Perfume Chat Room, February 3

Perfume Chat Room, February 3

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, February 3, and what a week it has been. On Monday, we buried my dear father-in-law: Rainy Days and Mondays. I appreciate the kind words from several of you! Flew back home late Monday night, had another day off on Tuesday to decompress, then back to work we all went on Wednesday. I’m so glad it’s Friday!

In fragrance-related news, I spent the weekend using my husband’s bottle of New York, by Patricia de Nicolai, because I forgot to bring any of my many decants and samples (my go-to travel options). New York was so interesting yet comforting, for hours at a time, that I used Amazon points to buy a large back-up bottle so DH and I can share it. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Amazon points? Some reputable retailers of fragrances like BeautyHabit have Amazon stores, and you can use your points there. So much for my low-buy resolutions — but I tell myself that using points isn’t really “buying”, lol.

In other, more cheerful news, we are planning a trip to Lisbon, Portugal this spring, with our son and his girlfriend. This will be AFTER our upcoming trip to Barcelona with our two daughters. A work trip for my husband, while daughters and I entertain ourselves all week. I’m making up for all the trips we weren’t able to take in 2020 and 2021.

I know many lovely perfume outlets in Barcelona but have never been to Lisbon. Suggestions, anyone? Please share in the comments! Also, don’t forget to check out new posts from me and Portia on Monday, when we’ll do our next “Notes on Notes“. The note in question will be vetiver. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts!

Winter lake

Scented Advent, December 12

The independent perfumer Advent sample of the day is Hiram Green’s Arcadia. Wowza! It is classified as an “aromatic fougère”, and it has a great opening, top-heavy with lavender and bergamot. As they settle down, the bergamot recedes but the lavender stays strong, joined and made more floral by the arrival of jasmine and rose accords. The notes list from the brand’s website is: Bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rose, spices, resins, tonka bean, aged patchouli, New Caledonian sandalwood. Hiram Green, who is a natural perfumer, also lists the actual ingredients, which include evernia prunastri extract, which is oakmoss. Be still, my heart! I love oakmoss in fragrances. Mr. Green says this about the fragrance, which he launched this year (2022):

For this perfume I was inspired by the natural splendour of Arcadia. In this idyllic, unspoiled wilderness babbling brooks meander through mountains covered in dense forests and the air is filled with the sound of humming insects and twittering birds.

Imagine the lush undergrowth that covers the forest floor. In areas where the sun manages to break through the canopy, fragrant flowers bask in the sunlight and their sweet scent intertwines with the fresh green smell of the foliage.

The base notes blend beautifully together. The spices are pretty subtle — definitely noticeable, but they don’t hit you over the head (or nose). Resins, tonka bean, and sandalwood provide warmth, and patchouli and oakmoss hum underneath. The drydown stage is where I think Arcadia smells most like a traditionally masculine fragrance, with the lavender still evident over those warm base notes. There’s a light dustiness to this stage, possibly from the oakmoss, that makes me think of motes of sunlight floating through the sunbeams that shine through Mr. Green’s Arcadian forest.

In fact, the whole fragrance makes me think of a particular forest: Ashdown Forest in England, famous not only for its woodland beauty but also as the landscape of Christopher Robin’s childhood idyll, the Hundred Acre Wood he shared with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Arcadia, indeed!

Sunlit woodland path in Ashdown Forest
Sunlight in Ashdown Forest, England; image from ashdownforest.com.

I’ve never been there, but I loved A.A. Milne’s books as a child; in fact, “Winnie-the-Pooh” was the first book I read by myself, shocking my parents at the age of four when I pointed to it and said, “I can wead that book.” And so I could, having taught myself to read, although I couldn’t pronounce Rs very well. One of my late mother’s cousins actually illustrated Christopher Milne’s memoir “The Path Through the Trees”.

I’m delighted with Mr. Green’s version of Arcadia and will put it on my “possible full bottle some day” list. Have you tried any of Hiram Green’s fragrances? Any favorites?

Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

Even days of December are when I alternate my Guerlain samples with other samples, and I’m trying to make sure I reach into the box that has mostly independent perfumers’ fragrance. In this challenging economy, it continues to be important to support the independent and small businesses that already had a tough time during the pandemic. Besides, the independent perfumers often create the most interesting and innovative fragrances that we love to try.

Today’s sample is Andy Tauer‘s L’Air des Alpes Suisses, inspired by the Swiss Alps and launched in 2019, and I’m just delighted. First, it’s a beautiful fragrance. Second, I was able to visit Zurich and some of its perfumeries in the “before times” and one of them was Suskind, a small perfumery that only sells niche fragrances. Apparently its owner was an early supporter of Andy Tauer (who is based in Zurich), who is very well-liked in the perfume community for his approachability as well as his undoubted talents. When I visited Suskind and asked to sample some Tauer perfumes, the sales assistant confirmed that he stops by sometimes, and how nice he is.

So back to my sample: L’Air des Alpes Suisses is 100% unisex. It may lean a little masculine for some, because it is aromatic and woody, which many associate with masculine fragrances. Here is M. Tauer’s description on his website:

HEAD NOTESThe HEAD notes are fresh like a breeze from treeless mountain summits: rough granite ground, the cool air from the glacier, and bitter alpine herbs.
HEART NOTESThe HEART notes are fresh, green with hints of spices. Floral delicacies such as the red Alpine lily bloom on lush meadows, powdery, spicy, green.
BODY NOTESThe BODY notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun. notes are inspired by alpine forests on cliffy slopes: the woody warmth of timber, larch and beech, with the sweet amber perfume of dry earth in the sun.
L’Air des Alpes Suisses notes list, from the Tauer Perfumes website

Fragrantica lists these specific notes, in no particular order: ambergris, lavender, fir, pine needles, tonka bean, lily, lemon balm, orchid, birch, palisander rosewood, basil, thyme, nutmeg. As others have noted since its launch, L’Air des Alpes Suisses is basically a fougère, a classic fragrance structure that uses citrus, lavender, coumarin (tonka), and a mossy or woody base, often oakmoss. An aromatic fougère, like this one, will also include notes of spices and herbs.

To my nose, the lemon balm accord is taking the place of a more traditional “citrus” opening, accompanied by lavender, green herbs like basil and thyme; personally, I would list chamomile instead of basil. So the opening is very green but not like galbanum, more herbal and less bitter. There is no sweetness at all, but it’s very pleasant and refreshing. The middle phase is very intriguing, with the herbal accords mingling with the floral notes of lily and orchid, and a hint of evergreen forests. M. Tauer’s handling of the accords that evoke fir and pine needles is masterful. Needless to say, there is nothing that smells at all like the ubiquitous pine-scented cleaning liquids. Nutmeg brings a woody spiciness to the party.

As L’Air dries down, it does get woodier, which adds warmth, but I think the star of the show is ambergris. There’s an earthy warmth that blends harmoniously with the warm woods but is distinct from them. Having had the privilege of smelling actual ambergris (kept in a vault!), I think that is what my nose detects. The tonka (or coumarin) evokes dry hay, as one would find in a summer meadow.

As you may know, the Swiss Alps are home to amazing alpine meadows, with unique, unusual plants and flowers. A beloved summer tradition of hiking and walking along trails to see the meadows in bloom has persisted in Switzerland, despite its sophisticated, urbane modernity. Andy Tauer has perfectly captured the atmosphere of an alpine ramble surrounded by meadows and flowers and fringed by evergreen forests, starting at the summit and slowly descending. I think I would love this on my husband, because I quite like it on myself!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Perfume Chat Room, November 11

Perfume Chat Room, November 11

Welcome to the weekly 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, November 11, the day on which many Western countries mark Veterans’ Day and Armistice Day (it is Remembrance Day in Canada). The commemoration began after WWI ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, with the declaration of peace. After WWII, the name was changed in the US to Veterans’ Day to honor all who have served in the military. Unlike Memorial Day, which is dedicated to honoring the dead and whose date changes every year, Veterans’ Day honors the living and is always celebrated on November 11.

