant scents Bandit, Fracas, and Vent Vert to name a few. You can read more about her here and here.

If you are into violets (as I have learned I am), you will find these two articles really interesting:

And here are some other reviews of Jolie Madame:
Now, if you'll excuse me please, I have to go kick some asses.

Image sources: Leather Marlon, leather Johnny,
leather James,  leather RyanPerfumed Ryan Gosling.
All other images, and the editing on Perfumed Ryan are mine.

Spring flowers courtesy of Fleurage Perfume Atelier

I think it's here. Spring, that is. At least, I think it's here in my neck of the woods. I know what the groundhog said, but I think he may have been joking this year. The grass is struggling to push up through the ground, the Canada Geese have flown back from warmer climes, and I heard the tree frogs in the woods the other evening. As you can see from my picture above, we have achieved crocus blooms. These things all point towards warmer weather, despite the protestations of cranky rodents from Pennsylvania.

I am actually a Winter girl. I like cold. Snow is my happy-maker. I love to walk outside and smell the cold, crisp air and far-off fireplaces burning away. I like shrugging into sweaters, tugging on boots, and bundling up on the couch with blankets. I didn't get much of that this year in Virginia so I'm mad at Winter. Holding a grudge, as I do, I'm ready for Spring.

Part of the season change for me is switching up my scents. That's not really a conscious decision. It's more organic than that. I slowly start pushing my heavy incense scents and my robust ambers and orientals aside. They just don't feel right. I start reaching to the back of the cabinet. I am pulled towards the green scents. The florals. The bright and light. Like the blooms on my favorite flowering plant, the lilac, my urge for florals is usually short-lived, so I try to indulge as frequently as possible while it lasts.

Luckily for me this almost-Spring, I was given samples from a new-to-me botanical fragrance line called Fleurage Perfume Atelier (thanks Monica!). I received four samples (in lovely glass vials!). Two are soliflores, which simply hit the spot right now.

Note: I am the Queen of Google. I naturally went and found Emma's (really beautiful) website ( Fleurage ) and searched for these soliflore scents. Nope, not there. I asked Emma about them, and she told me this:

Image is courtesy of Fleurage Perfum Atelier.
  • The Soliflore range began as a custom Bridal Perfume range where the bride could match her bouquet with a perfume. Each scent is one of the most popular bridal flowers chosen. They were so popular though due to being so easy to love and their small volume retro bottles that I decided to make them part of the range but in a limited capacity.
  • They are 20ml and coat $89 AUD (around $100 US) 
  • The scents are Calla, Tulipe Joyeuse, Daisy Chain, Lilacs, Rosebuds, Honeysuckle Vine, Fleur de Nuit, Gardenia, Magnolia, Plumeria Blanca, Pretty Peony and of course Lily of the Valley. 

Did you see that "in a limited capacity" bit? These soliflores were originally only available in the Fluerage shop, which is in Australia and not terribly convenient for many of us You could also email Emma, if you knew these existed, and order them. The good news is: she's going to start selling them online! If you're interested in them, keep your eyes peeled, because they're going to be on the website really, really soon.

So anyway, let's talk about them a bit...

How pretty are these sample vials? And they're glass, which adds to their charm. It also adds to my anxiety levels, since I'm completely convinced I'm going to smash them with my ham-fisted ways.

Anyway, these are lovely. And the tags are such a nice touch, too, with the little silky ribbons. Very feminine. Very classy.

[image source]
As you see in the picture above, the scents I got to try are Tulipes Joyeuses and Honeysuckle Vine.

I have to admit, I am not so sure how accurate the scents are. Soliflores (scents built to resemble one specific flower) are not always aiming for exactness, but there's always some degree of verisimilitude.

How true-to-life are these? I can't tell you. I don't recall much of a smell from the tulips in my garden. They're not blooming yet, so I can't go test that memory (or lack thereof). It's not unusual for over-bred flowers to lose their scent. The people who cultivate them often focus on the visual appearance and not on scent. My memory of honeysuckle is fond, but it's not really about their scent. I remember plucking them off of the vines that ran along the boundaries of the nearby park and sucking on the sweet nectar.

