Perfume Chat Room, March 6

Perfume Chat Room, March 6

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 Saturday, March 6, and we have just spent several days at the beach for a much-needed break from our house. We like to go to the South Carolina coast, which is still cool and breezy in early March, and where we can enjoy marsh views and bird life as well as walking on the beach. The Lowcountry is so beautiful! It also has a very distinctive, salt marsh smell, combining saltwater, marsh weeds and sweetgrass, ocean breezes. Do you have a favorite part of the world with a distinctive smell?

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

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, February 26 — almost the end of the month! We are two months into 2021 — how is this year going for you so far? On some of the other blogs I follow, readers are sharing their experiences of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and their relief at having done so. I’m very happy for them, and I look forward to achieving that milestone myself as soon as possible. It seems so strange to think that it has been just about a year since the world began to shut down. I remember helping to distribute information to university students last February, about a new virus that had recently appeared, and the recommended (at that time) precautions such as frequent handwashing. At the very start of March 2020, we kept to our plan of taking our son to Jamaica as part of an organized trip by many seniors’ families; it was his “big” graduation gift. I took sanitizing wipes with us and wiped down our seats on the plane, to my son’s chagrin, then the high-touch surfaces in our hotel room although at that time, Jamaica had not yet had any cases of the novel coronavirus.

We had a wonderful time, we came home, and by the end of March, my husband and I were both working from home, school went remote, spring sports were canceled, and all the traditional events of our son’s senior spring in high school and our daughter’s senior spring at college were canceled. Her graduation was entirely remote; his was postponed until the summer, when it was held outside with limited, distanced, and masked attendance. We were so glad that at least we took that last trip, since we had to cancel all our other travel plans, which had included a family summer trip to London, Paris, and Normandy to celebrate the two graduations, two big birthdays in 2020, and a major wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter moved home after having lost the two jobs she was working, one in theater and the other in trade show planning. All of that and more, just within the last 12 months.

Yet I’m very thankful that no one close to me has suffered the worst of COVID-19, though sadly some friends lost elderly parents, and we haven’t been able to visit my father-in-law in a year. He was safely vaccinated in late December, so we hope to be able to see him as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves. Miraculously, the continuing care community where he lives had not one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff in all of 2020 (and to date, as far as we know). One daughter, who teaches, had COVID herself in the fall but she had a fairly mild case and seems to have recovered fully. I was thankful to have her living at home where we could take care of her. We haven’t yet revived any travel plans further afield than anywhere we can drive to, but Paris is still calling! Think of all the $$ I will have saved to spend on perfume by the time we get there …

This has turned into more of a “What Went Well” post. So in that vein, what went well for you this week, or month, or year so far? Or, to bring it back to fragrance, if you were planning a trip to Paris, what fragrance sites would you visit and what fragrances would be on your Paris shopping list?

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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Perfume Chat Room, February 19

Perfume Chat Room, February 19

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, February 19, and it seems as if half of the US is under ice, snow, or both. I feel very lucky that my state has missed most of the bad winter weather — we’ve just had a lot of rain, and it has been drearily cold and gray most of the past week, but that’s it. Daffodils are starting to poke up and show buds; a few are actually in bloom. They are one of my top three favorite flowers, the others being roses and lily of the valley (although hellebores are very popular here too!). I have a few brave snowdrops in bloom in areas where I hope they may spread.

I have a small travel size of Jo Malone’s White Moss & Snowdrop, which was launched as a Christmas special edition in 2018. I haven’t tried it yet as I bought it in a set of those Christmas editions, but I remember trying it in the store when it came out, and thinking it didn’t particularly evoke snowdrops to my nose. But those don’t have much of a scent anyway, so it’s all fantasy! Have you tried any of those JM special Christmas editions? Do you keep using any after winter? What fragrances do you reach for in this transition period between winter and spring?

Perfume Chat Room, February 12

Perfume Chat Room, February 12

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, February 12, and here in the USA, Monday will be the Presidents’ Day holiday. Sunday brings us Valentine’s Day, and today is the official day of Lunar New Year. We are officially in the Year of the Ox! Now Smell This has a community project this week to wear a fragrance that evokes the traditional qualities of the Ox: dependable, diligent, reliable, etc. That had me stumped until my eye fell upon a Serge Lutens sample of La Religieuse, so that’s my SOTD. I know others have had less positive experiences with nuns, but I went to a Catholic school in Brussels for two years, run by nuns, and they were lovely, so I have positive associations with “les religieuses”.

I’ve just found out about a new documentary that follows perfumer Francois Demachy, called “Nose.” I look forward to seeing it! Do any of you have special celebrations ahead for any of these holidays or other festive occasions? Any special fragrances in mind for them?

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

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, February 5, and here in the US we are looking forward to the Superbowl football championship and we are also celebrating Black History Month. American politics continue to be turbulent, but I won’t dwell on that although I do pay close attention. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, and a favorite independent retailer of high-end fragrances, Twisted Lily, has a sale this weekend, 14% off on a select collection of fragrances with the code VDAY14. Do any of you know of any other tempting sales?

Do you have a fragrance you particularly like to wear on Valentine’s Day or other romantic occasions? Like many people, I associate roses with Valentine’s Day and romance, so I think I will wear Jo Loves’ Rose Petal 25. As regular readers here know, I have many rose fragrances from which to choose! Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day, in this constrained environment?

How To Make Sense of Scents

How To Make Sense of Scents

The New Yorker magazine, renowned home of literary legends, has published a piece called “How To Make Sense of Scents”, by staff writer Rachel Syme. She reads Fragrantica! Like many fragheads, she traces her interest in perfume back to childhood and her mother’s favorite scents, which included Anais Anais and Poison. She became a hoarder of perfume samples from Surrender to Chance and The Perfumed Court, like many of us.

