Perfume Chat Room, July 31

Perfume Chat Room, July 31

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 31, and the tough month of July is over at midnight. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, July 17

Perfume Chat Room, July 17

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 17. Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: Rosae

Roses de Mai Marathon: Rosae

So this morning, I was digging through my samples of scents that are supposed to have a strong rose note, for today’s Roses de Mai Marathon, since I’m using this as an opportunity to work my way through samples, and I hit several in a row that just didn’t smell like roses to me! As in, not at all. Not a hint of rose. So while I reorganize my samples, I’m falling back for today’s post on one that I wrote in September, about Aquaflor’s Rosae, a truly rose-based, gorgeous scent I bought in Florence last summer. Click here: Rosae.

I know some of you have had similar experiences of expecting a particular note or accord in a fragrance and then not smelling it at all! Care to share? Comments are open!

If you ever get the chance to visit Florence, Aquaflor is a beautiful destination.

Courtyard leading to Aquaflor Firenze

Courtyard of Palazzo Antinori, Florence, home of Aquaflor.

Featured image from www.aquaflor.it.

Roses de Mai Marathon: Portrait Of A Lady

Roses de Mai Marathon: Portrait Of A Lady

Okay, enough messing around with neon roses and such. It’s time for May to get serious, with a heavy-hitter, rose-based, niche fragrance: Portrait of a Lady, by Dominique Ropion for Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle. Wowza! Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

One of my Christmas gifts was a bottle of Hermes’ latest “Jardin” fragrance, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. It was created by Hermes’ house perfumer, Christine Nagel, following in the footsteps of Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena famously created the series starting with Un Jardin En Mediterranee in 2003, followed by Un Jardin Sur le Nil in 2005, subject of Chandler Burr’s book The Perfect Scent. (That book started me and many others on our trip down the perfume rabbit-hole!). I own and love all the Jardin fragrances, my favorite being Un Jardin Apres la Mousson.

Hermes Un Jardin series

Un Jardin fragrances, by Hermes; image from http://www.hermes.com.

This latest one was given to me as a souvenir of our first visit to Venice last summer, and a lovely souvenir it is, especially as we stayed in a serviced apartment with its own private garden on an adjoining canal, in a small restored palazzo. “La Lagune” does not refer to just any lagoon; it means, specifically, the Venetian Lagoon, which is the bay of the Adriatic Sea that surrounds the island city of Venice. One of the highlights of our trip was a journey across the Venetian Lagoon in a beautiful old-fashioned water taxi, the kind that remind me of old American “lakers”:

Wooden water taxi in Venice lagoon landscape

Venice water taxi; image from http://www.bookvenicewatertaxi.com

The excursion was arranged by our concierge, to visit a glassmaking factory in Murano; the water taxi met us at the tiny canal-side private dock of the palazzo, reached by opening the massive, ancient water gate doors of its columned cellar, which felt magical even before we had stepped into the boat and zipped through the canals into the open lagoon, with its spectacular views of Venice. Un Jardin Sur la Lagune was created by Ms. Nagel to capture the essence of a “secret garden” in Venice, the Giardino Eden, or “Garden of Eden“, that was created over a hundred years ago on the Venetian island of Giudecca by an Englishman named Frederic Eden.

Photo collage of Venetian island garden and Hermes perfumer Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel and the Giardino Eden; photos by Jenny Lin for Town & Country.

I’m not sure why, but this Jardin fragrance has drawn a lot of criticism online, in spite of several very positive reviews by knowledgeable and experienced fragrance bloggers (e.g.,  Victoria of “Bois de Jasmin“, who gave it four stars, and Thomas of “The Candy Perfume Boy“). On the other hand, it was not an immediate love for me, so maybe it just takes time to appreciate. I tried it in various stores and on my skin several times before I decided I really do like it very much and wanted a full bottle.

