Some fascinating history and facts about a few of the animalic essences that have been most prized in perfumery.
As some may recall, I went to Ireland in August with part of my family, on our first extended trip there (we had previously visited Northern Ireland and Dublin, briefly). We just loved it and can’t wait to go back! One of the things we discovered while there was Irish artisanal GIN. We aren’t much for cocktails in our house; we don’t go out very often, and our usual tipples are wine and an occasional beer. Part of this trip included a few days of a work retreat for my husband, and his colleague who organizes these had a different “tasting” dinner of one kind or another every night. One night, the tasting included small-batch gin, made into different summery cocktails. These included Shortcross gin, and Jawbox gin, both made in Northern Ireland. They were combined with different Fever-Tree tonics, and different garnishes, which brought out their different herbal notes. After we left Northern Ireland and during our stay at Powerscourt in County Wicklow, we sampled cocktails made with Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, and the Scottish gin Hendrick’s, which we had previously discovered. (And which we used to invent our own gin cocktail two summers ago, combined with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade). Ireland is producing dozens of terrific small-batch gins, which you can read about here and in other publications.
Why am I carrying on about gin in a perfume blog, you may ask? It’s all Sam’s fault. The author of the I Scent You A Day blog wrote a wonderful post this past week about the limited edition 4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm, which was created for a Hendrick’s event, and can now be bought from the 4160 Tuesdays website.
It sounds marvelous, with many of the floral and herbal notes I adore. Here is Sarah McCartney’s description:
It’s ever so slightly gorgeous. It isn’t the same as our first ever gin fragrance but this one is made with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil.
To make it last, boost the scents of the naturals and too smooth them out, we blended it with our special musk, fresh air and white woods accord.
It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.
Want!! But the price is a bit steep, even before UK shipping costs, and I haven’t found it being sold in the US by the brand’s regular stockists, so I’ve had to cast about for other options. Enter Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, which I have in a mini size from a gift set.
Named after an old mixed drink called a “gin sling”, this fragrance’s strongest note is juniper berries, which give the beverage gin its distinctive odor and taste. Created in 2011, it is a woody aromatic fragrance, unisex, created by Olivier Cresp. Top notes are angelica, cinnamon, orange brandy, and juniper berries; middle notes are cardamom, orris root, leather and pepper; base notes are vetiver, cherry, sugar and amber. Penhaligon’s has even kindly shared its own recipe for an actual “Juniper Sling” cocktail, made with Hendrick’s gin! When the scent was launched, they also released an entertaining fictional short film about its supposed origins, linked to on Now Smell This.
The opening smells a lot like one of the gin cocktails we recently sampled, with a burst of juniper berries, the most characteristic odor of real gin. The opening is herbal and slightly spicy too — definitely aromatic, but not green. In the middle, I can clearly smell the cardamom, which I appreciate; cardamom is one of my favorite smells, but often I find that even fragrances that list it as a note don’t really smell like cardamom. It doesn’t last very long in the progression of Juniper Sling, but it is definitely there. The orris root and leather are less discernible but there is a smoothness and woodiness in the middle stage that I think they add. I can’t say that I detect the separate notes listed among the base notes, but I also haven’t applied a decent-sized spray to my skin, as the mini splash bottle is so small.
All in all, while I still yearn to try Scenthusiasm, I was happy to scratch that itch with a gin-evoking fragrance I already own. Have you tried Juniper Sling, or Scenthusiasm, or any other gin-related fragrances? What did you think? Do you have any favorites?
Groan. The conglomerate LVMH seems to have acquired Jean Patou this summer, with the acquisition to be completed this month, although there has been a lot of mystery about the deal: LVMH’s stealth capture of Jean Patou. This is cause for concern, because LVMH is reputed to have “dumbed down” legendary fragrances it has previously acquired, perhaps most famously those of Christian Dior, like my formerly beloved Diorissimo. That LVMH has launched a new Parfums Dior fragrance named so similarly to “Joy“, Patou’s most iconic fragrance and one that vies for the top spot of all 20th century perfumes, does not bode well for the original Joy, which Luca Turin awarded five stars in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide” and called “huge, luscious, and utterly wonderful.” This is especially disappointing because I had discovered and liked Thomas Fontaine’s re-creations of classic Patou fragrances such as L’Heure Attendue and hoped they would continue.
