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

Violet Dawn

Louis Mayer (1869–1969) Woman in Violet Chapeau (2)There has never been a time for violet perfumes like the turn of the last century.  No doubt their proliferation, like a purple tide through perfumery, was due to ionones, invented in 1893, and then the development of a chemical that imitated the scent of violet leaf in 1903.

By that time, violets had become the most popular scent in mass market fragrances.  Sweet violets projected a delectable candor that was simultaneously edible and cozy, even though the woman wearing them might have been defiantly undomesticated, and anything but candid.

The earliest of these violet scents is Violetta di Parma;  Borsari’s version was mine for years.  They have replicated the scent of violets in the bottle.

But wait a minute – what is the scent of violets? Continue reading

The Feel Good Factor

calesthenics Next spring I will have been at this for three years but have never discussed what is to me, the decisive reason for either wearing and keeping a perfume or letting it go: how it makes me feel.

Just to define a term or two here, I mean does the perfume make you feel healthy? Does it promote a sense of well being? Does it induce that feeling of being at home and happy in your own skin?  Or does it, alternatively, give you an uneasy sense that you may have sprayed on something too synthetic, something just the faintest bit nauseating?  Continue reading

Dark Velvet Bouquets

Cat0In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is always looking for the longest day of the year, and then missing it, but in my case, it’s the shortest day of the year I look for and generally miss.  All cases of seasonal blues aside, this is the time of year loved by firelight and candlelight aficionados, that includes me, and my close associate the cat, who never saw a warm surface she wouldn’t nestle onto.

To go with all this man made illumination I enjoy cozy perfumes with something like a gourmand note.  Please notice this isn’t a gourmand.  That’s a different matter, and while I like gourmands, I don’t own any. Continue reading

Mount Hymettos in November

hymeyyusSometimes a favorite note goes off your wrist until another season.  This happens to me every fall after Hallowe’en. My favorite green perfumes get banished until March, and it seems like a long time to me. Let’s face it, I’m a lover of green perfumes no matter what the weather conditions, and could be shoveling snow and still want to fill my lungs with something that smells like leaves. Continue reading

Had a Wife but Couldn’t Keep Her

Peter_Peter_PumpkinThe subject of the last line is, of course, Peter Pumpkin Eater.  Pumpkin is not on the short list of things that make me enthusiastic about anything, but according to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, it’s the combination of pumpkin and   lavender that does it for men.

Really.

Pumpkin.

Lavender.

Uh huh.

You can forget your Shalimar, never mind the Mitsouko, detonate your Flowerbomb without him because it’s pumpkin and lavender that men love and respond to (the smell of cinnamon buns come in second by the way). Continue reading

Stephanotis, And Other Members of the Wedding

wedding paintingAre floral perfumes just not popular right now?

Oh whoops, nope, of course they are! This year the popular floral is ylang-ylang. Consider Le Labo’s Ylang 49 and My Ylang from Caron.  There just must be a lot of the material hanging around at Givaudan-Roure or someplace, filing its nails and shrieking at the other flowers in Tagalog.

But for a brief period of time in the eighties, the flower of choice was the stephanotis, otherwise known as the wedding flower, and it figured in a (very) small number of perfumes.  Floris has a couple of them, one simply called Stephanotis which was based on a very old formula, and these days Wedding Bouquet (2011) as well, which has been pretty well received. But the Stephanotis champion is probably…ahem, Caron’s Nocturnes from 1981. Continue reading

Pricey Niche

peacockThere’s a very odd thing going on out there in the world of perfume: niche fragrance prices are rising.  This year the cost of a 50ml. bottle is well over a hundred dollars US.  In fact, and in the interest of consumers, it’s worth pointing out that this hike comes at a time when many commodity prices are falling, natural gas, metals, pork, corn, etc, and when inflation in the US is running at or below 1.7% (the Federal Reserve’s target is 2%).  So, why are perfume prices up so much?  Is it demand, is it production costs, is it the dollar/euro exchange rate*, is it something that someone outside of the business can’t calculate, or are we…just being suckered for the sake of fashion? Continue reading

Tuberose Dressed for Day

tuberosecAnyone who has stood in front of a display of perfumes soon becomes aware that a number of those bottles are going to contain the name “tuberose” on the label.  Even if they don’t, as in the case of say, Fracas, they soon announce their tuberose intentions to the world.  Even a perfume novice learns to recognize tuberose early on. Tuberose is hard to miss, and once you’ve smelled it, you never forget it.

It’s a winner, that much is certain. Of all the floral notes out there, tuberose is the one that never seems to go “out of print” (or let us say, “out of bottle”).  This is not the case with many other florals. There have been long stretches of time when there were relatively few rose perfumes on the market, and times when neither carnation nor lilac was plentifully represented – now, for instance.  Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Seven: The Christmas Flower

Is certainly not poinsettia, which isn’t a flower anyway, only a set of colored bracts around a stunted central flower head.  The only bloom with a scent that you can easily find in December is the carnation.  It tends to crowd plastic buckets in supermarkets (along with pink and blue dyed chrysanthemums) and is the Christmas floral of choice.  It’s pretty inexpensive too, so that what with the affordability and the ubiquity, the carnation bouquet has become the discount bouquet.

Who knows if tastes in perfume reflect the availability of flowers or their rarity?  In my lifetime, the carnation has never been considered elegant.  Therefore, it has fallen out of the perfumers’ lexicon. Or, to put it another way, carnation has become archaic.   Almost any other flower is more common: lilies, roses, mimosas, jasmines even tuberoses and gardenias are more frequently reproduced in perfume (perhaps because of the banning of eugenol often used to recreate the scent of carnations).  Continue reading