Fragrance Friday: Crepuscule des Ames

Fragrance Friday: Crepuscule des Ames

The second of the three “White Collection” fragrances by Atelier des Ors is Crepuscule des Ames, which means “twilight of the souls.” It represents the second, or center, panel of Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze, a masterpiece of the Vienna Secession movement. That panel actually consists of two halves: the more famous one, featured above, and this one:

Center panel of Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, Gnawing Grief

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze, “Gnawing Grief.”

One description of these center panels notes that they represent the forces that stand in opposition to human happiness:

The giant Typhoeus (the monster with mother-of-pearl eyes extending across the entire front wall with his blue wings and snake-like appendages); his daughters, the three gorgons (the three women standing to the left of Typhoeus). Sickness, madness, death (the mask-like female heads above the gorgon heads). Lasciviousness, wantonness, intemperance (the group of three women to the right of Typhoeus. Intemperance wears a conspicuously ornamented blue skirt with applications of mother-of-pearl, bronze rings, etc.). Gnawing grief (the woman cowering on the right in the picture). The yearnings and desires of humankind fly past them. (Suites Culturelles)

Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, second panel

Left side of middle section, Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze.

Perfumer Marie Salamagne and creative director Jean-Philippe Clermont have chosen to represent these hostile forces in a more benevolent light for purposes of fragrance — a wise choice! Here is Atelier des Ors’ own description of Crepuscule des Ames:

Crépuscule Des Âmes is the twilight of the souls and a perfume to enslave the senses with fine spices and a warm golden glow. A second skin to wear in the dusky hours while the souls are at play, when we feel deep desires and the duality inherent in our consciousness. A radiating warmth that speaks to carnal pleasure and desire imbued with the furry warmth of Typhoeus. Incense, patchouli and hyraceum heat the primitive, animalic aura. For moments when we seek the truth, to find a way through temptation. An addictive, empowering fragrance with an element of intrigue.

The opening of Crepuscule is a strong, sweet note of mandarin orange, warmed by the spice of cardamom and the herbal tones of clary sage. The orange note is one of three citrus notes that unite the three fragrances (Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule des Ames, and Choeur des Anges). They are all based on the orange tree (neroli, mandarin, and blood orange with orange blossom) and they connect the three fragrances like a golden thread running through a complex tapestry of scent. In his excellent review for Fragrantica, Sergey Borisov pointed out that in the frieze, this center panel represents the “human sins and passions we have to overcome in order to reach happiness in life,” which is why this scent is designed to evoke the animal side of human nature, portrayed so vividly in the frieze.

As Crepuscule dries down, it becomes more animalic and smokier, with the addition of incense, hyrax, pimento pepper, and patchouli. As described by the brand, these notes are intended to symbolize warmth, carnality, desire, the dark side of the human spirit, the temptations through which we must progress in order to find happiness. The hyrax note is especially interesting. In its natural form, it comes from hyraceum, which is basically crystallized urine of the animal called hyrax. It is used in perfumery as an animalic substance whose collection does not harm any animals, but which “gives an animalistic, sensual and deep note that feels like a combination of musk, civet, castoreum, tobacco and agarwood.” Hyraceum also contains pheromones, complex airborne scent molecules, generated by animals, that are thought to cause behavioral responses in others of their species, including sexual response.

My nose can definitely sense the animalic undertones of Crepuscule, though I wouldn’t have known it came from hyraceum without guidance from a list of notes. I believe it is this complex note that makes Crepuscule feel to me more like a masculine-leaning fragrance than Nuda Veritas, although they and Choeur des Anges are all presented as unisex fragrances. Its use here is very clever (all of Ms. Salamagne’s creations for Atelier des Ors are designed with high intelligence and layers of meaning), especially combined with incense and hyssop.

