Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sandalwood Gold

Sandalwood_harvestIf you read the Wall Street Journal this past weekend, you may have noticed an article about the poaching of sandalwood from the plantations that now dot Western Australia (Illegal Loggers Tap Australian Prize).  It’s becoming a big problem with so much sandalwood clumsily poached (branches sawn off anyhow, stumps left in the ground) that the illegal export is beginning to hurt the legal trade.

So, alright, this is a not too pretty story of thugs stealing for profit, and how does it affect the rarefied world of high end scent?  One way is clearly that the prices for sandalwood-centric scents like Samsara and Santal Majuscule will remain high.  If a formula really and truly needs that hit from sandalwood and nothing else will do, then you will still be paying for it, through the nose. Continue reading

Duking it Out – Vetiver Tonka

EakinsBoxersYou don’t associate Jean Claude Ellena’s perfumes with pugnacity.  At his most communicative Ellena, who is now working with Christine Nagel,  explains a good deal about his scents – but Vetiver Tonka doesn’t require much back story. The perfume is a solid one that stands on a heavy molecular base and offers no apologies for itself. It’s tough, and pulls no punches.

I bumbled into it at Hermes the other day, while debating whether or not to give Vanille Galante another try.  I had barely smelled VG the first time around, and my hopes for smelling it a second time were not high.  So I went with the vetiver instead, and I was in for a surprise. Continue reading

Annunciation Lily

annunciation People get tangled up in lilies.  Half the time they confuse little lilies of the valley with towering Regale lilies, and that is why you sometimes notice posters on perfume  websites complaining that a “lily perfume did not smell like lilies of the valley”. The scents are quite different.

But the world of lilies is almost as crowded as that of niche perfumes.  It’s not as though you simply have Easter lilies, or Asiatics, you also have Orientals, Tiger lilies, and a whole assortment of lilies from China, which usually have been hybridized to produce huge blooms and sometimes an even more ginormous scent, a miasma of perfume. Continue reading

The Osmanthus of Our Dreams

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no more warm and radiant note.  If you like peaches or apricots the smell of osmanthus is perfect, a floral echo of your favorites, and back in the day before all the synthetic mimicry of fruits became possible in perfumery, osmanthus was the only real peach imitator.  Then along came the aldehydes, and peach notes became commonplace.

But this is one of those flowers in perfumery that remain poised and perfect, balanced on the dividing wall between what is sensual and what is ladylike.

Continue reading

Luxury Saddle Soap for Gals and Guys

trooper of plainsAh leather, there is nothing quite like it in perfume, and once you have gotten addicted to the scent, nothing else will do.  Hearing about tanning may be enough to turn your stomach, but the results of tanning, buttery soft sides, and the grip of well stitched handles, are one of the civilized pleasures of leaving the house.  Otherwise how could Hermes have come so far?

When Jeffrey Dame sent me his Grand Cuir the first of his Parfums Retro releases, I though oh good, some dirty leather.  I live in Jersey after all, and we like leather, wear leather – you know, the whole nine yards: leather with spikes, leather with grommets, leather with dust, leather with black lace, you got it. Continue reading


Bonnard.Just for the fun of it, I thought it would be nice to take a look at some perfumes that never quite caught on, despite being good or original, whether recently or not.  This week I thought I’d go back to Weil’s strange old green floral Weil de Weil.

Weil used to sell furs, and back in the day in the late twenties, their perfumes all had animal names, like Zibeline (sable) 1928, and Antilope, also 1928. Both were floral aldehydes, but Zibeline was the darker end of floral aldehyde alley while Antilope stayed on the sunny side of that street, near neighbor to chypres like Ma Griffe. (If you can find old bottles of Zibeline btw, they are well worth buying in order to enjoy the luxurious ambergris dry down.)

The Weil family had to escape Paris in WWII, and it was in the States that they had their monster success Secret of Venus in 1945.  By all accounts Secret is a heavy oriental, and I’ve only smelled it once, but in the seventies the house of Weil produced other perfumes including Weil de Weil (1971). Continue reading

The Hellebore and the Oleander

hELLEBOREThese are two plants that have one major point in common: they’re poisonous.  Absolutely.  You can’t eat any part of a hellebore or an oleander safely, any attempt is likely to disagree with you violently, sooner or later.

The strange thing though is that despite being as poisonous as they are, humans for a thousand years have lived in close conjunction with them and the reason is that they’re pretty.

I love both though have only become familiar with the Christmas Rose (as Hellebore niger is called) recently because of the deer population in our town.  We have a nature preserve in the middle of the city, once stocked with a dozen semi tame deer.  A long time ago during a tight city budget, the deer were simply let out of their corral to forage on their own. Continue reading

Dark Velvet Bouquets

Cat0In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is always looking for the longest day of the year, and then missing it, but in my case, it’s the shortest day of the year I look for and generally miss.  All cases of seasonal blues aside, this is the time of year loved by firelight and candlelight aficionados, that includes me, and my close associate the cat, who never saw a warm surface she wouldn’t nestle onto.

To go with all this man made illumination I enjoy cozy perfumes with something like a gourmand note.  Please notice this isn’t a gourmand.  That’s a different matter, and while I like gourmands, I don’t own any. Continue reading

The Rejuvenating Grapefruit

grapefruitThere was a study done some years ago now that indicated women of a certain age could be perceived as younger if they wore a particular scent. The scent was grapefruit.

You may remember the residual hoohah, with some people grumpily declaring in my family, they didn’t care if the grapefruit made them look like Miley Cyrus (in her pre-twerk Hannah Montana days), they just didn’t like the smell.

It’s true that grapefruit has a certain sulfurous something lurking in its clean, crystalline depths.  The sulfur tinge in grapefruit is sort of like taking one of those glass bottomed boat tours they give in the Virgin Islands and spotting a giant squid in the aquamarine waters below you.  It’s disconcerting and liable to capsize the entire expedition, and the only takeaway will be squid, and nothing but squid. Continue reading