Perfume Chat Room, May 15

Perfume Chat Room, May 15

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. As regular readers know, I am in the middle of a “Roses de Mai Marathon” during which I am trying to post a daily review of a different rose scent. That will continue today (post will come later), but in the meantime, please feel free to chat! At an appropriate social distance, of course.

Today is May 15, and I have Southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) blooming in my garden! Huge, fragrant white flowers against dark green leaves. What’s blooming where you are? My SOTD is Balenciaga’s Rosabotanica. Yours?

Featured image by J.D. Crowe for www.al.com.

Roses de Mai Marathon: Eau Rose

Roses de Mai Marathon: Eau Rose

Diptyque’s Eau Rose is one of its line of eaux de toilette, but the same fragrance is available in several different formats. I have a sample of the EDT and a bottle of the hair mist. This is a very appealing, fresh rose. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, May 8

Perfume Chat Room, May 8

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. As regular readers know, I am in the middle of a “Roses de Mai Marathon” during which I am trying to post a daily review of a different rose scent. That will continue today (post will come later), but in the meantime, please feel free to chat! At an appropriate social distance, of course.

Today is May 8, and Mother’s Day is this weekend. Have you tried any new fragrances lately? Are you expecting to receive or give any fragrances for Mother’s Day this Sunday?

Perfume Chat Room, March 20

Perfume Chat Room, March 20

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 March 20, and it’s been a week, as they say. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, March 6

Perfume Chat Room, March 6

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 March 6, and I am with my family on a spring break holiday in Jamaica, for our first visit here, coronavirus be d—ned! Scent of the day is Montale’s Roses Musk, a soft rose fragrance that goes well with the tropical but temperate climate here. What is your SOTD? Have you been to Jamaica? What scents evoke the Caribbean or other tropics to you?

Perfume Chat Room

Perfume Chat Room

Fragrance friends: the sudden farewell of Australian Perfume Junkies has left a number of perfumistas wondering where they will find a place online to “hang out” with other fragheads. Portia and Val the Cookie Queen will be posting sometimes on A Bottled Rose (yay!), but Portia won’t be hosting weekly SOTD threads or Saturday Questions as on APJ. So I am humbly offering here a weekly “Perfume Chat Room”, where any readers so inclined can list their scents of the day(s), ask each other questions, give a “Weekend Update”, and generally take the conversations in whatever direction they want.

Retro cocktail party image

As at APJ, taking sides means never taking offense, always keeping things respectful and light, sharing information and opinions, and remembering that in fragrance, as in life, your mileage may vary. In other words, agreeing to disagree. YMMV. Welcome!

Vintage Avon fragrance ad, 1960s

Avon calling! Image from http://www.avon.com

 

Godspeed, APJ

via Welcome Back APJ

It seems so recent that we were rejoicing in the return of a beloved blog and fragrance lovers’ community, Australian Perfume Junkies, after the site was hacked. Now, sadly, its founder Portia has decided to end the blog at the end of this month. It has clearly taken a LOT of time to manage, although along the way Portia has shared many fun outings that readers vicariously enjoyed, and even a wedding to longtime partner Jin. I especially loved the Saturday Questions, and everyone’s updates on “thunking”, and earning “enabler pins”!

APJ was one of the first online perfumista communities I found when I went down this rabbit hole; thanks to Portia and friends, it was always a  kind and welcoming one. I will miss APJ, but I hope to keep seeing some of its regulars online, here and on other blogs I enjoy like Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, and Undina’s Looking Glass (I read and enjoy several others too, but these are the ones where I’ve found the most conversations with repeat commenters).

Thank you, Portia, for hosting those conversations and sharing your encounters in life and fragrance. Thanks for pleasant memories. I wish you and Jin the very best, and good health and happiness! I hope you might occasionally post an update on your doings and still drop by other blogs once in a while. Stop by here any time! Au revoir.

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

I find that the fragrances I choose to wear are highly influenced by the season and the weather. This year, in my part of the US, September and even the start of October felt more like late August. Temperatures were still in the 90s almost daily, and the humidity was high in spite of near-drought conditions and lack of rain. Finally, in the past week, fall arrived. Leaves are changing color and night temperatures are in the 40s. We even turned on the heat this week, though we don’t need it during the day, when the sun still warms the air into the balmy 70s. We haven’t had the weather we usually enjoy here in October, which resembles the “Indian summer” one sees in September in the Northeast, but it is pleasant. And we finally got lots of rain, which the trees desperately needed.

What fragrances work with this oddball weather and transitional season? One could do worse than Sarah Jessica Parker’s Covet, an oddball fragrance that combines apparently disparate notes like lemon, lavender, and chocolate. Wearable by both women and men, it combines a summery freshness with aromatic lavender, over a hum of dark cocoa.

On first application, Covet displays its lemon opening notes very clearly. Some commenters dislike the opening, comparing it to lemon floor cleaner and other functional sprays. I do see what they mean, though it doesn’t hit my nose as sharply as it seems to hit theirs. Luckily, the cocoa quickly starts making itself felt, and lavender arrives shortly after that. The lemon is persistent, but it does fade into the background after about 45 minutes or so on my skin. In the middle phase, to my nose the most prominent note is lavender. I can’t say that I sense any of the listed floral notes (honeysuckle, magnolia, and lily of the valley), which would have matched it more closely to my perceptions of spring. The cocoa is still faintly present and warms up the lavender. In the dry down, moving into base notes, Covet becomes more herbal and its warmth is woody rather than chocolatey, with an undertone of musk. Longevity is good but not extraordinary.

