Sunday, May 16, 2021

Fragonard's Ode to Grasse: Belle de Grasse and Beau de Provence


Anyone that has traveled to France is probably familiar with the Fragonard Parfumeur stores dotted around the typical tourist sites. They sell cheap and cheerful scents in bottles with cute illustrations. The perfumes I've tried are not groundbreaking stuff, but I've enjoyed them in the warmer months when I don't want to be surrounded by a cloud of scent in the Texas heat and humidity. This year Fragonard introduced two eau de toilette scents, heavy 100 ml bottles with charming illustrations. Although the perfumes can be worn by anyone who chooses, they obviously are marketing Belle de Grasse, a honeyed mimosa, towards the ladies, and Beau de Provence, a fig scent, to the gents.

I couldn't resist these bottles and blind bought, something I never do, but these are inexpensive enough to take the risk. The result is that one is a resounding success and I am satisfied with the other. These are not complex scents so my explanations will be appropriately short.

Fragonard Belle de Grasse is an ode to what might be the national flower of France, in spring time anyway, the mimosa. It is composed of notes of violet leaves and bergamot and heart notes of mimosa, orange blossom, underscored by lilac. Base notes are heliotrope and musk. 

I am no expert on mimosa as it does not grow where I live and I did not grow up smelling it. Therefore, my only references are mimosa perfumes. When I first smelled mimosa perfumes years ago,  I found the note rather cloying and too powdery. But over time I have come to enjoy it, especially when blended with other fragrance notes. On my skin this fragrance opens with a sharp note that leaves me guessing for a moment whether I will enjoy this scent. But within minutes the mimosa comes through and the fragrance enters a stage where it feels warm, sunny, and hazy. The powder note is not particularly strong, and orange blossom, a note that often comes across very strong, does not do so here. I can at time smell hints of the lilac, but overall this smells like a summer day with mimosas overhead, gently emitting their scent in the breeze, and bees buzzing inside flowers as they look for honeyed nectar. This is an easy, fun, and relaxing scent to wear, and for me, as I don't like the mimosa note too strong, it is the perfect strength, which is to say it is gentle.

Fragonard Beau de Provence opens with a bright and vivacious fig note, buoyed by grapefruit and bergamot. Heart notes are mint, basil, and ylang-ylang, all of which are fairly tame but occasionally the the mint peeks through. The fig, green and juicy, remains the star of this show. Base notes of cedar, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver give a pleasing woody base to the scent.

This is by far my favorite of the two and I am tempted to buy a second bottle to give to my husband. I can envision keeping this in the refrigerator come summer and spritzing myself for refreshment. I am admittedly a fig lover when it comes to scents and I own quite a few, but this one is so non assuming, cheerful, and easy to wear that I find myself totally charmed! And as a bonus, these are so affordable, not words I use often when describing perfumes in 2021.

I bought my bottles at Beautyhabit in the USA. They are also widely available at Fragonard stores around the world.

Top photo my own. Other photos from I purchased these bottles from Beautyhabit.


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Parfums Dusita Cavatina: An Ode To Springtime!


Happy May Day! I have a confession. I have never smelled an actual fresh picked lily-of-the-valley. Like lilacs, they just don't thrive in hot Texas summers. I love lily-of-the-valley, or muguet, scent but my point of reference is the grande dame Diorissimo, and prior to that when I was too young to frequent Dior counters, a coveted bottle of Coty Muguet des Bois. 

Pissara Umivijani, founder of Parfums Dusita, just this past week introduced Cavatina, a perfume she has been working on for two years. It is in part based on the memory of someone dear to her who wore Diorissimo, but she has put her own unique and modern spin on the fragrance. Others who know a lot more about lily-of-the-valley than I do have written excellent pieces on this new creation. The only thing I can add to the conversation is my impression of Cavatina and the feelings and emotions it stirs in me.  The initial burst of scent brings a feeling of happiness and light-hearted energy.  Cavatina transports me to the joyfulness of childhood summers, and the innocence and happiness these memories evoke.

