A Bite of Vanilla

Vanilla Table by Natasha MacAller

Vanilla Table
by Natasha MacAller

There’s almost nothing that vanilla doesn’t improve.  I’m in the habit of grinding up a tiny bit of vanilla bean with my medium coffee roasts to give a rounder softer cup.  It’s easy to do and  moderates acidity nicely in the brew.  This makes you understand why vanilla, even when you can’t actually detect it in a fragrance or on a plate, makes a big difference. Vanilla Table the cook book by Natasha MacAller reminded me of this quality.  Maybe vanilla isn’t my absolute favorite note in perfumes or food, but it is one one of them.  This book is a compendium of recipes contributed by chefs from around the world all of whom have chosen to work with vanilla.  Continue reading

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

Everything But Shalimar

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle...

Old advertising for Shalimar with the familiar bottle…

Some of the great classics are stumbling blocks.  There is something about the journey of perfumery that can make you think that you would never be the sort of person who would wear say No 5, or Mitsouko, or L’Origan, or in my case Shalimar.  Here’s the point though – you may be exactly that sort of person after all.

Maybe it’s a kind of snobbism that makes us not want to admit that some well known formula brings us as much joy as the next person, or that some perfume is just about unbeatable in its class though that’s often the case.  My own experience in  coming around to Shalimar had to do with realizing that I was already wearing Shalimar, just not the blue stoppered kind. I mean I wear leather, a lot of leather, and citrus, and vanilla and what does that add up to?  Yeah, it adds up to Shalimar Continue reading

Guerlain Vanillas

Decadent Vanilla

Decadent Vanilla

You can’t wear Guerlain without wearing vanilla.  It’s not even worth making the experiment because Guerlain equals vanilla, and there is no version of vanilla that Guerlain hasn’t whipped up, baked up, brewed up or macerated in just about endless variations during its nearly two hundred year history.*

First a disclaimer, I’m not a vanilliac.  But I like the note .  When I was younger I was sure I didn’t, and avoided Guerlains, but time Continue reading

Luxury Saddle Soap for Gals and Guys

trooper of plainsAh leather, there is nothing quite like it in perfume, and once you have gotten addicted to the scent, nothing else will do.  Hearing about tanning may be enough to turn your stomach, but the results of tanning, buttery soft sides, and the grip of well stitched handles, are one of the civilized pleasures of leaving the house.  Otherwise how could Hermes have come so far?

When Jeffrey Dame sent me his Grand Cuir the first of his Parfums Retro releases, I though oh good, some dirty leather.  I live in Jersey after all, and we like leather, wear leather – you know, the whole nine yards: leather with spikes, leather with grommets, leather with dust, leather with black lace, you got it. Continue reading

Orient Express

francesco-ballesio-the-carpet-sellersSometimes intricacy is all I want, and then I go in search of the most detailed perfumery I can find. Of recent years some of my favorite perfumers in this category are the evocative ones.  Pierre Bourdon and Chris Sheldrake are still great favorites of mine here, despite Bourdon’s retirement.

Of all the richly layered scents I can think of, their joint composition Feminite du Bois, is one of the most crowded with impressions.  The scent’s like stepping into the Hagia Sophia, there is always something else to see and smell inside, even when you thought you already knew it well, because here, just as with the Bosphorus, is one of the touching points of East and West. 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

Chintz, Tea, and Civilized Discourse

There is something to be said for homogeneity.  Most of us never achieve it.  You can’t tell, when you enter our houses, or see our gardens, or our perfume collections or for that matter our clothes, that a single, organized taste supervised the process of decorating, planting, collecting, or selecting. Generally speaking what you get is a hodge-podge, and in a minority of cases, an expression of whatever the prevailing fashion is, in homes or gardens or perfumes or clothes.

But two English ladies tend to buck this trend,  and I might as well mention them here. 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

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.

Continue reading