Double snowdrop from pinterest
Like fashion designers, gardeners are usually working months ahead of the normally scheduled seasons. I am writing about snowdrops now, because like the rest of the gardeners, I am planting them now, lots, or at any rate, as many as I can find, tucked into garden beds, behind the post box, anywhere I can cram a few, with more on the way.
Does anyone else share my liking for the scents of winter? They are so clear and so un-indolic, meaning (if you are wondering what indolic means) that slight bad breath note in white flower fragrances: tuberose, jasmine, or gardenia. That musty, I skipped the toothpaste, note can be sensual, in a sex and death sort of way, but how many of us want to remind ourselves of mortality on an every day basis? Continue reading
Old Herbal Page
One of the aspects of perfume that gets short shrift on blogs and social media is its power to make you feel good. Meaning, lively, healthy, at home in your own skin as the French would put it. I find it a critical aspect of scent, and one of the reasons why I garden, because that is another way to feel well, really well, and plants have something to do with this.
Diptyque, the child of three entrepreneurs in Paris during the sixties, took this philosophy to heart. The only two perfumes in Basenotes database credited to Desmond Knox-Leet, the best known of the three*, are l’Eau Diptyque and Eau Lente, which was supposedly a recreation of a perfume in use at the time of Alexander the Great. Continue reading
Anya McCoy’s book on homemade perfume and essence extractions
This certainly has been a long hiatus. I find that although I don’t need to keep up with what happens in the perfume world every week, I do love perfume, and flowers, and scented gardening, so will continue to post occasionally about both, and as to the reason for my absence, I can give you that in one word: sinusitis. Yes dear readers, you can overdo it, and I find that the best cure is restricting the number of things worn, as well as choosing fragrances that don’t irritate.
There is no better way to get back into the world of scent than with Anya McCoy, who has written a how to manual on perfume making and extracting perfume essences. Oh, how I wish this had existed earlier! Groan! Really, the dreadful experiments that I tried over the last year while trying to make my own non irritant fragrances would never have been so awful if I had read this book first. Believe me when I say, there were some appalling oily messes that went into “bath salts” last fall. Continue reading
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.
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
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
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.
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
Francis E. Lester from the
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
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