Blind Sample Swap

Several of us perfume bloggers made an exchange of mystery samples with one another recently, sending out vials of fragrance to two victims with no knowlege of what the vials might contain. You might say it’s a guessing game of sorts. (I received samples from March at Perfume Posse, who will be posting her reveals soon, and from Marina, who has already written about them.) The recipients of MY mystery samples were Ayala, of SmellyBlog, and Marlen, of Perfume Critic. Both shared great insights and are such utterly astute observers. I was thrilled to be able to victimize them.

First up, Sleep by the Light of the Moon

Ayala says:

Vintage. Reminds me vaguely of vintage Chantilly with leathery and dry undertones yet an overall sweet smoothness. I really like this one!

The top is very muted, but you can still smell some remains of citrus and of course – an aldehydic and leathery opening. The heart is of rose and jasmine but mostly the very appealing (in fact, addictive!) notes of myrrh and Saxon moss. Base notes are earthy and leathery and very Chypre, with vetiver, oakmoss and leather, but the final dry down is
musky in a very Shalimaresque way.

Marlen says:

Yum! This is nice - smells somewhat vintage to me. Musky basenotes earn the first “yum” while a powdery aldehyde in the top give it that retro feel. I would definitely wear this. Let’s see where it goes. It does smell familiar in that “3rd grade teacher I had in 1983″ way. Something is persisting in the base that holds my attention. It’s as if this scent has two characters - one decidedly feminine and older, and the other, risque and adventurous. My first thought on this one is Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligon’s but as it dries it loses some of its initial kick and what remains is a warm powdery shadow of the initial accord.

What is it?

Sleep By the Light of the Moon was… the infamous Jardanel by Jean Desprez in eau de cologne. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both takes on it, and frankly, I prefer their assessments to my own. It really DOES have two characters going on, and the swooning florals layed across skankier notes IS addictive. Sadly, the cologne mostly lacks a spicy quality some folks report finding in the parfum, but my little bottle has weathered the ravages of time well because it was still sealed. Jardanel shines with allegory, a story with a hidden story. What a pity this discontinued Desprez has largely been forgotten. At least we still have Bal a Versailles around, sigh.

By the by, the alias of this scent was chosen from the chorus of a John Doe song, “By the Light,” off his out of print solo album, Meet John Doe. It’s one of those records I am appalled that more people never discovered at large. APPALLED! I happen to particularly enjoy “By the Light,” with lyrics both simple and true; it touches me deeply. I had a terrible time making a good clip. The song and the album featuring it truly merit listening in whole. EDIT: Ooooh, it can be found still, and for cheap, as a used CD at Djangos, which I can personally vouch for both as an online and brick and mortar store. Excellent customer service there in my experience.
Download By The Light.mp3

All the aliases I used are song titles from various artists, except for this one, because I so love the whole line.

Brand New Cadillac

Ayala says:

Sweet, rosy, vanillic, powdery, girly, the tuberose note vaguely reminiscent of Poison. There is something very 80’s about it for sure – must be the particular nuances of musk and tuberose…

Starts with a suave rosewood note that is there to balance a blast of tuberose, which is rather creamy, with a hint of green. A luscious heart of white florals – creamy and slightly fruity – jasmine, ylang ylang, orange blossom, gardenia. The orange blossom is very creamy, and almost reminds me of a creamsicle… The base is mostly a powdery musk (for
reference: it’s reminiscent of that of Clair de Musc or the musk you find at the base of No. 5), accompanied by bittersweet tonka bean. I really like this, it’s a soft, sweet, powdery white floral. I have never smelled it before.

Marlen says:

Ouch! This one hurts! It immediately smells familiar and I know that I know this. It’s a heavy perfumey scent that has quite a bit going on and a great bouquet of basenotes. My first thought is Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant but I don’t recall it well enough to make a definite conclusion. As it relaxes, I get a sweet orange blossom note and that pesky feeling that I know this even better than I had initially thought. There’s something Creedlike about it as well, very vintage floral. As it settles it simplifies and I get a rosey jasmine note. What the heck could this be? It’s definitely not for me and not something I would buy for someone else. Just too much of a good thing here.

What is it?

