Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

Fragrance Friday: St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove

By now, regular readers know that I am a committed gardener as well as a lover of fragrance. One probably led to the other, as I favor scents with green, floral, or woody notes. I’ve had to educate myself about genres like gourmands, and they’re still not at the top of my list although I now know more of them. So many of my earliest memories involve the gardens of the houses where my family has lived, and the surrounding New England woods where my sisters and I played for hours. There were the small wildflower garden by the stream that ran through the back yard of the house where I spent my first seven years of life, and the bulbs my parents planted, and my father’s large vegetable garden. A large patch of lilies of the valley spread in the shade against one side of that first house. My American grandparents’ house had a small garden crammed with azaleas and dogwoods, and they owned a nearby plot that was my grandfather’s extensive vegetable garden, which provided bushels of food for them and others during the Great Depression. My grandmother was something of a “grande dame” of the local garden club and prided herself on her flower arranging, so there was also a cutting garden for the flowers she loved.

Later in my own childhood, at another house, there was a wide meadow between our house and that of the famous architect who sold my parents several acres of his woodland on which to build. There, my father’s vegetable gardening became more ambitious, as he fenced about 100 square feet against the predations of deer and woodchucks. I was his reluctant helpmeet in the vegetable patch, the obedient middle child who didn’t vanish when he headed outside, or who could be easily found reading a book in a tree (aka, “doing nothing”). So I learned to weed, pick beans that were ready, take up ripe tomatoes before the squirrels got them, pick raspberries without my hands getting shredded by thorns, and cut the gladioli my dad loved to plant along the edges of his beds when their buds were half open, so they could finish unfurling their parasols of bright colors indoors, in one of my mother’s vases. One year, I even had a little corner of my own in that garden, to grow herbs, after I became entranced with the idea from reading the books of Elizabeth Goudge, especially The White Witch.  The main character is an herbalist and healer, and the book has many descriptions of various herbs, their uses, and their fragrance. I took my blogger name and the name of my gardening blog from another book that inspired my love of gardening when I was a child: Old Herbaceous.

Illustration of vegetable garden

Vegetable garden; image from http://www.sitez.co

The meadow itself was full of native wildflowers like butterfly weed, which my father nurtured with a passion. Past the enclosed vegetable garden, a single pathway through the meadow was kept mowed, and it was the shortcut to the woods for us and other children, as well as the deer who gazed longingly through the enclosure at my father’s lettuces and other green delicacies. The rest of the meadow was mowed once a year, and only after the wildflowers’ seeds had ripened. This late summer mowing, which removes competing tree saplings and also helps spread the seeds, is also known in England as “the hay cut.” It was essential for a meadow like this, as the surrounding woods, including the native northern white cedar, did their best to encroach stealthily and steadily within its bounds.

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed in Connecticut

Wildflower meadow with butterfly weed; image from www.vimeo.com

Gardener’s Glove evokes all of these memories, starting with its top note of tomato leaf absolute, a favorite of mine. As Diane St. Clair’s website for St. Clair Scents observes:

If you work amidst the thorn and bramble, you know that the gardener’s glove is a soft, pliable leather, worn down from work, in all the right places.

The scent carries the background fragrance of the glove—tanned, aged leather, woods and soil—along with the ambrosial elements of the garden—sumptuous jasmines, roses, green blossoms and ripe fruit.

Gardeners Glove artisanal fragrance by St. Clair Scents

Gardeners Glove, from St. Clair Scents; image from http://www.stclairscents.com

If you haven’t yet discovered St. Clair Scents, you are in for a treat. The scents are a small group (three, to date) of handcrafted artisanal fragrances made by Diane, who is a premier artisan of dairy products at her farm in Vermont. Diane became intrigued with perfume and embarked on a course of study with her mentor Eliza Douglas. These three fragrances are the result. Diane was kind enough to exchange a few emails with me, in which she said:

I am really trying to position myself as someone producing perfumes with the aroma and feel of nature, a sense (scents) of place, if you will, since I am lucky enough to live and work on a farm. I also try to give my scents a vintage feel, from the days when naturals made up the bulk of perfume formulas, rather than synthetics.

