May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming, because the following New York Times Style Magazine article popped up in my news feed, and I got totally distracted by it! It is called The Fragrances That Changed the Field, by Aatish Taseer. It starts with a childhood memory, from India, of a first encounter with oudh, and travels a winding path from there through the “Orientalism” of fragrances in the 1970s, to the power statement fragrances of the 1980s, circling back to previous centuries and the use of florals and musks in fragrances. It includes insight from several modern perfumers.

I highly recommend this article! You’ll want to set aside a good block of time to read it. The opening paragraph:

I REMEMBER AS IF it were yesterday that distant afternoon on which I first smelled oudh. I was in my grandmother’s house in Delhi. I was 13, maybe 14. We had a family perfumer, or attarwallah, a man of some refinement, who came to us from Lucknow — a city that is a metonym for high Indo-Islamic culture. We didn’t know the attarwallah’s name, or how he knew to follow us from address to change of address. But he came without fail two or three times a year. A slim, gliding figure, with a mouth reddened from paan, or betel leaf and areca nut, the attarwallah produced his wares from carved bottles of colored glass that he carried in a black leather doctor’s bag. He showed us scents according to which season we were in. So in winter, musk and patchouli; in summer, white-flowered varieties of jasmine — of which there are some 40 odd in India — as well as rose and vetiver. In the monsoon, he brought us mitti attar, which imitates the smell of parched earth exhaling after the first rain (“mitti” means “mud” in Hindi). The perfumes came from the medieval Indian town of Kannauj, which is a 75-mile drive west of Lucknow and which, like its French counterpart, Grasse, has a tradition of perfume manufacturing several centuries old. Once he had drawn his perfume out on white cotton buds at the tips of long, thin sticks, the attarwallah lingered over his customers, telling stories of the various scents and reciting the odd romantic couplet of Urdu poetry.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, as a person interested in fragrance, I don’t know what will! Enjoy. BTW, my scent of the day today was Cristalle, and I’ll write about it tomorrow instead.

Featured image from baystreetex.com.

May Melange Marathon: Beyond Paradise

May Melange Marathon: Beyond Paradise

“Melange” is an apt word to use for Estee Lauder’s Beyond Paradise, as it is truly a melange of different florals. In their book “Perfumes: The Guide A-Z”, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez not only gave it five stars, but also close to three full pages of discussion (most perfumes got a paragraph). He calls it a “symphonic floral.” Calice Becker was the perfumer who created it; Beyond Paradise was launched in 2003. The bottle I have is the teardrop-shaped, rainbow-tinted original. The batch number on the bottom suggests it dates to 2013. Fragrantica lists that version’s notes as: Top notes of Hyacinth, Orange Blossom, Grapefruit, Bergamot and Lemon; middle notes of Jasmine, Gardenia, Honeysuckle and Orchid; base notes of Hibiscus, Plum Wood, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Amber. The 2015 version in the rectangular bottle is described as having top notes of Blue Hyacinth, Orange Blossom and Jabuticaba; middle notes of Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Orchid and Mahonia; and base notes of Ambrette (Musk Mallow), Plum Blossom, Paperbark, and Woody Notes.

Both versions of Beyond Paradise are meant to be “fantasy florals” with a tropical theme; part of the length of Turin’s review is a long digression into the nature of abstract floral fragrances and how challenging they are to create, with a tip of the hat to perfumer Calice Becker, an acknowledged master of the art. According to contemporaneous press and PR coverage when it was launched, it included “proprietary notes” gleaned from a collaboration with The Eden Project, a fascinating conservation site in Cornwall, which involves massive biospheres located in and above an abandoned quarry and which I’ve had the privilege to visit. It does in fact house many rare and tropical plants, so it must be a great resource for unusual smells.

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May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

I like to seek out fragrance “bargain beauties”, for my own sake and for the sake of readers who may not be able to afford (or want to pay) the often eye-watering prices of niche fragrances. While there is much to recommend the practice of buying only a few, albeit expensive, high-quality fragrances, it is fun to educate one’s nose by trying many different fragrances, especially at the outset of this hobby, and that is how I acquired a number of ‘bargain beauty” fragrances. Luckily, I also have two young adult daughters, currently living at home during the pandemic, and they’re happy to share them! Of course, none would be bargains if they weren’t pleasing at some level, and likely to be used and enjoyed.

