Monthly Archives: August 2013

Thoroughly Modern Muse

flapperdThey’re very nice at the Estee Lauder counters.  It’s not that other SAs aren’t nice, but in my experience, the SAs at EL are in a class of good natured-ness of their own.  They are generous with samples, and happy to make up ones if you like.  Call it their corporate culture.  At Tom Ford they are arch and elegant by comparison, at Jo Malone they are experimentalists and hover, even though the parent company is Lauder. But at EL itself, no one gives me a hard time for wanting Sensuous Noir instead of White Linen.

Anyway, EL’s latest is Modern Muse which I smelled yesterday having been given a sample by those nice SAs, and having sniffed so much perfume, immediately found that it closely resembled something else I’d smelled before. But what was it?  Not an Estee Lauder- that was my first surprising assessment. Continue reading

Basil, The Tomato’s Friend

basilEveryone has a  different inflection point that indicates the waning of summer.  My own is the time when the basil plants come into the local farmer’s markets with the bracts of flowers attached, and a certain rubberiness to the leaves.  When that happens, I know that summer is almost over and that soon I will be back purchasing school supplies.

I’m sorry to see the basil pass its peak.  There isn’t any better herbal smell, not to me, and like the late Eleanor Perenyi,  I find “the aroma so intoxicating, that I would turn it into a perfume  if I knew how.”

Of course, others do know how.  The first time that I recall was Isabella Rosselini’s perfume Manifesto, from the 90’s, predicated entirely on basil and owing something when you smelled it to Cabotine.  Well, that wasn’t too much of a surprise. After all, Cabotine was a heavy hitter back in those days.  Continue reading

Getting to the Good Parts of Guerlains

FlegelNot all segments of perfumes are equally beautiful. They are not endowed with an inalienable right to gorgeousness, and it’s hard for a perfumer to make sure that all sections of a perfume perform up to the same standard of unvarying loveliness, but while I cherish perfumes that are impeccable, Emeraude, L’Origan, Bellodgia, Tabac Blond, A*Men, Il Tuo Tulipano,  La Myrrhe, there is a part of me that enjoys fragrances, I can only enjoy parts of, a sort of perfume tapas.

Which house serves up the greatest smorgasbord of tidbits?  Mais Guerlain, naturellement! Continue reading

Opium via Tabu

opium-denThe other day I read a curious quote: “To appreciate Opium, one must first understand Tabu”.*

Inwardly I groaned, because Tabu has never been a favorite of mine since the far off days when my Mother used it as a signature scent, thereby creating a fumic dead zone around herself.  You couldn’t smell anything around her but Tabu. I mean absolutely nothing.

Opium, great hit that it was, provoked a similar reaction from me, namely, dislike. Apparently this isn’t unusual. Both scents are love or hate inducing perfumes. They are unique, strong personalities;  “No one remains indifferent to Jean Carles’ sledgehammer,” as Michael Edwards puts it. Continue reading

Citrus Attacks

cagney citrusBack when I was a teenager and trying to find a first scent, my mother, who had gone with me on a shopping trip, said, “Oh, why don’t you just wear this?”

“This” was Cristalle.

Cristalle surprises me sometimes because it seems to be as old as No. 5, although actually it only dates to 1977.  I didn’t buy it, and never have, because there was something about it that did not quite sit with me.  Possibly that was the abstraction. Chanel perfumes tend to be abstracts, the elegantly non representational scents of the perfume world. Or maybe  the formula itself was a bit non-committal, but whatever the reason, Cristalle stayed in the shop. Continue reading


IdolatryOrdinarily this color would come to mind in October, you know, when the leaves are turning scarlet and gold and bright pumpkin oranges are the order of the day.  This year however, it hasn’t been so warm this summer.  Apart from a few days when the Jersey air congealed into a burning, churning mess, most of our July and now August has been unseasonably wet and rather cool.

Basically, it rained a lot.

What to wear?  Well, first I tried Orientals, but they were just a bit too thick and viscous on the humid air.  After a few tries with Chergui and Muscs Koublai Khan, I abandoned this tactic and looked for something else.  I disinterred Hermes Eau d’Ambre, which was a mistake because the charm of that scent is pretty seasonal, and not very apparent when it is 95 degrees fahrenheit (35 celsius) and just as humid. It was a zombie fest. Continue reading

Despicably Me

Grimly Feendish“Try the hot pockets. They’re breathtaking!”

Dr. Evil.

If you think about it, not too many other animals worry about the nature of their scent signature in the way that most of us do.  It’s a uniquely a perfumista (er) concern.  We are identifiable by the way in which we always carry breath mints (because we can smell halitosis in millionth parts of any atmosphere, and therefore fear we’re spreading it, and therefore, carry mints).  Continue reading

Stephanotis, And Other Members of the Wedding

wedding paintingAre floral perfumes just not popular right now?

Oh whoops, nope, of course they are! This year the popular floral is ylang-ylang. Consider Le Labo’s Ylang 49 and My Ylang from Caron.  There just must be a lot of the material hanging around at Givaudan-Roure or someplace, filing its nails and shrieking at the other flowers in Tagalog.

But for a brief period of time in the eighties, the flower of choice was the stephanotis, otherwise known as the wedding flower, and it figured in a (very) small number of perfumes.  Floris has a couple of them, one simply called Stephanotis which was based on a very old formula, and these days Wedding Bouquet (2011) as well, which has been pretty well received. But the Stephanotis champion is probably…ahem, Caron’s Nocturnes from 1981. Continue reading