Category Archives: Perfume

Fire and Cream from Strange Invisible Perfumes…and a “sniff” event for Angelenos



Ralph Lauren’s Always Yours

ralphlaurenI’ve been meaning to review this perfume for quite some time now, mostly because I think it is quite possibly the worst fragrance I have ever sampled. Packaged in a cotton candy-colored pink box, the scent is appropriately sweet-smelling. You go into a sugar coma upon impact.

The notes in the perfume are:  Sun Goddess (yes, that’s what they call it)  Rose, Yellow Freesia, Ginger, Lotus Flower, White Violet, Fresh Daylily, Patchouli Concentrate, Creamy Sensual Musk, and Oak Moss.

Once you spray it on your wrist, somehow, “Always Yours” turns into a hot mess of bland florals. Here’s a better way to explain the experience. Let’s say you walk into a dressing room at Macy’s and and you see a pile of clothing that has been tried on. If you picked up some of those clothes off the floor and put them to your nose, you would smell “Always Yours.”

I have a thing about the scent of department stores. Whenever I walk through the beauty section of Macy’s or Bloomingdales, I get a little bit nauseous. I think it’s from smelling the average of a million different scents that are supposed to be beautiful. Those microscopic amounts of patchouli, lychee, “Wondrous Rose of the Eternally Young Valley,” sandalwood, cedar, lily, and amber all coalesce to form a climate that is vaguely disgusting.

I’m reminded of a quote from the film Amadeus, “Too many notes!”


Doubly Luxurious–Kilian Hennessy and Sophie Matisse

bottles-s-matisseIt’s a familial affair. This November, Kilian Hennessy (grandson of the founder of LVMH) and Sophie Matisse (granddaughter of Henri Matisse) worked together to create limited edition packaging for Kilian’s superbly refined perfumes. The bottles are hand-painted by Sophie.

kilian_hennessy_1Kilian is by far one of my favorite interviews. He’s unpretentious and hyper-intelligent, pleasant and sophisticated. His perfumes are made with the finest ingredients and his complicated scents reflect his perfume pedigree. Previously, he worked for Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani. My favorite scent is Liaisons Dangereuses. The fragrance smells of Damascus roses followed by a spicy, almost Indian finish, coupled with an after-scent that smells vaguely powdery. I would describe the perfume as part mezze, part courtyard garden in Seville, and part rose-filled chapel.

boxmatisseSophie Matisse began her career interpreting “La Gioconda,” and has exhibited all over the world. The limited edition bottles of perfume ($1,500) are beautifully abstract with a kaleidoscope of colors that come up nicely against Kilian’s silk-lined black lacquer boxes. Check them out for yourself!

Buy a bottle of Perfume as Art at:

Bergdorf Goodman, NY

Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills

Saks Fifth Avenue, Las Vegas

Saks Fifth Avenue, South Coast Plaza

Saks Fifth Avenue, San Francisco

Holt Renfrew, Toronto

Harvey Nichols, London

Le Bon Marche, Paris

Safi Perfume Review

safiWhen you’re trying out a perfume and you hear “Mmmm you smell good,” that’s a good sign. But when some one goes on to say, “Yum. Vanilla,” it’s not so good, because you are wearing Safi, and it doesn’t have drop of vanilla in it!

Safi is a marvelous perfume though. It starts out pretty and sweet with note of lychee, followed by the florals fresia and neroli. Later, the vetiver lingers.

I would describe the perfume as a little bit department store, a little bit overgrown tropical garden. It’s actually quite a simple scent, but very effective.

NyakioKamocheThe creator, Nyakio Kamoche, uses her Kenyan roots as an inspiration for her perfumes. Safi means clean and fresh in Swahili. The brand is available at, or

Top Notes: Lychee, Pineapple, Black Currant

Middle Notes: Stargazer Lily, Freesia, Neroli

Base Notes: Muhuhu Wood, Bamboo, Papyrus, Vetiver

Lyric Rain by Strange Invisible Perfumes


Lyric Rain by Strange Invisible Perfumes

Before I give my review, an important disclaimer: I’ve got a small problem with patchouli. Frankly, the scent gives me a headache and reminds me of my high school years when I made vintage shopping trips to the Haight-Ashbury district with my mother. She hates the scent so much that if we went to a store that smelled of the herb, she would wait outside. I also got into trouble when I bought a few patchouli incense sticks and burned them in my bedroom…ah, the teenage years.

I do think that patchouli in small quantities can be a lovely complement to any scent. Jubilation 25 by Amouage mixes rose and patchouli to produce one of the most exotic scents on the market. If I had $265 to burn I would buy a bottle of J25 any day.

Lyric Rain, $185, by Strange Invisible Perfumes, smells overwhelmingly of patchouli. If that’s your bag, come on down. Other notes are jasmine, pink pepper, blue lotus, and lavender. As the drydown progresses, the scent evolves into something much more suble and floral. Lavender, one of my favorite notes, is extremely subtle in this perfume.

Buy it here if you dare!

