More Powder to You: Luctor et Emergo and Farnesiana

woman powderingTo powder or not to powder?  It’s not even a question of the nose, no matter how shiny, but of what wafts off your skin.  Powder these days carries with it the suggestion of the infantile. I bet this has to do with a major brand of baby powder co-opting what must have been a popular scent of the thirties or forties, and sending it, in millions of talc bottles, to nurseries around the world with the result that when we smell powder, we tend to say, “Oh, that’s for babies.” 

This wasn’t always the case, and if you like powder, you can sometimes find the note used in modern ways, in modern compositions.  Powderiness lends aridity to a formula, but not bitterness, and can co-exist with sweetness very well, and keep the sugar from reaching the burnt caramel stage on skin.  It’s not common though to find powdery perfumes, they are out of fashion, although Stephanie Saint-Aignan’s Le Pot aux Roses was a welcome exception, a very clever pairing of those time honored lovers violet and rose trysting in powder under a swans down puff.  The resultant offspring was a boudoir perfume so pale that to call it rose at all was a stretch.  Pot was porcelain complexioned with the slightest pink showing underneath its lacy lingerie. Le Pot managed to be floral, and not gourmand, as so many loukhoum perfumes have been since,  which gave the perfume originality.

Luctor et Emergo, released by People of the Labyrinths in 1997, is not all that recent, and not nearly so floral, but also has a major powder base.  The perfume is vanilla marinated cherries with some woody and flower-y constituents, but the consensus inside this bottle is sweetness and dryness augmented by a kind of amber that always reminds everyone of Play Doh.  The name has to do with Zealand in Holland whose motto is: From Struggle I Rise, pretty apropos for a part of the world where dry land is frequently man made.

If you put Luctor on a sliding scale from the floral side it is much closer to some of the gourmands than Le Pot, but does not abandon the floral side completely.  When I tried Luctor (courtesy Olfactif’s March sample box) I thought: “Oh this smells like Farnesiana.”

Mimosa,  for postIt doesn’t take you long to see why.  Those same notes, except for cherry, are in Farnesiana along with a beautiful mimosa, at the outset.  Then, along comes the Play Doh, subsequently something fruity, I think black current in Farnesiana, and finally a sand dune desert of pale yellow powder stretching out as far as the drydown.

Now I like Farnesiana,  but have always struggled with the fruit note and the Play Doh.  Frankly I struggle with the same ingredients in Luctor, but this perfume, though more modern than Farnesiana is also a great deal less subtle.  All in all, I would not call it a replacement, but LeE is an everyday dry breeze, loveable if you love powder.  Luctor is rolling in that.

Caron powder puffs All of  which begs the question: do we love powder? * Do you avoid a perfume because you feel like the scent should be applied with a puff? Can you wear powder and not think of baby bottoms? In short, is powder modern?


* The illustration is of Caron powder puffs which you can still buy at their boutiques.

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4 thoughts on “More Powder to You: Luctor et Emergo and Farnesiana

  1. I would never USE one of those Caron powder puffs, but I find them irresistibly appealing.

    I was just commenting on Kafkaesque’s recent review of Farnesiana that I’m picky about my powder. Powder from aldehydes (I believe it tends to linger into the drydown, even when the ow-my-head topnotes are gone), or certain woody notes, from violet (in composition; I don’t do well with powdery violet soliflores), or mimosa notes, or certain musks – I like all those.

    There is a powdery vanilla/amber component, though, that wears on my nerves. It’s in, for example. Bvlgari Black, which is why I didn’t rebuy it when my mini was gone – I loved the new-sneakers/new bike tires aspect of that, but the powdery stuff did me in. It’s also in Aimez-Moi, which is the reason I passed along my small 1oz bottle. There’s a flat, dull, heavy aspect to that stuff that really bothers me even if I like the rest of the fragrance. And iris; too much of it feels like powdery mildew/damp basement to me, and I cannot manage it. Bvlgari pour Femme and Hiris, and a bunch of other iris-focused fragrances, have that effect.

    Oddly, Infusion d’Iris, which has a strongly powdered effect, doesn’t bother me. I don’t love it, but there are times when it’s just right.

    POTL LeE was strongly Play-Doh to my nose, and I hated it. So now I’m in two minds as to whether to even bother testing Farnesiana… and then, of course, there is the which-version issue as well. SIGH.

  2. There’s a clean warmth to some aldehydes, I don’t know what you would call that note, cashmere blanket? You got it in the old Cashmere Bouquet talc and soap, have you ever run across that? I used to wash Miss Skateaway in it when she was tiny, but anyway, that may be the kind of aldehydic powder you mean. I love it too, and particularly in L’Aimant.

    Then there is the issue of the dreaded amber/vanilla/Play Doh and that’s a problem for large numbers of people. That quite frankly may be where you would run into trouble with Farnesiana. I love mimosa so much that I’m willing to bear up under the Doh for a good ten minutes, but it’s in every formulation of Farnesiana I’ve ever worn or smelled, and that includes several different perfume batches and the edp. Farnesiana is my Mommy perfume and I’ve worn it for ages.

    Iris aldehydes, wow. Different but related topic. I find iris very hard to wear. Like a lot of other people I do consider it sober sided to the point of austerity. You feel like you ought to be a Quakeress on the way to meeting worried about the perfection of your plain-ness. I couldn’t manage Aimez Moi either, though it gets a good deal of love, and can’t for the life of me think of an iris that worked. Infusion d’Iris almost does. A good aldehydic iris might be beautiful in theory, sort of 1 part L’Aimant to two parts Apres L’Ondee?

    • I adore Iris Poudre, but to be honest it’s not particularly irisy to my nose. It’s aldehydes+benzoin+tonka+musk, pretty much, with a teeny bit of floral stuff, and I hardly ever notice the iris at all. And I’d call it “fluffy” rather than “powdery” in any case.

      Now I want to test my tolerance for that Play-Doh thing. I may regret it.

      • You might regret the Play Doh, definitely a small sample situation to my mind. Also you have to not mind mimosas and black current…

        I don’t know, do you like any Carons? Maybe Parfum Sacre?

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