Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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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.

Fleeting — Scents in Colour

Fleeting — Scents in Colour

One of my favorite fragrance blogs, Now Smell This, posted a brief mention of an upcoming art exhibit at the Mauritshuis museum in Holland. It is called “Fleeting — Scents in Colour”, and it will pair artworks with the imagined scents of what is portrayed. Apparently, some of those scents will be pleasant, and others — not so much. But what a great idea!

I think fragrance is under-utilized as a partner to other arts, but I understand why — it is hard to use in live performance spaces, for example, unless one decided to have one dominant smell, because how do you clear one out of the air to make room for another? And some people could be allergic, even if it just makes them sneeze. Pairing more static artworks like paintings with fragrance one can smell in limited space seems more feasible, though I wonder how this will work in the ongoing pandemic of airborne COVID-19.

Kudos to the Mauritshuis for even trying! Here is their description:

Fleeting – Scents in Colour

11 February 2021 – 6 June 2021 – Scented flowers and perfumes, foul-smelling canals and unpleasant body odours, smell and well-being, new aromas from far-away lands (spices, tobacco, coffee and tea), the disappearing smells of the bleaching fields, old crafts and more. Can life in the seventeenth century be captured in smell? How are smell (and scent) portrayed? What significance did people attach to smell? And what aromatic connotations do artworks have? In this exhibition, the Mauritshuis will undertake smell-historical research. In the vicinity of the art, various historic scents will be prepared to bring the paintings in the exhibition to life.

This effort reminds me of my 2019 trip to Venice (sigh — no travel for me in 2020), specifically my visit to that city’s Palazzo Mocenigo, which houses a perfume museum. I miss traveling, and I miss my “perfume tourism”, but I was so lucky to have been able to take more than one lovely trip with my husband in 2019. While 2020 was a lost year for travel, other than one much-needed week at a beach to which we could drive, my fingers are crossed for at least the second half of 2021. And since he won’t be traveling for work much this year, and who knows what international restrictions will be in place, we’ll probably get more creative in our travels and explore more of our own large and beautiful country.

Do you engage in “perfume tourism”, by which I mean seeking out perfume-related sites and stores in places you visit, and maybe bringing back perfume souvenirs?

Perfume Chat Room, January 22

Perfume Chat Room, January 22

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, January 22, and I am late! I apologize — our spring semester began this week and I taught a new course for two hours this morning, so I was a bit distracted. I really do need to set up these posts in advance for automated posting, but I like adding in stuff about what actually happened this week.

A LOT happened in the US this week; we have a new President and VP, and we had inauguration events that started on Tuesday and continued much of the week. My son went back to his college dorm this week; we will miss him so much! We got spoiled, having him home for the last two months. I don’t know what our dog Lucy will do, although she still has four humans here to spoil her. She has a particular soft spot for the youngest, though.

One of the Christmas gifts we sent off with him was a restock bottle of Davidoff’s Cool Water, his fragrance of choice for the last few years. I chose it for him at his request for recommendations, because it is a quality scent but very affordable when he has to buy it himself. Created by Pierre Bourdon, it was launched in 1988 and is widely thought to be the progenitor of many (if not most) “aquatic” scents. Top notes are listed as Sea water, Lavender, Mint, Green Notes, Rosemary, Calone and Coriander; middle notes are Sandalwood, Neroli, Geranium and Jasmine; base notes are Musk, Tobacco, Oakmoss, Cedar and Amber. However, it has been reformulated over the years, so I’m not vouching for that note list! It’s enough to say that it smells fresh, clean, and summery, with a youthful vibe but not so much that only the young can wear it.

What has your week been like, in fragrance or just regular living? Are you sticking to any New Year’s resolutions? We are doing a Sober January in this house — so far, so good!

Event Recap: Maya Njie + Arielle Shoshana

Maya Njie in her London studio As much as I miss shopping for perfume in actual stores and attending events like launch parties and personal …

Event Recap: Maya Njie + Arielle Shoshana

From the Perfume Professor! I haven’t done one of these Zoom sniffalongs yet, but I’m very intrigued. Maybe over the upcoming winter break … Have you tried one?

