Perfume Chat Room, June 25

Perfume Chat Room, June 25

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, June 25, and we are enjoying unusually cool, dry weather. My husband and I are also indulging in a bit of second-career fantasy/brainstorming, revolving around the sudden appearance on the market of a beloved local nursery business. Maybe I’ll follow in the footsteps of Diane St. Clair, the very gifted founder and perfumer of St. Clair Scents, and combine farming with perfumery! I do love several of her fragrances, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. In fact, since I wore her Pandora yesterday for the “community project” at Now Smell This, I think I’ll wear First Cut today, since we were recently in New England and saw the “first cut” of hay.

What scent are you wearing today? Do you ever have second-career or side-hustle daydreams involving perfume?

Perfume Chat Room, May 21

Perfume Chat Room, May 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, May 21, and I’ve just picked the first ripe tomato in my garden! If you’re thinking, that’s very early, you are right — it’s a variety called “Early Girl”, and I also bought a mostly grown plant, as opposed to the usual seedlings, just to get a headstart on the tomato season. There is just nothing like a fresh, homegrown tomato, which is why I persevere in spite of marauding birds and chipmunks. Have you ever heard of a book called “The $64 Tomato”? That’s me.

You may wonder why I’m carrying on about tomatoes here — yesterday’s May Melange Marathon scent was Eve, by St. Clair Scents, and it has a prominent note of tomato leaf. Perfumer Diane St. Clair also used tomato leaf to great effect in one of her first scents, Gardener’s Glove. No surprise — I’m a fan.

What scents are you wearing these days, as we transition from spring to summer?

Featured image by Susan Mulvihill, http://www.spokesman.com. My tomato fantasy, not my reality!

May Melange Marathon: Eve

May Melange Marathon: Eve

One of the joys of this fragrance hobby is discovering independent perfumers and their work. One of my favorites is Diane St. Clair, of St. Clair Scents. I’ve loved her earliest creations, like Gardener’s Glove and First Cut. My SOTD is Eve, one of the “Audacious Innocence” collection, which was a finalist for the 2020 Art & Olfaction Awards in the artisan/independent category.

The other fragrance in the collection, Pandora, is a “sister” to Eve. According to the brand’s website, they share most of the same notes, but Pandora shows a darker side, with added base notes of labdanum and opoponax. Eve‘s notes, without those added base notes, are: Top notes of Lemon, Tomato Leaf, Apple, Bergamot and Mandarin Orange; middle notes of Orris, Lilac, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Carrot Seeds and Jasmine Sambac; base notes of Oakmoss, Tonka Bean, Woods, Vetiver, Musk. Both scents come in a parfum extrait concentration of 35%.

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Pandora opening the box
Pandora, by John William Waterhouse

Diane St. Clair sees Eve and Pandora as similar:

The stories of Pandora and Eve, who reached for the forbidden apple, have much in common. Both came to symbolize women who were punished for disobeying orders and acting on their impulses towards curiosity. We believe that women who challenge the rules and follow their curiosity are striving towards creativity, innovation and independence.

The opening of Eve is as lush as the painting that inspired it, above. It smells of all the fruits listed as top notes, bound together by the astringent greenness of tomato leaf and bergamot. This seems so appropriate, since the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted to eat the apple, was more of an orchard than a garden. (In fact, I’ve learned that the word “paradise”, often used to refer to the Garden of Eden, comes from an ancient Persian word that means a walled orchard garden). I love green scents, so the tomato leaf especially appeals to me. A good thing, since it is quite strong! As the top notes retreat, the scent becomes more and more floral, with orris taking the lead, though ylang-ylang and roses are right behind it. This stage is rich and lush — almost creamy, but not gourmand at all.

I smell the oakmoss almost from the start, and certainly in the “heart” phase. This is some serious oakmoss, friends. It evokes the shadowy, green darkness under the dense branches of trees. That impression only grows stronger as the floral notes fade away and the other base notes anchor the whole scent to the earth, with their woods, musk, vetiver. I can’t say that I smell tonka much at all. Eve lasts a long time on my skin, several hours.

