Fragrance Friday: Flor y Canto and Scentbird

Fragrance Friday: Flor y Canto and Scentbird

In a feeble attempt to control my fragrance hobby, I signed up for the Scentbird subscription service, which sends subscribers a sprayer with about .27 oz. of a fragrance you select from among their offerings. You can pre-select several months’ worth at a time, and the monthly charge is $14.95. My first delivery arrived yesterday. It is Arquiste’s Flor y Canto, a fragrance that sounded as if I would like it very much, but which is VERY expensive, so a size less than a full bottle is warranted.

Reader, I loved it. Fragrantica lists its notes as: Mexican Tuberose, Magnolia, Frangipani and Marigold; Arquiste lists the notes with plumeria instead of frangipani; they are the same flower, often used in leis. Created by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Flor y Canto made its debut in 2012; its name means “flower and song”. It opens with a lemony greenness that I associate with magnolia. I seem to smell that more than I smell tuberose, but there is definitely a creamy white flower lurking behind the magnolia. The Arquiste website says:

On the most fragrant festival in the Aztec calendar, the rhythm of drums palpitates as a wealth of flowers is offered on temple altars. Billowing clouds of Copal act as a backdrop to the intoxicating breath of Tuberose, Magnolia, Plumeria and the intensely yellow aroma of the sacred Marigold, Cempoalxochitl.

The Mexican marigold is also locally called the Flower of the Dead, because it is traditionally used to decorate altars in Oaxaca, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (or “Dia de los Muertos”) in early November, and also used in the past to form garlands for the worship of Aztec gods. Flor y Canto, however, is meant to evoke a summer festival in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlanthe religious and political capital of the Aztec civilization. It was destroyed eventually by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, but apparently it was so remarkable and beautiful, with its towers, canals, and floating gardens, that the Spanish chroniclers left very detailed descriptions of the city. There is even a surviving Nahuatl poem about it:

The city is spread out in circles of jade,
radiating flashes of light like quetzal plumes,
Besides it the lords are borne in boats:
over them extends flowery mist.

Mexican quetzal bird in flight

Quetzal bird in flight; photo from Mexico News Daily

“Flowery mist” is an apt description of Flor y Canto. It is purely floral with a slightly green, fresh note like fragrant leaves or the marigold flowers. This is a creative and effective use of marigold; its astringency cuts the sweetness of the white flowers and enhances them. It is much lighter and greener than the image at the top of this post, from the Arquiste website, suggests.

Tenochtitlan and its sacred precinct were also the site of human sacrifices to the Aztec deities; one is thankful that Arquiste chose NOT to evoke those in the fragrance itself in spite of the reference to death and altars in their illustration. Flor y Canto is an elegant, soft, summery floral. It wafts gently from one’s wrists without overwhelming. Bravo, Arquiste and M. Flores-Roux!

Featured image from http://www.arquiste.com

Fragrance Friday: Lilybelle

Fragrance Friday: Lilybelle

As you know if you read any of my posts during last year’s May Muguet Marathon, I love lily of the valley and all things muguet. I wore Diorissimo for a decade and have been happily exploring other LOTV fragrances — but something was missing. And, yes, something really WAS missing, due to IFRA restrictions and reformulations. One of those things was the former level of hydroxycitronnelal (“a lily of the valley aroma-chemical and the main constituent of Diorissimo’s muguet bouquet”, according to the blog Perfume Shrine). Several of the aromachemicals formerly used to create a LOTV scent, such as Lyral and Lillial, are now restricted, I have read.

Enter Lilybelle! “According to David Apel, Senior Perfumer at Symrise, ‘Lilybelle is a molecule with an extremely fresh, green and wet smell. A touch of aldehydes raises its luxuriant floral touch, thus capturing the sparkling freshness of spring.’

From Premium Beauty News: Symrise innovates with a lily of the valley note from sustainable sources:

After six years of development, the Symrise research team has designed Lilybelle, a new molecule with fresh and transparent notes that are very close to the scents of lily of the valley. This (…)

Source: Perfumes: Symrise innovates with a lily of the valley note from sustainable sources

Notably, Lilybelle is an aromachemical made with “green chemistry” practices and principles, from renewable resources, and it is biodegradable. Take that, IFRA!

I think this is a wonderful development and I share the hope expressed by Mr. Apel that perfumers will use this new aromachemical in creative, innovative ways, including its use in unisex and masculine fragrances. I already enjoy Laboratorio Olfattivo’s Decou-Vert, which is supposed to be unisex. However, I also hope that a talented perfumer who, like me, loves muguet, will create a lovely, feminine LOTV which, unlike Guerlain Muguet 2016, I can afford.

Sixteen92

This year’s Art and Olfaction Award winner in the Artisan category, Bruise Violet by Sixteen92 and perfumer Claire Baxter, was favorably noted last year by Luca Turin. I look forward to trying it!

perfumesilove

images.pngReaders of The Economist and jaundiced realists like myself will not be surprised to hear that diversity and competition are the engines of creation. Add to that the magic element of surplus, i.e. a surfeit of talented art school graduates chasing too few jobs, and you have the makings of a revolution. This is precisely what happened in postwar Italy: too many architects + too few interesting things to build = Italian Design. A similar thing may be happening in perfumery, thanks to the Web and despite the insane restrictions on the shipping of “dangerous” goods.

