Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Scent Sample Sunday: Galanos

Occasionally I find a fragrance gem online, for sale by a resale shop that has discovered the internet. This spring, my find was the first fragrance from designer James Galanos, an eau de toilette named, simply, Galanos. James Galanos was highly selective in all his choices, from the very wealthy women who were his preferred and devoted clientele (most famously, Nancy Reagan), to his refusal to license his name for almost anything: the two exceptions were furs, and fragrance.

There are only two Galanos fragrances: the first, eponymous one, and a flanker called Galanos De Serene. Both can be found in eau de toilette and parfum though both have been discontinued. I found an unboxed bottle of the first eau de toilette, for sale online, and I knew I would probably like it as I already had a small bottle of the parfum. The fragrance was created in 1979 and won a FiFi award in 1980, the one for “Women’s Fragrance of the Year — Prestige”. I have been unable to find out who the perfumer was; please comment below if you know! Angela at “Now Smell This” wrote a terrific review of Galanos, aptly comparing its appeal to that of classic vintage clothing.

There was only one catch to my purchase: when it arrived, the top of the sprayer turned out to be a replacement that didn’t work. I contacted the seller (from whom I had successfully bought a vintage fragrance once before), who immediately offered to send a replacement top or a partial refund. Since I was pretty sure I would be able to use a Travalo to get the fragrance out, the price had been very reasonable, and it really wasn’t worth the seller’s time to send a new top that might not work either, I took the partial refund and bought my first Travalo. Happily, it worked!

Basenotes analyzes Galanos as follows: top notes: lemon, orange, mandarin, chamomile, coriander, clove, and bay leaf; heart notes: lily of the valley, orange blossom, jasmine, gardenia, ylang ylang, rose, geranium, carnation; base notes: cypress, musk, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, vetiver, cedarwood, oakmoss, sandalwood, and patchouli. It smells to me like a cross between a floral chypre and a green chypre, with the herbal top notes in smooth balance with the floral heart notes, and its woody, mossy, aromatic base. It reminds me a bit of Estee Lauder’s Azuree, but with a more floral, 1980s vibe. The notes that “speak” to me most strongly are the carnation and geranium notes, followed closely by ylang ylang and gardenia, but the herbal notes are evident from start to finish.

James Galanos was famous for the craft of his designer clothing, often compared favorably to Parisian “haute couture” although his creations were ready-to-wear (but still VERY expensive). Galanos’ designs reached their height of fame in the decade of excess, the 1980s, and he used only the most expensive materials and finest workmanship, but you rarely see huge puffy sleeves or gigantic flounces on his dresses.

Gowns by designer James Galanos at Phoenix Art Museum retrospective exhibit

James Galanos gowns; image from Phoenix Art Museum.

You see elegant, feminine lines, often enhanced by exquisite embroidery. Nancy Reagan once commented about his dresses that “you can wear one inside out, they are so beautifully made.” His fragrance is consistent with that elegant, luxurious simplicity: understated, classic, of its era but also timeless. It feels like an elegant accessory, meant to complement the wearer and the outfit instead of outshining or competing with them.

Designer James Galanos in clothing atelier

James Galanos; photo by Getty Images

Although James Galanos retired in 1998 and died in 2016, you will still see his creations on the red carpet, since many stylish women wear vintage Galanos gowns to occasions like the Academy Awards and the Met Costume Institute Gala, where they are as elegant and timeless as ever. I wonder if any of the wearers know that they could also wear the perfect fragrance accessory with those beautiful gowns?

Do you have any fragrances that you think of as couture accessories? Favorites?

Just had to add this photo, taken in the early 2000s in San Francisco, when Mr. Galanos was delighted to discover a perfume boutique that still carried his fragrance:

Fashion designer James Galanos in Jacqueline perfume boutique, San Francisco

James Galanos with his fragrance; image from San Francisco Chronicle

Featured image: James Galanos vintage gown (1950s), www.etsy.com.

Scent Sample Sunday: The Wearin’ O’ The Green

Scent Sample Sunday: The Wearin’ O’ The Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of the day, let us rejoice in the “wearing of the green” — green fragrances, that is. I love green fragrances, as you might expect from a blogger whose nom de plume is “Old Herbaceous“, and my most difficult fragrance choice today will be to decide which of the many I own I will wear. (Another option might be to wear one of the fragrances I brought home from Ireland last summer, including some from the small independent perfumer The Burren Perfumery, but today I’ll probably go with a classic green). Today will be a celebration of “The Wearin’ O’ The Green”!

Green nymph Fantasia

Image from Disney’s Fantasia 2000; http://www.disney.com

Fragrantica did one of its wonderful “Best in Show” columns last year on green fragrances, which you can read here: Best in Show: Green Fragrances (2018). As the editor notes, “green” can describe a wide range of fragrances and notes, which can include: galbanum, patchouli, vetiver, grasses, mosses, ivy, and leaves (especially tea and tomato), lime, basil, rosemary, mint, and cilantro, green mango and apple, conifer needles, bamboo, and more. Many of the muguet fragrances I love are quite green. As I’ve already written a lot about so many of those, and will again later this spring, I’ll pass over them as a category for now.

Some of the classic greens I own and love are Chanel No. 19, Chanel Cristalle, Annick Goutal Grand Amour, Gucci Envy, Balmain Vent Vert (the 1991 version, by Calice Becker), Jacomo Silences, Estee Lauder Azuree, Clinique Aromatics Elixir.

