Sunday, July 1, 2018

Honeysuckle Take Two: DSH Perfumes Il Marinaio de Capri and Other Curiosities





When I did my review of honeysuckle perfumes last week I was reminded by the high priestess of perfumes herself that she had a newish perfume entry with a honeysuckle element. I'm talking about Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of course,  and the perfume was one from 2017, Il Marinaio de Capri, or The Sailor of Capri. This is the first in a series Dawn entitled, "flowers for men", although she states it is for women too. She describes the scent as a crisp, green honeysuckle chypre.


Il Marinaio de Capri features a honeysuckle note that is more crisp and green than sweet. There is a realistic essence of salty sea air. I really do not like men's aquatics that have that rush of calone. To me that note as used to simulate aquatic scents is artificial and irritating to the nose, so I am happy to have an alternative to give that seaside vibe. The honeysuckle note is fragrant and a happy note, and this reminds me a little of the Tom Ford scent Fleur de Portofino. The biggest difference is the rush of salt water scent that brings to mind turquoise waters, rocky shores, and sleek white sailing boats. How Dawn achieves that very salty scent  I have no idea but to me it is what makes this scent special. This "flowers for men" scent has the beauty of the honeysuckle without the sassy sweetness, and it is the freshness and the essence of salty water and air that makes this such a vacation in a bottle. The scent wears somewhat lightly on my skin but it is pretty tenacious. This is SALTY honeysuckle.

Another honeysuckle scent I forgot to mention in last week's Top Honeysuckle Scents is Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte, a citrus/floral aromatic and flanker to the original Chanel Cristalle. It starts off full of citrus: bergamot, lemon, neroli. So the opening could be a citrus bomb but this is Chanel, so no, it gets the point across without going JuicyFruit gum territory. The honeysuckle lies underneath all the citrus, at least to my nose. The citrus notes are the queen, but the honeysuckle is the lady in waiting, giving a pretty lilt to all that Vitamin C. But did I say pretty? Wait, don't relegate this to simply a feminine perfume. This is an aromatic after all, and after the citrus dies down (as it always does), you're left with crushed grass, wet leaves, and lively herbal green foliage smells, after a rain, wet and fresh. The honeysuckle is just a thread through the citrus and the green, but it, along with a magnolia note and magnolia always reads a bit citrus-smelling to me, provide the "prettiness" to the scent. Totally wearable for either sex in my opinion. In Cristall Eau Verte the honeysuckle accord is mixed with the magnolia, unlike in Cristalle Eau de Toilette (1974). It has been many years since I tested the two together, but I remember thinking the honeysuckle note was stronger in the Cristalle Eau Verte formula. I didn't have time to seek out the original to compare again. To me this is a very green, citrus take on honeysuckle. This is ELEGANT honeysuckle.

Hindu Honeysuckle by  Providence Perfumes is a scent I've already reviewed here  so I will keep it brief. Usually honeysuckle is light, effervescent, fleeting, but not here. This is honeysuckle with an Indian vibe, picture women in vibrantly bright saris, their neck encircled with flower chains, making their way into the temple to leave their offerings. This is a deeper rendition of honeysuckle and notes of coriander and ambrette definitely give it an Eastern vibe. This is a natural perfume, created by Charna Ethier who runs the show at Providence Perfumes and my bottle is a few years old, so it is possible that newer solutions offer a brighter, sunnier honeysuckle accord. Having lived in India for four years, though, I quite enjoy the bohemian vibe I get from this altogether earthier rendition of the honeysuckle flower. This is MOODY honeysuckle.

Here's something different: Presence(s) de Bach les Fleurs de Bach. I bought my bottle years ago when I was first getting into perfume. If you're not familiar with Bach Flower Remedies as a brand, their tagline on their website reads: a system of 38 flower remedies to help mankind achieve joy and happiness. A tall order, perhaps, but they seem to have many supporters including Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, along with various celebrities. My first experience with Bach Rescue Remedy (a mix of several Bach Flower remedies created to deal with emergencies and crises, an antidote in stressful situations) was when I fell off a cliff when we were rafting and hiking in the Grand Canyon. Our guides were a mix of sort of athletic hippies who drifted from continent to continent, skiing, rafting, rock climbing; whatever the season allowed. When I rather miraculously survived a fall relatively unharmed, their first reaction was to dose me with Bach Rescue Remedy. So the perfume, Presence(s) de Bach les Fleurs de Bach is meant to provide a feeling of well being, balance, and harmony. The listed notes are: top notes of verbena and clematis, heart notes of wild rose and honeysuckle, and base notes of pine, oak, and crab apple. According to the site, honeysuckle is "to allow you to live in the present". My bottle is probably ten years old and I vaguely remember that it smelled more strongly of honeysuckle back then than it does now. However of the melange of notes the honeysuckle stands out more than the others. This honeysuckle opens couched in lemon verbena. I wouldn't call it a super realistic honeysuckle, at least what I'm smelling now from my ten year old bottle, but it is a pleasurable and, dare I say, grounding scent. It doesn't hang with the honeysuckle forever, moving on toward notes of pine and oak as it ages. This is WELLNESS honeysuckle.

I found a bottle of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Honeysuckle perfume in the back of my perfume cupboard, another one I forgot about when I wrote last week's review of honeysuckle perfumes. I was surprised to learn that the perfumer was Rodrigo Flores-Roux, a perfumer whose work I admire very much. In fact he has done seven other flankers for the Elizabeth Arden Green Tea line. When I say I am surprised, it is because I am more familiar with his work for high-end lines such as the Arquiste line and the Green Tea line is more cheap and cheerful. When I sprayed myself with Green Tea Honeysuckle I vowed to move it to the front of the cupboard. It is light and airy and perfect for low-key hot summer days. At the opening the scent is green and bright citrus and I can smell the honeysuckle. It is very pleasant and appealing in the same light and carefree style of the Yves Rocher scents, if you are familiar with those. It is not the world's most realistic honeysuckle but it is a very good representation for its price point. As the perfume wears on I began to lose the honeysuckle to the creaminess of ylang ylang and jasmine but that does not lessen my enjoyment. It can be bought for a song on the discount sites. This is BREEZY honeysuckle.

