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.
Perfume Chat Room, March 4

Perfume Chat Room, March 4

Welcome back 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, March 4, and I am officially on spring break! The coming week is when the university where I work will not hold classes; most students and faculty will leave town; so I’m at liberty to take a week-long vacation. Hurray! To be honest, I feel the need for it quite acutely this year. Spring break was the week when everything changed in 2020 due to the pandemic. It’s hard to believe that two years have elapsed since then. I feel so lucky, though, that our family remained safe and healthy.

The war in Ukraine continues. As this is a fragrance blog, I’ve tried to learn more about perfumery in Ukraine. I found this article; and this perfumer, Oleksandr Perevertaylo, listed on Fragrantica with his house Partisan Perfumes. One of his creations, Coven, was very favorably reviewed and awarded three starts by Luca Turin in “Perfumes: The Guide 2018.”

There is always joy in discovering new talent, and Aleksandr [sic] Perevertaylo is definitely one, possessed with the perfumery equivalent of that elusive things writers hanker after, a voice. He composes perfumes in Dnipro, recently renamed (for only the eighth time since its foundation) from Dnepropetrovsk. Coven is his most classical fragrance, and a very solid piece of work it is, in a buttery-floral manner that puts me in mind of a denser version of Molyneux’s Vivre, long discontinued.

M. Turin also praised M. Perevertaylo’s Porto de Rosa, putting it alongside Tocade and Galop as “a rose that makes you reconsider set ideas about that supposedly familiar flower.” Silky Way and Sugar Daddy also earned three stars, and Silly Love earned four stars and the praise that it was “brilliant work.” I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of these, or the 2021 release Partisan, but I hope to do so one day. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin has also written about a favorite niche perfumery in Kyiv, Le Flacon; I hope its owners and staff are safe.

I have been dipping into a fascinating book that covers part of the history of Russian perfumery, “The Scent of Empires: Chanel No.5 and Red Moscow”, by Karl Schlogel. Now that I’m on vacation, I plan to read it more thoroughly.

Do you have any experience with, or insights into, perfume in Ukraine or Russia? Or do you have any favorite books about perfume, whether fact or fiction or reviews?

Flowering branch of yellow mimosa
Mimosa in bloom; in honor of International Women’s Day, March 8
Perfume Chat Room, February 25

Perfume Chat Room, February 25

Welcome back to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, February 25, and it is a somber day in Eastern Europe. Russian forces have invaded Ukraine. Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia and other former Soviet countries have taken to the streets. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians are fleeing west. Whatever one thinks of the geopolitics involved, one can surely feel for the residents of Ukraine whose lives have been turned upside-down. My heart goes out to them.

Some of you probably also read the wonderful blog Bois de Jasmin, written by Victoria Frolova. Although Victoria lives in Brussels, Belgium (where I spent part of my childhood), she is Ukrainian by birth, and she traces much of her love of fragrance back to her years of visiting family in Poltava. She has been my own little window into a part of the world I don’t know well; I pray that her family, friends, and their hometown remain unharmed.

Today is ex-Beatle George Harrison’s birthday, and in honor of that, the “community project” at Now Smell This is to pair a fragrance with a song by George Harrison or the Beatles. Robin thinks that was my idea at some point; I don’t remember suggesting it, but I’m happy to take credit! The clear choice for my SOTD is my beloved Ostara, the very fragrance of yellow daffodils, paired with one of my favorite songs by George Harrison, “Here Comes The Sun.”

Gibbs Gardens daffodils; song by the Beatles; copyright and credits here.

I recently watched the documentary “Get Back”, about the Beatles’ work on their album “Let It Be”, and it shows very clearly some of the tension among the Fab Four, but also the joy and fun they often had while working together. Sadly, it really does show how George was sometimes brushed aside as a songwriter and wrote many of his songs on his own, unlike the formidable Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership. Watching the documentary was like watching a marriage break up in slow motion. There was still so much love and affection, and many moments of laughter, but it seemed to me that John Lennon was clearly pulling away, Paul McCartney was like the partner who sees this long relationship ending, against his wishes, George was like the child whose needs are being overlooked because of the marital drama, and Ringo Starr was like the kid who’s just trying to make everyone happy by putting his head down and doing his job. At some point in this era, though not on film, Lennon apparently referred to his desire to leave the group as “wanting a divorce.”

