Perfume Chat Room, October 15

Perfume Chat Room, October 15

I’m a day early posting this week, because I’m taking today off work! And The New York Times has a great article about scent, which asks: “What Does It Smell Like Where You Are?”, which I thought many of you would enjoy.

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Thursday, October 15, and I have good news — my daughter, who caught COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago through her job as a teacher, has recovered and is out of isolation! The rest of us will still be in quarantine until Saturday, per the guidelines, but she can join us upstairs again instead of living separated in the basement level of our house. It’s pretty comfortable and has its own bathroom, but she was lonely no matter how much Facetime she did with us and her friends. She has lost most of her sense of taste and smell — that happened about a week into her illness. So fingers crossed those both come back soon. I read an article about using essential oils to re-train someone’s sense of smell, and I’ve been joking with her that I AM READY to help, with my large collection of fragrances.

To emulate the Times, what does it smell like where you are? Even more specifically, the article asks: “What scents would you put in your own ‘personal smell museum?’ What is the smell that, for you, is so singular and specific that you wish you had one word to describe it?”

Here, I smell damp earth still, after all the rain we had last weekend, mixed with the smell of fallen leaves, and occasional whiffs of autumn roses and tomato leaves from what remains of my summer garden. I do think those autumn roses may be the sweetest of all, coming as they often do one at a time, unexpectedly, with the promise of summers to come. Time to pull out my spicier roses, like Rose Flash, Tudor Rose, Cabaret, Elisabethan Rose

What’s new in your world? Any new fall fragrances?

Scent Sample Sunday: JD Mimosa Mixte

Scent Sample Sunday: JD Mimosa Mixte

I’m a fan of Jeffrey Dame and his fragrances; they are well-crafted, high-quality, and reasonably priced. I love Duality and Black Flower Mexican Vanilla. I really like Vanille Farfelue. The JD fragrances are created with perfumer Hugh Spencer, a longtime collaborator of Jeffrey Dame’s. The JD website lists Mimosa Mixte’s notes as mandarin, basil, bergamot, mimosa, violet, ylang ylang, heliotrope, sandalwood, vanilla and musk. Fragrantica classes it as a “floral woody musk”; a number of commenters refer to it as a “yellow floral”, and I agree with that, given the prominence of mimosa and ylang ylang.

When I first apply Mimosa Mixte, I smell a mix of green and yellow notes, which I believe are the basil, bergamot, and mimosa. I wouldn’t be able to pick out mandarin as a note, but there is a juiciness to the opening that I’m sure it has contributed. The basil note is subtle, but it’s definitely there, which I love. I wish basil appeared in more fragrances! The mimosa continues into the heart phase, while the greener notes fade away pretty quickly. It is joined by ylang ylang, and this is the truly “yellow” stage of Mimosa Mixte. The heliotrope is also noticeable, and it lends a powdery softness to the heart of the fragrance, which is also noticeably sweet. Not sugary, not gourmand, but a sweetness that is reminiscent of honey and nectar. Intriguingly, one can buy “mimosa honey” which is created when bees forage among mimosa trees. The next time I go to a local farmer’s market, I’ll have to see if I can buy some for comparisons.

The heart phase lasts a good while, at least a full hour, and the base notes tiptoe in almost imperceptibly, until one realizes that ylang ylang and heliotrope have made their quiet exit and the mimosa is now accompanied by a pleasantly vanilla-forward base. I don’t really smell sandalwood per se, but there is a pleasant woodiness to the base, softened by musk and vanilla. Longevity and sillage are good but not extraordinary. On the other hand, I’ve been dabbing a small oil sample on my wrist; longevity and sillage might be more extensive if I were spraying eau de parfum (the formulation in the larger bottles).

One commenter on Fragrantica compared Mimosa Mixte to Penhaligon’s Ostara, which is one of my top favorits (yes, I have back-up bottles). I can see why they might remind someone of each other, but I don’t think they are very much alike. What they have in common is their yellowness. But in Ostara, that is based on daffodils and reminds me of pollen, while in Mimosa Mixte, it is based on mimosa and ylang ylang, and it reminds me of nectar.

