Monday, November 28, 2011

Like Nothing Else: Loulou

I wondered if there was anything in my collection that was truly unique. That really didn’t smell like anything else. 

Awhile back, I’d made a purchase of 40 or so minis, always a risk because minis are usually the first to go “off.” I lucked out, though. Only a few had. The rest — vintage Caleche, Ombre Rose, even the original Chloe — were still good. Among them was a strange, squat hexagonal blue bottle with a maroon spire cap: Loulou. I vaguely recognized it. I put it away for further reference.

Last week I finally got around to smelling it.

This does not smell like anything else I have. I think it’s one of those Rashomon perfumes — eight blind men, one elephant, eight widely varying guesses. Reading comments here and there on the forums, I seen everything from “too sweet” to “tuberose,” and I wonder, once again, if they’re just smelling something I can’t.

To me, “Loulou” is anything but sweet. It’s heavy and dark, full of wood and spice; cassis, a little jasmine, the herbaceous flower tagetes, plum (skin, not flesh.)  Aldehydes. Some heliotrope, certainly not enough to make it sweet! I’ve seen it compared to L’Huere Bleue, but to my nose they’re no more than minimally similar. (Having just applied a little LHB vintage extract to my other hand, I can see the resemblance, but this A to B comparison leads me to a new “note” in Loulou — coffee. That is to say, molecules assembled in such a way as to remind me of coffee. And I haven’t seen “coffee” listed anywhere else.) 

“Notes.” More and more, we hear they’re marketing-speak, nothing more; useful to prospective buyers, as one wants to have some idea about what one is getting, more or less. From reading descriptions of “Loulou,” it would appear that one is getting The Eighties in a bottle — “a frag with shoulder pads,” somebody said.

Well, I don’t think so. It’s true that this is powerful stuff. And I guess it does have something in common with Opium, the darkness and spices. But there is much more of the former than the latter here. When I think of the Eighties I think Little-Shop-of-Horrors tuberose: choose your Poison. This isn’t that. This is a truly dark, mysterious scent, a femme fatale perfume if there ever was one, reaching much further back into time than The Eighties. (The name “Loulou” refers to Louise Brooks, with the Twenties pageboy bob.)

My little mini is vintage, made of the same opaline glass as the big bottle (the spire top, though, is plastic). Judging from the label on the bottom, it’s pretty old. And I swear I keep smelling castoreum in there somewhere.

LouLou isn’t discontinued. It’s available on the discounters for a song, although it’s in a big ordinary bottle and, dollars to doughnuts, the bottle is plastic and the scent inside is reformulated beyond recognition, at least compared to the mini I have. Maybe that’s what all the commenters who call it “sweet” have been smelling. These minis like mine, though, show up all over, and they’re not expensive; around ten bucks usually for the EDP.

I will wear this out some night, the kind of night where I might otherwise wear L’Ombre Fauve — one that calls for some dark, sultry scent. One I know the DH will like, because he’s already told me he does. I’d like to see what others say about it. I think it’s in the same conceptual ballpark as the real (read: wildly expensive) ouds.

The garish colors of the bottle, the maroon and cyan, aren’t about the Eighties, either. They were used by Matisse often enough to become associated with him.  That’s one his paintings, “The Casbah Door,” from 1912. 

“Loulou” was released in 1987. The perfumer was Jean Guichard, who also did “Obsession” for Calvin Klein.

The painting image came from here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Southern Thanksgiving Classic: Sweet Potato Casserole with a Praline Crust

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

I make this every year, but only once...

A “praline” is a divine regional candy, made with sugars, butter, nuts and vanilla.  If you can’t get pecans, use walnuts.

2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups (3 large or 4 medium) sweet potatoes*, peeled, boiled and mashed (don’t used canned, too mushy)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or or rub with softened butter.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, granulated sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar together. Add the softened butter and vanilla; mix until creamy.  Stir in the sweet potatoes (it's OK if there are some lumps) and pour into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining cup of brown sugar, flour, pecans and melted butter. Spread on top of potatoes. Bake 45 minutes.

*in some regions these are called “yams.”

Calories, fat grams, etc: You don’t want to know. Hey, it’s Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Random Thoughts at 3 a.m.

The EU is in the process of, or already has, banned (are you ready?) balloons. It seems that a child could choke on one while blowing it up. 

How did I ever survive my childhood?

My first job? Filling balloons with helium at a theme park. Most common request from customers? “Don’t tie a knot in it!” First surreal experience? Watching 12-year-olds lurch around talking like Donald Duck.

Caron’s En Avion — smells like a refo; dentist’s-office clove and something ghastly sweet. The older stuff must have been great, though. 

I smell a ghost.

SmartPhones don’t make you smarter. They do make their users stop in the middle of the aisle to read whatever is so important, thereby causing shopping cart pile-ups. I personally saw three of them yesterday.

(Why do you think they call them “users?”)

