Welcome to this month’s installment of “Notes on Notes”, a monthly collaboration between this blog and Australian Perfume Junkies! Every month, we pick one fragrance note and write about it, posting on the first Monday of the month — fragrances we like that feature it, what we like or don’t like about it, anything else we know about it, whatever takes our fancy. For February, the note is vetiver.
Scent Semantics, October 3
This is the end of our year of “Scent Semantics”, monthly posts by several bloggers around the world when we choose a single word and write about a fragrance that it evokes for us. This month’s word is “Serenity”! The full name of this blog is “Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities”, and I got to choose this month’s word. So “serenity” it is!
One definition of “serenity” is: “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” After a recent trip to Las Vegas and a side visit to the Mojave Desert, the scent I’ve chosen to evoke serenity is Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. This is partly because our hotel’s toiletries were all Mojave Ghost, so I was immersed in that fragrance for several days. The other reason, though, is that I was so moved by the serenity of the desert. We went in the afternoon so we could see the sunset, in an area called Red Rock Canyon. It did not disappoint.
Our small group was driven in a van by a local guide, whose passion for the landscape was infectious, along a 13-mile scenic loop route. We made several stops along the way, to see some special places and take photos. It’s a cliché to say this, but it is remarkable to this East Coaster how much life and fertility exists — thrives — in the desert. And it is indeed a very serene setting, especially around sunset. The air cools, the breeze quickens, the shadows gradually lengthen, and for a brief moment, even the atmosphere takes on a rosy hue to match the clouds that hover over the horizon. At that moment, the desert feels like one of the “thin places” on earth, where the gap between heaven and earth dwindles and time pauses to catch its breath.
Byredo captured this perfectly in Mojave Ghost. From the brand’s website:
Mojave Ghost is a woody composition inspired by the soulful beauty of the Mojave Desert. In this xeric wilderness, rare are the plants that dare to blossom. With a light and graceful character, top notes of musky Ambrette combine with fresh Jamaican Nesberry. Powdery Violet then unfurls to reveal Sandalwood. Finally warm Chantilly Musk rounds out a base of crisp Amber and Cedar wood, leaving the raw spirit of Mojave Ghost to linger on the skin.
Colognoisseur Mark Behnke wrote about Mojave Ghost in 2014, when it was launched, and explained that part of the perfumer’s brief was to capture the scent of a flower that survives in this desert, the Ghost Flower (Mohavea Confertiflora). One of the notes listed, though, is actually a plant from the tropics, the Jamaican naseberry or sapodilla plant. Mark explains the role it plays in Mojave Ghost, which is to create the slightly sweet, lightly spicy odor of the desert in bloom. Perfumer Jerome Epinette also brings notes of ambrette, violet, magnolia, sandalwood, amber, and cedar into his composition. The dryness of the woody notes evokes the dryness of the desert, while the floral notes, although based on non-desert flora, communicate that there are indeed plants that bloom there.
My own experience with Mojave Ghost is colored by the fact that for several days, I literally bathed (or showered) in it, via the hotel supplies. Hand wash, body wash, shower gel, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner! I’ve never been so immersed in a single fragrance, honestly. While I’ve certainly stayed in hotels that had lovely, scented, coordinated toiletries, I don’t normally use all of them and I don’t use them lavishly for several days in a row. But on this trip, I slathered myself with lotion twice a day to stave off the dryness of the air; and this hotel had the large, pump containers attached to the wall instead of those itty bitty plastic bottles, so I indulged freely. Back home, I pulled out a sample of Mojave Ghost eau de parfum to confirm my impressions.
The sapodilla note is very evident at the opening, with the ambrette adding a gentle muskiness that suggests both the landscape and the presence of small, unseen creatures, like those that inhabit the desert. Mark Behnke finds that the sapodilla smells like cinnamon and fruit. I wouldn’t say I picked up cinnamon, but definitely something lightly spicy, a bit like the clove one smells in carnations. The fruitiness is also light, not overly sweet. The floral notes waft in as if on a breeze, supported by dry, woody sandalwood. Finally, the florals fade into amber, and sandalwood gives way to cedar, leaving a warm, transparent wash of fragrance on the skin.
This is not a difficult or demanding fragrance, and it does convey serenity, just as the desert sunset can induce a meditative frame of mind. Some commenters on Fragrantica have found it boring, but others cherish it. I find it peaceful. It doesn’t implicitly hold its wearer to any standard of costume or makeup, unlike some. Mojave Ghost would never remind you to wear lipstick, or stilettos.
Do I want a full bottle? No. But I could see springing for the hair perfume; I think that format would suit the warm yet sheer impression Mojave Ghost leaves.
