Perfume Chat Room, April 16

Perfume Chat Room, April 16

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, April 16, and spring flowers are slowly giving way to summer blossoms in my garden. I have several roses that have started to bloom; they are almost all very fragrant, as most of the ones I grow are David Austin English Roses, which he hybridized over decades to regain the strong scent and old-fashioned form of the Old Roses. In the 20th century, many hybridizers bred for color and shape, which gave us so many beautiful, classic hybrid tea roses like Chrysler, John F. Kennedy, Peace, etc., but they weren’t as fragrant as their forebears. Other hybridizers bred roses for large-scale landscaping, like the Knockout Roses, but they are barely fragrant at all. So Mr. Austin’s goal was to take some of the best qualities of 20th century roses, like disease resistance, innovative colors, and repeat blooming periods, and marry them to the shapes and scents of old classics like the “Old Roses”.

This week, I was delighted to get in the mail my long-awaited sample of a new, soon-to-be-released perfume from Parfums Dusita, which is the subject currently of a naming contest! Perfumer and brand founder Pissara Umavijani invited members of the Eau My Soul group on Facebook to suggest perfume notes we’d like to see combined, then she chose from among those and created a fragrance. Now members who took part in suggesting the notes have been sent a generous sample of the unnamed fragrance and we get to submit up to three suggestions for names! The winner will get a large bottle of the fragrance.

I just love this project. Ms. Umavijani has done something like it before in 2019, when she launched what became Splendiris, a name I love and a very beautiful fragrance. I think that fragrance was the subject of a similar contest for readers of Fragrantica, if I recall correctly.

This new scent has notes of: petit grain, Rose Damascena, tuberose absolute, white freesia, Jasmine Grandiflora, oak wood, oakmoss absolute, sandalwood, vanilla absolute, and patchouli. I haven’t tried it yet as I wanted to wait until the weekend when I could focus more on it and less on work. Don’t those notes sound gorgeous, especially if (like me) you like florals?

P.S. WordPress has just informed me that this is my 500th post on Serenity Now: Scents & Sensibilities! Wow, that feels like a lot, but it has been so much fun and still is. Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!

Perfume Chat Room, April 9

Perfume Chat Room, April 9

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, April 9, and I’ve had a lovely week, starting with Easter. I took this week off from work, to rest up before the final push toward the end of the semester and final exams (I work all summer, too, but it’s less hectic once the students have left). Usually I would have had a week off for a university spring break in March, but that was canceled this year, in an attempt to reduce travel back and forth from the campus and thus spreading infection.

The weather has been beautiful, including Easter Sunday, and we were able to attend church in person, outside in the courtyard. The volunteers who handle everything from set-up to flowers outdid themselves, and everything was just beautiful. I’ve spent most of this week gardening, including in my new raised-bed vegetable garden, so things look tidier than usual!

Easter flowers

We’re also making real progress on putting our house back together — the two semi-demolished bathrooms now have floors and tiles again, and most of the plumbing fixtures are back in place. The shower in one bathroom is mostly rebuilt. Electrical work has been done to replace lighting in that bathroom too, though the fixtures have to wait until all the plaster and paint have been redone. The living room and dining room still look like scenes of demolition, with great gaping holes in the ceilings and one wall, but those will be handled as part of one massive re-plastering. I can’t wait to have my house back, after all these months!

Meanwhile, the fragrant flowers blooming in my garden include: the first roses; Korean lilacs; late daffodils; violets; lilies of the valley. The large pots of herbs I planted last year are sending up new growth, including the pretty silver-leaved lavenders. Since I’m at home all day to take proper care of them, I’ve started quite a few seeds, and I’m excited to see how they do. I also have pots of forced hyacinths and Easter lilies in the house, which I’ll plant out when they start to fade.

How was your week? What’s in bloom near you? Do you have any favorite fragrances with notes from the flowers in my garden, or yours?

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

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, April 2, and it is Good Friday, for those who celebrate Easter. I love Easter! Today is a solemn day in the Christian church, but it is also the start of one of my favorite holiday weekends, during one of my favorite times of year. In my part of the US, we are enjoying a full outbreak of spring, with daffodils, tulips, and other bulbs blooming in profusion, flowering trees in full blossom, green leaves tipping the tree branches, and longer days of sunshine. The fact that this week has been unusually cool and wet is letting me make up for some lost time in planting seeds that prefer to germinate in colder temperatures. There’s always a silver lining! And today, while chillier than usual, is bright and sunny.

My lilies of the valley are getting ready to bloom outdoors, which is always an opportunity for me to compare muguet-centered fragrances with the real thing. I also have a potted Easter lily for indoors, and some forced hyacinths to bring inside, so my weekend will be filled with the scents of spring. Now I just have to decide which fragrances to wear myself! As many of you know, I lean strongly toward greens and florals, which work well for spring and Easter. I’m sure my perennial favorite, Ostara, will make an appearance this weekend.

