Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

By now, regular readers know that I am a committed gardener as well as a lover of fragrance. One probably led to the other, as I favor scents with green, floral, or woody notes. I’ve had to educate myself about genres like gourmands, and they’re still not at the top of my list although I now know more of them. So many of my earliest memories involve the gardens of the houses where my family has lived, and the surrounding New England woods where my sisters and I played for hours. There were the small wildflower garden by the stream that ran through the back yard of the house where I spent my first seven years of life, and the bulbs my parents planted, and my father’s large vegetable garden. A large patch of lilies of the valley spread in the shade against one side of that first house. My American grandparents’ house had a small garden crammed with azaleas and dogwoods, and they owned a nearby plot that was my grandfather’s extensive vegetable garden, which provided bushels of food for them and others during the Great Depression. My grandmother was something of a “grande dame” of the local garden club and prided herself on her flower arranging, so there was also a cutting garden for the flowers she loved.

Later in my own childhood, at another house, there was a wide meadow between our house and that of the famous architect who sold my parents several acres of his woodland on which to build. There, my father’s vegetable gardening became more ambitious, as he fenced about 100 square feet against the predations of deer and woodchucks. I was his reluctant helpmeet in the vegetable patch, the obedient middle child who didn’t vanish when he headed outside, or who could be easily found reading a book in a tree (aka, “doing nothing”). So I learned to weed, pick beans that were ready, take up ripe tomatoes before the squirrels got them, pick raspberries without my hands getting shredded by thorns, and cut the gladioli my dad loved to plant along the edges of his beds when their buds were half open, so they could finish unfurling their parasols of bright colors indoors, in one of my mother’s vases. One year, I even had a little corner of my own in that garden, to grow herbs, after I became entranced with the idea from reading the books of Elizabeth Goudge, especially The White Witch.  The main character is an herbalist and healer, and the book has many descriptions of various herbs, their uses, and their fragrance. I took my blogger name and the name of my gardening blog from another book that inspired my love of gardening when I was a child: Old Herbaceous.

Illustration of vegetable garden

Vegetable garden; image from http://www.sitez.co

The meadow itself was full of native wildflowers like butterfly weed, which my father nurtured with a passion. Past the enclosed vegetable garden, a single pathway through the meadow was kept mowed, and it was the shortcut to the woods for us and other children, as well as the deer who gazed longingly through the enclosure at my father’s lettuces and other green delicacies. The rest of the meadow was mowed once a year, and only after the wildflowers’ seeds had ripened. This late summer mowing, which removes competing tree saplings and also helps spread the seeds, is also known in England as “the hay cut.” It was essential for a meadow like this, as the surrounding woods, including the native northern white cedar, did their best to encroach stealthily and steadily within its bounds.

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed in Connecticut

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed; image from www.vimeo.com

Gardener’s Glove evokes all of these memories, starting with its top note of tomato leaf absolute, a favorite of mine. As Diane St. Clair’s website for St. Clair Scents observes:

If you work amidst the thorn and bramble, you know that the gardener’s glove is a soft, pliable leather, worn down from work, in all the right places.

The scent carries the background fragrance of the glove—tanned, aged leather, woods and soil—along with the ambrosial elements of the garden—sumptuous jasmines, roses, green blossoms and ripe fruit.

Gardeners Glove artisanal fragrance by St. Clair Scents

Gardeners Glove, from St. Clair Scents; image from http://www.stclairscents.com

If you haven’t yet discovered St. Clair Scents, you are in for a treat. The scents are a small group (three, to date) of handcrafted artisanal fragrances made by Diane, who is a premier artisan of dairy products at her farm in Vermont. Diane became intrigued with perfume and embarked on a course of study with her mentor Eliza Douglas. These three fragrances are the result. Diane was kind enough to exchange a few emails with me, in which she said:

I am really trying to position myself as someone producing perfumes with the aroma and feel of nature, a sense (scents) of place, if you will, since I am lucky enough to live and work on a farm. I also try to give my scents a vintage feel, from the days when naturals made up the bulk of perfume formulas, rather than synthetics.

On the St. Clair Scents website, Diane writes:

As I have done in making artisanal, farmstead food, I am interested in creating scent in a similar fashion: producing it with an individual vision and in small batches using fine ingredients. My perfumes are bottled by hand, each one a work of art on its own.

