Happy Anniversary to Serenity Now!

Happy Anniversary to Serenity Now!

WordPress has just reminded me that I started blogging four years ago today and thus my blog was born! Wow, it doesn’t seem as if it has been that long — probably because I’ve had so much fun doing it and tumbling down the fragrance rabbit hole. Thank you, to all of you who read my meanderings, whether you comment or not. Knowing that you’re out there (and now having met a couple of you in person!) and hearing from you are the parts that make this the most fun.

Stay fragrant, friends!

Saturday Snippet: A Fragrant Feast

Saturday Snippet: A Fragrant Feast

Old Herbaceous

Doesn’t this look and sound delicious? It is a fragrant salad devised by perfumer Ezra Woods, whose brand is “Regime des Fleurs.” The recipe is in this article from the NY Times’ “T” Magazine: A  Perfumer’s Fragrant Flower Salad.

Flower-based salad and recipe by perfumer Ezra Woods. Fragrant flower salad; images from http://www.nytimes.com, by Julia Stotz.

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Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

I had a few fragrance adventures in London last month, but one of the best was a surprise encounter with 2018’s launch, L’Iris de Fath. Yes, THAT one — the award-winning reconstruction of the legendary Iris Gris fragrance from the house of Fath.

Other bloggers and authors have written at length about this project, including Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, who were involved with it. The Fath website offers this:

Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris is known as one of the greatest perfumes if not the greatest, unequalled since its creation. The balanced duo of Iris and Peach reflects perfumer Vincent Roubert’s exceptional know-how. The concentration of Iris of an unreached level made of Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris the most expensive perfume in the world. Launched in 1947, it disappeared the same year as Fath in 1954.  Often copied and certainly never equaled, it remains unique and timeless.

It was unthinkable that this heritage remained prisoner of the limbo of the past. Under the supervision of Creative Director Rania Naim, Parfums Jacques Fath launched an international competition of perfumers, in order to reproduce as faithfully as possible this exceptional fragrance. The myth is reborn, thanks to two young talents unanimously chosen by a committee of experts:  Patrice Revillard, Perfumer and Yohan Cervi, Creative Director of Maelström.

Like a chrysalis turning into a butterfly, it is now known as :L’ IRIS de FATH

After all, no matter the name, no matter the color, as long as emotions remain intact.

So how did I manage to meet this mythical creature? I went to Jovoy Paris’ Mayfair store in London and met a young sorcerer’s apprentice (SA) named Khalid. Khalid is a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant at Jovoy Mayfair, where I have had nothing but lovely experiences. The first time I ever visited, the owner, Francois, happened to be there. He gave me a personal tour of the store, pulled out many fragrances for me to try, and even showed me (and let me smell!) the precious chunks of ambergris they keep in a vault downstairs.

On this latest visit, I happened to be nearby at my favorite overall store in London, Liberty. I was planning to meet a friend for a late lunch, and had some time to spare, so I stopped in at Jovoy. It was a quiet time in the store, and I was warmly greeted by Khalid. Here’s what I love about Jovoy. I told him that I was really just browsing, that I write about fragrance as a hobby, and that I had visited the store before and really enjoyed its wide range of stock, but wasn’t there to buy anything in particular. He asked me nevertheless what I like in fragrance, I said florals, and he asked if he could show me some of their newer floral scents. Of course, I said, and out came the testers and the paper strips, so I could sniff some truly beautiful florals. After I oohed and aahed over one with a dominant iris note, he asked me, “Do you like iris?” and I assured him that yes, I love iris, and in fact it was becoming one of my favorite notes, close on the heels of the muguet I love so much.

Well, Khalid got a gleam in his eye and invited me to follow him downstairs to see the store’s most special iris fragrance. We approached the same vault where the ambergris is kept, and there it was — The Unicorn. L’Iris de Fath. Reader, I gasped.

