Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Christian Dior’s Diorella was created in 1972 by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, a sibling of his masterpiece Diorissimo. It is one of the fragrances awarded five stars by Turin and Sanchez in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” Although they docked one star from it in their 2009 update, they still found it excellent. I have a bottle of Diorella that I think dates to 2002, according to the guidelines described in the “Raiders of the Lost Scent” blog (a great resource).

It smells great! Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, June 26

Perfume Chat Room, June 26

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, June 26. Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: Killer Rose

Roses de Mai Marathon: Killer Rose

For our next “Rose de Mai” (not really, as that is the name of a particular rose, Rosa centifolia — I’m just using the term because it is May!), let’s try 4160 Tuesdays’ Killer Rose. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, April 17

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 April 17, and I am tired! Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: DSH Heirloom Elixirs

Scent Sample Sunday: DSH Heirloom Elixirs

My Valentine’s Day gift to myself was a subscription to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Heirloom Elixir subscription for this year, all six releases. Dawn describes the origins of the idea:

Over the past few years we’ve had multiple requests for a “Subscription Service”… one that would automatically introduce you to a new DSH Perfume on a regular basis, filled with surprise and excitement.  With our creative new collection of Limited Editions, Heirloom Elixir, we felt that this was the perfect pairing of ideas to make that request a reality.

At the end of 2019, I took advantage of her end-of-year sale and bought the 2019 Complete Collection of six fragrances she released that year. They are, in order: Continue reading

Fragrance Friday: Eat More Flowers

Fragrance Friday: Eat More Flowers

Today is the last day of January, and I’ve been enjoying my January Joy Box from 4160 Tuesdays all month. Such a creative idea, to create a sort of post-Advent calendar of goodies to open in January, when the holidays are over. I’m taking my time to absorb each of the 10 numbered fragrances, and I’m not writing about them in order — just as the fancy strikes me!

One that I truly love is Eat More Flowers. In addition to the 9 ml spray that came in the January Joy Box, I actually have a full bottle, having ordered it when Sarah McCartney (the nose and owner of 4160 Tuesdays) offered it in the fall. It is a glorious floral, made at parfum strength — the vavavoom sister of Eat Flowers, which was launched in 2018. In addition to the notes of Eat Flowers (top notes: linden blossom, neroli, lemon flower; heart notes: rose, iris, tuberose, lily, geranium; base notes: musks, white woods, cabrueva), Sarah added rose and violet leaf absolutes, and orris butter. As she writes, “Wear it, and you’re walking barefoot, deep into the blossoming glades of a spring forest.”

Her inspiration for the original Eat Flowers was a poster from 1968, which hangs in her studio:

Poster titled Eat Flowers, from 1968.

“Eat Flowers”, 1968.

Sarah describes Eat Flowers as “a swirling floral aura of lightly blended petals, with cedarwoods, bergamot, linden blossom and a soft amber base.” Eat More Flowers amps up the floral notes — truly, “Flower Power.”

The orris and violet leaf notes are the strongest, to my nose, and they are gorgeous. The violet leaf absolute creates an aura of deep green around the royal purple robes of orris that surround the other flowers. A non-sugary sweetness gilds the composition, which I think comes from the linden blossom and its ability to evoke honey. And if you want to really “eat more flowers”? The young leaves and flower buds of violets are edible. In fact, you can include them in this recipe for perfumer Ezra Woods’ “fragrant flower salad”, pictured above and below.

Flower-based salad and recipe by perfumer Ezra Woods.

Ezra Woods’ fragrant flower salad; photo by Julia Stotz for The New York Times.

Eat More Flowers has good longevity, several hours even on my dry skin. I find it to be almost linear; it does change over time as it dries down, but not dramatically.  The orris and violet leaf carry straight through the composition once they emerge, which they do very quickly from the start. It’s also a perfectly acceptable scent for most settings, as it doesn’t overwhelm its surroundings. If you like flowers and floral scents, Eat More Flowers may be just the bouquet for you.

Featured image by Julia Stotz for The New York Times: A Perfumer’s Fragrant Flower Salad.

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

Fragrance Friday: Clouds’ Illusion

Because the third fragrance in the 4160 Tuesdays “January Joy Box” is Clouds, I am reposting what I wrote this past fall about Clouds’ Illusion, while I think about how the two versions compare! (One uses mostly synthetics, the other natural essences).

In honor of this week’s move of English perfume-maker 4160 Tuesdays to another part of London, today I review Clouds’ Illusion eau de parfum, which 4160 Tuesdays perfumer and founder Sarah McCartney created for a crowdfunding project for the Eau My Soul Facebook group.

