This weekend I did a very small fragrance shopping trip with my friend B. Our local opportunities are limited, to say the least, but here is what we managed to smell:
Laura Mercier Ambre Passion: The notes are listed as amber with a bit of geranium, and that is exactly what it smells like: lots of amber cut with a bit of geranium. It is not a dark, resinous amber, nor is it particularly sweet, nor is it foody. Just a middle of the road amber, plain and simple. I would love to hear from any amber fanatics who have tried this perfume; I am not an amber lover and it did nothing for me at all.
Fresh Memoirs of a Geisha: This fragrance will be released soon to tie in with the movie release of the Arthur Golden book. It is not on counter yet, but we were allowed to try the tester. The notes are jasmine, rose, langsat fruit and white peach. It is a light, sweet, sparkling fruity-floral with citrus top notes, very much in keeping with the youthful Fresh Index style, and nothing like the atmospheric scent you might expect from something meant to evoke the book.
Clean Fresh Laundry: The notes are Brazilian Orange, Rose Otto, Night Blooming White Jasmin, Cotton Blossom, and Mexican Lime, but forget all that: it just smells like dryer sheets, which I take it is the general idea.
The above are just general impressions since I did not try any of those fragrances on skin, my arms being already in use to test *drum roll please* Shiseido Nombre Noir. Nombre Noir was created by nose Jean-Yves Leroy for Serge Lutens in 1981 and discontinued shortly thereafter. Its current legendary status, as near as I can tell, is largely due to the fact that Luca Turin, in The Emperor of Scent, called it "one of the five great perfumes of the world", and subsequent mentions on his blog have added to the frenzy; it now goes for premium prices on ebay. B. managed to score a few drops, and very kindly brought her miniature along so that we could try it together.
Having never smelled the original, I cannot say how badly the scent had deteriorated, but after 20 years I would imagine it is but a pale shadow of its former glory. The top notes were undoubtedly destroyed; it started out very perfumey, with rose the only recognizable note. It resolved into a rose with dark undertones that at first sniff reminded me of amber, and only much later in the afternoon started to possibly (maybe I was trying too hard?) bear some resemblence to what based on the notes ought to smell like prune.
The osmanthus note, which was said to be stunning, was nowhere in evidence. It was a pretty scent, but nothing earth-shattering, and as I told B, not something I would sell my sister into slavery for. At least now I won't have to lay awake at night wondering about it.
Note: the Nombre Noir advertisement is from the wonderful site Images de Parfums.