Happy Anniversary to Serenity Now!

Happy Anniversary to Serenity Now!

WordPress has just reminded me that I started blogging four years ago today and thus my blog was born! Wow, it doesn’t seem as if it has been that long — probably because I’ve had so much fun doing it and tumbling down the fragrance rabbit hole. Thank you, to all of you who read my meanderings, whether you comment or not. Knowing that you’re out there (and now having met a couple of you in person!) and hearing from you are the parts that make this the most fun.

Stay fragrant, friends!

Fragrance Friday: Harry Potter?

Fragrance Friday: Harry Potter?

Another blog, “Book Riot”, recently posted the most amusing game: guessing what fragrances the leading characters in the Harry Potter series would wear: The Perfect Fragrances for Harry Potter Characters. Here are some of the author’s choices: Gucci Pour Homme II for Sirius Black; Coco Mademoiselle for Fleur Delacour; Reserve Smoked Vetiver for Dumbledore; Demeter’s Paperback for Hermione; Demeter’s Christmas Tree for Hagrid; Bonbon for Luna Lovegood; Tobacco Vanille for Remus Lupin; Spicebomb for Draco Malfoy; Mr. Burberry for Ron Weasley; and D&G’s Light Blue Pour Homme for our hero, Harry Potter.

I love this game but I don’t love her choices (although in matters of fragrance, chacun a son gout!). In my opinion, Fleur Delacour would definitely wear Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. (Gabrielle would be ideal for her little sister). Hermione deserves something more notable and longer lasting than Paperback. Solstice Scents has a fragrance called Library, but it sounds smokier than I would think suitable for Hermione. Remembering her triumphant arrival at the Yule Ball, on the arm of Victor Krum, I’m giving her Caron’s Nuit de Noel. Yes, it’s a mature fragrance, but it’s very elegant and well-suited to a formal evening dance in the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Hermione Granger and Victor Krum dancing at Yule Ball

Hermione and Victor at the Yule Ball.

What about Luna Lovegood? Bonbon seems too mainstream and girly. Given her habit of making weird accessories for herself from odds and ends, I will give her ELDO’s I am Trash. The brand’s description is as eccentric as Luna herself: “There is a jumble of romantic and titanic science fiction poetry that emerges from the slow, sure, and inevitable rocking of wastewaters in the industrial cycle. We want to make this perfume a messenger, in service not only to the survival of the species which results from seduction, but above all in service to the planet where our own miasmas must reflect beauty.”

Luna Lovegood wearing Spectre Specs

Luna Lovegood

Prof. McGonagall needs a fragrance: something as direct, honest, and no-nonsense as she is. I’ll assign her Caldey Island Lavender for regular use — and Vol de Nuit for more notable occasions. What about Molly Weasley? I’m thinking Creamy Vanilla Crumble from 4160 Tuesdays, since I always associate Mrs. Weasley with comfort food, although she proved her mettle many times.

Molly Weasley in her kitchen at The Burrow

Molly Weasley

Red-headed Mr. Weasley would, of course, wear the ultimate “Dad” scent: Old Spice, the original vintage version. I’m not as familiar with men’s fragrances — what do you think of the choices the blog author made for the male characters, and what might you suggest instead? And what about any of the characters I’ve listed, or any others you like? Or maybe some you don’t like, such as Vernon Dursley!

All characters by J.K. Rowling; images from Warner Bros.

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, the scent created by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton, in 2010. It must still sell well, as it still has its own page on the ELDO website. It isn’t necessarily a fragrance I would have associated with Ms. Swinton, a brilliant actress who is known for playing eccentric, complicated characters and for her striking, almost androgynous looks. ELDO’s website calls it ” cozy, skin-hugging sweetness nestled with soft florals and unique, orange citrus notes.” Here is the longer description from ELDO, which sound as if it was written by Tilda:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is, or what “God’s fragrance” means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close.

Like this.”

This is possibly my favorite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse my scent sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home. In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland – after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me – where the adventuring, alien Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick – comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests: Like This

Smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse. Yes, Like This evokes all of those.  The listed notes are ginger, pumpkin, tangerine, immortal flower, Moroccan neroli, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, woody notes, musk, heliotrope. When I first spray it, the opening is pleasantly tangy with ginger and tangerine — lightly spicy and citrusy, not sweet. If this ginger is gingerbread, it is not the sugary kind — it’s more like a ginger snap (one of my favorite cookies). The combination of tangerine notes and neroli reminds me of a very particular kind of greenhouse: an orangery, a glass enclosure where Europeans in cooler climates could grow trees in huge pots, that produced prized citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. At “Now Smell This“, reviewer Angela wrote:

I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.

