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?

Scented Advent, December 19

Scented Advent, December 19

My Guerlain Advent scent today is Néroli Outrenoir, another “citrus aromatic”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk and launched in 2016. It’s very, very appealing. Per Fragrantica, top notes are Petitgrain, Bergamot, Tangerine, Lemon and Grapefruit; middle notes are Tea, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Smoke and Earthy Notes; base notes are Myrrh, Vanilla, Benzoin, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Oakmoss.

That citrusy opening is very uplifting, a mix of greenness and, well, citrus. It reminds me a bit of Miller Harris’ Tangerine Vert. To my nose, the most prominent notes are the petitgrain, tangerine, and lemon, but I definitely smell the bergamot, and a whiff of the grapefruit. Very soon, tea is served, and it is a black tea with lemon in it. It does have a floralcy that comes from the néroli and orange blossom, but to me the strongest impression is of black tea and lemon, with a tinge of smokiness. Almost like a lapsang souchong tea, but not as smoky or tarry.

This scent is like chiaroscuro, the painting technique that famously contrasts light and dark, the leading examples being the paintings of the great Caravaggio. It starts out very bright and sunny, with all the citrus notes in the opening. Then the brightness dims a bit, and softens and blurs, with the arrival of accords of tea and flowers. As it dries down, it gets gradually darker but also warmer, with the base notes especially of benzoin, ambrette and oakmoss. Myrrh and vanilla accords are present, but to a lesser degree.

Neroli Outrenoir has decent longevity on my skin, though nothing like Épices Volèes. It’s also a different kind of citrus/tea fragrance, one with more depth. I think it’s totally unisex and it would smell wonderful in warm weather, especially warm summer evenings. It’s fresh enough for hot weather but sophisticated enough for evening wear.

Very nice! Do you have any fragrances that contrast light and dark this way?

Oil painting of the Nativity, by Caravaggio
Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, by Caravaggio; image from Photo Scala
Scented Advent, December 16

Scented Advent, December 16

Today I cheated on the Advent calendar process. I needed a sample from an independent perfumer, to alternate with my Guerlain samples, but I also wanted to take part in Now Smell This’ Friday community project, which was to name your favorite work by, or inspired by, Jane Austen. So I grabbed the discovery set of Francesca Bianchi fragrances, which I hadn’t yet opened, and chose one that I thought might do. My favorite Jane Austen-inspired work is the movie “Sense and Sensibility”, which is why my blog is named, in part, Scents and Sensibilities (full name is Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities).

Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in "Sense and Sensibility"
The heroines of “Sense and Sensibility”; image from Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The sample I chose was one I’ve never tried, called The Lover’s Tale. After all, Jane Austen’s books are all tales about lovers. But when I read more about it on Fragrantica — bingo! Here’s what Francesca Bianchi said about it herself:

This is a story of by-gone times about a secret encounter of lovers. It represents the contradictions between sense and sensibility, pruderie and passion. The lovers are full of desire but their education holds them back.

Francesca Bianchi

Launched in 2018, The Lover’s Tale has top notes of Honey, Mimosa, Aldehydes and Bergamot; middle notes of Orris, Peach, Heliotrope, Egyptian Jasmine and Bulgarian Rose; and base notes of Leather, Castoreum, Musk, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetiver and Sandalwood. It is considered a leather fragrance, as that note is a main player. Given its partnering with castoreum, musk, oakmoss, and vetiver, I venture to say that this is a more stereotypically masculine leather. However, the earlier notes are all very stereotypically feminine, with their profusion of florals. In a way, The Lover’s Tale is a combination of two characters from “Sense and Sensibility”: Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, who fall in love after various trials and tribulations.

I read somewhere that while it is understood that the title “Sense and Sensibility” refers to the two sisters, Elinor Dashwood who has common sense and intelligence, and the younger Marianne, who has a Romantic sensibility and passion, it can also be read as referring to Brandon and Marianne. He is the older, experienced man who commits himself to solving problems and addressing crises, including Marianne’s. He is practical — but he also has a wide streak of Romanticism himself, with his love of music and his infatuation with the emotional, musical Marianne.

Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, from "Sense and Sensibility"
Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood; image from Columbia Pictures.

Colonel Brandon also spends much of the movie throwing himself into the saddle and riding off to save the day, so a leather fragrance is well suited to him. The honey in the opening notes can be a nice reference to what Emma Thompson, who wrote and starred in the movie, called the “extraordinary sweetness [of Brandon’s] nature.” The aldehydes and floral notes evoke Marianne’s love of beauty that can sometimes be a bit flighty; by the time The Lover’s Tale is in the final stage of drydown, the floral notes, the leather, and the warm animalic notes of the base have reconciled, and combine with labdanum and sandalwood in a beautiful marriage of scent.

Colonel Brandon and Marianne's wedding, "Sense and Sensibility"
Wedding of Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood; image from Columbia Pictures

Do you have a favorite work by, or inspired by, Jane Austen? Any fragrance you might associate with it?

Scented Advent, December 12

The independent perfumer Advent sample of the day is Hiram Green’s Arcadia. Wowza! It is classified as an “aromatic fougère”, and it has a great opening, top-heavy with lavender and bergamot. As they settle down, the bergamot recedes but the lavender stays strong, joined and made more floral by the arrival of jasmine and rose accords. The notes list from the brand’s website is: Bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rose, spices, resins, tonka bean, aged patchouli, New Caledonian sandalwood. Hiram Green, who is a natural perfumer, also lists the actual ingredients, which include evernia prunastri extract, which is oakmoss. Be still, my heart! I love oakmoss in fragrances. Mr. Green says this about the fragrance, which he launched this year (2022):

For this perfume I was inspired by the natural splendour of Arcadia. In this idyllic, unspoiled wilderness babbling brooks meander through mountains covered in dense forests and the air is filled with the sound of humming insects and twittering birds.

Imagine the lush undergrowth that covers the forest floor. In areas where the sun manages to break through the canopy, fragrant flowers bask in the sunlight and their sweet scent intertwines with the fresh green smell of the foliage.

The base notes blend beautifully together. The spices are pretty subtle — definitely noticeable, but they don’t hit you over the head (or nose). Resins, tonka bean, and sandalwood provide warmth, and patchouli and oakmoss hum underneath. The drydown stage is where I think Arcadia smells most like a traditionally masculine fragrance, with the lavender still evident over those warm base notes. There’s a light dustiness to this stage, possibly from the oakmoss, that makes me think of motes of sunlight floating through the sunbeams that shine through Mr. Green’s Arcadian forest.

In fact, the whole fragrance makes me think of a particular forest: Ashdown Forest in England, famous not only for its woodland beauty but also as the landscape of Christopher Robin’s childhood idyll, the Hundred Acre Wood he shared with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Arcadia, indeed!

Sunlit woodland path in Ashdown Forest
Sunlight in Ashdown Forest, England; image from ashdownforest.com.

I’ve never been there, but I loved A.A. Milne’s books as a child; in fact, “Winnie-the-Pooh” was the first book I read by myself, shocking my parents at the age of four when I pointed to it and said, “I can wead that book.” And so I could, having taught myself to read, although I couldn’t pronounce Rs very well. One of my late mother’s cousins actually illustrated Christopher Milne’s memoir “The Path Through the Trees”.

I’m delighted with Mr. Green’s version of Arcadia and will put it on my “possible full bottle some day” list. Have you tried any of Hiram Green’s fragrances? Any favorites?

Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

Even days of December are when I alternate my Guerlain samples with other samples, and I’m trying to make sure I reach into the box that has mostly independent perfumers’ fragrance. In this challenging economy, it continues to be important to support the independent and small businesses that already had a tough time during the pandemic. Besides, the independent perfumers often create the most interesting and innovative fragrances that we love to try.

