Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

I have a soft spot for the Commodity line of fragrances, as Commodity Moss was one of the first niche-type fragrances I tried when I started getting serious about fragrance (I say niche-type, because once you can buy a fragrance in Sephora, I’m not sure it’s a true niche fragrance any more!). I really like Moss, but my oh my Velvet!

Commodity Velvet is a new 2018 release, and the perfumer is Jerome Epinette. Its top notes are listed on the Commodity website as roasted almond, clove buds, and coconut water. Heart notes are: heliotropine, vanilla flower, velvet rose petals. Base notes are blonde woods, white birch, black amber. Commodity has a short film in which M. Epinette describes his intentions in creating Velvet:

Velvet is a unique rose fragrance, with its notes of roasted almond, white birch, and black amber. There are many fragrances that combine rose and vanilla, but Velvet’s lightly smoky, nutty opening is unusual and very pleasing. The only other fragrance I’ve been able to find that combines roasted or toasted almonds with rose, vanilla, and birch is Soivohle’s Vanillaville, in which it seems that the rose is much more of a bit player, and tobacco and leather notes dominate. (P.S. Vanillaville sounds great! I haven’t tried it but it’s now on my radar).

M. Epinette focused on evoking the soft texture of velvet fabric or the velvety feel of real rose petals, and he has succeeded. He says of his concept: “I was inspired by the image of vibrant pink Turkish Rose Petals floating gently over a mysterious, dark background of richly warm vanilla and black amber with a delicious touch of roasted almond drifting in the air.” The almond is present right from the start. I don’t smell any coconut in the opening, but it may be there as a support to the roasted almond, which I do smell.

I don’t experience the base or drydown of Velvet as “dark”, if by dark one means edgy. The dark of Velvet is warm and soft, shot through with subtle shades of color, as fine silk velvet often is. M. Epinette describes vibrant pink rose petals against a dark background, but I perceive Velvet as being more like one of the dark, velvety roses that have shades of pink on their petals.

Dark red velvety rose against black

Dark red rose; image from Flowers Healthy.

Dark red and pink Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Velvet is a beautiful rose for cooler weather, when many roses, like those in my garden, put forth a new flush of blooms. It reminds me a bit of Montale’s Intense Cafe, though without that fragrance’s powerhouse sillage and longevity. Its longevity is reasonable; I can still smell it on my wrists seven hours after first application, although it has become faint. Its roasted almond top note is different and very appealing. Velvet is warm, soft, slightly spicy, and utterly charming.

Featured image above from OliverTwistsFibers on http://www.etsy.com.

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Or rather, hair MIST. This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I wrote about here: Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette. I may have to explore this world further, based on a recent experience in airport security. Yes, that’s right — airport security. As my family and I were returning from Ireland a few weeks ago, we were going through security in the Dublin airport. As I am wont to do, I had spent some time browsing among fragrances in the duty-free shop, where I had come across Diptyque’s new hair mist. Having enjoyed the Colette hair mist, I decided to try it. And, if the truth be told, I had already sprayed other scents on both wrists and inner elbows. Hair was the only real estate left.

Reader, I sprayed it. And generously, too. Shortly after, I grabbed my bags and went through the security screening line. As I passed through the scanner for people, and my bags passed through the scanner for luggage, I didn’t give it a thought — I knew where my liquids were, I knew everything in my bag was allowed, I took off my metal bracelet and put it in my handbag, etc. Suddenly — “Ma’am! Ma’am!”. A youngish female airport employee was approaching me with an urgent tone in her voice. “Yes?”, I asked, inwardly sighing that I must have messed up something with my luggage (side note: I have done that and was once busted by an airport bag-sniffing dog who found an apple I had forgotten was in my backpack).

Dublin airport security screening line and trays

Dublin Airport security screening

“Do I need to open my bag?”, I asked.

“No, ma’am, I just need to know what scent you’re wearing. You smell wonderful!”

Now that’s a first. I have occasionally been stopped by strangers asking about my fragrance, which is always flattering when they ask nicely and not in a creepy way. But I’ve never been stopped by airport security over my own fragrance, as opposed to the scent of an illicit piece of fruit. (By the way, the dogs don’t sit quietly when they find the fruit. They bark. Loudly. And put their paws on your bag). I assume it was the hair mist that attracted her attention, because I sprayed on more of it than anything else, and it really does carry. And of course I told her what I thought it was and pointed back vaguely toward the Diptyque counter, because when airport security asks you a question, YOU ANSWER.

