Thursday, May 24, 2018

Le Jardine Retrouve Perfume Revival Project: Pick Red, Green, Yellow or Black

Le Jardin Retrouve has a fun project going on right now and you can still participate. It is called The Perfume Revival Project. A huge file of formulas from Le Jardin Retrouve founder Yuri Gutsatz's long career as a perfumer were found in a forgotten box in the basement of the family home. Yuri's son Michel and his partner Clara Feder wanted to revive some of the perfumes and gave the pile of papers to in-house perfumer Maxence Moutte. He first narrowed it down to one hundred and from that made up eight into perfumes. The eight was narrowed down to four favorites and now Le Jardin Retrouve is asking their customers help in choosing which one of the four should be released. It sounded like fun and I had been impressed with the brands other releases so I sent off for the samples. They arrived beautifully packaged and with a handwritten addressed note. These are my impressions of the four, and let me state from the outset, I'm not good at identifying mystery notes!


This is a floral. Very languid. Makes me want to bring out my Southern drawl. It is a little lemony but very humid and steamy. At first spray I thought I smelled lily, but now it smells like jasmine, and a very green jasmine. This is not a heavy indolic night flower, but a sprinkling of the spiky white flowers over a green leafy bush. It makes me picture myself circa 1980's in a flowy floral dress, shady straw hat, sipping a mint julep under 100-year-old oak trees. I love jasmine (assuming that is what this is) and in fact I love all white flowers, so this feels pretty, airy, and feminine. It's my first sniff and so far, it's my number one pick!


This has a very herbal fresh green opening. I sense a  peppery note that adds a little heat and spice. As it settles in there is a slightly smoky feel that I sometimes get with vetiver. This one is not reacting on my skin in any exciting way. It is just kind of sitting there. This is a no go for me. Yellow still reigns.


This immediately feels elegant. I have been making travel plans to France all day and I can picture wearing this while strolling alongside the Seine, preferably holding lots of bags from perfume boutiques! It feels like a chypre to me as there is a mossy feel to the base. I can see this one being divisive; it's one of those you love it or you don't type perfumes. Honestly, I can't identify the notes but it has that feel of French perfumes, where it is not the individual notes but the sum of them together that makes the perfume special and elegant. I like this! It's one of those perfumes that after I put it on I look down at what I'm wearing and groan. It makes me want to up my fashion game. I still like Yellow but Red feels a bit more special. Yellow is now nudged to number two.


Wow! This one gets right to it! At first spray I am surrounded by a spicy cloud punctuated with shafts of brightness. There is a touch of smoke in the background. If it was a cold day this would immediately shoot to the top of my picks. Not that you couldn't wear this in the heat; it's just one of those scents that would be so cozy in the cold. I don't like to gender label scents, and I could definitely wear this one but I would really, really like it on my husband. There is a really nice masculine vibe. Something about it almost feels a little gourmand at the beginning. The citrus is mixing with some note that comes off slightly sweet to me, plus the spices amplify that effect. This is a really great scent and I think it will be especially popular with the male contingent testing the perfumes.

So my final verdict:

It is not too late if you want to participate in the project. You can go to the Le Jardin Retrouve website, or you can go to this page on Facebook for more information: Le Jardin RetrouvĂ© & YOU. You are able to order the set through June 15, and the vote ends June 22nd. I will be interested to see which perfume wins. I don't know about the actual vote, but judging by people's comments on the Facebook page I would say Red and Black seem to be getting a lot of attention.

Samples and photos my own.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Le Jardin Retrouve

I have had these pretty sample boxes from Paris perfume house Le Jardin Retrouve for at least six months. I kept meaning to try them. All the reviews I had read were positive. I finally shook myself out of my sniffing lethargy and I'm glad I did. I liked all the scents and they seem especially fitting  for the spring and summer season.

Le Jardin Retrouve was started in 1975 by perfumer Yuri Gutsatz and claims to be the very first Niche Maison de Parfum. Yuri had an extensive background with perfume including a stint managing an ingredient factory in Bombay. After Yuri's death in 2005 the brand's presence waned until 2016 when Yuri's son Michel and wife Clara Feder revived the brand. The story is they sold their family home to finance this passion project and picked seven of the original fragrances to bring back. Clara has a background in media and created the striking art for the packages which has a modernistic impressionist vibe. She also writes the background story for each perfume, based on the premise of "found" gardens, a literal translation of Le Jardin Retrouve.