On the St. Clair Scents website, Diane writes:

As I have done in making artisanal, farmstead food, I am interested in creating scent in a similar fashion: producing it with an individual vision and in small batches using fine ingredients. My perfumes are bottled by hand, each one a work of art on its own.

And Gardener’s Glove is indeed a work of art. It opens with a bright, sunny, green burst of citrus (including bergamot, which smells green to me), tomato leaf, and galbanum. It smells like the sun on a vegetable garden, verdant with tomato plants and herbs. As it evolves, the floral notes emerge — linden, rose, lily, jasmine — but also more greenery, in the form of blackcurrant bud, and fruit via apricot. So this vegetable garden, like my father’s, includes flowers; it also has some flowering fruit trees, bushes, and vines, like a true French “potager”. If you’ve ever smelled a fresh, ripe apricot, warmed by the sun and just plucked, you will recognize the note, as light as it is here. A hint of roses in sunlight, a waft of jasmine, perhaps twining its way up a fence or a post, a breath of lilies, round out the heart. Those floral notes together with the linden also leave a strong impression of sweet honeysuckle.

The greenness continues into the drydown, with vetiver, patchouli, and fir needle, now mixing with the warmth lent by saffron and amber notes, but on my skin the dominant theme of the base is the soft, fragrant leather of a well-worn gardener’s glove. If you garden, you know that there is that one favorite pair of gloves, often leather or part leather, that just fits right, has worn well, is sturdy enough for any job. Such gloves often pick up the various scents of the garden: pruned clippings of green leaves and grass, juice from harvested fruits, fragrant blossoms trimmed from their stems and gathered for the house, sap  and resin from shrubs and tree branches, dark, fertile earth, well-aged compost; and those scents mingle with the softened leather of one’s favorite gloves.

Part leather garden gloves used to prune roses

Garden gloves; photo from http://www.nocry.com

That is what Gardener’s Glove smells like — heaven! Some of my favorite fragrance blogs have reviewed Gardener’s Glove very favorably. I especially liked this comment by Sam at “I Scent You A Day”:

Gardener’s Glove takes you on a tour of a garden: a true gardener’s garden, earth, twigs, leaves and all. It’s a wonderfully clever fragrance that reveals itself leaf by leaf.

Sam also pointed out that the fragrance contains “everything sappy, sharp and green that you can find in the garden”. Yes! Yes it does! And I love it. Kafkaesque, whom Diane consulted in the last stages of the scent’s development, offers her usual detailed description, and I agree with almost all of it, except that I don’t get the medicinal note that bothered her. Jessica, at “Now Smell This”, called Gardener’s Glove “a leathery floral, with a leather that’s soft and smooth rather than animalic or dirtied-up”, while acknowledging the earthiness brought by notes like vetiver and castoreum. Robert Hermann wrote, at “CaFleureBon”, that Gardener’s Glove “is a flat out masterpiece of a fragrance; a perfect marriage of the best of vintage perfumes shot through with a modern sensibility.”

I have to agree. I don’t think I’m qualified to say what fragrance is or isn’t a masterpiece, but Gardener’s Glove is wonderful, and a worthy companion to my beloved Dryad, with which it shares a number of notes, by another artisanal perfumer, Liz Moores of Papillon Artisan Perfumes. If Dryad is the wild woodland sprite, Gardener’s Glove is her more domesticated neighbor in the meadow adjoining the woods. I love them both.

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

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

I haven’t tried many Bond No. 9 fragrances, partly because of their prices, partly because they sometimes seem a bit gimmicky, and partly because their bottles don’t appeal to me. I don’t often think of myself being that affected by a fragrance’s bottle, although I really love some of the beautiful bottles one sees and can sometimes be swayed to buy a fragrance because of one (have you seen the adorable new Nina Ricci Bella? I’m hoping they will do a coffret of minis with the other “apple” bottles!). But I’ve rarely felt put off a fragrance because of the bottle. Daisy is another bottle that doesn’t appeal to me AT ALL, though I love the Daisy Dream bottles. I’ve successfully resisted buying any of them, though.

