What Went Well Wednesday

What Went Well Wednesday

I only do this occasionally now, but for a while on this blog I had a regular feature called What Went Well Wednesday. It was based on a gratitude practice also called Three Blessings, in which one lists three blessings, or three things that went well, and sometimes WHY they went well. The idea is to refocus one’s attention on what is going well in life and how that happened, including one’s own agency.

Tonight is Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving here in the US, so I’m counting my blessings.

  1. I am so thankful for my husband and three children, who are all happy, nice, healthy people; and I’m thankful that my children get along so well that they are currently out, just them, having a “sibling bonding” dinner and movie together. Because they are good people making good choices, becoming young adults who make us so proud!
  2. I am thankful for the rest of our extended families: siblings, siblings-in-law, nephews, nieces, and one elderly father-in-law, who is the only surviving parent of the original four parents of myself and my husband. Because they are also good people, doing good things in the world, living their best lives as best they can, living conscientiously in the world.
  3. I am thankful for the daily blessings of good health, a loving spouse, a pretty home, a garden to enjoy, a temperate climate, an interesting and well-paid job (even with its many challenges), the opportunities to keep learning, and the privilege and safety that come with being an American citizen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it, and blessings to all of you who don’t. I’m also thankful for all of you who do me the honor of reading this blog and offering your own thoughts here. What makes you thankful?

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

This week, the New York Times published an article detailing research that suggests lavender really does have the healing power of calming stress and anxiety for which it has been reputed over centuries: Lavender’s Soothing Scent Could Be More Than Just Folk Medicine.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, [the researcher] and his colleagues found that sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium. It worked on the same parts of a mouse’s brain, but without all the dizzying side effects. And it didn’t target parts of the brain directly from the bloodstream, as was thought. Relief from anxiety could be triggered just by inhaling through a healthy nose.

But why stop at lavender? It seems the key substance is linalool, which occurs naturally in many plants and spices, and is listed as an ingredient in fragranced products, as Lush notes:

Linalool is a colourless liquid with a soft, sweet odour. It occurs naturally in many essential oils, such as tangerine, spearmint, rose, cypress, lemon, cinnamon and ylang ylang. It has a soft, sweet scent. Ho wood oil is used in some fragrances, which is linalool in its natural form, for the woody, sweet note it gives.  Even when ingredients are naturally occurring fragrance constituents they are included in quantitative ingredients lists,  this enables people to decide which product is right for them.

One can even search on the Lush websites (UK and USA) for products by ingredient, so it is possible to identify specific products of theirs that contain linalool, including several of their solid and spray perfumes.

Time for me to break out an essential oil diffuser with a strong dose of lavender! That seems fitting for a blog titled “Serenity Now.” Do you find that lavender has a calming effect on you? How do you use it or other essential oils to create calm in your surroundings?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Eric Gaillard for Reuters.

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

Scent Sample Sunday: Gin and Juniper Sling

As some may recall, I went to Ireland in August with part of my family, on our first extended trip there (we had previously visited Northern Ireland and Dublin, briefly). We just loved it and can’t wait to go back! One of the things we discovered while there was Irish artisanal GIN. We aren’t much for cocktails in our house; we don’t go out very often, and our usual tipples are wine and an occasional beer. Part of this trip included a few days of a work retreat for my husband, and his colleague who organizes these had a different “tasting” dinner of one kind or another every night. One night, the tasting included small-batch gin, made into different summery cocktails. These included Shortcross gin, and Jawbox gin, both made in Northern Ireland. They were combined with different Fever-Tree tonics, and different garnishes, which brought out their different herbal notes. After we left Northern Ireland and during our stay at Powerscourt in County Wicklow, we sampled cocktails made with Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, and the Scottish gin Hendrick’s, which we had previously discovered. (And which we used to invent our own gin cocktail two summers ago, combined with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade). Ireland is producing dozens of terrific small-batch gins, which you can read about here and in other publications.

Why am I carrying on about gin in a perfume blog, you may ask? It’s all Sam’s fault. The author of the I Scent You A Day blog wrote a wonderful post this past week about the limited edition 4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm, which was created for a Hendrick’s event, and can now be bought from the 4160 Tuesdays website.

4160 Tuesdays fragrance Scenthusiasm

4160 Tuesdays Scenthusiam; image from http://www.iscentyouaday.com.

It sounds marvelous, with many of the floral and herbal notes I adore. Here is Sarah McCartney’s description:

It’s ever so slightly gorgeous. It isn’t the same as our first ever gin fragrance but this one is made with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil.

