Fragrance Friday: Parfum et Vous

Last week, I was able to visit Nice, France, thanks to my husband’s work. He had to go for a business trip, I was able to take a few days off from my own job and tag along! During the day, he had meetings and I explored.

I have been to Nice before: once on our honeymoon, and again a few years ago when we took a family trip to the Cote d’Azur. But those trips were both before my perfumania, so I planned much of my week around fragrance. One thing I knew I’d like to try was a perfume-making workshop for beginners. Nice offers options; two different ones with an established perfume house, Molinard, and one with an independent perfumery, Parfum et Vous. I was leaning toward the latter, so when I contacted Megan in Sainte-Maxime to see if we might be able to meet (more about that in another post — such fun!), I asked her thoughts.  She enthusiastically recommended that choice, and she knows the owner, so I signed up. The price included a two-hour workshop to learn about perfume and then make our own scents, using pre-made accords, and one bottle of our own creation. The workshop would take place in a pretty old building in the heart of Nice, a short walk from the famous “Promenade des Anglais”, in the retail showroom of Parfum et Vous.

There were four of us taking the workshop, plus the lovely and vivacious Sasha, owner of Parfum et Vous, and her assistant. Sasha gave a brief introduction and overview about perfume, then had us walk around her small showroom filled with niche perfumes, smelling them and thinking about what genres and notes we might like to try in our own concoctions. Sasha’s wares are true artisan perfumes from niche houses, like Beaufort London, Nishane, NabuccoBarutiPaul Emilien and many others, so there was a wide range of fragrances to smell.

Then we went to a table where there were pre-mixed scents in eau de parfum strength representing categories of fragrance foundations, like “woody marine.” We talked about what we would try to create for our own eau de parfum, and sniffed all of the foundations. I wanted to create a unisex fragrance that would remind my husband and me of our trips to the South Carolina Lowcountry, the marshy coastland that borders the Atlantic Ocean in that state.

Next, we moved to a table that had 22 different accords in large bottles with droppers, divided among top notes, heart notes and base notes, and labeled with identifiers like “iris”, ‘chypre”, “citrus, “spice.” Each one also listed individual notes, e.g. “spice” included cinnamon, clove, and pepper. Sasha started each of us off with a formula to create a foundation for the category we had chosen, specifying how many mls of each accord we should add to our individual 30 ml bottles. I was starting with “woody marine”, so my beginning foundation included marine, citrus, green tea, “oriental woody”, and woody accords. Others wanted to create a gourmand, or a floral oriental, and there were foundations for those and other options.

Then the real fun began! Throughout the process, Sasha had us smell each stage as we added more accords in small amounts, tweaking our fragrances in the directions we wanted. I added notes of jasmine, cyclamen, wild rose, vetiver, and oak moss. As the other students and I added accords, Sasha would have us spray a bit on our skin and she would smell our progress and make suggestions. I got to a point where I wanted to add more heart notes. I was satisfied with the top notes, which by now included a citrus accord of mandarin, orange, and tangerine, the marine accord, and a tiny amount of a fruit accord (grapefruit and apple).

The heart note accords available were: neroli, spices, white flowers, rose, powdery (rice notes and white musk), iris, green tea, and cassis. We thought about adding neroli, but ruled that out. I asked about the powdery accord, and Sasha recommended against it, given the other accords I already had. We settled on slowly adding small amounts of the white flowers accord, which was a combination of jasmine and cyclamen. Then I thought about iris. Sasha was a little doubtful, but when I explained that I wanted that earthier, rooty aspect, she concurred but urged a light hand. In went .5 ml of the iris accord. Sniff, sniff. Wait. Another .5 ml. Sniff. Perfect!

Time to tweak the base notes. I already had accords that included notes of patchouli, vanilla, vetiver, tonka, cedar, and sandalwood. I wanted to add more of the “chypre” accord, with notes of vetiver and oak moss, and Sasha agreed but advised going slowly and adding 1 ml at a time, checking each time to see what I thought. Because of the nature of base notes, which emerge more slowly than the top and heart notes, one relies more on the formulas for base notes; even in a leisurely, unhurried workshop like this, there’s not time to wait for the full progression. Because I love chypre, I ended up adding more of that and no more of the other available base note accords, and I’m very happy with the outcome.

Once we were satisfied with our creations, Sasha had us name and label them. Parfum et Vous keeps a record of our names, and the formula for the specific blend we had created, so one can reorder if one wants. I named mine “Lowcountry Spring”, and I find it charming!

