Sunday, December 13, 2020

Silver Bells Redux: Silvery Scents


The first year I started my blog I did a Christmas post on Silver Bells, using aldehydic perfumes as an expression of cold metallic bells and their ringing sound. It is one of the most-read posts I ever published, I think in large part to the beautiful art I selected as a lead in. This year I'm having another look at Silver Bell inspired perfumes, with only one repeat perfume. I'm concentrating more on the color silver itself this time.

I love to wear Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory when the weather turns sharp and chilly. I live near a train yard, and in the summer the sounds are distant and muted, but in the winter cold there is a sharp piercing shriek of metal on metal when the train brakes. Something about the air density in cold temperatures creates this clarity. This sharp sound is the effect Silver Factory gives when I apply it on a cold day. 

Andy Warhol Silver Factory came out in 2007 and was the first of five scents based on the life and career of the famous New York-based artist and social phenomenon. This was in the early days of Bond No. 9 and they were doing some edgy perfumes back then, before they started introducing such a steady stream of perfumes at a rate almost impossible to keep up with. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard was responsible for this fragrance, as well as my other favorite from the house, Chinatown. 

Top notes are lavender, bergamot, and grapefruit; middle notes are incense, iris, violet, and jasmine, and base notes are resins, cedar, and amber. One of the marvels of this perfume is how it transitions. It goes on sharp as a knife blade, and the colder the weather, the more biting that effect will be. This is not a perfume that flourishes in hot weather, in my opinion. This effect does bring to mind silver: silver knifes, silver bells, silver train tracks, silver cars with snowflakes adhering to their shell like metallic armor. 

After such a cold opening, the scent begins to warm up. A delicious and fairly light incense note mixes with the resins and amber to provide warmth and fragrant aromatics. The iris definitely plays a part in making this scent feel so chilly at the onset, but like the other florals, it is well blended and doesn't stand out unless you are familiar with the note. I only drag this one out in winter and every year I am re-amazed by how much I love it. 

Another scent that makes me think silver is Clinique Wrappings. You will only see this scent offered from the Clinique counters at Christmas time, and even then, you may have to hunt for it. Like most of my "silver scents", it blooms in winter but can smell heavy in warm weather. Wrappings offers aldehydes on steroids, and it is these sparkling, cold notes that make me think of cold, metal silver bells. I wrote about this one in the article from 2016 linked above, but I will quote one sentence which gives the essence of the scent, to me: The opening rush smells like frigid air. The green smells like silvery pine needles laced with snow. It conjures the image of walking through a frozen forest, pine needles glistening with frozen ice glitter. Enjoy this one during the season as there is a reason they only sell it during Christmas. In my opinion it just doesn't smell as good once the Christmas planning and excitement has passed!

The next two scents on my list only remind me of silver in the opening; after that they transition into something much warmer. I will mention them, though, because they do give a different aspect to this idea of silver scents. 

L'Artisan Parumeur Dzongkha was released in 2006 and made quite a stir during a time when inventive perfumes were in shorter supply than they are today. Bertrand Duchaufour was the nose, and this perfume was a part of a trilogy based on his exotic travels. Dzongkha was inspired by a trip to Bhutan, a kingdom in the Himalayas, a land where Buddhist monasteries perch on mountain ledged, strings of prayer flags fluttering in the high winds and bells tolling solemnly, the sound echoing through the valleys below. 

The first moments of Dzongkha feel chilly with that dry feeling of cold air. It is easy for me to picture the somber ringing of the bells. Very quickly though a whole journey of scents begin to appear. The stones that the Buddhist temples are built of and the incense that permeates the walls over time are the basis for this scent. Other notes appear: cardomom and tea, very dry vetiver and papyrus, tanned leather. But it is the iris which for me lives through the opening, the heart, and even the base of the scent. It is dry and rooty. In the beginning it feels chilly and remote, at the heart if accentuates cold stones and metallic bells, and at the base it finally begins to go softer and slightly powdery. 

This is a very unusual scent and it doesn't always work on me. I NEVER wear this in warm weather because then it smells like carrots and celery; remnants of a summer vegetable garden. But when it works, I am climbing high in the Himalayan mountains, the air is bracing, I feel serene and at one with my surroundings. Higher up the mountain I spot my destination, a stone structure jutting out of the mountainside; a place of refuge on this unforgiving mountain.

