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, November 27

Perfume Chat Room, November 27

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 27, and it is “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving when traditionally American retailers offer special sales prices on all kinds of goods to kick off the holiday shopping season, hoping to get off to a strong start. This year is especially tricky for retailers, as the global pandemic has affected that sector so deeply. Brick-and-mortar stores have seen much of their business plunge; some online retails have thrived. In the middle of all this, small or independent businesses have struggled. So, if you’re doing any holiday shopping today or this week, here are a few suggestions to support such businesses:

4160 Tuesdays: Independent artisan perfumer Sarah McCartney is holding her annual special sales. “Current Collection perfumes. If you buy a 15ml we send you a 30ml. 30ml => 50. 50ml => 100. Today until 10th December 2020. Please write News in the delivery notes.” Today is also her “Hot Pink Friday” sale, which has many special buys on past bestsellers, special editions, etc. And finally, for the rest of November, with a minimum 50 GBP purchase of a single scent, you can ask her to add one ingredient to that scent to customize it for you. You pick the ingredient! Tell her in the Notes. And yes, US buyers can take part if you place an order soon; she is preparing a shipment to go to the US in another week or so.

Bookshop: Bookshop is an alternative to Amazon.com, where you can buy books and support local booksellers online, even when you can’t go to the bookstore!

DSH Perfumes: Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has an incredible range of fragrances, including many she has created as artistic collaborations with art museums. For 20% off now through December, use the code: “bright20.” Dawn’s discount codes often work on top of a listed sale price, so try it!

Indigo Perfumery: Today through Sunday, 11/29, Indigo is offering 10% off orders of in-stock full bottles totalling $75 or more, with the code: “blackfriday2020.”

Twisted Lily Perfumery: Sadly, this Brooklyn boutique closed its retail location this summer, but it is still open online! Today through November 30, take 20% off purchases of $100 or more with this code: “EARLY20LXG7DS5T.”

Have you come across any alluring Black Friday sales you’d like to share? Enjoy your holiday weekend!

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?

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.

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?

Perfume Chat Room, October 9

Perfume Chat Room, October 9

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 9, and it has been a wet and gloomy day here. However, that inspired me to pull out a favorite fragrance I haven’t worn in a while: Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom. Although I often think of a sunlit day when I wear it, today it just suited the somewhat British weather.

In other news, I got my absentee ballot this week, filled it out, dropped it off in an official ballot drop box at the entrance to my local public library, and was just able to confirm online that it has been received and “accepted”! It was very easy and very safe.

How was your week? Any new or rediscovered favorites?

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

Scent Sample Sunday: Miss Dior

I always love a good chypre, and I love seriously green fragrances, and those two traits often travel together. So I admit, it’s a little odd that I hadn’t yet tried vintage Miss Dior, given that its vintage formula includes many of my favorite notes and it is most certain a green floral chypre. Well, I was able to get my hands on one of the houndstooth bottles of Miss Dior eau de toilette, and this is love.

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