Tuesday, November 30, 2010

La Rose Jacqueminot: Coty's First Perfume

My first sniff of “La Rose Jacqueminot” was from a sample vial. Few perfumes have surprised me as much as this one did. It smelled so modern. I had been expecting, oh, something ghastly-sweet, old-fashioned and of its time. This, instead, smelled timeless.
La Rose Jacqueminot was the perfume that the young Francois Coty threw his famous tantrum over, after an unsuccessful attempt to sell it to the Parisian department store Le Grands Magasins du Louvre. He smashed the bottle on the floor, drawing a crowd of women demanding some for themselves. (By some accounts, there may have been some hired frenzy-starters in the crowd.) In this unlikely but imaginative way, the Coty company was launched.
Nice story. I’m more inclined to believe it now than I used to be.
The bottle I have looks like it’s from the early Eighties. There’s a bar code on the bottom flap of the box, which is made of soft paperboard with slightly embossed printing. The “Div. Of Pfizer” sticker on the bottom means it was manufactured sometime between 1963 and 1992. 

Obviously, this is a rose fragrance, and there are violets, and maybe a bit of carnation; hints of green and spice and, definitely, some civet in the base. I don’t smell any “old aldehydes” here, either, but the bottle came from Alaska, so perhaps wasn’t exposed to much heat. The scent, though, is less about “notes” than about a feeling, a gestalt.

When I received this last week and immediately applied some, at first I thought I’d been duped. It seemed too subtle for an eau de parfum, and I wondered if the seller had diluted it. I was busy, though, and went on with my to-do’s. A short while later, I became aware of the most wonderful floral haze surrounding me. I felt like I was walking inside a rose-scented cloud. The perfume had bloomed, and now it was flowing all around me.
I’ve tried so many perfumes, hundreds and hundreds, some with no sillage, some with way too much, but this particular effect was new to me. I thought of two other perfumes I’ve sampled, YSL’s (vintage) Paris and Rosine’s La Rose, both of which are rose/violet powerhouses. I’ve smelled ionone, the synthetic violet aromachemical, from my perfume notes kit, and violet soliflores, and rose attars, soliflores and absolutes, and all kinds of rose-based perfumes, and there are not many I like this well.
How this stealth blooming quality was achieved, I have no idea. There is little information available on this scent. My bottle is probably between 25 and 30 years old. The rise-up-and-envelop action happens whether the scent is dabbed or sprayed. And it lasts, for hours.
This won’t be one of those the-past-was-better laments, because there are lots of great rose-based perfumes out there, vintage and modern -- (most of) the Les Parfums de Rosine line, many niche specialties featuring rose and vintage treasures like L’Arte de Gucci. I was merely curious about this one, until I smelled it. And realized that it could be more than a relic. Back and forth I vacillated, the usual fleabay dilemma, but when a fairly reasonable bottle showed up, I grabbed it. Now I feel like I own a piece of history. Best of all, it’s a wearable one!
Do you have a favorite rose perfume? What is it? Leave a comment by midnight, Monday, Dec. 6th, U.S. Eastern Standard Time. I’ll do a drawing and send the winner a sample of La Rose Jacqueminot. 
The painting, by John Singer Sargent, was done in 1904, the year La Rose Jacqueminot was (by most accounts) released. Titled “Lady Speyer,” the portrait’s subject was Eleanora Speyer, daughter of a Prussian noble who fought in the Civil War. She shared superficialities with most of Sargent’s wealthy clients, but was very accomplished on her own. She was a virtuoso professional violinist and a Pulitizer Prize-winning poet who only began writing after her children were born. 
La Rose Jacqueminot shows up occasionally on auction sites. The prices vary, but it’s generally $2 to $3/ml, sometimes more. Some sample and decant sellers on the perfume forums have it, too.
Thanks to the website "Cleopatra's Boudoir" for providing information about the scent and its history.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Atelier Cologne Postcard and Sample Set -- Winner!

...and the winner is:


(please get in touch with me at olfactarama at att dot net with your postal details and I'll send these to you posthaste!)

as usual, winner chosen using random.org.

Thanks for entering, everybody!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Outlaw Perfumes: Drawing Winner!