Airport beagle sniffer dog with fruit

Airport beagle finding illicit fruit in luggage

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that if you haven’t tried fragranced hair mist yet, you might want to! And you might want to start with Diptyque, which now has two: Eau Rose and Eau des SensGiven that fragrance often lasts longer and has more sillage when sprayed on hair, this seems like an affordable way to wear Diptyque, and I hope they offer more of their scents in this formulation. Here’s the challenge: I don’t remember which one I sprayed on, and Eau Rose appears to be sold out online at Diptyque’s website.

Not to be dissuaded from my quest, I plan to make a visit soon to one of my local department stores that carries Diptyque and see if I can try them both. If I figure out which one made the screener swoon, I’ll update this post!

Featured image from http://www.britishbeautyblogger.com.

Fragrance Friday: Fragrances of Ireland

Fragrance Friday: Fragrances of Ireland

I have recently returned from a vacation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — what beautiful places they are! I had visited Northern Ireland before and Dublin only for two days, but had not previously seen the rest of the Republic of Ireland although one of my grandmothers was born there. When my husband’s work took him back to Northern Ireland, I again went with him but this time, we took an extra week of vacation and used it to circumnavigate the Northern and West Coasts, then down to Cork and back up toward Dublin. We saw so many lovely places that I can’t wait to visit again. Of course, it helped that the weather in Ireland this summer was the sunniest summer they’ve had in years; while the lack of rain has caused problems in some areas, the dry, sunny days were a tourist’s dream.

I usually try to discover and bring home a few fragrances that are specific to whatever region I visit as a tourist. On our last trip to Ireland, I came home with Innisfreea light-hearted fruity floral scent that captures nicely the freshness of Irish gardens without being too sweet (side note: on this trip, we were able to visit the fabulous gardens of Mount Stewart and Powerscourt, which were magnificent). On this trip, I bought small sizes of other scents by the company “Fragrances of Ireland“, which created Innisfree as its first fragrance. The ones I bought were Inis, Inis Arose, and Connemara. I had tried Connemara before, in the airport on our last trip, and liked it then, but felt that as I hadn’t visited or seen Connemara yet, it was premature to bring home a souvenir named for it!

Inis (the Energy of the Sea) is a unisex cologne, an aromatic aquatic scent launched in 1998. Top notes are neroli, bergamot, sicilian lemon and sea notes; middle notes are lily-of-the-valley and geranium; base notes are nutmeg, sandalwood, musk, cloves and oakmoss. People who like ozonic, aquatic fragrances will likely enjoy this; it is pleasant without being particularly memorable, but it is a nice, light, fresh summer scent with a slight spiciness to go with its citrus and aquatic notes. I do not smell any oakmoss as it dries down. This is truly unisex; I can see it working for both men and women who want something light.

Inis Arose is a fresh floral. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “aromas of sunny Sicilian lemon, bergamot, geranium, lily of the valley and cyclamen. A heart includes pink May rose of Grasse, white rose, Damask rose absolute, with a trail of Turkish rose attar. Base notes give depth to this fragrance with accords of patchouli, sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla, incense, musk and Atlas cedar.” This one is a pretty, light, summery rose combined with other flowers. I like the way it has many of the same notes as Inis, introduced and combined in different ways, while also adding some new notes and subtracting others. Given my inclination toward florals, it will not surprise anyone to read that I prefer it to Inis. It is just a really nice, light rose. I’ve smelled better, and this one has some synthetic undertones, but it is a refreshing floral that I will enjoy! It doesn’t last for hours; it feels more like an eau de toilette than eau de parfum. I can’t detect many of the notes listed as its base notes, but it dries down to a pleasant, slightly musky, slightly woody skin scent. I don’t pick up any vanilla or incense. We saw many gorgeous roses in full bloom in Ireland, thanks to the hot, sunny weather and the tireless watering of devoted gardeners, so Inis Arose will bring back happy memories, including of the lovely Ballyduff House where we stayed briefly.

