Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Perfume Chat Room, July 23

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, July 23, and it is my late parents’ wedding anniversary. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have read this post before, My Mother’s Last Perfume, in which I wrote a bit about their long, but not always happy, marriage. Nevertheless, I honor this day because without it, my sisters and I wouldn’t exist! And because my parents made the effort to stay married until the ends of their lives and, in their own ways, they cared for each other. Their happiest times were when they traveled together, which they loved to do; and I too love to travel with my husband, though my marriage is a much more content one than my parents’, I think.

I also have some excitement to share — I’ve been asked by an accomplished playwright in my city to collaborate with her and a composer to create a “fragrance score” for a new experimental musical they are writing! I had taken part in a playwriting group she led over several weeks, pre-pandemic, and we had talked about how fragrance could and should be used more in theater. This is such an interesting creative project, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I will be the creative director for the fragrances, of course, not the actual perfumer. We are applying for a grant to develop the production, so I hope to include in the budget some modest funds to commission some scents from a perfumer eventually. For now, I think we’ll be able to use existing scents.

What are your thoughts on combining fragrance with other arts? I love reading about Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ collaborations with the Denver Art Museum. And the ways actors can use fragrance for their own performances are also fascinating: How Performers Use Perfume.

Perfume Chat Room, June 11

Perfume Chat Room, June 11

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, June 11, and we are still processing a very enjoyable wedding weekend just past! It was the wedding of our nephew (also our godson), in Baltimore, and we had such a wonderful time! I was able to see my two sisters for the first time in a year and a half (last visit was October 2019), as well as some cousins. My kids spent the whole weekend with all their first cousins on my side of the family, and it was a joy to see how much fun they have together. We spent part of Saturday poking around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which has grown so much in the thirty years since my husband and I were last there, and we ate wonderful crabcakes. The wedding itself was beautiful, as were the bride and groom.

I wore Sonoma Scent Studio‘s Champagne de Bois, from a travel spray that was a kind gift from Undina, and it was just right — thank you, Undina! I am so glad that Sonoma Scent Studio has been revived by a new owner with the original fragrance lines. Support the independent artisan perfumers! They’ve had a tough year. Last weekend was a tonic for the spirit. I’m an introvert and quite a homebody, so I haven’t minded most of the past year in terms of working from home, not going out, etc., but it was lovely to be able to gather, and socialize, and even dance.

Have you been on an airplane recently, or a large gathering?

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

Scent Sample Sunday: Delina Exclusif

On our way home from a family wedding, I stopped in an airport boutique that had a wall of designer fragrances, mostly to see if there might be a tester with something appropriate to spritz before our short flight. To my surprise and delight, there was a separate display of Parfums de Marly, including an actual tester of Delina Exclusif! I had been wanting to try Delina or a flanker, but wasn’t interested in making a special trip to a department store for that purpose, so this chance encounter was most welcome.

Delina Exclusif was launched in 2018; the perfumer was Quentin Bisch, as for the original Delina in 2017. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Top notes are Litchi, Pear and Bergamot; middle notes are Turkish Rose, Agarwood (Oud) and Incense; base notes are Vanilla, Amber and Woody Notes. The fruit notes are very noticeable at first spritz, in a good way. The litchi is the most prominent of the opening notes, with its sweetness and that of the pear note balanced by tart bergamot. The rose is immediately apparent, and it seems very natural and lush. The oud and incense are not strong, but they are detectable, and one of my daughters who doesn’t like oud commented on it. Some commenters have detected a resemblance to Montale’s Intense Cafe, and I see that. The drydown of Delina Exclusif is lovely; the vanilla and amber dominate but are grounded by some woody notes. The scent lasts for hours, 12 or more. I could still smell hints of it on my wrist a good 18 hours after applying it. What lingers is a slightly gourmand ambery vanilla, sweet but not sugary. Be advised — if you don’t care for rose-based fragrances, you may not even want to bother trying this one, because it is ALL about the roses, even with the companion notes. The floral arranger at the launch party certainly captured its spirit:

Floral arrangement of pink roses in shape of perfume bottle
Delina floral display; image from Basenotes.net.

Some have posited that the original Delina is more of a spring and summer fragrance, and Delina Exclusif more suitable for fall or winter. I understand that, as the flanker has some spice and warmth to it, but I think it is a year-round fragrance. As others have noted, this is a really beautiful fragrance, the major drawback being its price, around $289 or more for 75 ml. 

