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
Advertising for Narciso Poudree
Fashions in fragrance change from time to time, that is why perfume sometimes smells “dated” or simply “old”. The perfume isn’t necessarily old, but the style is, hence the comments. Recently the trend has been for heavy weight champ orientals featuring oud or something that smells like it, no doubt courtesy various bases. I was beginning to think that Mike Tyson fragrances were going to dominate the ring for several years to come, but in the interim something happened, bantam weight boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard triumphed. Powder made a comeback.
Powdery used to be, back in the early aughts, a Bad Thing. “Powdery” was a term like “soapy” or “perfumey” that was discouraging if applied to your favorite on Makeupalley or elsewhere. Fragrances should not disintegrate into little dry molecules in the nose and blow away, that was the consensus. No one wanted to smell like Johnson and Johnson, which was in the business of baby products afterall, not perfumery. I must say that the judgement handed down seemed harsh to me at the time, since I loved the feminine powder bomb Caron’s Narcisse Blanc, and was almost as fond of Orchidee Blanche from L’Artisan. How times change, now powder is back. Continue reading
Black iris painting offering from etsy.com
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
Winchester Cathedral photo our own
My roses have begun to be acclimated to the new garden and one has bloomed. It is such a pretty thing and the scent is so different from what rises out of perfume bottles that I am compelled to write about rose fragrances and how often they seem to go wrong when transplanted to human skin.
The rose in these pictures is David Austin’s Winchester Cathedral a white sport (A spontaneous change in flower, appearing on an established variety. It’s an odd term I know.) from his well known Mary Rose. Winchester has a smell that is not at all like what wafts from perfume counters. Continue reading
Black and White peppercorns
This is the sort of idea that tends to put people off. It’s already pollen season in the Northeast, and I’m hearing a great deal of sneezing going on all around me, but the fact remains that an irritant is part of the charm of floral fragrances. Possibly there should be something, just a little something, abrasive in all that prettiness.
Some perfumers have had the same idea, and that’s why there is a small sub genre of floral perfumes that feature pepper in a prominent position of the formula. I can’t say the trick is a new one, Chanel’s Gardenia contained pimento back in the 1990’s in its heart along with clove and sage, this followed a lavishly floral beginning crowded with orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose. This gave Gardenia a piquancy that was maybe missing from some of its later iterations. Anyway that touch of pepper showed that white florals did not have to be banal. Continue reading
King High Scent Sweet Peas
St Patrick’s Day used to be the traditional day for starting sweet peas (indeed any kind of peas according to Bill Harris founder of White Flower Farm) in the upper forty eight states. It was a simple procedure, you dug a trench about three inches deep or so, maybe worked in a little compost or manure, stuck pea poles in at intervals along your furrow and then waited for the little vines to hoist themselves up and bind themselves to the sticks with their tendrils. Continue reading
M7 from manlovescologne.com
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
Diorissimo advert perfumegirl.com
It seems appropriate to quote Nancy Reagan now. She is credited with observing that women were like tea bags, you could never tell how strong one was until she got into hot water. Some women are so strong, or at any rate their personalities are so strong, that you don’t need the hot water at all and can sun brew them.
Such was the case with my own mother whose personality was of the expansive sort, and I’ve known plenty of women since who were larger than life. I’m speaking of the personality here mind you, not the character. Character is different. Largely self constructed a structure that goes up with labor over decades and has little to do with personality. Put it this way, personality you are born with, character you make yourself, it’s akin to the difference between beauty and style. Continue reading