Perfume Tourism, 2017

Perfume Tourism, 2017

via Daily Prompt: Perfume

Two years ago, I became fascinated with perfume and fragrance. I was writing a screenplay about two rival perfumers and was doing research to capture some of the details and nuances of those characters’ thoughts and actions. I picked up Chandler Burr’s book, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industryand I was hooked. It is the story of the development of two perfumes, Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil, and Coty’s Lovelycreated with and for the actress Sarah Jessica Parker. The book follows the perfumers as they work on their assignments, or “briefs”, all the while explaining the arcane workings of the perfume industry.

Advertisement for Hermes Un Jardin Sur le Nil, bottle of perfume resting on lotus leaf against background of Nile River

Un Jardin Sur le Nil; photo from hermes.com

The book also describes a journey, a form of “perfume tourism”, taken by Hermes’ then-new in-house perfumer Jean Claude Ellena and a team of Hermes executives to Egypt, specifically the Nile river, to try to capture the atmosphere of a “garden on the Nile”, which was the chosen theme for the new perfume. As poets and others have noted for centuries, fragrance and scent seem to link directly to human memories and emotions in a way that only music approaches; even so, scent is the more visceral line of communication between our senses and our memories.

My own perfume journey has been more like a tumble down a rabbit hole, as others have described it. I am also fortunate enough to have frequent opportunities to travel, so I have become a committed “perfume tourist.” What does that mean? I seek out unique opportunities to experience fragrance in my travels, including visiting independent perfume-makers and perfume boutiques. In hindsight, I have actually done this off and on for decades; on our honeymoon, my husband and I visited Grasse, the birthplace of fine French perfume, and toured more than one of the Grasse-based perfumeries (Molinard and Fragonard). When we went on a family trip to Bermuda several years ago, we visited the lovely Bermuda Perfumery,  home of fragrance house Lili Bermuda, in the historic old town St. George’s. I am very lucky that we set a pattern early of my husband indulging me with perfume souvenirs!

The Bermuda Perfumery in St. George's, Bermuda, with pastel houses

The Bermuda Perfumery. Photo: http://www.foreverbermuda.com

Now, however, perfume tourism is a more deliberate choice on my part. It has proven to be a novel way to experience cities: seeking out independent perfumeries, perfume museum exhibits, even perfume-oriented arts.  I have loved discovering independent perfume boutiques like Scent Bar in Los Angeles. And of course, nowadays my souvenirs of my trips are usually perfumes; I look for “niche perfumes” made in that country, but sometimes I just buy a nice fragrance that reminds me of that trip. A recent trip to Switzerland resulted in the purchase of three lovely niche fragrances in different cities, but also an inexpensive small bottle of eau de toilette from Victorinox Swiss Army (yes, the maker of Swiss army knives).

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Scent Bar, Los Angeles

This year so far, I’ve pursued perfume tourism in Barcelona, Spain, and in several cities in Switzerland. What’s next? Somerset House in London will open an exhibition this summer called Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent. I’m hoping I can get to London this summer to see it, as I’ve enjoyed other arts exhibitions at Somerset House in the past. And the ever-fragrant summer gardens of London are a must! Dreaming dreams of fragrant flowers and sweet perfumes …

 

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

May Muguet Marathon: Muguet Fleuri

My oh my, muguet! Oriza  L. Legrand’s Muguet Fleuri opens with a decisive, spicy greenness that comes from top notes of green leaves, grass and lily-of-the-valley, per Fragrantica. The middle notes are galbanum, angelica, violet leaf and lily-of-the-valley; base notes are lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss and lily. Kafkaesque attributes the spiciness of the opening to the violet leaves, but I wonder if it doesn’t also come from the angelica. The firmness of the green top notes reminds me of the leaves of lily of the valley, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer just the right contrast to the delicate silver-white bells of the flowers on their long, slender stalks. The leaves are sculptural in their form, larger than the flowers and sometimes even hiding them. They are smooth and firm like the leaves of hostas, and reach to the sky in pairs like hands lifted in prayer.

Lily of the Valley leaves

Lily of the Valley leaves; photo from Verdure

I love the opening of this fragrance. It just happens that I am staying this week at my sister’s house, where she has an old, well-established patch of lilies of the valley, so I am able to compare the perfume and the flower directly while I type this. Continue reading

May Muguet Marathon: Perle de Mousse

May Muguet Marathon: Perle de Mousse

When I was lucky enough to visit the Scent Bar last fall, on my first visit ever to Los Angeles (which you can read about in Fragrance Friday: S(c)en(t)sory Overload), I asked the lovely sales associate to show me some lily-of-the-valley fragrances. One of those she selected for me to try was Ann Gerard’s Perle de Mousse, which means “pearl of foam” but can also mean “pearl of moss.” (In French, oakmoss is “mousse de chene”). The name conjures up lovely images of the pearl-like white flowers of muguet against a dark green background, which is one way gardeners and florists like to force lilies-of-the-valley in pots and planters covered in moss, through which the flowers grow. I came home from LA with a sample of Perle de Mousse from the same lovely sales associate.

Lily of the valley plants growing in moss in a planter

Lilies-of-the-valley grown in moss; photo http://www.growingwithplants.com

Here’s the copy about Perle de Mousse on Scent Bar’s website LuckyScent: Continue reading

Fragrance Friday: S(c)en(t)sory Overload

Fragrance Friday: S(c)en(t)sory Overload

This is the fragrance story I was going to share last Friday, before I heard about the attacks in Paris. So last Friday was a Fragrance Friday moment of silence in honor of one of the world’s greatest fragrance cities. This Friday, I’ll describe my recent (and first) visit to Los Angeles, the Broad Museum and the Scent Bar.

I was in Costa Mesa for a conference; an old friend had recently moved to Los Angeles and invited me to spend some time with her downtown, where she lives. We made plans to spend the morning at the new Broad Museum of contemporary art, where she works on weekends, then eat lunch in Little Tokyo, then make our way to the Scent Bar, storefront and home base of http://www.luckyscent.com, a noted online retailer of independent, niche and hard to find perfumes.

First, the Broad Museum. Continue reading

What Went Well

What Went Well

Lots of wonderful things went well this week!

  1. I spent 24 hours with an old friend, who has moved to LA to make a new life after several major transitions, and we had a fantastic time, as if we haven’t been apart for several years. Because she lives in my heart, even though we don’t see each other often any more.
  2. I visited a fantastic new museum, thanks to my friend: The Broad, in downtown LA. It was an amazing experience and it has a wonderful collection of contemporary art. Because its founders, the Broads, are generous philanthropists who want to share their art collection and because my friend is an engaged participant in LA’s Arts District.
  3. We also visited a spot on my bucket list, The Scent Bar, a fragrance store that specializes in niche and independent perfumes, where the staff could not have been nicer or more helpful (I’ll write more about it on Fragrance Friday). Because my friend and I decided to be a little adventurous and do some exploring. So much fun!

What went well for you this week?

Photo: NPR.org