Scent Sample Sunday: Clinique Wrappings

Scent Sample Sunday: Clinique Wrappings

Since we truly enter the holiday season this week, with Thanksgiving to be followed swiftly by Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, today seems like as good a time as any to comment on Clinique’s Wrappings, which for many years was available only during the winter holidays at certain high-end stores. Nowadays you can buy it directly from the Clinique website (maybe they hide it after January?), although the copy describes it as “our once-a-year fragrance, here just for the holidays.” Regardless, Wrappings seems to have developed something of a cult status, although it is very reasonably priced, $47.00 for the gift set of a parfum spray and body lotion, and often marked down after Christmas (so don’t pay inflated prices on eBay).

Launched in 1990, Wrappings fits in well with a house whose most famous fragrance for many years was Aromatics Elixir. It is a gentler sibling, described on Fragrantica as a “floral aldehydic” fragrance. (I disagree with that characterization). Top notes are Green Notes, Aldehydes, Artemisia, Nutmeg Flower and Lavender; middle notes are Hyacinth, Orris Root, Cyclamen, Carnation, Rose and Jasmine; base notes are Oakmoss, Cedar, Sea Notes, Patchouli, Musk and Leather. Wrappings has a clean vibe to it that is well-suited to the decade of the 1990s, which embraced clean and aquatic fragrances. It is sold in parfum format, in a 25 ml bottle, often in a gift set with body lotion.

When I first spray it on my wrists, I smell a note that isn’t on the list above, something citrusy. It might be bergamot, because it isn’t sweet or fruity, and it blends in well with the green and herbal notes that also open this fragrance. I was relieved to read earlier reviews by Persolaise and MimiFrouFrou/The Scented Salamander, in which both commented on the citrusy note, confirming what my own nose was telling me! The reason I don’t agree with Fragrantica’s category is that when I read “floral aldehydic”, I think of scents like White Linen, or Chanel No. 22. And Wrappings is nothing like those. I can sense the aldehydes boosting the opening, giving it lift and sparkle, and a certain brisk chill, but they’re not as dominant as they are in, say, No. 22. The herbal notes are what linger throughout the opening stage, to my nose, especially the artemisia and lavender. Another commenter has called Wrappings a “feminine fougere”, and that sounds exactly right to me.

I barely smell any of the listed floral notes. If the flowers are there, they are not greenhouse-grown, luxuriously tended until they are gathered into bouquets for indoors. No, these are flowers of the Mediterranean growing wild in their natural habitats, wafting over grasses and herbs. And given how faint they are, and how well Wrappings suits late autumn, I would say that they are the last, brave blooms that show up sporadically throughout a sunny fall season, thriving in those cool nights and warm days until the first frost stops them in their tracks and sends them into dormancy.

Many commenters smell pine in Wrappings, but I don’t. I do smell a green woodiness in the middle stage; I don’t think it is the cedar, listed as a base note, it is probably the oakmoss, which continues through the drydown stage. There is an alluring mineral note in the drydown that I think comes from the “sea notes”. The musk that lingers longest at the end, with a hint of the oakmoss, is quite soft, and I don’t smell any patchouli or leather.

Wrappings lasts several hours on my skin, but it is quite faint after 7 hours or so. This seems to be a parfum concentration, per the label on the bottom of the bottle, so I don’t think it carries very far. The Scented Salamander’s review mentions that early advertising for Wrappings compared it to a chemise, slipped on over clean, bare skin, and I think that’s right. The current website says it “hugs skin in layers of warmth and brightness.”

Although I think “feminine fougere” is apt, this could certainly be worn by men. Have you tried Wrappings?

Easy spring outfit. Sarah Butler of @sarahchristine wearing Paige Sela Silk Slip Dress in Dream Blue in Seattle, Washington.

Featured images from SarahStylesSeattle.

Perfume Chat Room, November 20

Perfume Chat Room, November 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 Friday, November 20, and Thanksgiving is next week! Do you have any special plans, given that the CDC is strongly discouraging travel and large family gatherings? One friend of mine with young adult children who no longer live at home has rented a beach house for the week, with elaborate plans for home tests for COVID-19 and a few days of “podding” in quarantine with family meals taken outside. The young adults are traveling by car. If my children lived far away, this plan would tempt me! But two of mine live at home, and the third is at college close by (he’ll return home on Monday for the end of semester, including remote exams, and then for the duration of winter break, as his college won’t reopen until the last week of January.

Our Thanksgivings have mostly included just the five of us anyway (with an occasional friend in need of turkey), since both my husband’s family and mine are based in New England. With two fulltime jobs and three kids, it was never a holiday for which we were willing to travel, after moving South. And the weather here is often very beautiful at Thanksgiving — cool, crisp nights with clear, sunny days. I still have roses blooming!

