Scented Advent, December 24

Scented Advent, December 24

Happy Christmas Eve! Today is the last day of Advent, the period when Christians await the coming of the newborn Jesus on Christmas Day, so it is also the last day of my scented Advent calendar posts. I’ve had so much fun doing this! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along; thanks for joining me on this journey. Major thanks especially to the lovely reader and active perfumista who sent me the samples that I’ve used to fill my DIY fragrance Advent calendar!

My Advent SOTD is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ French Linden Blossom. Normally I would say that it is seasonally out of sync, as it is such a spring-like fragrance, but today dawned as a sunny day with temperatures expected to reach into the 60s. Quite balmy for Christmas Eve! However, not that unusual here in the Southeastern US, where people garden, and play sports like golf and tennis, through the whole winter.

Linden blossom is the blossom of “lime trees”, sometimes called “French Lime”. It’s not a scent I know in real life; in my area, when I encounter real citrus trees and their blooms, they are always orange or lemon trees, to be grown in pots that can be moved indoors (our weather is pretty balmy for wintertime, but not so balmy that the more tropical citrus trees can stay outside year-round). Update: some of my readers have clarified that the “lime trees” that are also called “linden” are not related to the limes that produce citrus. There is an excellent article about LINDEN trees here: “What Is Drifting In The Breeze?“. Thanks for the help, commenters!

Flower of linden or lime tree
Linden Blossom; image from selfsufficientish.com

All share the quality of having a light, white floral scent, and that is what I get from French Linden Blossom. When I first sprayed it, I got a hint of cucumber or melon, which surprised me until I read this on DSH Perfumes’ website: “An ethereal, almost cucumber-like floral note with sweet honey-melon nuances.” Bingo!

I’ve written before about cucumber/melon accords in fragrance: Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Après La Mousson. Apparently they often come from the aromachemical Melonal, so I’m sure that (or something similar) is present in French Linden Blossom. The citrus notes in UJALM are said to include lime, but that refers to the citrus fruit, not the flowers and not linden. The DSH Perfumes website refers to French Linden Blossom as an accord, and that seems right to my nose — it is pretty linear. To my nose, it smells more greenish white. It’s very pleasant, but I think I would like it better in really warm weather like late spring or summer. As it dries down, it gets a bit soapy, also very pleasantly. It is a fresh, clean fragrance that one could wear anywhere. I do think it is more casual than one might choose for an evening out or special occasion, but it’s a great scent to just spritz on in the morning as a casual fragrance.

I’m very happy that my final “Scented Advent” post can focus on an independent artisan perfumer like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz! The last two years have been very hard on many small businesses and it’s important to support the perfume artists we love, who continually advance the limits of fragrance art. One way to do that is to buy directly from their websites, and right now one can use a 20% off code on Dawn’s website, light20, which I think is good through the end of December. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan!

Do you have a favorite linden blossom fragrance? And for those who celebrate them, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas! I’ll be in the kitchen, in my garden, and at church today. All our kids are home, and all’s right with the world, at least our tiny part of it. May this Christmas season usher in a time of happiness, health, peace, and goodwill for all.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from metmuseum.org
Scented Advent, December 23

Scented Advent, December 23

Today’s Advent SOTD is Helmut Lang, by the fashion house Helmut Lang, in eau de parfum. I assume this is the 2014 reissue of the 2000 release and cult classic, by Maurice Roucel. Not to worry, perfumistas! A Vogue editor for whom the original was a signature scent has written that to her nose, it is identical to the 2000 version. She also includes the important information that the reissue was overseen by the original perfumer, M. Roucel, which is reassuring. She calls it “sweet, powdery, strangely appealing”, and I agree. Its notes include: Lavender, Rosemary and Cotton candy (top); Heliotrope, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-Valley and Rose (middle); Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cedar and Patchouli (base). The list for the 2014 reissue does not include cotton candy or vanilla, and it adds artemisia and orange flower. Like many other commenters, I definitely still smell vanilla, listed or not, but it’s possible that accord is evoked by the combination of lavender and heliotrope with sandalwood and other notes.

