Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Day

The light begins to bend differently around mid-August here. It’s still hot, with bugs and humidity, but I’ll be driving somewhere and will suddenly notice that the trees look different. The sun’s position has changed (okay, to be perfectly accurate, the earth’s has). There is more refraction, longer rays of light bending toward the yellow end of the color spectrum, and so the leaves reflect a warmer green.
 “The Day” is what I call that first breath of autumn, an afternoon when I realize that the humidity is gone and won’t be back for awhile, when the winds stop blowing moisture up from the Gulf and start blowing cool air down from Canada. Not much is certain these days, but this is. 
Not too long ago, a commenter here mentioned seeing a lot of “ennui” on the perfume blogs and forums. It is true that there haven’t been many great releases lately, and the new Bleu de Chanel has disappointed several reviewers I follow, with its apparent pandering to the men’s mass-market (can you say dihydromercanol? No? Me neither.) I wonder what similar delights are coming next. Times like this send me back to the back of my cabinet. I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. I’m seeing lots of classics and forgotten treasures on the other perfume blogs. It’s a welcome development, I believe. There is so much out there that deserves attention, and certainly isn’t getting any from the popular press.
Exploring the glimmers deep inside my own perfume cabinet, I found three scents that seem perfect for this time of year. Two are fairly obscure and one is really obscure. 
Opium Fleur de Shanghai: This one is discontinued, which is good news. I love discontinued. I know it’s going to be an older, or maybe even the original, formula; no chance that I’ll encounter another disappointing reformulation. This is a 2005 “special release,” designed for warmer weather, full of magnolia, a bit of star jasmine (which is subtle) and mandarin, which gives it a slight fruit note. The Opium base -- carnation/clove, myrrh and patchouli -- is there, but it’s a whisper. I’ve heard that Opium EDT -- the real thing, not the new one -- can be a good summer fragrance, but I can’t imagine wearing it in our July humidity. In this fragrance, though, the florals and earthy base balance each other perfectly. Not too sweet, not too heavy, comes in a big bottle, designed to spray lavishly: the perfect September fragrance. Best of all, there seems to be plenty to go around. I bought my 100 ml bottle for less than $40, on fleabay. I have not been able to find out who the perfumer was, but the house is Yves St. Laurent.
Rose d’Homme: OK, so it’s a men’s fragrance. And? Perhaps there will come a day when American guys feel secure enough in the ol’ masculinity department to wear a rose-based scent. In the meantime, I’ll continue to hijack this one. It’s one of those that thrill me when I smell it. Lots of bergamot up front, and the notes from Rosine’s website mention vetiver, a “lavender base,” tangerine, herbals and leather. I get a woody, patchouli-laced rose, and it is divine. It’s a perfect late fall scent, more November than September. Not for patchouli-averse though; I’d say that, in the drydown, patch is the dominant note. The perfumers are the Rosine team of Marie-Helene Rogeon and Francois Robert. Not discontinued, but certainly not commonplace. Not exactly a bargain, but I’ve seen 50 mls for less than $75 online. I bought my bottle from LuckyScent, last year. From Les Parfums de Rosine.

Halston Couture: This is a very obscure and challenging fragrance. Of all the perfumes I’ve ever tried, it is by far the driest, the boniest, the mossiest. Do you like galbanum, that cracked-green-leaves essence? It’s here, along with a ton of oakmoss. There’s musk, too (not much), and bergamot, and, although the notes list jasmine, I don’t smell any. I do smell the marigold and carnation, though. This is a take-no-prisoners spicy, bitter green chypre. The closest relative I know of would be Jacomo’s bitter green “Silences.”  This is Silences on steroids.
I’ve started experimenting with this fragrance, using it as a base for oils that might just be a little too cloying, or florals that are too sweet, to construct a chypre with floral notes. I think it would be a great man’s scent, too -- although, for all I know it might have been one. Perfumer? Who knows? Released in 1987 or 88 (indexes vary) It comes in the Halston bottle -- the off-kilter, Elsa Peretti one -- except that the glass is frosted and the top is silver, which tarnishes, so we know it’s real. Discontinued of course -- this much oakmoss would make the entire IFRA faint -- but widely available on fleabay, usually for less than $30, which is how I got mine. Perfect for early fall, when it’s often still hot. Strong. Lasts. Not for the timid. 
A few other transitional scents that seem “right” to me in fall: Eau de Rochas, with its unlikely mix of citrus and patchouli; Nuits de Hadrien (Annick Goutal) with its peppery ginger opening, and Anya’s Garden “Kewdra,” with its spice and warmth. What are yours?
I’m curious: do you layer and mix a lot? It seems that the transition seasons bring out the tinkerer in me. A little of this, a little of that; sometimes mixed, sometimes just applied on different places; do summer scents layered with winter ones equal autumn? What do you think? Let me know in a comment. I’ll pick a winner at random and announce the results in two weeks, on Tuesday, Sept. 14th,  for a generous sample of each of these fragrances.

