Fragrance Friday: Jackie

This week, I flew to Washington, D.C. for work, and on the plane I watched the movie “Jackie”, starring the beautiful Natalie Portman as the late First Lady. The movie imagines her reactions during the week of JFK’s assassination, including her thoughts about his legacy and her role in shaping it, and her famous interview with Life magazine, when she compared JFK’s White House to Camelot.

Jacqueline Kennedy in pink suit and pillbox hat, riding with JFK in limo in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

November 22, 1963. Photo by Reuters.

It is a powerful, moving film. Ms. Portman’s performance is wonderful, alternating between heartbreak, anger, shrewd calculation, and maternal protectiveness. In flashbacks, we see her work to support her husband’s administration, bringing youth, glamour and style to a White House that hadn’t see much of those under Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman and Eisenhower. We also see her fitting herself into Washington and taking her place as a leader there in society and the arts. That would have been no small task, as I was reminded on my recent visit; I am always struck by the aura of raw power that Washington projects, with its massive, monumental government buildings, the huge Capitol, the wide boulevards, the show of muscular strength, the many statues of powerful men, the many powerful living men who run the nation there. It is so ironic that Washington’s iconic flower associated with the city is the delicate, feminine, evanescent cherry blossom. I see a similar contrast between Jackie, the feminine lover of the arts and all beauty, and the city where she had to find her place.

Jackie Kennedy, JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Eisenhower at JFK's inauguration in 1961

Kennedy Inauguration, 1961.

One especially powerful scene shows Jackie showering, at last, upon her return to the White House as a new widow, right after the assassination. It shows her naked back, with her husband’s blood running down her back in the hot water as it washes out of her hair. We know that Mrs. Kennedy was splattered with blood, as close as she was to JFK when he was shot, and that she wore the same pink suit on the plane back to DC from Dallas. It is reasonable to surmise that the first shower she took washed away blood. Horrible to know this happened to any human being, but it is a very moving, vulnerable moment in the film.

The same scene shows, briefly, an array of fragrances on a shelf. Most appear to be Guerlain, in the fleeting glimpse I got. I think I spotted Shalimar, an unidentifed bee bottle, a bottle of either Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue, and possibly one of Jicky. There was a clear view of Bal a Versailles, from Jean Desprez. Great product placement by Guerlain…

This got me wondering: what perfumes did Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis actually wear in real life? According to one source, she did wear Bal a Versailles and Jicky. She is also said to have worn Joy, and 1000, by Jean Patou, Fleurissimo, by Creed, Lovely Patchouli, by Krigler, and Jil Sander No. 4.

All of those fragrances have very different personalities.  How interesting that a First Lady, whose outer image is consistent with, say, Joy and Fleurissimo, also wore sexy powerhouses like Jicky and Bal a Versailles. All floral fragrances, but oh so different in so many ways! Fleurissimo, said to have been created for Grace Kelly on the occasion of her wedding to the Prince of Monaco: delicate, virginal, a fragrance for a bride veiled in white.

Jackie Kennedy's portrait in wedding dress

Jacqueline Kennedy

Joy, a sophisticated, elegant “evening perfume”, made in France and said to be “the most expensive perfume in the world” when it was launched.

Jackie Kennedy wears Givenchy evening gown to Versailles on state visit to France

Jacqueline Kennedy wearing Givenchy to Versailles

Her choice of Jicky and Bal a Versailles, however, suggest a more complex, assertive Jackie. Female, as opposed to feminine. Bold and confident when necessary, or desirable.

Jackie Kennedy in yellow at Hyannisport

Jacqueline Kennedy

What a complicated, lovely woman she was. I’m glad to have been reminded of her this past week, and also glad to have been able to see the fleeting clouds of cherry blossoms. Let’s not forget that many of those fragile cherry trees have outlived the men who planted them and walked under their boughs. Maybe they are not as fragile as they look.

