Friday, August 29, 2008

My (well, Our) Dinner with Chandler Burr

Reminder! September 3rd is the deadline to enter the drawing for samples of Yatagan and L'air du desert Marocain! See "Yatagan" post for details.


My (well, our) Dinner with Chandler Burr

Last night I attended one of Chandler Burr’s “Scent and Savor” dinners, held in suburban Atlanta, as part of a book and literacy celebration.

I was intimidated, of course. But Burr was much more at ease than I expected him to be. What did I expect? A New Yorker with his nose in the air, using perfect French pronunciation like a club to smack these hillbillies upside their last-year’s-hairstyled heads?

It wasn’t like that at all. He was charming, funny and down to earth.

I also expected the room to be filled with perfumistas, but it seemed that there were just a few. The rest were people from the foundation that arranged the event. Here were the lovely, well-preserved Southern women and their somewhat confused-looking husbands you’d find at any charity event in Atlanta. The women were fascinated. The men sniffed their blotters, some enthusiastic, some self-deprecating, some furtive, no doubt praying that none of the photos being taken would be of them.

Mr. Burr asked that we not reveal the molecules he used or the perfumes he featured, so I won’t. I will say that most are niche, but there are a few mass-market surprises in there, scents he likes, that you can buy just about anywhere. And, of course, the pairing of scent and taste is so obvious, so pleasurable, so perfect, that it’s amazing that no one thought of it before.

I do disagree with him on one subject, though (with all due respect, of course)! That would be old v. new perfumes. He says that the older ones wear you, and the newer, more conceptual ones, you wear.

Sure, the classics sit “up” on the skin more (if you’re lucky). What’s wrong with that? If perfume is art, and a particular scent is a masterpiece, should I mind being the support?

He says that the newer, more conceptual scents soak into the wearer, become him or her. I say that’s fine, if you’re looking for your signature scent; it would be perfect, in fact, to find The One. But I’m promiscuous, at this stage of the journey. I’m much more interested in how a particular perfumer’s work makes me think and feel.

Does it make me feel different than before I put it on? Does it bring up different thoughts, associations? Does it summon ghosts?

Vintage perfume does that. It summons the ghosts of past women who were proud and forthright women, not girls. Who wore hats and gloves and owned every room they swept into. The chypres, especially, summon them, and the leathers.

Miss Dior, Jolie Madame, Mitsouko, Cabochard. Can the explorations of pepper, the conceptualizations of lime or carrot, do that, at least for me? No. But I’m not yearning for those better days. I wasn’t even alive then.

It’s just that I have yet to find one of these transparent, conceptual scents that can make me feel like a vintage fragrance does. They’re fascinating, but am I really so interested in spraying myself with material for later deconstruction?

Not right now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three from the Mass Market, at Random



Reminder: Sept 3rd is the deadline for entering the Yatagan/L'air du desert Marocain samples drawing! See the "Yatagan" post for details.






Today I went to the dentist, where I was told that I'll need several root canals soon, oh, joy. So I decided to go to a nearby Ulta 3 for some perfume therapy, and to check out the scents of the mass-market world.

I'm no niche snob, at least not yet. I think most perfumes, when you get right down to it, smell pretty good. (I mean, what’s not to like?) But now, I'm a budding perfuminista. I've wondered lately how my own attitudes toward all these focus-grouped, product-managed, M.B.A.-analyzed fragrances might have changed.

So I walked up and down the aisle, picking up bottles, spraying and labeling those handy little strips. (I wanted to collect some samples, too, for skin testing later on. But even though I had the vials with me, the lone SA acted as though I had asked to leave a vial of, oh, anthrax, with her.) So no go on that, missy! ) These scents were tested, as is the modern custom, on paper.

Came home, threw the dozen or so strips like the I Ching (see picture,) closed my eyes and picked up three of them. The lucky winners were:

L’Eau de Issey by Issey Miyake. Nice. Floral. Safe, wouldn’t offend anybody. Hmmm, tuberose and…is that freesia? Or gardenia? Maybe violet?

