Perfume Chat Room, January 15

Perfume Chat Room, January 15

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 15, and I can’t believe we are halfway through January already! I live in the Southeastern United States, and we can already sense the advent of spring. The days are getting longer, the sun is rising earlier, and some brave flowers are emerging. I have hellebores in bloom, and some hardy daffodils are poking their green shoots up out of the earth, though it will be a while before any bloom. I’m not yet ready to break out the full-on spring floral and green scents I love, I’m still wearing my “warmer” fragrances like L’Ambre des Merveilles, which I finally bought in 2020. This week, I’ve been enjoying Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker, which is between “warm” and “floral”. It is a true bargain beauty, widely available for less than $25 for 100 ml. I found a bottle recently at T.J.Maxx on clearance for $18.

Speaking of T.J. Maxx, where I was delighted to discover a bargain reissue of my beloved Anne Klein II , last week I found a bottle of that same reissue there at my local store, labeled with a price of $49.99. No, no, no! I’ve bought a few backup bottles there and not one cost more than $14.99. The reissue is great, and another bargain beauty, but the vintage original goes for ridiculous prices online. If you’re tempted, make sure you don’t pay vintage-zone prices for the new version; look on the box and the small print will say Made In China and distributed by Palm Beach Beaute LLC.

I read and participate regularly in the comments on a favorite blog, “Now Smell This”, which always has a weekly Friday “community project” in which readers wear a fragrance they have which fits a shared theme. This week’s theme (so creative!) is to wear a fragrance that reminds you of this year’s Pantone “Colors of the Year”, which are currently “Ultimate Gray” and “Illuminating” (a bright yellow). So today, I will wear another bargain beauty, Elizabeth & James’ discontinued Nirvana French Grey. It and its sibling, Nirvana Amethyst, are all over the bargain brick-and-mortar stores for under $20 for 50 ml, and well worth that price. All the Nirvana fragrances have been discontinued, so if you like them and you find them for a great price, stock up!

What’s new in your world, fragrance or otherwise? How is 2021 looking for you so far?

Perfume Chat Room, January 8

Perfume Chat Room, January 8

Happy New Year again, and 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 8, and it’s been quite a week. I know some of you don’t live in the US and are wondering what on earth is going on here. So are many Americans, except that many of us have feared exactly what we saw on Wednesday. This isn’t a political blog, so I won’t say much more, except that most of America is NOT rioting and I believe people of good will from both parties and all points of view will unite to oppose the violence the world saw in our capital this week. I have little or no such confidence in the media, social and traditional, that thrive on conspiracy theories and make money from them as clickbait.

Getting back to fragrance, but with a dose of dark humor — I believe I will pull out my discovery set from BeauFort London, which includes fragrances with notes of gunpowder and smoke. The first launches, the collection “Come Hell or High Water”, is named for aspects of British history. According to the US Capitol historian, the last time the Capitol was breached by a large hostile force was in the British invasion of DC in 1814, during the War of 1812. I first tried the BeauFort London fragrances at a favorite independent perfumery in London, Bloom, where I bought the discovery set. They are unisex, possibly leaning masculine; I especially liked Fathom V. Have you tried any of BeauFort London’s scents? Do you know of others that include a note of gunpowder? Or, in the other direction, any favorite perfumes that incorporate the word “Peace”?

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Emotions by Jo Malone

Scent Sample Sunday: Zara Emotions by Jo Malone

I have been eagerly awaiting the US launch of Zara’s collection of fragrances, Emotions, in collaboration with perfumer Jo Malone. I love some of her fragrances under her own brand, Jo Loves, so I was curious to see what she came up with for Zara, well-known as a destination for budget-conscious shoppers. Zara has released many, many fragrances under its own name, some created by famous perfumers, such as Vibrant Leather, created by Jerome Epinette. The Emotions collection launched in Europe in late 2019, but it took another year to become available in the USA. Luckily, it arrived in time for the holidays, and I treated myself and one of my daughters each to the sample/discovery set. It costs $25.90.

The discovery set is a nice size: eight long, narrow vials of eau de parfum, each holding 4 ml of a different fragrance. The collection consists of: Amalfi Sunray, Bohemian Bluebells, Ebony Wood, Fleur de Patchouli, Fleur d’Oranger, Tubereuse Noir, Vetiver Pamplemousse, Waterlily Tea Dress. The vials are “dabbers”, not sprays. Each fragrance lists only three notes, and I think they would be ideal for layering, with each other or with other fragrances. In fact, the Zara website sells “layering sets” with various combinations of the collection’s fragrances, with one scent in a 15 ml “paintbrush” format and two more in 10 ml sprays. The sets offer some ideas for layering which I plan to try with my discovery set.