My newer green niche perfumes include (of course) Papillon’s Dryad, Beaufort London’s Fathom V, Amouage Bracken, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s The Pour Un Ete, Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Decou-Vert, DSH Perfumes Le Jardin Vert. There are others, but many of them I own only in small sample sizes, so I’m not counting them here!

Green fragrances: Chanel No. 19, Cristalle, Papillon Dryad, on Liberty shawl

Favorite green fragrances

While I know that “green” fragrances are said to be the least favored category of fragrance, I know many of you also love them. What are your favorites? Do you plan to wear a green fragrance today?

Outdoor sculpture of the Mud Maid, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

Mud Maid, The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Fragrance Friday: Daily Post -“Aromatic”

Fragrance Friday: Daily Post -“Aromatic”

I don’t normally do the WordPress “Daily Post”, but one of this week’s word prompts caught my eye: “aromatic.” Well, I certainly have a response to that, as some of my favorite fragrances have aromatic qualities, even if they aren’t primarily classified as “aromatics”. But let’s start with a classic: the aptly named “Aromatics Elixir” by Clinique.

In many ways, Aromatics Elixir is a quintessential 1970s fragrance. It was launched at the start of that decade, created by the great perfumer Bernard Chant, for a new brand (Clinique) of the Estee Lauder company. It is green, dry, herbal and strong. Its creators positioned it as a “non-conformist chypre”, a perfume ahead of its time, that went “beyond perfume.” To me, it is in many ways the scent of 1970s feminism: independent, strong, challenging traditional strictures without becoming androgynous. Very in-your-face and unapologetic, but with its own beauty. If I were to assign a face to it, I would choose 1970s supermodel Lauren Hutton, a non-conformist beauty with her gap teeth and American style. Hutton had a chameleon-like quality, able to pull off effortless elegance in couture evening wear but showing off that same great bone structure in a plain white shirt, outdoors in the fresh air. Whenever I picture her in my mind, she is outside.

Supermodel Lauren Hutton in 1975

Lauren Hutton, 1975

Luca Turin describes the impact of Aromatics Elixir thus: “Smelling Aromatics Elixir on a strip and especially in the air following a string of ‘modern’ fragrances is like watching Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep after twelve episodes of Cheers.” That pretty much sums it up; as he notes, Aromatics Elixir “achieves at once salubrious radiance and luxurious dusk.”

But Bernard Chant created another great aromatic fragrance for Estee Lauder, shortly before Aromatics Elixir: 1969’s Azuree. I was lucky enough to find an affordable, unopened tester of Azuree parfum online – wow. This is a really complex fragrance with a lot of different notes balanced against each other. Luca Turin calls it a “citrus leather” with a leather-chypre heart and gives it five stars, contrasting its ongoing fidelity to the original vision of its creator with the sad dismantling of his other leathery masterpiece, Cabochard. Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: top notes – aldehydes, artemisia, gardenia, basil, sage, bergamot; middle notes – cyclamen, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, geranium, vetiver, rose; base notes – leather, amber, patchouli, musk and oakmoss. My bottle is labeled as “parfum”, not “eau de parfum”, and both its strength and longevity bear that out, as does the slightly oily slick on my skin when I first spray it on. Other commenters have noted the excellent spray nozzle on this bottle, which allows you to spray a small amount in fine droplets. That is all you need! Azuree is strong stuff!

On my skin, Azuree opens with a jolt of aldehydes, bergamot and artemisia, with herbal tones from the basil and sage top notes, although I can’t distinguish those separately.  In the middle stage, I mostly smell orris root (really delightful and earthy, with an underlying carroty sweetness), vetiver and a hint of ylang-ylang. The story behind Azuree is that Estee Lauder, founder of the cosmetics empire, wanted to capture the outdoor scents of Cap d’Antibes on the azure sea of the French Riviera, where she had a villa in the years when Cap d’Antibes still looked more like the landscapes painted by Claude Monet and other Impressionists than the overbuilt hodge-podge it has become. Azuree does have a Mediterranean aura of dryness, citrus, herbs, and pine resin, as if one were looking down a dry Riviera coastline toward the stone pines of Juan-les-Pins from a sunlit Mediterranean garden. While roses, cyclamens and geraniums are listed among the heart notes, and they are all Mediterranean flowers that might grow in such a garden, along with the green herbs listed among the top notes, I really can’t pick them out.

View of the cliff garden, sea and boats, from garden of villa in French Riviera

View from villa in the French Riviera

As it dries down, Azuree becomes more leathery, dry and oak-mossy. At this stage, it LASTS.  If I put it on my wrists at night, I can still clearly smell its final drydown stage the next morning. Like Aromatics Elixir, this fragrance is so very different from the current trends of sweet, fruity or gourmand scents! It doesn’t smell old-fashioned at all, it smells almost radical. Yet at the same time, if one were to characterize it as a person, one might describe a free-spirited young woman, wearing no make up but with an “old soul” gazing from her eyes. Definitely one of the great beauties of the 1970s. If Aromatics Elixir is Lauren Hutton, Azuree is Margaux Hemingway, whose grandfather famously spent so much time on the unspoilt Riviera with the most glamorous, unconventional creatives of the day.

Supermodel Margaux Hemingway

Margaux Hemingway