Fragrance Friday: David Austin Roses

I am predictably obsessed with a few things (fragrance being the newest obsession). One of those is gardens. Another is roses. Put together fragrance, and roses, and gardens, and I am in heaven. It should come as no surprise, then, that I adore David Austin’s English Roses. He has been carefully breeding them for decades and I am able to grow a few in my garden with its limited sunny spots, including two that are mentioned in the article: Lady of Shalott and The Generous Gardener. One of the key attributes for which David Austin selects seedlings for his breeding program is fragrance.

In The Romantic Quest of David Austin RosesVictoria magazine shares some of the roses’ secrets with some lovely photographs. Michael Marriott, the “senior rosarian” at David Austin Roses, explained that “a rose’s fragrance may be the result of a mixture of up to three hundred various oils, but that two or three of these combine to create the dominant scent… ‘In David Austin’s English Roses,’ he explains, ‘the mix will include, variously, Old Rose, Tea, Musk, Myrrh or Fruit. Other oils add important subtle nuances that give different roses distinctive, evocative notes of cucumber, lemon, blackberry, honey, cedar wood, and more.’”

Three hundred different oils that go into creating a real rose’s natural fragrance! I swoon at the thought. No wonder my many rose-based fragrances all smell different. Mr. Marriott found it hard to pick a favorite among the real roses: “’A fresh memory of scent and off I’ll go in another direction.’ For fragrance, though, he favors the classic Old Rose scent of Gertrude Jekyll, and the Buttercup, he says, “for its elusive, truly delicious and rather exotic perfume.’”

Right now I am enjoying my sample spray of Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves, and it may be the finalist for the gift certificate I received at Christmas. It lasts longer than many other fragrances by Jo Malone (the company AND the perfumer) and it really does evoke a white rose as opposed to a red one (I also have Jo Malone Red Roses).

Which white rose? David Austin has a new one: Desdemona. If I could find another suitable spot in my small garden, I’d find one for her. As it is, I will have to make do with a much smaller bottle of perfume!

White English rose by David Austin, Desdemona

David Austin Rose Desdemona; photo


Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

Fragrance Friday: Jo Loves

On my recent trip to London, one of my daughters was nice enough to accompany me to several perfumeries I had wanted to visit. The first was the Jo Loves boutique in Belgravia. It is on the charming Elizabeth Street, near Les Senteurs (another stop) and Phillip Treacy’s hat boutique, in a beautiful part of London which was fun to see in itself.

Jo Loves is the line of niche fragrances launched five years ago by Jo Malone, whose first, eponymous line of fragrances was acquired in 1999 by Estee Lauder. In a recent New York Times article, she spoke about her just-published autobiography:

“What I want this book to be about is the reinvention of yourself, that nothing is wasted in our life, that every single thing that happens in our life can come out for the good to build you.”

I love some of the Jo Malone scents: first and foremost, Lily of the Valley and Ivy, and also Red Roses, and Tudor Rose and Amber, so I was excited to try some of the Jo Loves line, which is not yet easily available in the U.S. The boutique is well worth a visit. It is sparkling clean and bright, with its signature colors of bright white and red everywhere. The sales assistant was lovely and helpful.


Jo Loves

My daughter and I tried several of the twelve fragrances in the line. Her favorite was White Roses and Lemon Leaves, which I also liked very much. I liked Fresh Sweet Peas but found it a bit faint. I enjoyed trying the novel Red Truffle 21 and Pink Vetiver. On this short acquaintance, my favorite was probably No. 42 The Flower Shop.


Jo Loves

But why pick a favorite based on such a brief encounter? I bought the Fragrance Discovery Set, which comes with twelve mini-sprays, one of each fragrance, and a gift certificate good for one 50 ml bottle of my choice, shipping to the U.S. included. So I will play with them at my leisure, and pick one as a keeper. Maybe I’ll even share with my daughter …

We had a great time at Jo Loves and hope to return some day!

Jo Loves fragrance boutique on Elizabeth Street in London

Jo Loves

Our next stop was Les Senteurs, the specialist perfumery up the street at 71 Elizabeth Street. It is London’s oldest independent perfumery, founded in 1984, and it carries many of the world’s best niche perfumes, from Amouage to Vermeire. More on that in another blog post!

Featured image: Other images my own.

Fragrance Friday: 6 roses for golden Autumn & rainy Autumn

Fragrance Friday: 6 roses for golden Autumn & rainy Autumn

I love Chemist in the Bottle’s list of rose fragrances for autumn, as rose is one of my favorite fragrance notes. I have put away some of my more summery rose scents in favor of those that have a more autumnal spice to them, such as Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose and Amber and Miller Harris’ Rose En Noir. Any other suggestions for autumn fragrances, with or without rose notes?

Chemist in the Bottle

October has brought golden Autumn filled with colorful leaves in shades of brown, orange, yellow and red that gradually fall from trees turning into vivid and rustling carpets on top of the park pavements. Autumn like that is pretty and can be enjoyable even at times when a chilly wind is blowing behind our backs. On the other hand there are days when the sky is completely grey and it looks as if it was about to start to fall on your heads. Days filled with gloom and rain are definitely less enjoyable but at least they give you a good reason to stay at home as you wrap yourself with a fluffy blanket with a big cup of your favorite tea or coffee in hands, watching some movies.

