Welcome to a new feature that I hope will appear monthly! Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies and I had so much fun doing “Scent Semantics” with some other fragrance bloggers in 2022 that we decided to launch TWO regular features as a new collaboration in 2023. The first, which we plan to post on the first Monday of each month, is “Notes on Notes“, in which we choose one note and write about it however the spirit moves us; our first Note was oakmoss. This second feature is “Counterpoint”, in which we ask ourselves the same handful of questions about a single fragrance and post our separate thoughts on it. We’re still experimenting with format, so comments on that are welcome too!
The Perfume Chat Room is back! After a brief hiatus for December’s Scented Advent, then my new collaboration with Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, “Notes on Notes” (first Mondays of the month), I’m ready to chat again and I hope you are too.
So, if you’re new to this blog, welcome to the Friday 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, January 13 (yes, it’s Friday the 13th), and here in the USA we are looking forward to our three-day weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. This year, the holiday falls on Monday, January 16. I don’t have any special plans other than perhaps a lunch with the other volunteers who take part in a prize program to recognize high school students who make positive contributions to race relations in their schools or communities. I helped launch this program many years ago, and it is now nationwide. We’ve met so many wonderful teenagers who are doing great work. I love it.
Heads up — I spent last weekend visiting one of my closest friends in West Palm Beach, and I was able to go to the Guerlain boutique in The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. Yes, I came home with a bottle (the “new” Mitsouko). Yes, that means I made it one whole week into 2023 before buying a new fragrance. Yes, I’ll do a separate post with photos!
Are you attempting a no-buy or low-buy for 2023? I am going to try a “low-buy” but I’m not exactly off to a good start, lol. Or do you have any particular fragrances on your 2023 wishlist?
Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy, healthy 2023! This year brings a new collaboration between me and Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies (and other sites as a regular guest blogger). Actually, it’s TWO new collaborations. The first is called “Notes on Notes”; Portia and I agree on a fragrance note we’d like to write about, and we’ll post our “notes” about it on the first Monday of each month, referring to a few specific fragrances. The second project is called “Counterpoint”; we’ll agree on a fragrance, and “interview” ourselves about it, seeing where our experiences coincide and where they differ.
I’m excited about these collaborations – I had such fun doing “Scent Semantics” with Portia and several other bloggers in 2022. I hope many of you will jump in and add your own observations and comments!
My Guerlain Advent scent today is Néroli Outrenoir, another “citrus aromatic”, created by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk and launched in 2016. It’s very, very appealing. Per Fragrantica, top notes are Petitgrain, Bergamot, Tangerine, Lemon and Grapefruit; middle notes are Tea, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Smoke and Earthy Notes; base notes are Myrrh, Vanilla, Benzoin, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Oakmoss.
That citrusy opening is very uplifting, a mix of greenness and, well, citrus. It reminds me a bit of Miller Harris’ Tangerine Vert. To my nose, the most prominent notes are the petitgrain, tangerine, and lemon, but I definitely smell the bergamot, and a whiff of the grapefruit. Very soon, tea is served, and it is a black tea with lemon in it. It does have a floralcy that comes from the néroli and orange blossom, but to me the strongest impression is of black tea and lemon, with a tinge of smokiness. Almost like a lapsang souchong tea, but not as smoky or tarry.
This scent is like chiaroscuro, the painting technique that famously contrasts light and dark, the leading examples being the paintings of the great Caravaggio. It starts out very bright and sunny, with all the citrus notes in the opening. Then the brightness dims a bit, and softens and blurs, with the arrival of accords of tea and flowers. As it dries down, it gets gradually darker but also warmer, with the base notes especially of benzoin, ambrette and oakmoss. Myrrh and vanilla accords are present, but to a lesser degree.
Neroli Outrenoir has decent longevity on my skin, though nothing like Épices Volèes. It’s also a different kind of citrus/tea fragrance, one with more depth. I think it’s totally unisex and it would smell wonderful in warm weather, especially warm summer evenings. It’s fresh enough for hot weather but sophisticated enough for evening wear.
Very nice! Do you have any fragrances that contrast light and dark this way?
