2012 Pulls its Scaly Tail Out the Door

This was not a good year if you lived in New Jersey.  Mind you, those of us who live mid state have nothing to complain about.  Those who lived on the Shore far more, but – it was not a good year. No, indeed.

Neither was it a stellar year in perfume.  Everyone else in the blogosphere likes to compile best and worst of lists at this time of year, but alas, and woe is me,  I can’t find even five perfumes that moved me by their originality and wonderfulness this year. Continue reading

A Green Wind Blows Again

If you’ve never encountered Vent Vert, you are in for a bracing experience.

It’s said to be the first of the green perfumes, composed by Germaine Cellier in 1947.  Personally, I think the first green note was Alpona from 1939, but a lot happened in France during the mid-forties and it’s not surprising that the perfume dialogue was interrupted for a while.  The green innovation, which may well have been Ernest Daltroff’s originally, was taken up again after the war by Ms. Cellier, with very successful results. Continue reading

The Tropical Nightmare

If there are many ingredients in perfume more polarizing than tropical flowers I would like to know what they are?  Possibly cumin, or maybe melon notes, but to me few ingredients are as likely to cause an instant brawl on a scent forum, than the smell of the tropical flowers.

Take Chanel’s Beige as an example. Beige got an awful, stinker of a review in Turin and Sanchez’ Guide;  not enough to put me off because, dear reader, very little puts me off -  but enough to give me pause.  Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas, Day Twelve: Cinnamon of the Season

Last in this series about Christmas smells comes cinnamon.

Perhaps it should not be carrying the heavy train of all the preceding seasonal scents, but it is an integral part of most Christmas atmospheres, on a par with gingerbread. Cinnamon brings up the rear of this solstice procession naturally.

Cinnamon in scents is a warm and welcome note, but there is no getting around the fact that it is apt to smell like a candle or a room freshener. Cinnamon has become one of those things we spray from a can before a Christmas party. We tend not to take it seriously or wear it seriously in perfume, and there’s a good reason for that too – namely, the strength of the note.  It can absolutely dominate a formula so that no other ingredient can get an olfactory word in edgewise. Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas, Day Eleven: Ghosts of Chocolate Past

Daughter Allen, age seven, marks out the Chocolate Drawer

Most people like chocolate, but in my family chocolate approaches the status of a religion.  No matter where we are, we always have something in the kitchen known as the “chocolate drawer” where we keep the chocolate.  My mother-in-law never travels without “emergency chocolate”, which means rations for those desolate parts of the planet where chocolate is thin on the ground. My other in-laws practically need IV chocolate for birthdays, parties, weddings and, of course, Christmas. Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas, Day Ten: The Trajectory of Fizz

I only recently learned how to open bottles of Champagne without spritzing an entire kitchen in the process.  It’s a useful skill.  You don’t have to bellow for your husband when the ladies want to make mimosas, you just do the opening and mixing on your own.

By the way, I know that I am not supposed to refer to any sparkling wine as Champagne unless it was grown in the region so denominated – my brother-in-law is French, you see, and so I know that it is really Vin Petillante and not Champagne. Whether or not it came from France, I have just noticed that you can get bubbles in your wine much more cheaply these days and that the Spanish are dab hands at this kind of doubly fermented drink. Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Nine: Black with Fruit

My husband has an uncle who insists that fruitcake is a very civilized pleasure and the best way to go about eating it is in the evening along with a glass of sherry.  He’s probably right about that. (He tends to be right about everything else.)  I expect most of us could get through fruitcake with a good sherry, although I’m not sayin’ how much sherry it might take to get it down.

Are there a lot of good fruitcake recipes out there?  Do people really eat it?  I used to wonder as a child because half the ladies of my father’s parish would try their hands at fruitcake and as children, we always felt that the essential business of prizing the green cherries and candied orange peal out, left a sad, barely adequate scaffolding of cake behind, certainly not enough to satisfy us, although the ladies had poured a lot of expensive ingredients in there.

Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Eight: Wholly Myrrh

Most of the incense scents out there have a habit of replicating the experience of being in church for many of us, but some of them have a habit of reproducing particular churches at particular times.

Now, a disclaimer-  for a Protestant, I have a very long experience of Catholic churches. Part of it came from growing up in Rome, and part of it came from having a high church mother who eventually converted to Catholicism: result of such equation, one Protestant with a Catholic education.

To me, myrrh is the smell of St. Peter’s Basilica. I went there on a number of occasions to see services- invariably long and impressive- due to the gigantic size of everything in St. Peter’s, a church designed for titans if ever one was. I was in the habit of staring at the huge canopy over the altar on its twisting black and gold columns just to bring the whole cyclopean pile down to the human dimension, only to find of course that the canopy itself was enormous, a sunshade for Gargantua. Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Seven: The Christmas Flower

Is certainly not poinsettia, which isn’t a flower anyway, only a set of colored bracts around a stunted central flower head.  The only bloom with a scent that you can easily find in December is the carnation.  It tends to crowd plastic buckets in supermarkets (along with pink and blue dyed chrysanthemums) and is the Christmas floral of choice.  It’s pretty inexpensive too, so that what with the affordability and the ubiquity, the carnation bouquet has become the discount bouquet.

Who knows if tastes in perfume reflect the availability of flowers or their rarity?  In my lifetime, the carnation has never been considered elegant.  Therefore, it has fallen out of the perfumers’ lexicon. Or, to put it another way, carnation has become archaic.   Almost any other flower is more common: lilies, roses, mimosas, jasmines even tuberoses and gardenias are more frequently reproduced in perfume (perhaps because of the banning of eugenol often used to recreate the scent of carnations).  Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Six: Beginning to Smell a lot like Christmas

Two of my fellow bloggers, Meg at Parfumieren and Michael at Top to Bottom  both posted about that old Christmas classic Nuit de Noel recently. You can see that they had fairly different opinions about the venerable standard, the favorite perfume of Ayn Rand by the way, and it got me musing about the Christmas fragrance itself, the designated driver of oh so many Holiday fetes down the decades.  Do old Christmas fragrances really get you where you want to be?

Let me start by saying that there are definite misses in this category.  Winter Delice was certainly one.  At best a candle (but really, I’d chose an old Rigaud candle over it) you had to wonder what Guerlain were thinking?  Winter Delice was the slow motion crash of vanilla into evergreen, like something they should screen for perfumers in Perfume ED as a cautionary lesson.  WD constituted a very rare collision for Guerlain with its unusually good driving record, and one of the few times that their standard vanilla trailer did not hitch itself obediently to a perfume’s rear hook-up. Continue reading