Scented Advent, December 4

Scented Advent, December 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Scented Advent, December 1

Scented Advent, December 1

Happy start of Advent, perfumistas! Even if you don’t celebrate Advent, you can still enjoy the festivities. Here at Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities, we love Advent, and we love a good Advent calendar, with all the little drawers or doors that hide surprises or treats. I continue to be astonished by the many high-end luxury Advent calendars now available in the beauty world, from brands like Chanel and Jo Malone London, as well as calendars with assorted teas, or jams, or other goodies. (Note: while some are now sold out, others are now on sale).

As I did last year, I am using fragrance samples I already have to do my own homemade Advent calendar, and I’ll try to post about them daily as a “Scented Advent” feature through December 24. This year, I am the happy recipient of a dozen samples of Guerlain fragrances from my autumn visit to the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas, so I’ll alternate those with other samples. I’ll preserve some element of surprise by reaching into my Guerlain goodie bag every other day and pulling out whatever comes to hand.

My first Guerlain sample is Oeillet Pourpre, which means “purple carnation”. It is described as a new fragrance that was launched in 2021 as part of the collection “L’Art et la Matière”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk. However, several close observers of Guerlain, including Neil Chapman of The Black Narcissus blog, have noted that it is a slight reformulation of Guerlain’s 2017 Lui. (I”m actually glad to know this, because I had thought I’d like to try Lui, which has been discontinued, and now I won’t feel I should seek it out). Fragrantica lists these notes: Top: Clove and Pear; middle: Benzoin and Carnation; base: Smoke, Vanilla, Leather, Woody Notes and Musk.

One thing about Oeillet Pourpre that intrigues me is that it has smelled slightly different on me each time I’ve tried it. The first time, it reminded me a lot of two carnation-centric fragrances I have and like: L’Artisan’s Oeillet Sauvage, and Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet. Today, it smells smokier than either of those, in a good way. I don’t usually gravitate to smoky fragrances, though there are some I like, so that’s a pleasant surprise. I do like carnation in fragrance, which I know some people dislike, and I like it here. Oeillet Sauvage is more floral, but it shares Oeillet Pourpre’s notes of resin (benzoin) and vanilla as well as carnation.

Much as I do like Oeillet Pourpre, and it lasts and develops well on my skin, its retail price means I won’t be buying a full bottle, especially as I already have full bottles of Oeillet Sauvage and Vitriol d’Oeillet. Fragrantica comments are full of frustration that the more reasonably priced Lui was renamed and moved into the L’Art et la Matière collection, where it is priced at $360 for 100 ml and smaller sizes are not available. I’m very happy to have received this sample, though, as it has allowed me to try it on different days and see how each wearing differs.

Do you have any thoughts to share about these fragrances, or L’Art et la Matière? Do you have an Advent calendar this year?

Refillable wooden Advent calendar
My fragrance Advent calendar
Scent Semantics, September 5

Scent Semantics, September 5

The word for this month’s Scent Semantics posts is “misanthrope.” If you haven’t read one of these posts before, “Scent Semantics” brings together a group of us fragrance bloggers in a collaborative project called “Scent Semantics“, the brainchild of Portia Turbo over at A Bottled Rose. On the first Monday of each month, we all take a word — the same word — as inspiration for a post that has some relationship to a fragrance, broadly interpreted. There are six participating blogs: Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum GirlThe Alembicated GenieEau La LaUndina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog!

One definition of “misanthrope” is “someone who dislikes and avoids other people.” Now, I am not normally a misanthrope myself, although I am definitely an introvert (and if you’ve never seen author Susan Cain’s TED talk on the subject, click on that link — it’s a treat!). However, I think we’ve all become a bit misanthropic during the last two and a half years of a global pandemic — we were forced to avoid other people starting in March of 2020, then we disliked many people because of their varied responses to the pandemic. Layer on top of that the American elections of 2020 and their aftermath, so full of rage, and I think it’s safe to say that many of us, misanthropic by nature or not, have been slowly emerging from a phase of misanthropy.

My semantically matched fragrance this month is vintage Chanel No. 19 eau de toilette. I’ve been wearing it almost daily for the past week as my green armor at work, due to the difficulties I’ve encountered leading up to a long overdue personal leave (which started this weekend, yay!). No. 19 always makes me feel that I can be tougher than I actually am; it stiffens my backbone. Some might say that it helps me set and keep healthy boundaries, lol!