I love spring in Texas. Right now we are getting rain, some cool days mixed with the warm, and the first flush of nature's beauty, before everything starts baking in the sun and the only flowers that can survive are periwinkles and geraniums. The photo I took up top are flowers that spring up around my house and that will disappear once the days get hotter. There are roses, a wild honeysuckle that blooms in the woods behind my fence and dips over into my yard, a white spikey flower that popped up this year like a weed but smells divine. These notes are not all necessarily in Cavatina, but they replicate the feeling I get when I wear this perfume. It smells like this short time of year when my yard is delicately scented with sweet white flowers and honeyed florals. Just like La Douceur de Siam evoked memories of the many years I lived in Asia, Cavatina makes me feel footloose and fancy free. We've had rain most of the time I've been testing this, but I can't wait to wear it on a warm day for I feel it will really bloom. 

Artwork by Pissara Umivijani from her website.

Pissara spent two years blending her own lily-of-the-valley accord, and just as I found magic in her teakwood home-brewed base used in Moonlight In Chiangmai, I find that same magic here. My memories of wearing Diorissimo, which I do like but don't currently own, are that it features the beautiful lily-of-the-valley  note, which sings like a soprano  holding a high note but inevitably it eventually gently fades away. I remember it as almost a soliflore perfume, albeit a beautiful one. But from the first moment I spray Cavatina on my skin I can feel it shape shifting, whirling about like a live thing. I do smell what I understand to be the scent of lily-of-the-valley, but there is so much more.

If I was an artist, like Pissara, I would illustrate this review by first drawing myself applying the perfume. Wavy lines rising upward would indicate the perfume drifting around me, then thought bubbles would pop up of the memories and emotions the smell invoked. Chasing golden fireflies in the dusk; sweetening our tea with honeysuckle stamens; playing hide and seek, concealed under the gracefully draping branches of a delicately scented abelia bush; churning homemade ice cream and the fragrance of the vanilla when the top finally came off. All these little remembrances lay a patchwork of memories imprinted with the fragrances and golden moments that color our past. 

Pissara always uses a poem from the work of her poet father, Montri Umivijani, on each new perfume as both an inspiration as well as a tribute to her father. I can identify with this poem chosen for Cavatina maybe more than any that she has selected thus far, as it truly does describe the feeling wearing this perfume imparts. 
They sweeten by the warmth of the sun,like the human heart by loving kindness. -- Montri Umivijani

Pissara draws a lot of inspiration from vintage perfumes but always manages to put her own unique imprint on the scent. Cavatina is no exception. It seems this project is close to her heart, and if you go here to her website there is a video that explains the creative process. I really like the way she describes the notes that make up Cavatina, but for those who like lists, here they are.

Top Notes: Calabrian bergamot, Litsea Cubeba, Paraguayan Petitgrain, Exclusive Muguet Accord

Heart Notes:  Ylang-Ylang, Tuberose, Jasmine Grandiflorum, Tea Rose Accord

Base Notes: Heliotrope, Siamese Wood, Madagascar Vanilla

On my skin the perfume opens up like a ray of sunlight, a burst of happiness, uncontained and bright! If you love white flowers this will be heaven for you. The brightness of the citrus notes and  the muguet accord last for some time. After many hours wear I still smell the white flowers, but now they are quiet and laying on a bed of soft vanilla woods. Cavatina is the eleventh scent in the Dusita collection and adds a beautiful floral to the mix.

Here are two more reviews of Cavatina: 

Despina Veneti gives the definitive review of muguet scents and Cavatina here.

The Black Narcissus, otherwise known as Neil Chapman, always finds the perfect words to define any scent. Read it here. 

Top photo is my own. The other photo is from the Parfums Dusita website. I was provided with a sample by the perfumer. All opinions are my own.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Library of Flowers Willow & Water and Eau D'Italie Au Lac. Just What The Doctor Ordered!


