Saturday, February 15, 2020

Scent Trunk's December by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: A Russian Fairytale

The prolific perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz recently created a fragrance for Scent Trunk, released in December, and fittingly named December. It is such a distinctively beautiful scent perfect for cold weather wear that I wanted to write about it while the Northern Hemisphere is still experiencing winter.

Dawn lives in the Colorado mountain town of Boulder and the surrounding forests have inspired perfume creations for her own brand, DSH Perfumes. She also creates a new fragrance centered around holiday themes every December and these also feature winter vibes with Christmas or Hanukkah references, but with December for Scent Trunk she has created something especially haunting and evocative.

From website.

Scent Trunk commissions perfumers to create scents that focus on a particular ingredient  and provenance. For December, coriander is the spotlighted note, and St. Petersburg, Russia is the provenance. Dawn really nailed the Russian references. When I first sprayed December I got images of deep, dark Siberian forests and visuals from folkloric fairy tales, where there is usually the suggestion of something dangerous awaiting in the woods.

When I was young my father would read bedtime stories to me, and two books that always delighted me  with shivery excitement  were fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson and also the Brothers Grimm. These were not Russian fairy tales but originated in countries not too distant and contained some of the same dark elements. In these tales threats were waiting for the unwary, children faced danger with uncertain outcomes, and life didn't always offer a happy ending. Today's children read the Disneyfied cleaned-up fairy tales but in my generation the little mermaid never got her prince, her feet were a source of pain, and she died a mournful death as she turned to sea foam in the ocean waves. I would pull the covers up to my chin and shiver with gratitude that I lived safely in a house guarded by my parents and that my sister slept in a bed an arm's length away.

December gives me that shivery feeling of entering a dark woods, wild beasts possibly hiding in the shadows. The forest smells resinous with sappy pine cones and frozen spiky fir and spruce needles. It is as if we are already deep in the forest and far away from civilization. But there is another element that makes the scent whimsical, slightly mysterious, and takes you on a magic carpet ride to the icy cold forests of Russia. A cocktail of notes: bergamot, black hemlock, clary sage, vodka, cardomom, and most of all coriander, combine to achieve this alchemy.  Picture forests more foreboding than welcoming, large furry creatures, icicles hanging from shivery pines, and a spicy melange that does somehow impart a romanticized vision of the East.

The first time I tested December on my skin the scent quieted after a while. I half forget I was wearing it. Then later, and I mean hours later, suddenly it revived like a campfire whose spark had been fanned by the wind and burst into gentle flame again. I smell a deep wine rose and a rooty orris that combine to form a rich velvet against the now dim forest notes. New notes of leather and musk bring visions of bundling up against a white snow storm with leather coats and big Russian fur hats.

Scene from the movie, Dr. Zhivago

Other notes I smell are wisps of smoke, traces of tobacco, and soft leather. Now the scent feels more tamed and civilized. We've moved away from the dark, dark woods and are now cozily ensconced in front of a fire, a small tumbler of icy vodka awaits, and our warm clothing and thick walls keep the cold at bay. I feel enshrouded in my own version of a Russian fairy tale. 

I have used photos from Russian photographer Margarita Kareva, who specializes in these fairy tale images, as for me they perfectly captured the feeling that December conjures.

I am not very familiar with Scent Trunk. I believe it previously had a bespoke element to it, but currently they seem to be commissioning fragrances from indie perfumers in which they feature a certain provenance and highlight a certain note. As far as I know this scent is only available via Scent Trunk, and comes in a very reasonably priced 100 ml bottle or a 5 ml sample spray.

This is not to be confused with the scent called December Holiday No. 10 that is on Dawn's website. I will correct this if I find I am wrong.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Serenity Now: Parfums Dusita Le Pavillon D'Or

If you've read my most recent posts, I mentioned that 2019 was not the easiest year. My hope for 2020 is a year of serenity and spending time with those things that give me happiness and optimism. There is no better perfumer than Pissara Umavijani to reflect these qualities, and no better perfume with which to christen the new year than her newest, Le Pavillon d'Or.