Why? I think it’s because of the hefty dose of galbanum that heralds its arrival: a bitter, green opening chord that announces, as the Chanel website says, a “daring, distinctive, uncompromising composition.” Perfect for setting boundaries! The other top notes reinforce the lack of compromise: astringent bergamot, assertive hyacinth, aromatic neroli. All have a distinctive tinge of green supporting the star of the show, the galbanum, which Fragrantica sums up as an “intense and persistent bitter green .” Indeed. If galbanum were a person, it would be Bette Davis playing Margo Channing in “All About Eve”:

“All About Eve”, 20th Century Fox.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, it is about a star actress who is turning forty, fears for her career, and is manipulated and ultimately upstaged by a much younger woman. Fittingly, No. 19 was the last Chanel fragrance created while Coco Chanel herself was still alive, in her 80s, though I don’t know that anyone ever succeeded in either manipulating or upstaging her. Master perfumer Henri Robert put the finishing touches on the formula in 1970, Chanel died in early 1971, and No. 19 was released the same year.

The blog “Olfactoria’s Travels” has a wonderful review of No. 19, referring to it as a “magic cloak”. The reviewer takes a more benevolent view of No. 19 than Tania Sanchez did in the guide to perfumes she co-wrote with Luca Turin, where she compared it to the wire mother monkey in a famous experiment about nurturing or the lack thereof. Blogger and author Neil Chapman, of “The Black Narcissus”, is famously a devotee of No. 19, scarfing up vintage bottles of it in all formats from second-hand stores in Japan, where he lives. You can read all about it in his amazing book, “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent”, available in the UK and the US, and elsewhere in other languages, which I highly recommend!

Luckily for me, since I adore green fragrances, on my skin the greenery lasts and lasts, joined in the heart phase by some of my favorite floral notes: iris, orris root, rose, lily-of-the-valley, narcissus, jasmine and ylang-ylang. The green astringency of the opening notes is carried forward by the lily-of-the-valley and narcissus, while orris root adds earthiness, iris adds powder, and jasmine and ylang-ylang add airiness, sexiness and warmth. My sense of No. 19 as “armor” is aided by my vintage spray, a refillable, silvery, aluminum canister that has protected its contents for many years.

No. 19 has had many “faces”, my favorite being English model and iconoclast Jean Shrimpton. And guess what? Based on her own words, she may actually have been a misanthrope, having walked away from her superstar modeling career and life of celebrity in her 30s, becoming what she herself described as a recluse running a hotel in Cornwall. Although the photo of her below is not an ad for Chanel, to me it captures the spirit of No. 19‘s opening — inscrutable, distant, mingling shades of green, white, and earthy brown with the unexpected intrusion of purple:

Model Jean Shrimpton sitting on an ancient tree root.
Jean Shrimpton; image by Patrick Lichfield for Vogue, 1970.

As No. 19 dries down, to my nose the galbanum never leaves, though it recedes into the distance as the oakmoss enters the glade. Because I have the vintage EDT, the base includes oakmoss, leather, musk, sandalwood, and cedar. It is a true chypre, a genre I love. It reminds me of the Jackie Kennedy Onassis of the 1970s: elegant and even haughty upon first appearance, with a warmth that reveals itself over time to the patient; breaking free from the fashion conventions she mastered so skillfully and embodied in the 1950s and 1960s, and far from the cold “wire mother” of Tania Sanchez’ imagining while retaining an aura that commands respect.

I’m choosing to adopt Laura Bailey‘s interpretation of No. 19, which she described in Vogue at the height of pandemic lockdowns in 2020, as the scent of new beginnings and dreams of future adventure:

No 19, the ‘unexpected’ Chanel, the ‘outspoken’ Chanel, created at the height of the first wave of feminism in 1971, and named for Coco Chanel’s birthday – 19 August – is, for me, the fragrance of freedom, of optimism, of strength. (And of vintage campaign stars Ali MacGraw, Jean Shrimpton and Christie Brinkley.) The heady cocktail of rose-iris-vetiver-jasmine-lily-of-the-valley remains shockingly modern and original, bolder than any sweet fairy-tale fantasy.

