Niche Fragrance Magazine


Raluca Kirschner

Raluca Kirschner has 39 articles published.

Hi, my name is Raluca! I am born in Romania and live in Switzerland for many years. I love perfumes since I was a little girl and now I am an avid perfume collector and totally dedicated to the amazing world of essences. I am always looking for something new and interesting to discover and among my personal preferences are the delicate and powdery notes, but also some bold orientals. I admire both clasic and niche fragrances with a special twist in them. A good perfume for me should be able to put me in a special mood, to complete and inspire me…things I need when I paint or do photography, my other two passions.

Welcome to the Opera: La Tosca by Xerjoff

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La Tosca XJ Casamorati Collection
La Tosca XJ Casamorati Collection

When I received a sample of La Tosca I was quite elated by this new editon from Xerjoff because it is a genre of fragrance that I was searching for a long time. It also made a possitive impression on people around which is always nice as a bonus. But as I payed more attention to its details suddenly I had a strong déja-vu feeling because La Tosca, despite having an unarguably captivating appearance, is not a completely new, original stuff. This opera had already been performed before in a heavier, lower key note at the Sospiro theatre. The scent I am thinking about might be regarded as the bolder forerunner of La Tosca and is called Opera. Same nose, same brand owner. The thing is I never, never ever could wear Opera at the concentration that it has. Majestic, full of sweet-salty contrasts, too bold, Opera is a predator disguised in a long black velvet gown. Everything seems strange and enveloped in danger when I smell it. Those all sorts of fruits, tropical flowers and amber gris evoke for me the smell and almost the taste of a dessert called halva, you know it? It is very dense, nutty and sweet, made of tahini and sugar. This tahini flavor I get mostly from Opera. Strange. But La Tosca…well, La Tosca has the same DNA but she`s easier at heart, fresher somehow and she smiles. And that`s enough for me not only to feel comfortable with it for a test run, but to reach for it again and again. I need it. I developed a passion for it.

Stagecourtains1 KEEP ON READING

When mainstream beats niche: Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Scent Collection

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tuscan scent salvatore ferragamo__41588_big_line_cat
Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Scent Collection, 2014

Once in a while, a designer house throws on the market a high-end collection (or two) of unexpected quality that could perhaps enchant even the most fastidious niche aficionados. I was elated to discover that Salvatore Ferragamo has stepped outside their mainstream field with it`s two Quintessencial Collections, first in 2013 launching the outstanding line of EDT`s in sleek bottles under the name Tuscan Soul (if you`re into amber do try Terra Rosa) and continuing an year later with the black triptych called Tuscan Scent which are all EDP`s. I feel the latter deserves some extra attention because it`s something truly creative and groundbreaking having all the qualities one could hope for and imagine.
Last summer my bestie who is also a perfume enthusiast came to visit me for a week and we literally spend our time together sniffing as many scents we could both in town and from my drawer, laughing, drinking Aperol Spritz, smoking Gauloise Blonde and talking about everything until late at night. It was PERFECT. One day she went alone for a stroll alone and I remember it was raining that day and quite cold. She came home with her coat all soaked up and approaching her neck to my nose she said: SMELL! Oh, wow! The scent she was wearing smelled very natural and had something equally tempting and dangerous to it. It was Golden Acacia applied several hours before and her skin turned it into, well, something quite magical. That raised of course my interest to try it myself and the next day I sprayed it on my wrists and took a deep breath. And it played its magic on me too. KEEP ON READING

Same same but different: Féminité du Bois from Shiseido and Serge Lutens

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The life of Féminité du Bois is far from being boring and some big names from perfume industry are connected to it. In 1992 Shiseido created the scent under the supervision of Serge Lutens who has collaborated with them since the `80s as a designer and make-up artist. He had a huge impact on the image of the brand and I remember vividly those ads that became emblematic for Shiseido with lithe models in stretch black costumes posing in a theatrical manner. An year before, in 1991 Lutens has already launched his own brand presenting the first scent Santal de Mysore and in 1992 he added a few wonderful creations all inspired by the wood theme called “Bois” (de Violette, Musc, Fuits, Oriental and Sepia) – all sharing the same DNA with the classic Féminité du Bois from Shiseido – proving that the original had a successful recipe. An interesting aspect is that Shiseido`s version was created by Pierre Bourdon in partnership with Christopher Sheldrake who later moved as in house perfumer at Lutens. After that both perfumers, Bourdon and Sheldrake made other versions of Féminité du Bois – Sheldrake made that Bois series while Bourdon Dolce Vita for Dior a happy scent which despite many reformulations still maintains a cheerful sun infused character.

