The Best Customer?

Original advertising for Coty Muse

Original advertising for Coty Muse

The best perfume customer,  Do such people exist?  Can they exist?  Are they us?

In the States we tend to reference Estee Lauder’s steady and entirely sensible business practices, the slow and persistent knock on consumers’ sensibilities with demonstrations, free samples, and gifts with purchase. Estee was in fact a follower of Francois Coty in all this.  He too, wanted the wide market, and bet that he could obtain it-which he did of course- and with spectacular success.  That all began though with demographic democracy by targeting the middle class consumer. Continue reading

Power Powder

Advertising for Narciso Poudree

Advertising for Narciso Poudree

Fashions in fragrance change from time to time, that is why perfume sometimes smells “dated” or  simply “old”. The perfume isn’t necessarily old, but the style is, hence the comments.  Recently the trend has been for heavy weight champ orientals featuring oud or something that smells like it, no doubt courtesy various bases.  I was beginning to think that Mike Tyson fragrances were going to dominate the ring for several years to come, but in the interim something happened, bantam weight boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard triumphed.  Powder made a comeback.

Powdery used to be, back in the early aughts, a Bad Thing. “Powdery” was a term like “soapy” or “perfumey” that was discouraging if applied to your favorite on Makeupalley or elsewhere.  Fragrances should not disintegrate into little dry molecules in the nose and blow away, that was the consensus.  No one wanted to smell like Johnson and Johnson, which was in the business of baby products afterall, not perfumery. I must say that the judgement handed down seemed harsh to me at the time, since I loved the feminine powder bomb Caron’s Narcisse Blanc, and was almost as fond of Orchidee Blanche from L’Artisan. How times change, now powder is back. Continue reading

Iris…Actually

Black iris painting offering from etsy.com

Black iris painting offering from etsy.com

Detecting the principal notes of fragrances is one of the most annoying and confusing aspects of perfume collecting.  Who would know-for example-that the main note of Fracas is Tuberose?  And who would intuit that YSL Paris is largely concerned with roses?  No one does. You simply have to find that out yourself over time checking out different websites, and ultimately, trusting your own nose.

So last year when Patricia de Nicolai’s fragrance Ambre Cashmere came out I thought it was an amber perfume  because of the name, and  since most of the reviews accused AC of a tooth enamel eroding sweetness, I let the matter rest, and it wasn’t until for entirely different reasons a sample came my way, that I actually tried Ambre Cashmere. Continue reading

Rose in the Round

Winchester Cathedral photo our own

Winchester Cathedral photo our own

My roses have begun to be acclimated to the new garden and one has bloomed.  It is such a pretty thing and the scent is so different from what rises out of perfume bottles that I am  compelled to write about rose fragrances and how often they seem to go wrong when transplanted to human skin.

The rose in these pictures is David Austin’s Winchester Cathedral a white sport (A spontaneous change in flower, appearing on an established variety.  It’s an odd term I know.)  from his well known Mary Rose.  Winchester has a smell that is not at all like what wafts from perfume counters. Continue reading

Pepper Flowers: Ofresia, Gardenia, Perfectly Marvelous

Black and White peppercorns

Black and White peppercorns

This is the sort of idea that tends to put people off.  It’s already pollen season in the Northeast, and I’m hearing a great deal of sneezing going on all around me, but the fact remains that an irritant is part of the charm of floral fragrances.  Possibly there should be something, just a little something, abrasive in all that prettiness.

Some perfumers have had the same idea, and that’s why there is a small sub genre of floral perfumes that feature pepper in a prominent position of the formula.  I can’t say the trick is a new one,  Chanel’s Gardenia contained pimento back in the 1990’s in its heart along with clove and sage, this followed a lavishly floral beginning crowded with orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose.  This gave Gardenia a piquancy that was maybe missing from some of its later iterations.  Anyway that touch of pepper showed that white florals did not have to be banal. Continue reading

No Green Beans

Green Vanilla beans from pinteres

Green Vanilla beans from pinteres

There are times when being green is not a good thing.  Take for instance Madagascar vanilla beans.  The island is the premier producer of vanilla beans world wide( just after Indonesia)* but has had troubles recently with the quantity of its beans and also with the quality.  Although you can buy vanilla from other sources such as Indonesia and Mexico, the quality of the beans has consistently not been perceived as being as high as the Madagascan vanilla.  That could be changing though.

