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: Final Round-Up

May Muguet Marathon: Final Round-Up

As today is the last day of my self-imposed May Muguet Marathon, I’ll do a brief wrap-up. Some of you who were reading this blog the last time I did this, in 2016, will know that I previously discussed some of the all-time greats among muguet fragrances. I did not repeat most of those, so I list them here if any newer reader is interested:

Diorissimo

Vintage ad and current bottle for Diorissimo eau de toilette, by Christian Dior.

Diorissimo, by Christian Dior.

Guerlain Muguet 2016

Bottle of Guerlain Muguet 2016 fragrance

Guerlain Muguet 2016

Coty Muguet des Bois

Coty "When You're in Love" ad for Muguet des Bois fragrance, by Eric

Coty “When You’re in Love” ad for Muguet des Bois

Caron Muguet du Bonheur

1960 advertisement for Caron's Muguet du Bonheur, with green and white lilies of the valley.

1960 advertisement for Caron’s Muguet du Bonheur.

Premier Muguet

Premier Muguet Bourjois

Premier Muguet by Bourjois

and some new classics:

Annick Goutal’s Le Muguet

Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy

Jo Malone Lily of the Valley and Ivy fragrance

Olivier Polge’s Always in Bloom

Always in Bloom fragrance by Olivier Polge for Longwood Gardens

Hermes’ Muguet Porcelaine

Bottle of Hermes' Hermessence fragrance Muguet Porcelaine

Hermes Muguet Porcelaine; source http://www.uk.hermes.com.

VCA’s Muguet Blanc

VCA Muguet Blanc

Ann Gerard’s Perle de Mousse

Perle de Mousse eau de parfum; fragrance by Ann Gerard

L.I.L.Y. by Stella McCartney

L.I.L.Y. fragrance based on lily of the valley or muguet, by Stella McCartney

L.I.L.Y. fragrance by Stella McCartney. Photo: http://www.boots.ie

Lily, by Lili Bermuda

Lily fragrance collector gift set from Lili Bermuda

Lily, by Lili Bermuda

Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Decou-Vert

Bottle of Laboratotio Olfattivoa eau de parfum Decou-Vert

Decou-Vert

Last, if you haven’t overdosed on muguet by now, here are Fragrantica’s picks in 2018:

Best in Show: Lily of the Valley

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Muguet Lane! Thank you for joining me on the journey! If I’ve overlooked some muguet fragrances you’d like to suggest, please mention them in the comments!

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

May Muguet Marathon: Gucci Envy

One of the great pleasures of reading Turin and Sanchez’ guide to perfumes is the occasional surprised snort of laughter when one of their reviews snarkily turns a phrase that perfectly captures their — and your — experience of a fragrance. One of my favorites: “cK IN2U Her: OMG PU. Insanely strong fruit meets insanely strong woody amber. KTHXBYE.”

The snarky humor applies evenly to perfumes they praise, such as Gucci Envy:

Envy (Gucci) ***** green floral $$

Maurice Roucel has a knack for putting together perfumes that feel haunted by the ghostly presence of a woman: Lyra was a compact, husky-voiced Parisienne, Tocade a tanned, free-as-air Amazon. These have another Roucel hallmark, the spontaneity of the unpolished gem. When subjected to the full grind of the marketing department, Roucel’s style can become cramped and tends toward brilliant pastiches of classical fragrances: 24, Faubourg; L’Instant; Insolence. Envy is to my knowledge the only time when the balance between Roucel’s magic and the real world gave rise to a work that, like a diamond, needed both heat and pressure to form. My recollection is that Envy was panel-tested again and again while Roucel adjusted it until it outperformed Pleasures, then at the top of its arc of fame. It is amusing to think that such a comparison between apples and pears could be considered meaningful. However, it did constrain the woman inside Envy to be at once seraphic and suburban, complete with the sort of suppressed anger that such a creature would feel at being reincarnated as a florist in eastern New Jersey.

Why a florist? People describing fragrances often describe very green, hyacinth-dominant scents as smelling like the inside of a florist’s refrigerator. And that is the major impression of Envy after the sharp, tangy-green opening. Envy’s heart notes are: hyacinth, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, violet and iris, after an opening that is dominated by bergamot and freesia with support from minor top notes of peach, magnolia, and pineapple (for the record, I don’t smell pineapple, but that could be because my bottle of Envy is several years old; it was discontinued).

