Scented Advent, December 17

Scented Advent, December 17

The Guerlain Advent sample today is Rose Barbare, created by Francis Kurkdjian and launched in 2005. I think it was one of three original fragrances in the “L’Art et la Matière” collection. It is a gorgeous rose, if you don’t mind aldehydes in the opening. I get along well with aldehydes, one of my favorite fragrances is Chanel No. 22, which is loaded with them, so that’s not an issue for me. Aldehydes seem to be the main focus of any critical comments on Fragrantica. The full list of notes, according to Fragrantica, is: top notes of rose and aldehydes; middle notes of rose and fenugreek; base notes of honey, patchouli, and woody notes.

At the start, I could have sworn I smelled something lemony, but it came and went so quickly, I couldn’t tell. The rose leaps forward, lifted airborne by aldehydes. These aren’t your mother’s aldehydes, to my nose they smell fresher and more vibrant than more old-fashioned aldehydic fragrances. And the rose is specifically said to be “Ottoman rose”, which I assume is at least one actual ingredient. That may have inspired the name that means “barbaric rose”, but that seems rude given the sophistication of the Ottoman Empire.

Sultan with a rose; image from Daily Sabah
Sultan with a rose; image from Daily Sabah

The fenugreek in the middle stage lends a certain dustiness to the rose, which is still going strong. I find this an appealing combination, as the rose still smells great and dominates. It is hard to say when the base notes emerge, because they do so very subtly with sweetness from a honey accord, earthiness from patchouli, and woody notes. I don’t know why this fragrance is described as a chypre floral, without the classic chypre structure and accords. Nevertheless, Rose Barbare smells wonderful. It is by no means a soliflore, but the rose clearly takes center stage.

If you’ve tried or owned Rose Barbare, please jump in via the comments!

Scented Advent, December 5

Scented Advent, December 5

Today’s Advent scent is another Guerlain sample from the collection “L’Art et La Matière”, Épices Volées, which debuted in 2021 in its current form (commenters note that it is a slight reformulation of the earlier Arsène Lupin Voyou). Fragrantica lists it as a “woody chypre” with top notes of coriander, lemon, artemisia and bergamot; middle notes of clove, cardamom, sage, and Bulgarian rose; base notes of sandalwood, patchouli, benzoin, and labdanum.

I really like artemisia (sometimes listed as davana) as a note in fragrance. It is a shape-shifter, changing with each wearing and on each wearer’s skin; also, it is a bitter green herb, and I tend to love those. I don’t smell much lemon in the opening of Épices Volèes, my nose is captivated by the artemisia, coriander, and bergamot. The bergamot is very light, it comes and goes quickly. The coriander segues into the spices of the middle notes; to my nose, they are mostly the cardamom and sage. I pick up some clove but it doesn’t smell dominant to me. I assume the rose is there, because there is a smooth floralcy to the heart phase, but to be honest, I don’t smell it as a stand-alone note.

Containers of various spices
Variety of spices; image from lovefood.com

The warm spices of the heart phase give way gradually to the warmth of sandalwood, benzoin, and labdanum in the base, with a hint of patchouli. This base is much gentler than what I usually associate with chypres (which I love, by the way), without the backbone of oakmoss. It is very appealing, though, and I think the whole fragrance would appeal to many who don’t enjoy chypres. If there is one word I might associate with Épices Volèes, it is “ingratiating”, in a good way. This is not a dramatic fragrance that demands one’s attention, it is comfortable like a well-loved cashmere sweater. In fact, it steals up on you not unlike the namesake of its predecessor, Arsène Lupin, which is named for the beloved fictional French “gentleman thief” who appeared in many novels at the turn of the twentieth century.

Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix, wearing a soft sweater
Actor Omar Sy, who plays Arsène Lupin on Netflix.

This fragrance is definitely unisex. If you are a woman who likes to wear spicy sandalwood and resin fragrances, you might love it. I particularly like the resins among the base notes; I also appreciate that the spices don’t hit you over the head, they are subtle and well-blended. Do you have any favorite spice-focused fragrances, or spice notes in fragrance?

Perfume Chat Room, September 30

Perfume Chat Room, September 30

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, September 30, and I have been to perfume Mecca, i.e. the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. Shout-out also to the Chanel boutique in the Encore hotel, where a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant called Yannis chatted with me about Chanel fragrances and where they had the whole Exclusifs line. I’ll write more about that later!

