Notes on Notes: Vetiver

Notes on Notes: Vetiver

Welcome to this month’s installment of “Notes on Notes”, a monthly collaboration between this blog and Australian Perfume Junkies! Every month, we pick one fragrance note and write about it, posting on the first Monday of the month — fragrances we like that feature it, what we like or don’t like about it, anything else we know about it, whatever takes our fancy. For February, the note is vetiver.

Notes on Notes logo
Notes on Notes; image by Portia Turbo.
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Perfume Chat Room, February 3

Perfume Chat Room, February 3

Welcome to the Friday 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 3, and what a week it has been. On Monday, we buried my dear father-in-law: Rainy Days and Mondays. I appreciate the kind words from several of you! Flew back home late Monday night, had another day off on Tuesday to decompress, then back to work we all went on Wednesday. I’m so glad it’s Friday!

In fragrance-related news, I spent the weekend using my husband’s bottle of New York, by Patricia de Nicolai, because I forgot to bring any of my many decants and samples (my go-to travel options). New York was so interesting yet comforting, for hours at a time, that I used Amazon points to buy a large back-up bottle so DH and I can share it. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Amazon points? Some reputable retailers of fragrances like BeautyHabit have Amazon stores, and you can use your points there. So much for my low-buy resolutions — but I tell myself that using points isn’t really “buying”, lol.

In other, more cheerful news, we are planning a trip to Lisbon, Portugal this spring, with our son and his girlfriend. This will be AFTER our upcoming trip to Barcelona with our two daughters. A work trip for my husband, while daughters and I entertain ourselves all week. I’m making up for all the trips we weren’t able to take in 2020 and 2021.

I know many lovely perfume outlets in Barcelona but have never been to Lisbon. Suggestions, anyone? Please share in the comments! Also, don’t forget to check out new posts from me and Portia on Monday, when we’ll do our next “Notes on Notes“. The note in question will be vetiver. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts!

Winter lake
Rainy Days and Mondays

Rainy Days and Mondays

I feel I should explain why there was no Perfume Chat Room post last Friday, as I try to make sure I set up that weekly space for community chit-chat. My father-in-law, whom I loved dearly, died last Monday and his funeral was yesterday. So yes, the last couple of Mondays have been sad ones.

But, as the Carpenters’ lyrics say,

Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

My father-in-law knew how much he was loved, and my husband knows how much I loved his father. He always made me feel that I belonged, right from the start, although I was the first non-Catholic to marry into the family. My FIL, a decorated career military officer, was totally open and direct about his affection for people he loved — he proposed to my MIL on their first date, and he proposed to me on behalf of my then-boyfriend, now husband, the first night I met my future in-laws. He was a dear, dear man, who taught his sons also to be loving, kind men. And while we’re sad to lose him and will miss him, he was in his 90s and had lost his beloved wife of 60 years five years ago. He was clear of mind and loyal of heart until the very end, and he chose not to go back to the hospital when his heart issues worsened. He wanted to be reunited with his beloved, and had the faith that he would be.

It’s funny, because I don’t actually know whether my FIL ever wore Old Spice, but to me he was the quintessential “dad” who would have worn it. Old-fashioned in a nice way. Warm, cozy, and fatherly. Deceptively simple and straightforward, with hidden depths that weren’t demons — just more layers of warmth and sweetness, together with complexities. His funeral Mass was beautiful, and it included the traditional incense, which I found very comforting.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”

— William Shakespeare

Pope Francis and statue of Virgin Mary, with incense
Pope Francis uses incense during Mass in Verano cemetery, Rome (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Perfume Chat Room, January 20

Perfume Chat Room, January 20

Welcome to the Friday 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 20, and my big fragrance excitement this week was that Portia Turbo (Australian Perfume Junkies) and I launched our second blogging collaboration, “Counterpoint.” (The first one was “Notes on Notes“). Our first Counterpoint subject was Mitsouko; our first “Notes on Notes” was about oakmoss. We hope to do one of each of these monthly, on the first and third Monday of the month, so wish us luck and please join us in the comments!

Our next “Notes on Notes” will be about vetiver; if you have any particular fragrances to suggest we include in our selection, please tell us in the comments below! And our next “Counterpoint” fragrance will be Chanel No. 5 in as many of its forms and versions as we can muster.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint”, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!

Counterpoint, a monthly blog collaboration

This month, our first Counterpoint is Mitsouko.

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Perfume Chat Room, January 13

Perfume Chat Room, January 13

The Perfume Chat Room is back! After a brief hiatus for December’s Scented Advent, then my new collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, “Notes on Notes” (first Mondays of the month), I’m ready to chat again and I hope you are too.