Overall, Delina Exclusif is a beautiful, modern rose — elegant, warm, sexy in a wholesome way. I still prefer Ormonde Jayne’s Ta’if, but if you want a rose that will certainly work well in colder weather, Delina Exclusif would be a contender, if not for its price. As it is, I’ll stick with Ta’if in most weather and Intense Cafe when temperatures are cooler.

Have you tried any of the Delina line? Flankers or other products?

Perfume Chat Room, May 28

Perfume Chat Room, May 28

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, May 28, and it’s the start of the Memorial Day weekend here in the US! I don’t have any big plans but wow, it’s such a relief to have so many of us fully vaccinated so we CAN make plans. What a contrast to Memorial Day last year, when the pandemic was really accelerating and little was known about prevention or treatment. This Memorial Day, I will be remembering the many Americans and others who died from COVID-19, as well as those who have died in the military service of our country, the original purpose of our Memorial Day.

On a more cheerful note, today I am testing one of Chanel’s Eaux: Paris-Venise. I like it a lot so far! Have you tried any of the Eaux? I know Undina has, including the newest one, Paris-Edimbourg. (It feels so weird to spell Edinburgh that way). Or, what else are you sampling this weekend?

May Melange Marathon: Modest Mimosa

May Melange Marathon: Modest Mimosa

See what I did there? I’m so pleased with myself for that headline. But in fact, my SOTD today is Vilhelm Parfumerie’s Modest Mimosa, from another sample kindly given to me. Aside from the marvelous alliteration, I like it a lot. It won’t be a top love for me because I’ve realized that mimosa isn’t one of my favorite notes; there are other blossoms I prefer, although I’ve enjoyed mimosa-based scents like Brocard’s Mechta. Jerome Epinette created Modest Mimosa in 2016. It has a fairly short list of notes: top: Neroli and Carrot; middle: Mimosa and Violet; base: Musk and Leather.

I smell the mimosa and violet right from the start, with some carrot, but very little neroli. The violet is quite powdery and very discernible, which is probably why some Fragrantica readers have said it reminds them of Apres L’Ondee. But mimosa is front and center, and it’s not modest at all. This isn’t an overpowering scent, not at all, but the mimosa announces herself at the very beginning and takes up residence at center stage.

To my nose, Modest Mimosa doesn’t evolve or change very much over time. Luckily, it smells very nice indeed. Powdery yellow floral describes it perfectly. Its list retail price is quite high, looking at LuckyScent’s website; I would not pay that much for it, but if you are a lover of mimosa and can find this at a better price, it might be just the ticket. Undina, at Undina’s Looking Glass, has several suggestions, in a number of posts about her search for the perfect mimosa.

Do you like mimosa fragrances? Or have you ever gone in search of a perfect floral note in a perfume?

Illustration for Brocard fragrance Mechta, from Gardens of Temptation
Brocard Mechta; image from http://www.brocard.ru.
Perfume Tourism, Anyone?

Perfume Tourism, Anyone?

www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/t-magazine/beauty-shops-fragrance-skincare.html

This article is making me yearn to start traveling again!

Entrance hall of Palazzo Mocenigo, perfume museum in Venice, Italy
Palazzo Mocenigo entrance hall; image from http://www.veneziaautentica.com
May Melange Marathon: Tobacco Rose

May Melange Marathon: Tobacco Rose

When I first began to engage in “perfume tourism”, in 2015, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with my husband on one of his business trips to London. I spent every day roaming London, visiting gardens and discovering perfumeries. One of them was Les Senteurs, a deservedly legendary perfume boutique that sells many niche fragrances. (If you ever get the chance to visit their store on Elizabeth Street, I highly recommend that you do! The staff are really nice, friendly, and knowledgeable, and the neighborhood is beautiful — plus, Jo Loves is right up the block!).

On that first visit, I told the helpful sales associate that I was interested in smelling some rose fragrances, as I had spent so much time in rose gardens that week. He showed me several and kindly offered samples, too. One in particular that he recommended was Tobacco Rose, launched just the year before, from Papillon Perfumery. He knew quite a bit about its founder, Liz Moores, whom he had met, and told me what a nice person she was! I follow Liz on Instagram — what an interesting person she is, and I love her photos of her pet owl, Ghost.