Claire at the blog Take One Thing Off also liked the 2014 eau de parfum; in her review, she wrote about how it reminded her of the scent of her young children at bathtime and bedtime: softly floral, powdery, lightly musky like towels on clean skin and hair. She accurately described how irresistible to a parent is the smell of their own little ones — I’m sure that’s an evolutionary trick played on us to make sure we keep feeding the little imps, and don’t throttle them in our lowest moments of stress! Believe it or not, I actually found a photo that shows a rosemary called “Baby PJ”, for its small stature and light blue flowers, with a figurine of Cicely Mary Barker‘s Lavender Fairy:

Figurine of Lavender Flower Fairy, with plant of rosemary "Baby PJ"
Lavender Flower Fairy with rosemary “Baby PJ”; image from mulberryminiatures.com

One cannot imagine a picture or scent memory that contrasts more with the signature style of Helmut Lang‘s fashions, which has been described thus:

“Quintessential minimalism” springs to mind when thinking of Helmut Lang, the namesake label of Austrian designer Helmut Lang. He is arguably one of the most influential designers of the last three decades (although Lang himself retired from fashion in 2005 to fully focus on his art career,) and his legacy still resonates across runways today. The iconic designer pioneered minimalism in the ’90s with his sharp-cut tailoring and androgynous, utilitarian pieces adorned with bondage straps and harnesses.

The only aspect of this aesthetic that aligns with the fragrance is that the fragrance itself is meant to be completely unisex, and I think it succeeds. It opens with a dominant note, to my nose, of artemisia that is soon overtaken by lavender, supported by rosemary; the heliotrope quickly joins them and lends that powdery facet to the scent.

As it dries down, Helmut Lang becomes even softer and more floral, but the lavender is still central, which I think makes it more unisex and more traditionally wearable by men (though I firmly believe men and women should wear whatever scent they like!). In fact, at this stage it reminds me of the ultimate amber fougère, originally created for men but soon adopted by women: Guerlain’s Jicky. They share many notes, from lavender to vanilla, and they convey the same aura of both comfort and simple elegance. It’s as if your stylish husband had taken off his suit jacket and tie, and was on his knees by the bathtub helping to bathe your children in his shirtsleeves. Mothers, you KNOW how irresistible that would be!

The sandalwood emerges, a very soft and subtle sandalwood. Although musk isn’t listed as a note or accord, many commenters feel it is central to this fragrance and compare Helmut Lang to another Roucel creation of the early 2000s, Editions Frederic Malle’s Musc Ravageur. Most find this one softer, though, less aggressively musky.

All in all, I’m really taken with Helmut Lang. I think I may have a Scentbird decant of it in my stash, and I’ll now look it out, given how appealing the sample has proven to be. Have you tried any of the reissued fragrances from Helmut Lang?

Scented Advent, December 22

Scented Advent, December 22

Only a few more days of Advent to go! Today’s Advent surprise scent is By Kilian’s Liaisons Dangereuses, named for the decidedly unholy, notorious 18th century novel that has inspired award-winning stage plays and films.

Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons movie
Dangerous Liaisons; image from Orion Pictures

Perfumer Calice Becker is the nose behind its creation, and it was launched in 2007. Fragrantica classifies it as a fruity chypre, with top notes of Peach, Plum, Black Currant and Coconut; middle notes of Rose, Geranium, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Cinnamon; and base notes of Musk, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Woodsy Notes, Vetiver and Vanilla.

As one expects from Ms. Becker, this fragrance exhibits intelligence and elegance. To my nose, it is clearly unisex, reflecting the central roles of both Merteuil and Valmont, and their wicked collaborations. It opens with a sharp bite of blackcurrant, reminiscent of their malice. And that peach note! Dangerous, indeed. As that writer notes, “The peach is both seductive and deceitful.” The blackcurrant and peach dominate the opening, not unpleasantly; there is a languorous undercurrent that I will attribute to the coconut accord. Next up are the rose, geranium, and musk mallow, which convey seduction. I don’t smell cinnamon at this stage. The warm base notes are all about sex, with an undertone of bitterness from the oakmoss. Brilliant! The structure and development of Liaisons Dangereuses align closely with the actual plot of the story, without straying into explicitness. This is a scent many of us would be happy to wear, as opposed to the infamous ELdO creation, Secretions Magnifiques.

