Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

The last several months I have contacted many people who had written to me in Jan/Feb to request bottles. I’ve filled about as many of those requests as I can with what I had in stock (minus a few people that I couldn’t reach via email). I’m now listing the few remaining bottles here. These bottles have […]

via Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

If you always wanted some fragrances from Sonoma Scent Studio, this is your last chance! Award-winning perfumer Laurie Erickson is retiring from the perfume business and may have a buyer for Sonoma Scent Studio. She has a small number of bottles of her fragrance creations still available for purchase. I’m sad to see such a gifted artisan perfumer leave the scene but I am confident Laurie will flourish in her next phase.

Independent Perfumery: Growth in an Increasingly Consolidated Market~ Seven Indies Speak Out!

CaFleureBon has published a fascinating piece with thoughts from seven independent perfumers on their position in a consolidating fragrance marketplace; it is well worth reading.

In any industry’s “ecosystem”, there will be a range of products and services from mass market to high-end artisan work. (I’ve been introduced to the series “Chef’s Table” and am stunned by the artistry that these chefs put into their food creations and restaurants). “High-end” often, but not always, means very expensive, which always limits the market for that product or service to those who can afford it.

Artisan chefs on Netflix series Chef's Table

Chef’s Table; image from http://www.netflix.com

What I dislike is when a large investor takes over a fragrance brand and amps up the hype, the marketing, and often the price, while watering down the original quality with cheaper ingredients to the point where it really isn’t the same fragrance. I appreciate the instances when a large company seems to have extended the reach of a formerly independent brand while providing its creatives with the stability and access to quality ingredients that allow them to extend their imaginations and vision, and reach more customers. It seems as if today’s independent perfumers may be more savvy about how to get that deal if they want it. I appreciate, too, when a large company has given its perfumers the resources and permission to update classic fragrances with respect and care, and without cutting corners.

I also really appreciate the vital role of independent perfumeries and retailers, which connect perfumers and customers as curated points of sale and information.. They too are small businesses with many of the same challenges, and yet they have an appeal that no department store will ever have, and a level of service and knowledge that you won’t find in most department stores or brand boutiques. I rely on online sellers of fragrance, including some of the perfumers’ own websites and online stores, to get access to these smaller brands that would otherwise be unattainable to most of us. This is how I have been able to buy fragrances by Laboratorio Olfattivo, Papillon, Parfums de Rosine, PK Perfumes, Solstice Scents, Sonoma Scent Studio, and others.

Scent bar retail store in Los Angeles, home of luckyscent.com online fragrance retailer

Scent Bar, Los Angeles

The internet and blogs like CaFleureBon have been such a gift to perfumers, perfumeries, and fans of perfume! We have been able to find and connect with each other in ways that would have been impossible thirty years ago. It is now possible for someone who lives in any area far from high-end retailers and trade shows to get access to these unique fragrance creations. And for that, all perfumistas should be grateful.

Source: Independent Perfumery: Growth in an Increasingly Consolidated Market~ Seven Indies Speak Out!

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Diane St. Clair is a dairy farmer and artisan maker of butter so good that she supplies it to the legendary French Laundry restaurant, among others. She is also now an artisan perfumer, having launched her first three scents earlier this year under the name St. Clair Scents. I’ve already written about Gardener’s Glove; today, I’ll take a look (or sniff!) at First Cut.

The name refers to the first mowing of a hayfield, in late summer. This is an important time at a dairy farm, as the mown hay will provide fodder for the cows during the winter. Here is the description of First Cut from St. Clair Scents’ website:

The hay harvest is the focus of every dairy farmer’s summer, keeping the fields regenerating and providing hay for the cows in winter.

The mowing and drying of native grasses, clovers, wild flowers, and legumes takes three days of sunshine and many hours of hard work.

This scent is of meadows, herbaceous and green, with wild flowers strewn throughout and splashed with radiant sunshine.

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute
  • Middle Notes: Lavender Absolute, Rose De Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute
  • Base Notes: Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute

The opening is strong and appealing — so much so, that my husband suddenly asked, after I had dabbed some on my wrist, “What smells so good?” The bergamot and yuzu really pop. I don’t normally like yuzu in fragrance, but here it really works, as it is dominated by the bergamot I prefer, and accompanied by the herbal notes of rosemary, basil, and tomato leaf. I can’t really pick out the rosemary and basil separately, but all the top notes blend harmoniously into a bright, herbal announcement that something special has arrived.

