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?

Perfume Chat Room, May 24

Perfume Chat Room, May 24

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 actually Tuesday, May 24, and I’m late! My apologies — I just got back from two weeks of travel with my husband that included Milan, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, and Sitges (Spain). I am SO HAPPY to travel overseas again! And yes, I sniffed and bought some perfume along the way. Details of my perfume tourism to follow!

It still feels weird to go through airports and sit on a plane with dozens of other people, but I’m getting re-acclimated to it. Mask and testing requirements differ from country to country, but we figured those out. And we didn’t bring back COVID as a souvenir, thank goodness.

Our remaining travel this summer will be by car, to go to family weddings and visit my father-in-law. None of those destinations will include perfume tourism, which is probably a good thing given that I made a few purchases in May. I’m looking forward to the family gatherings; events of the last two years have brought vivid reminders that a good life is about good relationships with other people.

I’m looking forward to tidying up my garden after two weeks away; right now, I have gardenias and “Confederate jasmine” in bloom, so it’s very fragrant. What is going on in your fragrant world?

Roses at Isola Bella

Perfume Chat Room, May 6

Perfume Chat Room, May 6

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, May 6, and my roses continue to flourish and bloom! I’ve added more photos to my Instagram account, if you’d like to see some of them up close. Most are “English Roses” by the late David Austin, an amazing hybridizer of roses who brought back the old-fashioned shapes and strong fragrance of older roses, but combined those with the range of colors and repeat-blooming habit of modern ones. One of the fascinating aspects of his roses is that many of them smell slightly different. All their scents are clearly “rose”, but some are more spicy, or fruity, or lemony. As you can tell, I love them.

Some of my English Roses

If you haven’t yet read this month’s “Scent Semantics” posts by the six participating bloggers, the word for May (chosen by Portia) is “brilliance.” You’ll find all the links here: Scent Semantics.

May is full of various celebrations: May Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day. I’ve just learned that in the Netherlands, May 5 is celebrated as Liberation Day, marking the end of Nazi occupation. May is the month of the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which I’ve been able to visit twice and hope to visit again, maybe next year.

Chelsea Pensioner, at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

This year, Eid al Fitr (the end of Ramadan) was celebrated in the US in May; the dates change every year. Do you celebrate anything in particular in May?

Perfume Chat Room, March 25

Perfume Chat Room, March 25

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, March 25, and it is Spring with a capital S! Below is one of my most happy places, which my husband I visited last weekend:

Hillside covered with daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens

Full disclosure: I didn’t take this photo last weekend, I think it is from last year and I didn’t take it. But this is what it looked like! Hillsides of daffodils in bloom — 20+ million of them. Yes, I did wear Ostara, again.

Today I’m wearing 4160 Tuesdays’ Scenthusiasm, another favorite fragrance with an oddball name. Do you have any favorite fragrances with names that may be a bit weird? Do you have any special spring happy places? Or, what fragrance(s) are you wearing for this transitional season?

Scent Semantics, March 7, 2022

Scent Semantics, March 7, 2022

Welcome to this next installment of Scent Semantics! This month’s word, supplied by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass, is “nostalgia.”

The fragrance I chose to embody nostalgia for me is Molinard de Molinard. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was my first purchase of a “niche” fragrance, as I bought it while on our honeymoon in 1990 when we visited Grasse.

Scene of the city of Grasse, France
Grasse, France on September 10, 2021. Photograph by Bénédicte Desrus for NPR

On that trip, we first spent a week in Paris, which my husband had never visited, then we took the TGV from Paris to Marseille, which neither of us had ever visited. We spent a night with longtime friends of my parents, a family my father first met when he was stationed in Marseille with the US Army at the very end of World War II, then took our rental car and worked our way up the coastline, visiting the Riviera towns but mostly staying up in the hills of Provence. We’ve been back to Cannes and Nice, and some of the hilltop villages, but we haven’t returned to Grasse — yet!

Wearing Molinard de Molinard brings back many happy memories of our fabulous honeymoon, which was short on luxury but long on charm. It’s hard to envision pre-internet travel, but we had very few arrangements in place ahead of time — just the hotel in Paris, the TGV tickets, and the rental car. After our overnight in Marseille, we stayed in small, local hotels and inns, using a Michelin Green Guide and calling ahead a day or two in advance to make our reservations as we worked our way up the coast. Nowadays that seems so random, but we were in our 20s, footloose and fancy-free, and it was great fun! We still have a running joke about the “lacets”, those precipitous zigzagging roads that lead from the heights down to the Riviera coast, in a pattern that looks like shoelaces. So yes, Molinard de Molinard is a nostalgic fragrance for me, conjuring up a very happy time in our lives that was the prelude to the happy life we’ve built together.

