Perfume Chat Room, January 20

Perfume Chat Room, January 20

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

Today is Friday, January 20, and my big fragrance excitement this week was that Portia Turbo (Australian Perfume Junkies) and I launched our second blogging collaboration, “Counterpoint.” (The first one was “Notes on Notes“). Our first Counterpoint subject was Mitsouko; our first “Notes on Notes” was about oakmoss. We hope to do one of each of these monthly, on the first and third Monday of the month, so wish us luck and please join us in the comments!

Our next “Notes on Notes” will be about vetiver; if you have any particular fragrances to suggest we include in our selection, please tell us in the comments below! And our next “Counterpoint” fragrance will be Chanel No. 5 in as many of its forms and versions as we can muster.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Counterpoint: Mitsouko

Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint”, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!

Counterpoint, a monthly blog collaboration

This month, our first Counterpoint is Mitsouko.

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Perfume Chat Room, January 13

Perfume Chat Room, January 13

The Perfume Chat Room is back! After a brief hiatus for December’s Scented Advent, then my new collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, “Notes on Notes” (first Mondays of the month), I’m ready to chat again and I hope you are too.

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

Today is Friday, January 13 (yes, it’s Friday the 13th), and here in the USA we are looking forward to our three-day weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, January 16. I don’t have any special plans other than perhaps a lunch with the other volunteers who take part in a prize program to recognize high school students who make positive contributions to race relations in their schools or communities. I helped launch this program many years ago, and it is now nationwide. We’ve met so many wonderful teenagers who are doing great work. I love it.

Heads up — I spent last weekend visiting one of my closest friends in West Palm Beach, and I was able to go to the Guerlain boutique in The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. Yes, I came home with a bottle (the “new” Mitsouko). Yes, that means I made it one whole week into 2023 before buying a new fragrance. Yes, I’ll do a separate post with photos!

Are you attempting a no-buy or low-buy for 2023? I am going to try a “low-buy” but I’m not exactly off to a good start, lol. Or do you have any particular fragrances on your 2023 wishlist?

What Went Well, 2022 Edition

What Went Well, 2022 Edition

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Undina over at Undina’s Looking Glass has reminded me, with her Saturday Question, that I haven’t yet posted here about “What Went Well” in 2022.

  1. Two of our three young adult children solidified and continued romantic relationships that started in the fall of 2021 and make them very happy. Whatever happens, they’ve had a lovely year, and I love that.
  2. The third young adult child was able to move into her own small apartment, after a happy year of sharing a house with friends, and the apartment is much closer to our home, which makes us very happy. She and her sister (who also lives nearby) still have their own keys to our house and come and go quite often.
  3. I had a long overdue leave from my job this fall and was able to travel to see family, especially the two trips to New Hampshire in 2022 to see my FIL, one of which included all three kids, who hadn’t seen him since 2020.
  4. My leave this fall has shown me that yes, I’m ready to retire, which I will do later this year after the spring semester.
  5. My dear husband and I also began a more structured routine for better fitness and strength, and we’re enjoying it!
  6. Three of us had COVID right around Thanksgiving, but we all recovered quickly and well — and we were all able to quarantine together here in our house.

My list reminds me, again, that what really makes my life go well is when I achieve a balance of happy, healthy family; happy, healthy marriage; maintaining healthy boundaries between my life and my job; and taking better care of myself and my physical health. In many ways, 2022 was a difficult year for me, at least the first three quarters, due to workplace politics and shifts. The leave I took in the fall was long overdue, after two years of doing a LOT of extra COVID-related work for my university employer starting in March 2020, on top of my regular duties which did not lessen. The return to being onsite full-time, with all students onsite, for the 21-22 academic year, was very challenging for everyone, and many valued colleagues left in 2022, leaving jobs vacant with the same workload needing to get done by fewer people. The new boss I acquired, the third in three years (academia is notoriously poorly managed) proved to be much more difficult than I had expected, and mismanaged my staff while I was on leave, leading to more resignations.

But now that 2022 approaches its end, I have a plan in place to retire in 2023, ending my third career on a positive note for my students and colleagues. I’m looking forward to what comes next! Stay tuned for some new collaboration with Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and A Bottled Rose, coming soon to a blog near you!