We all hoped that 2021 would be a better year, but as for myself, having had two operations since January, my good times are yet to appear. I've been in a somewhat perpetual state of feeling bad, feeling wretched, feeling sad, and then the opposite, a new found empathy for people who must deal with health issues every day. If you were to ask my husband and he was being honest, he would admit that he's had to be a happy cheerleader these past months. Just a hint that fetching me coffee for the third time this morning might not be the exact thing he wants to do at this precise moment was enough to send me into quivering lipped self pity. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that what I required from perfumes during this time was simply subtle comfort. No aldehyde divas, no chypre attention grabbers, no skanky jasmines. Just well behaved scents that waited quietly in the wings; there if I needed them, but demanding not one iota of my attention.

During this time I gained a new appreciation for two such quiet but fragrant perfumes. Both had a common aspect of trying to place the wearer near water. Water is known to be calming, therapeutic, and for the most part scentless. It was interesting to see how each of these perfumes translated the act of being near water into scent.

Margot Elena Library of Flowers Willow and Water

In all honesty I would probably have never bought this perfume if I had tried it first. I am an easy touch for the Margot Elena branding: beautiful and girly packaging housing generally inoffensive but mild fragrances. I subscribe to the Margot Elena seasonal box, the only subscription service I have in fact. It is well priced and packaged so beautifully that it is always a treat to receive. In the most recent box was this perfume and the timing was perfect. 

I thought the picture up top, which is from a vintage copy of Wind In The Willows, perfectly captures the bucolic and pastoral aspects of the English countryside, and well represents the scent of Willow & Water! The book written over one hundred years ago by British writer Kenneth Grahame, explores the misadventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger, and their friends. The peaceful river is home to some of the story's characters, and the scene pictured of the boat lazily floating on the river beneath draping willow branches and buzzing insects is Willow & Water. 

Willow & Water is classified as a green aquatic floral. The note pyramid is skimpy, listing an opening of dewy green notes, a heart of lotus (the water flower), and a base of watercress. It opens smelling like greens that have been misted with gentle rain. Then I get a touch of sweetness, nothing sugary, but more like the honeyed notes of faint blossoms carried on the breeze. The lotus comes in and again emphasizes the aquatic feel, as well as a faint and musky floral note. The scent is surprisingly long lasting, which is not always the case with this brand, and I don't get any alcohol or chemical smells which I also can sometimes experience with less expensive perfumes. I prefer it to the Jo Malone special edition last year of Willow and Amber (although that bottle was divine). I'll repeat, if I had tried Willow & Water on in the store I would have walked on by, unimpressed. I'm glad I didn't get the chance to do this as it's been a very happy and easy to wear spring time scent, as well as a calming medicinal tonic!

Au Lac by Eau D'Italie

If you've ever seen travel photos of Italy then you've probably seen a picture of the luxurious Postiano hotel La Sirenuse, perched along the ultra-exclusive Amalfi Coast. Their range of scents, all of which I find very nice but soft in projection, are meant to impart various aspects of the scents of Italy. This one is meant to induce memories of time spent by one of Italy's picturesque lakes of the north. 

Photo the Lake Como waterfront from

Who could be stressed with this combination of gorgeous houses and pristine nature? The scent of Au Lac is meant to invoke an Italian garden in the midst of the summer, perched beside a lake. I find the fragrance gives a good interpretation of this. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses notes of water lily, along with fig leaf and bitter orange, to give the feel of lounging lakeside. I find that the water lily note persists, giving its watery effect even when the other florals enter. Osmanthus, jasmine, and rose represent the summer garden, but they are very light and muted. This is like catching the scent of a garden on the breeze. Base notes of papyrus and amber give some grounding later in the perfume's wear. On me this is more of a skin scent, and I found it perfect during the time when I wanted to smell nice but not too strongly of scent. There are other opportunities for this kind of perfume wear, when you don't want to announce your presence, and this whole line of perfumes would work perfectly.

Thankfully I am now on the mend, and I look forward to expanding my perfume wear to a broader range of scents, but I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with these two perfumes during my time of recovery.  I will enjoy wearing them in the future, now that I have discovered their charm.

How about you? Does your perfume habit change when you are not well? What do you like to wear?

