Saturday Snippet: A Fragrant Feast

Saturday Snippet: A Fragrant Feast

Old Herbaceous

Doesn’t this look and sound delicious? It is a fragrant salad devised by perfumer Ezra Woods, whose brand is “Regime des Fleurs.” The recipe is in this article from the NY Times’ “T” Magazine: A  Perfumer’s Fragrant Flower Salad.

Flower-based salad and recipe by perfumer Ezra Woods. Fragrant flower salad; images from http://www.nytimes.com, by Julia Stotz.

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Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

I had a few fragrance adventures in London last month, but one of the best was a surprise encounter with 2018’s launch, L’Iris de Fath. Yes, THAT one — the award-winning reconstruction of the legendary Iris Gris fragrance from the house of Fath.

Other bloggers and authors have written at length about this project, including Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, who were involved with it. The Fath website offers this:

Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris is known as one of the greatest perfumes if not the greatest, unequalled since its creation. The balanced duo of Iris and Peach reflects perfumer Vincent Roubert’s exceptional know-how. The concentration of Iris of an unreached level made of Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris the most expensive perfume in the world. Launched in 1947, it disappeared the same year as Fath in 1954.  Often copied and certainly never equaled, it remains unique and timeless.

It was unthinkable that this heritage remained prisoner of the limbo of the past. Under the supervision of Creative Director Rania Naim, Parfums Jacques Fath launched an international competition of perfumers, in order to reproduce as faithfully as possible this exceptional fragrance. The myth is reborn, thanks to two young talents unanimously chosen by a committee of experts:  Patrice Revillard, Perfumer and Yohan Cervi, Creative Director of Maelström.

Like a chrysalis turning into a butterfly, it is now known as :L’ IRIS de FATH

After all, no matter the name, no matter the color, as long as emotions remain intact.

So how did I manage to meet this mythical creature? I went to Jovoy Paris’ Mayfair store in London and met a young sorcerer’s apprentice (SA) named Khalid. Khalid is a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant at Jovoy Mayfair, where I have had nothing but lovely experiences. The first time I ever visited, the owner, Francois, happened to be there. He gave me a personal tour of the store, pulled out many fragrances for me to try, and even showed me (and let me smell!) the precious chunks of ambergris they keep in a vault downstairs.

On this latest visit, I happened to be nearby at my favorite overall store in London, Liberty. I was planning to meet a friend for a late lunch, and had some time to spare, so I stopped in at Jovoy. It was a quiet time in the store, and I was warmly greeted by Khalid. Here’s what I love about Jovoy. I told him that I was really just browsing, that I write about fragrance as a hobby, and that I had visited the store before and really enjoyed its wide range of stock, but wasn’t there to buy anything in particular. He asked me nevertheless what I like in fragrance, I said florals, and he asked if he could show me some of their newer floral scents. Of course, I said, and out came the testers and the paper strips, so I could sniff some truly beautiful florals. After I oohed and aahed over one with a dominant iris note, he asked me, “Do you like iris?” and I assured him that yes, I love iris, and in fact it was becoming one of my favorite notes, close on the heels of the muguet I love so much.

Well, Khalid got a gleam in his eye and invited me to follow him downstairs to see the store’s most special iris fragrance. We approached the same vault where the ambergris is kept, and there it was — The Unicorn. L’Iris de Fath. Reader, I gasped.

 

Khalid opened the vault and carefully dripped one drop of the precious fluid on a paper test strip, which he then handed to me. One drop, and a cloud of iris richness filled my nose. I tell you, if I ever win Powerball millions, I will fly back to London, head straight to Jovoy Mayfair, and buy their entire stock of L’Iris de Fath from Khalid. And I hope he gets a whopping commission.

I don’t have enough of a trained nose to be able to describe L’Iris as well as others have done, so I’ll just record my own impressions in my own words. This is a remarkably elegant, lasting, classic iris perfume. It has the rootiness of traditional orris, which I love and which takes center stage right from the start, but the opening is brightened by neroli and petitgrain, and it smells of iris flowers as well as their roots. The iris has a warmth that one doesn’t often associate with that note, and it comes from a subtle peach that lends it a velvety, soft, suede-like texture. I live in a part of the USA where peaches are a major crop; even the street where I live is named for the peach orchards that used to grow where a turn-of-the-century city neighborhood now unfolds its charms. Summer peaches that have been allowed to grow to ripeness on the heavy branches of fruit trees, in the hot Southern sun, have a scent to their skins that is not fruity, yet speaks to us of fruit. Just as I found that the famous melon note in Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is really the scent of the rind of an intact, ripe fruit, not the inner flesh, the peach of L’Iris de Fath is to my nose the scent of ripe, sun-kissed peach skin, with a hint of fuzz, soft and warm. Brilliant work by perfumer Patrice Revillard.