One such bargain beauty is Parfums Salvador Dali’s Purplelight. Launched in 2007, the nose behind it is Francis Kurkdjian, usually associated with much more expensive fragrances, including those from his own brand Maison Francis Kurkdjian. While Purplelight is in no way comparable to those fragrances, it is a very pleasant, soft, lilac-centered eau de toilette that works well. Its primary notes are bamboo, lilac, and musk, with companion notes of cherry blossom, jasmine, tiare flower, almond tree, and vetiver, according to Fragrantica. Purplelight followed the house’s 2006 launch of Purplelips, another lilac-forward fragrance, created by perfumers Antoine Lie and Guillaume Flavigny. I really enjoy finding pleasant bargain fragrances that have been created by well-known perfumers; as some of you know, one of my favorite bargain beauties is Adam Levine for Women, created by Yann Vasnier, who has also created fragrances for much more expensive brands like Arquiste, Frassai, Tom Ford, Comme des Garcons, Jo Malone, and others. My most recent bargain beauty fragrance line, which I wrote about earlier this week, is the Zara Emotions line created by perfumer Jo Malone (the person, not the brand). Parfums Salvador Dali has several bargain beauties, well worth exploring.

At first spray of Purplelight, what I smell most is a light green bamboo with watery undertones. As that dies down, I smell more and more of a soft lilac. This is very light also; I like the fact that to my nose, it doesn’t smell soapy, as some lilac scents do. Over a short period of time, a soft, gentle musk appears. Projection and sillage are minimal, but I can clearly smell Purplelight on my hand and wrist for a few hours. It is still possible to find gift sets of the eau de toilette that come with body lotion, and it seems likely that the two used together would increase the scent’s longevity. I enjoy Purplelight as an easy floral for warm weather or bedtime, when one doesn’t necessarily want a powerhouse or anything very challenging.

I can’t fail to mention the charming bottle for Purplelight, which matches that of its sister fragrance Purplelips. It is a rectangular column into which is set a row of concave lips. The juice inside is a light purple, which tints the bottle. The artist Salvador Dali incorporated lips into many of his artworks, and the theme has been carried into many of the bottles of Parfums Salvador Dali.

Have you tried any of the other Salvador Dali fragrances, either the bargain-priced ones or the more expensive “haute” line?

Perfume Chat Room, November 20

Perfume Chat Room, November 20

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, November 20, and Thanksgiving is next week! Do you have any special plans, given that the CDC is strongly discouraging travel and large family gatherings? One friend of mine with young adult children who no longer live at home has rented a beach house for the week, with elaborate plans for home tests for COVID-19 and a few days of “podding” in quarantine with family meals taken outside. The young adults are traveling by car. If my children lived far away, this plan would tempt me! But two of mine live at home, and the third is at college close by (he’ll return home on Monday for the end of semester, including remote exams, and then for the duration of winter break, as his college won’t reopen until the last week of January.

Our Thanksgivings have mostly included just the five of us anyway (with an occasional friend in need of turkey), since both my husband’s family and mine are based in New England. With two fulltime jobs and three kids, it was never a holiday for which we were willing to travel, after moving South. And the weather here is often very beautiful at Thanksgiving — cool, crisp nights with clear, sunny days. I still have roses blooming!

It’s definitely the season for autumnal fragrances, though. I took out Clinique Wrappings yesterday, which really suited the weather. I’ve been wearing L’Ambre des Merveilles quite a bit, and different versions of Cabochard. What are your favorite autumn scents?

Lastly, what makes you thankful in this weird year of 2020? This blog started out as a way to practice more mindfulness (“Serenity Now”) and occasionally I have posted about “What Went Well“, a gratitude exercise. I’m thankful that my friends and family have mostly stayed safe and well; I’m thankful for one daughter’s recovery from COVID-19 after a relatively mild case; I’m thankful that my children are all here in the same city. I’m so thankful for the dedicated healthcare workers who are showing up every day to help the rest of us. And I’m thankful that so many people drop by this blog to read, whether or not you comment! Thank you!

Featured image from AARP.org; let’s hope they all use hand sanitizer, too!

Perfume Chat Room, November 13

Perfume Chat Room, November 13

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, November 13 — as if we in the USA needed another Friday the Thirteenth right now! In honor of the day, I am trying my sample of Editions Frederic Malle’s Superstitious, and I quite like it. The opening phase has an intriguing combination of aldehydes and incense which I’m enjoying. Maybe it will bring good luck today.

I don’t know that I’m naturally “superstitious”, but I do use phrases like “fingers crossed” and sometimes I remember to say “rabbit rabbit” first thing on the first day of a new month, lol! Do you have any superstitions about Friday the 13th, or any “lucky” fragrances?

Featured image from ASPCA.

Promotion at the Burren Perfumery — Bonjour Perfume

Just a quick notice today as the Burren Perfumery has just announced a promotion – 20% discount on all their stock excluding their newest fragrance Wild Rose. This is a great chance to try their beauty, skin care products, soaps, and perfumes. Courtesy of Burren Perfumery, 2020 With free delivery worldwide from over 70€, this […]

Promotion at the Burren Perfumery — Bonjour Perfume

Thanks for the heads-up, Jessica!

