Monthly Archives: July 2011

Avez Vous Bourbon?

Sometimes I think the phenomenon of perfume criticism has destroyed what used to be an innocent piece of self indulgence for the average scent consumer.  Now we know, and those of us who don’t know are bound to find out sooner or later, that whatever we wear is: a masterpiece, really good, middling, not much to write home about or holy crap, what is that smell?

If this isn’t an instance of one-upmanship, I don’t know what is.  Those of us who have nothing else, not accomplishment, or money, or position can at least have Good Taste and so crack the whip over everyone else’s head.  Do dinner parties ever degenerate into bitch-slap fests over someone’s comment about someone else’s perfume? I certainly hope not and I hereby offer myself as someone who has tastes that can veer into vulgarity with predictable frequency.

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Going to Ground

Everyone responds to heat differently.  Some of us don’t budge from the poolside or the beach, some of us get out of town and stay out until work schedules and other tiresome realities intervene. Some of us just go down the cellar.

Our current cellar, vintage 1940, is a corker.  For one thing, it smells like a cellar, but a very good version, say a platonic ideal of one.  It is my daughter’s favorite smell.  She, and most of her little playmates too, will stand on the top of the cellar steps and inhale. “Your cellar smells awesome!” Continue reading

The Aerial Automata

Synthetics are the bugaboos of the perfume world.  Everyone knows that they make up the majority of the shades in a perfumers’ palette, most of us can name a few names: Cashmeran, Hedione, Iso Super E.  Still, we resent them.  We pine for a world in which lily means lily and jasmine means jasmine and not Cis Jasmone.

All nostalgia is misleading, though.  Consider the heaviness of purely natural perfumes, they do not have the improbable gadgetry, the finely calibrated chemical structures of modern perfumery.  Sometimes, when it’s badly done, this is merely repetitive:  cheapo formulas with fifty molecules mimicking the action of fifteen hundred with predictable results, because this is chemistry pretending to be nature.  At its best, however, synthetic perfumery has a delicacy lacking in more earthy formulations.

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Two Tuberoses

I don’t know if tuberoses are perennials in the garden, but tuberoses in perfumery definitely are.  There are tuberose heavy bouquets that debut every year, though come to think of it, perhaps not this year.  Generally though you can count on plenty of tuberose bouquets to carry on with the languid, laid back smell of the flower.

Today though I am simply discussing two of them that I think are quite wearable.  Tuberose scents you know are iffy.  You have to be a femme fatale to carry them off, or possessed of that kind of Kevlar femininity that is the birthright of Latin and Southern women, you can even be a man, but you must have an ego as big as all outdoors, and utter confidence in your taste (and no backsies), or it won’t work.

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Pineapples in the Wind?

Actually, yes.  The fruity scent is not entirely the brainchild of IFF circa 1995, it does have a longer history.  Peach notes, usually courtesy an aldehyde (C14, or possibly  delta-undecalactone according to Luca Turin), were used as far back as Mitsouko to give the requisite pulpy smell.  It was a great modifier of otherwise harsh notes and so was frequently utilized in fruity chypres. Sometime around 1938, Jean Patou devised a new type of fruity chypre in which the modifier was pineapple rather than the customary peach.

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Brewing a Golden Cloud of Tea

Today is threatening to reach  about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have been wondering what I have that is worth putting on in such heat. It’s hard to say.  Perhaps this is the day for a tea note and accordingly I have found Carthusia’s Mediterraneo.  It is reminding me of iced tea mixes from my childhood – fundamentally, we’re talking Nestea here.  It’s not bad, but it is unexciting.

This perhaps encapsulates the tea note quandary. Not all tea is created equal. Some tea, even now, would be better off steeping in Boston Harbor.

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A Case of the Begats

As in when you were sitting in a pew in a hot church listening to one of those sections of the Old Testament that sound like a breeding manual.  It was just as tedious as handicapping a race card, and much less amusing because no possible pay off at the end, no pecuniary suspence, just Ehab begat Jehosphat, which begat Blogosphere which begat Blackhole and cosi via. Continue reading

Serge in the Summertime

It’s curious to note the heaviness of Middle Eastern perfume formulae considering just how hot it can get in that part of the world.  The standard Western approach to heat is to head for the cologne bottles which are usually about sixty percent citrus and forty percent something else that isn’t heavy.  I read recently that the standard response to rising thermometers in Saudi Arabia is to wear vanilla.  Vanilla?   I’d feel much too much like a melting Mr. Softee in 100 degree temperatures.  Perhaps they have less humidity than we do on the East coast in the States.  Who knows?

Serge Lutens, however, who lives in Morocco for part of every year, seems to have adopted a summertime stratagem of his own and it is the soliflor.

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Le Trèfle Incarnat

“The Pink Clover” (trifolium incarnatum)  is the rough translation of this title and it refers to a perfume by the firm of L.T. Piver, “la plus ancienne maison de parfumerie francaise” produced, well, some considerable time ago.

Okay, to be specific, the year of introduction was 1896.  Well, ho hum, and why should we care about such a very old perfume so far removed from us now?  It was, in fact, one of the very first fougeres, which is to say that it was preceded by Jicky in 1889, and followed by Maia in 1925, and therefore occupies an interesting ground between the two.

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