Today’s sample is Andy Tauer‘s L’Air des Alpes Suisses, inspired by the Swiss Alps and launched in 2019, and I’m just delighted. First, it’s a beautiful fragrance. Second, I was able to visit Zurich and some of its perfumeries in the “before times” and one of them was Suskind, a small perfumery that only sells niche fragrances. Apparently its owner was an early supporter of Andy Tauer (who is based in Zurich), who is very well-liked in the perfume community for his approachability as well as his undoubted talents. When I visited Suskind and asked to sample some Tauer perfumes, the sales assistant confirmed that he stops by sometimes, and how nice he is.

So back to my sample: L’Air des Alpes Suisses is 100% unisex. It may lean a little masculine for some, because it is aromatic and woody, which many associate with masculine fragrances. Here is M. Tauer’s description on his website:

HEAD NOTESThe HEAD notes are fresh like a breeze from treeless mountain summits: rough granite ground, the cool air from the glacier, and bitter alpine herbs.
HEART NOTESThe HEART notes are fresh, green with hints of spices. Floral delicacies such as the red Alpine lily bloom on lush meadows, powdery, spicy, green.
BODY NOTESThe BODY notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun. notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun.
L’Air des Alpes Suisses notes list, from the Tauer Perfumes website

Fragrantica lists these specific notes, in no particular order: ambergris, lavender, fir, pine needles, tonka bean, lily, lemon balm, orchid, birch, palisander rosewood, basil, thyme, nutmeg. As others have noted since its launch, L’Air des Alpes Suisses is basically a fougère, a classic fragrance structure that uses citrus, lavender, coumarin (tonka), and a mossy or woody base, often oakmoss. An aromatic fougère, like this one, will also include notes of spices and herbs.

To my nose, the lemon balm accord is taking the place of a more traditional “citrus” opening, accompanied by lavender, green herbs like basil and thyme; personally, I would list chamomile instead of basil. So the opening is very green but not like galbanum, more herbal and less bitter. There is no sweetness at all, but it’s very pleasant and refreshing. The middle phase is very intriguing, with the herbal accords mingling with the floral notes of lily and orchid, and a hint of evergreen forests. M. Tauer’s handling of the accords that evoke fir and pine needles is masterful. Needless to say, there is nothing that smells at all like the ubiquitous pine-scented cleaning liquids. Nutmeg brings a woody spiciness to the party.

As L’Air dries down, it does get woodier, which adds warmth, but I think the star of the show is ambergris. There’s an earthy warmth that blends harmoniously with the warm woods but is distinct from them. Having had the privilege of smelling actual ambergris (kept in a vault!), I think that is what my nose detects. The tonka (or coumarin) evokes dry hay, as one would find in a summer meadow.

As you may know, the Swiss Alps are home to amazing alpine meadows, with unique, unusual plants and flowers. A beloved summer tradition of hiking and walking along trails to see the meadows in bloom has persisted in Switzerland, despite its sophisticated, urbane modernity. Andy Tauer has perfectly captured the atmosphere of an alpine ramble surrounded by meadows and flowers and fringed by evergreen forests, starting at the summit and slowly descending. I think I would love this on my husband, because I quite like it on myself!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Scented Advent, December 3

Scented Advent, December 3

Well, what a pleasant surprise! The Guerlain sample I pulled out of my bag today was Cruel Gardénia, which hadn’t previously interested me much, although of course I knew it would be of the highest quality. I live in the Southeastern US, so I can and do grow gardenias in my garden. Billie Holiday famously wore gardenias in her hair when she performed. I love them as garden plants, and I love the fragrance of their flowers outside, but most “gardenia” fragrances don’t do much for me. Too artificial, too sweet, too narcotic. Cruel Gardénia is none of those, and I’m so glad the nice Guerlain sales assistant included it in my package of samples.