[image source]
What I can tell you is that these are both incredibly pretty floral perfumes. I really enjoy them both. Tulipes Joyeuses is rich and full-bodied - almost heady. Honeysuckle Vine is lighter and fresher. It is the longer-lived of the two on skin and projects more on me.

Both of these perfumes are distinctly floral, regardless of whether or not they are olfacto-realistic*. There is no doubt that these are pretty flowers, blooming beautifully on the skin. They make me feel like I'm wearing Spring - that enthusiasm, that sense of building energy, that feeling of potential.

*yes, I just made that up.

I identify with the honeysuckle scent a bit more, or maybe it works even better with my skin. What I know is that I actually crave this scent, which is a nice feeling.

These are botanical scents, which does not make them "lesser" than perfumes made with some synthetic ingredients. It does make their appearance on the skin a bit more brief, which can be frustrating for some perfumistas. Once you embrace the nature of natural scents, though, you learn to love enjoying the nuances in the allotted time and begin to even relish the fact that you get to reapply sooner.

I can see why these were so popular for Fleurage that Emma decided to start selling them online (soon). I look forward to getting my hands on her gardenia, lilac, daisy, and peony perfumes. I think they're going to be mind-blowing!

FYI: If you're a Facebook fiend (like me), you can follow Fluerage here.

So tell me:
Do you like soliflores? Which are your favorites? What flowers are you drawn to, either visually or for their scent? Are you a fan of natural botanical perfumes, or do they not work for you?

Vanille Botanique by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

I was delighted to receive a small bottle of a body wash from Indie perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz recently. As big a fan as I am of her perfumes, I have never tried any of her body products, so I was kind of fan-girl excited. Truthfully: I geeked out a bit.

The bottle is labeled "Vanille Botanique" and carries Dawn's Essence Studios label, but that may just have been out of convenience. The product name is hand-written on the label. Sadly, I can't find this body wash on DSH's website anywhere, and I haven't heard back from her when I asked her about it.

Anyway, what I have sussed out is that this is probably related to her all-botanical scent by the same name. You can buy Vanille Botanique, the edp, on IndieScents, where it is exclusively sold.

Here's what IndieScents says about the perfume:

Subtle citrus in the top, warm, sensuous florals mixed with rich gourmand notes in the heart and luxurious base of balsams, resins and of course vanilla.

IndieScents also says the product won't ship until October and is available for pre-order only, which is strange. It's February.

At any rate, the description of this scent matches well with what I'm smelling when I use the bath gel.

If you hear "vanilla" and think of the horrid early 90's, when every girl walked around drowning in synthetic vanilla-ish body products and perfumes, well, think again. I know that's what I thought of, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

This vanilla is light and slightly-floral. It's nuanced. It's not a lumbering creature that smothers you in its embrace. It gentle and wispy, but substantial enough to still smell. This is a grown-up vanilla. It's not sweet, really. It's gourmand, for sure.

Vanilla Botanique bath gel has some nuance, but honestly there's not tons of time to appreciate it all. I don't have the luxury of standing in the shower thinking a lot. Usually there's a kid peeking in the shower curtain and another screaming from the other side of the door.

I wish I could smell it longer than I can - it's only really noticeable to me while I'm using it. It doesn't last on the skin for long. More's the pity.

As a bath gel, it works well. I think it gets me clean. I don't look dirty after using it, so I assume it's working! It's low-lather and silky, though I still moisturize after using it.

I also used this once on "a scrubber". It removed the offensive scent nearly completely, which as we all know is a miracle. After all, scrubber scents are the strongest clingers there are!

Basically, I can sum up my experience with this body wash in this way: it works, and it smells pretty much like a really high-quality vanilla bean ice cream. There is not a thing wrong with that, in my book.

From all accounts, there's a bit more going on in the perfume, which I can not wait to get my hands on! Read this review by Victoria on EauMG and this one by Trish on The Perfume Magazine and this one by Monica on Perfume Pharmer.