The heart stage is thoroughly immersed in iris and orris notes, but you can tell that other flowers are there too, because the fragrance is multi-layered and far from simple. I can pick up some violet, rose, jasmine, and carnation; none of them compete with the iris, although I think the violet adds a soft sheen of mauve powder at this stage. The base is warm and sensual, but reserved. The oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk are apparent but they are so well-blended that one doesn’t smell them as separate notes. Sillage is elusive; one minute you think the scent isn’t carrying much further than one’s immediate vicinity, the next minute someone comes into the room and exclaims, “What is that wonderful smell?”

I found myself trying to imagine what famous beauty best embodies L’Iris de Fath and I think that must be Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This perfume is warm, yet reserved. It beckons you in the way she is famously said to have used her soft, breathy voice to speak so quietly and intimately to a companion that her interlocutor would be forced to lean in closer, closer, to hear her; and thus she conveyed the sense that she and her listener were alone in a private conversation, a little world of their own, even in the midst of a crowded party. She bewitched people, yet she was also reserved, dignified, impeccable, even with wind-tousled hair.

Jackie Kennedy in yellow iris sheath dress

Jacqueline Kennedy in iris sheath

L’Iris de Fath does not speak loudly, but it is very clearly itself: a warm iris-peach, elegant and classic. Its progression is fairly linear, and I mean that as a compliment. The orris especially wafts up for several hours and is present from start to finish. It is brighter at the start, warmer and less distinct at the end, but nevertheless fully present. It is one of those perfumes that would make one’s skin smell like the perfect, fragrant, warm, skin we’d all like to inhabit. Like our own skin, but so very much better.

Thank you for this lovely experience, Jovoy and Khalid!

Featured image: Iris “Alabaster Unicorn”.

May Muguet Marathon: Inflorescence

May Muguet Marathon: Inflorescence

Not many lily of the valley fragrances have been launched in recent years, although they were very popular during most of the 20th century. Their very popularity during that era may have pushed them to the back seat in our own day, as many today associate the fragrance of muguet with older relatives, even grandmothers (I happen to think that smelling like an elegant grandmother is infinitely preferable to smelling like an insipid celebrity, but chacun a son gout!). It is even more rare for a niche brand to launch a muguet fragrance these days, one exception being By Kilian’s Kissing.

Byredo, however, launched a muguet-centered fragrance in 2013: Inflorescence.  The brand describes it thus: “A celebration of Spring’s early blooming flowers. A floral scent capturing the strength and delicacy of wild garden blossoms, as they reach their breathtaking beauty.” It is also described as having the following notes:

  • Top: Pink Freesia, Rose Petals
  • Heart: Lily of the Valley, Magnolia
  • Base: Fresh Jasmine

As The Candy Perfume Boy notes, Inflorescence has a very appealing combination of creamy petals with fresh, light, green-tinged floral notes. That jasmine base really lasts a long time — I sprayed some on a card last week in Liberty London’s famous fragrance department, and it still wafts strongly from its little white envelope, a full week later! And it’s not a standard long-lasting woody or musk note — it is still fresh, lemony jasmine with a creamy undertone. Inflorescence would be a standout for that alone, but there is much more to it. He found the opening a bit harsh; I did not. I got a nice burst of freesia, which I love, followed quickly by those pretty rose petals. The lily of the valley follows soon after and takes center stage; but the magnolia note also clearly presents itself.

Those white flowers merge seamlessly into each other and then into the jasmine base. Inflorescence is deceptive in that it gives the impression of being quite fragile and, one would assume, quite fleeting, but no. It is delicate but tenacious — like the so-called Confederate jasmine that festoons the brick wall on one side of my garden. It is a really lovely modern floral — not in the same league as some of the legends like Diorissimo, but a classic in the making on its own terms. It is modern in that it accomplishes its stated goal with relatively few notes, almost like the more minimalist approach of modern architecture or interior design. I wish the price were not so high, as that takes away much of its accessibility and thus its appeal. I won’t be forking out for a full bottle any time soon, but it is a gorgeous light floral and if you like those, I think you would be happy to try Inflorescence.