I like Mimosa Mixte very much! I don’t feel compelled to buy a full bottle to join its siblings in my collection, Duality, Vanille Farfelue, and Labdanum Doux. I would probably go for Black Flower Mexican Vanilla next ahead of this. But it’s very pleasant, a great value, and a fragrance that shows the creative intelligence behind it. If you’re inclined to support an independent American perfumer, any of these would be a good choice!

Do you have any fragrances by Jeffrey Dame? Any favorites?

Perfume Chat Room, October 9

Perfume Chat Room, October 9

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, October 9, and it has been a wet and gloomy day here. However, that inspired me to pull out a favorite fragrance I haven’t worn in a while: Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom. Although I often think of a sunlit day when I wear it, today it just suited the somewhat British weather.

In other news, I got my absentee ballot this week, filled it out, dropped it off in an official ballot drop box at the entrance to my local public library, and was just able to confirm online that it has been received and “accepted”! It was very easy and very safe.

How was your week? Any new or rediscovered favorites?

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

I always love a good chypre, and I love seriously green fragrances, and those two traits often travel together. So I admit, it’s a little odd that I hadn’t yet tried vintage Miss Dior, given that its vintage formula includes many of my favorite notes and it is most certain a green floral chypre. Well, I was able to get my hands on one of the houndstooth bottles of Miss Dior eau de toilette, and this is love.

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: Top notes are aldehydes, gardenia, galbanum, clary sage and bergamot; middle notes are carnation, iris, orris root, jasmine, neroli, lily-of-the-valley, rose and narcissus; base notes are labdanum, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver. To my nose, the most prominent of the opening notes are the galbanum and clary sage, with a soupcon of aldehydes. I don’t pick up bergamot or gardenia at all, and that may be because of my bottle’s age, although it is in excellent condition. Some top notes seem to disappear from vintage fragrances.

Happily for me, the galbanum is alive, well, and kicking! I love galbanum, and that’s a big part of what attracted me to trying Miss Dior. It also suits the weather at this time of year, where I live. Early October is usually dry, with a crisp nip in the air in the evenings and in the morning, bracketing warm sunny days with clear blue skies. In the heart phase of its drydown, I mostly smell carnation, narcissus, iris, and orris root, which is just fine because those are also favorite notes. These floral notes are so well-blended, though, that it’s hard to sense them apart and I don’t doubt that the other listed notes are present.

Among the base notes, the oakmoss is most prominent, which I also love. The final stage of Miss Dior is both warm and cold, in an intriguing way. The warmth is supplied by labdanum, sandalwood, and amber; the cool is generated by vetiver and oakmoss, with patchouli bridging the gap between the warmth and the cooler notes. This is so clever in how perfectly it captures the spirit of the young women M. Dior saw as his ideal models and customers. One author who has written about Dior’s aesthetic notes: “For all its charm, Dior’s vision of feminine style relied on a certain calculated hauteur. But the relationship that he shared with the many women in his life was characterized by an unusual closeness.” The fragrance brilliantly captures both hauteur and intimacy, like the come-hither but not-too-close impression of one of his muses, Grace Kelly. It was named after the woman who may have been his most important inspiration: his own beloved younger sister, Catherine Dior, a genuine heroine of the French Resistance who suffered terribly as a prisoner of the Nazis from 1944-1945. After the war, she turned her love of flowers, shared by her brother, into a commercial enterprise as a broker of flowers.

Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” has written a wonderful review of Miss Dior that gives a brief history:

The birth of Miss Dior coincides with Christian Dior’s first fashion show held in a salon on the avenue Montaigne in Paris on February 12th, 1947. In a rebellious move against the austerity imposed by the cloth rations and the angular lines of wartime fashions, Dior showcased the strikingly feminine collection of cinched waists, softly rounded shoulders and voluminous ankle length skirts. “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian. Your dresses have such a new look,” remarked Carmel Snow, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar. New Look became a phrase that would symbolize this collection, which resuscitated the French fashion industry and led to Dior receiving the Legion of Honor from the French government.

