As it Was, So it Is

French garden sculpture from pinterest.com

When  this blog began six years ago I never would have thought it would run on for so long.  But I am a Southener and we can natter the length of a summer’s day and never get tired.

Still these days the demands on my time have grown, and the effort it takes to post every week has gotten beyond even my powers of small talk. So I will largely cease to post here although will leave the blog up so that anyone who wants to  can search the archives and ( I hope) enjoy themselves in the process.

The very best of blogging has been the people I have met on these many posts, lively, funny, sophisticated, what an ideal bunch of readers you are.  I have to thank you for giving me the most valuable gift a reader can give a writer-your time.

Every once in a while I will  look in on the world of perfume through its marvelous cloudy atmosphere. Oh and  let me say that I don’t find this world is ending or producing terrible product.  I am so impressed lately with the work of Hiram Green, Neil Morris, Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, still the de Nicolai family, and am encouraged by a number of recent French firms.  As for new bottles, yes children!  I am buying some.

And the very best of luck  to all of you on every day.

So here is the blog for your enjoyment!

I will be over at Ahistoryblog.com every two weeks or so.

Citrus Ambers

An advertising image for Habit rouge from Ebay.com

Citrus may not  be a word you associate with amber.  If you don’t I won’t blame you.  The word amber itself is complicated since in the perfume world it can mean one of three things 1)  the sea soaked upchuck of whales who have eaten too many tiny shrimp 2) the fossilized tree amber from long dead forests or 3) a mixture of labdanum and vanilla.

It is the third of these definitions that most of us come into contact with since definitions nos 1& 2 are either outrageously expensive or hard to source or both at once.  So for our purposes amber = labdanum + vanilla and the proportions vary.  Generally it is a lot more labdanum and not too much vanilla or else your amber becomes stickily sweet.  I think there are so many ambers in commerce, that each amber enthusiast ends up finding their own preferred brand. Continue reading

Curious: Mandy Aftel’s New perfume

Lapsang Souchong which also comes to mind in Curious

Curious is the name of Mandy Aftel’s new perfume and it was immediately reminiscent to me of another perfume she created, the sophisticated Sepia from 2012.  Sepia was composed in conjunction with the blogger Nathan Branch and was inspired by the brown tints of old sepia prints.

I have to say that I was probably in the minority then because I liked Sepia which was a divisive love it/hate it kind of scent. The perfume had a sophisticated heart full of unexpected elements like strawberry (that is Fragrantica’s listing) and coffee  (again I did not smell this). Here I will dismiss the notes and describe what I smelled.  What I caught from Sepia was a scent very like Lapsang Souchong tea.  This was entirely accidental  and probably wasn’t the takeaway that other people had, but  was my impression.  Curious strikes me as having a similar central accord as the earlier work. Sepia was more complex, and had a wonderful ambergris drydown, which I still love, but Curious is drier, more woody, and has a smokiness which reminds me of Lapsang Souchong all over again, or possibly Russian Caravan Tea. Continue reading

Happy Fourth of July

A wonderful Fourth of July Cake from pinterest.com

To all of my readers a happy Fourth of July and if you are international, I hope that you are enjoying this July wherever you are. 🙂

I will be back in a couple of weeks with a discussion of Mandy Aftel’s work and her new perfume Curious which should be fun and cooling for the summer.

Citrus Chypres: Eau d’Hadrian, Lancome O, and Diorella

Eau d’ Hadrian

Anyone who remembers the nineties remembers Eau d’Hadrian.  I loved that and wore it almost as much as everyone else, and to this day the smell brings back Westport Ct during the height of the boom years, when cigar smoke and Porsche 911’s seemed to be everywhere along with Hadrian.