Happy New Year, everyone, and let’s hope that 2023 brings more peace, health, hope, and wellbeing to as many people as possible. Thank you for joining me and other readers here; I love the online perfume community that has been so welcoming and positive! If you drop in periodically but haven’t commented, I encourage you to do that if you wish — the more, the merrier!

Hands holding numerals for New Year 2023.
2023; image from the UK Daily News.
Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Scented Advent, December 23 and 24

Happy Christmas Eve! I never got around to posting yesterday because I was so busy creating the first of several family feasts for last night and the next few days. I love to cook, and I love having our kids and their friends around, so this is a great time of year for me!

For December 23, my Advent SOTD was Guerlain’s Embruns d’Ylang, created by Thierry Wasser and launched in 2019. I like it much more than I expected to! Not that I dislike ylang-ylang, but it’s not high on my list of favorite floral notes. I like it a lot as a supporting character in many beautiful fragrances, but I wouldn’t normally seek out a fragrance where it has the starring role.

According to Fragrantica, the notes included are: top notes, Salt and Bergamot; middle notes, Ylang-Ylang, Cloves and Jasmine Sambac; base notes, Iris, Patchouli and Vanilla. I never know how to identify “salt” as a fragrance accord, except as a sort of mineral smell; and Embruns d’Ylang definitely has that in its opening, with a tangy bergamot. Believe it or not, the combination of salt and a bitter citrus has a long history, though mostly involving grapefruit: “Grapefruit and Salt: The Science Behind This Unlikely Power Couple.”

After the opening, ylang-ylang is the dominant accord, and it is very lovely. Interestingly, although I often think of ylang-ylang as falling on the sweeter end of the yellow flower spectrum, here it doesn’t come across as very sweet. It certainly isn’t cloying at all, and it is a ylang-ylang that would work well for all, truly unisex if that is a concern. I don’t smell cloves at all, though given the above article’s explanation of how our taste sensors can cancel each other out, I wonder if cloves are helping to reduce the sweetness of the ylang-ylang. I do pick up the jasmine sambac, but here it is a supporting player.

The ylang-ylang persists into the drydown and the base, which makes for a very interesting combination of yellow floral, powdery iris, soft warm vanilla, and earthy patchouli. I find it quite unique, and very pleasing. It also lasts on my skin for several hours, including overnight.

Yellow ylang-ylang flowers held in hands
Ylang-ylang flowers; image from beezly.com

I find this to be a thoroughly unisex yellow floral fragrance with a unique combination of notes. Its name has a poetic meaning: seafoam of ylang, which takes into account the salt accord. This is different enough that I would suggest trying before you buy it, if you are so inclined, but it is well worth sampling.

Now I have to decide what to wear for Christmas Eve! Truthfully, I have many nice options, so I might have more than one SOTD. Happy Christmas Eve, everyone who celebrates it! Advent officially ends tonight, so I’ll wish you also a very happy Christmas; and to everyone everywhere, a happy, healthy holiday season. Thanks for joining me and other readers here on Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities; I look forward to hearing more from you all in 2023!

Scented Advent, December 22

Scented Advent, December 22

Today’s Advent scent, by independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, is Sugar Plums. Every year, her house DSH Perfumes releases a new, limited issue holiday fragrance. (Fear not, you can still buy the prior years’ fragrances in her holiday sample sets). Sugar Plums is number 22, this year’s holiday fragrance, also particularly apropos on December 22.

Ms. Hurwitz says that Sugar Plums was inspired by her love for the ballet “The Nutcracker”, and especially the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her description:

A dancing, celebratory plum chypre fragrance with a frangipani heart bouquet, soft cardamom & ginger spices, touches of incense, and delicious gourmand elements in the drydown. How beautiful and festive! This year’s inspiration comes from a perennial holiday favorite “The Nutcracker”. I have long loved this dreamy ballet; especially the dance of the sugar plum fairies. I have to admit that I have long considered this theme (it’s been in my notebook of ideas for years) for the dancing, dreamlike quality that the concept invokes. Sugar Plums is not really all that sweet… instead it is a celebratory swirl of rich plum, delicate spices, warming incense, and a surprising combination of gourmand elements in a classical chypre structure in the drydown. This may sound like a cacophony of elements, but it comes together beautifully to make a true holiday classic.