I own full bottles of a couple of her fragrances, Dryad and Bengale Rouge, but not Tobacco Rose. Sadly, as I exited Les Senteurs’ shop in their other location (now closed) that day, I took a terrible fall and broke my shoulder. True story. I had planned to live with the sample for a day and night, and return the next day to buy a full bottle if I loved it. The best-laid plans of perfumistas … Instead of buying perfume, I found myself in a NHS emergency room being x-rayed, after having taken a double-decker bus across London to get to my husband’s office. Yes, I was probably in shock.

That summer, the summer of 2015, was when I learned how to use WordPress and launched my blogs, as I was stranded at home all summer. I guess I was an early adopter of working remotely, lol! But back to Tobacco Rose. I enjoyed my sample, and later bought a sample set of several Papillon fragrances. My favorite so far is Dryad, and I love Bengale Rouge, but I’m always tempted by Angelique. I do enjoy Tobacco Rose. The website says:

A sensual blend of Bulgarian rose, geranium and Rose de Mai form an opulent backdrop of velvety rose notes set against a luxuriously rich and smoky base of French hay and earthy oakmoss. Soft animalic touches of ambergris and beeswax have been suspended in a sumptuous blend of musks, creating an enigmatic, alluring and unmistakable perfum.

That pretty much says it all. Tobacco Rose starts out right away with a smokiness that continues through its entire development. It is not heavy or overwhelming, it is more like tendrils of smoke that entwine a lush red rose. I don’t believe there is actual tobacco in the fragrance, I think the gentle smokiness comes from the hay, oakmoss and ambergris. Liz Moores has written that she wanted to avoid creating a “sweet, old-fashioned, pretty” rose, she wanted to create a scent that felt “as though one were breathing in not only the fading petals but the rich earth from which a rose grows.” She included mineral notes to achieve that effect, and they are discernible, although not listed elsewhere, especially during the drydown. They lend a dryness to Tobacco Rose that really appeals to me.

The oakmoss is also discernible but it is included with a light touch. It blends beautifully with the rose, ambergris, and musks. Tobacco Rose really is one of the best rose fragrances available; it was a finalist for the Fragrance Foundation Awards in the category of Best New Independent Fragrance.

Have you tried any Papillon perfumes?

May Melange Marathon: Eve

May Melange Marathon: Eve

One of the joys of this fragrance hobby is discovering independent perfumers and their work. One of my favorites is Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents. I’ve loved her earliest creations, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. My SOTD is Eve, one of the “Audacious Innocence” collection, which was a finalist for the 2020 Art & Olfaction Awards in the artisan/independent category.

The other fragrance in the collection, Pandora, is a “sister” to Eve. According to the brand’s website, they share most of the same notes, but Pandora shows a darker side, with added base notes of labdanum and opoponax. Eve‘s notes, without those added base notes, are: Top notes of Lemon, Tomato Leaf, Apple, Bergamot and Mandarin Orange; middle notes of Orris, Lilac, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Carrot Seeds and Jasmine Sambac; base notes of Oakmoss, Tonka Bean, Woods, Vetiver, Musk. Both scents come in a parfum extrait concentration of 35%.

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Pandora opening the box
Pandora, by John William Waterhouse

Diane St. Clair sees Eve and Pandora as similar:

The stories of Pandora and Eve, who reached for the forbidden apple, have much in common. Both came to symbolize women who were punished for disobeying orders and acting on their impulses towards curiosity. We believe that women who challenge the rules and follow their curiosity are striving towards creativity, innovation and independence.

The opening of Eve is as lush as the painting that inspired it, above. It smells of all the fruits listed as top notes, bound together by the astringent greenness of tomato leaf and bergamot. This seems so appropriate, since the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted to eat the apple, was more of an orchard than a garden. (In fact, I’ve learned that the word “paradise”, often used to refer to the Garden of Eden, comes from an ancient Persian word that means a walled orchard garden). I love green scents, so the tomato leaf especially appeals to me. A good thing, since it is quite strong! As the top notes retreat, the scent becomes more and more floral, with orris taking the lead, though ylang-ylang and roses are right behind it. This stage is rich and lush — almost creamy, but not gourmand at all.

I smell the oakmoss almost from the start, and certainly in the “heart” phase. This is some serious oakmoss, friends. It evokes the shadowy, green darkness under the dense branches of trees. That impression only grows stronger as the floral notes fade away and the other base notes anchor the whole scent to the earth, with their woods, musk, vetiver. I can’t say that I smell tonka much at all. Eve lasts a long time on my skin, several hours.

