Monday, December 13, 2021

Christmas Countdown: St Lucia's Day! Celebrated With DSH Perfumes Ruby Candlelight, Maccabees, and Lumiere


Today, December 13th is St. Lucia's Day, celebrated in Sweden as well as other Nordic countries. I had always thought it was a pagan festival, bringing light to the longest day of the year, but in researching for this post I found out that actually quite the opposite is true. The day was founded to honor St. Lucy, a Christian martyr killed by the Romans in the year 304. Legend has it that St. Lucy took food to the Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs. (Have  you ever been there? It's a fascinating side trip if you ever get to Rome). She wanted to carry as much food and water as possible, so she wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way through the dark tunnels.

Today the celebration falls on the longest night of the year and is meant to bring hope and life, and to celebrate the return of light as the days will again start to become longer. In Swedish homes, the eldest daughter would dress in white and bring lussekatter (saffron bread) and coffee to the family. Each town chooses a girl to represent St. Lucia who marches in a processional with other children robed in white and wearing wreath-like crowns. Traditionally a crown of candles was worn, but in more recent times the flames are usually replaced with bulbs for obvious reasons. They wear white robes to represent purity and a red sash to signify the blood of the martyrs. 

To commemorate this day I turn to one of my favorite perfumers, nestled deep in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. Every year for the past twenty one years Dawn has created a perfume for the holiday season. Ruby Candlelight is the 2021 holiday perfume. (Spoiler alert: she sells two discovery sets featuring all these scents). Dawn had a very specific memory from her own Christmas celebrations as a child. Her mother had advent rituals, one of which was a candle holder with ruby-colored glass and a golden angel on top. When lit, the flame would send the metal angels spinning. I have seen these referred to as angel chimes. It all made a deep impression on young Dawn, and she remembers the ritual being "solemn, mysterious, and joyful".

She remembered that the candles had a raspberry scent, so she has recreated the memory with scents of raspberry blending with melted wax, as well as the ambiance of the Christmas tree scent in the background. Ruby Candlelight is a softly solemn recreation of this ritual.

The scent does open with raspberry, the note quivering alone for a moment after application. Then it is joined by the smell of wax melting as it drips down the candlesticks. The raspberry is still very quietly present, not really tart but more just incorporated into the wax smell. As the scent deepens I get the occasional whiff of a Christmas tree in the background. Ruby Candlelight wears very close to my skin, creating an aura as intimate and special as the one Dawn has remembered and recreated from all those years ago!

I was so taken with this story that I did a little searching. I remembered seeing these candelabras years ago when I was at the German Christmas markets. I couldn't find any with the ruby colored glass holders that Dawn remembered, but I've found some at World Market and Vermont Country Store, and I'm thinking I may create my own ritual with my young grandchildren!

Dawn has other Christmas scents that give the smell of candles burning, which to me are so indicative of the St. Lucia crown historically worn on this day. Maccabees was Dawn's 19th holiday scent, inspired by the celebration of Hanukkah. It came out in that golden Christmas of 2019, right before the world descended into Covid chaos!

During the Maccabean revolt in ancient times there is a story of the rededication of the temple and the lighting of the Menorah. The oil to light the lamp was only enough for one day but lasted a miraculous eight days. Maccabee remembers this occasion through a scent seeped in the smell of beeswax candles. Today's candle tapers are usually dripless, and if this is all you've experienced than you've never known the luscious honeyed waxy smell that dripping accumulating candles impart!

There is a very light resin and incense aura in the background, but on my skin it is the honeyed beeswax scent that dominates. It is worth mentioning that the honey note is not strong or sweet, but really does take on the beeswax candle smell. 

This last scent I'm including partially because of its name, Lumiere, meaning light, which has been the theme here. At the beginning of the scent a bright flash of bergamot glows like a candle flickering in the dark. Dawn always lists the notes of her perfumes, and reading this one it sounds like a delicious spice cake. There is cardomom, coffee, cinnamon leaf, coriander, boozy notes, nutmeg, hazelnut, rum, and too much more too name. So this scent does not have the candle wax accord of the two previous fragrances, but it does do a good job of juggling light and dark notes. All the warming spices notes are balanced by a glowing brightness, so you get traditional Christmas scents with the touch of luminosity which eventually smells like golden spice.

I became so fascinated with the beautiful ceremony of St. Lucia's Day while writing about it here. I have two youtube videos explaining the celebration more. The first is a two-minute version showing the procession into the church with participants singing the St. Lucia song. These brave girls, with real candles flaming on their heads!

The second is a "St. Lucia day primer for dummies" with lots of interesting facts and history.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to St. Lucia's Day and to DSH Perfumes!

Top photo Pinterest images. Perfume samples are my own.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Christmas Countdown: bdk parfums Gris Charnel

When I bought my bottle of Gris Charnel this summer, I knew I would be playing a waiting game. I loved the scent, but for me it was definitely a fragrance that needed the snap of colder weather. Well, I've been waiting through an unseasonably warm autumn, but finally temperatures are dropping and I can give this one some wear and appreciation!

bdk parfums hit the perfume world with a big splash about a year ago. I participated in a very Covid-inspired trend, the ZOOM masterclass, to try various scents online with their brand ambassador and the lovely Josie from Osswald NYC. All the scents were nice in one way or the other, but the one that definitely impressed me the most was Gris Charnel

Over past Christmas seasons I have written posts about perfumes that feel silvery and festive as suits the season. You will find those here and here. Gris is French for gray, and if you are someone who gets color sensations when you try perfume, Gris Charnel imparts the colors of gray and silver. I was so excited to find another one of these scents that give the sensation of cold air going up the nose and make you feel the need to go grab a sweater, that I failed to realize one of the main notes. fig. Fig is a favorite note of mine, but one I usually associate more with summer scents. Once I knew it was there it was obvious, but I was so caught up in the warmth, the spice, the cooling feeling it imparted, that I was too busy swooning to dissect notes.

