A Warm Island in Winter: Bois des Iles

Vogue Cover from the 20s

Vogue Cover from the 20s

Chanels are challenging perfumes for me.  Not many people share my  prejudice, Chanel is one of the top selling brands in the world, but if I had to choose a Chanel I would take their cologne and Bois des Iles.  It’s not as though a whole lot of thought would have to go into this selection.  You are either one of those people who love No5 or you aren’t, you have to be a lady to wear No19, by which I mean a woman who knows how to say no gracefully. (If you can never say no I suspect No19 will not suit you)

Bois des Iles is far more easy going though.  Being one of those people who in Henry James’ phrase try to take things easy rather than hard, I appreciate this quality. Continue reading

Sandalwood Sisterhood

narniaOf course, it was obvious all along, but I never saw it.  Call it one of those annoying instances when your subconscious mind realized something from the get-go but chose not to share it with your waking consciousness.  Very irritating, very sneaky, very left brain of it, but then, as it is the left brain, very typical as well.

The apercu in this case is that the great classic  Chanel Bois des Iles is of course, a do-over of Caron’s Nuit de Noel.

Oh yeah! Right?  You always knew that. We always knew it, but critical opinion had a way of making us think that the two things were poles apart and probably at opposite ends of the good taste spectrum – well, not so much. Continue reading

All in the Execution Afterall?

L'Heure Bleue Advert

L’Heure Bleue Advert

As I was going through the usual blizzard of new releases this season, something struck me: no one perfects perfume anymore.  I know perfectly well that there are art directors at Amouage and Guerlain and Chanel and so on, but because the business model of perfumes has become the model of planned obselescense, with buyers most interested in the novelties (little suspecting that the novelties are often oldelties) you get a paradox, an ocean of novelty, mostly already passe. Continue reading

Perfumes for a Nutcracker

The NYC Ballet Nutcracker

The NYC Ballet Nutcracker

Or a sugar plum fairy for that matter; you can take your pick. The ballet’s been a Christmas tradition in the greater NYC area for ages, and it’s hard to run into young girls who haven’t been dragged to the The Nutcracker along with reluctant fathers and brothers.

The Hub was kinder than most of the former and subsidized a trip tothe theater. I remember taking my daughter and my pint sized nephew to  see the ballet in Stamford one year.  Nephew complete with miniature necktie and daughter in a frilly skirt. She was three.  Surprisingly they both had a good time and came away clutching small nutcrackers in their sticky fingers. Continue reading

Christmas in New York

New York at Christmas from Essential NY

New York at Christmas from Essential NY

People who follow the goings on at Guerlain may have noticed the discontinuation of their Voyage Olfactif Series, the one that included Tokyo, Moscow, London, New York and Shanghai.  Presumably they did not sell too well and that probably explains their demise. I did like the idea which seemed to be a light edt concentration very wearable in daytime. They had a clever concept too which was to combine a distinctive smell of each city with an indigenous food fragrance.  Tokyo- which I own- smells of cherry blossoms and green tea with a little cypress wood thrown in- no wasabi here. London smells of hard candies and rhubarb, Moscow is sweet with plums and jasmine.  One of the series was Christmas themed though:New York.  Continue reading

Christmas Perfumes

Roses in frost

Roses in frost

It’s one of the very first things that I do every December: change perfume.  Christmas is one of the best times for perfume, there are so many smells on the air anyhow that perfume only raises the resonance of the season  a little.

That however is the easy part, the hard part is deciding what you  feel is worthy of wearing for a month or so.  That’s not so simple.  I suppose I could do the sensible thing and simply wait for Spring to change my perfume, but I like to have something that is Christmasy on my wrist, and so get into this difficulty right on schedule every December 1st. Continue reading

Gourmands for Thanksgiving

Currier and Ives

Currier and Ives

Hobble gobble seems to be the motto of every Us citizen on November 27th.  Some of us even run marathons first in order to justify all that subsequent eating- the hub did once in Atlanta.  But I’m not in the marathon running business, and in order to keep the gluttony down to liveable levels- because I don’t intend to go up a dress size- I sometimes wear my desserts instead of ingesting them. Continue reading

Three Cult Orientals

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Dragon fruit Seviche from honestcooking.com

Orientals had been rather passe.  I’m not sure when the turnaround came, but sometime around the end of the oughts, oriental perfumes came back into fashion and the previously ubiquitous fruity florals were back- catalogued. Something had shifted in the zeitgeist, or fashion, or the cloudy upper ether of the fragrance world.

I realized that the change was complete when I leafed through a book on Berlin fashion and discovered that some cool Berliners were now wearing Frederic Malle’s Dries Van Noten (a woody oriental, specifically an update of Nuit de Noel and Bois des Isles). They wouldn’t have been doing that five years ago. Continue reading

Evelyn Rose, Evelyn Perfume

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Evelyn Rose in bloom

Only very infrequently do nurserymen or plant breeders collaborate with perfumers. Once briefly in 1993 one such collaboration  produced a success: Evelyn.

The company willing to work with a breeder to produce a replica scent was Crabtree & Evelyn and the breeder was David Austin.  He was promoting a new strain of roses that he had been working on since the late sixties, English Roses which have the look and perfumes of old garden roses but are repeat flowering.  He was always far more attentive to fragrance than any of the other rose breeders I’ve ever read about.  David Austin was concerned not simply with stem bending size of rose or outlandish color, but with form of blossom, foliage, and very much with scent. Continue reading

Mr and Mrs Satan

Sciaparelli's Mr Stan at her front door

Sciaparelli’s Mr Satan at her front door

The story goes that the designer Schiaparelli had two Venetian carved figures on either side of her front door in Paris in the thirties.  They were human scale but carved out of wood and had cloven hooves, so some wag on his way in to a Schiaparelli party dubbed them Mr and Mrs Satan.

Schiaparelli had a distinctive taste, but when it comes to red hot and devilish fun, I can understand it.  My own fondness is for any kind of red hot scent.  I really will go out of my way for peppers, or cinnamon, or carnation (provided it’s good and spicy) and cloves, so it can’t be any surprise that one of my long term loves in the perfume world is Caron’s Poivre.  Continue reading