Covet was launched in 2007, after the huge success of Lovely, the first SJP fragrance. It has been discontinued as far as I can tell, though it is still widely available at bargain prices online. In line with its odd composition, the ad campaign for it is truly weird, portraying Sarah Jessica Parker in a ball gown, kicking in a plate glass window at night to get to a bottle of the fragrance and being taken away in handcuffs by Parisian gendarmes. “I had to have it”, she declares to the camera, with a somewhat demented expression on her face.

I find Covet to be a unisex fragrance, leaning neither traditionally feminine or masculine. Do I “have to have it”? No, but I’m glad to have a small bottle, because the fragrance is interesting. It’s a transition between the mainstream prettiness of Lovely (which is indeed lovely, though not groundbreaking) and the much more daring SJP Stash. Covet is much more quirky than Lovely, but Stash is in a category of its own among celebrity scents. As many commenters have noted, if Stash came with a niche label and price tag, it would hold its own among today’s niche fragrances.

Covet turns out to be a good fit with the transitional season and weather we’re having now. Soon enough, I will want more traditional fall fragrance notes, like amber, vanilla, spices. What are your favorite fall fragrances and notes? Have you tried Covet?

May Muguet Marathon: Neil Chapman’s “Perfume”

May Muguet Marathon: Neil Chapman’s “Perfume”

If you have read the excellent fragrance blog The Black Narcissus, you have already encountered the writing of Neil Chapman. Neil published, this spring, his first book, called “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” You can buy it on Amazon.com! It’s a great book, full of his unique insights, impressions, and life experiences, enriched by his knowledge not only of perfume but of the literature of various cultures. Case in point: his introduction of the section in his book that discusses lily of the valley as a fragrance note.

In Natsume Soseki’s 1909 novel Sore Kara (‘And then …’) the main protagonist, Daisuke — a fraught, pretence-addled, indolent ‘aesthete’ whose descent into madness forms the core of the novel — has a predilection for sleeping in the aroma of delicate flowers in order to negate life’s sordid realities. Overly affected by the ordinary physical world, this nervous book collector uses a faint, lightly sweet floral scent at night to reduce his contacts with the world to a minimum: snowy white lilies of the valley, with their stems not yet cut, flowers that form an important motif in the novel, but not only for their pristine beauty and virginal whiteness.

The muguet fragrances Neil reviews in his book are: Diorissimo, Muguet du Bonheur, Penhaligons’ Lily of the Valley, Don’t Get Me Wrong, Baby, I Don’t Swallow, Muguet Fleuri, Muguet Blanc, Quartana’s Lily of the Valley, and Muguet des Bois. His reviews of those are as distinctive and individually nuanced as his writing quoted above.

I highly recommend Neil’s book, whether you are new to the exploration of fragrances, or you are a perfumista with dozens (or hundreds!) of bottles of your own. There are eleven main chapters, named generally for scent groupings of his own, like “Green”, “Gourmand”, “Eros.” You will learn a lot, no matter where you are in your perfume journey; and even fragrances you know well get “The Black Narcissus” treatment, in which Neil weaves his own extensive knowledge with his personal observations, impressions, and experiences. His story of his close encounter with Japanese incense (he and his partner live in Japan) and the accompanying ceremony is hilarious and worth the price of the book for that alone.

But in line with the theme of this month, I especially recommend reading his thoughts on lilies of the valley and the fragrances listed above. And as a bonus, you can read the end of his summation of that Japanese novel! Have you read Neil’s blog The Black Narcissus?

Japanese woman wearing traditional garb with lily of the valley headpiece

Traditional Japanese outfit with ‘lily of the valley’ kanzashi; image from http://www.donatale.com

Fragrance Friday: Neil’s Book “Perfume”

I am in awe of the fact that Neil Chapman, author of the blog The Black Narcissus, has written and had published an actual BOOK! It is called “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent”, and it just came out in the US (it came out a short time earlier, in March, in the UK). You can buy it on Amazon, where I had pre-ordered it; I came home from work earlier this week to find the package waiting on my doorstep. It is also available online and at booksellers such as Blackwell’s and Barnes & Noble.

As others have written, the book itself is beautiful, a hardcover volume with an Art Deco cover design in black, gold, and silver, and gold-edged pages. If you have ever read The Black Narcissus, you know that Neil is a wonderfully gifted writer with wide-ranging interests. His posts about fragrance include many cultural references and observations from his years living in several countries, from his childhood and youth in England, to his current home in Japan. He studied Italian and French literature at Cambridge University, and he now teaches English to Japanese secondary school students. His literary sensibilities suffuse his writing, but he also includes deeply personal reminiscences and a vast knowledge of perfume: history, ingredients, creators, etc.

Neil’s individual reviews of specific perfumes are grouped into categories such as “Green”, then by notes like “grasses, leaves and herbs.” (As a lover of green fragrances myself, I was thrilled that this is the first chapter!) It is a remarkably user-friendly format with an exhaustive index if one just wants to read one review of a specific fragrance. Neil has a poetic sensibility and lifelong love of perfume, both of which his writing reflects. As he says, “In its wordless abstraction, a beautifully made scent can encapsulate an emotion; smell, with its visceral link to the unconscious, is unique in its emotional immediacy.” His short reviews of individual fragrances combine information about their components and creation with his own reactions to wearing them, or memories of times when he wore them. Since his own perfume collection must number in the thousands, including many rare vintage perfumes, even the most profligate collectors of perfumes will find surprises and revelations. However, the book is also a very accessible guide for those who are just exploring fragrance, or, as he writes, “a guide through a world that can at times seem overwhelming.”

Bravo, Neil! I’m wearing Vol de Nuit in your honor today! To learn more about Neil, check out this interview on the blog “Olfactoria’s Travels.”