The opening has notes of fig, black tea, and cardomom. At this time of year this brings to mind the wonderful but brief time we lived in Scotland, and feasting on fine Christmas dinners at old mansions converted to restaurants with fireplaces roaring and snow blanketed fields. At this time of year a Christmas pudding was the grand finale to a magnificent feast. (I won't get into the technical differences between Christmas pudding and figgy pudding, but the Christmas carol with the refrain, "now bring me a figgy pudding," was a favorite with my young children). I have taken a trip down memory lane, one of the best pleasures that smell can impart, but suffice it to say the opening of Gris Charnel feels warm, cozy, and intimate. It also reminds me of the delicious spicy and fruity smell of this fragrant treat. Go here for a recipe.

 Heart notes in Gris Charnel include iris and bourbon vetiver. I think the iris note is part of what gives me the chilly effect in this perfume. I was not familiar with bourbon vetiver, just the ordinary stuff, so I looked it up. It is described as smoky, woody, earthy, and rich, which probably explains the slight dry smoke I smell after the perfume has been on my skin for awhile.

Sandalwood and tonka bean are the base notes, but they make their presence known much earlier. The sandalwood displays as creamy, which is further emphasized by the tonka's warm rum and vanilla scented presence.  I think what makes this scent work so well for me is the back and forth between chilly notes (iris) and warm notes (fig), and spicy notes (cardomom) and sweet notes (tonka). They all balance each other out with perfection.

This scent eventually becomes a "your skin but better" scent. In all honesty I love this scent enough to wear it anytime of year, but now is the time for it to really shine.

Top photo my own. I bought my bottle of bdk Gris Charnel. Opinions are my own.


Monday, December 6, 2021

Christmas Countdown: Franck Boclet Fir Balsam

Is there anything more symbolic of the Christmas season than bedecked Christmas trees with softly glowing lights? Although I no longer have a live tree in the house, I do my best to replicate their smell which is so indicative of Christmas. Many turn to scents of fir and pine trees in the winter to bring to mind a walk through crisply cold woods, but these scents seem especially apropos at Christmas. One such contender is Franck Boclet Fir Balsam

Fir Balsam opens with notes of red berries, artemisia, and cardomom. The artemisia has a bitter green smell, but it is savory and appealing. The cardomom adds more spiciness. The middle notes are fir balsam, patchouli, and rose. The fresh outdoor smell of the fir tree is the most prevalent smell, and the patchouli adds a bit of earthiness. The smell of the fir balsam is subtle and not at all overpowering.

Photo from

Base notes are benzoin, vanilla, and labdanum, a delicious mix of resins. I have tried quite a few perfumes by Franck Boclet and they all have shared the trait of being at least slightly gourmand. Here it is subtle, as is the whole scent. The deepness of the benzoin and labdanum is tempered by the addition of vanilla to lighten and sweeten. This, combined with the fir scent make a merry Christmas scent indeed! They market this scent to men, but I am very comfortable wearing it and find it very unisex pleasing. My last word on this, performance. Sometimes pine or fir scents can be overpowering. Not so, here. This is a subtle scent, and I actually wish it lasted a bit longer on me, but it is at a pretty good price point so I don't mind respraying.

Franck Boclet is a French designer of men's clothing, specializing in the colors of black and white. He refers to his style as "rock and riot". He began introducing perfumes to his brand in 2013 and now has more than 40 fragrances.

Top photo: "Stick With Me Chocolate" by Lisa Feng. Bottom Photo: Google Image. The perfume and opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

La Fleur by Livvy Presents "The Other Side of Me" (TOSUM)

 Olivia Larson of La Fleur by Livvy has released the second in her series of natural perfumes based on Impressionist artists of France, called The Other Side of Me, or TOSUM for brevity. The first perfume in the series was inspired by Monet, truly the father of the Impressionists movement, and Livvy's perfume, A Walk In Giverny, is a truly gorgeous scent representing a stroll through Monet's garden. This second fragrance is inspired by lesser known artist Frederic Bazille, who painted some of his best known works at just twenty three years of age. His career as a painter was cut short as he died on the battlefield during the Franco-Prussian war at a mere twenty eight years of age. One of his more famous paintings is shown below. Although it hardly looks revolutionary today, at the time it was considered quite daring to paint a portrait en plein aire, and in particular, to only show the subject's back.

The Pink Dress (View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault) 1864 Museée D"Orsay

The Other Side of Me is an ode to the artist made in the style of a modern chypre. TOSUM opens with a bright peppery yuzu note, a little strident and bright. This starts to morph fairly quickly into a more earthy smell. As befitting a natural perfume, it smells very of nature. It is like strolling through a forest path, the leaves damp underfoot, and that funkalicious smell of nature in its decomposing state. There is a little bit of an earthy mushroom feel, although this is just an effect. Mushroom is not a note in TOSUM.

Forest Floor. Pinterest image:

This pungency is short lived on my skin but it does announce in no uncertain terms, this is a natural perfume. You just don't get these notes in synthetic fragrances. I used to live in Scotland, and this smell brings to mind the scent of many tramps through nearby woods, through trees and moss-covered rocky trails. There is a quality of dampness and fresh air. Before I continue, let me list the notes found in the perfume. 

Olivia Larson calls herself a rebel perfumer, just as the Impressionist painters were rebels in their own time. She is able to source natural organic, wild, and rare ingredients for her perfume palette. The nose for this perfume is Andrej Babicky, as it was with A Walk In Giverny.

As the perfume seemingly melts into my skin it becomes warmer and smoother, exuding a luxurious richness. The moss and leaves have melted away, and now I'm left with the impression of a woodland scene at the end of the day, when everything is dusky shadows but the sky is gilded by the last golden moments of  sunlight.

As you may determine from my description, it is hard to read the notes and get an accurate depiction of what you will smell. I think that is a special magic of natural perfumes. They really create an individual experience according to who is wearing the perfume, making it very personal.

Olivia and Andrej have created a very different but another beautiful scent to add to the Impressions Collection. 

Photos are from the perfumer's website:  Thank you to the perfumer for sending me a sample of this perfume. Opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Puredistance No. 12 Completes the Magnificent XII Collection


Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos has announced that with the introduction of Puredistance No. 12, the house's twelfth perfume, the brand's completed collection will be called the Magnificent XII and kept to only twelve fragrances. In the twenty years since the name Puredistance was trademarked, just these twelve perfumes have been introduced, very restrained when compared to other perfume houses with flankers and multiple releases per year. Jan Ewoud Vos works with a carefully selected group of fine perfumers who he trusts with his vision for the brand, and French Perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer was chosen for this latest introduction.