Joy by Dior is not huge, luscious, and utterly wonderful. I agree with Colognoisseur that it has been tested to its last faint breath so that it will become a bestseller among young women who may never have heard of Jean Patou. It is pleasant, inoffensive, and somewhat anemic. And if that sounds like damning with faint praise, it is. I tried it yesterday, somewhat hoping to like it because I do like actress Jennifer Lawrence, who is the face of Dior and whose beautiful face graces all of the advertising for Joy by Dior.
Like many moviegoers, I first encountered Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, heroine of The Hunger Games trilogy, although she had already caught critics’ positive attention in earlier work like “Winter’s Bone”. I was immediately taken by her natural beauty and the fluidity of the emotions that seemed to rise organically from her face and physical bearing. The story itself was compelling, about the domination of an entire country by one small, luxury-obsessed group in the Capitol of Panem, who condemned most of the residents of the Districts to lives of actual and semi-starvation and malnutrition, among other woes, until the Districts rebel.
Joy by Dior is the smaller, paler, thinner, younger Primrose Everdeen to the real Joy, itself comparable to Katniss in her transforming wedding dress: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: a huge, luxurious confection stuffed with the most expensive elements, over-the-top feminine, the epitome of extravagance, presented for a hungry world’s admiration, awe, and envy. The original Joy was claimed to be “the world’s most expensive perfume” when it was launched at the start of the Great Depression, when couturier Jean Patou recognized that many of his longtime customers could no longer afford Parisian couture but could manage the purchase of an iconic fragrance that would give them the same aura of luxury. Each bottle was said to contain the essences of thousands of jasmine flowers and hundreds of roses, as well as animalic ingredients like civet and musk.
As reviewer Angela wrote several years ago on Now Smell This, “Joy Parfum seamlessly morphs from a complex floral explosion to something darker, and unless you already knew Joy, you might not recognize the dry down and the heart as the same fragrance.” There is a darker, more insubordinate aspect to Joy, as if the parfum presents itself as demure and ladylike, but as it dries down and the evening progresses, it reveals itself to be more of a femme fatale who is in full control of her own destiny and that of the men who choose to enter her orbit.
As Samantha has written in her blog “I Scent You a Day”, the original Joy is a heavyweight, a Presence. The new Joy by Dior is a lightweight, almost anorexic. It’s not bad (it is by Francois Demachy, after all), it is even likable, but it is a small, pale thing compared to its big sister. Its classic citrus opening combines orange and bergamot, and the orange note is pleasantly astringent, not too sweet. It combines nicely with the greenish tartness of the bergamot. Next come roses and jasmine, but they enter shyly and hesitantly — a far cry from the confident assertiveness of those flowers in Joy. These are slender, girlish blossoms, not full-figured, unabashed roses.
Similarly, the drydown of Joy by Dior does not purr or growl: it whispers, in a breathy tone of white musk. I don’t smell any of the listed sandalwood, patchouli, or cedar notes. Again, the drydown is likeable, but it is also forgettable. Sadly, as soon as I tried Joy by Dior, it reminded me of dozens of fragrances whose names I could not recall. It just smelled very familiar.
The bottle is also disappointing. I love me some pink, so it’s not the color of the juice that lets me down — it is the generic-looking cylinder that is clearly meant to evoke the cylindrical bottles of Dior’s more exclusive fragrances in “La Collection Privee” and the “Maison Christian Dior” collection, but that has been tarted up with silver sparkle, like glitter. And the typeface on the bottle, loudly proclaiming “JOY” with a smaller “Dior” in the center, is barely different from the typeface on the iconic Patou bottle, which was designed by an noted architect and captured the essence of Art Deco, as noted on the Jean Patou website:
Every Jean Patou bottle is a jewel in its own right. The same techniques and craftsmanship are still used today. The bottles have retained the Art Deco forms dear to Patou’s friend Louis Süe, who came up with the original design. The cut glass flask decorated with gold leaf is filled drop by drop. The stopper is then sealed by hand with a gold thread and stamped.
A work of timeless beauty.
This new bottle will, no doubt, lend itself to cost-saving replicas in the flankers to come, but it could have been so much better. Chanel, for example, when it launched Gabrielle, came up with a truly beautiful bottle with clear reference to the classic Chanel No. 5 bottle, although I was ultimately left unmoved by the fragrance itself.