And the winner of "Belle Star" by Artemisia Perfumes is:

Absinthe Dragonfly!

Administrative Details:

Winner chosen, as always, using Random.org.

Absinthe Dragonfly, please get in touch with me at

olfactarama at att dot net, and I'll forward your postal

details to Artemisia Perfumes.

Thanks for entering, everybody, and thanks for reading!

I'll announce the winners for my other drawing, for the Atelier Perfumes postcard and sample set, on Wednesday, Nov. 24th and again on Friday, Nov. 25th. (Psssst...it's not too late to enter that one; just refer to my post from 11/12 "Special Edition: The Atelier Postcards" and leave a comment there, by 9 a.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow, Nov. 24th.)

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., so I'll be back next Tuesday with a full post about a classic, vintage perfume.

Cheerio -- Olfacta

Monday, November 22, 2010

Outlaw Perfumes: Amazing, and my conclusions (aka "Outroduction")

Amazing Eau de Parfum
Perfumer: Jo Anne Bassett
Man oh man has this got oakmoss. Real oakmoss! I love it! It comes leaping out from my skin and it’s unmistakable. On reading the letter that came with “Amazing,” I see that the perfumer started building the fragrance around an oakmoss absolute. 
After the citrus/oakmoss calms down a bit, the florals begin to peek out. There is a spiciness too, a bit of the kind that gets up your nose and tickles -- but just a little. One ingredient I didn’t recognize was muhuhu. It’s a wood essence, something like sandalwood but darker. (I had thought I’d smelled sandalwood, but it must be this instead.) It’s sometimes called “African Sandalwood.”
I would call this a mossy citrus with floral notes. I haven’t yet worn it all day, but my guess is that the oakmoss will make it last. Another perfume that could be worn anywhere, by anyone -- accessible, well-blended, uplifting.
Notes: Oakmoss, cassie, cinnamon, vintage jasmine, lemon verbena, rose otto, muhuhu, ginger, yuzu, rhododendron, benzoin, violet leaf, cinnamon leaf and “19 others,” all outlaws.
Unisex. Sits close to the skin. Longevity t.b.a, but I’m guessing it will be good.
Outlaw Perfumes: The Outroduction

And so I come to the end of this week of testing these artisanal perfumes, researching  the ingredients and writing about them. I just have a few conclusions:
Compulsive risk-taker that I am, I have tested all of these on skin, and some pretty delicate skin at that! And, although my skin is sensitive and prone to rashes, not one of these perfumes gave me even the slightest rash, even after sun exposure (admittedly, winter sun.) I examined the sites where I’d put the perfumes with a jeweler’s loup and saw no redness, no irritation, nothing. Just sayin’. I mean, I know it’s not unbiased and all, like the research the IFRA sponsors is. 
Oh, and I’ve sniffed them too, every kind of sniff from quick and repeated to deep and long inhalations, drawing air up into my sinuses. And haven't had so much as a sneeze or stuffy nose, either.
I like these perfumes, a lot. I sometimes wish they had more sillage. I’m not sure if there is any way around that when using botanicals. But heaven knows there are plenty of room-clearers out there in the mass perfume market; there is plenty of space for Subtle.
Finally: One more time for emphasis: these are perfect for the modern no-perfume office environment. They are aristocratic in lineage and attitude. They speak in a low, well-modulated voice, and they never screech or laugh too loud (or chew gum, for that matter).  If “Angel” is Lady GaGa, these are Grace Kelly. You get the mood-elevating effects of a personal fragrance, without having to put up with cubicle-dwelling harpies intent upon removing all pleasure from the world singling you out as an offender. And wouldn’t that be nice?
Thanks to all the perfumers, and bloggers, and especially to Anya McCoy and Elena Vosnaki for putting this together!
As always, leave a comment here to be entered in the drawing for a bottle of “Belle Starr” by Artemisia. I’ll do the drawing and announce the winner tomorrow (Tuesday) November 23rd by 11 a.m. Eastern US Standard Time.