Ms. Feisthauer came to the attention of Jan Ewoud Vos through a friend and associate. Ms. Feisthauer was interested in creating a perfume for Puredistance so when contacted, she came to their office in Amsterdam with eleven scents to present to Ewoud Vos and team. A scent titled Gold Taffeta immediately captured his attention as having the Puredistance DNA. This was in 2018 and at the time a formula for Puredistance Gold was being sought. Jan Ewoud Vos made the decision that while this perfume did not feel like gold to him, he did want it for Puredistance.

Puredistance No. 12 completes the Magnificent XII Collection. In the future when new perfumes are introduced, one of the older perfumes will be taken out of the collection and put into a private collection. The scents in the private collection will no longer be marketed, but will be available to those who know and love the scents.

In the publicity copy that went out with Puredistance No. 12, the statement is made: "A grand perfume that wraps around you like a cashmere veil. A perfume like no other, in many ways timeless and hard to describe with words.

Truer words were never spoken! Puredistance fragrances are never easy to describe. I always find it difficult to condense the scents into a collection of descriptive adjectives. Because the perfumes are so well blended, they provide me with more of a mood conveyed, idea boards with images forming in my brain, rather than a clear way to explain the scents. But this is a review, so I will try.

Puredistance No. 12 is housed in a slim blue cylinder, at least the 17.5 ml size. Like all Puredistance perfumes, it is also available in 60 ml and 100 ml sizes. Jan Ewoud Vos nicknamed this perfume "Beauty in Blue", and he does seem to pick the perfect color to encapsulate each of his scents. The deep blue represents royalty, and blue can also represent calm. Puredistance No. 12 fits both of these criteria.

At first spray it goes on quietly, while still making a statement. The spray of perfume is like an exhale, releasing the worries and cares that have been weighing you down, and cloaking the wearer in a soft cerulean shield.

The spray leaves a sheen of scent on my wrist. Puredistance is known for their use of a high percentage of perfume oils, so applying them is always a bit of an experience to me. The spray shimmers like an annointment, and I gently rub the richness into my skin. It does not feel oily and quickly absorbs. The citrus opening is fittingly not bright or sharp, but rich and nuanced. Oils of mandarin, bergamot, coriander, cardomom, ylang ylang, along with narcissus absolute simmer with quiet elegance. 

Next comes a very slight powder scent composed of notes of heliotrope and earthy orris root, which gives the cashmere veil effect. It feels soft and plush, and makes me think of musky skin, powdered after a bath. (When I tried this originally, in warmer weather, the narcissus really sang and I thought it would be gorgeous for spring. Now that the weather is colder, the warmth of the spices appear, and it feels warmer and cozier.)

This stage lasts for some time but eventually other heart notes appear: jasmine, rose, geranium, lily of the valley, orange blossom, and osmanthus. Reading this list you would expect a lush, floral bomb of a scent but this is far from the case. Initially, I honestly can't pick out a single one of these floral notes individually. Instead, they are like a tightly woven tapestry, combining their various floral notes into one harmonious choir. The effect is polished and dare I say, sublime. It is understated elegance. Grace Kelly, not Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn, not Sophia Loren. All these ladies are elegant, but like Grace and Audrey, Puredistance No. 12 believes that less is more; that confident beauty can speak sotto voce.

The florals ebb and flow, but on my skin they are always on low simmer. This perfume feels personal when I wear it, as if it is to please me, first and foremost, and any others being able to appreciate it are secondary. After several hours the florals give way to soft base notes which smell slightly woody and musky. Official notes are vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, oak moss, tonka, ambrette, ambroxin, vanilla, and musk.

This perfume has a different feel from some of the recent Puredistance releases I have loved. Let's put it in musical terms. If Warszawa is one of Chopin's Mazurkas, or if Rubikona is a lively composition of Mozart's The Magic Flute or Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Russian Dance; then Puredistance No. 12 is a more tranquil composition such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or Debussy's Clair de Lune. Graceful, refined, classic, elegant...these are all words that come to mind while wearing this perfume.

So at the ending I am back to the beginning, a feeling of slight frustration at being unable to find the right words to describe this subtle but beautiful perfume. Reading the notes will not describe this perfume to you. Reading my description will only give you a glimmer. This is a beautiful perfume that confounds easy description. And it is a quietly confident ending to complete the circle of twelve Puredistance perfumes, the Magnificent XII, at least for now!

Images are from Press Release material provided by Puredistance. I was given a perfume flacon to test by Puredistance perfumes. Opinions as always are my own.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Scent of Friendship: Dusita Anamcara

Many years ago when I lived in Singapore I took painting classes from a South African woman who lived in one of the grand old Black and White historical houses, distinguished residences surrounded by the ever intruding jungle. Although I found out I didn't have much artistic talent, that didn't lessen my enjoyment of these weekly visits. The instructor had huge wall size replicas of  several impressionist artworks, painted (and copied) in Vietnam. The painting above, Luncheon of the Boating Party, covered a whole wall near where we worked. It was painted by Pierre Auguste Renoir and he included many friends as well as his future wife in the congenial gathered group. I loved the way they all looked so happy in each other's company and the joie de vivre evident in the scene, and this illustrated the idea of friendships I wanted to achieve.

Friends became an even more important touchstone last year, when the pandemic kept many separated from loved ones. The Facebook online group, Eau My Soul, led by Christi Long, helped keep loneliness at bay those long months by bringing like-minded people together for perfume discussions. Ms. Long launched a project with input provided by the "Soulies", as they call themselves, to create a perfume that captures the scent of friendship. This was not the first time the group had launched a perfume, but this project seemed to grab the feeling of the moment and finding the perfect perfumer was imperative. Enter Pissara Umivijani of Parfums Dusita Paris. Anyone who has had dealings with Pissara has felt the warmth of her friendship and her kindness. In addition to creating stunning perfumes, she interacts very regularly with her customers on fragrance forums, always chiming in when someone asks a question about or compliments a Dusita fragrance. Customer service seems too cold a term for the interest and enjoyment she takes in knowing her customers, so she was the perfect choice. The forum members suggested notes and image ideas for the fragrance, and eventually all the ideas were turned over to Pissara who had the task of bottling friendship!