And yet, when you get right down to it, the latter might be a more accurate portrayal of the story, which involves illicit sex, seduction, betrayal, rape, miscarriage. The genius of the novel and its later iterations lies in part in how it shows the ugliness of the aristocratic characters’ actual behavior and how it is camouflaged and masked by their extravagantly ornate clothing, their elegant interiors, their wealth and breeding. Secretions Magnifiques could be a signature scent for the Vicomte de Valmont as played by John Malkovich.

Liaisons Dangereuses is more polite. The rose does not dominate the heart phase; I would say that rose, geranium, and musk mallow play equal roles here. In fact, one could analogize them to the three main characters of the movie “Dangerous Liaisons”, the rose standing in for Michelle Pfeiffer’s lovely and virtuous Mme. de Tourvel, the rose-resembling but astringent geranium for Glenn Close as the Marquise de Merteuil, and the musk mallow for John Malkovich’s Valmont.

I find this to be a very wearable fragrance, appropriate even for the workplace if applied lightly. The opening is actually wonderful, and different from more mainstream fragrances, and it segues beautifully into the heart notes. I found the base to be appealing and well-done, but less distinctive.

Confession: I’ve never actually watched the whole movie “Dangerous Liaisons”, because it gives me the creeps. That’s probably partly because of the outstanding acting by Close and Malkovich, who both have an uncanny ability to play attractive villains. Also, I find the whole storyline about Cécile, the 15 year-old virgin whom Valmont assaults for revenge (his own and Merteuil’s, for different reasons) very disturbing, especially in the aftermath of revelations about Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Though I will continue to avoid the movie, I like the fragrance, and it is a brilliant creation. I’m not surprised that Luca Turin gave it four stars, and I’m glad to have had the chance to sample it.

I haven’t tried many of By Kilian’s fragrances, though I’ve liked the few I have tried, and one of my daughters really liked Water Calligraphy when she accompanied me on a perfume-sniffing excursion. Do you have any favorites? Or particular dislikes?

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 20

Scented Advent, December 20

The scent Advent sent me today is Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Teazzurra, part of its light, refreshing Aqua Allegoria line. It’s very pretty! I really like its citrusy opening, where the other citruses crowd out the yuzu enough that I can tolerate it (for some odd reason, I don’t react well to yuzu notes in fragrance). The lemon and grapefruit top notes dominate, to my nose, and the bergamot is there to lend some greenness but it doesn’t make this smell like Earl Grey tea. I love Earl Grey tea, but the bergamot here is much more subdued.

The tea accord here is a green tea, so that’s another departure from the classic Earl Grey. Teazzurra was launched in 2015, created by Thierry Wasser. Listed notes are: Lemon, Bergamot, Yuzu and Grapefruit (top); Green Tea, Chamomile and Jasmine (middle); Calone, Vanilla and Musk (base). Right from the start, I smell the green tea and chamomile together with the citrus notes; the opening is fresh and piquant, as if it intends to gently wake up one’s nose with a bright ray of sunlight.

Bottle of Aqua Allegoria Teazzurra eau de toilette
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Teazzurra; image from brand.

As it develops, it reminds me of Gucci’s Mémoire d’une Odeur, another fragrance that centers on a chamomile accord. Mémoire d’une Odeur is more herbal and woody, more unisex, and it doesn’t have those bright, sunny citrus top notes which make Teazzurra so summery. I really experience this as a scent I’d like to wear in summertime, preferably wearing some kind of floaty white linen on a lovely terrace, set in a garden that I don’t manage. Specifically, in the South of France.

This fragrance evokes for me one of our last pre-pandemic trips abroad, to Nice. It just feels as if it would go perfectly with the Promenade des Anglais and the Belle Epoque architecture along the water. As it develops further, I do pick up a hint of fresh green jasmine, but it’s very light and does not overwhelm the green tea and chamomile. In fact, it’s more like jasmine tea than jasmine flowers, soft and refreshing. The Calone adds a watery facet to Teazzurra, appropriate for a spa town, and in fact this scent also evokes a very upscale, peaceful spa. Whatever musk accord is in the base, it is very clean, white, and soft; there is nothing animalic here at all.