Ms. Umavijani goes to a contemplative and serene place with this newest introduction. She again uses one of the poems of her father, Montri Umavijani, who was a lauded poet in Thailand, as an inspirational springboard to interpret into scent. She states that Le Pavillon d'Or was "inspired by a very human quest for happiness and inner peace," and "to evoke the sheer joy of serene self-confidence and peace of mind." 

When a perfumer chooses to illustrate a color, in this case gold, it is always interesting to see their interpretation. Previous incarnations of perfumes with the name gold have often chosen the path of glitz and glitter, big and bold for a wow effect. Ms. Umavijani takes Le Pavillon d'Or in the opposite direction, choosing to illustrate gold as a more precious thing, softly glowing and fine.  I have read that Ms. Umavijani was inspired by three lakes and the feeling of contentment they gave her. Here, gold is not measured in dollars and cents, but as the highest quality of  tranquility one can achieve when finding happiness in non tangibles and inner contentment. Ms. Umavijani has chosen to make a perfume to represent happiness and inner-peace, or as expressed in one of her father's poems:
To be able to live more happily in just any confinement." Montri Umavijani
When I first read in other reviews that Le Pavillon d'Or opened with notes of mint and honeysuckle, I admit I was a bit confounded. Mint didn't fit into my mental image of what gold should "smell" like. But this is not the mint that I pluck from my garden to flavor my ice tea. This is actually wild menthe citrata, of which I knew absolutely nothing. Just as when I wrote a review on Erawan I had to research one of the ingredients, liatris, it was the same here. Menthe citrata is a hybrid of mentha aquatica, which is found in waterways. Did Ms Umavijani smell this plant as she sat beside the lake or did she pick it specifically for its properties?

In any case, it seems she found the perfect note to cast this spell of well-being. Wild menthe citrata, also called bergamot mint, is described as a complex and uplifting fragrance. The Philbee Aromatics website describes the process of collecting the mint to make a distillation as "a completely uplifting experience", and Hermitage Oils website gives this effusive recommendation of the oil: "The aroma is simply divine,...this material is bright, cheerful, uplifting, inspiring, clean and refreshing." I go on about this note only because it was not the scent I expected from something in the mint family. It's not the mint of chewing gum but appears as a wet green scent throwing herbal aspects, intertwined with a slight mint aroma for lift.

The mint and a honeysuckle extrait combine for an altogether sweetly seductive opening, a smell that demands the release of tensions and is calming to the mind. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention what to me is the bedrock of the fragrance, notes of orris root, fig leaf, and a slightly powdery note that feels green or yellow, but never like white powder. These notes hum quietly in the background, and the featured notes dance in and out, adding interesting facets. The orris note is not as evident to me, it gives an austere woody note which is subdued on my skin. The fig leaf is more evident with a sweet green scent, supporting the herbal notes. The powdery note was the most interesting to me, because it made me picture floaty yellow mimosa blossoms; this is not a face powder scent. To my knowledge there is no mimosa in this perfume, so this powdery note must be influenced by all the green notes in Le Pavillon d'Or. 

Pinterest Image

Then we get to the heart notes. Baronia, a rare and expensive absolute in perfumery, adds rich fruity floral notes. What I find most intriguing is the addition of Frankincense Green Sacra. Again, I had to research how this differed from the frankincense I was accustomed to smelling in perfumes, and again I found effusive prose as to the positive mind bending aura cast by this ingredient. Nature's Gift, a supplier of oils, describes frankincense green sacra in this way: "Green sacara is a lighthearted delight, full of sunlight and sky. It is the happiest of our frankincense oils." The scent of this oil is described as having aspects of resinous honey, candied lemons, and sweet amber infused with wood and floral notes."

Again, Ms. Umavijani has utilized a note prized for its rich and uplifting smell as well as its mood boosting effects. White thyme oil adds delicate herbal nuance to the scent and is also prized for it's calming nature. Eventually, hours later, the scent drifts into soft notes of rum-spiked vanilla and sandalwood, like sinking into a plush feather bed.