Sarah McCartney's 4160 Tuesdays perfumery studio, Ravenscourt, London.

New space for 4160 Tuesdays London; image from 4160 Tuesdays.

What a fun idea! This isn’t the first one, either — she and the group’s founder, Christi Long, collaborated previously on the eponymous fragrance Eau My Soul in 2017, with input from the members of the Facebook group. Here’s the tale of how it happened, in Sarah’s own words:

Clouds was an idea dreamed up by Christi Long. Christi runs Eau My Soul as a kind, encouraging forum for fragrance lovers, and one day she was wearing our crowdfunded fragrance from 2018, Take Me To The River. It crossed her mind that Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now would be a wonderful inspiration for a fragrance, looking at clouds from both sides, the grey, then the sunshine.

Between us, we dreamed up a plan: Christi sent me a list of notes: iris, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla and others which I’ll keep secret. She’d named some of the most expensive materials that exist, but I also knew that would want it to be affordable to everyone in the group because she’s nice like that.

So I had a suggestion. How about we do Both Sides Now? I am going to make two versions, one with the natural materials and one with the synthetic recreations made by the genius chemists from the industry. That way we can make the most magnificent, fabulously luxurious fragrance this side of Ancient Rome, plus the affordable one.

Clouds, and Clouds’ Illusion.

My intention was that they should smell pretty much exactly the same, but whichever one you buy, you can have a sample of the other one too. I don’t think anyone has done this before. I’m keen to show that aromachemicals are just as beautiful as naturals, and that you’re not missing out if you don’t have the spare cash for expensive fragrances. (But if you do, don’t let us hold you back.)

We also both agreed that we wanted to give a proportion of the funds raised to our chosen causes – some sunshine in these grey times. Previously we used a crowdfunding platform which took a percentage of the funds for use of its tech and database, so we took  that and gave it to Hope Not Hate in the UK, and to the Looking Out Foundation in the US. We think we already know enough people to make this happen, and besides we don’t want to conquer the world, just to make a lovely fragrance.

“Both Sides Now” was written by legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, and was first commercially released as a recording by folk singer Judy Collins, on her album Wildflowers. The latter is the version most of us recognize from the radios of our youth, haunting in its lyrical beauty. A year later, Joni Mitchell followed with her own recording, also beautiful, for her album Clouds.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

“Both Sides Now”, by Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s clouds’ illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real, I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show, you leave ’em laughin’ when you go
And if you care don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say, “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends are acting strange they shake their heads, they say
I’ve changed
Well, something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

 

The fragrance Clouds comes in two versions: one is based entirely on natural essences, and was made in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations. The other is Clouds’ Illusion, which replaces a number of those (very expensive) natural essences with fine aromachemicals, though it still contains some of the naturals. Sarah’s goal was to incorporate all the elements Christi requested, but also to create a version that would be more affordable for crowdfunders and, in addition, show how aromachemicals can be used judiciously to create a truly beautiful fragrance. Clouds’ Illusion also comes in parfum and eau de parfum concentrations.

I was thrilled to take part in the crowdfunding, and as a result, I now have a bottle of Clouds’ Illusion in eau de parfum. I also had the privilege of visiting Sarah in her studio in London this past spring, when she was still modifying her formulas after initial feedback from Christi.

img_8670

Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays

Sarah and Nick were kind enough to spend quite a bit of time with me, and this visit was a highlight of my London trip. I’m quite a fan of 4160 Tuesdays, having won a bottle of their White Queen in a draw on the excellent fragrance blog “CaFleureBon”, and I bought more of their fragrances on my visit, several that were hard to get in the US.

So what is Clouds’ Illusion like, and does it fulfill the creative intentions behind it? The answer is, yes, it does, magnificently, and it is very lovely. Sarah lists notes of iris, citrus, narcissus, white chocolate, hay, sandalwood, papyrus, vanilla, and other unnamed “secret ingredients.” I love the scent of narcissus, and iris is becoming one of my favorite notes in perfume. According to Sarah, the iris note, or orris, evokes the melancholy, blue, introverted facets of the song, while the lemony citrus notes in the opening and bright flower notes like narcissus evoke its sunnier aspects. The white chocolate, vanilla, and a touch of musks create the soft white clouds. The image Christi posted on Eau My Soul, featured above and below, perfectly captures the fragrance: a pensive, introverted artist in a green meadow dotted with yellow wildflowers, set against a blue sky layered with puffy white clouds from horizon to horizon.

