Scent Semantics, February 7, 2022

Scent Semantics, February 7, 2022

This month’s Scent Semantics word is “taste”. Among other challenges in writing about that word and fragrance, I don’t own many gourmand fragrances, it’s not a category that particularly appeals to me above others. Then my blogging friend Nose Prose posted recently about Belgian chocolates that were inspired by Guerlain fragrances, ordered after an article about them in Fragrantica, and that sent me in a new direction.

It is a truism in reading and writing about fragrance that the sense of smell is intimately linked to the sense of taste; and we’ve had our noses rubbed in that, so to speak, during a pandemic in which an early symptom for many people, including one of my daughters, was the loss of their sense of smell. The absence of smell also deprives most people of their sense of taste, and that was her experience. (Luckily, hers started to come back after about a week, as she recovered from COVID-19 pretty quickly, and is now fully restored). Without smell, there is very little taste, which chefs know well, but we usually think of that in terms of spices and aromatic edibles. Some chefs and others have taken this a step further; I love the notion of creative food artists taking their inspiration from perfume, as well as perfumes inspired by cocktails.

Here’s what Nose Prose wrote, in part, about the Guerlain-inspired chocolates after actually ordering and tasting them:

The milk chocolate heart, inspired by L’Homme Idéal, is half praliné with roasted sesame seeds and half almond and green tea “with a hint of matcha.” This one is the most textured of the three, which suits itssavory flavor notes. Matcha seems to find a way to go well with everything.

The red heart made of white chocolate is inspired by La Petite Robe Noire and filled with half dark chocolate ganache with cherries and half praliné with hazelnuts. This fusion brings together the best of both worlds, which are usually enjoyed separately.

Finally, the dark heart inspired by Mon Guerlain is half dark chocolate ganache with bergamot and half milk chocolate ganache with lavender and chili. This I found to be a brilliant combination and despite my usual preference for milk chocolate over dark chocolate, this was my favorite of the three. I would love to see bergamot used more in food and drink besides Earl Grey tea.

Box of Valentine's heart-shaped chocolates
Neuhaus “perfume” chocolates; image from Neuhaus.

Aren’t they pretty? I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate, but it seems as if there are more drinks inspired by perfumes than chocolates. There are “mixologists” who have created cocktails based on famous fragrances. Vogue magazine even published a few recipes so we can make some at home, and so has Creed. I’m not much of a cocktail aficionado, but the descriptions of these makes them sound very alluring. Probably the most famous bar doing this work is Fragrances, a bar in the Berlin Ritz-Carlton, which began with a cocktail based on Guerlain’s Jicky: “One perfume in particular, Jicky by Guerlain, the oldest continuously produced perfume in the world, inspired him to deconstruct its ingredients. The result was a cocktail made with bergamot, vanilla, lavender, rosemary, and lemon.” Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Ten years ago, the Food 52 blog posted about a special four-course dinner designed as a collaboration between the chef, fragrance house MCMC, and perfumer Anne McClain. Now that’s a challenge! It makes sense to base cocktails on fragrances, as they both use notes of various herbs, fruits, florals — but an entire dinner?

My fantasy dinner menu would probably start with a citrus of some kind, to emulate top notes — perhaps a grapefruit salad with mint leaves, garnished with jasmine blossoms for scent only, inspired by Jo by Jo Loves.

Salad of grapefruit segments with mint
Grapefruit mint salad; the Food Network.

That could be followed by a cold soup, maybe with melon, tangerine and plum, harking to Le Parfum de Therèse by Edmond Roudnitska.

Bowl of chilled plum soup with flavored ice
Plum, honeydew, and tarragon soup; Gourmet magazine

What to do about a main course, though? I don’t know many fragrances based on the odors of fish, meat, or poultry, so we’ll either have to stay vegetarian or pick a main course where the focus is on an aromatic sauce. Basil is a clear contender, but that immediately brings to mind pesto, which has a lot of garlic, so my menu will have to be more creative. I think a Thai dish would suit, with a combination of basil, coconut, spices, lime, ginger — and that sounds a lot like Yosh’s Ginger Ciao.

Bowl of vegan Thai curry
Vegan thai basil curry with lime and coconut; from Let’s Be Vegan.

