Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Look Back at 2017; A Look Forward to 2018

I do not do a list of "best of" fragrances at the end of the year (although I love reading them) for two simple reasons. I did not get to test even a small percentage of the new perfume introductions this year, and my blog is more about scent memories or scents of place.  Lists that I enjoyed this year include:
Cafleurebon - Read their editor picks here
Colognoisseur - Read his best of here
Kafkaesque - For a list of perfumes you've never heard of but will now want, read here

Instead I am looking back at the year through my own personal lens, mainly what experiences my love of scent led me to this year. First and foremost was an interview I was able to do with master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian here. Besides the obvious thrill of speaking to this talented man I had two very specific gains. First, I went out of my comfort zone by just showing up at my local Neiman Marcus and requesting an interview, and Mr. Kurkdjian couldn't have been more gracious. For you extroverts out there this may sound like no big deal but for me it was a bold move. Secondly, after our interview turned more personal, I mentioned I had a trip planned to Spain where Mr. Kurkdjian likes to spend time. He recommended the area of Los Pueblos Blancos, specifically  Ronda, which I added to our itenary. It led to this review and added huge enjoyment to our trip as we would have never found this place left to our own devices.

The idea of fragrance as an art form continues to grow. I'm not in New York or London where there have been exhibits of this kind, but I was lucky enough to attend the Lush Gorilla Perfumes Vol. IV exhibit when it came to Dallas. I reviewed my experience here. It was fascinating to see an exploration of perfume expressed in both art installations and scented memories, and the theme of home vs. homelessness was a poignant one. I hope to be in the right place at the right time in 2018 to experience something like this again.

Looking back I see that my most often reviewed niche perfumeries were Zoologist Perfumes and DSH Perfumes. As I expressed here I am a longtime fan of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz perfumes and she has had an amazing spurt of creativity in 2017. Zoologist Perfumes continues to surprise me with its creativity and I look forward to seeing what perfumers Victor Wong will work with in 2018.  Mr. Wong seems to be a strong creative director by drawing very interesting work from the various perfumers who have worked with him. I must admit that these were some of the funnest reviews for me to write because the perfumes are often so unusual and one of my favorites was Bat which I wrote about almost a year ago here.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to record my combined love of travel and scent, two things that have always been intertwined for me. I realize these travel inspired perfume reviews are not for everyone, but that makes me appreciate all the more those of you who do me the honor of reading my pieces from time to time. My favorite travel inspired series of articles this year were a trip to India, which made me drag out many old favorites, and which I began writing about here. A short trip to Indonesia was creative inspiration (such a fascinating country!) and I started writing about that here. Lastly a summer trip to Spain inspired a whole new series of fragrance reviews which I wrote about here. 

I hope to be a little more prolific in 2018 but I will probably continue to write about perfumes that stir forgotten memories or fragrances that speak to me of place, rather than just blog about new scents as there are so many people who do that better than I can. I wish everyone a safe New Year's Eve as it's icy even here in North Texas, and may we all find at least one new scented love in 2018.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

REDUX: Silver Bells: Sparkling Perfumes To Wear This Christmas Holiday


I have had a busy month and have not kept up with reviewing but I hate to enter Christmas without a post. This is a re-post from last year and to date, it is the most read piece from my blog. I'm not sure why but I do love the picture from Dominique Corbasson. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season to all!

Something about cold weather and the holidays makes me love wearing aldehyde perfumes. They are as sparkling and as effervescent as a fine dry champagne. They are crisp and chilly like a walk through Central Park in December. They feel dressy and special as befitting holiday parties and events, and go perfectly with gowns in satin or velvet, bedazzled heels, and sparkly earrings for ladies or the perfect outrageous cravat for the gents.

Aldehyde perfumes were popular in the 1960s but they gradually fell out of favor as a more natural approach to perfumes became popular in the 1990s, at least these are my memories. When I was a twenty-something I found strong aldehyde perfumes overbearing and obnoxious. I probably would have used the term "old lady perfumes" when describing them. But as the years ticked by and life experiences gained, somewhere along the way I changed my mind. Suddenly they seemed complex and mature compared to my everyday perfumes. There are many other bloggers that could tell you about the chemical process in aldehyde perfumes that cause the whoosh effect when the sprayed perfume hits the skin. I can't tell you why it happens but only that I love that rush of scent and that sensation of walking through a door into the cold chill of a winter day, the dry frigid air stinging your face and eyes. Some compare aldehydes to the pop of a champagne bottle and the fizz of the bubbles. My favorite time of year to wear these perfumes is in the cold weather when the perfume's amplified notes are muted by winter's chill and the notes feel sharp, silvery, and almost metallic, thus the reminder of silver bells in the song.