Connemara comes as an eau de toilette and is a green floral, as befits a scent named for one of the greenest areas of the Emerald Isle. Its top notes are freesia, lily of the valley, and violet; middle notes are rose, carnation, and mimosa; base notes are peach, sandalwood, orris, musk, and vanilla. Having now seen the spectacular  Connemara National Park, I can attest to the majesty and beauty of the Connemara Mountains. They are majestic. The fragrance is not majestic, but like its siblings, it is very pretty. The packaging itself evokes the Books of Kells and its intricate, colorful designs, but the website states that the scent was “inspired by the beauty and majesty of the Connemara countryside, which is home to some of the most breathtaking views of islands, oceans and mountains.”

Connemara Mountains, Ireland

Connemara Mountains; photo from http://www.galwaytourism.ie

To me, Connemara is more reminiscent of our visit to Powerscourt’s gardens. They too have a stunning view of mountains (the Wicklow Mountains) and are not far from the coast, but their atmosphere is far less wild than Connemara. Their beautiful Italian and perennial gardens contain the flowers listed among Connemara’s notes; there is even a walled orchard filled with fruiting trees like peach trees. (I was lucky enough to find one of the gardeners at work there and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the heirloom fruit varieties they grow). When I first apply Connemara, I get a very pleasing burst of freesia and its lemony sweetness. This persists nicely as the scent segues into rose, carnation, and mimosa. I can tell that the lily of the valley is lurking in the background, but it is not dominant. Rather, it lends a fresh greenness that brightens the other floral notes. The rose is definitely present, but it does not dominate either; it partners politely with the carnation, a note I like a lot, and the gentle mimosa.

Herbaceous borders at gardens of Powerscourt, Ireland

Herbaceous borders at Powerscourt; photo from http://www.powerscourt.com

I’m happy to own some of the Fragrances of Ireland line as souvenirs of a wonderful vacation to a beautiful country. I am truly eager to return to see more of Ireland and explore some of the areas we visited in more depth.

Perfume Tourism: Ireland

Perfume Tourism: Ireland

I have been AWOL for a while because of family travel, but I haven’t neglected to keep an eye out for interesting perfumes! I like to seek out fragrances that are specific to a region I am visiting. On this trip, I have discovered fragrances by The Burren Perfumery, a small-scale, artisan creator of cosmetics, skin care, and perfumes, located near the West Coast of Ireland. We drove along the edge of the area known as the Burren as we made our way from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher; it is a unique landscape and ecosystem where many rare plants grow. I’m excited to try some of The Burren Perfumery’s fragrances! Stay tuned …

Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

The last several months I have contacted many people who had written to me in Jan/Feb to request bottles. I’ve filled about as many of those requests as I can with what I had in stock (minus a few people that I couldn’t reach via email). I’m now listing the few remaining bottles here. These bottles have […]

via Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

If you always wanted some fragrances from Sonoma Scent Studio, this is your last chance! Award-winning perfumer Laurie Erickson is retiring from the perfume business and may have a buyer for Sonoma Scent Studio. She has a small number of bottles of her fragrance creations still available for purchase. I’m sad to see such a gifted artisan perfumer leave the scene but I am confident Laurie will flourish in her next phase.

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Diane St. Clair is a dairy farmer and artisan maker of butter so good that she supplies it to the legendary French Laundry restaurant, among others. She is also now an artisan perfumer, having launched her first three scents earlier this year under the name St. Clair Scents. I’ve already written about Gardener’s Glove; today, I’ll take a look (or sniff!) at First Cut.

The name refers to the first mowing of a hayfield, in late summer. This is an important time at a dairy farm, as the mown hay will provide fodder for the cows during the winter. Here is the description of First Cut from St. Clair Scents’ website:

The hay harvest is the focus of every dairy farmer’s summer, keeping the fields regenerating and providing hay for the cows in winter.

The mowing and drying of native grasses, clovers, wild flowers, and legumes takes three days of sunshine and many hours of hard work.

This scent is of meadows, herbaceous and green, with wild flowers strewn throughout and splashed with radiant sunshine.

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute
  • Middle Notes: Lavender Absolute, Rose De Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute
  • Base Notes: Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute

The opening is strong and appealing — so much so, that my husband suddenly asked, after I had dabbed some on my wrist, “What smells so good?” The bergamot and yuzu really pop. I don’t normally like yuzu in fragrance, but here it really works, as it is dominated by the bergamot I prefer, and accompanied by the herbal notes of rosemary, basil, and tomato leaf. I can’t really pick out the rosemary and basil separately, but all the top notes blend harmoniously into a bright, herbal announcement that something special has arrived.

