Dries Van Noten

Grinling Gibbon Carving

Grinling Gibbons  Carving

Some years ago sandalwood was nowhere to be found.  The white sandalwood that I remembered from my childhood was produced by too few trees in India, and as a result, Indian authorities  shut down production for some time.

In the interim, you got imitations of sandalwood, Mcqueen’s Kingdom for instance, a fragrance that was a flop with the market, but not at all bad as a sandalwood mock-up.  Worse, far worse, to my mind was what happened to perfumes that were constructed around sandalwood.  Bois des Isles one year  smelled of Santalum spicatum though really the scent was thrown off by this kind of substitution, but what was a fashion house to do?  There was no Santalum album to be had.  Chanel merely made the best of a bad business. Continue reading

Realistic Lilies

Casablanca Lilies photo my own

Casablanca Lilies
photo my own

When they fester, they may smell far worse than weeds, but lilies, especially the great big oriental and trumpet lilies of July and August, are still among some of my favorite garden flowers. They’re favorites with many people. There was a time in the nineties when no chic New York interior was complete without an extravagant display of pure white oriental lilies nearly toppling out of a vase. So far though I don’t wear any lily (meaning these big lilies, not pee-wee lilies of the valley) scent successfully- that is, up to now. Continue reading

Salty Melons and Married Love: Le Parfum de Therese

Cantaloups

Cantaloups

People remember the late Edmond Roudnitska for different reasons. Myself I remember his book about perfume, the first serious one I ever read on the subject. In it he made a plea for perfume to be considered an art form, maybe not a major art, but an art all the same. I’m not sure what I made of that at the time I read the book in the nineties, but I am sure that a number of Roudnitska compositions struck me as being quite artful. Continue reading

The Symphonic Fragrance

Dublin Symphony Orchestra

Dublin Symphony Orchestra

Periodically the fashion press will trot out the statement that “perfumers have been liberated from the old pyramidal structure” of fragrance. This to me is often a tip off that the new scents about to be described by a harassed beauty editor are essentially accords.

Whole perfume business models have been built on this idea, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but if you don’t like layering fragrances, the modular system can be daunting. If you prefer to wear something finished and worked out to the final evaporation, with no roughness, no fade outs, and no awkward sections, what you are looking for is the symphonic fragrance. Continue reading

Lemon-y but Lovely: New Citrus Florals

Freesias

Freesias

Right now colognes seem to be out of favor with the market. This always surprises me since colognes seem like such a wonderful option for many people. They’re often largely natural, they’re light, they offend very few, and yet look at Andy Tauer trying to get the Cologne du Maghreb into circulation. Apparently, that’s an uphill battle. Continue reading

Bubbles in the Soap Dish: Cruel Gardenia, Caline, Fleur de Rocailles

Cold Cream Camay

Cold Cream Camay

Most of us are very clean.   I’ve never met anyone interested in perfume who was not something of a clean freak.  Maybe we don’t take three baths a day a la Tom Ford but we are very fussy about hygiene.  So why do most of us just not like soap in our perfume?

Possibly the note seems old fashioned to us now.  Back at the turn of the century though J Lo did have that hit of hers Glow.  The whole idea there was freshness and something similar happened with Narciso Rodriguez’ Essence. I thought that the scents were nice enough and had the advantage of wearability in public places.  However, both were modern soaps, and understated. Continue reading

The American Smell?

New York skylineIs there such a thing? I’d say not although there definitely are city smells.  In my extended family we refer to the New York smell, which is made up of car exhaust, uncollected garbage and yes a tiny touch of urine.  And before anyone says “How awful!” let me point out that members of the same family get nostalgic for this scent and have to go into the city just to huff.  True fact.

Charleston SC seems to have a pleasanter smell, with the exhaust cut by a bit of horse manure and flowers.  I quite like it.  Montreal always smells of frost and grit to me, Philadelphia has some frying oil in the air somewhere, Chicago has got that frost and grit thing going on plus some smell tossed up by railroad tracks and stockyards.  The  universal smell of North American cities  seems to be predicated on carbon monoxide.  I’m not certain that anyone has succeeded in bottling it.

New York BridgesNeil Morris has City Rain and Gotham which is supposed to smell a bit like New York but I don’t know if he captured that distinctive fragrance or not.

What does your locality smell like? If it’s anywhere in the US, tomorrow it’ll probably smell of barbecue. Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

The All American White Flower

Fracas in extract

Fracas in extract

In the perfume business all sorts of quirks seem to be part and parcel of the market. Most of them are embedded deep in the psychological propensities of consumers, tastes that only seem individual and arbitrary, but are actually replicated millions of times: such as the French love of strawberries, or the Italian adoration for orange. The British are said to love any fragrance so long as the scent’s powdery, and the Germans far prefer their own products to imports. Brazilians love scent, but particularly fougeres. Continue reading

Vanilla in the Heat

vanilla ice creamVanilla almost seems made for the woolens of fall and winter, a comforting and almost a warming scent. But vanilla can also have cold aspects or allude to boardwalk in a heat friendly way, one that I’ve learned to take advantage of with both recent and vintage scents. Continue reading

White Lavender

White Spike

White Spike

There’s an anecdote going back to the end of the sixteenth century that someone wanted to present Elizabeth I with a beautifully bound book, and to finish off the attractions of that volume they were going to perfume the binding with oil of lavender. Big mistake the giver was told by courtiers in the know, for “Her Majesty could not abide such a strong scent.” She sounds like a modern perfumista to me.

Actually I enjoy lavender and such great classic perfumes as Maja and Moment Supreme are largely based on the scent, not to mention Jicky, still many modern perfume enthusiasts don’t care for it. But what if the flower smell of lavender could be amplified, and the herbal side muffled? Continue reading