I bought Tokyo Milk Anthemoessa No. 84 Parfum strictly for the bottle. I mean, look at it!


And if you sign up to receive mailings from the website the founder, Margot Elena, occasionally has 24-hour flash sales with everything fifty percent off. That's how I got my bottle and even though it's a safe and simple scent, I've no regrets for the purchase. It starts off a salty grapefruit. The saltiness reminds me of that note in the DSH perfume above. The salt also makes the grapefruit less astringent and piercing. It has a smooth opening. The notes are grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, sandalwood, and salt and it is classified as a floral woody musk. As with many of the Margot Elena fragrances, we do arrive at musk fairly quickly. The honeysuckle is a faint whisper to my nose after the first thirty minutes and the longevity is not great but it is nice for the price and as I did in Il Marinaio de Capri, I enjoy the salt note. This is BEACHY honeysuckle.

The original Kate Spade by Kate Spade (RIP) was one of the earliest scents I bought when my perfume obsession really started taking hold. It was a white floral created in 2003 and I probably bought it that year. I remember I got it as a gift set with the perfume and lotion and I still have the cute green cosmetic bag that it all came packed inside. Although this was a white flower scent, to me it was all about the honeysuckle. I probably used that bottle up faster than I have ever emptied a bottle since. I don't know if it was as good as I remember; cue heavenly harps and unicorns leaping through the clouds. All I know is that by the time I thought about replacing it, it was long gone, other than the occasional bottle that shows up on Ebay for hundreds of dollars. If memory serves, this was the HOLY GRAIL of honeysuckle scents. Why it was discontinued so quickly is a mystery.

Last week when I published Finding the Perfect Honeysuckle Scent  readers suggested other perfumes with honeysuckle notes. One of those was Aerin Ikat Jasmine,  and having tried it I do agree that the lemony note of honeysuckle is emphasized more than the tuberose or jasmine. It's very pretty. Other honeysuckle perfumes suggested were Las Flores EDP Provision, Creed Chevrefeille and Zest Mandarine, Zoologist Hummingbird, STP Stash Unspoken, Penhaligon's Ellenisia, Honeysuckle Absolute Aftelier, and a lotion, La Maison White Honeysuckle. 

The first post of honeysuckle perfumes can be found here.

Top photo from www.YourBoatHoliday.com. Second photo from www.Tokyo-Milk.com. Perfumes all my own, except DSH Perfumes supplied sample of Il Marinaio de Capri.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Finding the Perfect Honeysuckle Scent


When I remember the scents of my Texas childhood, honeysuckle will always play a part. It wasn't as showy as the lone gardenia bush outside my Mother's kitchen window that she babied and even occasionally covered with a blanket on a cold winter night. It was never really planted in the landscape, it just appeared. In fact its greatest charm was that it was a rogue bush, tenacious in its growth  and unfussy in its habitat needs. In those more innocent days when as children we could roam far afield during summer days, away from our Mother's watchful eye, you would smell the honeysuckle before you saw it in field explorations. You could be approaching the little creek running through the field and suddenly smell its sweet honey floating on the breeze. In fact it seemed that the more decrepit, decaying, or derelict the location, the more likely you were to find a honeysuckle vine thriving away in benign neglect.

If you Google honeysuckle one of the top articles has the headline: Honeysuckle Is A Blob-Like Monster Taking Over American Forests. This is the Japanese species, Lonicera Japonica introduced to the USA in the early 1900s. It found fertile ground in some states and can spread prolifically. There is a species of native honeysuckle sold in plant nurseries which is pretty but scentless, much like how the scent was bred out of some roses. Today I don't often see honeysuckle bushes in the carefully tended yards of my neighbors, but in older neighborhoods and along a back road it can often be found climbing fences and spilling down the other side in lacy clouds of white and yellow blossoms. I have such happy memories of having a tea party with my childhood friend in my backyard, each of us with out favorite doll on a small blanket. A pile of honeysuckle blossoms, freshly picked, were on a plate. We'd carefully pull the slender thread of the stamen out through the bottom of the flower and taste the tiny drop of nectar that glistened on the tip. Then we'd offer a taste to our dolls.  All this is to say that probably more than most floral scents, honeysuckle is the stuff of childhood. Memories of the scent are tied up with visiting my Grandparent's rustic house in the country, and as dusk fell madly running around the yard with all my cousins, trying to catch fireflies in jam jars, then releasing them and watching them soar off into the dark skies, all of this scented by the tangle of honeysuckle vines and the prickly blackberry bushes.


Honeysuckle scents stimulate some of these great memories of my childhood summers so I set about trying as many scents featuring honeysuckle as I could get my hands on in a hurry.


Dame Perfumery Soliflore Honeysuckle is a soft fragrant breath of  scent, reminiscent of backyard barbecues, old style wooden picnic tables clad with red and white checkered cloths, and a yard shaded with large old oaks and tangles of honeysuckle bushes climbing the chain leak fence. It is soft and gentle and gives an interpretation of honeysuckle that starts off slightly creamy and with a touch of lemon. It is only a little sweet, just like the flower, and is a very good rendition which reminded me of my childhood backyard. I think someone would have to move in close to smell this, projection is not huge. I found it to be a very pretty honeysuckle that had a smile on my face while I was wearing it. Jeffrey Dame makes a collection of Soliflores and his Gardenia and Rose de Mai are among my favorites. He describes his soliflore collection: A true floral, alive and in full bloom. Lifting off into the breeze, floating in the air; adrift in the garden of earthly delight. For me, Dame Soliflore Honeysuckle is CREAMY honeysuckle.

Deconstructing Eden's Halo is old-time summer in a bottle. The perfumer says it's a Charleston summer to her, and the description says: moonlight, sea water, lilacs, wisteria, honeysuckle and moonflower. Halo is a breath of sea-water laden air with rich floral notes that are predominantly lilac and honeysuckle. Acquatic notes can sometimes put me off but this one just adds to the perfume oils lazy summer mood. (NOTE: since last night the shop has put up a sign that they are on hiatus for three months and that Halo will be discontinued. Once she opens, though, I'll be asking her to please recreate this one.) Halo is LANGUID honeysuckle.

Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille was created in 2002 by Annick's daughter Camille and Perfumer Isabelle Doyen as a nod to Camille's happy childhood memories of her family's home in the south of France, playing Princess dress up with her cousins, their heads crowned with honeysuckle wreaths. It's a nod to cheerful childhood memories. This scent opens with a green note, meant to invoke the leaves and stems of the honeysuckle as well as grass, but the green does not overshadow the honeysuckle scent, which is enfolded in notes of wild narcissus, jasmine, lemon and petit grain. I find this to be the greenest of the honeysuckle scents I tried. My bottle is probably ten years old so I'm not absolutely positive that the formula hasn't changed, but this is a favorite for me. Le Chevrefeuille is JOYOUS honeysuckle.

The Strange South, an Etsy shop, sells a perfume oil called Nightjar. I love the gothic images used to populate the online webshop. Nightjar does have honeysuckle in the mix, but it opens with the  scent of peach blossom. Other listed notes, which I can not recognize individually but give some idea that this is a deeper and more complex scent include: sage, fern, tuberose, dragon's blood, clove, and smoked vanilla. This reflects a garden as dusk fades into night; when all the flowers are emitting their strongest scent, no longer battling the heat of the sun. Creatures of the night take flight. The garden takes on an air of mystery and intrigue.  Nightjar isn't super strong on me but is definitely moodier and darker than the scents above. Nightjar is BROODING honeysuckle.



Alkemia is on Etsy and it has a prolific catalog of scents. Two attracted my attention with their honeysuckle notes, Desiderata and Midnight Garden and they have wildly different takes on the flower's scent. Midnight Garden surrounds the honeysuckle with gardenia, lily, and tuberose and despite this basket of sweet flower goodness it manages to be a pretty but softly contained scent. It's creamy and sweet and feels like you're at high tea in a Southern mansion with huge white columns on the porch and three hundred year old oak canopies shading the lawn.  Desiderata is Grapes of Wrath to Midnight Garden's more Steel Magnolia vibe. The notes of Desiderata are fresh honeysuckle, vetiver root, old barnwood, and river clay. Are those real notes? I don't know but it reads like the outline for a great novel, or for a great perfume. The honeysuckle is faint initially as if carried on the breeze. The vetiver is a bit dusty and gives the impression of wandering down a country road. I love that this is a realistic interpretation of how honeysuckle sprouts up in the wild and incorporates the smells that would be found in this setting. I smell the woody notes, and if clay is the impression of dirt and dust then that's there too. I do wish the honeysuckle scent hung around a bit longer but the vetiver begins to dominate. Still, I quite like this. These scents are oil based and they wear quietly, almost personal scents on my skin. I get about three hours of good longevity. Midnight Garden is LADYLIKE honeysuckle and  Desiderata is RUSTIC honeysuckle.

Sixteen92 made big splash a year or so ago when the perfume Bruise Violet was chosen as the winner of the 2017 Art + Olfaction Award - Artisan. Sixteen92 was at that time an unknown brand and beat out much more well known brands to win this honor. When I placed my sample order I meant to try her perfume A Thousand Times More Fair which features honeysuckle but I somehow messed up and forgot to include it. I did, however, order Supernatural Hair Serum in Tomato Leaf and Honeysuckle and wow, it's beautiful. I have thin, fine hair. Sounds lovely, right? In humid weather my hair puffs out like a poodle head and I've found a light application of oil to the ends is the best thing for controlling the frizz. The scent is described on the website as: green grass, sweet tomato leaf, and warm honeysuckle vine. This is a natural and slightly green honeysuckle and I love how my head is surrounded in a scent cloud of wonderfullness when I wear this serum. With each turn of my head I get a mini rush of happiness as the scent reaches the little happy olfactory receptors in my brain. Tomato Leaf and Honeysuckle Serum is REALISTIC honeysuckle.


There are few scents that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz hasn't dabbled with so I was fairly certain when I drew out my huge box that holds all the samples from DSH Perfumes collected over the years that I would find honeysuckle, and indeed I did. DSH Perfumes Wild Honeysuckle is a very realistic interpretation of the honeysuckle flower. It opens with a green and natural honeysuckle scent that is very soft and extremely realistic. There is the slightest powdery feel to the scent that reminds me of pollen. It is a simple replication of nature, perfect in its simplicity. I could see having a rollerball of this perfume available in my purse to drag out when ever I need a bit of zen in my day. Wearing it gives me a feeling of peacefulness and puts a smile on my face. It is surprisingly long lasting for such an ephemeral scent.  Wild Honeysuckle is PURE honeysuckle.

I haven't loved all the scents by the Estee Lauder Aerin brand as much as I would like. (I'm shamefully influenced by great graphics and beautiful packaging). I do, however, very much like Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle, enough so that I bought a gift set recently from Nordstrom, one of those boxes where you get a travel size and lotion for the same price as the bottle. The SA told me that at their store this was the best selling perfume from the Aerin brand. It doesn't surprise me as the scent of honeysuckle is a part of so many Southerner's memories.  Aerin Lauder sidestepped any references to the US market though by naming this Mediterranean Honeysuckle, and trying to curry associations to glamorous European vacations and everything that infers. The scent does conjure images of sparkling water, sandy beaches, and sunny summer days. The opening notes include grapefruit, bergamot, and mandarin oil to amp the sparkling citrus effect. To accentuate the honeysuckle scent, notes of lily, jasmine, and gardenia bring in creamy white flower notes. The scent is linear on my skin, but it's pretty and although it wears stronger than many of the naturals I've talked about above, it still doesn't seem like a big scent to me. Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle is a LASTING honeysuckle.

Picture of Sugar
Honeysuckle: Harvesting the Sweet Nectar of Life by Falaco Soliton. WWW.Instructables.com.

