Perfume Chat Room, September 24

Perfume Chat Room, September 24

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, September 24, and it is officially fall in my part of the world! I do love the fall season, but not for the reasons some autumn-lovers give. I don’t particularly care for cinnamon, pumpkin, harvest themes, etc., though I don’t dislike them. What I do love about fall is the often sudden improvement in the weather, from hot, muggy and buggy, to cool, clear and dry. My garden often goes out of control in August, when the attacks of mosquitoes drive me indoors after doing the bare minimum of weeding and watering. In the fall, I can venture out again; and in the Southeastern United States where I live, fall is a whole new gardening season unto itself, with cool weather vegetables and flowers that will produce all winter. The autumn air just smells good to me: crisper, but with undertones of earth and leaves. And I adore Japanese maples, so I always look forward to their color changes in my garden.

I’ve been enjoying comments here and on other blogs about the different fragrances people are wearing in the fall. I treated myself for my birthday to a bottle of Jean Louis Scherrer, a chypre with plenty of floral and green notes which some of you have mentioned before. I really like chypre fragrances, and I think they work very well in this transitional fall weather, so I’m enjoying it very much!

Fall also feels to me like a time of renewal, probably due to its long association in my mind with the start of each school year, and I find myself more motivated to reorganize things. We are in the last stage of restoring our house to order after last winter’s plumbing disaster and the moves in and out of our young adult children. We’re waiting for a couple of new rugs, and the return of three rugs from the cleaner, so we can rearrange furniture and bedrooms; then the hardwood floors on the main level will be refurbished so we can put back the rugs and furniture in the living room and dining room. I will also reorganize my perfume collection (gulp!). Do you have any reorganization plans afoot? What fall fragrances did you wear this week?

Featured image from www.amycampion.com.

Perfume Chat Room, September 17

Perfume Chat Room, September 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 Friday, September 17, and we have had several days of birthdays in this household! Mine was at the start of the month and my husband’s was last week, so we’ve had serial and shared celebrations with our kids. And yes, a few new fragrances snuck into the house. The highlight of the shared celebrations was our family trip to see the musical Hamilton, a long-delayed Christmas gift from December 2019. We had seen it once before, all but my son, and it was just as enthralling the second time. My son was blown away by it. This was the first live performance any of us had attended since March 2020, which added to its impact. We also went out for a fancy family dinner on a different night, given that Hamilton was an entire evening unto itself. We tried a new Italian restaurant nearby, and it was terrific! Again, our perceptions may have been enhanced by how long it has been since we really went out to dinner, but we loved this place and will go back.

The birthday fragrances I received (bought for myself on behalf of my family, lol!) were: Jean Louis Scherrer, Mont de Narcisse, Choeur des Anges, and Crepuscule des Ames. A dear friend surprised me with a lovely gift of body lotion and soap from Lili Bermuda, which she recently visited, in my favorite Lily. It’s very difficult to find gifts for my husband because 1) he actually doesn’t want much; and 2) if he does want something for himself, which is rare, he’ll often just get it. But this year, I was able to surprise him with a bottle of a new botanical gin, which we’ll enjoy (slowly) together. We started down this road a few years ago when we discovered Hendricks. Given how rarely we drink cocktails or hard liquor, I expect this bottle will be with us for a long time!

Do you have your eye on any upcoming birthday fragrances? Or have you recently received any?

May Melange Marathon: Both Sides Of Clouds

May Melange Marathon: Both Sides Of Clouds

One of the hardest working and most creative perfumers out there is Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. She and her small team have kept the perfume coming throughout this lockdown, in very innovative ways, from using social media (they have a great Facebook page!) and Patreon, to doing online perfume workshops and scent kits. She has a book coming out in September (pre-order available now), co-authored with one of my favorite bloggers, Sam of I Scent You A Day.

My scent of the day today is 4160 Tuesdays’ Both Sides of Clouds. The original Clouds and its sibling, Clouds Illusion, came out in 2019. They were inspired by Christi Long, founder of the Facebook group and very nice online community “Eau My Soul” and her love for Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now”:

Essentially the same fragrance but made with different materials. Clouds (and Clouds Illusion) was inspired by the song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell. A contrast of both happiness and sadness, with both gloomy and sunny elements, Clouds represents the sun peaking through gray clouds — a message of hope. Christi suggested the idea to Sarah along with certain fragrance notes which capture the mood. While Clouds has orris butter, vanilla absolute, hay absolute, narcissus absolute, Indian sandalwood essential oil, tonka absolute and citrus fruits including organic bergamot, the second version, Clouds Illusion, replaces some of the expensive naturals with high quality synthetic replacements which offers a more affordable option of the same fragrance.”

