Perfume Chat Room, May 6

Perfume Chat Room, May 6

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 6, and my roses continue to flourish and bloom! I’ve added more photos to my Instagram account, if you’d like to see some of them up close. Most are “English Roses” by the late David Austin, an amazing hybridizer of roses who brought back the old-fashioned shapes and strong fragrance of older roses, but combined those with the range of colors and repeat-blooming habit of modern ones. One of the fascinating aspects of his roses is that many of them smell slightly different. All their scents are clearly “rose”, but some are more spicy, or fruity, or lemony. As you can tell, I love them.

Some of my English Roses

If you haven’t yet read this month’s “Scent Semantics” posts by the six participating bloggers, the word for May (chosen by Portia) is “brilliance.” You’ll find all the links here: Scent Semantics.

May is full of various celebrations: May Day, Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day. I’ve just learned that in the Netherlands, May 5 is celebrated as Liberation Day, marking the end of Nazi occupation. May is the month of the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which I’ve been able to visit twice and hope to visit again, maybe next year.

Chelsea Pensioner, at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

This year, Eid al Fitr (the end of Ramadan) was celebrated in the US in May; the dates change every year. Do you celebrate anything in particular in May?

Scent Semantics, May 2, 2022

Scent Semantics, May 2, 2022

Welcome to this next installment of Scent Semantics! This month’s word, from Portia, is “brilliance”. I hope you had a wonderful May Day, and will enjoy a month of the flowers that April showers are said to bring!

For this month’s post, I first thought I would write about Cartier’s Carat, which I have and like very much, since I associate the word “brilliance” with jewels, especially diamonds. But the more I thought about it, the more I leaned toward writing about Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, with a related name that also evokes brilliance, but a scent that is much less familiar to me. In fact, before opening it to write my “Scent Semantics” post, I’m not sure I have ever smelled it on myself before, though I have smelled it.

I can explain. The bottle and travel spray of White Diamonds that I have came from my late mother-in-law’s personal collection. She didn’t have more than a few fragrances, and she loved Elizabeth Taylor’s launches. This makes total sense, as she was born the same year as Miss Taylor, and she was also a curvy girl who came of age in the 1950s. She loved little luxuries but didn’t have much budget for those, especially after raising five children, so Elizabeth Taylor’s fragrances were an affordable option (several are “bargain beauties”). After she died, my daughters and I helped my dear sister-in-law clear out her room in the assisted living and skilled nursing residence where my mother-in-law lived during her last years. I found a couple of unopened bottles of White Diamonds and Passion, and I asked my sister-in-law if I might have them. She is a darling and she quickly said yes, of course, I should take them. I don’t really use them, but every time I see them in my fragrance cupboard, I think of my dear mother-in-law and how much I loved her.

I really did love her. She wasn’t perfect by a long shot, and she sometimes made decisions that I didn’t agree with or even (a few times in 30 years) found hurtful, but I have so many happy memories of her. She was a large, comfortable woman who had grown up in Fremont, Nebraska; the middle daughter of three girls, whose father was a small-town banker. Her childhood was in many ways pure Midwestern Americana, though not without its own complications. Her father was a very strict, old-school Irish Catholic, who never accepted the changes of Vatican II. He wouldn’t let her go to the University of Nebraska for college in the early 50s, because he thought it was a hotbed of Communism. So she went to the University of Minnesota instead, and from there to teach in California.

The great adventure of her life was when she took a job teaching in an elementary school on an Air Force base in Germany, where she met my father-in-law (who is still with us, at 91!). They married within mere months of having met, and started a family there. My husband, the second child, was born in England where they had moved to another Air Force base. I still marvel at the spirit of courage and independence she showed, going overseas to work, marrying a man her family had never met, traveling around Europe, giving birth to two sons in two different countries. Her parents must have been gobsmacked!

So it doesn’t surprise me that she gravitated to the kind of big, bold, 1980s perfumes that were quintessentially Elizabeth Taylor’s calling card. First, there was Passion, in 1987, followed by White Diamonds in 1991. Both were such smash hits that they inspired an entire generation of celebrity fragrances. White Diamonds is said to be the most successful celebrity scent of all time, with sales easily topping $1 billion since its launch. That would pay for a lot of actual diamonds! Here’s how the fragrance is described by the Elizabeth Arden company, which bought the rights to it after Miss Taylor’s death:

The name epitomizes singular star quality – radiant, extraordinarily rare and overwhelmingly beautiful. A rich, sensual, floral fragrance with the endless brilliance of a rare jewel. 