Top photo, Google image from vintage copy of The Wind In The Willows. Photo of perfume bottle from website. The two perfumes are from my own collection.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Christèle Jacquemin: Memory Lane

Late last year I wrote about a new perfumer, Christèle Jacquemin, who was using her career as a photographer as inspiration for creating perfumes. She started with three scents: Meandering Soul, Impermanence, and Underworld, which I wrote about here. She translated photos from her travels into fragrance, and just as her photos are modern and interpretive, so are the perfumes, in which I found uncommon notes and unexpected scents. Originality and creativity, both traits found in an artist's skill set, are evident in the perfumes.

Ms.  Jacquemin has now added a fourth perfume to her collection called Memory Lane. Unlike the other perfumes, which represent her travels, Ms. Jacquemin returns home with Memory Lane. She originates from a small town in France called Valliguières, but she left at sixteen to explore the world.  Her interpretive photos were not of the town itself, but a series of cloud photographs.

When I saw the series of cloud photos on her website the word that came to my mind was "escape". But I wanted to be sure that my interpretation was correct, so I asked Ms. Jacquemin. "As a child and a teenager, I mastered escaping from this place that was too small for me, " she answered. "I first escaped through literature, then I studied foreign languages hoping to discover the world. The sky in these photos is like a metaphor of the will to escape, to go and explore the world."

After thirty years of avoiding her home, Ms. Jacquemin felt the need to, in her own words, return home and reconcile the ghosts of her past. "I flew at a very young age," she stated, "and as an adult I needed to look back and see if there was any way to cure that wound, and bring peace on this part of my life."

The opening notes of Memory Lane are meringue, myrrh, and magnolia. Heart notes are cypriol, clove, and parsley. Base notes are green vanilla and oud blanc. I asked Ms. Jacquemin if Memory Lane was based on scents of the place, or did inspiration come from the photographs she took of the clouds and sky?

"Actually it is both, like all my scents," she answered. "It is part reality and part fantasy. My ambivalence to the place is in the scent: the ingenuity of the meringue and vanilla, and the animality of cypriol and white oud. This duality to me was important, to reflect the ups and the downs." 

The opening notes of meringue, magnolia, and myrrh are an unusual combinaition, but that is not surprising to me, having experienced the other scents in the collection. The meringue may sound sweet but it is tempered by the myrrh and my mind flitted to an image of creamy burnished wood. There is a caramel feel, but it is not overly sweet. The magnolia is quite gentle to my nose. The cypriol, clove, and parsley give an earthy, slightly herbal feel to the scent. Cypriol is a weed growing in riverbeds and its oil has a woody, earthy smell. I don't smell the clove note specifically, but get more the herbal notes as the perfume begins to calm down and soften. The green vanilla and white oud enhance what I smelled in the opening, that slightly sweet, slightly woody sense. I will admit I find these scent challenging to describe. On my skin they appear as very blended, and as there are some unusual notes, they are not easy to describe, but I do my best! My overall sense of this perfume was that it had a comforting air, but not in a traditional way.

I will let Ms. Jacquemin have the closing words. "Magnolia flower as well as parsley essential oils transport me to walks in the countryside, and to gardening with my grandmother. When I smell Memory Lane I feel like my grandmother is holding me in her arms. I feel peace and balance. I feel safe and with energy to carry on ... my journey lightheartedly."

You can order sample sets at Christèle Jacquemin's website and she also offers her perfumes in a variety of sizes.

Thank you to Cristele Jacquemin for the perfume sample. My opinions are my own. Photos are from the perfumer's website.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Walk In Giverny by La Fleur by Livvy

 It was about a year ago that airlines started canceling flights and travel came to a stand still. I for one am having a hard time restraining my travel bug as we march toward summer holidays. But when I recently tried A Walk In Giverny by La Fleur by Livvy I was mentally transported to a vacation from three years ago when I went to France with my husband to celebrate a wedding anniversary. 

This is the enchantment of perfume; that scent can magically send us back to another place and time. Olivia Larson founded La Fleur by Livvy in 2013, and since then the self trained artisan perfumer has released fragrances that are all about journeys and travels. This can mean both journeys in living life as well as travel to specific locales. Her mission is to create 100% botanical fragrances, but with A Walk In Giverny she introduced a multi-media perfume to her collection, although still keeping a high percentage of natural botanicals. This was done in recognition that some customers desired perfumes with more sillage and longevity.