The fragrances were crowdfunded, another innovation of Sarah’s, though pre-pandemic; I took part in this particular project, and enjoyed it so much! You can read my review of Clouds Illusion eau de parfum here. I should confess that while I appreciate Joni Mitchell’s sheer genius, the version of the song that I greatly prefer is that by Judy Collins, who was actually the first to release a recording of “Both Sides Now” on her album “Wildflowers.” What a lovely voice she had!

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Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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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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Scent Sample Sunday: Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain

Scent Sample Sunday: Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain

Today’s scent sample is one I am surprisingly close to “thunking”, which I hadn’t expected. I was given a house sample of Diptyque’s 34 Boulevard Saint Germain with my purchase of the house’s Eau Rose hair mist. I was happy to have it, but didn’t anticipate much from it. It has been sitting on my bedside table with some other samples, so I pulled it out earlier this week when I was settling in for my usual bedtime reading. At first spray, I thought to myself, “this is VERY pleasant.” As I continued reading, I periodically sniffed my wrist, and thought, “this is still REALLY nice.” And when I woke up the next morning, having had it on my skin by then for several hours, it STILL smelled really good.

So I did that again the next night. And the next, including last night. And here I am, on a Sunday morning, writing about it as my sample of the week. What is it like, and why am I liking it so much? Continue reading

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

Scent Sample Sunday: Silences

Scent Sample Sunday: Silences

One of the regular readers here mentioned recently wearing Silences, and Portia from “Australian Perfume Junkies” and I immediately oohed and aahed over it. So today’s scent sample is Jacomo’s classic fragrance, the original Silences.

Magazine ad for fragrance Jacomo Silences

Jacomo Silences, original ad (1978).

Silences was launched in 1978, and it fits right in with the green, woody, chypre vibe of so many classic fragrances from that decade. I’ve realized that my scent tastes seem to have been formed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a child; given how deeply scent is linked to our subconscious, it makes sense that the fragrances of one’s childhood have particular impact. (To be clear, I own and love MANY later fragrances, but I find that I am really drawn to chypres, for instance, and to retro florals).

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: Top notes — orange blossom, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, green notes and cassia; middle notes — iris, jasmine, narcissus, hyacinth, rose and lily-of-the-valley; base notes — vetiver, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, cedar and ambrette (musk mallow). This list refers to the original and classic Silences, which was reissued in 2004. There is a new version, called Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime, which was issued in 2012. I appreciate, by the way, that the brand didn’t just reformulate and pretend that the new version was the same Silences. It’s easy to tell them apart, both from the name and from the packaging; Silences Sublime comes in a similar iconic round black bottle, but the lettering on it is completely different. It has excellent reviews online, but it doesn’t seem to be widely available in the US, unlike classic Silences, which can be found online for bargain prices. One can order it directly for delivery to Europe and a few other countries from the Jacomo brand website.

And Silences is a true bargain beauty! You have to like dry green chypres to enjoy it, though. It opens with galbanum leading the charge, a soupcon of bergamot floating in its wake. I don’t smell orange blossom at all, and while I’m sure the other listed top notes are there, because the opening is multi-faceted and complex, most of what I clearly smell is the combination of galbanum and bergamot, with galbanum dominating. As it dries down, two of my favorite flowers emerge: narcissus and hyacinth. The dry greenness of the galbanum persists, though I also get a hint of lily of the valley (another favorite flower). There’s a soft green earthiness that I have come to associate with iris root. I don’t smell any jasmine or rose in this middle phase.

Silences has often been compared to Chanel No. 19 in its eau de toilette version and for good reason. Their notes are almost identical, though in slightly different order and emphasis. No. 19 was created by the master Henri Robert in 1970, who also created 1974’s Chanel Cristalle. The perfumer behind Silences was Gerard Goupy, working at Givaudan with Jean-Charles Niel. Interestingly, M. Goupy was also the nose behind Lancome’s Climat, created in 1967, which in its vintage form is another green floral, though its opening is strongly aldehydic, unlike these later chypres. He also created Lancome’s Magie Noire in 1978, which has many of the same notes, also in a different order, but adding notes like spices and incense, honey and civet; it too is considered a chypre but more floral than green or woody. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” points out that its particular genius lies in the tension of combining its oriental and chypre accords.