I would call these fragrances eminently likable. None are groundbreaking, but all are very pleasant. Predictably, given my affection for green fragrances, I like Waterlily Tea Dress a lot, with its notes of mint, bergamot, and musk. It is a soft green, softer than the galbanum-based heavy hitters I love. Less predictably, I also like Ebony Wood very much. It is a warm, woody/spicy unisex fragrance, very appealing in the current cool weather where I live. Fleur de Patchouli is fine, but it smells more generic to my nose; it might come alive more when layered with something else. In fact, I’ve read elsewhere that it layers very nicely with the Ebony Wood I like, and that is one of the combinations sold on the Zara website, so I’ll have to try them together.

I’m not a big fan of tuberose — I don’t hate it, but I have to be in the mood for it, and it can feel cloying to me after a while. So Tubereuse Noir won’t be at the top of my personal list, but if you do like tuberose, it’s a respectable one. Its other notes are listed as ylang-ylang and sandalwood, but I don’t pick up either of those. At the start, the tuberose smells quite synthetic to me and even a bit “chemical”, but that dies down pretty quickly. If you’re really searching for “noir”, this isn’t it. Similarly, Fleur d’Oranger is another white floral, and it starts out smelling a bit “chemical”, but that goes away quickly.

I quite like Bohemian Bluebells, but the name is misleading. This isn’t a bluebell fragrance or a spring floral at all; it is a lavender fragrance, its other notes listed as sandalwood and musk. The lavender is a bright, sprightly lavender, nothing musty or dry. It actually reminds me a bit of the very opening of Jicky eau de toilette, which I love. I could see spritzing Bohemian Bluebells at bedtime, which I sometimes do with my Jicky EDT because I find the lavender very peaceful. The lavender in Bohemian Bluebells warms up over time, which I think is the effect of some sandalwood and musk peeking through, though the lavender is still dominant.

Another surprise to me was how much I like Vetiver Pamplemousse, but then I remembered that I unexpectedly liked Jo Loves’ Pink Vetiver more than anticipated. The two are not similar other than the vetiver note both contain, but it’s a very pleasant vetiver and I like the combination with grapefruit. Amalfi Sunray is a fresh burst of citrus with a bit of orange flower; I prefer it to its sibling Fleur d’Oranger.

The Emotions collection of fragrances is well worth trying, at $25.90 for the discovery set. All the fragrances are available in other product formats, such as candles, lotion, shampoo, etc., and the EDP comes in various sizes, with separate sizes starting at 10 ml for $9.90. It would be interesting to try using some of the different products together, perhaps one of the lotions with one of the EDPs, especially given the reasonable price of the lotions ($12.90 for 200 ml). These certainly qualify as “bargain beauties”! I’m happy to see that the collaboration continues with the addition of new scents.

Have you tried any of the Emotions collection? What do you think?

Featured image from www.allure.com.

Perfume Chat Room, January 1

Perfume Chat Room, January 1

Happy New Year, and 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 1, New Year’s Day, and 2020 is finally over! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I am cautiously optimistic about 2021. Above all, I am so very thankful for the healthcare workers who continue to care for the ill as the pandemic continues, and all the scientific, medical, technical, and support staff who are part of that or who have created the lifesaving vaccines we now have.

So my question today is, do you have a favorite fragrance (or fragrances) that you got in 2020? It doesn’t have to be a new launch, or on anyone’s list of “best of 2020”, just one that was new to you in 2020 that you like. Or if you prefer, what fragrances are you looking forward to in 2021? I’m very eager to try Snowy Owl, which Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has created for Zoologist. Some reviewers have sampled it already and it sounds lovely, with many notes I already enjoy. I think its official launch is this February.

What about you? And did you do anything special for New Year’s Eve?

Fragrant Feasts: Lamb Stifado

Fragrant Feasts: Lamb Stifado

Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass asked if I had a favorite recipe for lamb stifado, which I had mentioned in a comment on one of her posts as the meal my family traditionally has on Christmas Eve. I do, and here it is!

