Should a human smell like a flower? My answer to this is that women in particular, but sometimes also men, have endeavored to smell just like flowers for centuries. Well bred women were recommended to steer away from bouquet perfumes in the past, especially those which were too expansive. Also the scent of certain flowers such as tuberose were considered too risque for the young or the innocent.
The Countess Bradi who wrote an etiquette book in the 19th century writes,” I forbid you to use manufactured perfumes, however I consider those diffused by natural flowers to be perfectly permissible…” So for women floral perfumes were fine once upon a time, but more than a hundred years later Luca Turin was wondering why any woman would want to smell like a flower? The answer is that flowers smell wonderful and we would like to as well. Also, there are times when complicated perfumes, ones with olfactory twists and turns and blind alleys are like mazes, and on certain days we would prefer not to have to thread our way through them. Simplicity gets you from point a to point b directly and that can have a charm of its own. Continue reading →
Changing perfumes a lot is the bane of the fume obsessed. We all do it. If you are in the business of reviewing on a regular basis you’re more or less required to change perfumes in order to write about the next one, and after a while all this can get dizzying.
What’s my smell you ask yourself, and you may even miss the old days when your signature smell was No19 or Chant d’Aromes or Stella, or whatever it may happen to have been. Sometimes you want to bridge that gap between the old perfume and a new one and make that transition without all the usual rejection problems you get with unfamiliar scent. Continue reading →
Last year I went through all of January and most of February in white florals. I simply couldn’t stand another minute of coldness or snowiness, or thought so and spritzed accordingly. Along about the middle of February doesn’t everyone think so- unless they are in Australia?
This season I was not so careful. Now the cold and the doldrums of late winter have caught up with a vengeance. I can’t face another drop of incense or one more amber perfume till next fall-what to choose? Continue reading →
Strange to say, especially ahead of Valentine’s Day, I am not a chocoholic. That craving is so widespread that it is hardly worth asking people if they like chocolate any more-almost everybody does.
I can take or leave most chocolate, however one place where I do actually like the component is in perfume, partially because chocolate introduces heavy notes so well, and brings floral formulas back to earth. Some chocolate notes go further still becoming the harbingers of shadowy exoticism, even the macabre. One of my recent purchases celebrates the chocolate note in just such a sinister way. Continue reading →
Irrationality is at the core of humanity, just like a pit in an avocado. Superstition is part and parcel of this and while I like to think of myself as not being superstitious nevertheless I am.
Case in point being the “unlucky perfume”, there are some I give a wide berth to because something bad occurred every time I wore them. Ridiculous right? But true.
I have never been able to wear Narcisse Noir and the reason isn’t even something that happened to me but that I happened to read Black Narcissus. Unlucky just to read about a nun going off a parapet you know. Besides there’s the whole superstitious aura surrounding nuns there. Then a screening of Sunset Boulevard finished me off entirely. Narcisse Noir scared me and when I actually smelled it, that perfume spooked me. I just don’t wear NN as a precaution. Continue reading →
How girly can you go? It’s a question unique to each wearer of perfume. Some of us are comfortable with the uber feminine, and some of us are not. The girly perfume to me isn’t even a matter of sexuality, it’s a matter of celebrating your feminine side. Some people can do that joyfully. The girly frag is made for them.
Perhaps it’s as well to say at the beginning that the girly frag is likely also to be the sweet fragrance, but here I part company from those who say that girly frags need have no personality or quality other than their candy tonality, their giggles, and the pink which seems to be their birth right. You can be girly and interesting, even defiant, consider Taylor Swift’s spurning of Spotify for instance. Is she girly with a backbone? Continue reading →
The iris has been called funereal. That may be true, the scent of irises is a bit dark and a bit heavy, but that is only one aspect of the scent to be sure. There are others: the creamy soft note that is in the orris butter itself. You find that in few perfumes because the synthetic irises do not mimic the butter note successfully. The only place I find the note in all its unctuous spread on bread glory, is in my bottle of Parfums de Nicolai Balkis, and my bottle is an old one, presumably the first version of that fragrance. The fat deposits of iris, the gourmand part if you like, are there in the scent after the initial raspberry note subsides. Then all of a sudden you catch the soft malleable scent of orris butter and this is a creamy scent that practically makes my mouth water. Only later do the purple crepuscular aspects of iris creep in like twilight at a pastry shop. In this case the intermingled scent of raspberry jam, bourbon roses and abandoned coffee cups lingers
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 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 →
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 →