So, if you’re new to this blog, welcome to the Friday 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 13 (yes, it’s Friday the 13th), and here in the USA we are looking forward to our three-day weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, January 16. I don’t have any special plans other than perhaps a lunch with the other volunteers who take part in a prize program to recognize high school students who make positive contributions to race relations in their schools or communities. I helped launch this program many years ago, and it is now nationwide. We’ve met so many wonderful teenagers who are doing great work. I love it.

Heads up — I spent last weekend visiting one of my closest friends in West Palm Beach, and I was able to go to the Guerlain boutique in The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. Yes, I came home with a bottle (the “new” Mitsouko). Yes, that means I made it one whole week into 2023 before buying a new fragrance. Yes, I’ll do a separate post with photos!

Are you attempting a no-buy or low-buy for 2023? I am going to try a “low-buy” but I’m not exactly off to a good start, lol. Or do you have any particular fragrances on your 2023 wishlist?

Notes on Notes: Oakmoss

Notes on Notes: Oakmoss

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy, healthy 2023! This year brings a new collaboration between me and Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies (and other sites as a regular guest blogger). Actually, it’s TWO new collaborations. The first is called “Notes on Notes”; Portia and I agree on a fragrance note we’d like to write about, and we’ll post our “notes” about it on the first Monday of each month, referring to a few specific fragrances. The second project is called “Counterpoint”; we’ll agree on a fragrance, and “interview” ourselves about it, seeing where our experiences coincide and where they differ.

I’m excited about these collaborations – I had such fun doing “Scent Semantics” with Portia and several other bloggers in 2022. I hope many of you will jump in and add your own observations and comments!

The first “Notes on Notes” is about oakmoss.

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What Went Well, 2022 Edition

What Went Well, 2022 Edition

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Undina over at Undina’s Looking Glass has reminded me, with her Saturday Question, that I haven’t yet posted here about “What Went Well” in 2022.

  1. Two of our three young adult children solidified and continued romantic relationships that started in the fall of 2021 and make them very happy. Whatever happens, they’ve had a lovely year, and I love that.
  2. The third young adult child was able to move into her own small apartment, after a happy year of sharing a house with friends, and the apartment is much closer to our home, which makes us very happy. She and her sister (who also lives nearby) still have their own keys to our house and come and go quite often.
  3. I had a long overdue leave from my job this fall and was able to travel to see family, especially the two trips to New Hampshire in 2022 to see my FIL, one of which included all three kids, who hadn’t seen him since 2020.
  4. My leave this fall has shown me that yes, I’m ready to retire, which I will do later this year after the spring semester.
  5. My dear husband and I also began a more structured routine for better fitness and strength, and we’re enjoying it!
  6. Three of us had COVID right around Thanksgiving, but we all recovered quickly and well — and we were all able to quarantine together here in our house.

My list reminds me, again, that what really makes my life go well is when I achieve a balance of happy, healthy family; happy, healthy marriage; maintaining healthy boundaries between my life and my job; and taking better care of myself and my physical health. In many ways, 2022 was a difficult year for me, at least the first three quarters, due to workplace politics and shifts. The leave I took in the fall was long overdue, after two years of doing a LOT of extra COVID-related work for my university employer starting in March 2020, on top of my regular duties which did not lessen. The return to being onsite full-time, with all students onsite, for the 21-22 academic year, was very challenging for everyone, and many valued colleagues left in 2022, leaving jobs vacant with the same workload needing to get done by fewer people. The new boss I acquired, the third in three years (academia is notoriously poorly managed) proved to be much more difficult than I had expected, and mismanaged my staff while I was on leave, leading to more resignations.

But now that 2022 approaches its end, I have a plan in place to retire in 2023, ending my third career on a positive note for my students and colleagues. I’m looking forward to what comes next! Stay tuned for some new collaboration with Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and A Bottled Rose, coming soon to a blog near you!

Happy New Year, everyone, and let’s hope that 2023 brings more peace, health, hope, and wellbeing to as many people as possible. Thank you for joining me and other readers here; I love the online perfume community that has been so welcoming and positive! If you drop in periodically but haven’t commented, I encourage you to do that if you wish — the more, the merrier!

Hands holding numerals for New Year 2023.
2023; image from the UK Daily News.
Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Happy Christmas Eve! I never got around to posting yesterday because I was so busy creating the first of several family feasts for last night and the next few days. I love to cook, and I love having our kids and their friends around, so this is a great time of year for me!

For December 23, my Advent SOTD was Guerlain’s Embruns d’Ylang, created by Thierry Wasser and launched in 2019. I like it much more than I expected to! Not that I dislike ylang-ylang, but it’s not high on my list of favorite floral notes. I like it a lot as a supporting character in many beautiful fragrances, but I wouldn’t normally seek out a fragrance where it has the starring role.

