Monthly Archives: March 2013

Have You Been Drinking?

IMG_4537The answer is yes and the substance is one of the weirder beverages of the season: lavender soda.

Now maybe lavender soda is a staple in other parts of the US or Britain and I will get comments telling me that people there have been tossing back lavender soda for ages, but it was new to me.  A company called Dry Soda Co.  produces the stuff out of Seattle and they sell it at one of my local supermarkets.  Which, being three thousand miles away from Seattle, gives you an idea of how successful this home kitchen start-up has become. Continue reading

Doctor Fell

Dr Fell

Dr Fell

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why, I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.

My father, who was an old school Virginian and fond of a peaceable dinner table, used to stop nascent disagreements by saying, “De gustibus non est disputandem”. There’s no arguing over taste, and once he said that, we had to drop our heated discussion of Disco vs Punk, or whatever other nonsense had popped into our chuckle heads that day.

Sometimes I will come across a perfume that is clearly cleverly composed, stable, and possessed of finesse, or longevity, or whatever it is that lifts one perfume over the enormous crowd of also-rans, and that is becoming very popular, and will just dislike the heck out of it.   Continue reading

Tuberose Dressed for Day

tuberosecAnyone who has stood in front of a display of perfumes soon becomes aware that a number of those bottles are going to contain the name “tuberose” on the label.  Even if they don’t, as in the case of say, Fracas, they soon announce their tuberose intentions to the world.  Even a perfume novice learns to recognize tuberose early on. Tuberose is hard to miss, and once you’ve smelled it, you never forget it.

It’s a winner, that much is certain. Of all the floral notes out there, tuberose is the one that never seems to go “out of print” (or let us say, “out of bottle”).  This is not the case with many other florals. There have been long stretches of time when there were relatively few rose perfumes on the market, and times when neither carnation nor lilac was plentifully represented – now, for instance.  Continue reading

The Man Who Loved Roses

roseRecently the great rosarian Peter Beales died.

If you are saying, “Too bad but why is she mentioning him?”, I understand.  Most people, by which I mean “normal people who do not obsess over roses”, have no idea who Peter Beales was.  His book Classic Roses was, and is, the best guide to roses. It is (to my knowledge) the only one that managed to make any sense of the tangled lines of descent down which modern roses have been hybridized.  Also he was a nurseryman and a rose breeder himself, and he had an eye for a good rose.  He was never wrong. Continue reading

Charleston All the Way Home

daisy buchananWhen I lived in Westport, Connecticut, there used to be a good deal of speculation in the local papers that it was the model for West Egg in The Great Gatsby.  The ins and outs of the argument geographically escape me now (something to do with the Long Island Sound and sightlines across it from certain town promontories) but in any event, the municipality preened itself on the notion.

I was unconvinced, partially because I could never imagine a creature like Daisy Buchanan summering in the sweltering hot-pot that is a Connecticut July, roiled as it generally is by truly alarming thunderstorms.  Wouldn’t she be much happier out on the Island itself, surrounded by potato fields and beaches and golf courses? Continue reading

The Organic Perfumers

organicThe year before last a small line of perfumes debuted.  Honore des Pres was going to do it the hard way, they were going to offer perfumes that were not only natural but also organic, and that of course opened up a can of worms for any perfumer working with them.

It’s difficult enough to swear off the chemicals.  Think how small the possibilities become: animalics are nearly impossible, and when you do resort to them, you are left with odd possibilities such as extract of goat hair (yes, I know).  Fruit notes are exceedingly hard because nearly all of them come to us courtesy of the lab, e.g., fructone and friends. So you have trouble with those old faithfuls, the masculine and the fruity floral.  Continue reading


PoppiesThey don’t have any scent. At least no discernible one, but every spring, I always look out into whichever poor excuse I currently have for a garden and plan to sprinkle a few poppies into the soil.

My favorites are opium poppies.  This is not because I have any entrepreneurial ambitions. Nothing doing, it’s merely that I like to grow them and they are so wonderfully showy.

I used to grow them in large numbers in Vermont.  I grew so many that I used to wonder if the local police would get snippy, but I suppose that one little garden in Vermont does not an Opium Lord make, and it seemed unlikely that the state troopers could tell poppies from peonies anyway. So I grew my poppies with abandon, enough to delight a wicked witch or befuddle an itinerant lion. Continue reading

Blackberry Days

blackberryOne of the delicacies of the American South is blackberries. The season is a short one, only a few weeks from April to mid May*and then it is over.  Speaking as someone who used to go black-berrying, there is no activity on earth so staining to the mouth and fingers, so leg scratching, or ultimately, so satisfying.

My personally favorite recipe is Blackberry Cobbler.  You need about four cups of blackberries 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, ½ teaspoon baking powder, a pinch of sea salt, ¾ cup flour, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and 6 tablespoons of butter.  After that it’s easy. You cream the butter salt and baking powder together in a mixer, add the flower and when you have a fluffy consistency, drop on top of the blackberries rolled in the sugar and cornstarch in a pyrex dish. You need a 400 oven for a half hour and voila! This makes an excellent cobbler, not too sweet that goes very nicely with ice cream. Continue reading

The One, The Only

One onlyDolce and Gabbana have the distinction of producing one of the most consistently popular perfumes of Gen X, namely, Light Blue.  Curiously, it is often not discussed on perfume fora. Why?  It’s hard to say, but D&G perfumes have never been considered particularly innovative or interesting, as opposed to those of, say, Prada, or even Donna Karan.

They are, however, popular mainstream perfumes and in wide distribution, so when I first smelled The One at Nordstrom’s, it put me in mind of a perfume from long ago that I knew well, namely, Jacques Fath’s Expression, which was in its day also mainstream.  There were of course some distinct differences as well. They were not twins, not even siblings, but they could have been cousins, once removed, let us say. Continue reading

Don’t I Know You From Someplace?

william-bouguereauThe other day I received a sample of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Rien.  A good deal has been written about this perfume which has been considered toxic and difficult and so forth and so on.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Rien is just a good old leather chypre, genus Banditus, species Cabochardus.

My sample of Rien came from the lovely Sigrun at Rigtigparfym, and although I had read about it from time to time, I had never come across the scent before.  The brouhaha online about it does strike me as overblown.  Rien is no more difficult to carry off than Absolue Pour le Soir, the other Cabochard wannabe I’ve encountered in the last six months or so.  However, one thing about these polarizing scents that I do note, besides their obvious descent from Cabochard, is how blatant references to sexuality were in the perfumed past, and how muted they are now.  Continue reading