Sunday, September 29, 2019

Perfumes for an Indian Summer

Summer is over, or it should be. But here in North Texas we are still reaching temperatures of the mid-90's every day. It sounds like autumn....I live by a college football stadium and I can hear the band practicing in the afternoons, and the announcer's voice is crystal clear during the Saturday games, "And it's touchdown, T--C--U--!". But instead of bundling up in sweaters and taking a blanket to wrap around me while I watch the game, I'm spending the Saturday afternoons laying by my pool, trying to cool off in the sweltering heat, and pitying those poor band members in their heavy uniforms.

I'm sick of beach scents or tropical florals, but what to wear, fragrantly? It is far too hot to wear heavy Orientals or the favored aldehyde perfumes I drag out in winter. I search for perfumes that speak of the cooler temperatures to come and that give a hint of the autumn season, but do so with a featherlight touch, so as not to knock myself out. Here are a few perfumes I've been wearing lately.

Jo Malone Black Cedarwood & Juniper

This was introduced in 2014 as part of the annual Jo Malone limited edition and that year the theme was London Rain. Black Cedarwood & Juniper was meant to represent midnight rain and was the darkest of the four in the series. It was also the only one that was revived after the limited edition ended.

I am walking through a forest. It has rained recently, and the smell of the foliage is amplified, as it is wont to do when damp. The needles from the juniper bush and the cedar trees have made a thick, soft carpet underfoot and their sharp, fragrant smell is stirred up as my steps crush the foliage. Cedarwood has a distinctive smell I've known all my life. I think every Texas rest stop has a bush or two, and childrens summer camps, usually on the banks of a river, are dotted with old cedar trees. This smell is probably embedded into the olfactory memories of thousands of campers--a magical space free of parents, full of adventure, and in a bubble of this extraordinarily scented air. The cedarwood in the perfume has a bit of the pencil shaving smell, but is also camphorous, and at its best moments, slightly balsamic and sweet.

The juniper can smells a little like cedarwood but it also offers gentle wisps of incense from time to time. Although a fairly simple and linear scent, it does waft and wane with these different notes, just like what would occur in a real walk through the forest. There is a feeling of humidity and moisture in the air, a part of the original theme of this perfume which was meant to reflect a rainy day. Along with the heat Texas is experiencing a drought, so the aura of rain is a welcome one.

 Byredo Gypsy Water

Kate Moss in a fashion shoot for V Magazine.

I tried to resist Gypsy Water for so long. It has a reputation for being light wearing and short lived, but here's the thing. It is that very characteristic that is part of its charm and makes it so realistic of a commune with nature, or more poetically, a day in the life of a gypsy traveler.

The fragrance opens with notes of juniper and pine, reminiscent of a morning stroll through a forest. Lemon and bergamot give it a brightness and pepper adds slight sharpness to this fragrant air. There is vanilla in the mix but this doesn't present as a vanilla fragrance in any way; rather the note just adds a tiny touch of sweetness. Orris root, sandalwood, and amber round out the notes, but that doesn't explain how this smells.  When I apply Gypsy Water it takes me back to the long ago days when I used to go camping (when sleeping on the ground still seemed like a good idea). There is really nothing like waking up in the forest, smelling the air fragrant with the language of the trees. This is where the current idea of forest bathing came from, after all. The one note I didn't mention above is incense and it is this that elevates the perfume to perfection. It is not overly smokey but is quietly pervasive throughout the life of the scent. It is the scent of a campfire burning in the distance, maybe fueled by fragrant pine branches. Wearing Gypsy Water always puts a smile on my face and imparts a feeling of well being. I don't live near any forests and I'm not lucky enough to be able to take a hike through the woods, but with Gypsy Water, I can somewhat replicate that feeling. It feels like hope in a bottle.

Bond No 9 andy Warhol Lexington Avenue

Hello Autumn! This fragrance immediately takes me to a happy place where the weather is cool and crisp and the leaves have turned a kaleidoscope of fiery colors. It is a beautiful combination of warm and cool on my skin. Blue cypress gives a fragrant woody whoosh effect, like walking outside into the cold and the first air you inhale seems to clear the lungs and nasal passages. Spices of cardamom, star anise, and fennel pull back by adding spicy warmth to the fragrance. The spices remind me a little of the ones in my beloved Bond No 9 Chinatown, but there are no white flowers here, it's all about woods and spices. 

As the fragrance develops a subtle gourmand aspect appears, with notes of creme brulee and pimento berry. It is nicely managed and doesn't tip over the top to sugary sweetness, it just combines with the spices to give a yumminess to the scent. Base notes of sandalwood and patchouli round it ou. The perfumer for this 2008 release is Claude Dir of Givaudan, who I notice also was responsible for Banana Republic 17 Oud Mosaic, the only scent from that line that really captured my attention and where the wood notes are also handled with a master touch.