I’m happy that all three of our kids will be home for the holiday; one has also invited a friend. Our church has set up for outdoor services, with groups of seats appropriately spaced, and other safety protocols. I’m looking forward to that; they did that last week for Palm Sunday, and it was very meaningful to be back onsite, even outside. I’ll cook the usual Easter Sunday feast, with roast lamb and spring asparagus plus other assorted side dishes. If you celebrate Easter, do you have any special plans?

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

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 26, and we’ve just had some of the worst thunderstorms I can recall, all night last night. The thunder and lightning were truly epic — as in, my whole garden was lit up like a fairground every time the lightning flashed. Fairgrounds are on my mind, because I’ve been sampling Serge Lutens’ Bapteme du Feu, and that is apparently what it is meant to evoke, with its offbeat combination of gingerbread and gunpowder. It’s actually very intriguing, and I’m going to order a discounted tester.

The vaccinations continue apace; my son is now eligible, and he will get his first shot tomorrow. I’m very relieved, although it appears he must have had COVID-19 already in 2020 — we had him tested for antibodies when he came home from college for winter break, and he had them! He and we still have no idea when he might have had the virus, as he never felt unwell or showed symptoms, or tested positive under a regular screening program once he was at college. Anyway, it’s a great relief that he’ll get the protection of the vaccine and also help protect others by having it.

Spring has truly sprung in my part of the world; if it doesn’t keep raining this weekend, I plan to go out and take many photos of all of blossoms, including the spectacular pink azaleas with which my garden was blessed by long-ago owners. Their only flaw is that they aren’t fragrant. What are your plans for the weekend?

French fairground carousel
Carousel in Nice, 2019
Perfume Chat Room, March 19

Perfume Chat Room, March 19

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 19, and I’m delighted to say that I got my first COVID vaccination shot yesterday! So far, so good; my arm is just a little sore. As hoped last week, my husband and I were able to go on Sunday to my “happy place” full of daffodils; as expected, they were magnificent! And inspired by Undina’s question on her blog, Undina’s Looking Glass, about photographing perfumes, I took my bottle of Ostara with us and took pictures of it in several locations among the millions of daffodils. I will say that I got some puzzled looks from other garden visitors, and one actually asked me what I was photographing as I crouched down to get closer to the flowers and the bottle! He laughed delightedly when I told him.

I’m sad to say, though, that I just found out that one of my favorite fragrance bloggers, Kafkaesque, has recently learned that almost 200 pages worth of her blog content has apparently been appropriated by an “author” in England who self-publishes books on Amazon. She is understandably very upset and angry, as she was never contacted for permission or informed of this use of her writings. Her blog is notable for her extensive knowledge of perfumes and her long, detailed explorations and analyses of them, and I have learned so much from her. She paused writing for some time but the blog was (and is) still up and available to read, and she resumed posting after the November 2020 elections. If you’re new to reading fragrance blogs, hers is very interesting and I recommend it. I don’t always agree with her take on scents, but I always admire her passion and knowledge!

In other news, I was touched to see a lovely article in this week’s New York Times about the late Carlos Powell, aka YouTube’s “Brooklyn Fragrance Lover.” I rarely watch video reviews of fragrances, I much prefer to read about them, but by all accounts, Carlos was a beloved and friendly member of the fragrance community and is missed by many. I really enjoyed reading more about him.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Penhaligon’s Ostara eau de toilette among daffodils
Perfume Chat Room, February 26

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

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, February 26 — almost the end of the month! We are two months into 2021 — how is this year going for you so far? On some of the other blogs I follow, readers are sharing their experiences of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and their relief at having done so. I’m very happy for them, and I look forward to achieving that milestone myself as soon as possible. It seems so strange to think that it has been just about a year since the world began to shut down. I remember helping to distribute information to university students last February, about a new virus that had recently appeared, and the recommended (at that time) precautions such as frequent handwashing. At the very start of March 2020, we kept to our plan of taking our son to Jamaica as part of an organized trip by many seniors’ families; it was his “big” graduation gift. I took sanitizing wipes with us and wiped down our seats on the plane, to my son’s chagrin, then the high-touch surfaces in our hotel room although at that time, Jamaica had not yet had any cases of the novel coronavirus.

We had a wonderful time, we came home, and by the end of March, my husband and I were both working from home, school went remote, spring sports were canceled, and all the traditional events of our son’s senior spring in high school and our daughter’s senior spring at college were canceled. Her graduation was entirely remote; his was postponed until the summer, when it was held outside with limited, distanced, and masked attendance. We were so glad that at least we took that last trip, since we had to cancel all our other travel plans, which had included a family summer trip to London, Paris, and Normandy to celebrate the two graduations, two big birthdays in 2020, and a major wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter moved home after having lost the two jobs she was working, one in theater and the other in trade show planning. All of that and more, just within the last 12 months.

Yet I’m very thankful that no one close to me has suffered the worst of COVID-19, though sadly some friends lost elderly parents, and we haven’t been able to visit my father-in-law in a year. He was safely vaccinated in late December, so we hope to be able to see him as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves. Miraculously, the continuing care community where he lives had not one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff in all of 2020 (and to date, as far as we know). One daughter, who teaches, had COVID herself in the fall but she had a fairly mild case and seems to have recovered fully. I was thankful to have her living at home where we could take care of her. We haven’t yet revived any travel plans further afield than anywhere we can drive to, but Paris is still calling! Think of all the $$ I will have saved to spend on perfume by the time we get there …

This has turned into more of a “What Went Well” post. So in that vein, what went well for you this week, or month, or year so far? Or, to bring it back to fragrance, if you were planning a trip to Paris, what fragrance sites would you visit and what fragrances would be on your Paris shopping list?

