Category Archives: People

As it Was, So it Is

French garden sculpture from pinterest.com

When  this blog began six years ago I never would have thought it would run on for so long.  But I am a Southener and we can natter the length of a summer’s day and never get tired.

Still these days the demands on my time have grown, and the effort it takes to post every week has gotten beyond even my powers of small talk. So I will largely cease to post here although will leave the blog up so that anyone who wants to  can search the archives and ( I hope) enjoy themselves in the process.

The very best of blogging has been the people I have met on these many posts, lively, funny, sophisticated, what an ideal bunch of readers you are.  I have to thank you for giving me the most valuable gift a reader can give a writer-your time.

Every once in a while I will  look in on the world of perfume through its marvelous cloudy atmosphere. Oh and  let me say that I don’t find this world is ending or producing terrible product.  I am so impressed lately with the work of Hiram Green, Neil Morris, Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, still the de Nicolai family, and am encouraged by a number of recent French firms.  As for new bottles, yes children!  I am buying some.

And the very best of luck  to all of you on every day.

So here is the blog for your enjoyment!

I will be over at Ahistoryblog.com every two weeks or so.

Curious: Mandy Aftel’s New perfume

Lapsang Souchong which also comes to mind in Curious

Curious is the name of Mandy Aftel’s new perfume and it was immediately reminiscent to me of another perfume she created, the sophisticated Sepia from 2012.  Sepia was composed in conjunction with the blogger Nathan Branch and was inspired by the brown tints of old sepia prints.

I have to say that I was probably in the minority then because I liked Sepia which was a divisive love it/hate it kind of scent. The perfume had a sophisticated heart full of unexpected elements like strawberry (that is Fragrantica’s listing) and coffee  (again I did not smell this). Here I will dismiss the notes and describe what I smelled.  What I caught from Sepia was a scent very like Lapsang Souchong tea.  This was entirely accidental  and probably wasn’t the takeaway that other people had, but  was my impression.  Curious strikes me as having a similar central accord as the earlier work. Sepia was more complex, and had a wonderful ambergris drydown, which I still love, but Curious is drier, more woody, and has a smokiness which reminds me of Lapsang Souchong all over again, or possibly Russian Caravan Tea. Continue reading

Happy Fourth of July

A wonderful Fourth of July Cake from pinterest.com

To all of my readers a happy Fourth of July and if you are international, I hope that you are enjoying this July wherever you are. 🙂

I will be back in a couple of weeks with a discussion of Mandy Aftel’s work and her new perfume Curious which should be fun and cooling for the summer.

Perfume Sins

Some scents just won’t charm other people

If you asked me this a few years ago I would have agreed but reluctantly that some perfume wearing is just in bad taste.  Perfume is something that has only recently ( in historical terms) become discussion worthy. Perfumes The Guide came out ten years ago, and compared to all the preceding years when perfumes were neither discussed nor assessed, that’s a very short time.  I remember decades when it was very difficult to find out anything at all about perfume and what little I did discover came from reading: Edmond Roudnitska, Elizabeth Barille, Michael Edwards,even Jean Pierre Coffe, who as I recall Le Bon Vivre, did not think much of Cartier’s Le Panthere.

In the interim there has been an explosion of discussion. The industry itself, despite all the chit chat, remains secretive, and self contradictory in its aims. It’s certainly not clear that all  mass perfume makers want to produce consistently high quality.  What they want to produce is something highly profitable, and the parameters of what constitutes a reasonable profit seem to expand all the time.  It’s now axiomatic that packaging costs far more than content.  Should it?  This product is largely water anyway. Continue reading

Originals

something you don't come across every day. Dailymail.UK.com

something you don’t come across every day. Dailymail.UK.com

You know it’s a funny thing, most of us, plus the media, plus critics, even academics, like to say that we admire originality.  That is to say that we do, very much, so long as we can see how that originality sold in the 18-49 demographic last year? Also, was that gross or net? We love originality- just so long as someone else has done it first.

