Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Three: The Gift of the Magi

There are so many incense fragrances out there now, it’s difficult to remember a time when incense was not thickly represented on perfume counters.  But once upon a time it was so.  You had forests of florals and thickets of ambers and, shrubberies full of citrus colognes but incense perfumes – they were rare.

Now they are to be found in the Montale line and the Comme des Garçons and the by Killians, not to mention the Amouages, part of the whole merging of Middle Eastern with French perfume movement.

My first real encounter with frankincense, however, was with none of these mono-note essays;  it was with Parfums de Nicolai’s Vanille Tonka. Continue reading

That’s Another Fine Bottle You’ve Gotten Me Into

To misquote the immortal Oliver Hardy, who was generally accusing his comedy partner Stan Laurel of being the prime instigator of their continual disasters.  With me, it’s my brain.

Why?

Because my Brain thinks it’s intelligent. The Brain thinks it’s educated. And worst of all, the Brain thinks it has taste.

My Nose is never concerned with any of that.  The Nose doesn’t care whether what it smells is avant garde or not, the Nose could not care less whether a perfume is clichéd.  The Nose just knows what it likes. Continue reading

Can Grownups Wear Candy?

Sounds like a Project Runway challenge, no?   The gourmand scent category has been so successful of recent years that it has branched out into all sorts of unexpected directions.  Those with more sophisticated tastes may deplore it, but then, the perfume conventions of previous decades were just as hard to understand later, e.g. the 70’s musks and the 90’s non-perfume perfumes.

At least candy cannot be confused with BO as in the former case, and you can tell that someone has made an effort to wear perfume in the first place, something you can’t tell in the latter one. Continue reading

The Basil in the Bottle

Foodies have a built in problem with perfume in that many scents just clash with whatever it is you’re cooking.  In fact and to get specific about it, perfume often squares off, in the nose, against the whole process of food preparation.

In our household a good deal of cooking and baking goes on every day, and it doesn’t help the smell in the kitchen when whatever it is I’m wearing or testing simply curdles in the air around the chopping block. If you cook, necessarily you spend time in the kitchen.  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.

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The Drill Sergeant Perfume

Among the many tasks I have passed off to perfume in the recent decades, one is undeniably odd: the reinforcer of sagging will power.

It does sound peculiar and admittedly most people probably don’t associate perfume with effort but consider, where did all those sports fragrances come from a few years ago?  There were all sorts of scents named sport this or active that, presumably meant to be worn at the gym. None of them could have been hymns to couch potatoes.  These were things that helped you pick up chicks at the spa or the beach, or the weight room without making her respond to you as a lady allegedly did to Dr. Johnson (or Ben Jonson, or Winston Churchill or Albert Einstein – good anecdotes tend to get passed around). The great man was judged malodorous by the woman who complained to him that he smelled.

“No, Madam,” went the reply.  “You smell, and I stink.”

Presumably if Dr. Johnson had only worn Habit Rouge Sport, this alleged conversation would never have taken place.

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