The Smell of American Holidays

Northern Bayberry

Northern Bayberry

These days it seems to be synthetic holly or vanillin, or sugar cookie, but once in my childhood it was the scent of bayberries. Now this no doubt seems very old fashioned indeed to people who may still be in their twenties, but the time was when candles were made up and down the eastern seaboard of the colonies using the berries of this one shrubby plant, Myrica pensylvanica.

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The Coty Rose

La Rose Jacqueminot in the orginal bottle

La Rose Jacqueminot in the orginal bottle

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

Shared Atmospheres

Atmospheres we enjoy

Atmospheres we enjoy

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

New and Old: Cialenga, L’Ombre dans L’Eau

Cialenga inits original advertising

Cialenga inits original advertising

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

A Craving for Fruit

apricotsKeats 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

Black Leather Soap

Magno

Magno

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

Summer Remainder

Musc Monoi

Musc Monoi

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

Woody Oriental-Oriental Woody

Nuit de Noel in old advertising

Nuit de Noel in old advertising

Woody perfumes are not so popular with women.  Don’t ask me why. I am one of the out-lying  oddities who like wood.  I wear vetiver and leather and chypres and all sorts of dark, dry things in winter.  You might think from the description that I was kindling some kind of aromatic fire, but it’s simply personal taste.

There is a small, repeat small, group of perfumes that lie right on the line between orientals and chypres.  I’m not discussing ambery orientals here.  Those are resin-y or incense heavy perfumes. The ones I’m writing about today don’t belong to that tribe.  They may contain some amber in the dry off, but they are not really amber perfumes. Continue reading

What the Bees Smell

Squash bees at work

Squash bees at work

My heliotrope was a big disappointment to me this year.  The seeds were ordered from Monticello and when they germinated and grew to plant-hood what did I find?  A great big bush the height of my waist with  feathery heads of purple and then lavender flowers that did not have any scent.

Color me disappointed.  But although I may have been cheated of my almond and sugar and cherry perfume, the bees were in heaven.  The bees and the butterflies were all over my heliotrope practically from the very first day it came into flower in July.  The bees evidently don’t care what human noses smell, they have their own standards of attractiveness.  Which makes me wonder what is it really that bees smell? Continue reading

Should Your Perfume Reflect Your Life?

Should Your perfume reflect you?

Should Your perfume reflect you?

There’s some very good advice out there for anyone who wears clothes (most of us, most of the time) and it’s that we should not buy anything that doesn’t fit in with our activities.  This means what it sounds like.  If you live in jeans and that’s what your life requires, or you are seldom out of Athleisure then don’t go buying the  vintage brocade ballgown from Oscar de la Renta circa 1985. Though who wouldn’t want to rock a train in  the coffee aisle of Shoprite?

Perfume though is different, or let’s say it ought to be.  You can’t see a mismatch between someone’s dreams and someone’s aspirations, you can only smell them.  This is probably what Roja Dove means when he says that “perfume can lie for you”, and it may be what is meant by those perfumers who claim a woman should have a perfume for “courage”.  Continue reading