Bottles of different Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances

Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances; image from http://www.parfumo.net

Today’s fragrance with lily of the valley in it is Bond No. 9’s I Love NY for Earth Day. I found it at a great discount at a local store, with I Love NY for the Holidays, and thought, why not? So they both came home with me. I lived in New York for several years, and grew up outside The City, as we called it, and I do appreciate how Bond No. 9 has worked to create scents that capture various aspects of New York life and different New York neighborhoods. I really enjoyed For the Holidays and have been looking forward to trying Earth Day.

Here’s the thing: Earth Day is a lovely fragrance, very floral, but I get almost no lily of the valley from it! From reading other reviews, I know that my experience differs from others’, as a number of commenters and reviewers have said they found the lily of the valley to be very prominent. My experience of the fragrance was much more like the review by John Reasinger at CaFleureBon: all about the tuberose. And in fact, this seems more like what its creators intended, based on this excerpt from their promotional materials when Earth Day was launched in 2011, which I found on The Candy Perfume Boy blog:

“Like New York, this lush green tuberose is also sophisticated and assured. Its wakeup opening notes, sprightly tangerine and orange flower water, blended with more tropical orchid, segue into the heart of the scent: a stunning floral composed of intoxicating tuberose, lily of the valley, and orris. Base notes of durable musk, amber, oakmoss, and sandalwood sustain this heady bouquet.”

So now that we’ve put the muguet to bed, so to speak, what is Earth Day like? To me, it is very tuberose-forward, teetering on the brink of too much without tipping over the edge. If I applied more than a couple of modest sprays, though, I think it would overwhelm. Tuberose is such a complicated fragrance note: in real life, the flowers’ scent is intoxicating, so much so that an oft-repeated legend is that in some countries, young women were forbidden to walk among gardens of tuberose lest they be overcome by lust! Perfumer Pierre Benard spoke at length about the note with Fragrantica, and the interview is well worth reading, as it leaps from science and chemistry to perfume to history: Tuberose: Flower, Scent, History, and Perfume.

tuberose flower

Tuberose flower; image from http://www.attarperfumes.net

Earth Day is supposed to be a unisex fragrance, but to me it is very feminine, because of its strong floral nature and the voluptuousness of the tuberose. I don’t think of men as “voluptuous”, although that may be my own limitation more than anything else! And this is a somewhat voluptuous scent, though not languorous. The city of New York has an energy and liveliness that is captured in this fragrance. What comes to mind? Princess Giselle in Central Park, in the movie Enchanted:

Princess Giselle in Central Park, NY, from Disney movie Enchanted

GIselle in Central Park; image from http://www.disney.com

Not a muguet, but definitely a happy, lively, green floral scent, with, as another reviewer said, a “sprightly tangerine” opening. It is very appealing on the right day and in the right weather, which to me would be spring and summer. Try it! But not if you dislike tuberose. Have you tried any other I Love NY fragrances? Which do you like, and why?

 

Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Fragrance Friday: The Scents of Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. Yes, I love Christmas too, but Christmas involves more work over a longer period of time than Easter, and it has been so commercialized that it’s hard to hear the church’s messages over the din of jingle bells and cash registers. We seem to have managed to keep the focus on the religious meaning of Easter; the secular hasn’t taken over as it has with Christmas. After all, as our minister said on Sunday, no one even likes the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” (Although one small boy piped up from the congregation, “I do!”).

I know one of the reasons I love Easter so much is that it comes with the start of spring, a particularly beautiful season in my part of the world which calls to my gardener’s soul. Flowers and trees blooming everywhere, days getting longer, sunnier and warmer — plus there is chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Especially in my house. The scents of Easter and spring are my favorite ones: hyacinths, daffodils, lilies of the valley, Japanese magnolias, even an early rose or two. Lots of fresh greenness bursting from the earth. We always have a pot of Easter lilies in the house for the holiday, and pots of forced spring bulbs. Our church’s floral guild goes a little crazy and blankets the entire church in garlands of roses, lilies, and other fragrant flowers.