Singer songwriter Joni Mitchell with clouds, wildflowers and guitar

Joni Mitchell and clouds; image from Eau My Soul.

The opening of Clouds’ Illusion is especially wonderful, with citrus notes sparkling against a blue background of iris. I can’t think of another fragrance with a similar opening phase. The citruses fade away, but the iris comes to the fore and persists throughout the development of Clouds’ Illusion, partnered with narcissus (which here smells to me, specifically, like yellow daffodils or jonquils) and dry hay. The drydown slowly becomes softer and warmer, with its notes of vanilla and sandalwood joining the iris as the narcissus and hay move offstage. The development of the fragrance mimics the development of the song’s lyrics: starting out brightly, optimistically, yellow sunshine pouring down from a blue sky, then becoming more melancholy and wistful, as the sunlight darkens and fades and the clouds take over. But then the clouds part, and the the songwriter reflects that “something’s lost, but something’s gained, in living every day,” comforting herself with that thought, just as the fragrance becomes warmer and comforts with base notes of vanilla and sandalwood. The iris is still there, but it has been warmed by the other base notes. I can still smell iris, vanilla and sandalwood on my wrist more than eight hours after applying it lightly, so Clouds’ Illusion has excellent longevity in the eau de parfum concentration (I haven’t tried the extrait).

How does Clouds’ Illusion compare with Clouds, the version that uses only natural ingredients? My order of Clouds’ Illusion came with a sample of the Clouds EDP, so I’ve been able to smell them side by side. To my non-expert nose, right away the opening of Clouds smells more strongly of lemon than the top notes of its counterpart, but it fades into the background more quickly than the lemony opening of Clouds’ Illusion. The iris takes center stage in the middle phase in both versions, but in Clouds, I smell more of the sandalwood, and sooner, as it dries down, and Clouds’ Illusion seems to retain a bit more of the greenness of the hay note. Otherwise, though, they are very similar and have comparable longevity (more than eight hours on each of my wrists). Sarah has succeeded in her goal of creating fragrance twins, one with the precious natural substances and the other with more affordable aromachemicals, both lovely.

Here is Christi’s own account of how she experienced Clouds:

As many of you know, there were two earlier mods for Clouds and neither felt right to me. While they were nice fragrances, one even quite unusual, they were not the “Clouds” I had in my mind. After I told Sarah the second one wasn’t quite it either, she said “I know now what you want” and said it with such confidence. I now see why she was so sure of it…because it’s perfect.

First, it’s somewhat ethereal, but fluffy, like passing through a cloud. There is no sadness, but there is introspection, and a slight bit of melancholy from the orris butter laid thick under happy lemon sunshine. There is a hay like quality coming from the narcissus that counters the sweetness of the powdery, creamy white chocolate, so that it’s never too sweet but also never quite overly gray either. There is a cozy blanket of mood lifting lemon that surrounds it all, like a ray of golden hope at all times. Clouds is the days when you feel a bit down but know you’re strong enough to make it and feel hopeful. This isn’t a fragrance about giving in to sadness, it’s about rising above it and finding the reminder that sunshine always comes again, you just have to be strong enough to wait for it.

This year has been a roller coaster for me. It started really difficult, got better, then the hardships of life brought me down again. And literally right as I’m fighting to find the sunshine again, Clouds shows up at my doorstep. I sprayed it on and so many emotions, memories and thoughts passed before me. And in Clouds, just like life, the sunshine always wins if we let it. But we keep our memories with it, as a reminder of why we need the light.

Thank you, Sarah, for making this perfume for all of us who need a ray of hope sometimes. It reminds me that I’m human, I make mistakes, but with hope & forgiveness, life goes on and the sun still shines.

Thank you both, Sarah and Christi, for making this possible! I can’t wait for the next crowdfunding fragrance from 4160 Tuesdays, and I can’t wait to visit the new studio!

Readers, do you have a favorite 4160 Tuesdays fragrance? Have you ever taken part in a crowdfunding creative project, whether perfume or something else?

Featured image of Joni Mitchell from Eau My Soul.
Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

I was one of the lucky fans who was able to buy one of the “January Joy Boxes” made by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays this winter. The box has several 9 ml sprays of some of her limited edition or other special fragrances, and the idea was that you were supposed to wait until January to open it, to relieve any post-holiday gloom. The boxes holding the sprays are numbered and are to be opened in sequence. It was hard to wait until New Year’s Day, but I did! I’ve decided to pace myself and open one of the scents every 2-3 days, so the set lasts me all month and I have a chance to appreciate each fragrance.