So Shiseido`s and Lutens versions coexisted for more then a good decade until Shiseido decided to remove it from production somewhere around the mid 2000`s (I have no official information, but I remember in 2006 it was still available in Germany and I cannot tell you how much I regretted later not buying a few bottles) and concentrate instead on the crowd pleaser Zen collection that now includes numerous editions (although none of them manages to beat the original woody-rose from 1964).

Photo credit: "Mreaja" by Georgeta Ranga
Photo credit: “Mreaja” by Georgeta Ranga


Three cool scents for summer from Ormonde Jayne, Castle Forbes and The Different Company

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Even if in Europe summer is not about to leave us soon, I for myself found the best way to deal with the heat wave: fresh scents. Now, there`s a common thought that fresh scents are too weak or even boring with their lemony bla-bla, but if you look close and test much you might find some out of the ordinary nice examples.


On my shelf I have now this three weapons that I use in rotation to combat the heat:

The first one I`d like to talk about is Frangipani from Ormonde Jayne. I love Linda Pilkington approach and her collection is so well made and eclectic, each scent having a surprise factor – no wonder if they are developed by one of the most talented noses of our time Geza Schön. I use Frangipani for about three years now, mostly during warm days and I cannot get enough of this beauty. Frangipani, on contrary to what the name simply suggests does not deliver that classic well known smell of frangipani with it`s creamy exotic features but more the atmosphere around this flower. I do like a hand of beachy ambrosial sweet coconuty scents, but this is something totally different. When you open the cap you get a cool breeze of amazing citruses nuances, and you almost want to dive in this scent, to let it absorb you in it`s clean and crispy flavors.The culprit for this uplifting opening is a zesty lime accent and the best part is that it will remain on stage during the entire development of the scent. It has a sharp side, as if you smell the peel of the squeezed fruit and also some fruitier aspects, but is definitely not sweet. After some time I begin to notice some flowers in the background, but they are quite fuzzy and far away, sending just some delicate feminine vibes to the surface where everything is fresh and prime. Among the flowers I get whiffs of honey infused linden blossom, delicate frangipani and a jasmine that shows here without its indolic characteristics. Frangipani has a special sparkling bubbliness, offering the equivalent effect of a champagne shower. A citrusy-green scent that always puts a smile on my face and makes me feel confident no matter how hot outside is. The second one is a scent featured for men, but I encourage every woman to give it a try – it`s called Keig and is made by Castle Forbes a brand that is well known for their exquisite shaving products. A wing of the castle Forbes in Scotland was converted into a small perfumery, every item of the line being produced there, so the batches are small and they sell only in a few selected shops in Europe. My encounter with Keig was a fantastic moment, almost like a revelation! First of all because it is a citrus scent – I always neglect this category AND is for men – oh, I have to leave my prejudices aside and think out of the box. Unusual here is how the lemon note was treated, not giving the impression that it pinches my skin with the typical astringent facets. That`s because right from the start the sandalwood plays a pretty intense part enveloping the citruses in an almost creamy veil. Still, it isn`t that rich sandalwood you know from oriental compositions, no, here this wonderful and mild wood note only softness a bit the edges. There is also a bit of amber here leaning a little more towards the masculine side thanks to the amplified cedar facets. Another aspect that is important to be mentioned is the good longevity. Rarely a citrus scent lasts so long as Keig does. Never underestimate the lemon :)! And the last one is the fabulous Sublime Balkiss from The Different Company. I don`t know what to say first: that this is one of the most refined blackcurrant scents on the market or a marvelous new way to present the whimsical patchouli? Because this scent is mostly about these ingredients perfectly juxtaposed, and both display different flavours as the ones they are usually known for. The blackcurrant note has the misfortune to be presented so badly in various mainstream scents where it gives the same pungent artificial echo below vanilla pudding like combinations, but luckily there are a few examples in the niche territory who offer the real potential of blackcurrants – that of adding a touch o vividness and one of these is Sublime Balkiss. I have never smelled a scent that seems so bright and dark at the same time as this one. At start it is very juicy from the blackcurrants mixed with freshly cut violet leaves that seem so wet and green that you have the impression you`re walking in a forest right after the rain. Then the patchouli comes at the surface covering the refreshing aromas with an earthy powdery scent, so fine and delicate like a transparent cloak. After a while the shadowy footpath leads your steps to a luminous glade where lilac bushes and roses are in full bloom. At this stage the scent begins to spin blending all ingredients to perfection. Amazing for summer nights!