I’ve read elsewhere that Ms. Swinton had just dyed her hair orange for her role in the movie “I Am Love” when the fragrance collaboration began, and may have actually requested the references to orange. How fascinating the creative process is! Like This is warm and beautiful, like the image of Swinton’s character in that movie, Emma, the midlife spouse of a rich Italian aristocrat, who falls in love with a much younger man.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love”, 2010.

Given the powerful roles Ms. Swinton has played in the movies about Narnia and the Avengers, coziness, warmth, and home might not come immediately to mind in relation to her, but a cozy scent is what she asked ELDO to create:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain.

The floral notes take over from the citrus, but the ginger continues like a glowing thread through the composition, and the floral notes are well-balanced with spices, woody notes, vetiver, all of which keep the fragrance dry and vivid. This would smell lovely on either men or women, it is truly unisex.

Kafkaesque reviewed Like This when it was released and concluded it is “definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you!”, although she didn’t see herself buying a full bottle. Her review includes more details about the creative process behind the fragrance. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” gave it four stars out of five; she found it darker and smokier than I do, calling it “a strange and unconventional blend … a cross between the woody richness of Serge Lutens Douce Amère and the smoldering darkness of Donna Karan Chaos, with plenty of its own surprising elements.”

I agree with Kafkaesque that Like This is intriguing and that it grows on you. I hadn’t really planned to wear it three days in a row this week, but I did, and I enjoyed it every time. It lasts well on my skin, enough that I can spray it on in the evening and still smell its warm base notes on my wrist the next morning. It is the kind of fragrance that other people won’t recognize but most will find very pleasing, especially up close.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by a fragrance that wasn’t what you expected in one way or another?

Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

Meeting a Unicorn: L’Iris de Fath

I had a few fragrance adventures in London last month, but one of the best was a surprise encounter with 2018’s launch, L’Iris de Fath. Yes, THAT one — the award-winning reconstruction of the legendary Iris Gris fragrance from the house of Fath.

Other bloggers and authors have written at length about this project, including Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, who were involved with it. The Fath website offers this:

Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris is known as one of the greatest perfumes if not the greatest, unequalled since its creation. The balanced duo of Iris and Peach reflects perfumer Vincent Roubert’s exceptional know-how. The concentration of Iris of an unreached level made of Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris the most expensive perfume in the world. Launched in 1947, it disappeared the same year as Fath in 1954.  Often copied and certainly never equaled, it remains unique and timeless.

It was unthinkable that this heritage remained prisoner of the limbo of the past. Under the supervision of Creative Director Rania Naim, Parfums Jacques Fath launched an international competition of perfumers, in order to reproduce as faithfully as possible this exceptional fragrance. The myth is reborn, thanks to two young talents unanimously chosen by a committee of experts:  Patrice Revillard, Perfumer and Yohan Cervi, Creative Director of Maelström.

Like a chrysalis turning into a butterfly, it is now known as :L’ IRIS de FATH

After all, no matter the name, no matter the color, as long as emotions remain intact.

So how did I manage to meet this mythical creature? I went to Jovoy Paris’ Mayfair store in London and met a young sorcerer’s apprentice (SA) named Khalid. Khalid is a very nice, knowledgeable sales assistant at Jovoy Mayfair, where I have had nothing but lovely experiences. The first time I ever visited, the owner, Francois, happened to be there. He gave me a personal tour of the store, pulled out many fragrances for me to try, and even showed me (and let me smell!) the precious chunks of ambergris they keep in a vault downstairs.

On this latest visit, I happened to be nearby at my favorite overall store in London, Liberty. I was planning to meet a friend for a late lunch, and had some time to spare, so I stopped in at Jovoy. It was a quiet time in the store, and I was warmly greeted by Khalid. Here’s what I love about Jovoy. I told him that I was really just browsing, that I write about fragrance as a hobby, and that I had visited the store before and really enjoyed its wide range of stock, but wasn’t there to buy anything in particular. He asked me nevertheless what I like in fragrance, I said florals, and he asked if he could show me some of their newer floral scents. Of course, I said, and out came the testers and the paper strips, so I could sniff some truly beautiful florals. After I oohed and aahed over one with a dominant iris note, he asked me, “Do you like iris?” and I assured him that yes, I love iris, and in fact it was becoming one of my favorite notes, close on the heels of the muguet I love so much.

Well, Khalid got a gleam in his eye and invited me to follow him downstairs to see the store’s most special iris fragrance. We approached the same vault where the ambergris is kept, and there it was — The Unicorn. L’Iris de Fath. Reader, I gasped.