What fragrance to wear on such a day? I chose Jean Patou’s L’Heure Attendue, translated as “the long-awaited hour”, which was launched in 1946. Elena Vosnaki wrote a wonderful piece about it and other post-war legendary fragrances here: “The Senses on Alert: The Smell of War.” The impulse to celebrate and create beauty when long-awaited peace arrives goes deep. My favorite commemoration of Armistice Day was the art installation of hundreds of thousands of red poppies at the Tower of London in 2014.

Installation of 900,000 red poppies at Tower of London to commemorate World War I
World War I memorial ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’; poppies at Tower of London, 2014; image from TimeOut London.

It is such a poignant reminder of the lives lost, just in Britain, during that dreadful conflict. Both of my grandfathers served during World War I, thankfully not in the horrendous trenches of Europe. My English grandfather was a midshipman in the Royal Navy; my American grandfather served in the U.S. Army at the Mexican border, during the Border War between Mexico and the US.

While I deplore war in all its forms, and I am praying for peace in Ukraine and elsewhere, I am grateful for the service and sacrifice of so many.

Perfume Chat Room, October 28

Perfume Chat Room, October 28

Welcome to the weekly 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 NOT Friday, October 28, because I am a day late in posting! We have just wrapped up a week-long visit to New Hampshire, to see my father-in-law who will turn 92 next month. He is doing well, sharp as ever, and we’ve had a lovely week spending every afternoon with him, going right after lunch and staying until his dinner arrives. We’ve enjoyed a week spent in the gorgeous New England fall, though the fall foliage was just past its peak. The reddest leaves tend to fall earliest, from the maples, but there was still plenty of breathtaking orange, gold, yellow and brown to admire. We went on some good walks including a lakeside trail that follows the shoreline and an old railway track.

And of course, I’ve enjoyed smelling the fresh New England fall air, which to my nose is a blend of wet leaves, soil, pine and balsam, damp moss, ferns, chrysanthemums, and lake (I would include sea water if we were on the coast). Probably some petrichor too, as we had a few showers this week.

Rainbow over New England lake

I’ve also been enjoying some of the Guerlain samples I was sent with my order from the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. A few I’ve really liked: Oeillet Pourpre, Herbes Troublantes, and Frenchy Lavande. They blend well with the fall air. I like Oeillet Pourpre very much, but I don’t think it is significanty better, to my nose, than L’Artisan’s Oeillet Sauvage, which I love. I might prefer it slightly to Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet, which I also like very much.

I can’t believe that Halloween is upon us! Do you have any special Halloween plans or traditions? Ours, to the detriment of our waistlines, is that I go out and buy far too much candy in hopes of many little trick-or-treaters, then we don’t get as many as I had hoped, and we “have to” eat all the candy. I’m trying to do better this year!

Scent Semantics, October 3

This is the end of our year of “Scent Semantics”, monthly posts by several bloggers around the world when we choose a single word and write about a fragrance that it evokes for us. This month’s word is “Serenity”! The full name of this blog is “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities”, and I got to choose this month’s word. So “serenity” it is!

One definition of “serenity” is: “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” After a recent trip to Las Vegas and a side visit to the Mojave Desert, the scent I’ve chosen to evoke serenity is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. This is partly because our hotel’s toiletries were all Mojave Ghost, so I was immersed in that fragrance for several days. The other reason, though, is that I was so moved by the serenity of the desert. We went in the afternoon so we could see the sunset, in an area called Red Rock Canyon. It did not disappoint.

Mojave Desert sunset

Our small group was driven in a van by a local guide, whose passion for the landscape was infectious, along a 13-mile scenic loop route. We made several stops along the way, to see some special places and take photos. It’s a cliché to say this, but it is remarkable to this East Coaster how much life and fertility exists — thrives — in the desert. And it is indeed a very serene setting, especially around sunset. The air cools, the breeze quickens, the shadows gradually lengthen, and for a brief moment, even the atmosphere takes on a rosy hue to match the clouds that hover over the horizon. At that moment, the desert feels like one of the “thin places” on earth, where the gap between heaven and earth dwindles and time pauses to catch its breath.