Testing captivating scents from Slumberhouse, Histoires de Parfums, Robert Piguet and Making of Cannes

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I begin here a series of posts that will consist of mini-reviews for some of the most interesting scents I have recently discovered and enjoyed the most. Some are new, some are well known and through my reviews I hope to get some of you consider testing them out.

Slumberhouse Kiste (2015) – A gourmand with a twist

This is the first scent from Slumberhouse that I tried and it immediately sparked my interest to explore the rest of the line. Fans of Arabie should give this one a try. Astonishing rich and potent (no wonder as this little 30 ml potion comes as an extrait) Kiste captures the smell of all sorts of exotic fruits left in the sun to dry. They become sugary and denser over time receiving some balsamic aspects. After a while a tone of tobacco comes at the surface along with a blush of earthy patchouli giving the scent a darker edge. Even if it touches the limit of sweetness, Kiste as experimental as it is and having nothing artificial manages to be easy to wear, so it will have its followers for sure. It could be an interesting choice for cooler days in autumn.
Official notes: tobacco, peach, scotch heather, tonka, henna, elderberry, patchouli, honey KEEP ON READING

Visa mon amour: EdP, Perfume and the new V. Intense by Robert Piguet

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If you tried it bet you liked it. I do. Everyone does. Visa enjoys her status of everyone`s darling. Not only women but men too find Visa appealing, as it posses the perfect balance between bold and tender to please both crowds, thanks to Aurelian Guichard the talented perfumer who modernised in 2007 Germaine Cellier`s original work from 1945. The scent is playing on a dangerous field mined with fruity notes and it plays damn good avoiding any cliché, proudly standing its ground against the trend of boring fruity themes with gourmands tendencies. Visa is also talented in showing a different approach of leather AND patchouli, picking just the beautiful sides from both. The composition includes fruits, resins, flowers, leather, patchouli, wood and vanilla, but is not solely defined by any of them. The opening shows a summer fruits basket brightened by the freshness of a bitter green bergamote, then it transitions almost imperceptible to a warm central section dominated by leather accords mixed with a fuzzy, golden peach that somehow escaped from the top-notes and become more pronounced over time. In order to achieve the perfect illusion of a smooth and tangible leather, the spicy immortelles along the roses have been called to infuse the animalic note with a powdery floral scent making it more refined, so that it never errs harsh or too pungent. The smooth leather and peach combo finally melts on a base that belongs to a velvety mixture of resins with some vanillic aspects and touched by an earthy, sweet patchouli that gives a bit of oomph. The drydown is dense, plush, comfortable and effortlessly sexy. On skin I tend to perceive it differently depending on my mood as sometimes I get the impression it smells classic almost, like some glowy elegant scent from the past, but other times Visa seems to me so modern and edgy! So it`s one of those multifaceted perfumes that can absolutely fulfill many needs and for that I like to think of it as my signature fragrance. Imagine a glamorous rooftop party in Manhattan. Noise, live music, cigarette smoke floating in the air, the clinking glasses…She`s a redhead beauty with a modelesque figure wearing a slim-fit blazer and leather pants, all black. She`s holding a glass of fine Cognac and looks you straight in the eyes. She embodies Visa for me.