So off I go to the blogs and discount sites, only to find the most maddening array of sound-alike shelf-space taker-uppers…ever. I mean there’s Summer and L’Eau Bleue d’Issey Eau Fraiche (and pour Homme) and L’Eau de Issey Pour Homme, and, ok, now I’m confused. I guess they do this because, if you like one of them, you’ll simply have to have them all…and also for your spouse or partner or whatever? And there won’t be room on the shelf for anybody else’s product? Yeah, that could be it.

“L'Eau d'Issey for Women has notes of green leaves, rose water, freesia, neroli, blackcurrant, lily of the valley, peony, tuberose, and parma violet.” – Now Smell This.

White Linen by Estee Lauder. I’ve heard this described as “clean sheets and money.” It’s got that perfume-y Estee Lauder quality, for sure. Certainly, it’s the most challenging of the three. Lots of aldehydes, and I can smell a little rose and some greens and violets, but it reminds me, more than anything else, of a really first-rate laundry detergent. Well-named.

The notes include: Bulgarian rose, jasmine, mugnet, violet, orris, vetiver, and moss.

Voile de Jasmin by Bulgari. By the time I got this home, it was gone. (And we are talking maybe one hour.) I remember a bit of an undertone characteristic of the other Bulgari scents I have. WTF?

Well, I’m pretty sure it had some jasmine in it anyway. Notes (from Now Smell This) include: “living jasmine sambac, bergamot, orange blossom, rosewood, ylang ylang, living mimosa and living rose.” (Italics mine.)

Hunh? What’s this mean, “living” jasmine sambac, rose, mimosa? More marketing? I give up.


Conclusion: all the ranting and raving about the way perfumes are marketed in the U.S. now is perfectly illustrated in this one twenty-minute stop I made. Think I’ll stick with online for now.

And you know what? Yatagan’s not so bad.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Meaning of Ma Griffe

Reminder:

(Don’t forget to enter the drawing for samples of Yatagan and L’air du Desert Marocain – see the previous post – deadline is Sept. 3rd!


When I was thirteen, I lived in a small Georgia town with my family. I’d already seen some of the world as an Air Force brat, and small-town life was stifling. Restless and bored, I read compulsively. I ended up knowing, as my mother would say sometimes, a little too much.

My father had a glamorous brother, Harold. He blew through town every now and then, like a visitor from another planet. He had invented some kind of oil drill bit, built his own company successfully, and now lived in the same area outside London where the Beatles had their country houses. He’d played golf with Sean Connery, my aunts whispered (and this was when Connery was James Bond). He spent lots of time in Paris and the Middle East.

I loved him, in part because he brought me miraculous, unattainable things from that wider world, like little sets of real French perfume (purchased, no doubt, from the duty-free cart on the plane).

How I wish I had them now! I only remember a few; Je Reivens, Evening in Paris. And a strange one in a green and white striped box – Ma Griffe.

Ma Griffe scared me. The others smelled nice, like flowers, but not this. It didn’t even smell like perfume. It was sharp, acrid and weird. But I kept opening the box, sniffing it, putting it back, and opening it again. What kind of person would wear this? Would want to smell like this? What would she be trying to say?

So I wore it – lots of it – to school one day.

You would have thought I’d shown up dressed as a Valkyrie, with breastplates and a horned helmet on my head. The other girls, miniature versions of their mothers with their hair bands, Peter Pan collars and twin sets, rolled their eyes and tittered as I walked by.

The perfume got deeper as the day went on. By noon, it had turned sultry, and everybody in my classes was talking about me. But by that time I had found something unexpected: disdain. My own disdain for these placid sheep, all facing the same way as they mindlessly ate the same grass. So this was what this strange perfume was about! For me, it was the scent of dissent.

I’ve read different translations of the phrase “Ma Griffe,” but the one I like best, that seems to fit best, is “my claw.” Like the talons of the mythological bird, the Griffon. With a little help from my cosmopolitan uncle, I had discovered something that would ultimately lift me out of that backwater town. It was my own contempt for conformity.

