Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grandiflora Queen of the Night

Like most of you, I have no idea how the Queen of the Night flower smells. Whether Grandiflora has put their own interpretation on the scent, I can't say. What I can tell you is that  Grandiflora Queen of the Night perfume is a very beautiful floral with a rather hypnotic scent, befitting of the beautiful bloom pictured above.

Queen of the Night is the drama queen of the flower world. Most of the year this variety looks like a spindly cactus that vines around trees or bushes. In summer they form large trumpet shaped buds which will have their opening and closing performance on the same night. For one magical night the blooms will wait for the sun to go down, then at nightfall the flower will slowly unfurl,  The blossom can be quite large and showy but alas, it is destined to live for a scant few hours, then it will close back up and die by morning's light. In a plant forum where the Queen of the Night was being discussed, one person stated that as they took pictures of their bloom to capture its one night of glory, the flower literally flinched with every bright strob of the camera's flash! The scent is said to be beautiful and can carry up to a quarter mile away, but imagine the challenge to the perfumer who must capture an olafactory memory of the scent when its life is so fleeting.

While researching this article I came across stories of people who have viewing parties for the opening of the Queen of the Night blooms. This is now my chief desire in life. Next spring I will plant one of these and hopefully be able to host my own party in a couple of years. As I get older I am embracing becoming eccentric and I feel I've already made great inroads. This is just perfect: a glass of wine while waiting for a flower to unfurl and overwhelm us with her scented bouquet!

On to the perfume. Saskia Havekes opened her flower shop called Grandiflora in Potts Point, Sydney, Australia, an absolutely stunning suburb of a gorgeous city. Her passion for all things floral eventually led her to try her hand at perfumes, inspired by the flowers she worked with every day. This is the fourth fragrance in her line. The first two were different interpretations of magnolia, then jasmine, and now the Queen of the Night. Bernard Duchaufour was the perfumer and his interpretation captures the flower unfurling into magnificent richness for its short life, then slowly fading into a paler version of itself with musky vanilla powder.

The opening has an initial burst of citrus brightness, not really lemony, just the zest and light of citrus. Creamy florals in the opening remind me of orchid and magnolia (neither of which is present in the perfume!). Notes listed are citrus, berries, clove, orange blossom, jasmine sambac, ylang ylang, tuberose, gardenia, wisteria, mimosa, vanilla, and musk.  This makes it sound like any other white floral perfume, but none of the powerhouse white flower notes are really identifiable to me. I get the tiniest touch of clove but the berries aren't evident to me at all, other than a certain non gourmand sweetness. Even though the actual bloom is a huge white flower, its namesake perfume is not what I would classify as a traditional white flower perfume. There is no strong smell of jasmine or orange blossom and their very familiar notes. This is somewhat indolic but in a very creamy smooth way...nothing overpowering . There is a definite undercurrent of vanilla, though not foody at all, which going from memory is reminiscent of the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Orchidee Vanille. Make no mistake, the vanilla is subtle but it is definitely there.  The mimosa and wisteria are the warm heart of this fragrance. Although I'm sure the jasmine, orange blossom and tuberose contribute to the unique makeup of this perfume, in no way does it smell like any of these three elements to my nose,

If I was going to turn this perfume into a paint color for my house it would be a shade of magnolia, creamy rich white with a buttery touch of yellow, radiating warmth and a luxurious cocoon effect. Something like this:

Even though the flower is a pure white, the wisteria and mimosa give it a yellow warmth not present in true white flower scents, 

If you appreciate white or yellow floral bouquets I think you would like this perfume. If you already have enough jasmine, tuberose, or orange blossom perfumes, this will be something different that you may want to add to your perfume wardrobe. I own so many of this genre, but because it is different, I am tempted. There is a controlled lushness to it that is compelling, and I am now curious to try the other three perfumes in the Grandiflora line.

Top photo from Sample my own.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Win A Fabulous Set of Dusita Perfumes!

Thanks to the generosity of Pissara Umavijani, founder of Parfums Dusita, I have three perfume sets to give away to readers. The sets include Issara, Melodie De L'Amour, and Oudh Infini. The set is pictured above. These perfumes are achieving lots of acclaim across the perfume universe and the quality of the ingredients is evident.