Verveine d'Ete is a very fresh and invigorating scent. Singapore Airlines used to carry a L'Occitane verveine scent in their bathrooms and it was always a pleasant wake up when you were hours into a flight and feeling fatigued. It is light, inoffensive, and could be worn with equal ease by a man or woman. The story written for this perfume begins, "1878. You walk in the Summer Garden in the heart of St. Petersburg. There was a refreshing rainstorm...". Notes of basil, bergamot, vetiver, and eucalyptus provide the bracing notes and oakmoss gives a smooth finish to the scent.

Citron Boboli is the other citrus perfume in the collection. The citrus notes of  Italian lemon, petitgrain, and orange blend together to remind me of the gorgeous scent the tiny blossoms on my lemon tree provide. There is a sweetness to this scent which reminds me of a confection, perhaps a lemon macaroon or cookie. It is not overwhelmingly sweet, just enough to temper the tartness. A hint of black pepper and cloves add a tiny touch of spice to the concoction. I find Citron Bobli very cheerful. The poetic inspiration for this perfume is the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Pitti in Italy.

Eau des Delices was inspired by the painting in the Prado Museum by Hieronymus Bosch, "The Garden of Delights". I saw this painting in person last year and was blown away by the modernism of this artwork from 1503. Eau des Delices is classified as eau fraiche with its notes of  lemon, tangerine, bergamot, and petitgrain. What distinguishes it from the two above is the addition of lavender, which warms the citrus notes. It reminds me a little of L'Artisan Seville a l'Aube which also features citrus with lavender. I think I like the initial opening of the two citrus perfumes more, but I like the eventual dry down of Eau des Delices the best. It feels deeper with a bit of broodiness.

Sandalwood Sacre is a light, fresh take on sandalwood. I sometimes find stand alone sandalwood to be a bit musty and dry. I like the brightness that the petitgrain provides, like letting sunlight into a dark place. Notes of balsam, musk, oakmoss, and patchouli add depth to the scent but it maintains this aromatic shimmery light. While its sandalwood may not stand out alone as some sandalwood perfumes do, I appreciate the brightness and wearability of this. It is inspired by the idea of an Indian Hindu temple on the banks of the Nerboudda River. I really like this, if only it had some longevity on my skin.

Tubereuse Trianon starts with a surprisingly big blast of creamy tuberose. After the overall lightness of the previous fragrances I've tried I was expecting a watercolor tuberose, but it's definitely a presence. Listed notes are tuberose, ylang ylang, and coriander. The ylang ylang gives it a warm and sunny appeal. I sometimes get the sense I'm smelling frangipani, but it's not listed. I can't see this being a hit with those who don't like tuberose, but I love the flower and found this to be a very nice version. After the initial blast the tuberose does settle down to a quieter presence. The overall feel is tropical, languid, and creamy. The garden inspiration is the Trianon in the Garden of Versailles.

Rose Trocadero is the second floral in the Le Jardin Retrouve stable of scents. The first time I tried it I wasn't too fond of it. It just smelled like scented soap. The next time I got the sense of an aquatic rose. I read the copy and part of it says, "Before you; the Trocadero Palace. Suddenly a woman approaches. She is carrying a huge bouquet of roses and heads toward the Seine." So I asked myself, was this aquatic feel deliberate, ie, the Seine? Or was that just something I made up? The rose smells like tea rose to me, and something about this reminds me of rose scents I used to smell when I lived in India. I can't put my finger on why. Other notes are blackcurrant, clove, and musk. I don't smell the clove at all, which usually is a note that stands out to me. I don't dislike this, but so far it is my least favorite.

Cuir de Russie is classified as a floral leather and has notes of  ylang ylang, violet, patchouli, cinnamon, juniper, and styrax. When I was researching what others had thought about the line, Cuir de Russie was overwhelmingly a favorite with reviewers and it's easy to see why. I don't always love leather fragrances but when they work, oh! how alluring they can be. The violet and leather combo is beautifully done. The rest of the notes are a supporting cast of players. The story inspiration for this scent is the Ballet Russe at the opera hall. It's a good allusion which captures the delicacy of the leather and the fairy-tale beauty of the floral notes. I like this one more each time I spray it and I have to agree with my fellow reviewers, it is probably the most unique and the most memorable of the scents from the Le Jardin Retrouve line. When I sniff my wrist, it is easy to fall into the dreamworld that I am watching the ballet, the dancer's leather shoes spinning and gliding, surrounded by beautifully scented people in the most elegant of settings.

