A Deconsecrated Church: An Open Letter To “Queen” Plus Review of Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma

Dear “Queen,”

You are not Queen without Freddie Mercury. No one is Queen without Freddie Mercury.

Mr. May, I used to have the utmost respect for you. After all, you are the only person in the entire world that I am aware of that can be legitimately called both a rock star and a rocket scientist. But in this piece from Classic Rock Magazine you claim “This is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing Queen as it was in our golden days…we’re here live and real and we have a great singer.”

There is nothing live or real about you. I can’t even call you a cover band with any intellectual honesty. You are nothing more than a deconsecrated church– we may be able to discern your former purpose if we squint, but your soul is gone.

Your state in reference to the idea of your original bassist John Deacon joining you, “He doesn’t want to. He wants to be private and in his own universe.” Mr. Deacon’s is the only comprehensible response to the absence of Freddie Mercury.

Your intended replacement, Adam Lambert (against whom I have nothing other than his attempt to fill God’s shoes) states in the article “…this is pure. We’re not playing to a click, we’re not playing to tracks. This is all live instruments. In today’s age it’s very exciting for an audience to something [sic] that has this much heart.”
Mr. Lambert wants applause for performing live at an event billed as a live performance? This is the standard to which we have sunk? Can anyone imagine Freddie Mercury making such a statement? This is the inevitable culmination of a generation of Autotune, but I will protest it with every breath I have left in me. It’s an absolute obscenity, the same sort of obscenity as the EU regulating the soul out of the fragrance industry.

To cushion the shards of glass in my heart (and the harsher language I have had to edit from this piece) I am wearing Etat Libre D’Orange’s Rossy de Palma today. I have already discussed it briefly on CaFleureBon but the more I wear it, the more it reminds me of Freddie Mercury, even if it is named for and inspired by another celebrity entirely. (Etat Libre D’Orange, if you are reading this, I would love for you to come out with a Freddie-inspired fragrance. I know you already have one called Delicious Closet Queen but the name Queen has been forever besmirched in my eyes.)

Rossy de Palma is a loud, splashy rose with an astounding range. According to Luckyscent, notes are ginger, black pepper, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, benzoin, incense, cacao, and patchouli. Like Freddie Mercury, this diva is dramatic, dark but sweet, unmistakable and irreplaceable.

The rose here is red and lush, in full bloom, but thanks to the spices it also carries hints of its future, dried and pressed between the pages of a memory book. (The memory of Freddie Mercury is sacred, and if forced to choose between recordings of him and live anyone else, I’ll choose the recordings every single time.)

In the opening, it is freshened by jasmine and by an unusual patchouli (I’ve smelled dusty patchouli before, and hippie patchouli, and green patchouli, and fruitchouli, but this is the first one I’ve ever smelled that could be described as wet). After a time a strong soapy smell comes through, and this is what I believe is responsible for the reviews of Rossy de Palma that claim it smells exactly like Maja. It does, but only for a brief period of time. In its finale, Rossy de Palma almost becomes gourmand, though the rose is ever present.

I am reminded of a writing workshop with the inimitable Stephen Dixon I took years ago, in which someone presented a story that depicted grief in conjunction with the imagery of a bouquet of roses. Mr. Dixon praised the story, but told the author that he had missed the logical ending: “There’s only one place this story can conclude. He has to eat the roses.” Freddie Mercury, for you I would eat the roses.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received as a gift with purchase of a different fragrance from Luckyscent.

Posted in niche fragrances, rose, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Another Rock Star Story (Loree Rodkin Gothic I Eau de Parfum Review)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story accidentally published the other day with half the blog post (the part that actually reviewed the perfume) missing. My apologies for the technical difficulties.

All of my best stories involve rock stars. I’m the girl who gave Keith Richards the finger, and the girl who almost stole Lou Reed’s luggage, the girl who tried to climb down the balconies at Radio City Music Hall to get near Richard Butler, and the girl who got to hold his hand more than 20 years later. I will tell those tales some day when it’s appropriate, but name-dropping is not the point of this story.

The rock star in question shall remain nameless. Those of you who know me well will know the name of the band I followed around, and those of you who don’t most likely have never heard of them. In 1990 they appeared to be on the verge of total world domination, but were still playing in tiny clubs. I timed a visit to my best out-of-state friend to coincide with their appearance on 6th Street in Austin, Texas, and because they were unknowns there I was treated like a VIP guest. The tour eventually wound its way back to New York, and by then I was on a first-name basis with the band. (Their beautiful but dumb drummer remembered meeting me in Texas, and somehow got it into his head that I was FROM Texas and was flying out to see every show in New York. He began to greet me with “Does your father own an airline?” As one of the most bizarre real life plot twists I have ever heard, he is now the leader of a cult in Canada.)

