Last Chypre Standing

Because I am a not very reformed chypre addict, the question of which chypre to save has flashed across my mind.  Actually it has sat heavily down in my head and refused to get out of my Brain’s favorite TV chair.  Pretty soon I will have to get this thought to pick up its beer and potato chips, and move on.

With the likely demise of oakmoss imminent, I have to ask which chypres do I want to save from a burning building? It’s a pretty hard thing to decide. Continue reading

The Vexed Question of Musk

If you’re up on your history, you may have read the story of the Empress Josephine splashing her musk based fragrance around the marital apartments so that Napoleon would never forget her perfume after he remarried (for the sake of producing an heir) in 1810.  The story was that the scent was so intense you could catch it drifting in the draperies years later. Who knows how it affected Napoleon, but Marie Louise, his second wife, and no doubt the recipient of this pungent challenge, wore violet scents ever afterwards. Continue reading

Chintz, Tea, and Civilized Discourse

There is something to be said for homogeneity.  Most of us never achieve it.  You can’t tell, when you enter our houses, or see our gardens, or our perfume collections or for that matter our clothes, that a single, organized taste supervised the process of decorating, planting, collecting, or selecting. Generally speaking what you get is a hodge-podge, and in a minority of cases, an expression of whatever the prevailing fashion is, in homes or gardens or perfumes or clothes.

But two English ladies tend to buck this trend,  and I might as well mention them here. Continue reading

Parce-Que I Said So

There is a curious phenomenon in the perfume world known as the limited edition.

It’s a marketing ploy for the most part, but it may also be a way to test out formulas with the public to see what works, and what doesn’t, in which demographic group and for how long?

But then there is the business plan involving high end limited editions and this often seems to come from Guerlain.  In recent years, Guerlain’s production has gone up tremendously, and there are all sorts of releases year after year,  from Little Black Dresses, to annual Muguets, and those continuing franchises: Habit Rouge, Shalimar and nowadays, L’Heure Bleue. Continue reading


Many people prefer autumn to spring.  It’s true.  This always comes as a surprise to me though because of how wonderful Spring really is.  Like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, I am always on the look out, not for the longest day of the year, but for the day in early February when the light begins to change.   At some juncture when the light has been Winter light for a long time, with something gray in its overtones, there comes a point of inflection, and then the color has yellow in it, sublimated yellow, suppressed yellow,  yellow like so much stifled laughter, but yellow just the same, dissolved in the light itself. When you see that light, like watery sun in suspension, then you know, Spring is imminent.

This year I decided on an experiment that I had meant to carry out a year or so earlier, namely, the carrying over of the heliotrope plant (heliotropium arborescens, if you want to be proper). Last year the cat ate the heliotrope. I can’t really blame her.  It does smell very much like almond pastry and who wouldn’t want to eat that?  Continue reading

On Dark Rose Winds

Since the perfume world has taken a decided turn eastwards in the last decade, there have been many more releases that smell of their Middle Eastern predecessors.  Did it all start with Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain?

I don’t know, but I find these perfumes to be compelling in the same way that the Arabian Dance from the Nutcracker is, trailing plumes of scent after them through the unhurried still air of the seraglio like a neglected odalisque might trail a Chinese silk, as though they had nothing better to do in life, than beguile away an empty afternoon. Continue reading

Aspiration and Reality

In the time that I’ve been blogging, it suddenly came home to me that I had no list of perfumes I actually own and wear.  Many other bloggers disclose this rather basic information about themselves, and so I wonder if I should too? My list is sort of idiosyncratic really.

Here goes:

1)      Caron Bellodgia in vintage extract – alas, not much!
2)      Caron Poivre in extract
3)      Caron Narcisse Blanc in extract
4)      Guerlain Vetiver
5)      Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur
6)      Coty Emeraude in edt
7)      Guerlain Philtre d’Amour
8)      Meg of Parfumieren and I own shares in L’Origan in vintage extract and L’Aimant
9)      Cologne Sologne (PdN)
10)    Gardenia Petale Continue reading

Upscale Downscale, Part II

Old Lady Propriety Entailed-Estate, widow of the last Marquess, is pacing the floor of the very grand, and very under-heated family property, Chilblain House, extremely worried about her fool of a son Eustace Entailed-Estate.  From time to time she dabs at her forehead with her lacy handkerchief scented with a touch of Floris’ lavender which she has been wearing ever since she was a girl, sixty years ago.

It must be said that the dabs of lavender are not helping to calm her.  She has just received word from her blithering idiot of a daughter-in-law, Violet Entailed-Estate, that Eustace, her only son and the current Marquess, has been kicking over the traces in Paris again, in a perfectly scandalous fashion!  He has been seen in the company of the shocking new soubrette Imogen “Goldie” Digger, dancing on table tops in Montmartre and mooning over the impossibly vulgar Goldie, who was wearing Golliwog perfume! Continue reading

Chopping Down Chypres

It is something of a dodged bullet, I suppose.  For a long time the SCCS (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety), the advisory body to the EU, has been toying with a whole slew of ingredients that may be problematic for some people.

This is the news that fueled the stories of Chanel No. 5’s demise, but the real trouble is that IFRA, the Industry’s own organization that sets consumer safety standards for perfume, tends to adopt such recommendations as a matter of course.  Could this be the end of No. 5?

Probably not, but if adopted, it will be the end of all oakmoss based chypres.  You can’t make a chypre without oakmoss.  There are some feeble attempts, from time to time, but they all lack the “guts”,  the darkness and depth, the basso profundo resonance, that chypres need. Continue reading

The Oriental in All of Us

Once in an idle interval, I remember toting up all the perfumes worn by every member of my extended family according to scent families. An idiotic little game of parallelisms and no doubt OCD as all get out, but bear with me.

What I discovered was that of about a dozen of us, only one of us wore Orientals, and that was my Mom with…drum roll… Tabu.

Even Chypres were better represented (by me), but of Orientals there were, well, only that one .

Why was that? Now that there are more of us, and several of us are a good deal younger than the original test sample, I find the exact same thing.  The ladies in my family wear fruity florals, and aldehydic florals and the odd citrus perfume but now, only one Oriental, namely Poivre, worn by me. No one else wears them at all.  Continue reading