I should note that my family does not have Greek roots (although I love Greece), but we started making this our Christmas Eve meal because 1) it is so delicious and fragrant, it makes the whole house smell wonderful; and 2) you can make it in a slow cooker, which was important for several years because all three of our kids sang in our church’s children’s and youth choirs, which meant we spent several hours at church every Christmas Eve, from about 1 pm to 7 pm, and dinner HAD to be ready the minute we got home, to feed the starving choristers.

The basic recipe I use comes from Sarah Leah Chase‘s Year Around Cookbook, which combined two of her earlier works, Cold Weather Cooking and Nantucket Open House Cookbook. Ms. Chase also co-authored The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, for those in my generation who learned how to upgrade our cooking from The Silver Palate series of cookbooks.

Sarah Leah Chase’s Lamb Stifado

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 lbs. lean lamb (or beef) stew meat, in cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (about 2 in. each)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 2 strips orange zest (about 3″ by 1″)
  • 2 lbs. small white onions
  1. Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat and sear lamb in batches until browned all over. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add onion and garlic to pot and cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add wine, vinegar, brown sugar, and tomato paste; stir until smooth. Add cumin, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Return lamb to pot with currants and orange zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring stew to a simmer, cover, and let cook over medium-low heat for one hour. (Slow cooker option: cook on low heat for about 3 hours).
  3. While stew simmers, blanch white onions in boiling water to cover, 5 minutes. Drain, let cool, and peel. After stew has cooked for 1 hour, add onions and simmer, covered, for 1 hour more. (Slow cooker option: add onions after stew has cooked on low for 3-4 hours; cook on low for 3 more hours. You can also add the onions at the start if you’ll be away from the slow cooker). At this point, the stew can be refrigerated for 1-2 days before reheating and serving.
  4. Serve stew hot over dumplings or other starch; I like to use whole wheat couscous. Fregola sarda would also work well. Top with crumbled feta or goat cheese if you like; you can also top with toasted pine nuts.

We also like to serve this with a crusty bread and more of the dry red wine that went into the stifado. It is very filling, so you probably won’t want more than that and maybe a green salad on the side. Honestly, there’s nothing like coming home on Christmas Eve after a long afternoon and evening away, and opening the door to the marvelous smells coming from this stifado. I hope some of you try this!

Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Perfume Chat Room, December 25

Merry Christmas, and 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, December 25, and it is Christmas Day! Happy Christmas to all who celebrate it! This year, it is a strange holiday, with church services online, many fewer gatherings, less Christmas shopping, etc. Not to mention the ongoing distractions here in the US from our crazy-making election year, which seems never to end. But, as “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” reminds us, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.’” And so it does.

At Christmas 2020, my family is so thankful for our many blessings. As some of you readers know, I occasionally do a post on “What Went Well” which is a mindfulness and gratitude exercise also called “Three Blessings.” The idea is that one lists a number of things that went well, or turned out to be blessings, in a given period of time. So here are some of mine, for 2020:

  • Good health for all of us, despite one daughter having had COVID 19 this fall (thankfully, she recovered quickly);
  • An effective COVID 19 vaccine, which was given this week to my beloved father-in-law (our sole remaining parent/grandparent) at his assisted living facility;
  • Continued employment for 3 out of the 4 working adults in our family, and an upcoming callback interview for the 4th in the New Year;
  • A roof over our heads in a home we love, in spite of unexpected plumbing repairs and gaping holes in plaster ceilings beneath dismantled bathrooms (!);
  • The ability to afford the repairs;
  • Our loving family that has been able to live together amicably, back together under said roof, during this pandemic;
  • The opportunity and ability to give gifts to each other and to various charities in these troubled times.

What about you, what are the blessings that come to your mind? Or what went well for you recently? And of course, since I mostly write here about fragrance, what fragrance are you wearing for the holidays? I’m currently in Bond No. 9’s I Love New York For Holidays. I expect to try out some of Jo Malone’s Christmas Cologne Sampler later today!

Scent Sample Sunday: St. Clair Scents’ Frost

Scent Sample Sunday: St. Clair Scents’ Frost

I have long been a fan of Diane St. Clair’s fragrance creations, especially Gardener’s Glove but also First Cut. Frost is the third of that trio, her first releases which arrived in 2018. (For three very comprehensive reviews, you must read Kafkaesque’s detailed dissection of each). When I first read the name of that scent, I thought it would relate to frost, as in fall and winter temperatures, but instead, it refers to the poet Robert Frost, who wrote many of his most famous poems a short distance from Diane’s dairy farm in Vermont. Per her website:

“This scent follows the story of Frost’s poem, “To Earthward” which describes the transformation of youthful love, from “sweet like the petals of the rose” and “sprays of honeysuckle” to painful love, which stings like “bitter bark”, “burning clove” and “rough earth.”

