A Bite of Vanilla

Vanilla Table by Natasha MacAller

Vanilla Table
by Natasha MacAller

There’s almost nothing that vanilla doesn’t improve.  I’m in the habit of grinding up a tiny bit of vanilla bean with my medium coffee roasts to give a rounder softer cup.  It’s easy to do and  moderates acidity nicely in the brew.  This makes you understand why vanilla, even when you can’t actually detect it in a fragrance or on a plate, makes a big difference. Vanilla Table the cook book by Natasha MacAller reminded me of this quality.  Maybe vanilla isn’t my absolute favorite note in perfumes or food, but it is one one of them.  This book is a compendium of recipes contributed by chefs from around the world all of whom have chosen to work with vanilla.  Continue reading

Wearing Vintage

Opium advert

Opium advert

A disclaimer here, I’ve always worn vintage clothes.  I did stop after the age of forty, but in my twenties I never wore anything more recent than the fifties-why?  Contemporary stuff was much less chic. So my take on old perfume tends to follow the same pattern, if it works why not wear it? Perfumes are not antiques, you can use them.  The question is where and how?  Some old perfumes have become cliches and everyone knows what you are wearing or thinks that they do- which can be worse Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Two: The Smell of Falling Snow

The smell of snow is one of the most ethereal smells on earth.  It’s very difficult to catch, being essentially frozen water and ozone, and I can’t think of  many perfumes that even try.  Of course, one famous house did make the attempt.

The perfume is  No. 5, the house is Chanel, and the scent was possibly incarnated once or twice before, as Rallet No. 1 and earlier as La Bouquet de Catherine,  both composed by Ernest Beaux when he was in the employ of Rallet, then a fashionable perfume house in Russia.   Continue reading

Nina and the Arpege Monster

My husband’s grandmother Nina was a pioneer.  She was unfailingly chic long before Anna Wintour had been born to make the rest of us feel fat and blowsy, she was anorexic in the days before that disorder had been recognized, and she was a perfectionist long before the rest of us had developed OCD.  She was also a killer raconteur, a dresser of effortless style, and briefly, a concert pianist.  If you could come up with a word to sum up Nina, it probably was “impeccable”.  Her perfume was Arpege,  of course.

Why of course?  Well, back in the day there were perfumes that smelt cheap and that smelt expensive and Arpege was one of the ones that unfailingly smelled expensive, that is, on the right person. If you’re reading perfume blogs there’s an excellent chance you already know Arpege well from one or another of its incarnations, and therefore are already acquainted, if so, disregard the description. Continue reading

Five By Five

There are so many perfumes that are nearly No 5, but not quite.   This is what happens when you are the cool girl at your school, everyone wants to be you, and the melancholy truth is, that some variations of you may be more engaging than you are yourself.  Think of all the times you have said to yourself, well No. 5 is very fine but supposing she were warmer, or more floral, or had more aldehydes, or fewer aldehydes, or incense.  The list of possibilities is long.

Of the many contenders for most charming version of No5, I’ve included here five: Balenciaga’s Le Dix, Guerlain’s Liu, Robert Piquet’s Baghari, Estee Lauder’s White Linen and Mme Rochas.

Why these?  Why not say, Arpege?  Well, Arpege is a big enough variant to my mind to have broken free of the sister scent stigma.  Arpege is her own self, and always has been, warmer, deeper and much more ambery than No 5, at its best Arpege smelled to me like a floral butterscotch, of a most unctuous and melting sort.

Continue reading