Vie de Chateau by Parfums di Nicolai (2010)

Vie De Chateau by Parfums di Nicolai

In a little red barn on a farm down in Indiannnaaa….I’m gonna rest my back on a stack of new mown haaaaaaay.

Vie de Chateau* may translate to “Castle Life” but as I am immediately transported to the farm of my childhood, I am reminded that the French and Midwesterners have far more in common than either side wants to admit.

There is a burst of sunshine in the opening of Vie de Chateau.  Not to get too nostalgic or pie-eyed but there is a moment on a farm morning (and I would assume on a Chateau as well…but I cannot confirm) when the sunshine hits the dew on fresh cut grass and everything smells fresh and new, yet with an underpinning of rich loamy soil. This is the first moment of Vie de Chateau.

Vie de Chateau is typically classified as a masculine and I get the briskness that implies, but there is no gender to a summer morning and thus I wear this comfortably, if not a little mournfully, at my desk wishing I was out experiencing that very thing rather than just approximating it on my wrist.

As we move into the heart, I believe a fresh saddle has just appeared on our farmy morning, warmed with the sun.

I mentioned Cristalle as having an air of Carpe Diem, and so does Vie de Chateau.  In Cristalle, we are accomplishing much in the realm of career.  In Chateau, it’s a day of active leisure.

Vetiver shows up a little after the warm leather.  It’s really nicely composed as I seem to be generally a little sensitive to vetiver’s raspiness.  This one is smooth. Woven.  I suspect it’s because it is blended with the warmth of tobacco which sweetens it and calms it’s respiratory flyways.

So we seem to have a freshly shaven farmer, sitting atop a saddle with an unlit pipe, ready to head off to Sunday services.  So it may not inspire sexy thoughts, but nonetheless it is comforting while never ever sliding into the world of gourmand.

This is what I call a church morning perfume (as is Nicolai’s gorgeous Odalisque).  I don’t mean to imply it’s conservative or staid.  It’s just it would smell great with coffee, toast, shaving cream, and wouldn’t fight with other similar scents amongst the freshly scrubbed pews.  (IE I could see letting my Dad try this one on.)

Hay is one of my favorite perfume notes.  It is sweet, green, herbal and happy if something can smell happy and I feel it can.

A true barnyard perfume would have a bit of indolic heft to it, and this is not it.  While I admit I have a bit of affection for greener, ah, manure.  (I guess there’s no getting around it, but the fact is rabbit and horse poop ain’t that bad.)  This is not a present element in Vie de Chateau.  As I said, this isn’t a farmer on duty.  This is a farmer heading out for awhile.  It’s a day full of possibility and camaraderie, not routine.

There are a couple bottles in my home that find themselves variably on either my dresser’s or my husbands.  I sneak Aqua di Parma.  He grabs Lush Dirty.  (I suspect Eau de Navigateur will find it’s way to my side of the room as he has tired of it.) I could see Vie de Chateau having two homes as well.

I would recommend this perfume, in particular, to people who appreciate classic colognes but do not enjoy orange blossom or heavy citrus (if citrus can be heavy).

Ther is a hot second in the top notes where a rasp caught my breath.  I think it was just that first flash of vetiver that settles down quickly into the basket weave I mentioned above. The drydown is a very clean musk that manages to avoid hissing.  It maintains just a hint of that cut grass quality.  I’m getting sheets drying in the breeze.

If you need the perfume equivalent, be it French or Midwestern, of a country morning transitioning to a nappy afternoon, well friend, Vie de Chateau is the perfume for you.  Castle Life.  I agree.  For what is more luxurious that an outdoorsy nap on a summer day?

Ultimately, Vie de Chateau smells good.  Very very good.

*Whistling “In a Little Red Barn” as I meander away down a country road.*

4 Stars.

*My sample is older and so I cannot speak to the new “Intense”  version although judging by my research it is very similar.

Stella by Stella McCartney (2006)

Stella by Stella McCartney

There seems to be a bit of derision amongst the perfume critic set regarding Stella.  It’s as if there was some expectation, as she is an innovative fashion designer, that the fragrance would be as well.  I fell victim to this with Lady Gaga’s Fame.  WE WERE PROMISED BLOOD!  I really thought Fame was going to be some sort of reworking of Secretions Magnifique but wearable.  No dice.  It was a shitty fruity floral with a disappearing ink gimick juice.  I was heartbroken.  In a seemingly dismal era of mainstream perfume, even the woman who wore a meat dress wouldn’t take a risk.  But then again, maybe THAT’S the joke.  Fame is an illusion.  Don’t set your heart on it.

Whatever.  I’m still miffed.