In time the perfume was created, and sample vials were sent to Soulies to inspire suggestions in naming the new creation. Anamcara was the name picked by Pissara and her team from hundereds of entries from Eau My Soul members. Anamcara is an old Gaelic term that translates to soul friend, and it speaks of a friendship between two people that is deep and without limits, and where each can show their true self. Three members came up with this name, and really hit upon the perfect descriptor for the new scent.

Pissara said there are many delays in bringing out a new fragrance, and although she knew Eau My Soul members were anxious, the perfume had to be perfect. Many months later I was lucky enough to virtually attend the September 11th introduction of Anamcara in an online presentation. Attendees were sent a box with a small bottle of Anamcara, as well as three accords which make up part of the fragrance. Pissara had asked us not to smell the accords until the Zoom call online. I happened to be in Krakow at the time Pissara presented, so in the same time zone as Paris. It was dusk where we were, but there were participants from all around the world in many different time zones.

Pissara shared with us her vision of Anamcara, the story of its creation, and most interestingly to me, she shared with us some of the famous accords she is known for that grace her scents. The first was a Tea accord, and it is has a strong fruity and juicy feeling. To me this is not a polite cup of green tea, spare and lean. It is a honeyed and warm, and I can see the reflection of the opening of Anamcara in this accord. For me, this is where the magic lies.

The second accord Pissara called Bouquet, and it is predominantly tuberose, but the softest, creamiest tuberose. All the rough edges of the flower have been smoothed out. This is like tuberose milk, if you will, and many of us agreed this would make a lovely perfume on its own. Notes of jasmine peek through and add to the sweet depth.

Last was the Rainforest accord, and it is just as special as the name sounds. Earthy, woody, grassy, with spicy nutmeg kernels, it thrums on the skin with the life of a rainforest. Pissara said she wanted to bring in the fact that animals can be a part of friendship too, and a rainforest teams with life. This is the lady who has five dogs, so she knows where of she speaks!

Pissara Umivijani and Bambi. 

 I think it is this last accord they gave me memories of her scent, Moonlight In Chiangmai. There is a moment in Moonlight that shimmers with magic and I can see a thousand lanterns lit by candles lift  into the night sky. That same magic is here, although not an exact replica of the scent note. There is just an olfactory memory in Anamcara that remind me of Moonlight In Chaiangmai. Pissara told us that there were elements of her teakwood accord that made Moonlight so special in Anamcara, and the same jasmine is used.

It was interesting as the group tried the accords and scent together, how many different experiences we had. Several mentioned strong tuberose scent on their skin, but for me the first thing I smell is honey! 

At the first spray of Anamcara on my skin there is a rush of lush honeyed orange blossom. For those who crave honey in a scent, this smells like the sappy, lush stuff that would send a bee into delirium as it buzzes around the flowers. The honey gathered from this hive would be the most eye rolling delicious orange blossom honey ever spread on a scone or toast. Honey notes can sometimes translate to a most unfortunate urine smell in perfume, but here it is honey in its natural state, as pollen dust and the sweetness from the flowers. This first rush of smell for me is almost delirious, a rich and honeyed orange blossom ambrosial in its wine-like deepness. Blood orange, which I have always found to be a "happy" note, adds to the succulence. Official notes in the opening are: blood orange, orange flower, and a freesia accord, so there actually is no honey. It is just the combination of the blood orange and orange blossom that give that effect.

Once the sweet lushness begins to lift I can smell the fruity tea, with florals dancing beneath. Pissara said she wanted to evoke the feeling of friends meeting over a cup of tea ... tea and sympathy, if you will. The ripeness of the fruity notes are now not quite as bright, but it is still an uplifting, optimistic scent which seems to give feelings of joy and happiness. The other feeling the scent evokes is comfort, and Anamcara reminds one of the feelings of comfort friendship can provide.

When I smelled this several times there was one image that kept coming to me.

Piglet recognized the value of a good cup of tea and honey when comforting his friend Pooh! Who couldn't use a friendship like these two? This is my favorite stage of the scent, but what comes next is also beautiful. Next I smell light florals on my skin and it amazing the way the perfumer is able to subdue tuberose, a flower I love but that can take over a scent fairly easily, and draw out its sweetness and softer floral side. The official notes are the tea accord with notes of peach and apricot, vanilla, rose de mai, tuberose and jasmine. At this point I do not smell one flower in particular, but rather a melange.

Finally the perfume fades to a softer scent of subtle woods -- sandalwood and cedar, as well as patchouli and vetiver. At this point the fragrance is much quieter on my skin and slightly smoky. After such an explosive start, it fades away to a whisper of fragrance in the end. 

Pissara Umivijani and the members of Eau My Soul have created a warm tribute to friendship and I have found myself craving its fragrant hug that seems to wrap you in its embrace.

Top photo Google image. Anamcara photo from Parfums Dusita website. Pooh images from Google. My own photo of Pissara Umivijani. Thank you to Parfums Dusita for the sample of Anamcara. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Outback Adventures With Olibere Paris: Savannah's Heart & L'Etoile Noire


Last year my husband and I went to visit his home in South Australia for the summer, January through March, then covid happened and we extended our stay. In late March we began hearing rumbles of possible shut downs so we decided to head out of town while we still could.  Adelaide is the gateway to the most accessible part of the Outback, so we headed north to investigate Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Ikara is the Aboriginal name of the Adnyamathanha people who have inhabited the land for thousands of years. It means meeting place, which refers to the circular formation in the park called Wilpena Pound.

Traditionally the beginning of April would signal the arrival of a stream of European visitors in RVs. We were visiting just a couple of weeks ahead of the tourist season and had the park virtually to ourselves, and the people who rely on the tourists influx for six months of the year to make their living were nervously waiting to see how serious this Covid was going to turn out to be. (The park ended up shutting down a week after we left).

