Shakespeare’s Rose ?

Old Velvet or Tuscany Rose from roguevalley roses.com

Old Velvet or Tuscany Rose from roguevalley roses.com

As a rose nut- enthusiast- I almost always notice when period films include modern roses.  You’ll see impeccable costumes and set decoration in a drama about Cromwell, or Henry the VIII but the roses are bright red hybrid teas that never existed before the twentieth century.  Although plenty of roses grew, they just didn’t radiate the harsh aniline dye color spectrum which breeders, maybe imitating twentieth century clothing, introduced to the flower garden.

Elizabethans actually had a full cast of roses strutting and fretting their brief hour in garden beds.  We know about them from Gerard’s Herbal, that very useful book written by a near contemporary of Shakepeare’s, John Gerard (1545-1611/12) who was in fact for a time a neighbor of Shakespeare’s, because Gerard was Master of the Barber Surgeon’s Company which was located in a hall nearly opposite Shakespeare’s lodgings in Mugwell (now Monkwell) Street from 1598-1604.  So he may well have seen Gerard’s garden and all the roses there. 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

Nixing the Musk in Your White Florals

The Pearl in in full bloom

The Pearl in in full bloom

In the perfume world some people are proponents of layering perfumes, and some people aren’t.  It can depend somewhat on the perfume itself.  If you are spritzing on some masterpiece of perfumery with all sorts of crescendos and diminuendos, then dabbing something else on top can simply add up to a multi note cacophany.  Trust me, I’ve tried combining old Jean Patous and the results were seldom good, except with their citrus Cocktail (which picked up stodgy florals and orientals with a zing).

Most perfumes these days are not so complicated as old Jean Patous.  My personal favorites for this sort of treatment are white florals. Continue reading

Jasmine His, Jasmine Hers: Gandahara and Lace Garden

Head from Gandahara

Head from Gandahara

The idea that you can sequester perfumes by sex is sort of an odd one.  I admit though that given contemporary tastes and mores guys can’t spritz themselves silly with tuberose easily, and that gals while they can macerate themselves in pine oil and leather, tend to avoid those smells.  I’ve always felt though that the guys get kind of short shrift with flowers.  I don’t see why men can’t wear roses, or iris, or wisteria, or lilac, if they want to and not come off as whiffy and foppish.

Jasmine is a case in point.  The Queen of the Night ought  to be gender blind and unless she can see in the dark like my cat, probably is. Are there jasmines out there which would suit men?  I’m pleased to say that I’ve been wearing one today done by Neil Morris called Gandahara, and long story short, it’s complex, sophisticated, and a wonderful scent for a man who likes scent.  Here’s the thing, I could I suppose rattle off the notes but what I smell here is a strong bouquet that includes something like mimosa, musk, earth, and salt and then and only then, jasmine. I catch something fresh and green binding this fragrance together, possibly a tea or mint note.  The scents’ tendrils wrap around each other in an organic, lushly overgrown jungle of a perfume which would be perfect on a masculine skin. Continue reading

2015: The Year of Flora and Fauna

The surprising source of castoreum

The surprising source of castoreum

Animalic perfumes are back. This may help to explain the popularity of challenging scents like Papillon’s Salome with its initially furry and glandular notes. ( I also enjoyed Bonker’s  wonderful  interview with Liz Moores of Papillon who keeps her snake collection in drawers! And no, that is not a spoonerism of mine. She keeps them in doors in drawers or racks) If the taste of the public is changing and the sterile field of synthetic fragrance is breached by scales or fur or fins, then Salome might as well be the perfume to do the breaching, although if you ask me, Mandy Aftel’s Cuir de Gardenia did this just as well, and I personally liked Anya’s Garden Enticing which also included a  strong animal note in natural musk.  You could say that, from a niche point of view, this was the year that re-established the connection between our skins and our scents.

Certain perfume families have always maintained that link and I refer to chypres and leathers here.  If you wore those you always kept that chiaroscuro of prettiness and relative ickiness in impasto on yourself .  Your perfume read that life, and maybe you too, were complex and had different motivations and activities on different days.  Some days you hibernated, some days you hunted and gathered, some days you groomed, and some days you played.    Continue reading

The Party Perfume

Girl and Champagne Glass from PInterest.com

Girl and Champagne Glass from PInterest.com

This depends on the age of the party.  If the party is young the scent is likely to be something like Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel (which is a local favorite and probably a strong seasonal seller for them) and the slightly more upscale Philosophy Pink Frosted Animal Cracker (also a sellout at our local Ulta).  If you are a teenager these days you like to smell of cookies and desserts. What should they wear?  Alarms to let parents know when to pick them up!! This is what parties are about:Food.

If you are in your twenties I suspect the smell of pot is the smell of a party.  This explains the wide dissemination of Hemp based products and of indie favs like Kinski or Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s more straightforward Rocky Mountain High or I Love You Mary Jane.  Basically, you don’t have to be the ersatz lawyer from Suits to be looking around for your next buzz. What do they wear?  The ominous ambery wood of Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black which goes well with weed I’d guess. If you want to party you want to smoke…er vape I mean. This is what the party is about: giggling and noshing and you know. Continue reading

A Bite of Vanilla

Vanilla Table by Natasha MacAller

Vanilla Table
by Natasha MacAller

There’s almost nothing that vanilla doesn’t improve.  I’m in the habit of grinding up a tiny bit of vanilla bean with my medium coffee roasts to give a rounder softer cup.  It’s easy to do and  moderates acidity nicely in the brew.  This makes you understand why vanilla, even when you can’t actually detect it in a fragrance or on a plate, makes a big difference. Vanilla Table the cook book by Natasha MacAller reminded me of this quality.  Maybe vanilla isn’t my absolute favorite note in perfumes or food, but it is one one of them.  This book is a compendium of recipes contributed by chefs from around the world all of whom have chosen to work with vanilla.  Continue reading

The Carnations of Peace: Fleur de Feu, L’Air du Temps

The romantic Carnation

The romantic Carnation

Would carnation spring to your mind as the flower of peace?  It doesn’t to mine, either, but the fact remains that in 1948 the House of Nina Ricci released its most popular perfume ever, and the beginning of this delicate perfume is a spicy, airy, shower of carnations.

L’Air du Temps may have been your first perfume. Certainly it was mine.  I remember pestering my poor brother about the Dove bottle relentlessly one Christmas.  By then L’Air had been a classic for a few decades, and the bottle a romantic Lalique dream every girl wanted on her dresser. Continue reading

An Unsubtle Year:1969 Histoires des Parfums

The great Jerry garcia in 1969 from Jerrygarcia.com

The great Jerry garcia in 1969 from Jerrygarcia.com

The gourmand oriental is a kind of fragrance that  debuted some time ago (ever since Angel) and subsists on the transference from table to skin of our favorite smells.  We like to eat and you can tell that from the way we tend to take some of our noshiest fragrances everywhere with us.  The most common flavors are probably vanilla and chocolate and so it comes as no surprise that when visions of sugarplums start dancing in other people’s heads, a lot of us head for the perfume cupboard and out comes the spicy chocolate gourmand! Continue reading

Roger et Gallet

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

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