Molinard is one of the three major existing Grasseois perfume houses, the others being Fragonard and Galimard. These are far from the only fragrance businesses in Grasse, however. The city is still known as the “perfume capital of the world” and is home to the world-renowned Grasse Institute of Perfumery, among many other fragrance industry connections (do read or listen to the NPR story; it includes comments from the founder and nose of 1000 Flowers, Jessica Buchanan). Its fields still supply jasmine and roses to the industry, although no longer the majority of the flowers used in modern fragrances.

I would have to retrieve a 30+ year-old photo album to confirm more details, but we visited at least one and maybe two of the perfume houses’ museums in their old factories in town. I think it may have been two, because I know we visited Molinard and I think we also visited Galimard. If we get the chance to visit Grasse again, I will be sure to round out the set by visiting Fragonard, which still makes and sells lovely fragrances, as does Molinard. Galimard seems to have remained more regional in character, though it is still creating and presenting new fragrances.

Molinard de Molinard was reissued in 2017; the new version was well-received, but sadly it was not reissued in the original bottle, with its molded frieze of classical figures (probably nymphs) based on a design by Lalique. I have one of those bottles, and it is beautiful. The 1979 version I have is a classic green fragrance. Per Fragrantica, its notes are: top — Green Notes, Asafoetida, Black Currant, Cassis, Fruity Notes, Lemon and Bergamot; middle — Narcissus, Lily-of-the-Valley, Jasmine, Bulgarian Rose and Ylang-Ylang; base — Vetiver, Labdanum, Incense, Musk, Amber and Patchouli. It reminds me of 1970’s Chanel No. 19 or 1978’s Silences, by Jacomo. The fruity notes don’t make the fragrance fruity or sweet; it is clearly dominated by the astringent “green notes”, asafoetida, bergamot, narcissus, vetiver, etc. It smells like a chypre, although the classic chypre base note of oakmoss is not listed. I haven’t tried the 2017 reformulation.

When my husband and I visited Nice in 2019, I went to the Molinard and Fragonard boutiques in town. Both are lovely, with friendly and knowledgeable staff. You won’t be able to buy the 1979 version of Molinard there, but you might find it at one of the outdoor marchés in the Old Town of Nice. I will enjoy and treasure what I have, which now includes an original tester bottle.

Fragrance is famously connected to our emotions and memories — do you have any that are particularly nostalgic for you?

And please read the other Scent Semantics posts:

Elena  https://theplumgirl.com

Sheila  https://thealembicatedgenie.com

Daisy  https://eaulalanyc.com 

Undina  https://undina.com

Old Herbaceous  https://scentsandsensibilities.co

Portia  https://abottledrose.com

Scented Advent, December 17

Scented Advent, December 17

Another pleasant surprise today for my Advent SOTD: Carner Barcelona’s El Born, which I’ve worn before and like very much. I’ve also stayed in the neighborhood El Born, for which the fragrance is named, and it is a completely charming, fascinating part of Barcelona.

Medieval street in El Born neighborhood, Barcelona
Street in El Born, Barcelona; image from barcelonaconnect.com.

So, first, the neighborhood. El Born is one of the medieval neighborhoods of Barcelona, full of tiny, narrow streets that barely fit one car or aren’t wide enough for any cars at all! It is now a trendy, funky city neighborhood full of art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, museums, but also very family-friendly, containing residential apartments, food stores, pastry shops, schools, and parks. Its most famous structures are the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, which signals its proximity to Barcelona’s waterfront (the waterfront is now in Barceloneta, ten minutes away; the church used to be on the actual waterfront before Barcelona was expanded, and its parish consisted largely of fishermen, dockworkers, and their families); the Picasso Museum, housed in five combined medieval palaces or large townhouses (like the “hotels particuliers” of medieval Paris); the El Born Centre Cultural, a fascinating museum about the neighborhood’s history, in a restored covered market; and the Parc de la Ciutadella, a park built on the site of a demolished citadel fort that had been built in 1714 by King Philip V of Spain to control Barcelona after conquering it during the War of Spanish Succession. The fort was a hated tool and symbol of conquest and military occupation, and it was demolished in the mid-19th century during a rare period of Barcelonan independence.

“El Born” is traditionally understood to be the medieval district south of the street Carrer de la Princesa and east of the “Barri Gotic”, or Gothic Quarter, starting at the Via Laietana. However, nowadays many use the name to refer to the area that is technically a neighborhood called “La Ribera”, between Carrer de la Princesa and Barcelona’s legendary Palau de la Musica (“Palace of Music”), which includes more residential streets as well as the Mercat de Santa Caterina, a restored covered food market full of Catalan epicurean delights. Can you tell that I love Barcelona? I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times, thanks to my husband’s work that used to take him there once or twice a year, pre-pandemic, and it is now one of my favorite cities. It is also home to some very happy perfume hunting-grounds, by the way, where I have delighted in serious “perfume tourism” in niche boutiques and perfumeries.

