Summer Remainder

Musc Monoi

Musc Monoi

When you divide the lengthening nights by the dwindling sunlight of the days the remainder is what’s left of summer.  We used to call it Indian Summer, probably because it was the last of the growing season in this part of the world, a time the native peoples still  used for gardening. Myself I begin to worry about the dahlias and tomatoes during cold nights.

I like to to use up the last samples I have of summer florals during the warm days.  Those samples are not going to be right a month from now.  Today it’s Musc Monoi which Parfums de Nicolai gave me in Paris. I think they should sell it as an Eau Fraiche though the scent’s currently one of the line’s Eaux de Toilettes Continue reading

Guerlain Originals

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Immeuble,_68_avenue_des_Champs-%C3%89lys%C3%A9es,_Paris_8e_009.JPGThe publishing mogul/poet Felix Dennis is blunt about it: “The problem with the great idea is that it concentrates the mind on the idea itself…But unless the idea is executed efficiently and with panache and originality, then it doesn’t matter how great the idea is, the enterprise will fail.”

It’s a nifty piece of wisdom, and has always struck me in regard to the grand old firm of Guerlain, whose business model for many years was less to create than to perfect.

You didn’t wear Guerlains for their startling uniqueness, because almost nothing of Guerlain’s was unique.  You wore them for the quality of the materials used and for the careful handling of  those ingredients.  Guerlain’s execution was what shone through.  The origin of the idea was not important. Caron might create, Coty certainly did, even Jean Patou from time to time produced creations, but Guerlain guerlainified, and the results were charming, very high quality, with a delicacy all their own. Continue reading

Moping and Hoping

You know the sad story of the lost scent, as tragic as Gilbert’s famous song: The Lost Chord. You knew  the smell, you loved the smell, and suddenly, the perfume’s out of production.  Moreover, when you try to track down the missing bottle, you discover that many other users have beaten you to the punch, hoarding bottles heartlessly, so that you are left with nothing but your memories.

Take as an example the case of Moment Supreme (although you can substitute dozens of perfumes for this one loss). Moment was extremely popular for a very long time, well into the late decades of the 20th century (see Rangtang’s Bet and this review by Olfacta), but was discontinued by the house after they were purchased by Proctor and Gamble.

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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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The 1912 Overture part I

There are watershed years in practically every field, and in perfumery, 1912 was the year of grace.   It is one hundred years since Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs, and Caron’s Narcisse Noir were introduced, amazingly, all three are with us up to the present day.  They are all classics and are all, in their various ways, ground breaking.

It’s hard to conceive of a time when fragrances weren’t launched with the  outsized caution and undersized budgets of our own era, and yet those pre-war years were the time of Francois Coty’s rise, and his competitors were responding to the market dominating successes of La Rose Jacqueminot (1904) and L’Origan (1905), especially the latter.  On the strength of these blockbusters, Coty  built a factory complex outside of Paris capable of producing thousands of bottles a day, and he was in the process of conquering overseas markets as well.

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Pluperfect Purple

When was the heliotrope last in fashion?  I wonder.  It may have been sometime in the  nineties.  The 1890’s, that is. It went out no doubt with hair pomade and gardenia boutonnieres.

What is the heliotrope?  It is a small flowering herb originally from Peru.  It has dense heads of flower usually horizontally arranged, violet or dark purple in color.  You grow them for the scent which is heavenly.  They used to be called Cherry Pie – a doubtful characterization to my mind since the flowers don’t smell like cherries or pie.

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Brilliant, Brilliant! But Does Something Smell Fishy in Here?

When Guerlain came out with their l’Art et Matiere line some years ago, it was supposed to be, I guess, a dutiful effort by the venerable firm at edginess.  It’s been pointed out that the bottles are uncomfortably close to Serge Lutens’ in shape and size and the whole concept seemed to be an homage a Serge. Or possibly, homages had nothing to do with it and Guerlain merely had no intention of letting Serge eat their lunch.

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Another Day in Deauville

Sometimes you just feel like an idiot.  Maybe I do more often than the generality of mankind, but anyway yesterday was one of those moments, when your id starts calling your ego names and you feel like a bystander at a bar fight.

I had been thinking of Chanel No 19, a classic green floral, and the release of a new flanker No 19 Eau Poudre. I smelled the new perfume and it is really nothing special – a little synthetic musk, some iris, reminiscent of laundromats.

It also does not smell like 19.

It is, in other words, one of those flankers that have nothing whatsoever to do with the original scent. Or, to be blunt, if you’ve got the slightest interest in the original perfume, this new scent is entirely unrelated and is not a flanker.

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Creedo

Sometimes perfume houses get on the wrong sides of critics.  For reasons that aren’t entirely obvious, this seems to have happened with the house of Creed.  I’ve read some truly vituperative reviews of Creed scents on perfume sites.  It was unclear just why the writers were so angry.  Was it the price?  Creed is expensive in general, but quite frankly, so are a lot of other perfumes on the market these days.  In fact I sometimes think that the complaints about quality and luxury have resulted in a rash of scents priced around the $200.00 mark, whether or not they deserve such a figure.  So what makes Creed stand out?

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Sickly Children

If you live around the Mediterranean, you’re used to seeing mimosa everywhere in spring.  It is the first warm weather indicator: buckets of yellow fuzzballs crowding around the cankles of the flower sellers, some years as early as February.  Because of this association, perfumers are always tempted to make mimosa soliflors, it’s like euphoria in a glass container, and pleasanter to use than any anti-depressant. Continue reading