Today’s Advent scent is Incense Flash, from Andy Tauer’s “Tauerville” line. The “Flash” series were meant to be less expensive than his main line of fragrances, but no less interesting (Rose Flash is a favorite of mine). Incense Flash has an abbreviated notes list: incense, woody notes, leather, musk. That’s a little deceiving, because incense itself can contain different notes, and who knows how many notes are included under the single term “woody notes”? Anyway, incense is what I smell, right away. It is smoky but not harsh.
I used to associate incense with a sort of hippie mentality, but I find it so interesting in perfume. It seems to have gone more mainstream in recent years, with people buying sticks to burn at home. And of course, Advent is a great time to be wearing an incense-based scent, given various church traditions. I find myself really enjoying Incense Flash. I don’t really smell leather, but I think the musk accord is softening the whole impression.
I would say that the development of Incense Flash is somewhat linear. The lead actor is the incense, and everything else revolves around that, coming and going. I like it, as a straightforward incense fragrance.
Do you use incense in your home? Do you have any favorite Tauerville scents?
Today I cheated on the Advent calendar process. I needed a sample from an independent perfumer, to alternate with my Guerlain samples, but I also wanted to take part in Now Smell This’ Friday community project, which was to name your favorite work by, or inspired by, Jane Austen. So I grabbed the discovery set of Francesca Bianchi fragrances, which I hadn’t yet opened, and chose one that I thought might do. My favorite Jane Austen-inspired work is the movie “Sense and Sensibility”, which is why my blog is named, in part, Scents and Sensibilities (full name is Serenity Now: Scents and Sensibilities).
The sample I chose was one I’ve never tried, called The Lover’s Tale. After all, Jane Austen’s books are all tales about lovers. But when I read more about it on Fragrantica — bingo! Here’s what Francesca Bianchi said about it herself:
This is a story of by-gone times about a secret encounter of lovers. It represents the contradictions between sense and sensibility, pruderie and passion. The lovers are full of desire but their education holds them back.
Launched in 2018, The Lover’s Tale has top notes of Honey, Mimosa, Aldehydes and Bergamot; middle notes of Orris, Peach, Heliotrope, Egyptian Jasmine and Bulgarian Rose; and base notes of Leather, Castoreum, Musk, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetiver and Sandalwood. It is considered a leather fragrance, as that note is a main player. Given its partnering with castoreum, musk, oakmoss, and vetiver, I venture to say that this is a more stereotypically masculine leather. However, the earlier notes are all very stereotypically feminine, with their profusion of florals. In a way, The Lover’s Tale is a combination of two characters from “Sense and Sensibility”: Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood, who fall in love after various trials and tribulations.
I read somewhere that while it is understood that the title “Sense and Sensibility” refers to the two sisters, Elinor Dashwood who has common sense and intelligence, and the younger Marianne, who has a Romantic sensibility and passion, it can also be read as referring to Brandon and Marianne. He is the older, experienced man who commits himself to solving problems and addressing crises, including Marianne’s. He is practical — but he also has a wide streak of Romanticism himself, with his love of music and his infatuation with the emotional, musical Marianne.
Colonel Brandon also spends much of the movie throwing himself into the saddle and riding off to save the day, so a leather fragrance is well suited to him. The honey in the opening notes can be a nice reference to what Emma Thompson, who wrote and starred in the movie, called the “extraordinary sweetness [of Brandon’s] nature.” The aldehydes and floral notes evoke Marianne’s love of beauty that can sometimes be a bit flighty; by the time The Lover’s Tale is in the final stage of drydown, the floral notes, the leather, and the warm animalic notes of the base have reconciled, and combine with labdanum and sandalwood in a beautiful marriage of scent.
Do you have a favorite work by, or inspired by, Jane Austen? Any fragrance you might associate with it?
The Guerlain sample I pulled today was one that I tried and liked in the Las Vegas boutique, Frenchy Lavande. This version was launched under that name in 2021, but it is basically the same as Le Frenchy, which was launched in 2017. Like a few others, it was renamed and moved into the collection “L’Art et la Matière”. It is called an “aromatic fougère”, so classified largely because of the central role that lavender plays, but others have called it a citrusy aromatic. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes, Lemon Verbena, Lemon and Bergamot; middle notes, Petitgrain, Lavender, Citron, Sage and Neroli; base notes, Ambergris, Vetiver and Tonka Bean. Eddie Bulliqi reviewed it and Herbes Troublantes recently for Fragrantica: “Herbs for Winter; Guerlain’s Frenchy Lavande and Herbes Troublantes.”