When I think of how the woman personified by Miss Dior might look, I think of Cate Blanchett’s wardrobe in the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” If you’ve never seen that, I highly recommend it. It has a wonderful cast, a twisting, turning plot, and gorgeous design in all aspects: cinematography and wardrobe being standouts. Ms. Blanchett’s character, Meredith Logue, is an old-money American socialite, who wears couture clothes with the nipped waist and full skirt that are so closely associated with Christian Dior and his “New Look.”

I’m really enjoying vintage Miss Dior! My longtime Dior fragrance love has always been Diorissimo, but this little houndstooth bottle of Miss Dior is making me very happy. I know many fragrance aficionados rage against the reformulations of Dior fragrances in recent decades under LVMH’s ownership — do you like any of the current versions?

Perfume Chat Room, October 2

Perfume Chat Room, October 2

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, October 2, and I am so late posting this! My apologies. As you may know, it has been a very weird day today in the United States. And I’ll just leave it at that. I didn’t wear a single scent today — I was swamped by work duties, and just forgot, if you can believe that. How about you? What did you wear today as we begin the month of October?

Scent Sample Sunday: Automne

Scent Sample Sunday: Automne

I said in Friday’s Perfume Chat Room that I would write today about Van Cleef & Arpels’ Automne, and then I realized I already had, a few years back!

Fragrance Friday: Les Saisons Automne.

What special fragrances return again and again to your seasonal rotations?

Perfume Chat Room, September 25

Perfume Chat Room, September 25

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 25, and the weather has suddenly become more like fall, at least where I live. That seems to be the case in other parts of this hemisphere too, because I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and comments elsewhere about people putting away their more summery fragrances and taking out fragrances they enjoy in autumn.

One of mine is the aptly named Automne, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Fragrantica calls it a “floral-woody-musk.” One thing I like about it is that the dominant notes are lily and sandalwood. I’ll write more about it for “Scent Sample Sunday” this weekend!

Are you having autumnal weather where you are? Or some other change of season with the equinox? What fragrances do you prefer in autumn?

Featured image by Jessica Potila.

Perfume Chat Room, September 18

Perfume Chat Room, September 18

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 18, and it’s been raining a LOT this week, with Hurricane Sally landing on the Gulf Coast and moving across the Southeast. We’ve only gotten the fringe of the rain and wind, so we’re lucky. In honor of the weather, I am wearing Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee. My other option could have been Hermes’ Un Jardin Apres La Mousson, a favorite. Other pleasant distractions this week were my husband’s birthday, and the baking and cooking our oldest daughter did in honor of it. She made him Mary Berry’s pineapple/coconut/carrot cake from scratch — yummy! One of his gifts was a new book about Winston Churchill called “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson. It’s the story of Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister, from May 1940 to May 1941, which encompassed Dunkirk, the London Blitz, and the Battle of Britain, as well as his negotiations with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt for Lend-Lease and future cooperation.

What’s your SOTD? Or, have you been reading anything of special interest?

Featured image from http://www.AmericanHistoryinLondon.com

Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Having read so much about Bal a Versailles in recent years, written about by everyone from Luca Turin to favorite blogs like The Black Narcissus, CaFleurebon, and Kafkaesque (and she’s BACK, even if only briefly!), I knew I would want to try it some day. I wasn’t in a big rush because even in its vintage form, it seems to be widely available for less than soul-crushing prices, and it honestly didn’t sound as if it would be a love for me.

But I came across an online auction for a full 4 oz. bottle of the vintage eau de cologne, which seemed as if it would be more approachable, and no one else had bid on it, so I did. And won it for a very reasonable price, less than one would spend on many forgettable modern fragrances at Sephora, Ulta, and elsewhere. It arrived a few days ago, and I’ve been trying it out since. I like it! My bottle looks just like this (except the label on mine is perfect):

Bal A Versailles by Jean Desprez; image from http://www.fragrantica.com

It is very interesting to me, because at first sniff, I definitely smell it as “perfumey”, which to my nose often means aldehydes. Yet there aren’t aldehydes in BaV, at least none are listed for it. So I’m concluding that another note that smells “perfumey” to me, probably based on my late mother’s perfumes from the 1960s and 1970s, is civet, which was used in varying amounts by the classic French perfumers to bring warmth, radiance, and sensuality to their creations such as Shalimar, Chanel No.5, etc., during decades when women were supposed to charm and seduce.

