Juicy Couture’s Dirty English (2008)

Juicy Couture Dirty English © Victor Wong
Juicy Couture Dirty English © Victor Wong

“A perfume smells better when it gets discontinued.” – Plato

Recently I have read some posts saying that Juicy Couture’s Dirty English has been reformulated and the packaging has changed from awesome to awful. The metal chain that wraps around the original bottle cap is now cheap plastic, and the little trinkets that tied to the bottle cap with a leather band are all gone, and worst of all, the fragrance smells much weaker. For the longest time, my local perfume shop sales lady had been urging me to get a bottle because she really liked it. (Not really a factor.) I really liked the packaging, it’s thoughtful and thorough, but the reason I held off getting a bottle was that I had a negative association with the brand’s couture – I really don’t like seeing people wear their pink jogging pants with the word Juicy printed on the back on the butt – often the word gets epically distorted and the letter “i” sometimes gets fallen through the cracks.

Last time I visited the store I saw a bunch of Dirty English bottles getting a massive discount (from $90 to $40). I thought this was the time to get one… but I looked at the bottle and knew it was the new version. I asked the sales lady if she still had the old stock, and she did, but the last bottle, and it’s $90. I asked if she could give me the same price $40 and suddenly she switched to the Arabic language channel – she and her boss had a conversation for about a minute and the boss said $50. I asked why didn’t you give me $40? She replied why didn’t I buy the new version? What a… cunning businesswoman. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was getting an old version with the original packaging, but I took the chance. Damn Plato.

Yes, it’s the original version. Whew.

Dirty English smells very manly and well-blended. It’s woody and leathery, spicy and warm, and dry. There is a little bit of “dirtiness” and that probably comes from vetiver, cypress and a tiny little bit of synthetic oud. It doesn’t smell animalic, but carefree – and the guy wearing it definitely is not driving a Fiat mini car.

Interestingly, Dirty English reminds me of Gucci pour Homme (2003, discontinued, and highly sought after) but not as smooth and sophisticated – if you have a tight budget, Dirty English is still a bad boy smooth operator.

But wait, there’s more! I just said Dirty English smelled like Gucci pour Homme, but Gucci pour Homme smells like another perfume – Rochas Lui (2003)! Lui smells simpler, probably due to fewer ingredients, but all the ingredients are amped up and it’s delicious and sexy. If I get to rename it, may be I would pick “Easy French”. It’s definitely amusing to see both Gucci pour Homme and Lui were released in 2003, and five years later Juicy Couture released a slightly water-downed version, trying to lure all the dirty English wannabes.

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Jean-Charles Brosseau’s Ombre Rose Eau de Parfum (1981)

Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose © Victor Wong
Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose © Victor Wong

I want to kiss Ombre Rose in her face, but if I do, my lips and hair will be all covered with powder.

A few months ago I was talking to my hairdresser about discontinued perfumes, and she told me that she had missed only one perfume, and it’s called Ombre Rose Cologne. She was delighted that I could help her get a bottle, but she reminded me, “I want the cologne, not the perfume. Perfume is too strong.” I said, “hmm, I can try, but you know it’s discontinued, it might be expensive.” She replied, “I don’t care. I have to have it. They were in discount bins many years ago but I didn’t bother to get a few, and now they are no where to be found.”

It turned out that Ombre Rose Cologne wasn’t expensive at all. ($55 Canadian dollars/100ml.) However, my hairdresser wasn’t too pleased. “They have changed the formula! It wasn’t like this 30 years ago! I remember it was stronger!”

Ombre Rose was released in 1981. If I had smelled it when it launched, I probably would be kneeling before her sucking up her rose-petal infused powder sprinkled everywhere on the throne room floor. I have a feeling that Ombre Rose was a very influential perfume and a lot of perfumes had tried to copy it, and that’s why when I first smelled Ombre Rose, I thought it wasn’t very original. (It probably “inspired” Bond No, 9’s Washington Square) In fact, the exact opposite probably is true; Ombre Rose is the mother of all powdery rose perfume post-1980.

I also need to mention how crazy heavy the “rose part” of this perfume is. Cinnamon, tonka bean, honey, iris, vanilla, cedar, patchouli, geranium, yang, all super heavy hitter, it’s as ridiculous as a telephone booth stuffed with twenty people in a British comedy.