Carner Barcelona is a fragrance brand that was launched in 2010 by Sara Carner. It aims to capture the spirit of Barcelona and Catalonia in its fragrances: “We are captivated by Barcelona’s Mediterranean soul; its architecture, culture and the unique way in which history merges with the contemporary lifestyle and the vitality of its people.” El Born is part of its original collection and was launched in 2014. It is described as an “amber floral”, and that’s accurate — I would say it is mostly amber, slightly floral. The notes listed on the brand website are: Sicilian Lemon, Calabrian Bergamot, Angelica, Honey (top); Fig, Heliotrope, Benzoin from Laos, Egyptian Jasmine (middle); and Madagascan Vanilla Absolute, Peru Balsam, Australian Sandalwood, Musk (base).

Right away, when I spray El Born on my skin, I smell the honey and angelica top notes. They provide a soft, warm, but slightly herbal sweetness: a bit like caramel but not sugary, if that makes sense. It is more like clover honey, i.e. honey from bees that have feasted on clover nectar. There is a brief spark of citrus at the start, but it doesn’t linger. As the middle phase develops, the sweetness is carried by the fig and benzoin, with heliotrope contributing a subtle floral dimension. I don’t really pick up the jasmine at all, and I’m okay with that! The other accords are very soft, and the honey lingers among them. The vanilla accord joins in pretty early in this fragrance’s progression, and it’s just the kind of vanilla I like — more botanical than gourmand. Balsam, sandalwood, and musk notes in the base carry forward the soft warmth that characterizes all stages of El Born.

El Born, the fragrance, is just as ingratiating as El Born, the neighborhood. I should note, however, that the actual El Born neighborhood does NOT smell as wonderful as this fragrance! It has that damp, stony smell that many medieval neighborhoods have, sometimes with a soupçon of sewer due to ancient drains. Never mind! It’s a truly delightful place to visit, with wonderful food, restaurants that serve meals until very late in the night (late per this appreciative American tourist’s POV), interesting things to see around every corner (and there are LOTS of corners in El Born).

The photo below isn’t specific to El Born, but it demonstrates (again) the incredible sense of style and color that characterizes Barcelona, and it comes from the city’s annual competition to design holiday lights for some of the major city streets (one of which is Via Laietana, the western edge of El Born). This shows lights in the Diagonal neighborhood:

Christmas lights in Barcelona
Barcelona. Christmas lights, Diagonal.

Now really, if those lights don’t put you in a holiday frame of mind, as we enter the last week of Advent, what will? Have you visited Barcelona, or tried any of Carner Barcelona’s scents?

Perfume Chat Room, October 15

Perfume Chat Room, October 15

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, October 15, and we are back from a New England beach town where our niece celebrated her wedding last weekend! It was a great getaway, and one of the real pleasures was that the rental house where we stayed had a huge stand of Rosa rugosa right by the front entryway. These are the classic “beach roses” you see all over the New England coast (and other coastlines) and they are highly fragrant. This one smelled rosy and spicy, with a very clear accord of true cinnamon. It was just gorgeous, although I do have mixed feelings about cinnamon (usually when it is artificial). And as the regulars here know, I do love a rose fragrance, lol!

We also gloried in the gusts of fresh sea air right off the ocean, with all the notes of seaweed, sand, driftwood, and seaside plants. The “beach fragrances” we didn’t sense were the ones associated with suntan lotion, because it was cool enough that we and everyone else stayed bundled up. What a tonic for body and spirit! We stayed for a full week that included the actual wedding weekend, as it was quite a long trip to make from the South, and we’re so glad we did that. We don’t get to see the ocean as much as we would like, since we live at least a five-hour drive from the coast down here, and this weeklong visit was just what we needed.

Do you have any favorite scents you associate with the ocean or seaside?

Rosa rugosa
Scent Sample Sunday: Paris-Venise

Scent Sample Sunday: Paris-Venise

Paris-Venise was one of the first three “Les Eaux” fragrances launched by Chanel in 2018, all created by in-house perfumer Olivier Polge. They are eaux de toilette inspired by Coco Chanel’s travels to various cities — what a creative idea! The others were Paris-Deauville and Paris-Biarritz. Since then, the original three have been joined by Paris-Riviera and Paris-Edimbourg, which I haven’t tried yet.