Now it’s pretty much gone. The notes for this little perfume vary, but the ones I have from 1993 are simply: lemon, grapefruit, citron, and cypress.  At the time the perfume was made, that probably included oakmoss, which was the likely basenote for Hadrian, hiding underneath the cypress. This recipe was not very expensive.  The whole point of the frag was to spritz lightly in the morning and get on with your day.  The perfume was not masculine and not feminine and Hadrian reminded me of Italy with all the old cypress trees shading churchyards. Continue reading

The Powdery Musk Rose

Francis E. Lester from the
bumblebeeconservancy

Some years ago there was a line of perfumes done by Stephanie de Saint Aignan and one of the more popular scents was something called Le Pot Aux Roses. This does not mean a rose pot pourri in French but rather to discover something that was secret.  It probably harks back to the curious old Latin phrase Sub Rosa which meant that anything said underneath the rose was off the record, something never said, and never heard.

Pot Aux Roses was a very powdery rosy scent which some people loved for its evocation of old compacts full of rice powder, and other people disliked for the same reason, but I recently came across a scent very like it-in my front garden.  The culprit is a musk rose with the officious name of Francis E. Lester.  ( I think you really have to give this rose it’s complete moniker) It was hybridized by a rosarian of the same name and the man who founded the Roses of Yesterday and Today Nursery. He bred this fragrant rose during World War II as far as I can discover and it looks like a wild rose, but the scent is a variation on rose. Continue reading

Perfume Sins

Some scents just won’t charm other people

If you asked me this a few years ago I would have agreed but reluctantly that some perfume wearing is just in bad taste.  Perfume is something that has only recently ( in historical terms) become discussion worthy. Perfumes The Guide came out ten years ago, and compared to all the preceding years when perfumes were neither discussed nor assessed, that’s a very short time.  I remember decades when it was very difficult to find out anything at all about perfume and what little I did discover came from reading: Edmond Roudnitska, Elizabeth Barille, Michael Edwards,even Jean Pierre Coffe, who as I recall Le Bon Vivre, did not think much of Cartier’s Le Panthere.

In the interim there has been an explosion of discussion. The industry itself, despite all the chit chat, remains secretive, and self contradictory in its aims. It’s certainly not clear that all  mass perfume makers want to produce consistently high quality.  What they want to produce is something highly profitable, and the parameters of what constitutes a reasonable profit seem to expand all the time.  It’s now axiomatic that packaging costs far more than content.  Should it?  This product is largely water anyway. Continue reading

Beautiful Boronia

Boronia megastigma

I can’t remember the last time I was so tempted but I have discovered a site that sells Australian essential oils and one of them is boronia.  Haven’t heard of it?  Neither had I until some years ago, but the plant is Boronia megastigma or brown boronia in ordinary English, and the plants are small evergreen bushes that produce flowers like little shells.  True to their name, these flowers are brown on the outside of each petal but yellow inside and their perfume is heavenly.

Boronia is native to western Australia and those lucky people can grow them and enjoy spring flowers without too much trouble.  Stateside, California may be your best bet since these small bushes are only hardy to zone 9.  However their oil is something all of us can buy (if we save a bit) and in perfume boronia is a shot of unadulterated beauty. Continue reading

Classic Soliflores?

The Pearl in in full bloom

Single note floral perfumes used  to be short lived on the market.  Back in the day they were called “handkerchief” perfumes because in the pre-Kleenex era, you sprinkled a drop of rose or lavender water on your handkerchief rather than your skin. Those little fragrances “sent bons” were miniature essays in the perfumer’s art.  Not many of those perfumes survive today. No one wears Yardley’s Lavender, or Coty’s Jasmin de Corse, few wear Tea Rose the big late seventies hit from Perfumer’s Workshop, and Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare is diluted out of recognition- which makes me wonder- which are the  new classic soliflores?  Which ones will survive for decades on the consumers’ skin? Continue reading

Vanilla: The New Sandalwood

Vanilla in bean and blossom

Once upon a time Mysore sandalwood was hard to find.  The material had been over harvested and the Indian government laid down the law about how much Indian sandalwood was going to be sold each year in order to protect stocks.

Something similar, at least regarding tightness of the current market, is happening with vanilla.  The trouble is that vanilla is difficult to grow, has to be hand pollinated, and  the beans themselves have to age. They have to go from their scentless green stage to their nearly black and perfumed maturity.  In the meantime, some people steal beans and secrete Continue reading