Most of the best perfumes aren’t pretty. They’re not supposed to be. Ma Griffe, even in its modern form, still isn’t pretty. There are people in my life, even now, who can’t understand why I would wear something so different, so sharp, so old and out of time.

Wearing Ma Griffe is still an act of rebellion.


Notes for Ma Griffe include galbanum, greens and citruses, aldehydes, clary sage, jasmine, gardenia, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, orris, ylang ylang, styrax, oakmoss, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, and labdanum.


Thanks to Robin at Now Smell This for unearthing that amazing print ad for Ma Griffe!


Friday, August 15, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Alaska is a land for men.

This is made clear from the moment you arrive. Fishermen and hunters, line up on the right. You womenfolk, go get some reindeer sausage and a few cases of brew at the Costco and bring it back to the cabin, chop-chop!

Now, I’m deeply urban. I have hiked in Yellowstone, and my palms get moist at R.E.I. (See "Stuff White People Like.") But most of the time I don’t give a rat’s ass about the great outdoors. My idea of a good travel event would be, oh, sneaking into some ancient Spanish cathedral long before the tourists get there and having it all to myself, which actually happened once.

But Alaska humbled me.

All that white and gray and green. Mountains so huge they make ours look like hills. Gigantic rivers of ice, a blue too gorgeous to be real. Lodges so remote you have to fly to them in little planes. Realizing that the creature comforts are terribly fragile.

And it’s BIG. Everything is so big that you feel insignificant. Distances are huge and the land is empty. There's no one around and there's not much to count on. For the people who live here, every day is a test, that ancient push-pull of man v. nature.

Perfume, in such a place? Yes, but chosen carefully. I chose three scents from Comme des Garcons Incense Series 3.

Zagorsk, which seems a bit contrived to me at home, makes sense in Alaska. It reminds me of the epic movie "Dr. Zhivago," of that scene with Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara, swathed in fur, crossing the steppes. Zagorsk is cold and austere, full of pine, birch and cedar. It’s meant to evoke Russia. There is something melancholy about Alaska, too, though, months of nights that never end, a summer so short, and with so much work to be done. Zagorsk has the gravitas to handle such a place. Imagine how silly, how out-of-phase, some girly-girl floral would be here. Zagorsk was perfect.

Avignon, for use in praying to keep the Grizzlies away. (Seriously. It’s an odd feeling to realize that you’re not – not even close – to the top of the food chain.) This is a strong one, dark and rich, full of frankincense and patchouli, as Gothic as a medieval cathedral, ancient and stony. Imagine its scent on a fur collar. Or on a fur rug. (One does spend a lot of time indoors in Alaska, after all...)

Kyoto. When you visit someone’s home here, you take off your shoes, just like in Japan. There is a subtle undertone of that country even in the Anchorage airport, where you can get sushi but not a taco, and half the passengers are Japanese; where flying to Tokyo is no big deal for the residents, as it’s closer than most of the US is. Kyoto is meant to evoke serenity, quiet, focus, a teak temple. I wore it while staying at a friend’s cabin on a lake, where it never got dark, and the only sounds I could hear at times were the loons, out on the water.

Oh, and Guerlain’s Vetiver helped keep the mosquitoes away!

Notes for these scents include: Zagorsk: white incense, pine, pimento berries, violet, cedar, iris, hinoki wood, birch wood. Avignon: Roman chamomile, cistus oil, elemi, incense, vanilla, patchouli, Palisander. Kyoto: Incense, cypress oil, coffee, teak wood, vetiver, patchouli, immortelle, Virginia cedar.

Glacier photo, Prince William Sound, by Keith M. Borow. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodbye Summer Hello, uh, transitional scents


This is a difficult time of year.

You want summer to be over, but it isn’t, and you don’t, but you know it will be.