DSH Perfumes and Now Smell This
The Nutcracker ballet, Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker, 2014, Waltz of the Flowers with the Sugar Plum Fairy; image from Atlanta Ballet

Finally, a fragrance in which I can really smell the cardamom! Sometimes I see it listed as a note or accord and I just can’t detect it; that makes me sad because I love the smell of cardamom. Sugar Plums is a very beautiful fragrance, with just the right level of spice and incense. I think the gourmand aspects of the drydown, mentioned about, come from tonka bean; it seems to be combined with some patchouli, giving this modern chypre its base note that in a prior era might have been oakmoss.

Sugar Plums has a spiced fruit opening, which I believe is a combination of a plum accord with the cardamom. The incense slowly appears and rises; it is a soft, gentle incense. I’ll have to take Ms. Hurwitz’ word for it that the floral heart is frangipani; it’s beautiful but I don’t think I could have picked out frangipani as the floral accord. The cardamom and incense persist after the floral notes have receded, and they carry on right into the base notes, two of which I think are tonka and patchouli. This isn’t a sweet fragrance, though it has some sweet accords. My sample is the Voile de Parfum formulation, which is oil-based, and it lasts well on my skin, still very detectable several hours after application. I like it very much! Now I’m eager to try the rest of DSH Perfumes’ holiday fragrances.

My favorite version of The Nutcracker is the former production by the Atlanta Ballet, choreographed by John McFall, in which our daughters appeared as children for several years. I always loved the sets and costumes, which looked more Russian than Victorian, and the choreography was spectacular (ignore the advert for ticket sales, this production ended 4 years ago!):

Is going to The Nutcracker, or watching it on film, a tradition in your family? Do you have a favorite version?

Scented Advent, December 21

Scented Advent, December 21

Today is the winter solstice, the turning point from dark to light, or at least lighter. We still have much winter to come, and December 21 is considered the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but the days will start getting longer and the nights shorter.

Stonehenge with winter sun
Stonehenge at the winter solstice; image from BBC Science

In England, the group that owns and manages Stonehenge is English Heritage. They will stream winter solstice celebrations taking place at Stonehenge tomorrow, December 22.

And — surprise! My stash of Guerlain samples had a couple of duplicates, so today’s Advent sample is Angelique Noire, again! This time, the caraway seed accord was a bit more forward. I still don’t perceive this fragrance as “noire” at all.

Angelica plant in bloom
Photo by PrathSnap on Pexels.com

As before, Angelique Noire has good longevity on my skin. I’m going to try it side by side with some other vanillas, like the vanilla discovery set from Sylvaine Delacourte. Mme. Delacourte was the Creative Director for Guerlain fragrances for 15 years, and Angelique Noire was created under her supervision, so I think that will provide some interesting comparisons.

Happy winter solstice! And all of you in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoy your own seasonal changes!

Scented Advent, December 20

Scented Advent, December 20

Okay, I didn’t choose an unknown scent today for Advent. I confess. I knew I was going to have a tough day at work (I’ve been back for less than a week) and some difficult conversations, so I pulled out my fragrance armor: Chanel No. 19, the green witch herself. If you want to read my thoughts on it, please click on the link and it will take you to a “Scent Semantics” post from September, when I wrote about No. 19 at some length.

Elphaba and Glinda from "Wicked"
Stars of “Wicked” production in Boston; image from the Lowell Sun

I’m something of a “goody two-shoes” so one might think I would identify more with the character on the left. But as we learn from “Wicked”, Glinda the Good isn’t as good as she appeared; and Elphaba isn’t as bad as she appeared. But Elphaba puts up a formidable facade, and that’s what I needed today. I think I emerged unscathed.

And you know, I always remember what a long-ago boss told me (TBH, I didn’t like him much, but he did occasionally have some good insights). He had been an airline executive in his earlier career, and he said more than once, “It’s been a good day at the office when no plane has crashed.” He’s right. No planes crashed, or were at risk, in my job today. Onward to the holidays!