 

Khalid opened the vault and carefully dripped one drop of the precious fluid on a paper test strip, which he then handed to me. One drop, and a cloud of iris richness filled my nose. I tell you, if I ever win Powerball millions, I will fly back to London, head straight to Jovoy Mayfair, and buy their entire stock of L’Iris de Fath from Khalid. And I hope he gets a whopping commission.

I don’t have enough of a trained nose to be able to describe L’Iris as well as others have done, so I’ll just record my own impressions in my own words. This is a remarkably elegant, lasting, classic iris perfume. It has the rootiness of traditional orris, which I love and which takes center stage right from the start, but the opening is brightened by neroli and petitgrain, and it smells of iris flowers as well as their roots. The iris has a warmth that one doesn’t often associate with that note, and it comes from a subtle peach that lends it a velvety, soft, suede-like texture. I live in a part of the USA where peaches are a major crop; even the street where I live is named for the peach orchards that used to grow where a turn-of-the-century city neighborhood now unfolds its charms. Summer peaches that have been allowed to grow to ripeness on the heavy branches of fruit trees, in the hot Southern sun, have a scent to their skins that is not fruity, yet speaks to us of fruit. Just as I found that the famous melon note in Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is really the scent of the rind of an intact, ripe fruit, not the inner flesh, the peach of L’Iris de Fath is to my nose the scent of ripe, sun-kissed peach skin, with a hint of fuzz, soft and warm. Brilliant work by perfumer Patrice Revillard.

The heart stage is thoroughly immersed in iris and orris notes, but you can tell that other flowers are there too, because the fragrance is multi-layered and far from simple. I can pick up some violet, rose, jasmine, and carnation; none of them compete with the iris, although I think the violet adds a soft sheen of mauve powder at this stage. The base is warm and sensual, but reserved. The oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk are apparent but they are so well-blended that one doesn’t smell them as separate notes. Sillage is elusive; one minute you think the scent isn’t carrying much further than one’s immediate vicinity, the next minute someone comes into the room and exclaims, “What is that wonderful smell?”

I found myself trying to imagine what famous beauty best embodies L’Iris de Fath and I think that must be Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This perfume is warm, yet reserved. It beckons you in the way she is famously said to have used her soft, breathy voice to speak so quietly and intimately to a companion that her interlocutor would be forced to lean in closer, closer, to hear her; and thus she conveyed the sense that she and her listener were alone in a private conversation, a little world of their own, even in the midst of a crowded party. She bewitched people, yet she was also reserved, dignified, impeccable, even with wind-tousled hair.

Jackie Kennedy in yellow iris sheath dress

Jacqueline Kennedy in iris sheath

L’Iris de Fath does not speak loudly, but it is very clearly itself: a warm iris-peach, elegant and classic. Its progression is fairly linear, and I mean that as a compliment. The orris especially wafts up for several hours and is present from start to finish. It is brighter at the start, warmer and less distinct at the end, but nevertheless fully present. It is one of those perfumes that would make one’s skin smell like the perfect, fragrant, warm, skin we’d all like to inhabit. Like our own skin, but so very much better.

Thank you for this lovely experience, Jovoy and Khalid!

Featured image: Iris “Alabaster Unicorn”.

Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft

In northern climates, the scent of Lily of the Valley is a harbinger of spring after the winter snow has melted. The lovely aroma from the small, white flowers has been sought after since the early days of perfumery. And yet, no essential oil of this flower is available, which is interesting considering the abundance […]

I’m re-blogging this excellent post about the chemistry of muguet fragrances, from the blog The Perfumer’s Craft:  Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft

May Muguet Marathon: Giulietta

May Muguet Marathon: Giulietta

Giulietta, by Tocca, is described as “a romantic and muse … sweet pink tulips and green apple mingle with a floral delicacy of lily of the valley and amber.” It comes in eau de parfum strength; other notes include Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, pallida iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, heliotrope, cedar, musk, and sandalwood. It is one of the “Tocca Girls” fragrances, each of which is meant to have a distinct personality; Giulietta’s is described as refreshing, feminine, delicate. The fragrance’s name is also meant to refer to actress Giulietta Masina, wife and longtime artistic collaborator of film director Federico Fellini.