Olivia for the first time has partnered with Andrej Babicky, a natural perfumer, to create A Walk In Giverny.  Together they will be producing more perfumes for the newly launched Impressions Collection. Olivia created this collection as a homage to the French impressionist painters. She says, "I admire their passion, their zest to continue to paint despite not making a living, but their art would soon become an inspiration to all."

A Walk In Giverny opens with notes of bergamot and rhododendron. It is sparkling and radiant, much like a chypre-type fragrance but in a softer form. It imparts warm fuzziness, sort of like the feeling you get when you step into the afternoon sunlight for a stroll through the garden.

On a side note, I can't remember ever seeing rhododendron listed as a perfume note. It sent me scurrying to my friend Google. Evidently the plant has suffered the same fate as many varieties of roses. As it was bred for hardiness, the magic that produces a fragrant plant was lost. But there are still old varieties that have the scent, as evidenced by this New York times article here. The rhododendron's scent, depending on plant variety, is described as anything from "a heady floral" to "a spicy clove-like fragrance". I am guessing that this may be what gives A Walk In Giverny that initial lift and fragrant frisson. 

This chypre-esque mood lasts for some time but other notes begin to float into my space. Again, this is reminiscent of a stroll through a garden, where the breeze brings various aromas but they form into a muddled bouquet. When I first applied A Walk In Giverny I messaged Olivia, "Is there lavender here? I don't see it listed?" Heart notes are listed as jasmine, tuberose, geranium, carnation, black currant bud, and hay. Not lavender.

Olivia replied, "No lavender. It could be the jasmine and geranium. Both have a floral yet herbaceous green note."

When I looked at these notes before trying the perfume I expected a lot of loud florals. What Olivia has done is capture the spirit of the garden. The beauty of nature vs perfume is that nature teases us. It gives us whispers of scent. It will send something so beautiful our way that it can stop us in our tracks to determine where is that scent coming from. Then poof, it's gone, an ephemeral fairy scent. When wearing A Walk In Giverny you truly get that experience of many scents being blended into a fragrant whole. It is as if Olivia and Andrej have harnessed the more herbaceous and green elements of all these florals to make this perfume, and the hay note certainly contributes to that effect. When I thought I sensed lavender it wasn't the floral note I imagined, but the more herbaceous aspects that lavender perfumes often portray.

Base notes are patchouli, labdanum, fir balsam, styrax, violet, orris, opopanox, benzoin, and synthetic musks. Olivia also blends a vanilla in house from Madagascar vanilla beans. These resinous notes lend structure to the soft chypre feeling, and give the feel of the encroaching forest surrounding the floral gardens. 

I look forward to seeing what other Impressionists Olivia and Andrej will memorialize with scent, but for now excuse me. I need to return to my olfactory walk through Monet's garden in France!

Top photo a Monet painting from Giverny era. Thank you to La Fleur by Livvy for providing me with this perfume sample. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fragrant Snapshot: Maison Christian Dior Ambre Nuit

I couldn't begin to count the number of niche perfumes I've sampled over the last few years, but one area of fragrance I've neglected are the classic brands, especially their more exclusive lines. A fantastic giveaway-with-purchase at Dior tempted me to do something I almost never do, blind buy a perfume I hadn't sampled. I love amber scents, and Ambre Nuit had a lot of good reviews so I took the plunge. Although I don't recommend blind buys and almost never do it, this one was successful.

The opening of Dior Ambre Nuit features bergamot and grapefruit which blend with the amber, and I get a vision of polished wood floors, but in a lighter gold-toned honey hues. The scent is bright and slightly sharp, but as the amber increases, it buffs away the rough edges of the citrus notes. Amber has a cushioning, enveloping note and I slowly feel myself being surrounded by this protective cover of warmth. Some reviewers speak of a strong rose presence but I honestly don't smell it, other than as a grace note.

