Perfume Chat Room, April 16

Perfume Chat Room, April 16

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 16, and spring flowers are slowly giving way to summer blossoms in my garden. I have several roses that have started to bloom; they are almost all very fragrant, as most of the ones I grow are David Austin English Roses, which he hybridized over decades to regain the strong scent and old-fashioned form of the Old Roses. In the 20th century, many hybridizers bred for color and shape, which gave us so many beautiful, classic hybrid tea roses like Chrysler, John F. Kennedy, Peace, etc., but they weren’t as fragrant as their forebears. Other hybridizers bred roses for large-scale landscaping, like the Knockout Roses, but they are barely fragrant at all. So Mr. Austin’s goal was to take some of the best qualities of 20th century roses, like disease resistance, innovative colors, and repeat blooming periods, and marry them to the shapes and scents of old classics like the “Old Roses”.

This week, I was delighted to get in the mail my long-awaited sample of a new, soon-to-be-released perfume from Parfums Dusita, which is the subject currently of a naming contest! Perfumer and brand founder Pissara Umavijani invited members of the Eau My Soul group on Facebook to suggest perfume notes we’d like to see combined, then she chose from among those and created a fragrance. Now members who took part in suggesting the notes have been sent a generous sample of the unnamed fragrance and we get to submit up to three suggestions for names! The winner will get a large bottle of the fragrance.

I just love this project. Ms. Umavijani has done something like it before in 2019, when she launched what became Splendiris, a name I love and a very beautiful fragrance. I think that fragrance was the subject of a similar contest for readers of Fragrantica, if I recall correctly.

This new scent has notes of: petit grain, Rose Damascena, tuberose absolute, white freesia, Jasmine Grandiflora, oak wood, oakmoss absolute, sandalwood, vanilla absolute, and patchouli. I haven’t tried it yet as I wanted to wait until the weekend when I could focus more on it and less on work. Don’t those notes sound gorgeous, especially if (like me) you like florals?

P.S. WordPress has just informed me that this is my 500th post on Serenity Now: Scents & Sensibilities! Wow, that feels like a lot, but it has been so much fun and still is. Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Scent Sample Sunday: Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor

Given how much gardening is on my mind (and under my fingernails) these days, it seems fitting to write about one of 4160 Tuesday’s quirkier scents, Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor. Yes, it is named for the antagonist gardener in the Peter Rabbit stories, and also in homage to Jean-Claude Ellena’s Jardin series of scents for Hermes (all of which I own and enjoy). Perfumer Sarah McCartney writes that it was created during one of her perfume-making workshops, with a focus on the aroma molecule Hedione, which creates an impression of freshness and floralcy, with notes of jasmine and greenness. The goal was for the class to create the scent of a cottage garden in the Lake District.

For those who may not know, the famous author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books and many others, Beatrix Potter, played a key role in preserving thousands of acres in the Lake District, including leaving 4000 acres of countryside and 14 farms she owned to the National Trust. She was, of course, a marvelous illustrator, but she was also a gifted botanist, naturalist, gardener, and farmer, and the plants in her illustrations for her children’s books are botanically accurate down to the last details. They include many of the plants mentioned in the notes and materials list for Le Jardin de Monsieur McGregor.

Mr. McGregor in his garden, by Beatrix Potter

The 4160 Tuesdays website lists the materials as: orris, tobacco (for Mr McGregor’s pipe), blackcurrant bud, jasmine, parsnip, hay, lavender, cedar moss, vetivert, patchouli, cucumber, mushroom, cut grass, leather, strawberries, lily of the valley, blackberries, celery and musk. More prosaically, the major notes are described as follows: Top Notes: cut grass, strawberry, mint; Heart Notes: hay, rose, lavender; Base Notes: tobacco, moss, mushroom.

Beatrix Potter illustration of mushrooms, V&A Museum collection

This is a very clever, witty fragrance as one might expect from Sarah McCartney. It does indeed start out as a fruity floral but one with green notes, not sugary. The cucumber note is a nod to M. Ellena, who uses a melony note in some of the Jardin fragrances which some people perceive as cucumber (melons and cucumbers are part of the same plant family). The fruity note at the opening doesn’t smell much like strawberry to me but more like some other berry — maybe raspberry or blackberry? But not the artificial flavorings most of us know — it smells like a fruit growing in the garden, thanks to notes like vetivert, patchouli, moss and mushroom, which ground the fragrance with some earthiness along with the green grass.

As those top notes fade away, I smell hay quite clearly, with a touch of celery. I also smell roots, which may come from orris and parsnip materials. I really do smell the parsnip, by the way, which has a particular sweet but earthy smell when raw, which I recognize from peeling parsnips! My English mother brought us up with parsnips, and I cannot roast lamb without also roasting parsnips to go with it. Sadly, my own children claim to loathe them. It’s not the smell they despise, though, it’s the taste. Chacun a son gout!