25 comments:

Ines said...

I bought Fleurs de Shangai for my mother when it came out (although I like it more than I expected).
I like your idea of combining summer and winter scents to get autumn. :) Although I'm still a bit scared of layering, I just don't feel up to it yet.
It seems to me that it happens instinctively - one day you wake up and just know that you need to try and layer some scents because there is the feeling they will mix wonderfully. I'm still waiting to wake up like that.

Olfacta said...

Hi Ines! That was the fastest comment e-vah! Thanks!

BitterGrace said...

Love those "back of the cabinet" explorations. I keep rediscovering a bottle of Jacomo Parfum Rare back there, and it delights me every time. That's a perfect fall scent, by the way. Mystere's a fall favorite too, and so is Dior Dune. I don't really know what those have in common, except that they are all rich but not heavy--if that makes sense.

Please enter me in the draw--all those sound delightful.

kjanicki said...

Great post! I love hearing about these little known perfumes. I don't like to layer much, but sometimes, late in the day when most of what I've been wearing has worn off, i like to spray something complementary on top of the last lingering drydown, like a spritz of tobacco on top of a leather scent, or an orange blossom on the last hint of sandalwood from the morning's perfume.

Isa said...

I like the idea of layering, but I still haven't found a good combination of scents among my collection.
I have tried layering Tam Dao and Kenzo Amour (two of my favourite scents) but Tam Dao is always more noticeable. Always. On my skin Tam Dao lasts a lot too.

I own Opium Poésie de Chine, another discontinued flanker. It's lovely and enjoyable any time of the year.

I'd like to try Fleurs de Shangai.

Elisa Gabbert said...

I often layer up at home, when I don't have to worry about overapplication or infelicitous combinations fuming anyone out. (My boyfriend, count me lucky, never complains.) Some combos I like: the aforementioned tobacco and leather combo (e.g., Tabac Aurea and Cuir de Lancome); a rose with either musk, vanilla, or a dry chypre; lemon plus almond (I do this with cheapies, Bigelow Winter Lemon + Carol's Daughter Almond Cookie); Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille + Datura Noir (as demonstrated by a cute SA).

When I'm testing/reviewing I'll put on four or five different scents in different spots and don't really care if there's any harmony.

The Opium flanker sounds intriguing!

Rappleyea said...

I always love your reviews of little heard of esoteric scents. The Halston sounds right up my alley! Bring on the galbanum. Even though it's still in the 90's here, I've brought out the Vol de Nuit extrait - somehow the mix of the petitgrain and bergamot with the galbanum keeps it from being too heavy in the heat. Jicky has also worked as has SSS Champagne de Bois. I'm definitely ready for Fall scents, but the weather won't cooperate!

If I wear perfume in the same spot on my body two days in a row, I'm layering! Scent lasts through showers on me, so I have to vary my application spots. Other than that, I avoid layering as I'd never get a mistake washed off!

tarleisio said...

I'm a shameless at layering. I have no compunction about layering anything with anything else that might capture my fancy. I layer Ivoire with Chanel no. 19, I layer Silences (a recent favorite this summer) with vintage Rive Gauche (an intellectual exercise), and just for kicks, I layered Serge Lutens' Fleurs d'Oranger with CB I Hate Perfume's Burning Leaves, which was about as autumnal as it gets - and believe it or not, rather a stunning combo. I'm waiting on my sample of La Myrrhe, just so I can try that with FdO, too!