Out of all the scents Ms. Umavijani has created, this is the one that most reminds me of her outer persona. Since she came on the fragrance scene in 2016, Ms. Umavijani has reached out to her customers and even small bloggers like me. In all her dealings she shows herself to be kind and thoughtul, and as beautiful on the inside as out. To me Le Pavillon d'Or portrays in scented form this  grace and beauty. It seems that 2020 has debuted with a lot of outward clamour. With Le Pavillon d'Or you can for a time drift in a world as soft and muted as one of the tender watercolors Ms. Umavijani paints to illustrate her various perfumes.

I find that as time goes on Ms. Umavijani's perfumes are becoming more nuanced, more layered, more surprising. I eagerly await the next. And I think that in 2020 there are going to be more than a few days that I will anoint myself in this veil of calm to breathe in its beauty and remember— it is the precious moments in life that are truly gold.

The whole time I was trying to describe the perfume in words, this song which is one of my favorites, kept drifting into my mind. It's more than the lyrics of "fields of gold", it's the tender, beautiful mood the song sets that remind me of Le Pavillon d'Or. Enjoy!

Photos from, you tube, pinterest. Thank you to Pissara Umavijani for my perfume sample.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Importance of Scent In A Challenging World

The year 2019 was a challenging one for me, and the first thing to go was my fragrance blogging. Health challenges had to be reckoned with and resulted in missing planned trips to renew old friendships. But the punctuation mark of sad tidings was the death of our beloved family pet Buffy right before Thanksgiving. Anyone who has had a loved pet in their life knows the particularly acute pain that loss can bring.

I knew the time was approaching to say goodbye to our almost sixteen year old dog, Buffy. She had Cushings disease which among other things was wasting away her leg muscles, extra sad because a Springer Spaniel's raison d'etre is the ability to perform twirling pirouettes of joy in midair with three feet of air beneath the paws. We had another year, I reckoned. I had planned the end. When she was no longer able to live her life we would gather around as she rested in her beloved and somewhat smelly bed and send her off in comfort, surrounded by love.

When you don't feel well the day-to-day bad news can drag you down more than usual, but one of the saving graces for me was an almost daily visit to online fragrance lover group sites, populated by people like me, who find beauty through scent and their sense of smell. The online fragrance community is such a warm and accepting group, at least on the sites I most often frequent, Eau My Soul  and Facebook Fragrance Friends.  Random acts of kindness are frequent. In fact, in totally coincidental timing, right after dealing with the death of my pet I won an extremely generous RAOK set of samples from a member on EMS, which she had put together to honor her friendship with the late Robert Herrman, a beloved member of the fragrance community and a writer for Cafleurebon. 

In the last year Buffy's hearing and sight had become compromised. On walks, the squirrels which she used to love to chase seemed to sense that she didn't see them anymore and would literally stroll across the path right in front of her. I wanted to get a slingshot and give them a thump for their disrespect towards my girl!

In a a world that is full of disheartening stories, seemingly insurmountable problems, and incivility like I've never seen in my lifetime, it is lovely to have an online place to go where you know people will be kind, and if they're not they will be summarily bounced out by the online moderators. Smell brings me so much joy. With a spray of  Estee Lauder Private Collection I'm that 29 year old young woman feeling confident and sexy in a leather skirt on my first date with that new Australian engineer on the sixth floor of my office building, not knowing he was my husband to be. Or a whiff of gardenia perfume reminds me of my mother, who planted a gardenia bush right outside the window in front of her kitchen sink so that she could gaze on it the rare times it bloomed in hot Texas summers, and  introduced me to that beautiful scent at a young age.

As her hearing and sight lost their power, Buffy's long nose only seemed to gain in power. Walks were no longer about exercise per se, but about just moving for movement's sake, and most of the journey was spent with her nose to the ground. Storms sometimes knocked branches from the upper heights of the trees we passed on our daily walks. These were of special pleasure, fulsome with the scent of squirrels who had frolicked in them, and were explored thoroughly as I patiently waited, happy for the joy these explorations seemed to bring.

We are lucky, those of us that for whatever reason have this desire to smell everything! Not only do we constantly seek to be delighted in the creativity of a new fragrance. There are cheap thrills a plenty; the scent of the fresh cucumber you cut for lunch as the knife pierces the skin, wild honeysuckle wafting from some unknown hiding place, or the first shovel of upturned earth in spring, after a cold winter. Finding beauty in the everyday and finding people who share that excitement is a wonderful thing.

