Saturday, October 27, 2018

Perfumes to Wear for Halloween

This weekend before Halloween is the traditional time to throw parties for those long past the age to go door to door for candy. Here is a look, all in fun, of what perfumes to wear for Halloween!

Vert de Fleur by Tom Ford

A green so dark it is almost black. Sinewy, bitter, and poisonous. Twisting, smothering green, pungent and sharp. An earthy and fierce opening, which fades to something tamer as time progresses. Notes: galbanum, iris, hyacinth, neroli, bergamot, basil, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss.

You are entering a forest. It is dark, dank, and misty. You smell the fir needles that have fallen to the path, padding it with a softness that muffles your footsteps, and maybe the footsteps of those watching from the shadows. The needles and leaves are rotting and decaying, moist from the rain on dark paths that never see sunlight in the depths of the forest. Suddenly you sense something, actually you smell it. It smells like disturbed earth, something ancient. A smell that attracts you at the same time it repels. It's too late. He's come for you. You fall in the depths of the verdant earth, that wet leaves, and the scent of the long dead. Notes: Carpathian fir needles, red cedar, black amber, black patchouli, scorched earth, blood musk.

You are in a limestone cave, the wall oozing dampness and wet to your touch as you glide your hand along the surface to find your way in the dark. There is the smell of vegetation that clings to the walls, surviving on the filtered shards of sunlight that penetrate the depths of the cave in the lightest part of the day. Suddenly there is an animal smell mixed with leather. You can see nothing but you sense the movement of a hundred thousand tiny flapping wings as the bats rush past you for the nightly ritual of the hunt. Notes: soil tincture, fruit, fig, green notes, musk, leather, vetiver, sandalwood.

They move among us and pass as human. But if you are still and mindful, you can know them by their scent. It is dry like the papyrus tomes in which their history is written. Just as the trees which make oud are infected with mold which over the course of time forms a seductive resin, so do these creatures turn a disease, life in perpetuity, into a temptation. They leave a trail of smoke, moss, and earthy patchouli. To tempt they carry the redolence of sweet tobacco fields and the lightness of lemon, but do not be taken in. Their wish is to turn you into one of them. Notes: limoncello, incense, cardomom, patchouli, papyrus, tobacco leaves, moss.

Deep in the forest hide the woodland sprites. They have magic ways. They can call to the animals and make them do their bidding, as they are part animal themselves. Have you ever walked through the forest and felt that there was something there, watching you silently? Perhaps it is the woodland sprite. They can disappear into tree trunks and blend into the background of the forest, it's their secret camouflage. The only way you may know they are around is the small white mushrooms they feast on in the dead of night, they need them to survive. Train your nose to smell the subtle earthiness of the little white mushrooms that grow in the dark loamy earth. They will smell of the woods of the forest, of the animals that rustle amongst them, of smoke, and of forest herbs like clary sage and wild chamomile. Notes: castoreum, civet, cedarwood, vetiver, leather, cepes, peru balsam, wild chamomile, bergamot, clary sage, galbanum.

The first thing you smell as he comes for you, appearing from nowhere as a wraith is the cold, astringent, and metallic scent of blood. Then your mind whirls with images of dirt, an animalic miasma of fur and skin, and the incongruous note of a beautiful red rose. As you seem to fall and melt toward the earth you realize that the ringing smell of blood is your blood. Notes: Patchouli, rose, costus root, black musk, bull's blood

The cold stone which has stood for one hundred years should feel safe and stable, but instead the mists lend an air of danger. Strangely there is the scent of incense from the ancient crypts of the church and a faint lingering note of lavender. Notes: Incense, lavender, iris, amber, wood notes.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Travels In France, Part Eight - Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain, Philosykos & Volutes, Three Scents for Autumn

I had to limit the perfume shops I could visit on my trip to Paris but the iconic Diptyque flagship store at 34 boulevard Saint Germain was always on my radar. I can't remember for sure but think I first became aware of this brand in the early 2000s and it was through their candles. Diptyque was one of the first to establish themselves as a purveyor of the luxury candle. Before Facebook, when online chat groups like Makeup Alley were more the norm, Diptyque was the new discovery. Their story actually started much earlier though, all the way back to 1961.

Three friends with differing artistic talents banded together; Christiane Gautrot the interior designer, Desmond Knox-Leet the painter, and Yves Coueslant, the theater director and set designer. They started by designing wallpapers and fabrics and eventually opened the shop at the iconic address. Over time they began to transform the shop into a collection of curiosities gathered in their travels, a place to find the unique and unusual item in a finely curated collection.

