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

Japanese Roses

Rosa rugosa "Agnes"

Rosa rugosa “Agnes”

Do you like Japanese gardens?  You know, those serene landscapes with raked pebbles and a single maple tree pruned into perfect profile in the middle?

I do. They’re marvels of restraint, which I’m not, but tranquility is a major hallmark of the Japanese style and desirable in a harried world.

All of which is not to say that I can actually manage to pull off a Japanese garden here in Connecticut since, for a start, I’m not Japanese; but I can have a stab at growing a number of Japanese plants.  All except roses, I read, because according to at least one major garden designer who shall remain nameless, roses play no part in Japanese gardening. 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

Among the Roots

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Siberians in the garden at Bowdoin

Suddenly it’s gotten hot in Connecticut.  This sounds like an oxymoron I know.  However it can get hot in New England and usually does when you really could do without the humidity and the soaring temperatures, as in for instance when you’ve just moved north and thought it would be cooler.

Every year when the Great Heat Wave happens I’ve turned to different remedies and oddly this year my invisible cold pack is full of  iris and patchouli. I’m not sure why I decided that iris was a good remedy for heat, unless the sight of a lone Japanese iris in bloom set me off the other day. Continue reading