So tell me: do you wear vanilla scents? Which are your favorites? 

Ormonde Woman, the Devil's Wife, and the Missing Freak...


Have you ever heard of Lilith? She's thought by some to be the Devil's wife, or maybe his consort. She was Adam's first wife, but by refusing to be meekly led by him -after all, they were created at the same time, from the same dust - she ended up in a world of trouble. (Adam later was blessed with Eve, who was clearly inferior and made from his rib and happy with her lot as subservient wife.) Lilith was punished for her disobedience. She was left to deal with the evil spirits and the fallen angels. She became the Lady of Sorrows and her cries are carried by wind and storms.

She's considered both innocent and evil, originally good and then oh-so-bad, the one who guards children under 8 days of age because she cannot have her own human offspring. She lies with demons.  She's a seducer. A harlot.  A winged woman. A black cat. A screech owl. Beautiful evil. 

If I were to imagine a scent for Lilith, it would balance her original, pure nature and the current circumstances she embodies. Green and woody notes would represent her roots in Eden. Spices would represent her place in hell. The perfume would need to be beautiful and natural and strange...

Ormonde Woman
That scent - Lilith's perfume -  just may be the beautifully bizarre Ormonde Woman, created by Linda Pilkington for her line Ormonde Jayne

I have long wanted to try the scents from this most cherished of perfume lines. Fragrance lovers and perfume bloggers and the otherwise scent-addled rave about Ormonde Jayne. Naturally, that's going to make a gal curious!

I chose to start my Ormonde Jayne adventures with Ormonde Woman. After all, that's where Linda Plinkington started. It's one of her first two scents, the other being a masculine called Ormonde Man.

When I placed my sample order, the only thing I remembered about this perfume was that it was "difficult" and "challenging". I like that in a scent!
Top: Cardamom, coriander and grass oil
Heart: Black hemlock, violet and jasmine absolute
Base: Vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood
Ormonde Woman is not a perfume. It is perhaps best described as a potion. It seems alive. It's both cold and warm. It's full of movement and yet totally calm. It's soothing and it's invigorating. It's natural and it's completely unnatural. I'm fairly certain it is full of magic.

It is amazing to me how this perfume comes across to so many people as being the stuff of fairy tales (witness Olfactoria's take here, The Non-Blonde's here, and Perfumeshrine's here). Ormonde Woman is, to me, the embodiment of a woodland forest. It encompasses the dark shadows at the base of the trees and under the fields of ferns. It also presents the dappled light that shines on the mulched path through the spotted leaves above. 

Ormonde Woman is woody and green and lovely. The grassy notes are shimmering and bright. The vetiver is dry and rooty. The jasmine is sweet and clear. The amber is delicate and soft. The cedar is sturdy and rich (and deliciously played with a soft hand).                 

Hemlock, an evergreen, is rarely used in perfume and probably never in these amounts. It is probably what is responsible for the nearly lemon-like flashes in the top notes of this perfume. At the same time, I think this note is also what gives Ormonde Woman a sense of being a deep, dark green. The spices add an earthiness to the blend rather than burning fire. The coriander and its other form, cardamom, help this scent seem familiar and utterly strange all at the same time.

From afar, there is a powdery nuance to Ormonde Woman. Think green powder, darker than - but not dissimilar to - Chanel No. 19's. It's missing (or at least much more subdued) when you come closer, but adds a lovely dusting of innocence to the scent's sillage. I think Lilith would use that to her advantage, luring the naive men she spots into her web.

This innocence is also presented in the violet note that wends its way through the development of the scent. I have come to learn that I love violet in a perfume, but here it's not quite as sweetly and femininely portrayed as usual. Or maybe it is, but the deeper counterpoints play against it in a novel way. 

The sandalwood at the base of the scent is actually apparent throughout, and adds a nuance of creamy skin to the scent. What's not to like there? I think Lilith would agree.