Why those two notes in particular? Incense is most famously used in Western cultures as part of Christian religious worship, especially in the more ancient rites of the Roman Catholic church. To many lovers of fragrance, incense will immediately evoke memories of church rituals and ancient places of worship: the very passages through which, in the Christian faith, sinners must pass in order to withstand temptation and progress to the ultimate spiritual joy and salvation. I chose deliberately to write about Crepuscule today, which is Good Friday, the day on which Christians believe that Jesus allowed himself to be sacrificed by the darker impulses of humanity in order to win all of humankind our salvation, because I think the symbolism of Klimt’s frieze — and thus this scent — lends itself to such an analogy. Even the female figure of “Gnawing Grief” recalls so many artworks that show the agony of Mary, mother of Jesus, at the Crucifixion.

Hyssop also has religious significance. It is an aromatic herb used ritually “in the Catholic ceremonies where the priest puts the hyssop into the ceremonial aspergillum, which he dips into a bowl of holy water” and uses to sprinkle the mixture onto congregants as a blessing. But there is more to hyssop than this benign use — according to Fragrantica, it is also used to make the liqueur Chartreuse (after which the shade of green is named) and to color the famous spirit “absinthe”, widely used and also widely criticized in the 19th century as the notorious “green fairy” that “makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant,” according to one writer. And there, right in the  Beethoven Frieze’s center panel, is a “ferocious beast”, Typhoeus. In this perfume, hyssop may stand for the “duality” the brand means to evoke: dark and light, sinful and blessed, together.

In its final phase, Crepuscule lingers on the skin with the incense most dominant to my nose, followed by patchouli. It lasts for several hours even on my dry skin. At this stage, the hyrax is less noticeable as “animalic” but acts more as a fixative base that still lends warmth. After all, even when we succumb to temptation but struggle to resist sin, we are still human!

Like the others in the triptych, Crepuscule des Ames is an intelligent work of perfume art, with many possible meanings, interpretations, and effects unique to the individual who wears it. It does indeed grow on one, although I don’t find it as addictive as the brand’s copy suggests. I have a feeling this is another scent that I would like very much on my husband, although it is clearly suitable for women to wear also. I am enjoying wearing it and thinking about it even as I look forward to the triumph of Easter and the last of the White Collection, Choeur des Anges.

Sample kindly offered by Atelier des Ors; opinions my own.

 

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

May Muguet Marathon: I Love NY for Earth Day

I haven’t tried many Bond No. 9 fragrances, partly because of their prices, partly because they sometimes seem a bit gimmicky, and partly because their bottles don’t appeal to me. I don’t often think of myself being that affected by a fragrance’s bottle, although I really love some of the beautiful bottles one sees and can sometimes be swayed to buy a fragrance because of one (have you seen the adorable new Nina Ricci Bella? I’m hoping they will do a coffret of minis with the other “apple” bottles!). But I’ve rarely felt put off a fragrance because of the bottle. Daisy is another bottle that doesn’t appeal to me AT ALL, though I love the Daisy Dream bottles. I’ve successfully resisted buying any of them, though.

Bottles of different Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances

Bond No. 9 I Love NY fragrances; image from http://www.parfumo.net

Today’s fragrance with lily of the valley in it is Bond No. 9’s I Love NY for Earth Day. I found it at a great discount at a local store, with I Love NY for the Holidays, and thought, why not? So they both came home with me. I lived in New York for several years, and grew up outside The City, as we called it, and I do appreciate how Bond No. 9 has worked to create scents that capture various aspects of New York life and different New York neighborhoods. I really enjoyed For the Holidays and have been looking forward to trying Earth Day.