Blossoming cherry trees and the Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC

Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

Fragrance Friday: Lumiere Blanche

Fragrance Friday: Lumiere Blanche

While traveling in the UK and Ireland (Perfume Tourism: I’m Ba-a-a-ack!) this summer and fall, I was given a sample of Lumiere Blanche by the delightful sales associate at Parfumarija in Dublin, with my purchase of the Ormonde Jayne discovery set. I haven’t opened it until now, but since I bought the Olfactive Studio discovery kit at the London independent niche perfumery Bloom, I have started exploring that brand and thought it was time.

Bloom independent niche perfumery in London

Bloom

And yes, it’s time — because Lumiere Blanche is an ideal scent for the kind of dry, sunny fall we are having in my part of the world.  Its top notes are: cardamom, cinnamon and star anise; middle notes are iris, cashmere wood and almond milk; base notes are musk, sandalwood, cedar and tonka bean. In other words, it smells a lot like milky masala chai tea, something I love.

Chai teas spices with star anise, cardamom, cinnamon

Chai tea spices; thecheapluxury.com

Luckily for me, it is light on the cinnamon. I love cinnamon, but I don’t want to smell like a cinnamon broom (I’m looking at you, Dasein Autumn!). Lumiere Blanche reminds me a bit of Carner Barcelona’s Palo Santobut lighter. At first spray, I get a delightful waft of cardamom, a spice I love, with a tinge of star anise, warmed by just a hint of cinnamon. The overall effect is milky, too, which I attribute to the almond and tonka bean notes. Those are definitely present throughout, from start to finish. Very quickly, I also smell the woody notes, mostly sandalwood and cedar, but the “cashmere wood” adds, I think, to the soft, milky impression. After a little more time, the iris note emerges, but lightly. It really adds nuance and depth to the progression, with its rooty, earthy, but sweet floral scent. I am enjoying its contribution to Lumiere Blanche, and its addition to the spices and wood notes is an unusual, creative combination that works.

Lumiere Blanche is a soft fragrance overall. On my skin, it is really lovely and I could see wearing this a lot during the fall. It is not as strong as Palo Santo and would probably, therefore, work better than it as an office scent. Olfactive Studio’s website says:

Lumiere Blanche is a comforting cocoon, between milky mildness and cold spices. It evokes the sweltering heat of a sun at its zenith, which erases colors, leaving only a blinding white, and surprised by its spicy freshness.

For the perfumer, [it] is “A cold-hot accord for a perfume of contrasts,” a bright and fresh surge and a creamy softness and a strong signature, warm and sensual.

I don’t perceive this as a scent of “sweltering heat” or “blinding white” light. It is definitely a sunny scent, though neither citrusy nor green, notes which are sometimes associated with sunniness in fragrances (probably why the name emphasizes white, versus yellow or green). For these long, unseasonably warm, sunny autumn days in my part of the world, it is just right.

 

Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

On my recent trip to London, one of my daughters was nice enough to accompany me to several perfumeries I had wanted to visit. The first was the Jo Loves boutique in Belgravia. It is on the charming Elizabeth Street, near Les Senteurs (another stop) and Phillip Treacy’s hat boutique, in a beautiful part of London which was fun to see in itself.

Jo Loves is the line of niche fragrances launched five years ago by Jo Malone, whose first, eponymous line of fragrances was acquired in 1999 by Estee Lauder. In a recent New York Times article, she spoke about her just-published autobiography:

“What I want this book to be about is the reinvention of yourself, that nothing is wasted in our life, that every single thing that happens in our life can come out for the good to build you.”

I love some of the Jo Malone scents: first and foremost, Lily of the Valley and Ivy, and also Red Roses, and Tudor Rose and Amber, so I was excited to try some of the Jo Loves line, which is not yet easily available in the U.S. The boutique is well worth a visit. It is sparkling clean and bright, with its signature colors of bright white and red everywhere. The sales assistant was lovely and helpful.