The muguet note is very prominent in Envy, but it isn’t soapy AT ALL, unlike some lily of the valley scents. It is green all the way, with hyacinth hot on its heels and gaining ground throughout Envy’s progression. Fragrantica has an interesting summary, describing it as a “metal accord surrounded by a floral bouquet”:

Envy could be compared to a breeze that brings spring into the city. Its architecture is modern; it denies gaudiness, accentuating minimalism. The composition starts with green notes with a cool metal note that freezes the senses. Gradually the scent warms up due to woody notes and musk.

Envy does start off as a very cool, contained, green scent, and I can understand the comparison to cold metal, given the “florist’s refrigerator” vibe it gives off, especially in the first hour or so. Maybe the seraph of Luca Turin’s imagination is trapped inside the florist’s refrigerator, not reincarnated as the suburban florist.

Gradually, Envy starts showing glimmers of — not warmth, exactly, but a mossy woodiness that grounds it. The base notes are oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, musk, and jasmine. The green notes from the muguet, hyacinth, and freesia are still powerfully present, but the fragrance takes on an earthiness that brings them back to ground. The progression of Envy resembles the slow descent of a winged, green creature whose feet lightly touch the mossy floor of a forest.

Novel Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman

I haven’t yet read the book Green Angel, whose cover is featured above, but in my search for an image that captured the final stage of Gucci Envy, this popped up and it seemed just right. The College Gardener has a brief review of the book, and it may have to go on my reading waitlist. That’s for another day. In the meantime, I have to go liberate a green seraph who has been imprisoned within a tall bottle of eau de toilette.

Bottle of Gucci Envy eau de toilette

Gucci Envy

Featured image above from Angels, by Olga Rezo.

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Feu d’Issey

I have a collector’s brain; I have always enjoyed building a collection of things that interest me and learning about them. Over the years, that has mostly manifested itself in my gardening (sometimes to the detriment of orderly design); I have to discipline myself to plant groupings of plants, not just plant one of everything. Sometimes it all comes together really well, as when my husband cleared two areas of underbrush so we could plant two small groves of almost two dozen Japanese maples I had been growing in pots.

Since I started studying, not just wearing, fragrance three years ago, I’ve built up quite a collection, but it doesn’t have a lot of coherence to it yet; I’m still in the “let me try everything” learning stage, lol. But one way I have tried to inject some structure into my collection is to try as many as possible of the fragrances given five stars in Turin and Sanchez’ “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” One of those is Issey Miyake’s Le Feu d’Issey, created by Jacques Cavallier in 1998, which was discontinued several years ago. Here is their summary:

The surprise effect of Le Feu d’Issey is total. Smelling it is like pressing the play button on a frantic video clip of unconnected objects that fly past one’s nose at warp speed: fresh baguette, lime peel, clean wet linen, shower soap, hot stone, salty skin, even a fleeting touch of vitamin B pills, and no doubt a few other UFOs that this reviewer failed to catch the first few times. Whoever did this has that rarest of qualities in perfumery, a sense of humor. Bravo to those who did not recoil in horror at something so original and agreed to bottle it and sell it, but shame, also, since they lost their nerve and discontinued it before it caught on. Whether you wear it or not, if you can find it, it should be in your collection as a reminder that perfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.

Le Feu d’Issey has been reviewed on several well-known fragrance blogs: The Sounds of ScentThe Candy Perfume BoyColognoisseurPerfume-Smellin’ Things, and others. Almost all agree that it is an oddity with a strangely compelling appeal. My experience parallels theirs, though I am happy to say that I won’t feel a desperate need to track down a full bottle. Happy, because they go for $200 or more on auction sites! I found a set of reasonably priced manufacturer’s samples online, so I was able to indulge my curiosity.

Manufacturer's carded samples of Issey Miyake's fragrance Le Feu d'Issey

Carded samples of Le Feu d’Issey

The opening is very sharp and weird. Obviously the carded manufacturer’s samples I have are over ten years old, and one of the top notes has gone off. I think it must be the bergamot, because I don’t smell that at all — the very first thing I do smell is a harsh note of alcohol. That’s age, not design. It goes away within seconds, and I do smell the other notes listed on Fragrantica: coconut, rosewood, anise. The visual pyramid also lists as top notes coriander leaf and rose. I don’t smell rose at the start, but I do get an herbal note in addition to the anise, which could be coriander. Within minutes, the rosewood emerges as the winner among the top notes, and I like it very much.

