Cachet Jaune: The Real Vanilla

Cachet Jaune in the stopwatch bottle

Cachet Jaune in the stopwatch bottle

It’s curious that fond of vanilla as most of the world seems to be we are mostly unfamiliar with the actual scent in perfume.  Most of the time we are smelling vanillin, the old molecule responsible for so much vanilla flavor and fragrance.

Cachet Jaune or Yellow Seal from 1937 is one of the obscure old Guerlains that contain the real thing. It is also among the perfumes that have been resurrected  through the work of Thierry Wasser and one of his assistants Frederic Sacone. Cachet was an unusual Guerlain because it was never released as a perfume, instead the formula came as a cologne and was offered in the stop watch bottle design presumably to be more affordable to Depression era shoppers. Continue reading

The Decadent Datura

Datura metel in bloom

Datura metel in bloom

Poisonous plants are an unhealthy draw.  Oleanders and Daturas are high on my list of flowers to be grown with caution. They’re death to the cat if she’s foolish enough to gnaw at the branches, but my cat is a wise cat, and has become an indoor cat since we moved, which seems to be ok by her.  I think I can grow Datura next summer, and say, isn’t Datura that old Jimson Weed  we grew up regarding as nothing in particular?  Well, actually yes, yes it is, and liable to seed itself as far North as Boston. What I wonder is so exclusive and delicate about that?

I think of Jimson as being a Mark Twain plant, something to lay hold of at midnight and conjure to rid you of warts, kind of like spunk water. The reason most people grow the Jimson Weed is for its large downward facing trumpet flowers and their scent which is very strong particularly after sunset.  They are real vespertine garden plants, releasing their narcotic perfume after dark and while some

Datura in bloom.

Datura in bloom.

people find it a soapy scent others liken it to the smell of lilies, the plants that fester worse than weeds according to Shakespeare. One has to wonder what he would have thought of Daturas? He probably didn’t know them as they are native to Cuba Continue reading

My Dinner with Mitsouko

Champagne bellinis to capture the sparkle of topnotes and the peach heart of Mitsouko

Champagne bellinis to capture the sparkle of topnotes and the peach heart of Mitsouko

Chypres are supposed to go with food.  Now this is the sort of statement I like to put to the test and since mixology and foodiness have both been brought to bear on perfume, here is my take on the problem of food, wine, and fragrance.

I could have chosen other perfumes for this little foray into the world of the palate but  absent Coty Chypre,  Mitsouko is the grand dame of chypres and the most venerable of her line, so I invited her to dinner. Continue reading

Alahine and Co.

Romantic elegance this girl in a hat from Pinterest

Romantic elegance this girl in a hat from Pinterest

Daintiness is not something that perfumers necessarily consider in the making of a perfume.  However the perfumer of Teo Cabanel, Jean Francois Latty has created a series of perfumes in wonderful taste.

Now I don’t feel very comfortable writing such a thing, because in the end the perfume that is in perfect taste for you is the one you love and wear, and I know from personal experience that choice often doesn’t fall on the chic import but on the old reliable sometimes found on the shelves of your local pharmacy.  My aunt for instance swore by Yardley’s Lavender. Continue reading

The Golden L’Origan

L'aimant and L'Origan from an Ebay listing

L’aimant and L’Origan from an Ebay listing

When the afternoon light turns amber that’s the end of summer.  It’s a phenomenon that you see in many different parts of the world. The light is a clear bluish color in Spring, has a strong un-tinted intensity in summer but in autumn, light slants and steeps in the atmosphere like tea.  There’s probably a perfectly rational explanation for this but so  far I’ve never heard one.

Fall is brewing. The foliage is already beginning to turn ever so slightly in my town, and soon the whole place will be covered with the annual oranges, tobacco browns, saffrons and scarlets everyone loves. Except me that is, because for me, Autumn is a busy season clipboard clutching, the time interrupted by meetings, and oh yes I have to change perfume. Continue reading

Everything But Shalimar

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle...