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Jo Loves

My daughter and I tried several of the twelve fragrances in the line. Her favorite was White Roses and Lemon Leaves, which I also liked very much. I liked Fresh Sweet Peas but found it a bit faint. I enjoyed trying the novel Red Truffle 21 and Pink Vetiver. On this short acquaintance, my favorite was probably No. 42 The Flower Shop.

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Jo Loves

But why pick a favorite based on such a brief encounter? I bought the Fragrance Discovery Set, which comes with twelve mini-sprays, one of each fragrance, and a gift certificate good for one 50 ml bottle of my choice, shipping to the U.S. included. So I will play with them at my leisure, and pick one as a keeper. Maybe I’ll even share with my daughter …

We had a great time at Jo Loves and hope to return some day!

Jo Loves fragrance boutique on Elizabeth Street in London

Jo Loves

Our next stop was Les Senteurs, the specialist perfumery up the street at 71 Elizabeth Street. It is London’s oldest independent perfumery, founded in 1984, and it carries many of the world’s best niche perfumes, from Amouage to Vermeire. More on that in another blog post!

Featured image: http://www.joloves.com. Other images my own.

Fragrance Friday: Perfume Tourism in London

I was lucky enough to spend a recent long weekend in London and spent one whole day visiting perfumeries! Many of them were in the charming Burlington Arcade. And yes, I came home with samples, discovery sets and a gift certificate. All the store personnel were friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. I’ll be back! My slideshow is below:

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Fragrance Friday: Future Perfume Tourism

Fragrance Friday: Future Perfume Tourism

I am so eager to visit Florence! Very few of my European trips have been to Italy, which is surprising as Italy has so much of what I love: gardens, gorgeous landscapes, art, museums, history, language, wonderful food …

And now yet another article to whet my appetite: Perfume, Power and God. Author Arabelle Sicardi describes her visits to perfume palaces such as the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella, where Catherine de Medici bought her famous perfumes, and the perfumery of Aquaflor, housed in an actual former palace. The photographs of the flower room at Aquaflor are stunning! Of the Officina Profumo, she writes:

If any single place stood at the intersection between politics, god, and perfume, it is this church-turned-monastery-turned-store. From the outside it looks unremarkable for Florence — no baroque detailing, just the crest of Santa Maria on the front. It is all it needs to mark its history. And then you walk inside, and the frescoes summon your eyes up-up-up, maybe sixty feet above you. A fresco of perfumed angels are framed in dark, stained wood. The building and art above you is more than 600 years old. In existence since the 13th century, it still sells many of the same products the Dominican friars once made by hand in the back room.

She traces the connection of the Medici family, through Catherine’s French marriage and patronage, to the very start of the perfume industry in France, specifically in Grasse. I visited Grasse many years ago with my husband, on our honeymoon, and the whole area is fascinating. We visited a couple of perfumeries (Molinard and Fragonard, I think) and were shown the older methods of perfume-making and the extraction of essential oils. However, Grasse is not also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, packed with priceless art. Florence is. And I can’t wait to go there.

 

Fragrance Friday: Terre d’Iris

Fragrance Friday: Terre d’Iris

Another bottle from my Collection Voyage of Miller Harris fragrances is Terre d’Iris.  I like it very much but I don’t feel I fully understand it yet. Fragrantica says it “represents a fragrant journey around the Mediterranean. Calabria bergamot and Sicilian bitter orange open the composition leading to the heart of delicious southern herbs such as rosemary from Dalmatia and clary sage, followed by orange blossom and roses from Tunis and Turkey. The base is composed of patchouli, moss, French fir balsam and Florentine iris.”