I really enjoyed trying the scents from Le Jardin Retrouve. It's hard to see how anyone could take a dislike to any of them, except maybe the florals, which have stronger notes. Perhaps there is nothing groundbreaking about most of them, but the quality of the ingredients used shine through and they are enjoyable to wear. You may order samples from the site here.

Top photo my own. Other photos from Samples purchased by me.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Celebrating Mother's Day With Iris: Serge Lutens Bas de Soie

Iris Garden ~ Ada Walter Shulz ~ (American, 1870–1928)

This is a true story.

My memories of my paternal Grandmother who died when I was only seven are of a stern woman dressed in a plain housedress, hair in a loose bun, and orthopedic shoes that made her look much older than her years. Life had not been kind. She lost her husband when her oldest child, my father, was only six, leaving her with three children to care for. The Great Depression was literally at her doorstep. Times were hard everywhere and especially in a small Texas farming town. I remember her in sepia tones of grey and brown, not much color in  her simple life. But there was one glaring exception. Every spring colorful showy iris, which ran in a bed that stretched from her small boxy house all the way to the street, would burst forth in a variety of gorgeous colors. The iris were so delicate, almost sensuous in their beauty. How did this shadowy woman I remember come to love these exotic blooms?

When my Grandmother died my father dug up many of the bulbs and transplanted them in our back flower bed. My Grandmother's garden had iris of many colors, but when they bloomed in our backyard they were all purple. Every spring we would be treated to a showy display for about a month, a living reminder to my father of his mother.

Flash forward many, many years. My father had died about eight years before. I was living in Singapore and had just flown out of the country after wishing my Mother goodbye, saying "see you at Thanksgiving". I had barely unloaded my bags when I got the call that my Mother had a cerebral aneurysm and was dying.  I rushed back, hoping for a final moment, but she slipped away sometime when I was over the Pacific. My memories at the cemetery are hazy and Dickensian in nature: dark brooding skies, cold winds, black garb and somber faces. In retrospect I realized this had to be my imagination. It was September. I know I wore a sleeveless dress. Where did I get these images? However for eight years I had no desire to revisit the burial place.

When my sister and I were cleaning out my mother's house one of my sister's friends made a loving gesture. She went to my Mom's house and dug up some of these same iris bulbs that had come from my Grandmother's house forty years before and transplanted them in my yard. For years their green leaves looked healthy but I waited in vain every year for the purple blooms which never came.

Last year which was eight years after my Mother's death, my sister was in town for a wedding. I decided I was finally ready to visit my Mother's grave. It was a gorgeous early spring day. As we drove down the country road leading to the small family cemetery we passed through a tunnel of trees lining the road, gently bowed and providing our path with dappled scattered diamonds of sunlight that broke through the leaves. We eventually came to the gate of the cemetery. It is a small rustic plot of land for extended family only, so uncrowded and perched on a gentle hill. There were patches of Texas wildflowers dotting the unmanicured ground: the blue of bluebonnets, pink primrose, red Indian paintbrushes. I was astounded. It was beautiful. Instantly all the dark unhappy images my brain had conjured for all these years were erased and I was left with the image of this peaceful scene.

As we drove home I felt the lightness of my heart. Trip completed we drove into my driveway. There in the bed by the drive was one single perfect, purple iris. It had unfurled since we left the house from a bud I had never noticed. It seemed like a magical exclamation mark from my Mother to punctuate the ending of a healing day.

This year the iris were plentiful and are a living reminder of my Grandmother, my Father, my Mother, and the ties and memories that bind us together as a family.

My Mother wasn't much into scent. A bottle of Wind Song that was there when I was a child was still half full when she died. She was always impeccably put together as so many women of her generation are: perfectly coiffed hair, neat matching attire. At eighty she had fretted that she was losing her waspish waist to the battle of lax muscle. She grew up in an era when good manners and graciousness were hallmarks of being a lady and she lived these values to the end. I sometimes long to hear what she would think about the degeneration of these attributes in the almost decade she has been gone.