Kafkaesque offers her usual in-depth, insightful analysis, noting that First Cut merges aspects of both a traditional “fougere” fragrance and a “chypre”. As fougere scents more traditionally appear in men’s fragrances, I’m not as familiar with them, so I’ll share some of what I have learned. Most notably, the classic fougere includes a strong presence of lavender combined with oakmoss and coumarin, the latter widely considered to evoke the scent of sweet hay. And no wonder, based on this information from Fragrantica:

Coumarin … is a synthesized material in most perfumes, but it’s also found in abundance in natural products, such as tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata) where it is the principle aromatic constituent (1-3%). In fact the name derives from “cumaru”, an Amazonian dialect name for the Tonka bean tree. But that’s not all: apart from tonka beans, coumarin also occurs naturally in “vanilla grass” (Anthoxanthum odoratum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet clover (Meliotus L.), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) among other species.

First Cut is all about hay, and there among the base notes is “hay absolute”, so we see the relationship to a classic fougere, together with the traditional lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco notes. Unlike a traditional fougere, though, here the lavender is clearly present but not dominant, which I prefer.

In my review of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove, I described the meadow that bordered my father’s vegetable garden, the garden that Gardener’s Glove evoked for me. First Cut evokes that meadow and the same sense of a French potager, an enclosed garden that includes vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs. This potager, however, is not in New England but in the South of France, with its classic Mediterranean notes of lavender, rosemary, basil, rose de Mai, and citruses. It is on a farm, bordered by hay meadows and lavender fields which figure as much in this fragrance as the kitchen garden.

Filed of lavender and hay meadow on French farm in Provence

Lavender field in Provence; image from https://birdshooter.smugmug.com/

One of the many interesting things about First Cut is that it dries down in a way that mimics the maturing of a hayfield! The initial phase is very fresh, herbal and green, especially with those green herbs and tomato leaf absolute, like the fresh greenness of early summer. The middle stage is more floral, but in the way that midsummer clover is “floral”, nothing like the Big White Flowers. I think it is the immortelle that starts making the fragrance feel drier, as the middle stage leads into a base of dry tobacco, dry hay, dry oakmoss (and vanilla, which adds the creaminess and sweetness that Kafkaesque noted, and balances the dry notes). I love this creative progression and how it summons up the months from early summer through the peak of summer, ending with the late summer hay harvest known as the “first cut.” Brilliant! Even the lingering sweetness in the base is reminiscent of late summer honey from bees that have gorged on meadow flowers. I wonder if Diane St. Clair keeps honeybees?

Wooden beehives in multi-colored wildflower meadow.

Beehives in wildflower meadow; image from http://www.apiplanet.lt.

I like First Cut very, very much — and if you are a man, or have a man in your life, who loves fougeres, try this!  So far, of the two St. Clair Scents I have really tested, my heart still belongs to Gardener’s Glove, but First Cut is beautiful, pleasing, and clever all at once. As the late great perfumer Guy Robert is said to have told many people:  “Un parfum doit avant tout sent bon (A perfume must above all smell good).” First Cut smells very, very good.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; opinions are my own.

Welcome Back APJ

Welcome Back APJ

They’re ba-a-a-a-ck! Australian Perfume Junkies has been able to rebuild a new WordPress site — so happy to see them active again! Please follow them again, they lost all followers and subscribers and have to start over.

Australian Perfume Junkies

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Portia

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Hi there APJ lovers,

We are back from the dead. Welcome to the New APJ!

Welcome Back APJ

We are finally back in business. Thank you to the people who have worked and helped and recreated this wonderful meeting place for fumies, fragrance lovers and perfumistas from around the world. Belinda,  Alex and Undina (from Undina’s Looking Glass) all gave time, insight, knowledge and muscle to get us back. Thank you.

It will take some time to get back into our groove and we hope you will bear with us as we implement some change.

Please tell everyone you know that APJ is up again because we lost all our Followers and Subscribers in the hack & changeover. We are really starting again from scratch.