Sillage is moderate, as one would expect from an extrait, but I would say that a little goes a long way! I dabbed tiny spots of Eve on my wrists, and their scent carries easily and clearly up to my nose. Longevity is excellent. Eve just feels like a high-quality perfume all around; one senses the quality of the ingredients right from the start. Even though it is supposed to be the “yin” scent to Pandora‘s darker “yang”, this is not a light or frivolous fragrance. It is not to be trifled with! Which is why I used the gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite painting as this post’s featured image; it shows Lilith, said in Jewish folklore to have been the first wife of Adam (yes, that Adam), who was replaced by Eve because she was too rebellious. The painting beautifully captures a lush, flowering garden, and I think that’s a perfume bottle by the mirror!

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Lilith, first wife of Adam
Lady Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Have you had the chance to try any of St. Clair Scents’ fragrances? Do you have any favorite artisan or independent perfumers?

May Melange Marathon: Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte

May Melange Marathon: Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte

One of my greatest pleasures is to travel with my husband, and until 2020, his work required him to travel a LOT. I couldn’t go on most trips during the academic year, due to my own job, but I was able to go with him usually at least once a year. 2019 was a banner year for such trips — I was able to go with him on business trips to Nice, then London, then Tuscany. The Tuscany trip happened in the summer, so we extended it for a real vacation and spent several days in Florence and Venice, which we had never seen before.

Florence, as it turns out, has a long tradition, centuries old, of perfumery, and is the perfect city to indulge in “perfume tourism.” We visited Santa Maria Novella, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561, and the boutique of I Profumi di Firenze, Spezierie Palazzo Vecchio, among others. I acquired perfume souvenirs at each of them.

Profumo di Pioggia, winner of award from I Profumi di Boboli
I Profumi di Firenze perfume souvenirs

One of the bottles from the latter that came home with me was Jeunesse Il Giorno e La Notte, which is formulated as an eau de parfum. The notes list from the brand’s website includes Citrus, Italian Bergamot, Lily Of The Valley, Lavender, Floral Notes. Fragrantica adds that the base notes are white musk, and musk.

I should start this mini-review by noting that my 19 year-old son, who is usually pretty oblivious to his mom’s fragrance habits and applications, walked over to me today around noon to ask about yardwork, and immediately said, “You smell so nice!”. Music to a mother’s ears.

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May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

May Melange Marathon: Fragrances That Changed the Field

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming, because the following New York Times Style Magazine article popped up in my news feed, and I got totally distracted by it! It is called The Fragrances That Changed the Field, by Aatish Taseer. It starts with a childhood memory, from India, of a first encounter with oudh, and travels a winding path from there through the “Orientalism” of fragrances in the 1970s, to the power statement fragrances of the 1980s, circling back to previous centuries and the use of florals and musks in fragrances. It includes insight from several modern perfumers.

I highly recommend this article! You’ll want to set aside a good block of time to read it. The opening paragraph:

I REMEMBER AS IF it were yesterday that distant afternoon on which I first smelled oudh. I was in my grandmother’s house in Delhi. I was 13, maybe 14. We had a family perfumer, or attarwallah, a man of some refinement, who came to us from Lucknow — a city that is a metonym for high Indo-Islamic culture. We didn’t know the attarwallah’s name, or how he knew to follow us from address to change of address. But he came without fail two or three times a year. A slim, gliding figure, with a mouth reddened from paan, or betel leaf and areca nut, the attarwallah produced his wares from carved bottles of colored glass that he carried in a black leather doctor’s bag. He showed us scents according to which season we were in. So in winter, musk and patchouli; in summer, white-flowered varieties of jasmine — of which there are some 40 odd in India — as well as rose and vetiver. In the monsoon, he brought us mitti attar, which imitates the smell of parched earth exhaling after the first rain (“mitti” means “mud” in Hindi). The perfumes came from the medieval Indian town of Kannauj, which is a 75-mile drive west of Lucknow and which, like its French counterpart, Grasse, has a tradition of perfume manufacturing several centuries old. Once he had drawn his perfume out on white cotton buds at the tips of long, thin sticks, the attarwallah lingered over his customers, telling stories of the various scents and reciting the odd romantic couplet of Urdu poetry.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, as a person interested in fragrance, I don’t know what will! Enjoy. BTW, my scent of the day today was Cristalle, and I’ll write about it tomorrow instead.

Featured image from baystreetex.com.