Sunday, January 27, 2019

Does Clothing Color Influence Your Perfume: A Look At Purple Perfumes

I snagged a pair of drastically reduced boots back in the early fall in a rich purple suede. Naturally this required a few additions to my wardrobe to compliment the boots, as I was woefully short of purple clothes in a closet full of too much black. But what surprised me was how wearing head to toe purple affected my choice of perfume. I wanted to smell of juicy sweet plums or tart blackberries. Just like perfumes can have "seasons" to me, some perfumes also give me the impression of color by their scent.

I've always thought that it would be fun to make up the names of paint colors. Some are so inventive. Names like Jam Session, Silk Kimono, or Plum Pudding,   And how to identify the color of the boots? Of course they are purple, but color offers so many descriptives: violet, eggplant, lavender, orchid, blackberry, currant, maroon,

I decided that my boots are mulberry, a deep rich color between purple, berry and brown, with so many positive connotations, like the mulberry syrup put in the salad dressings I so enjoyed in Turkey. Did you know crayon colors get "retired"? Mulberry left us in 2003.

Photo from

Purple has been the color designated for royals throughout history and there is a factual reason for this. The materials needed in the Middle Ages to create purple by mixing reds and blues were all costly and rare so became a sign of wealth and power. The color that became known as royal purple was produced by the Phoenicians in what is today Lebanon. The dye came from a species of sea snails and this inky color was more costly than gold. 

What perfume notes smell like purple? Most of these are scents with plum notes but blackberry or redcurrant can give that feel of purple too. Here are some perfumes that "speak" to me in purple.

Pele-Mele by Galimard

I suppose if you live in Europe Galimard is a familiar brand, but I had never heard of it before my trip to France this past summer. I bought a sample box with a variety of six small bottles and one of them was Pele-Mele. It is a what has become a ubiquitous floral fruity fragrance but in this case it is a reminder that this category can smell fabulous when a little restraint is used. The top notes are peach and plum, followed by rose and green tea, then finally musk and sandalwood. On my skin the rose mixes with the plum to give a watery but nice version of plum which persists throughout the wear of the fragrance.


Plum Japonaise by Tom Ford

The opening moments of Plum Japonaise are to die for. I loved this whole collection--Shanghai Lily, Fleur de Chine, and Rive d'Ambre--in addition to this one which were released in 2013. There is an electric moment in the opening that has such an Oriental vibe, just like Fleur de Chine, which I own in the giant sie. This moment is short but sweet and evaporates quickly, followed by a haze of smoke and incense. Notes such as The plumy wine note is strongest in the beginning of the scent and oud eventually dominates the fragrance on my skin. I enjoy the opening the most but with notes of saffron, cinnamon, camellia, benzoin, fir, and amber, this aura reminiscent of Japan infiltrates the scent. When I wear this scent I feel like I am wrapped in a purple silk kimono and waving sticks of incense inside a Buddhist shrine deep in a forest of pine and fir. This scent is sexy, sophisticated, and a bit mystical. Even though this was a limited edition it is still somewhat readily available.

One Umbrella For Two by Floraiku

Floraiku is a new brand that features minimalistic scents loosely based on haiku poetry. This spare Japanese style of poetry emphasizes that every word count, and Floraiku features spare perfume designs with minimal notes. Beautiful presentation is part of the package and the package will be expensive! Nevertheless, it is very beautiful, but what about the scent? One Umbrella For Two open with a nutty aspect, some have called it the smell of a Japanese rice cake. A note of plum is there but it is dry and has a sparkle like a plum brandy. The grain scent continues to be quite strong throughout the opening. Eventually this nuttiness fades and the blackcurrant takes center stage. The only other notes listed are tea and cedar. The tea is a variety called Genmaicha and it has the scent of roasted rice, which enhances the grain aspect of the scent. The blackcurrant note is fruity but dry, not succulent. I am experiencing the tartness of the fruit, although not as tart as something like Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay. 

Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince

This perfume open with a hyper-fresh note of fir forests and a very fleshy blackcurrent. There are a host of notes but the overall feel is walking through a forest with a very strong blackcurrant note, as if you can smell the skin of the fruit and are peeling it back to discover the shivering globes of fleshy fruit. There is a slightly unsettling note for me that makes this scent seem very realistic of place, but that is slightly disquieting. I am not quite sure what I am smelling but this could be the note that makes some reviewers not care for the scent, while others adore it. I remain undecided.

Bibliotheque by Byredo

Bibliotheque opens juicy and lush with an explosion of dark plum. This takes all the attention but is soon followed by  notes of peach and rustic leather. The leather is dry and dusty as opposed to smooth and buttery and for a moment it subdues the plum.  After about thirty minutes everything settles down and Bibliotheque becomes a softer skin scent on me, quite a surprise after the big opening! 

Mirabella by DSH Perfumes

Perhaps Mirabella was an early study for perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's  more recent series of fur-based scents, because from the first I smell the civit and castoreum. Dawn is not one to shy away from these notes and in fact she embraces them, especially when trying to create a perfume in the classic/vintage style. Mirabella is classified as a chypre floral and opens with bright bergamot, spicy notes and fruits. There is a strong hay scent from notes of broom and a very feral beeswax. Like many of the DSH Perfumes there is a basket of florals: rose, jasmine, orange blossom, osmanthus, orris root, tuberose, and ylang ylang. The plum note feels dark purple and dry. Basenotes of sandalwood, leather, benzoin, oakmoss, and vanilla give this perfume a classic feel. As you might imagine, with all the notes I've listed the plum is a member of the chorus, not the soloist, but it does provide an integral component and it is what makes this perfume "read purple" to me. Dawn gave it the name Mirabella for the mirabella plum, so she must have meant it to be the grace note of the perfume. Mirabella smells like a serious perfume but after the first hour the animal notes give just a teasing whiff. This smells like a perfume from the past you find at a garage sale, and when you open the bottle your eyes roll to the back of your head as you remember what women used to smell like.  Today, of course, men would be equally fragrant wearing this perfume. I was going to post a picture of a Mirabella plum, which I assumed was purple, but in fact they are golden in color! 

Black Tulip by Nest

Black Tulip enjoys the beautiful artwork that is on all the Nest bottles and in this case the art is a good representation what you will find inside the bottle. The perfume opens with a blast of grape-scented plum and patchouli. The patchouli makes it reminiscent of Angel by Mugler but after the first thirty minutes the patchouli is a lot less aggressive. With its name, Black Tulip, the perfume definitely references flowers on the darkest end of the color spectrum. The plum note used is called black amber plum, and I had to look that up to see if it was a real thing or one of these made-up notes, like unicorn tears or kitten breath, but indeed, these are a real thing and are in fact grown prolifically. The skin of the black amber plum is so dark purple it almost looks black and the inner fruit is amber colored. There are also notes of violet and jasmine, but I can't pick either one out. Although Black Tulip made me think of Angel, other reviewers on Fragrantica mentioned Bath & Body Works retired Black Amethyst or Black Opium as being similar. If you like fruity florals and can handle a tame patchouli, this might be for you.

Tulips by Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe 1936

Now for a quick art fact. I can't resist as it ties in so perfectly. The Dallas Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition of Ida O'Keeffe's paintings. She is the younger sister of Georgia O'Keeffe, and although very talented she received no help from her sister or Georgia's husband, Alfred Steieglitz, a legendary photographer and art gallerist who successfully promoted Georgia's career. In fact, Georgia insisted that her sister stop promoting and displaying her art, and that there could only be on female O'Keeffe painter in the family, ultimately leading to an estrangement between the two. A curator at the Museum has gathered Ida's paintings from many individuals and for the first time her work is being displayed in a museum. I thought it was such an interesting story, and when I saw this painting just a couple of days ago I knew I had to put it in my story. Now back to perfume. 

