The Golden L’Origan

L'aimant and L'Origan from an Ebay listing

L’aimant and L’Origan from an Ebay listing

When the afternoon light turns amber that’s the end of summer.  It’s a phenomenon that you see in many different parts of the world. The light is a clear bluish color in Spring, has a strong un-tinted intensity in summer but in autumn, light slants and steeps in the atmosphere like tea.  There’s probably a perfectly rational explanation for this but so  far I’ve never heard one.

Fall is brewing. The foliage is already beginning to turn ever so slightly in my town, and soon the whole place will be covered with the annual oranges, tobacco browns, saffrons and scarlets everyone loves. Except me that is, because for me, Autumn is a busy season clipboard clutching, the time interrupted by meetings, and oh yes I have to change perfume. Continue reading

The Shock of Recognition

“A truly great perfume, however,  is one which provokes genuine emotion in the person who smells it for the first time….The best perfumes are ones which ‘give us a shock’.”

from Perfume by Elizabeth Barille and Catherine Laroze

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike

If you’re a perfumista long enough you begin to drift away from the days in which you frequently got shocks from perfume.  But I still experience them and the wonderful part of each shock is that it is completely unpredictable.  I can wear something artisanal and unprepossessing and I can put on something from the CVS (Canoe actually) or I can put on some perfume that I was pretty sure I disliked, only to find the formula opening out brilliantly on skin- to my surprise.  I’m blown off my feet by a few scent molecules, and not for the first time. Continue reading

Domesticated Animal Musks

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Has anyone else noticed the stealth growth of musk in perfumery?  Musk is everywhere these days, particularly in the base of floral perfumes.  It’s getting so that you have to go to  great lengths to find a flower perfume that doesn’t end in a puddle of musk.

I don’t hate musk.  Although I do  dislike the huge old heavy macrocylic musks (Globalide, Muscone) whose molecules lumber past your nose like mastodons on the extinction march.  I’m one of those people who always have free and clear detergents in the laundry room, because I can’t stand the battle of different scents fighting for dominance over one sillage. Musk always wins. Continue reading

A Proper Perfume

ChildThe subject came to mind after I had been writing a post on mothers, daughters, and perfume.  If you didn’t care for the perfume you smelled on your mother, what would you have chosen instead?  Mine wore Tabu, which I thought most inappropriate for a mother, but what would I have recommended to my mother, if she had been able to hear my advice at the age of thirty or so?

This is a delicate subject.  Everyone who wears perfume wants to smell attractive, or at the very least not off putting to other people, but is perfume like clothing?  Do we give off signals to others by virtue of the perfumes we wear?  Do perfumes have semiotic sub-texts, the way that just about everything else in our lives seems to now, or are they purely a matter of marketing and the accidents of skin chemistry? 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

Despicably Me

Grimly Feendish“Try the hot pockets. They’re breathtaking!”

Dr. Evil.

If you think about it, not too many other animals worry about the nature of their scent signature in the way that most of us do.  It’s a uniquely a perfumista (er) concern.  We are identifiable by the way in which we always carry breath mints (because we can smell halitosis in millionth parts of any atmosphere, and therefore fear we’re spreading it, and therefore, carry mints).  Continue reading

Mothers, Daughters, and Perfume

Mary_Cassatt_Young_Mother_Sewing Everyone has one of these stories, either concerning what you remember your Mother wearing, or else what your Mimaw wore, but either way, their choices influence yours.  It’s inevitable.  Some mothers never wear perfume, and their daughters react against the austerity; others had mothers who over-spritzed, and a lifetime of no scent can be the result.

However the nicest tradition perhaps, is the generational carry over of a perfume: the mother who always wore Joy, and so the daughter does as well, for instance.  It’s lovely, but seldom seems to happen.  People often want to distance themselves from what their mothers wore, more than they want to reprise them. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when remembering does take on some importance. Continue reading

Don’t I Know You From Someplace?

william-bouguereauThe other day I received a sample of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Rien.  A good deal has been written about this perfume which has been considered toxic and difficult and so forth and so on.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Rien is just a good old leather chypre, genus Banditus, species Cabochardus.

My sample of Rien came from the lovely Sigrun at Rigtigparfym, and although I had read about it from time to time, I had never come across the scent before.  The brouhaha online about it does strike me as overblown.  Rien is no more difficult to carry off than Absolue Pour le Soir, the other Cabochard wannabe I’ve encountered in the last six months or so.  However, one thing about these polarizing scents that I do note, besides their obvious descent from Cabochard, is how blatant references to sexuality were in the perfumed past, and how muted they are now.  Continue reading

Nina and the Arpege Monster

My husband’s grandmother Nina was a pioneer.  She was unfailingly chic long before Anna Wintour had been born to make the rest of us feel fat and blowsy, she was anorexic in the days before that disorder had been recognized, and she was a perfectionist long before the rest of us had developed OCD.  She was also a killer raconteur, a dresser of effortless style, and briefly, a concert pianist.  If you could come up with a word to sum up Nina, it probably was “impeccable”.  Her perfume was Arpege,  of course.

Why of course?  Well, back in the day there were perfumes that smelt cheap and that smelt expensive and Arpege was one of the ones that unfailingly smelled expensive, that is, on the right person. If you’re reading perfume blogs there’s an excellent chance you already know Arpege well from one or another of its incarnations, and therefore are already acquainted, if so, disregard the description. Continue reading

The Black Orchid Underground

There is something internally subversive about the productions of Tom Ford.  He is so charming and so practiced in the seduction techniques he uses on his public that it is almost camp.  Every Tom Ford perfume has something about its packaging and promotion that recalls a weekend in one of those resorts popular with swingers in the 1970’s; about equal parts chic and louche, all black toilets, black marble counters and black bidets, so much so that it sometimes tips over into (I hope) unintentional self-parody. Continue reading