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!
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!
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.
As 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…
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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 […]
This was a gold-star week for What Went Well!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Moss is a fragrance by a new(ish) company called Commodity Goods, which got started with a Kickstarter campaign and has an active social media presence: Commodity Goods on Facebook. The Moss I’ve tried, thanks to a sample, is listed as a men’s fragrance but there is also a women’s Moss with the identical notes, so I think they are the same fragrance packaged differently for men and women. According to Fragrantica.com, Moss was launched in 2013. Top notes are petitgrain, bergamot and elemi; middle notes are eucalyptus, orange blossom and oakmoss; base notes are cashmere wood, amber, cedar and white musk.
Petitgrain is a note based on the leaves of orange trees. The orange theme continues in the heart notes, with orange blossom. This is a green, fresh fragrance with just a touch of floral sweetness; it is mostly green and herbal, but very light and warmed by the base notes. I’m really loving it a lot. As you know if you’ve read my blog about gardening, Old Herbaceous, I like moss. I like moss in gardens. I like moss gardening. Moss is quiet. Moss is peaceful. Moss is persistent. Moss is resilient. Moss is green and fresh. Moss is.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about persistence and resilience. I am by nature quiet and peaceful. I need to cultivate my own persistence and resilience. I need to regenerate after a drought the way moss does. A very interesting blogger named Laura Bancroft had some interesting comments on Commodity Goods: Piper Winston. It sounds to me as if the company is as interesting as its fragrances.
Even more interesting is that Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love has written another book that came out last year, The Signature of All Things. Set in the nineteenth century, its heroine is a self-taught botanist with a passion for moss. In fact, she devotes herself to the study of moss for a few decades. Now that is persistence. I learned about this book from a lovely moss gardening website, MossAndStoneGardens.com. I may have to get a copy, spray myself with Moss, and lose myself.
One of my favorite books is “The Scent of Water”, by Elizabeth Goudge. Sometimes I re-read it when I need respite from the tug and pull of my modern American life and job. It is the story of Mary Lindsay, a single, childless woman who leaves her successful career in London to move into a house in an English country village which she has inherited from a distant elderly cousin. She is on something of a spiritual quest, to rediscover her true self, her beliefs and her memories of the man who loved her more than she loved him, who had died in war before they were married.
Elizabeth Goudge had a rare gift of description: her words beautifully evoke the people and settings of her novels so that one can truly see them in the mind’s eye. Her early training was in art, and it shows in her ability to paint pictures with words. The house Mary Lindsay inherited is very old, and its rooms are bathed in rippling greenish light, as if they were underwater, because of the ivy and wisteria vines that grow near the old windows: it has a “dark stone-flagged hall where a silver tankard of lilies of the valley stood on an oak chest. The flowers and the polished silver gathered all light to themselves …” Goudge uses the metaphor and imagery of water throughout the book, including an ancient well of springwater, hung with ivy and moss, that figures in several characters’ stories in the novel. She is also well aware of the symbolism in Christianity of flowers like the lily of the valley, which stands for purity and humility and is sometimes called Mary’s Tears, referring to the Virgin Mary and the tears she shed at the Crucifixion.
What is the scent of water? One of the other characters is another older woman, also single and childless, Jean. She is a kind but timid and fearful woman, often depressed and overwhelmed by life but struggling bravely to meet its challenges.
“Jean was visited by one of her rare moments of happiness, one of those moments when the goodness of God was so real to her that it was like taste and scent; the rough strong taste of honey in the comb and the scent of water.”
― Elizabeth Goudge,
But if one were to seek an actual scent that captured the spirit and atmosphere of this beloved book, what would it be? I nominate Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley & Ivy, which wafts from my wrists as I write this. With its notes of ivy (top), lily of the valley and narcissus (heart) and amber and beeswax (base), it is a lovely green floral with a hint of white musk. It is an elegant, quicksilver scent with earthly roots. It reminds me of a small, green and white English garden after a gentle rain. The scent of water.