What is it like? It opens with a soft, citrusy, floral chord, a combination of pittosporum and magnolia. Magnolia blossoms smell lemony as well as being white florals, and apparently pittosporum blossoms smell to Ms. Nagel like a combination of orange flower and jasmine. Thomas at “The Candy Perfume Boy” nails it: the overall impression is one of honeysuckle, not magnolia. Right after the opening, madonna lilies join in, together with a saltwater or sea spray scent that is distinctive. I think that is the note that seems to give some people difficulty with the fragrance, especially if they dislike marine or aquatic fragrances; I love it. There is also a note that is not much discussed online; it is samphire, and I had to look it up. Aha! Samphire is a plant that grows near coastlines, including in Italy, along the Adriatic coast, where it is called “paccasassi” and is used in regional cuisine to add a salty, briny flavor to local dishes:

This makes perfect sense to me in reference to Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. I do smell a vegetal, briny note, reminiscent of seaweed but not as strong as seaweed. I think it must be the samphire, also called “saltwort” or “sea fennel”, and I like it very much. It is a unique accord, as far as I can tell, and a very clever one.

As it dries down, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune takes on a more woody and musky feel. This too makes sense, as Ms. Nagel has described how she was fascinated by the roots of the trees in the garden, which had pushed their way through the soil’s surface and formed webs of roots lying on the ground; they look like fishermen’s ropey nets, set aside in a rare moment of respite. (Southern magnolia trees, Magnolia grandiflora, do this even when not planted in an island garden). The wood and musk notes make this a more unisex fragrance, and I think many men would smell wonderful wearing it. It is light and subtle, as are all the Jardin fragrances, but it has excellent staying power.

The description of the launch party in Venice in “Town and Country” magazine (also mentioned in Vogue) is to die for: “A Secret Garden in Venice is the Ultimate Inspiration for Hermes’ New Fragrance.” What I would give to have attended that! But I feel very fortunate to have finally seen “La Serenissima”, especially before the record-breaking recent flood, and I hope to return some day, wearing Un Jardin Sur la Lagune.

Have you tried this, or any of the other Jardin series of fragrances? What did you think? Do you love any of that series, or do they leave you indifferent?

Bottle of Hermes fragrance Un Jardin Sur La Lagune in Venetian landscape

Un Jardin Sur la Lagune; image from http://www.hermes.com

Fragrance Friday II: Planning A Trip To Paris!

Fragrance Friday II: Planning A Trip To Paris!

Although I am very fortunate to be able to tag along on some of my husband’s business trips, and they have taken us (and often our kids) to England, Spain, the South of France, and Italy, we haven’t been back to Paris since our honeymoon. As we have two graduations coming up in 2020, as well as a milestone anniversary, we’ve decided to take the family to Paris and Normandy! I’m so excited to finalize plans for this trip. Here is where I need your help! Of course, we will take the kids to the obligatory sights of Paris, which will take up the better part of a week, at least. (I spent part of a summer studying in Paris as a teenager, and found new places to discover daily for six weeks, so I know we will only scratch the surface, but you’ve got to start somewhere!). I have in mind a few fragrant stops, like the Palais Royale and its boutiques, and maybe some of the flagship stores of brands like Hermes and Chanel. I know many of my readers are perfumistas — can you suggest more possibilities? Please add in the comments below! Thank you!

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Happy New Year! Rather than listing my favorites or “the best” among the fragrances launched in 2019 (other blogs have done that so thoroughly!), I am going to list some of my own fragrance highlights of 2019. Some are actual perfumes, others are fragrant items or experiences. I feel so fortunate. I write about my many blessings in this blog to remind myself that, in spite of challenges and losses, I am thankful for the love and beauty in my life.