So I have no scent memories persay to identify with my Mother, but these iris, passed down through the family, seem a good place to land on Mother's Day when I'm searching for a scent. There are so many iris perfumes to consider, and I hover over one of my top ten perfume favorites, Prada Infusion d'Iris. But what I ultimately decide on is even more perfect, and a scent I had forgotten, Serge Lutens Bas de Soie. The perfume created by Christopher Sheldrake was released in 2010 to mixed acclaim. I remember being indifferent to it at the time, and this was the era when Serge Lutens was everything. Some called it too shrill, too cold, too piercingly sharp. Most reviewers agreed, though, that the mix of hyacinth and iris created a perfume that transported the wearer to visions of blue. I also get this sensation, which goes along with my purple-blue iris just wonderfully.

On opening there is a moment of cool hyacinth. The scent quickly starts to expand, as if getting life from oxygen. It becomes more green, like the first signs of spring gardens when the weather is still crisp. The orris notes of the iris join in and the duo of iris and hyacinth compliment each other with their cool greenness. There is a definite French refinement to this scent. Bas de Soie translates from French to mean "silk stockings" and that is what the perfumer is trying to convey. The luxury and properness from an era when women's legs were always clad in stockings, preferably made of fine, almost invisible silk. My Mother used to tell me a story of how in World War II, when she was a sixteen year old working in an office, she would use and eyebrow pencil to draw lines up the back of her legs to disguise the fact that stockings were unavailable in the days of war rations. I feel I could time travel a bottle of Bas de Soie back to 1940 and into my Mother's hands and it would be totally at home in that era. Like my memories of my Mother, this perfume speaks of refinement and elegant style. Now that I have rediscovered Bas de Soie perhaps it will be my secret weapon to wear as an armor against today's moments of incivility, a talisman to reach for a higher standard. There is something rather regal about the smell of iris. Just as the flower is impossibly beautiful and extremely fanciful, the smell holds itself a bit apart. Is it austere or is it sensual? Is it cold or is it warm and embracing? To me iris is a bit of a mystery and Serge Lutens Bas de Soie is an olfactory illustration of that mystique.

My Mother, Norma. I miss you every single day.

Have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Top painting, Iris Garden, by Ada Walter Schultz. Iris painting, Marianne Broome. Perfume my own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Moscow Mule from Juliet Has A Gun

A Moscow Mule is the uber-trendy drink made so popular in recent years that it is now a ubiquitous summer selection at most bars. It has also spawned an industry selling the copper mugs in which the drink must be served or it's not a Moscow Mule. It is the alchemy of the vodka hitting the copper, the ice chilling the copper walls of the mug, the ginger beer spritzed with a squeeze of lime, that make this perfect marriage of a summer drink. Now Perfumer Romano Ricci has used this as inspiration to launch a perfumed version of the iconic drink, Juliette Has A Gun Moscow MuleIt is a light easy-to-wear take on the popular drink traditionally served in a hammered copper mug. 

A Moscow Mule consists of vodka, lime, and ginger beer, and the perfume follows this directive. At first application there is the tartness of bergamot, followed by the spiciness of ginger. Ginger can take over a perfume if used too generously, but here it just adds subtle spice to the brew. JHAG Moscow Mule contains Iso E Super, which lends a woody but transparent aspect to the scent. 

In the heart notes you  find apple essence, sandalwood, and a touch of extreme amber. For me these notes blend with the base notes of Norlimbanol, a molecule from Firmenich, the Swiss flavor and fragrance company. Norlimbanol gives a dry woodiness to perfumes and on my skin Moscow Mule settled into a woody, slightly musky scent after the initial zest and spice. If you've drank a Moscow Mule on a warm day, you know that the vodka washes down deceptively easy when mixed with the ginger beer. The ice cold feel of the drink is exaggerated by the copper mug which holds and amplifies the chill factor, and sometimes you can almost taste the metallic copper. There were a couple of times during the life of the perfume I could sense that sensation of metallic tang.

Romano Ricci, pictured above, is the founder and perfumer of the Juliette Has A Gun line of perfumes. He has fashion and perfume in the bloodline: he is the great grandson of French couturier Nina Ricci, and grandson of Robert Ricci who founded the family perfume empire. Romano could have joined the family business but instead he forged his own path, starting his company in 2005. Francis Kurkdjian was a co-collaborator on early perfumes in the line but Romano is now the sole perfumer. He has brought a certain irreverence and playfulness to the line. The newest introduction, Moscow Mule, is a good example of this relaxed attitude. I found Moscow Mule to be a light, fresh and effortless scent to wear, very casual and relaxed. I didn't smell it strongly on myself but got a compliment the first time I wore it so I guess it has more projection that I realized. If you are looking for a new scent to welcome summer or if you're a fan of the copper-clad cocktail, Moscow Mule should be on your radar to try.

Top photo from All other photos from Juliette has a gun. Perfume provided by Juliette has a gun.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Day with DSH Perfumes Muguet Cologne

Today the French celebrate May 1st as La Fete du Travail which is like our Labor Day in the USA. But it is also La Fete du Muguet, or Lily of the Valley Day. The tradition started all the way back in May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX was presented with a bouquet of lily of the valley, given to wish him luck and prosperity in the coming year. He must have liked the gesture because legend says that every year thereafter on May 1st he presented the ladies of the court with a small bouquet of the flowers.

There are many beautiful lily of the valley scents, the most famous being Christian Dior's Diorissimo, which has stood the test of time and is still famous today. Muguet perfumes are generally sweet and the lily of the valley is a distinctive white flower with a smell that is delicate and virginal, its scent bringing to mind the opening days of spring and the earth's renewal after a long winter.

This year I decided I was in the mood for something different and reached for DSH Perfumes Muguet Cologne.  On her website, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (DSH) says that while she had men in mind when creating Muguet Cologne, it's really for anyone. It is probably difficult for the average man to pull of wearing muguet perfumes which veer ultra-feminine, but Muguet Cologne features the lily of the valley note encased in a light green woody fragrance.

When Muguet Cologne is first applied the woody and aromatic notes are strongest on my skin. This is a cologne, so the overall feel is light, airy, and transparent. There is that moment when it seems like the scent merges with your skin, and it's almost like there is a pot of fragrance being stirred as various aromas rise up. Woody notes of virginia cedar, sandalwood, violet leaf, and Brazilian vetiver provide the base. Aromatic notes of patchouli, frankincense, and balsam are present but muted. Light citrus notes of bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit provide a faint sparkle. The muguet note only makes an appearance on my skin after the other notes have settled down. It is a green rather than a sweet version of the flower. In all honestly had  I not known it was lily of the valley I probably wouldn't have been able to identify the floral green note as my nose is not that sophisticated and DSH fragrances are always well blended. While there is definitely that masculine cologne vibe to Muguet Cologne, I am very comfortable wearing it and find it to be an easy aromatic with a fresh and spring-like appeal.

DSH Perfumes Muguet Cologne is 100% natural, unless it is shipped overseas, in which case the alcohol content is slightly modified to meet international shipping requirements.

Happy May Day everyone!

Top photo Google image. Bottom photo from Sample my own.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX and the Flight From Hell

I have a love/hate relationship with the world's duty free shops. On the positive side, access to perfumes that my local stores don't carry. On the negative, how many can you effectively try? And there is the risk of reeking of perfume as you enter the airplane, and the reason I always carry wet wipes. So recently when I found that my flight from New Zealand to the USA was delayed for six hours due to mechanical issues, I knew I'd have time for a long browse in duty free. It's interesting how many airports are building their terminals where you have no choice but to walk through duty free and this was the case in Auckland. The perfume selection was large but mostly the usual suspects easily found in department stores. They had the Bvlgari Le Gemme collection which I have yet to warm up to but what I saw that did get my attention was the Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano collection. I've had the opportunity to try a few of the original six and I liked what I smelled. Plus the bottles are beautiful, with glass that resembles a cut crystal goblet and the pale juices inside of various pastel hues.

This collection was released in 2016 and was inspired by a sixteenth century villa and garden designed by Andrea Palladio in the Veneto region of Italy. This is the area where Bottega Veneta was founded. The project was directed by Creative Director Tomas Maier, and each different fragrance is meant to represent a different moment or turn in the path at the Parco Palladiano gardens.