Fragrantica lists the notes of Paris-Venise as: top notes, orange, lemon, petitgrain, bergamot and pink pepper; middle notes, iris, neroli, ylang-ylang, rose and geranium; base notes, tonka bean, vanilla, white musk, orris, violet and benzoin. Sure enough, when I spritz it, I get a lovely burst of fresh citrus notes, beautifully blended. The bright, sunny opening softens within minutes to a gentle floral, also beautifully blended. One aspect of Chanel fragrances (among so many!) that I appreciate is the elegance of how they are blended. Notes merge and segue into each other, dancing with each other to different tempos, stepping forward and backward in the rhythm their combined music suggests.

The Chanel website describes M. Polge’s inspiration as follows: “1920. Gabrielle Chanel falls under the spell of Venice. The glimmer of the Byzantine mosaics and precious gems of St. Mark’s Basilica inspire the designs of her first jewelry collections. Between freshness and sensuality, PARIS-VENISE evokes this legendary city that marks the boundary between East and West.” Having visited Venice for the first time in the summer of 2019, before the world shut down, I would say that M. Polge has done an outstanding job of evoking the city.

My recollections of Venice are of brilliant sunlight glinting off the water of the ubiquitous canals, the welcome breezes off the ocean, the hidden gardens including that of the vacation apartment in a small, restored palazzo where we stayed. Paris-Venise’s citrus-forward opening vividly recalls the sunniness of Venice’s summer climate, while the emerging floral notes remind us that Venice is a city not only of canals and ancient buildings, but also of gardens. (Christine Nagel dwelt on that feature in her fragrance for Hermes, Un Jardin Sur La Lagune). M. Polge did not, in his creation, make reference to the sea or salt water as Mme. Nagel did in hers.

In the middle stage, no one floral note dominates, though I can clearly identify the ylang-ylang, a signature floral note in many Chanel fragrances, including the iconic No. 5. The petitgrain and bergamot linger at the start of this heart phase, adding their bright verdancy to it like sunlight dappling a garden. The rose and iris are also classic Chanel fragrance notes; here, they are fresh and light. I find all “Les Eaux” to be very fresh and youthful, which I’m sure is part of Chanel’s strategy to attract a younger clientele while still appealing to their longtime clients, as they have done with No. 5 L’Eau.

Drying down, Paris-Venise becomes warmer and softer, with a slight spiciness that recalls Venice’s heyday as a entry port to Europe for the spices of the East. A highlight of our visit to Venice was a stop at the Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses a perfume museum as well as artworks and other exhibits (the embroidered fabrics are gorgeous!). Among the perfume-related displays is a massive table covered with spices and resins.

Display at the Palazzo Mocenigo

The base notes include a light vanilla, just a touch of it as this fragrance is by no means “gourmand.” This vanilla smells like the vanilla orchid that produces the actual vanilla beans, so it is more flowery than foody. It combines beautifully with the base’s more floral notes such as violet and orris. All are given a sort of warm airiness by the white musk, like a balmy evening breeze.

I’m very impressed with Paris-Venise. It is ambery without being too heavy or warm — perfect for summer wear even in a climate as hot as Venice. If a fragrance can be slender and elegant, Paris-Venise is that and more. Have you tried any of “Les Eaux de Chanel”? What did you think?

Perfume Chat Room, July 2

Perfume Chat Room, July 2

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, July 2, and here in the USA, it is the start of the long Fourth of July holiday weekend. We are back home after a long road trip that included two weeks in New Hampshire so we could visit my elderly father-in-law in the assisted living residence where he lives. It was a joy to see him every day! We stayed in a little rustic lake cottage, the kind with plain wood paneling and no insulation, which was very nostalgic for both of us, having spent many happy times in childhood in such cottages. This one had one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, tiny kitchen, and a small screened porch. It was very cozy and comfortable, but wow! that bathroom was TINY.

I brought home some balsam pillows and have enjoyed sniffing them to my heart’s content. I don’t know of any manmade fragrance that quite captures the real scent of balsam fir. We also brought home a large jug of real maple syrup (I won’t use any other kind) and various other maple sugar treats. Since we drove to New Hampshire, we made several stops along the way — Antietam, site of a famous Civil War battle, on the way north; and on the way south, Gettysburg, site of the three-day battle (July 1-3, 1863) that turned the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union and later President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Biltmore, in Asheville, North Carolina, the famous Vanderbilt estate that looks like a French chateau.

It’s good to be home, though! We’ll spend a quiet Fourth of July here with our kids; I do hope to see some fireworks this year, as most were cancelled last summer. Do you have any special plans, if you’re in the US? And for everyone — what are your favorite “outdoorsy” fragrances? Do you know of any that smell like real balsam?