Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

Scent Sample Sunday: Dioressence

I recently obtained a mini of vintage Dioressence eau de toilette, in a blue-marbled box with a small, squarish splash bottle that resembles the vintage houndstooth bottles of other Dior fragrances from the 1980s. It is so well-suited to the current fickle weather we’re having in mid-February! I love all my spring floral fragrances but I don’t yet feel ready to pull them out again, other than an occasional spritz of Ostara to remind me that the daffodils are on their way. We’ve had weeks of cold and rain, though I’m thankful to have missed the deep freeze and unexpected snowstorms that hit other parts of the country this month. But Dioressence feels right today, as the sun shines brightly over a still-chilly landscape and my garden, where I have new raised beds that are full of soil but not yet planted.

The version I have dates from the 1980s, and it is a 1979 rework of the original, done by Max Gavarry, who worked with Guy Robert to create the original in the 1960s. I love the story of its origins, as told by Luca Turin to Chandler Burr and described in Burr’s book “The Emperor of Scent.” Apparently Guy Robert had been tasked with creating a new scent for Christian Dior that would launch with a new collection of Christian Dior ready-to-wear furs, and the brief was to create something very animalic but related to earlier Dior fragrances like Miss Dior while also contrasting with them. He was wrestling with this problem when he went to a broker’s office in London to assess some real ambergris for potential purchase. Turin’s recounting, via Burr:

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Perfume Chat Room, January 8

Perfume Chat Room, January 8

Happy New Year again, and 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, January 8, and it’s been quite a week. I know some of you don’t live in the US and are wondering what on earth is going on here. So are many Americans, except that many of us have feared exactly what we saw on Wednesday. This isn’t a political blog, so I won’t say much more, except that most of America is NOT rioting and I believe people of good will from both parties and all points of view will unite to oppose the violence the world saw in our capital this week. I have little or no such confidence in the media, social and traditional, that thrive on conspiracy theories and make money from them as clickbait.

Getting back to fragrance, but with a dose of dark humor — I believe I will pull out my discovery set from BeauFort London, which includes fragrances with notes of gunpowder and smoke. The first launches, the collection “Come Hell or High Water”, is named for aspects of British history. According to the US Capitol historian, the last time the Capitol was breached by a large hostile force was in the British invasion of DC in 1814, during the War of 1812. I first tried the BeauFort London fragrances at a favorite independent perfumery in London, Bloom, where I bought the discovery set. They are unisex, possibly leaning masculine; I especially liked Fathom V. Have you tried any of BeauFort London’s scents? Do you know of others that include a note of gunpowder? Or, in the other direction, any favorite perfumes that incorporate the word “Peace”?

Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose Anonyme

Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose Anonyme

Another truly unisex rose is Atelier Cologne’s Rose Anonyme. When it was first released in 2012, at least one reviewer (the marvelous Jessica at Now Smell This)  thought it was more feminine than many of Atelier Cologne’s fragrances. As I don’t know many of those, I can’t really say for sure, but compared to most of the florals I own, Rose Anonyme smells very gender-fluid to me. Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: Elisabethan Rose 2018

Roses de Mai Marathon: Elisabethan Rose 2018

Two years ago, I received Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose 2018 for Mother’s Day. I’ve mentioned it before, as a rose scent I like to wear around Christmas, but I haven’t given it a review of its own. And this year happens to be Penhaligon’s 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated in various ways throughout 2020, so here we go! Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: White Rose & Lemon Leaves

Roses de Mai Marathon: White Rose & Lemon Leaves

White Rose & Lemon Leaves is one of the fragrances released by Jo Loves, the brand launched by Jo Malone in 2011 when she was able to do so following the sale of the “Jo Malone” brand to Estee Lauder. Continue reading

Roses de Mai Marathon: Killer Rose

Roses de Mai Marathon: Killer Rose

For our next “Rose de Mai” (not really, as that is the name of a particular rose, Rosa centifolia — I’m just using the term because it is May!), let’s try 4160 Tuesdays’ Killer Rose. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Sylvaine Delacourte Dovana

Scent Sample Sunday: Sylvaine Delacourte Dovana

Sylvaine Delacourte is the former perfume creative director of Guerlain and current owner/founder of her own eponymous perfume brand and line. She has issued three themed collections of fragrances: the Vanilla Collection, the Musks Collection, and the Orange Blossom Collection. Dovana is one of the Musks Collection, and it is described as a “tender musk.” All of the Musks Collection are at 20% concentration, i.e. eau de parfum strength, and all are unisex.

