Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Basil in the Bottle

Foodies have a built in problem with perfume in that many scents just clash with whatever it is you’re cooking.  In fact and to get specific about it, perfume often squares off, in the nose, against the whole process of food preparation.

In our household a good deal of cooking and baking goes on every day, and it doesn’t help the smell in the kitchen when whatever it is I’m wearing or testing simply curdles in the air around the chopping block. If you cook, necessarily you spend time in the kitchen.  Continue reading

She Wore a Raspberry Puree

Raspberry season is coming on now in New Jersey.  You can’t miss it, there are little green paper boxes at the farmer’s markets full of raspberries in that bluish red shade so beloved of  foodies.  I’ve seen them in all sizes and in yellow-you can get golden raspberries here now- and sometimes even the wild raspberries are sold, though those are very delicate and really have to be eaten the same morning.  I’m fond of macerating them in Champagne, or Cointreau if I’ve got any on hand, but they’re just fine with nothing except a dollop of sour cream.  Raspberries, to me, are one of the bona fide joys of early summer. Continue reading

Smounds! Gadzooks!

The history of science has from time to time turned up  a number of – to us – strange lines of inquiry that run the gamut from crackpot to fraud.   The academy tends to keep out the former better than the latter, but there have been times….

Consider the case of George Washington Septimus Piesse, Ph.D, F.C.S.  (1820-1886),  author of the Art of Perfumery, The Laboratory, Young Farmer’s Science, and most particularly for Chymical Natural and Physical Magic intended for the instruction and entertainment of juveniles during the holiday vacation.  (This admirable book includes instructions on how to make not only fireworks for wholesome home entertainment,  but also laughing gas.  Try doing that today and see how far you get. We really do live in a prissy kind of age.) Continue reading

Two Scoops of Vanilla

Vanilla does not sound very promising in the heat, but summertime is one of those seasons when you bend the rules. What is surprising about vanilla is that you can get away with wearing it even in adverse conditions. I had read that in Saudi Arabia (where they know a thing or two about perfume) vanilla is the note of choice in summer.

The problem is that the humidity levels there and here may be different.  I know it can get terrifically hot near the Gulf of Aqaba, because I’ve been there in June. The temperature hovered about 110F (43.3 C) and it was extremely dry, because, I suppose, of being next door to a desert. Continue reading

Sumer is a Cumin In

Chypres are a flickering presence in the perfume world these days.  Whether you see them or whether you don’t, may have to do with what your definition of a chypre is in the first instance.  If you’re a purist, then you define chypres as a bergamot top-note married to whatever you like so long as oakmoss is in the base.  That’s the basic formula of the original Chypre done by Francois Coty in 1917.

Actually, I bet the chypre as a perfume template is much older.  Really it has to do with putting a citrus prologue on a woody perfume and nothing is quite so dark and dry as oakmoss.  It’s kind of a catalyst for other dark and dry materials making them so much darker and drier than they would have been on their own.  Take away the oakmoss and you are left with all the usual wood notes, but the bass in the woody tone quartet has cut out, and the harmonies achieved are just not that resonantly sexy anymore. Continue reading

The Black Orchid Underground

There is something internally subversive about the productions of Tom Ford.  He is so charming and so practiced in the seduction techniques he uses on his public that it is almost camp.  Every Tom Ford perfume has something about its packaging and promotion that recalls a weekend in one of those resorts popular with swingers in the 1970’s; about equal parts chic and louche, all black toilets, black marble counters and black bidets, so much so that it sometimes tips over into (I hope) unintentional self-parody. Continue reading

The Scent of Churchyards

My father was fond of scaring us all into hysterics when we were children by  humming a dirge that began, “There was an old woman, all skin and bone…” in a sepulchral tone.  The whole piece was about old lady and her seemingly interminable journey to the cemetery, and how she had run into a corpse there; and subsequently inquired of the preacher, “Will I look like that when I am dead?”  to which the answer, delivered in a banshee shriek was, “Yes, you’ll look like that when you’re dead!!!” so suddenly, that whoever was listening to the song would invariably jump out of their skins, all the previous droning on having tended to make you drowsy.  It was purposefully macabre, like a Grand Guignol production or a Bram Stoker novel, or Halloween in New Jersey. Continue reading

Location, Location, Location

Are there regional preferences in perfume in the US?  The thought occurred to me just the other day because a fellow blogger, Olenska at Parfumieren, has started a blog about perfume and all things fragrant in New Jersey.

It got me thinking – do we have different fragrance sale patterns in different States?

There certainly are differences in what is considered fashionable clothing.  My observations here (by the way) come courtesy my memory of my sister-in-law’s time at Saks, where management stressed the point that Saks buyers stock very diversely depending on which city a Saks branch is in.  They recognize that what is fashion in Florida is puzzling to shoppers in Seattle. Continue reading

Contempory Casablanca: Play It Again, Sam

Soliflores are really hard, as I’ve had occasion to write before. I think they’re as hard for perfumers to produce as comedy is hard for writers and actors, and in the same frustrating way. The perfumer is just reproducing the scent of a flower thinks the public,  how difficult can that be?   Surely the perfumer must just be messing about in the lab, not seriously composing something serious, right? Rather like the comic novelist is just fooling around, or the actor is just taking a pratfall?

But I think it’s hard.  Try smelling a flower you love and then ask yourself how many times you’ve smelled a perfume that comes close to reproducing that scent?  Better yet, go and spray some of your favorite soliflores near the flower they’re mimicking and-smell the difference?  A world of complicated chemical analyses go into the floral palettes that perfumers use now, and still, even  thoroughly equipped and possessed of all that expertise, the perfumer seldom catches the true likeness of the flower sitting for her portrait.  Continue reading

Three’s a Party

This is my  way of expressing a piece of advice I came across in an old perfume book.  The Book of Perfume (Barille and Laroze, 1995)  suggests ways in which to keep some aesthetic order in your perfume collection.

The one that intrigued me was to find trios of perfumes and colognes that worked together in a pleasing way, complimenting one another, not hissing and dissing each other the way the various casts of housewives do on reality TV shows.  A little harmony, the authors seemed to feel, would go a long way to improving life in the perfume cabinet.

Alrighty, I was up for an experiment and what exactly did they suggest? Continue reading