Here’s the thing: Earth Day is a lovely fragrance, very floral, but I get almost no lily of the valley from it! From reading other reviews, I know that my experience differs from others’, as a number of commenters and reviewers have said they found the lily of the valley to be very prominent. My experience of the fragrance was much more like the review by John Reasinger at CaFleureBon: all about the tuberose. And in fact, this seems more like what its creators intended, based on this excerpt from their promotional materials when Earth Day was launched in 2011, which I found on The Candy Perfume Boy blog:

“Like New York, this lush green tuberose is also sophisticated and assured. Its wakeup opening notes, sprightly tangerine and orange flower water, blended with more tropical orchid, segue into the heart of the scent: a stunning floral composed of intoxicating tuberose, lily of the valley, and orris. Base notes of durable musk, amber, oakmoss, and sandalwood sustain this heady bouquet.”

So now that we’ve put the muguet to bed, so to speak, what is Earth Day like? To me, it is very tuberose-forward, teetering on the brink of too much without tipping over the edge. If I applied more than a couple of modest sprays, though, I think it would overwhelm. Tuberose is such a complicated fragrance note: in real life, the flowers’ scent is intoxicating, so much so that an oft-repeated legend is that in some countries, young women were forbidden to walk among gardens of tuberose lest they be overcome by lust! Perfumer Pierre Benard spoke at length about the note with Fragrantica, and the interview is well worth reading, as it leaps from science and chemistry to perfume to history: Tuberose: Flower, Scent, History, and Perfume.

tuberose flower

Tuberose flower; image from http://www.attarperfumes.net

Earth Day is supposed to be a unisex fragrance, but to me it is very feminine, because of its strong floral nature and the voluptuousness of the tuberose. I don’t think of men as “voluptuous”, although that may be my own limitation more than anything else! And this is a somewhat voluptuous scent, though not languorous. The city of New York has an energy and liveliness that is captured in this fragrance. What comes to mind? Princess Giselle in Central Park, in the movie Enchanted:

Princess Giselle in Central Park, NY, from Disney movie Enchanted

GIselle in Central Park; image from http://www.disney.com

Not a muguet, but definitely a happy, lively, green floral scent, with, as another reviewer said, a “sprightly tangerine” opening. It is very appealing on the right day and in the right weather, which to me would be spring and summer. Try it! But not if you dislike tuberose. Have you tried any other I Love NY fragrances? Which do you like, and why?

 

May Muguet Marathon: Demeter Lily of the Valley

May Muguet Marathon: Demeter Lily of the Valley

And now for something completely (okay, not COMPLETELY) different. From the heights of expensive perfumery and Muguet Porcelaineto the more prosaic and affordable Demeter Fragrance Library’s Lily of the Valley. I love the whole idea of Demeter Fragrance Library: that they try to capture individual fragrances of everyday objects, places or even weather, and you can combine those into whatever blend you like. From the company’s website: “Demeter was conceived in the East Village of New York City in 1996: a unique point of view about fragrance, a perspective that still remains unique, but that continues to expand. The original mission was to capture the beautiful smells of the garden and nature in wearable form. Consistent with that mission we took the Demeter name, inspired by the Greek Goddess of Agriculture.” Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Porcelaine

Thank goodness. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the new (and last) Hermessence by Jean-Claude Ellena, Muguet Porcelaine. I love his Jardin series very much; the transparency of his fragrances appeals to me although some other perfume lovers do not like it. And I truly love lily of the valley scents, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that Muguet Porcelaine would not disappoint. And it doesn’t.

Before I got my own sample, I read some comments that used words like “cucumber”, “melon”, “watermelon” and even “bubble gum”! No, no, no, I thought, surely Ellena would not play such a cruel joke on perfume lovers who look forward to his new works, or on the lovely lily of the valley flower that has so inspired great perfumers like Edmond Roudnitska, whom Ellena holds in high regard.

He did not. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

My oh my, muguet! Oriza  L. Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri opens with a decisive, spicy greenness that comes from top notes of green leaves, grass and lily-of-the-valley, per Fragrantica. The middle notes are galbanum, angelica, violet leaf and lily-of-the-valley; base notes are lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss and lily. Kafkaesque attributes the spiciness of the opening to the violet leaves, but I wonder if it doesn’t also come from the angelica. The firmness of the green top notes reminds me of the leaves of lily of the valley, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer just the right contrast to the delicate silver-white bells of the flowers on their long, slender stalks. The leaves are sculptural in their form, larger than the flowers and sometimes even hiding them. They are smooth and firm like the leaves of hostas, and reach to the sky in pairs like hands lifted in prayer.

