May Melange Marathon: Tobacco Rose

May Melange Marathon: Tobacco Rose

When I first began to engage in “perfume tourism”, in 2015, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with my husband on one of his business trips to London. I spent every day roaming London, visiting gardens and discovering perfumeries. One of them was Les Senteurs, a deservedly legendary perfume boutique that sells many niche fragrances. (If you ever get the chance to visit their store on Elizabeth Street, I highly recommend that you do! The staff are really nice, friendly, and knowledgeable, and the neighborhood is beautiful — plus, Jo Loves is right up the block!).

On that first visit, I told the helpful sales associate that I was interested in smelling some rose fragrances, as I had spent so much time in rose gardens that week. He showed me several and kindly offered samples, too. One in particular that he recommended was Tobacco Rose, launched just the year before, from Papillon Perfumery. He knew quite a bit about its founder, Liz Moores, whom he had met, and told me what a nice person she was! I follow Liz on Instagram — what an interesting person she is, and I love her photos of her pet owl, Ghost.

I own full bottles of a couple of her fragrances, Dryad and Bengale Rouge, but not Tobacco Rose. Sadly, as I exited Les Senteurs’ shop in their other location (now closed) that day, I took a terrible fall and broke my shoulder. True story. I had planned to live with the sample for a day and night, and return the next day to buy a full bottle if I loved it. The best-laid plans of perfumistas … Instead of buying perfume, I found myself in a NHS emergency room being x-rayed, after having taken a double-decker bus across London to get to my husband’s office. Yes, I was probably in shock.

That summer, the summer of 2015, was when I learned how to use WordPress and launched my blogs, as I was stranded at home all summer. I guess I was an early adopter of working remotely, lol! But back to Tobacco Rose. I enjoyed my sample, and later bought a sample set of several Papillon fragrances. My favorite so far is Dryad, and I love Bengale Rouge, but I’m always tempted by Angelique. I do enjoy Tobacco Rose. The website says:

A sensual blend of Bulgarian rose, geranium and Rose de Mai form an opulent backdrop of velvety rose notes set against a luxuriously rich and smoky base of French hay and earthy oakmoss. Soft animalic touches of ambergris and beeswax have been suspended in a sumptuous blend of musks, creating an enigmatic, alluring and unmistakable perfum.

That pretty much says it all. Tobacco Rose starts out right away with a smokiness that continues through its entire development. It is not heavy or overwhelming, it is more like tendrils of smoke that entwine a lush red rose. I don’t believe there is actual tobacco in the fragrance, I think the gentle smokiness comes from the hay, oakmoss and ambergris. Liz Moores has written that she wanted to avoid creating a “sweet, old-fashioned, pretty” rose, she wanted to create a scent that felt “as though one were breathing in not only the fading petals but the rich earth from which a rose grows.” She included mineral notes to achieve that effect, and they are discernible, although not listed elsewhere, especially during the drydown. They lend a dryness to Tobacco Rose that really appeals to me.

The oakmoss is also discernible but it is included with a light touch. It blends beautifully with the rose, ambergris, and musks. Tobacco Rose really is one of the best rose fragrances available; it was a finalist for the Fragrance Foundation Awards in the category of Best New Independent Fragrance.

Have you tried any Papillon perfumes?

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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May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

I like to seek out fragrance “bargain beauties”, for my own sake and for the sake of readers who may not be able to afford (or want to pay) the often eye-watering prices of niche fragrances. While there is much to recommend the practice of buying only a few, albeit expensive, high-quality fragrances, it is fun to educate one’s nose by trying many different fragrances, especially at the outset of this hobby, and that is how I acquired a number of ‘bargain beauty” fragrances. Luckily, I also have two young adult daughters, currently living at home during the pandemic, and they’re happy to share them! Of course, none would be bargains if they weren’t pleasing at some level, and likely to be used and enjoyed.

One such bargain beauty is Parfums Salvador Dali’s Purplelight. Launched in 2007, the nose behind it is Francis Kurkdjian, usually associated with much more expensive fragrances, including those from his own brand Maison Francis Kurkdjian. While Purplelight is in no way comparable to those fragrances, it is a very pleasant, soft, lilac-centered eau de toilette that works well. Its primary notes are bamboo, lilac, and musk, with companion notes of cherry blossom, jasmine, tiare flower, almond tree, and vetiver, according to Fragrantica. Purplelight followed the house’s 2006 launch of Purplelips, another lilac-forward fragrance, created by perfumers Antoine Lie and Guillaume Flavigny. I really enjoy finding pleasant bargain fragrances that have been created by well-known perfumers; as some of you know, one of my favorite bargain beauties is Adam Levine for Women, created by Yann Vasnier, who has also created fragrances for much more expensive brands like Arquiste, Frassai, Tom Ford, Comme des Garcons, Jo Malone, and others. My most recent bargain beauty fragrance line, which I wrote about earlier this week, is the Zara Emotions line created by perfumer Jo Malone (the person, not the brand). Parfums Salvador Dali has several bargain beauties, well worth exploring.