As for the Perfume…is less powerful as you`d think, being more like an acoustic version of the EdP`s tune revealing its delicate, angelic sides and is one of the most beautiful scents I have ever smelled – pure perfection. It keeps the same notes from EdP but plays them a little different, decreasing a bit their volume and smoothing them even more. Each small part of it seems to be deeply considered and flawless presented. It goes just briefly through the same vibrant, effervescent opening allowing that balmy mixture to pop-out sooner. The bergamote lends an evanescent shine to the opening here too, but is quite subdued and disappears in short time as a comet crossing the sky of a warm august night. The composition then dives directly into those smooth accords of dusty flowers melted together with fuzzy peach, resins and some suede like leather. This versions seems to pay more attention to the fruits and flowers who seem to flash out from a delicate painting and cares less for leather, as I don`t detect it here very much – is like a faint echo of its appearance in EdP. If Visa is a “take me out” type of scent, the Perfume edition is made for indoor due to its short sillage, but in turn it cuddles-up longer of skin.

Official notes for both EdP and Perfume are: peach, pear, violet leaves, Italian bergamot, yellow mandarin essences, ylang essence, rose, immortelle and orange flower absolutes, essence of Indonesian Patchouli and sandalwood, vetiver, moss and vanilla beans. KEEP ON READING

Precious as High Jewellery: Ann Gerard Perfume Collection

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Recently I wanted to try something new that is not so talked yet, so I decided to explore the collection of the French niche house Ann Gerard. It caught my interest because all scents are created by Bertrand Duchaufour, a nose I resonate with very well most of the time. From what I have read, the jewellery designer Anne Gerard launched her own brand of luxury accessories in 1994, creating since then for prestigious companies around the world and one of her greatest skills is that she`s able to translate her customs ideas and even feelings into precious jewels that are both timeless and perfectly fitted on the personality of their owners – something I believe she achieved also very well with her collection of scents that she launched later in 2012. The line is small but eclectic and rich, covering different olfactory genres approached from new angles.
Perle de Mousse for example surprised my nose with its pale green smell that develops gradually and softly, as a whispered love poem. It exhibits melancholic facets of a classic chypre fragrance, proving this category still work very well in our days with a few subtle changes and improvements. First of all it is not so heavy as an old school chypre. It debuts leafy and just slightly aldehydic, then travels through a fine, scented cloud of lush flowers to reach a smooth base dominated by resins. An interesting fact is that the floral middle part seems to be the shortest, being kept tight between the verdant opening and the warm resins of the base. The thing I admire the most is how one single ingredient, namely ivy that is perceptible right from the start, is able to dominate and influence the whole composition, anchoring the scent into contemporary. Bertrand Duchaufour made a brilliant choice by deciding to increase the volume of this cold green raw material that has a faint bitter facet instead of using the common citruses that dissipate much faster. Thus, the ivy is very effective in the mixture. The note envelopes the shy bouquet of flowers and the warm resins and musk in an invigorating and transparent veil all the way through, giving a gentle contour to the elegant scent that seems very feminine and classic but with a modern, unexpected twist. KEEP ON READING

The Story of Amatys by Nabucco

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The story of Amatys could be told this way…

Once upon a time, in the magical world of scents there was a small fascinating piece of land where the most rare blends made of precious raw materials were created by talented fairies. In this place there have been born some of the most exquisite perfumes such as Guerlain Mon Nectar Precieux, Clive Christian No1 For Woman, Van Cleef & Arpels Orchidee Vanille, Amouage Memoir or Isabey Gardenia to name a few, all of these being small wonders, nectars of life and eternal beauty elixirs, special blends that should never be regarded as common scents. KEEP ON READING

The Beauty of Melancholy: Patchouli Boheme by LM Parfums

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Mountain Waterfall I`m not a big fan of patchouli centered fragrances because most of the time they are too overwhelming for me, but I have to say this one completely blew me away. It has all the necessary features to be called amazing: as a main ingredient the patchouli presents here the holy trinity of sweet, dry and powdery shades maintaining them in perfect balance, the scent is packed with mystery and drama and has that rare ability to carry me in a different time and place.