Here in the hot and humid South, we’ve got another month before we can pull out the long-sleeved shirts; two before we can wear flannel (not that we would). But everything, the nearly golden afternoon light, the slight blush on the leaves of the trees – they’re tired of pumping out chlorophyll, day after day, they want to rest – says so. The squirrels and chipmunks are busier and fatter than ever, thanks to our backyard “bird” feeder. The Black-Eyed Susans out front are blooming like there’s no tomorrow. Summer’s nearly over.

I’m sick of the lightweight citruses and aquatics we have to wear in hot weather here in the Land of Manners, where it’s considered impolite to choke innocent bystanders. Even a white floral is just too…too, when it’s 90 degrees and 80%. This time of year, I want impact. I want those ambers and incenses and woods. Alas, it’s just not time yet.

But…remember “transitional” clothing? Stuff you wore when it wasn’t quite summer/not quite fall? Not sure what happened to that. It seems to have gone the way of patience.

Anyway, here are a few fragrances, which I (just coincidentally) happen to own, that work well in this time of time standing still.

Fleurs de Rocaille by Caron – This is the 1934 Fleurs, the plural. I’m pretty sure it’s the modern version. (How I’d love to get my hands on some of the vintage Carons, but the perfume budget is a little tapped right now and where do these people get off charging what they do on Ebay!? Okay, I’ll stop now.) Anyway. I’ve chosen this one for this week and next, because, although it is a white floral, it’s cool, somehow. (The bouquet-like notes include gardenia, violet, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lilac, mimosa, iris, sandalwood, cedar and amber.) There is a slight heaviness to it, the jasmine, which comes up fast on my sugary skin, but not too heavy. And, much as I’d love to wear Tubereuse Criminalle to church, not that I go, that sort of thing just isn’t done here. But this, you could wear to church. And then to the Colonnade, in Atlanta, for that after-services Singapore Sling.


Kelly Caleche by Hermes - starts out citrus, then floral, then a smooth leathery drydown. It’s mid-August to mid-September in a bottle, but there’s no question that Kelly Caleche is a difficult scent. These transitions are bumpy. It’s a Jean-Claude Ellena, and it has that clarity. But it was named after a purse, which was named after a mercurial, perfectionist actress, and a spindly carriage. I’m not sure what to make of the horsey references (hay, saddles) other than hey, it's Hermes, and the flowers (violet, mimosa, the dreaded tuberose, although it’s very subtle here) other than the reference to Grace Kelly.

This is one that must be tried on skin. On mine, it’s completely different than on paper. It’s sweeter, of course, but the notes of mimosa and hay predominate, whereas on paper I don’t even perceive them. There, it’s the tuberose and a wood, possibly cedar or sandalwood, maybe a little patchouli, and the synthetic molecules like quinoline that comprise the “leather” drydown scent. Kelly Caleche is, ultimately, as elusive as Grace was. But we are talking about transitions. This one has them and then some. I wonder if Ellena knew what Grace was really like, in her day?


Habanita by Molinard – Ahhh, Habanita. It really deserves its own post, and I will do that one of these days; so much history (flappers! Used to scent their cigarettes!) but right now it just seems perfect for the season. Because it’s sweet, but smoky, definitely too strong for church, even in the EDT. And it lasts. The kids are back in school, or on their way to college or otherwise out of house and hair, Thank God. Looking for something to spritz on just before you run to the Costco?

I have the modern EDT and some vintage parfum. Now, we definitely don’t wear the vintage perfume to the Costco. No, you put that on (long) after the kids are asleep. Or save it for when you’re by yourself. The notes (orange blossom, ylang-ylang, vanilla, heliotrope, iris, leathery base) are well-mixed, but that unmistakable topnote – can it be? Cigarette smoke? In this day and age? Well, yes. That’s what makes Habanita so…daring. More daring now than it was in 1921. The checkout person might think you’re one of those...(shudder) smokers.

And?

Interesting, isn’t it, how history repeats itself?
All of these scents are readily available in the usual places, and vintage Habanita isn't too hard to find on Ebay or in flea markets.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Three from the Eighties


Oh, how we love to disparage the Eighties.