So yes, we will be back to the perfumed chatter ASAP.

We have missed you all.
Portia and the APJ Team

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Perfumes: The Guide 2018 Is Here!

Perfumes: The Guide 2018 Is Here!

I and many others were sent down this rabbit-hole of perfumery by the book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide“, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, published in 2008. Its detail, humor, insights, and shared knowledge about fragrance and specific perfumes made it irresistible, even when they panned a perfume you liked. Many of us have been longing for a new edition, beyond the updated paperback that did add dozens of reviews to the original. Reader, that new edition is here!

Perfumes The Guide 2018 was digitally published this week and can be bought RIGHT NOW on Amazon.com, in Kindle e-book format. “Buy now with 1-Click”? Done! And if you click on the link at the start of this paragraph, you will be taken to a free preview sample of the book. Enjoy!

According to Amazon, the 2018 guide “includes all new content, including
– “Ten Years Later,” looking back on the last decade of fragrance
– “The Shifting Shape of Fragrance 1918–2018”
– all new FAQ
– over 1,200 individual reviews: masculine and feminine, mainstream and arcane, from the latest Guerlains to a 5-star masterpiece by a small Malaysian firm
– an expanded glossary
– top 10 lists, this time including not just masculines and feminines but introverts and extroverts, the best retro, citrus, oud, and more.”

I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. Reading may take precedence over the many gardening chores on my list …

adult beautiful blue eyes book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

By now, regular readers know that I am a committed gardener as well as a lover of fragrance. One probably led to the other, as I favor scents with green, floral, or woody notes. I’ve had to educate myself about genres like gourmands, and they’re still not at the top of my list although I now know more of them. So many of my earliest memories involve the gardens of the houses where my family has lived, and the surrounding New England woods where my sisters and I played for hours. There were the small wildflower garden by the stream that ran through the back yard of the house where I spent my first seven years of life, and the bulbs my parents planted, and my father’s large vegetable garden. A large patch of lilies of the valley spread in the shade against one side of that first house. My American grandparents’ house had a small garden crammed with azaleas and dogwoods, and they owned a nearby plot that was my grandfather’s extensive vegetable garden, which provided bushels of food for them and others during the Great Depression. My grandmother was something of a “grande dame” of the local garden club and prided herself on her flower arranging, so there was also a cutting garden for the flowers she loved.

Later in my own childhood, at another house, there was a wide meadow between our house and that of the famous architect who sold my parents several acres of his woodland on which to build. There, my father’s vegetable gardening became more ambitious, as he fenced about 100 square feet against the predations of deer and woodchucks. I was his reluctant helpmeet in the vegetable patch, the obedient middle child who didn’t vanish when he headed outside, or who could be easily found reading a book in a tree (aka, “doing nothing”). So I learned to weed, pick beans that were ready, take up ripe tomatoes before the squirrels got them, pick raspberries without my hands getting shredded by thorns, and cut the gladioli my dad loved to plant along the edges of his beds when their buds were half open, so they could finish unfurling their parasols of bright colors indoors, in one of my mother’s vases. One year, I even had a little corner of my own in that garden, to grow herbs, after I became entranced with the idea from reading the books of Elizabeth Goudge, especially The White Witch.  The main character is an herbalist and healer, and the book has many descriptions of various herbs, their uses, and their fragrance. I took my blogger name and the name of my gardening blog from another book that inspired my love of gardening when I was a child: Old Herbaceous.

Illustration of vegetable garden

Vegetable garden; image from http://www.sitez.co

The meadow itself was full of native wildflowers like butterfly weed, which my father nurtured with a passion. Past the enclosed vegetable garden, a single pathway through the meadow was kept mowed, and it was the shortcut to the woods for us and other children, as well as the deer who gazed longingly through the enclosure at my father’s lettuces and other green delicacies. The rest of the meadow was mowed once a year, and only after the wildflowers’ seeds had ripened. This late summer mowing, which removes competing tree saplings and also helps spread the seeds, is also known in England as “the hay cut.” It was essential for a meadow like this, as the surrounding woods, including the native northern white cedar, did their best to encroach stealthily and steadily within its bounds.

