Scented Advent, December 21

Scented Advent, December 21

On today’s winter solstice, Advent brought to me Hedonist Rose, by Viktoria Minya, a Hungarian perfumer based in Paris. Another perfume with a white wine accord!

Glass of white wine with flowers and fruit
White wine bouquet; image from Wine Enthusiast.

The notes list is (going by a published list as well as my own nose): lemon, peach, rose (top); rose, peach, white wine (heart); clove, amber, musk, vanilla (base). However, I perceive the top notes as facets of the dominant rose, since so many roses do smell of lemon and fruit together with the unmistakable floral note of “rose.” As soon as I applied it, my nose said “Rose!”, not “lemon” or “peach.” In fact, if you dislike clove in fragrance, fear not! I don’t smell a stand-alone clove at all. Just a slightly spicy rose. Similarly, the heart stage is all about rose and it begs the questions, which came first — the white wine or the rose? Because many white wines have intensely floral bouquets, as illustrated above. Not to mention the peach accord, which is also a scent note found in both roses and white wines.

This is a very summery rose, purely floral. Because of that peach note, it calls to mind the many pretty roses that come in shades of peachy-pink:

Display of peach-colored rose blossoms
Peach roses; image from fleurtyfleurs.com

As Hedonist Rose dries down, it becomes warmer and slightly less fruity, with a soft white musk at the base. I don’t pick up any vanilla or amber. All in all, this is a very appealing rose fragrance if you like rose scents, which I do; but there are others I would choose ahead of this one, both because of the fragrance and because of price. For some other suggestions, see my “Roses de Mai Marathon” posts! If I do that again next spring, maybe I’ll write about Hedonist Rose and Viktoria Minya in more detail.

Have you tried any of her line of perfumes? The original Hedonist seems to have been quite popular.

Array of peach-colored rose blossoms
Peachy roses; image from fleurtyfleurs.com
Scented Advent, December 16

Scented Advent, December 16

Today’s Advent SOTD is Dior’s Gris Dior, created by François Demachy and originally launched in 2013 as Gris Montaigne. It is a very beautiful, modern, rose chypre, with the classic bergamot opening, floral heart of rose and jasmine, and base notes that include oakmoss and patchouli. The latter are used with a light hand, though, and are joined in the base by cedar, amber, and sandalwood.

The name Gris Dior refers to Maison Dior’s signature shade of pearl grey, which is one of my favorite colors. It is so much more than a combination of white and black; it has a soupçon of lavender and even pink. It is one of the softest, most elegant colors I can imagine; and this fragrance evokes it to perfection. The photo below, borrowed from a favorite blog, Bois de Jasmin, is of the earlier version, Gris Montaigne, but it captures the idea of the colors so perfectly (as well as the pink rose and the grey oakmoss) I wanted to share it:

Bottle of Christian Dior fragrance Gris Montaigne with pink rose, grey background
Dior’s Gris Montaigne; image from boisdejasmin.com.

Interestingly, the paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore (whose colors are exceptional, imho) sells a paint color called “Dior Grey”, but it is darker than what I think of as Dior grey, although it does align more closely with the darker accent colors on Dior’s flagship store on the Avenue Montaigne:

Facade of Dior flagship store in Paris
Dior’s flagship store, Avenue Montaigne, Paris; image from kafkaesqueblog.com.

Another favorite blog, Kafkaesque, had this review of the original Gris Montaigne, with some charming reminiscences of the actual store, which is painted in the house’s signature pearl grey. (I had a more positive view of the fragrance than Kafkaesque did; she loved the opening stages but was disappointed in the drydown). In couture, the combination of that pearl grey and pale pink was a favorite of M. Dior, dating back apparently to his childhood home, a rose-colored villa set above grey rocks. I have that combination in a favorite set of scarf and matching gloves in soft pink and grey cashmere (not Dior!); it’s such a pretty, feminine color scheme, and I’m now reminded to pull those out now that the weather is cooler. I can spray them with Gris Dior!

My experience with Gris Dior has been very satisfactory so far; I’m enjoying the drydown, as it gets warmer and cozier after the bright bergamot opening and soft floral heart. The use of oakmoss here is very clever; it evokes one of the most legendary chypre fragrances of all time, the original Miss Dior, named for M. Dior’s sister Catherine, a heroine of the French Resistance. It also lends the grey tones to the pale pink of the rose and jasmine floral accords in Gris Dior, because it is so lightly blended in that one doesn’t get the full force of what many perceive as the dark, inky influence of oakmoss in fragrance. Nevertheless, it is definitely there. Kafkaesque was troubled by the purple patchouli she smelled as dominating the base, but my nose doesn’t really pick that up. The amber and sandalwood accords in the base, undergirded by cedar, add to its warmth and soften the oakmoss.