Could it be that we were having too much fun then?

Big hair AND highlights AND hoop earrings AND Madonna-esque armloads of bracelets AND, oh, hell, Madonna herself, when she was snotty and cool; ripped, falling-off sweatshirts AND tight leggings AND spike-heeled boots, AND stripes of blush on the cheeks AND…need I go on?

As for the perfumes, well, we all know that nobody could smell much of anything in the Eighties. Can you say, uh, impaired judgment?

But it wasn’t all Giorgio, thank God.

Here are three of the good ones.


Diva Ungaro (extrait) I got this as a present. I didn’t understand chypres then. I thought the orientals were the pinnacle of perfumery, and chypres smelled too sharp to me. I preferred Must de Cartier, the signature scent of the Walk of Shame, circa, oh, 1984 or so.

Now, I know better. It smells wonderful. A rose, but not a dark or musky one. This rose is high and dry. Not even red. Maybe a white rose. Jacques Polge, who is now head perfumer at Chanel, did this, and it smells a lot like No. 22, especially in the EDP. Lots and lots and lots of aldehyde.

Here are the notes: Mandarin, aldehydes, coriander; rosewood, tuberose, cardamom, rose, jasmine, narcissus, carnation, ylang-ylang, patchouli, sandalwood, oak moss, honey, vetiver, civet, musk and labdanum.

No wonder these 80’s scents were powerhouses. The perfumers made them with a cast-iron hand. Look at all that stuff! Patchouli AND musk AND labdanum, seems like overkill now. But what from the Eighties doesn’t?

What the hey. Diva smells great.


Knowing by Estee Lauder (extrait)

I’m not usually a Lauder fan. It’s all so…perfume-y. But the review in The Guide was intriguing. They called it a “mossy rose.”

Tested on blotter paper, it’s a very nice opening. Smooth and green. I got an early top note of some sort of menthol, then a bit of the perfumey base, and, and I thought, oh, no, not that! But then it settled down, put the seat back, and got ready for a good long ride.

On skin, well, my skin sweetens everything. First there was a sort of burnt note, and then a souk-like mid. Heaps of spices in the (funky cold) Medina. Orange-y and rich. Could this be an ancestor of all the incense fragrances we’re getting now?

Then the florals, mixed right away with woods and a bit of patchouli. Never did pick up the oak moss or civet, but I’m sure it’s there!

You know what? This stuff smells damned good. On me, it’s an autumn or winter scent. Warm, rich, spicy and welcoming.

Notes are: Coriander, Orange, Aldehyde, “Green Note”; Rose, Jasmine, Cardamom, Cedar; Patchouli, Oak Moss, Civet.


Paloma Picasso Mon Perfume (somewhat vintage extrait, modern EDP)

The EDP was a TJ Maxx find for me, and it immediately sent me looking for some extrait on Ebay. They’re very different. The EDP has an early brightness. It's strong and very much a chypre. But the extrait – the extrait is brave.

And I loooovvvve this. I don’t care what anybody thinks. It makes me want to drench myself in EDP, dab on too much of the perfume and go find some trouble to get into. I’m not hanging out in some after-hours hotel basement in the dark at 3 a.m. any more, but this stuff makes me feel like I could.

No way is this Martha Quinn’s Eighties. Nothing cute or sprightly about it at all. This is something dark and full of fury and, man, just look at these notes. Clove, May Rose, Jasmine. Orris, castoreum (uh, probably not, nowadays), patchouli. Amber, tobacco and – just in case the message isn’t getting through – cedar, civet and musk.

What else is there to say? Wear it if you can handle it.


Now, of course, there are Rules. Ingredients must be approved by the sober burghers of Brussels, intent upon protecting us from ourselves. Most perfumes made now smell positively wimpy when compared to the vintage scents, but we don’t mind, because we know that the Experts know what is best for us. We don’t smoke or do, well, any of that stuff we used to do. We’re safe and sound.

Yeah? Right.