If you had to relate a fragrance to the word “misanthrope”, which would you choose?

Ad with perfume bottle of Chanel No. 19
Chanel No. 19 ad; image from chanel.com.
Scented Advent, December 19

Scented Advent, December 19

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent, and my SOTD is Zoologist’s Bat, in eau de parfum format. So I think it is the original Bat, launched in 2015 as an eau de parfum and an Art & Olfaction Award winner in 2016, whose formula was changed in 2020 and now appears to be an extrait de parfum (the original formula, by Ellen Covey, is still available under the name Night Flyer, from her own brand Olympic Orchids, where you can currently get 20% off during December with the code 2021WINTER, including on her two discovery sets). I approached this scent with trepidation, as I don’t much care for bats, and so many comments over the years have mentioned rotting fruit. But when one is doing Advent calendar surprises, one must go with the scent Advent sent!

Bottle of Bat eau de parfum, from Zoologist Perfumes
Bat, by Zoologist Perfumes; image from bloomperfumery.com

To my relief, my experience of Bat is neither animalic nor rotting. It smells to me, as it does to other commenters, like well-aerated compost. Compost is, of course, decomposed soil, made up of vegetation that has in fact “rotted” or decomposed, but it doesn’t smell rotten, if you get my drift. We gardeners use as much of it as we can as a supplement to our garden soil, because it is so good for our plants. Many gardeners who have the space will create their own compost from grass clippings, fallen leaves and fruit, even fruit and vegetable trimmings and other such bits from the kitchen. When compost is well made, it definitely smells like dirt, but it has a sweetness to it that is quite appealing. And that is what Bat smells like to my nose.

In fact, I’ll go an olfactory step further and say that I also smell a bit of truffle as the scent develops. Not the chocolate kind, but an actual truffle, which is a tuber that grows beneath ground. Bat in its original form was famous for a banana top note, but I never really smell banana. It’s possible there may be some banana skins in the compost pile, but that’s as close as my nose gets to it. As it develops, I do smell myrrh and fig, which are listed as heart notes. The full notes list is: Soil tincture, Banana and Fruity Notes (top); Tropical Fruits, Fig, resins, Green Notes and Myrrh (middle); Musk, Vetiver, Leather, Sandalwood and Tonka Bean (base). Fig is really the only identifiable fruit I smell, though. I have a feeling Bat is one of those fragrances that will smell different at different times of year in different weather, as things like temperature and humidity vary. Right now, in cool dry weather, I’m finding it very pleasant; I’ll be interested to try it again on one of our hot, humid, summer days, and see if I smell more fruit. Luca Turin has written that he believes Bat includes geosmin, the molecule responsible for the distinctive scent of petrichor, or the earth after rain, and I have no reason to doubt that.

The Plum Girl blog has a wonderful post about Zoologist Perfumes, with an interview of its founder Victor Wong. All in all, I’m quite pleased to have the chance to try the original Bat. I don’t dislike bats, after all, and I value their role in our ecosystem, but they have startled me on occasions when I have seen them flapping around trees at twilight, so this fragrance is as close as I care to get.

Flock of fruit bats flying over trees
Fruit bats in flight; image from science.org.

Have you tried either version of Bat, or compared them? Do you have any particular favorites from Zoologist? Given that I tend to favor florals and greens, are there any like those you would recommend from the brand?

Scent Sample Sunday: Juniper Sling and Scenthusiasm

Scent Sample Sunday: Juniper Sling and Scenthusiasm

I’ve been wanting a bottle of Penhaligon’s fragrance Juniper Sling for a long time, since I got a tiny mini bottle of it in a Penhaligon’s gift coffret and sampled it in place of 4160 Tuesdays’ Scenthusiasm, which hadn’t been available to me in 2018 when I read a review of it on the blog “I Scent You A Day.” Happily, since 2018, I’ve been able to snag a full bottle of Scenthusiasm and, now, one of Juniper Sling, in Penhaligons’s summer sale. So I’m fully stocked with gin-inspired fragrances, thank you, to go with a gin cocktail (click the link for a recipe for one made with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade).