Magazine ad for Elizabeth Taylor fragrance White Diamonds
Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds

So what does it smell like? Created by master perfumer Carlos Benaim, it is an aldehydic white floral, with that sparkling top note I associate with aldehydes. A note about aldehydes: I know some perfumistas dislike them, but several of my favorite fragrances have strong aldehydic openings (Chanel No. 22, I’m looking at you!). The opening of White Diamonds is indeed strongly aldehydic, but not unpleasing to my nose. Opening notes also include bergamot and orange. From there, it opens up like a bouquet of white flowers: lily, neroli, tuberose, jasmine, with yellow floral scents from ylang-ylang and narcissus. I’ve read conflicting lists of notes for White Diamonds, one of which includes rose, violet, and iris, but they do seem mostly to agree on the white and yellow florals; some also list cinnamon and carnation. The lists I’ve seen also agree on the base notes:  oak moss, patchouli, musk, sandalwood and amber.

White Diamonds is polarizing, partly because it does strongly evoke the late 80s/early 90s. It definitely qualifies as a “BWF” (big white floral), which will always turn off some people. Some commenters in online forums call it a “granny scent” or “old lady”, and I understand why although I think that’s an offensive term. I think it’s because it was marketed to middle-aged women of that era, who became my generation’s mothers-in-law, and our children’s grannies; and it was so popular that many grannies did in fact wear it. Nevertheless, it won awards including a FiFi, and in 2009, it was entered into the Fragrance Hall of Fame. Some day, no doubt, people will say that SJP Lovely is a “granny scent” because their grandmothers wore it in their youth!

White Diamonds isn’t subtle, either, any more than Elizabeth Taylor was, with her huge diamond jewelry, her many marriages, the bouffant hairstyle she wore in the 1980s and 1990s, her larger-than-life persona and style. Its opening is assertive and powerful, especially if one applies more than just a couple of light sprays (two is plenty). But like Miss Taylor, who became an early activist and lifelong advocate for people with AIDS, as well as a major philanthropist supporting research into it, it has hidden depths. After the va-va-voom opening, it becomes softer and soapier, with a touch of spice that makes me believe it does in fact have at least a touch of a carnation note. As it dries down further, those warm base notes take over, and they are very well done. In fact, they are so soft and warm that they remind me of a fur coat or stole, which also seems very appropriate for Elizabeth Taylor. Remember those Blackglama ads?

Magazine ad for Blackglama mink, Elizabeth Taylor
ELIZABETH TAYLOR / BLACKGLAMA [ca. 1979] “What Becomes a Legend Most?”

Interestingly, Elizabeth Taylor apparently wore another powerhouse fragrance as a younger woman: Bal a Versailles. The stage of White Diamonds that I like best is the final stage, when all the big white floral notes have faded, though still detectable, and that warm, soft base is most evident. Have you tried any of Elizabeth Taylor’s fragrances? There are several flankers of White Diamonds, although I think the original has been discontinued. I recently picked up a bottle of her Gardenia, which I’ve been told is another bargain beauty.

Movie star Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor

Remember to check out the other “Scent Semantics” posts by five other bloggers!

Perfume Chat Room, April 29

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, April 29, and Monday is another “Scent Semantics” posting day! The word of the month, chosen by Portia, is a secret until then, so check back next week!

My roses are in full bloom this week and wow, do they smell gorgeous. I’ve posted some photos on my Instagram account.