The opening is lovely, and even my nearby husband looked up and commented, “That’s really nice, what is it?”. While the opening notes are in fact very citrusy, I also smell lavender right away. The lemon and lemon verbena are more prominent than the bergamot, and the lemon verbena adds a distinctly herbal tint to the lemon and lavender. I can’t pinpoint the moment when lemon gives way to citron, but I can say that the partnership of citrus and lavender continues in the middle phase. I only get glimmers of sage, and the neroli is a latecomer to this stage, at least to my nose. It gradually replaces the lavender, as the fragrance moves toward its base notes. Vetiver continues the aromatic, herbal aspect of Frenchy Lavande. I can’t really distinguish the ambergris and tonka bean accords, just that the base slowly becomes warmer and less herbal.
Believe it or not, there is actually a blog called “The Traveling Frenchy” by a young woman named Alex, and in it she has posted a guide to visiting the lavender fields in Provence. I highly recommend it if you are thinking of seeking out French lavender fields; she gives very specific information on the locales she prefers, and even lists particular villages and roads.
Ultimately, though I like Frenchy Lavande very much, it is a bit like Herbes Troublantes in reminding one of a cologne, although it is in a eau de parfum format. I wouldn’t say that it is much nicer than my Jicky eau de toilette or even that it lasts longer; and it certainly costs a lot more. Bottom line: if you want a Guerlain lavender, I recommend Jicky. In fact, that may be my next Guerlain purchase, from its reissue of several Guerlain classics in the collection “Les Legendaires”.
Do you have a favorite lavender-centric fragrance?
The independent perfumer’s sample for today’s Advent scent is 1805, later renamed as 1805 Tonnerre, by Beaufort London. It is one of the first three fragrances released by this niche house upon its debut in 2015, as part of the “Come Hell Or High Water” collection. Fragrantica explains:
This collection brings together elements of Britain’s history, both imagined and real, to create collages of scent embodying themes of warfare, trade and exploration.
Crabtree’s lifelong love of fragrance and a preoccupation with the darker elements of British history served as the collection’s impetus.
The brand’s packaging mentions the significance of the year 1805: the same year when Admiral Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar but lost his life; and the year when the “wind force scale” was invented by Sir Francis Beaufort. The scent’s composition is described as follows:
The scent imagines moments within the battle itself. Powerful accords of smoke, gunpowder, blood and brandy combine with sea spray and a penetrating citrus note.
More prosaically, Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes are lime, smoke and gunpowder; middle notes are blood, brandy and sea water; base notes are amber, balsam fir and cedar.
This is definitely a unique scent but it’s not unpleasant. Much more masculine than unisex to my nose, but is that mostly because we have learned to associate non-floral odors with men more than women? Be that as it may, I smell the top notes of smoke and gunpowder, and there is a sharp note right at the beginning that may be the “lime”. The sample I have is the actual 2015 launch 1805, not the renamed, later version, and I think that citrus top note may have gone off a bit. Blood? Brandy? There is a metallic tang in the middle phase that I think is meant to represent “blood”, but mostly what I smell is the continuing smoke, now merging with sea water. I don’t smell anything I could identify as brandy.
The opening and middle stages are challenging, but the final stage is calmer and warmer, perhaps in the way there is calm after a great naval battle or storm. The base notes are very woody; accords of fir and cedar dominate over amber. Unfortunately, this is also the stage where 1805 smells more generic, like a woody aftershave. Again, not unpleasant, but now not as interesting. Whenever the gunpowder accord wafts through, though, as it regularly does, it rekindles my nose’s interest.
I was introduced to Beaufort London at Bloom perfumery in London, several years ago, at which time they had released a couple more fragrances to join the original three. One of those, Fathom V, is actually a fragrance I like a lot, on its own merits. If you like smoky scents that are different, you may like 1805 and its other siblings, but this is definitely a fragrance where one must proceed with caution.
