Perfume Chat Room, November 11

Perfume Chat Room, November 11

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, November 11, the day on which many Western countries mark Veterans’ Day and Armistice Day (it is Remembrance Day in Canada). The commemoration began after WWI ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, with the declaration of peace. After WWII, the name was changed in the US to Veterans’ Day to honor all who have served in the military. Unlike Memorial Day, which is dedicated to honoring the dead and whose date changes every year, Veterans’ Day honors the living and is always celebrated on November 11.

What fragrance to wear on such a day? I chose Jean Patou’s L’Heure Attendue, translated as “the long-awaited hour”, which was launched in 1946. Elena Vosnaki wrote a wonderful piece about it and other post-war legendary fragrances here: “The Senses on Alert: The Smell of War.” The impulse to celebrate and create beauty when long-awaited peace arrives goes deep. My favorite commemoration of Armistice Day was the art installation of hundreds of thousands of red poppies at the Tower of London in 2014.

Installation of 900,000 red poppies at Tower of London to commemorate World War I
World War I memorial ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’; poppies at Tower of London, 2014; image from TimeOut London.

It is such a poignant reminder of the lives lost, just in Britain, during that dreadful conflict. Both of my grandfathers served during World War I, thankfully not in the horrendous trenches of Europe. My English grandfather was a midshipman in the Royal Navy; my American grandfather served in the U.S. Army at the Mexican border, during the Border War between Mexico and the US.

While I deplore war in all its forms, and I am praying for peace in Ukraine and elsewhere, I am grateful for the service and sacrifice of so many.

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??

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 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?

Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Perfume Chat Room, July 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, July 23, and it is my late parents’ wedding anniversary. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have read this post before, My Mother’s Last Perfume, in which I wrote a bit about their long, but not always happy, marriage. Nevertheless, I honor this day because without it, my sisters and I wouldn’t exist! And because my parents made the effort to stay married until the ends of their lives and, in their own ways, they cared for each other. Their happiest times were when they traveled together, which they loved to do; and I too love to travel with my husband, though my marriage is a much more content one than my parents’, I think.

I also have some excitement to share — I’ve been asked by an accomplished playwright in my city to collaborate with her and a composer to create a “fragrance score” for a new experimental musical they are writing! I had taken part in a playwriting group she led over several weeks, pre-pandemic, and we had talked about how fragrance could and should be used more in theater. This is such an interesting creative project, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I will be the creative director for the fragrances, of course, not the actual perfumer. We are applying for a grant to develop the production, so I hope to include in the budget some modest funds to commission some scents from a perfumer eventually. For now, I think we’ll be able to use existing scents.

What are your thoughts on combining fragrance with other arts? I love reading about Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ collaborations with the Denver Art Museum. And the ways actors can use fragrance for their own performances are also fascinating: How Performers Use Perfume.

May Melange Marathon: White Peacock Lily

May Melange Marathon: White Peacock Lily

D.S. & Durga is a niche brand I haven’t experienced very much, partly because of their price point (high, even for samples). But when I had an opportunity to buy a reasonably priced decant of White Peacock Lily, I jumped at it, because it sounded so intriguing when it was launched in 2016. It is indeed a very lovely lily-focused fragrance. Its notes include: Top notes of Oleander, Cabreuva Rouge, and Grapefruit Pith; middle notes of White Lily, Egyptian Jasmine, Cream and “Alabaster Violet” (which I assume means white violet); base notes of Ambrette (Musk Mallow), Vanilla, and Fog. The perfumer, D.S. of D.S. & Durga, also mentions on the website that it has notes of bergamot, melon, and rose Otto.

One thing I like about the brand’s website is that each fragrance comes with detailed “liner notes”, describing the inspiration for it, with references to literature, music, etc. The liner notes for White Peacock Lily state:

The piece that inspired this perfume is called “The White Peacock” by Fiona Macleod — a Scottish woman famous throughout the highlands for her dreamy works—and set to music by Griffes. It is one of the few tone poems based on an actual poem. The music, scored for a small orchestra, takes direction from the words. Mercurial/magic harps, winding strings, quirky brass horns, and the comical buzz of clarinets describe the beautifully soft language: “cliffs of basalt, fronds of cactus, where the bulbul singeth, cream-white poppies.” In Griffes music, the listener can hear the cream white poppies, the sweeping seas of flowers, and most important the silent noble glide of the grand bird that floats above the fields of flowers.