Outlaw Perfumes: Light and Ambress

Drawing Alert! I will do the drawing for the full bottle of "Belle Starr" by Lisa Fong of Artemisia Perfumes on Tuesday, Nov. 23rd!
If you've left a comment on any of these "Outlaw" posts, you're entered. If not, leave one -- I'll announce the winner Tuesday morning.

Perfumer: Anya McCoy
Ever since the demise of “Love’s Fresh Lemon,” a zillion years ago, I’ve looked for a citrusy fragrance that smells real. It’s been just about impossible to find one. Either it smells fake or the other ingredients step all over the lemon note.
This one is different. “Light” opens with wonderful mixed citrus that never fades, remarkable in any fragrance. The reason is the Chinese aglaia flower, around which this perfume is built, hand-tinctured by McCoy. She writes that the flower, smaller than a lentil, has a scent like that of a fresh lemon held in the hand. (Most lemon oils are obtained by crushing the peels.) 
The name “Aglaia” was that of a Greek goddess, one of the Three Graces or Charites, three sisters who represented Good Cheer (Thalia), Mirth (Esphrosyne) and Splendor (Aglaia). Generally they were associated with charm, creativity and fertility, and were of uncertain godly parentage. Aglaia did particularly well -- there’s an asteroid named after her.
This is very much a unisex scent, and could be worn anywhere, by anyone. The inclusion of musky genet and the resinous frankincense base add complexity to the citrusy heart. Delicate and artisanal.

As always, ingredients on the IFRA's proposed no-no list are given in red italics. Untested essences are in pink italics.

Top notes: Sicilian cedrat, Israeli yellow grapefruit, French juniper berry.
Middle notes: Chinese aglaia flower*, French genet flower, North Carolina ambergris.
Base notes: Hojari frankincense oil, edible frankincense sacra resinoid
“Light” stays close to skin, as do most botanicals. Longevity is better on cloth than skin.
Perfumer: Anya McCoy
I tried this without looking at the “notes,” and was very surprised to immediately recognize a deep, multifaceted rose essence. I’ve searched for an amber/rose commercial perfume, but most are very sweet on my skin, sugary and/or gourmand-y or caramel-like. The roses here are sweet, but that’s ok; they never get shrill, as synthetic roses sometimes do. They’re nicely balanced by the earthy ambers, patchouli and vanilla. And they’re entirely without the beanlike aroma I’ve found in some rose absolutes and scents made with them. The amber oil used here is real also, made from fossilized Himalayan amber. “Ambress” smells best on skin first (aka a “patch test”), then fabric near skin and, finally, paper.
“Ambress” also features a new kind of rose, the Zambian Princesse de Nassau Rosa Moschata, as well as the new amber oil. Well done!
A precious essence to save for special occasions. Stays close to skin. Longevity: about average for a botanical.

As always, ingredients on the IFRA's proposed no-no list are given in red italics. Untested essences are in pink italics.
Notes: Zambian  Princesse de Nassau Rosa Moschata, African musk rose otto, and Musk rose absolute, Madagascan ylang ylang, South African rose geranium sur fleurs
Base notes: Indonesian patchouli, Himalayan amber oil, Turkish styrax, Greek labdanum, Peruvian tonka bean, Salvadorean balsam tolu, Balsam of Peru, Chinese benzoin, Madagascan vanilla.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Outlaw Perfumes: Cannabis by Dupetit

Cannabis by Dupetit
Perfumer: Alfredo Dupetit-Bernardi
Hey bud, let’s party!” 
“That was my skull!”  
(both lines from the immortal character Jeff Spiccoli, played by Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High”

Cheech: "It's Dave. Lemmee in, man! I got the stuff!"
Chong: "Dave's not here, man!"