 I spoke with Henri Fournier, Diptyque's fourth original employee, at the Saint Germain location. "It was a gift store in the beginning. We had at this time a blanket from Wales, some products from British perfumers, some jewels, some potpourri from England, and also of course the candles. We were famous for the candles at the beginning and then we became a perfumer."

Henri Fournier in the Diptyque shop.

I asked Mr. Fournier when Diptyque's growth and expansion happened. "It was about ten years ago when we were bought by an American company based in England," said Fournier. "It was a big change, around 2005."

When you walk into the Saint Germain storefront, you get the sense not much has changed here. Being surrounded by all the candles and scents gives a heady feeling and I wish I could just scoop the lot into a big shopping bag! Now for reviews of three of my favorites for autumn.


Volutes has one of the most romantic backstories of any of the Diptyque perfumes. The copy reads:
1930, on an ocean liner linking Marseille and Saigon. On the upper deck, women dressed in evening gowns linger, cigarette holders in hand. The orchestra plays in the lounge; first waltzes, then the Charleston. Time expands. From his childhood memories, Yves Coueslant, one of Diptyque's founders, preserved the sounds, colours, and above all, fragrances. Memories of the mild tobacco of the Egyptian cigarettes smoked by the most elegant ladies. The smoke would rise up in wisps, mingling with the powdery scent of their makeup.
Mr. Coueslant is responsible for one of my favorites from Diptyque, Do Son, a breezy tuberose tribute to his Indochina memories of childhood summers spent in a seaside summer home on Ha Long Bay. I envy Mr. Coueslant these travel experiences from a time when places still remained totally true to their culture, unpolluted with outside cultural influences. The Egyptian cigarettes that are referenced here were an iconic 1930s Egyptian brand, Khedive, which had a sweet fruity tobacco flavor.

Volutes translates to "curl of smoke" and this is what I smell in the opening. I smell tobacco,  and sometimes that note can be too harsh for my nose and overwhelm the senses. Here it is softly muted, a pleasant aroma but not like we're in the middle of a tobacco field. There is a subtle spiciness of dried fruits, emphasis on the "dry"; these fruits haven't turned to a sugary pulp. As the tobacco note warms on my skin I get a whiff of cherry tobacco flavor that reminds me of an experience in an Egyptian shisha cafe with a hookah many years ago. The cherry note is slight. Opoponox can add several scent characteristics: honeyed, smokey, and powdery balsamic. They are all present in Volutes. There is an iris note which comes across as rooty and earthy. This scent is warmly elegant and would be equally sophisticated on a man or woman. It would also make a perfect scent to wear as the temperatures begin to cool.

Volutes EDT is very similar to the EDP, of course, but the immortalle is much more evident to me. It gives me that maple syrup vibe which I don't get at all from the EDP. Later in the wear, where the EDP is very smoky and spicy, the EDT doesn't have any of this drama on my skin.


Philosykos EDT opens with a verdant fig scent. To me it comes across as if the stem of the fruit has just broken from the branch and the sap is oozing out, sticky and green. The EDP version opens softer, surprisingly. It doesn't have the sour sap smell which makes the EDT so distinctive to my nose. The fig is very dry, not sweet and succulent. Philosykos is meant to represent the whole tree: the fig wood branches, the green leaves, and the milky notes of the fig itself. Thankfully the coconut note is very quiet on my skin, which is what makes me think of this as a good scent for fall. Many fig perfumes emphasize the coconut note which can turn fig based perfumes into beachy scents. Here the fig stays green, milky, and later, woody. In this instance I prefer the EDT to the EDP. I expected great things from the stronger perfume version, but it just sits on my skin. Meanwhile the EDT is so green, piquant, sourish, that it makes me feel I've entered some sort of fantastical fig forest.

34 boulevard Saint Germain

Perhaps my favorite of the Diptyque scents I am highlighting for fall wear is this one, Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. This scent was released in 2011 in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the founding of the company. The idea was to capture the scent when you walk into a Diptyque shop, and specifically their flagship store at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. It is an amalgamation of the experience of walking through that door; the polished wooden cabinets that display the wares, the multiple scents of the candle wax, the hints of scents from the many bottles of perfume. It could have been a mess, but I love it and find it warm, happy, and cozy. Do you know that lift you get when you walk into a fragrant setting? This smell takes me to that happy place and the longer it is on my skin the more scent I get. Warm resinous woods are spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and cardomom. The scent is warm and rich and makes me think of windswept streets with leaves blowing down the sidewalks, people wrapping their coat more closely around them, then entering the warming welcoming comfort of 34 Boulevard Saint Germain.