Buffy's end was sudden, unexpected and not according to plan. Her body started swelling and she was in great pain, and a rush to the emergency clinic— it was night time— brought a diagnosis of twisted stomach, and at her age surgery was not really an option. I had to call my husband who was on a different continent and my three children who were by coincidence all in Dallas about an hour away. The veterinary had given her an injection which made her sleepy to keep her out of pain, and I waited for my now adult children to gather. They had grown up with Buffy, after all. They eventually arrived with their partners and my husband watched via Facetime as we faced this heartbreak together.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing in my blog in 2020, more for my own pleasure rather than that anyone is clamouring for me to do so. Dissecting beauty in scent is very meditative and calming to me, and I especially enjoy those times when I get to communicate with perfumers. All of those I've met or spoken to have been wonderfully generous people. Undoubtedly there will be new fragrances that will excite us this year. There will be scents of foods that will make our mouths water, and scents from nature that will bring us serenity and joy. May we experience that scent that reminds us of an absent loved one or takes us back to a happy memory in time. May we recognize how lucky we are to have the ability, because there are many who are oblivious to the importance of this sense and miss out on these charms.

Buffy's nose was her greatest asset to the end. I would like to think that in those final moments, even as she lay sleeping, that her subconscious recognized our scents and she knew we were there, that she felt the touch of our hands and it gave her comfort, and that she sensed the overwhelming love that filled that room, too big to be contained by mere walls. 

I look forward to interacting with you in 2020, sharing our new scented discoveries and rediscovering some of the old ones. Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and for my part, I welcome the fresh start of a new decade and year!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Histoires de Parfums Opera Collection - 1890 -Tchaikovsky's La Dame de Pique

Histoires de Parfums was founded by Gerald Ghislain in 2000 and his inaugural offerings were named after the birth year of various historical figures such as Casanova and Mata Hari. The boxes arranged side by side look like a library of scents, and since then he has added other characters to his scented collection such as Ernest Hemingway and explored other scented avenues. Most recently the brand has introduced five perfumes built around famous operas and named the perfumes after the date of their debut. This seems a good fit for Mr. Ghislain as he has a background prior to being a perfumer in producing Flamenco shows, and has other scents that reference the theater such as Moulin Rouge and L'Olympia Music Hall .

I have had a good experience with the perfumes of this house and I was eager to explore the Opera Collection. The first thing that struck me when opening my sample packet from Histoires de Parfums was the beautiful presentation, a rather weighty red box which just begged to be opened and explored. The minute I lifted the flap to reveal the samples, a beautiful and unabashedly strong blend of fragrances wafted up towards my nose, unable to be contained even though the hefty samples vials were tightly sealed.

I decided to first try 1890, which commemorates the debut of the opera La Dame de Pique (The Queen of Spades) by Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre. The opera premiered December 19, 1890, and was such a resounding success that it remains in the theater's repertoire today. This is called Pitor Tchaikovsky's "dark opera", and this mood is caught by the perfume, 1890.

Tchaikovsky is flanked by the stars of his new opera, Nikolay and Medeya Figner, 1890.

From the first note this smells like French perfume. When I say something smells like French perfume I definitely mean it as a compliment, and to me this means the scent captures an air of sophistication, of honoring the past fragrance trends and not bowing to current passing fads. The collection of notes blend together seemingly effortlessly so that you don't think,  "That's a rose perfume." Rather each part is combined to achieve a greater whole; notes that when combined together soar and sing in a resounding chorus and become something greater than a singular stand-alone aria. The floral notes of orange blossom, rose, and jasmine in 1890 meld in such a way. Watch this scene as the heroine Liza and her friend Paulina share a song from the opera, combining two great voices, one soprano and one contralto, the different voice ranges complimenting each other and ultimately producing a sound more beautiful than a solo performance.