What scents do you find very intriguing and artistic, but you might not choose to wear them yourself or at least to wear them less often?
In a total change of direction, today’s Guerlain sample is a 2021 addition to “L’Art et la Matière”, Herbes Troublantes, by Thierry Wasser. Apparently, it used to be a cologne called Un Dimanche À La Campagne. This new version, an eau de parfum, is categorized as a “citrus aromatic”, and is it ever! The first word that came to my mind when I dabbed it on my wrists was “zingy”. It has a very fresh, green, bergamot-dominant opening. Luckily, I quite like bergamot; in fact, I like it a lot.
Once the bergamot fades into the background, a neroli accord appears, with unspecified “green notes.” Like bergamot, it is fresh, green, slightly bitter, aromatic, and very much a citrus note, but it also has the floral aspect of orange blossom. At this stage, Herbes Troublantes becomes softer, though it is still very aromatic in a green citrus kind of way; and if pressed to name the green herbs, I would choose lemongrass or lemon basil. The only base note identified for it is white musk, which to my nose means that it just gets softer and more reminiscent of clean linen. The overall impression I get from Herbes Troublantes is that of a citrusy herb, perhaps like lemongrass or even citronella (the plant, not the oil). It’s very pleasant and I think I would like it on my husband.
The name of this fragrance is intriguing: it means “disturbing grasses (or herbs)”. Really, there’s nothing disturbing at all about Herbes Troublantes. It succeeds in its goal of capturing the spirit of a cologne, in eau de parfum concentration. It lasts longer than a cologne, of course, but I don’t think it lasts as long as other scents in the collection.
What do you think of the idea of evoking a cologne in an eau de parfum? Wasn’t that the whole concept behind Atelier Cologne? now sadly no longer distributed in North America although one can still find it to buy online.
The independent perfumer Advent sample of the day is Hiram Green’s Arcadia. Wowza! It is classified as an “aromatic fougère”, and it has a great opening, top-heavy with lavender and bergamot. As they settle down, the bergamot recedes but the lavender stays strong, joined and made more floral by the arrival of jasmine and rose accords. The notes list from the brand’s website is: Bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rose, spices, resins, tonka bean, aged patchouli, New Caledonian sandalwood. Hiram Green, who is a natural perfumer, also lists the actual ingredients, which include evernia prunastri extract, which is oakmoss. Be still, my heart! I love oakmoss in fragrances. Mr. Green says this about the fragrance, which he launched this year (2022):
For this perfume I was inspired by the natural splendour of Arcadia. In this idyllic, unspoiled wilderness babbling brooks meander through mountains covered in dense forests and the air is filled with the sound of humming insects and twittering birds.
Imagine the lush undergrowth that covers the forest floor. In areas where the sun manages to break through the canopy, fragrant flowers bask in the sunlight and their sweet scent intertwines with the fresh green smell of the foliage.
The base notes blend beautifully together. The spices are pretty subtle — definitely noticeable, but they don’t hit you over the head (or nose). Resins, tonka bean, and sandalwood provide warmth, and patchouli and oakmoss hum underneath. The drydown stage is where I think Arcadia smells most like a traditionally masculine fragrance, with the lavender still evident over those warm base notes. There’s a light dustiness to this stage, possibly from the oakmoss, that makes me think of motes of sunlight floating through the sunbeams that shine through Mr. Green’s Arcadian forest.
In fact, the whole fragrance makes me think of a particular forest: Ashdown Forest in England, famous not only for its woodland beauty but also as the landscape of Christopher Robin’s childhood idyll, the Hundred Acre Wood he shared with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Arcadia, indeed!
I’ve never been there, but I loved A.A. Milne’s books as a child; in fact, “Winnie-the-Pooh” was the first book I read by myself, shocking my parents at the age of four when I pointed to it and said, “I can wead that book.” And so I could, having taught myself to read, although I couldn’t pronounce Rs very well. One of my late mother’s cousins actually illustrated Christopher Milne’s memoir “The Path Through the Trees”.
I’m delighted with Mr. Green’s version of Arcadia and will put it on my “possible full bottle some day” list. Have you tried any of Hiram Green’s fragrances? Any favorites?