Revisiting my former thoughts on Juniper Sling, I still find that the juniper berries dominate the opening, and that note persists for a while. It lends the fragrance an aromatic aura and adds to the sense that this scent is truly unisex. It’s also an ideal scent for hot, humid, summer weather — herbal and cool. Created by Olivier Cresp, its notes are listed as follows: Top notes are angelica, cinnamon, orange brandy, and juniper berries; middle notes are cardamom, orris root, leather and pepper; base notes are vetiver, cherry, sugar and amber. I like that I can clearly smell the cardamom, and now that I have a full bottle and can really spritz, I can also smell the angelica. Not much cinnamon, thank goodness — I can only take cinnamon in very small quantities in fragrance, much as I like to cook with it. Orris root softens the edges of the herbs and spices. Vetiver is detectable in the base, but I can’t say that I smell cherry or sugar. An amber accord may be there, and there is definitely something warm that balances the vetiver. Juniper Sling is a transparent sort of fragrance, like a limpid pool on a hot summer day — clear and sparkling. It doesn’t last more than a few hours on my skin, but I’ll be more than happy to reapply as needed.

Scenthusiasm, on the other hand, is more floral, though it is also very summery, cool, aromatic, and refreshing. It was created for a Hendrick’s Gin event — not to smell like the gin itself, but to complement the floral and herbal notes in Hendrick’s.

Hendrick's Gin cocktail and recipe
Hendrick’s Gin Cucumber Lemonade

If you like the sound of Gin Cucumber Lemonade, try the recipe and let us know how it is in the comments (or try my recipe linked above, or try both)!

In Sarah McCartney’s own words:

Scenthusiasm is made with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil. To make it last, boost the scents of the naturals and too smooth them out, we blended it with our favourite simple musk, fresh air and white wood note synthetics.  It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.

I think Scenthusiasm is also quite unisex, though it may lean a bit more traditionally feminine. Sam at “I Scent You A Day” wrote that the orange and lemon notes risk making it go “a bit Pimms”, but I’m not qualified to judge that! My lack of familiarity with Pimms several years ago resulted in my allowing two of my three children (all under the age of 12, as I recall) choose it as a canned drink to go with their lunches at Kew Gardens, on a day-trip from London. As all the food and drinks were together, I’m sure the checkout cashier thought I was planning to drink the lot myself!

Luckily the older of the two would-be Pimms drinkers took one sip, realized it was alcoholic, and alerted me before her (much younger) brother drank any. Not that it would have killed either of them, of course, but one doesn’t like to render a five year-old tipsy. So having sensibly got for myself a simple lemonade, I switched with the children and drank one of the Pimms, pouring out the other surreptitiously on the ground as both had been opened. It was fine as a summer drink, but on a later trip to London I was introduced to Aperol spritzes, and that is now a favorite (nor does it raise embarrassing memories).

I really love Scenthusiasm. One might say, I am scenthusiastic about it, lol. It’s a delightful summer floral with the unexpected references to gin botanicals, more aromatic than sweet. Definitely not fruity, nor green. The cucumber note is noticeable, and it’s an unusual note to find in perfume. One of the few I’ve been able to find with a prominent cucumber note is a 2020 launch from By Kilian, called Roses On Ice. Lo and behold, it is supposed to smell like Hendrick’s Gin, the original inspiration for Scenthusiasm. I may have to try it some day, but for now, I’m very happy with my purchase from a favorite independent small perfumer.

Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays

I could see a couple wearing Juniper Sling and Scenthusiasm to complement each other’s fragrance. But which would each one choose? Which would you choose? Or would you, like me, say “Both, please!”?

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

On our way home from a family wedding, I stopped in an airport boutique that had a wall of designer fragrances, mostly to see if there might be a tester with something appropriate to spritz before our short flight. To my surprise and delight, there was a separate display of Parfums de Marly, including an actual tester of Delina Exclusif! I had been wanting to try Delina or a flanker, but wasn’t interested in making a special trip to a department store for that purpose, so this chance encounter was most welcome.