So although one might be tempted to pigeonhole Silences as a bargain shadow of No. 19, it is not. Look at the sequence above: 1967: Goupy’s Climat; 1970: Robert’s No. 19; 1974: Robert’s Cristalle; 1978: Goupy’s Silences. Add in Bernard Chant’s creations for Estee Lauder, 1969’s Azuree and 1971’s Clinique Aromatics Elixir, and you see the fragrance zeitgeist of the time, with several gifted French perfumers exploring facets of dry, woody, green, bitter, mossy, dark, earthy scents — very fitting, for an era that also brought the environmental movement, the first “Earth Day” in 1970, and many landmark environmental protection laws.

Where does Silences fit on the scent spectrum? To my nose, it is more of a bitter green than the others, because of the strong galbanum opening. I love galbanum, so this delights me. It doesn’t have the leather notes that some of the others listed above have, or some of the animalic notes (it does list musk, but that may be based more on the base note of ambrette, or musk mallow plant).  Bitter, yes, but I don’t find Silences aggressive overall, as some commenters do. The opening is sharply green, but its final drydown phase becomes quite gentle and earthy while staying green, probably due to the combination of oakmoss, vetiver and sandalwood, softened by the ambrette. The complexity of its base accord is revealed in that today, I sprayed both my wrists at the same time. One wrist smells more strongly green and mossy, and the other more like a sweetish sandalwood with some lingering hyacinth.

The floral notes in Silences are quite reticent. The only ones I really smell are the narcissus and hyacinth, with a hint of muguet, all of which are quite green in their own right. So if it’s a more floral green you seek, I suggest you try No. 19 or Cristalle. Fruit? Aside from the bergamot opening note, which is subtle, there is no fruit here AT ALL. Sweet? Nope. Look elsewhere for fruity florals, or gourmands.

Have you tried Silences? Do you like green fragrances?

Scent Sample Sunday: Meet Me On The Corner

Scent Sample Sunday: Meet Me On The Corner

There are times when I am reminded that there is SO MUCH about English experience that is completely unfamiliar to me, in spite of having had an English mother. Of course, she came to America in the early 1950s, married my father and stayed, so much of her actual English experience predates 1960, and after that it was secondhand, mostly via her younger sister who was a model and actress during the era of “London Swings” (in fact, the second wife of Bernard Lewis, of “Chelsea Girl” fame). I bring this up because I am a devotee of the fragrances created by Sarah McCartney under her brand “4160 Tuesdays“, and was recently intrigued by her latest crowdfunding project, Meet Me On The Corner.

According to Sarah, this fragrance was inspired by a song of the same name that reached number 1 in the UK pop charts in 1972, by a folk rock group named Lindisfarne. I had never heard of the group, or the song, but Sarah’s story of how they reunited annually for many years for a Christmas concert in Newcastle, starting in 1976, and the inspiration she drew from their best-known song, were so charming that I took part in this year’s crowdfunding of the scent. Sarah has been thinking about this fragrance for a long time, as noted in this 2014 interview with CaFleureBon. Her latest commentary about it is here:

And now I have my very own bottle of Meet Me On The Corner, and I love it! (I also got the seasonal scent she mentions in the video, Christmas Concert, and will review that later this week after I attend an actual Christmas concert).

Meet Me On The Corner is a citrus chypre meant to evoke the fragrances that were popular in the 1970s like Sarah’s favorite Diorella, before the Blitzkrieg of 1980s powerhouses like Giorgio Beverly Hills — comparable to folk rock giving way to glam rock and its 1980s offspring. The 1971 song itself, which I hadn’t heard before, is a sweet, self-consciously folksy derivative of Bob Dylan’s 1965 Mr. Tambourine Man; of the versions on YouTube, I prefer the 2003 edition:

This is the refrain that inspired Sarah:

Meet me on the corner,
When the lights are coming on,
And I’ll be there.
I promise I’ll be there.
Down the empty streets,
We’ll disappear into the dawn,
If you have dreams enough to share.

So what is the fragrance like? It opens with a really pretty citrus, very lemony but not only lemon. There is another, less sweet citrus note which seems to be bergamot, but I clearly smell lemon too — not so much the fruit, but more like lemon zest and lemon tree. Maybe citron or petitgrain? Sarah says that the fragrance includes a peach lactone (a key ingredient of Edmond Roudnitska’s 1972 Diorella as well as Guerlain’s legendary ur-chypre, Mitsouko), flowery hedione (central to another Roudnitska masterpiece, the 1966 Eau Sauvage), and magnolia leaf. Here is what one producer says about the latter: it “exudes an aroma that is greener, more crisp and woody than the sweet scent of Magnolia Flower. The aroma of this rare Magnolia grandiflora leaf essential oil is clean and refined. Magnolia leaf is quite intriguing with hints of fig, bergamot and myrtle.”