It’s definitely the season for autumnal fragrances, though. I took out Clinique Wrappings yesterday, which really suited the weather. I’ve been wearing L’Ambre des Merveilles quite a bit, and different versions of Cabochard. What are your favorite autumn scents?

Lastly, what makes you thankful in this weird year of 2020? This blog started out as a way to practice more mindfulness (“Serenity Now”) and occasionally I have posted about “What Went Well“, a gratitude exercise. I’m thankful that my friends and family have mostly stayed safe and well; I’m thankful for one daughter’s recovery from COVID-19 after a relatively mild case; I’m thankful that my children are all here in the same city. I’m so thankful for the dedicated healthcare workers who are showing up every day to help the rest of us. And I’m thankful that so many people drop by this blog to read, whether or not you comment! Thank you!

Featured image from AARP.org; let’s hope they all use hand sanitizer, too!

Perfume Chat Room, November 13

Perfume Chat Room, November 13

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, November 13 — as if we in the USA needed another Friday the Thirteenth right now! In honor of the day, I am trying my sample of Editions Frederic Malle’s Superstitious, and I quite like it. The opening phase has an intriguing combination of aldehydes and incense which I’m enjoying. Maybe it will bring good luck today.

I don’t know that I’m naturally “superstitious”, but I do use phrases like “fingers crossed” and sometimes I remember to say “rabbit rabbit” first thing on the first day of a new month, lol! Do you have any superstitions about Friday the 13th, or any “lucky” fragrances?

Featured image from ASPCA.

Perfume Chat Room, October 30

Perfume Chat Room, October 30

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, October 30, the day before Halloween. I’m taking part in the weekly Friday community project at the blog “Now Smell This“, which today is to wear a scent that generates emotion in you. Mine is Anne Klein II, which brings back happy memories of being a young adult in Manhattan. However, since tomorrow is Halloween, I may have to switch later to something slightly more sinister. Cabochard, perhaps? I’m currently very intrigued by that scent and am comparing the two most recent versions of both the EDT and EDP (they were reformulated in 2019).

Tomorrow I will probably wear something by Papillon’s Liz Moores, who is an actual modern witch as well as a tremendously gifted perfumer. Maybe Bengale Rouge? But I do love Dryad … decisions, decisions. Will you do anything special for Halloween? Or wear any special fragrance?

Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

Scent Sample Sunday: Byredo Candles At IKEA

A short while ago, multiple media outlets reported that Swedish furnishings giant IKEA would launch a limited edition of scented candles in partnership with Swedish fragrance brand Byredo. Well, perfumistas, here in the USA, the eagles have landed! I went to my local IKEA today, and there they were, although the announcements said they would be available in November.

The series of candles is named, in classically inscrutable IKEA fashion, “Osynlig.” You can find them online by typing that precise name into the search box on the IKEA USA website, which also seems to be selling them now (i.e., before November). Apparently, the scents are designed by Byredo’s Ben Gorham so that all can be burnt alone or layered together, creating your own personal home fragrance. He is also quoted as saying “I really enjoyed the idea of being able to make interesting products accessible to as many people as possible,” in an interview with WWD. Ikea was “one of the few [with which] I could actually develop and manufacture a product of this quality, yet make it available at that type of price point.”

I only started using scented candles regularly a few years ago. These ones are really special; they come in beautiful ceramic pots with different colors that reflect some aspect of the scent. A few of the fragrances are available in small, medium, and large sizes. I haven’t yet tried lighting any of the ones I bought but they smell wonderful! Most immediately striking to me was “Tobacco and Honey”, which does indeed have a strong note of golden honey.

Scented candles at IKEA, limited edition by Ben Gorham of Byredo
IKEA’s Osynlig candles with Byredo scents.

I am so pleased to have “scored” several of these! The ones that are currently available are: Tea Leaves & Verbena, Pomegranate & Amber, Basil & Mint, Fig & Cypress, Peach Blossom & Bamboo, Lilac & Amber, Rose & Raspberries, Cotton Flower & Apple Blossom, Sandalwood & Vanilla, and Tobacco & Honey.

There is one fragrance mentioned in the press, “Swedish Birch and Juniper”, that I did not see on the IKEA USA website or in the store, and it sounds like one I would like. Apparently the other three scents in the collection — Cassis & Freesia, Swedish Birch & Juniper, and Firewood & Spice — will be available in February 2021.

Have you seen or tried any of the “Osynlig” collection yet?