Mendittorosa Odori d’Anima’s Sogno Reale (2015)

Mendittorosa's Sogno Reale (100ml)
Mendittorosa’s Sogno Reale © Victor Wong

This year I had a “gift exchange” with a friend. We sent each other a bottle of perfume, and the one I received was Sogno Reale. I had acquired a sample of it a few months ago, and I must apologize, I didn’t pay much attention to it after dabbing some on my skin. (I also did not enjoy testing samples from little vials.) I had just received too many samples that month, and not many perfumes grabbed my attention for they didn’t have a distinct voice or a “catchy” top note.

Now that I have a full bottle with a sprayer, I have changed my view on this perfume completely. Smelling it develop on my skin was very interesting – the first few seconds (yes, the first few seconds, and it is quite enough for most people to lose interest if it isn’t attractive enough) gives me the impression that it’s a weak perfume. But as it develops, it has a slow fizzy effect, almost like you are watching an effervescent tablet dance and dissolve in a glass of water. Or like watching a “tea bomb” blossom in a glass teapot, but with a caveat – I have no idea what’s in the tea bomb and the flavour is like nothing I have smelled before.

That’s because I didn’t check Fragrantica. I didn’t do any research on this perfume because it’s a gift. I just sprayed some on with no pre-conceived idea what kind of story it was supposed to tell me, and also I didn’t understand the Italian title of the perfume. I had been guessing what notes were in the perfume the whole day and I was clueless. It smelled a little powdery, a little uplifting (aldehyde, maybe?), a little sweet, maybe a little floral, a little ancient, like there’s some mysterious mild-smelling herbs or resins stored in a jar an archaeologist had dug up from a tomb and decided it’s quite safe to consume. In other words, it’s very well blended, completely mysterious and alluring.

I gave up, it’s a puzzle I could’t solve, and I looked it up in Fragrantica. (Spoiler Alert) it has hyrax, styrax, olibanum, rum, tuberose and sea notes, if they are important to you.

Amouage’s Fate for Women (2013)

Amouage Fate for Woman © Victor Wong
Amouage Fate for Woman © Victor Wong

I remember in a first-year Science class experiment, we try to roughly find out how big an oil molecule is: First, a large tray filled with water is sprinkled on top a generous amount of baby powder, completely covering the surface. Then 1 mL of oil is dropped in the middle and it spreads, pushing the baby powder away. A rough measurement of the dimensions of the “oil spill” can be found, and we can deduce the “height” of an oil molecule. The whole experiment is extremely rudimentary, but I was quite impressed by the visual aspect of fast pushing action of that little droplet. The same impression is re-experienced again, believe it or not, through a spraying of Amouage Fate for Woman, which has the same “high speed boom! then everything slows down” effect on me, but this time completely 3D and olfactive.

That spray of Amouage Fate for Woman, damn, is like an explosion of a firework bomb, carefully designed that aims to win some international fireworks competition. The outermost layer is baby powder (labdanum) and pepper, followed by some of the densest florals I have ever smelt – rose, jasmine, narcissus; and in a second the innermost core explodes and it’s incense, cinnamon, amber and patchouli. No one ever walks away from a fireworks show, and I just have to stare at the spectacle with my nose. Despite all the colours and richness, strangely, the lasting power of Fate for Woman on me is also like a firework, gone too soon, but the rich spicy/incense base notes linger for hours.

The powdery/rose design is not new, but Fate has a distinctly Middle-Eastern flare that makes it so exotic and rich. Next time you see me frozen in my chair with my forearm risen up against my nose and eyes not moving, I am not rebooting myself, I am admiring Fate for Women. My rating: a million stars.

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.

Narciso Rodriguez’s Narciso (2014)

Narciso Rodriguez’s Narciso © Victor Wong
Narciso Rodriguez’s Narciso © Victor Wong

Smelling Narciso Rodriguez’s Narciso is like looking at an autostereogram poster, or Magic Eye, if you still remember what it is. Autostereograms are 2D images, but if you cross your eyes to a really friendly position while staring at one, you can see a very simple 3D silhouette image hidden in the bigger image. Not many people can see anything out of it, but once you’ve learned the trick, it’s quite fun. I remember when autostereograms were really popular in the late 90s’, a local Chinese buffet restaurant put up a dozen autostereogram posters on the walls of its waiting room so that clients had something to do to pass the waiting time.

So back to Narciso as an autostereogram – when I first smelled it, I couldn’t figure out what I was smelling. I was completely lost. Very seldom I experience such thing, because usually either the fragrance belongs to a distinct category (gourmand, floral, etc) or the name already suggests what it is (Une Rose – rose, Tea for Two – tea, Lady gaga – gag, etc), but Narciso suggests nothing. I couldn’t figure out what the top notes were, so I waited a little bit and focused on the bigger picture. Ok, it’s a floral powder scent. The strength of the floral is intense, but the powderiness is even more intense. It is like the Indian Holi festival where everyone is throwing powder at each other, but there is only one color here – white.

After wearing it a few times, I finally “saw the hidden picture” – there’s a cedar forest submerged in a field of roses, jasmine and powder. Just like what Luca Turin calls it, a “woody powdery” scent. This scent is a bomb, and a very unique one.

Here are some autostereograms for fun:

Amouage’s Gold for Men (1998)

© Victor wong
© Victor Wong

I am no expert on Amouage perfumes, but I am almost certain that if Amouage were a country and needs to recruit an army, all they need to do is say “please”. And it will be the best smelling army in the world for sure.

When I first started exploring their line, I tested the little samples I ordered from Lucky Scents. My expectation was so high, I was prepared to have my socks knocked off. But one after another, I felt so puzzled because there wasn’t one that I felt very drawn to, until I smelled Gold for Men (1998). My reaction was almost like those women in a chocolate TV commercial, in which she puts a piece of rich and creamy chocolate in her mouth, closes her eyes, tilts her head up, her face exuding an orgasmic pleasure.

I will cut to the chase – if I get married, or I am lying in an open casket, I will be wearing Gold for Men. Because it smells so expensive, formal, powdery, floral, romantic, musky, classy and classic, when I am wearing it, I feel like I am a 6 foot 5 czar wearing a vintage mink coat and pair of sunglasses spreading caviar on a cracker. However, under normal circumstances, wearing it is almost overkill, particularly in summer.

Guy Robert, the nose behind this masterpiece, considered ‘Amouage Gold’ a symphony and the crowning glory of his career. (He did both Gold for Women and Men.) I agree. (source: Perfume Shrine)