Musk and Victoria

Victorian looking soulful and wearing a sapphire. Winterhalter is the painter

Victorian looking soulful and wearing a sapphire.
Winterhalter is the painter

Sometimes the Victorians are good fun.  Not intentionally fun, you understand  because they took themselves pretty seriously. They’re fun in the sense that they are always jostling one another to take home first prize in the propriety contest.  That competition was such a feature of the 19th century, “I’m really much more respectable than you dear.”  The losers were not respectable, and their behavior was not in good taste, or “not for common consumption”, as my mother used to say.

Well it seems that Victoria herself came in for some criticism from those dreaded taste doyennes of the 19th century: parisiennes.  You see the queen had musk in her perfume. Continue reading

Non Rose Perfumes that Smell of Roses

From The A reconstruction of Arcimblodo's Spring

From The A reconstruction of Arcimblodo’s Spring

It appears that I have not done a “list” post in a very long time.  I really hate to do these at the end of a year, but once in a while there is a little space and time to do one and if you can’t re-live rose perfumes in February-when can you?

They do some pretty good best of lists over at Perfume Posse, but I am a fuss pot about roses because I grow so many, and like my perfumes to be really evocative of the real thing, thorns and all. So no Stella, no Diptyque Eau de Rose (only rosy for five minutes anyway- subsequently dryer sheets) and I find the Early Roses of Teo Cabanel to be too timid .  If you want exhaustive lists of the real thing  Undina’s Looking Glass has a really long one. Continue reading

Down to Earth

The edge of our pond

The edge of our pond

There is a definite shift in the season here.  Connecticut has those four clearly demarcated seasons and this one is the transitional, the rainy, the mucky, the still cold but the light is brighter, the sap is running one, we have a name for it: mud season.

This should be a little more shoe and less wellington boot, but the fact is that I have spent the last several weeks cutting brambles out of the garden.  This is not a pleasant job and generally has me battling something very long and spiny which then manages to work thorns into jeans, shirts, scalps, wrists and fingers no matter how plasticated and tough the gardening gloves.  I really do find this season irritating from a purely epidermal point of view. Continue reading

Violets for Valentine’s Day

Fragrant blue violets from

Fragrant blue violets from

So I realized I had been remiss here.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers and a bouquet of violets to mark the day.  I hope it is a fragrant one for you all!

I would also love to know what everyone decided to wear for Valentine’s Day?  I stuck with an old  formula Jasmin de

Double White Violets from Logees'. com

Double White Violets from Logees’. com

Corse a Coty perfume that has a violet beginning and then

is a solid, sunny and rather rural jasmine with a distinct hay note to the fragrance.

What did you choose?  Did everyone decide to stick to roses?

The Battle of The Bottle

Le Parfum Ideal Bottle

Le Parfum Ideal Bottle

We have all had similar experiences if we buy old perfume, namely stuck stoppers.  In this particular case the stopper was stuck tight in a bottle of Houbigant’s Le Parfum Ideal. The bottle was quite small and from my reference books on perfume flagons, I was convinced that the scent probably dated from 1925-1930 or thereabouts.

All of that was fine I had the bottle, I had the box, and the bottle was pristine with threads still tied and sealed in wax as a matter of a fact, which suggested an early 20th century date to me.  BUT there was no way of getting Ideal open. Continue reading

Variations on a Musk Theme: Sylvaine Delacourte

Mme. Delacourte

Mme. Delacourte

Reviewing is something I  seldom do.  I suspect perfumes are critic proof in the first place, and in the second, supposing the reviewer is simply wrong?

Here  though, I was intrigued.  If you paid attention to Guerlain in the oughts, you knew about the career of Sylavaine Delacourte their skilled artistic director.  Now here was an individual who had learned (few people do) the highly inflected language of  Guerlain perfumes. Continue reading

Cats and Rose Trees

Charcoal at about the time we adopted her.

Charcoal at about the time we adopted her.

Cats seem to be the inevitable partners of those who love perfume,but I’m not sure how often they are the partners of gardeners.  I have had memorable dog friends and currently have a cat associate who I came to know in a singular way involving a rose.

When I first met Charcoal she was living on the street in New Jersey.  The particular street she lived on was the same one we lived on  but our paths had not crossed often because we had an aged dog, and she was wary of him.  Mr Tang detested cats with all the energy a veteran Shih Tzu can muster, and used to curse her out roundly when she came into view, but he was in the twilight of his years.  Inevitably we lost him and when we did my daughter announced that she wanted a cat. Continue reading

Characters in Bottles: The Carons

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

If you read last week’s post you know about the first part of my essay on the Caron perfume house.  I was making the point that Caron,or more precisely their founder/perfumer Ernest Daltroff, created highly distinctive perfumes.  Along with Francois Coty who also used psychological marketing, Daltroff seems to have composed perfumes for different personality types, some of them quite extreme.

Take for instance Nuit de Noel (1922), Caron itself calls this fragrance an oriental though the formula is on the line between chypres and orientals, and describes it as “woody, flowery (mainly jasmine) spices (sic) and moss.”  This was the controversial writer Ayn Rand’s favorite perfume and remains a grave, almost stately scent that suits anyone who loves luxury.  The absence of any cologne or bergamot top-notes makes the the scent rich, yet not at all animalic since the base is  25% sandalwood, the rest mousse de saxe. This may be the origin of the comments about Caron’s relative “propriety” since unlike most of its competitors, Nuit did not feature civet or musk.  The scent is dignified and lavish but not in the least sexual. Nuit de Noel is a perfume for judges, executives, even Prime Ministers ( Theresa May take note). There is nothing silly about the contents of the little black bottle. Continue reading

Characteristic Carons

Distinctive ladylike image for a ladylike fragrance

Distinctive ladylike image for a ladylike fragrance

Caron has been a constant in my blogging world and my closet for so many years now that I can’t remember when I first wore a Caron. The house is no longer a fashionable one and although some perfume critics used once upon a time to revere the company, Caron has garnered bad reviews, and released ho hum fragrances in the past decade which in turn garnered more bad reviews.

This is a little unfair.  Even Guerlain is not what it was these days, with its plethora of releases, and its onetime art director starting a perfume company of her own.* That is not even to to mention the last living Guerlain perfumer initiating his own line*. Continue reading

The Smells of Winter

Rocco guards our front door.  This is him in winter "furs".

Rocco guards our front door. This is him in winter “furs”.

One of the reasons that I enjoy living in Connecticut is the four seasons.  There are precisely four and none of them is rushed or hurried past ( perhaps Spring comes too quickly or slowly for my taste) but otherwise there are four, and there are smells that go with each one.

Perhaps I should explain my recent musings on winter scents. Yesterday I spent five hours in the car driving home through the remains of winter storm Helena and that was an experience. Continue reading