Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scents that were beautiful in 2008

Here is something I recognize:  what smells good to my sniffer is subject to change.  There is recurring change, such as weather, season, time of day, mood, headache factor.  And there is evolutionary change, as in I liked the smell of bubble gum and Jolly Ranchers when I was young, but not any more.  Or, as in, that Amarige that smelled SO good right after I started this journey?  Not so much.

Since I think it might be valuable to track my evolutionary change, I'm going to add today's angle of reflection on this past year:  Things that smelled good in 2008.  I thought it might be interesting to look back, not just right now, but on this record in the future, and see how the current crop fares with my future nose.

After all...despite my general distaste, I had one good dance with Kingdom...and there was at least one skank that hit a GOOD nerve, albeit very late in the year (Theo Fenell).  Here goes...

1st trimester--remember, I am being honest, which means I am not editing for cool factor:

WORKED:  Magie Noir.  Frank Los Angeles (#1).  Bois Blond.  Amarige.  Fleur de Narcisse.  Poeme.  Shalimar.  Hermes Hiris.  Poeme.  SIP Black Rosette.*  Bois des Isles.  Bulgari Au The Vert.  Songes.  Lolita Lempicka.  L'eau d'Issey.  BBW Sandalwood Rose.

DIDN'T WORK, BUT TRIED:  Arpege.  Fracas.  Diorissimo.  Rose Poivree.  Soir de Lune. SIP Black Rosette.*  

*How, you ask, does Black Rosette get both?  Because I thought I was smelling something toxic when it opened.  Because I thought for sure I was about to have my first scrubber, but I couldn't help continuing to sniff.  Because I kept on checking, and then OH, MY it started to morph, and I went for a ride.  Because it ended up as something I'd call beautiful.  Because I had no idea what to do with it--wear it, throw it away, hide it.  Because I tried it again the next day to see what would happen.  Because I wanted it, and had a minor coronary when I got my first gander at real perfume prices.  Because it was amazing.  Because of Black Rosette, and went back and ordered three sample sets of various types.  

2nd trimester-- Nearly all of the above happy scents continued to be happy, and I added in: Jose Eisenberg Jose.  Manuel Canovas Ballade Verte.  En Passant.  28 La Pausa.  Yves Rocher Voile de Amber.  Poivre Piquant.  Cuir Mauresque.  Organza Indecence.  Gucci by Gucci.  Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile.  Nemat Narcissus.  Cinema.  Bandit.  Madame Rochas.  24 Fauborg.  Cashmere Mist.  Reverie au Jardin.  Bel Respiro.  Diorissimo.  Vent Vert.  Niki de St. Phalle.  Van Cleef & Arpels First.  TDC Bois d'Iris.

Not:  Rose Ikebana (I smelled...nothing).  Fracas.  Mandragore.  Lolita Lempicka.  Parfum Sacre.  Soir de Lune.  L'Eau de Issey.

3rd trimester-- Writing Lyrical Poetry.  Bond No. 9 Little Italy.  Bulgari Black.  Ormonde Jayne Woman.  Parfum de Therese, Une Rose.  Angelique Noir.  Jean Paul Gaultier Classique.  Jolie Madame.  Mandragore.  L'Ombre Fauve.  Chergui.  Aqua di Parma Iris Nobile (edt and edp).  Prada Iris.  Parfum Sacre.  Narcisse Noir.  TDC des Sens et Bois, Osmanthus.  Black Cashmere.  L'eau de Issey.  Odalisque.  L'Heure Bleu.

Not: Fracas.  Cashmere Mist.  La Chasse Aux Papillons.  Soir de Lune.  

Coming out/recent-- Theo Fennell.  Amouage Jubilation 25, Lyric Woman.  Carons for men (3rd Man, Pour Homme, L'Anarchiste.)  Diorella.  Gucci Envy.  Arpege.  Feminite du Bois.  Rose Ikebana.  Soir de Lune.  Nu.  Coty Chypre.  JLS #2 (Chypre).  CB Cradle of Light.  Liz Zorn Journeyman.

Not: Fracas.**  L'Eau de Issey.
**I think I need to try it again...in the beginning, I spritzed, but in subsequent trimesters, I've been relying on a solid version...but still...as much as I might like a good big white floral, this is just...not.quite.right.  All in all, I think I'd still rather wear Amarige, if I were to go in this direction.  Unless Cradle of Light showed up on my doorstep.  Or Drama Nuui.  But still, those have green, and we're talking tuberose slam-down here.  Any hoo how...

I'm forgetting something, I know; perhaps many things.  While I do keep a spreadsheet, it is incomplete right now (of course), and I'd rather finish writing than rifle through all my samples/decants.  This list is not exhaustive, and does not limit itself to transportive scents.  I did really enjoy all the ones up there, at least during the period mentioned as such.  I have no idea what to do with that Issey Miyake bumping around...especially since ultimately I could live without it.  But it certainly demonstrates the point about a changing sniffer.  

And I still like that Sandalwood Rose.  

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year in Review : Retrospective


Today's post is one of a collection over a theme proposed by Helg at Perfume Shrine...use the links at the end of this article to see other visions of this year from the collective.

It will have to begin, and possibly end, with Norrell.

After all, it was finding a bottle of Norrell on the shelves at Loehmann's while shopping last winter that sent me into a research frenzy, trying to find out what I could about it, starting with a NYT article I was sure I had read a few years previous, about how the once lofty designer scent was then only available at...K-Mart.  And it has been due to my explorations this year that I probably appreciate Norrell and its ilk, even if I still don't choose to wear every vintage whammer I discover.

But let's travel through the fragrances of 2008, as seen through my lens:  Perfumes which have helped define this first year of my olfactory journey.  These are the Top 10 Landmarks in my perfume year, not because I love them (though some I do), or because they are important in 2008.  They are here because they somehow represent milestones in my learning & development.

1. Norrell
A no holds barred scent that started out as a pure visual:  Seeing that typeface on the box on the store shelf brought back my grandmother's bathroom, her perfume bottle sometimes left out on the sink, her hair when it was "done"...I wanted to smell it, and see if I would recognize it.  I bought it.  And thus the floodgates (and nose hairs) were opened.  Little did I know I was starting with big guns, something beyond "beginner."  But don't get any big ideas about my little sniffer.  My second bottle in this year's journey, which seemed to smell nice but in a different way, was Issey Miyake.  (Different?  No kidding.)  So there.  Such vagaries, I would come to learn, would punctuate my journey.

2. Decants
The best decision I made was made early in my journey, after I invested in the full bottle of Issey.  I took a flyer on The Perfumed Court, having discovered their website during my research on "vintage perfumes."  Went ahead and invested in a few sample packs, to introduce myself to fragrance families etcetera.  Then I was introduced to Fishbone (long live Fishbone!), and amassed quite the mini-bar of fragrances.  Much more learning done on many fewer dollars.

3. Magie Noir
An example of eBay working.  I purchased a used bottle as part of my "research," spouse really, really, REALLY liked it.  In fact, he left THAT DAY to go out and purchase a full bottle, and presented it to me that evening, therefore earning Magie Noir a spot in the First Year Hall of Fame as "first full bottle purchase, completely intentional and fully satisfactory."


4. Fleur de Narcisse
     Bois Blond
     Reverie au Jardin
Oh, my, but what a rapid fall, what a tangled web.  Thanks to my samples, I thought I'd like Fleur de Narcisse.  I bought a decant, and loved it even more when I sprayed it.  I discovered it was a limited edition, panicked, and asked for a bottle for my anniversary.  Lo and behold, it was given to me!  Ah, joy and beauty in things narcissus & hay...to this day, this scent remains in Extremely High Esteem.

Two full bottles, success in selecting scent, and I was in trouble.  I followed up another sample happiness with a full bottle purchase, and again, discovered I was oh so happy with the result.  On its heels I purchased a partial bottle of Reverie au Jardin, and ended up with what remains my grown in the earth hat trick, my trio of interest and ease, and probably my best purchases to date.  (With the exception of #x.)  Because I love them.  Because I feel they express me, at least a good part of me, really well, and I don't feel the context in which I can wear any one is particularly limited.  Because they make me so happy, I just can't feel purchase guilt.

These three became intwined as a triad long ago, and as such, are entered as one.  All purchases fully intentional, and completely satisfactory--to me, at least.  ;)

5. Coco
I was so curious...the bottle was beautiful...it was Chanel...the price was too good to be true.  Truly, too good to be true; even I could tell, when I opened my package, that the juice was, well, not right.  It should have been stronger in smell, darker in color.  It smelled good, mind you...just not...right.  I examined the crimp, and it looked messed with.  I considered my $20-some investment worthy as both a gambling enterprise, and a lesson learned...though I really don't like gambling, so I'm not likely to take that path often.

6.  Kingdom
I have rattled this cage, and I'm going to rattle it again.  This stuff stinks.  Like panties.  Not cumin.  Panties.  Out of the eight times I've tried it, 1 1/2 wearings have yielded a really attractive rose scent.  Inside, alongside, alternating with...skank.  I can't do it.  I really can't.  I liked Bandit out of the box, enjoyed dancing with Norell, and think Black Cashmere is a comfort scent.  But down the outright skank path is a place I just don't think I will go.  My recent infatuation with Theo Fennell nothwithstanding.  And Magie Noir regardless.  (See what I mean about vagaries?)

7. L'Ombre Fauve
The girl likes leather.  Who knew?  I found myself driving down the road with my nose up against the wheel, because I was afraid if I took my hands off the wheel and brought them to my nose, the magic spell would be revealed and some sort of rotten trick of olfactory context would be revealed.  I ended up wearing leather to a wedding, fragrance-wise.  I wore this when the gloves came on this fall, because I loved taking them off and finding L'Ombre Fauve underneath.  Between this and Bandit, I decided I'd better explore this leather thing, and have found that I find Chanel Cuir de Russie beautiful, but too sharp for me; Cuir de Lancome a rather smooth leather suitable for everyday use; Knize Ten a fun dabble in straight up leather; Bulgari Black a vanilla heavy happy fest; Jolie Madame a light leather with violet.  I should note that Helg puts Fleur de Narcisse in there with the modern leathers...what can I say?


8. Bois des Isles
Truth be told, this is another fragrance I loved early on, but I couldn't begin to describe why in Spring of '08, when I first put nose to arm.  It was different from my hat trick style fragrance; clearly, human hand was evident in its composition.  It didn't bubble up like No.5, but it made the hat trick seem nearly syrupy.  It was old, it was not old; one of the few vintage fragrances that to me were truly timeless, and not simply classic.  I had to revisit it at least once a month until sometime mid-summer, when I set my sights on a larger amount.  The question was, decant, or full bottle?  Procrastination paid off, as the equation per ml on the full bottle, laid over an opportunity to purchase at the Chicocoa Scentsation, meant that one of those lovely hefty bottles with the ever-satisfying cap that "thwunks" into place ended up in a bag in my hand.  Call it planned impulse buying.  And, like the scents in my hat trick, I don't regret it for a minute.

9. Eau Imperiale
Actually belongs earlier in the sequence, time wise.  But I put it here, not because it was a successful online discounter full bottle purchase (though it was), or because I find it eminently wearable (I do), but because here's one where the story myth translated into truth for me.  Do any reading up on Guerlain Imperiale, and you'll find that it was purportedly offered as a migraine cure.  I am a migraineur.  Before this year, I was pretty secure in my knowledge that perfume was, as a rule, to be avoided, because it was so potentially a headache trigger.  But I, like any susceptible victim, was willing to take a chance on the story, and purchased some without smelling.  The bottle remains in the downstairs bath, with the medicines and the essential oils, a happy mist of relief.  And of good smelling.

Honorable mention then should go to 4711, which of course you wonderful bloggers kept talking about, and serves much the same way.  Shame on you to Chanel, whose Exclusif Cologne is wonderful, but so close to Eau Imperiale that even I, who justified a different 200ml of Exclusif scent, and who is willing to buy scent as remedy, can't justify purchasing that one.

Which shows another way Eau Imperiale offered lessons in perfume:  Not everything is worth buying, even if it is "nice," or "good," or "Chanel."  I'll probably move earth in order to ensure a lifetime of access to Bois des Isles, but I won't even turn my head for the Eau de Cologne.  (Okay, I'd spritz some from a tester display.  But it's hard to justify, even as a gift from a comfortable wallet, when the same dollar investment could get you quality AND perfume strength.)

By the way, a serious shout out to the house of Guerlain here, since I'm approaching the end of my milestone list, and realize that not one Guerlain perfume has been mentioned.  Please see back posts to get a sense of my respect for Mitsouko, even if I do not yet love it; the trippy time travel Jicky evoked; the alpha wave flat line of happiness/nostalgia/sniffing pleasure when I smell L'Heure Bleu.  I think Guerlain and I have not yet entered our prime.

ACK! I've run out of room...there are so many classics I've learned to love...the joy of the swap...the fraternity of fragrance...what one perfume should I mention to wrap up this year's journey in Top Ten style?  Jean Nate, EveryWoman for the American gal?  Amouage, where beauty and quality draw me in despite the sky high price?  CB IHP, whose Cradle of Light led one observer to comment on my, um,  "When Harry Met Sally" moment with a perfume?


10.  Habanita
It's not precious, it's not profound, and it's heavy on powder.  I do enjoy the tobacco in it, as I do in many perfumes.  But it's not the smell of Habanita that puts it on my list...it's the experience.  The first time I tested this was in the midst of a summertime sniffing bacchanal.  As I recall, I actually had Habanita behind one knee, as part of a six scent test drive.  Six, you ask?  Sure: two wrists, two elbow folds, two knees; one scent each.  There I was, up early, taking notes on the top notes, running through a round of WiiFit and yoga, getting a whiff of Habanita while twisting my torso and hanging upside down--yup, this was the life of an emerging perfume nut.  So, #10 goes to Habanita, which for me is the scent that defines descent--not just of nose to knee, but of self down three rings of the perfume rabbit hole in one swell droop.  Er...fell swoop.

So, what have I learned in 2008?

That I'm not likely to find a single Holy Grail of scent, but I will find more than one home run.  That I'd probably better not heavily invest in one particular scent, because my preferences have already gone through a couple of iterations.  That I love hay, grass, leather, tobacco, the occasional white flower, most ambers, and the occasional oriental, and that vetiver can be my friend.

That for all my skepticism about online "communities," I've met a friendly, supportive, sharing, and good-humored bunch of people through this perfume exploration, and I am grateful to all--whether I know them as flesh-and-blood, or they remain virtual.

That not only may your mileage vary, but the very fuel that runs you might be very different when it comes to how perfumes wear and what you prefer.  Just as it is a good idea to benchmark your thoughts against film reviewers opinions when deciding if you're going to like a particular unseen film, one would be wise to get to know any blogger or reviewer's tendencies before making a call.  And to explore beyond your tendencies when you are inclined--you may find the fence has moved.

That this has been a fun ride, and I'm going to keep this set of wheels.  We'll see how I trick it out in 2009....

Please be sure to visit the other bloggers participating in the Retrospective:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well Tempered & Bespoke: Chocolate

A bit of a divergence today, but I'll bring it around.  The topic?  Chocolate.

Today's New York Times includes an article in the Business section wherein the intrepid reporter heads to Cadbury's Green & Black division to play in the kitchen.  Harry Hurt III (my favorite byline since the iambic lilt of Polk Laffoon IV) gets to mix up his own chocolate recipe, basically caramelized peanuts in milk chocolate.

The article gets jiggy with prose and refers to a "well-tempered chocolatier" (hey, piano/music entendre!), bespoke chocolate (in the teaser on the front page, hey, fashion and fragrance entendre!), and a "metal palate knife" (hey, an epicurial spelling spoonerism!).  My goodness, has HHIII read my diary?  He seems to know my very soul....

On the surface the Times article seems to be a rather thin vanity piece.  You don't learn much about chocolatiering you can't pick up from a decent cookbook, and Harry doesn't dabble very far into the conjuring part of cooking.  But it reminded me of conversations about bespoke perfume that burbled across the perfume blogs this year, and the thread of chocoholism, erm, chocomania, erm, discerning chocolate mavenry that seems to connect many perfume fans.  I am not innocent of either.

So I find myself on a Saturday morning, cup of tea in hand, letting my thoughts meander over chocolate, creating chocolate, perfume, creating perfume, personal creations offered to the masses, the (select) masses being offered a personal creation, and whatnot.  Perhaps the fact that the fog outside is so thick it seems like you could gather handfuls and spin it into yarn is affecting my brain's clock speed.  Then again, I've never had trouble creating a thick cloud all on my own when thinking...