The Strange Invisible Perfumes line started 2000 by L.A. native Alexandra Balahoutis. Her impeccably designed boutique in Venice came later. After living in Prague, Paris and Manhattan, Balahoutis decided to create botanical perfumes that reflect her worldy experiences. If I had to guess her strongest geographic influence, I would go with Prague. Her scents seem to evoke the old world of Franz Kafka, Antonin Devorak and Jaroslav Seifert. Also, there used to be a fantastic botanical store in Prague that was choc full of plant-based beauty products. They had everything: shampoo, skincare, perfume, etc. I can’t remember the name of it or if it still exists. Does anyone know it?

All of Balahoutis’ perfumes are made from the cultivation and distillation of flowers, plants, and resins to create natural oils. She also shuns any synthetic chemicals and argues that only natural essences unlock the olfactory nerve receptors to affect the lymbic system and release chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. She says that the synthetic aroma molecules (stereo-isomers) cannot be recognized by the brain and adds that some scents are suspected of accumulating in human tissue causing liver damage and cancer. Scary.

Balahoutis also creates custom perfumes. I’ve heard that her signature scents can cost $1,000 dollars.

“Perfume is about association. A beautiful aromatic composition empowers us to access our most delightful notions, ideas, and fantasies, lending thought the physical reinforcement and visceral sensation needed to become experience.” –Alexandra Balahoutis

Stylechica’s free associations from Lyric Rain:

Dvorak’s Humoresque!


Franz Kafka


Kafka's writing is beautifully stark.

Metamorphosis by Kafka


Jaroslav, one of my favorite poets.

Jaroslav Seifert

Prague, that’s a sip of wine with flavour,
a hundred times I say her name,
light as a breath and bright as flame,
and sweeter than a lover’s favour.

Yet, may the alarm sirens, please,
take off their helmets, silent, muted.
They haven’t stopped yet, they have hooted,
the sirens of our consciences.

And if I saw her, broken vessel,
glass splinters scattered far around,
and with her doom I had to wrestle,

her dust inside my mouth would sweeten,
she’s like a seal on what’s been written,
and were she levelled to the ground…

Jo Malone’s Sweet Lime & Cedar–Citron Chic

sweetlimeLately, I’ve noticed lots of piquant notes making a resurgence in the scent world. Apothia‘s Verde candle mixes lime and cilantro in a way that smells like a Southern California kitchen in the summertime; Strange Invisible Perfumes‘ Prima Ballerina melds Egyptian rose, Turkish rose, sage and lime; And Jo Malone‘s new scent, Sweet Lime & Cedar, is the big, bold surprise–tangy like a freshly cut lime, then sultry as the cedar wood digs in deep.

Inspired by Thai cuisine, Jo Malone was also influenced by the art of flower arranging and the lush vegetation of Siam when she created this scent. Jasmine, ylang ylang, coconut, and the vanilla-like tonka bean are blended with nutty pandanus leaf, tamarind, and cardamom.

On a woman this scent is provocative and playful, waking you up with a sharp citrus note then plummeting like a receding wave as you smell the leafy flowers, peppery spices and woods. I liked this scent very much.

On men, the spearmint comes quickly to the surface, followed by a muted floral, then lots of amber.

I recommend the scent for both sexes. Malone’s perfumes are always bold and sparkling, bubbling over with unique notes and pleasantly long lasting. I’ve also heard of people layering this scent with Malone’s Vintage Gardenia. Enjoy.

Buy It here

Top Notes: Kaffir Lime, Blood Orange, Pomelo, Passion Fruit, Pink Pepper, Spearmint

Middle Notes: Clary Sage, Lavender, Coconut, Jasmine, Gardenia, Ylang Ylang, Cardamom, Coriander

Base Notes: Cedarwood, Amber, Tamarind, Pandanus Leaf, Tonka Bean.

Winter Rose by Yosh Han

I tried out Yosh Han‘s limited edition Winter Rose perfume recently. San Francisco-based Yosh is one of those bewitching perfumers who manages to speak about her work with a perfect blend of abstractions and specificity. I’ve heard her talk about her inspirations at Apothia at Fred Segal and she blew the other perfumers away.

To me, Winter Rose smells of East Africa. When I got off the plane in Africa for the first time the primary scent that greeted me was of scorched earth. It’s one of those smells that is almost not-nice, but then it grows on you and you associate it with the ground and verdant things.

Winter Rose has something earthy at the base of it, plus the sweetness that you get from smelling the epicenter of a rose, and lots of cardamom, which always reminds me of milky, Swahili tea. When I told Yosh that the scent made me think of Africa she told me that she could see how that would happen, since she was inspired her travels throughout Turkey (another country that uses lots of exotic spices in their cuisine).

Yosh also offers aura-fluffing at her press events. You select one of seven perfumes (each one represents a different chakra), rub a drop between your palms, spread your hands apart, then slowly lift your perfumed hands in front of your body and then above your head like a crown.
I tried Stargazer 7.71 (a piercing, fruity, green scent) and when I placed my hands above my head, a knot in my back released and I almost toppled over. Strange, wonderful stuff.

Buy it at LuckyScent or Apothia!