Some fascinating history and facts about a few of the animalic essences that have been most prized in perfumery.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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, Gabrielle. Let’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.
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).
“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.
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 Sens. Given 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.
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.
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.
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.
Just days ago, a book I have been eagerly awaiting (despite the controversy its authors love to stir) was finally published: “Perfumes: The Guide 2018”, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Of course, I’ve spent more time than I should browsing its characteristically snarky, idiosyncratic reviews — agreeing with some, disagreeing with others, but always informed and amused by their points of view. One thing I do like is that Turin and Sanchez are quite upfront about some of their individual tendencies and how those may affect their reviews. For instance, Turin doesn’t really like rose soliflores. And yet he gave four stars to Parfums Nicolai’s Rose Royale and listed it among the top ten florals of the last decade. Good enough for me, since I love rose soliflores and we’ve just finished June, the month of roses! Here is Parfums Nicolai‘s own description:
Real rose without any frills or fuss, fresh and vegetal thanks to its magnificent natural essences. With just a few strands of coriander as well as base notes of immortelle to give it punch without any distortion … simply the perfume of the rose at the end of its stem. A longing for nature becomes a scent of vegetation enhanced by blackcurrant and passion fruit, over an explosion of Turkish rose essence. Coriander and ambrette seeds enhance the fragrance. Bottom notes of guiac wood and immortelle strengthen the long lasting, lingering spell of Rose Royale.
After having visited the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this spring, I renewed my obsession with David Austin’s English Roses, which added to its medals with another spectacular display of his stunning flowers. If you don’t know of them, they are the result of Mr. Austin’s lifetime of hybridizing roses to restore the fragrances and forms of the older French roses he loves, combining them with the vigor, disease resistance, color range, and repeat flowering of more modern roses. Each entry for a rose in his catalogue lovingly describes not only the growth habit, color, form and size of its blossoms, but also each variety’s individual fragrance. One such entry reads:
Munstead Wood: Light crimson buds gradually open to reveal very deep velvety crimson blooms, the outer petals remaining rather lighter in color. The flowers are large cups at first, becoming shallowly cupped with time. The growth is quite bushy, forming a broad shrub with good disease resistance. The leaves are mid-green, the younger leaves being red-bronze to form a nice contrast. There is a very strong Old Rose fragrance with a fruity note. Our fragrance expert, Robert Calkin, assesses this as “warm and fruity with blackberry, blueberry and damson.”
Munstead Wood was recommended to me by someone who used to work with David Austin, and so I am now growing it in a large pot on my front terrace, which faces south (much of my garden is shaded at least part of the day, which doesn’t suit roses). And Rose Royale smells a lot like it, with its top notes of blackcurrant buds, passion fruit, and bergamot moving quickly into the heart of rose, coriander, and ambrette seeds. I love it! Yes, Mr. Turin, I do love a good rose soliflore.
Rose Royale has a delectable opening, the blackcurrant buds dominating, followed by bergamot lending its green-citrus pop, with passion fruit hovering behind them and adding sweetness to the green. If I had to pick one genre of fragrances to love, it would have to include greenness (green florals, green aromatics, etc.), and Rose Royale fits the bill. After the lively opening, the rose takes center stage, but the fragrance never loses its “fresh and vegetal” character. Mr. Turin refers to it as a “soapy rose” but it doesn’t smell soapy to me, or at least no more so than a real rose often does. I suspect this is because rose notes have been so heavily used to scent soap that our Western noses merge the two. Be that as it may, here is his review of Rose Royale in “Perfumes: The Guide 2018” (Kindle Edition):
Tomes of perfumery prattle are churned out annually on the subject of the Her Royal Majesty the Rose, Queen of Flowers, and all associated romance and grandeur. Yet when you smell rose soliflores, they do tend to let you down: flat or thin, a whisper of phenylethyl alcohol or a mere goofy fruity fantasy. Patricia de Nicolaï’s take is a perfect soapy-aldehydic white-floral froth with facets of lemon and raspberry. If you are the sort of gold-rimmed-teacup gripping, pinky-finger sticker-outer who will insist against all advice upon a rose soliflore uninterfered with by complicating ideas, here is a beautifully silly one for you.
While I do own gold-rimmed teacups, I don’t stick out my pinky finger while drinking from them, and my hands are often too grubby from digging in my garden’s dirt to grip them very regularly.
Like the rose Munstead Wood, which has some of the sharper thorns I’ve encountered among roses I’ve grown, Rose Royale has a little more bite to it than is immediately apparent. As it dries down, there is enough light wood and spice to suggest that there is more to this rose than its soft petals. I would agree with Mr. Turin’s overall assessment, though, that Rose Royale evokes a certain elegance and delicacy one might associate with gold-rimmed teacups. Patricia de Nicolai clearly intended this, as her company’s website describes the fragrance as inspired and named for “a stroll in the calm of the Palais Royal, with a French garden framed by perfect classical architecture.” It has been far too many years since I myself visited Paris and strolled through the Palais Royal, but Rose Royale takes me there with one sniff.
They’re ba-a-a-a-ck! Australian Perfume Junkies has been able to rebuild a new WordPress site — so happy to see them active again! Please follow them again, they lost all followers and subscribers and have to start over.
Hi there APJ lovers,
We are back from the dead. Welcome to the New APJ!
Welcome Back APJ
We are finally back in business. Thank you to the people who have worked and helped and recreated this wonderful meeting place for fumies, fragrance lovers and perfumistas from around the world. Belinda, Alex and Undina (from Undina’s Looking Glass) all gave time, insight, knowledge and muscle to get us back. Thank you.
It will take some time to get back into our groove and we hope you will bear with us as we implement some change.
Please tell everyone you know that APJ is up again because we lost all our Followers and Subscribers in the hack & changeover. We are really starting again from scratch.
So yes, we will be back to the perfumed chatter ASAP.
We have missed you all.
Portia and the APJ Team