Perfume Chat Room, September 18

Perfume Chat Room, September 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, September 18, and it’s been raining a LOT this week, with Hurricane Sally landing on the Gulf Coast and moving across the Southeast. We’ve only gotten the fringe of the rain and wind, so we’re lucky. In honor of the weather, I am wearing Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee. My other option could have been Hermes’ Un Jardin Apres La Mousson, a favorite. Other pleasant distractions this week were my husband’s birthday, and the baking and cooking our oldest daughter did in honor of it. She made him Mary Berry’s pineapple/coconut/carrot cake from scratch — yummy! One of his gifts was a new book about Winston Churchill called “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson. It’s the story of Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister, from May 1940 to May 1941, which encompassed Dunkirk, the London Blitz, and the Battle of Britain, as well as his negotiations with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt for Lend-Lease and future cooperation.

What’s your SOTD? Or, have you been reading anything of special interest?

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

Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Having read so much about Bal a Versailles in recent years, written about by everyone from Luca Turin to favorite blogs like The Black Narcissus, CaFleurebon, and Kafkaesque (and she’s BACK, even if only briefly!), I knew I would want to try it some day. I wasn’t in a big rush because even in its vintage form, it seems to be widely available for less than soul-crushing prices, and it honestly didn’t sound as if it would be a love for me.

But I came across an online auction for a full 4 oz. bottle of the vintage eau de cologne, which seemed as if it would be more approachable, and no one else had bid on it, so I did. And won it for a very reasonable price, less than one would spend on many forgettable modern fragrances at Sephora, Ulta, and elsewhere. It arrived a few days ago, and I’ve been trying it out since. I like it! My bottle looks just like this (except the label on mine is perfect):

Bal A Versailles by Jean Desprez; image from http://www.fragrantica.com

It is very interesting to me, because at first sniff, I definitely smell it as “perfumey”, which to my nose often means aldehydes. Yet there aren’t aldehydes in BaV, at least none are listed for it. So I’m concluding that another note that smells “perfumey” to me, probably based on my late mother’s perfumes from the 1960s and 1970s, is civet, which was used in varying amounts by the classic French perfumers to bring warmth, radiance, and sensuality to their creations such as Shalimar, Chanel No.5, etc., during decades when women were supposed to charm and seduce.

Probably because I have only cautiously dabbed small amounts of BaV on my wrist, I don’t find its notes unpleasant or overwhelming, or even, as so many have written, “skanky.” As expected in a bottle that probably dates back to the 1960s, any top notes that appear briefly are faint, at best, and blend easily into the middle notes that are more apparent to my nose. So I smell jasmine and rose, but they accompany heart notes like sandalwood, patchouli, leather, ylang ylang, and a hint of orris root.

I definitely smell the animalic note that I assume is civet, right from the start. Vanilla also makes itself know early in my wearing, and a very grown-up vanilla it is, smooth and warm without being sweet. As the drydown continues, the vanilla becomes more and more evident on my skin. And believe it or not, it starts to smell like a longtime favorite of mine, Anne Klein II !

And maybe that isn’t as kooky as it sounds, when I look at the notes for AKII. Its heart notes include jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, and orris root; and its base notes include musk, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, benzoin, vanilla, and yes — civet. Wow. I had never put these two fragrances together in my mind, but the list of shared notes, especially in the base, is remarkable and I doubt it is coincidental.

So while I continue to ponder my new (to me) vintage fragrance, here is some great news. I was already delighted when AKII was reissued last year as a bargain beauty, given that the original from 1985 was fetching absolutely ridiculous prices online. While the reissue smells very close to the original, it isn’t as rich and warm, as I noted, probably partly because my vintage AKII has aged well, but also because ingredients that were allowed in 1985 are no longer used in most modern perfumes. Like civet. But if you crave a richer, warmer AKII, I suggest you seek out vintage BaV eau de cologne. It is much easier to find online and much more affordable.

Celebrities who have worn BaV include Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on.

Movie star Liz Taylor with bottle of Bal a Versailles perfume by Jean Desprez.
Elizabeth Taylor and Bal a Versailles; image from http://www.townandcountrymag.com.

What do you think of Bal a Versailles? Love it? Hate it? Which formulations have you tried?

Perfume Chat Room, September 11

Perfume Chat Room, September 11

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, September 11, a somber day here in the United States. So while I normally try to find an amusing “featured image” for this Chat Room, showing people interacting with each other, today my featured image is of the memorial wall within the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, with its quote from Virgil. I sometimes think I’ve read or watched all I can bear about 9/11; I don’t want to wallow in it, but I do want to honor and try to understand it. Today, I learned something new and beautiful while searching for an appropriate image.

The blue wall you see in the photo is an artwork by Spencer Finch, commissioned for the memorial. From ArtNet:

“Finch’s work, Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, is inspired by the memorably clear, intensely blue sky of that fateful morning, reports the New York Times. The work covers most of the central wall in the museum’s subterranean exhibition space.

Though it may appear from a distance to be a stone mosaic, the piece comprises individual sheets of Fabriano Italian paper that the artist has hand-painted in different shades of blue with water colors, hung like the missing person notices that filled the city’s streets in the days and weeks following the tragedy. Each of the 2,983 squares represents one of the victims of the 2001 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”

Every adult I know remembers vividly where they were when they first learned of the 9/11 attacks. I had left New York City nine years earlier, after having lived in or near that city almost my whole life. I was fortunate in that I did not lose any friends or loved ones that day, but hundreds of people I know lost people they knew. Commuter towns where I had lived were devastated, with empty cars left in parking lots of train stations because their owners hadn’t returned.