Cannabis, by dupetit, does smell like the Evil Weed. Not Humboldt County skunk, though, more like a nice homegro -- er, never mind.
Actually, this is great-smelling stuff. It’s citrusy, like grapefruit, with a smooth, rich base, redolent of tolu balsam and perhaps vanilla, although that’s not listed in the notes. At the first instant,  the “bud” note is obvious, but then it recedes and becomes one instrument in the chorus. If I was smelling this blind, I’m not sure I’d even recognize it, as such, but since I know it’s there, it’s obvious.
If you’ve been to California in the last few years, you know that, with a doctor’s prescription, one can walk into a “dispensary,” offering many different variations on cannabis, labeled as to taste, strength and effect. Without editorializing too much, this is civilized. I’m surprised that, in the recent election, the same state that put Governor Moonbeam back in office also defeated the marijuana legalization initiative, but hey, that’s California. (And I like Jerry, make no mistake.) Just imagine the tax revenue from that industry, in a state desperate for tax revenue? Well, it makes no sense, nothing does in the US at the moment, but I digress.
The perfumer, Alfredo Dupetit-Bernardi, makes a good point in his literature. He says that if this proposed IFRA no-no list goes through, instead of substances tested for thousands of years as perfume ingredients, we will instead be spreading on skin, and breathing, untested substances of unknown origin. He also likens the IFRA’s efforts to control perfume ingredients to the way cannabis became outlawed in the 20’s and 30’s, with lots of media help from the Hearst corporation (and, though he doesn’t mention this, good ol’ Harry Anslinger and the FBI) thereby ending its use for recreation, but also medically.  Interesting that medical use has gained the Evil Weed its new foothold in quasi-legality.

I’d wear this fragrance. In fact, I will wear this fragrance. Just not to the airport.

As always, the notes on the IFRA's proposed no-no list are given in red italics.
Basil oil (holy), Bay oil (West Indian), Bergamot leaf oil, Birch tar oil, Citronella oil, Clove oil, Geranium oil, Ginger oil, Grapefruit peel oil, Jasmine Sambac absolute, Lemon peel oils, Lemon verbena absolute, Lime peel oil (expressed) Mace oil, Nutmeg oil, Orange blossom absolute, Orange leaf oil, Orange peel oil (bitter) orange peel oil (sweet), Peppermint oil, Rose absolute, Rose oil, Rue oil, Taget (marigold) absolute, Thyme oil (thymol CT) Tolu balsam extract.

Outlaw Perfumes: Rose of Cimarron

Rose of Cinmarron
Perfumer: Elise Pearlstine
The marriage of rose and jasmine is perfumery’s longest-lasting. The accord, so much better than the sum of two parts, forms the basis for many of the greats -- “Joy” comes to mind, of course, but there are hundreds of others. Skillful use of this accord makes me think that “Rose of Cinmarron” is the most “classic perfume” smelling fragrance of the Outlaws I’ve tried so far. 
One of many delights about exploring these perfumes is learning about the components. This scent uses pandanus, a flowering tree sometimes called kewda. Its scent is like a fruity rose, and the leaves have a peppery note. The perfumer lists pandanus as one of the topnotes, along with black and pink pepper. There’s not enough pepper here to irritate the trigeminal nerve -- the source of the pleasant, almost-pain sensation found particularly in pink pepper -- but that’s not a bad thing! (I’ve tried a few perfumes that were almost like wasabi in that way. This isn’t.) 
The heart notes, as mentioned above, are all about the rose-jasmine accord. Both types of jasmine, the greener sambac and more indolic grandiflorum, are used, along with ylang-ylang (as a base note), the fixative amyris, another new one to me, which is distilled from the wood of a tree native to Haiti and smells something like sandalwood. These and the other base notes comprise a spicy drydown with a slight tropical floral, which I’m guessing is the ylang-ylang.
As with other botanicals, this stays close to skin. Pearlstine included in the package a faux rose petal, which could be used as a body sachet. A few drops of the perfume on this petal, placed near warmth, seems an ideal way to wear this scent; long-lasting, gentle, a perfect daytime scent for the office.
A very pretty classic fragrance with good longevity.

As always, the ingredients appearing on the IFRA's proposed no-no list appear in red italics.