Kafkaesque offers her usual in-depth, insightful analysis, noting that First Cut merges aspects of both a traditional “fougere” fragrance and a “chypre”. As fougere scents more traditionally appear in men’s fragrances, I’m not as familiar with them, so I’ll share some of what I have learned. Most notably, the classic fougere includes a strong presence of lavender combined with oakmoss and coumarin, the latter widely considered to evoke the scent of sweet hay. And no wonder, based on this information from Fragrantica:

Coumarin … is a synthesized material in most perfumes, but it’s also found in abundance in natural products, such as tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata) where it is the principle aromatic constituent (1-3%). In fact the name derives from “cumaru”, an Amazonian dialect name for the Tonka bean tree. But that’s not all: apart from tonka beans, coumarin also occurs naturally in “vanilla grass” (Anthoxanthum odoratum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet clover (Meliotus L.), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) among other species.

First Cut is all about hay, and there among the base notes is “hay absolute”, so we see the relationship to a classic fougere, together with the traditional lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco notes. Unlike a traditional fougere, though, here the lavender is clearly present but not dominant, which I prefer.

In my review of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove, I described the meadow that bordered my father’s vegetable garden, the garden that Gardener’s Glove evoked for me. First Cut evokes that meadow and the same sense of a French potager, an enclosed garden that includes vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs. This potager, however, is not in New England but in the South of France, with its classic Mediterranean notes of lavender, rosemary, basil, rose de Mai, and citruses. It is on a farm, bordered by hay meadows and lavender fields which figure as much in this fragrance as the kitchen garden.

Filed of lavender and hay meadow on French farm in Provence

Lavender field in Provence; image from https://birdshooter.smugmug.com/

One of the many interesting things about First Cut is that it dries down in a way that mimics the maturing of a hayfield! The initial phase is very fresh, herbal and green, especially with those green herbs and tomato leaf absolute, like the fresh greenness of early summer. The middle stage is more floral, but in the way that midsummer clover is “floral”, nothing like the Big White Flowers. I think it is the immortelle that starts making the fragrance feel drier, as the middle stage leads into a base of dry tobacco, dry hay, dry oakmoss (and vanilla, which adds the creaminess and sweetness that Kafkaesque noted, and balances the dry notes). I love this creative progression and how it summons up the months from early summer through the peak of summer, ending with the late summer hay harvest known as the “first cut.” Brilliant! Even the lingering sweetness in the base is reminiscent of late summer honey from bees that have gorged on meadow flowers. I wonder if Diane St. Clair keeps honeybees?

Wooden beehives in multi-colored wildflower meadow.

Beehives in wildflower meadow; image from http://www.apiplanet.lt.

I like First Cut very, very much — and if you are a man, or have a man in your life, who loves fougeres, try this!  So far, of the two St. Clair Scents I have really tested, my heart still belongs to Gardener’s Glove, but First Cut is beautiful, pleasing, and clever all at once. As the late great perfumer Guy Robert is said to have told many people:  “Un parfum doit avant tout sent bon (A perfume must above all smell good).” First Cut smells very, very good.

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

Fragrance Friday: Rose Royale

Fragrance Friday: Rose Royale

Just days ago, a book I have been eagerly awaiting (despite the controversy its authors love to stir) was finally published: “Perfumes: The Guide 2018”, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Of course, I’ve spent more time than I should browsing its characteristically snarky, idiosyncratic reviews — agreeing with some, disagreeing with others, but always informed and amused by their points of view. One thing I do like is that Turin and Sanchez are quite upfront about some of their individual tendencies and how those may affect their reviews. For instance, Turin doesn’t really like rose soliflores. And yet he gave four stars to Parfums Nicolai’s Rose Royale and listed it among the top ten florals of the last decade. Good enough for me, since I love rose soliflores and we’ve just finished June, the month of roses! Here is Parfums Nicolai‘s own description:

Real rose without any frills or fuss, fresh and vegetal thanks to its magnificent natural essences. With just a few strands of coriander as well as base notes of immortelle to give it punch without any distortion … simply the perfume of the rose at the end of its stem. A longing for nature becomes a scent of vegetation enhanced by blackcurrant and passion fruit, over an explosion of Turkish rose essence. Coriander and ambrette seeds enhance the fragrance. Bottom notes of guiac wood and immortelle strengthen the long lasting, lingering spell of Rose Royale.