Histoires de Parfums says this about 1890:
1890 is the perfume of the Slavic Soul and the all-consuming passion for the Queen of Spades.With captivating smoldering wisps, Frankincense, Amber, Musk and Patchouli blend together like a seductive charm to which we willingly surrender.
Do you know that feeling when you walk into a theater for a big night out, be it a play, ballet, orchestra performance, or in fact the opera? When you walk into the lobby there is a hum of anticipation and as the performance draws near, a gong or bell draws the crowds through the doors into the interior sanctum of the theater. The best theaters draw a breath of awe from their audience. What might appear gaudy under daylight with bright red cushioned seats and gilded balconies, suddenly becomes a place of magic under glittering chandeliers and the dimmed theater lights. Mistakes and rough edges disappear and only enchantment remains.

When I first apply 1890 I get a rush of that anticipation; as if the scent is announcing a grand event like the first notes of the orchestra as they tune before the performance, and the audience readies.  This is not a perfume to wear in the daytime. It has a certain grandeur, like that moment when the velvet curtain parts to reveal the stage and you fall headfirst into another world. The first breathes of 1890 bring a honeyed orange blossom. Then the rose and orange blossom blend together with rich wine-like notes, their heaviness translating to a syrupy fortified wine or port. The jasmine has a touch of skank that at first made me assume there was civet in the perfume. These notes all wash over very quickly on my skin, even though they are the heart notes. There is a touch of dry leather buried under the cascade of deep ambered florals. These notes carry the chorus for some time, rising and falling in intensity.

Eventually the base notes of patchouli, amber, incense, and musk cast a provocative spell which echoes the passionate and ultimately unfulfilled love which runs through the storyline of Le Dame de Pique. The Histoires de Parfums site identifies 1890 as an oriental leather perfume and has this description: "Leather and Incense invoke an intensity of souls sensually smitten with loves twists and turns." As in most operas there is love, there is tragedy, and don't hold your breath for a happy ending. To summarize, in La Dame de Pique, poor young man with a penchant for gambling falls in love with engaged young woman. Young man and young woman fall in love. He accidentally kills her Grandmother, trying to drag the secret to her gambling success from her. Her ghost tells him the secret. He goes mad with gambling lust. Despondent young woman throws herself from bridge. Haunted young man soon joins her in death. The perfume echoes this solemn mood. The florals are not light and springlike but dark and teetering on the edge of decay. As the perfume wears well into the skin the base notes of patchouli, amber and musk dominate on my skin, with only a tiny whiff of incense. These notes, along with the jasmine and its slightly feral edge, mirror the play's message of the beauty of love and the danger that can destroy it.

I saw a review of 1890 somewhere that said as this was based around Catherine the Great's court and she loved roses, the perfume should have been an homage to roses. I always find it interesting to see how a perfumer will interpret a person, place, or event into scent, and although we might all have our own ideas, I can definitely see how 1890 takes a tragic play and interprets some of that somberness into a serious perfume. I found the perfume beautiful to wear but it does deserve the right occasion. It has a presence and if you don't appreciate that tiny sprinkle of skank in your perfume life you might find 1890 difficult to wear. I discovered for myself that with each successive wear I enjoyed the perfume more and more.

In the end, and this stage lasted several hours, I can still smell the ghost of the honeyed florals. The patchouli, amber, and musk work together quietly now to make a warm slightly spiced melange, with the occasional whiff of incense rising from the quiet remains. The skank note disappeared long ago and the scent feels comforting, but with a formal feel, a tailored cashmere coat rather than a casually drapped shawl.

I am looking forward to exploring the four remaining perfumes from the Opera Collection over the next few days so please follow if you would like to read more.

Top photo from Second Photo my own. Second is my own image, then Wikipedia image, image, and Google image.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Old Boyfriend Or New Boyfriend? Testing the Differences

Do you remember back in 2010 when actress Kate Walsh made a splash with her perfume Boyfriend? She was a regular on the very popular show, Grey's Anatomy, then got her own spin-off called Private Practice. The story goes that the idea for the perfume was born after a breakup, when she missed waking up in the morning having absorbed lingering traces of her ex's scent. Walsh was one of the few celebrities who really took her perfume debut seriously, going so far as to launch it herself, first on HSN, then Sephora. It was quite popular but eventually disappeared, more due to poor business decisions than lack of popularity. Then in 2018 Walsh decided to revive Boyfriend. 