Neil Morris Fragrances’ Izmir (2009)

Ephesus of Izmir, Turkey © Victor Wong
Ephesus of Izmir, Turkey © Victor Wong

I had had such a good time in Turkey that I swore I would visit it one more time before I die. I had only spent three days in Istanbul and Izmir, but the culture, history and people left a lasting impression on me. The ancient temples and ruins were definitely magnificent, but the local people were so friendly that almost made me feel a bit uneasy. (My taxi driver insisted on sharing his lunch with me but I thought it was his meal of the day and I declined his generous offer making him quite upset!)

Time in Turkey went by very fast – I was dashing from one landmark to another that I had forgotten to relax and enjoy the little things, like sitting down in a coffee house and enjoy a cup of famous Turkish coffee. I remember as I was leaving the Ephesus ruins in Izmir, I saw a street vendor selling Turkish figs. He was selling them in a bouquet, instead of big blooming flowers, you have giant Arnold Schwarzenegger figs, so ripe and colourful that looked they were about to burst. I wished I had bought a bunch and tried some, or at least took a picture, but regrettably I didn’t.

When I found out Neil Morris Fragrances had a perfume called Izmir and the main notes contained coffee and figs, I thought, what a coincident, as if this perfume could fill in the missing parts of my trip! If I have never visited Izmir, Neil Morris’ Izmir is a very nice, well blended perfume with coffee as the dominant note. But when you have unexpected figs and papayas in a coffee perfume, you realize it is not exactly a regular gourmand perfume, but a creative interpretation of a city through its local culinary delights.

Top notes are papaya, orange and cinnamon; middle notes are fig, rose, geranium and coffee; base notes are vanilla, agarwood (oud), sea notes and patchouli.

Neil Morris Fragrances' Izmir © Victor Wong
Neil Morris Fragrances’ Izmir © Victor Wong

Parfums Jamaica’s Nothing

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

“What are you wearing? You smell so good!” “Oh, Nothing.”

“When you are in love, all you should wear is… Nothing*”

Ba dum tssshhh!

In virtual reality, what is likely to happen is this: “SOTD: Nothing. This juice is a compliment getter. I tell ya, this is definitely something, not nothing.” In reality, no one has given you any compliments.

Joking aside, Nothing smells great to me. But I didn’t actively look for that bottle, it was recommended by a sales lady from a perfume shop in Toronto that carried a lot of discontinued perfumes.The sales ladies know that I don’t search for contemporary designer fragrances, and they like to show me what they like instead. “Nothing” had to be pretty awesome to them for it was buried behind some unpopular perfumes on the topmost shelf that required a step ladder to reach, and they would still go the extra mile to show it to me.

Nothing is also fun because it’s mysterious to me. Fragrantica doesn’t have a record of it. It is made by Perfums Jamaica Ltd. in Jamaica (duh); the box doesn’t have any barcodes on it, and the bottle and box design look very retro and rudimentary. The box is so simple and low budget that I can’t even tell if it was made in the 70s’ or 2000s’ – they are probably using the same print template for decades without updating it. The packaging actually reminds me some no-label homemade hot sauce you find in some mom and pop store in a remote town, and the neighbour all have a bottle in their kitchen because it’s “so good”. (And not to mention that mom and pop don’t carry any niche hot sauce.)

Because there’s no cheat sheet from Fragrantica, I would say Nothing is a… chypre? It has a genuine oakmoss base note smell (may be vetiver too), and on top a rather rich and complex floral accord (could be a rose/jasmine combo). Altogether it smells rich, bombastic, and a little bitter. It also smells vintage, but not granny. What’s funny is that I can visualize a Jamaican kid running down the stairs to see to her big aunt come for a visit, she drops her sweet potato casserole on the kitchen counter, and gives that kid a suffocating bear hug, and the scent she is wearing is “Nothing”, and it doesn’t go away till the next day.

*From Parfums Jamaica’s website, http://www.parfums-jamaica.com

Two Girls’ Florida Water (1898)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

“You can use it as a mosquito repellent too,” said the sales woman, as she put the perfume in the shopping bag. I really wished that she didn’t say that – come on, it’s a perfume with over a hundred year old history, but you had made it sound totally utilitarian. The perfume I bought was Two Girl’s Florida Water.

