Perfume Chat Room, September 17

Perfume Chat Room, September 17

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 17, and we have had several days of birthdays in this household! Mine was at the start of the month and my husband’s was last week, so we’ve had serial and shared celebrations with our kids. And yes, a few new fragrances snuck into the house. The highlight of the shared celebrations was our family trip to see the musical Hamilton, a long-delayed Christmas gift from December 2019. We had seen it once before, all but my son, and it was just as enthralling the second time. My son was blown away by it. This was the first live performance any of us had attended since March 2020, which added to its impact. We also went out for a fancy family dinner on a different night, given that Hamilton was an entire evening unto itself. We tried a new Italian restaurant nearby, and it was terrific! Again, our perceptions may have been enhanced by how long it has been since we really went out to dinner, but we loved this place and will go back.

The birthday fragrances I received (bought for myself on behalf of my family, lol!) were: Jean Louis Scherrer, Mont de Narcisse, Choeur des Anges, and Crepuscule des Ames. A dear friend surprised me with a lovely gift of body lotion and soap from Lili Bermuda, which she recently visited, in my favorite Lily. It’s very difficult to find gifts for my husband because 1) he actually doesn’t want much; and 2) if he does want something for himself, which is rare, he’ll often just get it. But this year, I was able to surprise him with a bottle of a new botanical gin, which we’ll enjoy (slowly) together. We started down this road a few years ago when we discovered Hendricks. Given how rarely we drink cocktails or hard liquor, I expect this bottle will be with us for a long time!

Do you have your eye on any upcoming birthday fragrances? Or have you recently received any?

Sometimes it’s just the feeling we recall — Now Smell This

Sometimes it’s just the feeling we recall — Now Smell This

Interestingly, smell has the ability to elicit a strong emotional response without the recollection of an explicit memory. Sometimes it’s just the feeling we recall. When you encounter a smell tied to something meaningful in your past, you first feel the emotion followed by a cognitive recognition, information that was stored in your brain. Often…

Sometimes it’s just the feeling we recall — Now Smell This

Fascinating! This is why I’m collaborating with a playwright and composer on a “scent score” for a new play with music.

Perfume Chat Room, August 13

Perfume Chat Room, August 13

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, August 13 — how has your luck held up? I thought about wearing Frederic Malle’s Superstitious as my SOTD, but work was so busy today that I haven’t worn any fragrance yet! (And that’s also why I’m late posting — apologies!). What’s your SOTD? Do you harbor any superstitions? Do you remember vinyl records from the 20th century?

Perfume Chat Room, July 30

Perfume Chat Room, July 30

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 30, and tomorrow is Harry Potter’s birthday! I still remember getting the first book in 1997 and reading it with delight, as a young mother. The books continued to arrive during the same era when my own children arrived. When they were older, we read the earlier books aloud to them and played the audiobooks on long car trips (the American audiobooks, narrated by British actor Jim Dale, are wonderful!). A couple of years ago, I posted about my thoughts on what fragrances various characters from the books might wear. I stand by my choices!

Did you know that Ulta released a “Harry Potter” collection of fragrances last year?? I’m not sure who thought “soothing raindrops” was appropriate for Slytherin. The fragrances chosen by Scentsy for their Hogwarts wax melts seems more apropos:

Gryffindor™: Bravery and Determination
Race through daring smoky woods, while amber and a touch of dapper cinnamon leaf bring warmth to your journey.

Slytherin™: Cunning and Ambition
Forest woods
 hide dark secrets in fresh oak moss and a sweetly sinister layer of deep blackberry.

Hufflepuff™: Just and Loyal
The Great Hall beckons with sweet and steadfast notes of golden applewhipped vanilla almond and cinnamon sugar.

Ravenclaw™: Wit and Wisdom
A clever concoction of suede and sandalwood is mellowed handsomely by a ribbon of smooth vanilla.

Do you have any favorite book characters? What fragrance(s) might they wear?

Featured image from Warner Bros.

Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 23, and it is my late parents’ wedding anniversary. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have read this post before, My Mother’s Last Perfume, in which I wrote a bit about their long, but not always happy, marriage. Nevertheless, I honor this day because without it, my sisters and I wouldn’t exist! And because my parents made the effort to stay married until the ends of their lives and, in their own ways, they cared for each other. Their happiest times were when they traveled together, which they loved to do; and I too love to travel with my husband, though my marriage is a much more content one than my parents’, I think.

I also have some excitement to share — I’ve been asked by an accomplished playwright in my city to collaborate with her and a composer to create a “fragrance score” for a new experimental musical they are writing! I had taken part in a playwriting group she led over several weeks, pre-pandemic, and we had talked about how fragrance could and should be used more in theater. This is such an interesting creative project, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I will be the creative director for the fragrances, of course, not the actual perfumer. We are applying for a grant to develop the production, so I hope to include in the budget some modest funds to commission some scents from a perfumer eventually. For now, I think we’ll be able to use existing scents.

What are your thoughts on combining fragrance with other arts? I love reading about Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ collaborations with the Denver Art Museum. And the ways actors can use fragrance for their own performances are also fascinating: How Performers Use Perfume.

Perfume Chat Room, June 25

Perfume Chat Room, June 25

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, June 25, and we are enjoying unusually cool, dry weather. My husband and I are also indulging in a bit of second-career fantasy/brainstorming, revolving around the sudden appearance on the market of a beloved local nursery business. Maybe I’ll follow in the footsteps of Diane St. Clair, the very gifted founder and perfumer of St. Clair Scents, and combine farming with perfumery! I do love several of her fragrances, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. In fact, since I wore her Pandora yesterday for the “community project” at Now Smell This, I think I’ll wear First Cut today, since we were recently in New England and saw the “first cut” of hay.

What scent are you wearing today? Do you ever have second-career or side-hustle daydreams involving perfume?

May Melange Marathon: Eve

May Melange Marathon: Eve

One of the joys of this fragrance hobby is discovering independent perfumers and their work. One of my favorites is Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents. I’ve loved her earliest creations, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. My SOTD is Eve, one of the “Audacious Innocence” collection, which was a finalist for the 2020 Art & Olfaction Awards in the artisan/independent category.

The other fragrance in the collection, Pandora, is a “sister” to Eve. According to the brand’s website, they share most of the same notes, but Pandora shows a darker side, with added base notes of labdanum and opoponax. Eve‘s notes, without those added base notes, are: Top notes of Lemon, Tomato Leaf, Apple, Bergamot and Mandarin Orange; middle notes of Orris, Lilac, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Carrot Seeds and Jasmine Sambac; base notes of Oakmoss, Tonka Bean, Woods, Vetiver, Musk. Both scents come in a parfum extrait concentration of 35%.

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Pandora opening the box
Pandora, by John William Waterhouse

Diane St. Clair sees Eve and Pandora as similar:

The stories of Pandora and Eve, who reached for the forbidden apple, have much in common. Both came to symbolize women who were punished for disobeying orders and acting on their impulses towards curiosity. We believe that women who challenge the rules and follow their curiosity are striving towards creativity, innovation and independence.

The opening of Eve is as lush as the painting that inspired it, above. It smells of all the fruits listed as top notes, bound together by the astringent greenness of tomato leaf and bergamot. This seems so appropriate, since the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted to eat the apple, was more of an orchard than a garden. (In fact, I’ve learned that the word “paradise”, often used to refer to the Garden of Eden, comes from an ancient Persian word that means a walled orchard garden). I love green scents, so the tomato leaf especially appeals to me. A good thing, since it is quite strong! As the top notes retreat, the scent becomes more and more floral, with orris taking the lead, though ylang-ylang and roses are right behind it. This stage is rich and lush — almost creamy, but not gourmand at all.