Right before leaving on the trip I had received a box of samples ordered from Olibere Paris and I took them with me. Two scents in particular came to define my time there and perfectly describe the surroundings.

The drive to Ikara-Flinders Park is about six hours and as you begin to approach the park you see the hill formations, breaking out of the flatness of the earth. One is struck by the reds, browns, and umber tones of the earth, which give Australia's desert its distinctive look. The perfume that seemed to fit this scenery perfectly was Olibere Savannah's Heart. Perfumer Luca Maffei created the perfume to replicate a visit to the African savannah, with a special nod to African coffee by including that note. I've never been to the African savannah, but when I smelled Savannah's Heart I could sense the red and umber earth, dusty and dry, in the surrounding countryside. 

The perfume opens with bergamot, rhubarb, and labdanum. Of these, the resinous labdanum is the strongest on my skin. And although oud wood is in the base notes, I smell it immediately. Much has been made of the coffee note, but it is not at all gourmand. It mixes with the wood notes and is strong and acrid, further intensifying this feeling of parched earth. The slight spiciness and wood notes make this a warm perfume, and it felt like the experience of baking under the relentless sun on the desert landscape. This is a very different and distinctive perfume and certainly not for everyone, but I enjoy wearing it.

Essential headwear, modeled by my husband, pictured above. Trust me, it takes about 30 seconds to get over feeling silly when you wear these head covers. Without them the flies will cover your face.

While Savannah's Heart was the perfect day time perfume, when the sun dropped and the air temperature immediately dropped several degrees, I found another Olibere perfume to fit the mood.

The Australian Outback is one of the best places in the world to go stargazing; the absence of ambient light and the vast open spaces. Australia faces the Milky Way so the stargazer can see one hundred times more stars than visible from the Northern Hemisphere. 

A view of the Milky Way from Ikara-Flinders Park.

Olibere L'Etoile Noire translates to "the night star", and Perfumer Amelie Bourgeous  juxtapositions light and dark notes to emulate bright stars glittering in the inky night sky.

Olibere is not the first perfume company to use patchouli to impersonate the dark depths of the night sky, but they've done it very well with L'Etoile Noire. It's kind of a conundrum, because patchouli is also more commonly used to give perfumes an earthy appeal. But add the right notes, in this case Amelie Bourgeois used Italian bergamot and lemon to add pricks of light to the underlying darkness, and its like stars thousands of light years away, their brightness piercing the darkness. The imagery of light fades pretty quickly and spices mixed with wood enter the scent frame. Blue ginger and resinous elemi give a warm feel to the scent, but it is a little off kilter and unexpected, not exactly the normal mix of spices in a caravan silk road inspired scent. Whenever I'm in Australia I'm always intrigued by the unusual plants and smells, and these notes seem new and surprising.

Base notes are quite the mixture: incense, Indonesian patchouli, tobacco, tonka bean, amber wood, vanilla, violet, and white musk.

It's a beautiful experience, laying on a blanket gazing up at more stars than the eye can fathom. This perfume captures a little of that magic, and here's a song to give the mood.

Top photo Middle photo and perfumes my own.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia

 It was the bottle that tempted me to try this. I love the green glass (see it hiding there in my flower pot?) And although some may consider the plastic white gardenia atop the bottle, which serves as the lid, too kitsch, I find it pleasing. This was a bargain at a fragrance discounter, and I figured if it was terrible I could use it as an air freshener.

But what I surprise! I find Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia to be a lovely rendition of the gardenia flower. According to Fragrantica the perfume was released in 2003, which surprised me. I thought I had memories of this being around when I was still in school, but her first perfume, Passion, debuted in 1989, and that was long after my school girl days. Perfumers Carlos Benaim and Sophia Grojsman collaborated on all the Elizabeth Taylor scents, and I like both of their work, so perhaps it is not surprising that the perfume is more pleasing than the price would indicate (I paid about $12). 

Opening notes are green leaves and lily of the valley, with middle notes of gardenia, peony, and orchid. Despite all these notes, what I smell is ... gardenia. This scent doesn't really change much while it lasts on my skin, but that's okay with me. Gardenia is such a distinctive flower that it doesn't really like to share the stage. In fact, now that I think about it, a little like Elizabeth Taylor, the actress, in her prime!

My Mother was not one to wear perfume, but I do have strong memories of scents from my childhood. One of these was a gardenia bush, which she very purposely planted right outside the window of her kitchen sink, presumably so she could look at it as she stood there. North Texas is not a hospitable place for gardenia bushes. It gets too hot, but the biggest enemy is our winter freezes. I remember that the bush never really flourished and was parsimonious with its floral offerings. When it did bloom, my Mother would have a single bloom in a small vase, and I can remember burying my nose in the velvety white petals.

Maybe for this reason, gardenia is a nostalgic scent and hits all my happy neural memory buttons. Elizabeth Taylor Gardenia is an easy scent to love if you are a fan of gardenia. It has a green and dewy feel when you first spray it, and one can picture languid Southern towns with tall porches, moss-draped three hundred year old oak trees, and steamy warm days. It is just strong enough. The distinctive gardenia smell is there, but it doesn't take over the room. Some reviewers have argued they get more lily of the valley scent, and the two flowers can be similar. To me, though, it smells like a fresh gardenia, just opening with green freshness, then gradually becoming creamy and milky. Notes of musk and carnation are listed as base notes. On my skin the gardenia note holds up for about four hours, then quietly fades away. But no worries, at this price I can spritz away!

Top Photo my own. Perfume was bought by me at

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Battle of the Pears: Juliette has a gun Pear Inc. vs Nicolai Parfumeur Angelys Pear


Pear has been showing up more often in the perfumer's palette lately. It is used as one of many notes that form a perfume, such as BDK Parfums Bouquet de Hongrie, where it adds a slight fruity sweetness to the scent. My favorite pear scent is MDCI Parfums La Belle Helene, where pear imparts a gentle gourmand tribute to a famous French dessert. In the last couple of years two perfumes were created, totally dedicated to the pear note, but they couldn't be more different.

Juliette has a gun pear inc.