Be sure to tune in on Monday, when hopefully the fog clears, and I join other bloggers in considering the perfume year in a 2008 retrospective.  I'll try to tell tales without spinning yarns.  :)

******
For conversations this year about bespoke perfume, see:
The Savvy Thinker discussing Neil Morris, Jan 16
Perfume Shrine, November 21

Finding bespoke perfume in Paris:
Gridskipper, March 19

and, from 2007, Now Smell This on Memoire Liquide (Sept 8)

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Warmth, good company, and happy journeys to all this holiday season.  

image courtesy WeatherUnderground, posted by Gemini www.wunderground.com/.../g/gemini/1106.jpg

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Scents of the Season

Not that I'm running around trying to make sure magic happens...but...

It's my first winter holiday season as an out and proud perfumista.  My historical tradition is Christmas, but that was always a cultural celebration, as the holiday did not involve any trips to religious rituals.

Hence, the fragrances suitable for the season are going to incorporate baking, merriment, snow, evergreens, thick syrupy, refreshing whatnot, with but a hint of the incense.  I'm keeping a running list in a box on the left; I'll offer my rationale/associations in the post.   If you have time, I'm curious to hear what is on your mind--or wrist.  

Incidentally, this is one post that will develop.  Content will grow over the next 48 hours.  I'm not sure what editorial policy is on such a thing, but notification seems appropriate.  :)

Organza Indecence --  ummm, vanilla with a hint of a kick; it has a syrupy middle that seems, well, appropriate.
Ambre Narguile -- spicy baked goods; this time, vanilla gets a strong dose of amber
Nuit de Noel -- Okay, the name, duh; colored by a lovely darkish spiciness as it dries down.  This one is rather complex, and being snowed in gives me time to really appreciate it.
Mandragore -- Hah! You say summer; I say citrus is as refreshing in winter...think pomander, Earl Grey tea, and the oranges that were the only thing Uncle Rufus got in his stocking.  PLUS it's spicy, it's green...so are the ornaments on my tree!  Let's go!!  Things to do!  Roust from your somnambulent fire gazing, and finish your preparations!!  BTW, you smell good
Journeyman -- Liz Zorn has created my most recent favorite leather, so a) why not wear things you love when you are happy & celebrating, and b) if I need to draw a more direct metaphor, I can assure you that with 8"+ of snow out there, the leather glove is an apt motif.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Music & Scent: Clive Christian

"X is not going to undress during the day."  Back to that in a minute.

Robin over at NST alerted readers to the Clive Christian piano composition competition, wherein music composition students from the Royal College of Music are being invited to compose a piece based on one of three perfumes from the CC line.  You can poke through their website and see a video wherein the impetus behind the competition is discussed, and the competition is introduced to students at RCM.  It's a fun concept, overall; smell this, now, tell us what it is as music. 

If you've been reading for a while, you know that I am interested in parallels between music and perfume, both in terms of how the body receives/interprets, and in terms of language appropriate to describe each.  If "X" -- a CC offering -- is "not going to undress during the day," it is not going to have a drydown development.  Which is an interesting choice as a muse for a music composition competition...even pop music develops ABACAB.  (Phil Collins knew this, and Genesis sang about it during his tenure.)

Appropriateness of scent choice aside -- after all, perhaps X = Philip Glass (oh, no fair; try this link) -- I like the idea, and hope that all parties involved end up finding it a "successful" endeavor.

Though I'm not sure it was necessary to point out that CC is "the most expensive perfume" -- really, how does that form of data inform what your smeller communicates to your composer?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Melt

Typical formula for calculating "if that snow melted, how many inches of water would there be?":
10-12" snow = 1" water

Density of Friday's snow, in formula, according to local meteorologist:
3" snow = 1" water

Some people refer to this as "heart attack snow."  I like to think of it as extrait.  Come on over; we'll toss some whomping balls of extrait.   Or build an extrait fort.   

Friday, December 19, 2008

Peut-Etre, Theo Fennell

A study in contrasts:

Peut-Etre, steady eddie, goes on as a glove scent that I am happy with from first moment--which is a good thing, since what you whiff is what you get.

Theo Fennell, magic morper, starts off with a skanky waft that changes into a golden floral (and I mean that in a positive sense), then spends time weaving back and forth, touching on other notes along the way.

Peut-Etre could be a kinder, gentler L'Ombre Fauve.  (Not that I, for one, need L'OF to be any kinder or gentler.)  It is different in that it is haunted by flowers...flowers not freshly opened, or freshly cut, but mature...could have been in the vase for a day, or have spent a day in the sun out in the garden.  This is totally in my wheelhouse, for an all-purpose scent that has interest.  (As opposed to those all-purpose scents that I know are safe at any speed, the ones I can wear around students or to dinner or in close quarters with fellow musicians.)  The interest is in the way I think any good scent has that element that introduces the "better" portion of a "your skin but better--here, the betterment coming from leather and flowers.*  

Theo Fennell seems to be a perfect "going out" scent.  Hits with the danger of skank as it starts on my skin, morphs into this lusciously deep warm without syrup floral, and then meanders back and forth between the two.  Who knew?  I am not a fan of skank, and I never would say I like a "floral" perfume, because I don't want to run the risk of an error.  (Because when a floral perfume is not good to me, it is SO not good.  Blechh.  Headache.  Cloying.  Artificial.  Any, all, or more.)  But this one, I like.  Wait a minute...something new going on...I tell you, almost every time the flowers come back, they are different.  And again, next round introduced a hint of something...foodie?  Oh my, but I am having fun.  And it's not just gimmicky; this is very nice material.

Maybe Theo needs multiple categories.  Sophisticated, quality interest for going out.  Sophisticated, quality entertainment for staying in.  Oh, dear...I'm talking like one of those people with disposable income...but of course, when it comes to music, books, certain foods, office/art supplies, and now perfume, I do behave that way.

Thanks, Marina, for the chance to experience these.  Not only do you write a fantastic blog, you are generous with your draws.  So far, that's three (these two, plus the CB Cradle of Light from Tom) that are further weighing down my "get this" list.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mitsouko Musings

It was time for another whirl around the dance floor with Mitsouko.  I'd been practicing, I've learned a few more steps, there was probably a chance for me to better understand, if not appreciate, it.

As happens for many wearers, Mitsouko prompted musings far beyond my sniffing experience.  I drew steps closer to the fragrance, still experiencing it as "old," but liking it more.  I even found the peach, which had eluded me until now.  (If you happen to have trouble smelling it, too, try holding your sniffer a few inches away from your skin rather than burying it against your skin.  That's where I found the fruit...dangling, if you will.)

I'll come back for more dances with Mitsouko.  Meanwhile, what I'll take out of our recent time together is not so much the sniffery, but the reflections that resulted.  As I spent time with Mitsouko, I realized that I didn't necessarily love it--yet--but I wanted it to survive.  Just as it was.  Not modernized.  Because I might not love it, but I value it.

Around this point in my ruminations, my thoughts hopped onto a different subject:  my former house, and my current house.  My old house was old; today, it is more than 110 years old.  I loved the full timber beam that ran down the middle of the basement, the balloon framing, the original wavy glass windows.  It was challenging to live in:  2 closets for the whole house, a layout meant for entertaining in another era, and a "modern kitchen & bath" that were over 50 years old (and remuddled at that).  We waited to collect money to rebuild the front porch right; solid cedar columns, tongue & groove panelled ceiling, a hint of our personality in the rail baluster pattern.  We did projects we could handle on our own -- ripping up carpeting to expose hardwood, stripping paint from moldings and linoleum tiles from a fireplace mantle, etc. --according to what revealed the house's innate beauty.  We were still waiting for the right money to fix the kitchen appropriately, faithful to what that house called for, when we moved.

That house had personality, and earned my respect and devotion from the day I first slept in it.  I still mourn leaving it.  But...and this is the critical insight my latest dance with Mitsouko taught me...that house was not the best reflection of me.  The architecture I currently inhabit, for all I bemoaned it, reflects the actual me more than I cared to admit.  Friends of mine saw this long before I did.  I dismissed the new house; I was disappointed by what it didn't have that the old house did.  I had spent so much time making sure the old house was honored that I fit myself into it.  And, it did reflect a layer of me.  A few layers of me, in fact.