Sillage is moderate, as one would expect from an extrait, but I would say that a little goes a long way! I dabbed tiny spots of Eve on my wrists, and their scent carries easily and clearly up to my nose. Longevity is excellent. Eve just feels like a high-quality perfume all around; one senses the quality of the ingredients right from the start. Even though it is supposed to be the “yin” scent to Pandora‘s darker “yang”, this is not a light or frivolous fragrance. It is not to be trifled with! Which is why I used the gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite painting as this post’s featured image; it shows Lilith, said in Jewish folklore to have been the first wife of Adam (yes, that Adam), who was replaced by Eve because she was too rebellious. The painting beautifully captures a lush, flowering garden, and I think that’s a perfume bottle by the mirror!

Pre-Raphaelite painting of Lilith, first wife of Adam
Lady Lilith, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Have you had the chance to try any of St. Clair Scents’ fragrances? Do you have any favorite artisan or independent perfumers?

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

Perfume Chat Room, February 5

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 5, and here in the US we are looking forward to the Superbowl football championship and we are also celebrating Black History Month. American politics continue to be turbulent, but I won’t dwell on that although I do pay close attention. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, and a favorite independent retailer of high-end fragrances, Twisted Lily, has a sale this weekend, 14% off on a select collection of fragrances with the code VDAY14. Do any of you know of any other tempting sales?

Do you have a fragrance you particularly like to wear on Valentine’s Day or other romantic occasions? Like many people, I associate roses with Valentine’s Day and romance, so I think I will wear Jo Loves’ Rose Petal 25. As regular readers here know, I have many rose fragrances from which to choose! Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day, in this constrained environment?

Scent Sample Sunday: St. Clair Scents’ Frost

Scent Sample Sunday: St. Clair Scents’ Frost

I have long been a fan of Diane St. Clair’s fragrance creations, especially Gardener’s Glove but also First Cut. Frost is the third of that trio, her first releases which arrived in 2018. (For three very comprehensive reviews, you must read Kafkaesque’s detailed dissection of each). When I first read the name of that scent, I thought it would relate to frost, as in fall and winter temperatures, but instead, it refers to the poet Robert Frost, who wrote many of his most famous poems a short distance from Diane’s dairy farm in Vermont. Per her website:

“This scent follows the story of Frost’s poem, “To Earthward” which describes the transformation of youthful love, from “sweet like the petals of the rose” and “sprays of honeysuckle” to painful love, which stings like “bitter bark”, “burning clove” and “rough earth.”

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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
Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Fragrant Highlights of 2019: What Went Well

Happy New Year! Rather than listing my favorites or “the best” among the fragrances launched in 2019 (other blogs have done that so thoroughly!), I am going to list some of my own fragrance highlights of 2019. Some are actual perfumes, others are fragrant items or experiences. I feel so fortunate. I write about my many blessings in this blog to remind myself that, in spite of challenges and losses, I am thankful for the love and beauty in my life.

  1. First trip to Tuscany, Florence and Venice, with many perfume stops. I will not forget the aromatic scent of the Tuscan hills and the timeless beauty of their landscape — not to mention the fragrances of the vineyards and wines, and the cooking class I took. Florence and Venice were as magical and amazing as expected, and I brought back souvenir fragrances from perfumeries like Santa Maria Novella, I Profumi di Firenze, Aquaflor, Farmacia SS Annunziata dal 1561. Back home, I treated myself to Flower Fusion by The Merchant of Venice (gorgeous glass bottle, lovely fragrance); and my husband gave me Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur la Lagune for Christmas.
  2. Visit to 4160 Tuesdays’ studio in London and meeting Sarah and Nick! If you’re a fan of 4160 Tuesdays’ fragrances, and you wonder if Sarah really is as cool and interesting as she seems, the answer is YES! She and Nick graciously spent time with me, talking about their fragrances. And yes, I came away with several purchases, including the beautiful Truth Beauty Freedom Love and the silk scarf designed to go with it. I’m excited to see their new studio on Raynham Road when I visit London again! I also took part in the crowd-funding (such a brilliant idea) of some 2019 launches by 4160 Tuesdays, including Clouds’ Illusion, Christmas Concert, and Meet Me On The Corner
  3. Perfume-making workshop in Nice, at Parfum Et Vous, recommended by Megan of the blog “MeganInSainteMaxime.” It was a beginners’ workshop, but so much fun! And I was introduced to a line of fragrances I hadn’t tried before, Baruti.
  4. Meeting Megan in Cannes, and visiting the office of Atelier des Ors, including meeting its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont and trying several of its fragrances which were created by Marie Salamagne: Nuda Veritas, Crepuscule des Amesand Choeur des Anges.
  5. The publication of Neil Chapman’s wonderful book, “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent.” Neil writes one of the longest-running and best blogs about perfume, “The Black Narcissus“; he is a true connoisseur and collector of fine fragrance as well as a very interesting, creative person. It was so exciting to read about his work on the book and its eventual publication and launch!
  6. Learning how to use Instagram!
  7. Two very special fragrance sets/Christmas gifts, which I can’t wait to explore: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ 2019 Heirloom Elixir Collection, and Sarah McCartney’s “January Joy Box” from 4160 Tuesdays.
  8. Giving in to temptation and ordering Papillon Perfumery‘s Bengale Rouge. It hasn’t arrived yet, from Ave Parfum, but I expect it shortly! This has been one of the most highly rated perfumes of 2019; given how much I love Dryad, I’m excited to have this.
  9. The continued success of St. Clair Scents, another independent artisan perfumer, whose fragrances Gardener’s Glove, Frost, Casablanca, and First Cut I thoroughly enjoyed in 2018. Although I haven’t yet reviewed them, this year’s issue of Pandora and Eve , the “Audacious Innocence Collection”, shows us that Diane St. Clair is here to stay, thank goodness, in perfumery as well as her legendary butter.
  10. Getting to try L’Iris de Fath, thanks to the wonderful associate at Jovoy Paris’ London store.

