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I got a bottle of Ambra di Venezia parfum when I was 18, along with the lush matching lotion. I bought it in a store called Takashimaya. (Takashimaya is a Japanese luxury department store. There used to be one on Fifth Avenue.) It smelled huge to me back then and it does now too. I felt sinfully adult when I wore it. I pictured it someday sitting on a vanity table in my “boudoir:” a decadent title that no bedroom I’ve had has lived up to.
This is what I think a woman who wears Ambra di Venezia looks like:
She dresses up every day, in bright colors, and has a bit of a throaty voice.
Ambra di Venezia smells to me like a sweet amber tuberose, with a side of jasmine and citrus and a dose of dark humor. From top to bottom, it’s a sultry and slightly dangerous fragrance that you should really only wear on your most confident days.
The note list is as follows, from Aedes.com:
Top Notes: bergamot, lime, tangerine
Middle Notes: jasmine, narcissus, mango
Base Notes: sandalwood
(I listed amber and tuberose too under “Categories.”)
I don’t remember it coming with a note list (unless I lost it, which is likely.) The note list isn’t anything like I expected. But there is something very ripe about it. I never would have guessed mango, but now I can see how it fits. The sandalwood starts out light and becomes stronger. Ambra di Venezia also gets fruitier as it goes on, but it doesn’t lose that sexy, slightly carnivalesque appeal. The drydown is softer than the come-on.
A lot of these deep fragrances seem to have something dark about them. Ambra di Venezia doesn’t. That’s quite a feat.
Perfumer: Rayda Vega
Price Range: Expensive
Recommended Occasion: Sultry
Release Year: 1998
My Rating: 8.5
Steve at The Scented Hound smells more sandalwood and less tuberose/amber.
I designed this outfit for sewing class. It’s fairly subtle considering how bombastic I could get with Fracas, but I think it still fits the bill.
The simple leather corset is fitted, sexy, and has just enough va-va-voom. The skirt is flowy and feminine like Fracas, and two-toned. The bottom layer is a darker shade of pink. I always associated dark pink with Fracas both because of the lettering on the bottle and because of the exaggerated femininity of it.
I bought some embroidered lace from a closeout last year. I want to make it into a dinner jacket. I think the outfit is wearable (for somewhere, I’m not sure where right now.) The dinner jacket would add a special touch. If I really wanted to be hip I’d wear it with jeans and a casual tank top.
(Vintage ad from australianperfumejunkies)
Miss Balmain comes in a pink package with old-fashioned typeface, in a tall bottle with reddish-brown juice. It looks designed to sit on a 1950s vanity. Miss Balmain seems like a staple perfume: the kind of thing you’d wear every day with a wool skirtset and gloves.
(Modern bottle from 99perfume)
Miss Balmain isn’t fruity-floral or avant-garde. The mood is distinctly vintage. It reminds me a little of Ivoire de Balmain in tone: musty and adult. There’s a lot of aldehydes and a lot of powdery overlay like the kind used in Habanita. To me it’s a leather floral with a touch of chypre.
It was hard for me to pick out the notes. I got the note list from Fragrantica:
Top Notes: aldehydes, coriander, gardenia, lemon and green notes
Heart Notes: carnation, narcissus, orris root, jasmine, rose and lily-of-the-valley
Base Notes: leather, amber, patchouli, coconut, oakmoss, vetiver and tonka bean
Seeing that, I noted that it’s a great exercise in balance. Rose stands out more than any other flower, but the other notes balance it so the rose is more abstract. The citrus and green aren’t noticeable, but I think they’re keeping Miss Balmain from becoming too powdery, too earthy, or too floral. The patchouli becomes more noticeable towards the end. Miss Balmain has good lasting power, and smells great on fabric.
Ultimately I wish it would veer further into any one direction. That would give it more character. I haven’t smelled the vintage, but other reviewers say it’s a marvel.
Miss Balmain was first introduced as a fresh alternative to other popular scents, like Jolie Madame (also by Cellier). People used to like their perfumes a lot heavier, with more natural notes. Read Barbara Herman’s Scent and Subversion for more about how perfume genres have gone in and out of vogue throughout the years.
It’s hard to get the natural notes now because of environmental regulations and society looking down on the use of animal ingredients. Those 100% natural perfumes made of plants always seem a little thin. But that’s okay, I’d rather have less pungent perfume than have whales killed for ambergris or deer killed for musk. I like that perfumery is becoming more experimental. I like that I can smell like a rubber tire if I want to. But I still wonder why people have become so afraid of strong smells.
Perfumer: Germaine Cellier
Price Range: Relatively Inexpensive
Recommended Occasion: Casual
Release Year: 1967
My Rating: 7.5
Barbara at Yesterday’s Perfume loves the vintage. She says it’s tough, a leather in training.
Australian Perfume Junkies gives another vote for the vintage.
Perfume Posse reviews it as a large, rock-star style leather, if a bit old-fashioned.