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There is a briskness to this fragrance that speaks of fall. This would be my perfect fragrance to cuddle into a cozy chair on a cold day with a cup of cinnamon tea and a good book. I feel it's a bit of an under the radar gem. I believe any one of these scents are a good pick for welcoming autumn.

For more about my perfumed travels in France, start with Part One, here.

All photos are my own unless otherwise indicated. Perfume samples are my own.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Travels In France, Part Seven: Shopping In the Le Marais District of Paris

When I was planning our trip to Paris I had no idea in where to stay. The last time I had been in Paris was twenty years before and a lot had changed. That time we were staying at Paris Disney and commuting in to the city after the kids tired of the park. Yikes, what an embarrassing admission! I remembered eating dinner one night in Place des Vosges, a beautiful square lined with stately homes and hotels, a playground in the center where children were enjoying the late afternoon sun, and a wonderful waiter who treated my young children like little adults worthy of his splendid attention. So when I looked on the map I saw Place des Vosges was in Le Marais, an area I knew nothing about, but when I found the hotel below I was sold. My husband and I become a united well-oiled machine when we travel. I make plans, he executes them. I take care of the dream stuff, he takes care of practicalities like phone cards. And we both enjoy hotels that are small, quaint, and authentic, not a large less personal experience.

The Caron de Beaumarchais was everything I was looking for. Very French, check. Small, only three rooms per floor, check. Charming and personal: the concierge gave us our best restaurant recommendations of the trip. And when I walked in the room and saw that they had Annick Goutal shower accessories in Eau de Hadrian, I knew I was in the right place!

Le Marais is where you will find some of the oldest buildings in Paris and walking down the narrow winding streets you can imagine you are back in time two hundred years ago.  This is what most of Paris used to look like, a labyrinth of twisty cobblestone narrow streets. The stately Haussman buildings and wide boulevards are beautiful and impressive, but the Marais gives us a glimpse of the past. The hustle and bustle of the more touristy areas and their busy streets, where often I heard more Americans speaking than French, could be blissfully left behind when we arrived back to the Marais district each evening, searching out a new bar to unwind and have a drink before dinner. It is an area that is home to the Jewish community, the Chinese community (less evident), and the LGBT community. It feels relaxed, fun, and cool.

What was a complete surprise to me is that it is awash with niche perfumeries. There were so many I found it impossible to visit even half, and even more frustrating was that I quickly ran out of skin to spray and I've never been a fan of smelling paper strips. So many bottles of perfume and so little time! Although Arrondissement 1 has the designer boutiques and some wonderful shops, Le Marais seemed to me to have a larger number of shops in a condensed area than I saw elsewhere.

No reviews today; I'll just show you some store fronts, and remember, this is just a small number of the stores represented there. And scroll past the photos for my favorite happenings in the Marais.



Frederic Malle

Annick Goutal


The newish company Parle Moi De Parfum

A local perfumer

Acqua di Parma

Histoires de Parfums was closed when I went by. I was disappointed as they were one that I really wanted to visit.

I found the Caron shop the last night and was too late to get in.


L'Artisan Partumeur

Beautiful window in jewelry shop near our hotel.

 We really became attached to this neighborhood and came back every night to eat dinner here. I've read Parisians are unfriendly but in the Marais we found the opposite to be true. Two incidents: one afternoon we had landed back in our neighborhood after putting in 20,000 steps touring. We saw an inviting little cafe but all the outdoor seating was taken up with what looked like locals. We were about to sit inside when one of the men urged us to join their table. It turned out they were a group on gentlemen who gathered here every afternoon, and he spent the next hour telling us great stories about his arrival to Paris twenty years before from Ethiopia, the changes he had seen in the Marais neighborhood, and his opinion of all the tourists, which was pretty benign.  Our last night we were at a bar having a drink and my husband found a kindred spirit in a local who arrived on motorbike. This is them chatting on the street. The Caron shop, sadly closed for the day by the time of our arrival, is right behind. 

Historically the Marais was the area of the Jewish quarter, and there is still a small quadrant where reportedly the best falafal sandwiches are sold in Paris. On the weekend the wait can be over an hour so we tried it during the week.

 I could post more, about the museums in the area, the fabulous restaurants, the proximity to the river and Notre Dame, the beautiful hidden parks, but I'll close with a photo (not mine) of one of the restaurants we tried. I hope you have enjoyed my tour of Le Marais.

