Fragrance Friday: Neil’s Book “Perfume”

I am in awe of the fact that Neil Chapman, author of the blog The Black Narcissus, has written and had published an actual BOOK! It is called “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent”, and it just came out in the US (it came out a short time earlier, in March, in the UK). You can buy it on Amazon, where I had pre-ordered it; I came home from work earlier this week to find the package waiting on my doorstep. It is also available online and at booksellers such as Blackwell’s and Barnes & Noble.

As others have written, the book itself is beautiful, a hardcover volume with an Art Deco cover design in black, gold, and silver, and gold-edged pages. If you have ever read The Black Narcissus, you know that Neil is a wonderfully gifted writer with wide-ranging interests. His posts about fragrance include many cultural references and observations from his years living in several countries, from his childhood and youth in England, to his current home in Japan. He studied Italian and French literature at Cambridge University, and he now teaches English to Japanese secondary school students. His literary sensibilities suffuse his writing, but he also includes deeply personal reminiscences and a vast knowledge of perfume: history, ingredients, creators, etc.

Neil’s individual reviews of specific perfumes are grouped into categories such as “Green”, then by notes like “grasses, leaves and herbs.” (As a lover of green fragrances myself, I was thrilled that this is the first chapter!) It is a remarkably user-friendly format with an exhaustive index if one just wants to read one review of a specific fragrance. Neil has a poetic sensibility and lifelong love of perfume, both of which his writing reflects. As he says, “In its wordless abstraction, a beautifully made scent can encapsulate an emotion; smell, with its visceral link to the unconscious, is unique in its emotional immediacy.” His short reviews of individual fragrances combine information about their components and creation with his own reactions to wearing them, or memories of times when he wore them. Since his own perfume collection must number in the thousands, including many rare vintage perfumes, even the most profligate collectors of perfumes will find surprises and revelations. However, the book is also a very accessible guide for those who are just exploring fragrance, or, as he writes, “a guide through a world that can at times seem overwhelming.”

Bravo, Neil! I’m wearing Vol de Nuit in your honor today! To learn more about Neil, check out this interview on the blog “Olfactoria’s Travels.”

Scent Sample Sunday: Vol de Nuit

Scent Sample Sunday: Vol de Nuit

Within the last few months, I scored a purse spray of vintage Vol de Nuit extrait de parfum, a Guerlain masterpiece. I had previously been able to buy what I think is actually the most beautiful Vol de Nuit bottle, which doesn’t contain liquid at all — it is the limited edition shimmer powder’s blue-green flacon, the twin of the famous propeller bottle of the original parfum.

Blue green atomizer bottle of Guerlain's Vol de Nuit shimmer powder

Vol de Nuit shimmer powder; image http://www.guerlain.com

Propeller bottle of Guerlain's Vol de Nuit parfum

Vol de Nuit parfum; www.guerlain.com

But honestly, when would one have the opportunity to wear them? What occasion? What ensemble to wear with them?

Last night was the night.

My husband and I went to a benefit auction last night, and after much pondering, I decided that a simple cocktail dress in black velvet with tiny black sequins and short sleeves would be my outfit, combined with a necklace of white baroque pearls that was given to me by one of my dearest friends. I couldn’t decide what fragrance to wear, though. Amouage Gold EDP was a leading contender, as I’ve worn it before to dressy events and I always enjoy it. Then I thought of the Alaia extrait de parfum I bought last year, which is also beautiful. And it hit me — I could finally use the shimmer powder! And now I had the parfum to go with it! So Vol de Nuit it was.

Victoria at Bois de Jasmin reviewed the shimmer powder when it came out in 2011:

The powder itself is tinted a silvery shade closer to mother of pearl than polished metal. It is a complex color, with peach and blue creating an ethereal effect. Although Guerlain suggests using the powder for both face and body, I find that it is too cool for my warm complexion. However, it looks beautiful sprayed lightly on the shoulders and chest. The sparkling particles are quite fine, so the impression is opalescent and soft, rather than disco ball glitzy.

I took her advice and sprayed it on my neck and chest, plus a bit on my arms. It is possible to apply it very lightly, for just a hint of glimmer. I think it’s important to have well-moisturized skin before using it, but the moisturizer should be unscented. as the powder itself is scented, albeit lightly. The baroque pearls looked beautiful against the slight shimmer on my neck.

The parfum went on the pulse points behind my ears and inside my elbows. I often apply on my inner elbows instead of my wrists when wearing short sleeves. It’s easier to control the spray, and I can diffuse it on my skin just by bending the crook of my elbow instead of rubbing wrists together (which some perfumistas discourage).

My theater artist daughter did my makeup for me; I don’t usually wear much makeup, so I’m not the best judge of what will work. I may never look so chic again!

How was the fragrance? It was celestial. Neil at The Black Narcissus has described Vol de Nuit better than almost anyone: “Journey Into Light: Vol de Nuit by Guerlain (1933).”

And yes, this is how I felt, although any resemblance is strictly fanciful and internal:

Ad for Guerlain's Vol de Nuit shimmer powder

Vol de Nuit limited edition shimmer powder from Guerlain.

What fragrance makes you feel most glamorous? When do you wear it?