The salient point here is that vanilla pods need to ripen before they are marketed.   When they are green they are not saleable. The vanilla pods have to turn that tarry black before they are ready.  Nowadays though some traders are harvesting the beans while they are still green and vacuum packing them, like off season sweaters, then opening the vacuum packed beans when the price of vanilla has risen enough to make their sale highly profitable. Continue reading

Sweet Peas and Failure

King High Scent Sweet Peas

King High Scent Sweet Peas

St Patrick’s Day used to be the traditional day for starting sweet peas (indeed any kind of peas according to Bill Harris founder of White Flower Farm) in the upper forty eight states.  It was a simple procedure, you dug a trench about three inches deep or so, maybe worked in a little compost or manure, stuck pea poles in at intervals along your furrow and then waited for the little vines to hoist themselves up and bind themselves to the sticks with their tendrils. Continue reading

Mysticism, Oud, and Deja Vu: Caron’s Yatagan and Parfum Sacre

M7 from manlovescologne.com

M7 from manlovescologne.com

Oud sloshes about perfume retailers nowadays, you need waders or gumboots to keep the stuff from soaking your shoes. There is practically a flood warning out for it, and still the public seems to love the smell and to keep on buying.  Sometimes I wonder if this is not due to the fact that the Industry killed off one of their better dry fixatives with the oakmoss ban imposed by IFRA?  It could be, and after all, synthetic substitutes for oud have existed for some time, but the beginnings of oud and the Middle Eastern influence on mainstream perfume is a good deal older than you might expect.

Yves Saint Laurent’s M7, a synthetic oud fragrance for men, was introduced in 2002 and has remained a love it or loathe it experience ever since.  However M7 wasn’t the first mainstream release containing oud.  The first was probably Yatagan (1976) into whose formula a certain amount of oud wood was incorporated.  The oud is not in the notes,  neither in the H&R Guide of 1991, nor yet on  any of the websites, but there is a reference to this note of Yatagan’s in The Book of Perfume by Barrille and LaRoze  who claim that the perfumers of Caron, always interested in rituals (with their own Royal Bain de Caron allegedly part of Voodoo ceremonies) decided to include this nearly sacred material in their new masculine.* Continue reading

The Lavender Bears’ Picnic

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

Bobbie bear in plush toy form

If you go down to the woods today you’d better not go alone…especially not in China where you might be witnessing one of the biggest bear jamborees on earth.  It seems that a fad of huge proportions was born this past year.  The Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Tasmania had been selling only the occasional Bobbie Bear in lavender plush stuffed with dried lavender, ten a month or so up until 2013, when a Chinese actress posted a picture of herself with Bobbie on social media.  Bobbie was, according to Zhang Xinhu, the perfect companion on a cold night in Shanghai.

After that, Bobbies began selling like crazy, up to 4 thousand a month and Bridestowe was at the limits of its  lavender production.  That was when their problems really began. Continue reading

Lilies of the Valley and Strong Women

Diorissimo advert perfumegirl.com

Diorissimo advert perfumegirl.com

It seems appropriate to quote Nancy Reagan now.  She is credited with observing that women were like tea bags, you could never tell how strong one was until she got into hot water. Some women are so strong, or at any rate their personalities are so strong, that you don’t need the hot water at all and can sun brew them.

Such was the case with my own mother whose personality was of the expansive sort, and I’ve known plenty of women since who were larger than life.  I’m speaking of the personality here mind you, not the character.  Character is different. Largely self constructed a structure that goes up with labor over decades and has little to do with personality. Put it this way, personality you are born with, character you make yourself, it’s akin to the difference between beauty and style. Continue reading