Dessert course? I think that must be a lemon/vanilla soufflé, with a touch of bergamot and mandarin orange, inspired by Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, created by Thierry Wasser.

Lemon souffle in ramekin
Lemon soufflé; image from The New York Times.

Coffee, anyone? There are so many fragrances that include notes of coffee, I’ll let you decide which one appeals to you to finish out our fragrant dinner. What might you have on your own fragrant menu? Don’t forget to check out the posts by the other Scent Semantics bloggers!

Scent Semantics blog list
Scent Semantics, November 2021

Scent Semantics, November 2021

The inimitable Portia has come up with a new game for us perfumistas, to take place on six different blogs, every month! The chosen day for “Scent Semantics” is the first Monday of each month. The bloggers will take turns choosing a single word, then write a fragrant reflection on it. That could be a memory, of a scent the word evokes or something else, an actual name of a scent or note, a favorite work of art, whatever comes to mind. And readers can play in the comments, or just comment on the post!

The participating blogs are: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog!

Scent Semantics blog list

Portia chose the first word: “brave.” I have a fragrance I like to wear to feel brave, on days when I want a little confidence boost. It is Chanel No. 19. I hadn’t really thought of it that way until I started reading more about fragrance a few years ago, and learned that many people find it challenging, elegant but remote and even, one might say, a bit bitchy.

I feel it helps me straighten my shoulders and stiffen my backbone. This is just a conceit, of course, but No. 19 is undoubtedly cool, elegant, a bit unapproachable. I wear it when I anticipate conflict of some kind, especially at work. It reminds me to stay cool, and use my intellect instead of my emotions while I navigate whatever the conflict is. The version I have is the vintage eau de toilette, which means that the galbanum and oakmoss are full-force presences. I love both of them, there is just something about their bitter greenness that appeals to me (I also love bitter greens and vegetables, like arugula, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, etc., and we know that the senses of taste and smell are closely linked). Bergamot is another astringent note, one that I also associate with the color green.

Bitter greens; image from Splendid Recipes

Among No. 19’s floral notes are also some of my favorite flowers, which I think my subconscious must find comforting as well as empowering: hyacinth, iris, rose, lily of the valley, narcissus. Perfumes aside, those are flowers I grow myself, and grew up with, since my parents were avid gardeners. The heart of No. 19 is not bitter, or particularly green although the galbanum continues to make itself felt, but the most prominent flower notes are cool ones, like iris, orris root, lily of the valley, and narcissus. This is the stage when I think many perfume lovers find No. 19 lovely but remote — a bit standoffish.

The base notes are stern, dominated by oakmoss, vetiver, and leather. Minor players are cedar, musk, and sandalwood — all warmer notes than the dominant ones. Taken together, No. 19 gives me a quick burst of energy at the start, with bergamot’s brightness and galbanum’s assertiveness, then comes a heart phase that is more cerebral than ebullient, finishing with the formal base of its chypre structure. If that won’t stiffen a woman’s resolve and backbone, I don’t know what will! All of these impressions align with the presentation of my vintage EDT; I have the tall, refillable spray canister, with its square but rounded edges, its sleek columnar shape, its brushed silvery metal casing. If I had to pick a female incarnation of this fragrance, it would be another fashion diva, sometimes compared to Chanel: Diane von Furstenberg as she was in the 1970s, building a fashion empire on a simple wrap dress.

Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in office
Diane von Furstenberg, 1974

What fragrance or fragrant memory might you associate with the word brave?

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

Perfume Chat Room, October 29

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, October 29, and I have exciting news to share! Portia from Australian Perfume Junkies, now posting on A Bottled Rose, has organized a group of us bloggers to engage in monthly “Scent Semantics”, when we will post on the same day (first Monday of each month) a fragrance-related reflection on a single word, linking it to a particular scent. We’ll take turns choosing the “word of the month.” You’ll have to check back on Monday to find out which word is first! And I hope you’ll join in this word game in the comments!

Portia provided this wonderful definition, by way of explaining the name of the game:

Scent Semantics, from “Semantics (Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a][1] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”

I love this name because in college, I majored in Classical Languages and Literature, with an emphasis on Ancient Greek. My official WordPress account name and email is The Wise Kangaroo, which is a mnemonic used by English speakers to remember a particular Greek metrical pattern from Ancient Greek lyric poetry and drama, about which I wrote my thesis.