Delina Exclusif was launched in 2018; the perfumer was Quentin Bisch, as for the original Delina in 2017. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes are Litchi, Pear and Bergamot; middle notes are Turkish Rose, Agarwood (Oud) and Incense; base notes are Vanilla, Amber and Woody Notes. The fruit notes are very noticeable at first spritz, in a good way. The litchi is the most prominent of the opening notes, with its sweetness and that of the pear note balanced by tart bergamot. The rose is immediately apparent, and it seems very natural and lush. The oud and incense are not strong, but they are detectable, and one of my daughters who doesn’t like oud commented on it. Some commenters have detected a resemblance to Montale’s Intense Cafe, and I see that. The drydown of Delina Exclusif is lovely; the vanilla and amber dominate but are grounded by some woody notes. The scent lasts for hours, 12 or more. I could still smell hints of it on my wrist a good 18 hours after applying it. What lingers is a slightly gourmand ambery vanilla, sweet but not sugary. Be advised — if you don’t care for rose-based fragrances, you may not even want to bother trying this one, because it is ALL about the roses, even with the companion notes. The floral arranger at the launch party certainly captured its spirit:

Floral arrangement of pink roses in shape of perfume bottle
Delina floral display; image from Basenotes.net.

Some have posited that the original Delina is more of a spring and summer fragrance, and Delina Exclusif more suitable for fall or winter. I understand that, as the flanker has some spice and warmth to it, but I think it is a year-round fragrance. As others have noted, this is a really beautiful fragrance, the major drawback being its price, around $289 or more for 75 ml. 

Overall, Delina Exclusif is a beautiful, modern rose — elegant, warm, sexy in a wholesome way. I still prefer Ormonde Jayne’s Ta’if, but if you want a rose that will certainly work well in colder weather, Delina Exclusif would be a contender, if not for its price. As it is, I’ll stick with Ta’if in most weather and Intense Cafe when temperatures are cooler.

Have you tried any of the Delina line? Flankers or other products?

May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

This is one of the few new 2021 fragrances I’ve tried this year. I was excited to get a sample from a kind sales associate, because I love the scent of real magnolias, especially the pink ones that bloom in my neighborhood, and I hoped this might resemble it. Sadly, it doesn’t. Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t live up to its predecessor, Beautiful, either, unfortunately. To my nose, it smells like a pleasant but nondescript flanker of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one. It’s pretty, and light, and it may do very well in some markets, but it’s not really for me, and I think its price is too high.

Fragrantica classes Beautiful Magnolia as a “floral aquatic” and lists its notes as follows: Top notes are Magnolia Petals, Lotus and Mate; middle notes are Magnolia, Gardenia, Solar notes and Turkish Rose; base notes are Musk, Cedar and Sandalwood. What I smell are: a bit of citrus, a bit of unnamed white flower, a hint of mate, white synthetic musk, and something slightly fruity. What I don’t smell are magnolia, lotus, gardenia, rose, or wood. I think the bit of citrus I smell is supposed to be “solar notes.” I can’t say much about dry-down, because Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t seem to have a true “drydown”, it just fades away, humming the same few wordless notes as when it entered the room. It is a very linear scent.

What a disappointment! I don’t often write reviews of scents I don’t care for, and this isn’t a “dislike” for me, it’s just that I expect better from Estee Lauder, a brand that has created so many memorable and classic scents. What I do dislike is the price for what Beautiful Magnolia is — $128 for 100 ml. I also dislike its recycling of the name “Beautiful” — the original Beautiful was a gorgeous 1980s floral, and even reformulated, it is so much more interesting and lovely than this. Comparing the two is like comparing artificial plastic flowers to the real thing. They may serve a purpose, and even be likeable, but they’re not on the same level.

Artificial magnolia flowers
Real magnolia flowers; photo by Deena on Pexels.com

Every spring, I eagerly await the blossoms of the pink magnolias. Some years, I am bitterly disappointed because a late frost comes along just as they’re about to bloom, and ruins the flowers. Nothing can be done about that; you just have to wait another year, until the next spring and the next magnolia flowers come. It’s a missed opportunity. That’s how I feel about Beautiful Magnolia. As Luca Turin once wrote about a different fragrance, “Encore un effort!” Please!

Do you have any recent fragrance disappointments? Or unexpected delights?

Featured image from: https://thewiltedmagnolia.blogspot.com/.

May Melange Marathon: Gin and Scenthusiasm

May Melange Marathon: Gin and Scenthusiasm

I’m not much for cocktails. My tipple is usually a glass of wine; two years ago, I was introduced to the Aperol Spritz, and that’s my “fancy summer drink”, though I also like sangria (basically wine with fruit). However, on a couple of trips to Northern Ireland and Ireland in recent years, my husband and I were introduced to small-batch artisan gin. We had previously enjoyed Hendrick’s Gin and I even made up a cocktail that combined it with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade (here’s the recipe), because my husband does like a good gin-and-tonic in the summer, and I wanted some variety.