“Hung” (HBO) was a surprise last season. Very good writing and characterization. This season? I think they replaced the writers with a bunch of high school boys. Even “Ray” looks embarrassed to be in this sleazy mess.

Last night: EL’s Tuberose Gardenia. Firmly in Fracas territory. Is this being discontinued?

I sold a couple of old drawings last week. Made just enough to pay for the print rack I had to buy to display them. 

Parfumerie Generale’s “L’Ombre Fauve” — could well be the quintessential fall fragrance. 

(Ever notice how the declarative statement has disappeared from the lexicon? Now it’s “possibly” and “quite possibly” and “just may be” and “could well be” — see above — instead. What does this say about American culture?) 

I think it’s the troll living in Mom’s basement at age 35 that we’re all scared of. You know the one. Has nothing better to do than research obscurities, then write complaint letters whenever some hapless writer gets some factoid Wrong.

(Well, him — funny how it’s always a him — and the lawyers.)

New HBO show: “Enlightened.” Starring the woefully underappreciated Laura Dern (who also conceived and developed it.) Goofy, scary character you can’t help but root for, trying to retain her humanity in the horrifying modern workplace.

European readers — still think the EU is a good idea? (This isn’t snark. I would really like to hear your thoughts.)

Balloon photo used under much too expensive license from

Monday, November 7, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Stoned

More and more, I love perfumer Lyn Harris’ work. There is a suggestion of bitterness in the bottom notes of the Harris creations I’ve tried that just sort of sends me. Somewhere along the line I developed a taste for that; I even like Campari, which when mixed with soda produces a supremely bitter aperitif I haven’t found a match for to this day. 

Both of these have been out for awhile. I became a convert to “Fleur Oriental” when, during our icy winter of last year, I picked up a ratty acrylic sweater on which I’d sprayed it the previous day, and got, well, high on the scent. There’s no better way to describe it. At that point it had dried down to a slightly bitter heliotrope-based powder.  I realized that here was the perfect sleep scent, home alone scent, studio scent — in other words, it’s domestic, but hardly domesticated. It’s a little like “Habanita’s” drydown, without the choke factor that one sometimes produces.

“Stoned,” concocted by Lyn Harris for Solonge,  isn’t as unusual. It’s opulent and gorgeous, in that way that keeps you smelling your wrist all day. It opens with a bergamot/citrus top and slides smoothly down into florals — rose and jasmine, mostly —  but they’re subtle. I’m thinking these must be natural absolutes (at this price point they should be) or at least there are some in there. Other notes say labdanum, but I don’t smell the resin or the tar. I do smell the Bourbon vanilla. This has been compared to Shalimar, and although it’s in that arena, it's smoother, without that one's  tarry growl. Nothing unusual here, just a beautiful perfume. The “diamond dust” which is supposed be mixed into the fragrance, um, that — well,  that’s just too silly to discuss.

The perfume is called “Stoned,” because the fragrance comes from jeweler-to-the-stars Solange Azagury-Partridge. It refers to gems, not the outcome of some illegal activity. Azagury-Partridge’s work, particularly her rings, can be found adorning the fingers of many movie stars appearing on the covers of many magazines. The bottle is…well, unusual — sort of like a garnet-red spiny blowfish, with a fertility goddess figure on top. It would certainly command attention on anyone’s vanity table! “Fleur Oriental” comes in a relatively unadorned bottle, as with the other perfumes in Harris’ line, Miller Harris.

Assuming that you can pay the price, I think that “Stoned” would make a great gift. (Of course, it would have to be for somebody you really like, a lot; you, maybe?) They’re both great fragrances. Of the two, I think the Fleur Oriental is the most daring, opening nutty, almost meaty, followed by a clean and spacious carnation/clove, a green undertone and then the slightly bitter powdery drydown. “Stoned,” when it dries down, has just the merest touch of that; except for “Rein,” the other Miller Harris scents I’ve tried have it as a sort of signature, too.

“Stoned” isn’t easy to find. Certainly, the discounters I’ve checked don’t seem to have it. Didn’t see it on ebay either. Nope; this one is going to be Full Retail (or a decant). The Miller Harris line does appear on Amazon, with widely varying discounts. 

Something tells me it’s going to be another cold winter here in the U.S. These va-va-voom orientals just don’t make it in summer, at least on my skin. But it won’t be summer again for quite awhile.

Notes for “Stoned” include Italian bergamot, classic rose, jasmine absolute, labdanum, tree moss, musk and vanilla bourbon. 100 mls retails for around $285.

Notes for “Fleur Oriental” include carnation, Turkish rose, Indian jasmine, amber, vanilla, sweet musk, heliotrope, orange flower.

Full disclosure: I got my decants from a friend and a swap.

The photo of Arizona’s Antelope Slot Canyon is by Chief Tsosie, of  AntelopeSlotCanyon, by way of Google Images.