As you can tell, I enjoyed this workshop thoroughly and heartily recommend it. Because of the pre-formulated foundations and accords, plus expert guidance from Sasha, one really can’t go too far astray. It would take deliberate effort to create something that wasn’t pleasing. The atmosphere was fun and informative. I enjoyed meeting my three fellow students; we all helped each other, sniffing each other’s formulas along the way (yes, there were little canisters of coffee beans to help reset our noses, although I find it sometimes works best, when I’m trying many scents, to reset by just putting my nose to my own shoulder). I also really enjoyed seeing and smelling the many interesting niche perfumes Sasha sells in her showroom, some of which I hadn’t encountered before, and others which I had read about but never had the chance to try. If you get a chance to visit Nice, go see Parfum et Vous! Whether or not you have the time or inclination to spend an afternoon in the workshop, it is well worth a visit for the showroom alone, and to meet Sasha.

Have you ever tried making your own fragrances? How did it go?

 

Fragrance Friday: RIP, David Austin

Fragrance Friday: RIP, David Austin

One of the giants of horticulture died this week: David Austin, OBE, creator of the “English Roses.” What does this have to do with fragrance, you ask? One of Mr. Austin’s major goals in hybridizing roses was to reinstate the powerful fragrances of “old roses” into modern roses with some of the best traits of newer rose hybrids: disease resistance, repeat bloom, a wider range of colors. And he succeeded, probably even beyond his own dreams, in creating “the perfect garden worthy rose that combines beauty, fragrance, repeat-flowering ability and good disease resistance with great charm – the quality his English Roses are most renowned for.” As he wrote in his book The English Roses, he had one preeminent objective, “… that we should strive to develop the rose’s beauty in flower, growth and leaf.” Of fragrance: “[It] may be said to be the other half of the beauty of a rose”.

Mr. Austin’s English Roses won 24 gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the greatest flower show on earth. I’ve been privileged to visit that show twice, and the David Austin Roses display was always glorious!

David Austin Roses display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 2018

David Austin Roses display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 2018

When he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007 for his services to horticulture, he said “Every day, I marvel at my good fortune to have been able to make a life out of breeding roses. My greatest satisfaction is to see the pleasure my roses give to gardeners and rose lovers around the world”. What a legacy to leave! Legions of lovers of the English Roses included H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, who visited his displays at Chelsea:

David Austin and Queen Elizabeth II, display of English Roses at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

David Austin showing Queen Elizabeth his English Roses at Chelsea; image http://www.davidaustinroses.com.

I grow some of his roses, although I have to choose carefully which ones, as my gardening climate is more hot and humid than they prefer. But I have had some gorgeous blossoms from them, and whenever I cut a few and bring them indoors, they scent an entire room with true, beautiful rose fragrance. The company’s website says:

The English Roses are famous for the diversity and strength of their fragrances, with many varieties having won awards, both nationally and internationally, for their delicious fragrances which can be Old Rose, Tea, fruity, myrrh, musky or almost any mixture of these elements.

The website and catalog describe each rose’s fragrance in specific detail: one has a scent that is a mix of “tea, myrrh, and fruit”; another has a “strong, delicious Old Rose fragrance, often with overtones of strawberry.” There is an entire chapter in his book devoted to fragrance.

Nearly all the basic scents of the rose are to be found somewhere among English Roses and, as a rose of one scent is hybridised with a rose of another, new scent combinations become evident. So it is that we find one scent merging into another, as we move through the varieties of English Roses. I regard this as one of the greatest pleasures they have to offer us. One problem arising out of this great diversity of fragrances is the difficulty in describing them. It is rather like writing about wines; in fact, taste is, as we all know, very close to the sense of smell. We can but do our best, by means of classification and reference to other scents that most of us know. As with wines, there is the danger of sounding pretentious.

Wonderful! Mr. Austin also wrote with gratitude of benefiting from the expertise of Robert Calkin as a fragrance consultant. Mr. Calkin is the author of a classic text on perfumery, Perfumery: Practice and Principles, and apparently “a great lover of roses.” With his guidance, the English Roses are loosely grouped into these categories of fragrance: Old Rose, Tea Rose, Myrrh, Musk, Fruit, and “Myriad.” The latter prompted the following description:

Sometimes it seems as though the fragrance of all the flowers are to be found somewhere in English Roses. The scent of lilac is found in ‘Heather Austin’ and ‘Barbara Austin’; that of lily of the valley in ‘Miss Alice.’ The scent of peach blossom is found in a number of roses. Sometimes, as we cast hither and thither for a name for our fragrances, we refer to them in terms of the bouquet of wine or the fragrance of honey. Clove scent occurs in certain varieties, as, for example, in ‘Heritage’. Seldom are these comparisons exact. Not always can any two people agree on the right term, but this only adds to the many charms of English Roses.

Mr. Austin was clearly a gifted writer, and some of the tributes to him have noted his deep love of books. I’ve always been charmed by the names of the English Roses, so many drawn from English literature (“William Shakespeare”), places (“Winchester Cathedral”), history (“Fighting Temeraire”), and even horticulture (“Gertrude Jekyll”).

