Go Green! – Blue Collar Red Lipstick

Last time I wrote about my reawakened interest in fragrances, I alluded to a list of perfumes I was planning to add to my collection. If, like me, you’re feeling nostalgic about 90s, today I’ve got you covered. The first addition arrived a few weeks ago, and it is a pretty iconic “green” fragrance. Got a guess? Read on and find out if you’re right.

The problem with a lot of my fave perfumes from the late 90s through the late 2000s — my previous fragrance-loving era — is that they’ve been discontinued. I know I am not alone in mourning their disappearance, which makes it hard to understand why their respective houses don’t bring them back. Take Gucci Envy, for example. Launched in 1997, it was a unique, modern, icily sexy scent: green and metallic, with white and green florals (including lily of the valley, hyacinth, and iris). It was so badass, unlike anything else on the market … then, or since. I’ve searched in vain to find a modern “dupe” but no dice. You can still find original bottle on resale platforms, but they are going for multiple hundreds of dollars. If I had the power to bring back just one discontinued perfume, it would be Envy, for sure. A close second would be Stella InTwo Peony. Launched in 2006, it was a woody, peppery peony scent that managed to be floral without being overly sweet. Again, a very unusual, complex scent … without any real current equivalents.

I guess I have a thing for unusual, somewhat offbeat (?) perfumes. Luckily, not all of them have been discontinued. There was one perfume I coveted back in the day that was green and floral — no, not Elizabeth Arden Green Tea (although that was one of my mom’s favourites).

It was Calyx! Originally launched by Prescriptives in 1987, it is now under the Clinique umbrella but the formula is substantially similar. (I say “substantially” because I’m going off memory here, not having an original to compare). I think I fell in love with it sometime in the mid-2000s, but for some reason, I never ended up buying it then, though I have vivid memories of sniffing it every time I stopped at the Prescriptives counter in Holt Renfrew. I decided this had to be my first nostalgic pick for my collection, and I was able to score a (brand new in box) bottle on Poshmark for about half the retail price. When it arrived, it was love at first sight sniff all over again. To me, it smells much as I remember the old formulation to smell, but keep in mind that it’s been almost 20 years.

I am not convinced that fragrance descriptions are all that useful — smell is too complex and subjective of an experience for that — but I enjoy reading them, so I’ll offer you mine just for the fun of it with the caveat that you should probably never blind buy a perfume based on someone else’s review of it. My immediate reaction upon spraying my wrist was “predominantly green — without any grassiness — with a whiff of sharp almost bitter, overripe fruitiness.” According to Fragrantica, the top notes include guava and green leaves, so that tracks. After a few minutes, a strong lily of the valley essence came through — lilies of the valley in a bed of green. It’s one of my favourite smells, so this makes me happy. After about 15-20 minutes, the smell settled down into a slightly woody, dewy floral. There was still an impression of lilies of the valley (which got progressively weaker with time), and lingering hint of warm sweetness. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on — maybe the impression of all those tropical fruits in the top note. As more time went on, the woodiness went away, and the scent became more straightforwardly floral — fresh florals, not heavy or overly sweet.

Out of curiosity, I asked my husband to smell my wrist around the 15 minute mark and his response was “Crisp. Water. I can smell some flowers too.” Which goes to show: everyone’s olfactory experiences are different.

Now, remember how I was talking about Envy and the impossibility of finding anything that resembles it? Wellllll … look, I am not going to tell you that Calyx is a dupe. It’s not — it does not have the metallic accord of Envy. Envy is cool green all the way, Calyx is warm/humid green. But they share a lot of DNA, both unusual “green” fragrances that are unusual in a similar way. Based on the note pyramids I can find online, this makes some sense and is probably not just some wishful thinking on my part. Both have fruity and green top notes, LOTV and freesia middle notes, and an iris/oakmoss/sandalwood base. Interestingly, I did not see Calyx mentioned in any discussions about Envy dupes on Reddit, but then I saw that Tania Sanchez, in her seminal fragrance compendium (co-written with Luca Turin) Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, referenced the similarities between Calyx and Envy. Sanchez gave Calyx a 5 star review, and clearly prefers it of the two. As a point of interest, Turin did the review of Envy in the same book and also gave it 5 stars, though his description of it didn’t, in my opinion, capture its essence. I mention this because (a) I have become a fan of Turin and his (and Sanchez’) witty, erudite (but unpretentious), and often pithy perfume reviews (plus, his book on the science of olfaction, The Secret of Scent, is fantastic if somewhat controversial), and (b) Turin hates most of the perfumes I love, like D&G Light Blue and Replica By The Fireplace. Loathes them! Gave them 1 star each. Of Light Blue, he wrote “[i]f you hate fragrance, you’re probably on your fourth bottle.” I don’t know why, but this amuses me rather than upsets me. Having read his and Sanchez’ perfume guides, I have decided that my next hobby is going to be the fragrance version of oenophilia. I want to develop my “nose” and learn more about different perfume notes. Which is not the same thing as collecting perfumes … though, as it this post makes clear, I am not entirely averse to the latter either.

Speaking of which, the second new addition to said collection is technically a steal. My husband discovered a bottle of perfume in his medicine cabinet (we have separate ones) which he’d been given as a gift many years ago and never wore. His signature scent for more than 20 years has been L’Eau de Issey Pour Homme, and he is what you might call a perfume monogamist. So, I decided to “rescue” this bottle from oblivion because the smell intrigued me, and because it was likely something my mom had chosen (probably as a Christmas gift) so it has a lot of sentimental value for me; I’m fairly certain of this because she was also the one who picked my dad’s cologne, and both are Cartier fragrances. This one is called Roadster, which makes sense as something my mom would choose for my husband, whom she knew to be obsessed with vintage cars. It is also a “green” fragrance, literally and olfactively:

Roadster has been discontinued, which is a shame because it’s a lovely fresh scent that could easily be, in my opinion, unisex. Keep in mind that I am also someone who occasionally wears her husband’s Issey perfume. Of the two, I actually find Roadster’s dry down to be less overtly masculine — probably because it includes vanilla, so it’s sweeter. Anyway, here is my description of Roadster, top to bottom. First impression is “fresh green”. The mint note comes through very clearly, but it doesn’t remind me of toothpaste or gum; instead, it has a kind of translucency to it, like tea. After 5 minutes, the mint remains the predominant note. It’s slightly spicy, but smooth. After the initial opening, which felt cool, the scent is starting to warm up. About an hour in, it settles into a very pleasant warm amber with a faint, lingering note of mint. It’s sweet but not overtly so. I asked my husband to smell the perfume on my wrist, but all he said was “minty”. It’s like he wasn’t even trying, LOL!

If perfume talk isn’t your cup of tea, I hate to tell you, you will probably be subjected to more of it in the near future. If it is your cup of tea, I have good news for you! Stay tuned for next time, when we will be talking about another perfume from my youth. Here’s your hint: purple. It’s probably not the one you’re thinking of 😉

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