Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sorcery in the Air

Black smoke trailing from some botched potion class at Hogwarts, that’s the reference point.  Just what does it smell like?  I would submit a combination of squid ink and licorice with a little dried dragon’s blood thrown in for good measure, but there really isn’t anything like that on the market these days, although back in the day some people said that YSL’s M7 smelled sort of like it.

There are some fragrances that I personally find awful.  Other people sometimes love them, and with perfectly good reason, they smell good on them, or remind them of something wonderful but they’re the fragrances that give me the fantods,  as Huckleberry Finn would say.

They are: Continue reading

What Becomes a Legend? What Does a Legend Become?

I have been reading about Wallis Warfield Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor.  She has become the strangest mosaic of pariah and icon that I can think of.  The resulting likeness, assembled over decades, resembles a Chuck Close portrait with an unsettling chiaroscuro; enigmatic, despite being composed of photographs, documentary evidence after all.

Less plausible as a queen than Camilla Parker Bowles (does anyone think of the one time Mrs. Parker Bowles as Mrs. Windsor, by-the-by?) and the transferee of enormous sums from the Brit royal family to herself (in one three weeks period,  jewels totalling 110,000  pre-war British pounds ) and the occupier of a position on the International Best Dressed list.

By any estimate, one of the most successful gold diggers in history. Continue reading

A Froth of Flowers

My mother was the sort of person who did a lot of things with insouciant ease and couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t also. Her most inexplicable and unfair successes came in the garden. She could grow practically anything on roots no matter how persnickety a plant it might be. Her most annoying success (because it contrasted with practically everyone else’s failure) was with vines. Generally it takes two years to get a vine growing enthusiastically, let alone flowering. Mom could do it in one.

When I finally got around to trying to grow a vine, specifically clematis paniculata, it turned out not to be so easy. Should have paid attention, Mom’s record remained unbeaten, and though I did everything for that wretched plant, it sat in the capacious hole I’d dug for it and twiddled its thumbs- or vegetated, to be more precise – for two years. Continue reading

The Difficult Season

A few years ago Guerlain, which likes to come out with sets of things, came out with a set of four fragrances.  It was called Les 4 Saisons, and the idea was that you had an instant seasonal wardrobe of perfumes.

The perfumes  in question were Muguet de Printemps, which is that first of May issue that Guerlain does every year like clockwork, the second was Quand Vient L’Ete, or translated into the demotic of online retailers Terracotta Voile d’Ete, and Winter Delice the old Christmasy Aqua Allegoria was the winter choice.  But what about autumn? Continue reading


If you watched the riding events this last summer at the Olympics, you will have noticed a continuing trend in horses’ names, their length.  In all of the events there were horses who had monikers that would have done justice to a Bourbon prince, things like Millthyme Corolla, or Oscarina du Chanois, or the truly polysyllabic Gazelle de la Brasserie or Lully des Aulnes, or even Apollo van Wendi Kurt Hoeve.


Then there was a horse ridden by the German Gold Medalist Michael Jung named: Sam. Continue reading

The Sound and the Sniffa

I went to Sniffapalooza last Saturday, and it was an irrepressible, loud and crowded, fragrant cacophony with perfumophiles everywhere smelling the niche, the rare, the new, on an endless number of scent strips. It was in a word, wonderful, and I got to meet perfume lovers from all over the place, and notably, to see the lovely Meg of Parfumieren who was floating around all day buoyed by an unseen river of scents, as in her element as a naiad, also her friends, the indefatigable JC, and the incredibly lucky Glynis and Patty who both won bespoke perfumes at lunch, during which I would have been green, but I was too full. Continue reading

The Single Note Symphony

There are so many perfume releases these days that the perfume wearing public risks being inundated by them.  What is perhaps worse is that so may the non perfume wearing public.

Anyone who buys perfume tends not to buy just one bottle,  but multiple ones.  There’s a perfume for every season and every mood, and while that may be fine for those who love to collect, for the rest of us, restricted by budget or space or time, the edited wardrobe may become a necessity. Continue reading

Melancholy Baby

Florals tend to have something inherently optimistic about them;  as Catherine Donzel writes in her book Le Parfum, “Floral bouquets (composed of several floral essences) have in common a certain idea of happiness.”

For the most part this is true, but sometimes you come across one or other of them which breaks ranks and has an air of melancholy about it.

You must be something of a romantic to wear them. They do not work on the hale, or the hearty, or the talkative.  You cannot pull off a pallid pose under a weeping willow if you are constantly fidgeting, or asking if someone has taken that damn picture yet? You have to be the embodiment of patience and placidity and pallor, and having long delicate fingers helps as well.  Then you can wear the melancholy floral without feeling an utter fraud.  Continue reading

A Lemon Meringue Harangue

You know how you sometimes go on enthusiasms?  The week you had to eat kettle corn, or the summer you couldn’t get by without your water melon fix once a day, or the ceviche month, that sort of thing? Perfumes are like that too.

For me, lately, having surfaced from my self induced rose centric summer, the craving this fall is for lemon meringue pie.  I already get much of the craving satisfied by JR Watkins hand cream in lemon, so why I seem to want a bottle of some thing designed to make me reek of pie, is a mystery.  You see, I know perfectly well that I’m going to end up recalling either furniture polish or else the contents of a cake stand to someone’s mind.  But undaunted by these realities, I decided to find out what was available out there, how many people really wanted to smell like lemon tart?

Turns out, quite a few.

Continue reading

Two Rainy Day Gardenias

Gardenias, we were told for the longest time, do not yield a usable essential oil.  That meant that every gardenia you smelled in perfumery was a reconstruction, either a base, or an approximation created by the perfumer.  Now however you can actually buy gardenia essential oil, some of it obtained by en fleurage, which is the old extraction method that involves picking flowers and heating them gently in a fat or oil to saturate the substance and then using sugar and alcohol to separate the transferring oil or fat from the essential oil.  Apparently there are some growers in South America who actually produce the EO this way.

Continue reading