Scented Advent, December 12

Scented Advent, December 12

My Advent calendar surprise today is a sample from a brand I’ve been wanting to try, Maison Trudon. That company has a long history as makers of fine candles, supplying Versailles and cathedrals with famously white, less smoky, beeswax candles, a business that continued through revolutions and restorations. In this century, the company has focused mostly on very high-end, perfumed candles; and in 2017, it began producing perfumes under the simple name “Trudon”, working with noted perfumers such as Lyn Harris, Antoine Lie, and Yann Vasnier.

The latter was the creator of today’s scent, Mortel. M. Vasnier has a real gift for accords that involve spices and resins, which is on full display in Mortel. According to the brand’s website, it has notes of: Pimento, Black Pepper (top); Mystikal, Somalian Frankincense (heart); Benzoin Resin, Pure Cistus, and Myrrh (base). Fragrantica also lists nutmeg as a top note, and woody notes in the heart and base. Mystikal is a Givaudan captive molecule that specifically smells like burning incense. Wow, it really does! It doesn’t smell particularly smoky, which I appreciate.

Bottle of Mortel eau de parfum, from Cire Trudon
Mortel, by Cire Trudon; image from brand website.

I’ve written before about the use of incense in traditional Christian services, including the funeral mass for my late mother-in-law. As I wrote there, she absolutely loved Christmas, and I always think of her at this time of year, especially because she had made for us three beautiful pieces of cross-stitched embroidery with depictions of Father Christmas, which we bring out in December. She had just taken up the hobby of counted cross-stitch when I joined the family, and she became a very accomplished needlewoman; her later works had the tiniest stitches, on real linen fabric. I began doing it myself after she showed me how, although I haven’t cross-stitched anything in several years (three children and a full-time job outside the home ensure that there isn’t much time for embroidery). But as I contemplate my own retirement in the next few years, and as my youngest child is no longer even a teenager, I’ve started looking again at the patterns I’ve collected over the years, and organizing my materials, thinking that I’d like to take it up again.

Back to Mortel! The heart phase that really smells like incense and frankincense lasts a good long time. It’s not overpowering as a dabber from a sample vial; if I owned a spray bottle, I would proceed with caution! I cannot emphasize enough how much this stage smells exactly like the fragrant smoke that emanates from a thurible in church. Here’s what I think is very clever, aside from the obvious quality of the materials (which one would expect in a product from a company that has specialized for centuries in creating candles for cathedrals and palaces). The opening of black pepper and pimento is bright and a bit sharp — as if a match has been struck and is flaring up, to ignite a censer. The heart phase is all about incense and frankincense, as if one is smelling the actual incense while it burns in a church or other place of worship (the tradition of using incense in religious rites is observed in Judaism and other ancient religions).

Pope Francis, incense, Roman Catholic mass, statue of Mary and Christ Child.
Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary during Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As that dries down, the woody notes emerge, and the impression is that of an old church, whose wooden pews and structures have been so imbued with incense over centuries that the scent still floats on the air when no incense is burning. I’ve smelled that so many times, in many visits to old churches and cathedrals in Europe. Note — Mortel doesn’t have any of the damp, musty smells that can also permeate ancient churches. (A favorite family memory recalls the time when we lived in Brussels, when my sisters and I were children; our parents took us to many historic sites on weekends, making the most of our sojourn in Europe. My little sister, who was about 5 or 6 at the time, as we entered yet another cathedral on one occasion, wailed “Oh, no, not another smelly old church!”). So, to my nose, Mortel traces the progression of incense being used in a church, from the time it is lit to the time when it lingers in the wood and air as a fragrant memory. M. Vasnier himself has described the setting as an artisan’s fiery forge, but there is no doubt that this son of Brittany would know the smell of an ancient church.

Mortel and its evocation of church are especially appropriate today, which is the third Sunday in Advent, also known as “Gaudete Sunday” in more traditional liturgies. Gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin; so this Sunday, sometimes also called “Rose Sunday” because the clergy can wear rose-colored vestments, is an occasion to focus on the most joyful aspects of Advent. It is sometimes symbolized on an Advent wreath by a pink candle.

Advent wreath with colored candles
Advent with candles, including Gaudete pink candle

Have you tried any Trudon fragrances? Any favorites?

May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

May Melange Marathon: Purplelight

I like to seek out fragrance “bargain beauties”, for my own sake and for the sake of readers who may not be able to afford (or want to pay) the often eye-watering prices of niche fragrances. While there is much to recommend the practice of buying only a few, albeit expensive, high-quality fragrances, it is fun to educate one’s nose by trying many different fragrances, especially at the outset of this hobby, and that is how I acquired a number of ‘bargain beauty” fragrances. Luckily, I also have two young adult daughters, currently living at home during the pandemic, and they’re happy to share them! Of course, none would be bargains if they weren’t pleasing at some level, and likely to be used and enjoyed.

One such bargain beauty is Parfums Salvador Dali’s Purplelight. Launched in 2007, the nose behind it is Francis Kurkdjian, usually associated with much more expensive fragrances, including those from his own brand Maison Francis Kurkdjian. While Purplelight is in no way comparable to those fragrances, it is a very pleasant, soft, lilac-centered eau de toilette that works well. Its primary notes are bamboo, lilac, and musk, with companion notes of cherry blossom, jasmine, tiare flower, almond tree, and vetiver, according to Fragrantica. Purplelight followed the house’s 2006 launch of Purplelips, another lilac-forward fragrance, created by perfumers Antoine Lie and Guillaume Flavigny. I really enjoy finding pleasant bargain fragrances that have been created by well-known perfumers; as some of you know, one of my favorite bargain beauties is Adam Levine for Women, created by Yann Vasnier, who has also created fragrances for much more expensive brands like Arquiste, Frassai, Tom Ford, Comme des Garcons, Jo Malone, and others. My most recent bargain beauty fragrance line, which I wrote about earlier this week, is the Zara Emotions line created by perfumer Jo Malone (the person, not the brand). Parfums Salvador Dali has several bargain beauties, well worth exploring.