Ms. Syme’s piece discusses the way that most of us lack the vocabulary to describe scents accurately and consistently. She also highlights a recently published book (October 2020), Harold McGee’s “Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells” (Penguin Press). McGee is actually a food scientist, so his observations range from the molecular to deviled eggs, with many stops between.

Another 2020 book Ms. Syme discusses is “Smells: A Cultural History of Odours in Early Modern Times” (Polity), by French professor and historian Robert Muchembled. She sums up their different approaches:

Where McGee seeks a common vocabulary for exploring the osmocosm, Muchembled reminds us that the variables of time and place may defy a truly shared language. What we smell depends on what’s in vogue and what’s valued—on what cultural forces happen to be swirling in the air.

She ties Muchembled’s discussion of the impact of plague epidemics of the Middle Ages on the populaces’ relationship to the sense of smell, to the current pandemic in which we face a deadly virus that spreads largely through aerosolized forms and can also deprive sufferers of their sense of smell, temporarily or permanently.

I will have to seek out more of Ms. Syme’s writing! I’ve already bought the Kindle version of McGee’s book and will likely do the same with Muchembled’s tome (as an incorrigible book hoarder, I try to buy most books in digital form these days). After all, who doesn’t love a writer who voices these scentiments:

I also have a new appreciation for the elusive quest to track down smells: while there is an undeniable appeal to pursuing a “proper language” for discussing the osmocosm, there is also something to be gained by accepting that much of the pleasure of nasal perception is untranslatable. When we are at last able to swoon together again, unmasked and unmoored, over lilacs or hot brioche, what we will really be sharing is secret reverie.

Featured image: Photograph by Delaney Allen for The New Yorker.

Fleeting — Scents in Colour

Fleeting — Scents in Colour

One of my favorite fragrance blogs, Now Smell This, posted a brief mention of an upcoming art exhibit at the Mauritshuis museum in Holland. It is called “Fleeting — Scents in Colour”, and it will pair artworks with the imagined scents of what is portrayed. Apparently, some of those scents will be pleasant, and others — not so much. But what a great idea!

I think fragrance is under-utilized as a partner to other arts, but I understand why — it is hard to use in live performance spaces, for example, unless one decided to have one dominant smell, because how do you clear one out of the air to make room for another? And some people could be allergic, even if it just makes them sneeze. Pairing more static artworks like paintings with fragrance one can smell in limited space seems more feasible, though I wonder how this will work in the ongoing pandemic of airborne COVID-19.

Kudos to the Mauritshuis for even trying! Here is their description:

Fleeting – Scents in Colour

11 February 2021 – 6 June 2021 – Scented flowers and perfumes, foul-smelling canals and unpleasant body odours, smell and well-being, new aromas from far-away lands (spices, tobacco, coffee and tea), the disappearing smells of the bleaching fields, old crafts and more. Can life in the seventeenth century be captured in smell? How are smell (and scent) portrayed? What significance did people attach to smell? And what aromatic connotations do artworks have? In this exhibition, the Mauritshuis will undertake smell-historical research. In the vicinity of the art, various historic scents will be prepared to bring the paintings in the exhibition to life.

This effort reminds me of my 2019 trip to Venice (sigh — no travel for me in 2020), specifically my visit to that city’s Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses a perfume museum. I miss traveling, and I miss my “perfume tourism”, but I was so lucky to have been able to take more than one lovely trip with my husband in 2019. While 2020 was a lost year for travel, other than one much-needed week at a beach to which we could drive, my fingers are crossed for at least the second half of 2021. And since he won’t be traveling for work much this year, and who knows what international restrictions will be in place, we’ll probably get more creative in our travels and explore more of our own large and beautiful country.

Do you engage in “perfume tourism”, by which I mean seeking out perfume-related sites and stores in places you visit, and maybe bringing back perfume souvenirs?

Perfume Chat Room, January 29

Perfume Chat Room, January 29

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, January 29, and I am posting this before I start teaching my new course. So if you don’t hear back from me for a couple of hours, I’m not ignoring you, I’m just on Zoom.

I’m really enjoying a sample I’ve had for a while, Thierry Mugler’s Supra Floral, from the Les Exceptions line. I’ll admit, I haven’t been a big fan of Mugler fragrances. I don’t really care for Angel or Alien; I’m okay with Angel Muse, but I really only have it as a representative fragrance from that house; I was disappointed with Aura, which I thought might be the Mugler for me. It turns out that the Mugler for me may be Supra Floral! Thankfully, I do have other fragrances that scratch the itch for hyacinth and are easier (and cheaper) to get. But it’s nice to know there is at least one Mugler that I really do like a lot, since I know so many perfumistas are attached to Mugler fragrances.

What’s your SOTD? Or, do you have a favorite Mugler? A love/hate relationship with the brand?

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Stash

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Stash

I wrote almost two years ago about Stash Unspoken, the first flanker to 2016’s Stash SJP, by Sarah Jessica Parker, but I realized I hadn’t yet devoted a post to the original, so here it is! And I have a good reason for writing about it now, because Portia solved a problem I had been having — what to do with that bottle of “elixir oil” that came in the gift set? Undina had the same issue when she wrote about Stash back in 2017. In response to a comment somewhere, Portia suggested using a few drops of the oil in one’s bath. Eureka! I exclaimed, like Archimedes, that’s the answer!

I use bath oil more regularly now, because my skin has become so dry, especially in the winter when the house is heated. Most of the time, I use an unscented oil like Neutrogena’s sesame body oil; I just squirt some in the bath water. After Portia’s comment, I’ve added less than a dropperful of the Stash elixir oil, and it is wonderful — it scents the whole bathroom. Sillage is not a problem with this fragrance — it carries quite a way.

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