Lights is my latest foray into the world of Roads perfumes. Its opening is all about ylang ylang and citrus. The combination has an almost honeysuckle-ish quality, very golden and warm.


Photo via Uninvented Colors, on Etsy

The ylang ylang note is very true to the smell of the essential oil, which I personally like, because I like the smell of pure ylang. There is also a good dose of powder and spicy geranium (the listed note is rose geranium, which is supposed to be less sharp, but it smells like standard spicy geranium to me). The drydown is positively hothouse steamy.

Lights almost strikes me as an update on White Shoulders, and when I think of it in those terms, it seems like a bold choice to bring out this perfume, which isn’t a “type” that’s popular at the moment.

In fact, that is one of the things I have appreciated about testing all the Roads perfumes at once. In several cases, when I first put a perfume on, I thought I knew where it was heading, but then it turned into something totally different and much more interesting. With so many companies recycling fragrance types or tropes that have been done a dozen different ways, I almost don’t expect to come across a brand that is striking out in a different direction.

And for those who are counting: there are three more to go …

Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

About these ads


Every perfume blogger I know occasionally comes across perfumes that don’t lend themselves to flowery descriptions, but just smell really good. Clockwork, by Roads, is one of these. It isn’t one of the Roads perfumes that initially grabbed me from smelling on paper, but once I got it on skin, I was converted.


Clockwork is a satisfying combination of lots of nutmeg, vetiver, violet leaves, smoke, and vanilla. Aspects of it remind me of Dries van Noten par Frederic Malle, but Clockwork is much more interesting than DvNpFM, thanks to the amped up nutmeg, the smokiness, and the vetiver. It also has aspects of the vetiver in Vetiver Tonka, although the two don’t have much else in common. So yes. All in all, it is very satisfying and “moreish” (but not in a gourmand way).

I have not seen any reviews of Clockwork by Roads, but will update when I do.

Image courtesy Brittanica. Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.


The harmattan is “a dry and dusty West African trade wind.” The word is also used to refer to the entire season when the harmattan blows, from late November to mid March. (via)  Although I’m sure the harmattan is a nuisance, blowing around copious amounts of sand and apparently causing everything from respiratory distress to mechanical failures in automobiles, I can’t help but view the phenomenon with a more romantic eye.

1-camel-caravan-in-the-erg-chebbi-southern-morocco-ralph-ledergerberThis amazing image, believe it or not, is a photograph. By Ralph Ledergerber

And so for me, the harmattan is a wonderfully evocative inspiration for a perfume, and Harmattan by Roads smells just as I expected from the name. The notes are lavender, vetiver, oud, saffron, black pepper, tuberose, rose, ylang ylang, sandalwood, bourbon, tonka bean, frankincense, patchouli, and myrrh. Without looking at the note list, I pegged it as a blend of sandalwood, frankincense, oud, and violet. After looking at the note list, I can definitely smell bourbon, and I think I smell saffron. 

The floral riff on sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh has been explored in other perfumes, such as Tam Dao by Diptyque. And the inclusion of oud invites comparison with Sahara Noir by Tom Ford. Yet, Harmattan is original enough that I can see it appealing to fragonerds as well as people with more mainstream taste, especially because—doesn’t it seem to be so?—incense fragrances are cases where finding just the right balance is really difficult and personal.

In Harmattan, the dryness is cut by that sweet note that I identified as violet and by the almost creamy bourbon note. On my skin, it is linear, smooth, and dry. But not timber-box dry, thank goodness.

For more reviews of Harmattan by Roads, see Fragrantica.

Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

Book Review: Studio Saint-Ex

Studio Saint-Ex is a novel by Ania Szado. It’s the story of an imaginary romantic triangle between Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, his wife, and a young fashion designer. (By the way, I just wrote this summary, then looked at GoodReads, and saw that my summary was almost an exact match of theirs. There you have it. There is no disagreement as to what this book is about.)

Of course, you all know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote Vol de Nuit or Night Flight, by which Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit was inspired.


The three central characters share page time in this novel, and I was impressed with Szado’s ability to create three such different characters and bring all three of them across completely on the page. While I could wish at least one of them was a bit more likeable, they were interesting and unusual enough to keep me engaged in the book. Aiding that was the fact that Studio Saint-Ex is not a typical plotless literary novel. The story of the building of the protagonist’s fashion studio added wonderful texture (if I may be permitted a pun) to the novel. At times, I felt Szado resorted to cliches and didn’t dig as deep as she could have for insight in relaying the relationships among the three characters. But, many of those little flaws were camouflaged by her distinct and vivid language. Of course Szado does not have the elegance of Saint-Exupery (who does?), but Studio Saint-Ex is well worth reading.