Shalimar, at the Guerlain boutique

This is only my second visit ever to Las Vegas; as I’ve written before, it’s not really my kind of scene as I dislike crowds and noise, and I don’t gamble. But on this trip, I didn’t feel any need to visit or see most of the Strip; instead, I focused on doing a few specific things, including a “field trip” outside the city to Red Rock Canyon, culminating in sunset over the desert — just beautiful. The Guerlain boutique was top of my list of destinations, but I also checked out a number of other fragrance retailers so I could write an updated, longer post about perfume tourism in Las Vegas. Stay tuned!

I can’t believe September is over as of today. It is probably my favorite month, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the fall too. One reason I like the fall is that in my climate, that is the best season for planting in my garden; and it’s the season to plant the spring bulbs I love so much. Of course, it is also hurricane season, and my thoughts are with those who have already been so badly affected, as well as those who will be.

It has become a joke, but “pumpkin spice” season is in full swing here in the US! Everywhere I turn, there are pumpkin spice drinks, desserts, and room fragrances. Luckily, our hotel’s signature fragrance in all the bathrooms and associated products is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost, which I greatly enjoyed. Very apropos, since Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert — and not a pumpkin in sight.

Hotel toiletries

Do you have any particular plans for October? I plan to keep clearing clutter from our house; and if I get really motivated, to bring some order to my fragrance collection.

Perfume Chat Room, April 8

Perfume Chat Room, April 8

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, April 8, and we’ve gone from one weather extreme to another here. The week started out as gorgeous springtime, sunny and blooming. It was “Scent Semantics” Monday, and I got to choose the word this month, which was “vernal.” Then we had two days of violent storms, including a couple with extremely loud thunder and lots of lightning, accompanied by a 20-degree drop in temperatures. Our dog Lucy was NOT happy!

Lucy, not happy

Yesterday and today dawned bright and sunny again, and Lucy’s tail is wagging. She loves to lie in the sun outside in our garden (which is totally fenced, with a secured gate). We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week, which brought to mind the strange mix of weather we had on our wedding day: April snow, April showers, brilliant sunshine amid April flowers.

Le Jardin de Old Herbaceous

This weekend is Palm Sunday, soon to be followed by Easter. I love Easter, maybe even more than Christmas because it is so vernal (see what I did there?). I adore the many Easter flowers on display indoors and out. I love Easter food (we always have a traditional roast leg of lamb), and I love having our kids home for the holiday. I love the Easter music and services at our church

April this year is filled with important holidays: Passover, Ramadan, Easter. I enjoy learning about all the different traditions. I wish I’d had more opportunities to learn about them when I was in school, as my children have had, but better late than never.

I think my Easter fragrance will be vintage Dior Lily. It’s a lovely combination of spring florals, mostly Muguet and white lilies. As many of you know, though, I have SO many muguet fragrances that I won’t lack for choices!

Do you have any upcoming celebrations or favorite fragrances to match with holidays?

May Melange Marathon: Lady Day

May Melange Marathon: Lady Day

This week, all the gardenias in my garden and neighborhood seem to have popped open, and the air is full of their fragrance. The flowers themselves are, of course, lovely — some are like perfect little waxy white roses, others more like simple daisies, with fewer petals. So I thought I should look out a gardenia fragrance for a post this weekend.

The one that came to hand is Maria Candida Gentile’s Lady Day, which was named for the singer Billie Holiday, who regularly wore gardenias in her hair. I bought it some time ago when there was a big sale. It comes in extrait de parfum concentration. I like it, but for the life of me, I don’t smell gardenia!

The only notes listed are galbanum, gardenia absolute, and Peru balsam. I do smell galbanum, but it’s not the note I’m used to calling “galbanum.” Here, it is less green and more — I don’t know! There’s a strong herbal tone, but it doesn’t “read” as green to my nose. I guess the absence of what I think of as gardenia could be caused by the fact that the perfumer used gardenia absolute, not an accord meant to suggest gardenia.

I don’t know what to think about this one! Its overall scent reminds me of something but I just can’t remember what. Do you have any favorite gardenia scents? I keep seeing Elizabeth Taylor’s Gardenia at places like T.J. Maxx, but I’ve never tried it. Lady Day is nice, to my nose, but it doesn’t seem like a true gardenia. I’m stumped!