Perfume Chat Room, October 30

Perfume Chat Room, October 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, October 30, the day before Halloween. I’m taking part in the weekly Friday community project at the blog “Now Smell This“, which today is to wear a scent that generates emotion in you. Mine is Anne Klein II, which brings back happy memories of being a young adult in Manhattan. However, since tomorrow is Halloween, I may have to switch later to something slightly more sinister. Cabochard, perhaps? I’m currently very intrigued by that scent and am comparing the two most recent versions of both the EDT and EDP (they were reformulated in 2019).

Tomorrow I will probably wear something by Papillon’s Liz Moores, who is an actual modern witch as well as a tremendously gifted perfumer. Maybe Bengale Rouge? But I do love Dryad … decisions, decisions. Will you do anything special for Halloween? Or wear any special fragrance?

Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

A short while ago, multiple media outlets reported that Swedish furnishings giant IKEA would launch a limited edition of scented candles in partnership with Swedish fragrance brand Byredo. Well, perfumistas, here in the USA, the eagles have landed! I went to my local IKEA today, and there they were, although the announcements said they would be available in November.

The series of candles is named, in classically inscrutable IKEA fashion, “Osynlig.” You can find them online by typing that precise name into the search box on the IKEA USA website, which also seems to be selling them now (i.e., before November). Apparently, the scents are designed by Byredo’s Ben Gorham so that all can be burnt alone or layered together, creating your own personal home fragrance. He is also quoted as saying “I really enjoyed the idea of being able to make interesting products accessible to as many people as possible,” in an interview with WWD. Ikea was “one of the few [with which] I could actually develop and manufacture a product of this quality, yet make it available at that type of price point.”

I only started using scented candles regularly a few years ago. These ones are really special; they come in beautiful ceramic pots with different colors that reflect some aspect of the scent. A few of the fragrances are available in small, medium, and large sizes. I haven’t yet tried lighting any of the ones I bought but they smell wonderful! Most immediately striking to me was “Tobacco and Honey”, which does indeed have a strong note of golden honey.

Scented candles at IKEA, limited edition by Ben Gorham of Byredo
IKEA’s Osynlig candles with Byredo scents.

I am so pleased to have “scored” several of these! The ones that are currently available are: Tea Leaves & Verbena, Pomegranate & Amber, Basil & Mint, Fig & Cypress, Peach Blossom & Bamboo, Lilac & Amber, Rose & Raspberries, Cotton Flower & Apple Blossom, Sandalwood & Vanilla, and Tobacco & Honey.

There is one fragrance mentioned in the press, “Swedish Birch and Juniper”, that I did not see on the IKEA USA website or in the store, and it sounds like one I would like. Apparently the other three scents in the collection — Cassis & Freesia, Swedish Birch & Juniper, and Firewood & Spice — will be available in February 2021.

Have you seen or tried any of the “Osynlig” collection yet?

Perfume Chat Room, October 23

Perfume Chat Room, October 23

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 23, and we are about to lose power for the day. I know this, not because I am a weather savant, but because we have asked the power company to turn it off today while carpenters and painters renovate the part of our old house where the main power line enters from the street. Yes, our neighborhood and house are old enough that we have unsightly and lethal power lines above ground, where falling tree branches and gnawing squirrels can do their worst. So if I don’t “like” or respond to comments until tonight or tomorrow, the lack of electricity and internet will be the reason!

One reason we need power off for several hours is that the carpenters are building a shallow wall pergola, sometimes called an eyebrow pergola, over our old porte-cochere where a huge and ancient Lady Banks rose grows. It is currently supported by an ungainly system of metal hooks and wire, with one end of the rose basically resting on — yes — the power line. Time for that to change! This is the general idea:

Eyebrow wall pergola over garage doors
Eyebrow pergola, Southern Woodcraft.

Unlike my other roses, the Lady Banks rose has very little fragrance. As you know if you read my “Roses de Mai Marathon” posts this spring, I love rose fragrances, so this is a slight flaw in an otherwise magnificent plant. Most of the roses I grow are from David Austin Roses, which have been bred specifically for fragrance as well as “Old Rose” flower shapes.

Our Lady Banks rose is very precious despite its lack of fragrance. Our house was owned for almost fifty years by a couple who were passionate gardeners and our 1/3 acre lot has many of their original plantings, including the rose. Its base is as thick as many small trees’ trunks, and strong men have to lift it off the house any time we get the house painted, and rest it on sawhorses made of ladders. We are finally doing the whole-house exterior painting and woodwork repair that are overdue, while we work at home and can supervise, so we’re taking the opportunity to upgrade Madam Lady Banks’ living quarters.

Have you used any pandemic shutdowns to undertake large projects, fragrance-related or otherwise?

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

I always love a good chypre, and I love seriously green fragrances, and those two traits often travel together. So I admit, it’s a little odd that I hadn’t yet tried vintage Miss Dior, given that its vintage formula includes many of my favorite notes and it is most certain a green floral chypre. Well, I was able to get my hands on one of the houndstooth bottles of Miss Dior eau de toilette, and this is love.

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