I was curious if it was the exact same perfume because I've never read a definite answer. The perfumer is the same, Marypierre Julien. The notes look virtually the same. The original had plum, jasmine, lily of the valley, musk, woody notes, amber, and myrrh. The new version adds vanilla woods and benzoin, and takes away the musk. The biggest change is the marketing angle. The original played off the idea of wearing your boyfriend's perfume because you miss him, or it makes you think of him, and featured the tag line "wear him". The newer Boyfriend takes on a more modern attitude, with the line, "I'm the only one I need", and makes it her perfume. Personally I find the original concept a lot more appealing and certainly more romantic, but to each his own.

The original Boyfriend opens with rich opulence, which is interesting considering the original intent was to smell as if you had slept in your boyfriend's shirt, or absorbed some of his scent karma through touch, not directly spraying it on the body. But that first burst subsides from a roar to a steady hum. To me it smells like a man of successful appearance, and I picture him holding a glass of amber bourbon in a cut crystal highball glass, sitting on a plush easy chair of well worn grandeur,  framed from behind by shelves laden with books from floor to ceiling. In other words, my idea of a cozy scene. Boyfriend emits a smell of comfort and seems especially fitting for cooler weather.

The new Boyfriend goes on with a similar tone, but some of the richness is missing in the initial burst of scent.  It is still very cozy with its amber, vanilla, and benzoin notes, but it doesn't have the boozy swagger of the original. Perhaps this is an attempt to make it more hers, and not his. I would recommend the original to men as well as women, but the newer version lacks that masculine touch. This makes me picture a woman, or man, wrapped in a plush blanket, watching a movie on television or perhaps reading a book, cuddled down for the night. Still a cozy scene, but slightly less glamorous.

When I went to bed I thought the original was definitely the winner of the contest. But then when I got up the next morning I still had delicious lingering traces of vanilla and amber wafting up from the right wrist, but the left wrist with the original Boyfriend was silent. This could be to the fact that it's an older perfume, but in perfume years ten years shouldn't matter that much. I think if I rebought, and the only place I know to find the original is on Ebay, I would go for the newer version, just because it lingers longer. There are other perfumes that do what this does, wrapping the wearer in a warm vanilla/amber hug, but this is a good one to try if you are lacking that in your collection. Boyfriend is available at

Top photo Google image. Perfume samples are my own.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Kelly + Jones Introduces The Crush Collection

Kelly + Jones recently added two new scents to their collection of wine-inspired perfumes.  The Crush Collection features Bouquet and Vigne.  Bouquet is created to represent a Catskills and  Hudson Valley wine harvest, while Vigne moves West, calling to mind a California vineyard. Kelly Jones, the brand's founder, refers to herself as a scent sommelier, and started her brand to capture the nuances of a wine tasting in the art of perfumery.

Bouquet starts off with a watery feel that to me references the juiciness of the grapes. It is light, and initially reminds me a little of Caudalie Fleur de Vigne fresh fragrance spray. It  has notes of bergamot, orange wine, rose petals, rhubarb, and cedar. The bergamot doesn't stand out and there is no strong citrus component to this scent, however I do smell a bit of orange in the initial opening. It is not a juicy citrus-type orange, but rather more of a creamsicle smell.  I wasn't familiar with orange wine but it is a technique of leaving the white grape seeds and skins in contact with the juice, which in turn gives it an orange hue. It also is said to add flavor notes of peach or apricot, and intensify the floral notes in the wine. I get the merest whiff of rose petals but it doesn't translate into a "rose" perfume. What I smell most prevalently is a watery cucumber-like wetness which I believe comes from the rhubarb. It also throws a subtle strawberry scent. During the development I get a soapy smell on occasion.