I have not had the best of luck with Juliette Has A Gun fragrances in the past. I don't know if it is healthy dose of Ambroxan that manyof the scents are laced with, but as sometimes happens with skin chemistry, they just don't play well on my skin. But in recent years Owner/Creator Romano Ricci has come out with scents for summer that are meant to be fun and light, and I have had much better luck with these fragrances. First there was Moscow Mule and Sunny Side Up, followed by Vanilla Vibes, which I particularly enjoyed. Ricci says on the Juliette Has A Gun website that the pear is his favorite fruit, partially because of its distinctive shape, which led him to imagine a refreshing fragrance based on the fruit.

Pear Inc. is above all a clean scent, due to a heavy dose of musk and Ambroxan. It opens with a pear note, I picture a pear laying on a pile of clean white freshly laundered sheets. This scent could be worn by men or women, although I can picture it on men who want to wear something safe but slightly playful to work. In fact the name, Pear Inc., while probably a fun take on a very non-serious fragrance has another meaning in my mind. One of the pictures that popped into my head when I smelled it was the image of a crisp white shirt on an ironing board, being starched and plied with the hot iron, and all of these clean smells with a spritz of pear. Then the freshly ironed shirt being worn to the office... Pear Inc. Having said that, this is a scent that it's easy to picture being worn with the most casual of attire, in keeping with the simple and relaxed attitude of the fragrance.

This fragrance is meant to be one of those "grab it and don't think about it" scents. If you like clean musk scents and the scent of pear you will enjoy this one. If you are not a fan of big clean musks, then definitely try before you buy.

Parfums De Nicolai Angelys Pear

Angelys Pear was launched in 2020, a creation of legendary perfumer Patricia de Nicolai. This perfume is quite different from the Pear Inc., totally embracing the more gourmand and rich aspects of the pear. The scent has many more notes, including rose and jasmine in the heart, and patchouli and oakmoss in the base, but throughout the life of the perfume on my skin, I can always sense the curves and voluptuousness of the pear.

It's an interesting perfume because it has headier notes feels like a more formal perfume, but then it is an eau de toilette so everything is kept a bit more transparent. The depth of the pear and florals make their presence known, but the scent shimmers, rather than overwhelms. My favorite part of the scent is the chypre-like warmth that emanates from the skin, a reaction that always makes the feel like the perfume is alive and glowing on the skin.

Here's a final comparison of the two scent. Wear Pear Inc. to have a light, breezy, and uncomplicated pear-based scent. It's as easy as drinking this pear cider (made in my own home town of Fort Worth)!

Wearing Angelys Pear is a totally different experience. The pear is richer, warmer, boozier. It's more like indulging in this pear brandy.

In short, the two couldn't be more different, and it would not be redundant to have both in your collection if you are a pear fan.

Top photo and cider photo my own. Juliette Has A Gun Pear Inc image from company website. Pear brandy, Google image. Samples are my own.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Fragonard's Ode to Grasse: Belle de Grasse and Beau de Provence


Anyone that has traveled to France is probably familiar with the Fragonard Parfumeur stores dotted around the typical tourist sites. They sell cheap and cheerful scents in bottles with cute illustrations. The perfumes I've tried are not groundbreaking stuff, but I've enjoyed them in the warmer months when I don't want to be surrounded by a cloud of scent in the Texas heat and humidity. This year Fragonard introduced two eau de toilette scents, heavy 100 ml bottles with charming illustrations. Although the perfumes can be worn by anyone who chooses, they obviously are marketing Belle de Grasse, a honeyed mimosa, towards the ladies, and Beau de Provence, a fig scent, to the gents.

I couldn't resist these bottles and blind bought, something I never do, but these are inexpensive enough to take the risk. The result is that one is a resounding success and I am satisfied with the other. These are not complex scents so my explanations will be appropriately short.

Fragonard Belle de Grasse is an ode to what might be the national flower of France, in spring time anyway, the mimosa. It is composed of notes of violet leaves and bergamot and heart notes of mimosa, orange blossom, underscored by lilac. Base notes are heliotrope and musk. 

I am no expert on mimosa as it does not grow where I live and I did not grow up smelling it. Therefore, my only references are mimosa perfumes. When I first smelled mimosa perfumes years ago,  I found the note rather cloying and too powdery. But over time I have come to enjoy it, especially when blended with other fragrance notes. On my skin this fragrance opens with a sharp note that leaves me guessing for a moment whether I will enjoy this scent. But within minutes the mimosa comes through and the fragrance enters a stage where it feels warm, sunny, and hazy. The powder note is not particularly strong, and orange blossom, a note that often comes across very strong, does not do so here. I can at time smell hints of the lilac, but overall this smells like a summer day with mimosas overhead, gently emitting their scent in the breeze, and bees buzzing inside flowers as they look for honeyed nectar. This is an easy, fun, and relaxing scent to wear, and for me, as I don't like the mimosa note too strong, it is the perfect strength, which is to say it is gentle.

Fragonard Beau de Provence opens with a bright and vivacious fig note, buoyed by grapefruit and bergamot. Heart notes are mint, basil, and ylang-ylang, all of which are fairly tame but occasionally the the mint peeks through. The fig, green and juicy, remains the star of this show. Base notes of cedar, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver give a pleasing woody base to the scent.

This is by far my favorite of the two and I am tempted to buy a second bottle to give to my husband. I can envision keeping this in the refrigerator come summer and spritzing myself for refreshment. I am admittedly a fig lover when it comes to scents and I own quite a few, but this one is so non assuming, cheerful, and easy to wear that I find myself totally charmed! And as a bonus, these are so affordable, not words I use often when describing perfumes in 2021.

I bought my bottles at Beautyhabit in the USA. They are also widely available at Fragonard stores around the world.

Top photo my own. Other photos from I purchased these bottles from Beautyhabit.


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Parfums Dusita Cavatina: An Ode To Springtime!


Happy May Day! I have a confession. I have never smelled an actual fresh picked lily-of-the-valley. Like lilacs, they just don't thrive in hot Texas summers. I love lily-of-the-valley, or muguet, scent but my point of reference is the grande dame Diorissimo, and prior to that when I was too young to frequent Dior counters, a coveted bottle of Coty Muguet des Bois. 