Really, Gris Dior is a disarming and elegant fragrance that I could see wearing more often. Perfect for wearing to an office, and also lovely for a quiet, candlelit dinner out with a loved one. It is part of Dior’s “Collection Privèe”, and priced accordingly. Have you tried it, or any others from that collection?

Scented Advent, December 13

Scented Advent, December 13

Today’s Advent calendar post was slightly delayed because I had to have an early morning appointment with my dentist to investigate an ongoing toothache. Ugh, I hate dental work although I like my dentist very much. Anyway, the SOTD is Rosa Nigra, from the UNUM line of fragrances launched by a lifestyle and artistic brand called Filippo Sorcinelli. Rosa Nigra was released in 2015. The name means “black rose”, but not a single rose note is listed. Fragrantica lists these notes: Artemisia and Anise (top); Peach, Sandalwood and Freesia (heart); Musk, Cashmere Wood, Amber and Vanilla (base). The brand’s website calls this fragrance “an olfactory paraphrase of the Assumption” and says “The Virgin Mary who ascends to heaven ‘in body and soul’: all the materials that compose her call to mind a rose that in reality is not present.”

Purple prose aside, the few commenters on Fragrantica claim to smell the rose that isn’t there. Rosa Nigra also got a favorable review as a “created rose” fragrance on the blog Fragroom. I don’t smell any rose. I do smell the herbal opening notes, artemisia and anise, which I like; I also get the peach and sandalwood heart notes, but no freesia. The drydown smells to me like a kind of mash-up of the listed base notes. It’s quite pleasant, but not distinctive. I don’t get or expect much sillage, as Rosa Nigra comes in an extrait format.

Of course, the name itself may be a giveaway of a fragrant sleight-of-hand, since there is no such thing as a black rose in nature. There are some very dark crimson or burgundy roses, that may even blacken somewhat as their blossoms age, but black roses are as fanciful as blue roses — figments of the imagination. Some florists may dye dark roses with black ink.

Artificially black roses in bouquet
“Black” roses in bouquet; image from orchidrepublic.com.

I like Rosa Nigra but there are so many other, actual rose scents, and other scents with better drydowns, so I won’t be seeking out a full bottle. Have you encountered any of the UNUM fragrances? And do you understand the brand’s prose??

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: 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: 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
May Melange Marathon: Rose Griotte

May Melange Marathon: Rose Griotte

Thanks to a kind reader, I have a generous sample of Les Parfums de Rosine‘s latest fragrance, Rose Griotte. It is lovely! Launched in February of this year (2021), it was created by perfumer Nicholas Bonneville with Marie-Helene Rogeon. Interestingly, it is really a cherry blossom fragrance, but it has been anchored by a rose accord, as Mark Behnke explains on his blog, Colognoisseur:

The keynote floral is cherry blossom. There is little chance any rose essential oil wouldn’t trample the delicacy of that. So they make the clever choice to use a rose accord of three fresh florals as its balancing partner. It begins with a juice dripping, fruity top accord around pear. There is a bit of citrus and baie rose to provide some rounding effect, but the earliest moments are a ripe pear. Then the heart finds the beautiful powdery fragility of the cherry blossom matched with an expansive rose accord of peony, jasmine, and heliotrope. The last also has a bit of cherry in its scent profile which allows it to act as complement.

“Griotte” is apparently a wild cherry, sometimes called a Morello cherry, whose fruit is more sour than the cherries we commonly buy at the market. Like tart apples, the sour cherries make for very flavorful pies, clafoutis, and preserves. It has blossoms that are just as beautiful as the famous cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. Most of those thousands of trees are Yoshino Cherry. Other species include Kwanzan Cherry, Akebono Cherry, Takesimensis Cherry, Usuzumi Cherry, Weeping Japanese Cherry, Sargent Cherry, Autumn Flowering Cherry, Fugenzo Cherry, Afterglow Cherry, Shirofugen Cherry, and Okame Cherry.