In preparation for an appearance at Ron Wood’s late, lamented club in the Bowery, Woody’s (I was both afraid and hopeful that I might run into Keith Richards there, as by then I was mature enough to know I owed him an apology for the middle finger incident), I spent weeks painting a banner in honor of the band. I’d interviewed the two principal members by phone for my university newspaper, and during the conversation they had lamented about classic rock stations that did nothing but play bands from the 60’s and 70’s all day and all night. My banner riffed on this idea, showing a radio tower jutting out of the earth into an electrified night sky, with the words “All Name-Of-This-Band Radio, All The Time.” (In an ironic postscript to this story, one of these two guys, not the one I’m discussing below, is now famous as the host of a popular radio show that only plays Beatles songs.)

My roommates were highly impressed with this endeavor, and told me the band should use the image for one of their album covers. The night of gig I carried it carefully, rolled up and tied with ribbon so it would not get crushed in the mosh pit that would form (in New York they were better known, and their best known song verges on thrash).

After the show I went backstage, and waited patiently for my turn to talk to the lead singer. When I finally unfurled the banner, his response crushed me. He glanced at it briefly, smirked, and said, “That’s a little overboard, don’t you think? This isn’t Shea Stadium.”

Dear rock star who has since kicked drugs and become a nicer person (I’ve seen him again since then, and hugged him, and forgave him.) Do you know what you did to me that night? You crumpled me. Crumpled banner, crumpled heart, crumpled fangirl. I tossed my art in the trash and walked out without another word. But I thank you for it, because it changed my life. In the cab ride back to my dorm, I made a vow to myself, which was “I will never hang on someone else’s star.”

Loree Rodkin Gothic I is the fragrance for the rock star inside all of us, not the stereotypical Gothic girl but the whiskey-voiced, kohl-rimmed, bangs in the eyes chanteuse Nico, as I mentioned previously in a piece on CaFleureBon. Its construction is deceptively simple, as the only accords listed are vanilla, patchouli, and incense spices, but Gothic I is a chameleon. The blogger Kafka experienced her primarily as a quality vanilla, and the friend who introduced me to her called her a dark incense. When I applied several sprays the other day, my children responded enthusiastically, “You smell like cake!” But I disagree, unless the cake in question is a dark green patchouli fairy cake soaked in rum.

The friends who I induced (seduced?) to buy full bottles along with me agree that Gothic I is primarily a gorgeous, green patchouli with a hint of tobacco (leaves, not smoked), deepened with booze and spice and ever so slightly sweetened by fine Madagascar vanilla. She does not develop much over time, but has enough facets to keep me more than enthralled every time I wear her. Think of the mythic Green Man deep in the forest; the poor little rich girl rock star, swathed in red ermine, brings him a tribute and makes a wish. The god is appeased and her wish is granted.

Loree Rodkin Gothic I is available from Luckyscent for $140 for a 50 ml edp, and for $110 for 7 ml of roll-on perfume oil. This review is based on the eau de parfum, and I will update it should I get the pleasure of trying out the oil. The scent is also available from Loree Rodkin’s own site, although I must warn you that her jewelry is equally covetable and considerably more expensive. The fragrance is also available as a room spray and candle on the Rodkin site. Give it a try and bring out your own inner rock star.

Disclosure: Review based on full bottle I purchased.

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The White Queen: House of Matriarch Coco Blanc Review and Draw on Cafleurebon

If the winter’s been treating you poorly, it’s time to check out my review of House of Matriarch’s Coco Blanc over on Cafleurebon, along with a draw for 3.3 ml of this precious nectar open to readers worldwide.

I’ll be back later in the week with a review of Loree Rodkin Gothic I, a fragrance that has me seeing stars.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Red Carpet Redux/Grammy “Style” Swag Bag Draw


Red carpet moments come few and far between for most of us who inhabit the real world, though I’ve had a couple of them because of the industries I’ve worked in (I was part of a team that won a technical Emmy eight past lives ago, and I’ve been backstage at New York Fashion Week, agonizing for weeks over what to wear, only to realize in the event that absolutely no one was looking at me when there were supermodels and rock stars around so it just didn’t matter).  But all of us have our moments in the spotlight, whether it’s your wedding day, a presentation at work, or hosting a party.  