The heart phase also has floral and herbal notes, but they don’t smell much like rose to me, and not much like lavender either. The heart notes smell to me more like an herb garden, with a melange of floral and green scents wafting on warm air in the sunshine. As the fragrance dries down further and the base notes emerge, it reminds me more and more of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove and First Cut, both of which I love. There’s a reason why my blogger name is “Old Herbaceous”! A warmth emerges from the musk base note, which Sarah included to evoke soft bunny fur. It isn’t one of those animalic musks, it is a fluffy musk, and it feels just right.

I’m very tempted to experiment with adding some more floral notes to this Jardin, perhaps by layering it with one of the scents by Jo Malone or that perfumer’s newer brand, Jo Loves. Since the Jo Malone branded scents are designed to be combined, I might start there; or I could try the more affordable Zara Emotions line, created by the perfumer Jo Malone and also meant for combining. Any suggestions?

Le Jardin de Old Herbaceous
Perfume Chat Room, April 9

Perfume Chat Room, April 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, April 9, and I’ve had a lovely week, starting with Easter. I took this week off from work, to rest up before the final push toward the end of the semester and final exams (I work all summer, too, but it’s less hectic once the students have left). Usually I would have had a week off for a university spring break in March, but that was canceled this year, in an attempt to reduce travel back and forth from the campus and thus spreading infection.

The weather has been beautiful, including Easter Sunday, and we were able to attend church in person, outside in the courtyard. The volunteers who handle everything from set-up to flowers outdid themselves, and everything was just beautiful. I’ve spent most of this week gardening, including in my new raised-bed vegetable garden, so things look tidier than usual!

Easter flowers

We’re also making real progress on putting our house back together — the two semi-demolished bathrooms now have floors and tiles again, and most of the plumbing fixtures are back in place. The shower in one bathroom is mostly rebuilt. Electrical work has been done to replace lighting in that bathroom too, though the fixtures have to wait until all the plaster and paint have been redone. The living room and dining room still look like scenes of demolition, with great gaping holes in the ceilings and one wall, but those will be handled as part of one massive re-plastering. I can’t wait to have my house back, after all these months!

Meanwhile, the fragrant flowers blooming in my garden include: the first roses; Korean lilacs; late daffodils; violets; lilies of the valley. The large pots of herbs I planted last year are sending up new growth, including the pretty silver-leaved lavenders. Since I’m at home all day to take proper care of them, I’ve started quite a few seeds, and I’m excited to see how they do. I also have pots of forced hyacinths and Easter lilies in the house, which I’ll plant out when they start to fade.

How was your week? What’s in bloom near you? Do you have any favorite fragrances with notes from the flowers in my garden, or yours?

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

Perfume Chat Room, April 2

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 2, and it is Good Friday, for those who celebrate Easter. I love Easter! Today is a solemn day in the Christian church, but it is also the start of one of my favorite holiday weekends, during one of my favorite times of year. In my part of the US, we are enjoying a full outbreak of spring, with daffodils, tulips, and other bulbs blooming in profusion, flowering trees in full blossom, green leaves tipping the tree branches, and longer days of sunshine. The fact that this week has been unusually cool and wet is letting me make up for some lost time in planting seeds that prefer to germinate in colder temperatures. There’s always a silver lining! And today, while chillier than usual, is bright and sunny.

My lilies of the valley are getting ready to bloom outdoors, which is always an opportunity for me to compare muguet-centered fragrances with the real thing. I also have a potted Easter lily for indoors, and some forced hyacinths to bring inside, so my weekend will be filled with the scents of spring. Now I just have to decide which fragrances to wear myself! As many of you know, I lean strongly toward greens and florals, which work well for spring and Easter. I’m sure my perennial favorite, Ostara, will make an appearance this weekend.

I’m happy that all three of our kids will be home for the holiday; one has also invited a friend. Our church has set up for outdoor services, with groups of seats appropriately spaced, and other safety protocols. I’m looking forward to that; they did that last week for Palm Sunday, and it was very meaningful to be back onsite, even outside. I’ll cook the usual Easter Sunday feast, with roast lamb and spring asparagus plus other assorted side dishes. If you celebrate Easter, do you have any special plans?

Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

Scent Sample Sunday: Ombre de Hyacinth

The garden centers and grocery stores (the only places I go these days) are full of potted hyacinths, one of my favorite flowers and favorite scents. Yesterday, in anticipation of Easter next weekend, I bought two pots of forced hyacinth bulbs: one has flowers of a delicate, creamy pale yellow; the other’s flowers are a cheerful, slightly tacky, bright pink. So the scent of real hyacinths is wafting through my house — what better time to review a recently acquired decant of Tom Ford’s Ombre de Hyacinth?