What fragrance do you find serene? And please check out the posts by my fellow Scent Semantics bloggers:
Perfume Chat Room, December 18
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, December 18, and it is exactly one week before Christmas Day, as well as the last day of Hanukkah. What fragrant gifts do you expect to give, or hope to get? I have a few ideas: for instance, IKEA still has in stock its line of scented candles from its collaboration with Byredo’s Ben Gorham. I bought some when they were first in stores, and they’re very appealing: nice scents in pretty ceramic jars with matching lids. Everyone in my family likes scented candles, so they’ll get some of those. Zara has finally brought its “Zara Emotions” line to the US, the fragrances created by Jo Malone of Jo Loves, that launched last year in Europe. I’ve bought the discovery set, I’ll be interested to try them. There are several gift options on the website, including sets with candles in matching scents.
I’m planning to assemble a box of unused or underused fragrances from my collection for my kids to rummage through and choose what they like. I don’t have many options to put in there for my son, but he likes Cool Water, so I’ll give him that, and I’m going to see if he likes Gucci’s Memoire d’Une Odeur. I have plenty of options to offer my daughters! I’ve bought a few things for my husband to “give” me, lol, mostly from independent artisan perfumers like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, and Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.
I sent my two sisters in New England sets of Stash’s “Christmas in Paris” tea, with china mugs decorated with scenes of Paris. The tea is supposed to combine flavors of chocolate, lavender and mint! It sounds lovely and I may have to get some for my own family to try. I’m also looking forward to starting some real holiday cooking, which always makes the house smell wonderful.
What are you planning?
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.
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?
May Muguet Marathon: Inflorescence
Not many lily of the valley fragrances have been launched in recent years, although they were very popular during most of the 20th century. Their very popularity during that era may have pushed them to the back seat in our own day, as many today associate the fragrance of muguet with older relatives, even grandmothers (I happen to think that smelling like an elegant grandmother is infinitely preferable to smelling like an insipid celebrity, but chacun a son gout!). It is even more rare for a niche brand to launch a muguet fragrance these days, one exception being By Kilian’s Kissing.
Byredo, however, launched a muguet-centered fragrance in 2013: Inflorescence. The brand describes it thus: “A celebration of Spring’s early blooming flowers. A floral scent capturing the strength and delicacy of wild garden blossoms, as they reach their breathtaking beauty.” It is also described as having the following notes:
- Top: Pink Freesia, Rose Petals
- Heart: Lily of the Valley, Magnolia
- Base: Fresh Jasmine
As The Candy Perfume Boy notes, Inflorescence has a very appealing combination of creamy petals with fresh, light, green-tinged floral notes. That jasmine base really lasts a long time — I sprayed some on a card last week in Liberty London’s famous fragrance department, and it still wafts strongly from its little white envelope, a full week later! And it’s not a standard long-lasting woody or musk note — it is still fresh, lemony jasmine with a creamy undertone. Inflorescence would be a standout for that alone, but there is much more to it. He found the opening a bit harsh; I did not. I got a nice burst of freesia, which I love, followed quickly by those pretty rose petals. The lily of the valley follows soon after and takes center stage; but the magnolia note also clearly presents itself.
Those white flowers merge seamlessly into each other and then into the jasmine base. Inflorescence is deceptive in that it gives the impression of being quite fragile and, one would assume, quite fleeting, but no. It is delicate but tenacious — like the so-called Confederate jasmine that festoons the brick wall on one side of my garden. It is a really lovely modern floral — not in the same league as some of the legends like Diorissimo, but a classic in the making on its own terms. It is modern in that it accomplishes its stated goal with relatively few notes, almost like the more minimalist approach of modern architecture or interior design. I wish the price were not so high, as that takes away much of its accessibility and thus its appeal. I won’t be forking out for a full bottle any time soon, but it is a gorgeous light floral and if you like those, I think you would be happy to try Inflorescence.
Do you have any favorite Byredo fragrances?
Fragrance Friday: IKEA?
Swedish retail and home furnishings phenomenon IKEA has announced that it will develop its own fragrance, with Swedish perfume-maker Byredo. ?? I’m intrigued, because I love both Byredo and IKEA, but I wouldn’t necessarily think of them together!
And although IKEA has said it won’t evoke Swedish meatballs, THAT is the smell I associate with IKEA, aside from the woody smell of the warehouse-like section where you get your own stuff off the shelves. Could that be it? Wood and dust? Plus cinnamon rolls? But IKEA made its name creating well-designed, quality, affordable home products, so I am genuinely interested to see what they do with a luxury product like Byredo fragrance.
What are your favorite fragrance partnerships, or most unusual fragrance concepts?