At first spray of Purplelight, what I smell most is a light green bamboo with watery undertones. As that dies down, I smell more and more of a soft lilac. This is very light also; I like the fact that to my nose, it doesn’t smell soapy, as some lilac scents do. Over a short period of time, a soft, gentle musk appears. Projection and sillage are minimal, but I can clearly smell Purplelight on my hand and wrist for a few hours. It is still possible to find gift sets of the eau de toilette that come with body lotion, and it seems likely that the two used together would increase the scent’s longevity. I enjoy Purplelight as an easy floral for warm weather or bedtime, when one doesn’t necessarily want a powerhouse or anything very challenging.

I can’t fail to mention the charming bottle for Purplelight, which matches that of its sister fragrance Purplelips. It is a rectangular column into which is set a row of concave lips. The juice inside is a light purple, which tints the bottle. The artist Salvador Dali incorporated lips into many of his artworks, and the theme has been carried into many of the bottles of Parfums Salvador Dali.

Have you tried any of the other Salvador Dali fragrances, either the bargain-priced ones or the more expensive “haute” line?

Fragrance Friday: Eat More Flowers

Fragrance Friday: Eat More Flowers

Today is the last day of January, and I’ve been enjoying my January Joy Box from 4160 Tuesdays all month. Such a creative idea, to create a sort of post-Advent calendar of goodies to open in January, when the holidays are over. I’m taking my time to absorb each of the 10 numbered fragrances, and I’m not writing about them in order — just as the fancy strikes me!

One that I truly love is Eat More Flowers. In addition to the 9 ml spray that came in the January Joy Box, I actually have a full bottle, having ordered it when Sarah McCartney (the nose and owner of 4160 Tuesdays) offered it in the fall. It is a glorious floral, made at parfum strength — the vavavoom sister of Eat Flowers, which was launched in 2018. In addition to the notes of Eat Flowers (top notes: linden blossom, neroli, lemon flower; heart notes: rose, iris, tuberose, lily, geranium; base notes: musks, white woods, cabrueva), Sarah added rose and violet leaf absolutes, and orris butter. As she writes, “Wear it, and you’re walking barefoot, deep into the blossoming glades of a spring forest.”

Her inspiration for the original Eat Flowers was a poster from 1968, which hangs in her studio:

Poster titled Eat Flowers, from 1968.

“Eat Flowers”, 1968.

Sarah describes Eat Flowers as “a swirling floral aura of lightly blended petals, with cedarwoods, bergamot, linden blossom and a soft amber base.” Eat More Flowers amps up the floral notes — truly, “Flower Power.”

The orris and violet leaf notes are the strongest, to my nose, and they are gorgeous. The violet leaf absolute creates an aura of deep green around the royal purple robes of orris that surround the other flowers. A non-sugary sweetness gilds the composition, which I think comes from the linden blossom and its ability to evoke honey. And if you want to really “eat more flowers”? The young leaves and flower buds of violets are edible. In fact, you can include them in this recipe for perfumer Ezra Woods’ “fragrant flower salad”, pictured above and below.

Flower-based salad and recipe by perfumer Ezra Woods.

Ezra Woods’ fragrant flower salad; photo by Julia Stotz for The New York Times.

Eat More Flowers has good longevity, several hours even on my dry skin. I find it to be almost linear; it does change over time as it dries down, but not dramatically.  The orris and violet leaf carry straight through the composition once they emerge, which they do very quickly from the start. It’s also a perfectly acceptable scent for most settings, as it doesn’t overwhelm its surroundings. If you like flowers and floral scents, Eat More Flowers may be just the bouquet for you.

Featured image by Julia Stotz for The New York Times: A Perfumer’s Fragrant Flower Salad.

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

Because the third fragrance in the 4160 Tuesdays “January Joy Box” is Clouds, I am reposting what I wrote this past fall about Clouds’ Illusion, while I think about how the two versions compare! (One uses mostly synthetics, the other natural essences).