Bouquet is a light scent but it does begin to develop a bit of muskiness, like the skin of ripening grapes. Overall the scent makes me picture round globes of green grapes, light and fresh tasting. It somehow gives the effect of the watery juice without veering toward sweetness. I was ready to write this off at first sniff, but it is one of those scents that keeps gathering steam, the longer it sits on your skin. If you're looking for wow factor or a big scent this won't be for you. But if you want to have a gentle green/floral/liquid scent that is mainly for personal wear...little discernible sillage...then this could be your cup of tea.

Vigne opens with a sharp note of blackcurrant. It doesn't display a big berry smell, it is more reminiscent of the vines, woody and green. There is a slight dusting of cardamom which adds a piquant bite to the muskiness. Notes listed are blackcurrant, petit verdot, cardamom, jasmine absolute, and California cypress. Petit Verdot can have nuances of black cherry, plum, lilac, sage, and violet, and in Vigne I sense a slight pluminess.

The scent winds down to the scent of California Cypress, a soft wood note that feels a little musky. There is Jasmine Absolute in the perfume but I don't get any of the pungent narcotic smell of jasmine. I'm guessing it is there to add a slight sweetness to the overall woodiness. The perfume doesn't feel floral, but more the woodiness of the tough curling vines and the muskiness that mingles with the leaves and the ripening grapes.

Both of these scents wear very lightly but I find the Vigne has a stronger scent profile, and for me, is more appealing to wear. It is subtle and quiet, but it has creamy aspects and a ripe, rich muskiness, which feels very apropos for autumn. The cardamom is subdued but adds a tinge of spice to the appealing musky skin scent, meant to be reminiscent of walking through the vines at the vineyard. Vigne reminds me a little of wearing fig scents, so if you enjoy those you should give Vigne a try.

I will be doing some more stories featuring the wine and perfume connection soon, as living part of the year near Australian vineyards is a big scent inspiration.

Pictures without identification are from the website. The perfume samples were my own.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Perfumes for an Indian Summer

Summer is over, or it should be. But here in North Texas we are still reaching temperatures of the mid-90's every day. It sounds like autumn....I live by a college football stadium and I can hear the band practicing in the afternoons, and the announcer's voice is crystal clear during the Saturday games, "And it's touchdown, T--C--U--!". But instead of bundling up in sweaters and taking a blanket to wrap around me while I watch the game, I'm spending the Saturday afternoons laying by my pool, trying to cool off in the sweltering heat, and pitying those poor band members in their heavy uniforms.

I'm sick of beach scents or tropical florals, but what to wear, fragrantly? It is far too hot to wear heavy Orientals or the favored aldehyde perfumes I drag out in winter. I search for perfumes that speak of the cooler temperatures to come and that give a hint of the autumn season, but do so with a featherlight touch, so as not to knock myself out. Here are a few perfumes I've been wearing lately.

Jo Malone Black Cedarwood & Juniper

This was introduced in 2014 as part of the annual Jo Malone limited edition and that year the theme was London Rain. Black Cedarwood & Juniper was meant to represent midnight rain and was the darkest of the four in the series. It was also the only one that was revived after the limited edition ended.

I am walking through a forest. It has rained recently, and the smell of the foliage is amplified, as it is wont to do when damp. The needles from the juniper bush and the cedar trees have made a thick, soft carpet underfoot and their sharp, fragrant smell is stirred up as my steps crush the foliage. Cedarwood has a distinctive smell I've known all my life. I think every Texas rest stop has a bush or two, and childrens summer camps, usually on the banks of a river, are dotted with old cedar trees. This smell is probably embedded into the olfactory memories of thousands of campers--a magical space free of parents, full of adventure, and in a bubble of this extraordinarily scented air. The cedarwood in the perfume has a bit of the pencil shaving smell, but is also camphorous, and at its best moments, slightly balsamic and sweet.

The juniper can smells a little like cedarwood but it also offers gentle wisps of incense from time to time. Although a fairly simple and linear scent, it does waft and wane with these different notes, just like what would occur in a real walk through the forest. There is a feeling of humidity and moisture in the air, a part of the original theme of this perfume which was meant to reflect a rainy day. Along with the heat Texas is experiencing a drought, so the aura of rain is a welcome one.

 Byredo Gypsy Water

Kate Moss in a fashion shoot for V Magazine.