Feminite du Bois by Shiseido

Sometime in the past--maybe twenty years ago-- I acquired a bottle of Shiseido Feminite du Bois and at this time it was already becoming rare. Way back in 1992 Serge Lutens and Pierre Bourdon came up with the concept for a scent built on cedar, plum, and spice and  Christopher Sheldrake was brought in to finish it. Feminite du Bois would eventually gain cult status. Sometime before 2006 it was discontinued and this is around the era that I acquired my bottle. Then in 2009 Serge Lutens was given the rights to Feminite du Bois and reintroduced it under his brand. I never have tried the Lutens version and although he maintained it was virtually identical the rumblings were that it lacked the magic of the original. When I spray Feminite du Bois it has a cedar note that bursts forth in a shimmering wave of freshness, and gives the impression that you have stepped outside and the air is unexpectedly cold and the smells from the woods around you are heightened and magnified in their fresh briskness. Through reading more about the perfume's creation I conclude that the Super E is responsible for this supercharged shimmer. I know nothing about chemistry so I'll stop there but it is a stunning effect. Notes of deep purple violets and dry plum merge with the wood note to eventually give the cedar note a calmer, deeper aura. The scent will go quiet and then hours later burst forth with little explosions in mysterious waves of scent. I have not tried the Serge Lutens version which is available still today so I don't know if it lives up to the original but I suspect not, as I never really hear chatter about it on the fragrance forums. I would like to be wrong, though.

Mure et Musc by L'Artisan Parfumeur

L'Artisan Mure et Musc is the most subtle scent listed here; not at all surprising as it is L'Artisan after all. I believe this is their oldest scent as Mure et Musc is the earliest fragrance I see listed for the brand and was created in 1978. In 1993 an Extreme version was released as there were grumblings about the lack of projection and longevity, but it is still more of a watercolor scent and on my skin it takes a while to pick up steam. My sample may be old but I don't get a strong shot of blackberry at the beginning. It is more subtle with the blackberry muddled with the musk notes. As the scent begins to mix with my skin the musk blooms and there are moments when I catch a salty note which reminds me slightly of the salty caviar note in Womanity by Mugler. Even though this is the Extreme version I find it to be a light skin scent but the combination of blackberry and musk is very pleasant and a nice background scent.

These are just a few of the many scents that remind me of the color purple. Do you have more?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Parfums Dusita Erawan

January is for many a month to press reset, a time to define goals, detox the body, simplify or declutter living spaces. In other words it is a time to start afresh after what may have been a holiday season of excess. Erawan by Parfums Dusita strikes me as the perfect perfume to accompany you on these tasks.

Erawan is Pissara Umavijani's scented tribute to Erawan the elephant god of historic Thai myths, as well as Erawan National Park, home to beautiful cascading waterfalls. The Erawan of Hindu mythology is the mount of the god Indra. Together they ride across the heavens and bring rain clouds and lightening which results in life-giving rain. An area northwest of Bangkok in Kanchanaburi Province is the location of Erawan National Park and Erawan Falls with its seven tiers of falls and pools. It is located in a lush green area surrounded by rainforests. Erawan the perfume captures these colors and sensations: the green of the forest, the freshness of the pooling waters, and the sense of calm that a day communing with nature imparts.

Just before the close of 2018 I read an announcement that Erawan won "The Breakthrough of the Year" Prize at FIFI Russia. This was a gentle reminder that I have been meaning to write about this perfume ever since I sprayed it all over myself when visiting Pissara Umavijani at Parfums Dusita in Paris back in July, and consequently spent the rest of the day in a perfumed cloud of blissfulness.

It is a good thing no one asked me to name the perfume for I would have called it Serenity, a truly descriptive depiction of the scent but not nearly as evocative of a name as Erawan. For me wearing  Erawan is like a visit to a day spa, cocooned in a robe and turban, soothing music, mellow lighting and a therapeutic head massage. The day in Paris when I doused myself in Erawan, I walked in a happy cloud of calm, and neither getting lost five times or long ticket lines were able to shake that cool equilibrium.