All of these perfumes are still available from discounters and online retailers, and the vintage versions can sometimes be found on Ebay or in sample/decant form.

Photo of Madonna, circa 1983, by Deborah Feingold.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chypre by Coty



I have been fortunate enough to obtain some vintage Chypre de Coty.

Smelling this perfume has sent me into a frenzy of research and imaginings. There is so much to think about! There’s Paris in 1917, the center of the cultural and intellectual world, giving birth to the modern in its bars, studios, presses and garrets. There’s WWI itself, the most horrible of all wars, still going on, but beginning to turn. There’s Francois Coty himself, born ordinary in Corsica, who founded a worldwide business.

There is a lot of legend surrounding Chypre. Coty’s home, Corsica, has a Mediterranean climate similar to that of Cyprus. In 2004, archaeologists discovered a perfume factory there, of industrial magnitude, four thousand years old. Resins similar to the ones that make up the chypre family of perfumes were found, still in small amorphae, on the site. Reportedly, a perfume of the chypre type was made for Catherine the Great of Russia, around 1880. In fact, there may have been as many as nine previous chypre-based perfumes before Coty released his, in 1917 Paris, a year of bitter cold, epidemics, bombings, shortages, the Bolshevik revolution, and, incidentally, the execution for treason of the infamous dancer/courtesan/spy Mata Hari (pictured).

While it would be tempting to believe that Coty, generally credited with this first modernist scent, was a perfumer/artist hanging out in the cafes with Apollinaire, Picasso and Cocteau, he was in fact a businessman. He started by selling flower-based essences to Paris barbers, took training at Grasse, and started his company with a small loan from his grandfather. He didn’t have much luck at first. Then, a bottle of one of his earlier perfumes broke after falling from a store shelf, filling the store with its scent, and soon sold out. Did he drop the bottle on the floor to demonstrate the appeal of his new product, as is sometimes reported? Probably not. In all likelihood, it was an accident.

But Coty had a good, if not utterly new, idea. If he was to combine the labdanum resin of Cyprus with the inedible but oddly floral Mediterranean fruit, bergamot, and then add the fungus oak moss to the rose/jasmine florals that had been perfuming French boudoirs and bosoms for centuries -- and then add some other stuff (possibly lemon, storax; the formulas vary) -- he could bottle it simply but beautifully, and sell it for a reasonable price.

Luca Turin has called Chypre “an abstract idea,” and it was, in the sense of re-creating a place-memory through scent-memory. Cyprus is full of rocks, dry dirt and the unrelenting heat that produces rich, aromatic resins in the plants hardy enough to survive there. Oak moss, a parasitic fungus, absorbs the strength of the massive tree, and has been known as a fixative for centuries.

Modernism in general was all about leaving behind the tidy Victorian positivism and sense of the inevitability of progress, and replacing it with the blunt and brutal “life force,” which would then force vitality in all forms of expression. Given the carnage and nihilism of WWI, that seems inevitable. And Chypre was not Victorian in any way. Concurrent and complimentary to the burgeoning cultural upheaval all around, it was a powerhouse perfume designed to be worn by modern women. (The writer Dorothy Parker was reported to have trailed clouds of it wherever she went.)

Although Coty Chypre is discontinued now, the classification “chypre” lives on in the name of a perfume family, based on that same oak moss/labdanum/bergamot trinity that has been disparaged in recent years as an “old-lady” scent. Puh-leeez! Kids, there is nothing old-lady about it.

There’s talk that the chypres will return to general popularity, now that the smell-like-nothing fragrances of the 90’s and the Barbielike fruity/florals of recent years are fading.

Unfortunately, they will never be quite the same, but neither will we.




My sample of Coty’s Chypre is from the seventies. There had been some reformulation, but the oak moss base was still intact at that time.

Chypre by Coty (discontinued): Lists of the notes vary, but included are oak moss, labdanum, bergamot, rose, jasmine, and possibly lemon, neroli, orange, storax and patchouli.