  1. First trip to Tuscany, Florence and Venice, with many perfume stops. I will not forget the aromatic scent of the Tuscan hills and the timeless beauty of their landscape — not to mention the fragrances of the vineyards and wines, and the cooking class I took. Florence and Venice were as magical and amazing as expected, and I brought back souvenir fragrances from perfumeries like Santa Maria Novella, I Profumi di Firenze, Aquaflor, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561. Back home, I treated myself to Flower Fusion by The Merchant of Venice (gorgeous glass bottle, lovely fragrance); and my husband gave me Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur la Lagune for Christmas.
  2. Visit to 4160 Tuesdays’ studio in London and meeting Sarah and Nick! If you’re a fan of 4160 Tuesdays’ fragrances, and you wonder if Sarah really is as cool and interesting as she seems, the answer is YES! She and Nick graciously spent time with me, talking about their fragrances. And yes, I came away with several purchases, including the beautiful Truth Beauty Freedom Love and the silk scarf designed to go with it. I’m excited to see their new studio on Raynham Road when I visit London again! I also took part in the crowd-funding (such a brilliant idea) of some 2019 launches by 4160 Tuesdays, including Clouds’ Illusion, Christmas Concert, and Meet Me On The Corner
  3. Perfume-making workshop in Nice, at Parfum Et Vous, recommended by Megan of the blog “MeganInSainteMaxime.” It was a beginners’ workshop, but so much fun! And I was introduced to a line of fragrances I hadn’t tried before, Baruti.
  4. Meeting Megan in Cannes, and visiting the office of Atelier des Ors, including meeting its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont and trying several of its fragrances which were created by Marie Salamagne: Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule des Amesand Choeur des Anges.
  5. The publication of Neil Chapman’s wonderful book, “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” Neil writes one of the longest-running and best blogs about perfume, “The Black Narcissus“; he is a true connoisseur and collector of fine fragrance as well as a very interesting, creative person. It was so exciting to read about his work on the book and its eventual publication and launch!
  6. Learning how to use Instagram!
  7. Two very special fragrance sets/Christmas gifts, which I can’t wait to explore: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ 2019 Heirloom Elixir Collection, and Sarah McCartney’s “January Joy Box” from 4160 Tuesdays.
  8. Giving in to temptation and ordering Papillon Perfumery‘s Bengale Rouge. It hasn’t arrived yet, from Ave Parfum, but I expect it shortly! This has been one of the most highly rated perfumes of 2019; given how much I love Dryad, I’m excited to have this.
  9. The continued success of St. Clair Scents, another independent artisan perfumer, whose fragrances Gardener’s Glove, Frost, Casablanca, and First Cut I thoroughly enjoyed in 2018. Although I haven’t yet reviewed them, this year’s issue of Pandora and Eve , the “Audacious Innocence Collection”, shows us that Diane St. Clair is here to stay, thank goodness, in perfumery as well as her legendary butter.
  10. Getting to try L’Iris de Fath, thanks to the wonderful associate at Jovoy Paris’ London store.

Some of the blogosphere’s “Best of 2019” lists:

Australian Perfume Junkies

Bois de Jasmin

A Bottled Rose

Cafleurebon

Colognoisseur

I Scent You A Day

Persolaise

What were some of your fragrant highlights of 2019? Feel free to comment broadly, it’s a broad category! Thank you for reading my online musings this year.

Featured image: Fleurs et Flammes, Antonio Alessandria Parfums.

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

I was delighted to be able to get a 9 ml spray of 4160 Tuesdays’ Christmas Concert together with the crowd-funded Meet Me On The Corner this winter. Sarah McCartney calls it a “scarf scent”, because it has a lot of cinnamon in it, which can cause irritation on some people’s skin, but luckily I am not one of them so I can wear it on my pulse points. Christmas Concert came about because during the crowdfunding discussions about Meet Me On The Corner, which was inspired by a song of that name by a group called Lindisfarne, which holds a famous annual Christmas concert, followers of 4160 Tuesdays on social media started clamoring for an actual Christmas scent and suggested what its notes might be, including mandarin oranges, cinnamon, and pine needles. Being the creative and obliging perfumer she is, Sarah obliged with a seasonal limited edition fragrance, in both eau de parfum and room fragrance versions.

