Cassis 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
The 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
It would have been nice to align the twelve smells of Christmas (or any other winter holiday you celebrate) with the items listed in the old carol. But I can’t think what partridges in pear trees smell like – other than pears – and so the next twelve posts will be a trifle subjective. Here, at any rate, are some holiday smells and the perfumes that express them.
One of the most Christmasy to me is Grand Marnier, or Cointreau. The smell of it is so wonderful, so delightfully orangey and spicy, that it is one of the immortally recurring fragrances of December, and good enough to swab onto your wrist, although when you factor in the stickiness involved, none of us ever do.
Thankfully, it is also one of the most successfully recreated scents and several versions of the orange liquor in perfume form exist. Continue reading
Sometimes I think that the first perfumer anyone who is interested in perfume learns about is Germaine Cellier (1909-1976?). This figures, because she was such a glamorous entity. There she is, in black and white photos, wearing her well-fitted tailleurs like armor, usually with a cigarette clamped between her first two fingers. The story goes, that she was lesbian, witty, the friend of Jean Cocteau, and very talented. Then there’s the fact that she’s credited with the most memorable Robert Piguet perfumes – Bandit (1944) and Fracas (1945) and some Balmains: Vent Vert (1947) , Jolie Madame (1953), Monsieur Balmain (1964) as well as Coeur Joie for Nina Ricci in (1946). That’s a lot of hits for a single career.
The one that people struggle with these days is Bandit. I’ve read the reviews. Everyone thinks that Bandit’s dark, difficult, a bad girl scent, even a scrubber. Old lady comments seem to drop off, since I guess that even contemporary sniffers suspect this perfume saw more action than World War Two, and indeed, Bandit was worn by Marlene Dietrich, so probably did. Continue reading