Warm Fuzzies: Narciso and Guerlain Eau de Cashmere

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow Fluff

Not so long ago I was writing about influential perfumes and one of the two names which landed on the top of the pile was Narciso For Her.  The whole floral woody musk genre probably dates back to that perfume.  Anyway, the musk and flowers and a little bit of wood recipe has proven so popular that nowadays several releases a year fall into the fuzzily soft fabric (or fabric softener) of the fwm.  Everyone likes this plush toy formula, well everyone who does not require a little backbone in a perfume. Put it this way, floral woody musks are proof that in the perfume world the invertebrates can survive and thrive- even proliferate.

Of course the Narciso people could not let a success like Narciso For her go without progeny.  There have been several scents by now, all in the beautifully designed minimalist bottles that the brand is justly famous for, modern, streamlined and an ornament to any vanity though the contents are Fluff. Continue reading

A Ring of Roses

White Rose Collage of English Roses from the blog French Essence

White Rose Collage of English Roses from the blog French Essence

As time goes on and you find that you are indeed an incurable perfumista (or perfumister) you find the notes you love.  Some people can’t live without iris, and others love patchouli, and others again have a thing for Iso Super E, but in my case,  the indispensable note is a rose.

Last post I was complaining about fall and how hard I find it is to squeeze myself and my outsized craving for florals into a season that is usually about gourmands, woods, ambers and leathers, well, there is always the strategy of the rose.  I can retire behind a huge bouquet of them whenever I am perplexed, and generally do. Continue reading

The Transitional Perfume

ChrysanthemumEvery year fall rolls around and every year I lose step with everyone else in the perfume world. It seems as though the majority of people like to check their cool weather wardrobes and plan ahead happily for the ambers, orientals, gourmands, and woody scents they will shortly be dabbing and spritzing. There is a rush to find the Bois des Isles, the Ambre Sultans and for the bolder sexier sorts, their animalics and leathers. You get a sense of busy bustle as folks find their old friends again, and then there’s always a flood of new releases hoping to gain a little traction in the scent market before the holidays. In short, there is a lot to choose from, probably more than at any other time of the year. Continue reading

An Explosion of Brands

 John Singer Sargent  Promenade during the uncrowded fin de Siecle

John Singer Sargent
Promenade during the uncrowded fin de Siecle

Believe it or not this happened once before.  You may think that nothing like the multiplication of perfume niche companies has ever been seen in the history of scent sales but back in the early twentieth century something very like this happened.

Frankly I’ve long since lost count of the number of new niche fragrance houses that have debuted in the last three years or so.  Some of them will survive of course, and many will not, but back in the teens and twenties the world of perfume was similarly flooded. Continue reading

Why Don’t You…Wear Diana Vreeland?

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

Her name was pronounced Dee-Ahn, never Die- Ann.  People who worked with her rapidly found that out.  Not that Diana was affected, she was simply, completely, utterly, and unapologetically, inner directed.  This may be a  euphemism for being eccentric, but the line between genius and madness is notoriously thin, and eccentrics frequently straddle it.

Diana Vreeland Parfums is the attempt to commercialize the reputation of the late editrix of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  Perfume seems an odd choice for that task since I don’t remember any statement from Mrs. Vreeland on perfume, except for a lone endorsement of Glamour. Clothes and shoes I should have thought, were more her sphere. Continue reading

Contemporary Heliotrope

Heliotrope in bloom photo my own

Heliotrope in bloom
photo my own

Heliotrope is one of those floral notes in perfume that everyone thinks is old fashioned-that is if they even know what heliotrope is in the first place.  So heliotrope is that delightful annual that blooms in dark purple or sometimes white flowers and produces a delicate fragrance. Some say heliotrope smells  of almonds and others of vanilla, still others liken the perfume to a freshly baked cherry pie.  That was one of the popular names for the flower back in the 1880s in fact.

In case  you’ve never smelled heliotrope one of the best places to begin to encounter the note is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue 1912.  The other place is Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee 1906.  Both are re-interpretations of   Francois Coty’s L’Origan 1904, which used a heliotrope base (among five others).  All of these fragrances have made it into what you might call fragrant pop culture.  Never smelled them?  Try one and if you’ve never met the scent before chances are you’ll smell talcum powder. Continue reading

The Phlox of August

A border of Summer Phlox

A border of Summer Phlox

World War I started a hundred years ago this month. In retrospect it makes me cringe when I think of all the golden afternoons of August in Flanders being shattered by shellfire and drifting clouds of mustard gas.

Even this unfortunate anniversary does not spoil the month for me.  August strikes me as being one of the very best times to smell things in gardens and one of the best smells of the August garden is phlox. I should make myself clear and point out that I’m discussing Summer Phlox or Phlox paniculata to give the plant its right name.

If you garden with perennials you know this plant well because it conveniently blooms in August when so many other perennials have shut up shop for the season, and all you are left with is annuals. Continue reading

Old Fashioned Flowers + New Treatments = Modern Perfumes?

The Hemisphere, Valencia

The Hemisphere, Valencia

So many flowers fall out of the repertoire of perfumery. The number of flowers that are not used always surprises me, outside of such perennials as gardenia, jasmine and tuberose practically every other flower I can think of has fallen out of favor during my years smelling perfume.

These days the hardest to find are lilacs, although Lilac Faith was released last year, part of the Aerin line at Estee Lauder, Carnation, and Heliotrope are little used except as moderators in some fragrances, others: Mignonette, Stock, Nicotiana, Wall Flowers, Primroses, Dame’s Rocket, and Phlox, as well as all sorts of other garden inhabitants never make the grade for contemporary fragrances. Continue reading

Domesticated Animal Musks

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Has anyone else noticed the stealth growth of musk in perfumery?  Musk is everywhere these days, particularly in the base of floral perfumes.  It’s getting so that you have to go to  great lengths to find a flower perfume that doesn’t end in a puddle of musk.

I don’t hate musk.  Although I do  dislike the huge old heavy macrocylic musks (Globalide, Muscone) whose molecules lumber past your nose like mastodons on the extinction march.  I’m one of those people who always have free and clear detergents in the laundry room, because I can’t stand the battle of different scents fighting for dominance over one sillage. Musk always wins. Continue reading

Before It’s Gone

Soap Bubbles

Soap Bubbles

Discontinuations are one of the facts of the perfume business.  Anyone who loves perfume tends to complain about the arbitrary way in which one scent after another can bite the dust, but we have to remember after all these are businesses, not  revolving exhibitions.  Either perfumers manage to stay current with public tastes and fashions or they don’t, and when they don’t, sales decline.

Did I write that?  Yes I did, and actually believe myself, but this does not stop me from behaving like a fractious toddler when one of my own favorites ends up on the chopping block. I fuss, I whine, I ask SA’s to double check for me one final time.  Maybe there’s a bottle gathering dust at Epcot or Las Vegas?  The whole process is pretty irrational. Continue reading