This issue used to strike me as very important long ago.Choice of brand was crucial. Or so I thought at seventeen. Now this matters far less to me. I smell all sorts of things and know that many releases are merely rehashes of earlier perfumes, and so wear whatever strikes me as genuinely interesting pretty much wherever it came from. But I am naive on this point because the truth is that brands and branding matter a lot. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s the fatal error among perfume companies was to move downmarket. You might think that this is counter-intuitive, but in fact it was vitally important. If your image was exclusive you stood a good chance of surviving the economic wreck, if by contrast you decided to sell your scents in cheap retail outlets like discounters or drugstores, your chances of market share loss were pretty good. It was Saks Fifth Avenue or bust for perfume companies then. Continue reading
This does not refer to episode 9000 in the Star Wars epic. It is actually a scent epic, involving a courtroom battle over the trade mark “Farina” during the 19th century. The court decision may or may not have put an end to a couple of centuries of squabbling over who produced the original formula. You see Eau de Cologne was big business. Two firms had emerged as giants in the sparkly citric cologne trade, one was Roger et Gallet and the other was Muehlens whose product had come to epitomize cologne around the world.
Anyway why was cologne so special you are asking yourselves? The formula is very old and there are about as many variations on it as there are on lasagna. The recipe for “Hungary Water” which is a version of cologne, was supposed to be a beauty secret of the Queen of Hungary, and goes back some say to the 14th century. However Napoleon (see our post on The Emperor’s New Scent) really made Eau de Cologne fashionable for men because of his addiction to the tangy stuff. Some of his veterans noticed the preparation in and around Cologne in Germany where the fragrance was already being produced by Johann Maria Farina. The firm of Muehlens also made cologne, and soon, so did Roger et Gallet in France. Perhaps none of this would have mattered but the markets for cologne were expanding worldwide and everyone wanted to be known as the originator of the true formula. Continue reading
Whenever I consider the subject of the gourmand perfume I am always haunted by my mother’s ghost. She detested any perfume “that smells of food”. She also loved the garden and hated to be in the kitchen. She would hustle the frozen food into a pan and hurry on out to marvel at her latest garden acquisition and never mind whether or not the thawed peas burned.
Times have changed. You can find nearly anything now at American markets, and the US world of food has turned on a decade or two, to become one of the foodiest in all the world. Take yesterday in Hartford when a brewer (Captain Lawrence) told me that a grapefruit beer was his bestseller. Grapefruit. Beer. Yes. Well, he was quite right it was wonderful. Continue reading
The other week I bought a bottle of La Rose Jacqueminot without having tested the perfume. Since it was composed about 1904, I was not certain what kind of perfume I would end up with, this is a Coty after all, and he invented two of the standard scent families of the twentieth century.
La Rose Jacqueminot is unusual. In broad outline it is a rose chypre, but like many of the earliest of those, the formula straddles the line between chypres and orientals. Continue reading
So I finally went and bought a small bottle of la Rose Jacqueminot. This dear readers is the very first perfume composed by Francois Coty, before he did La Rose he had only composed eau de cologne and it was his debut.
To tell the truth I’m a little bit nervous. I bought the bottle blind which is something I never ever do. But I have gradually been getting used to the Coty style and this was a bottle of EDP. They are not getting any cheaper with time. It was this moment in the beginning of French perfumery I really wanted to experience or to inhale, even if the result might not be a perfume I loved. Continue reading
The end of the twentieth century was very concerned with clear atmospheres. This was probably because of crowding in public spaces which I suppose also meant crowded air. Perfume and cigarettes, those two great offenders, were sometimes banned, although the evidence that perfume harmed anyone was extremely spotty. Still what it meant for me was caution. Now I do not wear perfume anywhere that contains a large number of people e.g. airplanes, offices, restaurants, theaters. What’s left?
Here’s the odd part. I used to like shared atmosphere as a child. I enjoyed going to church and huffing whatever the lady in the fur wrap was wearing. My mom’s Tabu I avoided but when she changed to Fidji, that was quite another matter. Women on subway trains trailed something cheap and cheerful like Friendship Garden (essentially a knock off of No 5) or later there was Coty’s Sweet Earth series and patchouli made the nearness of hippie chicks bearable. Continue reading
Since there’s such an ocean of perfume out there now I think it helpful when mentioning old classics to pair them with something that is still in production, and similar. I wish someone had done as much for me when I first started to love perfume. You could search for years looking for a particular note and not come across it.
There are services that can help. Michael Edward’s database is a good place to start, but unfortunately he does not list discontinued perfumes and so if you grew up loving a particular scent, or want to find something your mother or grandmother wore, you are fresh out of luck. Continue reading
Keats said it best about autumn being the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. His point is perfectly valid but modern fruities don’t seem to satisfy me, they are too flat and there is nothing fruitful or fecund about them. it’s difficult to fake that in a retort. Take Ralph Lauren’s Tender Romance. It’s rather pretty, quite modern. and on the whole banal I’m afraid. What I seem to want is dried fruit, and raisins, and liquor the sort of thing that Frapin did rather well, only I like my perfume very classical and that means complex.
This takes me right back to the basics: Jean Patou. The very best of all the fruit perfumes I ever came across was the vintage Que Sais Je? from 1925. I even include By Killian’s Back to Black in this blanket statement, although that is a good version of the contemporary fruit infused perfume. Continue reading
Last week I was up and down and out of town, and the sole scent experience of the week was a bar of the great black Spanish soap Magno. I used to wash with Magno in the past and had forgotten how wonderful it is. In a time when most perfume companies let you down with awful reformulations, sometimes soap makers do a better job of maintaining old formulas. Magno appears to be one of them.
I am a bit of a nut on soap. There are a lot of days on which I wear no perfume at all but do scrub with scented soap, and in the past have loved Magno, Roger et Gallet, and even Zum, which tends to have rather strong scents. If you asked me my favorite it would have to be Magno. This preference is based partially on the fact that like many people I have reactive skin. Soaps,cosmetics, skin creams, and sun screens are apt to give me dermatitis and so I am careful about what I wear. Magno never has brought on an episode though, and I do love the stuff. Continue reading
When you divide the lengthening nights by the dwindling sunlight of the days the remainder is what’s left of summer. We used to call it Indian Summer, probably because it was the last of the growing season in this part of the world, a time the native peoples still used for gardening. Myself I begin to worry about the dahlias and tomatoes during cold nights.
I like to to use up the last samples I have of summer florals during the warm days. Those samples are not going to be right a month from now. Today it’s Musc Monoi which Parfums de Nicolai gave me in Paris. I think they should sell it as an Eau Fraiche though the scent’s currently one of the line’s Eaux de Toilettes Continue reading