If you’ve ever stood in a checkout lane at the supermarket, you’ve seen a “Stars Without Makeup” feature and realized the big difference professional beauty products make.  Tonight, in honor of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, we are giving away a swag bag filled with $300 worth of beauty and fine fragrance to one lucky U.S. reader on Cafleurebon.  Prizes include products from Antonym Cosmetics, Orlane Beauty, Leonor Greyl, Intraceuticals Skin Care, Votre Vu Cosmetics, and En Voyage Perfumes by Shelley Waddington.  This incredible prize is the next best thing to having your own makeup artist.  As for me?  I’m already in on these secrets, and Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.  

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Five Highly Improbable Things I’d Like To See Happen In The Fragrance World In 2014

Konstantin Yuon - New Planet 1921

Konstantin Yuon – New Planet 1921

It’s Christmas Eve and as I get the rest of my commitments in order for the holiday I am already looking ahead to resolutions for 2014. This year, instead of making them for myself, I have decided to make them for the fragrance industry. As improbable as they may seem, I would love to see these events come to pass in the new year:

1. One of my favorite fragrance etailers changes their name to Emergency Roadside Assistance, Inc. Twisted Lily? Osswald? Anyone? I know it is counterintuitive from a marketing standpoint but those of us that share finances with significant others would find it significantly easier to indulge our habits if that name were to appear on bank statements. Think about it. Please?

2. Slumberhouse Zahd replaces Bitcoin as the preferred virtual currency among the cognoscenti. I became aware of the Bitcoin thing a bit too late, but thanks to Cafleurebon I am expecting one of those two hundred precious bottles early in the new year and based on the reviews I’ve read the exchange rate will skyrocket.

3. A country other than France suddenly becomes more prominent in the perfume industry. I have nothing against France; in fact, I love it and at one point wanted to live there. I desire this solely because in spite of eight years of French lessons, trying to correctly spell names like Jardins d’Ecrivains on my Android is giving me fits. (Clever readers right now are thinking of Biehl Parfumkuntswerke and giggling…)

4. Le Labo City Exclusives expands to include some less obvious cities. I love the idea of this line but frankly, its creative direction could us a bit more imagination. Anyone can make New York, London, Paris and Tokyo look glamorous. I’d like to see what they can do with Schenectady or Dusseldorf.

5. The niche fragrance category expands to include potable fragrances. Creed fragrances already have vintages of sorts, like fine wines, with their batch numbers, and “boozy” fragrances like Matriarch Sacre Tabac are gaining in popularity. Why not take this idea all the way and make a scent 100 proof? Most of us in the modern world have become experts at multitasking and it’s time to demand more from our fragrances. I say we start with a good buzz.

My ideas are a little out of the box, but this is a creative industry; we can handle it. What would you like to see happen in the fragrance world in 2014, whether serious or silly?

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In Memory Of Maeme (Happy Hanukah With A Full Bottle Draw of Jovoy Les Jeux Sont Faits on Cafleurebon)



I haven’t seen her since 1974 but she had one of the most profound effects of anyone in my life.  I remember her voice, and her scent (lilac), and most of all her hand gripping mine tightly to make sure I didn’t stray onto city streets when we walked to nursery school.  She was the first person ever to call me “my Nancy” too. 

We lived in a three family house in North Bergen, New Jersey, and she was my landlady, but she was like another grandmother to me. I had two wonderful grandmothers of my own, but she and I lived under the same roof and she had endless patience for my questions and demands.  Her husband worked late and both my parents worked so we spent a lot of time together, visiting the couple who lived on the top floor, watching holiday movies (I had to sit on her lap because the scene with Tevye’s nightmare in Fiddler On the Roof terrified me), playing board games or going to the butcher on the avenue.  She had a basement filled with seltzer bottles and I used to help her do the laundry down there.  When her own grandchildren, who lived far away *, visited, my mother used to have to keep me away forcibly because I thought Maeme belonged to me.

On Hanukah, we lit the menorah and she made me potato pancakes and I was allowed to spin in her husband’s leather desk chair, something that was forbidden on normal nights.  She is the reason that Catholic me has celebrated Hanukah since I was a little girl.  I celebrate it to this day because I ended up marrying a Jewish guy.  (* A Jewish guy whose childhood backyard backed up on the backyard of Maeme’s grandchildren.  In Yiddish they call this beschert, which means meant-to-be.)

When my parents told me they were buying a house in the suburbs and I would have a backyard and a swingset, I sobbed.  I had no interest in these things, I just registered that they were going to take me away from Maeme.  The night before they moved they had to send me to sleep over my aunt’s because I made such a fuss.

She visited once the year we moved and I never saw her again.  In the 1990s someone found her current address and I wrote her a letter telling her how much I loved her.  I didn’t receive a letter back but my mother got a phone call from her daughter saying that she was ill but had loved hearing from me.

