Perfume Pen Pals: Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine


Just got in from seeing a great fuzzy-wuzzy boy-girl triple bill at the Hollywood Bowl: The Swell Season, She & Him, and The Bird & The Bee.

Zooey Deschanel has a really lovely voice! Kind of a cross between a rockabilly-twinged throbber (ie Patsy Cline, Neko Case) and a more naïve Doris Day. Her singing was more impressive live than on She & Him's albums. Less impressive was Zooey's onstage charisma, weirdly, since she's an actress and all. You'd think she'd have that part down, but she just didn't have that "front man" authority.



I've noticed the same thing about Zooey D. She comes off like a shy teenager when she's singing, not at all how she appears otherwise. She won't get any tips from her new husband, the Death Cab for Cutie guy, who's the opposite of charismatic. (I need an antonym dictionary.)

I wore Vert Pivoine this morning. It's understated and agreeable, though I wish it were a little less agreeable. Did you ever see Zooey Deschanel's (500) Days of Summer? It was fantastic: on its surface an ordinary romantic comedy, but it wasn't quite romantic or funny, it didn't hit all the obvious notes, it left money on the table and ended up being more genuine because of it. And yet still incredibly stylish. It was both warm and cool, a real trick.

By toning down the showy aspects of its flowery top-notes, Vert Pivoine almost succeeds in the same way. But there isn't enough substance to fill in the gaps. It's merely understated as opposed to understated and surprisingly moving, more Zooey Deschanel pleasantly singing at the Hollywood Bowl than Zooey Deschanel pleasantly breaking Joseph Gordon-Levitt's heart.

Vert Pivoine smelled great during my run, by the way. It's interesting to smell which fragrances do well during exercise and which generate headaches. I smelled like a subtle extension of the city's summer gardens, most of which don't actually exist in my neighborhood, which makes Vert Pivoine even more worthwhile. Dan

Dan, I'm intrigued to see how much you're enjoying Vert Pivoine. Plowing through all 16 HdPs more or less at once, I crashed into total PRF (Perfume Review Fatigue). Here's all I managed to cough up for Vert Pivoine: “Peony and an old-fashioned lipstick smell.” Now I can add, "Perfect for workouts". Katie

Katie, Surely you've already recognized this, but the genius of Perfumes: The A-Z Guide isn't merely the clever writing, but the fact that Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez have anything to say about most of those perfumes. People gripe that the two of them don't take every single stupid perfume seriously, but I have a hard time taking many of the good ones seriously. It's overwhelming at times. And I'm just a guy with a little perfume cabinet. Can you imagine LT's perfume cabinet? I'm not surprised Vert Pivoine didn't bear review fruit. It's pretty but plain. If it were a girl, she would attend a boarding school in the Northeast, wear Brooks Brothers and J. Crew, innately know the difference between a salad fork and a dessert fork, and eventually marry a young man who works in finance. You can't criticize her without automatically criticizing thousands of girls just like her. And yet I like it/her. What's not to like? Dan

Fumies, what would you nominate for a hard-to-dislike fragrance?


  1. Owing to a severe bout of PRF, I have yet to work my way completely through my Histoires sample box, not helped by individual instances of OCD ("olfactory cognitive dissonance", not the other one) with Noir Patchouli and one I can't quite recall which smelt of smuggler's kegs - the one the Marquis de Sade is meant to have appreciated. I rest my case.

    But I do recall liking three: Dan's cinema scent (1826), 1725 and Vert Pivoine. I agree about it being a bit of an insipid college girl in style - I feel exactly the same about MPG's Vocalise, though I like this better. It is "GREEN peony" you see, rather than "grapefruit peony", with which I am so fed up in the many imperceptibly different iterations that make up the Stella flankers.

  2. That should read "cinema scent manqué".

    : - )

  3. I probably dislike most of the fragrances in the hard-to-dislike category. I suppose that means I'm a bit oppositional and difficult. Vert Pivoine isn't bad though. I was recently sent a nice sample and it's refreshing in the heat. Which is contributing to my general grumpiness.

  4. LOL, read my last comment. The heat, not the perfume, is contributing to my grumpiness. Or maybe everything is.

  5. Haha, m61, I understood the heat was making you cranky, but did hesitate over the idea that the perfume wasn't helping matters. You would truly be contrary if a perfume successfully counteracting the heat made you mad.

    flittersniffer, I also loved 1725 and 1826, which I found a bit reminiscent to Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely. I'll be elaborating on 1725 in an upcoming review. I would've thought you'd be all over Ambre 114, what with your love of powdery oriental endeavors.

    Elise, J'Adore's a good nomination. Hmmm, what about Guerlain Idylle?

  6. Katie, It may well be that PRF set in before I got around to testing Ambre 114. I will give it my considered attention when I next broach the box.

  7. Idylle really does make me surly! The anti-Guerlain. I don't want nice, easy to wear, and hard to dislike from them. I would throw a tantrum, but it's just too hot here. Maybe Idylle smells really nice and I'm just being dismissive. But I tried it when it came out, and I can't remember it. At all. Which isn't what I want from Guerlain. Okay. I'm off to douse myself in Amaranthine and sit in the corner with an ice-pack on my head.

  8. m61, when it's too strenuous to throw a tantrum, that's when I have what I call an "internal tantrum". There's a boxing match with squirrels going on in my brain, but anyone observing me would think everything was peaches and cream.

    I agree that one expects more than "nice" from Guerlain, but I would contend that Idylle is "nice plus", because there is a layer of decadent plushness under the nice'n'easy opening. But it's not like I wear it - why am I sticking up for it?

  9. The doom of being nice, especially when it comes to perfume.

    I think primacy effect takes place with me. Whichever was the first to me nose in the category a given "nice" falls--category being a thing which sometimes lines up with traditional fragrance families, and other times is something created under my own system--often is the winner. Because how many nice gentle florals do you need?

    Of course, I seem to find many variations of chypre fall under distinct and necessary categories...perhaps my lacksadaisical reaction to Vert Pivoine ("it doesn't bother me") is as much a result of my general lack of enthusiasm for florals as it is anything else.

    Such as, say, the weather, which is definitely a force to be considered. And whatever vermin might be running around in my head.


  10. Forgot to mention that The Swell Season's most recent album suffers in a Vert Pivoine way, over in my corner of the universe. It was enjoyable enough, and grew on me after a few listens, but the first reaction? Not exciting, like when I "discovered" them in Once.

    Fickle and unfair.

  11. Yes, ScentScelf -- the discovery of Glen and Marketa in "Once" -- their music, their bittersweet romance in and out of the movie...the second album can't live up to that. And it fits into your primacy rule.

  12. Katie, was interested to hear your take on Zooey D, since I have had her on my iPod for some time. Saw her in a movie where she sang and it was enough for her to land on my iPod.

    Scentself, have to agree with your sentence which starts, "the doom of being nice..." I don't think anything has to follow; I have realized the doom of being nice the last few years and it is painful.

    Katie, I think an internal tantrum, especially one with boxing squirrels, would be more dangerous than an external one. Let 'er rip!

    And M61, I can totally relate to the heat > grumpiness. I have had my fair share of both lately. I don't tolerate heat at all, and apparently no one around me can tolerate the grumpiness. Back to the doom of being nice....

  13. SoS, I'm always a sucker for vintage styling, and I love Zooey's girl group sound in She & Him. I've got the first album.