My last "silver" perfume is actually more gray, DSH Perfumes Kohl Gris. Several years ago Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz who is owner and perfumer at DSH, did a series of perfumes based on color. Kohl Gris was my favorite, and it continues to be one I wear every year in winter, especially around Christmas.

The perfume is meant to represent the smoky, kohl lined eye, and thus is a warm and spicy scent at heart. There is, however, a brief moment when I first apply this perfume when I get a bracing, slightly metallic scent which feels silver to me. This could be from the lavender and pine notes. After that it heats up very quickly with pepper and clove. Then sensuous base notes of tobacco, labdanum, frankincense, sandalwood, and ambergris make this a delicious spicy, smoky perfume. 

I find that iris or orris root is a common element through these four perfumes, as it has a chilly dry quality. Are there any fragrances in your collection that feel silvery to you?

The retro Christmas cards are on Pinterest. The Silver Bells sign is from ebay. Top painting is by Clair Rossiter. Perfumes are my own.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Cristèle Jacquemin Collection: Meandering Soul, Impermanence, and Underworld

Christèle Jacquemin's perfume enterprise just celebrated its one year anniversary in October. She introduced three perfumes in 2019, one of which immediately garnered a nomination in the Art and Olfaction Awards, a remarkable achievement for a first time perfumer. Jacquemin had previously worked as a photographer, a passion she still pursues. Today she uses her travel experiences and the photographs she took to capture the mood of a place to inspire her perfume creations. Her scents are very individual and interpretive; in fact, I'd go so far as to say they are probably the most original fragrances I've smelled in 2020. 

Jacquemin's scent, Impermanence, was nominated in the Artisan Category, and this artistic and creative energy defines her work. Combining photography with fragrance, she manages to recreate the feeling and memory of a specific place and time in her life, in scent. As might be expected, these impressions are individual and specific to the artist's experiences. To those perfume consumers used to more mainstream offerings these scents may be startling at first. It took me more than one wearing to absorb everything I was smelling; these scents offer true scent seekers a lot to explore. I think this in part is because Jacquemin makes use of spices that other perfumers don't often feature, so the nose is smelling things not normally found in fragrances. The only other perfumer whose work struck me this way is Olivier Durbano, whose scents I reviewed here

Here are my brief reviews of each scent. This is written through the lens of how they perform on my skin, and over time I have found that my skin does not like citrus notes so much but it adores wood notes. Bear that in mind when reading my opinions. After finishing my reviews I searched out other reviewers opinions, and several mentioned the flower notes blooming on their skin. For me, the florals are so well blended into the scent as a whole that I don't get a strong sense of the flower notes. I will feature one of Jacquemin's photographs to represent each scent.

Meandering Soul

Meandering Soul is the perfect scent to be wearing in the cool weather of autumn, rolling into winter, that we are experiencing here in North Texas right now. It has a warm toasty feel. An opening note of fennel gives the nose a surprise; it's not a note one encounters a lot in perfumery. It smells herbal and piquant and is a nice contrast to the sweeter notes that follow. I am wondering if fennel is a more familiar smell to Europeans than Americans, as it was an Austrian friend who taught me to appreciate fennel tea. Hinoki wood makes me think of an autumn stroll, kicking aside fallen leaves of orange, brown, and gold. These two notes combined give me a faint nutty note, which again feeds my autumn fantasy of acorns underfoot and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Heart notes are ylang-ylang, narcissus, and cinnamon but in all honesty I don't smell the florals. My nose goes straight to the base notes of caramel and tobacco. The caramel notes are subdued and not overly sweet; this is not a praline but rather that scent of slightly burnt sugar at the fall county fair. 

To me Meandering Soul references slight grainy smells with spice and woodiness. There is even a little bit of smoke, maybe from the tobacco. It is a very gentle smell, which is I think what Jacquemin was trying to convey. There are nuances of smoke, moist tobacco, a burnt caramel, and the very dry hinoki. Although subtle, the scent is strangely addictive and unlike anything I've tried.