Top notes are peach, rose, and neroli. Heart notes are violet, ylang-ylang, and musk, combining to create an imagined gardenia. Base notes are tonka, musk, vanilla, and sandalwood. The opening has an alluring peachiness, supported by rose and brightened by neroli. The neroli also adds just a touch of bitter greenness, which cuts any tendency toward sweetness. As the top notes recede, the violet, ylang-ylang, and musk accords bring a pillowy, floral softness to the fore. The note I smell the most at this stage is the ylang-ylang, which I did not expect from a fragrance named for the gardenia. Here’s what the Guerlain website has to say:

Gardenia is a powerful, sensual white flower with fruity accents. Yet, paradoxically, it stays mute in the world of Perfumery, unable to offer up its fragrance through the traditional techniques of distillation or extraction. It must be written as an accord, as if composing a poem. For Cruel Gardénia, notes of rose, neroli, ylang ylang and peach recreate its trail.

How ironic, to claim that gardenias are mute, when they are so closely associated with one of the 20th century’s greatest voices!

Singer Billie Holiday with white gardenias in hair
Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, of course, had a tragic life in spite of her legendary artistry. But what a great beauty she was, with the white gardenias in her hair. She has been a perpetual figure of fascination, inspiring movies and plays based on her life.

Singer Billie Holiday with gardenias in her hair
Andra Day as Billie Holiday; image from vogue.com

I am so happy to have finally tried Cruel Gardénia. It is a warm, sensuous, musky floral that dries down to a warm, musky sandalwood tinged with tonka. My husband liked it too! It just goes to show you that we should keep trying even the fragrances that don’t initially draw us. Have you had that experience?

Scented Advent, December 2

Scented Advent, December 2

Today’s sample for Advent is Amberama, by 4160 Tuesdays. I’m really enjoying it! It comes in parfum strength, which I have sparingly sprayed on my wrists. Perfumer Sarah McCartney lists these notes on her website:

Top Notes: bergamot, black pepper

Heart Notes: raspberry, iris, sandalwood

Base Notes: amber, labdanum, woods, musks

I don’t get a lot of bergamot in the opening, just enough to convey a certain brightness, which suits Amberama. This is not a dark, moody, woody amber. It’s quite light for a fragrance that so clearly smells of amber, labdanum, and various woods including sandalwood. I think the raspberry accord keeps it bright and lively, while the iris softens its edges. Amber fragrances usually smell warm to me, like a cuddly cashmere throw over one’s shoulders. Amberama is still warm and cozy, but it is so light that to me it evokes one of those beautiful, lace-stitched mohair shawls that I’d love to learn how to knit.

Pale pink lace mohair shawl
Lace Mohair Wedding Shawl, pattern by Dana Young, image from Ravelry.

Knitting is one of those skills I yearn to master but doubt I ever will. I’ve tried, but I’m too much of a perfectionist and when my stitches don’t look right, I undo them and start over. Needless to say, I haven’t ever finished a knitting project! Maybe when I retire … (One of the many things I love about fragrance as a hobby is that I don’t have to master the skills myself — just learn to pay close attention to a fragrance and keep educating my nose, including by reading a lot.)

Sarah has also written a brief explanation of Amberama’s name: “We partly named it in honour of a certain 1980s girl group, as it’s got the characteristic 4160 Tuesdays raspberry heart, full of fruity fun (but absolutely no banana). Its unusual notes are black pepper on top and iris in the centre.”

Who else remembers Bananarama? Like the pop group, Amberama doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a light-hearted, youthful amber that dances on the skin, warm and sensual yet playful. Apparently it originated in a combination of two trials that were part of a project to create a woody amber scent for a client, then the combined fragrance proved popular. Although they are listed among the base notes, I smell the sandalwood, amber, and labdanum accords right from the start, albeit more faintly than later in the scent’s development. I really, really like the iris in the middle. And who knew that bergamot and black pepper would combine so nicely as an opening accord? It’s almost as if someone sprinkled pepper into their Earl Grey tea!

