A Fragrant Christmas Eve

A Fragrant Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! That includes this household, and the air is full of festive fragrances, starting with the fresh balsam Christmas tree and wreaths on the front of the house. My oldest daughter baked a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in gingerbread (!!) for a local Shakespeare theater, using Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Baking Show, with extra ginger for her ginger-loving mother (me); its scent is still wafting through the house from its place of honor in our dining room.

Gingerbread model of Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Shakespeare’s Globe in gingerbread, on display in theater lobby

Soon, I will set up the slow cooker with our annual Christmas Eve dinner: a Greek stew called “stifado”, which combines lamb or beef with red wine, spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, and currants. We began using this recipe in the days when we went to two consecutive afternoon services on Christmas Eve because our three children were in two different choirs at church, singing in different services. We could leave the slow cooker to do its work, and when we came home, dinner was ready for hungry kids and the whole house smelled like red wine, fruit, and spices. Then there’s the scent of mulled cider (real cider, thank you, not the clear apple juice that gets labelled as cider during the holidays; the non-alcoholic kind we used to buy from a local orchard when I was a child).

Hot mulled cider, Food Network recipe by Ina Garten

Ina Garten’s Hot Mulled Cider

Add to those the fragrance of scented candles and wax melts, according to our mood, and the paperwhite narcissi in a pot, given to us every year by a gardening friend, and each room of the house has its own perfume. Somehow, they don’t clash. I haven’t yet tried the candle labeled “White Balsam”, but it sounds delectable: vanilla and mint combined with balsam fir. And of course, I still haven’t decided which of my many personal fragrances to wear today and tonight! I plan to make the most out of the day, fragrance-wise; I’ll choose one to wear until we get dressed for afternoon church (thankfully, we now attend only one service, although I actually didn’t mind unplugging from the world and attending two in a row); one for church; and one for when we sit down to a festive family dinner and the rest of the evening.

Dinner place setting of Spode Christmas Rose china

Spode’s Christmas Rose

Decisions, decisions! I now own a bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noel, so I think that will have to be one of my choices, probably for this evening. Thinking of Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee for church, as it will be dark out when we emerge, but I could go with something based on incense instead, like Tauerville’s Incense Flash. A warm or spicy rose is always a good option, especially as our church is often filled with dark red roses and evergreens at Christmastime and my festive china has Christmas roses (hellebores) on it, so perhaps Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose or David Yurman Limited Edition, which beautifully combines roses with suede, oud, saffron, sandalwood, and a touch of raspberry. I often amp up the roses in my rose-centered fragrances with a dab of Abdul Samad al Qurashi’s Taif Roses, which my husband brought me back from a business trip to Dubai some years ago. Montale’s Intense Cafe is a strong contender for the fragrance I will wear before; it has a beautiful rosy heart, and it is one of the few fragrances I own that has prompted a complete stranger to approach me to ask what it was. On the other hand, I’ve been wearing Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose & Amber a lot lately; it is a beautiful, warm rose, and it lasts much longer than many Jo Malone scents without being intrusive or overwhelming. And then there’s Christmas Day to consider!

What fragrances mean Christmas or other winter festivities to you? Will you wear something special for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Are you hoping for any special fragrance gifts this Christmas?

Christmas perfume gifts

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Several of the perfume blogs I follow are featuring lists and questions about favorite autumn fragrances, and I’ve found myself mentioning, more than once, Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, which I like to wear in the fall and winter as a “floriental” — still floral, which is probably my most favored category of fragrance, with added oriental fragrance aspects like spices, myrrh, frankincense, etc. Per Fragrantica, its top notes are oregano, saffron and honeysuckle; middle notes are turkish rose, myrrh, styrax and lavender; base notes are labdanum, musk, ambergris and olibanum (frankincense).

Calligraphy Rose was one of a trio of Aramis eaux de parfum launched from 2012-2014: Calligraphy (2012), Calligraphy Rose (2013) and Calligraphy Saffron (2014). It was created by perfumer Trudi Loren, who is listed with Maurice Roucel as co-creator of 2006’s Missoni, awarded five stars by Luca Turin in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” It has been discontinued but is still widely available online for reasonable prices.