Ormonde Woman is at once darkly mysterious and calmly soothing. It is darkest green, beautiful, and tempting. It's not sexy, it's sensual. Natural. And strange. It reassures as it unsettles. It is indeed a fairy tale forest. It is perfect for Lilith, the caretaker of newborns, the taker of lives, the mother of demons, the consort to the devil. 

Though this perfume carries "Woman" in its name, and even though I think it's perhaps the fluid personification of Lilith, Mistress of Darkness, I bet is smells amazing on a man! 

Note: PerfumeSmellingThings also thinks Lilith would be a fan of Ormonde Woman. Read this.

Another scent one would have believed "a natural" for Lilith, bride of Satan and mother of his demon children, would be Freak, by British makeup brand Illamasqua. The line is famous for their cutting edge artists, intense pigments, and amazing, slightly subversive and totally inspiring imagery. 

This brand, icon of certain subcultures, called their first perfume Freak.  The name seemed perfect. Freak is housed in a bottle that's forward-leaning, Tower of Pisa style. It features a snail eternally crawling up the side of the shiny black mountain. 

When Illamasqua announced they'd be releasing a perfume, when the first images came out and when the notes were shared, many of us were thrilled! The scent, I assumed, would be completely counterculture. Crazy. Ground-breaking. Unusual. Inventive. Underground. Dark. An enigma. A little scary. A lot beautiful. Just like everything else Illamasqua touches. 

Take a look at the description of Freak's notes:
Top NotesBlack Davana, Opium Flower and Belladonna bewitch the senses into uncontrollable lust and passionHeart NotesPoison Hemlock, Datura and Queen of the Night blossom, caress and kissBase NotesAromas of Frankincense, Oud and Myrrh, addictively mesmerises and captures the senses

Look! It's got poison hemlock, which also featured in Ormonde Woman

Sadly, I don't think Lilith would be a fan. I know I'm not. Sure, it's a pretty scent. But there's nothing surprising, subversive, or even dark about it. It's a scent that I could see almost any woman wearing to almost any event. 

I think Freak if works for Illamasqua, and by all accounts it's selling well, it's going to be because so many young women and men are only familiar with scents from their department stores. Sure, Freak is dark and moody and sexy when compared to fruity pink juices or cool blue colognes. 

For those of us with a broader familiarity with scents, it's really not all that creative. Pretty, yes. Demonic and mysterious --- not so much. It's round and dark purple and somewhat fruity. It's got no bite, though. This freak has no teeth. It goes round and round, like the spirals on that snail shell, but never really gets to a point that pulls it up and above the crowd, which is what Illamasqua is usually so good at doing.

I may actually track down a bottle... eventually. Not because it's so groundbreaking or evil, but because it's pretty and versatile and that damn snail is adorable!

It's so odd... I expected to fall in love with Freak, but I did not. It barely inspires me to write about it. Then I met Ormonde Woman, a scent I had expected to have to struggle with to understand. Immediately it not only inspired me, but made me love it. It will definitely be added to my scent library, and worn often I expect. Ormonde Woman is everything I expected from Freak. Everything Freak is not. 

All of this evil talk has me itching to share some news!

I'll be participating in a devilish project soon. Devilscent will feature a handful of fiendish perfumers, a gaggle of demonic bloggers, one diabolical writer, and, of course, perfume!  

If Faust were a woman with an attitude problem and six strings of accumulated madness...what deal would she make with the Devil?

Follow along to learn what Quantum Demonology is. Like the Devil's Facebook page to stay in the loop!

Along the way, you may find out what, indeed, Lilith smells like - if you dare. And learn what inspires her wrath! You may meet her husband, if you haven't already. You may find yourself. You will definitely be entertained...

You can read a little more about The Devilscent Project here thanks to our intrepid leader. And stay tuned! We're only just now stepping into the darkness. Who knows what dastardly shenanigans will transpire?!

So tell me: 
What would Lilith smell like, do you think? And her husband?
Are you a fan of Freak?
Do you love the fairy tale that is Ormonde Woman, or is it more of a horror story for you?
And are you ready for Devilscent?