To read more about perfumed travels in France, start with Travels In France, Part One, here.

All photos my own unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Travels In France, Part Six: A Visit With Parfums Dusita's Pissara Umivijani and Fleur de Lalita Review

Searching out Pissara Umivijani's new shop in Paris, one strolls through some of the finest real estate in the world. The shop is in the coveted First Arrondissement 75001 which is less than three quarters of a square mile in area, but when viewed on a map of Paris looks like the beating heart in the center of the city. The Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens take up the majority of the land but Rue de Rivoli and Place Vendome are dotted with designer boutiques, opulent hotels, and trendy restaurants. There is a lot of hustle and bustle in this area thronging with tourists, but just a few steps away is a little side street called Rue de la Sourdiere. When you enter it you are immersed in quiet and calm as if the thrumming vibe of the city doesn't exist. About halfway down the street you will come to the welcoming site of the  Parfums Dusita boutique.

I arrived before Pissara for our appointment and spent some time chatting with one of her friendly interns who is in Paris to attend perfume school himself. I have chatted online with Pissara a few times and watched some of her live videos, so when she swept through the door way, clutching beloved Bambi against her chest and offering apologies for my wait, it seemed more like greeting a friend rather than a first time meeting.

A great place for a sack lunch, a short stroll from Parfums Dusita is Jardin des Tuileries.

Q:  Tell me what led you to want to open a shop. Was that desire always there?
A:  Actually, it's always a dream for me since the beginning, but I haven't talked about it because it was kind of ambitious.  It is a dream, I believe, of any brand to have its own place to welcome people. I always looked to be where clients can read the poetry of my father and really see the world of Dusita.

Q:  You are in the neighborhood. Was it hard to get here because this is probably for a perfumer to arrive in Arrondissement 1, the dream. 
A:  I always dream of this area. Actually we were looking at different places like Le Marais and a bit further down from here but we have to think of our budget. Actually this place was a bit of luck. I wanted this place but there was already a contract. At the last minute it became available and the agent called me and I said I would like to take it immediately. I had no doubt whether I should do it or not. That street (Pissara points to the intersection down the street) is extremely expensive but because this street is quiet it is a little affordable.

Q:  In addition to selling your perfumes here do you have any ideas of how you want to use the space?
A:  Yes, I want to make the atelier. I want to have workshops where people can join me in perfume creation or just the studying of materials. We are setting up workshops and courses for people who just want to enjoy two or three hours, and  then master classes.
***As I write this, it looks like Parfums Dusita has just hosted their first class for Perfumery Club Russia, according to the Facebook page. 

***Here on my recording there is a ten minute session where I talk about my dog, Buffy, who I've left back in the States, and Pissara tells me the story of Bambi and how she comes to the shop everyday!***

Bambi, in Paris.

Buffy, not in Paris

Q:  I love the cards with your drawings for each perfume. Did you study art?
A:  No! When I started the brand at first I asked my friend to do illustrations but eventually I realized the difficulty of interpreting the perfume; the color, the shade, and what kind of media. Then I did it myself. It's very fun for me to interpret. 

Pissara's artwork for Fleur de Lalita.

Q: You have two newish perfumes, Fleur de Lalita and Erawan. Were you working on them at the same time.
A:  Yes, around the same period. I had Le Douceur de Siam. This one is the traditional refined two-hundred years ago Thai woman. Fleur de Lalita has a very different kind of feeling. She is dynamic, creative, modern type of girl. The energy of the florals is different. This one (FDL) is a young girl. This is the most youthful perfume in the collection. Le Douceur is more elegant, refined. 

Q:  To me, maybe because of your father's poetry, most of your perfumes have in some way tied back to your Thai roots. Will this trend continue?
A:  I think so. The perfumes are linked to the poetic world of my father and his voyage. He traveled but he doesn't forget his roots. The second thing is my love for vintage perfumes, like L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain. 

Pissara Umivijani in her shop.

Q:  Are you thinking of adding a new perfume to your line?
A:  You see in the past I release two perfumes at a time. From now on I will release only one per year, as I have a lot already. Right now I am thinking about my childhood memory that relates to my father. It is Bangkok many years ago, let's say in the 70's, when I found Bangkok a very charming place to be. It has changed so much. In the old days it was a really charming time. 

Q:  Do you consider yourself a Parisian now that you have a shop here?
A:  I think I will be settled here long term because of my shop. I feel very at home here but connected to my Thai roots. 

