Scent Semantics, November 2021

Scent Semantics, November 2021

The inimitable Portia has come up with a new game for us perfumistas, to take place on six different blogs, every month! The chosen day for “Scent Semantics” is the first Monday of each month. The bloggers will take turns choosing a single word, then write a fragrant reflection on it. That could be a memory, of a scent the word evokes or something else, an actual name of a scent or note, a favorite work of art, whatever comes to mind. And readers can play in the comments, or just comment on the post!

The participating blogs are: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog!

Scent Semantics blog list

Portia chose the first word: “brave.” I have a fragrance I like to wear to feel brave, on days when I want a little confidence boost. It is Chanel No. 19. I hadn’t really thought of it that way until I started reading more about fragrance a few years ago, and learned that many people find it challenging, elegant but remote and even, one might say, a bit bitchy.

I feel it helps me straighten my shoulders and stiffen my backbone. This is just a conceit, of course, but No. 19 is undoubtedly cool, elegant, a bit unapproachable. I wear it when I anticipate conflict of some kind, especially at work. It reminds me to stay cool, and use my intellect instead of my emotions while I navigate whatever the conflict is. The version I have is the vintage eau de toilette, which means that the galbanum and oakmoss are full-force presences. I love both of them, there is just something about their bitter greenness that appeals to me (I also love bitter greens and vegetables, like arugula, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, etc., and we know that the senses of taste and smell are closely linked). Bergamot is another astringent note, one that I also associate with the color green.

Bitter greens; image from Splendid Recipes

Among No. 19’s floral notes are also some of my favorite flowers, which I think my subconscious must find comforting as well as empowering: hyacinth, iris, rose, lily of the valley, narcissus. Perfumes aside, those are flowers I grow myself, and grew up with, since my parents were avid gardeners. The heart of No. 19 is not bitter, or particularly green although the galbanum continues to make itself felt, but the most prominent flower notes are cool ones, like iris, orris root, lily of the valley, and narcissus. This is the stage when I think many perfume lovers find No. 19 lovely but remote — a bit standoffish.

The base notes are stern, dominated by oakmoss, vetiver, and leather. Minor players are cedar, musk, and sandalwood — all warmer notes than the dominant ones. Taken together, No. 19 gives me a quick burst of energy at the start, with bergamot’s brightness and galbanum’s assertiveness, then comes a heart phase that is more cerebral than ebullient, finishing with the formal base of its chypre structure. If that won’t stiffen a woman’s resolve and backbone, I don’t know what will! All of these impressions align with the presentation of my vintage EDT; I have the tall, refillable spray canister, with its square but rounded edges, its sleek columnar shape, its brushed silvery metal casing. If I had to pick a female incarnation of this fragrance, it would be another fashion diva, sometimes compared to Chanel: Diane von Furstenberg as she was in the 1970s, building a fashion empire on a simple wrap dress.

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in office
Diane von Furstenberg, 1974

What fragrance or fragrant memory might you associate with the word brave?

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

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 29, and I have exciting news to share! Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies, now posting on A Bottled Rose, has organized a group of us bloggers to engage in monthly “Scent Semantics”, when we will post on the same day (first Monday of each month) a fragrance-related reflection on a single word, linking it to a particular scent. We’ll take turns choosing the “word of the month.” You’ll have to check back on Monday to find out which word is first! And I hope you’ll join in this word game in the comments!

Portia provided this wonderful definition, by way of explaining the name of the game:

Scent Semantics, from “Semantics (Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a][1] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”

I love this name because in college, I majored in Classical Languages and Literature, with an emphasis on Ancient Greek. My official WordPress account name and email is The Wise Kangaroo, which is a mnemonic used by English speakers to remember a particular Greek metrical pattern from Ancient Greek lyric poetry and drama, about which I wrote my thesis.

The participating blogs are:

Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog next week!

In other excitement this week, Halloween is coming up on Sunday and here in the USA, public health officials have given a green light to the traditional trick-or-treating. As they noted, it is by definition an outdoor activity that usually includes masks, lol. So now I have to stock up on candy, because our neighborhood of old houses placed close together and linked by sidewalks is a very popular destination for families with treat-seeking children. Not only do we get kids from the neighborhood itself, other families drive here, park, and walk around with their kids. All are welcome! Even the long-leggedy beasties.

Halloween costumed dogs
Dogs as long-leggedy beasties

Do you have any Halloween plans? Any favorite scents to wear on Halloween? I think I may have to pull out some of my spookier samples from Solstice Scents.

Colorful jack o' lanterns with face masks
Pumpkins with face masks