As the heart notes emerge, Le Feu becomes sweeter. I definitely smell the milkiness coming to join the rosewood. At this stage, it reminds me of Carner Barcelona‘s Palo Santo. whose middle notes are warm milk and guiac wood. Le Feu’s heart notes are listed as: jasmine, rose, milk and caramel but the pyramid also shows pepper and golden lily. As it gets sweeter, I do smell something like caramel, but I wonder if that is due to perfumer’s sleight of hand. Here is a comment written by London’s Bloom Perfumery about Palo Santo: “Some people smell caramel, but it’s a trick played by the combination of gaiac, tonka, davana and milk accord.” On my skin, the sweetness is mostly gone within the first hour of wearing.

As to the flowers, here is where I experienced the famously shape-shifting nature of Le Feu that has intrigued so many. The first time I wore it, I definitely smelled the emergence of a smooth, classical blend of rose, lily, and jasmine. Today, as I sit with Le Feu on my hand so I can write down my impressions — no flowers. And I sprayed from the same sample!

The base notes of Le Feu are: cedar, sandalwood, Guaiac wood, vanilla and musk. At this stage, it is a very appealing, warm, woody scent with a lingering trace of something sweet. Yesterday when I tried it for the first time, that stage lasted on my skin for several hours.

Bottom line: I like Le Feu very much, but I don’t feel desperately compelled to seek out a bottle of it. However, I’m glad to realize that, while not a dupe, Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santo shares some of Le Feu’s appeal. It’s not cheap, but it is still available!

Perfumed Plume Award Winners!

April 11, 2018, at the Society of the Illustrators in NYC, the 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards for Fragrance Journalism winners were announced to a packed crowd of industry notables, influencers. Many Friends-in-Fragrance including Francois Damide of Crafting Beauty, Bart Schmidt of Olfactory NYC, Rhona Stokols, Mindy Yang and Darryl Do of Perfumarie, Andrew Rosen, Raymond Matts,…

via 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards for Fragrance Journalism Winners — Cafleurebon – Perfume and Beauty Blog

Congratulations to all!

PSA: APJ Update — A Bottled Rose

Editor’s note: My dear friends over at Australian Perfume Junkies are going through every blogger’s worst nightnare at the moment, so the Cookie Queen is here today to let everyone know what’s happening. ‘READ ALL ABOUT IT, SHOCK HORROR, HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS’ – Shock Horror by Mick Farren & The Deviants (1977) […]

via PSA: APJ Update — A Bottled Rose

Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

The New York Times has a “style” periodical supplement called, simply, “T”.  Earlier this month, T editors were polled about their favorite fragrances: Great Perfumes, Recommended by T Editors. I must say, though, I chuckled when I read this: “Perfumes are my obsession: I have a wardrobe of about 30 I cycle through.” That editor needs to meet some of the fragrance bloggers I read, or even some members of the group Facebook Fragrance Friends, who own HUNDREDS of perfumes! Even I, a relative newbie, have more than 30. On the other hand, that editor may be at the more sophisticated stage of having owned dozens upon dozens of fragrances once upon a time, and now, like Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass, one of my top favorite blogs, being more educated and selective with the result that she has winnowed her collection of the chaff. I’d still put Undina’s collection up against most, from the little I’ve read about it, including this T editor’s! I mean, she has a DATABASE of her collection. Some day I hope to emulate that level of organization and commitment. Right now, to borrow one of Undina’s many memorable phrases, I am often still “kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings.” (And enjoying myself thoroughly, I might add).

But back to the T editors and their choices. Another phrase I loved in the article was when one editor described herself as “polyamorous when it comes to perfume.” Another writes of her discovery of fine fragrance after she read Chandler Burr’s article in The New Yorker that became his book The Perfect Scent, which describes the development of Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance as the new in-house perfumer for Hermes:

The story had captured my imagination. I think, deep down, I so badly wanted to be the elegant woman Ellena considers wearing his scent as he roams through Egypt recording smells (lotus root, nasturtium) in his notebook. In recent years, I’ve diversified what scents I wear, but I always return to Jardin Sur Le Nil. Perhaps because if it once made me think I was luxurious, now it reminds me of a younger, more impressionable version of myself.

That book was my downfall too — I read it as part of my research when I was writing a script about two rival perfumers, and down the rabbit-hole I went.

The article is an entertaining summary of fragrance choices by beauty editors who have access to everything; it’s interesting to read what they love and why. I hope T Magazine publishes more articles about fragrance! Have you read any recent articles about scent that captured your attention or imagination? Any of the finalists for the Perfumed Plume award?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi for T Magazine.