Some of the blogosphere’s “Best of 2019” lists:

Australian Perfume Junkies

Bois de Jasmin

A Bottled Rose

Cafleurebon

Colognoisseur

I Scent You A Day

Persolaise

What were some of your fragrant highlights of 2019? Feel free to comment broadly, it’s a broad category! Thank you for reading my online musings this year.

Featured image: Fleurs et Flammes, Antonio Alessandria Parfums.

Thunking Thursday: First Cut

Thunking Thursday: First Cut

Today I am thunking my precious sample of St. Clair Scents‘ First CutI’m tempted to get a travel size bottle of it, especially as she has a promo code for 10% off all bottles between now and Valentine’s Day: LOVE10. I don’t think I will, though; I have plenty of scents to enjoy. Besides, I might rather get Gardener’s Glove!

How did your own thunking go this week? Anyone care to post a total for January? I think Brigitte is in the lead …

Small (Scent) Business Saturday

Small (Scent) Business Saturday

Happy weekend, fragrance friends! Today is “Small Business Saturday”, an opportunity to shop locally, and support small independent businesses — like many of the perfumers and fragrance retailers we all love. Some have special discounts this weekend; others simply offer the same reasonable prices many have year-round. The list below is somewhat arbitrary, but most are websites I have used myself.

Discounts (some started yesterday):

DSH Perfumes: sparkle2018 (20% off sitewide); gifts with purchase also available.

Indigo Perfumery: blackfriday2018 (20% off full bottles)

Le Jardin Retrouve: free shipping worldwide this weekend

PK Perfumes: PKCYBER30 (30% sitewide and free shipping)

Shelley Kyle: THANKFUL (30% off sitewide)

Smell Bent: WONDERFUL (40% off sitewide)

Twisted Lily: THANKYOU2018 (20% off entire order)

Independent perfumers (mostly in the US) who sell directly:

Aftelier Perfumes

Dame Perfumery

En Voyage Perfumes

Eris Parfums

Lili Bermuda

Providence Perfume Company

Sixteen92: various codes for discounts depending on purchase

Solstice Scents

St. Clair Scents

Independent perfumeries (retailers):

Aedes Perfumery

American Perfumer

Arielle Shoshana

LuckyScent: special Black Friday sample set

Perfumology

Smallflower Apothecary (Merz)

The Perfumed Court (samples and decants)

Twisted Lily perfume store in Brooklyn NY

Twisted Lily store; image from http://www.timeout.com.

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Fragrance Friday: First Cut

Diane St. Clair is a dairy farmer and artisan maker of butter so good that she supplies it to the legendary French Laundry restaurant, among others. She is also now an artisan perfumer, having launched her first three scents earlier this year under the name St. Clair Scents. I’ve already written about Gardener’s Glove; today, I’ll take a look (or sniff!) at First Cut.