At first spray of Purplelight, what I smell most is a light green bamboo with watery undertones. As that dies down, I smell more and more of a soft lilac. This is very light also; I like the fact that to my nose, it doesn’t smell soapy, as some lilac scents do. Over a short period of time, a soft, gentle musk appears. Projection and sillage are minimal, but I can clearly smell Purplelight on my hand and wrist for a few hours. It is still possible to find gift sets of the eau de toilette that come with body lotion, and it seems likely that the two used together would increase the scent’s longevity. I enjoy Purplelight as an easy floral for warm weather or bedtime, when one doesn’t necessarily want a powerhouse or anything very challenging.

I can’t fail to mention the charming bottle for Purplelight, which matches that of its sister fragrance Purplelips. It is a rectangular column into which is set a row of concave lips. The juice inside is a light purple, which tints the bottle. The artist Salvador Dali incorporated lips into many of his artworks, and the theme has been carried into many of the bottles of Parfums Salvador Dali.

Have you tried any of the other Salvador Dali fragrances, either the bargain-priced ones or the more expensive “haute” line?

Scent Sample Sunday: Adam Levine For Her

Scent Sample Sunday: Adam Levine For Her

If you are like me, you MAY have vaguely heard the name Adam Levine. You may even know that he is the lead singer for a pop rock band. You would probably recognize many of his songs with that band, Maroon 5. Maybe you’ve seen him as a coach on The Voice (I haven’t). What I’m trying to say is that I’m not his “target audience” , even though I’ve enjoyed his songs on the radio. I wouldn’t normally seek out his particular celebrity scent, or any particular celebrity scent. And yet I find myself recommending this one more than I would ever have expected, especially in colder weather, so I might as well explain why!

I have found that there are some perfume “noses” whose work often meshes with my own nose; some are mainstream perfumers working with big fragrance houses and companies, and some are truly indie perfumers, creating for their own niche brands. One of the more mainstream perfumers whose work I enjoy more often than not is Yann Vasnier. He has created several for Arquiste, including my initial discovery of his work, the two Arquiste fragrances for J. Crew, No. 31 and No. 57. I loved the “Bloomsbury Collection” he did in 2017 for Jo Malone, especially Blue Hyacinth.  The Arquiste for J. Crew fragrances were discontinued some time ago, so I was browsing around for a similar scent, and looking up other fragrances by M. Vasnier, and I came across Adam Levine For Her, which was launched in 2013. It is truly a bargain — 3.4 fl. oz. of eau de parfum for under $15, sometimes even under $12.

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: “top notes are saffron, citruses, marigold and spices; middle notes are Indian jasmine, Australian sandalwood and rose petals; base notes are benzoin and vanilla.” The opening is pleasantly bright and spicy, and I definitely smell the marigold, too, which is a less common note in fragrance but one I like very much (I love the smell of real marigolds, but some people don’t like it at all). The middle phase of Adam Levine For Her is what I would call a “warm floral” — the jasmine and rose are softened and blurred by the sandalwood, while the spice notes of the opening persist for a while after the opening citruses have faded. This is the most floral stage of the fragrance, so I think it would work very well on many men, even those who don’t fully embrace floral notes.

The drydown becomes sweeter and warmer as the benzoin and vanilla take the stage, but not excessively so. A really clever aspect of this fragrance is that it evokes Adam Levine’s own voice, which ranges from a bright, pop-inflected tenor to a warmer, deeper range. M. Vasnier again shows an alert mind at work even behind this discount fragrance. On my skin, Adam Levine For Her lasts a long time; I like to wear it to bed because of its calm warmth and I can still smell it when I wake up. It also lasts forever on textile, and I’m seriously considering spraying it on one of my wool scarves this winter just to enjoy it wafting up to me when I’m outside. I don’t think I’ll want to wear it in the spring or summer, but it’s great for autumn.

Interestingly, when you read about it on Fragrantica, thirty (30) readers have noted that Adam Levine For Her reminds them of — wait for it — the much more expensive Santal Blush by Tom Ford in his Private Blend line, also created by Yann Vasnier. I haven’t tried Santal Blush, so I can’t speak to any resemblance, but I can say that the Whisky & Cedarwood he created for Jo Malone does remind me a lot of Arquiste for J. Crew No. 57, so it appears that he thinks about and reworks certain themes in the fragrances he creates, which makes sense. Santal Blush has more notes and probably more expensive ingredients, but if you like it, you might see if you like this more affordable sibling. Australian Perfume Junkies has an excellent review of it, from 2015; and I Scent You A Day also reviewed and liked it in 2016.

It may have been discontinued, as I often see it at various discount outlets, both brick and online, but it is still widely available for bargain prices. Earlier this year, Yves St. Laurent announced that Adam Levine would become the new face and ambassador for its 2017-launched men’s fragrance, Y. I think I’ll order a backup bottle of this fragrance for women!

Have you tried this, or any similar fragrances by M. Vasnier? Have you tried Santal Blush? Thoughts?