Byredo captured this perfectly in Mojave Ghost. From the brand’s website:

Mojave Ghost is a woody composition inspired by the soulful beauty of the Mojave Desert. In this xeric wilderness, rare are the plants that dare to blossom. With a light and graceful character, top notes of musky Ambrette combine with fresh Jamaican Nesberry. Powdery Violet then unfurls to reveal Sandalwood. Finally warm Chantilly Musk rounds out a base of crisp Amber and Cedar wood, leaving the raw spirit of Mojave Ghost to linger on the skin.

Colognoisseur Mark Behnke wrote about Mojave Ghost in 2014, when it was launched, and explained that part of the perfumer’s brief was to capture the scent of a flower that survives in this desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). One of the notes listed, though, is actually a plant from the tropics, the Jamaican naseberry or sapodilla plant. Mark explains the role it plays in Mojave Ghost, which is to create the slightly sweet, lightly spicy odor of the desert in bloom. Perfumer Jerome Epinette also brings notes of ambrette, violet, magnolia, sandalwood, amber, and cedar into his composition. The dryness of the woody notes evokes the dryness of the desert, while the floral notes, although based on non-desert flora, communicate that there are indeed plants that bloom there.

Mojave Desert flora

My own experience with Mojave Ghost is colored by the fact that for several days, I literally bathed (or showered) in it, via the hotel supplies. Hand wash, body wash, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner! I’ve never been so immersed in a single fragrance, honestly. While I’ve certainly stayed in hotels that had lovely, scented, coordinated toiletries, I don’t normally use all of them and I don’t use them lavishly for several days in a row. But on this trip, I slathered myself with lotion twice a day to stave off the dryness of the air; and this hotel had the large, pump containers attached to the wall instead of those itty bitty plastic bottles, so I indulged freely. Back home, I pulled out a sample of Mojave Ghost eau de parfum to confirm my impressions.

Mojave Ghost toiletries

The sapodilla note is very evident at the opening, with the ambrette adding a gentle muskiness that suggests both the landscape and the presence of small, unseen creatures, like those that inhabit the desert. Mark Behnke finds that the sapodilla smells like cinnamon and fruit. I wouldn’t say I picked up cinnamon, but definitely something lightly spicy, a bit like the clove one smells in carnations. The fruitiness is also light, not overly sweet. The floral notes waft in as if on a breeze, supported by dry, woody sandalwood. Finally, the florals fade into amber, and sandalwood gives way to cedar, leaving a warm, transparent wash of fragrance on the skin.

This is not a difficult or demanding fragrance, and it does convey serenity, just as the desert sunset can induce a meditative frame of mind. Some commenters on Fragrantica have found it boring, but others cherish it. I find it peaceful. It doesn’t implicitly hold its wearer to any standard of costume or makeup, unlike some. Mojave Ghost would never remind you to wear lipstick, or stilettos.

Do I want a full bottle? No. But I could see springing for the hair perfume; I think that format would suit the warm yet sheer impression Mojave Ghost leaves.

What fragrance do you find serene? And please check out the posts by my fellow Scent Semantics bloggers:

Perfume Chat Room, August 12

Perfume Chat Room, August 12

Welcome to the weekly 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, August 12, and our summer travels are over. We had a great trip to New England to see my FIL. Along the way, we had our three kids with us on a beautiful lake for several days, saw both of my sisters and three of their kids, also saw my husband’s sister and her family, met our great-nieces for the first time when our nephew came to see my FIL with them, and met both the newish puppy and the young ocicat in my younger sister’s house. Whew! Unlike last summer, we didn’t digress to other destinations but drove straight up the Eastern seaboard, with one stop in Richmond and one in Connecticut, both on the way up and the way down.