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed in Connecticut

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed; image from www.vimeo.com

Gardener’s Glove evokes all of these memories, starting with its top note of tomato leaf absolute, a favorite of mine. As Diane St. Clair’s website for St. Clair Scents observes:

If you work amidst the thorn and bramble, you know that the gardener’s glove is a soft, pliable leather, worn down from work, in all the right places.

The scent carries the background fragrance of the glove—tanned, aged leather, woods and soil—along with the ambrosial elements of the garden—sumptuous jasmines, roses, green blossoms and ripe fruit.

Gardeners Glove artisanal fragrance by St. Clair Scents

Gardeners Glove, from St. Clair Scents; image from http://www.stclairscents.com

If you haven’t yet discovered St. Clair Scents, you are in for a treat. The scents are a small group (three, to date) of handcrafted artisanal fragrances made by Diane, who is a premier artisan of dairy products at her farm in Vermont. Diane became intrigued with perfume and embarked on a course of study with her mentor Eliza Douglas. These three fragrances are the result. Diane was kind enough to exchange a few emails with me, in which she said:

I am really trying to position myself as someone producing perfumes with the aroma and feel of nature, a sense (scents) of place, if you will, since I am lucky enough to live and work on a farm. I also try to give my scents a vintage feel, from the days when naturals made up the bulk of perfume formulas, rather than synthetics.

On the St. Clair Scents website, Diane writes:

As I have done in making artisanal, farmstead food, I am interested in creating scent in a similar fashion: producing it with an individual vision and in small batches using fine ingredients. My perfumes are bottled by hand, each one a work of art on its own.

And Gardener’s Glove is indeed a work of art. It opens with a bright, sunny, green burst of citrus (including bergamot, which smells green to me), tomato leaf, and galbanum. It smells like the sun on a vegetable garden, verdant with tomato plants and herbs. As it evolves, the floral notes emerge — linden, rose, lily, jasmine — but also more greenery, in the form of blackcurrant bud, and fruit via apricot. So this vegetable garden, like my father’s, includes flowers; it also has some flowering fruit trees, bushes, and vines, like a true French “potager”. If you’ve ever smelled a fresh, ripe apricot, warmed by the sun and just plucked, you will recognize the note, as light as it is here. A hint of roses in sunlight, a waft of jasmine, perhaps twining its way up a fence or a post, a breath of lilies, round out the heart. Those floral notes together with the linden also leave a strong impression of sweet honeysuckle.

The greenness continues into the drydown, with vetiver, patchouli, and fir needle, now mixing with the warmth lent by saffron and amber notes, but on my skin the dominant theme of the base is the soft, fragrant leather of a well-worn gardener’s glove. If you garden, you know that there is that one favorite pair of gloves, often leather or part leather, that just fits right, has worn well, is sturdy enough for any job. Such gloves often pick up the various scents of the garden: pruned clippings of green leaves and grass, juice from harvested fruits, fragrant blossoms trimmed from their stems and gathered for the house, sap  and resin from shrubs and tree branches, dark, fertile earth, well-aged compost; and those scents mingle with the softened leather of one’s favorite gloves.

Part leather garden gloves used to prune roses

Garden gloves; photo from http://www.nocry.com

That is what Gardener’s Glove smells like — heaven! Some of my favorite fragrance blogs have reviewed Gardener’s Glove very favorably. I especially liked this comment by Sam at “I Scent You A Day”:

Gardener’s Glove takes you on a tour of a garden: a true gardener’s garden, earth, twigs, leaves and all. It’s a wonderfully clever fragrance that reveals itself leaf by leaf.

Sam also pointed out that the fragrance contains “everything sappy, sharp and green that you can find in the garden”. Yes! Yes it does! And I love it. Kafkaesque, whom Diane consulted in the last stages of the scent’s development, offers her usual detailed description, and I agree with almost all of it, except that I don’t get the medicinal note that bothered her. Jessica, at “Now Smell This”, called Gardener’s Glove “a leathery floral, with a leather that’s soft and smooth rather than animalic or dirtied-up”, while acknowledging the earthiness brought by notes like vetiver and castoreum. Robert Hermann wrote, at “CaFleureBon”, that Gardener’s Glove “is a flat out masterpiece of a fragrance; a perfect marriage of the best of vintage perfumes shot through with a modern sensibility.”

