Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Hanging of the Greens with DSH Perfumes Vert Pour Madame

The first Sunday in Advent is traditionally the time when churches hang garlands and wreaths in a ceremony known as the hanging of the greens, to commemorate the birth of Christ. In like manner homes are festooned with festive decor and wreaths are hung on doors to welcome the Christmas season.  The first evergreen boughs were hung in London churches in 1444 (I would love to know how this factoid was discovered!) and in 1500 era Germany evergreen boughs were formed into circles to signify God's eternal love. But this custom of hanging the greens predates Christianity and was a part of winter solstice celebrations by the Druids, Celts and Romans. Winter solstice, or Saturnalia as it was called by the Romans, occurs at approximately the same time as Christmas. Evergreen plants were treasured because they promised the rebirth of the sun and harvest so their use played a dominant role in the celebrations. These green plants of winter served as a reminder that the dark would not last forever; that the sun would return and the days of light lengthen. These habits were deeply ingrained so early Christians began to incorporate some of these celebratory features of the harvest festival into the season preceding Christmas.

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame is the perfect green scent to capture the essence of the observance of the hanging of the greens. From the first whiff, Vert pour Madame takes me back to a hazy childhood memory of watching my mother complete her toilette for a night out. I remember faint images that include dresses with bell shaped skirts and waspish waists,  red lips and darkened eyebrows, and high heels that usually only came out on Sundays. And a trail of perfume that was deep and dark and spoke of places I couldn't yet go and things that happened after my eight o'clock bedtime. Please don't think we're talking "old lady" perfume here, a term I heartily dislike. These perfumes called for no small measure of poise and aplomb to carry off, unlike many of the generic scents littering perfume counters today.

Vert pour Madame, a vintage style green chypre, harkens back to a day when perfumes had presence and made a statement. They sought to be bold and sometimes the center of attention. If you have feared that this style of perfume is long gone then Vert pour Madame will thrill you. I believe Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, creator at DSH Perfumes, originally introduced this perfume as a precursor to spring. Notes of hyacinth, jonquil, and lily of the valley give the scent a lovely brightness in the opening, but notes of cedarwood, patchouli, and moss bring it back around to a darker place. The perfume would smell lovely anytime of year but there is something about wearing this in cold weather that makes the green notes really sparkle and gives it a sharp crisp edge.

When trying to imagine this perfume, don't think of the green of dark forests or the sunnier green of a freshly mowed lawn. In fact, don't think of earthly greens at all. Think of an elegant green satin evening gown, cool to the touch. Imagine a large green emerald with murky depths set on a ring surrounded with tiny glittering diamonds. Imagine boxes wrapped in the most expensive and heavy shiny green wrapping paper, topped with a red bow. This green feels glamorous, grown up, and utterly distinctive. While I'm wearing Vert pour Madame I feel smarter, prettier, and slightly dangerous, even though at the moment  I'm wearing flannel pajamas with cherry topped cupcakes dancing across the fabric. Could this be self esteem in a bottle?

Chypre perfumes traditionally have bright top notes and deeper duskier base notes and it is this contrast of light and dark that makes them interesting. In Vert pour Madame Dawn uses notes of bergamot and galbanum to give that chypre opening, but she also adds the spring flowers of hyacinth and narcissus and these are the notes that I smell most at the beginning of the perfume's wear. Aldehydes add that sparkle and panache that makes this feel like a festive and sophisticated perfume, as well as giving it that sharp almost bitter edge. If you go to the notes list on Fragrantica you will see that Dawn, as is her custom, uses a basket full of fragrant notes to create this perfume. I'm not going to expound on each one because the notes are so well blended that what you smell is dazzling green.

My sample was taken from my one dram miniature flask of the EDP version of Vert pour Madame. DSH Perfumes also sell a perfume extract version and I can only imagine what deep gorgeousness this might contain. A sample may be a little gift to myself in the immediate future while Dawn's annual holiday sale is going on. Go to the DSH Perfumes Facebook page here  to find details. Creating exquisite perfumes comes at a cost but your nose will distinguish the difference, sort of like the difference between buttering your roll with canola oil margarine or Beurre de Baratte. The site offers lovely presentation flacons which would make an exceptional luxury gift.

In conclusion I will give you an appropriate Christmas song. Christmas music is my favorite so expect more of this!