The first fragrance was Temptation, a soft, sweet confection with smooth musks and a note others have described as “sugared almonds”, with vanilla anchoring it all. Sarah has written on the 4160 Tuesdays Facebook page that Temptation is the sub-base notes of Take Me To The River; it has eight notes, and it includes three different musks as well as vanillin. On my skin, it lasts for hours! It doesn’t “carry” very far, but it is delightful and I can’t stop sniffing my wrists. Now that I know its relationship to Take Me To The River, I’m going to try layering it with something else and see what happens.

Sarah has said that her fragrance Take Me To The River was inspired by the Talking Heads’ cover of that Al Green song, as that is her favorite version, but I love this one:

Who doesn’t love Al Green singing his own song, with BB King, Lenny Kravitz, and Sheryl Crow? But if we’re picking Al Green songs, the one that goes with Temptation is “Let’s Stay Together”, that smooth sweet sexy ballad full of soul.

I loved so many of the soul groups and singers of the 1970s — like the Temptations — with their roots in gospel music. I can go for years without hearing one of those songs, but just a few bars can take me back to my childhood, listening to a dinky little Panasonic transistor radio shaped like a red ball. I’ll be quite happy to think of Al Green’s music when I wear the fragrance Temptation.

Featured image from http://www.thenational.ae

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Happy New Year! Rather than listing my favorites or “the best” among the fragrances launched in 2019 (other blogs have done that so thoroughly!), I am going to list some of my own fragrance highlights of 2019. Some are actual perfumes, others are fragrant items or experiences. I feel so fortunate. I write about my many blessings in this blog to remind myself that, in spite of challenges and losses, I am thankful for the love and beauty in my life.

  1. First trip to Tuscany, Florence and Venice, with many perfume stops. I will not forget the aromatic scent of the Tuscan hills and the timeless beauty of their landscape — not to mention the fragrances of the vineyards and wines, and the cooking class I took. Florence and Venice were as magical and amazing as expected, and I brought back souvenir fragrances from perfumeries like Santa Maria Novella, I Profumi di Firenze, Aquaflor, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561. Back home, I treated myself to Flower Fusion by The Merchant of Venice (gorgeous glass bottle, lovely fragrance); and my husband gave me Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur la Lagune for Christmas.
  2. Visit to 4160 Tuesdays’ studio in London and meeting Sarah and Nick! If you’re a fan of 4160 Tuesdays’ fragrances, and you wonder if Sarah really is as cool and interesting as she seems, the answer is YES! She and Nick graciously spent time with me, talking about their fragrances. And yes, I came away with several purchases, including the beautiful Truth Beauty Freedom Love and the silk scarf designed to go with it. I’m excited to see their new studio on Raynham Road when I visit London again! I also took part in the crowd-funding (such a brilliant idea) of some 2019 launches by 4160 Tuesdays, including Clouds’ Illusion, Christmas Concert, and Meet Me On The Corner
  3. Perfume-making workshop in Nice, at Parfum Et Vous, recommended by Megan of the blog “MeganInSainteMaxime.” It was a beginners’ workshop, but so much fun! And I was introduced to a line of fragrances I hadn’t tried before, Baruti.
  4. Meeting Megan in Cannes, and visiting the office of Atelier des Ors, including meeting its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont and trying several of its fragrances which were created by Marie Salamagne: Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule des Amesand Choeur des Anges.
  5. The publication of Neil Chapman’s wonderful book, “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” Neil writes one of the longest-running and best blogs about perfume, “The Black Narcissus“; he is a true connoisseur and collector of fine fragrance as well as a very interesting, creative person. It was so exciting to read about his work on the book and its eventual publication and launch!
  6. Learning how to use Instagram!
  7. Two very special fragrance sets/Christmas gifts, which I can’t wait to explore: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ 2019 Heirloom Elixir Collection, and Sarah McCartney’s “January Joy Box” from 4160 Tuesdays.
  8. Giving in to temptation and ordering Papillon Perfumery‘s Bengale Rouge. It hasn’t arrived yet, from Ave Parfum, but I expect it shortly! This has been one of the most highly rated perfumes of 2019; given how much I love Dryad, I’m excited to have this.
  9. The continued success of St. Clair Scents, another independent artisan perfumer, whose fragrances Gardener’s Glove, Frost, Casablanca, and First Cut I thoroughly enjoyed in 2018. Although I haven’t yet reviewed them, this year’s issue of Pandora and Eve , the “Audacious Innocence Collection”, shows us that Diane St. Clair is here to stay, thank goodness, in perfumery as well as her legendary butter.
  10. Getting to try L’Iris de Fath, thanks to the wonderful associate at Jovoy Paris’ London store.