In 2011 my mother was visiting the grave of a friend in another place entirely, and turned around and stumbled upon Maeme’s grave. Based on her age we knew she would be deceased, so finding her this way made us happy– it also felt beschert.

My Hanukah celebrations since Maeme have been a lot more raucous, as you will see on my post on CaFleureBon, where we are giving away a full bottle of Jovoy Paris‘ Les Jeux Sont Faits thanks to Francois Henin.  But I’ll never forget the lady who first put a shamash (the candle you use to light the other candles on the menorah) in my hands.

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Divine Duality (Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando Review)


New York is my first love, and it is the only love that has never once disappointed me.  From auction houses to Rockefeller Center to dive bars on the Bowery to the Port Authority bus station, I love every inch of it.  I have just finished reading Donna Tarrt’s much-anticipated novel The Goldfinch, which is at least in part a love letter to New York, and I smiled when I read a review of the book on Goodreads that said “her depiction of Manhattan is so rosy and strange it reminded me of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”  The reviewer is not wrong, and yet the way Donna Tarrt depicts Manhattan is exactly the way I see it, in a perpetual twilight glow.  Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando has its inspiration in a different book, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and while this inspiration is apparent in its construction, the sense of a twilight glow inextricably ties Orlando the fragrance to The Goldfinch and to New York in my heart and mind.

One of the greatest pleasures New York offers is the theater. Leaning back into a velvet seat and craning your neck to look up at the gilded ceiling, feeling the bustle of activity as everyone rushes to take their seats when the warning bell sounds, seeing the lights dim dramatically, and hearing the overture swell from the orchestra pit– it is exactly this experience that Orlando’s arc creates in my head, with swirls of gold and red and plush textures, and contrasts of dark and light.

The fragrance opens with some prickly spices– orange, pink pepper, and ginger, according to the official notes, which smell to me like a natural version of aldehydes minus the soapiness. Usually I cannot abide aldehydes, but here the effect makes me smile; CaFleureBon describes it perfectly as “a sense of clamorous potential,” which to me is one of the defining characteristics of New York.

Orlando next morphs into a strong, dark, masculine wood with spices and resinous qualities. One of the main characters in The Goldfinch, Hobie, spends his time taking fragments of precious antique furniture and transforming them into not-quite-reproductions (his intent is not to fool, just to make something beautiful out of ashes). At this stage, Orlando is very evocative of Hobie’s workroom, with precious woods (according to the notes, guaiac and peru balsam) possessing simultaneously a vintage and modern feel. There is even a touch of furniture polish to my nose, one of those odd scents I find appealing, having spent a lot of time in antique shops, auction houses, and estate sales as a child. Given that the title character of Virginia Woolf’s novel lives for 600 years without apparently aging, this duality fits the inspiration perfectly too.

There is also brief stage where an aura of gentlemen’s high end shaving gear rises up behind the dark woods. This may sound disconcerting, but it works beautifully; most of the characters in The Goldfinch have fatally flawed fathers, and I can see the fragrance at this stage representing the elusive warmth, stability and strength they are lacking as a result, and the cleanliness that a good home provides.

Eventually, Orlando warms and sweetens without ever losing the undertones of dark wood. On me, it turns into a sweet but not too sweet, clean but not too clean, warm spicy sexy wood scent, all of the previous stages still present but melting into, yes, a twilight glow. It now skews much more feminine, which is highly appropriate given that Wolff’s character starts out male and wakes up as a woman. The drydown provides contrasts of warm and cool, light and dark, and masculine and feminine that make Wolff’s theme apparent. As the Scented Hound notes, it is somewhat prismatic at this stage, presenting different facets every time you sniff. At any rate, the drydown on me is as complex and gorgeous as that of fragrances of twice the price.

Notes in Orlando are orange, pink pepper, ginger, amber, patchouli, clove, guaiac wood, peru balsam, and musk; I should note that it is the first fragrance I have been able to wear containing clove that does not for one second remind me of potpourri. Orlando is available for $110 for 100 ml from Twisted Lily, the wonderful new fragrance boutique in Brooklyn.

twisted lily

This review is based on a sample with purchase I received from Twisted Lily, with whom I have no material connection other than very much wanting them to succeed. Brooklyn is the place these days that most feels like my beloved downtown Manhattan from the eighties and nineties, and Twisted Lily has that authenticity (a well-curated collection from owners with a passion) that has become endangered since lower Manhattan became so gentrified. One of the main themes of The Goldfinch is how love for art is as authentic and motivating emotion as love for people, and though Tartt writes of the visual arts, I have a feeling she would understand how we all feel about fragrance.

Posted in Jardins d'Ecrivains, niche fragrances, Twisted Lily, Woody fragrances | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments