Alaia Urban Smog

James Abbott Macneil " Nocturne"

James Abbott Macneil
” Nocturne”

There are a lot of scents out there these days which strike me as only one part of a perfume.  Alaia which I have been smelling  round  me on scent strips (from Saks) is certainly one of them. I’m kind of amused that many bloggers think that it’s a wonderful modern perfume.  Alaia’s the coda to a modern perfume.  There’s no heart, and no beginning, you could call this linear but there isn’t enough of a high note to pull you in. It’s a base.

Alaia smells totally synthetic and there is something dark and tarry that I remember from the days when I was toying with Kate Walsh’s Boyfriend (remember that? No?) and  from Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir, although that had more of a presence than Alaia. 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 American Smell?

New York skylineIs there such a thing? I’d say not although there definitely are city smells.  In my extended family we refer to the New York smell, which is made up of car exhaust, uncollected garbage and yes a tiny touch of urine.  And before anyone says “How awful!” let me point out that members of the same family get nostalgic for this scent and have to go into the city just to huff.  True fact.

Charleston SC seems to have a pleasanter smell, with the exhaust cut by a bit of horse manure and flowers.  I quite like it.  Montreal always smells of frost and grit to me, Philadelphia has some frying oil in the air somewhere, Chicago has got that frost and grit thing going on plus some smell tossed up by railroad tracks and stockyards.  The  universal smell of North American cities  seems to be predicated on carbon monoxide.  I’m not certain that anyone has succeeded in bottling it.

New York BridgesNeil Morris has City Rain and Gotham which is supposed to smell a bit like New York but I don’t know if he captured that distinctive fragrance or not.

What does your locality smell like? If it’s anywhere in the US, tomorrow it’ll probably smell of barbecue. Happy Fourth of July!