You can read my review of Issara here and Melodie De L'Amour here. I have not yet reviewed Oudh Infini but the wonderful Joseph Sagona of The Scented Apprentice has done an excellent review here.

To enter:
1. Please leave a comment on this post telling me which of the three Dusita perfumes you think you will like most
2. Please follow this link and like The Fragrant Journey's facebook page here. Update: I guess I mean "Join" the group page. Sorry for the confusion.

You need to do both of these things to be entered.

I am very sorry but this is limited to US readers only, and also, Singapore readers, as I will be there soon. Usual disclaimers, if anything happens en route to winners I cannot be responsible. I will choose a winner with on Sunday August 21st at 9 pm.

These are fabulous perfumes! Good luck!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summertime, and the Livin' is Easy Perfumes

Here in Texas when we hit the dog days of summer I don't want to have to think about my perfume choice. I don't want it to be too inventive or unusual. I don't want it to be the least bit heavy; my beloved Oriental perfumes are pushed waaaaay to the back of the shelf. I want my summer perfume to be beautiful, not overpowering, cheerful, and hopefully give me a feeling of refreshment or enlivenment to combat the heat. Here are my top five this summer "don't even think about it, just spray" perfumes. While you're reading click below for mood music.

5. Le Chevrefeuille by Annick Goutal - This sprays on with a green and citrus blast, followed by the honeysuckle. What I like about it is the honeysuckle has that green sweetness that I remember as a kid  when we pulled the stamens out of the tubular flower and sucked on them like oversized hummingbirds. The elements in Le Chevrefeuille  are equally weighted: floral + citrus + green. It is pretty and makes me smile and gives me a nostalgic blast back to a childhood of chasing fireflies, playing hide and seek in the dark, and lying on green grass watching white puffy clouds float by in the blue sky.

4. L'Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons - This pretty perfume has notes of tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, and lime blossom. The white flowers are the main event but the lime blossom gives it a zingy citrus vibe. The tuberose is very well behaved and muted, giving way to the orange blossom and jasmine so that it is not all about tuberose. It is a sunny floral and you can spray with abandon and it still won't be too much, unlike some white flower perfumes.

3. Cinq Mondes Eau Egyptienne - This is a perfume I grab when I don't really want to smell like perfume. It is supposed to be a modern recreation of a kyphi perfume worn by the ancient Egyptian ruler Queen Hatshepsut. I am the perfect target audience for these romantic perfume inspiration tales! It blends notes of lotus, cumin, mint, cypress, rose, juniper, and papyrus. The vibe is herbal and sort of crunchy with notes of fresh wood. The scent is pronounced but wears fairly transparently, and it doesn't last a long time on my skin. It has a "I woke up in the woods this morning" smell to me, which I find refreshing.

2. Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie - Effervescent jasmine, laced with honey, floating on a breeze.

1. L'Artisan Parfumeur The Pour Un Ete - There is a reason this is my number one. I love this perfume and if I ever catch hints of discontinuation I will be stocking up! The notes sound so yummy and cool for summer: tea, jasmine, bergamot, amalfi lemon, mint, mate, cedar, and musk. Put it in a glass with ice and enjoy! And the perfume does give me that cooling effect with its sparkling citrus notes. The jasmine is slightly more pungent than one might expect paired with tea notes, but it is beautiful and well complimented by the citrus and mint. The Pour Un Ete is classified as an aromatic green fragrance and it is totally unisex as well.

As might be expected, none of these have fabulous longevity but I think that is just a facet of citrus perfumes you have to accept. If you pour a glass of champagne it loses its bubbles after a time. The same holds true for these perfumes. Spray, enjoy, then spray again!

What are your favorite perfumes to beat the hot weather?

The photo is by The perfumes are from my own collection.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nyonya by Josh Lee Fragrances

Nyonya is the third and newest scent by Josh Lee of Josh Lee Fragrances. Josh creates scents to honor the heritage of his home country of Malaysia and with Nyonya he celebrates the Peranakan culture which originated in Penang and Malacca. A Nyonya is a Peranakan woman of mixed Chinese Maylay/Indonesian heritage. They have a distinct mode of dress which includes the kebaya, a long tunic and embroidered overshirt paired with a batik skirt or sarong,  intricate beaded shoes, and nyonya jewelry, Traditionally they would wear their hair up and the bun would be encircled by a crown of flowers such as tuberose or jasmine.