“Here Comes The Sun”, released on the album “Abbey Road,” was written by George after a day spent in the sunny garden of his friend Eric Clapton. I have read that it is the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify, which is remarkable given their legendary output. I also have fond memories of it because it was my youngest child’s very favorite song of any when he was a little boy, which matched his sunny, happy disposition. Happy birthday, George, and thank you for helping to create the most memorable songs I recall from my childhood and beyond!

Hillside covered with daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Perfume Chat Room, February 18

Perfume Chat Room, February 18

Welcome back to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, February 18, and I am the happy recipient of a full bottle of Maison Lancome’s Peut-Etre, a Valentine’s “gift” from my lovely husband. I put “gift” in quotation marks because, like many of us, I chose and ordered the fragrance so HE could give it to ME. He is a patient, lovely man! He also surprised me with a beautiful orchid plant; I made him a fancy dinner that included filet mignon and an excellent bottle of red wine. This may be the first Valentine’s Day we’ve had alone together since becoming parents. In 2020, we still had one child living at home; and in 2021, we had all three children living at home due to the pandemic!

Today, though, I’m wearing Maison Christian Dior’s Jasmin des Anges, from a decant that came in my monthly scent subscription. It’s really pretty! I’m a bit cautious around white flower scents, but this one is light and lovely. It has notes of peach, apricot, and osmanthus with the jasmine, which keep it fresh and airy. It reminds me a bit of a light white wine, even prosecco, but more floral.

The name of the fragrance reminded me that there is a lovely tropical jasmine called “Angel Wings jasmine”, or Jasminum nitidum, which then reminded me of this wonderful art project called the Global Angel Wings Project, by Colette Miller. She started it in Los Angeles, the “City of Angels”, with a street mural of painted angel wings, where passers-by could pose in front as if they themselves had sprouted wings. She has now painted angel wings all around the globe.

Painting of angel wings above water
Angel wings, by artist Colette Miller, for her Global Angel Wings Project.

How do you react to jasmine fragrances? Do you have any favorites?

Scented Advent, December 24

Scented Advent, December 24

Happy Christmas Eve! Today is the last day of Advent, the period when Christians await the coming of the newborn Jesus on Christmas Day, so it is also the last day of my scented Advent calendar posts. I’ve had so much fun doing this! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along; thanks for joining me on this journey. Major thanks especially to the lovely reader and active perfumista who sent me the samples that I’ve used to fill my DIY fragrance Advent calendar!

My Advent SOTD is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ French Linden Blossom. Normally I would say that it is seasonally out of sync, as it is such a spring-like fragrance, but today dawned as a sunny day with temperatures expected to reach into the 60s. Quite balmy for Christmas Eve! However, not that unusual here in the Southeastern US, where people garden, and play sports like golf and tennis, through the whole winter.

Linden blossom is the blossom of “lime trees”, sometimes called “French Lime”. It’s not a scent I know in real life; in my area, when I encounter real citrus trees and their blooms, they are always orange or lemon trees, to be grown in pots that can be moved indoors (our weather is pretty balmy for wintertime, but not so balmy that the more tropical citrus trees can stay outside year-round). Update: some of my readers have clarified that the “lime trees” that are also called “linden” are not related to the limes that produce citrus. There is an excellent article about LINDEN trees here: “What Is Drifting In The Breeze?“. Thanks for the help, commenters!

Flower of linden or lime tree
Linden Blossom; image from selfsufficientish.com

All share the quality of having a light, white floral scent, and that is what I get from French Linden Blossom. When I first sprayed it, I got a hint of cucumber or melon, which surprised me until I read this on DSH Perfumes’ website: “An ethereal, almost cucumber-like floral note with sweet honey-melon nuances.” Bingo!

I’ve written before about cucumber/melon accords in fragrance: Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Après La Mousson. Apparently they often come from the aromachemical Melonal, so I’m sure that (or something similar) is present in French Linden Blossom. The citrus notes in UJALM are said to include lime, but that refers to the citrus fruit, not the flowers and not linden. The DSH Perfumes website refers to French Linden Blossom as an accord, and that seems right to my nose — it is pretty linear. To my nose, it smells more greenish white. It’s very pleasant, but I think I would like it better in really warm weather like late spring or summer. As it dries down, it gets a bit soapy, also very pleasantly. It is a fresh, clean fragrance that one could wear anywhere. I do think it is more casual than one might choose for an evening out or special occasion, but it’s a great scent to just spritz on in the morning as a casual fragrance.