Some of the blogosphere’s “Best of 2019” lists:

Australian Perfume Junkies

Bois de Jasmin

A Bottled Rose

Cafleurebon

Colognoisseur

I Scent You A Day

Persolaise

What were some of your fragrant highlights of 2019? Feel free to comment broadly, it’s a broad category! Thank you for reading my online musings this year.

Featured image: Fleurs et Flammes, Antonio Alessandria Parfums.

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

Fragrance Friday: Christmas Concert

I was delighted to be able to get a 9 ml spray of 4160 Tuesdays’ Christmas Concert together with the crowd-funded Meet Me On The Corner this winter. Sarah McCartney calls it a “scarf scent”, because it has a lot of cinnamon in it, which can cause irritation on some people’s skin, but luckily I am not one of them so I can wear it on my pulse points. Christmas Concert came about because during the crowdfunding discussions about Meet Me On The Corner, which was inspired by a song of that name by a group called Lindisfarne, which holds a famous annual Christmas concert, followers of 4160 Tuesdays on social media started clamoring for an actual Christmas scent and suggested what its notes might be, including mandarin oranges, cinnamon, and pine needles. Being the creative and obliging perfumer she is, Sarah obliged with a seasonal limited edition fragrance, in both eau de parfum and room fragrance versions.

Does it smell like Christmas? Yes it does, if your Christmas memories include pomander oranges studded with cloves, hung on a balsam Christmas tree or wreath. Fortunately, mine do, as making those pomander oranges seems to have been a common holiday project when I was a child. I honestly don’t remember my own children making those at school or Sunday school, so I may have to do it at home with them now, although they are young adults!

orange with cloves

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Christmas Concert opens right off with a strong note of cinnamon, but I also detect the scent of cloves quite strongly. As expected, there is a lasting foundation of sweet oranges’ fragrance — more present in the beginning, but lasting well into the drydown. I perceive the pine needles as a green hum in the distant background, but they are there. This isn’t a very complex scent in that it doesn’t “develop” much, it is mostly linear, but it is delightful. Although I can wear it on my skin, it really does work well as a “scarf scent”; I sprayed some on the shawl collar of one of my favorite sweaters to wear around the house, and it wafted up to my nose from there for several hours. I can still smell it faintly on the sweater a day later.

Sarah mentioned on her website that one could layer Christmas Concert with Meet Me On The Corner to create a sort of “winter edition” of the latter, so I tried that. Wow! I already liked Meet Me On The Corner very much, but adding Christmas Concert to it creates a spicier version, adding complexity and nuance to MMOTC‘s citrus chypre. Or, shall we say, a certain “Serendipity“?

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in film Serendipity

“Serendipity”, the movie; image from http://www.variety.com.

Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”, others have called it the phenomenon of “happy accidents” or fortuitous accidental discoveries. 4160 Tuesdays is famous for its serendipitous fragrances, sometimes created when a batch of one fragrance has been mistakenly combined with another (Brigadoon) or when a special ingredient has been amped up in an existing fragrance (Sarah made a number of variations on her fragrances this fall, when customers could request that various ingredients be increased; I am the happy owner of Eat More Flowers, a version of Eat Flowers Sarah created with extra rose, orris, and violet leaf). Given the origins of Christmas Concert in a Facebook group’s musings, and how well it combines with the long-planned Meet Me On The Corner, I would call that serendipity.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Serendipity”, pictured above, it is a charming Christmas rom-com with two of my favorite actors, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. It was made before Christmas rom-coms were destroyed by Hallmark Christmas movies and their reactionary spawn. Of course, another reason I love the movie is that I spent half of my 20s in New York; it is truly one of the most magical, romantic places in the world at Christmastime, and the cafe Serendipity is real. It was a great date venue, and I’m sure it still is!

So now when I wear Meet Me On The Corner layered with Christmas Concert, I will think happily of New York at Christmas, and chance meetings that seem like accidents but may be destiny. Thank you, Sarah! Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day!

Do you associate any fragrances with serendipity, either in how you discovered them or how you like to layer them? Please share in the comments!

How to make Christmas pomanders with oranges and cloves, Country Living

Christmas pomanders; image from Country Living.