Patchouli Boheme is for me a tale about an enchantress. Her skin is green and glows under the milky white rays of the moon, her heart is black and full of regrets, her thin arms are ending with long fingers adorned with emerald rings and in her disheveled hair are shining tiny fireflies. She lives in the heart of an endless forest taking long walks during the night covered in a cloak made of woven thorny brambles and an old raven is keeping her company on one shoulder.

Usually she returns at the same place at a rock above a whirling waterfall were she lost her lover a long time ago. Her cries are swallowed by the noisy water and she stays there meditating until the first rays of the sun appear through the branches. Slowly, she loses then her steps through the dark thickets leaving a patchouli scent behind, dry and fascinating, of a boundless melancholy. It smells like a soul turned into powder, something beautiful lived and lost, of faded love and isolation. KEEP ON READING

Blind dates with scents – part II

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I`m continuing the sessions of blind tests, a new approach of testing fragrances I love to do these days. This means that while I test and write the reviews I do not know their names and official ingredients because I chose all the samples randomly and they have been previously wrapped in matte duct tape. I think it`s fun and it proves that our personal perception and judgement is all that counts. On a more personal level this helped me discover some compositions I thought I couldn`t enjoy before. And at the same time, it became clear that my nose might not be impressed at all if a fragrance is top notch if it smells…terrible.

Let the game begin… KEEP ON READING

Complex as a mosaic: 1000 by Jean Patou

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1000 is a pure example of classic perfumery. Created more then 40 years ago by Jean Kerleo who also did Eau de Patou among other compositions for this house (an amazing timeless fruity scent that brings back memories of my young mother, being one of her favorites) experiencing 1000 feels like I`m smelling a charmingly floral scented wind that blows from the past. It`s because of the jam-packed composition typical for that epoch, that doesn`t allow your nose to pick one particular ingredient out, instead it invites you to discover it as a whole, being the kind of perfume that smells like…perfume and nothing more. Traditonal. The purest form of elegance. It seems like Jean Kerleo has created 1000 as a perfect mosaic by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, until a rich and coherent contrast of vibrant nuances has been achieved. I felt a little dizzy when I tried it, especially in the first hour because the opening is pretty challenging and long, but as the scent evolved it became more rounded and received a special gentleness. Regarding the notes, as I said I am not sure if I can depict clearly the ingredients here, but I can say it is definitely a glorious floral scent sustained by civet in a reasonable amount, possibly just to add a naughty animalic contrast to the overall innocence of the composition. Still, by comparing it with Joy (I have the eau de toilette, never smelled other versions) in which both jasmine and civet are very temperamental and huge in volume the scent being therefore quite brave and possessive, 1000 seems much softer and a bit reserved. I am not sure if I get the osmanthus that many people claim to be very pronounced, at least not as I remember it from Osmanthus from The Different Company (fruity and succulent), or from Ormonde Jayne`s Osmanthus (with glowy, citrusy undertones). Indeed there is a subdued kind of exotic flowery accent among the flowers, but it could also be just my imagination. On contrary, the sandalwood is really evident and does wonders in the drydown, perfecting the scent in the most smooth and creamy way. To be honest 1000 was not a big revelation for me, the evolution is foreseeable for someone who wears from time to time classic scents, but as a whole I find it a great elegant perfume. A jewel from the past…For those who enjoy this kind of feminine, mature scents this is a beautiful, safe option, I think.

Blind dates with scents

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A few days ago when I was looking for a sample of Molinard to do a review, I couldn`t find it in the drawer among the rest of samples and for the moment it was very frustrating. Years and years of big curiosity regarding so many interesting scents ended in accumulating extremely many samples, so I finally decided that it`s time to start organising those poor ones somehow and test them again, one by one.