“[The] scent weaves together accords of clove and smoke; bitter woods and earth; sweet rose and rose geranium; sprays of honeysuckle and sparkling citrus.” 

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Mandarin Yellow and Green, Coriander, Petitgrain sur fleur, Meyer Lemon
  • Middle Notes: Honeysuckle Accord, Rose Geranium, Elderflower Absolute, Petitgrain Absolute
  • Base Notes: Cistus, Labdanum Absolute, Vanilla Absolute, Vetiver, Cedar, Smoke, Clove Absolute

The sunny opening is bright and cheerful; it vanishes quite quickly from my skin, and the next notes I smell most are the rose geranium and the clove sneaking in. As Sam Scriven wrote in I Scent You A Day, this combination with the honeysuckle actually generates a scent that smells like carnation and reminds one of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet. I love carnation, so this appeals to me.

Frost quickly turns smoky on my skin, and the “burning cloves” take over. This stage of Frost is dry, dry, dry, between the smoke, the vetiver, the cistus, the cedar, and the labdanum. I don’t really detect vanilla.

Bottom line? I like Frost and it is clearly a high-quality artisan product by a very gifted perfumer. It is parfum strength and it lasts for hours. However, I do prefer Gardener’s Glove and First Cut, which are more botanical and floral than smoky. Frost does seem like a perfect scent for this week’s winter solstice, though, with its brief sunlight opening, and its rapid progress into a long night lit by bonfires burning spices and resin.

Have you tried any of St. Clair Scents’ fragrances? Diane has released more since 2018 — any favorites among the original three or the newer ones? Or, do you have any favorite poems by Robert Frost?

To Earthward

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things
The flow of–was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they’re gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough.
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

Photo by Stephen + Alicia on Pexels.com

Perfume Chat Room, December 18

Perfume Chat Room, December 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, December 18, and it is exactly one week before Christmas Day, as well as the last day of Hanukkah. What fragrant gifts do you expect to give, or hope to get? I have a few ideas: for instance, IKEA still has in stock its line of scented candles from its collaboration with Byredo’s Ben Gorham. I bought some when they were first in stores, and they’re very appealing: nice scents in pretty ceramic jars with matching lids. Everyone in my family likes scented candles, so they’ll get some of those. Zara has finally brought its “Zara Emotions” line to the US, the fragrances created by Jo Malone of Jo Loves, that launched last year in Europe. I’ve bought the discovery set, I’ll be interested to try them. There are several gift options on the website, including sets with candles in matching scents.

I’m planning to assemble a box of unused or underused fragrances from my collection for my kids to rummage through and choose what they like. I don’t have many options to put in there for my son, but he likes Cool Water, so I’ll give him that, and I’m going to see if he likes Gucci’s Memoire d’Une Odeur. I have plenty of options to offer my daughters! I’ve bought a few things for my husband to “give” me, lol, mostly from independent artisan perfumers like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.

I sent my two sisters in New England sets of Stash’s “Christmas in Paris” tea, with china mugs decorated with scenes of Paris. The tea is supposed to combine flavors of chocolate, lavender and mint! It sounds lovely and I may have to get some for my own family to try. I’m also looking forward to starting some real holiday cooking, which always makes the house smell wonderful.

What are you planning?

COVID-19 and Smells

COVID-19 and Smells

The New York Times has published an essay by a writer who lost her sense of smell after having COVID-19 last spring; she hasn’t yet recovered it, although many people do (including my daughter, who lost her senses of smell and taste for a few weeks after having the virus this fall but has luckily recovered). The essay is a powerful reminder of how much smells and fragrance affect us: Covid Stole My Sense of Smell. For most of us perfumistas, we take for granted our sense of smell, so that fragrance has become our hobby, but it’s actually a very important part of human perception. I hope the writer is able to regain her sense of smell via the “scent training” recommended by her doctor.

Update: I also just found this article on WebMD about retraining one’s sense of smell: Smell Training Might Speed the Sense’s Return After COVID.

Stay safe, everyone! We have vaccines, but we still need to take all precautions like wearing masks and washing hands, until they are fully distributed and administered.