Flowering sour cherry tree in spring with pink blossoms
Sour cherry tree; Prunus cerasus.
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May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

May Melange Marathon: La Colle Noire

Happy May Day, and welcome to the May Melange Marathon! In previous years, I have written blogging marathons in the month of May, celebrating the lovely lily of the valley in a “May Muguet Marathon“, and my beloved roses in a “Roses de Mai Marathon.” This year, I wanted to write about a number of the green fragrances I love, but I didn’t think I had enough to post about one daily for 31 days. Also, I have some new (to me) muguet and rose fragrances. So the solution is to go with the theme of “April showers bring May flowers” and write about a melange of scents that evoke different aspects of a garden, with a mix of florals and greens.

First up: Christian Dior’s La Colle Noire. Launched in 2016, it is named for the Provence estate of designer Christian Dior, outside the legendary perfume city of Grasse. One of the reasons that Grasse became so important in perfumery is the abundance and quality of the roses that are grown there for their essential oil, especially the “Rose de Mai”, or centifolia rose, also known as the Provence rose. Perfumer Francois Demachy wrote of La Colle Noire:

“In the springtime, the Centifolia Rose takes over the garden of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s beloved home in the Grasse region. It is an extraordinary time, when the flower’s plump, honeyed and fruity scent lingers in the air. This fragrance is an ode to that magical place and the unique rose that grows in the land of my childhood.”

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Perfume Chat Room, October 23

Perfume Chat Room, October 23

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 23, and we are about to lose power for the day. I know this, not because I am a weather savant, but because we have asked the power company to turn it off today while carpenters and painters renovate the part of our old house where the main power line enters from the street. Yes, our neighborhood and house are old enough that we have unsightly and lethal power lines above ground, where falling tree branches and gnawing squirrels can do their worst. So if I don’t “like” or respond to comments until tonight or tomorrow, the lack of electricity and internet will be the reason!

One reason we need power off for several hours is that the carpenters are building a shallow wall pergola, sometimes called an eyebrow pergola, over our old porte-cochere where a huge and ancient Lady Banks rose grows. It is currently supported by an ungainly system of metal hooks and wire, with one end of the rose basically resting on — yes — the power line. Time for that to change! This is the general idea:

Eyebrow wall pergola over garage doors
Eyebrow pergola, Southern Woodcraft.

Unlike my other roses, the Lady Banks rose has very little fragrance. As you know if you read my “Roses de Mai Marathon” posts this spring, I love rose fragrances, so this is a slight flaw in an otherwise magnificent plant. Most of the roses I grow are from David Austin Roses, which have been bred specifically for fragrance as well as “Old Rose” flower shapes.

Our Lady Banks rose is very precious despite its lack of fragrance. Our house was owned for almost fifty years by a couple who were passionate gardeners and our 1/3 acre lot has many of their original plantings, including the rose. Its base is as thick as many small trees’ trunks, and strong men have to lift it off the house any time we get the house painted, and rest it on sawhorses made of ladders. We are finally doing the whole-house exterior painting and woodwork repair that are overdue, while we work at home and can supervise, so we’re taking the opportunity to upgrade Madam Lady Banks’ living quarters.

Have you used any pandemic shutdowns to undertake large projects, fragrance-related or otherwise?

Perfume Chat Room, October 15

Perfume Chat Room, October 15

I’m a day early posting this week, because I’m taking today off work! And The New York Times has a great article about scent, which asks: “What Does It Smell Like Where You Are?”, which I thought many of you would enjoy.

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 Thursday, October 15, and I have good news — my daughter, who caught COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago through her job as a teacher, has recovered and is out of isolation! The rest of us will still be in quarantine until Saturday, per the guidelines, but she can join us upstairs again instead of living separated in the basement level of our house. It’s pretty comfortable and has its own bathroom, but she was lonely no matter how much Facetime she did with us and her friends. She has lost most of her sense of taste and smell — that happened about a week into her illness. So fingers crossed those both come back soon. I read an article about using essential oils to re-train someone’s sense of smell, and I’ve been joking with her that I AM READY to help, with my large collection of fragrances.

To emulate the Times, what does it smell like where you are? Even more specifically, the article asks: “What scents would you put in your own ‘personal smell museum?’ What is the smell that, for you, is so singular and specific that you wish you had one word to describe it?”

Here, I smell damp earth still, after all the rain we had last weekend, mixed with the smell of fallen leaves, and occasional whiffs of autumn roses and tomato leaves from what remains of my summer garden. I do think those autumn roses may be the sweetest of all, coming as they often do one at a time, unexpectedly, with the promise of summers to come. Time to pull out my spicier roses, like Rose Flash, Tudor Rose, Cabaret, Elisabethan Rose

What’s new in your world? Any new fall fragrances?