I smell the oakmoss almost from the start, and certainly in the “heart” phase. This is some serious oakmoss, friends. It evokes the shadowy, green darkness under the dense branches of trees. That impression only grows stronger as the floral notes fade away and the other base notes anchor the whole scent to the earth, with their woods, musk, vetiver. I can’t say that I smell tonka much at all. Eve lasts a long time on my skin, several hours.

Sillage is moderate, as one would expect from an extrait, but I would say that a little goes a long way! I dabbed tiny spots of Eve on my wrists, and their scent carries easily and clearly up to my nose. Longevity is excellent. Eve just feels like a high-quality perfume all around; one senses the quality of the ingredients right from the start. Even though it is supposed to be the “yin” scent to Pandora‘s darker “yang”, this is not a light or frivolous fragrance. It is not to be trifled with! Which is why I used the gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite painting as this post’s featured image; it shows Lilith, said in Jewish folklore to have been the first wife of Adam (yes, that Adam), who was replaced by Eve because she was too rebellious. The painting beautifully captures a lush, flowering garden, and I think that’s a perfume bottle by the mirror!

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Lilith, first wife of Adam
Lady Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Have you had the chance to try any of St. Clair Scents’ fragrances? Do you have any favorite artisan or independent perfumers?

May Melange Marathon: Toujours Espoir

May Melange Marathon: Toujours Espoir

Another sample sent by a generous reader! Toujours Espoir (which means Always Hope) was launched in 2018 by a firm called “Villa des Parfums.” They have the most fascinating story, which I encourage you to read in full on their website, but in summary, the firm began as an offshoot of a local business and non-profit in Grasse, birthplace of French perfumery. The story began when a couple bought an old mansion, former home of a perfumer, and renovated it to be partly family home, partly a vacation rental (which it still is, and now I’m dying to go there for some “perfume tourism”). The non-profit is called “Parfums de Vie” and it works with impoverished children in Grasse in areas like education, character development, conflict resolution, etc.

The owners, Nicole and Vincent, decided to create a perfume brand that they hoped would generate additional revenue for their children’s programs. They founded “Villa des Parfums” and worked with the perfume house of Molinard, one of a handful of heritage perfume houses in France, which began in Grasse and still has a strong presence there. The collaboration resulted in two perfumes, Toujours Espoir and Etoile Celeste, both eaux de parfum.

Both fragrances are influenced by their Mediterranean garden, in which grow many of the plants that have traditionally inspired French perfumers: rose, jasmine, aromatic herbs, citruses, flowering perennials. The brand says:

A declaration of modern femininity audaciously revisiting the classic blend of jasmine and rose, two undisputed queens of perfumery traditionally cultivated in Grasse, the world’s perfume capital. A sensual chypre fragrance embracing the skin in an irresistible veil of intriguing mystery. An original signature for the woman who believes anything is possible.

More prosaically, Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: Top notes of Peony, Citruses and Pink Pepper; middle notes of Gardenia, Rose and Jasmine; base notes of Musk, Sandalwood and Patchouli. I found the opening to be just delightful. The citrus notes are more sweet than bitter; I don’t pick up bergamot. Maybe tangerine? The peony is present right away. In this fragrance, unlike many that list “pink pepper” as a note, I can actually smell it and it really adds to the charm of the opening.

The heart phase gets more and more floral, with rose and jasmine equally present. I don’t pick up much gardenia (which is very present in my garden, as my own gardenias have started blooming). There’s a touch of powder at this stage too, which enhances the softness of the fragrance; I actually think it comes from the musk base note emerging. As it dries down further, the patchouli and sandalwood notes add warmth and a tint of earthiness. I would barely call this a chypre, it is so gentle.

The rose in Toujours Espoir is based on rose absolute from the local Grasse “Rose de Mai”, Rosa centifolia. Nicole has written about her love for these roses and how she connects their beauty to her own values and beliefs. Today was a perfect day for me to sample this beautiful, gentle, hopeful fragrance. I named this blog “Serenity Now” originally, because I began writing it as a mindfulness exercise, to regain serenity during a stressful period, and remember to count my blessings. Then, of course, due to another writing project, I fell down the fragrance rabbit-hole and my blog became “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities.”

