Monthly Archives: July 2013

White and Green and Carven all Over

sweetpeasThe story is that when Carven came out with Ma Griffe in 1946 the company dropped little bottles all over Paris from tiny white and green parachutes.  Not long afterwards, the company found itself with a best seller.

Carven has always stressed youth and pert petite-ness in its designs, and the perfume first conceived for the designer was also youth oriented, a bright floral chypre. The fragrance ended up being one of those that everyone who was a young in Paris at the time either wore or remembered.  The trick of the scent was a combination of new aroma chemicals that Jean Carles* put together to give Ma Griffe its distinctive scratch, a new gardenia and citrus accord that was sharper and fresher and springier than anything that had gone before it. Continue reading

A Perfume Renaissance?

leonardo manGrumbling about the good old days before IFRA (the internal watchdog organization of the fragrance industry) banned so many ingredients has become customary on perfume blogs.  Partially it’s because many of us cannot understand how the same ingredients are recommended in aromatherapy and then forbidden for use in fragrance, except in micro doses more suitable to homeopathy than perfumery.

But no matter how much we grumble, the European perfume industry is changing. We seem to be heading for a fork in the road. Continue reading

Grand Fracas and Petit Fracas

fracas1Are there people who wear Fracas straight through from the Junior Prom until the Heavenly Rest Funeral Home?  I’ll bet that there are.  I can’t remember a time when Fracas wasn’t part of the crowd on any perfume counter.   It was also a staple south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there is just something about Fracas that appeals to the most feminine women in the world, some of whom are from the southern US.

It’s the tuberose in Fracas that creates the ruckus in the first place.  Tuberoses speak in a big unapologetic voice about mating, and they get even huskier voiced and more come hither at night, and are often used in moon gardens, which 19th century ladies roamed in order to preserve their complexions from the sun. It calls up the irresistible image of Mae West vamping her way up and down a gravel path somewhere, about equally lethal to her lovers and their bank accounts. Continue reading

Counter – Intuitive Cool

parasol5Currently it’s about 95 degrees in New Jersey, and outside of life-guards, boardwalk hawkers, and beer sellers, not many of us are happy.  “97 tomorrow!” the librarian moaned to me this morning.

This was not cheerful news.

Of the various options for beating the heat, not many are currently open to me.  I can’t leave town for family reasons, and my house is a plastic shrouded mess while the sheet rock crew who were supposed to be here four days ago make themselves conspicuous by their absence, and the construction makes air conditioning a non-event. The cat has disappeared for the day- presumably heading to the Antarctic, or else snoozing under the neighbor’s hydrangea- either way she’s cooled off.  If anyone ever needed a cold perfume, I do, right about now. Continue reading

A Last Empress’ Last Perfume

426px-engagement_official_picture_of_alexandra_and_nicholasThe perfume marketing world loves a story. Sometimes the stories get so overblown that they topple over into sheer absurdity.  The firm of Lubin experienced some blow back*  when they suggested they were marketing the formula for one of Marie Antoinette’s perfumes in their release Black Jade.

The firm is a very old one so – for once – it was quite credible that they had on their books a perfume which might have been handed down by a servant, a valet, or ladies’ maid from Versailles, which may have approximated one of the late Queen’s scents, but the company’s founding date (1798) meant that it would have been posthumous, because Marie Antoinette was beheaded in 1793. Continue reading

Pricey Niche

peacockThere’s a very odd thing going on out there in the world of perfume: niche fragrance prices are rising.  This year the cost of a 50ml. bottle is well over a hundred dollars US.  In fact, and in the interest of consumers, it’s worth pointing out that this hike comes at a time when many commodity prices are falling, natural gas, metals, pork, corn, etc, and when inflation in the US is running at or below 1.7% (the Federal Reserve’s target is 2%).  So, why are perfume prices up so much?  Is it demand, is it production costs, is it the dollar/euro exchange rate*, is it something that someone outside of the business can’t calculate, or are we…just being suckered for the sake of fashion? Continue reading

The Stars Are Isles perfumer Sandrine Videault died the other day, and it was a sad thought that someone so very talented should have such a brief stay on earth.  The event also made me realize, how ephemeral are the creations of perfumers.

Her output in fine perfumery, at least, was small.  She created a perfumed “Canticle of the Senses” as a scent installation, recreated the smell of Kyphi for the  Cairo Museum, and did Ambre Indien and Violeta for Esteban and Les Neireides respectively.  But you won’t find either of those scents easily, if you find them at all. Such is the nature of perfumery that fragrances disappear with alarming rapidity, sometimes before you had a chance to register their presence, or that of the perfumer who created them. Continue reading

Serge and the Great Siege

Vigiles_du_roi_Charles_VII_51What kind of a world would it be now without M. Serge?  Before he came along with Feminite du Bois, followed by his host of Moroccan inspired scents, the microcosm of French perfume was hermetically sealed in its fortress.  Its influences were internal, its masterpieces were Parisian, and no one could really unseat Guerlain or Caron or for that matter Chanel, in a joust of elegance.  They were the champions, and everyone else just prayed not to fall off the horse. Continue reading

Oriental Embargo

Jardin_chinoisEvery July it happens. The oriental perfumes get packed up and put into my basement along with all the other “cellared” perfume.  Every year when this packing up happens I experience a twinge of regret.  It’s not that I wear large amounts of oriental perfumes – I don’t.  But I do go in for the occasional spicy or woody oriental, and miss these when they are out of rotation.  Now I wonder, does anyone else? If so, what do they do about the gap in the perfume lineup?

There are the usual suspects to be sprung from chokey every July: the fruity florals, the florals, the citruses, possibly a fougere or two.  But some of the best denizens of perfumedom are incarcerated in my cellar for the entire season: aldehydic florals, chypres, and of course orientals, as well as leathers and incense fragrances.  They are not even considered for parole until September, and even then, late September at the earliest. Continue reading