But this house I live in now, it is more honestly who I am.  Can geometry reflect personality?  I think so, even if I cannot explain how.  An open floor plan, multiple levels visible from one spot, plenty of closets to store stuff, clean lines with the fussiness placed here and there but not something that need be edited at the very bones...this "landscape" is more me.  I will defend, love, and admire the old house always.  And it is a part of me.  But it may not be most of me.

I will also do all that I can to preserve and protect a classic like Mitsouko.  Folks should. But, truth be told, a more "modern" scent composition may be a better, fuller expression of who I am.  

Time will tell.

(And I'll try to remember that the fruit might be just beyond where I am expecting to find it.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Here's a crazy thing...

Terrible ice this morning.  Yesterday was a weirdly balmy 40+ degrees, melting our snow cover.  Temperatures plunged overnight, turning the remnants of melt and ongoing rain into a miles wide ice rink.  Beautiful.  Treacherous.

I, with an early morning commitment.  Wanting a bit o' scent to fortify, to make me more present than perhaps my slow-waking scelf might actually be.  Thinking over the usual suspects...mulled over a Chergui, an Organza Indecence, a repeat of yesterday's happy round with Black Cashmere.

Just before hopping in the shower, I find something else, because it is stored with the specials -- like Chergui -- and on a whim, I spray it.  Knowing it is out of season.  That I had something different, with a "low center of gravity," in mind.  

Ka-blam!  I loved it.  More than ever before.  I dally a bit before hopping in the shower...yup, am loving it still...ponder it even while scrubbing.  And realize, you know what?  It's early, I'm not ready for the potential downside of the heavy, and I'm still loving what happened with that.  So, on it goes.

Rose Ikebana.  It's just right for a casual suit worn with a turtleneck in the dead of single degree digit weather.  Who knew?  

My close waft made me happy all day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sensory Overload?

Or deep cover?

Have spent a week wearing perfume, and reading all my favorite blogs, but have been plum out of writing.  Even though I have a couple of mostly composed posts in the hopper, awaiting attention, I could not turn to them for relatively painless content.

Life is full this time of year, of course, but I think my brain is taking a virtual "full breath." Things perfume have gone into deep percolation, and I can't really access the processing (or simple settling) that is going on.  I do know that I chose to wear a scent every day to work this week, which is not necessarily typical for me.  What?  gasp!?!  It's true...between being a person who needs to ramp into my sensory day, and working with highly sensitive peoples, I have to be careful about how I go about wearing scent to work.  And sometimes, it's not worth the effort.  Which doesn't bother me...I'm not one of those folks who feels like I'm "going commando" without an extra scent layer.

What did I pick to wear?  Let's see...here was an innovation:  Mandragore for a day I was worried stress might lead to a headache (again, a reason to avoid scent), but really did feel I wanted a layer of scent for finish.  (There we go, one of my inner conflicts; apparently, I don't feel wrong for not wearing scent, except on days when it DOES happen to strike me as a useful layer of armor.)  And you know what?  It was perfect, and who knew, given the cold weather.  It functioned as Eau Imperiale can for me (headache tonic), while imparting a certain subtle sense of being pulled together and functional in a "if you care to notice" way--perfect for the potentially difficult meeting I anticipated.  And I didn't worry that anyone would be put off by it.

What else did I wear?  I looked at Bois des Iles almost every day, since that is a faithful slam for me.  But no; I also wore Liz Zorn Violets and Rainwater, and who knew?  Either by the power of subliminal wishes, or a trick from Liz, I was surprised to find a leather note emanating from my skin by the end of the work day.  Hunh!! Now, I don't mind me a leather (Cuir de Lancome, I will have you some day), but I've got to tell you, title and test drive on this one did NOT lead me to expect this outcome.  But it was just right; don't confuse the fact that the flower smells sweet with the notion that it is not powerful and firmly rooted in the ground.

I took the easy route one day.  Showered with BBW Sandalwood Rose body wash, followed with a spritz of the same; that stuff has excellent lasting power on me, and really works well as a skin scent plus touch of something else.  Sometimes, I mentally review if an old faithful is the right choice for a given day, and the 8-Ball says "please try again."  But that morning was "signs point to yes," and the signs were right.
this just in...BBW offers to revive discontinued product for the sake of one needful customer...
...wouldn't that be nice???  

So, it wasn't a week to experiment, to try out new things...though discoveries were inadvertently made.  (The potential for leather.  In Violets and Rainwater.  Who knew?  Must follow up in other contexts.)  And it wasn't a week to articulate.  But I don't feel like I was in retreat...I was just...a little bit somewhere else.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fawning over fauns

Drat.  My so-called real life has interfered with my pretensions at paganism.  Yesterday was Faunus.  (Thanks to Tea, Sympathy and Perfume for reminding me.)

Perhaps the blanket of snow covering the ground this week also distracted me from dirty woods celebrations?  Hmmm.  It's pretty outside, but winter has so arrived.

In honor of faunus, woods, crops, dancing, merrymaking...with a plonk of snow over top...I conjure some layers:
  • Black March + Iris Bleu Gris  (that gives you the earth, hint of woods, skank of faun and dancing, with iris serving as the cold note of snow)
Pause.  Uh-oh.  My plan was to list three combinations.  Then ask you for more.  I'm stuck, because most of the earth in perfume I've encountered has a sense of the opening of spring, rather than the end/closing of things as you approach the winter solstice.  

So, I'll put this one up, and add in ideas as they come...or as they are offered.  (Please, offer.  I'm not just stuck--I'm curious.)

***
On a side note, some rather scary character apparently accompanied Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas across Switzerland yesterday.  Looks like Faunus clear reverberates in this tradition. In a nice twist for perfume fans, Andy Tauer has incorporated a discussion of this Schutzli character into the advent calendar he is keeping on his blog.  There's other fun going on there as well...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crucible of White (CB Cradle of Light)

I'm puzzled.  I'm excited.  I may be about to make a fool of myself.

I have a sample of CB I Hate Perfume Cradle of Light.  You know, CB's gift to white florals and expensive ingredients.  I applied today for the first time.  Mother of all that is green perfume fabulous, thank you.  Thank you for not being afraid to toss in some tobacco.  Thank you for remembering all the material that makes a plant.  Thank you for keeping it interesting, and developing, as a perfume should.  Thank you for the hint of floral that never whams.

SCREECH.  Yup.  That's right.  With full open acknowledgement that this is just the first run, I have to say this:  I really don't get the white floral part.  (I'm still standing, because I'm just too stupid or naive to duck and cover.)  And I'm nervous, because that's what the fracas {ha, ha, ha} is supposed to be all about.

What I'm getting is the happiest non-galbanum green experience I've had thus far in my short but intense perfume career.  With that waft of tobacco I mentioned, which isn't even mentioned in the official notes.  I figure the possibilities are these:

1) All sniffers are different; YMMV.
2) I was on the verge of a migraine for 2 days, and finally ditched it earlier today.  My sniffer is still affected.
3) I'm stark raving mad.* 
4) The juice in the vial is really something else.

*BTW, if you happen to have any good expressions for mad/off your rocker/cuckoo/nuts/one brick shy of a load/etcetera, please share them with me.  I know someone who is conducting a linguistic study, and I can pass along the data.  Thanks.

I really must return to this.  Whatever happened here, I liked it.

****
UPDATE:  Oh, precious beast that haunts drydowns...can it be?...more than THREE HOURS after application, and white florals emerge?  Sweet mother of drawn out pleasure, by this point you have made me forget my ambivalent relationship with white florals.  I love that you have managed this (perhaps by taking so long?), that the green still informs it all, that you made me wait, that I almost forgot, then THERE YOU WERE.  You make me think I should always delay at least three hours before publishing a test drive review. 

Whatever ends up becoming of us, I am glad you came into my life.  I couldn't have appreciated you as much when I was (a) younger (perfumista), and may not appreciate you as much when I am (an) more experienced (perfumista).  

Experiencing CofL might end up being a terrible case of "the first one is free."  Ready?  Are you sitting down?  You can find a 1/4 ml (that's right; 0.25 ml.) decant for $10 from the Perfumed Court.  You'll have to go to a CB boutique to find retail bottles, which near as I can tell are $50/2ml.  And the sad thing is, I'm up in the middle of the night, writing and sneaking one more hit.  Thanks, Tom, for my sample.   It'll go in the safe deposit box.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scent in Books: I Capture the Castle

I have just finished Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, a book I have had on the "read it" list for a long, long time.  The main character, a seventeen-year-old girl living with her older sister, father, younger brother, step-mother, and not-hired young man in a *castle in England in the '30's, is an aspiring writer who attempts to "capture" in her journal a pivotal half year in her, and their, life.

