Oleanders in bloom
One final thought on the smells of Italy, and that concerns the scent of oleanders. Oleanders do well in dry heat. They sprout into huge sprawling bushes all over Rome and because of their size, often grow near the ruins, especially around the Palatine and Santa Maria in Cosmedin, or wave in the desiccated wind off the autostradas. The reason is space. Conditions in Rome are too cramped for oleanders and their expansive growth habits.
Their perfume, though, is one of the most recognizable ones of the city. It’s heady, and heavy, there’s a sweetness underwritten with toxicity. The toxicity is fair comment, because in fact oleanders are quite poisonous. Somehow it’s fitting that oleanders with their narcotic scent of almonds (similar some say to arsenic) should drift about the Palatine. The Roman emperors and their wives knew a thing or two about poison.
The smell, however, was very familiar to me. As in nearer in time to me than my last stay in Rome. This was a scent I had been on intimate terms with, and since perfumes are rather like old lovers, apt to bring up inconvenient memories at inopportune moments, this was one I had to re-visit. Continue reading
Dalloyao Paris from tripadviser.uk
So I did very little perfume shopping in Paris! What! Really?
Well yes. For starters I was with my daughter and at fifteen you tend not to care about perfume, and Guerlain, and so forth. You care about food. One aspect of French culture my daughter understood at once: eating. French bread, and gallettes, and quiches and eclairs, and butter and cheese, and chocolate croissants for breakfast and no one saying, ” Shouldn’t you really be downing a power fruit frappe with seaweed and kale?” the way they often do in the States. (There’s a term for this in France “rabat joie”) Plus the beefsteaks with Bearnaise sauce. Oh, and did I mention the frites?
We therefore spent a good deal of time eating. What can I say? French food is good. You should have some! Continue reading
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