So what I get from Amberama is a warm, slightly spicy, bright opening, followed by a softer middle stage whose iris is kept from being melancholy by the cheerful raspberry accord and that continues to be warmed first by sandalwood and then by the growing presence of amber and labdanum. This isn’t a blue or purple iris, to my nose; it is pink, or peach, or apricot.

Peachy pink bearded iris
Iris “Pink Attraction”; image from gardenia.net

Really, this is a very charming, appealing scent that one could enjoy year-round. It’s already a great value at 127.50 GBP for 100 ml of parfum; go to 4160 Tuesdays’ Facebook page where you will read about their current upgrade offer through December 10 (e.g., buy 30 ml of any fragrance, get a 50 ml bottle; buy a 50 ml bottle, get 100 ml). I don’t have any affiliation with 4160 Tuesdays, nor do I get any compensation if you click through; I just want to support small independent perfumers and also alert readers here to a good deal.

Tomorrow I’ll take another random Guerlain sample out of my goodie bag and write about that! Please come back, and join in the comments!

Three pop singers from group Bananarama
Bananarama pop group; image from redferns.
Perfume Chat Room, September 23

Perfume Chat Room, September 23

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 23, and I am planning a trip to Las Vegas! My husband is going for work, and I will go with him. Vegas isn’t really my scene, and I’ve only been there once before, but I’m really looking forward to it — for three reasons. One, spending several days in a nice hotel with my nice husband is a treat in itself. Two, we have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show The Beatles Love, which we saw on my only prior trip and thought was fabulous. Three, I plan to visit the Guerlain boutique, which I’ve never done before!

Poster for the Cirque du Soleil show "The Beatles Love"
The Beatles Love; Cirque du Soleil.

One my last trip to Las Vegas, I hadn’t yet gone down the perfume rabbit-hole, so Guerlain wasn’t on my must-see list. When I did get interested in Guerlain fragrances, I used to be able to try them at a Guerlain counter at nearby department stores, but then Guerlain closed those. I’ve visited mini-boutiques in duty-free areas of airports. But this will be my first visit to an actual Guerlain Boutique, and I’ve heard that some of the new versions of the classic fragrances are big improvements over the prior reformulations.

So, fragrance friends, what do you recommend I try, and possibly buy??

Scent Semantics, July 4

Scent Semantics, July 4

Welcome to this month’s Scent Semantics! This word for July is “cornucopia”, which warms the cockles of my classicist’s heart (I majored in Classics at university, meaning in Classical Languages & Literature). In Greek and Roman mythology, the cornucopia was a “horn of plenty”, often portrayed nowadays as a basket shaped like a curving horn overflowing with fruits and flowers. It is a symbol of the harvest, frequently seen as a decorative item or symbol of the American Thanksgiving holiday. (Happy Fourth of July, by the way, to all who are celebrating it today).

The cornucopia was associated with a number of Greek or Roman deities, especially those associated with harvests or abundance. The most prominent (or familiar to us) of them was Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and harvest. Sister to Zeus, she was the mother of Persephone, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld. The myth tells that Demeter was so grief-stricken and spent so much time searching for her lost daughter, that she neglected her oversight of the fertile earth, and everything stopped growing, which resulted in the death of crops and ensuing famine. Zeus ordered Hades to return Persephone to earth and to her mother, but because she had eaten food while in the underworld, she was obliged to spend only half of each year above ground with her mother. During those months, the earth’s fertility flourished, producing an abundance of flowers, crops, and fruits.

Painting of classical nymphs filling cornucopia with fruits and flowers in a wood
Nymphs filling cornucopia; image from Mauritshuis, The Hague.

When Persephone had to return to Hades every year, renewing her mother’s grief, the growing season would end with harvest and the earth would be dormant through the winter until Persephone returned, in the spring, to Demeter.