 

Khalid opened the vault and carefully dripped one drop of the precious fluid on a paper test strip, which he then handed to me. One drop, and a cloud of iris richness filled my nose. I tell you, if I ever win Powerball millions, I will fly back to London, head straight to Jovoy Mayfair, and buy their entire stock of L’Iris de Fath from Khalid. And I hope he gets a whopping commission.

I don’t have enough of a trained nose to be able to describe L’Iris as well as others have done, so I’ll just record my own impressions in my own words. This is a remarkably elegant, lasting, classic iris perfume. It has the rootiness of traditional orris, which I love and which takes center stage right from the start, but the opening is brightened by neroli and petitgrain, and it smells of iris flowers as well as their roots. The iris has a warmth that one doesn’t often associate with that note, and it comes from a subtle peach that lends it a velvety, soft, suede-like texture. I live in a part of the USA where peaches are a major crop; even the street where I live is named for the peach orchards that used to grow where a turn-of-the-century city neighborhood now unfolds its charms. Summer peaches that have been allowed to grow to ripeness on the heavy branches of fruit trees, in the hot Southern sun, have a scent to their skins that is not fruity, yet speaks to us of fruit. Just as I found that the famous melon note in Un Jardin Apres La Mousson is really the scent of the rind of an intact, ripe fruit, not the inner flesh, the peach of L’Iris de Fath is to my nose the scent of ripe, sun-kissed peach skin, with a hint of fuzz, soft and warm. Brilliant work by perfumer Patrice Revillard.

The heart stage is thoroughly immersed in iris and orris notes, but you can tell that other flowers are there too, because the fragrance is multi-layered and far from simple. I can pick up some violet, rose, jasmine, and carnation; none of them compete with the iris, although I think the violet adds a soft sheen of mauve powder at this stage. The base is warm and sensual, but reserved. The oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk are apparent but they are so well-blended that one doesn’t smell them as separate notes. Sillage is elusive; one minute you think the scent isn’t carrying much further than one’s immediate vicinity, the next minute someone comes into the room and exclaims, “What is that wonderful smell?”

I found myself trying to imagine what famous beauty best embodies L’Iris de Fath and I think that must be Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This perfume is warm, yet reserved. It beckons you in the way she is famously said to have used her soft, breathy voice to speak so quietly and intimately to a companion that her interlocutor would be forced to lean in closer, closer, to hear her; and thus she conveyed the sense that she and her listener were alone in a private conversation, a little world of their own, even in the midst of a crowded party. She bewitched people, yet she was also reserved, dignified, impeccable, even with wind-tousled hair.

Jackie Kennedy in yellow iris sheath dress

Jacqueline Kennedy in iris sheath

L’Iris de Fath does not speak loudly, but it is very clearly itself: a warm iris-peach, elegant and classic. Its progression is fairly linear, and I mean that as a compliment. The orris especially wafts up for several hours and is present from start to finish. It is brighter at the start, warmer and less distinct at the end, but nevertheless fully present. It is one of those perfumes that would make one’s skin smell like the perfect, fragrant, warm, skin we’d all like to inhabit. Like our own skin, but so very much better.

Thank you for this lovely experience, Jovoy and Khalid!

Featured image: Iris “Alabaster Unicorn”.

May Muguet Marathon: Inflorescence

May Muguet Marathon: Inflorescence

Not many lily of the valley fragrances have been launched in recent years, although they were very popular during most of the 20th century. Their very popularity during that era may have pushed them to the back seat in our own day, as many today associate the fragrance of muguet with older relatives, even grandmothers (I happen to think that smelling like an elegant grandmother is infinitely preferable to smelling like an insipid celebrity, but chacun a son gout!). It is even more rare for a niche brand to launch a muguet fragrance these days, one exception being By Kilian’s Kissing.

Byredo, however, launched a muguet-centered fragrance in 2013: Inflorescence.  The brand describes it thus: “A celebration of Spring’s early blooming flowers. A floral scent capturing the strength and delicacy of wild garden blossoms, as they reach their breathtaking beauty.” It is also described as having the following notes:

  • Top: Pink Freesia, Rose Petals
  • Heart: Lily of the Valley, Magnolia
  • Base: Fresh Jasmine

As The Candy Perfume Boy notes, Inflorescence has a very appealing combination of creamy petals with fresh, light, green-tinged floral notes. That jasmine base really lasts a long time — I sprayed some on a card last week in Liberty London’s famous fragrance department, and it still wafts strongly from its little white envelope, a full week later! And it’s not a standard long-lasting woody or musk note — it is still fresh, lemony jasmine with a creamy undertone. Inflorescence would be a standout for that alone, but there is much more to it. He found the opening a bit harsh; I did not. I got a nice burst of freesia, which I love, followed quickly by those pretty rose petals. The lily of the valley follows soon after and takes center stage; but the magnolia note also clearly presents itself.