Jacquemin's inspiration for the scent came from a month-long sojourn at an art residency in Taipei, Taiwan. She found the fast pace of the city chaotic, so used night time wanders to reconnect with nature and study the city at a less frenetic pace. Jacquemin wanted to relay the calm and peace she found in her nightly strolls into a scent. Maybe I am influenced by the cold weather outside my door as I do tend to look at some scents as seasonal, but Meandering Soul is my favorite of the three scents.


This was the perfume that brought attention to Christele Jacquemin's brand new perfume enterprise, with a nomination to the Art and Olfaction 2020 Awards in the Artisan category. Impermanence strikes me as the opposite of Meandering Soul; light and bright as compared to the darker moodier hues of Meandering Soul. The opening notes are bergamot, blue ginger, and hinoki wood. I think it is the blue ginger that takes the bergamot into a totally unexpected direction. There is a sharp crispness to the opening, but not in the traditional sense of citrus opening notes in a fragrance. Again, my nose tells me I am smelling something unexpected and different from the usual fragrant offerings we see today. I can really come up with no comparison references for any of these scents, which is good news for those seeking out truly artistic scents and always looking for some new stimuli.

Middle notes are rosemary, rose, and palmarosa, which is an India-subcontinent grass which emits a rose like smell, even though it is a plant and not a flower. I do smell the rose in the scent, but it is subtle and there is no way I would call this a "rose" fragrance, as it has a very nature-like vibe. The base notes are vetiver and yerba mate. The yerba mate has a more earthy smell than some teas, and this is in keeping with the feeling of the scent, wandering through back lanes and experiencing nature and happiness. Jacquemin has photos to accompany each scent, and for Impermanence her stated goal was to show the following: "become one with nature, welcome change, reenergize in harmony". The grassy, herbal nature of Impermanence, with an uplift of citrus for optimism, and rose, which is a known and recognized to impart a sense of well being, do indeed give me the feeling of energized harmony. 

The inspiration for this fragrance came from a one month artistic sojourn in the village of Jin Ze, outside of Shanghai, China. Here Jacquemin found peace and tranquility in an unspoiled setting, and on her return home she translated this feeling to scent.


Underworld was inspired by a period in Jacquemin's life marked by transition. She had lived in Barcelona for many years, but was traveling to Paris to study perfumery as she began to expand her interests and career aspirations in that direction. For her it was a period marked by darkness and light, and most of all change, opening a new chapter in life.

The text Jacquemin uses on her website to describe the perfume and the photos that represented it are revealing: "let go--get out of one's cave--enter light". The scent opens with cumin, pepper, and cardomom, and no surprise that these notes give a darkness and mystery right from the start. Heart notes are carrot seed, patchouli, and vetiver, and base notes are tuberose, mimosa, and frankincense. 

It is easy to imagine that I am in a dark place as these spices unfold. Despite the note description, these are not "in your face" spices from a trade route camel caravan in days of yore. Rather they are smooth, slightly unsettling, and brooding--very atmospheric. 

Underworld's notes are so interesting, and reading the heart and base notes, it really gives me no sense of the fragrance that eventually unfolds. After the dark opening the scent begins to lighten, and true to her description, it does give some of the smells associated with caving. Many years ago I went to Deer Cave in Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, and at the time it was the world's largest cave. I wrote about that experience here, but in short, I get that sense of limestone walls wet with dripping water and the moist, squishy earth underfoot. If one is fanciful you can imagine starting the journey in the tight tunnel of the cave, gradually coming to the cave's vast opening where there is space and vaulted ceilings and perhaps a shaft of light entering from far above. As the scent's life continues to unfold we get more lightness, walking away from the dark and eventually exiting the cave to the world outside. 

My take away is that these are some of the most original scents I have smelled all year. Ms. Jacquemin's artistic resume as a photographer shines through as she transitions her talents into a new area, going from that of sight to the sense of smell. It is interesting to compare the images, which she also sells on her website, with the perfume that inspired them. If you are intrigued by these descriptions and would like to try these scents you can order a very reasonably priced sample set of sprays from the company's website, here. Jacquemin also offers her scents in a selection of sizes to please everyone: 15 ml, 30 ml, 50 ml, and 100 ml, which was recently added. You can also browse her website for photographs she sells, and some of these photos have been turned into small scented papers for scenting a car or a drawer. Thank you to Christèle Jacquemin for sending me samples. My opinions are my own.

Photos are from website. Thank you to the perfumer for the samples.