Online tributes are flooding in; this obituary aptly describes his contributions. I will just say that although I never had the pleasure of meeting him or being in communication with him, Mr. David Austin brought much joy to me through the beauty AND fragrance of his lovely roses. I hope that heaven had bouquets of them awaiting his arrival. May “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” Mr. Austin.

Beds of English Roses at David Austin Roses display, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018.

David Austin English Roses at Chelsea, 2018.

 

 

Fragrance Friday: Black Friday Deals

Fragrance Friday: Black Friday Deals

Happy Fragrance (Black) Friday! Below are some codes for American fragrance lovers, which are in effect at least for today, Black Friday 2018, November 23. Please remember also to seek out specials tomorrow for Small Business Saturday, as many perfumers and perfume retailers are small business owners who need and appreciate fragrance-lovers’ support!

Beauty Encounter: FRI20 (extra 20% off sitewide)

Indigo Perfumery: blackfriday2018 (20% off full bottles)

Neiman Marcus: THANKFUL ($50 off $200 purchase, including fragrance)

Perfume.com: Pc22 (extra 20% off)

Saks Off Fifth: Beauty20 (20% off already discounted fragrance)

Twisted Lily: THANKYOU2018 (20% off entire order)

Black Friday Specials:

Demeter Fragrance Library: no code needed; special prices on select sets and samplers

Yves Rocher USA: no code needed, click on link for deals up to 50% off, plus special sets

Also, Sam at I Scent You A Day has posted her own Black Friday round-up of sales for perfume lovers in the UK. I’m envious — there are some great buys for delivery in the UK, especially from 4160 Tuesdays! One link, though, is for Le Jardin Retrouve, which is offering free shipping worldwide today through the weekend.

Happy shopping!

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

Fragrance Friday: Is Lavender The New Valium?

This week, the New York Times published an article detailing research that suggests lavender really does have the healing power of calming stress and anxiety for which it has been reputed over centuries: Lavender’s Soothing Scent Could Be More Than Just Folk Medicine.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, [the researcher] and his colleagues found that sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium. It worked on the same parts of a mouse’s brain, but without all the dizzying side effects. And it didn’t target parts of the brain directly from the bloodstream, as was thought. Relief from anxiety could be triggered just by inhaling through a healthy nose.

But why stop at lavender? It seems the key substance is linalool, which occurs naturally in many plants and spices, and is listed as an ingredient in fragranced products, as Lush notes:

Linalool is a colourless liquid with a soft, sweet odour. It occurs naturally in many essential oils, such as tangerine, spearmint, rose, cypress, lemon, cinnamon and ylang ylang. It has a soft, sweet scent. Ho wood oil is used in some fragrances, which is linalool in its natural form, for the woody, sweet note it gives.  Even when ingredients are naturally occurring fragrance constituents they are included in quantitative ingredients lists,  this enables people to decide which product is right for them.

One can even search on the Lush websites (UK and USA) for products by ingredient, so it is possible to identify specific products of theirs that contain linalool, including several of their solid and spray perfumes.

Time for me to break out an essential oil diffuser with a strong dose of lavender! That seems fitting for a blog titled “Serenity Now.” Do you find that lavender has a calming effect on you? How do you use it or other essential oils to create calm in your surroundings?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Eric Gaillard for Reuters.

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

Fragrance Friday: Commodity Velvet

I have a soft spot for the Commodity line of fragrances, as Commodity Moss was one of the first niche-type fragrances I tried when I started getting serious about fragrance (I say niche-type, because once you can buy a fragrance in Sephora, I’m not sure it’s a true niche fragrance any more!). I really like Moss, but my oh my Velvet!

Commodity Velvet is a new 2018 release, and the perfumer is Jerome Epinette. Its top notes are listed on the Commodity website as roasted almond, clove buds, and coconut water. Heart notes are: heliotropine, vanilla flower, velvet rose petals. Base notes are blonde woods, white birch, black amber. Commodity has a short film in which M. Epinette describes his intentions in creating Velvet:

Velvet is a unique rose fragrance, with its notes of roasted almond, white birch, and black amber. There are many fragrances that combine rose and vanilla, but Velvet’s lightly smoky, nutty opening is unusual and very pleasing. The only other fragrance I’ve been able to find that combines roasted or toasted almonds with rose, vanilla, and birch is Soivohle’s Vanillaville, in which it seems that the rose is much more of a bit player, and tobacco and leather notes dominate. (P.S. Vanillaville sounds great! I haven’t tried it but it’s now on my radar).

