Monday, March 26, 2012


I was going to do some real-time sampling and reporting today. But I have the worst cold ever and can't smell a thing....let's hope this doesn't last a whole week. Back soon!

The box of tissues image is from Google Images, photographer not credited.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Angelique Encens

Getting back to real life, after two weeks recovering from knee surgery, is taking up a lot of my time. So today's post is a reprint from "Olfactarama's" earliest days.  Back next week with a new one!

If you'd like to try the now-discontinued Angelique Encens, leave a comment; drawing details at the end.

Angelique Encens, one of Creed’s celebrity perfumes, is supposed to be an incense scent. Even the name denotes incense. So, where is it?

When modern scents say “incense,” that is precisely what they mean. Commes de Garcon’s “Avignon” in particular evokes Mass in some ancient cathedral, at the moment when the priest passes by, swinging the censer. It is a literal interpretation of the incense concept, as are the rest in CDG’s incense series. As are most modern incense scents.

What I get from Angelique Encens, from the first moment, is musk. Angelica seeds produce a musky odor, which is dominant here. Then, a salty amber. Something animalic (as in very). Vanilla. All of this swirling in a heady, gorgeous, sultry tapestry. But not a bit of incense, not as we understand it in this exceedingly literal time.

Angelique Encens was made by Creed for Marlene Dietrich. I got it in a swap, with no idea that it was such an old perfume. In many ways, it reminds me of Guerlain’s classic 1889 Jicky, but without the herbaceousness that makes Jicky an acceptable “masculine” today. I would say that Angelique Encens, which I can’t imagine a modern man wearing, is a feminine Jicky.

Who could possibly be a better poster-child for questions of gender identity than Marlene Dietrich?

Marlene in a tux. Marlene in black lace. Did she really wear this scent? My guess is that she certainly said she did. Creed’s timing was convenient, with the perfume being released not too long after the English-language release of “The Blue Angel,” which made her an international star. (The concept of positioning – hitch your wagon to a star – may not have been taught in the business courses of the day, but, hey, it’s not rocket science, after all, is it?)

Marlene did not limit her choices. Nor did she trumpet them. The men’s clothing, the fedoras, the ever-present cigarettes, certainly sent a coded message, and, apparently that was enough. Now, of course, such announcements (“Lindsey’s dating a woman!”) are part of our culture of titillation. As in everything literal. As in everything, right out front and in your face.

Angelique Encens is from quite another time and place. Perhaps the “Encens” aspect of the scent was meant to be buried in the mix, difficult to perceive without at least some effort. That would make sense. A mystery. Based on the perceptions, the mind, of the beholder. It's there. Somewhere.

At first, I thought, no way would Dietrich wear this. Her other perfumes (reference below) included Bandit, Tabac Blond and Vol de Nuit. Now, those sound like the Marlene Dietrich we know!

Do we, though? Did anyone?

NOTE: Sadly, Angelique Encens has been discontinued since this post was originally written. I have a few mills of it, though, and can send a 1 ml. sample plus a few surprises to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment no later than Sunday, March 25, midnight US Eastern Daylight time, to enter. I'll do a drawing and announce the winner Monday, March 26.

Perfume Shrine’s Celebrity List can be found here:

Notes for “Angelique Encens” include angelica, tuberose, amber, incense and vanilla.
Notes for “Jicky” include lemon, bergamot, rosewood, lavender, civet, benzoin, vanilla and vetiver.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Off Topic: "Game Change"

A few years ago, I was doing consumer counseling work at an Atlanta radio station. This particular station is known for its very conservative talk programming — syndication home of Sean Hannity, for example, but not, thankfully, the gasbag known as “Rush.” Since my own politics are liberal/progressive, I felt very odd there, as everyone’s down-time chat tended toward the political, and far to the right. 

The morning after Sarah Palin gave her speech at the Republican Convention, one of the other staffers rushed into the office glowing like she’d just met (and yes, I’m talking about in the Biblical sense) George Clooney. She simply couldn’t contain herself, and went on and on about this wonderful woman; between calls she’d try to engage me — we were friendly — in her newfound joy. I told her I hadn’t seen the speech. But I had. 

I think “Game Change,” the HBO movie that debuted Saturday night, is historic. Much more than a simple diatribe aimed at Palin, it asks the tough question:  “How did this happen?” 

We could start with a cynical, information-overloaded, badly educated populace; a never-ending news cycle which has produced a dwindling attention span on the part of that populace; extremist talk hosts feeding the worst side of humanity while they scrape up their millions; the win-at-any-cost times we’re living in now. 