Josh told me that while his family is not of Peranakan background, he admires their colorful culture and delicacy. "This fresh floral fragrance embodies the graceful feminity of a modern Nyonya," Josh said.  "She embraces flowers as part of her Peranakan culture: rose and jamine symbolizing her eternal beauty, lotus relecting her purity, champaca expressing hr eternal love, while peony and orchid portraying her nobility. Nyonya is a fragrance that celebrates the woman of today who are modern and yet preserve her culture and traditions."

The origins of this unique culture began over 500 years ago when the Chinese arrived in the area, sailing through the Stait of Malacca, their ship's hulls laden with silks, beautiful porcelain, and of course, tea. The Straits area was a good place to stop and trade before setting off for more distant destinations. The journeys were long and many of the men ended up marrying the local Malay women. This intermarriage of Chinese and Malays began a whole new subculture in Malaysia called Peranakans, or Straits Chinese. They combined their customs and come up with a new and unique culture which still exists today, though in dwindling numbers. The largest number of Peranakans are found in Melacca, Penang and Singapore.

When I first arrived in Singapore, which also has a Peranakan community, I was immediately attracted to the few remaining candy colored houses ornamented with colorful floral tiles, french shutters, and other embellishments. Their attention to detail in their surroundings was amazing and instead of the reds and blacks more common in the Chinese culture, or the browns and earth tones prevalent in the Indonesian fabric, the Peranakans seemed to favor bright eye-popping pastels.

The original Peranakans had early success in business and their homes and lifestyle reflected this. Some of the homes remain today and are characterized by long french windows, beautiful tiled walls and floors, inner courtyards, and often are painted in macaroon-like pastels. They would have been filled with dark wood furniture, Chinese porcelain, and the distinctive Peranakan pottery that is highly decorative and colorful.

 Peranakan cuisine is an amalgamation of Chinese food with Malay influences. Josh says Nyonya cuisine is very popular in Penang, where he lives.

This tribute to the feminity of the Nyonya is evidenced by the pretty pink juice in the bottle. The Eau de Parfum is blended with bergamot, neroli, the nyonya flowers of peony, rose, jasmine, lotus, champaca, and orchid, and then cedar, sandalwood, and musk. The first flush of the perfume smells like a transparent rose, but the peony note is quickly apparent on my skin. This is not a simple rose perfume; rose is the initial note I get but soon the other notes are joining in, and Nyonya begins to present as a more formal, complex perfume befitting its namesake.  I think it may be the lotus I'm smelling that gives a fresh yet intoxicating wet note to the perfume.As the notes intensify the rose retains its freshness and there is a little bit of a tang which makes things interesting. After an hour the rose is less distinguishable and the individual flowers are blending together, but the overall effect is a warm floral with a pleasurable fresh beauty.

I think Josh has done a great job of creating a perfume that illustrates the Nyonya life. He could have just gone for a sweet floral and been done with it; there it is, pretty, feminine. But instead he has created something really interesting that captures the spirit of the Nyonya; the delicate beauty of her traditional dress, the piquant notes in her native cuisine, and the spirit of the land in which she lives, surrounded by the ocean's trade winds and the vitality of the sea.

Here Josh Lee is pictured (center) at a launch party for the new Nyonya scent. Pictured to his left is Jean-Pierre Galland, Consellor for Cultural Affairs, French Embassy, Malaysia, and the woman to the right is Dr. Lee Su Kim, an award winning author and founding president of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Josh Lee's company motto, "Heritage Through Scent", is further explored by the addition of this third perfume to his line, which also includes George Town (reviewed here)  and Oud (reviewed here). I am eager to see the next aspect of Malaysian life he will illustrate fragrantly!

**The top two paintings are by Malaysian artist Yuen Chee Ling. She did a series of paintings called "Nyonya Reminiscence". Ling described the women she painted--"Nyonyas are known to be warm, sociable, and dedicated to things of beauty."
Sample provided by Josh Lee Fragrances.