Wow! Talk about a divergence of opinion! Between “Ouch! This one hurts!” to “soft, sweet, powdery white floral,” you’d think they tried two completely different fragrances. It’s striking. This is Sirene by Vicky Tiel in eau de parfum, a fragrance that challenges the wearer. The first time I ever tried it, I had the same reaction as Marlen. GAHHHH! But something about it kept drawing me in for more test sniffs, and several months later I realized I had fallen in love. It’s unabashedly and aggressively female, which I mean in the best of ways. Sirene features amber in a manner not unlike Quelques Fleurs does, and I really get where Marls is coming from there. I’m delighted to see Ayala also appreciated the vanillic lilt to it, too: mysteriously, many folks seem to miss this aspect of it? I don’t know why that is. Perhaps the vanilla gets lost under the sharp aldehydic powder? I think Sirene can be simultaneously attractive and off-putting to some folks, whether it’s due to the weirdly tannic peony that straps itself to the jasmine, rose, and orange blossom, or the near sourness of the bouquet I can’t quite say. Sirene bears out a “in your face, bitches” floral message to some folks, making it a perfume seemingly made for perfume-lovers only. Please take a chance to test Sirene, and then retest again later on down the road: it intoxicates in the most maddening manner over time. It is found really frequently at Nordstrom Rack for a discount if you have one of those nearby. I believe it may be discontinued, but I’m not sure?

Hermit McDermitt

Ayala says:

This green frogy-juice feels like a lemongrass tea sweetened with honey and made of steeping the fresh long fuzzy leaves – I can feel their roughness on my tongue as I sip it (well, I mean, when I smell the perfume! Got carried away here for a second in the olfactory whirlpool…). The galbanum is very dominant, but in a most appealing way as its balsamic qualities shine through and any sharpness is rounded off so all you get is the green of a fresh cut grass and sappy tree branches. There is geranium, lemongrass, galbanum and honey at the top and heart notes. The dry down is rather earthy, with patchouli, cedar and sandalwood and that are finally taken over by woody and earthy vetiver.

Marlen says:

Soapy limes. Interesting. This is the scent of bathroom soap at the local Red Roof Inn, or so I imagine. Really not too much to say here except that it’s very “old world men’s toiletries”. I imagine this to be something from Caswell-Massey or maybe Pecksniff. It’s unusual when compared to today’s aromas, but might be a little too vintage for my own tastes. I like the chalky, powdery basenote…really works well against the lime. Sadly, it’s incredibly short-lived and all the citric goodness quickly fades to leave the scent of Lysol.

What is it?

Interesting to look at how a gender breakdown enters into play with Hermit McDermitt aka Green Grass & Sunshine eau de parfum by V’Tae. I suppose poor Marls is sick to death of cologne-y fragrances, what with being innudated by them in the masculine fragrance counters all too frequently. I’m at a loss to describe it as anything other than baseball and lemonade. Ayala’s perceptions are (I’m certain) dead on in the analysis, and are a welcome revelation into the make up of it. Thank you Ayala for that break down, it’s much apperciated!

Last, but not least, we have The Soul of a Man

Ayala says:

This smells a lot like many other sweet and clean musks that I smelled before, so I really don’t have a lot to add: Coty’s Musk Vanilla, Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Musc Alize – these are the two scents that are the most similar to “The Soul of a Man”. I like musky scents like this, but I don’t find I have much to say about them. A comfort scent, with peachy top notes, a hint of white floral heart, and a base of clean, transparent musk and vanilla. It’s a fun, easy to wear and relaxing scent, perfect match for your favourite flannel pyjamas.

Marlen says:

Hmmm, what an odd aroma. It’s like Chopard Casmir to me but with a stronger licorice note lurking in the base…or is that absinthe? I love it and would wear it in a second. It’s sweet enough, odd enough, and familiar enough that my next thought is Douce Amere by Lutens. As it settles, there’s something quite woody and almost tropical with references to tanning lotion. This is my favorite of all the blind scents I’ve tested so far. Really looking forward to learning the identity of this one.

What is it?

I Coloniali’s Mirra Mirra feels like a lost and lonely traveller who’s found a sympathetic ear. It provokes while soothing with kindness. It’s definitely a comfort scent, really. Marlen’s observation of a licorice note killed me. Of course! How could I not see it before?! There is something like a sweet licorice tea note in it, which thanks to him I can now appreciate, though only in the top and part of the middle rather than the base. Since Ayala mentions it being musky, I admit I can totally see how that is, too. It’s not particularly musky on my skin, however. As they say, your mileage may vary, no?

the four in question

11 Responses to “Blind Sample Swap”

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  1. Get a Gravatar!


    Said this on August 20th, 2006 at 3:53pm:

    Wow — that was great!!! Oh, I am desperate to try Jardanel, sounds right up my skanky alley — I think my Bal addiction is you and Marina’s fault, anyway.

    The Green Grass & Sunshine is all lemongrass to me, like (really) sunshine in a bottle!

    I can not make up my mind about the Mirra.

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    Victoria O

    Said this on August 20th, 2006 at 4:41pm:

    How fun was this blind scent review! Nice to smell things with an open and unbiased view, maybe even find a new love. I’ve been meaning to try the Mirra Mirra, now I think I will!