Image courtesy GoodReads. I checked out Studio Saint-Ex from the library. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

Bitter End

There should be a word (preferably a German word of many syllables) for the moment when you realize that a perfume is not as good as its concept. (Sound familiar?)

Bitter End, more than any of the other perfumes, was the perfume that inspired me to seek out the Roads fragrances. I think the name is fantastic. The inspiration is described as “the west of Ireland, a beautiful barren place of isolation.” And the note list includes “wet bracken.” It all sounded great.


The picture above is something like what I had in mind from the note list, which also includes “wild grasses, cooling mints, fig leaf, olive, wild thyme, oakmoss, violet leaf, and vetivert. I was hoping for something a bit mysterious and dark.

Bitter End is neither mysterious nor dark. The mint and violet leaf and the herbal and grassy notes are all prominent, and the feeling is clean and fresh. If this was all, it would be just disappointing. But the problems with Bitter End go a bit deeper. I find the mint irritating, a nagging little smell that doesn’t fit with the rest of the fragrance. In some of the other Roads fragrances, unexpected combinations work to make them more interesting, but not here. And then there is a slightly sickly aquatic quality to Bitter End that also feels incongruous (and doesn’t smell very good).

Bitter End reminds me a little bit of both Nuit Etoilee by Annick Goutal and the two Amouage Interlude fragrances. Which is to say the concept lures me in, but the fragrance? It disappoints.

So far, I haven’t seen any reviews of Roads Bitter End, but I will update when I do.

Image courtesy National Geographic. Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

70 Years of American Perfume

Blue Grass 1935 H Prints


Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass was launched in 1934. Although Elizabeth Arden (Florence Graham) was Canadian-American, her company was started in New York, so I’m claiming this one for the stars and stripes. I will always associate this perfume with Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume, who introduced me to it. Read the first of her posts about Blue Grass hereImage courtesy H Prints.

white shoulders vpv


Evyan launched White Shoulders in 1943 or 1945 (sources vary). Read The Non-Blonde’s review here, or my take here. Image courtesy the Vintage Perfume Vault.



Of course the 1950s saw the release of Youth Dew, but the ad for the lesser-known Max Factor Electrique is significantly better, no? It was released in either 1954 or 1955. Some sources claim it was Max Factor’s first perfume, but Perfume Intelligence says not. Image courtesy



Angela at NST posted about how Avon has forgotten its 1960 launch, Unforgettable. As with all Avon perfumes, it seems to be mostly about the packaging. If this packaging pre-dated I Dream of Jeannie, Avon ought to have gotten some sort of credit for that aesthetic.



Possibly the most iconic perfume ads of all time are for Charlie. I wasn’t born when it launched, but the Charlie girl continued to look pretty much the same for a good 20 years, and was epitomized when I was a teenager by Cindy Crawford. Read about Charlie on Yesterday’s Perfume. Image courtesy Pinterest.



Estee Lauder claims that Beautiful (1985) was called “the most complex perfume ever created.” (Of course, Estee Lauder also claimed that Modern Muse was their first major launch in a decade …) Read about Beautiful on Bois de Jasmin. Image courtesy Martirio’

GapScent Heaven Dream So Pink Grass


The 1990s brought us the first fragrances from The Gap, as described so entertainingly by The Awl. I’m not sure which Gap fragrance I had (although I know I had at least one), but from that description, I ought to have been wearing Dream, if only because I could French braid like a boss. Image courtesy Beauty Habit.


Your turn! If you had to pick an American fragrance to represent the decade from 2000-2010, which would you choose? (I’m leaving off the decade in progress.)


Neon, by Roads, is meant to be “florescent and alive.” Although the note list consists of nutmeg, cinnamon, heliotrope, wild iris, vanilla, and so-called woody aromatics, to my nose Neon projects as a fruity spicy fragrance. If that sounds off-kilter, then the description is probably about right. It’s an unusual combination, and it doesn’t seem as structurally simple to me as this list suggests.

Wearing Neon, I have been reminded of Jennifer Lawrence’s character in American Hustle, a woman trying desperately to stay afloat by not delving too far below the surface of things.

