Citrus Chypres: Eau d’Hadrian, Lancome O, and Diorella

Eau d’ Hadrian

Anyone who remembers the nineties remembers Eau d’Hadrian.  I loved that and wore it almost as much as everyone else, and to this day the smell brings back Westport Ct during the height of the boom years, when cigar smoke and Porsche 911’s seemed to be everywhere along with Hadrian.

Now it’s pretty much gone. The notes for this little perfume vary, but the ones I have from 1993 are simply: lemon, grapefruit, citron, and cypress.  At the time the perfume was made, that probably included oakmoss, which was the likely basenote for Hadrian, hiding underneath the cypress. This recipe was not very expensive.  The whole point of the frag was to spritz lightly in the morning and get on with your day.  The perfume was not masculine and not feminine and Hadrian reminded me of Italy with all the old cypress trees shading churchyards. Continue reading

The Powdery Musk Rose

Francis E. Lester from the
bumblebeeconservancy

Some years ago there was a line of perfumes done by Stephanie de Saint Aignan and one of the more popular scents was something called Le Pot Aux Roses. This does not mean a rose pot pourri in French but rather to discover something that was secret.  It probably harks back to the curious old Latin phrase Sub Rosa which meant that anything said underneath the rose was off the record, something never said, and never heard.

Pot Aux Roses was a very powdery rosy scent which some people loved for its evocation of old compacts full of rice powder, and other people disliked for the same reason, but I recently came across a scent very like it-in my front garden.  The culprit is a musk rose with the officious name of Francis E. Lester.  ( I think you really have to give this rose it’s complete moniker) It was hybridized by a rosarian of the same name and the man who founded the Roses of Yesterday and Today Nursery. He bred this fragrant rose during World War II as far as I can discover and it looks like a wild rose, but the scent is a variation on rose. Continue reading

Perfume Sins

Some scents just won’t charm other people

If you asked me this a few years ago I would have agreed but reluctantly that some perfume wearing is just in bad taste.  Perfume is something that has only recently ( in historical terms) become discussion worthy. Perfumes The Guide came out ten years ago, and compared to all the preceding years when perfumes were neither discussed nor assessed, that’s a very short time.  I remember decades when it was very difficult to find out anything at all about perfume and what little I did discover came from reading: Edmond Roudnitska, Elizabeth Barille, Michael Edwards,even Jean Pierre Coffe, who as I recall Le Bon Vivre, did not think much of Cartier’s Le Panthere.

In the interim there has been an explosion of discussion. The industry itself, despite all the chit chat, remains secretive, and self contradictory in its aims. It’s certainly not clear that all  mass perfume makers want to produce consistently high quality.  What they want to produce is something highly profitable, and the parameters of what constitutes a reasonable profit seem to expand all the time.  It’s now axiomatic that packaging costs far more than content.  Should it?  This product is largely water anyway. Continue reading

Beautiful Boronia

Boronia megastigma

I can’t remember the last time I was so tempted but I have discovered a site that sells Australian essential oils and one of them is boronia.  Haven’t heard of it?  Neither had I until some years ago, but the plant is Boronia megastigma or brown boronia in ordinary English, and the plants are small evergreen bushes that produce flowers like little shells.  True to their name, these flowers are brown on the outside of each petal but yellow inside and their perfume is heavenly.

Boronia is native to western Australia and those lucky people can grow them and enjoy spring flowers without too much trouble.  Stateside, California may be your best bet since these small bushes are only hardy to zone 9.  However their oil is something all of us can buy (if we save a bit) and in perfume boronia is a shot of unadulterated beauty. Continue reading

Classic Soliflores?

The Pearl in in full bloom

Single note floral perfumes used  to be short lived on the market.  Back in the day they were called “handkerchief” perfumes because in the pre-Kleenex era, you sprinkled a drop of rose or lavender water on your handkerchief rather than your skin. Those little fragrances “sent bons” were miniature essays in the perfumer’s art.  Not many of those perfumes survive today. No one wears Yardley’s Lavender, or Coty’s Jasmin de Corse, few wear Tea Rose the big late seventies hit from Perfumer’s Workshop, and Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare is diluted out of recognition- which makes me wonder- which are the  new classic soliflores?  Which ones will survive for decades on the consumers’ skin? Continue reading

Vanilla: The New Sandalwood

Vanilla in bean and blossom

Once upon a time Mysore sandalwood was hard to find.  The material had been over harvested and the Indian government laid down the law about how much Indian sandalwood was going to be sold each year in order to protect stocks.

Something similar, at least regarding tightness of the current market, is happening with vanilla.  The trouble is that vanilla is difficult to grow, has to be hand pollinated, and  the beans themselves have to age. They have to go from their scentless green stage to their nearly black and perfumed maturity.  In the meantime, some people steal beans and secrete Continue reading

Only in the Summer

Brigitte in the summertime from pinterest.com

I think there are some notes and some perfumes that simply don’t perform well in winter.  Back in the days when I knew relatively little about perfume I used to assume those were light citrus based scents, all this time later, I am not so sure.  Many  good perfumes really only come alive in warmth and they include formulas you might have assumed were good in winter, like floral orientals, or even incense perfumes. There is a special pleasure in feeling a scent spread itself like petals in the sun, blooming in the heat, and for some perfumes the key to this flowering really is high temperatures.

Recently there have been a few perfumes that bent the old stereotypes of winter and summer fragrance. One that I have yet to smell is Aedes de Venustas’ Copal Azur which is built on the premise that copal is an incense associated with Central American jungles. This 2014 scent was composed by Bertrand Duchaufour and he astutely included a sea salt/ozone element to it that makes this scent much more legible in summer. Continue reading

Bottlemania

Houbigant’s Subtilite

Sometimes I really think that half the fun of perfume is- literally-in the bottles.  I love so many antique bottles that can’t be produced today.  In the past that old dictum of Coty’s, namely that a perfume should appeal as much to the eye as to the nose, was strictly adhered to, nowadays not so much.

There on the left you see one of those bottles that collectors are generally after, and who can blame them?  It’s a beautiful presentation and just the sort of thing you might want for your favorite perfume. Continue reading

Worth the Time Travel: Parfums d’Empire

A Serov painting of the Tsar’s court.

There really aren’t many perfume makers I trust myself to these days.  I am afraid of boredom, and ugliness, or of being the recipient of a giant headache from an overdosed ingredient.  I don’t want to smell a “lily” which smells nothing like a lily- as I did recently from a trendy brand which had obviously never gone near a garden in its life. I won’t name names, but suffice it to say that I could not cream  the ersatz lily off fast enough.

That particular brand is not alone. There is far too much awful out there. So it’s a relief when you find that a few brands do know what they are doing and actually do it well.  Parfum d’Empire is one.      Continue reading

The Weareverywhere

Some people like to wear flowers from pinterest.com

Some people like to wear flowers from pinterest.com

Going through my perfume cabinet the other day (which I do every spring just as the mole in The Wind in the Willows took up a brush with a sigh and whitewashed) I noticed a gap.  Perfumes come and go with me, so my collection seldom exceeds twenty bottles, and sometimes gaps open up.

Many  of my choices are emphatic perfumes, things which are uncommon for one reason or another.  I suppose this is the pitfall of collectors, they just can’t resist anything out of the ordinary. However that means that I don’t own much which is a no brainer.  The versatile enjoyable scent is notable by its absence on my shelves, which leaves me with a quandary every once in a while.

Chanel as a company understands this concept very well.  They never produce a perfume which is too extreme, too dramatic, or too topical.  The idea is to make classic fragrances easy for consumers to get accustomed to, in fact fragrances that become habitual. Continue reading