Do you have any favorite Byredo fragrances?

background bloom blooming blossom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

Welcome back to the May Muguet Marathon — I was away in London for a week or so and took a break from blogging, but had many perfume and scent adventures which I’ll recount this summer. Today’s lily of the valley is Fleur de Cristal, by Lalique, launched in 2010 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rene Lalique, founder of the famed crystal maker. Lalique crystal is instantly recognizable, with its flowing Art Nouveau forms, inspired by nature and often featuring female figures, flowers, and animals. M. Lalique created many beautiful perfume bottles, including in collaboration with legendary French perfumer Francois Coty. One of them is the gorgeous “Clairefontaine” bottle, which depicts sprays of lily of the valley blossoms emerging from a crystal globe. (In fact, Jessica McClintock put out a limited edition perfume splash bottle of its eponymous fragrance that has a lily of the valley stopper inspired by the famous Lalique Clairefontaine bottle). I love Lalique crystal; maybe some day I will own one of their iconic perfume bottles! Many are available through online auctions and antique sellers. Lalique has also launched a number of well-received fragrances under the house’s own name, and most come in very beautiful bottles of the house’s own design.

Fleur de Cristal comes in its own striking bottle, a clear, heavy flask whose top is embedded internally with rings of single lily of the valley bells.

Ad for Lalique eau de parfum Fleur de Cristal with perfume bottle

Fleur de Cristal; image from http://www.lalique.com

It is an eau de parfum marked as having 69% alcohol by volume, an unusually low percentage for an EDP.  (Most EDP will show about 80% alchohol by volume). Although this doesn’t mean that the Fleur de Cristal EDP is thus 31% fragrance oil, which would make it an extrait de parfum, it does seem to show that there are additional non-fragrance contents, which I’m guessing may be fixatives to help with clarity and/or longevity. After all, if one is selling a fragrance with “cristal” in the name, one can’t have it turn cloudy! Also, Fleur de Cristal does seem to have unusually good longevity for a light floral fragrance. The other day, I applied a few sprays in the morning, did not reapply all day, and twelve hours later, my husband commented that he liked my fragrance although I could no longer smell it on myself.

Top notes are: jasmine, bergamot, pink pepper; heart notes: lily of the valley, stephanotis, ylang-ylang, carnation; base notes: sandalwood, cashmeran, amber, musk. The perfumer was Raphael Haury. Chant Wagner called it a “solar muguet” on her blog The Scented Salamander, and I would agree with that description. The opening is sunny and bright, thanks to the bergamot and jasmine, with a touch of green. I don’t smell the pink pepper, but it probably adds some rosiness to the opening and ties it nicely to the heart notes, which include carnation (another lightly spicy floral note). The lily of the valley emerges as shyly as the real flower does, peeking out from behind the opening notes and gradually coming into olfactory focus, supported by the other floral notes, especially the stephanotis. Fleur de Cristal reminds me a bit of Something Blue, launched only a few years later, and they have a number of notes in common. The only fruit note in Fleur de Cristal, however, is the bergamot in the opening; and overall, the impression it leaves is more flowery than Something Blue. It also lasts longer on my skin than Something Blue.

If you are wary of lily of the valley scents, this might suit you. It isn’t a soliflore or soapy at all, it is a light, fresh floral with a very pretty progression of gentle flower notes leading to a soft base. It is widely available online for reasonable prices, and I’ve seen it still for sale at Neiman Marcus. Have you tried this, or any other Lalique fragrances?

 

 

Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft

In northern climates, the scent of Lily of the Valley is a harbinger of spring after the winter snow has melted. The lovely aroma from the small, white flowers has been sought after since the early days of perfumery. And yet, no essential oil of this flower is available, which is interesting considering the abundance […]

I’m re-blogging this excellent post about the chemistry of muguet fragrances, from the blog The Perfumer’s Craft:  Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft

May Muguet Marathon: Woods of Windsor Lily of the Valley

Woods of Windsor’s Lily of the Valley is a true soliflore: it is meant to smell only like that one flower, although it uses a few notes to achieve that. Listed notes include white lily, mimosa leaf, and orange; followed by lily of the valley, geranium, and “May blossom”; with base notes of sandalwood and amber musk (which I believe refers to ambrette). Of course, “lily of the valley” accords are only possible by combining aromachemicals. This LOTV is quite strong on first application and a bit harsh. It smells very soapy, and it’s not a surprise that the same fragrance has been turned into a set of bath and body products too. The original Woods of Windsor company was acquired in 2016 by the company that also owns Yardley London, its former competitor.

