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.