In honor of this week’s move of English perfume-maker 4160 Tuesdays to another part of London, today I review Clouds’ Illusion eau de parfum, which 4160 Tuesdays perfumer and founder Sarah McCartney created for a crowdfunding project for the Eau My Soul Facebook group.

Sarah McCartney's 4160 Tuesdays perfumery studio, Ravenscourt, London.

New space for 4160 Tuesdays London; image from 4160 Tuesdays.

What a fun idea! This isn’t the first one, either — she and the group’s founder, Christi Long, collaborated previously on the eponymous fragrance Eau My Soul in 2017, with input from the members of the Facebook group. Here’s the tale of how it happened, in Sarah’s own words:

Clouds was an idea dreamed up by Christi Long. Christi runs Eau My Soul as a kind, encouraging forum for fragrance lovers, and one day she was wearing our crowdfunded fragrance from 2018, Take Me To The River. It crossed her mind that Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now would be a wonderful inspiration for a fragrance, looking at clouds from both sides, the grey, then the sunshine.

Between us, we dreamed up a plan: Christi sent me a list of notes: iris, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla and others which I’ll keep secret. She’d named some of the most expensive materials that exist, but I also knew that would want it to be affordable to everyone in the group because she’s nice like that.

So I had a suggestion. How about we do Both Sides Now? I am going to make two versions, one with the natural materials and one with the synthetic recreations made by the genius chemists from the industry. That way we can make the most magnificent, fabulously luxurious fragrance this side of Ancient Rome, plus the affordable one.

Clouds, and Clouds’ Illusion.

My intention was that they should smell pretty much exactly the same, but whichever one you buy, you can have a sample of the other one too. I don’t think anyone has done this before. I’m keen to show that aromachemicals are just as beautiful as naturals, and that you’re not missing out if you don’t have the spare cash for expensive fragrances. (But if you do, don’t let us hold you back.)

We also both agreed that we wanted to give a proportion of the funds raised to our chosen causes – some sunshine in these grey times. Previously we used a crowdfunding platform which took a percentage of the funds for use of its tech and database, so we took  that and gave it to Hope Not Hate in the UK, and to the Looking Out Foundation in the US. We think we already know enough people to make this happen, and besides we don’t want to conquer the world, just to make a lovely fragrance.

“Both Sides Now” was written by legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, and was first commercially released as a recording by folk singer Judy Collins, on her album Wildflowers. The latter is the version most of us recognize from the radios of our youth, haunting in its lyrical beauty. A year later, Joni Mitchell followed with her own recording, also beautiful, for her album Clouds.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

“Both Sides Now”, by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s clouds’ illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real, I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show, you leave ’em laughin’ when you go
And if you care don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends are acting strange they shake their heads, they say
I’ve changed
Well, something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

 

The fragrance Clouds comes in two versions: one is based entirely on natural essences, and was made in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations. The other is Clouds’ Illusion, which replaces a number of those (very expensive) natural essences with fine aromachemicals, though it still contains some of the naturals. Sarah’s goal was to incorporate all the elements Christi requested, but also to create a version that would be more affordable for crowdfunders and, in addition, show how aromachemicals can be used judiciously to create a truly beautiful fragrance. Clouds’ Illusion also comes in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations.

I was thrilled to take part in the crowdfunding, and as a result, I now have a bottle of Clouds’ Illusion in eau de parfum. I also had the privilege of visiting Sarah in her studio in London this past spring, when she was still modifying her formulas after initial feedback from Christi.

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Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays

Sarah and Nick were kind enough to spend quite a bit of time with me, and this visit was a highlight of my London trip. I’m quite a fan of 4160 Tuesdays, having won a bottle of their White Queen in a draw on the excellent fragrance blog “CaFleureBon”, and I bought more of their fragrances on my visit, several that were hard to get in the US.

So what is Clouds’ Illusion like, and does it fulfill the creative intentions behind it? The answer is, yes, it does, magnificently, and it is very lovely. Sarah lists notes of iris, citrus, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla, and other unnamed “secret ingredients.” I love the scent of narcissus, and iris is becoming one of my favorite notes in perfume. According to Sarah, the iris note, or orris, evokes the melancholy, blue, introverted facets of the song, while the lemony citrus notes in the opening and bright flower notes like narcissus evoke its sunnier aspects. The white chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of musks create the soft white clouds. The image Christi posted on Eau My Soul, featured above and below, perfectly captures the fragrance: a pensive, introverted artist in a green meadow dotted with yellow wildflowers, set against a blue sky layered with puffy white clouds from horizon to horizon.

