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.

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.

They’re Baaaaack!

Announced this week: Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are updating their guide to perfume with a twice-yearly review roundup! See this post and thread on Basenotes. Welcome back, I can’t wait to read what you write!

Fragrance Friday: May Muguet Marathon

Fragrance Friday: May Muguet Marathon

As you may know, possibly my all-time favorite fragrance note is lily-of-the valley, or “muguet.”  I associate it with one of my favorite books, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Scent of Water”: Fragrance Friday: The Scent of Water. I carried lilies of the valley in my bridal bouquet in April (flowers I grew myself), but May is traditionally the month for muguets, when the flowers often bloom and when the French give bouquets and sprays of the blossoms on May 1. So, since this is the first May since I developed my passion for perfume, I’m going to celebrate May by posting as many reviews as I can of muguet-focused fragrances, including the latest in the Hermessence line, “Muguet Porcelaine” by Jean-Claude Ellena as well as some classics and other new discoveries. Wish me luck! And please join me in the comments during this May marathon!

lily-of-the-valley basenotes

Anubis (Papillon Perfumery)****

Luca Turin is back! He has just started a new blog about perfumes he loves. I couldn’t be more delighted, as his legendary guide book to perfumes was one of the books that started my interest in perfume and fragrance. Like many others, I discovered Mr. Turin’s book by reading Chandler Burr’s “The Emperor of Scent.” I am especially happy to read here that he loves a fragrance by Papillon Perfumery, whose scents I discovered last summer in London. The more I learn, the more I appreciate Liz Moores’ approach and philosophy. It is inspiring to see her work so well received.

perfumesilove

p61_3_0.jpgAs an audiophile of long standing and limited means, I am struck by similarities between loudspeakers and perfumes, especially in the manner of their choosing. Most people who don’t much care about sound (including many professional musicians who tend to listen to the playing, not the recording) buy little desktop or bookshelf speakers that adequately carry the spectrum but turn muddled and shouty when pushed hard. If they ever actually pick them by sound, they tend to go for the most impressive, i.e. the one with lots of treble and unmusical boomy bass, neglecting the midrange where most music and voice actually lies. That’s most of mainstream perfumery, all topnotes and bare but powerful drydown.

Then you have horn speakers, for those who love a huge midrange sound, colored by the resonant cabinetry, but capable of playing very loud, and with a wonderful old-fashioned chesty voicing. That would be the Roja Dove tendency of larger-than-life retro fragrances…

View original post 265 more words

Trish Burr and Needle Painting

Hello everyone How are you all? I have finally finished the book and as we speak it makes its way across the sea to the publishers in Australia. This is the 8th book I have published and although it is a lot of hard work, there is always something very satisfying about seeing one’s work […]

via Embroidery Kits — Trish Burr Embroidery

What Went Well

What Went Well

This was a gold-star week for What Went Well!

  1. We took our three teenagers to Orlando for a long weekend, with the sole goal of visiting the Harry Potter theme parks at Universal. Because our kids literally grew up with the Harry Potter series, which we read aloud to them for years and listened to on audiobooks on long family trips in the minivan.
  2. The attention to detail in the Harry Potter areas was breathtaking, right down to the food (lots of fish and chips, no hamburgers or hot dogs; lots of Butterbeer and pumpkin juice, no high-fructose corn syrup or soda). Because, apparently, J.K. Rowling kept more creative control over the design and presentations than any creative person has had over a theme park since Walt Disney himself. Thank you, yet again, J.K. Rowling!
  3. We laughed and laughed for three straight days, which was so refreshing. Because we have stressful work lives, but we also have a wonderful family that still knows how to enjoy each other’s company.

P.S. As you might imagine, theme parks are not a favored destination for this introvert (I also get motion sickness) and I have hardly gone to any, as I don’t usually enjoy them very much. This was SO MUCH FUN! I do wish I could have gone on a couple of the immersive rides, as my family says they were fantastic, but it was probably wiser for me to skip those. There were plenty of other diversions to enjoy.