The composer mentioned is unfamiliar to me: Charles Tomlinson Griffes. Sadly, he died of pneumonia at the age of 35, at the outset of a very promising career, in 1920 at the height of the last century’s global pandemic, influenza. Apparently one of a few of his works that are still performed is “The White Peacock”, inspiration for today’s “May Melange Marathon” fragrance.

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May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

Happy May Day, and welcome to the May Melange Marathon! In previous years, I have written blogging marathons in the month of May, celebrating the lovely lily of the valley in a “May Muguet Marathon“, and my beloved roses in a “Roses de Mai Marathon.” This year, I wanted to write about a number of the green fragrances I love, but I didn’t think I had enough to post about one daily for 31 days. Also, I have some new (to me) muguet and rose fragrances. So the solution is to go with the theme of “April showers bring May flowers” and write about a melange of scents that evoke different aspects of a garden, with a mix of florals and greens.

First up: Christian Dior’s La Colle Noire. Launched in 2016, it is named for the Provence estate of designer Christian Dior, outside the legendary perfume city of Grasse. One of the reasons that Grasse became so important in perfumery is the abundance and quality of the roses that are grown there for their essential oil, especially the “Rose de Mai”, or centifolia rose, also known as the Provence rose. Perfumer Francois Demachy wrote of La Colle Noire:

“In the springtime, the Centifolia Rose takes over the garden of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s beloved home in the Grasse region. It is an extraordinary time, when the flower’s plump, honeyed and fruity scent lingers in the air. This fragrance is an ode to that magical place and the unique rose that grows in the land of my childhood.”

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Fleeting — Scents in Colour

Fleeting — Scents in Colour

One of my favorite fragrance blogs, Now Smell This, posted a brief mention of an upcoming art exhibit at the Mauritshuis museum in Holland. It is called “Fleeting — Scents in Colour”, and it will pair artworks with the imagined scents of what is portrayed. Apparently, some of those scents will be pleasant, and others — not so much. But what a great idea!

I think fragrance is under-utilized as a partner to other arts, but I understand why — it is hard to use in live performance spaces, for example, unless one decided to have one dominant smell, because how do you clear one out of the air to make room for another? And some people could be allergic, even if it just makes them sneeze. Pairing more static artworks like paintings with fragrance one can smell in limited space seems more feasible, though I wonder how this will work in the ongoing pandemic of airborne COVID-19.

Kudos to the Mauritshuis for even trying! Here is their description:

Fleeting – Scents in Colour

11 February 2021 – 6 June 2021 – Scented flowers and perfumes, foul-smelling canals and unpleasant body odours, smell and well-being, new aromas from far-away lands (spices, tobacco, coffee and tea), the disappearing smells of the bleaching fields, old crafts and more. Can life in the seventeenth century be captured in smell? How are smell (and scent) portrayed? What significance did people attach to smell? And what aromatic connotations do artworks have? In this exhibition, the Mauritshuis will undertake smell-historical research. In the vicinity of the art, various historic scents will be prepared to bring the paintings in the exhibition to life.

This effort reminds me of my 2019 trip to Venice (sigh — no travel for me in 2020), specifically my visit to that city’s Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses a perfume museum. I miss traveling, and I miss my “perfume tourism”, but I was so lucky to have been able to take more than one lovely trip with my husband in 2019. While 2020 was a lost year for travel, other than one much-needed week at a beach to which we could drive, my fingers are crossed for at least the second half of 2021. And since he won’t be traveling for work much this year, and who knows what international restrictions will be in place, we’ll probably get more creative in our travels and explore more of our own large and beautiful country.

Do you engage in “perfume tourism”, by which I mean seeking out perfume-related sites and stores in places you visit, and maybe bringing back perfume souvenirs?

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

I always love a good chypre, and I love seriously green fragrances, and those two traits often travel together. So I admit, it’s a little odd that I hadn’t yet tried vintage Miss Dior, given that its vintage formula includes many of my favorite notes and it is most certain a green floral chypre. Well, I was able to get my hands on one of the houndstooth bottles of Miss Dior eau de toilette, and this is love.

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