Japanese Roses

Rosa rugosa "Agnes"

Rosa rugosa “Agnes”

Do you like Japanese gardens?  You know, those serene landscapes with raked pebbles and a single maple tree pruned into perfect profile in the middle?

I do. They’re marvels of restraint, which I’m not, but tranquility is a major hallmark of the Japanese style and desirable in a harried world.

All of which is not to say that I can actually manage to pull off a Japanese garden here in Connecticut since, for a start, I’m not Japanese; but I can have a stab at growing a number of Japanese plants.  All except roses, I read, because according to at least one major garden designer who shall remain nameless, roses play no part in Japanese gardening. Continue reading

Everything But Shalimar

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle...

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle…

Some of the great classics are stumbling blocks.  There is something about the journey of perfumery that can make you think that you would never be the sort of person who would wear say No 5, or Mitsouko, or L’Origan, or in my case Shalimar.  Here’s the point though – you may be exactly that sort of person after all.

Maybe it’s a kind of snobbism that makes us not want to admit that some well known formula brings us as much joy as the next person, or that some perfume is just about unbeatable in its class though that’s often the case.  My own experience in  coming around to Shalimar had to do with realizing that I was already wearing Shalimar, just not the blue stoppered kind. I mean I wear leather, a lot of leather, and citrus, and vanilla and what does that add up to?  Yeah, it adds up to Shalimar Continue reading

Golconda and the Scent of Rugosas

The Darya e Noor Diamond

The Darya e Noor Diamond

Once the name Golconda was associated with only one thing: pink diamonds.  At the end  of the 17th century during the great age of the Mughal Empire in India Golconda was mined out and the sparkling vein of rose petal diamonds dried up.

Golconda is also the first of the Joel Arthur  Rosenthal fragrances, and if you have never heard of him, that may be because you are not a jewelry collector of very high net worth. Also you missed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retrospective of JAR jewelry which I curse myself for missing, because the pieces are so  lovely that seeing them just makes your day. Continue reading

A Blue Material Musk

Interior of Dome  of a mosque. Some Mosques contain musk ground into the mortar

Interior of Dome of a Mosque. Some Mosques contain musk ground into the mortar

Some time ago I  wrote about musk and the fact that I had never knowingly come across real musk in perfumery.  Now thanks to Anya of Anya’s Garden I have and the experience is not what I expected at all.

Musk is a tremendous fixative and that explains its use in perfumery for centuries.  Just how good a fixative is musk? The fragrance can last for decades if a fabric is saturated with a good musk tincture. On the skin even a small amount can make a formula persist far longer than you would think possible for a natural scent; though  Anya pointed out when I  emailed her with my question about musk that strong heart notes can also contribute to the longevity of a perfume.  Continue reading

When Calone’s Sixty Four !

RollersPfizer is the guilty party.  In 1951 they patented a chemical which mimicked a breezy marine atmosphere, a molecule which paradoxically smelled like something you could also find on dry land namely melons.  That was Calone which has been a bugaboo of mine in perfumes for as long as I can remember smelling the stuff.

I don’t think I’m unusual.  As far back as a decade ago I  remember a bunch of perfume bloggers being asked what they considered the single worst note in perfumery, the one they couldn’t get past and the answer was either “the artificial melon note” or else the “aquatic” note. Robin from Now Smell This was on record as really disliking the effect, and her opinion was not uncommon.

That didn’t change the fact that Calone had sparked the engines of a number of perfume Hummers especially in the 90′s when behemoth vehicles like Cool Water and its many knock offs dominated the male scent sales.  Recently even such indie perfumers as Andy Tauer contemplated creating a perfume based on Calone, “… there are trends.” he wrote in his blog,” Like: Calone  works for men. And women. Often. And hurray! Calone is cheap.” Continue reading

The Edwardian Abroad: Diptyque

Liberty print

Liberty print

This is a perfume house that has been active since the  60′s, and as with anything that survives such a decade, the memories may be  a bit blurred by time and opiates.  Diptyque was not created as a perfume house originally, rather the emphasis was on objects for the home (two of the founders worked for the  venerable London firm Liberty’s) but they added a fragrance in 1968, L’Eau based the site says on pomanders.

This serves to give you a taste of the aesthetic behind Diptyque.  It was to begin with visual, somewhat antiquarian, and the British taste for both dominates here, a world away from very French houses like Annick Goutal. In other word what we have is more Aubrey Beardsley than Boucher, and the gilding gives way to black and white drawings.

In fact, the ink print austerity of Diptyque has served to lend the business one of the strongest and most instantly recognizable presentations in perfumery.  In many ways their ersatz Edwardian graphic labels and bottles give them an edge over the ubiquitous rectangular minimalism of other firms whose packaging will probably become dated in a few years time.  Diptyque on the other hand always knew their own style and that individuality has served them well. Continue reading

Among the Roots

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Suddenly it’s gotten hot in Connecticut.  This sounds like an oxymoron I know.  However it can get hot in New England and usually does when you really could do without the humidity and the soaring temperatures, as in for instance when you’ve just moved north and thought it would be cooler.