Probably because I have only cautiously dabbed small amounts of BaV on my wrist, I don’t find its notes unpleasant or overwhelming, or even, as so many have written, “skanky.” As expected in a bottle that probably dates back to the 1960s, any top notes that appear briefly are faint, at best, and blend easily into the middle notes that are more apparent to my nose. So I smell jasmine and rose, but they accompany heart notes like sandalwood, patchouli, leather, ylang ylang, and a hint of orris root.

I definitely smell the animalic note that I assume is civet, right from the start. Vanilla also makes itself know early in my wearing, and a very grown-up vanilla it is, smooth and warm without being sweet. As the drydown continues, the vanilla becomes more and more evident on my skin. And believe it or not, it starts to smell like a longtime favorite of mine, Anne Klein II !

And maybe that isn’t as kooky as it sounds, when I look at the notes for AKII. Its heart notes include jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, and orris root; and its base notes include musk, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, benzoin, vanilla, and yes — civet. Wow. I had never put these two fragrances together in my mind, but the list of shared notes, especially in the base, is remarkable and I doubt it is coincidental.

So while I continue to ponder my new (to me) vintage fragrance, here is some great news. I was already delighted when AKII was reissued last year as a bargain beauty, given that the original from 1985 was fetching absolutely ridiculous prices online. While the reissue smells very close to the original, it isn’t as rich and warm, as I noted, probably partly because my vintage AKII has aged well, but also because ingredients that were allowed in 1985 are no longer used in most modern perfumes. Like civet. But if you crave a richer, warmer AKII, I suggest you seek out vintage BaV eau de cologne. It is much easier to find online and much more affordable.

Celebrities who have worn BaV include Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on.

Movie star Liz Taylor with bottle of Bal a Versailles perfume by Jean Desprez.
Elizabeth Taylor and Bal a Versailles; image from http://www.townandcountrymag.com.

What do you think of Bal a Versailles? Love it? Hate it? Which formulations have you tried?

Perfume Chat Room, September 11

Perfume Chat Room, September 11

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 11, a somber day here in the United States. So while I normally try to find an amusing “featured image” for this Chat Room, showing people interacting with each other, today my featured image is of the memorial wall within the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, with its quote from Virgil. I sometimes think I’ve read or watched all I can bear about 9/11; I don’t want to wallow in it, but I do want to honor and try to understand it. Today, I learned something new and beautiful while searching for an appropriate image.

The blue wall you see in the photo is an artwork by Spencer Finch, commissioned for the memorial. From ArtNet:

“Finch’s work, Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, is inspired by the memorably clear, intensely blue sky of that fateful morning, reports the New York Times. The work covers most of the central wall in the museum’s subterranean exhibition space.

Though it may appear from a distance to be a stone mosaic, the piece comprises individual sheets of Fabriano Italian paper that the artist has hand-painted in different shades of blue with water colors, hung like the missing person notices that filled the city’s streets in the days and weeks following the tragedy. Each of the 2,983 squares represents one of the victims of the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”

Every adult I know remembers vividly where they were when they first learned of the 9/11 attacks. I had left New York City nine years earlier, after having lived in or near that city almost my whole life. I was fortunate in that I did not lose any friends or loved ones that day, but hundreds of people I know lost people they knew. Commuter towns where I had lived were devastated, with empty cars left in parking lots of train stations because their owners hadn’t returned.

I feel I should apologize for raising such a sad image, but after all, my blog is partly named “Scents AND Sensibilities.” And that’s what on my mind today. I wish you all health, safety, and happiness.

Photo by Jin S. Lee, for The New York Times.