Pissara Umivijani, founder of Parfums Dusita, just this past week introduced Cavatina, a perfume she has been working on for two years. It is in part based on the memory of someone dear to her who wore Diorissimo, but she has put her own unique and modern spin on the fragrance. Others who know a lot more about lily-of-the-valley than I do have written excellent pieces on this new creation. The only thing I can add to the conversation is my impression of Cavatina and the feelings and emotions it stirs in me.  The initial burst of scent brings a feeling of happiness and light-hearted energy.  Cavatina transports me to the joyfulness of childhood summers, and the innocence and happiness these memories evoke.

I love spring in Texas. Right now we are getting rain, some cool days mixed with the warm, and the first flush of nature's beauty, before everything starts baking in the sun and the only flowers that can survive are periwinkles and geraniums. The photo I took up top are flowers that spring up around my house and that will disappear once the days get hotter. There are roses, a wild honeysuckle that blooms in the woods behind my fence and dips over into my yard, a white spikey flower that popped up this year like a weed but smells divine. These notes are not all necessarily in Cavatina, but they replicate the feeling I get when I wear this perfume. It smells like this short time of year when my yard is delicately scented with sweet white flowers and honeyed florals. Just like La Douceur de Siam evoked memories of the many years I lived in Asia, Cavatina makes me feel footloose and fancy free. We've had rain most of the time I've been testing this, but I can't wait to wear it on a warm day for I feel it will really bloom. 

Artwork by Pissara Umivijani from her website.

Pissara spent two years blending her own lily-of-the-valley accord, and just as I found magic in her teakwood home-brewed base used in Moonlight In Chiangmai, I find that same magic here. My memories of wearing Diorissimo, which I do like but don't currently own, are that it features the beautiful lily-of-the-valley  note, which sings like a soprano  holding a high note but inevitably it eventually gently fades away. I remember it as almost a soliflore perfume, albeit a beautiful one. But from the first moment I spray Cavatina on my skin I can feel it shape shifting, whirling about like a live thing. I do smell what I understand to be the scent of lily-of-the-valley, but there is so much more.

If I was an artist, like Pissara, I would illustrate this review by first drawing myself applying the perfume. Wavy lines rising upward would indicate the perfume drifting around me, then thought bubbles would pop up of the memories and emotions the smell invoked. Chasing golden fireflies in the dusk; sweetening our tea with honeysuckle stamens; playing hide and seek, concealed under the gracefully draping branches of a delicately scented abelia bush; churning homemade ice cream and the fragrance of the vanilla when the top finally came off. All these little remembrances lay a patchwork of memories imprinted with the fragrances and golden moments that color our past. 

Pissara always uses a poem from the work of her poet father, Montri Umivijani, on each new perfume as both an inspiration as well as a tribute to her father. I can identify with this poem chosen for Cavatina maybe more than any that she has selected thus far, as it truly does describe the feeling wearing this perfume imparts. 
They sweeten by the warmth of the sun,like the human heart by loving kindness. -- Montri Umivijani

Pissara draws a lot of inspiration from vintage perfumes but always manages to put her own unique imprint on the scent. Cavatina is no exception. It seems this project is close to her heart, and if you go here to her website there is a video that explains the creative process. I really like the way she describes the notes that make up Cavatina, but for those who like lists, here they are.

Top Notes: Calabrian bergamot, Litsea Cubeba, Paraguayan Petitgrain, Exclusive Muguet Accord

Heart Notes:  Ylang-Ylang, Tuberose, Jasmine Grandiflorum, Tea Rose Accord

Base Notes: Heliotrope, Siamese Wood, Madagascar Vanilla

On my skin the perfume opens up like a ray of sunlight, a burst of happiness, uncontained and bright! If you love white flowers this will be heaven for you. The brightness of the citrus notes and  the muguet accord last for some time. After many hours wear I still smell the white flowers, but now they are quiet and laying on a bed of soft vanilla woods. Cavatina is the eleventh scent in the Dusita collection and adds a beautiful floral to the mix.

Here are two more reviews of Cavatina: 

Despina Veneti gives the definitive review of muguet scents and Cavatina here.

The Black Narcissus, otherwise known as Neil Chapman, always finds the perfect words to define any scent. Read it here. 

Top photo is my own. The other photo is from the Parfums Dusita website. I was provided with a sample by the perfumer. All opinions are my own.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Library of Flowers Willow & Water and Eau D'Italie Au Lac. Just What The Doctor Ordered!


We all hoped that 2021 would be a better year, but as for myself, having had two operations since January, my good times are yet to appear. I've been in a somewhat perpetual state of feeling bad, feeling wretched, feeling sad, and then the opposite, a new found empathy for people who must deal with health issues every day. If you were to ask my husband and he was being honest, he would admit that he's had to be a happy cheerleader these past months. Just a hint that fetching me coffee for the third time this morning might not be the exact thing he wants to do at this precise moment was enough to send me into quivering lipped self pity. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that what I required from perfumes during this time was simply subtle comfort. No aldehyde divas, no chypre attention grabbers, no skanky jasmines. Just well behaved scents that waited quietly in the wings; there if I needed them, but demanding not one iota of my attention.

During this time I gained a new appreciation for two such quiet but fragrant perfumes. Both had a common aspect of trying to place the wearer near water. Water is known to be calming, therapeutic, and for the most part scentless. It was interesting to see how each of these perfumes translated the act of being near water into scent.

Margot Elena Library of Flowers Willow and Water

In all honesty I would probably have never bought this perfume if I had tried it first. I am an easy touch for the Margot Elena branding: beautiful and girly packaging housing generally inoffensive but mild fragrances. I subscribe to the Margot Elena seasonal box, the only subscription service I have in fact. It is well priced and packaged so beautifully that it is always a treat to receive. In the most recent box was this perfume and the timing was perfect. 

I thought the picture up top, which is from a vintage copy of Wind In The Willows, perfectly captures the bucolic and pastoral aspects of the English countryside, and well represents the scent of Willow & Water! The book written over one hundred years ago by British writer Kenneth Grahame, explores the misadventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger, and their friends. The peaceful river is home to some of the story's characters, and the scene pictured of the boat lazily floating on the river beneath draping willow branches and buzzing insects is Willow & Water. 