Oh, the sacrilege! Ah, the blasphemy!

I fully expect to be shot on sight, any day now.

Halston Couture, with that galbanum pulse point bomb, sounds like something I might love - to layer, or not!

But isn't that the point - to try new things and see where they take you?

It's certainly half the fun!

museinwoodenshoes said...

I just noticed the quality of the sunlight changing here in SW Va last week, and I said to myself, Ahhhh, autumn's coming. It's still in the 90s this week, but if you ask me, the season has turned. The light is far more golden. I've been saying "see ya" to several of my summer staples and hauling a few choice cooler-weather scents to the forefront of the cabinet.

Silences has become a favorite spring/summer scent of mine, thanks to all that rose and iris peeping out from the galbanum and moss, and the silvery green-purple color it brings to mind. I will probably soon be putting it away until spring.

I don't typically layer - I think because I don't have the mental space to keep track of the experience. (I did accidentally layer Beyond Love with the drydown of Havana Vanille, and that's gorgeous. Sweeeet, but in a liqueur-like way.)

That Halston bottle makes me think NSFW thoughts.

BitterGrace said...

Oops, I got so focused on my favorite things for fall that I forgot to mention a fave fall layering combo: DSH Lotus Blossom and Shalimar EDC. I actually layer all year long, but that's one that works best in the cool, dry air of autumn.

flittersniffer said...

There's a definite autumnal quality to the air here now, even though we have had a bit of an Indian summer this week.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Fleurs de Shanghai and am the proud owner of a big 100ml bottle of it I got fo £25 from a discount warehouse. From this I periodically decant small amounts for my partner's mother - it pleases me to spread the word about this one.

Layering is something I tend only to do to rectify mistakes, plus it sometimes occurs inadvertently when decanting.

Anonymous said...

Hi M -- Never even heard of Parfum Rare, sounds intriguing...

Olfacta said...

Hi k -- good idea, got to try that one.

Olfacta said...

Hi Isa -- I think there are about 4 or 5 of the Opium flankers; I've heard the Imperiale is a good one too.

Olfacta said...

Hi Elisa -- I have Cuir de Lancome, which I luurrve, -- and have just realized, much to my horror, that that line comes from a 1977 movie ("Annie Hall") which may be too old for many to have seen -- and, pleasanter things, a sample of Tabac Aurea. I'm going to try that one on the first cool-ish day.

Thanks!

Olfacta said...

Hi R!

You're so lucky that perfume lasts. I don't know what it is about my skin but...poof!-- usually within two hours, unless it's some horrid dimestore synthetic, in which case it lasts two days.

Olfacta said...

Hi T -- I'm going to try the Silences/vintage Rive Gauche combo. The Silences might strong enough to soften the metallic tang that seems to blow up on me when I wear RG -- if not, the Halston Couture would I bet!

Elisa Gabbert said...

Oh, terrible thought about Annie Hall! It's just a tad older than me but I still love it. I love Manhattan even more.

Olfacta said...

Hi fs -- I've been showing an annoying tendancy to hoard my Silences, ridiculous since it's so inexpensive. I love it and Mr. Olfacta calls it "sultry" -- which, so far, is the only one of the rather embarrasing number of bottles I own that has earned that accolade from him.

Olfacta said...

Hi fs -- I lurrve those big bargain bottles, spray with abandon...or maybe I'm just cheap? Yeah, probably.

Olfacta said...

Hi Elisa, again -- The other day I was giving a friend a ride to the doctor (he'd sprained a knee). We were talking about Christopher Walken. I made reference to that scene in Annie Hall, where he's the psycho brother driving Alvy to the airport. My pal, who is maybe 15 years younger, had never seen the movie! Then I realized he was, uh, 9 when it came out. Still...

Elisa Gabbert said...

It's the ultimate romantic comedy. A classic. Doesn't matter how old you were when it came out!!! Most of us weren't around when Casablanca was released, right?

(That said, I have actually never seen Casablanca, ha.)

Flora said...

Oh my, I never did smell Halston couture back in the day or I would have snapped it up! Bitter green chypre you say? Come to mama! I am off to Fleabay to look..... :-)

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