May Melange Marathon: Gin and Scenthusiasm

May Melange Marathon: Gin and Scenthusiasm

I’m not much for cocktails. My tipple is usually a glass of wine; two years ago, I was introduced to the Aperol Spritz, and that’s my “fancy summer drink”, though I also like sangria (basically wine with fruit). However, on a couple of trips to Northern Ireland and Ireland in recent years, my husband and I were introduced to small-batch artisan gin. We had previously enjoyed Hendrick’s Gin and I even made up a cocktail that combined it with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade (here’s the recipe), because my husband does like a good gin-and-tonic in the summer, and I wanted some variety.

Imagine my delight, then, when I found out that 4160 Tuesdays had created a fragrance called Scenthusiasm, based on the botanicals found in Hendrick’s Gin, for a special event by that brand! I didn’t really expect to get my hands on a bottle, but the opportunity arose after I wrote that post in 2018, and I seized it. After all, my little mini of Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling wasn’t going to last forever!

I also have a purse spray of Commodity’s Gin, and I’ve been wanting to compare the two. So today, I sprayed Gin on one hand, and Scenthusiasm on the other. They actually go quite well together as adjacent scents (not layered one on the other). Of the two, no surprise, I prefer Scenthusiasm. It doesn’t smell like gin; it smells like the floral and herbal notes in Hendrick’s, with natural orris (iris) butter, rose absolute, lemon and orange essential oils, cucumber extract, juniper absolute (of course) and coriander essential oil with musk, fresh air and white wood note synthetics. As perfumer Sarah McCartney says: “It’s inspired by gin, and has gin notes but mostly it’s a floral at heart: rose and iris, with the herbs dancing around it.” Just my cup of tea, to mix my metaphors! To my nose, the dominant floral note is the orris root; here, the rose is uncharacteristically cast as a supporting performer. The cucumber and juniper berries led the middle phase an astringent greenness, while the orris root carries through from start to finish.

Commodity’s Gin, on the other hand smells more masculine, aromatic, and woody to me. Commodity has closed down, but its fragrances are still to be found online and sometimes at discounters like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. Gin‘s top notes are Juniper Berries, Grapefruit and Lime; middle notes are Ginger Leaf, Labdanum and Freesia; base notes are Oak, Musk, Smoke and Patchouli, according to Fragrantica. As soon as I spray it, there’s a strong pop of lime and juniper, both aromatic scents I quite like. They do smell like a traditional, aromatic men’s cologne to my nose, an association I can’t shake even though Gin is truly unisex. The opening is really intriguing, with its burst of lime and juniper, together with the citrus essential oils. The heart phase smells mostly gingery to me, with an early entrance from both oak and smoke., followed pretty soon by patchouli. I don’t smell freesia at all. Both the opening and heart stages dry down pretty quickly, leaving a combination of oak, musk, smoke and patchouli that smells like the wood-paneled interior of an old-fashioned room like a library or study, where gin cocktails might be served before dinner and where family members and guests might be allowed to smoke occasionally.

How do you feel about gin? Boozy scents? Aromatic florals?

P.S. 4160 Tuesdays is having a “Tidying Up Sale” to make room, and Scenthusiasm is marked down in its smaller sizes (50 ml and below), by 50%! If I didn’t already own a lot of it, I’d be jumping on that.

May Melange Marathon: Eve

May Melange Marathon: Eve

One of the joys of this fragrance hobby is discovering independent perfumers and their work. One of my favorites is Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents. I’ve loved her earliest creations, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. My SOTD is Eve, one of the “Audacious Innocence” collection, which was a finalist for the 2020 Art & Olfaction Awards in the artisan/independent category.

The other fragrance in the collection, Pandora, is a “sister” to Eve. According to the brand’s website, they share most of the same notes, but Pandora shows a darker side, with added base notes of labdanum and opoponax. Eve‘s notes, without those added base notes, are: Top notes of Lemon, Tomato Leaf, Apple, Bergamot and Mandarin Orange; middle notes of Orris, Lilac, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Carrot Seeds and Jasmine Sambac; base notes of Oakmoss, Tonka Bean, Woods, Vetiver, Musk. Both scents come in a parfum extrait concentration of 35%.

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Pandora opening the box
Pandora, by John William Waterhouse

Diane St. Clair sees Eve and Pandora as similar:

The stories of Pandora and Eve, who reached for the forbidden apple, have much in common. Both came to symbolize women who were punished for disobeying orders and acting on their impulses towards curiosity. We believe that women who challenge the rules and follow their curiosity are striving towards creativity, innovation and independence.

The opening of Eve is as lush as the painting that inspired it, above. It smells of all the fruits listed as top notes, bound together by the astringent greenness of tomato leaf and bergamot. This seems so appropriate, since the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted to eat the apple, was more of an orchard than a garden. (In fact, I’ve learned that the word “paradise”, often used to refer to the Garden of Eden, comes from an ancient Persian word that means a walled orchard garden). I love green scents, so the tomato leaf especially appeals to me. A good thing, since it is quite strong! As the top notes retreat, the scent becomes more and more floral, with orris taking the lead, though ylang-ylang and roses are right behind it. This stage is rich and lush — almost creamy, but not gourmand at all.

I smell the oakmoss almost from the start, and certainly in the “heart” phase. This is some serious oakmoss, friends. It evokes the shadowy, green darkness under the dense branches of trees. That impression only grows stronger as the floral notes fade away and the other base notes anchor the whole scent to the earth, with their woods, musk, vetiver. I can’t say that I smell tonka much at all. Eve lasts a long time on my skin, several hours.

