Perfume Chat Room, March 25

Perfume Chat Room, March 25

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, March 25, and it is Spring with a capital S! Below is one of my most happy places, which my husband I visited last weekend:

Hillside covered with daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens

Full disclosure: I didn’t take this photo last weekend, I think it is from last year and I didn’t take it. But this is what it looked like! Hillsides of daffodils in bloom — 20+ million of them. Yes, I did wear Ostara, again.

Today I’m wearing 4160 Tuesdays’ Scenthusiasm, another favorite fragrance with an oddball name. Do you have any favorite fragrances with names that may be a bit weird? Do you have any special spring happy places? Or, what fragrance(s) are you wearing for this transitional season?

Perfume Chat Room, February 25

Perfume Chat Room, February 25

Welcome back 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, February 25, and it is a somber day in Eastern Europe. Russian forces have invaded Ukraine. Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia and other former Soviet countries have taken to the streets. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians are fleeing west. Whatever one thinks of the geopolitics involved, one can surely feel for the residents of Ukraine whose lives have been turned upside-down. My heart goes out to them.

Some of you probably also read the wonderful blog Bois de Jasmin, written by Victoria Frolova. Although Victoria lives in Brussels, Belgium (where I spent part of my childhood), she is Ukrainian by birth, and she traces much of her love of fragrance back to her years of visiting family in Poltava. She has been my own little window into a part of the world I don’t know well; I pray that her family, friends, and their hometown remain unharmed.

Today is ex-Beatle George Harrison’s birthday, and in honor of that, the “community project” at Now Smell This is to pair a fragrance with a song by George Harrison or the Beatles. Robin thinks that was my idea at some point; I don’t remember suggesting it, but I’m happy to take credit! The clear choice for my SOTD is my beloved Ostara, the very fragrance of yellow daffodils, paired with one of my favorite songs by George Harrison, “Here Comes The Sun.”

Gibbs Gardens daffodils; song by the Beatles; copyright and credits here.

I recently watched the documentary “Get Back”, about the Beatles’ work on their album “Let It Be”, and it shows very clearly some of the tension among the Fab Four, but also the joy and fun they often had while working together. Sadly, it really does show how George was sometimes brushed aside as a songwriter and wrote many of his songs on his own, unlike the formidable Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership. Watching the documentary was like watching a marriage break up in slow motion. There was still so much love and affection, and many moments of laughter, but it seemed to me that John Lennon was clearly pulling away, Paul McCartney was like the partner who sees this long relationship ending, against his wishes, George was like the child whose needs are being overlooked because of the marital drama, and Ringo Starr was like the kid who’s just trying to make everyone happy by putting his head down and doing his job. At some point in this era, though not on film, Lennon apparently referred to his desire to leave the group as “wanting a divorce.”

“Here Comes The Sun”, released on the album “Abbey Road,” was written by George after a day spent in the sunny garden of his friend Eric Clapton. I have read that it is the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify, which is remarkable given their legendary output. I also have fond memories of it because it was my youngest child’s very favorite song of any when he was a little boy, which matched his sunny, happy disposition. Happy birthday, George, and thank you for helping to create the most memorable songs I recall from my childhood and beyond!

Hillside covered with daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Perfume Chat Room, March 12

Perfume Chat Room, March 12

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, March 12, and spring has sprung! It is now reliably sunny and warm every day; daffodils are in full bloom; pink magnolias have started blossoming; the redbuds and clematis armandii in my garden are in bloom too. I still haven’t found a fragrance that adequately mimics the scent of pink magnolias, but I have hopes for the new Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia. Hydrangeas and roses have started to leaf out, as have the many Japanese maples in both front and back gardens. I plan to start working in my new raised beds for a vegetable garden this weekend. Last year, I grew purple cauliflower for the first time; it was beautiful and it tasted wonderful. One forgets how much better homegrown, freshly picked vegetables taste. Even the cauliflower skeptics in my house had to admit they enjoyed mine.

I’m also hoping to visit the gardens north of here where they have planted tens of millions of daffodil bulbs, which have started their bloom season. The varieties cover early, mid, and late seasons for narcissi, and they are a gorgeous and impressive sight. Plus they smell wonderful — just like my beloved Ostara. How is spring coming along in your part of the world? Or autumn, in Portia’s case …

Fragrant Flowers

Fragrant Flowers

I’ve neglected blogging last week for a few reasons — two friends of mine experienced sudden deaths in their families, one a husband, another a young adult son. As a result, I was going to memorial services and receptions, and creating flower arrangements for one of those. The bereaved widow is Asian-American, born in Hong Kong, so I did a little research into appropriate flowers. The main thing I learned is that one CANNOT use the color red, and white is the most appropriate color. One can combine it with touches of blue or yellow. So off to Trader Joe’s I went, because they have beautiful bunches of fresh flowers ready to be arranged, and also potted orchids for reasonable prices.

I was very pleased with the final result: one big arrangement with lots of fragrant white Oriental lilies, pale blue delphiniums, and green Bells of Ireland for the main table, and several potted orchids to put on other tables. I also used white evening stock and a softer form of eucalyptus than one usually sees, both very fragrant. In the face of death, one feels so helpless to do or say anything useful. Providing the flowers helped.