So I empathize.  Sort of.  The thing is, unlike Fame, Stella isn’t bad.  In fact, I have a lot of affection for it.  Perfume critic, Katie Puckrik, called it a “beginner’s rose.” And I second that emotion.  For me, it’s a jeans and t-shirt rose, but like AG jeans and a high-end tee.  We can’t wear a ballgown every day, right?  (I mean, I’d like to try, but there’s the train to think about.)  I also feel it would layer well (Throw a cashmere sweater on that jeans and tee with some vanilla, maybe add a chic blazer with some incense?  You get the idea.)  Additionally, while the perfume critics seem incapable of getting excited about Stella (fair), she appears on both Bois de Jasmin‘s and the Perfume Posse‘s lists of great rose perfumes.  Part of this cliquey behavior (Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by Regina George), comes from the fact that while Stella may not be particularly exciting, we live in an age of perfumery where a true rose, as simple as she might be, is notable. Stella reminds us that deep down, as much as it curls our toes, sometimes we just want to feel pretty. What I mean to say is, on Wednesdays, Stella wears pink.

Maybe THAT explains the salty note.  Stella is actually Gretchen Weiners.

So what is Stella actually?  Peony for starters, then rose, then a salty ambery musk.  The drydown is a bit abrupt.  Last night, I tried it on at Sephora.  Reapplied it a couple hours later still enjoying the slightly jammy rose.  A couple hours after that I slipped into bed, took one last sniff and said, “WHOAH!  Where’s the rose?” (The rose can’t go out.  *cough cough* It’s sick.) Totally ghosted. But I’m still fine with it. (Boo, you whore.)  It may seem I’m determined to like this perfume against all odds, but that’s not the case at all.  I find it immediately likeable.

Here’s the thing.  One of my favorite perfumes of all time is YSL Paris.  A gigantic jammy rose violet monstrosity that is basically bliss in a bottle for me.  I am aware, however, that it enters a room before I do and as I’ve been raised to be polite, I don’t wear it very often.  Stella, for me, is Paris Lite.  VERY Lite, yes.  But sometimes, you just don’t want to think.  That’s why we order pizza.

I feel that Stella has the potential to be a gateway drug of sorts.  It’s easy to write off a tea rose as old-fashioned.  Stella gives you a rose with a modern sensibility.  The kind of rose that might make a girl think, “Hmmmm.  Maybe I don’t hate rose after all.”  As I mentioned before, I could see it layering well with vanilla.  I’d like to try a foodier vanilla for a twist on the Tocade idea (which is a more floral vanilla combined with rose.) Ultimately, Stella makes me want to play. And for $22 bucks for an EdP roller ball at Sephora?  I can afford to.  Alone, she is a bit buttoned up, sure.  But I feel she would come out of her shell given the right encouragement. OR, as I suspect Stella is an introvert, she may do better supporting someone else in the spotlight. That is to say, if you have a Regina George perfume that you feel might enjoy a little rose from time to time, Stella might be the perfect addition.  OR, and I love this idea, imagine adding it to a well made but simple masculine.  Don Draper becomes Beau Brummell.

Perfume Challenge:  Regina George and Cady Heron perfumes. To be discussed at a later date.

And Don Draper.

Anyway…

I think the general “meh” of Stella comes from what could have been.  All these years later, better to focus on what is.  The Guide asserts that Stella is “not obviously perfume.”  Okay.  Maybe it’s an idea.  But I like the idea.  So fetch.

3 Stars

Cristalle by Chanel (1974)

Cristalle:  It gives you wings!

I hate to draw a classic Chanel into the world of energy drinks but there is an undeniably uplifting quality to Cristalle.  It, like it’s champagney name, feels effervescent.

But not.  I repeat.  NOT ditzy, so put down the can of Red Bull and pick up the glass of Veuve.  Come along and let’s examine.

Cristalle is what I would call a green citrus.  It has more staying power than your average citrus and it’s a more complex composition as well which puts it on a bit of a pedestal. Citruses have a tendency to be fleeting little things on one hand, or masculines on the other.  While I think it would do well on a man (Lovers of Aqua di Parma take note), it never crosses that stereotypical masculine threshold.

It is unbelievably refreshing.  On a practical level, it would do well on public transportation on a hot day.  I can nearly imagine being thanked by fellow passengers should anyone particularly gamey be nearby.  It’s an antidote to stonk and grunge.  I’m sure there are people that dislike Cristalle, or are ambivalent, at least, but I simply can’t imagine it.

I’ve heard it described as a fragrance that would do well on a blonde.  Sure, I suppose.  I think the real imagery, however, is that of an ice queen of no particular appearance but rather a certain behavior and bearing.  Cristalle, as exhilarating as it can be, is not a warm and inviting presence.  It’s crisp, but not sharp.  Cool, but not frozen.  It’s sophisticated and does not overpower, in sillage at least.  Psychologically, it’s a different story.