I had already tried the first six of the collection which are totally unisex but other than VI they seem slightly geared more toward men. The three newest additions to the collection, Parco Palladiano VII, VIII and IX, are more feminine. I was most interested in trying VII, with notes of lavender, or VIII scented with orange blossom, but it was IX that I ultimately found the most interesting. I was sniffing the nozzles when at this juncture a sales person came scurrying my way. She thrust a handful of paper strips toward me but I said that I prefer to test on my skin, and sprayed a small bit on my arm.

Her eyebrows drew up in alarm. "My, you just sprayed anyway," she said, again waving her strips of paper in front of me. She positioned herself between me and the perfume, effectively blocking any more attempts I might make to outwit her perfume policing practices. I had been inclined towards buying IX, but discouraged and annoyed by her attitude decided to let it sit on my skin for awhile and see what I thought. After all, I had plenty of time.

The violet note was neither sweet or green, but rather gravitated toward woodiness. The scent had a patrician stateliness about it, and after all, isn't that what the entire Bottega Veneta line is about? It is that rare line that really hasn't made a misstep as far as I'm concerned, either in its mass market or more exclusive line. The scent wasn't ground-breakingingly inventive, but it did exude taste and elegance, and that is what their audience desires. The violet note was subtle to my nose, sort of like finding wild violets beneath an old majestic tree, with the woody notes cushioning the floral. Much later the scent began a slow burn, sizzling on my skin like a small ember, very much in the manner of a chypre. A muskiness began to emerge. Now it was really getting interesting.

Meanwhile, at Gate 10 it is now 9 pm, six hours past our intended departure time and a storm which has been blowing all day is getting worse. There are groans up and down the hallway of the airport terminal as they announce the airport has closed all runways for the time being. I wander back to duty free but the woman warrior is still there so I take my meal voucher and get something to eat. At 11:30 that night they reopen the airport and there is a line of planes waiting to take off. We eventually taxi toward the runway, awaiting our turn. And we sit. The plane is being rocked by the winds and there is a sensation of being in turbulence, but our wheels have yet to leave the ground. As a nervous flyer I am not excited about soaring into the stormy skies. We will wait out the winds, our pilot tells us. Winds of 170 km per hour are blasting the airport. But it's going to get better. So we sit for three hours. I watch Three Billboards. Around 2:30 am the pilot informs us that the runway is littered with debris blown in by high winds and we won't be flying tonight. I smell my hand. It's been six hours since I sprayed  IX and it's still emitting a classy calm which I personally absolutely do not feel.  We disembark the airplane only to be told there are no hotel rooms in Auckland, a city of over a million, not a one. Too tired to argue we take the offered blanket and pillow and stake out our seats to sleep on at Gate 10. I would like to go buy IX, but I am like a homeless person guarding my turf. No way am I going to risk losing my blanket, pillow, and spot.

The aftermath of a night sleeping at the gate.

I grab about three hours sleep to awaken at 6 am. It is now fourteen hours and counting since our flight should have left. I wander down to duty free. It is lit brightly like a football stadium but erily empty at this hour of the morning. No one is guarding the Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano bottles. I go and spray them in order down one arm and up the other, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX. I give IX an extra blast on top of my hand. I feel a strange satisfaction at this bit of anarchy but realize that now I can't really tell what any of them smell like. I also realize all I want to really buy is a toothbrush. My mouth tastes like I ran my tongue down the carpeted corridors. Maybe I'll come back for you IX, I say half heartedly.

There is an announcement. At 10:30 we are to report to the ticketing counter where they will be re-issuing our tickets. Our flight now has a new number. We cannot be NZ28, as there will be today's flight NZ28 departing only three hours after our scheduled 1 pm departure. We are now NZ 6080. It never occurs to me they will change the seats we were in last night. I had a perfectly acceptable aisle seat near the front of economy that I had booked months before. The gentlemen who sat next to me, a tall sportsman on a fishing trip, was not too happy with his middle seat but I told him to wake me whenever he wanted out, no problem. I get to the counter to be issued a ticket with a seat in the middle near the back. The same thing is happening to a young woman next to me. We both politely resist this move. When they see that the two of us are not moving until they try to change our seats they finally do so. As the young man slides the ticket toward me I notice he looks a bit apologetic, but I think nothing of it. It's an aisle seat. The young lady and I shake hands, congratulating ourselves on our negotiating skills, glowing with success at what polite but firm conversation can accomplish.