To make it last, boost the scents of the naturals and too smooth them out, we blended it with our special musk, fresh air and white woods accord.

It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.

Want!! But the price is a bit steep, even before UK shipping costs, and I haven’t found it being sold in the US by the brand’s regular stockists, so I’ve had to cast about for other options. Enter Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, which I have in a mini size from a gift set.

Penhaligon's gift coffret of five mini fragrances.

Penhaligon’s gift coffret; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

Named after an old mixed drink called a “gin sling”, this fragrance’s strongest note is juniper berries, which give the beverage gin its distinctive odor and taste. Created in 2011, it is a woody aromatic fragrance, unisex, created by Olivier Cresp. Top notes are angelica, cinnamon, orange brandy, and juniper berries; middle notes are cardamom, orris root, leather and pepper; base notes are vetiver, cherry, sugar and amber. Penhaligon’s has even kindly shared its own recipe for an actual “Juniper Sling” cocktail, made with Hendrick’s gin! When the scent was launched, they also released an entertaining fictional short film about its supposed origins, linked to on Now Smell This.

The opening smells a lot like one of the gin cocktails we recently sampled, with a burst of juniper berries, the most characteristic odor of real gin. The opening is herbal and slightly spicy too — definitely aromatic, but not green. In the middle, I can clearly smell the cardamom, which I appreciate; cardamom is one of my favorite smells, but often I find that even fragrances that list it as a note don’t really smell like cardamom. It doesn’t last very long in the progression of Juniper Sling, but it is definitely there. The orris root and leather are less discernible but there is a smoothness and woodiness in the middle stage that I think they add. I can’t say that I detect the separate notes listed among the base notes, but I also haven’t applied a decent-sized spray to my skin, as the mini splash bottle is so small.

All in all, while I still yearn to try Scenthusiasm, I was happy to scratch that itch with a gin-evoking fragrance I already own. Have you tried Juniper Sling, or Scenthusiasm, or any other gin-related fragrances? What did you think? Do you have any favorites?

Bottle of Penhaligon's Juniper Sling eau de toilette

Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling Eau de Toilette; image from http://www.penhaligons.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: Joy by Dior

Scent Sample Sunday: Joy by Dior

Groan. The conglomerate LVMH seems to have acquired Jean Patou this summer, with the acquisition to be completed this month, although there has been a lot of mystery about the deal: LVMH’s stealth capture of Jean Patou. This is cause for concern, because LVMH is reputed to have “dumbed down” legendary fragrances it has previously acquired, perhaps most famously those of Christian Dior, like my formerly beloved Diorissimo. That LVMH has launched a new Parfums Dior fragrance named so similarly to “Joy“, Patou’s most iconic fragrance and one that vies for the top spot of all 20th century perfumes, does not bode well for the original Joy, which Luca Turin awarded five stars in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide” and called “huge, luscious, and utterly wonderful.” This is especially disappointing because I had discovered and liked Thomas Fontaine’s re-creations of classic Patou fragrances such as L’Heure Attendue and hoped they would continue.

Joy by Dior is not huge, luscious, and utterly wonderful. I agree with Colognoisseur that it has been tested to its last faint breath so that it will become a bestseller among young women who may never have heard of Jean Patou.  It is pleasant, inoffensive, and somewhat anemic. And if that sounds like damning with faint praise, it is. I tried it yesterday, somewhat hoping to like it because I do like actress Jennifer Lawrence, who is the face of Dior and whose beautiful face graces all of the advertising for Joy by Dior.

Jennifer Lawrence and new fragrance Joy by Dior.

Jennifer Lawrence; Joy by Dior; image from http://www.dior.com.

Like many moviegoers, I first encountered Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, heroine of The Hunger Games trilogy, although she had already caught critics’ positive attention in earlier work like “Winter’s Bone”. I was immediately taken by her natural beauty and the fluidity of the emotions that seemed to rise organically from her face and physical bearing. The story itself was compelling, about the domination of an entire country by one small, luxury-obsessed group in the Capitol of Panem, who condemned most of the residents of the Districts to lives of actual and semi-starvation and malnutrition, among other woes, until the Districts rebel.