The brand’s website says that Ms. Delacourte wanted this collection to feel like “olfactive pashiminas”, with a signature softness. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

Scent Sample Sunday: Un Jardin Sur La Lagune

One of my Christmas gifts was a bottle of Hermes’ latest “Jardin” fragrance, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. It was created by Hermes’ house perfumer, Christine Nagel, following in the footsteps of Jean-Claude Ellena. M. Ellena famously created the series starting with Un Jardin En Mediterranee in 2003, followed by Un Jardin Sur le Nil in 2005, subject of Chandler Burr’s book The Perfect Scent. (That book started me and many others on our trip down the perfume rabbit-hole!). I own and love all the Jardin fragrances, my favorite being Un Jardin Apres la Mousson.

Hermes Un Jardin series

Un Jardin fragrances, by Hermes; image from http://www.hermes.com.

This latest one was given to me as a souvenir of our first visit to Venice last summer, and a lovely souvenir it is, especially as we stayed in a serviced apartment with its own private garden on an adjoining canal, in a small restored palazzo. “La Lagune” does not refer to just any lagoon; it means, specifically, the Venetian Lagoon, which is the bay of the Adriatic Sea that surrounds the island city of Venice. One of the highlights of our trip was a journey across the Venetian Lagoon in a beautiful old-fashioned water taxi, the kind that remind me of old American “lakers”:

Wooden water taxi in Venice lagoon landscape

Venice water taxi; image from http://www.bookvenicewatertaxi.com

The excursion was arranged by our concierge, to visit a glassmaking factory in Murano; the water taxi met us at the tiny canal-side private dock of the palazzo, reached by opening the massive, ancient water gate doors of its columned cellar, which felt magical even before we had stepped into the boat and zipped through the canals into the open lagoon, with its spectacular views of Venice. Un Jardin Sur la Lagune was created by Ms. Nagel to capture the essence of a “secret garden” in Venice, the Giardino Eden, or “Garden of Eden“, that was created over a hundred years ago on the Venetian island of Giudecca by an Englishman named Frederic Eden.

Photo collage of Venetian island garden and Hermes perfumer Christine Nagel

Christine Nagel and the Giardino Eden; photos by Jenny Lin for Town & Country.

I’m not sure why, but this Jardin fragrance has drawn a lot of criticism online, in spite of several very positive reviews by knowledgeable and experienced fragrance bloggers (e.g.,  Victoria of “Bois de Jasmin“, who gave it four stars, and Thomas of “The Candy Perfume Boy“). On the other hand, it was not an immediate love for me, so maybe it just takes time to appreciate. I tried it in various stores and on my skin several times before I decided I really do like it very much and wanted a full bottle.

What is it like? It opens with a soft, citrusy, floral chord, a combination of pittosporum and magnolia. Magnolia blossoms smell lemony as well as being white florals, and apparently pittosporum blossoms smell to Ms. Nagel like a combination of orange flower and jasmine. Thomas at “The Candy Perfume Boy” nails it: the overall impression is one of honeysuckle, not magnolia. Right after the opening, madonna lilies join in, together with a saltwater or sea spray scent that is distinctive. I think that is the note that seems to give some people difficulty with the fragrance, especially if they dislike marine or aquatic fragrances; I love it. There is also a note that is not much discussed online; it is samphire, and I had to look it up. Aha! Samphire is a plant that grows near coastlines, including in Italy, along the Adriatic coast, where it is called “paccasassi” and is used in regional cuisine to add a salty, briny flavor to local dishes:

This makes perfect sense to me in reference to Un Jardin Sur la Lagune. I do smell a vegetal, briny note, reminiscent of seaweed but not as strong as seaweed. I think it must be the samphire, also called “saltwort” or “sea fennel”, and I like it very much. It is a unique accord, as far as I can tell, and a very clever one.

As it dries down, Un Jardin Sur la Lagune takes on a more woody and musky feel. This too makes sense, as Ms. Nagel has described how she was fascinated by the roots of the trees in the garden, which had pushed their way through the soil’s surface and formed webs of roots lying on the ground; they look like fishermen’s ropey nets, set aside in a rare moment of respite. (Southern magnolia trees, Magnolia grandiflora, do this even when not planted in an island garden). The wood and musk notes make this a more unisex fragrance, and I think many men would smell wonderful wearing it. It is light and subtle, as are all the Jardin fragrances, but it has excellent staying power.

The description of the launch party in Venice in “Town and Country” magazine (also mentioned in Vogue) is to die for: “A Secret Garden in Venice is the Ultimate Inspiration for Hermes’ New Fragrance.” What I would give to have attended that! But I feel very fortunate to have finally seen “La Serenissima”, especially before the record-breaking recent flood, and I hope to return some day, wearing Un Jardin Sur la Lagune.

Have you tried this, or any of the other Jardin series of fragrances? What did you think? Do you love any of that series, or do they leave you indifferent?

Bottle of Hermes fragrance Un Jardin Sur La Lagune in Venetian landscape

Un Jardin Sur la Lagune; image from http://www.hermes.com

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

Fragrance Friday: January Joy!