IMG_5282

It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the season when I happily break out my favorite floral fragrances: Penhaligon’s Ostara, for instance, named for the pagan goddess whose name is also the root for the word “Easter.” I’ve also been wearing Chanel No. 22, a heady concoction of white roses and other flower notes, Jo Loves‘ White Rose and Lemon Leaves, Berdoues’ Somei Yoshino (cherry blossoms), Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley and Ivy, Lili Bermuda’s Lily, and others. I’m hoping to make our annual spring visit this weekend to an amazing private garden that is home to tens of millions of daffodil bulbs planted up and down hillsides:

Woodland daffodils, GIbbs Gardens, March 2016

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, March 2016

I love the sheer over-the-top exuberance of these floral outpourings, and that is what the whole season of spring is like here, all over our city: flamboyant azaleas in Easter egg hues layered under the floating white and pale pink blossoms of dogwoods and Japanese magnolias, underplanted with all shades of yellow and white narcissus or extravagantly bright tulips, combined with swaths of the light blue starflowers that spread here like weeds. Welcome, Spring!

Green nymph Fantasia.gif

National Fragrance Week: Penhaligon’s

National Fragrance Week: Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s always seems to me to be the ultimate British perfumery, although it is now owned by Spanish parent company Puig, with many other fragrance lines. Penhaligon’s long history since its founding in England in 1870, its Royal Warrants from the Duke of Edinburgh and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, its Cornish name, and its whole aesthetic just feel very British to this non-Brit. I own a few of their fragrances, and have visited their charming shop in the Burlington Arcade in London (where there are several other fragrance boutiques, such as By Kilian and Editions Frederic Malle).

I own their Bluebell, said to be Diana’s favorite, Lily of the Valley (because I love all things muguet), Blasted Bloom, Ostara, and a new bottle of Equinox Bloom, which I am waiting to open until the weather is warmer. Perfumer Olivier Cresp says this about his creation Equinox Bloom:

During one of my recent visits to London, I enjoyed an incredible brunch in a smart, refined place, where the magnificent atmosphere of the rooms, furnished with opulent floral compositions, ensnared my senses almost at once. While admiring the floral scenery, my brunch included delightful toasts topped with honey and marmalade and these gourmand facets inspired me to bring to Equinox Bloom a trendy, modern inflexion to the generous floral bouquet.

I had a similar tea with my daughters in London last year, on the grounds of Kensington Palace, at The Orangery.

Afternoon tea setting with cakes at Kensington Palace, The Orangery, London

Tea at Kensington Palace, The Orangery; photo from http://www.today.com

I highly recommend it, especially if you sit outside on the terrace on a sunny day!

Outdoor terrace at The Orangery, Kensington Palace, London

The Orangery at Kensington Palace; photo from http://www.today.com

I also have one of their gift coffrets which they issue yearly at Christmastime; the five tiny miniature bottles are adorable. My set includes Empressa, Iris Prima, Vaara, Juniper Sling, and Artemisia.

GIft coffret of five Penhaligon's miniature fragrances

Penhaligon’s gift coffret; image from http://www.penhaligons.com

Can you tell that I like this fragrance house very much? I do, I do, I do.

Fragrance Friday: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

Fragrance Friday: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

I love carnations. Not in floral arrangements, where they have been sadly overused as inexpensive filler, but in the garden and even in a vase if they are left on their own as a simple bunch of pretty, scented flowers. I love the scent of carnations — the hint of spiciness with more than a suggestion of cloves, combined with the green freshness of a florist’s refrigerator. And so I really like L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Oeillet Sauvage.