I had wanted to try it for a while, but it is discontinued and not easy to find. Imagine my delight when I saw it listed on the website of a decant subscription service I was considering! Sign me up! And I did.

Tom Ford launched Ombre de Hyacinth in 2012; it was created by Calice Becker as part of the “Jardin Noir” collected that also included Cafe Rose, Lys Fume, and Jonquille de Nuit. The brand had this to say about Ombe de Hyacinth: “Sophisticated. Voluptuous. Passionate. Ombre de Hyacinth creates bewitching tension as hyacinth cloaks its voluptuous beauty behind cool, aristocratic finery.” Fragrantica lists its top notes as: Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Magnolia Petals and Olibanum; middle notes as Hyacinth, Pink Pepper and Jasmine; base notes as Galbanum, Musk and Benzoin.

When I first spray it, I smell the hyacinth faintly, not as strongly as I had expected, and it doesn’t dominate the middle stage either. I would say that the strongest top notes to my nose are the violet leaf and galbanum, with the violet leaf most dominant, and they both continue to be evident throughout the fragrance’s stages; I like both of those notes, so I quite enjoy that. I don’t smell magnolia at all, and very little pink pepper, but I do get an undertone of the resins listed.

Kafkaesque wrote a great review of Ombre de Hyacinth, which included some of the press release upon its launch:

“Jardin Noir explores the forbidden sides of four of perfumery’s most treasured blooms: narcissus, hyacinth, rose, and lily. Convention is abandoned and unexpected ingredients converge with bewitching and intoxicating results. Iconic flowers fall open, dropping their innocent facades to reveal the subversive beauty and fierce elegance they normally keep hidden.”

Sorry, but no. There is nothing “noir” or subversive about Ombre de Hyacinth, though it is very pretty and even elegant. Kafkaesque commented on its soapiness after a short time, and I agree. While I find the real scent of real hyacinths to be “voluptuous”, bordering on narcotic, that is not what I smell in Ombre de Hyacinth; rather, I smell a pleasant, understated green floral. Jo Malone’s Blue Hyacinth is a much more realistic hyacinth scent, to the point of being photorealistic. Five hours after I sprayed Ombre de Hyacinth, most of what I smell is a white musk with a remaining hint of green floralcy and a lightly spicy note under those that I assume is the benzoin.

While I like Ombre de Hyacinth, I would never have paid its original price and I won’t be seeking out a full bottle now that I have my decant. Whew! That’s a relief, given that it was discontinued some time ago and that would be hard to to as well as expensive. Have you tried any of the “Jardin Noir” collection? What did you think?

Featured image by Kevin Lee Jacobs.

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

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 26, and we’ve just had some of the worst thunderstorms I can recall, all night last night. The thunder and lightning were truly epic — as in, my whole garden was lit up like a fairground every time the lightning flashed. Fairgrounds are on my mind, because I’ve been sampling Serge Lutens’ Bapteme du Feu, and that is apparently what it is meant to evoke, with its offbeat combination of gingerbread and gunpowder. It’s actually very intriguing, and I’m going to order a discounted tester.

The vaccinations continue apace; my son is now eligible, and he will get his first shot tomorrow. I’m very relieved, although it appears he must have had COVID-19 already in 2020 — we had him tested for antibodies when he came home from college for winter break, and he had them! He and we still have no idea when he might have had the virus, as he never felt unwell or showed symptoms, or tested positive under a regular screening program once he was at college. Anyway, it’s a great relief that he’ll get the protection of the vaccine and also help protect others by having it.

Spring has truly sprung in my part of the world; if it doesn’t keep raining this weekend, I plan to go out and take many photos of all of blossoms, including the spectacular pink azaleas with which my garden was blessed by long-ago owners. Their only flaw is that they aren’t fragrant. What are your plans for the weekend?

French fairground carousel
Carousel in Nice, 2019
Perfume Chat Room, March 19

Perfume Chat Room, March 19

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 19, and I’m delighted to say that I got my first COVID vaccination shot yesterday! So far, so good; my arm is just a little sore. As hoped last week, my husband and I were able to go on Sunday to my “happy place” full of daffodils; as expected, they were magnificent! And inspired by Undina’s question on her blog, Undina’s Looking Glass, about photographing perfumes, I took my bottle of Ostara with us and took pictures of it in several locations among the millions of daffodils. I will say that I got some puzzled looks from other garden visitors, and one actually asked me what I was photographing as I crouched down to get closer to the flowers and the bottle! He laughed delightedly when I told him.