I was one of the lucky fans who was able to buy one of the “January Joy Boxes” made by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays this winter. The box has several 9 ml sprays of some of her limited edition or other special fragrances, and the idea was that you were supposed to wait until January to open it, to relieve any post-holiday gloom. The boxes holding the sprays are numbered and are to be opened in sequence. It was hard to wait until New Year’s Day, but I did! I’ve decided to pace myself and open one of the scents every 2-3 days, so the set lasts me all month and I have a chance to appreciate each fragrance.

The first fragrance was Temptation, a soft, sweet confection with smooth musks and a note others have described as “sugared almonds”, with vanilla anchoring it all. Sarah has written on the 4160 Tuesdays Facebook page that Temptation is the sub-base notes of Take Me To The River; it has eight notes, and it includes three different musks as well as vanillin. On my skin, it lasts for hours! It doesn’t “carry” very far, but it is delightful and I can’t stop sniffing my wrists. Now that I know its relationship to Take Me To The River, I’m going to try layering it with something else and see what happens.

Sarah has said that her fragrance Take Me To The River was inspired by the Talking Heads’ cover of that Al Green song, as that is her favorite version, but I love this one:

Who doesn’t love Al Green singing his own song, with BB King, Lenny Kravitz, and Sheryl Crow? But if we’re picking Al Green songs, the one that goes with Temptation is “Let’s Stay Together”, that smooth sweet sexy ballad full of soul.

I loved so many of the soul groups and singers of the 1970s — like the Temptations — with their roots in gospel music. I can go for years without hearing one of those songs, but just a few bars can take me back to my childhood, listening to a dinky little Panasonic transistor radio shaped like a red ball. I’ll be quite happy to think of Al Green’s music when I wear the fragrance Temptation.

Featured image from http://www.thenational.ae

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

Scent Sample Sunday: SJP Covet

I find that the fragrances I choose to wear are highly influenced by the season and the weather. This year, in my part of the US, September and even the start of October felt more like late August. Temperatures were still in the 90s almost daily, and the humidity was high in spite of near-drought conditions and lack of rain. Finally, in the past week, fall arrived. Leaves are changing color and night temperatures are in the 40s. We even turned on the heat this week, though we don’t need it during the day, when the sun still warms the air into the balmy 70s. We haven’t had the weather we usually enjoy here in October, which resembles the “Indian summer” one sees in September in the Northeast, but it is pleasant. And we finally got lots of rain, which the trees desperately needed.

What fragrances work with this oddball weather and transitional season? One could do worse than Sarah Jessica Parker’s Covet, an oddball fragrance that combines apparently disparate notes like lemon, lavender, and chocolate. Wearable by both women and men, it combines a summery freshness with aromatic lavender, over a hum of dark cocoa.

On first application, Covet displays its lemon opening notes very clearly. Some commenters dislike the opening, comparing it to lemon floor cleaner and other functional sprays. I do see what they mean, though it doesn’t hit my nose as sharply as it seems to hit theirs. Luckily, the cocoa quickly starts making itself felt, and lavender arrives shortly after that. The lemon is persistent, but it does fade into the background after about 45 minutes or so on my skin. In the middle phase, to my nose the most prominent note is lavender. I can’t say that I sense any of the listed floral notes (honeysuckle, magnolia, and lily of the valley), which would have matched it more closely to my perceptions of spring. The cocoa is still faintly present and warms up the lavender. In the dry down, moving into base notes, Covet becomes more herbal and its warmth is woody rather than chocolatey, with an undertone of musk. Longevity is good but not extraordinary.

Covet was launched in 2007, after the huge success of Lovely, the first SJP fragrance. It has been discontinued as far as I can tell, though it is still widely available at bargain prices online. In line with its odd composition, the ad campaign for it is truly weird, portraying Sarah Jessica Parker in a ball gown, kicking in a plate glass window at night to get to a bottle of the fragrance and being taken away in handcuffs by Parisian gendarmes. “I had to have it”, she declares to the camera, with a somewhat demented expression on her face.

I find Covet to be a unisex fragrance, leaning neither traditionally feminine or masculine. Do I “have to have it”? No, but I’m glad to have a small bottle, because the fragrance is interesting. It’s a transition between the mainstream prettiness of Lovely (which is indeed lovely, though not groundbreaking) and the much more daring SJP Stash. Covet is much more quirky than Lovely, but Stash is in a category of its own among celebrity scents. As many commenters have noted, if Stash came with a niche label and price tag, it would hold its own among today’s niche fragrances.

Covet turns out to be a good fit with the transitional season and weather we’re having now. Soon enough, I will want more traditional fall fragrance notes, like amber, vanilla, spices. What are your favorite fall fragrances and notes? Have you tried Covet?