There is nothing savage about it, but perhaps “sauvage” should rather be translated as “wild”, as in “wildflower”. Oeillet Sauvage is a soft, fresh floral, with the same delightful, gentle spiciness of the flowers and a hint of freshness. It is not a duplicate of real carnations’ scent, but it is true to their essence, with nuances from other floral notes. Fragrantica lists its notes as: pink pepper, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, morning glory, resin and vanilla. And those reminded me of a long-favorite painting: John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose:

Painting by American artist John Singer Sargent; Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

John Singer Sargent; Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

I have read that while Sargent was painting this twilight scene, in which the special, evanescent quality of that hour’s light is as much a subject as the children, the flowers and the paper lanterns, he would set up his easel outside for just the brief time every day when the light was exactly right, and he would run back and forth, back and forth, between the subjects and his easel, to capture just the right shades of color. Now THAT is dedication to one’s art.

He also painted it during the early autumn months of 1885, in September, October and November, resuming work the next summer and finishing it in October of 1886. I have loved this painting since I first saw it, with its crepuscular glow, peaceful children with faces lit by the gentle candlelight of the paper lanterns, with the fragrant, late summer flowers seeming to float in the air around them. According to Wikipedia, the title comes from the refrain of a popular 19th century song, “Ye Shepherds Tell Me”, which describes Flora, goddess of flowers, wearing “a wreath around her head, around her head she wore, carnation, lily, lily, rose”.

I have read others’ comments about Oeillet Sauvage in which they express disappointment that it is not the same as a pre-reformulation version and it is not as spicy as they would like. I can’t speak to the concern about reformulation, not having smelled an earlier version. I don’t think this version suffers from a lack of spiciness, in my view, as I am enjoying the softer, powdery impression it leaves. To me, that is evocative of the soft, pink-tinged light in Sargent’s painting. Now that I have made that association, I am not yearning after more spice. The painting even includes the slight greenness that greets me when I first spray Oeillet Sauvage, in the grass beneath the children’s feet. Fragrantica commenter Angeldaisy wrote: “it has an airiness, a lightness, like a billowing floral print diaphanous chiffon frock in a meadow on a summers day.” Or like the white lawn dresses of Sargent’s subjects.

As it dries down, I get less carnation and more lily, which I like. The greenness disappears, while resins and vanilla warm up the scent like the glow of the candles in Sargent’s Japanese lanterns. I’m not sure what the notes of wallflowers and morning glories are meant to smell like, but they are old-fashioned flowers that would have fit in perfectly in Sargent’s Cotswolds garden.

If you like soft, gentle, feminine, floral fragrances, this may be one for you! It is readily available online for reasonable prices. Have you tried this, or other carnation-based fragrances? What did you think? And happy Fragrance Friday!

Scent Sample Sunday: Lazy Sunday Morning

Scent Sample Sunday: Lazy Sunday Morning

Yes, I’m having one of those: a lazy Sunday morning. And this week, I also took part for the first time in a “freebiemeet” on Now Smell This, an amazing fragrance blog and community. So in honor of that, and with gratitude to kind NST member Katrina, who offered up a “mystery grab bag of samples; some mainstream and some niche. Absolutely no rhyme or reason in what’s in the mix!”, here are my thoughts on one of the several she sent me: Maison Martin Margiela’s Lazy Sunday Morning, one of the Replica line of fragrances. It was such a treat to open the package and discover what was inside — it really made my week, which was somewhat sad because of the unexpected news the week before of the death of a former student, and planning a memorial with his friends.

Lazy Sunday Morning is meant to evoke the sense of awakening on a sunny morning in a bed of white linen sheets, skin warm, in Florence, Italy. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Florence, so I can’t speak to that, but the fragrance includes notes of iris, the quintessential Florentine flower. However, for me the dominant floral note is lily of the valley, or muguet, which I love. That is one of the top notes, with aldehydes and pear. The combination of a soft, light, fruity note with muguet reminds me a bit of Lily, by Lili Bermuda, which combines pear with lily of the valley among its heart notes.

The aldehydic opening is light but noticeable, then the scent moves quickly into floral fruitiness that stays light and fresh. It’s very pretty, but it doesn’t smell to me like Sunday morning in bed, unless one’s bedroom window opens onto a bed of lilies of the valley and one wakes up to a glass of fresh-squeezed juice. (Which, by the way, I wouldn’t object to finding by my bedside …). However, if I am spending a lazy Sunday morning in bed, I’m much more likely to have coffee by my side, as one Fragrantica commenter noted!