Top photo Google image. Perfume sample from my own collection.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Parfums Dusita: La Douceur De Siam & Le Sillage Blanc

Parfums Dusita is the culmination of the creative efforts of Pissara Umavijani to introduce French inspired perfumes with a Siamese inspiration. Pissara debuted her collection in spring of 2016 and the three perfumes:  Issara, Melodie De l'Amour, and Oudh Infini all have been lauded as among the best of 2016. Ms. Umavijani was hailed as a young perfumer with an old soul and one to watch. Her latest two perfumes, La Douceur De Siam and Le Sillage Blanc, have been garnering great reviews as well, although they will  not be formally introduced for sale until early 2017.

Today's Thailand is a busy bustling place and Bangkok is a chic business hub of Asia. For centuries, however, Thailand was known as Siam and the name only changed in the WWII era. To me personally Siamese references harken back to the traditions and romance of a long ago time when Thailand was a more isolated and insular place, full of exotic secrets,  hidden beauty, and pageantry. Pissara's creations are inspired by the poems of her late father Montri Umavijani, esteemed poet of Thailand; but where his palette was the melody of words, Parfums Dusita speaks through the language of scented memories and fragrant idealized settings.

La Douceur De Siam

I chose the photo above with water not because there are any aquatic notes in La Douceur De Siam; there are not. Having been in and around Asia for the last fifteen years or so, the reality is there is always water nearby, be it a river or the ocean and it very much influences the mood of the place . La Douceur De Siam reminds me of that landscape with its fluid airy languidness and the tropical lushness of air heavy with humidity.

La Douceur de Siam opens with a creamy frangipani note. The different colored frangipani each have their own aroma and the note in this perfume definitely reminds me of the soft yellow or white petaled frangipani, not the exuberant pinks. The photo is me with my sister in law in Thailand. She took small cuttings from frangipani trees from my yard in Singapore several years ago, stuck them in the ground, and when I went to visit five years later they were all big gorgeous blooming trees. I love the frangipani for their tropical smell, which although lush are always sweet and creamy.

Rose de Mai is also present. In most of my instances wearing the perfume the rose was quietly beautiful in the background, but taking a back seat to the yellow flowers. However just one time the rose took center stage and told the frangipani, champaca and ylang ylang to take a hike and for that one day she decided to be a beautiful rose perfume. That is what I love about top class ingredients. They turn a perfume into a living elixir that can react differently on skin, opening up new facets with each wear.

Champaca enters the picture with floral and woody notes. Ylang ylang bolsters the yellow flower appeal with its creamy musky florals. Violet leaf adds a green-tinged herbaceous accord. The perfume doesn't become green, it's just a whisper. Eventually the floral notes fade and sandalwood becomes dominant. Even later notes of amber, cloves and vanilla join the sandalwood in the final breath of the perfumes wear. These notes are subtle and quiet.

I couldn't help getting a mental image when wearing this perfume. Picture yourself in a narrow long boat on the river Chao Phraya in Bangkok. Your trip begins near the markets and you glide silently past the floating boats laden with fragrant flowers. As you slip away from the city you glide past small communities that have settled along the river banks. You smell the scent of wet green vegetation with its pleasant funkiness. As the sun lowers the river narrows and the trees along the shore line close in, blocking out the light. The woody comforting scent of trees surrounds the boat. The scent dims at dusk to a light amber woodiness with a tinge of vanilla.

If you are wondering what the difference is between La Douceur de Siam and Melodie de  l'Amour, other than the white flower/yellow flower distinction, here is my take. Melodie De l'Amour is a beautiful bouquet of white flowers and explores the individual white flowers that make up the bouquet. La Douceur de Siam starts with yellow flowers but then evolves to a more quiet and mysterious place.

Le Sillage Blanc

This perfume was actually created as an ode to "a Mediterranean idylle" and as a nod to one of Ms. Umavijani's favorite scents, vintage Bandit by Robert Piguet. I'm stubbornly sticking to my Thai theme though, and using this photo of gorgeous greens, watery vegetation, and a leathery elephant to illustrate this modern green leather chypre scent.

Le Sillage Blanc is the yang to La Douceur de Siam's yin. It opens with a rush of neroli from the bitter orange tree. It is galbanum that makes Chanel No. 19 sing in a sharp key and it does similar service in Le Sillage Blanc, taking away any slight sweetness that might be found in the neroli and giving it a bitter green twist.  There is the same vegetal feel that lightly flitted through Le Douceur. It's a shape shifter going from moody and mysterious to a bright hue of green . Artemesia has a sharp, bitter, pungent smell and it helps make this essence a thoughtful and even slightly challenging wear in the best way.