The amber is appropriately the star of the show here, and it is a beautiful. It starts out rather sparkling and transparent, but then deepens. I smell spices, smooth and warming. No spice notes are given in the description other than pepper but I smell a woody cinnamon. The amber is deep and beautiful, with characteristics that are creamy, salty, and resinous. There is a slight smokey, incense smell  that makes this feel meditative and deep. I have a few amber perfumes but what I like about this one is that it is not overwhelmingly syrupy and sticky. Amber is by its nature a heavy note, but here Dior makes it feel silky and billowy. 

As you may have heard, we had a cold snap event this past week in Texas. I found that Ambre Nuit kept me wrapped in a feeling of warm comfort and sensuous beauty.

Both the photo and the perfume are my own.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sana Jardin Part 3: Celestial Patchouli and Nubian Musk

I come to the review of the last two perfumes from Sana Jardin in this series, Celestial Patchouli and Nubian Musk. I call these two Earth and Sky. Even though patchouli is an earthy substance, when used in perfumes it sometimes can remind me of the vast dark universe, all the unknown out there, and maybe the creators at Sana Jardin agree, having given this patchouli the name Celestial. Nubian Musk on the other hand, opens dry and dusty as the earth. But as dissimilar as these descriptions sound, I found them to be the proverbial "brothers from another mother." Although they have differences they share a strong DNA, and I have a hard time deciding which I prefer.

Celestial Patchouli opens with coriander seed but quickly the patchouli makes itself known, along with the nagarmotha, both supposedly base notes but unable to be restrained. The patchouli feels almost tobacco-like, wet and green, and the nagarmotha or cypriol oil adds both earthy and spicy notes. The dark notes are strong, but also a little fruity. Leather, another base note, is evident. It as if the perfume is turned upside down, beginning with the ending. 

If Celestial Patchouli stopped there it would be a nice patchouli forward perfume, but not that different from many others. But an hour or so into the wear, the heart notes of rose, osmanthus, orris root, and iris begin to peep through. They are subtle; there will be no big floral rush. But I sense them each in turn; a winey rose, leathery osmanthus, and dry rooty iris. The notes are elegant and slightly austere, stars twinkling in the darkness. One thing I love about the scent is that these notes keep reappearing: the earthy patchouli, the iris, the rose, and so on. It eventually fades to the base of woods, leather, and patchouli, and a dusting of warm and spicy cinnamon.

I was curious about the name Nubian Musk. I had a vague notion that this referred to Africa but there my knowledge ended. It turns out the Nubians were an older civilization that predates the ancient Egyptians, and lived along the Nile River in an area that today encompasses southern Egypt and Sudan. 

Musk perfumes are often a big yawn for me, but this is musk in the more animalic sense of the word. There is grapefruit oil in the opening, but I don't really smell it more than an instant. There is vetiver and I smell it almost immediately, very dry. There is nagarmotha in this perfume also, but here it has a medicinal smell for the first few moments. I don't see any notes listed that would account for the anamalic bent to this fragrance, but it is there, obvious but not overstated.

Later there are very faint notes of rose, sandalwood, and vanilla. They give more body to the fragrance but you won't get a strong whiff of any of these notes. Jasmine is also listed, and I don't smell any floral that could be jasmine, which makes me wonder if maybe they just harnessed the indoles and this contributes to the more musky aspect of the fragrance. What is more apparent to me is a green patchouli note, along with the musk. I really enjoyed wearing Nubian Musk as I found it to be a more interesting combination of notes than is sometimes found with musk perfumes. 

As these two scents wind down, they begin to have a somewhat similar smell to me. I like them both but if I had to choose I'd pick Celestial Patchouli as I am a patchouli lover.

I have really enjoyed trying all the scents from Sana Jardin and will be adding a couple of them to my collection in time. I'm happy that these beautiful fragrances have contributed to improving the life of the women flower harvesters in Morocco. If you would like to read more about Sana Jardin or read reviews on the other fragrances in the line, go to Sana Jardin Part 1 or Sana Jardin Part 2.

Top photo is by and can be purchased at their website. The Sana Jardin discovery set is my own.