Willow & Water is classified as a green aquatic floral. The note pyramid is skimpy, listing an opening of dewy green notes, a heart of lotus (the water flower), and a base of watercress. It opens smelling like greens that have been misted with gentle rain. Then I get a touch of sweetness, nothing sugary, but more like the honeyed notes of faint blossoms carried on the breeze. The lotus comes in and again emphasizes the aquatic feel, as well as a faint and musky floral note. The scent is surprisingly long lasting, which is not always the case with this brand, and I don't get any alcohol or chemical smells which I also can sometimes experience with less expensive perfumes. I prefer it to the Jo Malone special edition last year of Willow and Amber (although that bottle was divine). I'll repeat, if I had tried Willow & Water on in the store I would have walked on by, unimpressed. I'm glad I didn't get the chance to do this as it's been a very happy and easy to wear spring time scent, as well as a calming medicinal tonic!

Au Lac by Eau D'Italie

If you've ever seen travel photos of Italy then you've probably seen a picture of the luxurious Postiano hotel La Sirenuse, perched along the ultra-exclusive Amalfi Coast. Their range of scents, all of which I find very nice but soft in projection, are meant to impart various aspects of the scents of Italy. This one is meant to induce memories of time spent by one of Italy's picturesque lakes of the north. 

Photo the Lake Como waterfront from

Who could be stressed with this combination of gorgeous houses and pristine nature? The scent of Au Lac is meant to invoke an Italian garden in the midst of the summer, perched beside a lake. I find the fragrance gives a good interpretation of this. Perfumer Alberto Morillas uses notes of water lily, along with fig leaf and bitter orange, to give the feel of lounging lakeside. I find that the water lily note persists, giving its watery effect even when the other florals enter. Osmanthus, jasmine, and rose represent the summer garden, but they are very light and muted. This is like catching the scent of a garden on the breeze. Base notes of papyrus and amber give some grounding later in the perfume's wear. On me this is more of a skin scent, and I found it perfect during the time when I wanted to smell nice but not too strongly of scent. There are other opportunities for this kind of perfume wear, when you don't want to announce your presence, and this whole line of perfumes would work perfectly.

Thankfully I am now on the mend, and I look forward to expanding my perfume wear to a broader range of scents, but I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with these two perfumes during my time of recovery.  I will enjoy wearing them in the future, now that I have discovered their charm.

How about you? Does your perfume habit change when you are not well? What do you like to wear?

Top photo, Google image from vintage copy of The Wind In The Willows. Photo of perfume bottle from website. The two perfumes are from my own collection.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Christèle Jacquemin: Memory Lane

Late last year I wrote about a new perfumer, Christèle Jacquemin, who was using her career as a photographer as inspiration for creating perfumes. She started with three scents: Meandering Soul, Impermanence, and Underworld, which I wrote about here. She translated photos from her travels into fragrance, and just as her photos are modern and interpretive, so are the perfumes, in which I found uncommon notes and unexpected scents. Originality and creativity, both traits found in an artist's skill set, are evident in the perfumes.

Ms.  Jacquemin has now added a fourth perfume to her collection called Memory Lane. Unlike the other perfumes, which represent her travels, Ms. Jacquemin returns home with Memory Lane. She originates from a small town in France called Valliguières, but she left at sixteen to explore the world.  Her interpretive photos were not of the town itself, but a series of cloud photographs.

When I saw the series of cloud photos on her website the word that came to my mind was "escape". But I wanted to be sure that my interpretation was correct, so I asked Ms. Jacquemin. "As a child and a teenager, I mastered escaping from this place that was too small for me, " she answered. "I first escaped through literature, then I studied foreign languages hoping to discover the world. The sky in these photos is like a metaphor of the will to escape, to go and explore the world."

After thirty years of avoiding her home, Ms. Jacquemin felt the need to, in her own words, return home and reconcile the ghosts of her past. "I flew at a very young age," she stated, "and as an adult I needed to look back and see if there was any way to cure that wound, and bring peace on this part of my life."

The opening notes of Memory Lane are meringue, myrrh, and magnolia. Heart notes are cypriol, clove, and parsley. Base notes are green vanilla and oud blanc. I asked Ms. Jacquemin if Memory Lane was based on scents of the place, or did inspiration come from the photographs she took of the clouds and sky?

"Actually it is both, like all my scents," she answered. "It is part reality and part fantasy. My ambivalence to the place is in the scent: the ingenuity of the meringue and vanilla, and the animality of cypriol and white oud. This duality to me was important, to reflect the ups and the downs." 

The opening notes of meringue, magnolia, and myrrh are an unusual combinaition, but that is not surprising to me, having experienced the other scents in the collection. The meringue may sound sweet but it is tempered by the myrrh and my mind flitted to an image of creamy burnished wood. There is a caramel feel, but it is not overly sweet. The magnolia is quite gentle to my nose. The cypriol, clove, and parsley give an earthy, slightly herbal feel to the scent. Cypriol is a weed growing in riverbeds and its oil has a woody, earthy smell. I don't smell the clove note specifically, but get more the herbal notes as the perfume begins to calm down and soften. The green vanilla and white oud enhance what I smelled in the opening, that slightly sweet, slightly woody sense. I will admit I find these scent challenging to describe. On my skin they appear as very blended, and as there are some unusual notes, they are not easy to describe, but I do my best! My overall sense of this perfume was that it had a comforting air, but not in a traditional way.

I will let Ms. Jacquemin have the closing words. "Magnolia flower as well as parsley essential oils transport me to walks in the countryside, and to gardening with my grandmother. When I smell Memory Lane I feel like my grandmother is holding me in her arms. I feel peace and balance. I feel safe and with energy to carry on ... my journey lightheartedly."

You can order sample sets at Christèle Jacquemin's website and she also offers her perfumes in a variety of sizes.

Thank you to Cristele Jacquemin for the perfume sample. My opinions are my own. Photos are from the perfumer's website.