This means that you will almost never smell an original perfume.  They’re too risky to sell.  Supposing the public doesn’t like them?  The same goes for any number of new products, but trust me on this one, if you’ve smelled thousands of perfumes you know original ones are extremely rare. Continue reading

Dorian Gray’s Perfume

Dorian as physical perfection on a summer day.

Dorian as physical perfection on a summer day.

Some writers set the scene of a novel with visuals, others like to give us a sense of how their characters feel, as in the ghost’s cold little hand at the beginning of Wuthering Heights, but Oscar Wilde decides at the very beginning of The Portrait of Dorian Gray to tell us how things smelled.

“The studio was  filled with the rich odor of roses,” the novel begins,” and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate scent of the pink flowering thorn.” It’s a very odd way to begin a novel.  Possibly Wilde felt that if you know how a place smells you know automatically how it looks and that a long description is  therefore unnecessary.

Instead Wilde continues his olfactory description. Lord Henry Wotten is lying on “Persian saddlebags” which implies a smell of old wool, and is smoking cigarettes, so a nicotine haze blurs this atmosphere. Through the  open door come more flower fragrances, laburnum  in bloom, and the flowering woodbine, which are just other names for gold chain trees and honeysuckle. Continue reading

Down to Earth

The edge of our pond

The edge of our pond

There is a definite shift in the season here.  Connecticut has those four clearly demarcated seasons and this one is the transitional, the rainy, the mucky, the still cold but the light is brighter, the sap is running one, we have a name for it: mud season.

This should be a little more shoe and less wellington boot, but the fact is that I have spent the last several weeks cutting brambles out of the garden.  This is not a pleasant job and generally has me battling something very long and spiny which then manages to work thorns into jeans, shirts, scalps, wrists and fingers no matter how plasticated and tough the gardening gloves.  I really do find this season irritating from a purely epidermal point of view. Continue reading

Variations on a Musk Theme: Sylvaine Delacourte

Mme. Delacourte

Mme. Delacourte

Reviewing is something I  seldom do.  I suspect perfumes are critic proof in the first place, and in the second, supposing the reviewer is simply wrong?

Here  though, I was intrigued.  If you paid attention to Guerlain in the oughts, you knew about the career of Sylavaine Delacourte their skilled artistic director.  Now here was an individual who had learned (few people do) the highly inflected language of  Guerlain perfumes. Continue reading

Characters in Bottles: The Carons

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

If you read last week’s post you know about the first part of my essay on the Caron perfume house.  I was making the point that Caron,or more precisely their founder/perfumer Ernest Daltroff, created highly distinctive perfumes.  Along with Francois Coty who also used psychological marketing, Daltroff seems to have composed perfumes for different personality types, some of them quite extreme.

Take for instance Nuit de Noel (1922), Caron itself calls this fragrance an oriental though the formula is on the line between chypres and orientals, and describes it as “woody, flowery (mainly jasmine) spices (sic) and moss.”  This was the controversial writer Ayn Rand’s favorite perfume and remains a grave, almost stately scent that suits anyone who loves luxury.  The absence of any cologne or bergamot top-notes makes the the scent rich, yet not at all animalic since the base is  25% sandalwood, the rest mousse de saxe. This may be the origin of the comments about Caron’s relative “propriety” since unlike most of its competitors, Nuit did not feature civet or musk.  The scent is dignified and lavish but not in the least sexual. Nuit de Noel is a perfume for judges, executives, even Prime Ministers ( Theresa May take note). There is nothing silly about the contents of the little black bottle. Continue reading

Characteristic Carons

Distinctive ladylike image for a ladylike fragrance

Distinctive ladylike image for a ladylike fragrance

Caron has been a constant in my blogging world and my closet for so many years now that I can’t remember when I first wore a Caron. The house is no longer a fashionable one and although some perfume critics used once upon a time to revere the company, Caron has garnered bad reviews, and released ho hum fragrances in the past decade which in turn garnered more bad reviews.

This is a little unfair.  Even Guerlain is not what it was these days, with its plethora of releases, and its onetime art director starting a perfume company of her own.* That is not even to to mention the last living Guerlain perfumer initiating his own line*. Continue reading