Thanks to a timely post on Eau My Soul, I bought a very discounted bottle of Shalimar Philtre de Parfum from Costco, which sometimes has great deals on high-end fragrances. I’m very happy with my blind buy, which wasn’t completely blind because I had read that it was reminiscent of Shalimar Eau de Cologne, which I enjoy very much. Indeed it is, though not identical. For one thing, Philtre is an eau de parfum, and it definitely lasts longer. Below is the review of Shalimar Eau de Cologne I posted on Fragrantica some years ago, and I stand by it:

Happy happy happy! I have tried Shalimar EDP several times in department stores, and just didn’t like it. I recognized its quality and its legendary status but it was too heavy, too sweet, too strong, too old-fashioned. Every single time. Then I found Shalimar Eau de Cologne on sale for 24.99 at CVS, read the reviews here on my smartphone and thought, what the hell — let’s do this. So I did. I love it! This version is just yummy without being sweet. I get the vanilla, I get the smoke, I get the cedar, I get the leather. Shalimar EDC is luscious but light. Classic but not stuffy. I am just so pleased with this.

I would say that Philtre has more citrus, and less smoke and leather. It lasts all day (12+ hours) on my skin. I think the tolu balsam base note is a great touch; it adds depth and warmth.

At risk of setting off a torrent of verbiage, do you have a favorite version of Shalimar?

Perfume Chat Room, April 22

Perfume Chat Room, April 22

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, April 22, and I’m delighted to say that my husband and I will be traveling overseas again next month, for the first time since 2020! We’ve just finalized our plans, and I’m so excited. My May blog posts may be a little spotty as a result — I doubt I’ll be able to do a daily marathon as I have in past Mays. I’ll be able to do a Scent Semantics post on time, though!

Our last international trip was to Jamaica, in the first week of March 2020, just before the world shut down. Our last trip to Europe was in the summer of 2019. Now I’m figuring out all the documentation rules; we’re fully vaccinated and boosted, and we’ll go get second boosters this weekend, but the paperwork for the EU is a bit daunting. And then there’s the requirement to be tested before returning to the US, although that seems to be in flux too. Luckily the second half of our trip is for my husband’s work, and so his office will make sure we have everything we need to comply with return requirements.

Have you started traveling between countries again?

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com
Perfume Chat Room, April 15

Perfume Chat Room, April 15

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, April 15, and it is Good Friday in my own faith tradition, as well as the start of Passover in Judaism. April 15 is also usually the deadline for filing tax returns, but because it falls right before Saturday this year, the deadline is extended to Monday, April 18. I’m such a procrastinator that there was one year (many years ago) when I actually had to go to the main Post Office in Manhattan, which stayed open until midnight, to mail my return and have it postmarked by April 15. To be honest, it was kind of a festive atmosphere, like a convention of procrastinators, complete with news crews filming and broadcasting our disgrace. My wonderful husband has handled our taxes since we got married, with help from an accountant, which makes sense since he has an MBA. My eyes glaze over when I have to look at too many numbers, lol!

I have so many fragrant flowers in bloom right now! Dwarf lilacs, lilies of the valley, and the first rose blossoms are filling the air with perfume, and I am eagerly waiting for my Easter lilies to bloom (I love Easter). I have a new David Austin English Rose called “Lady of the Lake”; it is just lovely. Pale pink with a yellow eye, and very fragrant (as all his roses are). It’s making me want to break out my rose fragrances, of which I have many, but it’s too soon for another “Roses de Mai Marathon.” What fragrances are calling your name these days?

Pink rose Lady of the Lake, a David Austin English Rose
Lady of the Lake rose by David Austin; image from davidaustinroses.com
Perfume Chat Room, April 8

Perfume Chat Room, April 8

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, April 8, and we’ve gone from one weather extreme to another here. The week started out as gorgeous springtime, sunny and blooming. It was “Scent Semantics” Monday, and I got to choose the word this month, which was “vernal.” Then we had two days of violent storms, including a couple with extremely loud thunder and lots of lightning, accompanied by a 20-degree drop in temperatures. Our dog Lucy was NOT happy!

Lucy, not happy

Yesterday and today dawned bright and sunny again, and Lucy’s tail is wagging. She loves to lie in the sun outside in our garden (which is totally fenced, with a secured gate). We celebrated our wedding anniversary this week, which brought to mind the strange mix of weather we had on our wedding day: April snow, April showers, brilliant sunshine amid April flowers.

Le Jardin de Old Herbaceous

This weekend is Palm Sunday, soon to be followed by Easter. I love Easter, maybe even more than Christmas because it is so vernal (see what I did there?). I adore the many Easter flowers on display indoors and out. I love Easter food (we always have a traditional roast leg of lamb), and I love having our kids home for the holiday. I love the Easter music and services at our church

April this year is filled with important holidays: Passover, Ramadan, Easter. I enjoy learning about all the different traditions. I wish I’d had more opportunities to learn about them when I was in school, as my children have had, but better late than never.