Q:  I first talked with you when you were just starting out. I think the general consensus was that you were such a talented marketeer, creating such a buzz for your new brand. You just came out of nowhere and then were being talked about everywhere. Of course that wouldn't have happened had the perfumes not been good.
A:  I was lucky. The thing nobody knew was that the first year, my samples that I sent out, ninety percent of them the bottles leaked. I had 3000 of them and I had to replace and resend many. We learned from many mistakes! I'm happy to tell you that I looked forward to meeting you because from the beginning I knew you and thank you so much. 

Q:  Thank you! I can remember that you wrote on Facebook Fragrance Friends about Issara, and I wrote to you that this perfume reminded me of scents of a trip I had recently taken to Turkey. You then sent me your first three perfumes, which I wrote about.
A:  Yes, I remember. I think you were the first person who interviewed me.

Q:  Was I?
A:  Yes, you sent me questions in the email and I was really happy. This time seems like yesterday to me but since then so many things have happened. It's only two years ago.

In two short years Pissara Umavijani has founded her perfume line and now opened an atelier in the most fashionable area of Paris. Talk about achieving your goals! I can't wait to see what is yet to come for Parfums Dusita.

 Fleur de Lalita 

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Fleur De Lalita was released in 2017 and was another beautiful addition to the pure florals in the Parfums Dusita line, which includes La Douceur de Siam and Melodie de L'Amour. The Dusita website describes the opening as a "breath-taking floral profusion" comprised of Rose de Mai from Grasse, Magnolia Absolute, Jasmine Graniflora, and Lilium Candidum Absolute, which I know as the Madonna Lily. I am pleased that on my skin the first note I get the most strongly is magnolia. I find this is a white flower that I less frequently come across in perfume. It reminds me a little of the gardenia, with its creaminess and slight hint of lemon but it is less voluptuous than its sister flower. Gardenia is all about showiness and look at me in all my gorgeousness. Magnolia breathes with a quiet innocence. The potential for the white-flower seductiveness is there, but is not yet fully recognized. The opening was a wet languidness that speaks of Thailand or Asian climate, but as a Southerner in the States, it brought to my mind images of girls in white dresses in front of southern mansions on grounds with majestic old oaks draped in moss, the salinity and humidity from the nearby bayou making its presence felt. Here is one of the most memorialized Southern Belles of all time, Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. 

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But just as the Scarlett character was more complex than the sweet young thing she was supposed to present herself as to land a husband, Fleur de Lalita has more to come. Notes of jasmine with her flirty touch of indolics prick the prim perfection of the magnolia. Very fleeting hints of lily add a certain sweetness while ramping up the profusion of white flowers. I don't actually get much rose, and I picture it as more of a white rose, without the richness and strong rose scent that I identify with red roses. The feeling of moisture and humid florals persists, lending a languorous haziness.

The opening is full of white flowers but it also features galbanum. Pissara has used galbanum in some of her other perfumes and it is a note I think of as being more present in vintage perfumes, and perhaps this is part of her attachment to it. In green-type perfumes galbanum can take over and steer the perfume's course but here is is used for a light uplifting note as well as adding a little earthiness. Other reviewers have mentioned a smokiness to the galbanum but to me it reinforces my imagining a white columned mansion surrounded by oaks draped in moss, the green and the moss adding a very subtle funk and verdant air.

There is a heart note of ambrette seed that adds a musky animalic aura to Fleur de Lalita. I also get flicks of nutty sweetness and balsamic references which I'm going to credit to the ambrette seed. Later the white floral notes fade. The galbanum is present but also fading. The scent becomes a fuzzy musky base with notes of vanilla, tonka bean, and ambergris. The vanilla and tonka bean are very muddled and muted on my skin; it is the ambergris which I smell the most with its musky, earthy aroma. With Fleur de Lalita Parfums Dusita once again gives us a memorable and beautiful perfume to savor with its refined French style but a nod to Pissara Umivijani's Thailand roots.

To read more about Pissara and her perfumes on The Fragrant Journey go here, here, and here.

To see Pissara and catch a glimpse of her charming personality go here for an interview at Pitti 2018 featured on the blog Cafleurebon. (Scroll to the bottom and watch the YouTube interview, she's first).

To read more about my perfumed travels in France, start here.

A very big thank you to Pissara Umivijani of Parfums Dusita for hosting me in her shop and for the opportunity to try her new perfums!

All photos not credited are my own.