The end of the twentieth century was very concerned with clear atmospheres. This was probably because of crowding in public spaces which I suppose also meant crowded air. Perfume and cigarettes, those two great offenders, were sometimes banned, although the evidence that perfume harmed anyone was extremely spotty. Still what it meant for me was caution. Now I do not wear perfume anywhere that contains a large number of people e.g. airplanes, offices, restaurants, theaters. What’s left?
Here’s the odd part. I used to like shared atmosphere as a child. I enjoyed going to church and huffing whatever the lady in the fur wrap was wearing. My mom’s Tabu I avoided but when she changed to Fidji, that was quite another matter. Women on subway trains trailed something cheap and cheerful like Friendship Garden (essentially a knock off of No 5) or later there was Coty’s Sweet Earth series and patchouli made the nearness of hippie chicks bearable. Continue reading →
Since there’s such an ocean of perfume out there now I think it helpful when mentioning old classics to pair them with something that is still in production, and similar. I wish someone had done as much for me when I first started to love perfume. You could search for years looking for a particular note and not come across it.
There are services that can help. Michael Edward’s database is a good place to start, but unfortunately he does not list discontinued perfumes and so if you grew up loving a particular scent, or want to find something your mother or grandmother wore, you are fresh out of luck. Continue reading →
Keats said it best about autumn being the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. His point is perfectly valid but modern fruities don’t seem to satisfy me, they are too flat and there is nothing fruitful or fecund about them. it’s difficult to fake that in a retort. Take Ralph Lauren’s Tender Romance. It’s rather pretty, quite modern. and on the whole banal I’m afraid. What I seem to want is dried fruit, and raisins, and liquor the sort of thing that Frapin did rather well, only I like my perfume very classical and that means complex.
This takes me right back to the basics: Jean Patou. The very best of all the fruit perfumes I ever came across was the vintage Que Sais Je? from 1925. I even include By Killian’s Back to Black in this blanket statement, although that is a good version of the contemporary fruit infused perfume. Continue reading →
Last week I was up and down and out of town, and the sole scent experience of the week was a bar of the great black Spanish soap Magno. I used to wash with Magno in the past and had forgotten how wonderful it is. In a time when most perfume companies let you down with awful reformulations, sometimes soap makers do a better job of maintaining old formulas. Magno appears to be one of them.
I am a bit of a nut on soap. There are a lot of days on which I wear no perfume at all but do scrub with scented soap, and in the past have loved Magno, Roger et Gallet, and even Zum, which tends to have rather strong scents. If you asked me my favorite it would have to be Magno. This preference is based partially on the fact that like many people I have reactive skin. Soaps,cosmetics, skin creams, and sun screens are apt to give me dermatitis and so I am careful about what I wear. Magno never has brought on an episode though, and I do love the stuff. Continue reading →
When you divide the lengthening nights by the dwindling sunlight of the days the remainder is what’s left of summer. We used to call it Indian Summer, probably because it was the last of the growing season in this part of the world, a time the native peoples still used for gardening. Myself I begin to worry about the dahlias and tomatoes during cold nights.
I like to to use up the last samples I have of summer florals during the warm days. Those samples are not going to be right a month from now. Today it’s Musc Monoi which Parfums de Nicolai gave me in Paris. I think they should sell it as an Eau Fraiche though the scent’s currently one of the line’s Eaux de Toilettes Continue reading →
Woody perfumes are not so popular with women. Don’t ask me why. I am one of the out-lying oddities who like wood. I wear vetiver and leather and chypres and all sorts of dark, dry things in winter. You might think from the description that I was kindling some kind of aromatic fire, but it’s simply personal taste.
There is a small, repeat small, group of perfumes that lie right on the line between orientals and chypres. I’m not discussing ambery orientals here. Those are resin-y or incense heavy perfumes. The ones I’m writing about today don’t belong to that tribe. They may contain some amber in the dry off, but they are not really amber perfumes. Continue reading →
There’s some very good advice out there for anyone who wears clothes (most of us, most of the time) and it’s that we should not buy anything that doesn’t fit in with our activities. This means what it sounds like. If you live in jeans and that’s what your life requires, or you are seldom out of Athleisure then don’t go buying the vintage brocade ballgown from Oscar de la Renta circa 1985. Though who wouldn’t want to rock a train in the coffee aisle of Shoprite?
Perfume though is different, or let’s say it ought to be. You can’t see a mismatch between someone’s dreams and someone’s aspirations, you can only smell them. This is probably what Roja Dove means when he says that “perfume can lie for you”, and it may be what is meant by those perfumers who claim a woman should have a perfume for “courage”. Continue reading →
Vetiver is like comfortable old shoes to me. Ahh…vetiver, it’s relaxing and there are relatively few versions of vetiver I’ve ever come across that I didn’t like. I love Terre d’Hermes, though perhaps it’s not as good a vetiver as in its salad days. I also love Guerlain’s wonderful old Vetiver. A marvelous scent, and the tobacco in there is a brilliant touch.
I’ve always crossed the aisle and so wore Givenchy’s Eau de Vetyver and I loved and briefly wore Maitre Parfumier et Gantier’s Racines. One was very masculine and comfortable- kind of like borrowing your boyfriend’s hacking jacket- and the other was more refined, good to wear in fall with woolens. Naturally I also had Guerlain’s Vetyver for a long time. The square bottle with the wave pattern on the glass was sublime but gave headaches, so I sprayed it in my shoes or on my feet. I still managed to get my vetiver fix and discovered along the way that the Guerlain Vetiver killed moths. Continue reading →
Air travel used to be sort of glamorous. No really, before you fall over laughing, it truly was. Clean airplanes, cocktails, pretty stewardesses in un-stained uniforms. I barely remember this, my younger sister doesn’t remember anything of the sort, and no one conceived after 1975 can even imagine it.
All we can recall now is how awful our last flight was and how we swore that next time no matter what it cost, we were definitely going to bid on a seat in business class. Yeah, right.
In the 1930’s things were not only glamorous they were dangerous. That was still the era of long distance solo flights by those impossibly thin entities Lindbergh and Earhart. A large number of people swear by Vol de Nuit as evocative of this adventurous airbourne history, but I just don’t think that smells anything like airplanes. Lovely perfume, nothing to do with airplanes even though it’s named after the St. Exupery novel. En Avion though, the Caron perfume from 1932 actually does. Continue reading →
Every perfume enthusiast has them, scents that really ruin a fragrance. Sometimes it’s the dreaded melon note, other times it’s the oceanic note ( no less a perfumer than Jacques Polge has kept that out of Chanel perfumes. He says it never actually smells like the seaside.)* Others can’t bear the animalics, the stinky civet or sweaty palmed musk notes, and then there are people who really detest woods like cedar or vetiver.
One of my worst aversions and for years was cumin. I thought it smelled like sweat, and not clean sweat either, but coming off a three day bender sweat, the sort you whiffed inadvertently on the New York Subway, usually on the local No 1, generally below 14th street. When I ran across perfumes simply crammed with cumin- like Alexander McQueen’s Kingdom- I would practically hold my nose. I knew it was interesting and had something to say for itself but that cumin! The stuff just knocked you sideways. It was Eau de Grit. Continue reading →