Those white flowers merge seamlessly into each other and then into the jasmine base. Inflorescence is deceptive in that it gives the impression of being quite fragile and, one would assume, quite fleeting, but no. It is delicate but tenacious — like the so-called Confederate jasmine that festoons the brick wall on one side of my garden. It is a really lovely modern floral — not in the same league as some of the legends like Diorissimo, but a classic in the making on its own terms. It is modern in that it accomplishes its stated goal with relatively few notes, almost like the more minimalist approach of modern architecture or interior design. I wish the price were not so high, as that takes away much of its accessibility and thus its appeal. I won’t be forking out for a full bottle any time soon, but it is a gorgeous light floral and if you like those, I think you would be happy to try Inflorescence.

Do you have any favorite Byredo fragrances?

background bloom blooming blossom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

Welcome back to the May Muguet Marathon — I was away in London for a week or so and took a break from blogging, but had many perfume and scent adventures which I’ll recount this summer. Today’s lily of the valley is Fleur de Cristal, by Lalique, launched in 2010 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rene Lalique, founder of the famed crystal maker. Lalique crystal is instantly recognizable, with its flowing Art Nouveau forms, inspired by nature and often featuring female figures, flowers, and animals. M. Lalique created many beautiful perfume bottles, including in collaboration with legendary French perfumer Francois Coty. One of them is the gorgeous “Clairefontaine” bottle, which depicts sprays of lily of the valley blossoms emerging from a crystal globe. (In fact, Jessica McClintock put out a limited edition perfume splash bottle of its eponymous fragrance that has a lily of the valley stopper inspired by the famous Lalique Clairefontaine bottle). I love Lalique crystal; maybe some day I will own one of their iconic perfume bottles! Many are available through online auctions and antique sellers. Lalique has also launched a number of well-received fragrances under the house’s own name, and most come in very beautiful bottles of the house’s own design.

Fleur de Cristal comes in its own striking bottle, a clear, heavy flask whose top is embedded internally with rings of single lily of the valley bells.

Ad for Lalique eau de parfum Fleur de Cristal with perfume bottle

Fleur de Cristal; image from http://www.lalique.com

It is an eau de parfum marked as having 69% alcohol by volume, an unusually low percentage for an EDP.  (Most EDP will show about 80% alchohol by volume). Although this doesn’t mean that the Fleur de Cristal EDP is thus 31% fragrance oil, which would make it an extrait de parfum, it does seem to show that there are additional non-fragrance contents, which I’m guessing may be fixatives to help with clarity and/or longevity. After all, if one is selling a fragrance with “cristal” in the name, one can’t have it turn cloudy! Also, Fleur de Cristal does seem to have unusually good longevity for a light floral fragrance. The other day, I applied a few sprays in the morning, did not reapply all day, and twelve hours later, my husband commented that he liked my fragrance although I could no longer smell it on myself.

Top notes are: jasmine, bergamot, pink pepper; heart notes: lily of the valley, stephanotis, ylang-ylang, carnation; base notes: sandalwood, cashmeran, amber, musk. The perfumer was Raphael Haury. Chant Wagner called it a “solar muguet” on her blog The Scented Salamander, and I would agree with that description. The opening is sunny and bright, thanks to the bergamot and jasmine, with a touch of green. I don’t smell the pink pepper, but it probably adds some rosiness to the opening and ties it nicely to the heart notes, which include carnation (another lightly spicy floral note). The lily of the valley emerges as shyly as the real flower does, peeking out from behind the opening notes and gradually coming into olfactory focus, supported by the other floral notes, especially the stephanotis. Fleur de Cristal reminds me a bit of Something Blue, launched only a few years later, and they have a number of notes in common. The only fruit note in Fleur de Cristal, however, is the bergamot in the opening; and overall, the impression it leaves is more flowery than Something Blue. It also lasts longer on my skin than Something Blue.

If you are wary of lily of the valley scents, this might suit you. It isn’t a soliflore or soapy at all, it is a light, fresh floral with a very pretty progression of gentle flower notes leading to a soft base. It is widely available online for reasonable prices, and I’ve seen it still for sale at Neiman Marcus. Have you tried this, or any other Lalique fragrances?

 

 

Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft

In northern climates, the scent of Lily of the Valley is a harbinger of spring after the winter snow has melted. The lovely aroma from the small, white flowers has been sought after since the early days of perfumery. And yet, no essential oil of this flower is available, which is interesting considering the abundance […]

I’m re-blogging this excellent post about the chemistry of muguet fragrances, from the blog The Perfumer’s Craft:  Lily of the Valley — The Perfumer’s Craft