How is this achieved? First there is a distinctive note of hay and tobacco. It is strong and very identifiable, but very quickly green notes enter and soften the scent. Clary sage gives a herbal/green scent and as other notes start to emerge I find this scent is very distinctive with notes that aren't easily identified. Petitgrain Paraguay adds a herbaceous and floral touch. Soft lily of the valley gives the impression of clear pools of spring water. This is a whisper of floral, a very soft and subtle interpretation of the muguet note. Gradually notes of vanilla lend a creamy texture to Erawan, and notes of oakmoss and vetiver give it a slightly smokey, earthy vibe which gives it a masculine touch.

Liatris, or deers tounge, was the mystery ingredient for me. I looked it up and courmain liatris as is used in Erawan gives off a herbaceous and sometimes balsamic note and can resemble tonka. It also enhances the smell of green hay and forest notes and is used in fougeres, chypres and oriental perfumes. There was something in the green creaminess that slightly reminded me of another perfume in my collection and I finally realized it is DSH Perfumes Celadon. Although they smell differently overall, they both share this creamy green aspect and sure enough latrix (or latris) is listed as an ingredient in both, leading me to conclude that this dusty vanilla/tonka aura may come from the latris/latrix note.

When I visited Parfums Dusita in Paris this last summer I talked with Pissara about the creation of Erawan. I asked if she started out wanting to make a perfume about the legend of Erawan, the Thai name for the elephant god, or did the notes come together first.

"For Erawan, it came from the idea that I wanted to express the natural forest with a masculine touch," said Pissara. "At the same moment I listened to the material and I realized that there is a petit grain that really had this masculine but soft presence; there is an aspect that is a fougere structure. The clary sage is similar to that I use for Issara. I did many formulations. I gave myself this charter, to make it softly masculine, but I tried different styles. I did one extremely smokey formula, then I went to this formulation and realized it is something that I like. After that I thought, this perfume should be like Erawan, because of the Erawan waterfall in Thailand. It's always a name I personally relate to because I lived near the Erawan shrine in Bangkok. After that I chose the poetry from my father."

I did not know how I got there,
I walked through an autumn wood,
It was wonderful how I 
Journeyed into the light. 
- Montri Umavijani

"My father talked about walking the transition of life. After I chose the poetry I imagined that this poetry can relate to the elephant Erawan, and the forest."

When Pissara introduced Erawan last year she wrote, "The perfume Erawan, will I feel appeal to both women and men, with its sunny, slightly earthy and woody fragrance, similar to a fougere style. What is sure is that a large percentage of the men to whom I have presented it have loved it."

What I find most appealing about Erawan is the calming green hay notes that persist through the life of the perfume on my skin. It is a calming scent that hearkens to the comforting grains that have nostalgic memories of cereals and comfort food. This is combined with a very mellow green that feels like you are breathing in nature's scents. Like Issara, it brings images of a walk through a woods, but for me Issara is a trek through piney woods and Erawan is a natural rainforest with pools of clear water nearby. Both are soothing and offer the comfort of a return to nature that I think is wired into our DNA. With the introduction of Erawan, Parfums Dusita has added another totally distinctive fragrance to the brand.

Photos of waterfalls and elephants show Erawan National Park and are from The perfume sample was generously provided by Parfums Dusita. The opinions are my own. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Look Back At 2018 and Welcome to 2019

I sailed through the year blogging at a fairly steady pace until the holiday season, and starting at Thanksgiving time I hit a wall. Although I had lots of ideas for Christmas posts I was so busy that I never got them out. And now I am less busy but the writing lethargy remains, so I decided that looking back at the year on The Fragrant Journey would at least be a good mental exercise for me, and possibly highlight some stories that newer readers may have missed.

Is this the gate to Heaven? The Guerlain entrance, Paris, des Champs-Elysees

The strongest theme of this blog has always been scents of place and fragrances that resonate with visited locations, and later can serve as a reminder of these pleasures. A summer trip to France provided lots of inspiration for scented posts, from visits to the grand Galeries Lafayette, pictured above, which remind me of a tall spectacular wedding cake to small boutique shops that one stumbles across regularly when walking the streets of Paris. But perhaps nothing topped the thrill of wandering through fields of lavender and seeing patchwork fields of purple and green, every bit as beautiful as I had dreamed it would be. If you dream of such a trip or are interested in scents that remind you of France you can follow my journey here with Everything Is Lavender and follow the links to seven more stories.