M. Epinette focused on evoking the soft texture of velvet fabric or the velvety feel of real rose petals, and he has succeeded. He says of his concept: “I was inspired by the image of vibrant pink Turkish Rose Petals floating gently over a mysterious, dark background of richly warm vanilla and black amber with a delicious touch of roasted almond drifting in the air.” The almond is present right from the start. I don’t smell any coconut in the opening, but it may be there as a support to the roasted almond, which I do smell.

I don’t experience the base or drydown of Velvet as “dark”, if by dark one means edgy. The dark of Velvet is warm and soft, shot through with subtle shades of color, as fine silk velvet often is. M. Epinette describes vibrant pink rose petals against a dark background, but I perceive Velvet as being more like one of the dark, velvety roses that have shades of pink on their petals.

Dark red velvety rose against black

Dark red rose; image from Flowers Healthy.

Dark red and pink Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Black Beauty Velvet Rose

Velvet is a beautiful rose for cooler weather, when many roses, like those in my garden, put forth a new flush of blooms. It reminds me a bit of Montale’s Intense Cafe, though without that fragrance’s powerhouse sillage and longevity. Its longevity is reasonable; I can still smell it on my wrists seven hours after first application, although it has become faint. Its roasted almond top note is different and very appealing. Velvet is warm, soft, slightly spicy, and utterly charming.

Featured image above from OliverTwistsFibers on http://www.etsy.com.

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray

Or rather, hair MIST. This is a relatively new discovery for me, as I wrote about here: Fragrance Friday: Hair Spray/Colette. I may have to explore this world further, based on a recent experience in airport security. Yes, that’s right — airport security. As my family and I were returning from Ireland a few weeks ago, we were going through security in the Dublin airport. As I am wont to do, I had spent some time browsing among fragrances in the duty-free shop, where I had come across Diptyque’s new hair mist. Having enjoyed the Colette hair mist, I decided to try it. And, if the truth be told, I had already sprayed other scents on both wrists and inner elbows. Hair was the only real estate left.

Reader, I sprayed it. And generously, too. Shortly after, I grabbed my bags and went through the security screening line. As I passed through the scanner for people, and my bags passed through the scanner for luggage, I didn’t give it a thought — I knew where my liquids were, I knew everything in my bag was allowed, I took off my metal bracelet and put it in my handbag, etc. Suddenly — “Ma’am! Ma’am!”. A youngish female airport employee was approaching me with an urgent tone in her voice. “Yes?”, I asked, inwardly sighing that I must have messed up something with my luggage (side note: I have done that and was once busted by an airport bag-sniffing dog who found an apple I had forgotten was in my backpack).

Dublin airport security screening line and trays

Dublin Airport security screening

“Do I need to open my bag?”, I asked.

“No, ma’am, I just need to know what scent you’re wearing. You smell wonderful!”

Now that’s a first. I have occasionally been stopped by strangers asking about my fragrance, which is always flattering when they ask nicely and not in a creepy way. But I’ve never been stopped by airport security over my own fragrance, as opposed to the scent of an illicit piece of fruit. (By the way, the dogs don’t sit quietly when they find the fruit. They bark. Loudly. And put their paws on your bag). I assume it was the hair mist that attracted her attention, because I sprayed on more of it than anything else, and it really does carry. And of course I told her what I thought it was and pointed back vaguely toward the Diptyque counter, because when airport security asks you a question, YOU ANSWER.

Airport beagle sniffer dog with fruit

Airport beagle finding illicit fruit in luggage

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that if you haven’t tried fragranced hair mist yet, you might want to! And you might want to start with Diptyque, which now has two: Eau Rose and Eau des SensGiven that fragrance often lasts longer and has more sillage when sprayed on hair, this seems like an affordable way to wear Diptyque, and I hope they offer more of their scents in this formulation. Here’s the challenge: I don’t remember which one I sprayed on, and Eau Rose appears to be sold out online at Diptyque’s website.

Not to be dissuaded from my quest, I plan to make a visit soon to one of my local department stores that carries Diptyque and see if I can try them both. If I figure out which one made the screener swoon, I’ll update this post!

Featured image from http://www.britishbeautyblogger.com.

Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

The last several months I have contacted many people who had written to me in Jan/Feb to request bottles. I’ve filled about as many of those requests as I can with what I had in stock (minus a few people that I couldn’t reach via email). I’m now listing the few remaining bottles here. These bottles have […]

via Some Final Bottles Available — Perfume in Progress

If you always wanted some fragrances from Sonoma Scent Studio, this is your last chance! Award-winning perfumer Laurie Erickson is retiring from the perfume business and may have a buyer for Sonoma Scent Studio. She has a small number of bottles of her fragrance creations still available for purchase. I’m sad to see such a gifted artisan perfumer leave the scene but I am confident Laurie will flourish in her next phase.