After waiting all this time, there is suddenly a mad rush towards to gate for our 1 pm departure. I think about IX but there is no way I am risking missing this flight.  Finally 22 hours after our scheduled departure, we are leaving. I get on the plane and start walking, looking for row 61. I pass my former seat and see that the man seated in the middle last night has somehow wrangled my aisle seat. Watch out for karma, dude, I think, and continue walking.  "Wow", I think. "I'm far back." Well yes, as it turns out, the last row. The seats only recline about an inch, but the worst indignity is that about 18 inches to my left is the bathroom door, opening directly to my side. Everytime the door is opened I get a full view. I am not happy and now realize why the agent looked a bit shamefaced when he handed me the ticket.

"Really, this is your seat?", says the flight attendant.  "They usually don't seat anyone here but crew." I am joined by my two other seat mates in our row of three, literally the three worst seats on the airplane. I will make the best of this, I tell myself. It's only fourteen hours. It will be over before I know it. I take a breath of IX, close my eyes, and the fragrance brings a visualization of elegant ladies dancing at a cotillion one hundred years ago. They had no showers, no hygienic toiletries to speak of, yet they could exude this elegance. I am regretting not buying IX. The scent is getting faint now and it is literally my lifeline to civilized humanity.

Nine hours into the flight and the situation is dire. I press the back of my hand to my nose and breathe in to calm myself, like a Victorian lady overcome with vapors as she faces the miasma of the odors on the streets outside and presses a scented hankie to her nose. How I regret not buying the bottle of IX. If I had it now I would spray myself from head to toe, to hell with the unwritten etiquette code of being a considerate unscented seat mate. The constant banging of the toilet door has kept me awake all night. I've amused myself by non stop viewing, first was Top of the Lake, Part Two, Chinadoll. Then it's The Greatest Showman. Checking first to see that my seat mate is asleep and can't see me, I rewind the bit where Zac Efron and Zendaya sing to each other as they swing on trapezes. They both look so pretty, and so clean. The fizzle and warmth has long died from IX. It's just a wisp of woody musk now but I keep the back of my hand pressed to my nose, desperate to not let the last vapors disappear.

Two hours until touchdown. Everyone who has been sleeping is stirring. The bathroom is seeing a lot of attention now, in anticipation of arrival. I bring my hand for the reassuring boost of scented support from IX but it has all but disappeared. My fatigued brain thinks I hear the ghost of IX whisper, don't worry, you've got this!

I'm back on terra firma for a few days now, and I find that Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX stays on my mind. It literally was my only comfort during this ghastly ordeal, and I feel a longing for its polished elegance and noble air. The only place I see it for sale here in the USA is Bergdorf Goodman. Or I might just wait until my next trip through duty free for old time's sake. Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX, you made me a better woman than I am. You made me want to live up to your high standards and polished ways, bringing out traits of civility and humor in an unfortunate situation. You literally carried me through this ordeal, one breath at a time and I thank you.

Photos from Bottega Veneta website.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jo Malone English Fields Collection: Quick Impressions

I always look forward to the Jo Malone limited edition scents every spring. The themes are fresh and original. The perfume notes always contain a touch of whimsy. The marketing is always superb. This photo for example. This spring's theme is the English Fields collection, utilizing the various grains growing in the spring and mixing them with traditional British flowers. No roses or jasmine here. It's primrose, poppy, cornflower, or meadowsweet. You never forget this line is British based. What I love about this photo: gazing directly into the dog's eyes as he pulls his mistress impatiently, the always attractive but not in the traditional way models with madcap attire. They look like the British bohemian version of the Tommy Hilfigar family of models.

But invariably, every year, no matter how precious the theme's conceit or how wondrous the notes sound, the scents usually fall flat for me. Longevity or lack of it, of course, but I'm sometimes able to capture only a whisper of a scent and it's usually gone ten minutes later. I've often thought if you strip away the lovely copy and photos, the Jo Malone name, and the whole precious English cheerio chipperness of it, people wouldn't touch the stuff.