And Gardener’s Glove is indeed a work of art. It opens with a bright, sunny, green burst of citrus (including bergamot, which smells green to me), tomato leaf, and galbanum. It smells like the sun on a vegetable garden, verdant with tomato plants and herbs. As it evolves, the floral notes emerge — linden, rose, lily, jasmine — but also more greenery, in the form of blackcurrant bud, and fruit via apricot. So this vegetable garden, like my father’s, includes flowers; it also has some flowering fruit trees, bushes, and vines, like a true French “potager”. If you’ve ever smelled a fresh, ripe apricot, warmed by the sun and just plucked, you will recognize the note, as light as it is here. A hint of roses in sunlight, a waft of jasmine, perhaps twining its way up a fence or a post, a breath of lilies, round out the heart. Those floral notes together with the linden also leave a strong impression of sweet honeysuckle.

The greenness continues into the drydown, with vetiver, patchouli, and fir needle, now mixing with the warmth lent by saffron and amber notes, but on my skin the dominant theme of the base is the soft, fragrant leather of a well-worn gardener’s glove. If you garden, you know that there is that one favorite pair of gloves, often leather or part leather, that just fits right, has worn well, is sturdy enough for any job. Such gloves often pick up the various scents of the garden: pruned clippings of green leaves and grass, juice from harvested fruits, fragrant blossoms trimmed from their stems and gathered for the house, sap  and resin from shrubs and tree branches, dark, fertile earth, well-aged compost; and those scents mingle with the softened leather of one’s favorite gloves.

Part leather garden gloves used to prune roses

Garden gloves; photo from http://www.nocry.com

That is what Gardener’s Glove smells like — heaven! Some of my favorite fragrance blogs have reviewed Gardener’s Glove very favorably. I especially liked this comment by Sam at “I Scent You A Day”:

Gardener’s Glove takes you on a tour of a garden: a true gardener’s garden, earth, twigs, leaves and all. It’s a wonderfully clever fragrance that reveals itself leaf by leaf.

Sam also pointed out that the fragrance contains “everything sappy, sharp and green that you can find in the garden”. Yes! Yes it does! And I love it. Kafkaesque, whom Diane consulted in the last stages of the scent’s development, offers her usual detailed description, and I agree with almost all of it, except that I don’t get the medicinal note that bothered her. Jessica, at “Now Smell This”, called Gardener’s Glove “a leathery floral, with a leather that’s soft and smooth rather than animalic or dirtied-up”, while acknowledging the earthiness brought by notes like vetiver and castoreum. Robert Hermann wrote, at “CaFleureBon”, that Gardener’s Glove “is a flat out masterpiece of a fragrance; a perfect marriage of the best of vintage perfumes shot through with a modern sensibility.”

I have to agree. I don’t think I’m qualified to say what fragrance is or isn’t a masterpiece, but Gardener’s Glove is wonderful, and a worthy companion to my beloved Dryad, with which it shares a number of notes, by another artisanal perfumer, Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. If Dryad is the wild woodland sprite, Gardener’s Glove is her more domesticated neighbor in the meadow adjoining the woods. I love them both.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; views expressed are my own.

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri (again)

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri (again)

Today’s lily of the valley fragrance is Oriza Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri. A very beautiful scent, it is more than a muguet soliflore. It has a classic structure anchored by a base note of oakmoss. Top notes are, yes, lily of the valley, grass, and green notes (although the Oriza Legrand website lists them more eccentrically as “feuillages vertes, herbes folles, muguet sauvage”). Middle, or heart, notes are lily of the valley (here listed by Oriza LeGrand as “muguet des bois”), violet leaf, angelica and galbanum. Base notes are lily of the valley blossoms (“clochettes de muguet frais”), oakmoss, and wild lily (“lys des pres”, or “lily of the field/meadow”). I reviewed Muguet Fleuri two years ago, in my first “May Muguet Marathon”, but that was based on a sample. A question I posed at the end of the post was whether I should spring for a full bottle. Reader, I did. So here’s a new review.

Instead of true citrus at the top of Muguet Fleuri, we get a burst of lemony fresh greenness that is the first impression, quickly followed by the lily of the valley, which is strong. The heart notes that include violet leaf, angelica and galbanum with the “muguet des bois” send Muguet Fleuri in a different direction than a straightforward floral. All of these heart note companions to the muguet are intensely green. The galbanum gives it a little “bite” as it dries down, a bit of an edge. The angelica brings in an herbal tone. The violet leaf is meant to be somewhat metallic and aqueous, though I’m not sure I would describe it that way, but it is definitely more of a crunchy green than a soft one. Violet leaf appears in many men’s fragrances, so on balance, this phase of the fragrance is where it becomes less feminine and more unisex to my nose, suitable for either a man or a woman. I think this is why Fragrantica categorizes Muguet Fleuri as an “aromatic floral.”