(*I struggled for a minute their to assign an adjective to the castle..."aging" seems redundant; "crumbling" histrionic, if true; "borrowed" true but misleading...so I dropped the attempt.)

Anyway, my point being that perfume directly enters the story two times.  Once, when the main character is visiting an estate house, she notices the scents different women are wearing at dinner.  Another time, while visiting a store in London, she encounters a scent which reminds her of bluebells and enchants her.  Later, she has the opportunity to wear the scent for a midsummer rite, but she chooses not to--she realizes the perfume a) does not really smell like the true flower, and b) the scent would overwhelm the aroma of the wildflowers she planned on wearing.

This became a bit of a zeitgeist moment for me, given yesterday's exploration of a natural perfume and my comment on what I now expect from a perfume.  Cassandra, the voice of the novel, comes to understand that what enchanted her about the perfume was the experience it suggested, not an actual re-capturing of the olfactory reference--no more than the Water Music she listens to another time is actually the sound of water.  The same idea of art form as representation is when she spends time thinking about poetry--how it seems the right vehicle for trying to capture the experience of certain emotions, rather than simply describing the emotions. Poetry, music, perfume:  all there to try to capture an essence, an experience, without actually being it.

Cassandra opts to not wear the perfume to the rites, but does apply it later as she goes out with a Person of Interest. Just as she finds certain paintings to not represent their subjects well, but that certain music has the power to move her.  Sometimes we go for real life; sometimes the abstraction, the attempt to capture it.  

I know I am going to continue to appreciate the smell of real flowers in my garden, the scent of crushed leaves and dirt and decaying matter and fresh shoots and rain and timbers in the sun.  I am also going to continue to explore what experiences lie in the potions those perfume genies have concocted inside my bottles.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Liz Zorn Grand Canyon

Yesterday was another travel day, hit the road home so would have time to attend to things back at the homestead before the workweek began again.

Had stashed a few samples in my bag, and decided I'd be okay with Liz Zorn Grand Canyon for the ride, even though I hadn't tried it before.  Mind you, this was a rather momentous decision, as scent AND car travel are potential headache triggers for me.  Guess I was both trusting and impetuous.  Who knows; maybe I was swayed by the idea of travel implied by the name.

Things worked out fine.  Grand Canyon wears close enough to the skin that I didn't impinge upon any other rider's experience, and wears pleasantly enough that it enhanced mine.  

Opens with a syrupy-resiny amber that made me have a natural perfume epiphany:  so many of the natural perfumer offerings I have tried hearken back to my days spent blending essential oils.  Potentially, a bad thing, because I realized that each time I smell a perfume that opens with that association, I cringe a little bit.  History with essential oil blending teaches me to be ready for a long ride on whatever note(s) hit me out of the bottle, because that note would be first, middle, and last on the skin.  Natural = WYSIWYG.  If you are already in doubt at the start, you are probably going to end up scrubbing.

Not so of Grand Canyon.  Thank goodness.  

Because, after all, what I search for now is a perfume experience, which should involve theatrical acts or musical movements, or at least a sense of shifting into position before settling in for the night.  Grand Canyon offers that, and it is where it finally settles that brings me pleasure in this one.  I can see why March over at Perfume Posse mentioned GC in a post about scents she wears to bed:  the sweet opening can focus you with a direct message about happy places, and then the more intriguing smoky spicy elements floating about the vaguely citrusy amber base when it settles down can help waft you away to sleepy land. 

I liked Grand Canyon just fine once it settled in.  I am still wrestling with its behavior, however; I guess it offers the best of both worlds when it comes to true natural perfumes vs. traditional perfumes.  I'll have to get over my own stereotypes when it comes to the opening, and embrace the fact that this makes a fine daytime scent.*  Anything that travels well for me & my surrounding company AND can still strike me as both settling and interesting...albeit quietly so...is a good thing to have in the arsenal.


*or, obviously, night time for some  :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Memory, Place, and Perfume

It's Thanksgiving in the United States.  Time to travel home, or have folks travel to you.  

No, this is not going to be about the scent of pumpkin pie.

This year is a travel home one for me.  I spent a long time on the road yesterday--twice as long as it should have been, but musings on congestion, cars, and American habits I will save for another day.  By the time I started rolling through what qualifies as "home turf," Andrew Bird was singing about a tic on the left side of the head through the car speakers, and I found myself reflecting on the geography of home and the question of whether or not you can go home again started weaving through thoughts of perfume journeys.

Let's see if I can lead you through this.  It's about how we become who we are, and whether or not our descent into and through the realm of perfume follows a similar pattern.

I have long been fascinated by, and believed, the idea that geography helps shape character.  I also think that somehow, we can find pieces of our very essence in places we might not expect or have never been before.  In other words, home geography might help define us, but it doesn't have to BE part of us.  Hence, some people ride into the turf that was their childhood, and have a visceral sense of connection, place, nostalgia, longing, relief, desire.  For others, crossing through the turf of their childhood may evoke a "I'm so glad I got the hell out of Dodge" kind of response.  Some may not experience much of anything...no connection, no repulsion, just "meh." When I drive back to the terroir that incubated me, I have the first kind of response.   

Geographical nurturing  influences some of that response.  But our inner nature can be powerful, also, and I feel some of that comes into play for me.  For someone like my mother, nature trumps nurture; she finds her emotional connection in the desert southwest, even though she was born in the northern plains and raised in the northern woods.  When it comes to our geographic emotional connections, both elements are at play.

When I was making and teaching film, I discussed the idea of geography as part of a character, landscape as both mood and content cue, and indeed, geography as character itself.  Many writers and directors feel the land both defines us, and determines what choices we have for literal and figurative movement.  And land may indeed call to us.

Interesting, but where does the perfume come in to this?

Not as scent memory.   Rather, as metaphor for our olfactory journey.  The journey that is our exploration of perfume, our path through notes, combinations, and preferences.  Consider for a moment the blog writer or poster who discusses their path through perfume:  "When I started, I was into x kind of scents, but now find I am into strong x scents."  Add in a common aversion:  "that is a Grandma perfume," or "I kind of like it, but my mother wore it, so no way for me."  What prompts this movement along a scent path?  Is it entirely an evolving olfactory sophistication?  Or might some portion of the process be defined as a reaction...a movement away from the familiar, the territory of the known, of homeland, and toward exploring new lands?  Perhaps even a form of rebellion against the past, a strong statement of independence...a barbaric yawp of youth?

Will we go home again?  Can we?  Should we?  Must we?

I wonder if eventually, the curve of scent appreciation might lead some folks back home again.  In the same way that many adults who spent the first portion of their independent years forging their identities as far from their stomping grounds as possible, then find themselves back--whether for the emotional connection, or because it is the only place they can imagine their own children spending a youth, or because after exploring all the other places in the world, they find it is the one that suits them best after all.  

Some folks will never come back; the mountains were never right, and a life on or near the sea is what suits them best.

But might not some, who so strongly say "I'll never do that/go back," find that doing that/going back is exactly what they DO do?

I am spending the day in the geography of my youth.  I will not wear the scents of my grandmothers; I am still busy forging and proclaiming my own perfume identity.  But I am feeling quite connected to place.  Perhaps someday I will feel equally connected to a perfume.

I wonder... For those of us with more than a few bottles lying around, does desire to collect scent reflect a desire to chart a journey, record a path?  Is it more than simply wanting to own, but perhaps a need to keep sensory contact with memory?  Might the path of their olfactory exploration, and their choices along the way, somehow mirror their relation to their life path?  

Such were my thoughts in the dark on the two-lane.  Now, the sun is up, and it's time for me to join my family.  Elements of today will be familiar; others will be new.  One day, in a string of others before and more to come.  I plan on it all adding up to a pleasant whole.  

Have a fantastic day.   I'm off to make pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Be always drunk...

...said Baudelaire, whether it be on wine, poetry, or virtue--as you wish.

Or perfume, perhaps? Either direct experience, or giddy exploration thereof?

I know I have enjoyed other intense dalliances, affairs, and marriages with music, and writing, and gardening, and collecting, and jewelry making, and .....