Sarrasins is a wine colored perfume that smells like jasmine, leather, and white flowers. Not necessarily in that order. It’s one of Serge Lutens’ classics. I’ve wanted to try it since I read the review in The Book (Perfume by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.)
It opens with a big, sexy dark jasmine. “Saracen” was a medieval term used to describe Arabian desert tribes. I wouldn’t call Sarrasins wild though; I’d say you can sense the wildness there, but overall it’s a tactful fragrance.
Next comes a soft, lived-in leather note that meshes well with the jasmine. The leather/jasmine accord goes for a while, and then Sarrasins gets a little bit fruity, a little bit peachy, and a little bit herbal. Overall it’s a fleshed-out, old-fashioned classy effect.
There’s also a huge white flowers note. I’ve smelled this note before in Givenchy Organza. I don’t like it. I think it’s bland. But sometimes a refreshing tuberose rawness peeks out.
Sarrasins is one of the few perfumes that has an interesting drydown. It leaves you with a supple jasmine/leather accord that melds beautifully to skin. It’s like the conclusion of an essay winding back to the opening paragraph.
I think Sarrasins is pretty good as a panoramic fragrance, but I wish it had stuck to the point and pushed harder. I want more jasmine, more leather, more raw tuberose and apricot and less filler flowers. I get the point, but I think more oomph is in order for a shockingly dark-colored juice named after the nomads who scared the crap out of Crusaders.
Price Range: Expensive
Recommended Occasion: Any
Release Year: 2007
My Rating: 7.5
Here’s some more reviews:
The Candy Perfume Boy sees Sarrasins’ restraint as a snake holding back. Marina at Perfume Smellin’ Things and March at Perfume Posse agree that Sarrasins doesn’t challenge itself enough.
French Roast Uptown is the place to go on the Upper West Side. I used to live on the same block, about 20 yards away from it.
It’s a mixture of a bistro, diner, and bar, having equal qualities from all of them. It’s set up like a charming if somewhat generic French bistro, open all night like a diner, and it has a good bar with a special every night. There’s an interesting cast of characters who hang out there at night: I met an opera singer, a photographer for Ralph Lauren, a writer for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and the retired owner of a music bar. You can go there and order a (superb) French onion soup at 2 AM, have a great conversation, and watch an attractive regular throw a tantrum any night of the year.
It’s always crowded. There are people there at literally any time of the day. I’d recommend going early in the morning or after 9 pm, because it’s hectic in there during the day. The best items on the menu are as follows:
Brunch: Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette. It has gruyere in it. I know it sounds gross but it’s fantastic. The omelette is light, almost like a crepe, and the tomatoes are crisp and the avocado (mashed like guacamole) isn’t too goopy. The gruyere gives it even more flavor and blends well with the egg. It’s better than Chipotle, and it’s in omelette form.
Dinner: Pumpkin Ravioli (Fall and Winter): It’s filling and smooth with brown butter on top (it tasted warm and hearty and a bit sugary.) It’s cooked al dente, so you get the flavor without it being too soft.
Avocado and Goat Cheese Ravioli (Spring and Summer): It looks intimidating but it’s actually even better than the pumpkin ravioli. It’s cooked in brown butter. The asparagus and goat cheese are both inside the ravioli and out, sprinkled on top for both a garnish and flavor. The crisp asparagus slices add texture to the dish. It’s a mix of savory, crisp, and just enough sweet tang from the goat cheese. Ask for some of their rustic bread to soak up the brown butter.
French Onion Soup (Lunch and Overnight): The best French onion soup I’ve ever had. It’s in a vegetarian broth with slightly browned gruyere on top and a lot of onions. It’s meaty and filling and wonderful.
French Soda: An Italian soda. It’s seltzer, cream, and syrup. I ordered the almond soda. They give you a generous wallop of cream, so it’s almost like an egg cream.
They also make a mean Caesar salad for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The espresso ain’t bad either.
French Roast is generally consistent, but not always. I’ve been there a couple of times where it wasn’t what I was used to. The soup tends to be better earlier rather than later. The conversation, however, is always great.
There’s also a French Roast downtown. It has Wi-Fi, but is lacking in every other way.
My Rating: 8.5
Recommended Dish: French Onion Soup, Pumpkin/Avocado Goat Cheese ravioli, Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette
Atmosphere: Dim light, bistro decorations, cozy, often crowded
Clientele: Upper West Side professionals, often who work in the arts. Grad students.
Price Range: $12-$30 per person
French Roast Uptown
Upper West Side
85th and Broadway
(2340 Broadway, New York, NY 10024)
French Roast Downtown
11th and Sixth Ave.
(78 W 11th St #1, New York, NY 10011)
Website: French Roast
Here’s a doll on the side of the road in Queens. It looked really surreal, like a metaphor for lost childhood or something. I can’t imagine a kid actually playing there and leaving it that way like it was fighting somebody off, so maybe someone put it there and positioned it like that deliberately.