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.

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?

You can read part II of finding the perfect honeysuckle scent by clicking here.

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