Singer songwriter Joni Mitchell with clouds, wildflowers and guitar

Joni Mitchell and clouds; image from Eau My Soul.

The opening of Clouds’ Illusion is especially wonderful, with citrus notes sparkling against a blue background of iris. I can’t think of another fragrance with a similar opening phase. The citruses fade away, but the iris comes to the fore and persists throughout the development of Clouds’ Illusion, partnered with narcissus (which here smells to me, specifically, like yellow daffodils or jonquils) and dry hay. The drydown slowly becomes softer and warmer, with its notes of vanilla and sandalwood joining the iris as the narcissus and hay move offstage. The development of the fragrance mimics the development of the song’s lyrics: starting out brightly, optimistically, yellow sunshine pouring down from a blue sky, then becoming more melancholy and wistful, as the sunlight darkens and fades and the clouds take over. But then the clouds part, and the the songwriter reflects that “something’s lost, but something’s gained, in living every day,” comforting herself with that thought, just as the fragrance becomes warmer and comforts with base notes of vanilla and sandalwood. The iris is still there, but it has been warmed by the other base notes. I can still smell iris, vanilla and sandalwood on my wrist more than eight hours after applying it lightly, so Clouds’ Illusion has excellent longevity in the eau de parfum concentration (I haven’t tried the extrait).

How does Clouds’ Illusion compare with Clouds, the version that uses only natural ingredients? My order of Clouds’ Illusion came with a sample of the Clouds EDP, so I’ve been able to smell them side by side. To my non-expert nose, right away the opening of Clouds smells more strongly of lemon than the top notes of its counterpart, but it fades into the background more quickly than the lemony opening of Clouds’ Illusion. The iris takes center stage in the middle phase in both versions, but in Clouds, I smell more of the sandalwood, and sooner, as it dries down, and Clouds’ Illusion seems to retain a bit more of the greenness of the hay note. Otherwise, though, they are very similar and have comparable longevity (more than eight hours on each of my wrists). Sarah has succeeded in her goal of creating fragrance twins, one with the precious natural substances and the other with more affordable aromachemicals, both lovely.

Here is Christi’s own account of how she experienced Clouds:

As many of you know, there were two earlier mods for Clouds and neither felt right to me. While they were nice fragrances, one even quite unusual, they were not the “Clouds” I had in my mind. After I told Sarah the second one wasn’t quite it either, she said “I know now what you want” and said it with such confidence. I now see why she was so sure of it…because it’s perfect.

First, it’s somewhat ethereal, but fluffy, like passing through a cloud. There is no sadness, but there is introspection, and a slight bit of melancholy from the orris butter laid thick under happy lemon sunshine. There is a hay like quality coming from the narcissus that counters the sweetness of the powdery, creamy white chocolate, so that it’s never too sweet but also never quite overly gray either. There is a cozy blanket of mood lifting lemon that surrounds it all, like a ray of golden hope at all times. Clouds is the days when you feel a bit down but know you’re strong enough to make it and feel hopeful. This isn’t a fragrance about giving in to sadness, it’s about rising above it and finding the reminder that sunshine always comes again, you just have to be strong enough to wait for it.

This year has been a roller coaster for me. It started really difficult, got better, then the hardships of life brought me down again. And literally right as I’m fighting to find the sunshine again, Clouds shows up at my doorstep. I sprayed it on and so many emotions, memories and thoughts passed before me. And in Clouds, just like life, the sunshine always wins if we let it. But we keep our memories with it, as a reminder of why we need the light.

Thank you, Sarah, for making this perfume for all of us who need a ray of hope sometimes. It reminds me that I’m human, I make mistakes, but with hope & forgiveness, life goes on and the sun still shines.

Thank you both, Sarah and Christi, for making this possible! I can’t wait for the next crowdfunding fragrance from 4160 Tuesdays, and I can’t wait to visit the new studio!

Readers, do you have a favorite 4160 Tuesdays fragrance? Have you ever taken part in a crowdfunding creative project, whether perfume or something else?

Featured image of Joni Mitchell from Eau My Soul.
Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

I was one of the lucky fans who was able to buy one of the “January Joy Boxes” made by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays this winter. The box has several 9 ml sprays of some of her limited edition or other special fragrances, and the idea was that you were supposed to wait until January to open it, to relieve any post-holiday gloom. The boxes holding the sprays are numbered and are to be opened in sequence. It was hard to wait until New Year’s Day, but I did! I’ve decided to pace myself and open one of the scents every 2-3 days, so the set lasts me all month and I have a chance to appreciate each fragrance.