Imagine my delight, then, when I found out that 4160 Tuesdays had created a fragrance called Scenthusiasm, based on the botanicals found in Hendrick’s Gin, for a special event by that brand! I didn’t really expect to get my hands on a bottle, but the opportunity arose after I wrote that post in 2018, and I seized it. After all, my little mini of Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling wasn’t going to last forever!

I also have a purse spray of Commodity’s Gin, and I’ve been wanting to compare the two. So today, I sprayed Gin on one hand, and Scenthusiasm on the other. They actually go quite well together as adjacent scents (not layered one on the other). Of the two, no surprise, I prefer Scenthusiasm. It doesn’t smell like gin; it smells like the floral and herbal notes in Hendrick’s, with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil with musk, fresh air and white wood note synthetics. As perfumer Sarah McCartney says: “It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.” Just my cup of tea, to mix my metaphors! To my nose, the dominant floral note is the orris root; here, the rose is uncharacteristically cast as a supporting performer. The cucumber and juniper berries led the middle phase an astringent greenness, while the orris root carries through from start to finish.

Commodity’s Gin, on the other hand smells more masculine, aromatic, and woody to me. Commodity has closed down, but its fragrances are still to be found online and sometimes at discounters like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. Gin‘s top notes are Juniper Berries, Grapefruit and Lime; middle notes are Ginger Leaf, Labdanum and Freesia; base notes are Oak, Musk, Smoke and Patchouli, according to Fragrantica. As soon as I spray it, there’s a strong pop of lime and juniper, both aromatic scents I quite like. They do smell like a traditional, aromatic men’s cologne to my nose, an association I can’t shake even though Gin is truly unisex. The opening is really intriguing, with its burst of lime and juniper, together with the citrus essential oils. The heart phase smells mostly gingery to me, with an early entrance from both oak and smoke., followed pretty soon by patchouli. I don’t smell freesia at all. Both the opening and heart stages dry down pretty quickly, leaving a combination of oak, musk, smoke and patchouli that smells like the wood-paneled interior of an old-fashioned room like a library or study, where gin cocktails might be served before dinner and where family members and guests might be allowed to smoke occasionally.

How do you feel about gin? Boozy scents? Aromatic florals?

P.S. 4160 Tuesdays is having a “Tidying Up Sale” to make room, and Scenthusiasm is marked down in its smaller sizes (50 ml and below), by 50%! If I didn’t already own a lot of it, I’d be jumping on that.

May Melange Marathon: Tocadilly

May Melange Marathon: Tocadilly

Cheerful and amusing are the two words that come to my mind upon trying Tocadilly, by Rochas. Who could fail to be amused by its ridiculous bottle, a purple and green version of the quirky Tocade bottle for the same house? And Tocadilly is undeniably cheerful. Created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake and launched in 1997, it is a light green, summery floral that doesn’t change much over time. (I’ve seen other information saying it was created by Maurice Roucel, who definitely created Tocade, but the sources that seem more authoritative credit Sheldrake).

Its short list of notes is: top notes of cucumber and lilac; heart notes of hyacinth, jasmine, and coconut; base of sandalwood and white musk. However, I’ve seen other notes lists that add glycine, rose, vetiver to those. When I first spray Tocadilly, I get a burst of something light green, but I can’t really say that it is cucumber. I guess I would say it is “cucumberish”. After having experienced so many Ellena scents, I might more accurately say that I smell a greenish melon-like top note, since to many of us, the scents of cucumber and melon overlap somewhat (they are members of the same plant family, the Cucurbitae). It is more like honeydew than cantaloupe. I smell a vague hint of lilac, but if you are seeking a lilac-focused fragrance, this isn’t it (at least, not to my nose). The melonish opening dies down after 15-20 minutes, though there is still a hint of it during the heart phase.