I’m very happy that my final “Scented Advent” post can focus on an independent artisan perfumer like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz! The last two years have been very hard on many small businesses and it’s important to support the perfume artists we love, who continually advance the limits of fragrance art. One way to do that is to buy directly from their websites, and right now one can use a 20% off code on Dawn’s website, light20, which I think is good through the end of December. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan!

Do you have a favorite linden blossom fragrance? And for those who celebrate them, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas! I’ll be in the kitchen, in my garden, and at church today. All our kids are home, and all’s right with the world, at least our tiny part of it. May this Christmas season usher in a time of happiness, health, peace, and goodwill for all.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from metmuseum.org

Sagan Dalya by Maher Olfactive: Fresh, Rich and Resinous

Sometimes, when you smell a material for the first time, everything just clicks. When I first opened the bottle of Siberian rhododendron essential …

Sagan Dalya by Maher Olfactive: Fresh, Rich and Resinous

Coincidentally, today I am wearing Santal Auster by Shawn Maher. This new creation sounds gorgeous and just the thing for cooler weather! It is so interesting to read about his creative process, inspired by natural materials. Perfumery really is like alchemy, isn’t it?

Perfume Chat Room, September 17

Perfume Chat Room, September 17

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 17, and we have had several days of birthdays in this household! Mine was at the start of the month and my husband’s was last week, so we’ve had serial and shared celebrations with our kids. And yes, a few new fragrances snuck into the house. The highlight of the shared celebrations was our family trip to see the musical Hamilton, a long-delayed Christmas gift from December 2019. We had seen it once before, all but my son, and it was just as enthralling the second time. My son was blown away by it. This was the first live performance any of us had attended since March 2020, which added to its impact. We also went out for a fancy family dinner on a different night, given that Hamilton was an entire evening unto itself. We tried a new Italian restaurant nearby, and it was terrific! Again, our perceptions may have been enhanced by how long it has been since we really went out to dinner, but we loved this place and will go back.

The birthday fragrances I received (bought for myself on behalf of my family, lol!) were: Jean Louis Scherrer, Mont de Narcisse, Choeur des Anges, and Crepuscule des Ames. A dear friend surprised me with a lovely gift of body lotion and soap from Lili Bermuda, which she recently visited, in my favorite Lily. It’s very difficult to find gifts for my husband because 1) he actually doesn’t want much; and 2) if he does want something for himself, which is rare, he’ll often just get it. But this year, I was able to surprise him with a bottle of a new botanical gin, which we’ll enjoy (slowly) together. We started down this road a few years ago when we discovered Hendricks. Given how rarely we drink cocktails or hard liquor, I expect this bottle will be with us for a long time!

Do you have your eye on any upcoming birthday fragrances? Or have you recently received any?

Perfume Chat Room, August 6

Perfume Chat Room, August 6

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, August 6, and I am SO READY for the weekend! Even though I had a short work week, I was in my office for three straight full workdays, and I had forgotten how tiring that is. I have to conserve some energy, as our oldest daughter is moving back out this weekend, after having lived at home for the past year because of COVID. She started a great new job earlier this week, and she will be sharing a small rented house with two friends. It’s very exciting! Our second daughter moved out last month, to share an apartment with her bestie from high school. So our chickadees are re-launching! We’re very proud of their perseverance during the past year of challenges.

And now that their belongings will be out of our house, we will finally repaint the several rooms that were damaged and had to be replastered after last fall’s plumbing disaster, including their bedrooms. That is supposed to start next week, and I’m really pleased with the paint colors I’ve chosen. About half will be the same, and half will be variations on the original colors. We’re splurging on doing the living room in a gorgeous dark red from Farrow & Ball, and I’m finally changing our dining room walls from a light taupe to a more greenish neutral, to go better with the William Morris rug in that room. I will rearrange the art we had on the walls in those rooms, and hang more art in the bedrooms, since I have several pieces from my late mother’s house that I hadn’t yet hung. Our youngest (the only boy) will finally get to move into the largest kids’ bedroom, which makes him very happy.

Speaking of happiness, today’s Community Project over at “Now Smell This” is to wear a fragrance that evokes happiness, however you choose to interpret that. I’m wearing Blyss, from Perfumology, the independent perfumery in Philadelphia, PA. It comes in parfum strength, and Perfumology has a discovery set that includes Blyss and three other fragrances commissioned by owner Nir Guy. The set is currently sold out; I hope it gets re-stocked soon!

Have you tried any of the Perfumology scents? What is currently making you happy?