I feel I should apologize for raising such a sad image, but after all, my blog is partly named “Scents AND Sensibilities.” And that’s what on my mind today. I wish you all health, safety, and happiness.

Photo by Jin S. Lee, for The New York Times.

Perfume Chat Room, September 4

Perfume Chat Room, September 4

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, September 4, and for once, I am on time with the Friday Community Project listed every week on the blog “Now Smell This.” Today’s theme is: “Zest and Smoulder…wear a fragrance with citrus and smoky notes, or, layer two fragrances to achieve the same effect, or interpret the theme in whatever way works for your collection.” What a great theme for the first Friday in September, the start of Labor Day Weekend in the USA, and often considered the transition from summer to fall. (That’s true in New England states and other more Northern parts of the US, but here in the South, September will still be hot and humid, and schools have been back in session since early August).

I thought it would be hard to find a fragrance in my collection, including samples, to fit that theme but it turns out that Frost, by St. Clair Scents, is exactly right. Come back on “Scent Sample Sunday” if you want to read more about it!

Do you follow NST or take part in its Friday Community Projects? Are you doing today’s? And do you have any special plans for Labor Day weekend if you’re in the US?

Cocktail glasses with charred citrus garnish
Cocktail with citrus and smoke
Scent Sample Sunday: Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain

Scent Sample Sunday: Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain

Today’s scent sample is one I am surprisingly close to “thunking”, which I hadn’t expected. I was given a house sample of Diptyque’s 34 Boulevard Saint Germain with my purchase of the house’s Eau Rose hair mist. I was happy to have it, but didn’t anticipate much from it. It has been sitting on my bedside table with some other samples, so I pulled it out earlier this week when I was settling in for my usual bedtime reading. At first spray, I thought to myself, “this is VERY pleasant.” As I continued reading, I periodically sniffed my wrist, and thought, “this is still REALLY nice.” And when I woke up the next morning, having had it on my skin by then for several hours, it STILL smelled really good.

So I did that again the next night. And the next, including last night. And here I am, on a Sunday morning, writing about it as my sample of the week. What is it like, and why am I liking it so much?

34 BSG is classed by Fragrantica as a “chypre floral”, created in 2011 by perfumer Olivier Pescheux to mark the 50th anniversary of Diptyque. It lists the notes as follows: top notes: blackcurrant, green leaves, fir leaf, citruses, pink pepper, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon; heart: rose, geranium, tuberose, iris and violet; base: woods, resins, balsams and eucalyptus. M. Pescheux has created many fragrances for many houses, covering a wide range of prestige and cost, but he has specifically created at least fifteen fragrances for Diptyque. 34 BSG is meant to evoke the complex smell of Diptyque’s first store, which was located at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris.

I think what makes me like 34 BSG right away is the lively opening dominated, to my nose, by blackcurrant, green notes, and cardamom, all notes I love in fragrance. Hovering behind those are more notes I enjoy: fir leaf, citruses, and cloves. I don’t pick up much pepper or cinnamon, just general spiciness. Of the floral heart notes, the one I smell most strongly is the tuberose, but it is pretty subtle, unlike the way I experience many tuberose fragrances where that is the dominant note. So if you’d like a scent with tuberose but prefer it in small doses, this might be a good option for you, as it is for me. The theme of green notes, given lift and sparkle in the opening by the citruses, blackcurrant, and fir leaf, continues in the heart by way of the geranium note.

The subtlety of the tuberose, combined with the woods, resins, and green notes, also makes this an absolutely unisex fragrance. As I’ve been wearing it over the last few days, I’ve wondered whether I might like it even more on my husband. As it dries down, that lively opening gives way to subtle floral notes, and quite soon those give way to a very warm and comforting base, with its woody notes, resins, balsams, and a touch of eucalyptus to carry on the green leitmotif. That base is what persists until the morning on my skin, when I apply 34 BSG at night — a good 8-10 hours’ longevity, which is excellent for an eau de toilette!

I haven’t really delved into Diptyque fragrances, partly due to their prices and the fact that they rarely go on sale (I’m allergic to paying full retail prices for fragrance). But I’m very taken with this one, in addition to Eau Rose and Eau Rose in the hair mist formulation. I know some of my regular readers are big fans of Philosykos. Any others?

Featured image from PSLABS.

Perfume Chat Room, August 28

Perfume Chat Room, August 28

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, August 28, and I am ready for August to end. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, August 21

Perfume Chat Room, August 21

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, August 21, and we’ve had daily thunderstorms all week. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Christian Dior’s Diorella was created in 1972 by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, a sibling of his masterpiece Diorissimo. It is one of the fragrances awarded five stars by Turin and Sanchez in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” Although they docked one star from it in their 2009 update, they still found it excellent. I have a bottle of Diorella that I think dates to 2002, according to the guidelines described in the “Raiders of the Lost Scent” blog (a great resource).

It smells great! Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, August 14

Perfume Chat Room, August 14

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, August 14, and I’m late posting this because we moved our youngest child into his freshman college dorm today! Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

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, August 7, and it is HOT where I live. Continue reading