On Magnolias, Being Southern, and Pierre Bourdon

The Old Bull Bay magnolia

The Old Bull Bay magnolia

Not necessarily in that order.

Perfume taste is different in different parts of the world, and it’s even different between states in the US, which is admittedly a big  place. New York likes strong novelty perfumes, the niche stuff, you smell a lot of ambroxan, a lot of synthetic oud.  Jersey likes fruitchoulis, and up market Jersey buys Bond No 9 and Creed, especially Virgin Island Water. Connecticut so far as I can smell depends heavily on the township, from low to very high end. Californians I understand go for the flowered stuff and will buy naturals.

If you’re Southern though you have been born with a fondness for the smells of humid afternoons in late Spring.  I know, because I was and the scent of magnolias, of gardenias, and of those big old weed trees locusts, are among my favorites.  Now here is a new perfume from Pierre Bourdon no less, with a 60% concentration of magnolia absolute and I cannot get my hands on a sample! Continue reading

Roger et Gallet

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

Scented soap is one of my great pleasures in life.  Sometimes I take a pratfall in the suds though. My latest purchase of Zum’s Sandalwood was a case in point. It had a label that read: Channel your inner sexual siren with Sandalwood. Responsible for emotions, sensuality, intimacy, and sexuality. (AKA if you want to be a minx in the sack.)”

My brother and brother in law who read the back of the label (which was more than I’d done) were charmed by this and ran around for part of Thanksgiving weekend trying to convince my husband that he needed a shower.  My Hub was not going to be the butt of this Gallic humor and a hygienic standoff ensued.  Needless to say I really should flip bars of soap and read the back label from time to time. Continue reading

Malta 1565 – Blood, Sweat, and Cumin

MaltaMy Hub has written a book about renaissance Malta, and since it is coming out this week, he looked at me and said, “Can you write a post about Malta?”

Of course I was willing to write a post about Malta, but since I write about smelling and gardening for smells, I needed some whiff, or huff, or some sort of olfactory in for me to write about.

The Hub’s book deals with some fairly hair-raising events which occurred 450 years ago (The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St John, Bruce Ware Allen, Fore Edge Books, there it is!), but not so much with agriculture on Malta. The island has traditionally been a source for world class honey (the Greeks referred to Malta as Melite, “honey sweet”), which would suggest a rich lode of blooming flowers – but for whatever reason, this has not translated into perfumery as it has in, say, Grasse.

The one unquestionable perfume contribution of Malta, however, is cumin.

Continue reading

Rethinking Jicky

Guerlain advertising for Jicky

Guerlain advertising for Jicky

It’s such a perennial it seems that everyone has worn Jicky at one time or another including Mick Jagger and Jaqueline Kennedy Onnasis and Colette and Proust, well that was according to Colette, but it seems quite likely doesn’t it? What else was Proust going to wear? Fougere Royale? I don’t think so.

Of course by now everyone has read the stories about Jicky.  The one about vanillin and the  mixture of a slightly impure grade to get the offbeat, faintly smudged vanilla of the scent.  The admiring comments of Ernest Beaux (creator of No5) about Jacques Guerlain’s use of vanilla, and the melancholy tale about Aimee Guerlain’s lost English love referred to as “Jicky” although that may equally well have been Jacques Guerlain’s nickname. Continue reading

The Golden L’Origan

L'aimant and L'Origan from an Ebay listing

L’aimant and L’Origan from an Ebay listing

When the afternoon light turns amber that’s the end of summer.  It’s a phenomenon that you see in many different parts of the world. The light is a clear bluish color in Spring, has a strong un-tinted intensity in summer but in autumn, light slants and steeps in the atmosphere like tea.  There’s probably a perfectly rational explanation for this but so  far I’ve never heard one.

Fall is brewing. The foliage is already beginning to turn ever so slightly in my town, and soon the whole place will be covered with the annual oranges, tobacco browns, saffrons and scarlets everyone loves. Except me that is, because for me, Autumn is a busy season clipboard clutching, the time interrupted by meetings, and oh yes I have to change perfume. Continue reading

How Not to Cook Perfume

Moving it or losing it. bookstoremovers.com

Moving it or losing it. bookstoremovers.com

This week I’m moving and so is my perfume.  Eek.  It’s summer and there is a risk involved: cooking the bottles. There was a sad post in Bois de Jasmin (called Does it Spark Joy?) that detailed Lauren’s loss of her perfume collection because she moved in July to a southern state and her stash sizzled in the heat and was largely destroyed.

You get the picture.

Now I’ve never been perfectly organized when it comes to my perfumes.  I don’t rotate and display them in a lovely feminine hat box they way Mals at The Muse in Wooden Shoes does, and I have not got the impressive methodology and discipline of Undina. While  I’m not a slob,, exactly, my samples tend to lead a free wheeling existence in old plastic bags labeled by  perfume variety.  If it says Oriental on the outside, then the likelihood is that Orientals reside on the inside-mostly.  That is, unless I forgot what I was doing and dropped a floral aldehyde in there by mistake, the way I did with Neil Morris’ Le Parfum C’est Ma Vie, which I now can’t find at all, dammit! Or – oh wait, what is that rolling around on the floor?

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Reconsidering Smells

Christmas tree cauliflower

Christmas tree cauliflower

There are some smells that all of us have a visceral dislike of, some people hate boxwood with its pungent slightly cat pee odor.  Others love it and have all sorts of happily associated memories of parks, gardens and playgrounds triggered by boxwood.  Eau Illuminee from Parfums Delrae is said to feature boxwood as part of the sensory landscape of San Francisco. Then again some people love the scent of cumin while for others cumin (especially detectable in  the revamped Femme from Rochas or old Alpona from Caron) can put off a lot of people who only smell sweat and stale takeaway curries. Even roses can be controversial, although most of us love them. Anne of Austria (Louis the XIV’s Mum) so hated them that reportedly she couldn’t stand to see a rose in a painting and who knows what happened when she spotted one in a vase…* Continue reading

Have You Read Any Good Perfumes Lately?

Bookshelf from nextimpact.com

Bookshelf from nextimpact.com

Perfumers don’t compose perfumes, instead they “write” them.  It’s an interesting choice of verb.  If you are one of those people who regard perfume as rather like cooking, then this idea will probably not appeal to you, but it is part of the industry, especially in France where fairly or unfairly, the metaphor for “cooking” in perfumery also exists but in a pejorative sense.  A chemical brew is known as a “soup” and these comprise the majority of releases on the  mass market.  Something may be cooking or stewing at the big oil production houses , but  isn’t being conceptualized, most product has no discernible plot beyond, “Make the sale!”

However perfumers themselves who are concerned with more than the fiendish difficulties of scenting detergent or soap, have a little more leeway, and for them the idea of ideas becomes feasible, even defensible. You get Frederic Malle’s “Editions” de Parfums, for all the world like Hachette or Gallimard. Continue reading


Robin's nest from evoillusion.org

Robin’s nest from evoillusion.org

I don’t know about other parts of the country but around here in Jersey the perfume counters are a tad lackluster.  Most of the new perfumes are flankers of the Dolce “Floral Drops” variety, and do not cause much in the way of excitement, put it this way, you can buy the aforementioned drops on Overstock.com. What does seem to be different is the growth in the Nest personal perfume range.  Our Sephora now sells what must be about eight of these and they are all beautifully packaged in prints derived from the work of Mary Delaney the 18th century botanical decoupage artist. Continue reading