It opens with a pop of the green apple, fruity but a bit tart. It then becomes more floral, and I smell heliotrope more than any of the other listed floral notes. It is quite sweet at this stage, with a vanilla note that becomes more evident as the floral notes fade. The white musk base note emerges less than an hour into the drydown, and I think it is this note that prompted some Fragrantica readers to note that Giulietta reminds them of Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. It’s pretty, but to my nose not very distinctive.

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies had a more positive reaction than I did, in a review at Olfactoria’s Travels, calling it a “perfect summer fragrance.” It’s nice, but there are many better, even less expensive, options. For example, for the $76 list price for 50 ml of Giulietta, one can get 100 ml of Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil from online discounters, a much more interesting and distinctive summer fragrance, to my nose. I agree with Portia that after the opening, there is a pleasant, blended floral bouquet in which it is hard to pick out individual notes; also like Portia, I do smell heliotrope early on and throughout the drydown, which quickly becomes a soft vanilla musk. Like Jessica’s review at Now Smell This, my overall impression is that Giulietta is a nice summer vanilla. It does last reasonably well, and it would be a perfectly appropriate and safe office fragrance, or gift.

Although Tocca chooses to highlight lily of the valley in its copy, I don’t smell it at all in Giulietta. As in — not AT ALL. Nor do I smell the lilac that readers of Fragrantica rate among its most noticeable notes. Giulietta also comes in a hair fragrance format, like some other Tocca scents (two of which I’ve reviewed, Colette and Liliana). I think the photograph on the Tocca website is more accurate than the copy:

Bottle of Giulietta eau de parfum from Tocca with pink tulips and green apples

Giulietta eau de parfum; image from http://www.tocca.com

Bright, fruity, sweet floral with a clean white laundry background — to me, that’s Giulietta. Very pleasant, and indeed a nice, light, floral vanilla for summer — but not a muguet in sight.

Are there any other Tocca fragrances you particularly like? I did like the two hair mists I’ve previously reviewed, although I think those two have been discontinued (several others are available).

May Muguet Marathon: Neil Chapman’s “Perfume”

May Muguet Marathon: Neil Chapman’s “Perfume”

If you have read the excellent fragrance blog The Black Narcissus, you have already encountered the writing of Neil Chapman. Neil published, this spring, his first book, called “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” You can buy it on Amazon.com! It’s a great book, full of his unique insights, impressions, and life experiences, enriched by his knowledge not only of perfume but of the literature of various cultures. Case in point: his introduction of the section in his book that discusses lily of the valley as a fragrance note.

In Natsume Soseki’s 1909 novel Sore Kara (‘And then …’) the main protagonist, Daisuke — a fraught, pretence-addled, indolent ‘aesthete’ whose descent into madness forms the core of the novel — has a predilection for sleeping in the aroma of delicate flowers in order to negate life’s sordid realities. Overly affected by the ordinary physical world, this nervous book collector uses a faint, lightly sweet floral scent at night to reduce his contacts with the world to a minimum: snowy white lilies of the valley, with their stems not yet cut, flowers that form an important motif in the novel, but not only for their pristine beauty and virginal whiteness.

The muguet fragrances Neil reviews in his book are: Diorissimo, Muguet du Bonheur, Penhaligons’ Lily of the Valley, Don’t Get Me Wrong, Baby, I Don’t Swallow, Muguet Fleuri, Muguet Blanc, Quartana’s Lily of the Valley, and Muguet des Bois. His reviews of those are as distinctive and individually nuanced as his writing quoted above.

I highly recommend Neil’s book, whether you are new to the exploration of fragrances, or you are a perfumista with dozens (or hundreds!) of bottles of your own. There are eleven main chapters, named generally for scent groupings of his own, like “Green”, “Gourmand”, “Eros.” You will learn a lot, no matter where you are in your perfume journey; and even fragrances you know well get “The Black Narcissus” treatment, in which Neil weaves his own extensive knowledge with his personal observations, impressions, and experiences. His story of his close encounter with Japanese incense (he and his partner live in Japan) and the accompanying ceremony is hilarious and worth the price of the book for that alone.