As an official “notes list” isn’t yet available, I will offer a layperson’s guess and say that top notes include bergamot, citron, petitgrain; heart notes include peach, jasmine, fig, magnolia leaf, green notes (myrtle?); base notes include musk, woody and resinous notes (labdanum?), vetiver or oakmoss. I hope someone will issue a correct list! Meet Me At The Corner is a unisex fragrance, as befits the sometimes androgynous 1970s. It neatly combines aspects of Diorella and Eau Sauvage; this might be their love-child. It is bright and sunny, youthful without being sweet. It is, as Sarah has written, a fragrance to be “worn by women in jeans and men with long hair who scandalised our Edwardian grandparents.”

As I learned more about the song, the era, and Lindisfarne’s Christmas concerts, begun to raise funds for Newcastle City Hall, a concert venue, I also learned about the deep poverty that still afflicted Newcastle upon Tyne and its Dickensian slums in the 1970s, so well documented by photographer Nick Hedges for the UK charity Shelter. I also found this marvelous photo of the Pilgrim Street fire station in Newcastle in 1972, and I am guessing this may be the one that Sarah describes frequenting with her friends as teenagers:

Fire station on Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, UK, 1972, with pedestrians

Newcastle Fire Station 1972; image from Newcastle Chronicle.

Sarah has said on the 4160 Tuesdays website that Meet Me On The Corner will likely return as a regular offering in 2020, so keep an eye out for it; you can keep up with news on the 4160 Tuesdays Facebook page. It will be worth the wait!

Teenaged girls wearing tie-dyed clothing, 1970s, Doreen Spooner

Tye-dye girls, Doreen Spooner/Getty Images

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Mitsouko and Halston

Scent Sample Sunday: Mitsouko and Halston

What more can be said about Guerlain’s Mitsouko in this, its centennial year? Since its creation in 1919, it has attracted, confused, frustrated and even repelled those who smell it. Many great writers and blogs about fragrances have extolled its excellence and legendary status, as well as the challenge it poses to modern noses: Chandler Burr, Luca Turin, The Black Narcissus, Kafkaesque, Cafleurebon, Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Shrine, etc.

As part of my own process for trying to understand it, I began to educate myself about chypres, the fragrance family to which Mitsouko belongs. Along the way, I learned that several of my favorite fragrances fall in that group. One of them is Halston, now titled Halston Classic. I have a small bottle, with Halston’s signature on the bottle. As I read about them both on Fragrantica, I noticed that Mitsouko and Halston share many of the same notes. Halston: mint, melon, green leaves, peach, bergamot; carnation, orris root, jasmine, marigold, ylang-ylang, cedar, rose; sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, oak moss, vetiver, incense. Mitsouko: bergamot, lemon, mandarin, neroli; peach, ylang-ylang, rose, clove, cinnamon; labdanum, benzoin, patchouli, vetiver, oak moss.

How do they compare? The Mitsouko eau de parfum I have (first created in 2007 but listing the same notes as the original, reformulated in 2013 and supposedly quite close to the original) lasts much longer than my Halston, which I think is a cologne concentration (hard to read the tiny lettering on the bottom). The famous dry cinnamon note is strong, while none of Halston‘s notes come across as powerfully. In Halston, I think the carnation note adds the spice notes one finds in Mitsouko, while its sandalwood may provide some of the dry woodiness that Mitsouko gets from the cinnamon. On my skin, Mitsouko smells smokier than the Halston. Wearing one each on my hands, I can smell their kinship, and it seems entirely possible to me that perfumer Bernard Chant, who created Halston, may have had in mind the creation of a modern tribute to the legendary Mitsouko, especially with that peach opening. I doubt M. Chant would have missed the obvious reference to Mitsouko, famously the first fragrance to add a note of peach, by using a synthetic ingredient.

Halston is definitely easier to wear and easier on the modern nose, though still miles away from the fruity florals currently in favor. I especially love its marigold note. When I was trying out Mitsouko, however, my young adult daughter came to sit by me and declared “Never wear that perfume again, Mom!”. There is a dark side to Mitsouko, as many commenters have noted.

What do you think of Mitsouko or Halston Classic?