Clinique Wrappings was introduced in 1990 as only the second addition to the brand's line, twenty years after the debut of their first perfume Aromatics Elixir. Imagine these two strong take- no-prisoners perfumes and the gutsy statement that makes about how different the perfume market was then. Who knew that in less than a decade Clinique would be introducing the bland Happy and it's yearly flankers; meanwhile the Wrappings is rarely available on the Clinique counter or is hidden away like the relative that makes a bit of a scene after too much holiday tipple. If you want Wrappings you need to grab it around Christmas when Clinique makes it available. I must admit I forget about Wrappings every year until Christmas, when its name is subliminally triggered as I begin to wrap presents to put under the tree. Then when I spray it I am reminded why it is the perfect scent for this time of year. That rush that smells like frigid air. The green that smells like silvery fir needles laced with snow. Mind you, it's not a pine scented perfume, just very green. But at the beginning of the perfume's life on my skin it conjures the image of walking through a frozen forest, pine needles glistening with frozen ice glitter. Wrappings sparkles with aldehydes. There are a whole host of notes in this perfume but as was the custom of the era, no particular notes stand out. It is more a melange of floral and woody notes that eventually becomes more of a green chypre fragrance when the fizzy giddiness recedes.

A most traditional choice of perfume featuring aldehydes would be Chanel No. 5, but I prefer Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere.  As much as I'd like to wear the original for the grande dame she is, it comes off screechy and shrill on my skin. I find the Eau Premiere to have that champagne sparkle and pop without the bitter acrid edge of the original. This one is floral with heart notes of jasmin and rose. My bottle is from the original 2007 introduction of the perfume. It was reintroduced in 2015 and I am uncertain what changes if any were made to the formula. I don't think there has ever been a more perfect "little black dress" perfume created than the Chanel No. 5 in its various guises, and the Eau Premiere in particular makes me feel like I'm in my finery holding a bubbling glass of Tattingers.

DSH Perfumes Deco Diamonds was created by perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as one of four perfumes to conceptually illustrate an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in 2014, Brilliant: Cartier in the Twentieth Century. Dawn has had several collaborations with the museum and this one attempted to capture the luxury and sparkle of the Cartier jewels in the exhibit. Deco Diamonds specifically was created as a tribute to the Cartier diamonds worn by the Duchess of Windsor. The copy on the DSH website says, "She was bold, stylish, hard and a force to be reckoned with. Deco Diamonds mirrors this ferocity in a most beautitful way."

Deco Diamonds also starts with the zoom of aldehydes which Dawn describes as "a blazing and dazzling white sparkle."  Eventually the perfume becomes even richer as intense florals of jasmine, tuberose, gardenia and honeysuckle peep through the galbanum and aldehydes. But what distinguishes this perfume and makes it quite different from the two above are the animalic notes of   civet and hyrax. These animalic notes are much more intense  than the ones found in DSH Perfumes Chinchilla, which I reviewed recently here. I enjoy the combination of the sparkling dazzle of aldehydes and the strong, almost feral agressiveness of the animalic notes, and I think it perfectly captures the spirit of the woman it was created to emulate, Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. A confident man or woman could rock this perfume but it's definitely not for the timid.

These three perfumes for me capture the essence of bustling city sidewalks, window displays brimming with holiday scenes and people carrying an excess of packages to soon be transformed to gifts under the tree. They also give me a sense of cool, silvery metal, thus the tie in with the song below, the original Silver Bells from the 1951 motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid.

Disclaimer: In reading up on aldehydes and their use in perfumes several said that comparing their use to adding sparkle and fizz was an amateurish take, and that the notes can often be soapy or waxy. I am in no way an expert but can only state my opinions, and what I get from the aldehydes is described as best I can in the above reviews.

Top photo Dominique Corbasson. Tree photo Google image.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Countdown: Dasein Fragrance Winter and Winter Nights

Winter Wonderland by Curious Bumblebee

Dasein Winter opens with an extremely fresh blue spruce and pine scent that makes me feel I've been dropped deep in an old forest, the branches laden with heavy snow. Or perhaps at the very least I am  at a fresh Christmas tree stand. There is an invigorating chill to this woody scent which feels cleansing and refreshing. Don't think room spray when you hear pine. There is a realistic freshness which makes you imagine the branches and the prickly stiff green needles. Lavender is listed as a note and usually I can pick lavender out easily but here it blends into the pine and spruce notes, adding an herbal oomph. There is something very peaceful and calming about this scent to me. I only wish that rush of freshness lasted a little longer, it is so stunning. Afterwards the scent settles down and softens, on me becoming more of a personal scent. After a few hours there is a faint honeyed sweetness that I sometimes get with lavender but the slight fragrance of the conifers is still present.