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    Said this on August 20th, 2006 at 5:04pm:

    March, yup, I think you and Jardanel might find happy company togetheer. And you and I are so in love with Green Grass & Sunshine that frankly, I don\’t think we can be looked at as impartial on the subject. It\’s sooooo… well, it\’s exactly as you say, sunshine in a bottle. LURVE it. The Mirra is not groundbreaking, but passes my \”mmmm, smells good\” test, and that\’s what makes me happy usually anyhow ;)

    Victoria, I have had such fun reading these all! It\’s so funny how we read the scents without the falderol attatched to their \”image\” when we don\’t know what they are. It\’s been crazy fun. And more than a little embarrassing (like finding chewed up Barbie feet in one of Marina\’s samples, for example) hehe! I loved how Ayala did hers that she sent to you guys, with the delayed reveal and guessing game for readers. That was too cool!

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    Said this on August 20th, 2006 at 10:40pm:

    That was a fascinating experience! I never smelled any of these scents before, and it was really neat to have no information about the scents whatsoever and just experience them for what they are. The Hermit McDermit is a winner. I am afraid I won’t be able to get the funky names Scentzilla christened these in order to disguise them, next thing you will see me googling them on eBay!
    (and end up getting a cd instead…)
    Thank you Katie! That was plenty of fun!

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    Said this on August 21st, 2006 at 12:06am:

    That was really interesting and fun to read, thank you. Blind testing is a way to really study the fragrance with an open mind, I like it that this gives you a way to discover new notes you never noticed before.I do the same blind testing with essential oils and aroma materials, this way I get to know the materials real well it surprises me sometimes to find a component in the material I never noticed before.

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    Said this on August 21st, 2006 at 6:05am:

    I really enjoy how similarly/differently these blind sniffs are perceived- and that’s it in a nutshell, PERCEIVED… no two noses respond the same way

    What fun !

    Now, if only we could be more candid with each other..[nudge,nudge,,wink,wink,say no more].

    BTW- for the future- I would love to do a blind sniff [thus spake the relentless Chinese water torture] sometime !

    Thanks to all for their funny, and excellent forensics…

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    Said this on August 21st, 2006 at 9:31am:

    That sound like a lot of fun Katie! :-)

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    Said this on August 21st, 2006 at 6:30pm:

    I love Sirene! You’re right - it is so in-your-face feminine. Actually, her Venus de L’Amour and Vicky Tiel Originale are also full-on bombshell perfumes. Venus is probably the easiest to tame, but I enjoy them all for their full-on femininity that is anything but timid.

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    Mimi Froufrou

    Said this on August 25th, 2006 at 4:24pm:

    Very interesting. I love Green Grass and Sunshine (Thanks Katie for making us discover it in the past). On me there are two main stages, lemon grass w/ some green in it and a sweet, woodsy drydown that smells of birch bark. I think I saw somewhere that there was birch in it, so it’s not just my perception.

    I tried Sirene once. My first impression is that it’s a cousin of Amarige in the sense that it can have that same in-your-face floral power. I don’t think it’s for me, but I can see how the right person could pull it off.

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    Said this on August 26th, 2006 at 7:53pm:

    Ayala, oh I’m so glad you hadn’t tried these before. I was racking my brain trying to think of stuff that neither you nor Marlen had tried before, and it was harder than it sounds!

    Jenny, this whole blind swap experiment was such great fun. Weird to see the results sometimes, but so interesting.


    , oh yeah, a reader blind sample experiment is a great idea! I need to remember your suggestion whenever I get around to ordering new decanting supplies for sure :)

    Kyahgirl, it was a lot of fun. Very quirky choices by everyone who participated, too.

    minette, yay!! Another Sirene fan! There aren’t so many of us, I fear. I have to admit I’ve not yet tried the original, and the Venus was one that I really hated on my skin. On me the Venus mostly smells of Ivory Soap, and that’s not good. Definitely not bombshell on me! It sounds like you had way better luck with it :)

    Mimi, it’s a pity poor Marls did not get from GG&S what we ladies seem to. I don’t doubt there’s birch in it - I bet that’s where my “baseball” connotation is coming from! The lemongrass element is one that suprised me, in a way. It’s so grassy, but not astringent like you might think it would be. You’re right about the sweet woodsy drydown, that’s the best part about it, no?

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    Liitle money

    Said this on April 3rd, 2007 at 10:41pm:

    It’s like Chopard Casmir to me but with a stronger licorice note lurking in the base…

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KatieHi, I’m Katie, the dork behind Scentzilla. I live in the Pacific Northwest, near Portland, Oregon. This is my personal site documenting my profound addiction to fragrance.