But in line with the theme of this month, I especially recommend reading his thoughts on lilies of the valley and the fragrances listed above. And as a bonus, you can read the end of his summation of that Japanese novel! Have you read Neil’s blog The Black Narcissus?

Japanese woman wearing traditional garb with lily of the valley headpiece

Traditional Japanese outfit with ‘lily of the valley’ kanzashi; image from http://www.donatale.com

May Muguet Marathon: No. 42 The Flower Shop

May Muguet Marathon: No. 42 The Flower Shop

Those of you who read fragrance blogs and articles know that the brand Jo Loves was started by Jo Malone, who sold her first, eponymous brand to Estee Lauder, worked for them for some time, then launched a new brand of her own, Jo Loves, several years later. She also has a store at 42 Elizabeth Street in London. No. 42 The Flower Shop is named after the coincidence that when she was a teenager, Jo worked as a florist on the same street where her store now stands. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting it, and I highly recommend that if you are in London! It’s a lovely store, and it is close to Les Senteurs, a long-established niche perfumery with a wide selection of fragrances by independent brands.

Jo Loves fragrance boutique at 42 Elizabeth Street, London.

Jo Loves boutique

No. 42 The Flower Shop smells exactly like its name. It is the smell that greets you when you walk into a florist’s shop, a mix of cut flower and leaf fragrances, very green and fresh. While the brand’s website describes it only as “fresh blooms and crushed green leaves”, Fragrantica describes it in more detail: “top notes are green leaves, mandarin orange and peony; middle notes are lily-of-the-valley, freesia, jasmine and narcissus; base notes are iris, white musk, moss and patchouli.” Lily of the valley is listed with green notes as one of the top two notes perceived by commenters.

The opening is indeed very green, which I like very much. There is a slight sweetness and juiciness that reflects the mandarin orange note, but the citrus fades away quickly and what remains at first are green, green leaves. Then the floral notes enter, including the lily of the valley. I think that lily of the valley and freesia are evenly matched in No. 42 The Flower Shop. Both are evident, but they are blended together very nicely; at some moments in this middle stage, the freesia is more dominant to my nose, but at other times, the lily of the valley takes precedence. No. 42 The Flower Shop evokes a very specific memory for me: the florist buckets and potted plants outside my favorite store in the world: Liberty London.  I love everything about Liberty: first and foremost, its signature fabrics and fabric designs; but also its fabulous building in Great Marlborough Street, its tearoom, its amazing fragrance department — everything.

Flowers and buckets outside Liberty London florist store

Flower shop at Liberty London

The green notes persist during the middle stage of No. 42 The Flower Shop; that and the other floral notes make the fragrance a bouquet, and by no means a soliflore, as befits a florist shop. The narcissus note is evident, though not as strong as the lily of the valley and freesia, but it adds a nicely astringent tone to the sweeter flowers (it is not one of those heady, “narcotic” narcissus notes, it too is very green). The fragrance retains its greenness throughout, including in its base notes of moss and patchouli. The moss note is especially clever, as it is so common for lilies of the valley and spring bulbs like narcissus to be forced in pots and potted with green moss.

Forced lilies of the valley potted with green moss

Lilies of the valley planted with moss

Sadly, No. 42 The Flower Shop does show its kinship with some of the original Jo Malone fragrances in that it doesn’t last as long as I would like. It is so pretty, though, that I’m glad I own a bottle; and I’m looking forward to visiting Jo Loves’ boutique later this month to try her new fragrance, Rose Petal 25.

Have you tried any of the Jo Loves fragrances? I’m also very partial to White Rose and Lemon Leaves. If you’re interested and you haven’t tried any but you’re pretty sure you may want one, Jo Loves has a discovery “experience” where you pay the price of a full bottle (50 ml or 100 ml) and get a discovery set with a certificate for the full bottle of your size and choice; I believe that includes shipping.