Sigh. Why, oh why, do we have this trend of releasing fragrances that remind me of little sisters? (Not my own little sister, btw, who resembles Katniss more than Prim!) I’m looking at you, Gabrielle. Let’s hope that Patou’s new masters will let us post-adolescents continue to enjoy Joy, the original, without mucking it up. Even Effie, after all, evolved from one of Katniss’ tormentors to her ally, saving her from tasteless makeover attempts.
Or rather, hair MIST. This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I wrote about here: Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette. I may have to explore this world further, based on a recent experience in airport security. Yes, that’s right — airport security. As my family and I were returning from Ireland a few weeks ago, we were going through security in the Dublin airport. As I am wont to do, I had spent some time browsing among fragrances in the duty-free shop, where I had come across Diptyque’s new hair mist. Having enjoyed the Colette hair mist, I decided to try it. And, if the truth be told, I had already sprayed other scents on both wrists and inner elbows. Hair was the only real estate left.
Reader, I sprayed it. And generously, too. Shortly after, I grabbed my bags and went through the security screening line. As I passed through the scanner for people, and my bags passed through the scanner for luggage, I didn’t give it a thought — I knew where my liquids were, I knew everything in my bag was allowed, I took off my metal bracelet and put it in my handbag, etc. Suddenly — “Ma’am! Ma’am!”. A youngish female airport employee was approaching me with an urgent tone in her voice. “Yes?”, I asked, inwardly sighing that I must have messed up something with my luggage (side note: I have done that and was once busted by an airport bag-sniffing dog who found an apple I had forgotten was in my backpack).
“Do I need to open my bag?”, I asked.
“No, ma’am, I just need to know what scent you’re wearing. You smell wonderful!”
Now that’s a first. I have occasionally been stopped by strangers asking about my fragrance, which is always flattering when they ask nicely and not in a creepy way. But I’ve never been stopped by airport security over my own fragrance, as opposed to the scent of an illicit piece of fruit. (By the way, the dogs don’t sit quietly when they find the fruit. They bark. Loudly. And put their paws on your bag). I assume it was the hair mist that attracted her attention, because I sprayed on more of it than anything else, and it really does carry. And of course I told her what I thought it was and pointed back vaguely toward the Diptyque counter, because when airport security asks you a question, YOU ANSWER.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that if you haven’t tried fragranced hair mist yet, you might want to! And you might want to start with Diptyque, which now has two: Eau Rose and Eau des Sens. Given that fragrance often lasts longer and has more sillage when sprayed on hair, this seems like an affordable way to wear Diptyque, and I hope they offer more of their scents in this formulation. Here’s the challenge: I don’t remember which one I sprayed on, and Eau Rose appears to be sold out online at Diptyque’s website.
Not to be dissuaded from my quest, I plan to make a visit soon to one of my local department stores that carries Diptyque and see if I can try them both. If I figure out which one made the screener swoon, I’ll update this post!
Featured image from http://www.britishbeautyblogger.com.
I have recently returned from a vacation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — what beautiful places they are! I had visited Northern Ireland before and Dublin only for two days, but had not previously seen the rest of the Republic of Ireland although one of my grandmothers was born there. When my husband’s work took him back to Northern Ireland, I again went with him but this time, we took an extra week of vacation and used it to circumnavigate the Northern and West Coasts, then down to Cork and back up toward Dublin. We saw so many lovely places that I can’t wait to visit again. Of course, it helped that the weather in Ireland this summer was the sunniest summer they’ve had in years; while the lack of rain has caused problems in some areas, the dry, sunny days were a tourist’s dream.
I usually try to discover and bring home a few fragrances that are specific to whatever region I visit as a tourist. On our last trip to Ireland, I came home with Innisfree, a light-hearted fruity floral scent that captures nicely the freshness of Irish gardens without being too sweet (side note: on this trip, we were able to visit the fabulous gardens of Mount Stewart and Powerscourt, which were magnificent). On this trip, I bought small sizes of other scents by the company “Fragrances of Ireland“, which created Innisfree as its first fragrance. The ones I bought were Inis, Inis Arose, and Connemara. I had tried Connemara before, in the airport on our last trip, and liked it then, but felt that as I hadn’t visited or seen Connemara yet, it was premature to bring home a souvenir named for it!
