The Perfume Professor Steps Out!

In a few weeks I’ll be doing my first event in Jersey City—a class called “Sensual Scents & Romantic Aromas,” held at the studio space of The Lucky Honeybee. I’ve been enjoying The Lucky Honeybee’s good-smelling handmade candles and soaps for the past five years, so I’m especially happy to be teaming up with one […]

via Upcoming Event: “Sensual Scents” at The Lucky Honeybee, Jersey City — Perfume Professor

This sounds like so much fun — if I lived in that area, I would be there! Check it out!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As I write this, the extreme cold continues in the US — so cold that a friend who lives in Boston posted this photo of a bottle of Creed Viking in the window of the Copley Square Neiman Marcus, frozen solid:

Creed Viking frozen bottle at Boston Neiman Marcus

Frozen bottle of Creed Viking, New Year’s Day 2018.

She reports that other bottles displayed in the window were cracking and leaking from the cold! Let’s hope they were all factices filled with colored water. Although it does seem amusingly fitting that a bottle of Viking should be frozen solid …

I have many hopes for 2018, but let me simply say, if you are reading this, I appreciate your presence at Serenity Now and any comments you’d like to share about scents and sensibilities! Happy New Year!

 

Fragrance Friday: Incense

Fragrance Friday: Incense

A little over a week ago, I had started writing a post about fragrance gifts, in particular how to give someone a fragrance when you’re not sure what that person might like, or whether the recipient might want to try something new. Then on Friday, December 15, we found out that my beloved mother-in-law had died early that morning. My post about holiday gifts suddenly seemed frivolous, and I didn’t have the heart to post anything that day or in the week since; we scrambled to get to her funeral, which was held in another state on Tuesday.

We have just returned home, and I’m trying to resume normal routines, as I know she would want us to do. So for this Fragrance Friday, I’ll write about the beautiful service that celebrated her life a few days ago. My mother-in-law was a devout Roman Catholic; church, faith, and family were central to her life. She and my father-in-law were married for 60 years. He knew exactly what she wanted for her memorial service: a mass, attended mostly by her large extended family and close friends. It was perfect. My mother-in-law loved Christmas and was one of those enthusiasts who decorated every surface with Christmas-themed items starting in mid-November. She often left them up until late January, which we loved, and she made us all many Christmas-themed items, like a handknit Christmas stocking for every grandchild, which are hanging right now from our mantel, and beautiful pieces of needlework like the birth samplers she also made for all her grandchildren. The church where her funeral service was held was filled with evergreens, including several simple trees, bare of all decoration except a few pine cones on their branches and bouquets of scented white flowers — lilies, roses, delphiniums — at their base. She would have loved that, as well as the snow that had fallen the day before, leaving a soft white blanket over the ground.

The priest led this traditional service very capably, including his use of a thurible to cense her casket. This is an ancient tradition in the Roman Catholic church; the fragrant smoke of the incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful rising up to heaven, as in Psalm 141 (140), verse 2: “Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.”  It can also symbolize the soul rising to God. The priest swings the thurible, which is a type of censer used to contain burning incense, always in multiples of three times to stand for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incense is often made with frankincensebenzoinmyrrhstyraxcopal or other aromatics. These are associated in many cultures with sacrifices, gifts to divinities, and purification, leading to the tradition that the Magi who came to find the newborn Jesus brought him those as gifts, recognizing that he was divine and also that he came to sacrifice himself to save and purify us.

The sadness of the funeral service was gentled by the music and beautiful surroundings, by the loving family gathered to honor my husband’s mother, and by traditions like the use of incense. Its fragrant smoke lingered in the air, sweet and aromatic, as we bade her goodbye. It seems impossible to understand that we won’t see her again in this life; but we are glad she is released from illness and suffering, and we pray we will see her in the next.

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child

Pope Francis, incense, Mary, and Christ Child

How Performers Use Perfume

How Performers Use Perfume

The Guardian has published an incredible article about how various actors and other performers use fragrance and perfume to get into their roles (hat tip to Now Smell This): The Spray’s The Thing: How Actors Use Perfume To Get Into Character. It was fascinating. I can’t help but wonder what Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole might have chosen to wear as they played cosmetics pioneers and queens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden in the recent musical “War Paint”! In the Guardian article, I was particularly taken with the approach by one ballerina:

The ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson works with a perfumer, sometimes over months, to devise the perfect scent for her roles with the Royal Ballet. “I learn a lot when I work with her,” she once told me. “I talk it all through, from the beginning to the end of the ballet, while she asks many questions. There was a moment in act two of Giselle” – where the heroine appears as a spirit – “which she captured unbelievably. I’d said I wanted to feel like there was a veil or gauze over me, and she did it in scent.”