Perfume Chat Room, February 19

Perfume Chat Room, February 19

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, February 19, and it seems as if half of the US is under ice, snow, or both. I feel very lucky that my state has missed most of the bad winter weather — we’ve just had a lot of rain, and it has been drearily cold and gray most of the past week, but that’s it. Daffodils are starting to poke up and show buds; a few are actually in bloom. They are one of my top three favorite flowers, the others being roses and lily of the valley (although hellebores are very popular here too!). I have a few brave snowdrops in bloom in areas where I hope they may spread.

I have a small travel size of Jo Malone’s White Moss & Snowdrop, which was launched as a Christmas special edition in 2018. I haven’t tried it yet as I bought it in a set of those Christmas editions, but I remember trying it in the store when it came out, and thinking it didn’t particularly evoke snowdrops to my nose. But those don’t have much of a scent anyway, so it’s all fantasy! Have you tried any of those JM special Christmas editions? Do you keep using any after winter? What fragrances do you reach for in this transition period between winter and spring?

Perfume Chat Room, February 12

Perfume Chat Room, February 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, February 12, and here in the USA, Monday will be the Presidents’ Day holiday. Sunday brings us Valentine’s Day, and today is the official day of Lunar New Year. We are officially in the Year of the Ox! Now Smell This has a community project this week to wear a fragrance that evokes the traditional qualities of the Ox: dependable, diligent, reliable, etc. That had me stumped until my eye fell upon a Serge Lutens sample of La Religieuse, so that’s my SOTD. I know others have had less positive experiences with nuns, but I went to a Catholic school in Brussels for two years, run by nuns, and they were lovely, so I have positive associations with “les religieuses”.

I’ve just found out about a new documentary that follows perfumer Francois Demachy, called “Nose.” I look forward to seeing it! Do any of you have special celebrations ahead for any of these holidays or other festive occasions? Any special fragrances in mind for them?

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

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, February 5, and here in the US we are looking forward to the Superbowl football championship and we are also celebrating Black History Month. American politics continue to be turbulent, but I won’t dwell on that although I do pay close attention. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, and a favorite independent retailer of high-end fragrances, Twisted Lily, has a sale this weekend, 14% off on a select collection of fragrances with the code VDAY14. Do any of you know of any other tempting sales?

Do you have a fragrance you particularly like to wear on Valentine’s Day or other romantic occasions? Like many people, I associate roses with Valentine’s Day and romance, so I think I will wear Jo Loves’ Rose Petal 25. As regular readers here know, I have many rose fragrances from which to choose! Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day, in this constrained environment?

How To Make Sense of Scents

How To Make Sense of Scents

The New Yorker magazine, renowned home of literary legends, has published a piece called “How To Make Sense of Scents”, by staff writer Rachel Syme. She reads Fragrantica! Like many fragheads, she traces her interest in perfume back to childhood and her mother’s favorite scents, which included Anais Anais and Poison. She became a hoarder of perfume samples from Surrender to Chance and The Perfumed Court, like many of us.

Ms. Syme’s piece discusses the way that most of us lack the vocabulary to describe scents accurately and consistently. She also highlights a recently published book (October 2020), Harold McGee’s “Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells” (Penguin Press). McGee is actually a food scientist, so his observations range from the molecular to deviled eggs, with many stops between.

Another 2020 book Ms. Syme discusses is “Smells: A Cultural History of Odours in Early Modern Times” (Polity), by French professor and historian Robert Muchembled. She sums up their different approaches:

Where McGee seeks a common vocabulary for exploring the osmocosm, Muchembled reminds us that the variables of time and place may defy a truly shared language. What we smell depends on what’s in vogue and what’s valued—on what cultural forces happen to be swirling in the air.

She ties Muchembled’s discussion of the impact of plague epidemics of the Middle Ages on the populaces’ relationship to the sense of smell, to the current pandemic in which we face a deadly virus that spreads largely through aerosolized forms and can also deprive sufferers of their sense of smell, temporarily or permanently.

I will have to seek out more of Ms. Syme’s writing! I’ve already bought the Kindle version of McGee’s book and will likely do the same with Muchembled’s tome (as an incorrigible book hoarder, I try to buy most books in digital form these days). After all, who doesn’t love a writer who voices these scentiments:

I also have a new appreciation for the elusive quest to track down smells: while there is an undeniable appeal to pursuing a “proper language” for discussing the osmocosm, there is also something to be gained by accepting that much of the pleasure of nasal perception is untranslatable. When we are at last able to swoon together again, unmasked and unmoored, over lilacs or hot brioche, what we will really be sharing is secret reverie.

Featured image: Photograph by Delaney Allen for The New Yorker.