Top: pink pepper, black pepper, pandanus
Heart: Wild rose, rose absolute, rose otto, jasmine grandifolum absolute, jasmine sambac absolute
Base: Ylang-ylang absolute, patchouli, labdanum, ambrette seed, angelica root, sandalwood, blond tobacco and amyris.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Outlaw Perfumes: Notoriety

Perfumer: Jane Cate,  A Wing and A Prayer Perfumes
I like this one a lot, as I’m a sucker for any mixture involving quality rose essences. This does, and more.
Using the triad approach for testing -- on paper exposed to air, on paper held next to skin and...horrors!...on skin itself -- I find that the trajectory is similar to other naturals I’ve tried. (I should mention that my skin is capable of burning through anything in double-time.) The drydown on this is a creamy amber-rose with a bit of oakmoss punching through it: very nice. 
“Notoriety” reminds me of some of the fragrances the Parisian perfume company Rosine features, which are all about rose, but do use synthetics. There is a velvety quality to this scent that none of those have, though, and it makes the perfume more sensual. The perfumer states that she was interested in making a fernlike fragrance infused with a floral, and, although “fern” is more an idea than actual scent, I think she has succeeded. Worn on my skin alone, the fragrance is a little sweeter than on paper held to skin, and that’s a good quality -- a choice.

The perfumer says that she uses the concept of a muse when assembling a scent. In this case she thought of Etta Place (the “girl” in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), the dancer Isadora Duncan and Lillie Langtry, the 19th century actress who was also the mistress of Edward VII -- how about that Royal Family, eh? I didn’t know that! And that all* of the ingredients here are on the IFRA no-no list.
“Notoriety” contains oakmoss in the base. Oakmoss was the first substance to come under fire as a possible sensitizer. Interesting how it is a naturally occurring lichen which grows on oaks in some of Europe’s darkest corners, and is subject to fluctuation from weather and so on and must be gathered by annoying peasants, isn’t it? So much better to replicate it somewhere. They’re stll trying. We’ll see. In the meantime, I have already noticed that “Notoriety” is lasting longer than most botanical perfumes, another plus; that’s what oakmoss does.

Very nice rose/amber; longevity is better than most natural perfumes.

*I don't see lavender on my lists, but that doesn't mean it's not perceived by the regulators as some sort of threat.
The notes for “Notoriety” are:
Top: Bergamot, Rosewood
Heart: Rose, Wild Rose, Lavender, Violet Leaf, Carnation absolute and Geranium
Base: Amber, Oakmoss

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Outlaw Perfumes: "Daphne"

Adam Gottschalk, Perfumer
This one is as elusive and changeable as the heroine of Greek mythology for whom it was presumably named. Daphne turned aside all suitors, ran desperately from Apollo’s advances, and was finally turned into a laurel tree by her sympathetic father . The leaves of laurel came to represent Apollo in Greek folklore. In Roman mythology -- and why doesn’t this surprise me? -- a wreath of laurel leaves became a symbol of victory or a conquering.
Of the Outlaw Perfumes scents I’ve tried so far, this is the most Outlaw. It’s ephemeral, but not in a watery or wafting sense. It grinds into various surfaces in various ways. This is most apparent on bare skin, where there are initial whiffs of citrus and deep flowers, and then the maple-syrup note of immortelle enters, but only briefly. The burnt-wood note of Labdamun takes the stage, knocks everybody else out of the way, and then sings solo -- for awhile. Slowly, the other base notes, none of them exactly wallflowers, converge until the Labdanum is again just part of the chorus.
This quality appears to be a reaction to body heat. It’s quite pronounced on bare skin, a little less so on fabric held next to the skin, and hardly detectable on paper. It reminds me of using broken color in painting. Some things (actually, lots of things) are more interesting when not smooth or well-blended. It’s like juxtaposing two complementary colors without mixing them, letting the eye do the work.
“Daphne” takes no prisoners, and can be a bumpy ride, but the final drydown is smooth and rich, like dark chocolate. It's close to the skin, and the longevity is good.

This is definitely an evening scent and would work well on either gender.

As always, notes on the IRFA's proposed restricted list appear in red italics.

Notes: Base: Oakmoss, Benzoin, Labdanum (as cistus oil), Vanilla, Tonka bean, pine needle, styrax, Ambergris.
Heart: Imortelle, Frangipani, Magnolia, Jasmine, Jasmine sambac, rose, rose otto (as “rose absolute” on IFRA list).
Top: Cypress, Ginger, Bergamot, Tangerine, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Tagetes (marigold).