The participating blogs are:

Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog next week!

In other excitement this week, Halloween is coming up on Sunday and here in the USA, public health officials have given a green light to the traditional trick-or-treating. As they noted, it is by definition an outdoor activity that usually includes masks, lol. So now I have to stock up on candy, because our neighborhood of old houses placed close together and linked by sidewalks is a very popular destination for families with treat-seeking children. Not only do we get kids from the neighborhood itself, other families drive here, park, and walk around with their kids. All are welcome! Even the long-leggedy beasties.

Halloween costumed dogs
Dogs as long-leggedy beasties

Do you have any Halloween plans? Any favorite scents to wear on Halloween? I think I may have to pull out some of my spookier samples from Solstice Scents.

Colorful jack o' lanterns with face masks
Pumpkins with face masks
Perfume Chat Room, June 11

Perfume Chat Room, June 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, June 11, and we are still processing a very enjoyable wedding weekend just past! It was the wedding of our nephew (also our godson), in Baltimore, and we had such a wonderful time! I was able to see my two sisters for the first time in a year and a half (last visit was October 2019), as well as some cousins. My kids spent the whole weekend with all their first cousins on my side of the family, and it was a joy to see how much fun they have together. We spent part of Saturday poking around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which has grown so much in the thirty years since my husband and I were last there, and we ate wonderful crabcakes. The wedding itself was beautiful, as were the bride and groom.

I wore Sonoma Scent Studio‘s Champagne de Bois, from a travel spray that was a kind gift from Undina, and it was just right — thank you, Undina! I am so glad that Sonoma Scent Studio has been revived by a new owner with the original fragrance lines. Support the independent artisan perfumers! They’ve had a tough year. Last weekend was a tonic for the spirit. I’m an introvert and quite a homebody, so I haven’t minded most of the past year in terms of working from home, not going out, etc., but it was lovely to be able to gather, and socialize, and even dance.

Have you been on an airplane recently, or a large gathering?

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
Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

Great Perfumes, from the NY Times

The New York Times has a “style” periodical supplement called, simply, “T”.  Earlier this month, T editors were polled about their favorite fragrances: Great Perfumes, Recommended by T Editors. I must say, though, I chuckled when I read this: “Perfumes are my obsession: I have a wardrobe of about 30 I cycle through.” That editor needs to meet some of the fragrance bloggers I read, or even some members of the group Facebook Fragrance Friends, who own HUNDREDS of perfumes! Even I, a relative newbie, have more than 30. On the other hand, that editor may be at the more sophisticated stage of having owned dozens upon dozens of fragrances once upon a time, and now, like Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass, one of my top favorite blogs, being more educated and selective with the result that she has winnowed her collection of the chaff. I’d still put Undina’s collection up against most, from the little I’ve read about it, including this T editor’s! I mean, she has a DATABASE of her collection. Some day I hope to emulate that level of organization and commitment. Right now, to borrow one of Undina’s many memorable phrases, I am often still “kissing an army of frogs instead of spending days with already realized kings.” (And enjoying myself thoroughly, I might add).

But back to the T editors and their choices. Another phrase I loved in the article was when one editor described herself as “polyamorous when it comes to perfume.” Another writes of her discovery of fine fragrance after she read Chandler Burr’s article in The New Yorker that became his book The Perfect Scent, which describes the development of Jean-Claude Ellena’s first fragrance as the new in-house perfumer for Hermes:

The story had captured my imagination. I think, deep down, I so badly wanted to be the elegant woman Ellena considers wearing his scent as he roams through Egypt recording smells (lotus root, nasturtium) in his notebook. In recent years, I’ve diversified what scents I wear, but I always return to Jardin Sur Le Nil. Perhaps because if it once made me think I was luxurious, now it reminds me of a younger, more impressionable version of myself.

That book was my downfall too — I read it as part of my research when I was writing a script about two rival perfumers, and down the rabbit-hole I went.

The article is an entertaining summary of fragrance choices by beauty editors who have access to everything; it’s interesting to read what they love and why. I hope T Magazine publishes more articles about fragrance! Have you read any recent articles about scent that captured your attention or imagination? Any of the finalists for the Perfumed Plume award?

Featured image from http://www.nytimes.com, by Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi for T Magazine.