We stayed in the most fabulous bed-and-breakfast inn in Richmond, called the Boulevard Inn. It’s a 1914 townhouse in a historic neighborhood called the “Fan” (due to its shape on a map) that is full of cute restaurants and beautiful houses. Our hosts, Mitch and Roni, couldn’t have been nicer or more hospitable. I highly recommend it!

Victorian room in bed and breakfast inn
Bon Air room in the Boulevard Inn, Richmond VA.
Streetscape in Richmond, VA, showing inn.
The Boulevard Inn, Richmond VA.

Have you been able to stay anywhere special this summer? I kind of can’t believe summer is really over, but it is. Our son moves back to campus today, and I return to the office. The weather, however, is still very hot and steamy. How about you?

Perfume Chat Room, August 5

Perfume Chat Room, August 5

Welcome to the weekly 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, August 5, and I have family on my mind. This is mostly because we have gone to New Hampshire with our young adult children for the specific purpose of seeing my elderly father-in-law, who is their only remaining grandparent. We’re having a great time! We have had some fabulous weather, although today is overcast after some heavy rain last night. As hoped, we have seen and heard several loons. Their calls are so distinctive, and instantly bring back memories of past vacations in New England.

The other reason family is on my mind is that the “Scent Semantics” blogging crew, of which I am one thanks to Portia, posted this week about the word “family.” I wrote about the family of fragrances launched by one of my favorite perfumers, Liz Moores, and her independent brand Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Please check it out, as well as the other Scent Semantics blog posts!

It feels as if summer is coming to a close, and I’m not quite ready for that. How about you?

New England lake with loons
Loons on lake in Maine
Perfume Chat Room, June 18

Perfume Chat Room, June 18

Welcome to the weekly 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 Saturday, June 18, and I’m posting a day late because of more travel! Within the US this time, for another wedding (which is what kept me from posting last weekend!). We are at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, which we haven’t visited in several years, since we brought our kids here. The weather has dawned bright, sunny, and 20 degrees cooler than yesterday. That’s not a typo. Much of the Eastern US is having a heatwave. Luckily for this bride and groom, some storms blew through Virginia last night and pushed the heatwave away temporarily. Apparently it will be back up to 100 later this week!

Do you wear fragrances during heatwaves? Which do you find refreshing, or at least tolerable? Probably my favorite hot weather fragrance is Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil, famously created by Jean-Claude Ellena, as documented by Chandler Burr in the book “The Perfect Scent.” I’m really enjoying Carthusia’s new release, A’mmare.

Stay cool, friends!

The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Colonial Williamsburg, the Governor’s Palace.
Perfume Chat Room, May 27

Perfume Chat Room, May 27

Back to our Friday schedule! Welcome to the weekly 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 the start of the Memorial Day Weekend here in the US, which also marks the official start of summer for many people. I returned from my travels last Sunday, having spent a week in Northern Italy, five days in Spain, and a long weekend in New Jersey (college reunion). It was all great fun, but I’m glad to be home! I did get a chance to spend time in the fabulous TWA Hotel, in the repurposed landmark TWA terminal at JFK Airport, which I loved:

TWA Hotel
The Sunken Lounge at the TWA Hotel

Along the way, I did make a few fragrance purchases (I blame the favorable exchange rate): two private-label eaux de parfum at the garden island of Isola Bella, one centered on neroli and the other on roses; Prada’s La Femme and Carthusia’s new A’mmare in Milan; and Santa Eulalia’s Albis in Sitges (a beach resort outside Barcelona). There were a few traditional local perfumeries in Sitges and it was fun to explore them. One in particular, a tiny shop, had a very nice selection of niche perfumes (that’s where I got Albis). I look forward to really testing them now that I’m home. The only semi-blind buy was La Femme; I’ve tried it before and liked it, and I wanted to get something by Prada in Milan, so when I found that at a 50% discount …

Do you have any perfume purchases planned? Any plans for the holiday weekend, if you’re celebrating it?