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
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 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
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
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
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
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
Gold lace from pinterest.com
Who does not love amber? It’s such a popular note that almost every brand at one point or another has featured one. Very often though they become clicheed. Your nose tells you, it has smelled this sort of thing a fair few times before. Amber is one of those notes which wrap people up warmly in the winter but seem to disappear in summer. Could amber be made a bit lighter? Could you see a little light behind its windows? Or must amber live inside darkly shuttered orientals? Far too often this seems to be the preferred treatment of the note. Continue reading
An old bottle of Le parfum ideal from an Etsy listing
Gaps fascinate me, such as the gap between what people say and do and in this case, what perfume people think they wear and what they actually do. It’s often quite a big gap and this subject is related to last week’s point about brands and our identification with them.
So in the spirit of, “Not minding the gap.” I wonder what it is that my readers and I actually pull and put on most days. Currently for me it is vintage Le Parfum Ideal bought for the dizzying sum of fifteen dollars for a half ounce of edt. It’s quite close to being perfect. Warm and just half way between Chanel No 5 and Coty Chypre- if that makes any sense- with a slightly nutty, slightly green presence. It’s elegant but adaptable, and comfortable to wear anywhere and incidentally was the long term favorite of Anita Loos. There’s Anita in costume as a single digit dolly toting starlet from the twenties, when she was in her thirties and writing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Continue reading
A Boldini study
The other week I bought a bottle of La Rose Jacqueminot without having tested the perfume. Since it was composed about 1904, I was not certain what kind of perfume I would end up with, this is a Coty after all, and he invented two of the standard scent families of the twentieth century.
La Rose Jacqueminot is unusual. In broad outline it is a rose chypre, but like many of the earliest of those, the formula straddles the line between chypres and orientals. Continue reading