The first fragrance was Temptation, a soft, sweet confection with smooth musks and a note others have described as “sugared almonds”, with vanilla anchoring it all. Sarah has written on the 4160 Tuesdays Facebook page that Temptation is the sub-base notes of Take Me To The River; it has eight notes, and it includes three different musks as well as vanillin. On my skin, it lasts for hours! It doesn’t “carry” very far, but it is delightful and I can’t stop sniffing my wrists. Now that I know its relationship to Take Me To The River, I’m going to try layering it with something else and see what happens.

Sarah has said that her fragrance Take Me To The River was inspired by the Talking Heads’ cover of that Al Green song, as that is her favorite version, but I love this one:

Who doesn’t love Al Green singing his own song, with BB King, Lenny Kravitz, and Sheryl Crow? But if we’re picking Al Green songs, the one that goes with Temptation is “Let’s Stay Together”, that smooth sweet sexy ballad full of soul.

I loved so many of the soul groups and singers of the 1970s — like the Temptations — with their roots in gospel music. I can go for years without hearing one of those songs, but just a few bars can take me back to my childhood, listening to a dinky little Panasonic transistor radio shaped like a red ball. I’ll be quite happy to think of Al Green’s music when I wear the fragrance Temptation.

Featured image from http://www.thenational.ae

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

I was delighted to be able to get a 9 ml spray of 4160 Tuesdays’ Christmas Concert together with the crowd-funded Meet Me On The Corner this winter. Sarah McCartney calls it a “scarf scent”, because it has a lot of cinnamon in it, which can cause irritation on some people’s skin, but luckily I am not one of them so I can wear it on my pulse points. Christmas Concert came about because during the crowdfunding discussions about Meet Me On The Corner, which was inspired by a song of that name by a group called Lindisfarne, which holds a famous annual Christmas concert, followers of 4160 Tuesdays on social media started clamoring for an actual Christmas scent and suggested what its notes might be, including mandarin oranges, cinnamon, and pine needles. Being the creative and obliging perfumer she is, Sarah obliged with a seasonal limited edition fragrance, in both eau de parfum and room fragrance versions.

Does it smell like Christmas? Yes it does, if your Christmas memories include pomander oranges studded with cloves, hung on a balsam Christmas tree or wreath. Fortunately, mine do, as making those pomander oranges seems to have been a common holiday project when I was a child. I honestly don’t remember my own children making those at school or Sunday school, so I may have to do it at home with them now, although they are young adults!

orange with cloves

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Christmas Concert opens right off with a strong note of cinnamon, but I also detect the scent of cloves quite strongly. As expected, there is a lasting foundation of sweet oranges’ fragrance — more present in the beginning, but lasting well into the drydown. I perceive the pine needles as a green hum in the distant background, but they are there. This isn’t a very complex scent in that it doesn’t “develop” much, it is mostly linear, but it is delightful. Although I can wear it on my skin, it really does work well as a “scarf scent”; I sprayed some on the shawl collar of one of my favorite sweaters to wear around the house, and it wafted up to my nose from there for several hours. I can still smell it faintly on the sweater a day later.

Sarah mentioned on her website that one could layer Christmas Concert with Meet Me On The Corner to create a sort of “winter edition” of the latter, so I tried that. Wow! I already liked Meet Me On The Corner very much, but adding Christmas Concert to it creates a spicier version, adding complexity and nuance to MMOTC‘s citrus chypre. Or, shall we say, a certain “Serendipity“?

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in film Serendipity

“Serendipity”, the movie; image from http://www.variety.com.

Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”, others have called it the phenomenon of “happy accidents” or fortuitous accidental discoveries. 4160 Tuesdays is famous for its serendipitous fragrances, sometimes created when a batch of one fragrance has been mistakenly combined with another (Brigadoon) or when a special ingredient has been amped up in an existing fragrance (Sarah made a number of variations on her fragrances this fall, when customers could request that various ingredients be increased; I am the happy owner of Eat More Flowers, a version of Eat Flowers Sarah created with extra rose, orris, and violet leaf). Given the origins of Christmas Concert in a Facebook group’s musings, and how well it combines with the long-planned Meet Me On The Corner, I would call that serendipity.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Serendipity”, pictured above, it is a charming Christmas rom-com with two of my favorite actors, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. It was made before Christmas rom-coms were destroyed by Hallmark Christmas movies and their reactionary spawn. Of course, another reason I love the movie is that I spent half of my 20s in New York; it is truly one of the most magical, romantic places in the world at Christmastime, and the cafe Serendipity is real. It was a great date venue, and I’m sure it still is!