I loved Cristalle at first sniff very early in my perfume journey.  It’s not a particularly difficult perfume to like, although I don’t know a lot of people (other than me) who downright love it.  I think what roped me was, having come from a world of ditzy fruity florals and a lone bottle of Coco Mademoiselle (I’ve ALWAYS loved that Chanel base), Cristalle makes it immediately clear it is well made and may make you question the quality of other fragrances.  It is a well-tailored suit.  A perfect little white sheath dress (with killer heels).

Frankly, it’s a little bitchy.  It kind of has a Lady Tremaine feel about it

Anna Wintour probably puts it on after she’s eaten her young.  (Well, you wouldn’t want anything heavy after that.)

So no Cristalle probably isn’t going to the party (you totally invited her), but she’ll get you through a long day.

Lest you think I’m trying to imply something about Cristalle, I should clarify.  Cristalle might be a bitch, but bitches get shit done.

Plus, it’s merely one element.  Cristalle may have a slight Karen Walker brusqueness, but she is complex, particularly for a citrus.  Other citruses are playful and fleeting.  Refreshing but they cancel plans.  Once you’re in Cristalle’s calendar, that meeting is HAPPENING.  And you are meeting somewhere NICE for lunch.

However, if Cristalle is one tenth Karen Walker, she’s a hell of a lot more Christine Lagarde. That’s right.  I’m putting Cristalle in charge of my perfume International Monetary Fund (Someone needs to be, for crying out loud.  It’s getting ridiculous.)

Christine Lagarde, Head of the International Monetary Fund.

When I’m working on a big project and I need motivation to get it done. I…well, alright don’t judge my dorkiness but I watch Apollo 13.  That scene where they bring in a box full o’ crap and say we have to make a CO2 filter out of this.  That makes me go LET’S DO THIS.

(Spoiler alert:  They totally figure it out.  Was someone wearing Cristalle?  No.  That happened in 1970.  Cristalle was launched in 1974.)

Cristalle has a sense of productivity. She might even be a pill-popper.  I can imagine myself coming upon some stressed young thing, pulling her aside, handing her a bottle of Cristalle and saying “This will help.  Don’t say anything.”  Then I light a cigarette, and drink a martini.  As I walk away, I say, “Now pull your shit together.”

I have become one with Cristalle.

Lucille Bluth probably has a bottle of Cristalle.

Cristalle doesn’t understand the question, and she won’t respond to it.

Wait.  Didn’t I start out this thing saying “uplifting” and “champagne?”  So I did.  And so Cristalle is. Cristalle gets you through the job.  And then it helps you celebrate after it’s done.

You see, Cristalle isn’t bossy.  She’s the boss.

The physical incarnation of Cristalle.

Not only is Olivia Pope the essence of Cristalle, but the CHARACTER of Olivia Pope did a totally Cristalle move on TV in general by shooting the equivalent of galbanum resin into prime time.  Shonda Rhimes Chanel Cristalled Hollywood. That is a bracingly refreshing breeze.  How meta.  And how very Cristalle.

If we assigned careers to the Chanel classics:   No 5 is the Philanthropist.  19 the diplomat.  22 the PR rep. Coco the Actress.  Beige the Accountant (Poor Beige).  Cristalle is the attorney. And that suit is, well Chanel of course. But not the tweed.  Too dowdy.  She’ll take it in tropical wool.  Her nails are impeccable.  Hair too.  I wear Cristalle when I need to convince myself that I’ve got this.  Cristalle represents well.  She knows who she is.

It might be sacrilege (but then so is any temperature above 95): try putting Cristalle in the fridge for the dog days.  She might work hard but she knows there is a time for a cold glass o’grigio on a patio.  And I picked that Samantha Jones reference on purpose:  Cristalle might be chilly, but she’s not frigid. Where there is oakmoss, there is a dark sexiness. Cristalle is also calculating, although I wouldn’t go so far as to compare her to say, Amy from Gone Girl.  We’ll leave Gucci Envy to do that.

You sense I’m a bit intimidated by Cristalle.  I am.  I just (choking up) I just want to live up to her expectations.  But I am also no pushover.  She likes my “quirkiness”.  She once called me “weird.”  I said she was uptight.  And then we both loosened up.

5 Stars.

My sample is the EdT from circa 2008.  The EdP is said to be sweeter and fruitier with less bitter herbs.  I don’t know why you’d want that.  Find the EdT.

*After I wrote this, I bumped into this post likening Cristalle to introversion.  I agree, for the commonly deemed bitch is often a misunderstood introvert.  As I identify as an introvert, I see Cristalle to be one too.  Wonderful piece.  Check it out.