Lazy Sunday Morning also reminds me a bit of Jean-Claude Ellena’s last Hermessence fragrance for Hermes, Muguet Porcelaine. I would say that it is brighter, less of a subtle wash of watercolor, and with fewer nuances. In fact, the image that comes to mind is a set of bed linens by Lilly Pulitzer, the quintessential Floridian brand with its bright pops of citrus-inspired colors on its fabrics, which ties in nicely with the orange flower that is also a heart note in Lazy Sunday Morning.

Pillow cases and bed linens by Lilly Pulitzer with lily of the valley print in bright colors

Lily of the valley bed linens, by Lilly Pulitzer

I really don’t smell rose or iris at all, even as it dries down, although they are also listed as heart notes and other commenters have felt they come through strongly. The white musk that lends a “clean laundry” aura to Lazy Sunday Morning emerges during the drydown and is very soft. All in all, this is a very pleasant, fresh fragrance. It doesn’t remind me of my own Sunday mornings in bed, but it is very pretty, and I’m happy to have a sample of it! Thanks, Katrina and NST!

Any other thoughts on Maison Martin Margiela’s fragrances?

Perfume samples in glass vials

Perfume samples

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

Weekend Fragrance Bargains

I got some great fragrance bargains this weekend! One I had ordered several days ago, but it came this weekend: Missoni Missoni, the older version by Maurice Roucel to which Luca Turin awarded five stars. It has been discontinued and was replaced in 2015 by a completely different fragrance. I had been hoping to try Roucel’s version, and had been disappointed once when an online discounter showed a photo of that one but sent the new one. When I saw that Perfumania had 1 oz. bottles of the eau de parfum for under $20, I thought, why not take a chance and try again? And yes, it’s the right one, in the orange-toned box with the short, tilted bottle. It is very intriguing, and so far I like it a lot.

I also found some little treasures at T.J. Maxx — I love that, because in return for very modest amounts of money, I get to expand my familiarity with different combinations of notes and knowledge of fragrance. The list: Clean White Woods: $16.00 for 2 oz.; Tokyomilk Dark No . 28 Excess, 1.6 oz. for $7.99; Vera Bradley Macaroon Rose, .5 oz. for $5.99.

A slightly more splurgey purchase was Guerlain’s Terracottareduced on saks.com from $79 to $49 (helpful info from another blogger!). I thought I could pick it up in person at my local SFA; was very surprised to find they had no Guerlain counter at all and only had Shalimar in stock at the store! The friendly sales associate told me that Guerlain had been pulling out of most US department stores — thank goodness, they still seem to be fully present at the Neiman Marcus in my city. Anyway, she was lovely enough to show me some new By Kilian fragrances instead and sent me home with a couple of samples: Forbidden Games and Moonlight In Heaven (I especially liked the latter). Then I went over to Nordstrom (in the same mall) and got samples of Tom Ford’s new Vert fragrances: Vert BohemeVert d’EncensVert de FleurVert des Bois.

Set of green mossy furniture, chairs, sofa, table, outside.

Moss furniture; image from Black Burge Art blog.

None of those would qualify as fragrance bargains if I had bought full bottles! I’m delighted with my free samples, though, and I appreciate that Nordstrom just put them out on the counter with a note saying: “Take One, It’s Yours!”.  I really liked Vert Boheme and Vert de Fleur. But if I’m going to spring for a pricier green fragrance this year, it will be Papillon‘s Dryad. I am so eager to try this! Several blogs I follow have detailed, enthusiastic reviews: Megan in Sainte Maxime, Kafkaesque, The Candy Perfume Boy, A Bottled Rose. I have a birthday coming up, so who knows?

Have you tried any of the fragrances mentioned here? What did you think? And what’s your next fragrance splurge?

Mosaiculture topiary of earth goddess at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Earth Goddess, Atlanta Botanical Garden

Featured image: Atlanta Botanical Garden.