I’m sad to say, though, that I just found out that one of my favorite fragrance bloggers, Kafkaesque, has recently learned that almost 200 pages worth of her blog content has apparently been appropriated by an “author” in England who self-publishes books on Amazon. She is understandably very upset and angry, as she was never contacted for permission or informed of this use of her writings. Her blog is notable for her extensive knowledge of perfumes and her long, detailed explorations and analyses of them, and I have learned so much from her. She paused writing for some time but the blog was (and is) still up and available to read, and she resumed posting after the November 2020 elections. If you’re new to reading fragrance blogs, hers is very interesting and I recommend it. I don’t always agree with her take on scents, but I always admire her passion and knowledge!

In other news, I was touched to see a lovely article in this week’s New York Times about the late Carlos Powell, aka YouTube’s “Brooklyn Fragrance Lover.” I rarely watch video reviews of fragrances, I much prefer to read about them, but by all accounts, Carlos was a beloved and friendly member of the fragrance community and is missed by many. I really enjoyed reading more about him.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Penhaligon’s Ostara eau de toilette among daffodils
Perfume Chat Room, March 12

Perfume Chat Room, March 12

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 12, and spring has sprung! It is now reliably sunny and warm every day; daffodils are in full bloom; pink magnolias have started blossoming; the redbuds and clematis armandii in my garden are in bloom too. I still haven’t found a fragrance that adequately mimics the scent of pink magnolias, but I have hopes for the new Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia. Hydrangeas and roses have started to leaf out, as have the many Japanese maples in both front and back gardens. I plan to start working in my new raised beds for a vegetable garden this weekend. Last year, I grew purple cauliflower for the first time; it was beautiful and it tasted wonderful. One forgets how much better homegrown, freshly picked vegetables taste. Even the cauliflower skeptics in my house had to admit they enjoyed mine.

I’m also hoping to visit the gardens north of here where they have planted tens of millions of daffodil bulbs, which have started their bloom season. The varieties cover early, mid, and late seasons for narcissi, and they are a gorgeous and impressive sight. Plus they smell wonderful — just like my beloved Ostara. How is spring coming along in your part of the world? Or autumn, in Portia’s case …

Perfume Chat Room, March 6

Perfume Chat Room, March 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 Saturday, March 6, and we have just spent several days at the beach for a much-needed break from our house. We like to go to the South Carolina coast, which is still cool and breezy in early March, and where we can enjoy marsh views and bird life as well as walking on the beach. The Lowcountry is so beautiful! It also has a very distinctive, salt marsh smell, combining saltwater, marsh weeds and sweetgrass, ocean breezes. Do you have a favorite part of the world with a distinctive smell?

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

Perfume Chat Room, February 26

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, February 26 — almost the end of the month! We are two months into 2021 — how is this year going for you so far? On some of the other blogs I follow, readers are sharing their experiences of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and their relief at having done so. I’m very happy for them, and I look forward to achieving that milestone myself as soon as possible. It seems so strange to think that it has been just about a year since the world began to shut down. I remember helping to distribute information to university students last February, about a new virus that had recently appeared, and the recommended (at that time) precautions such as frequent handwashing. At the very start of March 2020, we kept to our plan of taking our son to Jamaica as part of an organized trip by many seniors’ families; it was his “big” graduation gift. I took sanitizing wipes with us and wiped down our seats on the plane, to my son’s chagrin, then the high-touch surfaces in our hotel room although at that time, Jamaica had not yet had any cases of the novel coronavirus.

We had a wonderful time, we came home, and by the end of March, my husband and I were both working from home, school went remote, spring sports were canceled, and all the traditional events of our son’s senior spring in high school and our daughter’s senior spring at college were canceled. Her graduation was entirely remote; his was postponed until the summer, when it was held outside with limited, distanced, and masked attendance. We were so glad that at least we took that last trip, since we had to cancel all our other travel plans, which had included a family summer trip to London, Paris, and Normandy to celebrate the two graduations, two big birthdays in 2020, and a major wedding anniversary. Our oldest daughter moved home after having lost the two jobs she was working, one in theater and the other in trade show planning. All of that and more, just within the last 12 months.

Yet I’m very thankful that no one close to me has suffered the worst of COVID-19, though sadly some friends lost elderly parents, and we haven’t been able to visit my father-in-law in a year. He was safely vaccinated in late December, so we hope to be able to see him as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves. Miraculously, the continuing care community where he lives had not one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff in all of 2020 (and to date, as far as we know). One daughter, who teaches, had COVID herself in the fall but she had a fairly mild case and seems to have recovered fully. I was thankful to have her living at home where we could take care of her. We haven’t yet revived any travel plans further afield than anywhere we can drive to, but Paris is still calling! Think of all the $$ I will have saved to spend on perfume by the time we get there …

This has turned into more of a “What Went Well” post. So in that vein, what went well for you this week, or month, or year so far? Or, to bring it back to fragrance, if you were planning a trip to Paris, what fragrance sites would you visit and what fragrances would be on your Paris shopping list?