I think my Easter fragrance will be vintage Dior Lily. It’s a lovely combination of spring florals, mostly Muguet and white lilies. As many of you know, though, I have SO many muguet fragrances that I won’t lack for choices!

Do you have any upcoming celebrations or favorite fragrances to match with holidays?

Scent Semantics, April 4, 2022

Scent Semantics, April 4, 2022

Welcome to this next installment of Scent Semantics! This month’s word, supplied by yours truly, is “vernal”, which means “in, of, or appropriate to spring.” Happy April!

As regular readers know, I love to garden and grow flowers, so spring is a marvelous season for me. I also love Easter, and my husband and I were married many Aprils ago, so I have plenty of happy associations with it. For my “vernal” fragrance post, I have chosen Jo Loves’ No. 42 The Flower Shop.

What a happy fragrance it is! At first spray, it positively bursts with zingy green notes, behind which lurks a fruity sweetness and light spring florals. Those would be the top notes of green leaves, mandarin orange, and peony. As it develops, the floral notes get stronger and take center stage: lily-of-the-valley, freesia, narcissus, and jasmine. It really does smell like an actual florist’s shop, with the afore-mentioned flowers waiting in buckets of water to be chosen and gathered into bouquets. If I did as some perfumistas do, and put my fragrance into a refrigerator to chill, No. 42 The Flower Shop would smell even more exactly like the walk-in fridges professional florists fill with their wares.

I especially enjoy the combination of green leaves and lily-of-the valley (muguet), one of my favorite flowers (the other two being daffodils and roses). The green notes and citrus accord balance the muguet beautifully. Most of the time when I wear No. 42, it is muguet that dominates, but sometimes the freesia comes forward more strongly. The name, No. 42 The Flower Shop, refers to the actual flower shop on Elizabeth Street where the young Jo Malone worked as a teenager:

“As a sixteen-year-old, I worked as a florist in Elizabeth Street and loved the moment when early each morning the scent of fresh flowers filled the room. This fragrance celebrates that magical memory.”

Jo Loves’ London boutique is actually located at No. 42 Elizabeth Street, and I have visited it, which I highly recommend. Elizabeth Street itself is absolutely charming, with many lovely shops and flowers bursting out everywhere (especially during the Chelsea Flower Show, when the stores compete to display the most lavish floral decorations). The Jo Loves boutique is a peaceful haven of white with touches of the same bright red that graces its packaging.

The photo below shows its Chelsea Flower Show decorations in 2019, when I last visited.

Storefront of Jo Loves fragrance boutique, decorated with roses.
Jo Loves boutique, Elizabeth Street, London, May 2019.
Jo Loves fragrance boutique at 42 Elizabeth Street, London.
Jo Loves boutique

As the fragrance No. 42 dries down, it becomes slightly warmer and softer, but the green notes persist throughout, and one of the base notes is iris, which I usually think of as a “cool” scent. The other base notes are white musk, moss, and patchouli. I can barely smell the patchouli, which is fine; I think it adds a suitable earthiness to the drydown of No. 42, but I prefer that it not dominate a fragrance.

This is the perfect month for wearing it, because my own garden is positively bursting with flowers! In bloom right now: lilies of the valley; pink camellias; weeping peach trees; a weeping cherry tree; purple redbuds; white dogwoods; Lenten roses (hellebores) of all hues of white, pink, and purple; daffodils; evergreen clematis; forsythia; Lady Banks rose; pansies; rosemary; spring starflowers; summer snowflakes; wild trilliums; and above all else, pink azaleas. We have dozens of them, planted over decades by longtime former owners who were also enthusiastic gardeners. Soon to come: iris, dwarf lilacs, David Austin roses, white foxgloves, daisies, white phlox, magnolias. Later in the summer, we will enjoy crape myrtles and hydrangeas, and, one hopes, vegetables and herbs from my raised beds. Lest it sound as if we have acres of gardens, I should note that several of these plants grow in pots and other containers; our lot is one third of an acre and it also holds a house!