And as many of you know, there is actually a fragrance house called “Demeter” Fragrance Library! From the brand’s website: “Demeter was conceived in 1996, with a unique and ever expanding perspective on fragrance.  The original mission was to capture the beautiful smells of the garden and nature in wearable form. The Demeter name itself was inspired by the Greek Goddess of Agriculture. The first three fragrances were DirtGrass and Tomato, and were sold in a few stores in NYC. Today, with fragrances from Baby Powder and Pure Soap to Gin & TonicPlay-DohVanilla Cake Batter and even Pizza, we have radically expanded our olfactory goals and geographic reach.  Not only can you now buy Demeter fragrances from Apple Blossom to Zombie, but you can buy them from New York to Beijing, and from Moscow to London.”

Demeter now makes over 300 fragrances, almost all of them linear re-creations of actual scents. They are not designed with that classical pyramid structure of top notes, middle or heart notes and base notes that many of have learned is fundamental to the perfumer’s art. They come in a cologne concentration as fragrance, but also as body lotions, shower gels, oils, etc. The company was founded by Christopher Gable and Christopher Brosius, the latter of whom has won numerous awards for his fragrances and went on to found another house, CB I Hate Perfume, after leaving Demeter in 2004.

Here is some of what Mr. Brosius wrote about Demeter’s beginnings:

I have always loved the smell of things – particularly growing things. I decided to try to capture some of these smells & my first real breakthrough was Dirt. One of my greatest pleasures was digging among the vegetables, herbs & flowers in my small garden on the farm. I loved the smell of the fresh clean earth and decided to bottle it. It was a far greater success than I’d ever dreamed & I suppose the rest is History.

So what does Dirt smell like? Easy. It smells like damp potting soil, but better! Potting soil itself smells quite nice, as it is a sterile mix of shredded sphagnum peat moss, bark, and minerals like vermiculite or perlite. When it’s damp, it gives off a lightly woody, dry, mossy scent. Many gardeners like myself love the smell, partly because opening that bag of potting soil is the prelude to a favorite activity, potting up a desired plant. As some of you know, I have a passion for David Austin’s English Roses, and I grow several varieties, mostly in large pots. This allows me to position them in the best spot for sun and also to give them the best soil I can, free from interference from other plants’ roots. I enrich the potting soil with organic plant food and the microbes that support healthy plant growth, and the roses do quite well!

So I’m very familiar with the smell of potting soil, which Dirt captures so well; but Dirt does smell better, more like something one would actually apply to skin. Like most of Demeter’s scents, it doesn’t last very long, but the whole point of Demeter’s fragrances is to use them as a “pick-me-up cologne.” They’re not supposed to last long, so caveat emptor — but they’re also very inexpensive, and they’re fun. There are so many of them that yes, the website is a veritable cornucopia of options such as Laundromat, Baby Shampoo, Cannabis Flower, Fireplace, even one that smells like those fuzzy yellow tennis balls. It is very entertaining to mix them, and Demeter encourages this by selling sets of “Blending Trios” and bottles in which to combine them.

What’s not to love, in a fragrance house that encourages one to play with its products? Have you tried any? Do you have any favorites? And remember to check out the Scent Semantics posts by my fellow bloggers?

Update on Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents

Update on Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents

As many of you know, perfumer Diane St. Clair first became known for making the country’s best butter, as determined (and bought) by the country’s best chefs. The New York Times just published a lovely article about how she has retired her dairy business by selling it to a local young couple of dairy farmers who want to follow in her footsteps: “America’s Most Luxurious Butter Lives to Churn Another Day.

What a happy “ending” to the dairy stage of Diane’s life! I look forward eagerly to her ongoing creation of fine artisan fragrances such as my personal faves so far, Gardener’s Glove and First Cut.

Diane St. Clair of St. Clair Scents sitting at perfumer's organ
Diane St. Clair of St. Clair Scents; image copyright Michael Heeney.