Joy by Dior is the smaller, paler, thinner, younger Primrose Everdeen to the real Joy, itself comparable to Katniss in her transforming wedding dress: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: a huge, luxurious confection stuffed with the most expensive elements, over-the-top feminine, the epitome of extravagance, presented for a hungry world’s admiration, awe, and envy. The original Joy was claimed to be “the world’s most expensive perfume” when it was launched at the start of the Great Depression, when couturier Jean Patou recognized that many of his longtime customers could no longer afford Parisian couture but could manage the purchase of an iconic fragrance that would give them the same aura of luxury. Each bottle was said to contain the essences of thousands of jasmine flowers and hundreds of roses, as well as animalic ingredients like civet and musk.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in wedding dress, in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Katniss in wedding dress; image from http://www.lionsgate.com.

As reviewer Angela wrote several years ago on Now Smell This, “Joy Parfum seamlessly morphs from a complex floral explosion to something darker, and unless you already knew Joy, you might not recognize the dry down and the heart as the same fragrance.” There is a darker, more insubordinate aspect to Joy, as if the parfum presents itself as demure and ladylike, but as it dries down and the evening progresses, it reveals itself to be more of a femme fatale who is in full control of her own destiny and that of the men who choose to enter her orbit.

As Samantha has written in her blog “I Scent You a Day”, the original Joy is a heavyweight, a Presence. The new Joy by Dior is a lightweight, almost anorexic. It’s not bad (it is by Francois Demachy, after all), it is even likable, but it is a small, pale thing compared to its big sister. Its classic citrus opening combines orange and bergamot, and the orange note is pleasantly astringent, not too sweet. It combines nicely with the greenish tartness of the bergamot. Next come roses and jasmine, but they enter shyly and hesitantly — a far cry from the confident assertiveness of those flowers in Joy. These are slender, girlish blossoms, not full-figured, unabashed roses.

Similarly, the drydown of Joy by Dior does not purr or growl: it whispers, in a breathy tone of white musk. I don’t smell any of the listed sandalwood, patchouli, or cedar notes. Again, the drydown is likeable, but it is also forgettable. Sadly, as soon as I tried Joy by Dior, it reminded me of dozens of fragrances whose names I could not recall. It just smelled very familiar.

The bottle is also disappointing. I love me some pink, so it’s not the color of the juice that lets me down — it is the generic-looking cylinder that is clearly meant to evoke the cylindrical bottles of Dior’s more exclusive fragrances in “La Collection Privee” and the “Maison Christian Dior” collection, but that has been tarted up with silver sparkle, like glitter. And the typeface on the bottle, loudly proclaiming “JOY” with a smaller “Dior” in the center, is barely different from the typeface on the iconic Patou bottle, which was designed by an noted architect and captured the essence of Art Deco, as noted on the Jean Patou website:

Every Jean Patou bottle is a jewel in its own right. The same techniques and craftsmanship are still used today. The bottles have retained the Art Deco forms dear to Patou’s friend Louis Süe, who came up with the original design. The cut glass flask decorated with gold leaf is filled drop by drop. The stopper is then sealed by hand with a gold thread and stamped.
A work of timeless beauty.

This new bottle will, no doubt, lend itself to cost-saving replicas in the flankers to come, but it could have been so much better. Chanel, for example, when it launched Gabrielle, came up with a truly beautiful bottle with clear reference to the classic Chanel No. 5 bottle, although I was ultimately left unmoved by the fragrance itself.

Sigh. Why, oh why, do we have this trend of releasing fragrances that remind me of little sisters? (Not my own little sister, btw, who resembles Katniss more than Prim!) I’m looking at you, GabrielleLet’s hope that Patou’s new masters will let us post-adolescents continue to enjoy Joy, the original, without mucking it up. Even Effie, after all, evolved from one of Katniss’ tormentors to her ally, saving her from tasteless makeover attempts.

Katniss and Effie

Katniss Everdeen with Effie, The Hunger Games; image from http://www.lionsgate.com.

Jennifer Lawrence makeover Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen’s botched makeover, The Hunger Games; image from http://www.lionsgate.com.

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Or rather, hair MIST. This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I wrote about here: Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette. I may have to explore this world further, based on a recent experience in airport security. Yes, that’s right — airport security. As my family and I were returning from Ireland a few weeks ago, we were going through security in the Dublin airport. As I am wont to do, I had spent some time browsing among fragrances in the duty-free shop, where I had come across Diptyque’s new hair mist. Having enjoyed the Colette hair mist, I decided to try it. And, if the truth be told, I had already sprayed other scents on both wrists and inner elbows. Hair was the only real estate left.