The brilliance of her character is that she does know exactly what is going on in her marriage, and she has carefully honed the persona she uses to deal with the realities of her life. There is a scene early in the movie where she talks about how much she loves the smell of a certain nail polish that smells like “flowers and garbage.” It might be a little bit of an obvious metaphor, but it works, as a representation of this woman who understands a certain kind of relationship between innocence and worldliness, and knows exactly which one she wants to cultivate.

That is the relationship I see reflected in Neon. Innocence in the fruity notes, and worldliness in the spicy notes. It is vivid and compelling, but not exuberant—and it may be the more interesting for that.

For another take on Neon by Roads, consider this review from Fragrantica: “It is an unreal eye-gouger from nearby: spicy cinnamon Big Red gum and dry clove bud for breath, vanilla pudding with powdered sugar, some sweet and bubbly Pear soda, Mommy’s powder and a red-pink boa.” I guess I’m not alone in finding the traces of a world-weary woman beneath the girlish notes. 

Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.


Supernova, another fragrance by Roads, is a covertly fresh fragrance. I recently read an interview with Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors on Olfactif*, and he had this to say about the term “fresh.”

“‘Fresh’ is a bad term in general because it has so many meanings to so many people, and after a while it doesn’t mean as much. But when I say “fresh,” I mean that it’s bracing and invigorating, rather than ‘sporty’ or ‘spicy.’”

I do think the word gets a bit of a bad wrap in fragrance circles, because things that are billed with the term usually smell about as fresh as (and remarkably similar to) an Axe-drenched teenage boy at the gym. But like Josh Meyer, when I say a fragrance is fresh, I mean it is bracing and refreshing.


Supernova initially smells of lime zest and effervescence. Surprisingly, this zingy stage lasts for more than an hour on my skin. However, Supernova also has another trick up its sleeve, which is to shift from the very dry, almost gin-and-lime opening into something damp and earthy. I smell mossy notes, patchouli, and a tendril of campfire smoke. The official notes are petitgrain, bergamot, grapefruit, limeleaf, juniper berries, cognac, ginger, cardamon, cedar, oakmoss, and amber.

I find the drydown of Supernova simultaneously invigorating (to borrow Josh Meyer’s word) and grounding, similar in feeling to vetiver fragrances like Vetiver Tonka by Hermes or Sycomore by Chanel.

To date, I haven’t found any reviews of Roads’ Supernova, but I will update in the future to add links.

Image courtesy Little Flaming Cocktail. Sample sent to me gratis, at my request. Reviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.

*Side note: I really like the idea behind the new Imaginary Authors scent, Mosaic (discussed in the linked interview).

Graduate 1954

There should be a word (preferably a German word of many syllables) for the moment when you realize that a perfume is as good as its concept.

Roads Perfumes

This represents the woman who, as a result of the limited freedoms offered to her, had to use her femininity and elegance to achieve her goals. The headiness of tuberose, frangipani, old rose and heliotrope is lifted with mandarin, muget and clove and grounded in green moss, cedarwood, virginian sandalwood and patchouli.”

That is the description of Graduate 1954, by Roads, that enticed me to seek out this brand.

Right from the opening, Graduate 1954 (perfumer not released) presents an elegant face. A very convincing moss (let’s call it fauxkmoss) blends with frangipani and with a tuberose that smells like the buttercream frosting version of itself. These softer elements are sharpened not only by the moss, but by a slightly sour tea rose, a very green lily of the valley, some clove, and perhaps a hint of carnation and bergamot. They keep everything standing up straight, and keep it from becoming languid or overblown. This is, after all, a very chypre chypre floral. As for the drydown, it feels to me like an homage to the Guerlinade—less sweet, but with the same quality of being a mélange of the most essential parts of the fragrance. The drydown wears close to the skin like a Guerlain, too. The perfume equivalent of smudged eyeliner.

I always seem to fall for fragrances like this, the ones that feel classic but also new, not like vintage reproductions. Graduate 1954 definitely deserves a place on the shelf next to perfumes like Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere, Krigler’s Lieber Gustav 14, and (recently) Courtesan by Worth.

I have not seen any other reviews of Roads’ Graduate 1954 yet, but will update in the future when I do.

Since some of you may wonder about distribution (as I did), Roads perfumes are available at Barney’s in the US, at Jovoy in Paris, several Selfridge’s in the UK, the Galleries Lafayette in Berlin, and Klein Perfumery in Melbourne. Other stockists are listed on their website. My samples were sent to me gratis, at my request, and I have to add a big thanks not only to Roads’ PR, but to their Australian distributor T2M FashionReviews are never compensated, and posts are never sponsored. See my Media & Disclosure policy for details.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,661 other followers