Category Archives: Perfume

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

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


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

Some people like to wear flowers from

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

Lost Masterpiece: Angelique Encens

Della Robbia Angelic Choir from

Many people seem not to like Creed.  So many that I find myself hesitating slightly to claim that a Creed actually was a masterpiece. Creed has been around  longer than Guerlain, though they did begin as a tailoring concern in London, offering one cologne with the suits, rather than as purveyors of pomade.

The story of Angelique Encens confuses me slightly.  The formula is supposed to have been composed in 1933 for the Bishop of Paris. So says the sometimes unreliable Wikipedia, but  many people claim that, Angelique was made for Marlene Dietrich.  Hm.  There is even one poster on Fragrantica who says it was the preferred perfume of Pope John Paul II.  I wonder about that since he was rather austere and who can imagine him spritzing or dabbing  vestments or anything remotely similar? Continue reading

Tulipmania : Neil Morris’ Rainflower

Parrot tulip from

You would think-wouldn’t you- that tulips would be a little higher on the radar of perfumers than they are?  There is Byredo’s La Tulipe, there is Il Tuo Tulipano from Hilde Soliani and not much else.

Well now I have some good news for tulip lovers. I smelled Neil Morris’ Rainflower and that does come as close to tulips as you are going to get currently.  Now to a lot of readers Neil Morris may seem like a detour off the Guerlain or Dior or Lutens highways, but he really is a very talented man, and some of his perfumes are surprising.  Rainflower is one that knocks me for a loop because the smell is so real. The story behind the scent is that Morris was visiting London and stopped to see Kew Gardens in spring when it was raining.  Shortly afterwards the sun came out and this glorious smell of fresh flowers is what he caught and tried to recreate in Rainflower. Continue reading


something you don't come across every day.

something you don’t come across every day.

You know it’s a funny thing, most of us, plus the media, plus critics, even academics, like to say that we admire originality.  That is to say that we do, very much, so long as we can see how that originality sold in the 18-49 demographic last year? Also, was that gross or net? We love originality- just so long as someone else has done it first.

This means that you will almost never smell an original perfume.  They’re too risky to sell.  Supposing the public doesn’t like them?  The same goes for any number of new products, but trust me on this one, if you’ve smelled thousands of perfumes you know original ones are extremely rare. Continue reading

Dorian Gray’s Perfume

Dorian as physical perfection on a summer day.

Dorian as physical perfection on a summer day.

Some writers set the scene of a novel with visuals, others like to give us a sense of how their characters feel, as in the ghost’s cold little hand at the beginning of Wuthering Heights, but Oscar Wilde decides at the very beginning of The Portrait of Dorian Gray to tell us how things smelled.

“The studio was  filled with the rich odor of roses,” the novel begins,” and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate scent of the pink flowering thorn.” It’s a very odd way to begin a novel.  Possibly Wilde felt that if you know how a place smells you know automatically how it looks and that a long description is  therefore unnecessary.

Instead Wilde continues his olfactory description. Lord Henry Wotten is lying on “Persian saddlebags” which implies a smell of old wool, and is smoking cigarettes, so a nicotine haze blurs this atmosphere. Through the  open door come more flower fragrances, laburnum  in bloom, and the flowering woodbine, which are just other names for gold chain trees and honeysuckle. Continue reading

At Hello

The coup de foudre isn't common even with perfumes

The coup de foudre isn’t common even with perfumes

There is a quote about perfume, and for the life of me I can’t remember to whom it’s attributed, but the translation is, “Perfume should be like love, it should strike a person from the very first contact.” Which is a pretty fair description of infatuation.

This is one of those experiences perfume lovers are always on the lookout for and enjoy inordinately when they do happen.  How often though does it really strike?  In my own case I have to say very few times.

Continue reading