This may explain why I keep getting sample sets from people who have not gone through the rigorous and  mostly disheartening training process that steers passionate apprentice perfumers towards decades of drudgery and imitation. Sixteen92 is headed by Claire Baxter who describes herself  as an “Art school-educated former advertising Creative Director, fine art photographer and classically trained…

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Confederate Jasmine

Confederate Jasmine

Although last year I wrote a series called May Muguet Marathon, in truth the lilies of the valley bloomed here in late March/early April. What blooms here in May is Confederate jasmine and in my garden, lots of it. I have a brick wall and more than one fence that are completely covered in it. It is an evergreen vine with medium-sized, glossy, dark green leaves that make a perfect cover for such structures. Its major advantage over other such plants is its flower. Every spring, the vines are covered in hundreds of delicate, small white flowers with a starry appearance and powerful fragrance.

Close up of white Confederate jasmine flower

Confederate jasmine; trachelospermum jasminoides

I was prompted to write here about it because another member of a Facebook fragrance group posted a photo of a plant he had seen and asked what it was, as it smells so heavenly. It really does. A single plant can scent an entire garden; dozens of plants, as I have in my garden, may be scenting the whole block!

When I plant in my already over-crowded garden, I try to use plants that serve multiple purposes, and Confederate jasmine is a prime example. As I love fragrant plants, fragrance is high on my list of the qualities I seek. As my property is less than one acre, plants like vines that will grow vertically and not take up much precious ground space are desirable. It is shaded by a high canopy of tall oak trees, so I seek out plants that tolerate partial shade and shade. I also have a brick wall all along one side of our lot and chain link fence around the rest (erected by a previous owner and now, thankfully, mostly unseen due to the same owner’s clever screen plantings).

The brick wall was built several years ago by a neighbor and required something to cover its then-naked surface, which extended the whole length of our garden. Enter Confederate jasmine! We installed vertical iron trellises on the brick pillars that rose about every ten feet along the wall, planted the jasmine, and within a few years, the whole wall was almost completely covered with pretty evergreen leaves, as the vines fling themselves with abandon into the space between the trellises. The bonus, of course, is that at this time of year, the fragrance is remarkable and the wall is covered with white flowers, as in these images from the blog Old City South.

Confederate jasmine vines on wall and arbor, from Old City South blog

Confederate jasmine; photos from Old City South blog

What does it smell like? It is sweet, with a hint of lemon. It attracts and nourishes bees, another excellent quality given severe declines in North American bee populations. It is intense and it wafts for long distances, but I have never found it overpowering or unpleasant. It is similar to the scent of true jasmine but has less of a “hot-house” aura. Hard to describe precisely, but lovely.

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 …

 

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear?

Fragrance Friday: What to Wear?

This weekend I will be attending a major gala event, a centennial gathering that will include a former President, Senators, and a range of attendees from middle-aged millionaires to current students. I’ve narrowed down the outfit to two options: a navy lace top over a floor-length navy, bias-cut, skirt covered with tiny navy sequins, or a floor-length sapphire blue gown with a “portrait” off-the-shoulder neckline. I’ve figured out that I should do my hair in a simple up-do. But which of my many fragrances should I wear from my collection???

This is an opportunity to wear something much more formal than I usually do. I have the Modern set of Amouage Miniatures for Women:

Set of six miniature Amouage fragrances for women

Amouage Modern Miniatures for Women

It includes: Lyric, Epic, Honour, Memoir, Interlude and Fate. I also have Amouage Gold for Women. I’m leaning toward an Amouage fragrance as they tend toward the formal and last so long. Also, if I use one of the miniatures, I can take it along with me in my evening purse.

On the other hand, I have dozens of lovely samples, any one of which would be enough to last me for one evening, including some Chanels and Guerlains. I have a few sprays left of vintage Chanel No. 22 eau de toilette, from my “salad days.” And I live close enough to a Neiman Marcus that I could, in fact, walk in and drench myself from a Roja Dove tester or one of their many other fragrance delights (I love NM and their nice fragrance sales associates. If I ever bring myself to buy the Guerlain Muguet 2016 in the silver-encased bottle, it will be there).

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Roja Dove

Maybe tonight is an opportunity to wear the gorgeous Taif Rose attar my husband brought me from Dubai! I could even layer it with one of the others …

Taif Rose

I also have a new, unopened bottle of Orquidea Negra from The Perfumery Barcelona, which we visited in January. If you ever get a chance to go, do! The owner is delightful and spent quite some time chatting with us and showing us different fragrances. Orquidea Negra is a creation of perfumer Daniel Josier, but the boutique carries other niche brands too; most are unusual and hard to find.

Dear Reader: What would you advise? Scent me, please!