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

Smelly Blue Hours

Are You the L'Heure Bleue type?

Are You the L’Heure Bleue type?

Not so long ago I re- read a 2012 quote from Francis Kurkdijian on Persolaise’s Blog and was amused  again by his directness, “L’Heure Bleue doesn’t smell good.  It never did, It smells like burnt latex.” He went on to point out that in the history of fragrance L’Heure Bleue does have a place which you have to recognize, but I did enjoy his comment about LHB.  Myself, I’d always caught L’Eau de Bandaid when I got tangled up in blue.

But maybe I’m just a philistine.  Bad taste is kind of like bad breath: no one tells you that you’ve got it. So when I came into possession of a sample from the eighties in good condition, I thought, why not?  Why not try to find out what everyone else has been raving about? Continue reading

Do We Adopt Our Perfumes?

 

new Bottle of Anne Pliska from Luckyscent

new Bottle of Anne Pliska from Luckyscent

Long ago when I first started this blog I asked the same simple question, and in the years since then have become more convinced of the reply: we adopt.  This may not be the experience of my readers.  There may be several people out there who find that when making a selection they choose simply the best made, the most beautiful perfume, not the trendy one or the one their best friend wears so well.  Still I’d make book that for most of us there is something in certain perfumes that takes up residence on our skins and we scarcely know why. Continue reading

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

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

Heliotrope Forest

heliotropeHeliotropes are such a pleasure for the nose.  I’ve had one around the house most years, even in wintertime.  They’re really perennials after all, and can go on for season after season if you live far enough south.

Here in northern New Jersey we are definitely not far enough south, so long before the first frost, I go out and rescue my heliotropes.  This particular plant has now given me some offspring.  They arrived by the rather simple method of rooting in water.  It turns out that heliotropes, just like basil, will root in water quite easily, and so my one heliotrope has turned into three heliotropes, and this gives me a feeling of accomplishment (an idiotic one, since the heliotropes managed the operation on their own). Continue reading

You Must Like It, And It Must Like You

BottomThe oddity of body chemistry is one of those imponderables that never cease to amaze me.  We all know the scenario by now, how two people can try on the same perfume and it will coalesce into a beautiful flower arrangement on one wearer’s skin, and devolve on the other’s, into a rotten soggy mess.  Hard to believe, but it does happen.

Sometimes the quality of the perfume is at fault.  If a formula is harsh or thin, then skin will not save it. Conversely, even well made scents can fall apart on an epidermis like an under rehearsed ballet on stage. Chandler Burr in The Perfect Scent laments the formulation of fragrances to perform best on paper, which isn’t very useful, he remarks – unless you are made of paper.  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

The Oriental in All of Us

Once in an idle interval, I remember toting up all the perfumes worn by every member of my extended family according to scent families. An idiotic little game of parallelisms and no doubt OCD as all get out, but bear with me.

What I discovered was that of about a dozen of us, only one of us wore Orientals, and that was my Mom with…drum roll… Tabu.

Even Chypres were better represented (by me), but of Orientals there were, well, only that one .

Why was that? Now that there are more of us, and several of us are a good deal younger than the original test sample, I find the exact same thing.  The ladies in my family wear fruity florals, and aldehydic florals and the odd citrus perfume but now, only one Oriental, namely Poivre, worn by me. No one else wears them at all.  Continue reading

What Becomes a Legend? What Does a Legend Become?

I have been reading about Wallis Warfield Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor.  She has become the strangest mosaic of pariah and icon that I can think of.  The resulting likeness, assembled over decades, resembles a Chuck Close portrait with an unsettling chiaroscuro; enigmatic, despite being composed of photographs, documentary evidence after all.

Less plausible as a queen than Camilla Parker Bowles (does anyone think of the one time Mrs. Parker Bowles as Mrs. Windsor, by-the-by?) and the transferee of enormous sums from the Brit royal family to herself (in one three weeks period,  jewels totalling 110,000  pre-war British pounds ) and the occupier of a position on the International Best Dressed list.

By any estimate, one of the most successful gold diggers in history. Continue reading