So now when I wear Meet Me On The Corner layered with Christmas Concert, I will think happily of New York at Christmas, and chance meetings that seem like accidents but may be destiny. Thank you, Sarah! Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day!

Do you associate any fragrances with serendipity, either in how you discovered them or how you like to layer them? Please share in the comments!

How to make Christmas pomanders with oranges and cloves, Country Living

Christmas pomanders; image from Country Living.

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear to a Wedding?

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear to a Wedding?

Tomorrow, we are going to a wedding in the Lowcountry of South Carolina! This is one of my favorite places on earth. It has a unique, fascinating landscape and a rich, tragic history back to the earliest days of European settlement of North America and before. The local people have marvelous folk traditions and folklore, such as the Gullah culture along the coast and among the islands. The food is some of the best you will ever taste in the United States, whether traditional or more modern, with its emphasis on seafood straight from the water and farm-to-table delights.

The wedding will be a formal, early evening affair followed by dinner. I’ll probably wear a long summer dress, in a shade of my favorite blue. The setting is an elegant resort, filled with ancient “live oaks” draped in Spanish moss, meandering creeks, migrating birds, semi-tropical vegetation. The bride is a daughter of two of our oldest friends and we love her dearly — I first held her in my arms when she was a day old. The weekend will include a traditional “Lowcountry Boil” party by the water and a Sunday brunch. Some rain is predicted (luckily, it is supposed to be overnight), possibly including thunderstorms; the Lowcountry has a humid, sub-tropical climate and it is affected by Atlantic hurricanes in the fall (Hurricane Dorian recently passed by this particular area, fortunately with minimal damage).

What fragrances do you suggest I wear? As you know if you read this blog occasionally, I like floral scents, green scents, some citruses. I definitely plan to take the bottle of custom fragrance I made for my husband on our trip to Nice, which I dubbed “Lowcountry Spring.” It is a nice unisex eau de parfum, and I’m curious to find out whether it does in fact evoke the real Lowcountry, as I was attempting. I think I’ll also take Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, lol!

Suggestions? Thanks!

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

In honor of this week’s move of English perfume-maker 4160 Tuesdays to another part of London, today I review Clouds’ Illusion eau de parfum, which 4160 Tuesdays perfumer and founder Sarah McCartney created for a crowdfunding project for the Eau My Soul Facebook group.

Sarah McCartney's 4160 Tuesdays perfumery studio, Ravenscourt, London.

New space for 4160 Tuesdays London; image from 4160 Tuesdays.

What a fun idea! This isn’t the first one, either — she and the group’s founder, Christi Long, collaborated previously on the eponymous fragrance Eau My Soul in 2017, with input from the members of the Facebook group. Here’s the tale of how it happened, in Sarah’s own words:

Clouds was an idea dreamed up by Christi Long. Christi runs Eau My Soul as a kind, encouraging forum for fragrance lovers, and one day she was wearing our crowdfunded fragrance from 2018, Take Me To The River. It crossed her mind that Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now would be a wonderful inspiration for a fragrance, looking at clouds from both sides, the grey, then the sunshine.

Between us, we dreamed up a plan: Christi sent me a list of notes: iris, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla and others which I’ll keep secret. She’d named some of the most expensive materials that exist, but I also knew that would want it to be affordable to everyone in the group because she’s nice like that.

So I had a suggestion. How about we do Both Sides Now? I am going to make two versions, one with the natural materials and one with the synthetic recreations made by the genius chemists from the industry. That way we can make the most magnificent, fabulously luxurious fragrance this side of Ancient Rome, plus the affordable one.

Clouds, and Clouds’ Illusion.

My intention was that they should smell pretty much exactly the same, but whichever one you buy, you can have a sample of the other one too. I don’t think anyone has done this before. I’m keen to show that aromachemicals are just as beautiful as naturals, and that you’re not missing out if you don’t have the spare cash for expensive fragrances. (But if you do, don’t let us hold you back.)

We also both agreed that we wanted to give a proportion of the funds raised to our chosen causes – some sunshine in these grey times. Previously we used a crowdfunding platform which took a percentage of the funds for use of its tech and database, so we took  that and gave it to Hope Not Hate in the UK, and to the Looking Out Foundation in the US. We think we already know enough people to make this happen, and besides we don’t want to conquer the world, just to make a lovely fragrance.

