XXIst Century Versailles from the palace website
Ah, Versailles! All the French kings from Louis the XIII th onward seem to have loved it. Louis had a little hunting lodge there and his son decided to enlarge the hunting lodge until they got… Versailles.
It would be nice to think of the process as organic, similar to that of expanding flowers in water, but the evolution was actually long drawn out, involving casts of thousands. Very impressive are the results: a huge, golden palace radiating avenues like rays of the sun, and these days radiating half mile long lines of Chinese tourists waiting patiently to visit this monument to the glory of France, and in the mean time trailing selfie sticks while posing in front.
As a piece of absurdity on a very grand scale, you can hardly improve upon the palace, and since these days the gilding has been re-done, the blinding bling is enough to attract a good deal of out of town custom. But what do I know? This time out, I never even went inside. My whole reason for visiting Versailles was to donate two rare old bottles of perfume to the Osmotheque Continue reading
It was Mrs. Bonaparte, aka Josephine, who turned the general on to scent. Left to his own devices, Napoleon might have preferred the smell of gunpowder in the morning, but he was besotted by Josephine and perfume was – civilizing.
It is something of a stretch to say that he brought perfume back into fashion. Those who survived the Terror needed some cheering up, and if that meant champagne and perfume, so be it. He certainly did nothing to stop it, as a more dour sort of dictator might have done. The coast was officially clear, the old royal perfume house of Houbigant returned to Paris, and the good times began to roll once more.
Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet from 1872
Catherine Donzel writing about national preferences in Le Parfum puts it like this: “Industrial perfumery must take into account cultural habits. Therefore in Britain detergents are often scented with patchouli: it’s a fragrance that the English have appreciated for a long time….In France it’s another matter: since forever cleanliness is associated with the odor of lavender.”
This statement surprised me somewhat since quite frankly I would have guessed it to be the other way around. That perception might have been different had I been able to visit men’s clubs. The greatest perfumes that came out of England – and there have been several – are for men. Ladies may be getting more attention these days because of niche perfumery, but in the past, the very best English perfumery was masculine. Continue reading
Orange Sanguine from Atelier Cologne
Do you recall Soda Stream? That was the system which allowed you to create your own carbonated sodas . You could buy the equipment and the carbonating packets at Bed Bath and Beyond, and a few summers ago, in the lost era before the Paleo Diet took serious hold and before gluten became unfit for human consumption, there was soda pop.
Now soda is considered worse than wine, which at least has anti-oxidents going for it. Soda is merely an indulgence, a fattening, tooth decaying indulgence at that. I have to sneak about with my glasses of Dr. Brown’s Cherry Soda. Yes. I know. Continue reading
Early Fracas advertising
Peaches unexpectedly have a great deal to do with 20th century perfume. Peach sits so prominently in so many formulas, as it does in Fracas, next to the orange blossoms and the bergamot. What made this omnipresence possible? Success. Or sales. Or aldehyde C14 if you prefer. It’s in Chant d’Aromes, and yes , everyone points out the peach in Mitsouko, (that’s practically a tourist attraction by now.) Well, ditto Fracas.
Somehow or other Fracas is often the perfume of respectable women. How does that come about?One explanation may be that the heart has built in restraint, like a camisole over a bosom, consisting of orris and carnation, in other words the exuberant tuberose is there buxom as can be, but so is the fabric smell from orris, while carnation provides the starch. Continue reading
Oakmoss in nature
Oakmoss is pretty hard to find now. Once it was a cinch to smell the dry and pungent scent of oakmoss in fragrances, moss was part of every chypre, now because of regulations, oakmoss is largely banned and the sort that is allowed in fragrance (ie IFRA compliant meaning it is in line with the dictates of the Industry watchdog) has low atranol.
What is atranol? Besides being the operative bit of oakmoss? Apparently along with chloroatranol, it is the leading allergen in oakmoss absolute which is determined to be problematic by skin patch tests. So much for wonkery. What this means is less dryness and darkness in commercial fragrances. Perfumery loves sugar, like the girl I overheard at the wine shop saying that she really, really, liked her Rieslings and her Marsalas. Continue reading
This, due to my having cut my hand pretty well last night and so typing with three fingers, is going to be a very short post. I hope you will excuse my terseness this time out, but I recently had an interesting encounter with a vintage perfume, Pavlova actually. Which was named for the ballerina of course not the delicious meringue dessert. (Although I do love a good pavlova!)
Payot came out with this fragrance in 1977, but some perfume books notably Fabulous Fragrances, Jan Moran’s guide, date the scent to 1922. Was there an earlier perfume? La Pavlova was certainly very famous in the 1920’s, dying a swan’s death on stage with astonishingly regular fidelity all over the world. Payot as far as I know is a French skin care company, these days moving into the Chinese market.http://www.payot.com Pavlova, must have been one of their forays into the perfume world. If so, then their effort was a success. Continue reading
Original advertising for Coty Muse
The best perfume customer, Do such people exist? Can they exist? Are they us?
In the States we tend to reference Estee Lauder’s steady and entirely sensible business practices, the slow and persistent knock on consumers’ sensibilities with demonstrations, free samples, and gifts with purchase. Estee was in fact a follower of Francois Coty in all this. He too, wanted the wide market, and bet that he could obtain it-which he did of course- and with spectacular success. That all began though with demographic democracy by targeting the middle class consumer. Continue reading
Black iris painting offering from etsy.com
Detecting the principal notes of fragrances is one of the most annoying and confusing aspects of perfume collecting. Who would know-for example-that the main note of Fracas is Tuberose? And who would intuit that YSL Paris is largely concerned with roses? No one does. You simply have to find that out yourself over time checking out different websites, and ultimately, trusting your own nose.
So last year when Patricia de Nicolai’s fragrance Ambre Cashmere came out I thought it was an amber perfume because of the name, and since most of the reviews accused AC of a tooth enamel eroding sweetness, I let the matter rest, and it wasn’t until for entirely different reasons a sample came my way, that I actually tried Ambre Cashmere. Continue reading
M7 from manlovescologne.com
Oud sloshes about perfume retailers nowadays, you need waders or gumboots to keep the stuff from soaking your shoes. There is practically a flood warning out for it, and still the public seems to love the smell and to keep on buying. Sometimes I wonder if this is not due to the fact that the Industry killed off one of their better dry fixatives with the oakmoss ban imposed by IFRA? It could be, and after all, synthetic substitutes for oud have existed for some time, but the beginnings of oud and the Middle Eastern influence on mainstream perfume is a good deal older than you might expect.
Yves Saint Laurent’s M7, a synthetic oud fragrance for men, was introduced in 2002 and has remained a love it or loathe it experience ever since. However M7 wasn’t the first mainstream release containing oud. The first was probably Yatagan (1976) into whose formula a certain amount of oud wood was incorporated. The oud is not in the notes, neither in the H&R Guide of 1991, nor yet on any of the websites, but there is a reference to this note of Yatagan’s in The Book of Perfume by Barrille and LaRoze who claim that the perfumers of Caron, always interested in rituals (with their own Royal Bain de Caron allegedly part of Voodoo ceremonies) decided to include this nearly sacred material in their new masculine.* Continue reading