Dame Perfumery Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli

I know, I've mentioned this one before. It is perfect in any season, but it's light bright opening really works in warm weather. The patchouli, however, makes it feel right for autumn weather. If you're afraid of patchouli this is a good place to start because the note is earthy, green, but fairly light. The mate tea note provides the light opening, without using citrus as so many perfumes do. Heliotrope works to balance the patchouli by providing a semi-sweet powder which is pretty much the opposite of the rustic patchouli. I really don't know why I like this so much. It's fairly simple but I find it to be just the perfect combination of notes; it feels chic, innovative, yet simple. On the website it is called a woman's perfume but I think this would be delicious on a man. This would be on a top ten perfume list if I ever made one. I don't know what the other nine would be but Mate, Heliotrope & Patchouli would definitely have a place on that list.

Pinterest Image

Parfums Berdoues Oud Al Sahraa

This is an Oriental Woody fragrance featuring oud and myrrh which sounds weighty but wears like a silk scarf of scent, a trademark of the Berdoues Grand Cru line. I have already written a longer review of this fragrance here but the highlight is this gives the fun of wearing an Oriental fragrance without the heaviness of that genre that would weigh you down in hot weather. The mandarin top note is rather generic to my nose but no worries, it lasts only seconds. The myrrh is woody and slightly balsamic and the oud (if it is real oud) offers a slight smokiness along with more woods. Oud Al Sahraa is not groundbreaking and doesn't have a strong presence, but that is the whole point here. It works well in warm weather and in cold weather it becomes an office-friendly Oriental fragrance.

Bonus! The bottle is super cool and the price point is pretty fantastic.

All of these perfumes are totally unisex. What perfumes are you wearing right now?

Top photo: Other photos not identified are Google images. Perfumes are my own. Opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Scent Room, Dallas

I have a story at Cafleurebon about a great new store for Dallas perfume shoppers, The Scent Room. Follow the link to read more!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Monet: The Late Years Exhibit, and Revisiting DSH Perfumes Le Jardin Vert and La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes

Weeping Willow and Water-Lily Pond, 1916-19

The Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas,  is in the last days of a special exhibit featuring Monet's works from the later years of his life. During this time he based himself in Giverny, and idyllic spot for sure, but Monet's happiness was impinged by the loss of his wife and son, the cloud of WWI, and then his declining vision. It was during this period that he experimented on large canvases, using his own garden as an inspiration.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz designed a line of fragrances several years ago when the Denver Art Museum had an exhibit on Monet, and she named the four-fragrance set Giverny In Bloom. I wrote about these when I first started blogging, and though I loved them all, Giverny In Bloom, which I wrote about here was the one that appealed to me most, with its joyful combination of greens and florals. At the Monet: The Early Years exhibit, however, it was Le Jardin Vert and La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes  that really spoke to me through the paintings. 

It was fascinating to wear these perfumes in the presence of these great masterpieces. I could imagine Dawn, who is herself an artist and has synesthesia, the ability to experience scent as color, feeling immersed in the dark moody greens of the willow trees in Giverny's garden and the inky blue depths of the pool. Although La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes was a reflection on some of the blooming flowers at Giverny, I also found the blueness of the scent conveyed in the watery reflective surface of the lily pond. 

Le Jardin Vert is such an immersive experience with its vegetal notes which make it feel like a study in dark green. It embraces the green of the trees and plant life, but also the rather slimy plants that line the pond and the mossy bits on the rocks. The scent has moments where it smells wet and with just a whisper of decay, which is where the vegetal smells come in. Then it is uplifted by watery notes or fleeting floral whispers. At its heart, though, the scent is deep and dark with notes of moss, minerals, and woods. Le Jardin Vert is a living thing on my skin, shape shifting and dancing, like a dragonfly flitting from one part of the garden to another, constantly moving and changing. Wearing this scent I felt like I could deep dive into the large canvas before me.

La Danse les Bleus et des Violettes  was created to reference the blue flowers in Monet's garden, and it does that beautifully. But looking at these paintings featuring Monet's lily pond, I found the scent gives an ethereal blue haze and projects calmness and placidity, just like the tranquility found staring at the lily pond's surface.

The Kimbell Museum has the exhibit set up in such a way that you cross an inner land bridge to get from the large paintings to the darker, smaller canvases painted in the last years of Monet's life. Cataracts had made his vision deteriorate, and the colors in his painting took on a darker and muddier hue. The painting above is still fairly recognizable as the willow tree and the pond, but as time went on the blues and greens gave way to oranges and browns. The exhibit is a fascinating walk through the last years of the great artist's life.

Photos of the Monet exhibit at the Kimbell Museum Fort Worth taken by me. Perfumes are my own.