After my bout of flower arranging, I started planting the MANY bulbs I bought a couple of weeks ago. I love spring bulbs, and I always buy and plant as many daffodils, jonquils, and other narcissi as I can. Some go in the ground; some go in outdoor pots; some go in pots that I will force indoors. One of the reasons I love these flowers so much is their fragrance. I also cherish their bright colors and graceful shapes. One of my favorites is “Thalia”, a graceful jonquil with white flowers that almost look like orchids. Another is “February Gold”, an early variety that returns reliably year after year in my garden. Its cheerful yellow flowers are a sign that spring has arrived, though they don’t appear as early as a wonderful daffodil, “Rijnveld’s Early Sensation”. When I’ve had that in my garden, it has started blooming in late January. Marvelous!

So I’ve been very, very busy, though not without fragrance. I’m also now quite stiff, having spent hours on my knees, trowel in hand. I have many more to go, so wish me luck! My son helped me replace some half-dead azaleas a couple of weeks ago; thank goodness, I was able to find the same old-fashioned variety (“Coral Bells”) at our local state farmer’s market, because they are part of a gorgeous hedge of pink azaleas. You can’t find it at retail nurseries any more, but there is a nursery supplier at the farmer’s market who always has them. Whew! Have you been doing any fall planting?

shallow focus photography of pink petaled flowers

Photo by Claudia Zuidema on Pexels.com

 

What Went Well

What Went Well

What went well this week?

  1. My husband and I went to see the most glorious display of daffodils — literally millions of them in full bloom, at a place called Gibbs Gardens. Because I told him a while ago that I’d like to do that, to give him time to process the idea, and because when I reminded him, he sweetly said right away, “Let’s go!”. The flowers were spectacular, winding through the woods and up and down hills.
  2. We spent last week at the beach! Because we decided with a lot of travel planned for the summer, we would have a more relaxed spring break. We are so lucky to be within driving distance of beautiful beaches.
  3. We shared the city of Charleston with dear friends, and they loved it. Because, after all, what’s not to love in Charleston?

Have a great week and count your blessings!

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

It may be a bit early in the season to review Penhaligon’s Ostara, given that it is named after a goddess of spring and the vernal equinox festival celebrated by pagans. The vernal equinox, after all, happens in March, not February. But temperatures here today reached the 60s, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so Ostara feels right for the day.

Penhaligon’s is a venerable British perfume house that dates back to the mid-late 19th century; its founder was perfumer to Queen Victoria. It was acquired last year by Puig, a Spanish company based in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities. They are expanding the reach of Penhaligon’s and have even opened a store in the United States, in New York: At Penhaligon’s, Old World Meets Modernism. Ostara is a new fragrance, launched in 2015. The perfumer behind it is Bertrand Duchaufour, who was inspired by England’s wild daffodils to create a sunny fragrance bouquet of yellow flowers, green leaves, dew and scented flowers.

Bertrand Duchaufour daffodils

Bertrand Duchaufour at Kew Gardens; http://www.penhaligons.com.

The packaging is beautiful, with yellow cut-paper daffodils applied to the outer box. On the back is an excerpt from Wordsworth’s  famous poem “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud:

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Ostara Box

Photo: www.blogs.elle.com.hk

Ostara opens with bergamot, clementine, juniper, red berries CO2, mint, currant buds CO2, violet leaf absolute, green leaves and aldehydes. The mostly floral heart adds notes of daffodil, hyacinth, cyclamen, ylang-ylang, hawthorn and wisteria along with beeswax. Base notes include styrax resin, vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber and blond wood.

To me, the opening is bright but not fruity. There is more than a hint of greenness from the juniper, mint, violet leaf and green leaves, but also a creamy undertone that is really winning, maybe from the beeswax accord. I smell the daffodil note quickly, and an astringent note that I think must be the hawthorn. There is nothing dark about Ostara. However, it’s not sweet — just sunny. I don’t pick up the hyacinth note very strongly, nor is the daffodil accord as sweet as, say, paperwhite narcissus. The drydown is warm, creamy and light. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin describes it so well: “From the first minute on skin Ostara glows, rich in green, citrusy and leafy nuances but without suggesting the component parts. In other words, don’t expect to smell along the marketing pyramid and find bergamot and then juniper, mint, violet, etc. Like a flower from a magician’s wand, it unfolds as a big, dewy blossom.”

Why the name Ostara?  According to some, Ostara is a pagan festival marking the time when the sun passes over the celestial equator and the season’s change from winter to spring. It is named for a pagan goddess of spring or the dawn, Eostre, whose name appears in the Anglo-Saxon writings of the Venerable Bede — but only once. Some say that her name is the root of the word “Easter”, the Christian holy day of renewal, resurrection and rebirth.

Goddess in Grotto Real Alcazar Garden

Daffodils are my favorite flowers, followed closely by lilies-of-the-valley and roses. I’m so happy that a great perfumer and renowned perfume house teamed up to create a daffodil fragrance, especially one so pleasing.

Ostara

Illustration: Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.