“Both Sides Now” was written by legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, and was first commercially released as a recording by folk singer Judy Collins, on her album Wildflowers. The latter is the version most of us recognize from the radios of our youth, haunting in its lyrical beauty. A year later, Joni Mitchell followed with her own recording, also beautiful, for her album Clouds.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

“Both Sides Now”, by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s clouds’ illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real, I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show, you leave ’em laughin’ when you go
And if you care don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends are acting strange they shake their heads, they say
I’ve changed
Well, something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

 

The fragrance Clouds comes in two versions: one is based entirely on natural essences, and was made in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations. The other is Clouds’ Illusion, which replaces a number of those (very expensive) natural essences with fine aromachemicals, though it still contains some of the naturals. Sarah’s goal was to incorporate all the elements Christi requested, but also to create a version that would be more affordable for crowdfunders and, in addition, show how aromachemicals can be used judiciously to create a truly beautiful fragrance. Clouds’ Illusion also comes in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations.

I was thrilled to take part in the crowdfunding, and as a result, I now have a bottle of Clouds’ Illusion in eau de parfum. I also had the privilege of visiting Sarah in her studio in London this past spring, when she was still modifying her formulas after initial feedback from Christi.

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Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays

Sarah and Nick were kind enough to spend quite a bit of time with me, and this visit was a highlight of my London trip. I’m quite a fan of 4160 Tuesdays, having won a bottle of their White Queen in a draw on the excellent fragrance blog “CaFleureBon”, and I bought more of their fragrances on my visit, several that were hard to get in the US.

So what is Clouds’ Illusion like, and does it fulfill the creative intentions behind it? The answer is, yes, it does, magnificently, and it is very lovely. Sarah lists notes of iris, citrus, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla, and other unnamed “secret ingredients.” I love the scent of narcissus, and iris is becoming one of my favorite notes in perfume. According to Sarah, the iris note, or orris, evokes the melancholy, blue, introverted facets of the song, while the lemony citrus notes in the opening and bright flower notes like narcissus evoke its sunnier aspects. The white chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of musks create the soft white clouds. The image Christi posted on Eau My Soul, featured above and below, perfectly captures the fragrance: a pensive, introverted artist in a green meadow dotted with yellow wildflowers, set against a blue sky layered with puffy white clouds from horizon to horizon.

Singer songwriter Joni Mitchell with clouds, wildflowers and guitar

Joni Mitchell and clouds; image from Eau My Soul.

The opening of Clouds’ Illusion is especially wonderful, with citrus notes sparkling against a blue background of iris. I can’t think of another fragrance with a similar opening phase. The citruses fade away, but the iris comes to the fore and persists throughout the development of Clouds’ Illusion, partnered with narcissus (which here smells to me, specifically, like yellow daffodils or jonquils) and dry hay. The drydown slowly becomes softer and warmer, with its notes of vanilla and sandalwood joining the iris as the narcissus and hay move offstage. The development of the fragrance mimics the development of the song’s lyrics: starting out brightly, optimistically, yellow sunshine pouring down from a blue sky, then becoming more melancholy and wistful, as the sunlight darkens and fades and the clouds take over. But then the clouds part, and the the songwriter reflects that “something’s lost, but something’s gained, in living every day,” comforting herself with that thought, just as the fragrance becomes warmer and comforts with base notes of vanilla and sandalwood. The iris is still there, but it has been warmed by the other base notes. I can still smell iris, vanilla and sandalwood on my wrist more than eight hours after applying it lightly, so Clouds’ Illusion has excellent longevity in the eau de parfum concentration (I haven’t tried the extrait).

How does Clouds’ Illusion compare with Clouds, the version that uses only natural ingredients? My order of Clouds’ Illusion came with a sample of the Clouds EDP, so I’ve been able to smell them side by side. To my non-expert nose, right away the opening of Clouds smells more strongly of lemon than the top notes of its counterpart, but it fades into the background more quickly than the lemony opening of Clouds’ Illusion. The iris takes center stage in the middle phase in both versions, but in Clouds, I smell more of the sandalwood, and sooner, as it dries down, and Clouds’ Illusion seems to retain a bit more of the greenness of the hay note. Otherwise, though, they are very similar and have comparable longevity (more than eight hours on each of my wrists). Sarah has succeeded in her goal of creating fragrance twins, one with the precious natural substances and the other with more affordable aromachemicals, both lovely.

Here is Christi’s own account of how she experienced Clouds:

As many of you know, there were two earlier mods for Clouds and neither felt right to me. While they were nice fragrances, one even quite unusual, they were not the “Clouds” I had in my mind. After I told Sarah the second one wasn’t quite it either, she said “I know now what you want” and said it with such confidence. I now see why she was so sure of it…because it’s perfect.