Kafkaesque wrote a very thorough review of Muguet Fleuri. She found violet flowers peeping between the green leaves, but I did not. In the heart phase, the only real flower I smell is the lily of the valley, surrounded by shades of green; it is very true to the actual flower, as I’ve written before. Because of the continuous presence of that lily of the valley, the fragrance doesn’t develop and evolve as much as other high-quality fragrances, but it lasts well, and the base notes are intriguing. The oakmoss seems to anchor the muguet flowers in the earth, with the green leaves and stems sturdily supporting the ethereal white blossoms that look like tiny bells (“clochettes”).

lilies of the valley planted in moss

Kafkaesque found the final stage slightly woody: “Muguet Fleuri’s drydown on my skin really feels like a bouquet of lily of the valley, cedar, violet leaves, and violets, even though the latter is now a mere impression more than a distinctive, powerful, individual note. The whole thing is dusted with floral powder that feels sandier than ever, and a light touch of very expensive floral soap.” The Smelly Vagabond also had a very positive review, and an insightful comparison to the classic muguet scent, Diorissimo.

Oriza Legrand deliberately presents its fragrances in old-fashioned design and presentation, to emphasize its history and heritage. Muguet Fleuri is listed among its “Art Deco” Collection; to me, its design elements are reminiscent of the flower illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker, creator of the Flower Fairies in her series of children’s books.

Muguet Fleuri box and bottle

Oriza Legrand Muguet Fleuri; image from http://www.notino.co.uk

Taken together, Muguet Fleuri is a happy, uncomplicated fragrance that is sturdier than it might appear at first impression. I like the opening burst of green, the persistence of various forms of muguet throughout, the well-chosen companion notes, and the oakmoss base. This is a thinking woman’s muguet, but it is far from introverted. It has a warmth to it, after the dewy green opening and herbal green heart, that grounds it and makes it a grown-up muguet. It also comes with a pretty card, imprinted with the same images, and the following cheerful message:

“Que ces quelques brins de Muguet Fleuri vous portent bonheur!” or “May these few sprigs of Lily of the Valley bring you happiness!”. They did.

Featured image by Cicely Mary Barker.

 

Fragrance Friday and Saturday Snippet: Le Petit Prince

Fragrance Friday and Saturday Snippet: Le Petit Prince

I am reposting this from my other blog, “Old Herbaceous”, where I post about gardening and garden-related books. It seems appropriate for a “Fragrance Friday” because this rose, “Le Petit Prince”, has won awards for its fragrance and that is a major reason why I bought it for my garden. I am growing it in a large pot that can be moved around until I learn more about its habits and where it might grow best. It is, indeed, marvelously fragrant!

Old Herbaceous

This is a tardy Saturday Snippet, posted on a Sunday because I spent most of yesterday actually planting things in my garden! But I have the perfect reason to post this weekend, complete with literary tie-in: my new rosebush, Le Petit Prince.

Also known as La Rose du Petit Prince, this beautiful rose is named for the classic novella Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which features a Rose who is the Little Prince’s responsibility and love, in spite of her flaws.

Illustration from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Le Petit Prince and his Rose

But here’s some additional, wonderful information about the actual rose, from the blog www.thelittleprince.com:

“For over 50 years the Pépinières et Roseraies Georges Delbard nursery gardeners have been creating exceptional roses. Very possibly you have a Claude Monet or Comtesse de Ségur rose bush growing in your garden … It was back in 2008 that they first thought of…

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Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas too, but Christmas involves more work over a longer period of time than Easter, and it has been so commercialized that it’s hard to hear the church’s messages over the din of jingle bells and cash registers. We seem to have managed to keep the focus on the religious meaning of Easter; the secular hasn’t taken over as it has with Christmas. After all, as our minister said on Sunday, no one even likes the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” (Although one small boy piped up from the congregation, “I do!”).

I know one of the reasons I love Easter so much is that it comes with the start of spring, a particularly beautiful season in my part of the world which calls to my gardener’s soul. Flowers and trees blooming everywhere, days getting longer, sunnier and warmer — plus there is chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Especially in my house. The scents of Easter and spring are my favorite ones: hyacinths, daffodils, lilies of the valley, Japanese magnolias, even an early rose or two. Lots of fresh greenness bursting from the earth. We always have a pot of Easter lilies in the house for the holiday, and pots of forced spring bulbs. Our church’s floral guild goes a little crazy and blankets the entire church in garlands of roses, lilies, and other fragrant flowers.

