Parisian Atmospheres

Dalloyao Paris from tripadviser.uk

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

Confederate Jasmine and Garbage

Current Roman Garbage

Current Roman Garbage

Rome has a problem with garbage.  I used to live there quite a long time ago and recall that the garbage problem existed back then too-from time to  time.  It’s nothing like this though.  Garbage piles up even in the more famous locales like Piazza del Popolo where the tourists collect every day, sit on the lions surrounding the obelisk fountain, and  leave behind plastic water bottles and candy wrappers…

The Romans are mortified.  Worse, they can’t seem to strike a deal with the sanitation people, who show up in snazzy jump suits in the civil colors of Rome: orange and  dark crimson, driving the smallest and most stylish garbage trucks ever seen, but they never seem to pick up more than a sack or two of garbage (well OK that’s about what they can fit in those adorable trucks) but this leaves behind la maggioranza of the problema on the sidewalks. Continue reading

Versailles, Chinese Tourists, and the Short Goodbye

XXIst Century Versailles from the palace website

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

The Emperor’s New Scent

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.

Continue reading

English Air Male

Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet from 1872

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

The Glamorous Scent of Peonies

Festiva Maxima from hiddenhillsgardens.comf

Festiva Maxima from hiddenhillsgardens.comf

In the heart of the big white peony known as Festiva Maxima there’s a very subtle scent.  You simply poke your nose in among the petals and you get many fragrances rolled together in the circumference of a single flower.  This is ready made perfume, perfection and not so many other plants produce fragrance so rounded and so complete.  Festiva Maxima does though.  I can only think of the Silk Tree as competition for another fine female fragrance finished down to the last molecules; an entirety of organic perfume.

Pink peonies have a similarly sophisticated scent but it’s  just a bit more pronounced and carries further.  Pink peonies have a sillage, and one of my  Mother’s dogs used to adore their perfume.  She was the only dog I ever knew who would literally go and smell the flowers.  A German Shepherd labrador mix, she had an acute nose, but a delicate, almost feminine sense of what smelled respectively good or bad, peonies were her clear favorites.  She never was too much into my dog’s preferred scent Eau de Dead Squirrel. Continue reading

Pop, Fizz, and Carbonation: Aldehydes in the Summer

Orange Sanguine from Atelier Cologne

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

Peaches, Fracas, and Iris Gris

Early Fracas advertising

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

Salty-Mossy

Oakmoss in nature

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

Pavlova

Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova

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