Just about everyone I know is feeling a bit grumpy this time of year. Never the easiest of times, the first couple of months following the holidays always seem full of irrational resolutions, unpaid bills, tight waistbands, and unflattering winter coats. No wonder I prefer wandering the perfume counters looking for an antidote to chilly winds and bleak news in opulent and hard-to-find fragrances! Luckily for me, I found two fragrances that perked me up enormously. Both are rather grand and expensive—sumptuous treats to look forward to and treasure.
The Great Empresses of Japan (Les Impératrices Japonaises) by Roméo d’Améor
French niche house Roméo d’Améor debuted in 2008 with no less than seven perfumes, all of which are marketed as tributes to women who made a lasting impression on history. With names like the Sovereigns of Egypt and the Grand Inca Priestesses and a tale spun about each woman, of course I had to try them out! My first impression was that they all smelled pretty much the same, variations on the craze for fruity florals. After I got over my snit, I went back later, tried them all on different days, and changed my mind about several of the perfumes. The Great Empresses of Japan is by far my favorite of the seven—a graceful accord of floral and incense, with nary a hint of fruit to be found anywhere.
Listed notes are freesia, melon, ylang-ylang, violet, rose, lily-of-the-valley, peony, heliotrope, iris, orris root, vetiver, teak wood, sandalwood, and tonka bean. The opening is heavily floral, with the heliotrope making its presence known immediately. I love heliotrope’s vanilla-musty scent and the scent moved nicely from there into a powdery iris that lingers before finally flowing into subtle floral incense. While this scent may not be for everyone, I really had a blast wearing it and got a lot of compliments. The lasting power is excellent, and I suggest a light hand at first because the opening notes are pretty strong.
The bottle is a graceful, tapered column of glass, with a pretty blue tassel.
Eau de Parfum, $135; sample vials for $3. Available at Luckyscent .
Coromandel by Chanel
Named for—and inspired by—the Coromandel screens that Coco Chanel collected, Coromandel was released in 2007 as part of a limited distribution line called Les Exclusifs de Chanel.
One sniff of Coromandel and I was transported to another place and time, existing somewhere in the Shanghai and Paris of the 1930s. Luscious and sophisticated, Coromandel is described by Chanel as an oriental fragrance with amber and dry notes. But if you don’t love patchouli, read no further, because this fragrance is a paean to incense and patchouli. I’ve said in the past I go back and forth on liking patchouli, but I was never in doubt about how much I love this fragrance. The patchouli comes on strong in the beginning, but it’s a smooth, dry note that changes and softens over time, becoming a little powdery with faints hints of vanilla and chocolate. The effect of Coromandel is almost hypnotic, and whenever I wore it, I felt amazing.
The lasting power is excellent and a little goes a long, long, way, so caution is advised when spraying. This brings me to my one quibble about Coromandel. It only comes in a 200-milliliter spray bottle, which basically means you can douse yourself in it every day until you’re ancient and still have some left.
The bottle is a heavy crystal oblong, with the black Chanel cap. It runs $175 for 200 milliliters. It’s available only at Chanel  boutiques, although it may have hit Bergdorf Goodman by now. You can also try a sample or get a decant at The Posh Peasant  for between $3 and $32.
Parting note: I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally, but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”— Helen Fielding
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