First, it’s somewhat ethereal, but fluffy, like passing through a cloud. There is no sadness, but there is introspection, and a slight bit of melancholy from the orris butter laid thick under happy lemon sunshine. There is a hay like quality coming from the narcissus that counters the sweetness of the powdery, creamy white chocolate, so that it’s never too sweet but also never quite overly gray either. There is a cozy blanket of mood lifting lemon that surrounds it all, like a ray of golden hope at all times. Clouds is the days when you feel a bit down but know you’re strong enough to make it and feel hopeful. This isn’t a fragrance about giving in to sadness, it’s about rising above it and finding the reminder that sunshine always comes again, you just have to be strong enough to wait for it.

This year has been a roller coaster for me. It started really difficult, got better, then the hardships of life brought me down again. And literally right as I’m fighting to find the sunshine again, Clouds shows up at my doorstep. I sprayed it on and so many emotions, memories and thoughts passed before me. And in Clouds, just like life, the sunshine always wins if we let it. But we keep our memories with it, as a reminder of why we need the light.

Thank you, Sarah, for making this perfume for all of us who need a ray of hope sometimes. It reminds me that I’m human, I make mistakes, but with hope & forgiveness, life goes on and the sun still shines.

Thank you both, Sarah and Christi, for making this possible! I can’t wait for the next crowdfunding fragrance from 4160 Tuesdays, and I can’t wait to visit the new studio!

Readers, do you have a favorite 4160 Tuesdays fragrance? Have you ever taken part in a crowdfunding creative project, whether perfume or something else?

Featured image of Joni Mitchell from Eau My Soul.
Fragrance Friday: Harry Potter?

Fragrance Friday: Harry Potter?

Another blog, “Book Riot”, recently posted the most amusing game: guessing what fragrances the leading characters in the Harry Potter series would wear: The Perfect Fragrances for Harry Potter Characters. Here are some of the author’s choices: Gucci Pour Homme II for Sirius Black; Coco Mademoiselle for Fleur Delacour; Reserve Smoked Vetiver for Dumbledore; Demeter’s Paperback for Hermione; Demeter’s Christmas Tree for Hagrid; Bonbon for Luna Lovegood; Tobacco Vanille for Remus Lupin; Spicebomb for Draco Malfoy; Mr. Burberry for Ron Weasley; and D&G’s Light Blue Pour Homme for our hero, Harry Potter.

I love this game but I don’t love her choices (although in matters of fragrance, chacun a son gout!). In my opinion, Fleur Delacour would definitely wear Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. (Gabrielle would be ideal for her little sister). Hermione deserves something more notable and longer lasting than Paperback. Solstice Scents has a fragrance called Library, but it sounds smokier than I would think suitable for Hermione. Remembering her triumphant arrival at the Yule Ball, on the arm of Victor Krum, I’m giving her Caron’s Nuit de Noel. Yes, it’s a mature fragrance, but it’s very elegant and well-suited to a formal evening dance in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Hermione Granger and Victor Krum dancing at Yule Ball

Hermione and Victor at the Yule Ball.

What about Luna Lovegood? Bonbon seems too mainstream and girly. Given her habit of making weird accessories for herself from odds and ends, I will give her ELDO’s I am Trash. The brand’s description is as eccentric as Luna herself: “There is a jumble of romantic and titanic science fiction poetry that emerges from the slow, sure, and inevitable rocking of wastewaters in the industrial cycle. We want to make this perfume a messenger, in service not only to the survival of the species which results from seduction, but above all in service to the planet where our own miasmas must reflect beauty.”

Luna Lovegood wearing Spectre Specs

Luna Lovegood

Prof. McGonagall needs a fragrance: something as direct, honest, and no-nonsense as she is. I’ll assign her Caldey Island Lavender for regular use — and Vol de Nuit for more notable occasions. What about Molly Weasley? I’m thinking Creamy Vanilla Crumble from 4160 Tuesdays, since I always associate Mrs. Weasley with comfort food, although she proved her mettle many times.

Molly Weasley in her kitchen at The Burrow

Molly Weasley

Red-headed Mr. Weasley would, of course, wear the ultimate “Dad” scent: Old Spice, the original vintage version. I’m not as familiar with men’s fragrances — what do you think of the choices the blog author made for the male characters, and what might you suggest instead? And what about any of the characters I’ve listed, or any others you like? Or maybe some you don’t like, such as Vernon Dursley!

All characters by J.K. Rowling; images from Warner Bros.