In related musings, the topic of perfume as art is on the front burner again. The Times Literary Supplement has an article which explores the question in the context of dicussing Turin/Sanchez Perfumes: A GuideNathan Branch recently opened by quoting that article, then bringing up comic artist Stan Lee's recently receiving a National Medal of Arts; Helg invokes the perfume as art question during recent posts exploring the economy of perfume and nostalgia at Perfume Shrine.

I may circumvent the whole question of Is Perfume Art/Can Perfume Be Art? by following Baudelaire's lead. Simply being drunk on it is okay by me for now.

I shall endeavor to not be wanton with it, or fresh water, of course.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vetiver! Round Two

Thanks to Helg over at Perfume Shrine, and a spot of random drawing luck, I have in my possession three new vetiver samples: Hermes Vetiver Tonka, Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, and Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental.

Before I begin sharing impressions, allow me a moment to speak universally. (ahem....)

"Uncle!"

And oy. I had just achieved a certain Zen-like acceptance that I would never experience all the scents in the world, that I need not bemoan the influence of fiscal realities, because physical realities were such that I actually enjoy spending a lot of time with a single scent, discovering the various facets it may have to offer, and the varieties of reception I might bring depending on weather, mood, time of day, whatnot. (Not to mention evolving scent storage issues in my home.)

But when I applied a drop of the Hermes on my wrist, realized one more probably was needed for full frontal experience, applied another from the vial, I found myself simultaneously thinking: "Oh, this is going to be fun!" and "Cr#!, I'm probably going to like this." Which means there will always be a "want" list (not so good for letting go), and always a need for good notetaking (not so good for cyclical writers like me).

Such are the vagaries of my scented life.  On to the scents themselves...

Vetiver Tonka: First, let me admit why I tried this one first--the idea of vetiver and vanilla together seemed extreme, and held the potential for fun or a headache. Hence, my delicate start to its application. The good news is that it is a good match, with the players interacting well, both taking turns and mingling nicely. If the vetiver and tonka were a dance pair, they'd be that football dude who moves across the floor with the ballerina so well. I love the earthy green interlaced with vanilla caramel. They really do take turns showing off, with happy overlappings as they take their turns.

I dunno; maybe this interplay could be related to recent research saying nobody really multitasks, but actually processes & performs in sequence. Perhaps Vetiver Tonka helps pull back the curtain ever so slightly to reveal the sequential process of "multitasking," while also helping to maintain the illusion. All I know is, first run, and I like it.

Vetiver Extraordinaire: And the accidental brilliance of my sampling order emerges, for Vetiver Extraordinaire takes me fully out of the warm blanket/kitchen comforts of the Hermes and thrusts me out of doors for an all-out vetiver smack down. Fortunately, I am a mature person, and I am not disturbed to discover I enjoy this turn of events. Ha--I so enjoy being arch...the reality is probably more along the lines of "it's a good thing I've dated Vetiver a few times before having today's experience." I feel kinda like I'm inside a vetiver reed, taking in the rest of the composition from my grassy sheath. Not a problem; I've enjoyed laying down in grass and hay with other scents. But vetiver does not come from the terra firma of my youth or experience, so this is like some very calm & comfortable yet clearly exotic acquaintance who is about to become one of my best friends. My world is opening up just a little more for knowing it. 

Vetiver Oriental: Who knew? This sampling order was genius. Vetiver Oriental brings me back around the bend and straight to a "traditional perfume." Whereas the other two register as "scents" or "constructions," my personal history with perfume means that orientals are what comes to mind if I read or hear the word "perfume." Let me be clear; a scent is a perfume, and I know that. But there is a primal register from my youth and young adulthood, and it doesn't include vetiver or woods. It does, however, firmly and directly include orientals. And, my friends, this is an oriental. I've been waiting for the vetiver, which after my first run a month ago, and this run just know, I trust I am capable of recognizing. I'm liking this in the same way I like...hey, wait a minute, I get it...Le Baiser du Dragon. Okay, so vetiver is a note inside. But it is INSIDE, one note among many. I am enjoying this, but if I were clustering by category and not house/nose, this would go oriental. Which, I guess, is the English language way of interpreting the name--the adjective "vetiver" describes what kind of "oriental" is inside the bottle. Just don't expect it to be a bold adjective.

Drydown verdicts:
Vetiver Tonka, good for low-key nights with friends, days off with books or crafts.  Cool-cold weather. "You smell good."
Vetiver Extraordinaire, good for work days or studying, cause it'll smell good and keep me sharp.  "mmm, You smell interesting."
Vetiver Oriental, one of those night out scents, or maybe something for a bit more daring day at work, since it isn't a heavy or resiny oriental. "You're all dressed up, aren't you?"

Budget awareness:
Hermes Vetiver Tonka, $55 for a 15ml decant (from manufacturer) at The Perfumed Court.
Vetiver Extraordinaire, $210 for 100ml at Barney's.
Vetiver Oriental, $140 for 50ml at LuckyScent.
Le Baiser du Dragon @$48 for 1oz at FragranceX.
Winning a sample, swapping, or sharing samples with a fellow perfume explorer, priceless.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My gender, revealed

Over at GenderAnalyzer, you can have your blog prose analyzed for gender identification. I was afraid the word "perfume" might throw the balance, but:

Results
We guess http://scelfleah.blogspot.com is written by a woman (51%), however it's quite gender neutral.


Hmm...or DID the word "perfume" throw off the balance?... tee-hee.

Thanks to BitterGrace Notes ("a man, 55% neutral") for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, November 17, 2008

PG Drama Nuui, Felanilla

First trip around the block, and you can ride shotgun.

Drama Nuui: It's green...it's a clear note of floral...they say it's night blooming jasmine...I say this is probably as close as I'll get to "pretty floral" and still like it. Thank goodness for the sharp green note; the white floral, no matter how slender and sophisticated in its simplicity, would still be...well, a white floral. Here, it's got zing.

Felanilla definitely harkens back to L'Ombre Fauve in my nose. Not a complaint, mind you; if you've been reading for a while, you know I like L'OF. Felanilla has more of a sharp edge in there, but that creamy PG vanilla remains at the heart of it. Starts off with some hay, and I think the saffron is in the first act; things are moving toward smoky/woody vanilla for the second act; and by the third, we're back to smooth -n- creamy vanilla.

I'm a fan of the Parfumerie Generale scents I've been able to try. Bois Blond is among my happy trio of "This is it" scents that came out of my stage one rampage through scent. (L'Artisan Fleur de Narcisse is another.) Not sure what will happen with Felanilla--after all, there is L'Ombre Fauve to provide the "what it ends up being" part, which would be most of our day together, and Chergui covers some of the same general waterfront.

As for Drama Nuui...this first impression suggests it will lie somewhere between the Liz Zorn Jasomyn, and Gucci Envy. Nuui has the same emotional uplift effect on me that the Zorn does, and has a green ribbon through it like Envy does.

Will probably need to revisit. (Gosh, darn, that's just too bad....)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Morning Notes



Ah, the simple pleasures of waking up, preparing a cup of tea, and sitting down to read a few blogs, scan the news, check your e-mail.

Sometimes, I also use this time to run a passel of samples through their paces. To the right, you see notes from this morning's run. Because my synapses don't fire reliably on demand, it helps to keep track of what has been applied where. You can also see jottings of first impressions. Don't believe for a minute that I am always so organized, or that I always follow the same pattern.

A few years ago, a fair amount of my free time was given over to exploring the world of online auctions. What I learned from that experience means I am still comfortable nosing around for various somethings when appropriate, including fragrance. This second picture is of a collection of Estee Lauder fragrances through the years--all minis, all in perfume strength.
These things were ubiquitous at auction for a while; the trick was simply being patient and waiting for your maximum bid to be the winning bid.

A raft of minis like this gives me a chance to experience the manufacturer's range, and peek at historical developments. I can read reviews of Azuree, Youth Dew, Cinnabar, Private Collection, Knowing, White Linen, Aliage, etcetera, and have a schmear on my arm ready to sniff for fuller comprehension. Scent-O-Rama. Samples and minis have been potent enablers in my scent home schooling program. Kind of like those oenophile kits you can get--you know, a bunch of vials of "notes" from wine, to help train your nose and become a better appreciator of the art of the vintner?