IMG_5282

It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the season when I happily break out my favorite floral fragrances: Penhaligon’s Ostara, for instance, named for the pagan goddess whose name is also the root for the word “Easter.” I’ve also been wearing Chanel No. 22, a heady concoction of white roses and other flower notes, Jo Loves‘ White Rose and Lemon Leaves, Berdoues’ Somei Yoshino (cherry blossoms), Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy, Lili Bermuda’s Lily, and others. I’m hoping to make our annual spring visit this weekend to an amazing private garden that is home to tens of millions of daffodil bulbs planted up and down hillsides:

Woodland daffodils, GIbbs Gardens, March 2016

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, March 2016

I love the sheer over-the-top exuberance of these floral outpourings, and that is what the whole season of spring is like here, all over our city: flamboyant azaleas in Easter egg hues layered under the floating white and pale pink blossoms of dogwoods and Japanese magnolias, underplanted with all shades of yellow and white narcissus or extravagantly bright tulips, combined with swaths of the light blue starflowers that spread here like weeds. Welcome, Spring!

Green nymph Fantasia.gif

Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

Fragrance Friday: SJP Stash Unspoken

I developed a strange liking for the original SJP Stash when it came out — strange, because it really is not my usual vibe. I didn’t like it much when I first tried it in store, but I sprayed some on a paper slip and took that home. Lo and behold, every time I found myself sniffing the air, thinking “what is that alluring scent?”, it was the slip with Stash on it. And this went on for a week! At the end of that week, I caved and went and bought one of the gift sets on sale at Ulta.

Now there is SJP Stash Unspoken, a flanker. And I really like that too, though they are different in many ways. Stash Unspoken has these notes, according to Fragrantica:

Top: Pink pepper, Quince
Heart: Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Peony
Base: Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Frankincense

In contrast, Stash is described as having “notes of fresh grapefruit, black pepper and aromatic sage. Its heart notes include Atlas cedar, patchouli, ginger lily and pistachios, laid on the warm woody base of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.” Only one floral in the whole pyramid: ginger lily.

Grid collage of fragrance notes of Sarah Jessica Parker's fragrance SJP Stash.

Fragrance notes of SJP Stash; image from http://www.sjpbeauty.com.

Stash Unspoken, whose heart notes are entirely floral, occupies the ground between woody, aromatic Stash and Sarah Jessica Parker’s first commercial fragrance, Lovely, which is a softer, lightly fruity floral with some spice and woody notes. To my nose, Stash Unspoken is warmer than Lovely. Its opening is fine, didn’t really excite me but didn’t bore or repel me either. Pretty quickly, the floral heart notes emerged. Among them, peony seems the strongest to me. All are light and evoke late spring/early summer; they are very pretty. Then the base notes start to take over, and that’s when I think Stash Unspoken really comes into its own. As the SJP website says: “Stash Unspoken layers brighter, softer notes of floral woods with the sensuous base notes of original Stash.” Although the two scents do not have the same listed base notes, the drydown of Stash Unspoken definitely shows its Stash DNA. There is a woody warmth, lingering on the skin, that suggests intimacy without being as “sexy” as Stash. You could absolutely think of Stash Unspoken as your daytime scent and original Stash as your nighttime scent. One would segue into the other very nicely!

Many reviewers and commenters felt that the original Stash smelled like a quality niche fragrance; it was different from the mainstream, it is quirky, it holds your interest. Stash Unspoken maintains that niche feel, while being a little more approachable than the original. Similarly, I love the bottle of Stash Unspoken. It is the twin of the original, but in a delightful shade of rose gold. Very feminine, but modern; it feels a little more mature than Lovely without being staid at all, and softer than Stash without losing the quirkiness.

Have you tried the original or the flanker? What did you think?

Fragrance Friday: Excellent Customer Service

Fragrance Friday: Excellent Customer Service

Facebook Fragrance Friends recently posted the question: where have members received excellent customer service when trying/buying fragrance? I thought that was a great question and it offers the opportunity to articulate the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. While I appreciate comments that warn about particularly bad experiences, I also value (maybe even more) fellow fragrance-lovers’ input on particularly good ones; and I also like to give a shout-out to the folks who extend themselves to make a customer’s experience as pleasant as possible. So here is my random list, in no particular order, and I apologize in advance if I’ve left anyone or any place out! I’ll do another post on customer service online, and outside the US.