I'm happy to say that I've finally found a limited edition line I can love, or at least like very much. The whole grains idea is interesting to me, and although I am unsure if any of these flowers have an actual scent, pairing floral and bready notes, while not entirely new, is certainly not overdone in today's market. So here are my brief, very fleeting impressions from sprays at the counter. Thank you very much David Jones in Adelaide.

Primrose & Rye

Does primrose really have a smell? I have no idea but doesn't the name sound like the quintessential English posie? The Jo Malone brief on this one was to have a sunny scent and they achieved that with the use of mimosa. Vanilla, rye, and cornsilk give a very light and yummy base. Out of all the scents, this one smells more of floral than of grain to me. It is a fresh, soft floral, rather indistinguishable, but smells pleasant, especially with the underlying scent of vanilla and rye grains. I like this one quite a bit. Key impression: Cheerful.

Honey & Crocus

The honey is very evident from the beginning. If you are one of those that sometimes gets that urinal smell from honey then don't blind buy this. That funny smell lasted just for just a moment but dissipated quickly and didn't put me off the scent at all. The idea for this perfume was the experience of bees flying over a meadow pollinating the English wildflowers. After the honey note I begin to get the scent of warm cereal. I immediately get such a strong mental impression from the time I spent in Scotland over fifteen years ago, eating a bowl of warm fragrant oatmeal at my cozy kitchen table. The grain note dominates and I don't get a strong floral vibe, other than that faint sense of floral in the honey you put on the oatmeal to sweeten it. And here's the weird fantastic part. I didn't read notes or description of the fragrance until this point of the review. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui wanted to get the honey just right so she tried to mimic British lavender honey, which has hay-like features. Guess what honey I used to eat on my oatmeal in Scotland--British lavender! So was this memory of Scottish oatmeal that popped into my head just a coincidence? I think not! And the other strange part is I'm usually a bloodhound for a drop of lavender in a perfume but I would have never guessed it was in this scent. And the last fragrance note, the perfumer added almond milk for creaminess. Key Impression: Cozy Yum

Oat & Cornflower

For some reason I expected to like this one the most, maybe because I like the smell of oats. This perfume has a slight spiciness to it. A hazelnut note emphasizes the nuttiness of the oat scent. It has a warm almost spicy feel and felt like it warmed up even more with wear time. I believe it is the vetiver note which has the most impact. At one point I thought I smelled the slightest touch of agarwood but I think it was the earthiness in the vetiver. The oat smell was present in the beginning but then it just turned into more of a warm, slightly spicy comfort scent. The floral note is very light and there is a slight white musk to add a bread note. I wasn't sure how I felt about this at first but the longer I wore it the more it developed and the more I liked it. It's longevity was far and away the best, being mildly present on my skin the next morning. Key Impression: Surprising Depth

Green Wheat and Meadowsweet

This scent is meant to emphasize the new season in the fields, adding green to make it seem like young wheat, according to the perfumer. When I first apply this scent it is grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit. I smell a tea note but this is not the tea collection, Jo has already been there, done that, so it probably is just an illusion from other notes. Those notes are meadowsweet, wheat, green notes, and of course grapefruit. If the wheat note comes through on your skin I suspect this could be a stunner, but it just doesn't work on me. It's nice enough, just not what I was expecting. Key impression: Where's the Wheat?

Poppy & Barley

I think of barley as being a substantial grain so I expected the grainy note to be stronger in this one. The poppy scent is conceptualized as the flower has no scent. It is an important flower in the English psyche, both because its bright red color dots the English countryside in spring and also because of poppy as a reference to remembrance day. When I first spray this it is sadly bland and boring on my skin. It seems the type of scent Jo Malone always has at least one of: perfume for people who don't really want to smell like they're wearing perfume. I'm looking at you, Star Magnolia. Predictably, this was the one David Jones was sold out of and I'm betting that will be the case at other stores too. Just as I'm ready to totally write this off about thirty minutes in, something changes and I get a pleasant floral aroma. It is perfectly fine, just no panache. And I wish I could smell barley. Key Impression: Yawn

So final verdict is three perfumes I would be happy to own, and two that were ok, just not for me. If you're interested you'd better hurry. These scents never last long.

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