Although Tom Ford Fleur de Portofino does not to my knowledge have honeysuckle as an ingredient, the acacia honey notes in the base combined with a cascade of sweet white flowers give it the feel of an opulent honeysuckle floral to me. The flowers used are white acacia, gardenia, magnolia, and jasmine. I really like this scent and the sheer blue bottle is appealing but I get no longevity to justify the price point. Tom Ford Fleur de Portifino is EXPENSIVE honeysuckle. by Es

Fresh Honeysuckle was launched in 2014 and I've tried it several times over the years. It was one of those perfumes I wanted to like but it just didn't move me. I ran over to the local Sephora to spray it so I could give a better review but they don't seem to carry the line anymore. My memory is that there was a little of a chemical smell that put me off.

Demeter Honeysuckle is another one I tried to find to review but was unsuccessful. It has decent reviews on Fragrantica and it's cheap as chips so I'll definitely keep my eye out for it.

Are there any great honeysuckle scents out there that I've forgotten?

Top photo: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Charles T. Bryson, photographer. Chasing Fireflies print by Sylvia Pimental. Le Chevrefeuille bottle from www.AnnickGoutal.com website. Artwork from The Strange South website, but originally by Lee Brown Coye, 1948. Bumblebee photo from www.thewhitepaintedwoman.wordpress.com. Perfumes my own.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Casanova by Histoires de Parfums



Back in December I went to an excellent exhibit at the local Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth entitled Casanova: The Seduction of Europe. It was a fascinating look at 18th century Europe through the life and travels of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). Casanova is immortalized as one of the world's great lovers, but he was so much more than that. He was an adventurer, traveler, and memoirist who left us with a brilliant picture of life in Europe in the 18th century. His circle of influence included many famous people of the era including Rousseau and Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, King George III, King Louis XV, and Catherine the Great. The exhibit used paintings as well as furniture and costume displays to give visitors some idea of this glittering world.

Canaletto's The Grand Canal Near the Rialto Bridge, Venice

The exhibit starts in Venice, Casanova's birth place, and I don't think I've ever seen so many Canaletto paintings in one place. A chance encounter with a Venitian nobleman changed the course of Casanova's life and drags him out of poverty. 

Jean Honore Fragonard's The See-Saw

Another gallery is dedicated to Casanova the seducer and several of Fragonard's exuberant Rococo style paintings are used to illustrate this portion of his life. And yes, this Fragonard's father was a master perfumer and glovemaker, the name still used by the well-known perfume company in Grasse, where Jean Honore Frgonard was born. 

Tiepolo's The Charlaton

At the Kimbell's exhibit there was an area titled The Theater of Identity. Venice was a city of masks. Casanova at various times was a musician, an actor, and sometimes found it useful to travel under assumed names. Paintings and displays of clothing of the era illustrate the world Casanova inhabited and some of the famous people he met in his travels. Casanova was able to straddle the very proper constraints of the society of his day; going from the extremes of being imprisoned (and later escaping) to consorting with the monarchs of France, England, and Russia.

There were displays of luxurious artifacts of the era and paintings of the cities to which he traveled. For me the exhibit illustrated some of the more glamorous aspects of European life in the mid-1700s. It also expanded on the accepted one-dimensional persona we identify as Casanova and showed him to be a historic figure of influence and multi-talents.

This exhibit just finished in San Francisco and will arrive at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on July 8th. If you have any interest in this era or in Casanova as a historical figure the exhibit is well worth your time. If you are nowhere near Boston but still have an interest, have a look at this wonderful synopsis of the Casanova exhibit put on by the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, linked here. It includes some of the art works as well as informative talks by the museum's curators.

After the exhibit I remembered that I had a decant of the perfume Casanova by Histoires de Parfums.  The brand was created by Gerald Ghislain and is described as an olfactive library of perfumes inspired by historical figures. Sometimes the perfumes are identified by the numbers only, in this case 1725 is the year of Casanova's birth. 


1725 Casanova is classified as an aromatic fougere. The three basic building blocks of a fougere fragrance, which translates to fern-like, are lavender, oakmoss, and coumarin. From these three a fragrance can go in various directions, emphasizing the sweetness of the lavender, playing on the darkness of the oakmoss, or emphasizing various aspects of the coumarin, which has the notes of hay, vanilla, and almond. 

1725 Casanova starts with a light and sparkling almost minty lavender. Citrus sunny notes shimmer and have equal footing with the lavender note.  Rather quickly I start to smell the spicy notes of star anise and licorice, although I wouldn't have been able to identify them as such without looking at the list of notes. As these notes come in the lavender fades and the scent becomes bone dry, almost dusty and a trifle smoky, not the smoke of incense but of dust. I am already smelling the cedar. At this point the lavender is very much in the background and hard to pick out. This dryness continues on my skin with a hay note, which strangely enough I think comes from the almond and vanilla. On my skin some of the notes are not what you might expect. Yes, there is lavender but after a moment in the spotlight it goes behind the curtain, whispering lines to the chorus on stage, there but not there. Vanilla is a note that can become overwhelmingly sweet to me, but here it is dry and powdered. I smell vanilla but it is more like sniffing the extract, not the cookies baking in the oven.

Licorice is not a taste I seek out; perhaps because of bad memories of a certain Jagermeister-shot fueled college party which left me with an aversion to the licorice tasting liqueur. Although it is listed on the Histoires de Parfum website as one of the three key ingredients in 1725 Casanova, along with lavender and amber, the licorice note doesn't stand out to me.


Some reviewers spoke of getting a lightly gourmand lavender and vanilla in 1725 Casanova's maturing stages and I was kind of hoping that would be my experience as it's a combination I love. On my skin however the dry cedar was even more dominant than the note of amber and the perfume wasn't even slightly gourmand to me. This fragrance is a bit of a dandy, but in a very elegant way. There are no loud strident notes to offend anyone here, even haters of the scent of lavender. This is unisex but I think I would prefer this on my husband. I like my lavender scents to be a bit more prominent with the herbal notes and the astringency of the lavender, as it's not a note I run away from. I picture this fragrance on a man wearing a well fitting suit, polished shoes, not a hair out of place.