Does it smell like Christmas? Yes it does, if your Christmas memories include pomander oranges studded with cloves, hung on a balsam Christmas tree or wreath. Fortunately, mine do, as making those pomander oranges seems to have been a common holiday project when I was a child. I honestly don’t remember my own children making those at school or Sunday school, so I may have to do it at home with them now, although they are young adults!

orange with cloves

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Christmas Concert opens right off with a strong note of cinnamon, but I also detect the scent of cloves quite strongly. As expected, there is a lasting foundation of sweet oranges’ fragrance — more present in the beginning, but lasting well into the drydown. I perceive the pine needles as a green hum in the distant background, but they are there. This isn’t a very complex scent in that it doesn’t “develop” much, it is mostly linear, but it is delightful. Although I can wear it on my skin, it really does work well as a “scarf scent”; I sprayed some on the shawl collar of one of my favorite sweaters to wear around the house, and it wafted up to my nose from there for several hours. I can still smell it faintly on the sweater a day later.

Sarah mentioned on her website that one could layer Christmas Concert with Meet Me On The Corner to create a sort of “winter edition” of the latter, so I tried that. Wow! I already liked Meet Me On The Corner very much, but adding Christmas Concert to it creates a spicier version, adding complexity and nuance to MMOTC‘s citrus chypre. Or, shall we say, a certain “Serendipity“?

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in film Serendipity

“Serendipity”, the movie; image from http://www.variety.com.

Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”, others have called it the phenomenon of “happy accidents” or fortuitous accidental discoveries. 4160 Tuesdays is famous for its serendipitous fragrances, sometimes created when a batch of one fragrance has been mistakenly combined with another (Brigadoon) or when a special ingredient has been amped up in an existing fragrance (Sarah made a number of variations on her fragrances this fall, when customers could request that various ingredients be increased; I am the happy owner of Eat More Flowers, a version of Eat Flowers Sarah created with extra rose, orris, and violet leaf). Given the origins of Christmas Concert in a Facebook group’s musings, and how well it combines with the long-planned Meet Me On The Corner, I would call that serendipity.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Serendipity”, pictured above, it is a charming Christmas rom-com with two of my favorite actors, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. It was made before Christmas rom-coms were destroyed by Hallmark Christmas movies and their reactionary spawn. Of course, another reason I love the movie is that I spent half of my 20s in New York; it is truly one of the most magical, romantic places in the world at Christmastime, and the cafe Serendipity is real. It was a great date venue, and I’m sure it still is!

So now when I wear Meet Me On The Corner layered with Christmas Concert, I will think happily of New York at Christmas, and chance meetings that seem like accidents but may be destiny. Thank you, Sarah! Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day!

Do you associate any fragrances with serendipity, either in how you discovered them or how you like to layer them? Please share in the comments!

How to make Christmas pomanders with oranges and cloves, Country Living

Christmas pomanders; image from Country Living.

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! That includes this household, and the air is full of festive fragrances, starting with the fresh balsam Christmas tree and wreaths on the front of the house. My oldest daughter baked a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in gingerbread (!!) for a local Shakespeare theater, using Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Baking Show, with extra ginger for her ginger-loving mother (me); its scent is still wafting through the house from its place of honor in our dining room.

Gingerbread model of Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Shakespeare’s Globe in gingerbread, on display in theater lobby

Soon, I will set up the slow cooker with our annual Christmas Eve dinner: a Greek stew called “stifado”, which combines lamb or beef with red wine, spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, and currants. We began using this recipe in the days when we went to two consecutive afternoon services on Christmas Eve because our three children were in two different choirs at church, singing in different services. We could leave the slow cooker to do its work, and when we came home, dinner was ready for hungry kids and the whole house smelled like red wine, fruit, and spices. Then there’s the scent of mulled cider (real cider, thank you, not the clear apple juice that gets labelled as cider during the holidays; the non-alcoholic kind we used to buy from a local orchard when I was a child).