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle…

Some of the great classics are stumbling blocks.  There is something about the journey of perfumery that can make you think that you would never be the sort of person who would wear say No 5, or Mitsouko, or L’Origan, or in my case Shalimar.  Here’s the point though – you may be exactly that sort of person after all.

Maybe it’s a kind of snobbism that makes us not want to admit that some well known formula brings us as much joy as the next person, or that some perfume is just about unbeatable in its class though that’s often the case.  My own experience in  coming around to Shalimar had to do with realizing that I was already wearing Shalimar, just not the blue stoppered kind. I mean I wear leather, a lot of leather, and citrus, and vanilla and what does that add up to?  Yeah, it adds up to Shalimar Continue reading

Golconda and the Scent of Rugosas

The Darya e Noor Diamond

The Darya e Noor Diamond

Once the name Golconda was associated with only one thing: pink diamonds.  At the end  of the 17th century during the great age of the Mughal Empire in India Golconda was mined out and the sparkling vein of rose petal diamonds dried up.

Golconda is also the first of the Joel Arthur  Rosenthal fragrances, and if you have never heard of him, that may be because you are not a jewelry collector of very high net worth. Also you missed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retrospective of JAR jewelry which I curse myself for missing, because the pieces are so  lovely that seeing them just makes your day. Continue reading

A Blue Material Musk

Interior of Dome  of a mosque. Some Mosques contain musk ground into the mortar

Interior of Dome of a Mosque. Some Mosques contain musk ground into the mortar

Some time ago I  wrote about musk and the fact that I had never knowingly come across real musk in perfumery.  Now thanks to Anya of Anya’s Garden I have and the experience is not what I expected at all.

Musk is a tremendous fixative and that explains its use in perfumery for centuries.  Just how good a fixative is musk? The fragrance can last for decades if a fabric is saturated with a good musk tincture. On the skin even a small amount can make a formula persist far longer than you would think possible for a natural scent; though  Anya pointed out when I  emailed her with my question about musk that strong heart notes can also contribute to the longevity of a perfume.  Continue reading

When Calone’s Sixty Four !

RollersPfizer is the guilty party.  In 1951 they patented a chemical which mimicked a breezy marine atmosphere, a molecule which paradoxically smelled like something you could also find on dry land namely melons.  That was Calone which has been a bugaboo of mine in perfumes for as long as I can remember smelling the stuff.

I don’t think I’m unusual.  As far back as a decade ago I  remember a bunch of perfume bloggers being asked what they considered the single worst note in perfumery, the one they couldn’t get past and the answer was either “the artificial melon note” or else the “aquatic” note. Robin from Now Smell This was on record as really disliking the effect, and her opinion was not uncommon.

That didn’t change the fact that Calone had sparked the engines of a number of perfume Hummers especially in the 90′s when behemoth vehicles like Cool Water and its many knock offs dominated the male scent sales.  Recently even such indie perfumers as Andy Tauer contemplated creating a perfume based on Calone, “… there are trends.” he wrote in his blog,” Like: Calone  works for men. And women. Often. And hurray! Calone is cheap.” Continue reading

The Edwardian Abroad: Diptyque

Liberty print

Liberty print

This is a perfume house that has been active since the  60′s, and as with anything that survives such a decade, the memories may be  a bit blurred by time and opiates.  Diptyque was not created as a perfume house originally, rather the emphasis was on objects for the home (two of the founders worked for the  venerable London firm Liberty’s) but they added a fragrance in 1968, L’Eau based the site says on pomanders.

This serves to give you a taste of the aesthetic behind Diptyque.  It was to begin with visual, somewhat antiquarian, and the British taste for both dominates here, a world away from very French houses like Annick Goutal. In other word what we have is more Aubrey Beardsley than Boucher, and the gilding gives way to black and white drawings.

In fact, the ink print austerity of Diptyque has served to lend the business one of the strongest and most instantly recognizable presentations in perfumery.  In many ways their ersatz Edwardian graphic labels and bottles give them an edge over the ubiquitous rectangular minimalism of other firms whose packaging will probably become dated in a few years time.  Diptyque on the other hand always knew their own style and that individuality has served them well. Continue reading