Chypre by Coty turns up occasionally on Ebay. Other good examples of the chypre type are Miss Dior, Bandit, Cabochard, Givenchy III, Mitsouko and Jolie Madame. As with all older perfumes, the vintage versions feature the aromatic chypre base, which has been much degraded in recent years by EU regulations (oak moss gave somebody a rash once) and corporate cost-control measures.







Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ephemera: Here, then gone



My skin eats perfume. Voracious as a tiger, it gobbles it right up.

I don’t even order 1 ml samples; that’s not enough for even one day on me. No, it has to be spray, at least EDP strength, at least a mill and a half, and I change out my vials like some women change purses. Because nothing, not even extrait, ever lasts a whole day.

I decided to try three fragrances, which don’t last long on me, to see how they would do on paper. Paper is how perfumes are sold now. Back in the day, we tried them on skin; now it’s blotter paper with the store’s name conveniently printed on it. And of course, the mass-market manufacturers are reported to be emphasizing their “all at once” scents, designed to leap out and grab the tester by the throat, right there in the store. After all, that all-important Decision to Purchase is made in the first five seconds, and it is based on that little strip of paper.

That’s a shame. Because there’s something to be said for seeing what develops. For individuality. For waiting before you dive on in.



Apres l’Ondee by Guerlain This is the classic scent of waiting, the one that’s supposed to make you yearn, and it does make me yearn, but I don’t know what for. If there is a forest that smells like this after it rains, that forest must be in heaven. Heliotrope and violets and something that reminds me a little of licorice. But not sweet, none of that candy sweetness that so often comes with violets. And the deepest note, and this is the mystery, is of something very much like Play-Doh. That’s somewhere I’ll never be able to go again.

If nostalgia had a scent, this would be it.

If Apres l’Ondee had a color, it would be a grayed lavendaer, like the sky after rain; a cool tone, as cool as this fragrance feels.

Notes include bergamot, neroli, aniseed, hawthorn, violet, heliotrope and musk.



Osmanthe Yunnan by Hermessance

So gorgeous. So perfect. So over. It lasts ten minutes on my skin.

The perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, is known for his minimalism, for the elegant, spare compositions he creates, and often for the transitory qualities of his creations. Osmanthus is not a fruit or flower, but a flowering shrub. Here in the South, we call it a Tea Olive. I’ve never tasted honey made from Osmanthus blossoms, but I wish I could. Just imagine Osmanthus-scented honey, how subtle it would be.

As subtle as this fragrance.

I bought a cake of Osmanthus soap, and the fragrance is just as fleeting. But while it’s there…

If I bought a bottle of this, I’d have to carry it around with me. I’d have to spray myself with it more or less constantly. I may just do that. (See the earlier entry titled “Have I Lost It?”) If this scent has a color, it would be a pale peach.

Some things just weren’t made to last.

Notes: Yunnan tea, freesia, apricot, osmanthus, leather, musk.



Fleur d’Iris by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier

First there is a celery-like note, and then violets. Then a whiff of iris, like an introduction. I smell no dirty root, only the flower, cool and violet. On the paper, some mixed florals begin to come up about two minutes in: I thought I smelled gardenia or heliotrope, but the notes I found say only rose, and leafy greens; on my skin, it’s much sweeter, and the powderey iris predominates from the first seconds. The color would be violet light, transparent, nearing ultraviolet. It reminds me of spring, or of a cool pale blonde, like Eva-Marie Saint in “On the Waterfront.”

An interesting coda, too, at least on my skin: It dries down fast to a sweet and amberey wood. On paper, though, I smell just a hint of sandalwood.

Notes: Iris flower, orris root, violet, rose (which I don’t smell at all) leafy greens, sandalwood.



With all three of these perfumes, we’re talking about minutes, not hours. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. What does it mean (besides that I’m expensive?)

That I’m, well, a little different. Could be I run a little hot. Could be that every fragrance I wear is unique to my chemistry. And it very well could be that I’ll always have to carry lots of little bottles and vials around with me.

That's fine with me.

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