Monthly Archives: February 2013


So many mainstream fragrances are released each year- as a matter of fact the last estimate that I heard was over two hundred a year- that it’s amazing that anyone keeps up.  It’s such a large number that it’s somewhat numbing.  How can the public ever absorb or even register such a profusion of product?

In the past, perfumes were the high margin high sales item that helped many fashion houses maintain a position of cash positivity even in years when the resident designer(s) might have been off their game.  Certainly it worked that way for Chanel.  Year in, year out, No 5 would sell and offset whatever were the fashion foibles of the clothes themselves. Continue reading

The Anatomy of a Stinker

The world of perfume is so focused on trying to assimilate and analyze the sea of new releases that are poured into it every day, that we forget just how often perfume isn’t really perfume at all, but merely air pollution.

Not being in the reviewing business myself, I don’t tend to hang the moniker of “stinker” on perfumes; I just don’t mention them. Draw the veil of charity across them, or something of that sort.  Nevertheless, there is lots of bad perfume out there and you smell it all too often on people.

Over the years, I have developed a set of criteria for what constitutes a bad perfume.  In the interests of consumer protection, I offer them to my readers now. Continue reading

The Gardenia That Wasn’t

Yesterday, upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish, I wish, he’d go away.

Gardenia scents do not have to involve gardenias at all.  This startling truth was brought home to me when I wore the new Creed Fleurs de Gardenia the other day.

I knew that I had sniffed something rather like this some time in the not long distant past, and after a little while it came to me: Guerlain’s Cruel Gardenia was along the same lines.  I had spent an afternoon with Cruel in the turbulent wake of a Guerlain Trunk Show, and the perfume had duked it out with Mayotte on my forearm for title as Most Pungent White Floral 2012,  or World Domination, whichever came first. Continue reading

Will You Please Get Out of the Fruit Bowl?

Many of us who love perfume would have liked to lodge this complaint with the perfume companies for at least a decade now.  The trouble is that the vast majority of the public (or their duly unelected representatives in focus groups) enjoy fruit notes.  Pleasant, light, sweet and oh yeah, fruity are the adjectives most readily associated with positive sales figures.

It tends to mean that everything smells alike, but after a while fashions can become so entrenched as to be clichés that date their adherents with startling accuracy.  This explains helmet hair into the eighties, or girdles into the sixties, and now I come to think of it, low rider jeans into the twenty first century.  Trust me, twenty years from now there will still be females who believe that all hair should approach the platonic ideal of Jennifer Aniston’s even though she, by then, will be flogging Depends. Continue reading

Last Chypre Standing

Because I am a not very reformed chypre addict, the question of which chypre to save has flashed across my mind.  Actually it has sat heavily down in my head and refused to get out of my Brain’s favorite TV chair.  Pretty soon I will have to get this thought to pick up its beer and potato chips, and move on.

With the likely demise of oakmoss imminent, I have to ask which chypres do I want to save from a burning building? It’s a pretty hard thing to decide. Continue reading

The Vexed Question of Musk

If you’re up on your history, you may have read the story of the Empress Josephine splashing her musk based fragrance around the marital apartments so that Napoleon would never forget her perfume after he remarried (for the sake of producing an heir) in 1810.  The story was that the scent was so intense you could catch it drifting in the draperies years later. Who knows how it affected Napoleon, but Marie Louise, his second wife, and no doubt the recipient of this pungent challenge, wore violet scents ever afterwards. Continue reading

Chintz, Tea, and Civilized Discourse

There is something to be said for homogeneity.  Most of us never achieve it.  You can’t tell, when you enter our houses, or see our gardens, or our perfume collections or for that matter our clothes, that a single, organized taste supervised the process of decorating, planting, collecting, or selecting. Generally speaking what you get is a hodge-podge, and in a minority of cases, an expression of whatever the prevailing fashion is, in homes or gardens or perfumes or clothes.

But two English ladies tend to buck this trend,  and I might as well mention them here. Continue reading

Parce-Que I Said So

There is a curious phenomenon in the perfume world known as the limited edition.

It’s a marketing ploy for the most part, but it may also be a way to test out formulas with the public to see what works, and what doesn’t, in which demographic group and for how long?

But then there is the business plan involving high end limited editions and this often seems to come from Guerlain.  In recent years, Guerlain’s production has gone up tremendously, and there are all sorts of releases year after year,  from Little Black Dresses, to annual Muguets, and those continuing franchises: Habit Rouge, Shalimar and nowadays, L’Heure Bleue. Continue reading


Many people prefer autumn to spring.  It’s true.  This always comes as a surprise to me though because of how wonderful Spring really is.  Like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, I am always on the look out, not for the longest day of the year, but for the day in early February when the light begins to change.   At some juncture when the light has been Winter light for a long time, with something gray in its overtones, there comes a point of inflection, and then the color has yellow in it, sublimated yellow, suppressed yellow,  yellow like so much stifled laughter, but yellow just the same, dissolved in the light itself. When you see that light, like watery sun in suspension, then you know, Spring is imminent.

This year I decided on an experiment that I had meant to carry out a year or so earlier, namely, the carrying over of the heliotrope plant (heliotropium arborescens, if you want to be proper). Last year the cat ate the heliotrope. I can’t really blame her.  It does smell very much like almond pastry and who wouldn’t want to eat that?  Continue reading

On Dark Rose Winds

Since the perfume world has taken a decided turn eastwards in the last decade, there have been many more releases that smell of their Middle Eastern predecessors.  Did it all start with Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain?

I don’t know, but I find these perfumes to be compelling in the same way that the Arabian Dance from the Nutcracker is, trailing plumes of scent after them through the unhurried still air of the seraglio like a neglected odalisque might trail a Chinese silk, as though they had nothing better to do in life, than beguile away an empty afternoon. Continue reading