I’m really enjoying Teazzurra; I remember being curious about it when it launched, mostly because of its lovely packaging and its pale blue color. It is truly more of a summer fragrance to my nose, though; so I’ll look forward to trying it again when our weather is hot and humid. Do you have any favorites in the Aqua Allegoria line?

Scented Advent, December 18

Scented Advent, December 18

Advent SOTD today is Regime des Fleurs’ Glass Blooms. I like it a lot so far, but it doesn’t really suit the winter holiday season, as a light, summery floral! But that’s how Advent surprises work — one doesn’t know what one will get. This particular scent was created for the brand by perfumer Mathieu Nardin, who works for the fragrance company Mane and who has created a very wide range of scents for many brands. Perhaps most notably, he has created several for Miller Harris from 2015 to present, as well as the many he has created for Regime des Fleurs and other niche brands. The brand’s website lists these notes for Glass Blooms: Riesling grape, muguet, tea rose, peony, ylang ylang Nossi-bé, sandalwood, tonka bean absolute, ambrette and musk. If, like me, you are wondering what is “Nossi-bé”, it is the name of an island in Madagascar.

Right away, I smell the Riesling grape accord, and it is delightful. It’s not “grapey” at all, in the sense of that artificial purple, Nehi soda, grape smell and flavor. It is light and sparkling, floral but also fruity without being sweet. And of course, as regular readers here know, I love a good muguet! I wouldn’t say that muguet is dominant here, but there’s a green-and-white floral freshness to the opening of Glass Blooms that I can attribute to it. Because white wine grapes often bear the aromas of other fruits, I can also smell pears, apples, and a bit of light cherry. Really, the opening of Glass Blooms is pretty, floral like a Riesling wine’s bouquet, and charming.

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

The fruitiness fades a bit and the more traditionally floral notes emerge, with peony leading the way. This is a fragrance I will enjoy in the summertime, which is also when I prefer to drink most white wines. I actually don’t drink much Riesling, as so many kinds are too sweet for my taste, but last summer on a visit to Asheville, we went to the Biltmore winery and had an outstanding Riesling there. It was light and refreshing but drier than what I think of as the “usual” Riesling. Glass Blooms reminds me of that. And it’s a fitting analogy, since the Biltmore Estate is famous for its gardens and glasshouses full of flowers.

I wouldn’t say this is a very complex fragrance, but that opening is lovely, and it does have a nice progression from fruits to florals to a soft, warm, lightly musky base. “Light” is the mot du jour with regard to Glass Blooms; it floats off the skin. This would be very suitable for a workplace or most occasions; it won’t meet your needs if what you want is a va-va-voom, sensual powerhouse. There is no spice accord in it at all, which is fine by me; I like spices in scents but I don’t have to have them all the time. I’ll be looking for something a bit spicier and more winterish later today, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying Glass Blooms!

Do you ever smell wine accords in fragrances? Have you tried this or any of the others in from Regime des Fleurs?

Scented Advent, December 17

Scented Advent, December 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas lights in Barcelona
Barcelona. Christmas lights, Diagonal.

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

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 15

Scented Advent, December 15

What a pleasure, to open today’s Advent calendar drawer and find a sample of Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Woman! I’ve tried it before, from a discovery set, and liked it very much, but I’ve bought other Ormonde Jayne scents in full bottles (my favorite being Ta’if), so hadn’t returned recently to this one. Launched in 2002, it was created, like all the Ormonde Jayne signature fragrances, by perfumer Geza Schoen, working with the brand’s founder Linda Pilkington. It is woody and aromatic; the brand’s own description is as follows:

Beginning and ending with the unique scent of Black Hemlock absolute – rarely used in such luscious quality and quantity – this utterly hypnotic, unconventional and mysterious woody essence is combined with jasmine and violet absolute to create a dusky, seductive perfume.