This week was also more hectic and stressful than I had expected, though nothing like the turmoil I had in 2015, so I’m thankful for that. But at the end of my workday, as I was deciding which scent to feature in today’s post, Toujours Espoir felt just right, especially as my youngest child got his second vaccine shot today — the last of the family to do so. Hope is emerging this spring and summer, as many of us are emerging from the past year of pandemic. I’m grateful for that, and for all of you, kind readers!

Perfumer's mansion in Grasse
Hotel Villa des Parfums, Grasse, France; image from http://www.villadesparfums.com
May Melange Marathon: No. 22

May Melange Marathon: No. 22

Today was crazy busy, so I won’t have much to say right now, except that my second daughter got her long-delayed college graduation ceremony (she graduated in May 2020), and we were so happy for her! I wore my longtime favorite, the first Chanel I ever bought for myself, No. 22 in the eau de toilette formulation. I have worn it off and on, to greater or lesser degrees, since my own 20s. It is like a familiar scarf at this point — but an elegant silk one with Parisian flair.

No. 22 is a sumptuous Chanel floral with plenty of aldehydes, white flowers, and iris. Top notes are Aldehydes, Neroli, Lily, Tuberose, Lily-of-the-Valley and Orange Blossom; middle notes are Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, White Rose and Nutmeg; base notes are iris, Vanilla and Vetiver.

I’ll say more about it tomorrow!

Continuation: One of the things that puzzles me about No.22 is how often other commenters talk about an incense note. I don’t smell any incense at all! And I remember when I bought it, the sales associate told me it was based on white roses. I was thankful to see white roses listed among its notes! I don’t, however, think the white roses are dominant, certainly not the way they are in Jo Loves’ White Rose & Lemon Leaves. Nor is incense listed among its notes.

I do smell something sort of woody, sort of spicy, and I think it’s the nutmeg listed as part of the heart phase of No.22. It’s an unusual note to combine with all the white flowers in No.22. Aldehydes dominate the opening notes, an overdose for which No. 22. is famous. It was created by Ernest Beaux at the same time as the legendary No.5, and was one of the finalists presented to Coco Chanel for her house’s first fragrance. She chose No.5 instead, which launched in 1921; No.22 launched the next year (1922). The aldehydes and iris have led my daughter to declare that it smells like baby powder. Sure, honey, the world’s most elegant and expensive baby powder!

I know some of the regulars here share my love for No.22, such as Kathleen and Portia. Anyone else? Care to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments?

May Melange Marathon: Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte

May Melange Marathon: Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte

One of my greatest pleasures is to travel with my husband, and until 2020, his work required him to travel a LOT. I couldn’t go on most trips during the academic year, due to my own job, but I was able to go with him usually at least once a year. 2019 was a banner year for such trips — I was able to go with him on business trips to Nice, then London, then Tuscany. The Tuscany trip happened in the summer, so we extended it for a real vacation and spent several days in Florence and Venice, which we had never seen before.

Florence, as it turns out, has a long tradition, centuries old, of perfumery, and is the perfect city to indulge in “perfume tourism.” We visited Santa Maria Novella, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561, and the boutique of I Profumi di Firenze, Spezierie Palazzo Vecchio, among others. I acquired perfume souvenirs at each of them.

Profumo di Pioggia, winner of award from I Profumi di Boboli
I Profumi di Firenze perfume souvenirs

One of the bottles from the latter that came home with me was Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte, which is formulated as an eau de parfum. The notes list from the brand’s website includes Citrus, Italian Bergamot, Lily Of The Valley, Lavender, Floral Notes. Fragrantica adds that the base notes are white musk, and musk.

I should start this mini-review by noting that my 19 year-old son, who is usually pretty oblivious to his mom’s fragrance habits and applications, walked over to me today around noon to ask about yardwork, and immediately said, “You smell so nice!”. Music to a mother’s ears.

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