Before I viewed this exhibit and gained a more well-rounded perspective about Casanova's life I might have expected an opulent and more seductive perfume, heavy and lush. This is the opposite; gentrified, polished, and even a little austere. But now understanding the world Casanova moved in and how he was able to rise from the humblest of beginnings in a very class-conscious society to mix seamlessly with the upper echelon, it makes more sense that he was a chameleon, able to mix and fit in the world to which he aspired. Yes, he was a master of the liaison amoureuse, so much so that the name Casanova is described in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as lover. But his interests and influences extended far beyond the walls of the boudoir and he is revealed as one of the more interesting characters of 18th century Europe. 

Photos from www.kimbellart.org. Perfume my own.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Pinrose: Can A Non-Millennial Appreciate These Scent?



I have noticed the Pinrose brand, which was introduced in 2014, but never felt the need to sample. I lumped the brand with others that Sephora carries like Commodities and Jason Wu, where the sheer number they introduced at once overwhelmed me and didn't raise my interest. But I had made a pact with myself this year that I would start using all those little samples that have come my way, typically as a freebie when I order something online.  I have some samples that are so old that the company has gone out of business and I haven't ever tried the scents.

I was going to a meeting the other night and was in a hurry so I grabbed one of the Pinrose samples, which happened to actually be named Pinrose. It wasn't a spray or a vial, but a small wipe, or petal, as they call it. This further lowered my expectations, as I am not a fan of this method of applying perfume, but this wipe was a little bigger than normal and had a little more fragrance than is normally contained. I wiped my wrists, dropped it down into my bra, and ran out the door and forgot about it.

I noted that the initial scent was a little sour but was busy talking and meeting new people so didn't dwell on what I was smelling. Later as I was listening to a speech I noticed that someone smelled really good, not recognizing the scent, then I realized it was me. The rose had turned jammy, then deep. It is described as a leather rose on the Pinrose website, but to me it has that smell when I'm wearing a chypre; dark, dense, warm and mysterious. I think this is labdanum, a note that I love and that is often in chypre perfumes. It adds a cloak of warm, mysterious, darkness to a scent and dresses up the fragrance. Ambergris, another note found in Pinrose, heightens this warm effect. I'll admit that I was expecting a light, girly and fresh rose scent when I applied Pinrose so the scent caught my attention and I found I really enjoyed wearing it.

If you haven't read the background history of this brand, it was founded by two Stanford business school grads, Erika Shumate and Christine Luby. Shumate studied the psychology of smell and how synesthesia can affect and reflect scent preferences. They created a quiz algorithm that is available online or at Sephora stores to suggest which three scents a consumer might like. That night when I got home I was so intrigued that I took the online quiz which gives choices between colors, shapes, and nature-inspired photos. I felt like the initial choice of pink or green was probably the most important choice in their algorithm's determination. I love green, but I'm always going to choose pink (or red). Anyway, it brought up three scents that I should try, and lo and behold, one of the three was Pinrose. The other two were Sun Saint and Wild Child. Reading the notes, both sounded promising.

I first tried Sun Saint. On the website, each scent has the following guide which I'm sure is meant to appeal to their millennial target group and is kind of fun:
Vibe:  Relaxed   Hypnotic Serene
Perfect for:  Sun kissing and skinny dipping
Sips like:  Coconut Spritzer

The last bit, coconut spritzer, turned out to be a pretty good description of the scent for me. There was the element of suntan lotion and sandy beaches, but in the end the coconut ruled on my skin. I like a dry coconut scent, but this one veered a little sweet and foody on me and that made it a no go. I'm sure there are those that relish this coconut note but I decided it was perfectly pleasant but not something I needed to add to my already large collection. Longevity was good; I could still faintly smell it twenty four hours later.

Wild Child is described with the following copy:
Vibe:  Energetic  Playful  Flirty
Perfect for:  Girl's Night Out
Sips like:  Cosmopolitan

Another millennial friendly feature, instead of the traditional descriptives of Top Note, Heart Note, Base Note, Pinrose has changed this to the following, as shown with notes for Wild Child:
SMILE   Tiare Flower   Bergamot   Freesia
HEART   Gardenia  Jasmine   Frangipani
SOUL   Vanilla Bean   Amber   Plumeria

I bet you expect me to be snarky about this, but I actually think it's cute and very on brand for their intended market. Their website also has other millennial-targeted features such as Pinterest boards (love!) and Sound Like short music tracks (hate!). But as the only millennial thing about me is my kids, take it all with a grain of salt.

So back to Wild Child. I actually like it. We've seen white tropical flowers done hundreds of times and this isn't anything groundbreaking or unusual. But for the price point -- 50 ml for $65 -- I can't complain. I would be happy to own this one as an easy to wear summer tropical fragrance.

So the algorithm worked fairly well for me. For one last experiment I tried to branch out on my own, and I chose Merry Maker, mainly because I liked the name and its cute tagline: Radiant sunshine with this refreshing nectarine blend. Best worn when you need an extra skip in your step.

Merry Maker has notes of grapefruit, cassis, nectarine, rose, violet, plum, musk, moss, and tonka bean. I am very particular about fruity scents. They have to be just so for me to like them, and on my skin this was just a fruity and frankly boring mess. I probably should have picked something else to try, but got caught up in the name and description, sort of like how I used to buy wine solely based on how cute I found the label. If you like fruity scents, and specifically nectarine, this could possibly work for you.

