Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova

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. Pavlova, must have been one of their forays into the perfume world.  If so, then their effort was a success. Continue reading

The Best Customer?

Original advertising for Coty Muse

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

Black iris painting offering from

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

Mysticism, Oud, and Deja Vu: Caron’s Yatagan and Parfum Sacre

M7 from

M7 from

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

The Lavender Bears’ Picnic

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

If you go down to the woods today you’d better not go alone…especially not in China where you might be witnessing one of the biggest bear jamborees on earth.  It seems that a fad of huge proportions was born this past year.  The Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Tasmania had been selling only the occasional Bobbie Bear in lavender plush stuffed with dried lavender, ten a month or so up until 2013, when a Chinese actress posted a picture of herself with Bobbie on social media.  Bobbie was, according to Zhang Xinhu, the perfect companion on a cold night in Shanghai.

After that, Bobbies began selling like crazy, up to 4 thousand a month and Bridestowe was at the limits of its  lavender production.  That was when their problems really began. Continue reading

Till the Weekend Do Us Part

An 18th century couple

Married Couple  by Jacques Dumont 1733, Notice the dog, symbol of faithfulness.

Once upon a decade I had a signature perfume and that time is so far behind me now that I have trouble remembering what it was.  Oh yes, Chant d’Aromes, and in the summer Eau de Hadrian.  It was pretty halcyon,  you never had to think about what to put on.  It was always the same stuff.

I wonder what would happen if I wore the same perfume for a work week?  Continue reading

Alaia Urban Smog

James Abbott Macneil " Nocturne"

James Abbott Macneil
” Nocturne”

There are a lot of scents out there these days which strike me as only one part of a perfume.  Alaia which I have been smelling  round  me on scent strips (from Saks) is certainly one of them. I’m kind of amused that many bloggers think that it’s a wonderful modern perfume.  Alaia’s the coda to a modern perfume.  There’s no heart, and no beginning, you could call this linear but there isn’t enough of a high note to pull you in. It’s a base.

Alaia smells totally synthetic and there is something dark and tarry that I remember from the days when I was toying with Kate Walsh’s Boyfriend (remember that? No?) and  from Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir, although that had more of a presence than Alaia. Continue reading

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

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron

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