I have bunches of sample vials now, thanks to online shops that offer samples (Luckyscent), decanters (The Perfumed Court, the closing but ever fabulous Fishbone), and swaps with friends and posters on MakeUp Alley. It's fun to spend intense phases in exploration mode, with four patches of samples going. Speed dating of a sort; getting to know a small crew all at once. A danger, of course, is over empasis on the top notes, unfortunate (and maybe even unknown) cross-effects, and lack of quality time.

A positive aspect of a sample slam is that you can absorb a lot of information in one go-around, especially if you take some notes and/or read up on what you are wearing while you are wearing it.

Having just spent most of a week enjoying some quality time with Bois des Isles, I was happy to go on a bit of a bender. The work week was distance running; Saturday was sprints. Or, if you will, I went to work listening to a symphony, and Saturday was a playlist of singles. If interval training works for getting your body into shape, maybe this approach will make buff my nose.


Coming up: the middle zone--spending some quality time with variations on a particular note.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jicky


Not that I'm one for traditional reviews, but we're definitely taking a different tack today. Allow me to share my first impressions of this scent, as shared in an e-mail to the avid perfumista who so kindly shared a sample of her edp with me. I was trying to write about another topic, but kept on interrupting myself with Jicky updates. I won't copy the e-mail, just the Jicky interludes.

First: (oops...pardon...was distracted for a moment...put on a smidge of Jicky...hey, that's really reminding me of something contemporary...ignoring that, it is cool...no wait, what the heck am I thinking of? pleasant associations...this is not what I thought this would smell like...I like it...drydown to come....)

then: ((just quick opened Kevin's review of Jicky on NST...oh, I remember this post...hey! it's a GUY I associate this with...thinking even harder))

and then: (((no, is it a guy? or wait...one of each gender, two different periods of my life? who in the world did I know who could afford Guerlain? is it the contemporary something I'm merging into the memory pot?)))

finally: ((((Good HEAVENS, who is it this Jicky makes me think of? Now I'm going to a contemporary of my grandparents....))))


I put some Jicky on the back of my hand as I was preparing this post, and--due to my wandering the internet in search of images, background, tangential information, and random exploring--I've made it to drydown. I find myself starting where I ended the last visit. Grandparents. Specifically, paternal grandmother. And the realization that this drydown has the kind of depth where you practically sink your nose through notes; depending how close you put your sniffer to your skin, different notes stand out. Very interesting. Odd. Sometimes old-fashioned. Consistently compelling.

I may return for a proper review at some point. Meanwhile, enjoy Kevin's in the link above, or Victoria's take on Jicky in her Bois de Jasmin blog. If you are able to apply some yourself, tell me if you, too, get the depth/layers effect. I'm going to return to moving in to and pulling back from the citrus layer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Toes, or all in?

For those of you who have only swum in oceans or swimming pools, a few notes on lake swimming:

"Inland" lakes (aren't they all? but no, trust me, there are the big lakes, the Great Lakes, which I have come to realize need emphasized are really, really big--those of you who think of the middle as "flyover" would do well to think about a body of water that takes much time to cross on a boat, and remember it takes even your jet some time to cross over) are smaller lakes of various sizes, which generally fall within state boundaries, and can be seen across and traversed easily by boat, sometimes even rowboat.

Point being, the swimming is different. Not only do you float differently, but there can be ginormous temperature differentials on the inland lakes: water temperature varies according to season, according to depth, and even sometimes according to weather conditions. On the big lakes, the water is, generally, cold. The question for any lake is: do you go carefully, trying to discover and/or acclimate yourself to the temperature, or do you just charge?

No matter what your approach, your experience in the same pocket of water may be different one day to the next, one visit to the next, one year to the next.

And so it is with Kingdom. What I am about to say is not "I was wrong." My experience has been, almost every time, panties. But today I was decanting a generous sample for a friend--a friend who has enjoyed this, and so I was happy to share--and a generous splot of McQueen's controversial juice ended up on my hand.

Surprise! Today the cumin was nearly woodsy, and clearly just a layer among the package. I was getting a quick impression of something that was interesting both as quoting some vintage references, and also quite of the times. Cumin, woody spice, something floral...it was all there, and it was interesting. Not "beautiful," as some receive it, but really, really interesting, in a pleasant way. Meanwhile, I had just decanted DK Gold (following a tasting principle of increasing intensities), and THAT was also different than any of my previous experiences. In this cool/cold weather, Gold edp was almost creamy, with jasmine clearly coming through as much as the lily, and much less sharp green. (That green is sharper, and more metallic, in the EDP.)

So, today, I liked Kingdom. No promises for tomorrow. And honestly, I'll probably be more likely to reach for the Gold on an overall percentage basis. But I had to come clean about the experience, considering how adamant I am about the nasty element I usually get.

BTW, you already not to trust when somebody says "come on in, the water's fine," right? One swimmer's tepid is another's chilled. In the lake, or out of the bottle, your mileage may vary.


*****
UPDATE 11/23/08:  Kingdom is back in the chatterstream.  See the gents over at PeredePierre for their take on it, and hear Denyse at Grain de Musc place it according to her sensibilities within the comments section of her lovely review of Schiaparelli Shocking.  Yup, that's me, asking her opinion--I love to learn from better noses than mine.  But despite my bowing to Denyse's more experienced nose, I have to say that, for now, for me, Kingdom's "gousset" is still sewn into panties and not a blouse.  Never a better example of Your Mileage May Vary than an individual's experience of cumin in Kingdom.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gap Grass!

A brief alert: Gap Grass is back. It says "the original scent" on the in store posters, and by gum, I think they're right.

I've got an aluminum mini (15ml?), which I've hoarded from back in the day, so I've kept in touch with the original, and it seems right. And by back in the day, I mean when I wasn't into perfume. Which strictly means pre 2008, but that is misleading. I seriously wasn't into perfume, or body scent products. Two things caught my attention around this time: Gap Grass, and something called "Sage & Thyme Body Mist" by Bloom. (Do we see the groundwork being laid for my continuing adoration for grass and hay notes?) But I digress...the important news is...

Grass is back.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

L'air du Desert Morocain

Okay, on this one I have to skip the traditional approaches, either in my own or more traditional perfume writing.

I smell L'Air du Desert Morocain and I smell my grandfather's hands. I remember the look, smell, and atmosphere of the corner of their family room by the fireplace which had the door to the garage/basement stairs, and I smell his woodshop. I am in a whirl of memories, and yet laser focused all at once. This perfume doesn't smell like my grandfather, or remind me of him; this smell puts me back there, in that house, smelling those hands which smelled like the freshly cut wood from his band saw, like something from his basement was left inside the cedar chest he made me, like I am inside that house that he built and I've been left alone and I am having another one of those "I'll never forget this particular moment" experiences.

I know Andy Tauer imagined himself in a Moroccan desert. I'm in a house in the woods nearly on top of the 45th parallel; there was a fire in the fireplace last night, fresh wood on the hearth ready to burn, the knotty pine panelling on the walls is 1/2" thick, my grandfather's "coveralls" are hanging on a hook in the hallway waiting for spring and the garden, and I'm waiting for the grown-ups to call me to dinner.

It's not the trip Andy intended, but I'm incredibly grateful to be given it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A little terror from the terroir...

In another facet of scent & pleasure, the oenological realm is confirming a distinct note to be found in wine: baby poop. Distinct, because it is to be differentiated from barnyard poop.

Learn more in this brief article from Chow.

Methinks it's time to come up with another "pairings" item for this blog...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Aimez-Moi

The last time I discussed Caron, it was all things Homme. And I did enjoy my lavender excursions (Third Man, pour Homme, L'Anarchiste), but yesterday, for whatever reason, I turned to the Aimez-Moi.

I had been avoiding this one, thinking it would be too froufy, too sweet. Kind of ironic to then go for it *after* the manfumes, no?

I liked it. A lot.

It does open rather sweetly, but there's something--the anise?--which keeps it from being cloying. And oh, my, but the drydown is lovely and haunting. Perhaps it was the perfect way to start the day. You start with a delicious pastry, not too complicated, but well done, with a good balance of sweet to spice and the right amount of dough to anchor it all. You leave that behind, thinking you enjoyed your repast, and move on with your day. A couple of hours later, you discover yourself turning around to find out what smells so good. It's you, with a rich, Caron-ish drydown, a haunting of a cloud that has dropped the sweet confection and turned into a chiaroscuro brew that hovers close to your skin.

Don't worry...I'll get to straight talk. Soon. I'm going to try this one again.