Similarly, although I first sought out Tocadilly because other commenters said it smelled of hyacinth, I only get a vaguely hyacinth note in the heart phase. I do smell a pleasant blend of a lightly floral coconut and light jasmine, neither of them overwhelming. To my nose, Tocadilly smells fresh, light, youthful, summery. Really, it’s another bargain beauty which you can still find online for very affordable prices (<$30 for 100 ml on some sites). It is one of the few fragrances for which I would recommend NOT buying a tester if the small cost difference between that and a regular bottle doesn’t matter to you, because the testers will mostly come without the funny cap, which is part of Tocadilly‘s charm.

As it dries down, Tocadilly‘s floral notes fade until what is left is a warm, soft, white musk. While this fragrance won’t set hearts aflame or imaginations afire, it is a charming, cheerful fragrance that works well in warm weather and would be fine to wear in most workplaces. It lasts for a few hours on my skin, and it’s inexpensive enough that one doesn’t feel extravagant just reapplying it as desired.

May Melange Marathon: Toujours Espoir

May Melange Marathon: Toujours Espoir

Another sample sent by a generous reader! Toujours Espoir (which means Always Hope) was launched in 2018 by a firm called “Villa des Parfums.” They have the most fascinating story, which I encourage you to read in full on their website, but in summary, the firm began as an offshoot of a local business and non-profit in Grasse, birthplace of French perfumery. The story began when a couple bought an old mansion, former home of a perfumer, and renovated it to be partly family home, partly a vacation rental (which it still is, and now I’m dying to go there for some “perfume tourism”). The non-profit is called “Parfums de Vie” and it works with impoverished children in Grasse in areas like education, character development, conflict resolution, etc.

The owners, Nicole and Vincent, decided to create a perfume brand that they hoped would generate additional revenue for their children’s programs. They founded “Villa des Parfums” and worked with the perfume house of Molinard, one of a handful of heritage perfume houses in France, which began in Grasse and still has a strong presence there. The collaboration resulted in two perfumes, Toujours Espoir and Etoile Celeste, both eaux de parfum.

Both fragrances are influenced by their Mediterranean garden, in which grow many of the plants that have traditionally inspired French perfumers: rose, jasmine, aromatic herbs, citruses, flowering perennials. The brand says:

A declaration of modern femininity audaciously revisiting the classic blend of jasmine and rose, two undisputed queens of perfumery traditionally cultivated in Grasse, the world’s perfume capital. A sensual chypre fragrance embracing the skin in an irresistible veil of intriguing mystery. An original signature for the woman who believes anything is possible.

More prosaically, Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: Top notes of Peony, Citruses and Pink Pepper; middle notes of Gardenia, Rose and Jasmine; base notes of Musk, Sandalwood and Patchouli. I found the opening to be just delightful. The citrus notes are more sweet than bitter; I don’t pick up bergamot. Maybe tangerine? The peony is present right away. In this fragrance, unlike many that list “pink pepper” as a note, I can actually smell it and it really adds to the charm of the opening.

The heart phase gets more and more floral, with rose and jasmine equally present. I don’t pick up much gardenia (which is very present in my garden, as my own gardenias have started blooming). There’s a touch of powder at this stage too, which enhances the softness of the fragrance; I actually think it comes from the musk base note emerging. As it dries down further, the patchouli and sandalwood notes add warmth and a tint of earthiness. I would barely call this a chypre, it is so gentle.

The rose in Toujours Espoir is based on rose absolute from the local Grasse “Rose de Mai”, Rosa centifolia. Nicole has written about her love for these roses and how she connects their beauty to her own values and beliefs. Today was a perfect day for me to sample this beautiful, gentle, hopeful fragrance. I named this blog “Serenity Now” originally, because I began writing it as a mindfulness exercise, to regain serenity during a stressful period, and remember to count my blessings. Then, of course, due to another writing project, I fell down the fragrance rabbit-hole and my blog became “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities.”

This week was also more hectic and stressful than I had expected, though nothing like the turmoil I had in 2015, so I’m thankful for that. But at the end of my workday, as I was deciding which scent to feature in today’s post, Toujours Espoir felt just right, especially as my youngest child got his second vaccine shot today — the last of the family to do so. Hope is emerging this spring and summer, as many of us are emerging from the past year of pandemic. I’m grateful for that, and for all of you, kind readers!

Perfumer's mansion in Grasse
Hotel Villa des Parfums, Grasse, France; image from http://www.villadesparfums.com