Reader, I sprayed it. And generously, too. Shortly after, I grabbed my bags and went through the security screening line. As I passed through the scanner for people, and my bags passed through the scanner for luggage, I didn’t give it a thought — I knew where my liquids were, I knew everything in my bag was allowed, I took off my metal bracelet and put it in my handbag, etc. Suddenly — “Ma’am! Ma’am!”. A youngish female airport employee was approaching me with an urgent tone in her voice. “Yes?”, I asked, inwardly sighing that I must have messed up something with my luggage (side note: I have done that and was once busted by an airport bag-sniffing dog who found an apple I had forgotten was in my backpack).

Dublin airport security screening line and trays

Dublin Airport security screening

“Do I need to open my bag?”, I asked.

“No, ma’am, I just need to know what scent you’re wearing. You smell wonderful!”

Now that’s a first. I have occasionally been stopped by strangers asking about my fragrance, which is always flattering when they ask nicely and not in a creepy way. But I’ve never been stopped by airport security over my own fragrance, as opposed to the scent of an illicit piece of fruit. (By the way, the dogs don’t sit quietly when they find the fruit. They bark. Loudly. And put their paws on your bag). I assume it was the hair mist that attracted her attention, because I sprayed on more of it than anything else, and it really does carry. And of course I told her what I thought it was and pointed back vaguely toward the Diptyque counter, because when airport security asks you a question, YOU ANSWER.

Airport beagle sniffer dog with fruit

Airport beagle finding illicit fruit in luggage

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that if you haven’t tried fragranced hair mist yet, you might want to! And you might want to start with Diptyque, which now has two: Eau Rose and Eau des SensGiven that fragrance often lasts longer and has more sillage when sprayed on hair, this seems like an affordable way to wear Diptyque, and I hope they offer more of their scents in this formulation. Here’s the challenge: I don’t remember which one I sprayed on, and Eau Rose appears to be sold out online at Diptyque’s website.

Not to be dissuaded from my quest, I plan to make a visit soon to one of my local department stores that carries Diptyque and see if I can try them both. If I figure out which one made the screener swoon, I’ll update this post!

Featured image from http://www.britishbeautyblogger.com.

Independent Perfumery: Growth in an Increasingly Consolidated Market~ Seven Indies Speak Out!

CaFleureBon has published a fascinating piece with thoughts from seven independent perfumers on their position in a consolidating fragrance marketplace; it is well worth reading.

In any industry’s “ecosystem”, there will be a range of products and services from mass market to high-end artisan work. (I’ve been introduced to the series “Chef’s Table” and am stunned by the artistry that these chefs put into their food creations and restaurants). “High-end” often, but not always, means very expensive, which always limits the market for that product or service to those who can afford it.

Artisan chefs on Netflix series Chef's Table

Chef’s Table; image from http://www.netflix.com

What I dislike is when a large investor takes over a fragrance brand and amps up the hype, the marketing, and often the price, while watering down the original quality with cheaper ingredients to the point where it really isn’t the same fragrance. I appreciate the instances when a large company seems to have extended the reach of a formerly independent brand while providing its creatives with the stability and access to quality ingredients that allow them to extend their imaginations and vision, and reach more customers. It seems as if today’s independent perfumers may be more savvy about how to get that deal if they want it. I appreciate, too, when a large company has given its perfumers the resources and permission to update classic fragrances with respect and care, and without cutting corners.

I also really appreciate the vital role of independent perfumeries and retailers, which connect perfumers and customers as curated points of sale and information.. They too are small businesses with many of the same challenges, and yet they have an appeal that no department store will ever have, and a level of service and knowledge that you won’t find in most department stores or brand boutiques. I rely on online sellers of fragrance, including some of the perfumers’ own websites and online stores, to get access to these smaller brands that would otherwise be unattainable to most of us. This is how I have been able to buy fragrances by Laboratorio Olfattivo, Papillon, Parfums de Rosine, PK Perfumes, Solstice Scents, Sonoma Scent Studio, and others.

Scent bar retail store in Los Angeles, home of luckyscent.com online fragrance retailer

Scent Bar, Los Angeles

The internet and blogs like CaFleureBon have been such a gift to perfumers, perfumeries, and fans of perfume! We have been able to find and connect with each other in ways that would have been impossible thirty years ago. It is now possible for someone who lives in any area far from high-end retailers and trade shows to get access to these unique fragrance creations. And for that, all perfumistas should be grateful.

Source: Independent Perfumery: Growth in an Increasingly Consolidated Market~ Seven Indies Speak Out!