******
afterglow update...


That was all written from recollection. The power of the drydown veil, perhaps? Not only that, but I think full disclosure demands that I reveal I have been on a bit of a L'Heure Bleu bender...started on Saturday, been groovin' it ever since. Until I switched to Aimez-Moi yesterday. Think that might have changed my pre-dis position toward the sweet at all?

I won't change my words, because that was how I felt at the conclusion of my first encounter with Aimez-Moi. But I feel compelled to tell you...it might go on more like a liquified candy poured onto a thin tart base. Please, be patient. Give it a chance to morph. Try it when you are open to sweet reverie, or when it's chilly enough to hide some behind a sleeve. Remember, despite the power of the openingit's gonna play hide and seek a bit.

If you do try it, if you have tried it, tell me what you think.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day



One person, one vote. Not always so. Hope you'll cast yours.

image from Time magazine

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Studs

Not the male model type, nor the 2x4's framing your house. But the model of a certain kind of male timber, Studs Terkel, who helped hundreds of people tell their stories, which in turn helped thousands of others understand theirs.

With all the prose that has launched or attached itself to perfumes, some purple, some perceptive, I am given to thinking about how one could approach Studs and/or his legacy. You could listen to his oral histories, or read his Conversations With America, and try to assign a fragrance to the subject, or simply think of a "tag cloud" of fragrance for the era. You could imagine what scent you would arm yourself with to be the kind of activist or artist for change that would have caught his attention and admiration.

Or you can take a moment and reflect...the man who said, "As the Titanic went down, I came up," who gathered recollections to assemble an impression of the Great Depression, who understood that all humans who participate in their lives have valuable thoughts to share...reflect, and pick a scent that would inspire you to see the potential in others as Studs did.

Take it easy, but take it.
- Studs Terkel sign-off for his radio show


I think I'll go sniff some rosemary for remembrance, but then arm myself with something like Daim Blond. (I wish I had a chance to sniff, and maybe use, Onda, which Vetrivesse described as a "take no prisoners" kind of scent. That's the kind of thing to wear when rousing the rabble.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mixology #1: NK Violette over Ava Luxe Black Tea

I have a bottle of Ava Luxe Black Tea, which I quite like...it has both a sweet and an earthy aspect haunting the tea-ness. I also have a decant of Norma Kamali Violette, which I have chatted about before. This morning, I found myself wondering...how to represent a crisp fall day that I knew was going to get mild & sunshiny?

Layers! I had been knocking around the idea of smoke + violet (CB Burning Leaves? SSS Fireside Intense?), which I still intend to investigate. But this morning, I arrived at the Black Tea + Violette concept. Which I still like, as a concept. And which one arm tells me I like as a side-by-side one-two punch. But, when you put one on top of the other, as on the other arm...

...they become a kind of grape sasparilla. Bubbly, with the violet element now easily interpreted as a "natural" grape soda blended with sasparilla, which is what the tea became. Wow. That's chemistry in action. One atop the other didn't work as a palimpsest of scent; instead, it became a third something.

Eventually, as with most sodas, the bubbles settle and nearly go away. Then you are left with an intensified Black Tea, a scent which was probably sweet enough to begin with.

So, if you're searching for Natural Grape Root Beer, load up Black Tea + Violette. If you want to preserve the integrity of each scent, load 'em side by side, and run your nose across them in succession--as if your sniffer were a mouth and your arm a harmonica. Or, perhaps the best choice of all, skip this combination altogether...I'm pretty sure I won't be back myself.

I'll try other combinations in the future, and will undoubtedly report on those. Meanwhile, if you have a combo you like, please share!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Caron Pour un Homme

Lavender. Very clearly. Like an essential oil suspended in carrier oil. Not unpleasant, and certainly not complicated. The roll-on applicator, even on the manufacturer's samp, kind of makes sense. Reminiscent of both scented natural oils, and those Healing Garden roll-ons.

Then a simple morph into vanilla. I'm thinking, this is what boys like? Or might this be what Aimez-Moi would be, if you conceive it pour homme? Regardless, I can see purposing it as an uncomplicated daytime scent. When she reviewed it two years ago, Victoria at Bois de Jasmin mentioned green & floral touches, which I honestly didn't catch, but I must admit, today's run around the block posed challenges, as I was busy teacher who ended up pre-migrainey.

(Which brings up a point worth noting: this one did not act as a trigger, nor did it exacerbate when symptoms began.)

I can see having a sample vial of this travelling with me as a way to bridge the gap between the old essential oil concoctions I'd blend for mood and a hint of gourmand comfort. It might strike as even more valuable in the dark cold of winter, when the no-frills value of the straightforward lavender serves restorative and soothing purposes, even as the vanilla gently elevates and levels out my mood in a gently "warm" way.

Nothing complex. Nothing wrong. Nothing more.
(Will give it a go again sometime in the future, though, to see if the same impressions hold.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ear wax?

Hey!

I think I've thought of a note that those alchemists of scent with skank can turn to for 2009: Ear wax.

That's right, it's not panties. (I mean, cumin.) It's not armpit. It's less offensive. It's in some ways odder. It perhaps offers the opportunity for variation. It's equal gender opportunity. It could be the vanilla of the animalic scent notes.

Have I forgotten someone/some scent? Am I right? Can we position earwax as an up and comer?

(Are you laughing?? Don't be laughing. I am, right now, the Faith Popcorn of scent. I just cut right THROUGH the mountain to leap ahead of Symrise/Firmenich/nose of the month. Seriously. You're gonna be glad you knew me.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SCRUBBED! Bond No.9 "Chinatown"

Say it ain't so, Joe.

My first ever application of a Bond scent. Because I was rushing out to meet some friends (none of them fragrance fiends, or even gentle fans), I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and go for bird #1) a Bond No.9, a few of which been waiting for me for a while, and bird #2) a scent which I had gathered was pleasant and inoffensive.

Should have known better, right? It's always different strokes for different folks in this world--especially in the world of perfume.

I put it on, whiffed, and yanked my head back. "Eh?" Returned for another sniff. Nope...or rather, yes indeed, that was nearly syrupy sweet floral I was getting. I tried to wait a minute or two, to let things settle a bit, but it then turned into something cloying. Not if I kept my distance, mind you, but any time I leaned in for a hit...WHOMP!, there it was.

No can do. Out for (very) late brunch with the gals, and the last thing I need is a headache. To the sink I went. And then back to the samps. The clock was ticking...I was supposed to be there already. Ah! -- Fresh Index Violet Moss. Much better. Somehow, the sweet that comes with that violet seemed less overwhelming, and was carried in by a fresh breeze, whereas the Chinatown was hanging in the air of a room that had no ventilation and was only going to get warmer.

So, yes, I am a plebe, a naif, an uneducated nose...or, perhaps I just know what works for me. And, given the prices on a bottle of Bond, I'll shed no tears that Chinatown is not on the "it works" list.

Of course, the Fresh Index Violet Moss is not even in production anymore.

Doh!

Shout Out: "Moe's Fracas Effect"

There's exploring perfume, there's exploring life, and there's pulling the two together.

Over at Boomtown Boudoir, there is a wonderful essay that combines a compelling portrait with a twist on the search for a signature scent. Fracas was never so uniquely captured. Good reading, thoughtful essaying.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Strange Huffing Effects: L'Heure Bleue

Do you have any L'Heure Bleu around? Even an eetsy bit? Will join me in an experiment?

I could swear that repetitive huffs--well, stronger than a wee sniff, not quite as dramatic as a full huff, but certainly each in a row without drawing back--result in instant morphing when it's L'Heure Bleu that's beneath your sniffer.

It starts with that powdery, vaguely Playdough scent that has been so frequently described. But right away, on the second huff, flowers start coming out. Sniff three, it's all floral, and sniff four, the flowers have gone sweet. So then, if you leave and come back quickly, it's flavored Playdough--flavored with floral infusion. If you wait, you need to go back to "Go" and start over.

Maybe it's just today. Maybe it's just the edp. (The nice sales rep gave me a sample decant of Eau de Parfum to try, since they did not have parfum. They did have Nahema, Vol du Nuit, and Samsara in parfum however.) I've been circling around this classic for almost nine months now, but this is the first time I've found this effect. I must admit, however, that I've become more liberal in both my spraying and my huffing, especially on return visits.

Let me know. If you try to call, let it ring a few times before giving up...I'm gonna have my nose stuck to my wrist a lot, and it might take me a moment to get away.