Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy, healthy 2023! This year brings a new collaboration between me and Portia Turbo of Australian Perfume Junkies (and other sites as a regular guest blogger). Actually, it’s TWO new collaborations. The first is called “Notes on Notes”; Portia and I agree on a fragrance note we’d like to write about, and we’ll post our “notes” about it on the first Monday of each month, referring to a few specific fragrances. The second project is called “Counterpoint”; we’ll agree on a fragrance, and “interview” ourselves about it, seeing where our experiences coincide and where they differ.
I’m excited about these collaborations – I had such fun doing “Scent Semantics” with Portia and several other bloggers in 2022. I hope many of you will jump in and add your own observations and comments!
Chanel’s Cristalle came to me later in life; my earliest Chanel “love” (for myself) was No.22, which I still love and wear, then No.19, also still a strong love and in regular rotation on my skin. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover Cristalle; I probably thought my need for a green Chanel was fully met by No.19. Regardless, I first tried Cristalle a few years ago, and yes, it’s love. I wear Cristalle on days when I need a good snap of green but No. 19 feels like overkill. Both were created by perfumer Henri Robert: No. 19 in 1970, and Cristalle in 1974. (I refer to the eau de toilette; Jacques Polge created an eau de parfum version for Chanel twenty years later).
The two share some notes. Cristalle‘s notes are: Top notes — Sicilian Lemon and Bergamot; middle notes — Hyacinth, Brazilian Rosewood, Honeysuckle and Jasmine; base notes — Oakmoss and Vetiver. No.19‘s notes are: Top notes of Galbanum, Hyacinth, Bergamot and Neroli; middle notes of iris, Orris Root, Rose, Lily-of-the-Valley, Narcissus, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang; base notes of Oakmoss, Vetiver, Leather, Cedar, Musk and Sandalwood. No.19 was launched the year before Coco Chanel died; it seems to be the last fragrance that she personally approved.
Christian Dior’s Diorella was created in 1972 by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, a sibling of his masterpiece Diorissimo. It is one of the fragrances awarded five stars by Turin and Sanchez in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” Although they docked one star from it in their 2009 update, they still found it excellent. I have a bottle of Diorella that I think dates to 2002, according to the guidelines described in the “Raiders of the Lost Scent” blog (a great resource).
My Valentine’s Day gift to myself was a subscription to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Heirloom Elixir subscription for this year, all six releases. Dawn describes the origins of the idea:
Over the past few years we’ve had multiple requests for a “Subscription Service”… one that would automatically introduce you to a new DSH Perfume on a regular basis, filled with surprise and excitement. With our creative new collection of Limited Editions, Heirloom Elixir, we felt that this was the perfect pairing of ideas to make that request a reality.
At the end of 2019, I took advantage of her end-of-year sale and bought the 2019 Complete Collection of six fragrances she released that year. They are, in order: Continue reading →
I was delighted to be able to get a 9 ml spray of 4160 Tuesdays’ Christmas Concert together with the crowd-funded Meet Me On The Corner this winter. Sarah McCartney calls it a “scarf scent”, because it has a lot of cinnamon in it, which can cause irritation on some people’s skin, but luckily I am not one of them so I can wear it on my pulse points. Christmas Concert came about because during the crowdfunding discussions about Meet Me On The Corner, which was inspired by a song of that name by a group called Lindisfarne, which holds a famous annual Christmas concert, followers of 4160 Tuesdays on social media started clamoring for an actual Christmas scent and suggested what its notes might be, including mandarin oranges, cinnamon, and pine needles. Being the creative and obliging perfumer she is, Sarah obliged with a seasonal limited edition fragrance, in both eau de parfum and room fragrance versions.
Does it smell like Christmas? Yes it does, if your Christmas memories include pomander oranges studded with cloves, hung on a balsam Christmas tree or wreath. Fortunately, mine do, as making those pomander oranges seems to have been a common holiday project when I was a child. I honestly don’t remember my own children making those at school or Sunday school, so I may have to do it at home with them now, although they are young adults!
Christmas Concert opens right off with a strong note of cinnamon, but I also detect the scent of cloves quite strongly. As expected, there is a lasting foundation of sweet oranges’ fragrance — more present in the beginning, but lasting well into the drydown. I perceive the pine needles as a green hum in the distant background, but they are there. This isn’t a very complex scent in that it doesn’t “develop” much, it is mostly linear, but it is delightful. Although I can wear it on my skin, it really does work well as a “scarf scent”; I sprayed some on the shawl collar of one of my favorite sweaters to wear around the house, and it wafted up to my nose from there for several hours. I can still smell it faintly on the sweater a day later.
Sarah mentioned on her website that one could layer Christmas Concert with Meet Me On The Corner to create a sort of “winter edition” of the latter, so I tried that. Wow! I already liked Meet Me On The Corner very much, but adding Christmas Concert to it creates a spicier version, adding complexity and nuance to MMOTC‘s citrus chypre. Or, shall we say, a certain “Serendipity“?
Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”, others have called it the phenomenon of “happy accidents” or fortuitous accidental discoveries. 4160 Tuesdays is famous for its serendipitous fragrances, sometimes created when a batch of one fragrance has been mistakenly combined with another (Brigadoon) or when a special ingredient has been amped up in an existing fragrance (Sarah made a number of variations on her fragrances this fall, when customers could request that various ingredients be increased; I am the happy owner of Eat More Flowers, a version of Eat Flowers Sarah created with extra rose, orris, and violet leaf). Given the origins of Christmas Concert in a Facebook group’s musings, and how well it combines with the long-planned Meet Me On The Corner, I would call that serendipity.
If you’ve never seen the movie “Serendipity”, pictured above, it is a charming Christmas rom-com with two of my favorite actors, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. It was made before Christmas rom-coms were destroyed by Hallmark Christmas movies and their reactionary spawn. Of course, another reason I love the movie is that I spent half of my 20s in New York; it is truly one of the most magical, romantic places in the world at Christmastime, and the cafe Serendipity is real. It was a great date venue, and I’m sure it still is!
So now when I wear Meet Me On The Corner layered with Christmas Concert, I will think happily of New York at Christmas, and chance meetings that seem like accidents but may be destiny. Thank you, Sarah! Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day!
Do you associate any fragrances with serendipity, either in how you discovered them or how you like to layer them? Please share in the comments!
There are times when I am reminded that there is SO MUCH about English experience that is completely unfamiliar to me, in spite of having had an English mother. Of course, she came to America in the early 1950s, married my father and stayed, so much of her actual English experience predates 1960, and after that it was secondhand, mostly via her younger sister who was a model and actress during the era of “London Swings” (in fact, the second wife of Bernard Lewis, of “Chelsea Girl” fame). I bring this up because I am a devotee of the fragrances created by Sarah McCartney under her brand “4160 Tuesdays“, and was recently intrigued by her latest crowdfunding project, Meet Me On The Corner.
According to Sarah, this fragrance was inspired by a song of the same name that reached number 1 in the UK pop charts in 1972, by a folk rock group named Lindisfarne. I had never heard of the group, or the song, but Sarah’s story of how they reunited annually for many years for a Christmas concert in Newcastle, starting in 1976, and the inspiration she drew from their best-known song, were so charming that I took part in this year’s crowdfunding of the scent. Sarah has been thinking about this fragrance for a long time, as noted in this 2014 interview with CaFleureBon. Her latest commentary about it is here:
And now I have my very own bottle of Meet Me On The Corner, and I love it! (I also got the seasonal scent she mentions in the video, Christmas Concert, and will review that later this week after I attend an actual Christmas concert).
Meet Me On The Corner is a citrus chypre meant to evoke the fragrances that were popular in the 1970s like Sarah’s favorite Diorella, before the Blitzkrieg of 1980s powerhouses like Giorgio Beverly Hills — comparable to folk rock giving way to glam rock and its 1980s offspring. The 1971 song itself, which I hadn’t heard before, is a sweet, self-consciously folksy derivative of Bob Dylan’s 1965 Mr. Tambourine Man; of the versions on YouTube, I prefer the 2003 edition:
This is the refrain that inspired Sarah:
Meet me on the corner,
When the lights are coming on,
And I’ll be there.
I promise I’ll be there.
Down the empty streets,
We’ll disappear into the dawn,
If you have dreams enough to share.
So what is the fragrance like? It opens with a really pretty citrus, very lemony but not only lemon. There is another, less sweet citrus note which seems to be bergamot, but I clearly smell lemon too — not so much the fruit, but more like lemon zest and lemon tree. Maybe citron or petitgrain? Sarah says that the fragrance includes a peach lactone (a key ingredient of Edmond Roudnitska’s 1972 Diorella as well as Guerlain’s legendary ur-chypre, Mitsouko), flowery hedione (central to another Roudnitska masterpiece, the 1966 Eau Sauvage), and magnolia leaf. Here is what one producer says about the latter: it “exudes an aroma that is greener, more crisp and woody than the sweet scent of Magnolia Flower. The aroma of this rare Magnolia grandiflora leaf essential oil is clean and refined. Magnolia leaf is quite intriguing with hints of fig, bergamot and myrtle.”
As an official “notes list” isn’t yet available, I will offer a layperson’s guess and say that top notes include bergamot, citron, petitgrain; heart notes include peach, jasmine, fig, magnolia leaf, green notes (myrtle?); base notes include musk, woody and resinous notes (labdanum?), vetiver or oakmoss. I hope someone will issue a correct list! Meet Me At The Corner is a unisex fragrance, as befits the sometimes androgynous 1970s. It neatly combines aspects of Diorella and Eau Sauvage; this might be their love-child. It is bright and sunny, youthful without being sweet. It is, as Sarah has written, a fragrance to be “worn by women in jeans and men with long hair who scandalised our Edwardian grandparents.”
As I learned more about the song, the era, and Lindisfarne’s Christmas concerts, begun to raise funds for Newcastle City Hall, a concert venue, I also learned about the deep poverty that still afflicted Newcastle upon Tyne and its Dickensian slums in the 1970s, so well documented by photographer Nick Hedges for the UK charity Shelter. I also found this marvelous photo of the Pilgrim Street fire station in Newcastle in 1972, and I am guessing this may be the one that Sarah describes frequenting with her friends as teenagers:
Newcastle Fire Station 1972; image from Newcastle Chronicle.