Before we go any further I must mention tobacco. The tobacco note is just as big a player in Le Sillage Blanc as are the green and bitter notes. The tobacco note in perfume, depending on what it is paired with, can be boozy, fruity, or sweet with caramel type notes. This tobacco note captures the more green aspect of the plant and to me has a ganja like smell. There is a leather feel to this perfume. It serves to rough it up a bit and heighten the earthiness. It is subtle and well blended. Finally the patchouli brings even more earthiness and expands on the slightly mossy note presented here. Ambrette seed is also in the dry down and it can present as nutty or with undertones of tobacco, clary sage, or cognac. All these notes conjoin to present an overall feel of bitter greens, herbal accents, and earthiness.

When I first interviewed Pissara to write the review on Issara she sent me a link to a work which inspired her greatly in the years prior to starting her own perfume brand: Freedom From the Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti. She stated that the book inspired her to discover her life's passion and to expore the meaning of happiness. I have always been curious with young achievers, what motivates them and gives them courage to pursue their dreams? I don't know that this particular passage from the work was Pissara's inspiration but it certainly describes how she has gone after fulfilling her creative passion.

"But when you have thrown it off, and have this energy in which there is no fear at all--no fear of making a mistake, no fear of doing right or wrong, then is not that energy itself the mutation? But when there is this energy that comes from throwing off every form of fear, that energy itself produces the radical inward revolution. So you are left with yourself.....and you are already free to discover."

Ms. Umavijani has in one short year garnered a lot of respect and buzz for her brand and her perfume creations. Any of us who have had conversations with her will attest to what a kind and generous soul she is. It is a pleasure to see her fragrances getting so much love from the perfume world and these two newest scents will only add to the acclaim.

Edit: I have a set of the three original Dusita perfumes to give away. So there can be three winners instead of one, I am going to break up the set. In comments below, let me know if you prefer to win the Melodie De l'Amour, Issara, or Oud Infini. Press here to link to the post of my last giveaway, which will show you what the perfumes look like and links to my reviews. The contest will end next Friday, Nov. 25, 9 pm Central Time. Oh, and it's not a requirement, but I'd appreciate you either subscribing to my blog or liking the facebook page of The Fragrant Journey if you feel so led. Thank you and good luck! 

Top photo Harpers Bazaar. Middle Photo my own. Elephant photo from  Perfume samples provided by Parfums Dusita.

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Favorite Autumn Scent: Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit

When people find out I love perfume they often inevitably ask, "What is your favorite perfume?" I hate that question and it always leaves me tongue tied. It's like asking, "Which of your three children do you love the most?" How can I possibly limit my perfume love to only one when there are so many out there to explore? But there is one fragrance that I have adored since it was first introduced in 2009, and if you really pressed me I could at least commit this much: Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit is my favorite autumn perfume. Probably. Almost certainly.

The very talented and fragrantly prolific Pierre Guillaume introduced this perfume to his limited edition line of fragrance but here's hoping it never goes away. There is a gourmand note in the opening, like burnt caramel or something golden and syrupy. It is slightly sweet but not the candy curdled sweetness found in so many gourmand perfumes. It is more an opulent richness with bergamot providing a golden light. The davana note adds to the boozy feel of this scent. The first hour it is truly an elixir of warmth and luxuriance and I am tipsy with delight.

Now for the really good stuff. Benzoin and labdanum are two of my most loved fragrance notes and they take center stage in L'Oiseau de Nuit. Benzoin makes this perfume feel like it has amber as an ingredient, but it's a slightly lighter more transparent amber note than the real thing. Benzoin  also adds a sweetness which doesn't feel like a full on gourmand, a unique juggling act. Ladanum is a sticky resin that also adds to the amber accord feel. At the beginning of this perfume's wear it is like a gorgeous golden elixir, slightly sweet and rich. Then the amber notes began to take over and it becomes the most oppulent cashmere blanket of scent. On the Parfumerie Generale website L'Oiseau de Nuit is termed an ambery leather perfume, but Guillaume kept the leather touch light. It adds a very slight animalic note and tones down the more gourmand aspect, but I never really sense a strong leather presence. The longer I wear it the darker the scent becomes, perhaps referencing the night bird in its name.

This is the perfect fall comfort scent for me. It evolves from its bright and showy opening to a darker denser fragrance. For all the drama of its opening it eventually becomes a fairly close to the skin scent which one could be comfortable wearing in any situation. L'Oiseau de Nuit would be equally at home as a male or female scent. If you love banzoin, labdanum, or amber this is a must try.

This beautiful collage can be yours from Imagine Studio, Etsy. Scent from my personal collection.