Have You Read Any Good Perfumes Lately?

Bookshelf from nextimpact.com

Bookshelf from nextimpact.com

Perfumers don’t compose perfumes, instead they “write” them.  It’s an interesting choice of verb.  If you are one of those people who regard perfume as rather like cooking, then this idea will probably not appeal to you, but it is part of the industry, especially in France where fairly or unfairly, the metaphor for “cooking” in perfumery also exists but in a pejorative sense.  A chemical brew is known as a “soup” and these comprise the majority of releases on the  mass market.  Something may be cooking or stewing at the big oil production houses , but  isn’t being conceptualized, most product has no discernible plot beyond, “Make the sale!”

However perfumers themselves who are concerned with more than the fiendish difficulties of scenting detergent or soap, have a little more leeway, and for them the idea of ideas becomes feasible, even defensible. You get Frederic Malle’s “Editions” de Parfums, for all the world like Hachette or Gallimard. Continue reading

Interview with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Starry Night

Starry Night

Do you have a smell from childhood that you loved-anything from your Mom’s perfume to your dog’s paws-and what was it?

A: You know, there are so many smells from childhood that I loved (and still do): the scent of my neighbor’s muguet and lilacs in Spring (these still remind me of my mother and grandmother); violets in my own back yard; the smell of my grandmother’s house (my husband and I bought our house partially because the basement smells like her basement did); warm hay in the humid New York Spring and Summer.  I could continue for a very long time, but these are some of my top favorites.

Are you a synesthete, do you “visualize” odors, or “taste” colors, and does it affect your output?

A: Yes, when I smell smells I not only see colors but sense textures and shapes.  For me, aromas are sculptural / architectural and multi-sensory.  The synethesia effects everything that I do from paintings to perfumes.  I have even created a collection of perfumes called CHROMA that express some of the colors in fragrance form.  I will say that sometimes I let the textural aspect take the “front seat” while at other times my work is about the color or the shape as a primary focus but the overall experience is woven into everything that I make. Continue reading

Forgotten Fougeres

In the beginning was Fougere Royale.

That’s fougere pre-history to you and me.  We live in CW era, to be specific, the post Cool Water era.  Cool Water was such a tsunami in the world of fougeres (the fragrance based on the fantasy fern accord of lavender and coumarin) that nothing has been the same ever since it crested.  We can’t really  recall a time when fougeres weren’t classified as masculines.  I mean, Cool Water was certainly aimed at men, rather like a cool water canon, and hit them, square in the wallet, with the first dihydro-myrcenol powered aromatic fougere in 1988.  The result was that fougeres, which already appeared to be a masculine preserve, effectively became a masculine perfume cliche. Continue reading

Some Tame Antilope

Everybody talks about the disappeared genre of chypres these days, but quite frankly they’re not the only type of perfume that’s gone AWOL in the last decade or so.  There’s also the aldehydic floral. Those perfume bloggers and critics who mention them seem to do so in the past tense.

Lovely, they say, lovely perfumes from past times never to be revived.  This of course ignores the fact that No.5 is still one of the world’s top selling perfumes and that the public seem to be tiring of sweet fragrances and may be looking for more sophistication.  What better genre to revive than the aldehydic floral perhaps using some new molecular confection in the top notes?  I mean, I’d buy it.

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Under the Wind

There can seldom have been such a poetic name for a fragrance can there?  I’m referring to the Limited Edition Guerlain Sous le Vent of which the title here is a loose translation.

And yes, this is another in the series of very highly priced scents that you won’t run into at your local mall. Currently I think this sells for about $US 350.00 per 100 mls, and it’s a green chypre.

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The Anosmic Manager Will See You Now

This past weekend  How to Spend It magazine of the Financial Times included an article by Vicci Bentley on what to wear to the office. Called The Discreet Smell of Success, the piece was mildly edgy because it was the contention of the writer that success has a smell (the successful smell is a chypre, just in case you were wondering.)  Since more and more offices, municipal buildings, schools and restaurants ban fragrance in the US and elsewhere, the idea more and more frequently seems to be no smell is the smell of success.

Now there’s a concept! Unfortunately, it’s got one small problem: it’s impossible.

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Chypre 2.0

Periodically perfume people mourn the death of the chypre.  It’s supposed to be down to the restrictions on oakmoss which was the constituent that gave the chypres so much salty depth and dryness.  Now you cannot use oakmoss in amounts large enough to produce the chypre effect, or you have to use low atranol oakmoss which is, from the chypre’s perspective, rather like trying to pass off a gelding as a stallion.  You just know something is missing.

Among those who comment about perfumes these days the positions on chypres are mixed.  Perfumistas sorrow over their absence but in practically the same sentence they also accuse them of formality, of masculinity, or of being difficult to wear. Still there are many good ones to be found on the internet. Continue reading