Photo from Pinrose website. Perfume samples: thank you Sephora.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Scented Paths: The smell of Texas Mimosa or Silk Tree, genus Albizia Julibrissin


I walk my dog every day along a suburban path built around a creek that holds an amazing amount of wildlife, considering that it is surrounded by houses. On my latest walk I came across these beautifully scented trees that were so common in my childhood but rarely seen today, what we call a Mimosa. One of my early memories is climbing our mimosa tree and in the early warm months of summer being enclosed in this temple of scent, a powerfully sweet smell emitting from its fanciful pink puffs. In Texas and the Southern US these are called mimosa trees, so when I first starting becoming more interested in perfumes and heard about the mimosa scent and the spring blooming of mimosas in France, I was so confused and shocked to see pictures of trees covered in yellow blossoms. Had my parents been calling this by the wrong name my whole childhood? To confirm this confusion, in 2014 Jo Malone came out with a cologne called Silk Blossom, and the photos showed the beloved pink puffs that I called Mimosa. I was convinced that I had been mislead all my life, sort of like how many years ago I taught a troop of Girl Scouts I was leading on a campout that the howling we were hearing in the dark distance was coming from gentle prairie dogs, which I described as being something like a dingo. In reality it was probably coyotes, as I found out a couple of years later that prairie dogs were mole like creatures that neither howled or resembled a dog. Thus do false narratives get spread. Anyway, I thought this was the case with the mimosa, aka, silk blossom tree.

Then when I did some digging I found out that where I live the tree is actually called Mimosa, even though this is a bit of a misnomer. It is also sometimes referred to as a Persian Silk Tree. When I was young they dotted our suburban neighborhood but it is now considered an invasive species and not sold in plant nurseries. As they aren't particularly long lived, they are mostly seen in more wild outdoor settings.  Then yesterday when I was delivering Meals On Wheels, I saw a Mimosa in the yard of one of the clients, a remnant from the past in this aging neighborhood.

The smell is lovely but so hard to describe. To further confuse things, I plucked a blossom from one tree which smelled totally different from a blossom that came from a tree much further down the path. If you've never smelled one, I'll try:

What a mimosa/silk tree blossom smells like:
-- Slightly sweet, but not as sweet as orange blossom
-- Slightly floral, but not as indolic or green as jasmine
-- Slightly fruity, maybe apricot or peachy, but this is faint
-- Blossoms from one of the trees had a strong scent of the white juicy rind that remains, after you've eaten away the watermelon
-- It's a delicate scent, hard to pin down

What a mimosa/silk tree blossom does NOT smell like:
Jo Malone Silk Blossom, introduced in 2014 and reintroduced this year.


I have always loved these fanciful pink puffs, so fuzzy and delicate. They remind me of the hair on the old Dr. Seuss characters, Thing 1 and Thing 2.


To me the blossoms smell like if fairies had a winery and made pink, slightly sweet effervescent brew. It is one of those ephemeral scents that is hard to pin down and probably even harder to replicate in a perfume. You can hold a gardenia or orange blossom and smell, and the scent is strong and ever present, unchanging. These delicate blossoms will give you a beautiful whiff of scent, then the next minute you can't smell anything no matter how hard you inhale. Then it's back again. Like I said, ephemeral.

Has anyone tried Max Mara Silk Touch which was released in 2007. It is supposed to have the scent of silk flower but I've never smelled it. Please let me know if you are aware of a perfume that more truthfully replicates this scent.

Photos of mimosa tree my own. Dr. Seuss is Google image.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Scenting Inspector Gamache: An Interview With Novelist Louise Penny


You know you're a fragrance nerd when an author's mention of fragrance in a book or the sight of perfume bottles on the vanity in a film sets your heart aflutter and your detecting instincts--"what's that scent?-- into high gear. Thus when I heard that Louise Penny, Canadian best-selling author of the Inspector Gamache mystery series, was going to be a featured speaker at the Adelaide Writer's Conference I was attending in March I decided I had to finagle an interview because you see, Ms. Penny scents Inspector Gamache!

A query email that starts out with the words, "this may seem like a strange request", does not fill one with optimism for a positive outcome, but I was delighted to receive word from Ms. Penny's publisher in Australia, Hachette Books, that they would add my name to her schedule. I have been reading the Inspector Gamache series set in the little Canadian village of Three Pines from the beginning, when Still Life was published in 2005. The series has now grown to include thirteen books with another debuting in November this year. Her books defy being pigeonholed. They have elements of the cozy genre; Three Pines, the setting inspired by Quebec's Eastern Townships where Ms. Penny lives, is the little forgotten village where all her readers would like to retire. But the stories offer a richness in character development and insights into life's bigger problems, a taste of which can be experienced by going to this Gamache series discussion website and the voluminous number of pages devoted to her fans in depth discussion of the books. There is a lushness to her writing and a vividness to the descriptions that make you want to occupy the spaces she writes about, for example, from her first book, Still Life:
"Wood smoke whispered out of the chimney to be grabbed by the wind and taken home to the woods beyond."
When I met with Ms. Penny her latest release and thirteenth book, Glass Houses, had recently been #1 on the New York Times and the Canadian Globe and Mail bestsellers list. I wanted to talk to her about the main character in her book, Inspector Gamache, Chief Inspector at the Surete du Quebec and crime solver extraordinaire, who it has been mentioned several times wears the lightest touch of sandalwood  cologne. Sometimes the sandalwood fragrance mingles with the scent of rosewater which is favored by his wife, Reine Marie. I'm a big audiobook listener so I can't search back through the books to find the first mention of scent, and when I asked Ms. Penny she wasn't sure of when she originally noted the Inspector's scent. Initially the mentions were more fleeting. From her fourth book, A Rule Against Murder:
"...Reine-Marie whispered in her husband's ear as she kissed him goodbye at the car minutes later, smelling his slight rosewater and sandalwood scent. As he drove away she waved, still in the world of his scent, a world of comfort and kindliness and calm..."
Again in her seventh book,  A Trick of the Light:
He was so close the young agent could even smell the Chief Inspector's scent. A very slight hint of sandalwood and something else. Rose Water."
But it is in her eighth book, The Beautiful Mystery, that Ms. Penny fully develops the idea of how this scent--sandalwood with a touch of rosewater-- comes about and in the process makes a profoundly beautiful statement about this couple's relationship as well as the importance of scent in the scrapbook pages of our lives. To set the scene, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Inspector Gamache's second in command and soon to be son-in-law, makes this observation.
"He'd picked up the chief at his home before eleven. At the door, Gamache paused to hug and kiss Madame Gamache. They lingered for a moment before breaking the embrace, then the chief turned and walked down the steps, his satchel slung over his shoulder. When he'd gotten into the car, Jean-Guy had smelled his subtle cologne of sandalwood and rosewater and been overwhelmed at the thought that this man might soon be his father-in-law. That Beauvoir's infant children might be held by this man, and smell this comforting scent. He also realized for the first time in more than a decade together, why the chief smelled of sandalwood and rosewater. The sandalwood was his own cologne. The rosewater came from Madame Gamache, as they pressed together. The chief carried her scent like an aura, mixed with his own."
Without further ado I'll go to the interview where I ask Louise Penny about how she came to scent her characters.