It comes in an eau de toilette concentration, and this may be its saving grace: it quiets down pretty quickly to become a fresh greenish floral scent, identifiable as lily of the valley albeit synthetic-smelling. I find that it is best used as a layering partner with another fragrance that has more depth but could use a stronger muguet note; I tried that with Tom Ford’s White Suede, with happy results. I can’t say that I smell most of the listed notes separately; the opening stage is all lily of the valley and geranium leaves, to my nose, with a bit of lemon and maybe bergamot, which isn’t listed, not orange. I think the description would be more accurate if it just listed unspecified “citruses” among the top notes. And what, exactly, is “May blossom”? As it turns out, May blossom is a common phrase for hawthorn, which actually blossoms in either May or June in England.

Woods of Windsor’s version of lily of the valley isn’t unpleasant (after the first harsh minutes of its opening), but it isn’t special, either. It is a utilitarian muguet, better suited to the bath products in which it also appears, and the soap and dusting powder that were among its other formats (now discontinued, I think). I wouldn’t choose to wear it on its own as my primary fragrance, but it is a pleasant companion to layer with other scents.

Have you tried this, or any of the other Woods of Windsor fragrances?

May Muguet Marathon: Giulietta

May Muguet Marathon: Giulietta

Giulietta, by Tocca, is described as “a romantic and muse … sweet pink tulips and green apple mingle with a floral delicacy of lily of the valley and amber.” It comes in eau de parfum strength; other notes include Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, pallida iris, vanilla orchid, lilac, heliotrope, cedar, musk, and sandalwood. It is one of the “Tocca Girls” fragrances, each of which is meant to have a distinct personality; Giulietta’s is described as refreshing, feminine, delicate. The fragrance’s name is also meant to refer to actress Giulietta Masina, wife and longtime artistic collaborator of film director Federico Fellini.

It opens with a pop of the green apple, fruity but a bit tart. It then becomes more floral, and I smell heliotrope more than any of the other listed floral notes. It is quite sweet at this stage, with a vanilla note that becomes more evident as the floral notes fade. The white musk base note emerges less than an hour into the drydown, and I think it is this note that prompted some Fragrantica readers to note that Giulietta reminds them of Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist. It’s pretty, but to my nose not very distinctive.

Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies had a more positive reaction than I did, in a review at Olfactoria’s Travels, calling it a “perfect summer fragrance.” It’s nice, but there are many better, even less expensive, options. For example, for the $76 list price for 50 ml of Giulietta, one can get 100 ml of Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil from online discounters, a much more interesting and distinctive summer fragrance, to my nose. I agree with Portia that after the opening, there is a pleasant, blended floral bouquet in which it is hard to pick out individual notes; also like Portia, I do smell heliotrope early on and throughout the drydown, which quickly becomes a soft vanilla musk. Like Jessica’s review at Now Smell This, my overall impression is that Giulietta is a nice summer vanilla. It does last reasonably well, and it would be a perfectly appropriate and safe office fragrance, or gift.

Although Tocca chooses to highlight lily of the valley in its copy, I don’t smell it at all in Giulietta. As in — not AT ALL. Nor do I smell the lilac that readers of Fragrantica rate among its most noticeable notes. Giulietta also comes in a hair fragrance format, like some other Tocca scents (two of which I’ve reviewed, Colette and Liliana). I think the photograph on the Tocca website is more accurate than the copy:

Bottle of Giulietta eau de parfum from Tocca with pink tulips and green apples

Giulietta eau de parfum; image from http://www.tocca.com

Bright, fruity, sweet floral with a clean white laundry background — to me, that’s Giulietta. Very pleasant, and indeed a nice, light, floral vanilla for summer — but not a muguet in sight.

Are there any other Tocca fragrances you particularly like? I did like the two hair mists I’ve previously reviewed, although I think those two have been discontinued (several others are available).