In-person experiences in the US:

Neiman Marcus. It may be partly because I live in the South, though I’m not a native Southerner, and it really is true that Southerners seem to take a little more time and extend a little more warmth and courtesy with customers. Not all of them, and not all the time, but overall this is true to my experience, including at a large store like Neiman Marcus. I go to the one in my city occasionally; without exception, the sales associates in their large, top-of-the line fragrance department have been courteous, helpful, enthusiastic but never pushy about offering various fragrances to try even when I have said candidly that I was just browsing, or they didn’t have what I originally wanted. Several have been very knowledgeable, not just about a couple of the brands they carry, but about fragrance generally. All have been kind, and usually able and willing to offer small samples. If I were wholly devoted to a high-end house that is rarely available online, I would absolutely develop a relationship with one of its sales associates at NM.

Scent Bar. Such a fun boutique to visit! On my one and only visit to LA, a few years ago, I sought it out with a friend, at their first location in Hollywood. I understand they now have two locations in addition to their website LuckyScent. The store has a delightful set-up, with fragrances displayed by categories on open shelves along all the walls (floral, green, spicy, etc.), fronted by a long bar-like counter. The sales associate responded knowledgeably to my interest in florals, especially lily of the valley, pulling out a wide range of fragrances for me to try, including some I had not heard of before. I ended up buying a terrific Byredo sampler and was also given several samples of the other suggestions she made. I love supporting an independent business like this, btw.

Nordstrom. This department store chain is famed for its customer service, and our local store fits the claim. It has open containers throughout the fragrance department with small, empty sample atomizers that one is invited/encouraged to fill oneself from the many testers on display. Now THAT is nice. Sales associates there have been less expert than those at NM or ScentBar, but still very helpful and courteous.

Sephora. Although service can be hit or miss, depending on the store you visit and who’s on duty that day, I have had several excellent experiences at Sephora, with enthusiastic young sales associates. What they might lack in detailed knowledge, they have compensated for by their willingness to suggest and offer samples of various fragrances, in sincere attempts to help. As a result, I’ve bought more at Sephora than I otherwise might have, because most of what’s in its stores just isn’t “me” — I don’t really experiment with make up, or use most of the products they carry.

What have others experienced that counts as excellent customer service? Praise and compliments only, please, we are dwelling on the positive in this post!

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette

I’ve now tried something that has tempted me for a while: fragrance for one’s hair, which seems to be a lasting trend. It makes sense, because many people think that fragrance lasts longer on hair than on skin, hair won’t react to allergens as skin might, and most of us are used to scented shampoos. Hair fragrance is a logical next step, and probably more effective than shampoo that gets rinsed out.

When I found two of Tocca’s hair mist fragrances on sale locally, and they happened to be two of their scents that I have previously liked, Liliana and Colette, I pounced. The first one I’ve used is Colette, and I’m happy to say that it is delightful! Fragrantica describes the EDP as “the natural scent of a woman”, a “warm, spicy and sweet” fragrance, with  notes of “bergamot, mandarin, lemon, juniper berry, pink peppercorn, jasmine, violet, cyclamen, incense, sandalwood, musk, amber, vanilla and cedar.” The hair fragrance seems to have the same notes, but it is based on a light, sheer oil instead of alcohol. I don’t detect any oiliness on my hair after I spray it on.

The hair mist definitely opens with a nice light burst of citrus notes, then it quickly moves into a more floral middle stage. None of the flower notes are strong or overpowering, including the jasmine. The vanilla note emerges soon after that, and remains as the base note most evident to my nose, while the other warm base notes gently support and enhance it. It’s a little powdery, and very pretty. It is a peaceful kind of fragrance; it would work well for a quiet afternoon reading at home, or a walk in the park with a friend, or a cuddle session with someone you like — romantic partner or child. I have worn it to bed a couple of times, and it is a soft, serene scent to waft one to sleep. The bottle is really pretty too, heavy with an ornate top. This design may have been discontinued, however; I saw smaller, simpler bottles on the Tocca website, in other scents.

If you like soft, feminine scents and want to try something in your hair, I can recommend this one. Have you tried any other hair fragrances, from Tocca or other brands? Has anyone tried the Chanel No. 5 hair mist?

Bottles of Tocca hair fragrances

Hair fragrances from Tocca; photo from Fragrantica.