The notes listed on the brand’s website are: Cardamom, Coriander and Grass Oil (top); Black Hemlock, Violet and Jasmine Absolute (heart); and Vetiver, Cedar Wood, Amber and Sandalwood (base). This is a brilliantly structured and executed fragrance. The top notes are very clear and distinct, though well-blended; to my nose, the grass oil is dominant, but then the cardamom and coriander become more evident. As the heart phase emerges and the top notes step back, one can clearly smell both violet and jasmine absolute, with a greenish, woody, undercurrent that I assume is the black hemlock. This middle phase lasts a good while, at least an hour; to my nose, the most lasting middle note is the violet.

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez awarded Ormonde Woman five stars in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide”, and described it as a “forest chypre.” Comparing it to Chanel’s Bois des Iles, Ms. Sanchez noted that it has “all the sophistication … but none of the sleepy comfort.” Instead, she felt it evoked “the haunting, outdoors witchiness of tall pines leaning into the night.” I agree with the witchiness, but I hesitate to use the word “pines” in relation to Ormonde Woman, lest a reader think it smells like air freshener or floor cleaner! It certainly does not. It does smell evergreenish, to coin a word; but these are living evergreens, rising from a forest floor dotted with violets. It calls to mind a sight often seen on the highways and byways of the Southeast: pine woods in which yellow Carolina jessamine has run wild, so that its vining, yellow flowers fling themselves all over the dark green branches of the pine trees in early spring.

Yellow jessamine flowering vine on pine trees in Georgia
Carolina jessamine in pine trees; image from usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com

Another vine that does this is the wisteria vine, which smells to me more like the violets featured in Ormonde Woman, though not in its native American form (varieties of Asian wisteria, which are fragrant, have escaped into the wild and have become invasive in hardwood forests).

As it dries down, Ormonde Woman becomes warmer and woodier. I can smell sandalwood and amber more than cedar and vetiver, and yet there is a dryness to the base that tells me they are present. This is a lovely, sophisticated but approachable fragrance, and I look forward to getting to know it better!

Scented Advent, December 14

Scented Advent, December 14

Another favorite independent perfumer showed up in my fragrance Advent calendar today: Jeffrey Dame, of Dame Perfumery! Jeffrey Dame has had a long career in the cosmetic and fragrance industry; Dame Perfumery, which he co-founded with his son and runs as a family business, launched its first fragrances in 2014. There are several lines within its brand; today’s scent is one of its “Soliflore” oils, Soliflore Orange Flower. The brand website calls the Soliflore line “photorealistic fragrances”, and that’s pretty accurate.

Orange flower blossoms on branch with orange fruit
Orange blossom and orange; image from petalrepublic.com

Soliflore Orange Flower is a light, pretty orange flower, with lemony highlights. I find it less indolic than jasmine or tuberose; the lemony aspect lightens and brightens it. Fragrance writer Ida Meister chose it as a favorite in a Fragrantica piece some years ago, on Dame Perfumery’s “Best In Show“:

Dame Perfumery Soliflore Orange Flower was a revelation to me from the first wearing. So very dense and fulsome, bursting initially with that juicy yet faintly mentholated undertone which renders it photorealistic. It recalls the manner in which tuberose and other white flowers often echo this particular aspect before waxing imminently floral and expansive.

After the juice, sweet, tangy [bergamot?], subterranean-ly medicinal – comes the indolent indolic: divine decay, sex and death. It is the swan song of orange blossoms: “The silver Swan, who, living, had no Note, when Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.”

Orlando Gibbons, 1611

One of the aspects I like very much about Dame Perfumery and its creations is how user-friendly and budget-friendly they are. Beyond the Soliflores, there is the DAME Artist Collection of perfumes; and also the JD Jeffrey Dame Post-Modern Perfume line. Among the Artist Collection, I really like Black Flower Mexican Vanilla; and in the JD line, I like JD Duality, and most of the others I’ve tried. All are priced very reasonably for their quality and concentration; and when one orders directly from the Dame Perfumery website, the order comes with extra goodies like samples, a discount code, postcards, etc.

Soliflore Orange Flower is of a piece with this approach: straightforward, user-friendly, reasonably priced. It’s not pretending to be anything but a straight-up orange flower fragrance. It would be fun to layer it with other Dame Perfumery creations, like the Eaux de Toilette line.

Do you like soliflore fragrances? Do you ever layer them with other scents?