According to Fragrantica, the notes included are: top notes, Salt and Bergamot; middle notes, Ylang-Ylang, Cloves and Jasmine Sambac; base notes, Iris, Patchouli and Vanilla. I never know how to identify “salt” as a fragrance accord, except as a sort of mineral smell; and Embruns d’Ylang definitely has that in its opening, with a tangy bergamot. Believe it or not, the combination of salt and a bitter citrus has a long history, though mostly involving grapefruit: “Grapefruit and Salt: The Science Behind This Unlikely Power Couple.”

After the opening, ylang-ylang is the dominant accord, and it is very lovely. Interestingly, although I often think of ylang-ylang as falling on the sweeter end of the yellow flower spectrum, here it doesn’t come across as very sweet. It certainly isn’t cloying at all, and it is a ylang-ylang that would work well for all, truly unisex if that is a concern. I don’t smell cloves at all, though given the above article’s explanation of how our taste sensors can cancel each other out, I wonder if cloves are helping to reduce the sweetness of the ylang-ylang. I do pick up the jasmine sambac, but here it is a supporting player.

The ylang-ylang persists into the drydown and the base, which makes for a very interesting combination of yellow floral, powdery iris, soft warm vanilla, and earthy patchouli. I find it quite unique, and very pleasing. It also lasts on my skin for several hours, including overnight.

Yellow ylang-ylang flowers held in hands
Ylang-ylang flowers; image from beezly.com

I find this to be a thoroughly unisex yellow floral fragrance with a unique combination of notes. Its name has a poetic meaning: seafoam of ylang, which takes into account the salt accord. This is different enough that I would suggest trying before you buy it, if you are so inclined, but it is well worth sampling.

Now I have to decide what to wear for Christmas Eve! Truthfully, I have many nice options, so I might have more than one SOTD. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone who celebrates it! Advent officially ends tonight, so I’ll wish you also a very happy Christmas; and to everyone everywhere, a happy, healthy holiday season. Thanks for joining me and other readers here on Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities; I look forward to hearing more from you all in 2023!

Scented Advent, December 22

Scented Advent, December 22

Today’s Advent scent, by independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, is Sugar Plums. Every year, her house DSH Perfumes releases a new, limited issue holiday fragrance. (Fear not, you can still buy the prior years’ fragrances in her holiday sample sets). Sugar Plums is number 22, this year’s holiday fragrance, also particularly apropos on December 22.

Ms. Hurwitz says that Sugar Plums was inspired by her love for the ballet “The Nutcracker”, and especially the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her description:

A dancing, celebratory plum chypre fragrance with a frangipani heart bouquet, soft cardamom & ginger spices, touches of incense, and delicious gourmand elements in the drydown. How beautiful and festive! This year’s inspiration comes from a perennial holiday favorite “The Nutcracker”. I have long loved this dreamy ballet; especially the dance of the sugar plum fairies. I have to admit that I have long considered this theme (it’s been in my notebook of ideas for years) for the dancing, dreamlike quality that the concept invokes. Sugar Plums is not really all that sweet… instead it is a celebratory swirl of rich plum, delicate spices, warming incense, and a surprising combination of gourmand elements in a classical chypre structure in the drydown. This may sound like a cacophony of elements, but it comes together beautifully to make a true holiday classic.

DSH Perfumes and Now Smell This
The Nutcracker ballet, Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker, 2014, Waltz of the Flowers with the Sugar Plum Fairy; image from Atlanta Ballet

Finally, a fragrance in which I can really smell the cardamom! Sometimes I see it listed as a note or accord and I just can’t detect it; that makes me sad because I love the smell of cardamom. Sugar Plums is a very beautiful fragrance, with just the right level of spice and incense. I think the gourmand aspects of the drydown, mentioned about, come from tonka bean; it seems to be combined with some patchouli, giving this modern chypre its base note that in a prior era might have been oakmoss.

Sugar Plums has a spiced fruit opening, which I believe is a combination of a plum accord with the cardamom. The incense slowly appears and rises; it is a soft, gentle incense. I’ll have to take Ms. Hurwitz’ word for it that the floral heart is frangipani; it’s beautiful but I don’t think I could have picked out frangipani as the floral accord. The cardamom and incense persist after the floral notes have receded, and they carry on right into the base notes, two of which I think are tonka and patchouli. This isn’t a sweet fragrance, though it has some sweet accords. My sample is the Voile de Parfum formulation, which is oil-based, and it lasts well on my skin, still very detectable several hours after application. I like it very much! Now I’m eager to try the rest of DSH Perfumes’ holiday fragrances.

My favorite version of The Nutcracker is the former production by the Atlanta Ballet, choreographed by John McFall, in which our daughters appeared as children for several years. I always loved the sets and costumes, which looked more Russian than Victorian, and the choreography was spectacular (ignore the advert for ticket sales, this production ended 4 years ago!):

Is going to The Nutcracker, or watching it on film, a tradition in your family? Do you have a favorite version?