Sillage is moderate, as one would expect from an extrait, but I would say that a little goes a long way! I dabbed tiny spots of Eve on my wrists, and their scent carries easily and clearly up to my nose. Longevity is excellent. Eve just feels like a high-quality perfume all around; one senses the quality of the ingredients right from the start. Even though it is supposed to be the “yin” scent to Pandora‘s darker “yang”, this is not a light or frivolous fragrance. It is not to be trifled with! Which is why I used the gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite painting as this post’s featured image; it shows Lilith, said in Jewish folklore to have been the first wife of Adam (yes, that Adam), who was replaced by Eve because she was too rebellious. The painting beautifully captures a lush, flowering garden, and I think that’s a perfume bottle by the mirror!

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Lilith, first wife of Adam
Lady Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Have you had the chance to try any of St. Clair Scents’ fragrances? Do you have any favorite artisan or independent perfumers?

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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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: Chamade

May Melange Marathon: Chamade

Not quite as legendary as some other Guerlains, Chamade nonetheless has its passionate devotees. Luca Turin gave it five stars in the original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide”, though it’s not clear whether he was reviewing parfum or eau de toilette. The most recent version I have is the eau de toilette in the “bee bottle”; it has recently been reissued by Guerlain as part of its 2021 “Patrimoine Collection”, for which six of its most famous fragrances have been bottled in the design of the original Mitsouko bottle with its hollowed heart stopper. (The list of notes for the reissued Chamade, by the way, is much shorter than that for the original, and puts some of them in a different order).

Originally created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1969, Chamade seems to have been an attempt to bridge earlier generations of Guerlain fragrances to a new generation of fragrance that would appeal to the ascendant youth culture, catering to the Baby Boomers who entered their 20s during the 1960s. Chamade is by no means an avant-garde or hippie scent, though. It reminds me of the most senior girls at the Belgian convent school I attended for a couple of years as a young child — young ladies from good families, many of them minor aristocrats, who were picked up after school on Fridays by dashing, slightly older boyfriends driving small sports cars. The senior girls were also allowed to change out of their school uniforms on Friday afternoons, and I have a dim memory of admiring their bright A-line dresses: ladylike, expensive, but youthful. That is how Chamade strikes me: like the kind of fragrance a chic European mother or grandmother would have given then to an 18 year-old as her “first Guerlain.”

Cover of Mademoiselle magazine, girl in yellow dress with gloves and hat
Mademoiselle magazine cover, 1960.
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May Melange Marathon: Trillium

May Melange Marathon: Trillium

As regulars here know, in addition to being somewhat obsessed with fragrance, I’m also a gardener. I would say, perhaps, a longtime or experienced gardener, except that one is brought up short by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote to a friend: “Tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.” So true! One is always learning in a garden, always making new discoveries.

However, the house we bought so many years ago (our first and only) came with an old garden that had been lovingly cultivated over decades by a couple who raised their own family here. They were master gardeners, and a former neighbor who knew them told me that she thought the husband had actually been a landscape architect. For years after we first moved in, every season brought new discoveries of their plantings and how cleverly they had designed and planted our garden. One such discovery was a planting of the American native wildflower, the trillium. I call it a discovery because trilliums famously appear suddenly in the early spring, then go dormant and disappear completely until the next year. I was so surprised when I came across a large clump in the wooded, back part of our garden that had seemingly come out of nowhere, and then equally surprised when I went back several weeks later and it was completely gone, like magic.

Which brings me to an intriguing artisan perfume line, House of Matriarch High Perfumery, and its fragrance Trillium.

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Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Given how much gardening is on my mind (and under my fingernails) these days, it seems fitting to write about one of 4160 Tuesday’s quirkier scents, Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor. Yes, it is named for the antagonist gardener in the Peter Rabbit stories, and also in homage to Jean-Claude Ellena’s Jardin series of scents for Hermes (all of which I own and enjoy). Perfumer Sarah McCartney writes that it was created during one of her perfume-making workshops, with a focus on the aroma molecule Hedione, which creates an impression of freshness and floralcy, with notes of jasmine and greenness. The goal was for the class to create the scent of a cottage garden in the Lake District.

For those who may not know, the famous author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books and many others, Beatrix Potter, played a key role in preserving thousands of acres in the Lake District, including leaving 4000 acres of countryside and 14 farms she owned to the National Trust. She was, of course, a marvelous illustrator, but she was also a gifted botanist, naturalist, gardener, and farmer, and the plants in her illustrations for her children’s books are botanically accurate down to the last details. They include many of the plants mentioned in the notes and materials list for Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor.

Mr. McGregor in his garden, by Beatrix Potter
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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

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

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, August 7, and it is HOT where I live. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, February 28

Perfume Chat Room, February 28

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 — I’ve been known to write on this blog about biryani, one of my favorite dishes to eat and one I am still learning to make! (If you have a great recipe for it, please share!).

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 February 28, and tomorrow is Leap Day, a rare event in the calendar. My SOTD is supposed to be a “unicorn”, following the Now Smell This community project, which has defined a “unicorn” scent as “a perfume you suspect no one else (or almost no one else) on Now Smell This owns, or something that you very rarely see worn or mentioned.” If I still had any, I would wear the unicorn scent I wrote about some time ago, L’Iris de Fath. Alas, it is such an expensive unicorn that I had the rare privilege of trying it once, but I don’t have any more (I did, however, put a drop on a ceramic scent disc, which still smells faintly of it). Continue reading