I had just written recently here about ballerina Carla Fracci’s fragrance Giselle, which I find captures the heroine in the happy first act of that ballet; how wonderful to know that a ballerina of today had a perfume created to capture the sense of the ghostly second act!

The same article reveals that a new book has been published which clearly I must get, if only for its title: “Scents and Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture”, by Catherine Maxwell; it includes descriptions of scents at the 19th century theater:

Catherine Maxwell quotes Oscar Wilde’s plan for mood-enhancing fragrance in Salome. He wanted “in place of an orchestra, braziers of perfume. Think – the scented clouds rising and partly veiling the stage from time to time – a new perfume for each emotion.” It never happened: how could you air the theatre between emotions?

However, Wilde’s fans ensured an aromatic premiere for The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895. Ada Leverson reported that “nearly all the pretty women wore sprays of lilies against their large puffed sleeves, while rows and rows of young elegants had buttonholes of the delicate bloom of lily of the valley.”

I love the idea of scented theater productions, something perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays has done in collaboration with directors:

She has scented productions, including Handel’s Acis and Galatea. The opening fragrance summoned cut grass and cucumber, “fresh, green and outdoors”. During the interval, as the plot darkened, she sprayed a muddy, leathery, mossy brew called Foreboding from bottles in the balcony.

I recently attended a production of “Twelfth Night” in a tavern-style theater that presents plays on a stage that resembles the Globe Theater, but smaller, and that encourages the audience to buy dinner and drinks to consume during the show, from a kitchen behind the seating area. Choices include Shepherd’s Pie, Cornish pasties, Guinness, Samuel Smith ales, etc. It’s a different means of “scenting” a production but remarkably fun when paired with a Shakespearean comedy. Not sure I’d enjoy it so much during “Romeo and Juliet”, though …

Fragrance Friday: Les Saisons Automne

Fragrance Friday: Les Saisons Automne

Ah, fall. I love autumn. It kicks off with my birthday and showcases my favorite trees, the gorgeous Japanese maples in all their color and variety. I’ve always loved school, and fall is the season of new beginnings in school. The anticipation of a new school year, with new classmates and possibilities … Come to think of it, fall really is the season of anticipation for me. It leads us into Advent, another season I love, and the series of holidays I cherish in America: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. Anticipation also rises as I plant bulbs in the fall; they produce many of my favorite flowers, often fragrant, and each bulb is like a small gift wrapped in brown paper.

This fall, I am enjoying Van Cleef & Arpels’ Automne, from their series Les Saisons. The perfumer behind it is none other than Francis Kurkdjian, of MFK fame. According to Fragrantica:

Every perfume from the series is dedicated to a certain season of the year: the symbol of the series is a tree that changes, but stays the same. Automne is the scent of the fall; the scent of yellow leaves and moist branches; the scent of a golden autumn forest. Woody fragrance with mild spicy and floral notes warms you like a wool scarf. The composition opens with fresh notes of Italian lemon, black currant and red berries, developing into the heart of white sandalwood, lily and almond. The base is filled with heliotrope, cedar wood and musk.

One of the aspects I am enjoying most about Automne is that it differs from many “fall” fragrances in that it retains a predominantly floral aura while still offering the spicy and woody notes many of us want in an autumnal perfume. Other fragrances I enjoy in the fall are more boozy, more spicy, but I love this one because it reminds me that flowers are still blooming in autumn. My own garden still has a few late roses; my azaleas are throwing off some unseasonal blooms; the sasanqua camellias are blossoming in shades of pink and white. The lily notes in Automne remind me of the fragrance I anticipate from the bulbs I plant in this season, while the delicate warmth and wood notes evoke both the Japanese maples I love and the papery covering of spring bulbs.

The classic Easter lily, lilium longiflorum, is also native to Japan, as is Lilium auratum, the legendary “golden-rayed lily”.

Lilium auratum, or golden-rayed lily of Japan

Lilium auratum; image from http://www.gardenia.net.

I do not grow the golden-rayed lily, but I have a number of Easter lilies in my garden, usually planted out after I have bought them in bud for Easter adornment.