Le Jardin de Old Herbaceous

What do you think of when you read the word “vernal”? Many people are most familiar with the word when it is used in conjunction with the spring, or vernal, equinox. The equinox is one of two moments in the year when the sun is exactly above the equator, and day and night are of equal length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it takes place in March and marks the start of astronomical spring. For others like Portia, in the Southern Hemisphere, the March equinox marks the start of autumn and is the opposite of “vernal.”

Now that I’ve turned ourselves thoroughly topsy-turvy, please make sure to read the other Scent Semantics bloggers’ thoughts on “vernal.” The link to all of them is in the caption below! And do share your own thoughts in the comments, here and on their blogs.

Scent Semantics blog list
The Scent Semantics bloggers

Perfume Chat Room, April 1

Perfume Chat Room, April 1

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, April 1 — Happy April Fools’ Day! I couldn’t think of an appropriate April Fools post for a fragrance blog, though my personal Facebook feed is blowing up with silly posts from friends. Also, “rabbit rabbit” for good luck this month, and don’t miss the April Scent Semantics posts from six bloggers next Monday! I got to choose the word for April, which is fun for me. But it’s a secret until Monday, so please check back!

This week, I had to attend a neighborhood meeting to discuss a proposal for designating our neighborhood as an official historic district, which would protect us from encroaching development, roadways, and demolitions of old houses. It has become a flashpoint of controversy, and a number of homeowners who don’t want additional restrictions on what they can do to their houses — if the houses were built before the 1960s — have become very angry, threatening to sue the neighborhood volunteers who lead our civic association. I didn’t want to go to the meeting, but went to support the beleaguered volunteers and to voice support for the historic designation. Whew! Glad the meeting is over, though the controversy continues! And yes, I wore Chanel No. 19 which is my fragrance armor.

Liv Tyler as Arwen, in The Fellowship of the Ring movie; New Line Cinema.
Liv Tyler as Arwen, in The Fellowship of the Ring movie; New Line Cinema.

Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” has written very knowledgeably (as always) about Chanel No. 19. She discussed its reformulations, adding this historical insight:

A side note on galbanum, fragrance and politics. When Chanel No 19 was created in 1971, it was formulated with a superb grade of Iranian galbanum oil, which was sourced especially for it. However, when the Iranian Revolution broke out in 1979, the oil became unavailable. No 19 had to be reformulated, which was accomplished with much difficulty, because the original galbanum oil was of a particularly fine, rare caliber.

History. Always fascinating, sometimes enraging.

Do you have any thoughts on what fragrance to wear for April Fools’ Day? Or for “rabbit rabbit”? Or any fragrance-related history? Do share!

Perfume Chat Room, March 25

Perfume Chat Room, March 25

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, March 25, and it is Spring with a capital S! Below is one of my most happy places, which my husband I visited last weekend:

Hillside covered with daffodils at Gibbs Gardens
Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens

Full disclosure: I didn’t take this photo last weekend, I think it is from last year and I didn’t take it. But this is what it looked like! Hillsides of daffodils in bloom — 20+ million of them. Yes, I did wear Ostara, again.

Today I’m wearing 4160 Tuesdays’ Scenthusiasm, another favorite fragrance with an oddball name. Do you have any favorite fragrances with names that may be a bit weird? Do you have any special spring happy places? Or, what fragrance(s) are you wearing for this transitional season?

Perfume Chat Room, March 18

Perfume Chat Room, March 18

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, March 18, and I’ve been wearing green fragrances all week! This makes me very happy, as I love and own many green fragrances.

Image from Disney’s Fantasia 2000; http://www.disney.com

Truly, this has been a week for the “wearin’ o’ the green“! Today I’ll be wearing Papillon’s Dryad; earlier this week, I wore Cristalle, Chamade, Silences, and of course Chanel No. 19. Other options I could have chosen (and I may wear some this weekend, just to keep it going) are Envy, Decou-Vert, Vent Vert, Manifesto, Azurée, Aromatics Elixir, one of the Tom Ford Vert series, Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor, too many others to list.

Yes, I am wallowing in green this week. Do you like green fragrances? Any particular favorites?

Outdoor sculpture of the Mud Maid, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
Mud Maid, The Lost Gardens of Heligan