Two of my three kids are home for the holidays, yay! One is still in college, so he’ll be with us well into January. The other is fully independent, but arrived today and will stay at least through Boxing Day. The third, another fully independent young adult, will arrive on Thursday. It’s really great to have them home, even just for a short while; they make us laugh. We will go to a friend and neighbor’s house on Thursday evening for an informal holiday party in their backyard, which will really put me in the holiday spirit. I’ll get back on track with the Guerlain samples tomorrow!

Meanwhile, I am mulling over what scent(s) I want to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. I do have Caron’s Nuit de Noel, always a good option. I really like the gingerbread accord and spices in ELDO’s Like This. I also have a set of small sizes of Jo Malone’s special Christmas scents, like Orange Bitters and White Moss & Snowdrop. Fille en Aiguilles would be suitable, as well as Nuit Étoilèes, if I want evergreen vibes. Any suggestions for those three occasions? What will you wear?

Scented Advent, December 19

Scented Advent, December 19

My Guerlain Advent scent today is Néroli Outrenoir, another “citrus aromatic”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk and launched in 2016. It’s very, very appealing. Per Fragrantica, top notes are Petitgrain, Bergamot, Tangerine, Lemon and Grapefruit; middle notes are Tea, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Smoke and Earthy Notes; base notes are Myrrh, Vanilla, Benzoin, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Oakmoss.

That citrusy opening is very uplifting, a mix of greenness and, well, citrus. It reminds me a bit of Miller Harris’ Tangerine Vert. To my nose, the most prominent notes are the petitgrain, tangerine, and lemon, but I definitely smell the bergamot, and a whiff of the grapefruit. Very soon, tea is served, and it is a black tea with lemon in it. It does have a floralcy that comes from the néroli and orange blossom, but to me the strongest impression is of black tea and lemon, with a tinge of smokiness. Almost like a lapsang souchong tea, but not as smoky or tarry.

This scent is like chiaroscuro, the painting technique that famously contrasts light and dark, the leading examples being the paintings of the great Caravaggio. It starts out very bright and sunny, with all the citrus notes in the opening. Then the brightness dims a bit, and softens and blurs, with the arrival of accords of tea and flowers. As it dries down, it gets gradually darker but also warmer, with the base notes especially of benzoin, ambrette and oakmoss. Myrrh and vanilla accords are present, but to a lesser degree.

Neroli Outrenoir has decent longevity on my skin, though nothing like Épices Volèes. It’s also a different kind of citrus/tea fragrance, one with more depth. I think it’s totally unisex and it would smell wonderful in warm weather, especially warm summer evenings. It’s fresh enough for hot weather but sophisticated enough for evening wear.

Very nice! Do you have any fragrances that contrast light and dark this way?

Oil painting of the Nativity, by Caravaggio
Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, by Caravaggio; image from Photo Scala
Scented Advent, December 18

Scented Advent, December 18

Today’s Advent scent is Incense Flash, from Andy Tauer’s “Tauerville” line. The “Flash” series were meant to be less expensive than his main line of fragrances, but no less interesting (Rose Flash is a favorite of mine). Incense Flash has an abbreviated notes list: incense, woody notes, leather, musk. That’s a little deceiving, because incense itself can contain different notes, and who knows how many notes are included under the single term “woody notes”? Anyway, incense is what I smell, right away. It is smoky but not harsh.

Incense sticks, one burning
Incense sticks; image from Epicurious.com

I used to associate incense with a sort of hippie mentality, but I find it so interesting in perfume. It seems to have gone more mainstream in recent years, with people buying sticks to burn at home. And of course, Advent is a great time to be wearing an incense-based scent, given various church traditions. I find myself really enjoying Incense Flash. I don’t really smell leather, but I think the musk accord is softening the whole impression.

I would say that the development of Incense Flash is somewhat linear. The lead actor is the incense, and everything else revolves around that, coming and going. I like it, as a straightforward incense fragrance.

Do you use incense in your home? Do you have any favorite Tauerville scents?