To my nose, Calligraphy Rose starts out green and sweet, which makes sense given the top notes listed. The oregano I smell is the green, growing plant, not the dried herb. The sweetness must come from the honeysuckle note, which Gail Gross wrote about in a wonderful review of Calligraphy Rose last January at CaFleureBon. For her, the honeysuckle was very dominant. It is less so for me, though its underlying sweetness never leaves. On my skin, the rose note emerges quickly and strongly, and it persists for a long time, which I love. I have layered Calligraphy Rose with other rose scents such as Taif Roses by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, a powerful rose attar, on occasions like Christmas Eve, with happy results; any lasting rose fragrance will have the same effect of amplifying the already-strong rose note. I bet it would layer beautifully with Viktor&Rolf’s Flowerbomb Rose Twist, a perfume layering oil, or with Tauerville’s Rose Flash, with its 20% concentration. One could emphasize other notes in a similar fashion, such as adding a lavender or frankincense layer, pushing it in any direction one prefers. Calligraphy Rose is a bit of a chameleon.

As it dries down, Calligraphy Rose on its own becomes less floral and more balsamic, like a lovely balsamic glaze. This “glaze” was made with honey, and includes herbs. Having started out quite green, it becomes warmer, thanks to those warm base notes. In fact, its progression is not unlike the progression of autumn itself, from the lingering green of still-living plants, to the late flushes of rose blooms, to the warmth and spice of winter dishes. P.S. It lasts for hours and hours! One spray on my wrist is still wafting faintly off my skin almost 24 hours later as a warm, sweet skin scent. Use with a light hand, but you’ll smell marvelous for a long time.

Calligraphy Rose is a truly unisex fragrance. Launched under Estee Lauder’s men’s brand of Aramis, it suits both men and women. It is less gourmand than Montale’s Intense Cafe, more herbal. I love it!

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas …

Is there any season to compare with Christmas in the range and variety of lovely fragrances it evokes? From the balsam-scented boughs of wreaths, garlands and decorated trees to the delicious smells emanating from kitchens; from the incense of Midnight Mass to the smoke of fireplaces hung with stockings; from the spiced scents of oranges pierced with cloves and meat roasting with rosemary and garlic, to the narcotic perfume of paperwhite narcissi forced in pots — the fragrances are everywhere.

I make some holiday drinks mostly because of their wonderful smell, although they also taste terrific. One favorite is the Scandinavian mulled wine Glögg, a concoction of red wine, port, aquavit and brandy mixed with fresh ginger, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, raisins and almonds. I make it in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day. Heaven! One must approach it with care, though — one mug makes you feel lovely and warm inside, with holiday goodwill toward all coursing through your veins, and a second mug will likely leave you on the floor, relying on others’ goodwill to take you home and put you to bed. There are many variations on recipes for Glögg, easily found online; I encourage you to try it. So easy and festive.

One of my favorite blogs, Bois de Jasmin, has had posts in which readers recommend various perfumes to wear on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and throughout the holiday season. So much fun to read what others recommend and enjoy! I decided to layer the gorgeous attar of Taif Rose that my husband brought me from Dubai with Aramis Calligraphy Rose, for the notes of rose, frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are obvious candidates for Christmas, but rose, you ask? “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” is my response.

On a more serious note, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin is again running an online fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, an admirable and effective organization that provides medical care to civilians and refugees in some of the most dangerous, war-torn parts of the world. As the Christian world gathers to worship the homeless newborn of a refugee family, born at a time of armed strife and conflict, we should remember the children and families who today find themselves in similar danger. My teenaged son’s Christmas gift to me was an IOU for a gift of fragrance that I could choose; I will ask him to donate to Victoria’s fundraiser and Doctors Without Borders on my behalf — the fragrance connection being that each such gift enters one into a drawing for some marvelous fragrance-related prizes. Check it out! You can enter until January 15, 2017.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), treating refugee mother and baby in Africa

Doctors Without Borders treating mother and child; photo Stephanie Christaki/MSF

The weather here has been so unseasonably warm that we are running around outside doing errands and chores without coats! I plan to do some gardening this week while I am away from my office, which will surely bring more scents to my attention.

What does Christmas smell like to you? Or if you celebrate another holiday at this time of year, what are its most evocative scents?

all-saints-altar-christmas

Christmas altar with Nativity creche and roses