The name refers to the first mowing of a hayfield, in late summer. This is an important time at a dairy farm, as the mown hay will provide fodder for the cows during the winter. Here is the description of First Cut from St. Clair Scents’ website:

The hay harvest is the focus of every dairy farmer’s summer, keeping the fields regenerating and providing hay for the cows in winter.

The mowing and drying of native grasses, clovers, wild flowers, and legumes takes three days of sunshine and many hours of hard work.

This scent is of meadows, herbaceous and green, with wild flowers strewn throughout and splashed with radiant sunshine.

  • Top Notes: Bergamot, Yuzu, Rosemary, Basil, Tomato Leaf Absolute
  • Middle Notes: Lavender Absolute, Rose De Mai, Rose Geranium, Immortelle Absolute
  • Base Notes: Hay Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Oakmoss, Vanilla Absolute

The opening is strong and appealing — so much so, that my husband suddenly asked, after I had dabbed some on my wrist, “What smells so good?” The bergamot and yuzu really pop. I don’t normally like yuzu in fragrance, but here it really works, as it is dominated by the bergamot I prefer, and accompanied by the herbal notes of rosemary, basil, and tomato leaf. I can’t really pick out the rosemary and basil separately, but all the top notes blend harmoniously into a bright, herbal announcement that something special has arrived.

Kafkaesque offers her usual in-depth, insightful analysis, noting that First Cut merges aspects of both a traditional “fougere” fragrance and a “chypre”. As fougere scents more traditionally appear in men’s fragrances, I’m not as familiar with them, so I’ll share some of what I have learned. Most notably, the classic fougere includes a strong presence of lavender combined with oakmoss and coumarin, the latter widely considered to evoke the scent of sweet hay. And no wonder, based on this information from Fragrantica:

Coumarin … is a synthesized material in most perfumes, but it’s also found in abundance in natural products, such as tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata) where it is the principle aromatic constituent (1-3%). In fact the name derives from “cumaru”, an Amazonian dialect name for the Tonka bean tree. But that’s not all: apart from tonka beans, coumarin also occurs naturally in “vanilla grass” (Anthoxanthum odoratum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet clover (Meliotus L.), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) among other species.

First Cut is all about hay, and there among the base notes is “hay absolute”, so we see the relationship to a classic fougere, together with the traditional lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco notes. Unlike a traditional fougere, though, here the lavender is clearly present but not dominant, which I prefer.

In my review of St. Clair Scents’ Gardener’s Glove, I described the meadow that bordered my father’s vegetable garden, the garden that Gardener’s Glove evoked for me. First Cut evokes that meadow and the same sense of a French potager, an enclosed garden that includes vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs. This potager, however, is not in New England but in the South of France, with its classic Mediterranean notes of lavender, rosemary, basil, rose de Mai, and citruses. It is on a farm, bordered by hay meadows and lavender fields which figure as much in this fragrance as the kitchen garden.

Filed of lavender and hay meadow on French farm in Provence

Lavender field in Provence; image from https://birdshooter.smugmug.com/

One of the many interesting things about First Cut is that it dries down in a way that mimics the maturing of a hayfield! The initial phase is very fresh, herbal and green, especially with those green herbs and tomato leaf absolute, like the fresh greenness of early summer. The middle stage is more floral, but in the way that midsummer clover is “floral”, nothing like the Big White Flowers. I think it is the immortelle that starts making the fragrance feel drier, as the middle stage leads into a base of dry tobacco, dry hay, dry oakmoss (and vanilla, which adds the creaminess and sweetness that Kafkaesque noted, and balances the dry notes). I love this creative progression and how it summons up the months from early summer through the peak of summer, ending with the late summer hay harvest known as the “first cut.” Brilliant! Even the lingering sweetness in the base is reminiscent of late summer honey from bees that have gorged on meadow flowers. I wonder if Diane St. Clair keeps honeybees?

Wooden beehives in multi-colored wildflower meadow.

Beehives in wildflower meadow; image from http://www.apiplanet.lt.

I like First Cut very, very much — and if you are a man, or have a man in your life, who loves fougeres, try this!  So far, of the two St. Clair Scents I have really tested, my heart still belongs to Gardener’s Glove, but First Cut is beautiful, pleasing, and clever all at once. As the late great perfumer Guy Robert is said to have told many people:  “Un parfum doit avant tout sent bon (A perfume must above all smell good).” First Cut smells very, very good.

Samples kindly provided by St. Clair Scents; opinions are my own.