A Winter Forest Night by Moonlight by Lorinda Christene

Dasein Winter Nights is also a woody aromatic and although it is a very different scent from Winter, it continues with the same quiet contemplative air of stillness. Winter Nights has the forest element but the strongest scent is that of a fire smoldering somewhere nearby in the forest, perhaps from a chimney of some hidden cabin.  If you've been fortunate enough in life to be in a forest sitting in front of a campfire, you know the contentment and pleasure to be found there. In fact, I would go so far as to say if every child, rich or poor, could be exposed to nature and develop a love for the outdoors it would go a long way towards healing many of the problems we see  in society today. But I'm rambling. The point is that the scent provokes feelings of quiet well being. Notes listed are coastal forest, driftwood bonfire, cardamom tea, lavender, and wild musk. The campfire smell is the strongest scent initially but as the scent sits on my skin the forest note becomes more obvious, followed by the cardamom tea and lavender. Winter Nights changes quite a lot after several hours wear. The smokiness has disappeared and it has smoothed to a soft and pretty musky scent

Sam Rader, the perfumer and owner of Dasein Fragrances created both of these scents but Winter Nights was in a collaboration with Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors perfume. Ms. Rader's brief bio on the website mentions that her inspiration for starting Dasein was sniffing the air of Big Sur. This inspiration to bottle nature certainly shows in these two perfumes as they bring to mind memories of enjoying the great outdoors. The fragrances are available at Dasein Fragrance or Twisted Lily.

Here's a little Christmas music to get you in the mood for these fragrances.

The samples were purchased by myself from Twisted Lily.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Countdown: The Much Maligned Mugler Womanity

In a recent poll over at Fragrantica, Thierry Mugler Womanity was voted the eighth worst fragrance of all time. It was introduced in 2010 so evidently "of all time" has a relatively short band width. In this list it sits next to Angel, its more successful sister fragrance and possibly one of the most successful fragrance introductions of the 1990's. What this says to  me is that Thierry Mugler is not afraid to take chances and push boundaries when creating a new fragrance. Yes, Womanity is definitely different in the world of fig-based fragrances, and even now when I spray the  perfume, sometimes my initial reaction is a wrinkle of the nose. Eventually though the scent melds with my skin and becomes very moreish.


It's always been a bit of an odd duck with its chainmaille cap, looking to me like the girl who came to the dance trying to look really hip and everyone else went for the classic little black dress style. And the name Womanity has an awkward pretentiousness. It differentiates itself from other fig perfumes which concentrate on emphasizing dryness, coconut aspects, or pair fig with vanilla. On my skin there is a slight aquatic note in the opening, yet it doesn't scream beach perfume. Next there is a sliver of fresh coconut, and before I can absorb that it changes to roasted coconut, and then that note disappears. All these rather weird smells begin to merge with the fig into a non-sweet gourmand, if that is not a totally contradictory phrase. There is a salty phase courtesy of the caviar note, and this lingers throughout the life of the perfume.

My family lived in Scotland in the 1990's. I loved my introduction to British Christmas customs. I say British, because the celebration of Christmas was banned in Scotland for 400 years. This dates back to Oliver Cromwell, the original Mr. Grinch, and his edict of the Reformation. After about fifteen years the British had enough of this nonsense and overthrew the edict but the poor Scots continued to be held by the law for another 400 years, until the late 1950's. The Scots began to celebrate Christmas and Boxing Day, but the biggest celebration is their own, Hogmanay, a four day celebration of the New Year. To be in a Scottish pub for a group sing along of Auld Lang Syne is as good of a description of personal bliss as any. There were some differences in the Christmas dishes as compared to my American version of the holiday. The Yule log was a favorite and one of my personal favorites, was figgy pudding.

I will never forget my three then seven-year-olds singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas in their school Christmas performance. When the class got to the line, "We won't go until we've got some, so bring it out here," their voices rang with ardent fervor and they couldn't help grinning at the inherent naughtiness of it. They are darling little cakes but I must say they taste infinitely better at a three hundred year old Scottish inn with fireplace roaring and the hills outside covered in a white blanket, only broken by the line of the stone fences, than in the steamy Christmases I've experienced in Singapore or the subdued cold of Texas winters.

All this brings me to Womanity. Many reviewers on Fragrantica mention how it smells like salty water on skin and they love it as a summer perfume. While I can definitely see how they might interpret the notes this way, I prefer my summer figs to be dry and austere like Diptyque Philosykos. I prefer saving Womanity for autumn and winter wear and at Christmas if always reminds me of figgy pudding. It is not exactly gourmand; it could definitely be a lot sweeter with fig as a note. Its caviar salty note paired with fig makes Womanity seem almost crunchy and dense, like figgy pudding. Ultimately on my skin it coalesces into a warm and savory fig perfume, which turns into a musky skin scent the longer it's on my skin. The sillage and length of wear is very good, like most Mugler's.

This will always be a polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it perfume. It's just too different to appeal to everyone. Looking at Fragrantica reviews, a few of my favorite dislikes:
VioletBlack: "Ashtray, salt, watermelon."
BettyNoir: "It smells like food and crumbs. Who on earth is buying this vile mixture?"
Adrienne99: "Cold, metallic, heartless. Makes me feel physically sick, stomach turns."

But there are also many who love it:
ktyhan: "Reminds me of Diana Krall's voice, cool and sexy."

How do you feel about Womanity?  Have you worn it?

We all have our fragrant memories that fire up the neurotransmitters and allow us to relive moments in time, and for me Thierry Mugler Womanity equals figgy pudding. Below is a rendition of this old Christmas tune.

Note: My review is based on my personal bottle which is about five years.

Photos are Google images. video.