All in the Execution Afterall?

L'Heure Bleue Advert

L’Heure Bleue Advert

As I was going through the usual blizzard of new releases this season, something struck me: no one perfects perfume anymore.  I know perfectly well that there are art directors at Amouage and Guerlain and Chanel and so on, but because the business model of perfumes has become the model of planned obselescense, with buyers most interested in the novelties (little suspecting that the novelties are often oldelties) you get a paradox, an ocean of novelty, mostly already passe. Continue reading

Perfumes for a Nutcracker

The NYC Ballet Nutcracker

The NYC Ballet Nutcracker

Or a sugar plum fairy for that matter; you can take your pick. The ballet’s been a Christmas tradition in the greater NYC area for ages, and it’s hard to run into young girls who haven’t been dragged to the The Nutcracker along with reluctant fathers and brothers.

The Hub was kinder than most of the former and subsidized a trip tothe theater. I remember taking my daughter and my pint sized nephew to  see the ballet in Stamford one year.  Nephew complete with miniature necktie and daughter in a frilly skirt. She was three.  Surprisingly they both had a good time and came away clutching small nutcrackers in their sticky fingers. Continue reading

Christmas in New York

New York at Christmas from Essential NY

New York at Christmas from Essential NY

People who follow the goings on at Guerlain may have noticed the discontinuation of their Voyage Olfactif Series, the one that included Tokyo, Moscow, London, New York and Shanghai.  Presumably they did not sell too well and that probably explains their demise. I did like the idea which seemed to be a light edt concentration very wearable in daytime. They had a clever concept too which was to combine a distinctive smell of each city with an indigenous food fragrance.  Tokyo- which I own- smells of cherry blossoms and green tea with a little cypress wood thrown in- no wasabi here. London smells of hard candies and rhubarb, Moscow is sweet with plums and jasmine.  One of the series was Christmas themed though:New York.  Continue reading

Paperwhite Pollution

Pperwhites in bloom  from farmingtongardensblog

Pperwhites in bloom
from farmingtongardensblog

You’ve probably done this too, perpetrated the scent of paperwhites on your near and dear because you saw one of the adorable little kits at the home center with the dehydrated peat moss disk hiding underneath a plastic pot, or else you bought the little white gravel packet and glass vase hoping to observe the snaking progress of paperwhite roots around the stones.  This dear readers is how paperwhite pollution starts, but this particular air quality issue does not end there. Continue reading

Christmas Perfumes

Roses in frost

Roses in frost

It’s one of the very first things that I do every December: change perfume.  Christmas is one of the best times for perfume, there are so many smells on the air anyhow that perfume only raises the resonance of the season  a little.

That however is the easy part, the hard part is deciding what you  feel is worthy of wearing for a month or so.  That’s not so simple.  I suppose I could do the sensible thing and simply wait for Spring to change my perfume, but I like to have something that is Christmasy on my wrist, and so get into this difficulty right on schedule every December 1st. Continue reading

Gourmands for Thanksgiving

Currier and Ives

Currier and Ives

Hobble gobble seems to be the motto of every Us citizen on November 27th.  Some of us even run marathons first in order to justify all that subsequent eating- the hub did once in Atlanta.  But I’m not in the marathon running business, and in order to keep the gluttony down to liveable levels- because I don’t intend to go up a dress size- I sometimes wear my desserts instead of ingesting them. Continue reading

Cyclamens in Winter

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

There is nothing quite so graceful as a cyclamen in bloom.  Every year when the last things in the garden have been blackened by frost I tend to look for the pots in the super markets and plan table scapes in baskets with cyclamens  dominating (kept in shape by watering with weak tepid tea). It’s too early for the amaryllis that I’ve begun and is still the season for chrysanthemums indoors, so I have to postpone my cyclamen fest until December, but I begin thinking about them now. Continue reading

Three Cult Orientals

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Orientals had been rather passe.  I’m not sure when the turnaround came, but sometime around the end of the oughts, oriental perfumes came back into fashion and the previously ubiquitous fruity florals were back- catalogued. Something had shifted in the zeitgeist, or fashion, or the cloudy upper ether of the fragrance world.

I realized that the change was complete when I leafed through a book on Berlin fashion and discovered that some cool Berliners were now wearing Frederic Malle’s Dries Van Noten (a woody oriental, specifically an update of Nuit de Noel and Bois des Isles). They wouldn’t have been doing that five years ago. Continue reading

Coty’s Chypre

Chypre in an early bottle

Chypre in an early bottle

This is a marvel of a perfume.  If you are new to the world of scent and just trying to get a grip on what the difference between an oriental and a chypre is, Francois Coty’s name is one to know.  He was  born a Corsican and his original name was actually Spoturno, but he abandoned that in favor of his mother’s maiden name Coti, which he subsequently gallicized to Coty. France’s first billionaire, Coty was also the first man to use floral extracts in his perfumes (these were stronger and pure-er than the old floral distillates).  The result was several stunningly original perfumes and in 1917, Chypre,  the fore runner of all modern chypres, and a true feat of perfumery, combining extremes of lightness and darkness, freshness and muskiness, scrubbed cleanliness and grubby sexiness in one unified whole. Continue reading

Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Perfume

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Only very infrequently do nurserymen or plant breeders collaborate with perfumers. Once briefly in 1993 one such collaboration  produced a success: Evelyn.

The company willing to work with a breeder to produce a replica scent was Crabtree & Evelyn and the breeder was David Austin.  He was promoting a new strain of roses that he had been working on since the late sixties, English Roses which have the look and perfumes of old garden roses but are repeat flowering.  He was always far more attentive to fragrance than any of the other rose breeders I’ve ever read about.  David Austin was concerned not simply with stem bending size of rose or outlandish color, but with form of blossom, foliage, and very much with scent. Continue reading