Inis (the Energy of the Sea) is a unisex cologne, an aromatic aquatic scent launched in 1998. Top notes are neroli, bergamot, sicilian lemon and sea notes; middle notes are lily-of-the-valley and geranium; base notes are nutmeg, sandalwood, musk, cloves and oakmoss. People who like ozonic, aquatic fragrances will likely enjoy this; it is pleasant without being particularly memorable, but it is a nice, light, fresh summer scent with a slight spiciness to go with its citrus and aquatic notes. I do not smell any oakmoss as it dries down. This is truly unisex; I can see it working for both men and women who want something light.
Inis Arose is a fresh floral. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “aromas of sunny Sicilian lemon, bergamot, geranium, lily of the valley and cyclamen. A heart includes pink May rose of Grasse, white rose, Damask rose absolute, with a trail of Turkish rose attar. Base notes give depth to this fragrance with accords of patchouli, sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla, incense, musk and Atlas cedar.” This one is a pretty, light, summery rose combined with other flowers. I like the way it has many of the same notes as Inis, introduced and combined in different ways, while also adding some new notes and subtracting others. Given my inclination toward florals, it will not surprise anyone to read that I prefer it to Inis. It is just a really nice, light rose. I’ve smelled better, and this one has some synthetic undertones, but it is a refreshing floral that I will enjoy! It doesn’t last for hours; it feels more like an eau de toilette than eau de parfum. I can’t detect many of the notes listed as its base notes, but it dries down to a pleasant, slightly musky, slightly woody skin scent. I don’t pick up any vanilla or incense. We saw many gorgeous roses in full bloom in Ireland, thanks to the hot, sunny weather and the tireless watering of devoted gardeners, so Inis Arose will bring back happy memories, including of the lovely Ballyduff House where we stayed briefly.
Connemara comes as an eau de toilette and is a green floral, as befits a scent named for one of the greenest areas of the Emerald Isle. Its top notes are freesia, lily of the valley, and violet; middle notes are rose, carnation, and mimosa; base notes are peach, sandalwood, orris, musk, and vanilla. Having now seen the spectacular Connemara National Park, I can attest to the majesty and beauty of the Connemara Mountains. They are majestic. The fragrance is not majestic, but like its siblings, it is very pretty. The packaging itself evokes the Books of Kells and its intricate, colorful designs, but the website states that the scent was “inspired by the beauty and majesty of the Connemara countryside, which is home to some of the most breathtaking views of islands, oceans and mountains.”
To me, Connemara is more reminiscent of our visit to Powerscourt’s gardens. They too have a stunning view of mountains (the Wicklow Mountains) and are not far from the coast, but their atmosphere is far less wild than Connemara. Their beautiful Italian and perennial gardens contain the flowers listed among Connemara’s notes; there is even a walled orchard filled with fruiting trees like peach trees. (I was lucky enough to find one of the gardeners at work there and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the heirloom fruit varieties they grow). When I first apply Connemara, I get a very pleasing burst of freesia and its lemony sweetness. This persists nicely as the scent segues into rose, carnation, and mimosa. I can tell that the lily of the valley is lurking in the background, but it is not dominant. Rather, it lends a fresh greenness that brightens the other floral notes. The rose is definitely present, but it does not dominate either; it partners politely with the carnation, a note I like a lot, and the gentle mimosa.
I’m happy to own some of the Fragrances of Ireland line as souvenirs of a wonderful vacation to a beautiful country. I am truly eager to return to see more of Ireland and explore some of the areas we visited in more depth.
I have been AWOL for a while because of family travel, but I haven’t neglected to keep an eye out for interesting perfumes! I like to seek out fragrances that are specific to a region I am visiting. On this trip, I have discovered fragrances by The Burren Perfumery, a small-scale, artisan creator of cosmetics, skin care, and perfumes, located near the West Coast of Ireland. We drove along the edge of the area known as the Burren as we made our way from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher; it is a unique landscape and ecosystem where many rare plants grow. I’m excited to try some of The Burren Perfumery’s fragrances! Stay tuned …
The last several months I have contacted many people who had written to me in Jan/Feb to request bottles. I’ve filled about as many of those requests as I can with what I had in stock (minus a few people that I couldn’t reach via email). I’m now listing the few remaining bottles here. These bottles have […]
If you always wanted some fragrances from Sonoma Scent Studio, this is your last chance! Award-winning perfumer Laurie Erickson is retiring from the perfume business and may have a buyer for Sonoma Scent Studio. She has a small number of bottles of her fragrance creations still available for purchase. I’m sad to see such a gifted artisan perfumer leave the scene but I am confident Laurie will flourish in her next phase.