After having visited the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this spring, I renewed my obsession with David Austin’s English Roses, which added to its medals with another spectacular display of his stunning flowers. If you don’t know of them, they are the result of Mr. Austin’s lifetime of hybridizing roses to restore the fragrances and forms of the older French roses he loves, combining them with the vigor, disease resistance, color range, and repeat flowering of more modern roses. Each entry for a rose in his catalogue lovingly  describes not only the growth habit, color, form and size of its blossoms, but also each variety’s individual fragrance. One such entry reads:

Munstead Wood: Light crimson buds gradually open to reveal very deep velvety crimson blooms, the outer petals remaining rather lighter in color. The flowers are large cups at first, becoming shallowly cupped with time. The growth is quite bushy, forming a broad shrub with good disease resistance. The leaves are mid-green, the younger leaves being red-bronze to form a nice contrast. There is a very strong Old Rose fragrance with a fruity note. Our fragrance expert, Robert Calkin, assesses this as “warm and fruity with blackberry, blueberry and damson.”

Munstead Wood was recommended to me by someone who used to work with David Austin, and so I am now growing it in a large pot on my front terrace, which faces south (much of my garden is shaded at least part of the day, which doesn’t suit roses). And Rose Royale smells a lot like it, with its top notes of blackcurrant buds, passion fruit, and bergamot moving quickly into the heart of rose, coriander, and ambrette seeds. I love it! Yes, Mr. Turin, I do love a good rose soliflore.

David Austin English Rose "Munstead Wood"

David Austin rose “Munstead Wood”; image from http://www.davidaustinroses.com

Rose Royale has a delectable opening, the blackcurrant buds dominating, followed by bergamot lending its green-citrus pop, with passion fruit hovering behind them and adding sweetness to the green. If I had to pick one genre of fragrances to love, it would have to include greenness (green florals, green aromatics, etc.), and Rose Royale fits the bill. After the lively opening, the rose takes center stage, but the fragrance never loses its “fresh and vegetal” character. Mr. Turin refers to it as a “soapy rose” but it doesn’t smell soapy to me, or at least no more so than a real rose often does. I suspect this is because rose notes have been so heavily used to scent soap that our Western noses merge the two. Be that as it may, here is his review of Rose Royale in “Perfumes: The Guide 2018” (Kindle Edition):

Tomes of perfumery prattle are churned out annually on the subject of the Her Royal Majesty the Rose, Queen of Flowers, and all associated romance and grandeur. Yet when you smell rose soliflores, they do tend to let you down: flat or thin, a whisper of phenylethyl alcohol or a mere goofy fruity fantasy. Patricia de Nicolaï’s take is a perfect soapy-aldehydic white-floral froth with facets of lemon and raspberry. If you are the sort of gold-rimmed-teacup gripping, pinky-finger sticker-outer who will insist against all advice upon a rose soliflore uninterfered with by complicating ideas, here is a beautifully silly one for you.

While I do own gold-rimmed teacups, I don’t stick out my pinky finger while drinking from them, and my hands are often too grubby from digging in my garden’s dirt to grip them very regularly.

Royal Crown Derby Imari pattern tea set with white roses, from TeaTime Magazine

Royal Crown Derby Imari; image from http://www.teatimemagazine.com

Like the rose Munstead Wood, which has some of the sharper thorns I’ve encountered among roses I’ve grown, Rose Royale has a little more bite to it than is immediately apparent. As it dries down, there is enough light wood and spice to suggest that there is more to this rose than its soft petals. I would agree with Mr. Turin’s overall assessment, though, that Rose Royale evokes a certain elegance and delicacy one might associate with gold-rimmed teacups. Patricia de Nicolai clearly intended this, as her company’s website describes the fragrance as inspired and named for “a stroll in the calm of the Palais Royal, with a French garden framed by perfect classical architecture.” It has been far too many years since I myself visited Paris and strolled through the Palais Royal, but Rose Royale takes me there with one sniff.