Songes by Annick Goutal (2005)

Songes by Annick Goutal

It took a long time.  I fell down the perfume rabbit hole circa 2008.  But I was naive.  Young.  No respect.  I was a fruity floral/white musk girl who had only determination on her side.  I bumped into Songes at Bloomies.  A particularly friendly and generous sales woman threw every Annick Goutal sample she had my way (Petite Cherie, Le Jasmin, Eau d’Hadrien, Mandragore).  I dabbed Songes onto a strip, recoiled at the fresh jasmine top and put it far to the back of my sample collection.  I did know, thankfully, I was smelling quality.  I just wasn’t ready to embrace the white flowers.  I tried it again a couple years later.  Now Smell This had written a series of posts about building a perfume wardrobe (something I was doing haphazardly.  Metaphorically speaking, I had a lot of tops but no pants.  Not even a dress, really.  It was the sartorial equivalent of quirky t-shirts and a couple pairs of nice heels.) They suggested having a “Killer White Floral” and mentioned that Songes was one of their regulars.  I opened my mind and tried it again.  It was better, and I actually put it on my skin.  I still felt like I was playing dress up.  I didn’t love the jasmine, but I didn’t hate it either. Then I put it away again and declared I GUESS I’M JUST NOT A WHITE FLORAL GIRL to no one in particular and went on my way.

But here’s the thing.  It’s just not that simple.  White florals are lurking lots of places, in perfumes I knew I loved.  They weren’t the main feature but they added richness, elegance and heft.  Still, I was particularly unnerved by jasmine in a starring role and even more so by tuberose.  Oh tuberose.  We STILL aren’t friends (see Fracas by Robert Piguet), but I’ve started to realize how smart she is (See Tubereuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens…they’ll get me yet).

Anyway, later I bumped into an EdT of Joy by Patou at TJ Maxx and bought it for educational purposes, status (gross motivation, I know, but whatever), and the thought that Marilyn loved it which is usually enough for me.

Vintage Joy Ad

Upon removing the cellophane, Joy reached out of the bottle, slapped me across the face and said, “And you thought Songes was a white floral, you silly bitch.”  So I slapped a steak on my Joy-induced black eye, apologizing profusely for being such a rube and started to reexamine my indolic reluctance.

What was my damn problem?  People are trotting about in Fracas and Poison and I can’t handle a little fresh green jasmine?  People are raving about Carnal Flower and Creed Spring Flower and Chanel Gardenia and shit, even, Juicy Couture EdP and I’m running for the hills?  I told myself I may never love white flowers, but I’m never going to be a true student of perfume if I can’t at least go to their parties.

Then I had to chill out because we’re talking about a bottle of perfume, not the United Nations.

Then, flash forward many years to today when I decide I’m a little bored by my bottles and need a break from my current incense obsession and my old samples need some attention.  I grabbed a literal handful and sorted through until Songes peeked her pretty little head out and suggested that she might be appropriate for an important meeting day at work which today happens to be.

Reader, we fell in love.

This is one of the most beautiful perfumes I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing.  Patient, too.  She knew I’d come around.  I got older. Songes has stayed the same age. Alright alright alright.

Let not my Matthew McConaughey reference lead you astray. This is a gorgeous, sophisticated and yet comforting scent. Maybe not downright cozy as it deserves a better outfit than pj’s, BUT there is a certain casual elegance to it. And yet you could wear it almost anywhere. Dinner, church, work, the theatah. It’s opera-worthy.  Ballgown appropriate.  I wouldn’t call it bridal because I’d rather catch of a whiff of it on the eldest bridesmaid (I am OFTEN the eldest bridesmaid) or even better, someone’s mysterious stunningly beautiful date.  “Who was THAT?!  And what perfume was she wearing?!” All perfume heads dream of the day their intoxicating scent will convey their inner depths as they breeze by.  But hey, if any perfume was going to do it, maybe this is the one!  I’m getting images of Grace Kelly on vacay.

The physical incarnation of Songes. I’m sure there’s a ballgown, tossed lovingly aside, just out of frame.

You don’t need a special event, however, to experience Songes.  Wear it when you need to be reminded there is beauty in this world.

Hyperbole?  Maybe, but then here’s the ad copy for Songes: A tender light, a sensual mystery… A midsummer night’s dream in lights. On the eve of an exotic night on the island of Mauritius, as darkness falls, walking in an exotic garden, Camille Goutal is taken by surprise by the spellbinding scent of frangipani at dusk when nature takes over the night. She could not overcome her desire to create a fragrance to immortalize this precious memory. Just as in a dream, the sensual petals of the Tiaré flower, Jasmine sambac and Ylang Ylang absolute,  blend against a dark background of balms and Bourbon Vanilla.

Unlike most perfume copy, damned if this one ain’t true.

Songes means “Dreams” in French.  Maybe my dislike of white flowers was just one long and bad one.  I’d come around before this, sure.  But today is the first time I consider it true love.

Songes (Annick Goutal).

5 Stars

(My sample is the EdT.  I’ve heard the EdP is heavier on the vanilla.)