Every year when the Great Heat Wave happens I’ve turned to different remedies and oddly this year my invisible cold pack is full of  iris and patchouli. I’m not sure why I decided that iris was a good remedy for heat, unless the sight of a lone Japanese iris in bloom set me off the other day. Continue reading

Nearly Uncooked Perfume

Nearly There...

Nearly There…

On the other end of my move I seem to have gotten every bottle I wanted with me intact and unharmed! Yay! There was a single mistake.  Le Temps d’un Fête stayed too long on my dressing table and somehow got crammed into the pressure-cooker known as a trailer. This was most definitely My Bad as I had decided I needed to have the bottle out for whiffs to alleviate the terrors and interminable mess ups of moving, only to find that it had been packed while I made one last harried trip to the town dump.

The moral of this story is: when moving never turn your back on packers. I should know better anyhow, since the last move I made had me trudging about our then new home for a week in my bedroom slippers.   Same story as the perfume, turn your attention elsewhere for five minutes and everything has disappeared (including all your shoes) without so much as a hey presto! to warn you. I’d have preferred a rabbit out of hat myself because it’s very hard to explain to the inquisitive staff at Subway why you are wearing gold brocade mules to order a cheese sub with everything.

The best part of this move was definitely the refrigerator in the basement of the new house, now dedicated to perfume and white wine. If I hadn’t had that wonderful appliance in place, the perfume would have suffered far more temperature changes. As it is I can enjoy all of my collection except for Temps, and am on tenterhooks to see what has happened to that bottle*.

On the good side, things have been a little cool here in New England this week and so I am hopeful that the perfume remains un-simmered. Had I been moving to Texas or Florida Le Temps might have reached a rolling boil.

As for perfume, summer is different here in Connecticut than in humid Jersey. Even though we’re now into July, summer hasn’t unpacked all her props here and so I have been wearing a great deal of vanilla meaning in my case a lot of Vanille Tonka and some Balkis which seemed cheery and appropriate with all the raspberries mixed in with roses.

The garden here, though, is the true glory of this house. It’s big, a big lawn which meanders down to a small pond (really more of a large puddle than a pond) but popular with the local wildlife. We have a pair of resident herons who like to come and do a bit of frog hunting in the puddle, and quite a lot of other birds as well, including orioles. I had almost forgotten what orioles looked like and had definitely forgotten their panicked flying style, similar to a dog paddling child’s first attempts at swimming.

This is certainly the house for green perfumes and for floral ones after I finally located Le Temps d’un Fête it came in for much wear as did With Pleasure. I’ll bet it’s fine for warm scents full of vanilla in winter. All in all, I could have done worse. Have you ever had disasters after moves, and what were they?

* Nothing. Le Temps was perfectly unaffected, and as a matter of fact my Hub’s two jars of allegedly Italian sour dough starter (Mario and Luigi) survived five days in the trailer as well. Miracles will never cease.


How Fathers Smell: Favorite Masculines

The ideal library

The ideal library

Fathers’ Day rolls around and every year I find that it’s passed and I haven’t really honored the notion of fatherhood.  My favorite masculine lives with me and is a serenely perfume unconscious man.  Get him a bar of sandalwood soap on a rope and he’s satisfied. What an  orderly, simple, and un-whiffy world the man inhabits!

But I know other men do wear fragrance. I smell it at offices and on subways, and in restaurants and supermarkets.  Masculines are big business. The trouble is, the bigness of that business doesn’t always equate to quality.  What are the best  masculines for your father, or the father of your children? Continue reading

How Not to Cook Perfume

Moving it or losing it. bookstoremovers.com

Moving it or losing it. bookstoremovers.com

This week I’m moving and so is my perfume.  Eek.  It’s summer and there is a risk involved: cooking the bottles. There was a sad post in Bois de Jasmin (called Does it Spark Joy?) that detailed Lauren’s loss of her perfume collection because she moved in July to a southern state and her stash sizzled in the heat and was largely destroyed.

You get the picture.

Now I’ve never been perfectly organized when it comes to my perfumes.  I don’t rotate and display them in a lovely feminine hat box they way Mals at The Muse in Wooden Shoes does, and I have not got the impressive methodology and discipline of Undina. While  I’m not a slob,, exactly, my samples tend to lead a free wheeling existence in old plastic bags labeled by  perfume variety.  If it says Oriental on the outside, then the likelihood is that Orientals reside on the inside-mostly.  That is, unless I forgot what I was doing and dropped a floral aldehyde in there by mistake, the way I did with Neil Morris’ Le Parfum C’est Ma Vie, which I now can’t find at all, dammit! Or – oh wait, what is that rolling around on the floor?

Continue reading