Lily of the Valley leaves

Lily of the Valley leaves; photo from Verdure

I love the opening of this fragrance. It just happens that I am staying this week at my sister’s house, where she has an old, well-established patch of lilies of the valley, so I am able to compare the perfume and the flower directly while I type this. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Annick Goutal’s Le Muguet

May Muguet Marathon: Annick Goutal’s Le Muguet

I have had a hard time figuring out this perfume, so let me work my way up to that. Le Muguet is a soliflore that was first released as a limited edition in 2001, then re-launched with a few other Goutal soliflores in 2011 or 2012.

Annick Goutal soliflore perfume bottles including Le Muguet.

Annick Goutal Soliflores; photo from http://www.nstperfume.com

The original nose behind it is Isabelle Doyen. The only notes that are listed for it in multiple sites, including Fragrantica, are lily of the valley, benzoin, red berries and rose, although The Scented Salamander describes notes of mustard, pepper and vanilla (none of which I detect). The bottle is simply beautiful: a heavy, classic shape of ribbed glass with a retro vibe and a solid, gold-toned cap, tied at the neck with a pretty bow of colored tulle (aqua-green in this case) and the perfume’s name in script on a gilt tag.

When I first spray it on my skin, I smell fruit. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Coty Muguet des Bois

May Muguet Marathon: Coty Muguet des Bois

One of the most famous lily of the valley fragrances, Coty’s Muguet des Bois was created by perfumer Henri Robert, some time between 1936 and 1941. According to one source, it was created in 1936 as a tribute to the recently deceased Francois Coty, who had a tradition of giving friends and employees the usual May Day bouquets of “muguets”, but his were grown on the grounds of his personal chateau! Muguet des Bois is now available mostly in eau de cologne strength but even that appears to have been discontinued, with stock still available online. The bottle I have echoes the colors of the vintage ad above: light green bottle with a touch of yellow; aqua blue label; light violet cap. Sort of dorky but pretty!

Coty bottle of MdB

Modern bottle of Coty Muguet des Bois; photo from http://www.basenotes.net.

Fragrantica says that the top notes are aldehydes, orange, green leaves and bergamot; middle notes are cyclamen, lilac, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are sandalwood and musk. I do smell the aldehydes but not heavily so; definitely the green, green leaves; a light citrusy touch that may be notes of both orange and bergamot and then — LILY OF THE VALLEY! And yes, I meant to put that in all caps, because it just jumps right out at you. I happen to like it very much, especially as it is a very green lily of the valley and it really does smell amazingly like the actual flower. Sad to say, it quickly fades. I find I am left with a faint hint of leafy musk and that’s about it. But oh, that initial blast! It is so, so appealing.

Now Smell This found a wonderful quote about Muguet des Bois by the legendary Edmond Roudnitska, creator of Diorissimo:

I remembered that Coty had a lily that was called Muguet des Bois. No better lily note was ever made. It pushed the green note of the flower. As a lily note, it was magnificent. It was much better than the one I had made myself. I wondered how they had managed to create such a masterpiece in the Thirties, with so little means.

He went on to call it “unwearable” but it’s not clear why. He also said it wasn’t successful, but that is contradicted by the sheer volume of related products sold now on eBay! Gift sets, talcum, parfum, eau de toilette, many gorgeous ads over decades — it sure looks as if it was successful. Many of the most beautiful ads were illustrations by an in-house artist who signed his work “Eric”.

Ad for Coty Muguet des Bois perfume, 1942.

Coty Muguet des Bois, 1942.

Continue reading