I have to agree. I don’t think I’m qualified to say what fragrance is or isn’t a masterpiece, but Gardener’s Glove is wonderful, and a worthy companion to my beloved Dryad, with which it shares a number of notes, by another artisanal perfumer, Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. If Dryad is the wild woodland sprite, Gardener’s Glove is her more domesticated neighbor in the meadow adjoining the woods. I love them both.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; views expressed are my own.

May Muguet Marathon: Queen

May Muguet Marathon: Queen

For such a modest looking plant, lily of the valley keeps some surprises up its green sleeves. For one thing, the power of its fragrance is surprising; its flowers are so small, often partly hidden behind its upright green leaves, that one wouldn’t necessarily expect them to send out such a strong scent. But they do, and it can waft across an entire garden, surprising the casual visitor with its presence, and not necessarily revealing its source without a search. The “pips” of the plant are unprepossessing; they look like a small bundle of tangled roots topped by a growing tip. One plants them in the faith that a green plant will emerge — and when it does emerge in the spring, it can do so overnight.

Town & Country magazine published some surprising facts about lilies of the valley a couple of years ago: 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Lily of the Valley. With another royal wedding in the offing this month, it is fun to note how many royal brides have carried lilies of the valley in their wedding bouquets: Queen Victoria, Princess Astrid of Sweden, Grace Kelly, and Kate Middleton, among others.

But here is the most surprising thing I learned from the Town & Country article: Freddie Mercury and Queen wrote and recorded a song titled “Lily of the Valley”! Who knew?

And there is a powerful story behind the song. Guitarist Brian May, a founder of Queen, told a British music magazine in 1999 (several years after Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS): “Freddie’s stuff was so heavily cloaked, lyrically… But you could find out, just from little insights, that a lot of his private thoughts were in there, although a lot of the more meaningful stuff was not very accessible. Lily of the Valley was utterly heartfelt. It’s about looking at his girlfriend and realising that his body needed to be somewhere else. It’s a great piece of art, but it’s the last song that would ever be a hit.”

According to Wikipedia, that girlfriend was Mary Austin, to whom May had introduced him and with whom Mercury had a long live-in relationship in the early 1970s, until he began an affair with a male executive in the music industry.

Mercury told Austin of his sexuality, which ended their romantic relationship.[59][78] Mercury moved out of the flat they shared, into 12 Stafford Terrace in Kensington and bought Austin a place of her own nearby.[59] They remained close friends through the years, with Mercury often referring to her as his only true friend. In a 1985 interview, Mercury said of Austin, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary [Austin], but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”[79] He also wrote several songs about Austin, the most notable of which is “Love of My Life“. Mercury’s final home, Garden Lodge, 1 Logan Place, a twenty-eight room Georgian mansion in Kensington set in a quarter-acre manicured garden surrounded by a high brick wall, had been picked out by Austin.[80] In his will, Mercury left his London home to Austin, rather than his partner Jim Hutton, saying to her, “You would have been my wife, and it would have been yours anyway.”[81] Mercury was also the godfather of Austin’s oldest son, Richard.[60]

The song “Lily of the Valley” has been recorded by other artists. Why the title “Lily of the Valley”? No one knows for sure, but one wonders if Mercury had in mind one of several other names for the flower, Mary’s Tears. Regardless, this surprising flower with its secrets seems like an appropriate metaphor for the dilemma of a sensitive, loving man, realizing what his true orientation was and struggling with how to tell a woman he clearly loved deeply Although at one point he had proposed marriage to Mary, they never married because he was honest with her about his sexuality. The flowers of lily of the valley seem to have had ongoing meaning to him; when he and actress Jane Seymour had a pretend “wedding” at Royal Albert Hall at the fundraiser Fashion Aid, she wore lilies of the valley in her wreath of flowers, like so many other queens and queens-to-be.

Queen's Freddie Mercury and Jane Seymour at Fashion Aid, 1985.

Freddie Mercury and Jane Seymour at Fashion Aid, 1985.

Featured image: Freddie Mercury and actress Jane Seymour, pretend wedding at Fashion Aid in 1985; photo from http://www.imgur.com.