Interviewing perfumers has been one of the biggest bonuses of blogging, although I'm not sure if readers enjoy it as much as I do. This year I got to meet two fabulous perfumers who were so generous with their time.

First was the gracious and beautiful Pissara Umavijani who welcomed me to her Paris shop. It was such a wonderful morning spending time with her and shop-dog Bambi in her elegant atelier. If you missed it you can read it here.
Pissara Umavijani of Parfums Dusita.

I also met Olivier Durbano who resides in Grasse and is passionate about the revival of this town which is so important to the history of the perfume industry. His shop is a magical lair full of wonders and he was the kindest of hosts. His perfumes seem to breathe with his positive energy. You can read more here.

Olivier Durbano 

The most unusual interview I had was with author Louise Penny, whose mysteries set in the imaginary town of Three Pines deep in the woods of Canada are perennial best sellers on the major book lists. I talked with her about why she scents her main characters as she does, and she was just as delightful as you would imagine if you've read her books and enjoyed the quirky characters she brings to life on the pages of her books. You can read more here.

Me with Louise Penny

A move right before the end of 2017 meant that 2018 was the first time in 14 years that Singapore was not the place I called home. Besides the numerous personal upheavals, this move directly affected my ability to source and sample perfumes. I had been spoiled with the convenience of taking a stroll to the nearby shopping district and having access to so many brands and being able to spray the newest perfume offerings, getting my exercise along with a new review. It was heaven! It's been a year and I am still adjusting!

It was a great honor to be listed as a nominee for a Perfumed Plum Award in 2018. The article which was in the running was a story from a trip to Rajasthan, India, in 2017 and you can read it here.

Last year at my end of year wrap up I said I hoped to be a more prolific writer/poster in 2018 but that did not happen. I will again state the desire to write more, as a discipline for an aging mind if nothing else!

Also as I stated last year, I don't do a best of list because there are so many bloggers who do that so well and who have sampled so many more perfumes than I was able to. On a personal level, I noticed that I have a developing appreciation for lighter more transparent scents. I still love the big dogs but I also now see places in my life where softer, less intrusive scents are welcome.

Reading these best of lists from Cafleurebon and Colognoisseur has spurred a sample order and you will be hearing more about those as the year develops, at least the successful scent trials. I hated to close out without at least one perfume review. I read about Essence Rare Houbigant on several blogs and it seemed just the sort of scent I would love. I don't have access to many brands where I live but I knew the local Neiman Marcus would be carrying this one so I went to give it a try, hopes high. Initially, it was a big disappointment. It's not that I didn't like it but at that price point I expect to be moved. 

Essence Rare takes an hour before I begin to understand the fuss. When I first spray it I actually dislike it, and that is not that common for me.  I do not smell the profusion of flowers or the mandarin notes. Eventually I do begin to smell lily and powdery notes but everything stays muted and quiet and never develops and blooms as I would expect from a perfume of this stature. I do believe in the effects of skin when mixing a perfume so your experience may well be delightful. Essence Rare is extremely pleasant but color me underwhelmed. This is what sometimes happens when the build-up of expectations is so enormous; it's the perfect setup for disappointment. At the end of the perfume's evolution I conclude that while I would happily wear this if someone were to gift it to me, I would never, ever, lay out the money it would cost me to add this to my collection. This quick review is based on one experience and I had something else sprayed on the other arm so it's possible if I gave it a more serious try I would come to a different conclusion.

Now all I can hope is that the rather large Luckyscent sample order I just placed based on other bloggers end of year recommendations will turn out to be more successful.

Thank you to those of you who have read some of my posts this year and to those who took the time to comment, either here or on my Facebook page, bless you! These conversations and these "online friendships" with fellow perfume lovers is a big part of the joy for me.

May we all have a 2019 filled with happiness and new discoveries!