Two Girls was established in Hong Kong in 1898, and it was the first cosmetic brand ever registered in China. Their “Florida Water” (an American version of Eau de Cologne) was widely popular in Asia till the 50’s, and on the bottle label always sports the iconic illustration of a pair of young ladies in traditional Chinese long dress.

I found it very intriguing that I knew of this brand since I was a kid but I didn’t recall anyone in the household ever owning or using a bottle. It was until a few years ago I saw a Two Girls TV commercial in Hong Kong  that totally caught me by surprised – woah, they still exist? At that time I wasn’t obsessed with perfumes; but now I am, so when I recently visited Hong Kong I had decided to get a bottle for nostalgic reason, and also to find out what it really smelled like.

It was a challenge to find their “flagship” store in Hong Kong. I thought they had a glamorous shop located in some high-traffic mall, but instead, it was hidden on the second floor of a rather small and old shopping building. The reason was obvious after I found out how much a bottle cost: $40 Hong Kong dollars for 100ml (roughly $5 US). It’s simply a product made for the masses and the prices were set accordingly.

Two Girls’ Florida Water is essentially a lavender cologne heavily infused with cloves, cinnamon, bergamot and peppermint, ingredients that are easy to harvest and distill. It smells unsophisticated and rustic, and even a bit of bug repellent, but this might be the best a woman could get when Hong Kong was still a developing city under the merciless hot weather.

Torrente’s L’or de Torrente (2001)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Some time ago I posted in a Facebook group a bunch of photos of a local perfume shop that carried a lot of discontinued perfumes, and many people jumped in to say how excited they were to see their long-lost treasures still available.

And there’s a woman in that group who has so many perfumes (“so many” in this case meaning she has bags full of unopened boxes of perfumes somewhere in the house and back up bottles of her back up bottles), she went through each photo and pointed out which perfumes were rare and highly collectible; and one of the bottles she recommended was L’or de Torrente (2001). So I went there again to check it out and thought the bottle looked very beautiful, but the scent was ok, and though there’s only one bottle left, I didn’t purchase it. Since then, I had revisited that shop many times and each time I asked the sales person to show me that bottle again, until one time she said, “I remember I showed you this perfume every time you dropped by. Some people buy a perfume just because of the bottle, you know,” meaning, “just buy that f*ing perfume, hun.”

Eventually I bought it. The bottle looks like a New Age artifact, or the orb found in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom but covered with golden leaves. The smell of the perfume, is actually quite interesting (I think the tester in that shop has turned bad). I could detect some coffee note the first time I smelled it, my coworker couldn’t, but he said he could smell lychee in it, which I couldn’t. A minute later, we looked at each other and nodded, yes, it’s a lychee coffee perfume (but lychee isn’t included in the notes break down on Fragrantica.) So far this is the only perfume for women I have encountered that features coffee as the main note. There’s also a light shadow of chypre in this perfume, making it a nice perfume situable for, I think, people in their 30’s or up.

Shiseido’s Zen Secret Bloom Intense (2012)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I have seen some photos of Shiseido Zen Secret Bloom Intense (2012) circulating on the net for a while and know that the bottle is very beautiful, but it kind of blows my mind when I am holding it in my hands in real life. The original minimalistic square bottle is already pretty and “zen”-looking, but with this 140th anniversary limited edition, Shiseido have outdone themselves with some smart optical illusion motif incorporated into the bottle cap design.

Ironically, I bought it at a discount store for a bargain price of $30. It’s a blind-buy, and my first impression was: sweet floral (jasmine and freesia), a bit heavy and dark (probably from incense/patchouli), and really, a little bit intense (hence the name). Overall, a very nice perfume for I have no interest in light scents… but it reminded me of a perfume that I had smelled before but I didn’t not own, and I couldn’t recall which. A few hours of house chores later, I suddenly remembered – it’s Yves Saint Laurent’s Supreme Bouquet, which costs almost $300 a bottle. I liked Supreme Bouquet very much, and my coworker liked Majestic Rose a lot. (She almost didn’t want to leave the boutique like a lego character stuck to the ground.) To be fair, the floral notes in Supreme Bouquet are more refined and of higher quality, while Secret Bloom smells slightly shampoo-y. But I use Splenda instead of sugar, so definitely I have no problem with Secret Bloom being Supreme Bouquet’s more economically sensible substitute.