Tag Archives: Jo Malone

Witches’ Berries, Fairies, and a Pot of Jam

Baba_YagaCassis is a note that French perfumers are very partial to.  The smell of the little black berries puzzles me a bit, though, since cassis is rare in US markets.  We just don’t use it, and the reason is that various species of currants are “alternate hosts to the white pine blister rust disease” and as a result, there are restrictions on growing them laid down by Federal Quarantine Acts.  This no doubt explains why it is that currants aren’t seen frequently at American farmer’s markets.  These days you can grow currants in some Eastern states – New York is an example – if you plant rust resistant cultivars.  The end result is, we don’t get many currants.

This is why cassis dominant perfumes seem odd at first to my American nose.  I think I’m smelling blackberry with some sort of twist to it.  Actually, I’m smelling cassis.  In liquor it’s comprehensible, especially if you are in the habit of drinking a Kir in summer, which is generally a glass of white Bordeaux with a teaspoon or two of Crème de Cassis in it.  The whole concoction turns a pretty shade of lavender and is very refreshing.  Continue reading


My daughter likes to claim that she is a Nutmegger, that is, a native of Connecticut.  I don’t like to tell her the origin of the state nickname.  It’s actually a folk memory of the local cottage industry in the days of the tall ships, when the  Connecticut natives would toss hand-whittled “nutmegs” into baskets of the fantastically expensive real thing in order to up the weight and cheat trading partners.

Well, everybody should have a hobby, and that was how they got through the long winters back in Stamford and New London a hundred and fifty years ago. Continue reading

A Froth of Flowers

My mother was the sort of person who did a lot of things with insouciant ease and couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t also. Her most inexplicable and unfair successes came in the garden. She could grow practically anything on roots no matter how persnickety a plant it might be. Her most annoying success (because it contrasted with practically everyone else’s failure) was with vines. Generally it takes two years to get a vine growing enthusiastically, let alone flowering. Mom could do it in one.

When I finally got around to trying to grow a vine, specifically clematis paniculata, it turned out not to be so easy. Should have paid attention, Mom’s record remained unbeaten, and though I did everything for that wretched plant, it sat in the capacious hole I’d dug for it and twiddled its thumbs- or vegetated, to be more precise – for two years. Continue reading

Three’s a Party

This is my  way of expressing a piece of advice I came across in an old perfume book.  The Book of Perfume (Barille and Laroze, 1995)  suggests ways in which to keep some aesthetic order in your perfume collection.

The one that intrigued me was to find trios of perfumes and colognes that worked together in a pleasing way, complimenting one another, not hissing and dissing each other the way the various casts of housewives do on reality TV shows.  A little harmony, the authors seemed to feel, would go a long way to improving life in the perfume cabinet.

Alrighty, I was up for an experiment and what exactly did they suggest? Continue reading

The Specialists

Ever notice that some perfume firms simply are better at certain kinds of fragrance?  I’m thinking of the fact that if you want a wonderful oriental, Guerlain still is pretty hard to beat (Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue), or that gourmand scents are the strong point of Parfumerie Generale (Aomassai, Cadjmere), or that even though Dior makes periodic sorties into enemy held territories, like the oriental, they are usually only partially successful, e.g. Dioressence, or that… but I expect by now you’ve got  the picture.

Continue reading