Q: Why did you decide to scent Gamache in sandalwood?
LP: The sandalwood came because my grandfather, who I adored, had sandalwood cologne, or he smelled of it. I don't know whether it was a soap or cologne or the shaving foam he used. So whenever I smell sandalwood, which is not really that common of a scent--it's quite old fashioned. So whenever I smelled it, it evoked those walks in the park when he taught me poetry, so I decided I would give Gamache that scent of sandalwood. I understand how powerful scent is to evoke a time, a memory, a feeling, and more than anything else and I wanted to have that ability.

Q: Madame Gamesh you scent with rosewater.
LP: Yes, that is a scent I use a lot. I've experimented. I've used Jean Patou, I've forgotten what it's called, but it's rose. It's a perfume and to be honest that was a little strong for me so I experimented with the rosewater.

Q: I wondered if you might prefer lighter scent because in your books you always mention the scent is just a trace.
LP: It's very light. I like eau de cologne rather than perfume.

Q: So what made you decide to add these details to your characters?
LP: I wanted the books to be sensual. It's important to me, vital really, that all of the senses are engaged, and one of the big ones is scent. Not simply the scent of someone's perfume or eau de cologne but the smell of the food, the smell of the seasons. Each season in Canada smells different so I wanted people to be able to smell the maplewood fire, the maple syrup, fresh mown grass, all of that. And when you describe it people can smell it and then it takes them back to their own often comforting memories.

Q: You create such a sense of place. Your scenes are very tactile. I also noticed you scented Annie (Gamache and Reine-Marie's daughter) in citrus and Jean Guy in Old Spice.
LP: Michael, my husband, used Old Spice so I thought I would throw that in. And now that he's gone, I use his scent.

Q: In your books your character has a signature scent. Does scent play much of a part in your life?
LP: It's huge. I'm really sensitive to scent. I love scent. Not just perfume, but bath oils, when I'm designing gardens it's always with fragrant flowers so I'm very aware of scent. I'm also aware, like most people are, of being overwhelmed by it so  I do think scent needs to be subtle, and have you come to it rather than have it overwhelm you. I think there are few worse experiences than being stuck on a plane with someone who's bathed themselves in some probably quite lovely perfume but way too much of it. I remember as a teenager when you first go out putting way too much on.

Q: In the interview you talked about a fourth wall and trying to engage all the reader's senses.
LP: The fourth wall ... generally when you read a book you're reading the words and with any luck you can see it, it becomes like a movie in your head. But you're removed from it. The ideal for most writers and certainly for me is that if that barrier  between you and the world that's being created comes down and you walk into the book, actually enter the action so you're no longer a voyeur, you're a witness, a participant. So you're sitting down in the bistro, you're having the food they've ordered, smelling the lamb and garlic and rosemary, smelling the wood smoke from the fire and you're feeling the warmth from it. You're seeing the bitter cold outside, the snow. You're actually completely engaged and the only way to do that as far as I can tell is to engage all the senses. Then you also have to make it empathetic. The final element has to be that you care about these people. The goal is that for the reader it no longer seems like a story, it seems real. You feel that these characters are friends.

Q: You created such a specific world. Did it come about slowly and organically or when you first started writing did you have it all pictured? Was it already in your head?
LP: I did. I sat down at the kitchen table before I started to write and I drew a map of the village...I still have it... I created the bookstore first, then the bistro, the bakery and so on. I know exactly where the different people live so it was very clear in my mind, not simply the geography of it, but the feel of it. It was important to me that it be a sanctuary, physically and emotionally for people because I think we all yearn for that these days.

Q: Speaking of sanctuary, I think you stated that you envisioned this after 911 . Is that right?
LP: That's correct. I think everyone understood something had shifted and that places that we thought were safe were no longer safe. In fact there is no such thing as safe anymore. That's a scary thought and I wanted to create a place that would feel safe. This didn't mean bad things didn't happen. Bad things can happen, it's not a magical place. but what makes it a safe place is the sense of community and belonging and friendship that can not be shattered. That love of each other is perpetual and permanent and that's what makes it a safe place.

Q: I read that you got a perfume made at Floris. Tell me about that.
LP: I've always liked Floris and everytime I go to London I go and visit Floris on Jermyn Street. I didn't realize that they would actually make a custom perfume. In the back...it felt a little bit like Harry Potter, actually....I began speaking with someone there and they said, "Yes, we have a perfumer, she's in the back room." I left my first book Still Life with the perfumer. She read it and got in touch. I made an appointment with her and Michael and I  went. it feels like something from several centuries ago. There were all these glass vials and  it's like some mad scientist's workshop from the 1700s. She started just mixing things together based on reading the book and the description. She said sandalwood and rose wouldn't work very well together. I don't know why not..so she mixed up other things.

I didn't understand why it  (sandalwood and rosewater) wouldn't work together. It does in the book! The problem is that after you smell ten things you lose your sense of smell and your judgement. We narrowed it down to three or four, then came back and narrowed it down to one. So there  is now an Eau de Gamache cologne. It has sandalwood and a lot of other things but I don't think it has rose. There may be a little, or other things that suggest rose. To be honest with you I'm not totally happy with it. I'd like another shot at it.