Hot mulled cider, Food Network recipe by Ina Garten

Ina Garten’s Hot Mulled Cider

Add to those the fragrance of scented candles and wax melts, according to our mood, and the paperwhite narcissi in a pot, given to us every year by a gardening friend, and each room of the house has its own perfume. Somehow, they don’t clash. I haven’t yet tried the candle labeled “White Balsam”, but it sounds delectable: vanilla and mint combined with balsam fir. And of course, I still haven’t decided which of my many personal fragrances to wear today and tonight! I plan to make the most out of the day, fragrance-wise; I’ll choose one to wear until we get dressed for afternoon church (thankfully, we now attend only one service, although I actually didn’t mind unplugging from the world and attending two in a row); one for church; and one for when we sit down to a festive family dinner and the rest of the evening.

Dinner place setting of Spode Christmas Rose china

Spode’s Christmas Rose

Decisions, decisions! I now own a bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noel, so I think that will have to be one of my choices, probably for this evening. Thinking of Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee for church, as it will be dark out when we emerge, but I could go with something based on incense instead, like Tauerville’s Incense Flash. A warm or spicy rose is always a good option, especially as our church is often filled with dark red roses and evergreens at Christmastime and my festive china has Christmas roses (hellebores) on it, so perhaps Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose or David Yurman Limited Edition, which beautifully combines roses with suede, oud, saffron, sandalwood, and a touch of raspberry. I often amp up the roses in my rose-centered fragrances with a dab of Abdul Samad al Qurashi’s Taif Roses, which my husband brought me back from a business trip to Dubai some years ago. Montale’s Intense Cafe is a strong contender for the fragrance I will wear before; it has a beautiful rosy heart, and it is one of the few fragrances I own that has prompted a complete stranger to approach me to ask what it was. On the other hand, I’ve been wearing Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose & Amber a lot lately; it is a beautiful, warm rose, and it lasts much longer than many Jo Malone scents without being intrusive or overwhelming. And then there’s Christmas Day to consider!

What fragrances mean Christmas or other winter festivities to you? Will you wear something special for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Are you hoping for any special fragrance gifts this Christmas?

Christmas perfume gifts

 

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear to a Wedding?

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear to a Wedding?

Tomorrow, we are going to a wedding in the Lowcountry of South Carolina! This is one of my favorite places on earth. It has a unique, fascinating landscape and a rich, tragic history back to the earliest days of European settlement of North America and before. The local people have marvelous folk traditions and folklore, such as the Gullah culture along the coast and among the islands. The food is some of the best you will ever taste in the United States, whether traditional or more modern, with its emphasis on seafood straight from the water and farm-to-table delights.

The wedding will be a formal, early evening affair followed by dinner. I’ll probably wear a long summer dress, in a shade of my favorite blue. The setting is an elegant resort, filled with ancient “live oaks” draped in Spanish moss, meandering creeks, migrating birds, semi-tropical vegetation. The bride is a daughter of two of our oldest friends and we love her dearly — I first held her in my arms when she was a day old. The weekend will include a traditional “Lowcountry Boil” party by the water and a Sunday brunch. Some rain is predicted (luckily, it is supposed to be overnight), possibly including thunderstorms; the Lowcountry has a humid, sub-tropical climate and it is affected by Atlantic hurricanes in the fall (Hurricane Dorian recently passed by this particular area, fortunately with minimal damage).

What fragrances do you suggest I wear? As you know if you read this blog occasionally, I like floral scents, green scents, some citruses. I definitely plan to take the bottle of custom fragrance I made for my husband on our trip to Nice, which I dubbed “Lowcountry Spring.” It is a nice unisex eau de parfum, and I’m curious to find out whether it does in fact evoke the real Lowcountry, as I was attempting. I think I’ll also take Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, lol!

Suggestions? Thanks!