All the characters, including Palin, are written with empathy. She is portrayed magnificently by Julianne Moore as a charismatic figure nobody bothered to properly vet, a small-time politician whose ignorance became fodder for gleeful parodies like Tina Fey’s, and horrified commentary from serious news pundits. We see the effects of all this on her; she simply shuts down. Finally, her handlers realize that Palin’s “base” doesn’t give a damn if she doesn’t know what the Fed is or where Germany is, and they retool her to play to her audience.

It works. She does so, brilliantly. Given vague and jingoistic answers to parrot back, she delivers. But it’s too late. “One heartbeat away from the Presidency” is what I remember; enough to cancel the few percentage points that would have won the election for John McCain.

McCain is played by Ed Harris as a character with real nobility. He’s a dying breed. In his last scene with Palin, as he leaves to give the concession speech, he whispers to her that, as a new leader, she should beware of the talk-show extremists; that they’ll destroy the Party. 

How prescient.

I wonder how my father, a lifelong Republican, would have viewed the current crop of Republican candidates.  As a liberal, I happily note every gaffe. As an American, I view it with despair. 

Friends and acquaintances of mine had a ball making fun of Sarah Palin. But I couldn’t help think about the woman in my old office, and how she reacted to Palin’s convention speech. “Don’t kid yourselves,” I’d say, spoiling all their fun. “Don’t write her off. They love her.”

I’d like to think that this film will finish Sarah Palin as a candidate for anything. The programmers timed it very well, as the stunned Republican powers-that-be are rumored to be discussing a possible alternative to their current bunch. Her name has come up. 

But I think that we are so divided now that the gulf between liberal and conservative might be impossible to cross. I believe this film represents the truth, but it’s already being called “nothing but lies” by Palin and her people. And in the film’s last crowd scene, John McCain’s concession speech is barely over before the audience begins chanting “Sar-ah!” The defeated McCain regards them with horror. More than any other moment in the film, this one speaks to what I fear is my country’s diminishing future.

Photo from The Blaze newsletter, via Google Images. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dream State Sniffing

Back in December, the sole of my stupid shoe met a slick spot, and I fell on my, well, left knee. I didn’t think it was that big a deal. I iced it, rested it, compressed it and even had a few physical therapy sessions, but it got worse. The upshot of all this is that I had to have knee surgery last Friday. Arthroscopic, but they put me under, anyway. The only good thing about surgery is that you get good guilt-free drugs afterwards; Percocet, Narco, you know. Those.
So there I was, in the Hall of the Mountain King, I mean, um in bed for days, sternly forbidden to get up unless absolutely necessary. What to do, what to do. Couldn’t read — the pills made it too hard to concentrate. TV’s upstairs and stairs are definitely out. 
So, I had myself quite a delirious little sniffing party.
We all have those vials and samples and decants, and they’re all over the place, and we really mean to get around to truly experiencing them, right? And never do. But here I was and here they all were and here was an envelope with hundreds of paper strips in it. And I thought, what if I sniff all these again, but in a sort of hallucinatory way? (As if I had a choice, hah!) No “notes?” No analyzing, just breathing the smell, living inside it for a few minutes, being here now or there then or whatever; of course!
Here are some of my notations.
Diptyque Eau Duelle: a knife on a pillow. Sharp and plush.
Cumming (hey remember that one?) dark and basement-dank. That would be the suburban basement where the Goth Kid, 30, still lives.
Cartier L’Huere Defendue: Channeling Pierre Guillaume: spice leather dark rich, great!
Cartier L’Huere Fougeuese: Davana! Yeah! Like “Safari” without the ice-pick sweetness, savannah, open prairie, grasslands.
SL Chergui: tobacco mint basil booze.
Shalimar PDT, Vintage: grrrrr….more resin less sweetness. 
Divine Folie (perfume): dry, cold, stern.
A Tase of Heaven, by Kilian: mint ice cream
Jicky, Guerlain EDT (modern) Fecal, fast
Chanel No. 19, vintage: faint at first, sharp bladed jonquils later
Amrytis, Mona di Orio: What exactly is this supposed to be? (Later): What exactly is this supposed to be?
Derby, Guerlain, modern: A really great bathroom spray
Coze, PG: patchy hay, nutty musk, Humboldt County
…and so on.
You know what? It’s really hard not to think in terms of “notes.” 
I guess we have to be forced to slow down now. This is a pretty good way, if you don’t count the surgery part.
More than once the DH found me, passed outasleep with paper strips sticking out of my nose. 
Hey, the knee’s a lot better now! Down to only one crutch, which I hope to throw away tomorrow after I see the Doctor P.A.!
And back to Advil, damn it.

All samples obtained by purchase or swap.

Photo, of my actual nightstand, by Olfacta.