I've had some bottles made up and given to friends but I don't expect anyone else to  buy it. There's a map out now of the village of Three Pines but I've been resistant to that as well because I think people have an image in their mind and maybe it's best to just leave it like that. It's nice to imagine it.

Q: I had always imagined Gamache's scent would be from Penhaligon's or Floris, one of those mainstay traditional houses. Does your newest book have any references to scent?
LP: Yes, actually scent plays a huge roll in my latest book, The Kingdom of the Blind (coming out in November). Very early on in the first chapter, Gamache is sitting in this car and he's about to answer the phone and we don't know what it is but clearly it's a call he's been expecting and dreading. He wonders if in future when he smells wet wool and hears the tapping of snow on the roof and feels the cold chill will he remember this moment, and whether he will remember it with dread or with joy.

He talks later with Isabelle LaCoste about trying to recover from shattering events and to get out of that pain and sorrow. He quotes a WWI poet, Rupert Brooke, who wrote a poem which in it has a list of things he loved and missed during the war, and many of them are scents such as the crisp scent of fresh linen. It was a comfort for him during WWI in the trenches. He would sit there in the worst situation imaginable and remember the smells and the sights from home and it would give him comfort. That's how Gamache describes how he has gotten through the sorrow, he lists the things he loves including the smell of Honore his grandson, so scent plays a  in big role in his recovery, the idea of  how healing scent can be.

THE SCENTS


So the question is, how would I scent Inspector Gamache with sandalwood, incorporating the note of rosewater from his wife Reign-Marie's fragrance?

I was staying in Adelaide, Australia, at the time I interviewed Ms. Penny, and shortly after meeting her I reviewed the much discussed line of perfumes debuting from Australia, Goldfield & Banks, review here. White Sandalwood is a creamy, calming interpretation of sandalwood that despite the list of spicy notes wore very quiet and woody on my skin. I noted that some reviewers said they got a strong sense of the rose note in the perfume, but on my skin it was hardly evident. However, this is a beautiful sandalwood and if the rose note comes through could be the perfect answer to the scented puzzle.

During our interview when Ms. Penny stated that the Floris perfumer didn't want to mix sandalwood and rose I was perplexed, because I told her that when I traveled to India the previous year, rose and sandalwood was such a prevalent mix. But later I got to thinking, these perfumes had a heavy presence and it is always mentioned that Inspector Gamache's scent is light.

Maybe the best way to come up with the combination is to mimic the book; put sandalwood on one wrist and rose on the other and rub the two together. This would require lighter scents without too much else going on or other notes to complicate the scent.

Nest White Sandalwood is another interpretation of sandalwood that is in the lighter vein. The sandalwood is creamy and very pleasant. It is a soothing scent and although there is not much development or change on my skin, if you are looking for just sandalwood it is worth a try.

Floris London Santal is a classic sandalwood scent but notes of lavender, clove, and nutmeg might make it spicier than Inspector Gamache would wish! Some people say this wears as pretty much a straight sandalwood but others experience the spices if their skin chemistry chooses to amplify these notes.

For the rosewater, I have the perfect thing in my collection but the only place you can find it now is on Ebay, Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater. Does anyone know what has happened to Crabtree & Evelyn? Their website looks quite different with fewer offerings. I assume they were caught up in the decline of mall shopping, as in the old days they could always be found at the nicer malls. I'm thinking it is maybe just US operations that have suffered, because there is still a thriving shop at one of the malls I used to visit in Singapore. In any case, this is the perfect light rosewater. There is not a lot to say about it; it's one note--rosewater--but it's light, refreshing, and uplifting.

In the absence of this I would recommend the cheap and cheerful Tea Rose by Perfumer's Workshop. It is cheap as chips and smell like rose, and nothing but rose, but sometimes it's just right. The only problem might be that some people find this to be a strong scent. In that case I would recommend Madame Gamache wear Insititut Tres Bien Fine Rose de Mai which I reviewed here. This is a watercolor of a scent; a pale yet vibrant rose that offers the beauty of the flower without ever overpowering the wearer.

My final suggestion to scent Inspector Gamache is not a cologne, but a soap. Ms. Penny mentioned that she didn't know if her Grandfather's scent came from a cologne, a shaving foam, or a perhaps a soap. When I lived in India for several years I became exceedingly fond of this soap.

Later when I lived in Singapore you could buy this in Little India, and I just discovered that it is available online, Amazon of course, here. This soap has a really pleasant sandalwood smell and it is one of those soaps that the scent lingers on the skin in a very light manner for several hours. 

Ms. Penny didn't mention being influenced by the healing properties of the scents she chose for her characters, but the first property that pops up for sandalwood is that it provides mental clarity, which is certainly perfect for Inspector Gamache. And the scent of rose is meant to be calming and uplifting, and this is one of the roles that Reine Marie plays in her husband's life. 

It was a pleasure to hear Louise Penny speak twice during the week-long writer's conference and then to have the opportunity to speak with her in person. Ms. Penny told audiences that although her books are mysteries, ultimately they are about life, love, and the relationships we form, and having that safe place where we feel cared for and appreciated. It's interesting how much you can glean about a person's character from watching these interviews. Ms. Penny is entertaining and charming. It's obvious that she wants to connect with her audience and show them a good time, and her stories were funny and often self deprecating. And when she shared the stage with a less well known author, Ms Penny seamlessly redirected the attention back to the other author when she felt too much of the interviewer's attention was being directed her way. 

I have always maintained that we scent lovers are sensualists, just like foodies or wine lovers, and for many of us these enthusiasms overlap. The love of life is in the details, and Louise Penny's stories are richly embroidered with these sensual, descriptive details that enrich life, while providing  a darn good story at the same time! I really appreciated her indulging me in answering my questions about Inspector Gamache's scent, which in reality only make up a couple of sentences in each book. If you haven't read her books and appreciate mysteries do yourself a favor and visit the little town of Three Pines.



Just hanging out with best-selling author Louise Penny!

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!


YELLOW

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!

GREEN

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.

RED

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.

BLACK

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:
Red
Black
Yellow
Green

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 www.lejardinretrouve.com. 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.