I tried to resist Gypsy Water for so long. It has a reputation for being light wearing and short lived, but here's the thing. It is that very characteristic that is part of its charm and makes it so realistic of a commune with nature, or more poetically, a day in the life of a gypsy traveler.

The fragrance opens with notes of juniper and pine, reminiscent of a morning stroll through a forest. Lemon and bergamot give it a brightness and pepper adds slight sharpness to this fragrant air. There is vanilla in the mix but this doesn't present as a vanilla fragrance in any way; rather the note just adds a tiny touch of sweetness. Orris root, sandalwood, and amber round out the notes, but that doesn't explain how this smells.  When I apply Gypsy Water it takes me back to the long ago days when I used to go camping (when sleeping on the ground still seemed like a good idea). There is really nothing like waking up in the forest, smelling the air fragrant with the language of the trees. This is where the current idea of forest bathing came from, after all. The one note I didn't mention above is incense and it is this that elevates the perfume to perfection. It is not overly smokey but is quietly pervasive throughout the life of the scent. It is the scent of a campfire burning in the distance, maybe fueled by fragrant pine branches. Wearing Gypsy Water always puts a smile on my face and imparts a feeling of well being. I don't live near any forests and I'm not lucky enough to be able to take a hike through the woods, but with Gypsy Water, I can somewhat replicate that feeling. It feels like hope in a bottle.

Bond No 9 andy Warhol Lexington Avenue

Hello Autumn! This fragrance immediately takes me to a happy place where the weather is cool and crisp and the leaves have turned a kaleidoscope of fiery colors. It is a beautiful combination of warm and cool on my skin. Blue cypress gives a fragrant woody whoosh effect, like walking outside into the cold and the first air you inhale seems to clear the lungs and nasal passages. Spices of cardamom, star anise, and fennel pull back by adding spicy warmth to the fragrance. The spices remind me a little of the ones in my beloved Bond No 9 Chinatown, but there are no white flowers here, it's all about woods and spices. 

As the fragrance develops a subtle gourmand aspect appears, with notes of creme brulee and pimento berry. It is nicely managed and doesn't tip over the top to sugary sweetness, it just combines with the spices to give a yumminess to the scent. Base notes of sandalwood and patchouli round it ou. The perfumer for this 2008 release is Claude Dir of Givaudan, who I notice also was responsible for Banana Republic 17 Oud Mosaic, the only scent from that line that really captured my attention and where the wood notes are also handled with a master touch.

Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli

I know, I've mentioned this one before. It is perfect in any season, but it's light bright opening really works in warm weather. The patchouli, however, makes it feel right for autumn weather. If you're afraid of patchouli this is a good place to start because the note is earthy, green, but fairly light. The mate tea note provides the light opening, without using citrus as so many perfumes do. Heliotrope works to balance the patchouli by providing a semi-sweet powder which is pretty much the opposite of the rustic patchouli. I really don't know why I like this so much. It's fairly simple but I find it to be just the perfect combination of notes; it feels chic, innovative, yet simple. On the website it is called a woman's perfume but I think this would be delicious on a man. This would be on a top ten perfume list if I ever made one. I don't know what the other nine would be but Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli would definitely have a place on that list.

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Parfums Berdoues Oud Al Sahraa

This is an Oriental Woody fragrance featuring oud and myrrh which sounds weighty but wears like a silk scarf of scent, a trademark of the Berdoues Grand Cru line. I have already written a longer review of this fragrance here but the highlight is this gives the fun of wearing an Oriental fragrance without the heaviness of that genre that would weigh you down in hot weather. The mandarin top note is rather generic to my nose but no worries, it lasts only seconds. The myrrh is woody and slightly balsamic and the oud (if it is real oud) offers a slight smokiness along with more woods. Oud Al Sahraa is not groundbreaking and doesn't have a strong presence, but that is the whole point here. It works well in warm weather and in cold weather it becomes an office-friendly Oriental fragrance.

Bonus! The bottle is super cool and the price point is pretty fantastic.

All of these perfumes are totally unisex. What perfumes are you wearing right now?

Top photo: Other photos not identified are Google images. Perfumes are my own. Opinions are my own.