But then…a crazy idea came to my mind. Why not doing blind tests with some of them and write some “raw” reviews? I wondered how my nose and my whole being would react at scents if I deliberately chose to undress them of all that jazz and get straight into the SCENT. KEEP ON READING

Rendezvous with Sentifique

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Last Saturday I had the great privilege of meeting Friedemann Ramacher the owner and creative director of the Swiss brand Sentifique in Basel at Hyazinth perfumery. He was there for a few hours as a guest to present his exclusive line, so I took the chance of finding right from the source the stories behind these creations. To my pleasure the meeting turned out as an in-depth presentation of each fragrance including sniffing some vials with precious raw materials which Andreas Wilhelm, his collaborator perfumer has used to create all the compositions. An interesting and important detail about Sentifique is that the process of creation starts long before mixing the ingredients. Mr. Ramacher is a very creative person (he has a long time experience in architecture and furniture design) therefore everything starts, as in movies, from a script. First he envisions the scent, the situation, he chooses a character and a mood. Then it begins the actual process of developing the scent when the talented perfumer Andreas Wilhelm turns by magic everything into reality. The result is a collection of five unique, expressive and alluring scents each telling a different story, every composition being a small universe of its own. KEEP ON READING

Made of caramels and love: Xerjoff Casamorati 1888 LIRA

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Lira Casamorati

Until recently I was on an exhausting quest that prolonged for years for finding the impossible: a sweet and edible scent, but at the same time extremely refined, alluring, elegant AND not worn by everyone. And then I read about Lira (launched in 2011) and it sounded way to good and promising to be true. Well, the rumors and all the positive reviews proved to be true, and actually it exceeded my expectations. Many fume heads find Lira to be almost identical with L by Lolita Lempicka and Tendre Madeleine by Laurence Dumont which is fine and admirable, but at a closer look when I did first a side by side test (I own a small bottle of L purchased long before Lira and ordered a sample of Tendre Madelaine) it became immediately obvious that Lira not only smelled a lot better in comparison with her budget friendly sisters, but overcomes them also in terms of longevity and it filled the room with a divaesque presence that might be not so easy to top. So if you`re craving caramels and cookies of exquisite quality, home made more precisely done by talented hands, Lira gives you these with much more generosity, grace and style.

The charming character of Lira is based on a sunny and incredibly mellifluous blend of savory citruses, a fine lavender and a joyful bunch of fresh jasmines all laid lavishly on an impressive vanilla & cinnamon bed, being therefore an absolutely big gourmand scent. KEEP ON READING

Roses and spice and everything nice: Lyric Woman by Amouage

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Lyric Woman

Lyric Woman is a fascinating and poetical scent with one of the most enigmatic roses I`ve ever encountered. The composition is very well structured, smelling surprisingly different from one end to another, presenting a thick elixir produced by many oriental elements that needs hours and hours to unfold. The spices are densifying somehow the smell of the rose which is actually the pivotal note influencing it`s appearance, giving the flower a distinct character and…fame. Still, the rose doesn`t really show up immediately from the start, because in the first chapter of Lyric the rose is wrapped in this nimbus of spices and resins, waiting for the supreme moment of metamorphosis. It begins with an intense duo of sandalwood and incense gradually adding cinnamon, sweet cardamon, a bit of ginger, crushed flowers of ylang-ylang, iris and geranium and tonka bean. I`m glad they haven`t added too much vanilla here, because this would only distract my attention from the floral piquancy and besides, there`s enough sweet creaminess coming from sandalwood.

The initial mixture is hot, loud, complex and sophisticated with absolutely no harsh edges. The spices seem to melt into each other, creating a warm pedestal for the upcoming birth of the rose. When the perfect ambiance has been achieved, the silhouette of the rose becomes visible in the background, gently coming forth at the surface. Even if it`s barely there in the penumbra of spices, still unclear and foggy, it already spreads a pleasant velvety smell. Slowly, a dazzling vibrant red rose is being born, receiving a definite shape and odor. It`s time to reign, beauty! From now on, Lyric switches the spices with roses, all those flavoured dried seeds, smokey accents and woods taking a backseat to let the rose shine on stage.

In conclusion, Lyric is a kind of scent that transforms a lot on skin, developing over time a classical rose in the same manner as Caron Parfum Sacré for example, also an elegant spicy rose that I wear with great pleasure, presenting first a baby rose that hides behind a voluminous oriental cloud of spices, becoming equally scented in the middle phase, then defeating the spices in the end. A statement rose! KEEP ON READING

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