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

Chocolate Irises to Love: Iris Ganache and Dimanche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANearing the end of February I find that I have not gotten around to one of my favorite topics: chocolate.

Perhaps it came to mind because last weekend I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and you can’t go far there without chocolate heaving into view in one form or another. Then I started to hanker after a recently discontinued Guerlain, Iris Ganache,  which yearning is sure to wind up making me poorer.   I’m mystified by Iris Ganache’s appeal for me anyhow, since I’m the blogger who said she didn’t own any gourmands. 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

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

Leaves of Licorice

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Male_Luna_Moth,_Megan_McCarty141.jpgLicorice doesn’t seem like a boon companion of green leaves and herbs but some fragrances have set the pair up together.  As matches go this one seems more like optimism than common sense, but it pays to remember that licorice itself has a background in the herb garden.

The perfume from Bielhlparfumkunstwerke PC 01 is rather like that.  Since the packaging is so clean and minimalist you receive no clue from the line what you’re getting when you crack a sample vial, and so the perfumes take their exits onto the air with no fan fare and no preconceptions.  You have no idea whether the perfumer was a realist or a romantic, evoking an experience or simply bottling an abstraction.  Continue reading

Virginia and Versailles

tobaccoI know we’re not supposed to smoke.  Even if I had the faintest inclination to light up, my daughter would give me a stern lecture on the dangers of smoking, and she’d be right.  It’s a dirty habit, but…there’s something seductive about tobacco all the same.

You see, it’s partly a matter of generation.  I belong to one in which the memories of smoking, everyday smoking, smoking in the home, are still possible to retrieve.  People smoked then not in the furtive, cadging a smoke on the corner without making eye contact manner they do now, one foot hurriedly grinding out the evidence. They smoked openly.  I remember people smoking in droves in restaurants and cafes in Paris and Rome; I even have dim memories of going out to lunch with my father in Baltimore and having the waiter provide a heavy glass ash tray at the table!  In fact, Dad had his own silver ash trays at home,  with his initials etched on the bottom. Unthinkable now, such public displays, unless you consider the new smoke-less cigarettes a form of smoking, but that is how it was once upon a mid century. Continue reading

Counter – Intuitive Cool

parasol5Currently it’s about 95 degrees in New Jersey, and outside of life-guards, boardwalk hawkers, and beer sellers, not many of us are happy.  “97 tomorrow!” the librarian moaned to me this morning.

This was not cheerful news.

Of the various options for beating the heat, not many are currently open to me.  I can’t leave town for family reasons, and my house is a plastic shrouded mess while the sheet rock crew who were supposed to be here four days ago make themselves conspicuous by their absence, and the construction makes air conditioning a non-event. The cat has disappeared for the day- presumably heading to the Antarctic, or else snoozing under the neighbor’s hydrangea- either way she’s cooled off.  If anyone ever needed a cold perfume, I do, right about now. Continue reading

Keepers

keeperaThe world of perfume blogging dearly loves a list.  Who knows why we are so very fond of these sequential processions of names and titles, but I do know that nobody who loves perfume can resist them.  I thought it was time to compose a list of the best of the last ten years, a list of the perfumes that have struck me as lasting presences on the scene, keepers, potential classics, if you like.

A list like that should have kept me deliberating for days, but actually only kept me busy for one afternoon. Why?  Well, despite the enormous numbers of releases these days, not much really strikes me as all that durable.

So here is a list that includes perfumes I don’t necessarily like myself, but which I think are classics or potential classics in the making. Just because I don’t care for it personally, doesn’t mean it isn’t in the running. Continue reading

The Rose of Nahema

bugsEver see those “flowers” on stems that, once startled, flutter off the plant in a scatter-graph of wings? In nature this imitation is not merely flattery, but a viable stratagem for survival. It is incidentally, pretty spectacular.

Sometimes perfumers pursue this same goal: mimicry.  On occasion a simulated note is better, fresher, a less clichéd version of the real thing. That’s true of rose perfumes, too.

Continue reading

The Allegoricals

“Their heads are green
and their hands are blue
and they went to sea in a sieve.”

The Aqua Allegoria series really was among the best launches that the venerable firm of Guerlain ever had.  The releases addressed a demographic issue with the older, grander, perfumes,  which were on average too complicated, too heavy, too rich, for the  young buyer.  How were these young consumers, lacking an insistent Guerlain wearing Maman, to learn which of the great classics they could wear?  The answer was that they should meet the Guerlain  great-grandchildren lounging on the corner (or at Sephora), bumming cigarettes and moaning that their “weekend était épouvantable.” Continue reading