White trumpet Easter lily, or lilium longiflorum.

Lilium longiflorum; image from http://www.southeasternflora.com

Automne opens with a refreshing citrus accord, dominated by Italian lemon but including also black currant and red berries. It feels fresh and lively, not sweet. The scent quickly moves into a combination of floral and woody notes, specifically lily and sandalwood. The creamy almond note is present but it seems to function mostly as a way to soften the edges of the sandalwood and bridge that woody note to the softer floral note of the lily.  This stage lasts a while, though nothing about this scent lasts very long.

As it dries down, Automne gently fades into softer and softer floral notes (heliotrope) underlaid by cedar and some mild spices. In fact, the spice note smells like allspice to me: gentle but very much present. I don’t really notice the musk base note, which is fine. After about an hour, Automne is really a skin scent with little sillage, but I enjoy that. It is an excellent fragrance to wear to office, church, library, etc., as it won’t affront anyone’s nose and stays close to its wearer. I also like it because you can’t really overspray it. Its longevity improves if applied over moisturized skin; I’m looking forward to trying it over a light body oil, for example, SheaMoisture’s baby oil that contains traces of frankincense and myrrh. That seems like a very nice way to anticipate the arrival of Advent in this autumnal season of anticipation.

What do you like or dislike about this season? What are some favorite fall fragrances?

Scent Sample Sunday: Carla Fracci’s Giselle

Scent Sample Sunday: Carla Fracci’s Giselle

I knew I was fated to own this fragrance one day, once I found out it existed, because I actually saw Carla Fracci dance the role of Giselle live, in a production by American Ballet Theatre. She was unforgettable, her dark Romantic beauty and feminine grace the perfect match for this grand, 19th-century, tragic ballet.

Ballerina Carla Fracci as Giselle; American Ballet Theatre

Carla Fracci as Giselle

If you do not know it, the story is a classic one of seduction and betrayal of an innocent peasant girl, Giselle, by a local noble, Albrecht, who has disguised himself as a hunter. When she finds out his true identity, and that he is betrothed to a noblewoman, Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. She is raised from her grave by the ghosts of other young women betrayed in love, the Wilis of legend, who are fated to avenge themselves by dancing to the death any young man who crosses their path during the times when they haunt the night. They lure Albrecht into their dance when he visits Giselle’s grave, conscience-stricken, but Giselle protects him by dancing with him herself until the dawn, when the Wilis disappear. Her act of love not only saves Albrecht’s life, but frees her from the Wilis’ fate and allows her to rest in eternal peace.

Ballerina Carla Fracci as Giselle with Erick Bruhn as Albrecht; American Ballet Theatre

Giselle and Albrecht

This weekend, I found a bottle of Giselle at a major discount in a local store, so I decided it was time. Giselle the fragrance did not disappoint! It is a very pretty, feminine, high-quality fragrance without being expensive or overbearing. The fragrance Giselle is clearly meant to evoke the sunny, happy days of Giselle’s first love, before she discovers the truth.

The listed notes of the fragrance are, in no particular order: ylang-ylang, vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine, tuberose, musk, freesia, coconut, caramel, honey. It is a sweet white/yellow floral, with a slight gourmand aspect without the cloying sweetness of today’s gourmand scents. Giselle was launched in 2004. (There are two versions: the one I have is the first, in a yellow box, which many reviewers and commenters find superior to the later edition in a pink box).

To me, the strongest notes are the ylang-ylang and vanilla, with the honey underlying them both with a golden sweetness; the white floral notes add depth, especially the freesia, more than the jasmine and tuberose. As it dries down over the course of several hours, the vanilla lingers. It is a light, sweet vanilla, nothing heavy or spicy. Like the character of Giselle, her fragrance namesake is innocent and charming.

Giselle ballet opening

 

 

Pencils and Perfumes

If a perfume can transport you to another place, another time – then imagine what that place would look like if it were a drawing. It was a sunny afternoon last month, when, I met perfumer Francesca Bianchi during a perfume event at the Annindriya perfume Lounge boutique in Amsterdam.In the beautiful garden behind the […]

Here is a fascinating exploration of how an artist interpreted three artisan fragrances without knowing anything about them other than who their creator was. Wonderful!

via Secret Scents: Drawing The unknown — Pencils & Perfumes : Where my drawings meet the olfactive world. 鉛筆と祈りと香水―香りの世界と出会う場所