I definitely get the opening citrus notes, bergamot and bitter orange. The bitter orange in particular is pleasant and strangely compelling. I generally like green fragrances, with their herbal notes, and although I wouldn’t describe Terre d’Iris as a green fragrance, it is certainly aromatic, with a little bite to its opening. Here is its “scent mosaic”, from the Miller Harris website:

Scent mosaic by Miller Harris perfumes, for Terre d'Iris

Scent mosaic for Terre d’Iris, http://www.millerharris.com

It is important that one of the key notes is not just iris, but “Florentine iris.” Florentine iris is one of the few irises that is considered to be an herb, not just a beautiful flower. Rachel McLeod writes in NaturalLife:  “The most important herbal use for irises to day is the use of the rhizomes from certain species to make orris root for use in perfumery and pot-pourri. Orris root has been one of the most important ingredients in any scent industry from as far back as the 15th century. The scent is rather like sweet violets but its real value is in its ability to fix other scents…. Orris root comes from three closely related irises – Iris germanica, Iris florentina and Iris pallida.”

Iris florentina is now known to be an ancient hybrid of iris germanica, or bearded iris. It has white flowers flushed with mauve. The flower itself is scented although the main value of this iris to perfumery is as a source of orris root and iris butter, which is painstakingly extracted over a period of years from the plant’s rhizomes. Iris florentina is grown mainly in Italy and southern France, but also throughout the Mediterranean, which is truly the “land of iris”, going back to the Egyptians whose use of iris can be documented. Van Gogh often painted iris flowers in Provence, such as the lovely “Field with Irises near Arles”, above, whose vibrant colors were restored in 2015 by stripping off old, yellowed varnish. Isn’t it clever, how the Miller Harris scent mosaic echoes the colors of the Van Gogh painting? You can still see fields of iris, both in Provence and in the Giardino dell’Iris in Florence, the city for which the iris flower has long been a symbol.

Fields of light purple, mauve and white bearded iris flowers in Provence, southern France

Fields of iris in Provence; image from http://www.luxe-provence.com.

As Terre d’Iris dries down, what I smell is the sweetly carroty note that is supposed to be characteristic of orris root. It is not sugary at all; rather, it is the scent of a freshly dug and washed carrot after you bite into it, maybe even with a little dirt still clinging to it (I’m looking at you, oak moss!). I do not smell powder at all in Terre d’Iris, if you think of powdery as the cosmetic. Instead, there are more dry, earthy, woody, herbal tones that contrast with the citrus opening. If I had to describe the iris heart note using non-flowery words, I would say it is smooth and buttery.

Although my bottle came in a Collection Voyage “Pour Elle” set, Terre d’Iris is clearly a unisex scent, as it is described elsewhere. It may even lean a bit more toward masculine than feminine; it would smell marvelous on a man (really, I’m going to have to start experimenting with some of my fragrances on my husband!) while also smelling lovely on a woman.  This is not a girlish fragrance. Very few floral notes, and the ones it has are not strongly present other than the subtle iris. They lend a smoothness and gentleness to the overall experience but I wouldn’t be able to tell that there was any rose in Terre d’Iris if it weren’t listed among the notes. The only fruit notes are in the astringent opening of bergamot and bitter orange.

Will Terre d’Iris become a go-to fragrance for me? Probably not, as I do love my flowers and floral notes. But this is a well-crafted and lovely fragrance that doesn’t smell like anything else out there. It becomes a skin scent pretty soon but I can still smell lingering traces of it on my wrist ten hours after application.  I’m so glad to have this small bottle of it!

iris_florentina_sydenham_edwards

Iris florentina; illustration by Sydenham Edwards.

Fragrance Friday: ROADS

Fragrance Friday: ROADS

You may be thinking, “yes, yes, I know, you just got back from a trip so you’re using ‘roads’ as some kind of travel metaphor.” Nope. ROADS is, in its own words, “a contemporary and highly creative lifestyle brand based in Dublin, Ireland.” I was able to buy a discovery set of ROADS’ fragrances in the lovely fragrance department of Dublin’s Brown Thomas department store on Grafton Street. I had visited Dublin’s only specialized stand-alone perfumery dedicated to niche fragrances, Parfumarija, where I bought an Ormonde Jayne discovery set. (By the way, Parfumarija is well worth a visit). The delightful sales assistant, when I asked if she stocked any fragrances that are specifically Irish, suggested that I might like some of ROADS’ fragrances and thought I might find them there. Continue reading