Gourmands for Thanksgiving

Currier and Ives

Currier and Ives

Hobble gobble seems to be the motto of every Us citizen on November 27th.  Some of us even run marathons first in order to justify all that subsequent eating- the hub did once in Atlanta.  But I’m not in the marathon running business, and in order to keep the gluttony down to liveable levels- because I don’t intend to go up a dress size- I sometimes wear my desserts instead of ingesting them. Continue reading

Cyclamens in Winter

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

Cyclamen graecum in bloom

There is nothing quite so graceful as a cyclamen in bloom.  Every year when the last things in the garden have been blackened by frost I tend to look for the pots in the super markets and plan table scapes in baskets with cyclamens  dominating (kept in shape by watering with weak tepid tea). It’s too early for the amaryllis that I’ve begun and is still the season for chrysanthemums indoors, so I have to postpone my cyclamen fest until December, but I begin thinking about them now. Continue reading

Three Cult Orientals

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Orientals had been rather passe.  I’m not sure when the turnaround came, but sometime around the end of the oughts, oriental perfumes came back into fashion and the previously ubiquitous fruity florals were back- catalogued. Something had shifted in the zeitgeist, or fashion, or the cloudy upper ether of the fragrance world.

I realized that the change was complete when I leafed through a book on Berlin fashion and discovered that some cool Berliners were now wearing Frederic Malle’s Dries Van Noten (a woody oriental, specifically an update of Nuit de Noel and Bois des Isles). They wouldn’t have been doing that five years ago. Continue reading

Coty’s Chypre

Chypre in an early bottle

Chypre in an early bottle

This is a marvel of a perfume.  If you are new to the world of scent and just trying to get a grip on what the difference between an oriental and a chypre is, Francois Coty’s name is one to know.  He was  born a Corsican and his original name was actually Spoturno, but he abandoned that in favor of his mother’s maiden name Coti, which he subsequently gallicized to Coty. France’s first billionaire, Coty was also the first man to use floral extracts in his perfumes (these were stronger and pure-er than the old floral distillates).  The result was several stunningly original perfumes and in 1917, Chypre,  the fore runner of all modern chypres, and a true feat of perfumery, combining extremes of lightness and darkness, freshness and muskiness, scrubbed cleanliness and grubby sexiness in one unified whole. Continue reading

Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Perfume

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Only very infrequently do nurserymen or plant breeders collaborate with perfumers. Once briefly in 1993 one such collaboration  produced a success: Evelyn.

The company willing to work with a breeder to produce a replica scent was Crabtree & Evelyn and the breeder was David Austin.  He was promoting a new strain of roses that he had been working on since the late sixties, English Roses which have the look and perfumes of old garden roses but are repeat flowering.  He was always far more attentive to fragrance than any of the other rose breeders I’ve ever read about.  David Austin was concerned not simply with stem bending size of rose or outlandish color, but with form of blossom, foliage, and very much with scent. Continue reading

Nasty from the Nice

Faraday's Depiction of the Great Stink of London

 Depiction of the Great Stink of London

Bad perfume may be one of the evils we were put on this earth to rise above- as Queen Victoria was  rumored to have remarked about nature. At least it is to my mind.  Victoria had a larger task than the one I have set myself, which is simply not to inhale anything for long which is hateful.  When it comes to new perfumes I give everything a fair trial-but here’s the salient point-not on skin.

My method involves a brandy snifter and some saturated paper or cotton. I leave the sample in the snifter for hours and check on its progress and note the changes, but I do not put anything on my skin anymore that has not gone through a good eight hour stretch in the snifter. Continue reading

Mr and Mrs Satan

Sciaparelli's Mr Stan at her front door

Sciaparelli’s Mr Satan at her front door

The story goes that the designer Schiaparelli had two Venetian carved figures on either side of her front door in Paris in the thirties.  They were human scale but carved out of wood and had cloven hooves, so some wag on his way in to a Schiaparelli party dubbed them Mr and Mrs Satan.

Schiaparelli had a distinctive taste, but when it comes to red hot and devilish fun, I can understand it.  My own fondness is for any kind of red hot scent.  I really will go out of my way for peppers, or cinnamon, or carnation (provided it’s good and spicy) and cloves, so it can’t be any surprise that one of my long term loves in the perfume world is Caron’s Poivre.  Continue reading