Everything But Shalimar

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle...

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle…

Some of the great classics are stumbling blocks.  There is something about the journey of perfumery that can make you think that you would never be the sort of person who would wear say No 5, or Mitsouko, or L’Origan, or in my case Shalimar.  Here’s the point though – you may be exactly that sort of person after all.

Maybe it’s a kind of snobbism that makes us not want to admit that some well known formula brings us as much joy as the next person, or that some perfume is just about unbeatable in its class though that’s often the case.  My own experience in  coming around to Shalimar had to do with realizing that I was already wearing Shalimar, just not the blue stoppered kind. I mean I wear leather, a lot of leather, and citrus, and vanilla and what does that add up to?  Yeah, it adds up to Shalimar Continue reading

Guerlain Vanillas

Decadent Vanilla

Decadent Vanilla

You can’t wear Guerlain without wearing vanilla.  It’s not even worth making the experiment because Guerlain equals vanilla, and there is no version of vanilla that Guerlain hasn’t whipped up, baked up, brewed up or macerated in just about endless variations during its nearly two hundred year history.*

First a disclaimer, I’m not a vanilliac.  But I like the note .  When I was younger I was sure I didn’t, and avoided Guerlains, but time Continue reading

Vanilla in the Heat

vanilla ice creamVanilla almost seems made for the woolens of fall and winter, a comforting and almost a warming scent. But vanilla can also have cold aspects or allude to boardwalk in a heat friendly way, one that I’ve learned to take advantage of with both recent and vintage scents. Continue reading

Orient Express

francesco-ballesio-the-carpet-sellersSometimes intricacy is all I want, and then I go in search of the most detailed perfumery I can find. Of recent years some of my favorite perfumers in this category are the evocative ones.  Pierre Bourdon and Chris Sheldrake are still great favorites of mine here, despite Bourdon’s retirement.

Of all the richly layered scents I can think of, their joint composition Feminite du Bois, is one of the most crowded with impressions.  The scent’s like stepping into the Hagia Sophia, there is always something else to see and smell inside, even when you thought you already knew it well, because here, just as with the Bosphorus, is one of the touching points of East and West. Continue reading

Japanese by Choice

ikebanaIf there are ethnicities represented in the world of perfume, then the dominant one these days is probably Arabian, possibly Saudi, more probably the UAE, but either way situated on the Arabian Peninsula.  Possibly it has to do with the abandonment of so many natural materials that Western Europe via IFRA restrictions has espoused, although of course all Montales and Amouages sold in France have to comply with those restrictions.

But the style is one that I find intermittently rather heavy.  I appreciate the richness of the scents, and there is no mistaking their opulence, but what I really want is…well, something Japanese. Continue reading

Coty? Or Guerlain?

Lajos und Odon by Joseph Rippl-Ronai.jpgNot that you have to choose,  this is not one of those walk-the-plank propositions I see on other blogs, where the writer wants you to choose once and for all, usually between Guerlain and Chanel.  And anyway, this is not so difficult-  if you like more naturals and modern elegance you go with Chanel, of course, and if you like anything sensually baroque or gourmand, you go with Guerlain, right?

My question, however is a little more profound because once upon a time so many of the Guerlains were Cotys. Continue reading

Orientals, Larks, and Owls

Old Man BeardIt is axiomatic that people fall into one or two categories in life and that they are selected for these categories by whether or not they are active before about eight a.m.  You are born either an owl (someone who is most alert in the evening and at night) or else a lark, (someone who correspondingly is most wide awake and productive in the morning).  Perhaps the reason is genetic, though all adolescents go through a period of time when they seem to be owls, no matter how they started out, and all small children, to their parents’ dismay, are larks. Continue reading