A Craving for Fruit

apricotsKeats said it best about autumn being the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. His point is perfectly valid but modern fruities don’t seem to satisfy me, they are too flat and there is nothing fruitful or fecund about them. it’s difficult to fake that in a retort.   Take Ralph Lauren’s Tender Romance.  It’s rather pretty, quite modern. and on the whole banal I’m afraid.  What I seem to want is dried fruit, and raisins, and liquor the sort of thing that Frapin did rather well, only I like my perfume very classical and that means complex.

This takes me right back to the basics: Jean Patou.  The very best of all the fruit perfumes I ever came across was the vintage Que Sais Je? from 1925.  I even include By Killian’s Back to Black in this blanket statement, although that is a good version of the contemporary fruit infused perfume. Continue reading

Perfume Partnerships

Rogers and Astaire

Rogers and Astaire

Not the cute pairings of masculines with feminines worn by couples.  What I mean by perfume couples, are scents in your wardrobe which you know will form a stable partnership with at least one other perfume you own. Maybe that might strike some people as odd, but I have done this for years.

Bear with me.  Fond as I am of the fragrance wardrobe concept, I tend to change it seasonally or even monthly, and usually in this way, morning or daytime scent with evening or afternoon one. If you use two perfumes from the same house it’s often easier to pull off since they frequently share a base. Right now I’ve done this with Le Temps d’un Fete and Vanille Tonka from de Nicolai. They play off one another extremely well and can be worn for a month or so at a time. You feel like you have choice but also harmony and some familiarity. Try this with any maker, from DS and Durga to Estee Lauder, the only common point being a house signature.Since the idea is not layering per se here(although you can try that) but to wear both in the same day with one perfume giving out as the other takes over and the overlap smelling wonderful. Continue reading

Malta 1565 – Blood, Sweat, and Cumin

MaltaMy Hub has written a book about renaissance Malta, and since it is coming out this week, he looked at me and said, “Can you write a post about Malta?”

Of course I was willing to write a post about Malta, but since I write about smelling and gardening for smells, I needed some whiff, or huff, or some sort of olfactory in for me to write about.

The Hub’s book deals with some fairly hair-raising events which occurred 450 years ago (The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St John, Bruce Ware Allen, Fore Edge Books, there it is!), but not so much with agriculture on Malta. The island has traditionally been a source for world class honey (the Greeks referred to Malta as Melite, “honey sweet”), which would suggest a rich lode of blooming flowers – but for whatever reason, this has not translated into perfumery as it has in, say, Grasse.

The one unquestionable perfume contribution of Malta, however, is cumin.

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My Dinner with Mitsouko

Champagne bellinis to capture the sparkle of topnotes and the peach heart of Mitsouko

Champagne bellinis to capture the sparkle of topnotes and the peach heart of Mitsouko

Chypres are supposed to go with food.  Now this is the sort of statement I like to put to the test and since mixology and foodiness have both been brought to bear on perfume, here is my take on the problem of food, wine, and fragrance.

I could have chosen other perfumes for this little foray into the world of the palate but  absent Coty Chypre,  Mitsouko is the grand dame of chypres and the most venerable of her line, so I invited her to dinner. Continue reading

Sex Positive Parure

Anouk Aimee the quintessential Parisienne

Anouk Aimee the quintessential Parisienne

Most people when they write about the chypres of Guerlain do tend to go on (and on) about Mitsouko.  If you knew Mitsouko, like they knew Mitsouko, your whole outlook on life would change. There is a kind of mystic union between the wearer and the perfume, and if you love peaches and bergamots and lilacs, vetiver, amber and oakmoss , not forgetting a bit of cinnamon, you will indeed love Mitsouko.

Still Mitsouko is not the whole story in terms of chypres chez Guerlain.  There is always Chant d’Aromes (a sort of back crossing of Mitsouko with Ma Griffe) and Sous le Vent which is a skinny chypre with herbs and lavender in the beginning and less going on its dry down than in Mitsouko,rather like a girl with no behind, and then…there’s Parure. Continue reading

Interview with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Starry Night

Starry Night

Do you have a smell from childhood that you loved-anything from your Mom’s perfume to your dog’s paws-and what was it?

A: You know, there are so many smells from childhood that I loved (and still do): the scent of my neighbor’s muguet and lilacs in Spring (these still remind me of my mother and grandmother); violets in my own back yard; the smell of my grandmother’s house (my husband and I bought our house partially because the basement smells like her basement did); warm hay in the humid New York Spring and Summer.  I could continue for a very long time, but these are some of my top favorites.

Are you a synesthete, do you “visualize” odors, or “taste” colors, and does it affect your output?

A: Yes, when I smell smells I not only see colors but sense textures and shapes.  For me, aromas are sculptural / architectural and multi-sensory.  The synethesia effects everything that I do from paintings to perfumes.  I have even created a collection of perfumes called CHROMA that express some of the colors in fragrance form.  I will say that sometimes I let the textural aspect take the “front seat” while at other times my work is about the color or the shape as a primary focus but the overall experience is woven into everything that I make. 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

Upscale, Downscale

What is that odor wafting from the butler, the dignified Mr. Treadcarpet as he paces noiselessly over the hall runner on his way to open the front door?  It is discreet, for butlers cannot drench themselves in scent.  Mr. Treadcarpet leaves that sort of vulgarity to the inaptly named gentlemen’s gentlemen.  Mr. Treadcarpet allows himself a single drop of Coty’s Chypre on his pocket handkerchief, and he quite enjoys a bar of their soap as well in the bath, but beyond this he will not venture.  That way lies the dissolution of those firm traditional values of which Mr. Treadcarpet, and butlers generally, are the domestic guardians. 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

Playing with Your Perfume

First of all, should you?  There are two schools of thought on this one and I remember a post on Bois de Jasmin from a year or two back, featuring a piece from French Elle on this subject of layering scents.  Some whole lines are predicated on the idea that you should combine things, Jo Malone for instance, but other people are adamantly against the idea, their notion being that a finished perfume is a complex piece of engineering, and should be worn as is, and not tinkered with.

I was in the latter camp for a very long time.  I don’t think it ever occurred to me to change anything about the scents I wore, except to switch them from time to time. I didn’t spray anything on top of anything else, I didn’t combine deodorant this with body crème that.  But of course I knew that some women did, however I figured that they were the sort of ladies who were more sophisticated than I was, and that they  had a better sense of olfactory style than I did, and – let us just cut to the chase here. I assumed they were French.

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