The Scent of Irises and Earth

One of Monet's Iris bed paintings

One of Monet’s Iris bed paintings

Iris was never my favorite garden flower.  This should be admitted right away because I know many people love iris whether in perfume or in flower form, and the taste for them has been a long time coming in this case.

My mother who was a better gardener than I am, always adored iris and always had them in some form or other in her garden beds. In Vermont I remember Siberian irises being her choice probably because of their hardiness.  I found that the old bearded Iris germanica* grew like topsy in the cold little town we inhabited.  I inherited three big clumps of it which had to be divided, and I did a very clumsy job of hacking the rhizomes ( what is the difference between a root and a rhizome? See illustration) and then dropping (!), some around the yard where they actually took root and thrived.  I was literally lousy with iris. Continue reading

Iris in Disguise

iris wallpaper print late 19th century

iris wallpaper print late 19th century

Iris is one of the most expensive notes in the world of perfumery, or used to be, before the development of anisaldehyde, and Alpha Irones or the heavy synthetic iris Irival that makes an appearance in Iris Silver Mist. As you can see these days iris is unlikely to be natural, the cost alone more or less precludes that, but there are plenty of irises on the market some self advertising, some not.

Among the synthetics my personal favorite has to be the discontinued ShalimarParfum Initial.  This perfume had nothing to do with Shalimar, instead the scent had a good deal in common with Dior Homme and DH’s lovely synthetic iris note was reproduced but lightened just a little bit.  They were pretty close to one another as compositions.  I went out and spritzed Dior Homme from my local Sephora and then Shalimar PI and found out how close the kinship was.  They were siblings really, not even cousins. The Shalimar PI * did not prosper.  I suppose the fact that the new perfume had nothing to do with actual Shalimar hurt the sales in the end since those who loved Shalimar could not love this new iris concoction. Continue reading

Do We Adopt Our Perfumes?

 

new Bottle of Anne Pliska from Luckyscent

new Bottle of Anne Pliska from Luckyscent

Long ago when I first started this blog I asked the same simple question, and in the years since then have become more convinced of the reply: we adopt.  This may not be the experience of my readers.  There may be several people out there who find that when making a selection they choose simply the best made, the most beautiful perfume, not the trendy one or the one their best friend wears so well.  Still I’d make book that for most of us there is something in certain perfumes that takes up residence on our skins and we scarcely know why. Continue reading

The Sensuous Wallflower

Wallflowers from Unwins UK

Wallflowers from Unwins UK

Wallflowers are not supposed to be sexy, I know, but the flower Cheiranthus Cheiri has a wonderful rich scent that is sensual.  Usually their fragrance is described as being halfway between lillies and carnations, which is a hard notion to get your head around.  Carnations can be green and sparkling and spicy, and lilies are green but creamy and with that big old white flowered whiff that makes them an irresistible choice for Spring, but few people think of walflowers in that capacity at all.

However the scent has made a few appearances in perfumery, though not very often and not very recently.  The all time famous one, if anything regarding Wallflowers can said to be famous, is Dior’s Dune, that monster hit from 1993, which among its wood and floral notes also contains wallflower. Continue reading

Life with Fleurs de Rocaille

Fleurs de Rocaille parfum

Fleurs de Rocaille parfum

The other day I acquired a classic: Fleurs de Rocailles.  This particular classic isn’t in vogue.  Right now I’d say that weighty orientals are all the rage , but this is a season in which Spring cannot come soon enough for me, so when I saw a bottle of Fleurs de Rocaille on Ebay I bought. Then the perfume arrived packed with extravagant care, and I discovered the old extract had never been opened. I was the very first wearer of this perfume which must have been forty years old or older. How appropriate. Continue reading

Tainted By Association

Cedarwood Juniperus viginiana from London essential oils

Cedarwood Juniperus viginiana from London essential oils

Some lovely perfumes and time honored scent ingredients go out of commerce for the oddest reasons.  Take for instance the case of cedar wood. That’s a wonderful scent and many perfumers like to work with the essential oil but for a sizeable number of the public cedarwood is inextricably linked to pet shops.

I first realized this after a discussion with one of my Connecticut neighbors who told me that she couldn’t stand the smell of cedarwood in anything, “I just think of hamster cages,” she said.  After that conversation with Susan I began to have a clearer idea of what it is that perfumers are up against all the time: association. Continue reading

What Is That Smell?

Gorey

Gorey

One of the trends that I noticed most particularly in 2014 was the increasing inclusion of powerful synthetics in high end perfumes-including niche.  Ouch.  Many materials hurt my nose, many give me headaches, and all of them are horrid when encountered in the subway or worse, a restaurant.

Back in the early Oughts when the trend was for whisper-thin wraith perfumes in the wake of the attack of unsophisticated pudgy gourmand fragrances which had bowed the shelves at Sephora, all you could smell was the retreating tiptoe of L’Eau d’Issey off consumers’ skins. You may not have liked E d I, but at least the stuff was discreet.  Continue reading

Growing the Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena from Sunlanherbs.com

Lemon Verbena from Sunlandherbs.com

In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett’s mother smells of lemon verbena, and in heaven knows how many other households of the 19th and twentieth centuries other mothers and grandmothers did too.  Lemon Verbena in cologne or sachet form was the antidote to sticky, peal your organza blouse off your back summer days below the Mason-Dixon line.  Lemon Verbena and iced tea in large Ball jam jar travelers to trek to the post box and back battled thick air and heavy legs.

I grew up as a little girl in Northern Virginia and Maryland where the summers were hot and sticky enough to please any reptile and where the perfume of choice was either White Shoulders or else these antique sachets.  Some old timers would even brew their  colognes – why not?  They also made their own White Lightning, a sore point with the local sheriff who was always trying to track down and close the stills. I get the impression that the stills at least are a continuing phenomenon of rural Southern life in the States.

Continue reading

2014: The year of Floral Orientals and Aldehydes

A chorus girl from  The Bluebell

A chorus girl from The Bluebell

Everyone of consequence in the perfume blogging sphere comes up with lists of the best and worst at the end of the year.  I am not of consequence and anyhow a bit out of step.  Not impressed with Narciso and not a fan of the rapidly metastasizing Francis Kurkdijian display at Neiman  Marcus.   I like the sparkly light frags he specializes in, but not endlessly. A gal’s got to wear something other than the perfume equivalent of sequined pasties and ostrich feather thongs you know-even if she currently lives in Jersey!  Though it is only fair to say that the husband thought he could see an upside to the style.

This was the year in which I really went and explored the offerings of US perfumers and I have to return to that exploration at the end of the year and say again how impressed I was. Most impressed by how well two genres of fragrance had been mastered by these perfumers: the floral oriental and the floral aldehyde.  Continue reading

Wearing Vintage

Opium advert

Opium advert

A disclaimer here, I’ve always worn vintage clothes.  I did stop after the age of forty, but in my twenties I never wore anything more recent than the fifties-why?  Contemporary stuff was much less chic. So my take on old perfume tends to follow the same pattern, if it works why not wear it? Perfumes are not antiques, you can use them.  The question is where and how?  Some old perfumes have become cliches and everyone knows what you are wearing or thinks that they do- which can be worse Continue reading