I bet many of you have already done that or are in the process of deciding if its the high time to…

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May Muguet Marathon: Lily of the Valley and Ivy

May Muguet Marathon: Lily of the Valley and Ivy

I discovered Jo Malone’s fragrances last summer, in the Heathrow Airport where there is a boutique. Unfortunately, I was there in a wheelchair, on my way home from London where I had fallen and broken my shoulder! So my kind husband took me to Jo Malone to pick out a bottle of perfume. The one I picked that day was Red Roses, as I had been visiting rose gardens during our trip. But I also tried last year’s limited edition Lily of the Valley and Ivy, part of the “Rock the Ages” series and I liked it so much that I later bought a bottle.

Jo Malone Rock the Ages

According to Fragrantica:

The aim of the collection was to depict different periods of British history through the inspiration of drama, atmosphere and characters of each of the periods. The collection contains the following scents: Tudor Rose & Amber, Lily of the Valley & Ivy, Geranium & Verbena, Pomegranate Noir (reissued) and Birch & Black Pepper.

Lily of the Valley & Ivy is inspired by the Georgian era of pastel tenderness, green landscapes, gardens and ivy-covered fences. The fragrance opens with green ivy, pink grapefruit and sparkling black currant, with delicate floral heart of lily-of-the-valley and narcissus and the base of beeswax, amber wood and white musk.

It is a very beautiful fragrance.  Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Perfume/Bouquet Pairings

May Muguet Marathon: Perfume/Bouquet Pairings

Surprise! None of the pictured fragrances are muguet fragrances. They were featured in an article in Brides magazine on pairing a wedding day fragrance with one’s bridal bouquet: A Perfect Pair: The Best Fragrances for Lily of the Valley Wedding Bouquets. The article points out that a wedding day perfume can clash with or complement a strongly fragrant bouquet — for instance, one full of lilies of the valley, like the bouquet I carried. (NB: I don’t recall exactly what fragrance I wore on my own wedding day but I strongly suspect it was Diorissimo, as I had a bottle of it then and wore it often. And yes, it was pre-reformulation! Sigh).

Interestingly, the writer suggests complementary, non-muguet scents to go with the lilies of the valley in the bouquet. Continue reading

Fragrance Friday: Ginger Lilies

Fragrance Friday: Ginger Lilies

Late summer and early fall are the season in the South for white ginger lilies, hedychium coronarium. They are tall, tender perennials with long, sword-like green leaves topped by fluttering white flowers whose large petals inspire the plant’s other common name: white butterfly lily. Our next-door neighbor has a magnificent clump, which sends its perfume floating over both of our gardens. I have tried to grow it myself, mere yards from his thriving specimen, without success. The white ginger lily is fickle by nature. But oh, that perfume! Many scents have been called intoxicating; the ginger lily’s fragrance truly is. Designed to lure pollinating insects at night, the white flowers’ scent intensifies in the dark humidity of Southern summer nights.

Imagine my anticipation, then, when I learned that Jo Malone has a cologne named Dark Amber and Ginger Lily. I looked it up on and realized that it has notes of ginger, and water lily, but it has nothing to do with ginger lilies. It sounded lovely, though, and I had a sample from a purchase of Tudor Rose, so on my wrists it went. Mmmm. I don’t often like Oriental spicy perfumes, but when I do, I really do. And I really like this one. Warm, soft, a whisper of cardamom with the ginger top note, a floral bouquet for a heart, a touch of glove leather in the base notes. Definitely on my wish list. But nothing to do with actual ginger lilies.

My curiosity piqued, I decided to explore further. And voila! Continue reading

Fragrance Friday: The Scent of Water

Fragrance Friday: The Scent of Water

One of my favorite books is “The Scent of Water”, by Elizabeth Goudge. Sometimes I re-read it when I need respite from the tug and pull of my modern American life and job. It is the story of Mary Lindsay, a single, childless woman who leaves her successful career in London to move into a house in an English country village which she has inherited from a distant elderly cousin. She is on something of a spiritual quest, to rediscover her true self, her beliefs and her memories of the man who loved her more than she loved him, who had died in war before they were married.

Elizabeth Goudge had a rare gift of description: her words beautifully evoke the people and settings of her novels so that one can truly see them in the mind’s eye. Her early training was in art, and it shows in her ability to paint pictures with words. The house Mary Lindsay inherited is very old, and its rooms are bathed in rippling greenish light, as if they were underwater, because of the ivy and wisteria vines that grow near the old windows: it has a “dark stone-flagged hall where a silver tankard of lilies of the valley stood on an oak chest. The flowers and the polished silver gathered all light to themselves …”  Goudge uses the metaphor and imagery of water throughout the book, including an ancient well of springwater, hung with ivy and moss, that figures in several characters’ stories in the novel. She is also well aware of the symbolism in Christianity of flowers like the lily of the valley, which stands for purity and humility and is sometimes called Mary’s Tears, referring to the Virgin Mary and the tears she shed at the Crucifixion.

What is the scent of water? One of the other characters is another older woman, also single and childless, Jean. She is a kind but timid and fearful woman, often depressed and overwhelmed by life but struggling bravely to meet its challenges.

“Jean was visited by one of her rare moments of happiness, one of those moments when the goodness of God was so real to her that it was like taste and scent; the rough strong taste of honey in the comb and the scent of water.”
Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water

But if one were to seek an actual scent that captured the spirit and atmosphere of this beloved book, what would it be? I nominate Jo Malone’s Lily of the Valley & Ivy, which  wafts from my wrists as I write this. With its notes of ivy (top), lily of the valley and narcissus (heart) and amber and beeswax (base), it is a lovely green floral with a hint of white musk. It is an elegant, quicksilver scent with earthly roots. It reminds me of a small, green and white English garden after a gentle rain. The scent of water.