Sunday, September 28, 2008


There's a very vetiver karma in the air for me this fall. I've been faithfully entering draws to win samples since crossing into this West Wing* of perfume, but have not been selected for anything. Until this month, when both Ayala Sender of Ayala Morel Perfumes and Helg of Perfume Shrine drew my name for...vetiver scents!

So, here are initial impressions of Ayala Moriel's Vetiver Racinettes and Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance.

First of all, there's no denying the vetiver in either. But the Tauer dances in the light of the sun, while the Moriel pulses in the shade of the forest. (Ah, let the perfume talk begin....)

Vetiver Dance has a somewhat aldehydic feeling, and does indeed do a light-footed "dance" in the upper portion of your nose. A hint of something sweet, yet totally grounded by the vetiver. This to me is a new realm of green, which bridges the span between the (somewhat medicinal) grass of vetiver and bubbles of an aldehyde, with whatever simple syrup holds them together.

Vetiver Racinettes is something else entirely. Whereas Vetiver Dance is going to have you feeling all clean and sparkly, Vetiver Racinettes will set you down in the humus under the ferns, give you a bracing whiff of vetiver, and wash it down with one of the roots under the dirt--sasparilla!! It's the craziest thing; like someone mixed the syrup for a homemade root beer with this thick earthed vetiver, and stroked it onto your skin.

It's funny. I had received the Ayala sample first, and used it a couple of times--once in the midst of my flu-cold, when I hoped it would somehow bring comfort/relief. And, it did. But it didn't engage me as a perfume...until I tried the Tauer, just today. While there is a faint hint of something detergent-like in the Tauer (give me time, I'll nail it down--and it nearly disappears after the opening), I immediately took a shining to it. And smelling it gave me a deeper appreciation of what the Racinettes was accomplishing. In the same way I am happy to have multiple incarnations of my beloved iris, I am pleased to have both of these vetivers on hand.

*That's not a White House, but a "Dark Shadows" reference...ah, the days of youth, walking home for lunch, finding my Mom watching Barnabas Collins and ironing.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

SOTD - Newman's Own

Layers required. Eau de Cologne Imperiale. Mitsouko. Touch of Bulgari Black. Hint of Fleurissimo. Maybe a little Vent Vert.

Apres L'Ondee for the rest of us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A new way to think of blending...

You thought I was going to talk about blending scents, right?


These videos that shill for Total Blender amuse the adolescents in my's a can of pork and beans blended with Weezer.

Have a good weekend....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mental Rehearsal

You perhaps are already familiar with the concept of "mental rehearsal," wherein performers practice by dancing/playing/acting a piece entirely in their head. The concept first gelled for me as a bona fide practice when I heard Yo-Yo Ma explain in an interview that he spent so much time travelling, he had very little time with his cello outside of his performances. Therefore, he used his time on airplanes to mentally practice, going over the intricacies of a piece, imagining fingerings, bowings, phrasings--not just mechanically, but how his body would execute the performance, what he would be thinking, what he was trying to say.

Dancers can do the same, as can actors, surgeons, athletes. When it comes to the body executing a performance, practice makes better...and mental imagery counts as practice. Which is on my mind today, because I miss my sniffer, and have been attempting a little mental rehearsal of the olfactory kind.

What scents lend themselves to rehearsal? Here are a few that my imagination has visited in the past few days. Not necessarily because they are favorites, but because I realize they generate strong and clear imagined physical responses.

The bubbly aldehydes of Chanel No. 5 and Arpege. The upper reaches of my nose actually open up a bit (okay, they try), because when I recall what I would smell, my body remembers how those bubbles of No.5 go right to the top of the inside of my nose and hang there. And hang, and hang. Whereas in Arpege, there's a quick mid-entry period, a zip to the top, and a settling of the bubbles, slowly descending.

The low in my nose, deep in my throat edibility of a gourmand like Ambre Naguile. Which connects me to simply low & sweet and nearly tastable leather or comfort scents, like PG L'Ombre Fauve, Lancome Cuir de Lancome.

Then there are scents that move around, like Hermes 24, Fauborg, which threatens to bubble like an aldehyde (I can feel the vibrations beginning), then settles into a veneer with a rumble underneath (kind of like the way a comfort scent feels, but with a bubbly brook somewhere in the distance).

It dawns on me that this hasn't been a mental "rehearsal" so much as a mental review; I am attempting to recapture, not rehearsing for improvement. Nostalgia embodied, perhaps? Since I was pretty much trying to recapture how I remembered things feeling, as well as smelling, perhaps this is ultimately an opening of the door onto the practice room before the performance is ready. And ultimately, practicing what? Isn't it the perfume that communicates? Or does the way my body works with it count as part of the message?

I recall the soprano in Ann Patchett's Bel Canto making the comment that she never allowed people to see/hear her practice. Would that I had been so wise...nonetheless, thanks for indulging me.

If you've got time for a longer read, there's a nice piece on mental rehearsal and "physical genius" here (a 1999 article from The New Yorker, found on

Monday, September 22, 2008


Consider the equinox. Sun directly overhead, day time equal to night time. Things in balance.

What perfume to wear for such an occasion? Do we bring in those which continue a balance throughout their development? Or which turn equally from one extreme to another, as our day will turn to our night today?

Balanced presentation throughout: Lancome Magie Noire, which continues a steady if subdued rose underneath is animalistic veneer. Armani Pierre de Lune, which keeps the violet and lightly metallic whiff of green going throughout. L'Artisan Fleur de Narcisse, which keeps the tobacco and hay going against narcissus and leather throughout the run.

Turn arounds: L'Artisan Poivre Piquant, which starts as a sharp peppery single note on me, and transitions into a creamy blended skin scent. If you've been reading for a while, you already know that SIP Black Rosette goes here. Molinard Habanita, which continually bounces back and forth between gently fruity floral and tobacco on me--which I guess means multiple turn arounds, so it is good for a few revolutions.

I'm not ready to vote one approach more correct than the other; after all, it's important to maintain a balanced view of these things. But if you've got additions to either list, I'm all--erm, half--ears.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sniffer Snuffed

This is one of those inevitable perfume posts where the blogger reveals that some sort of cold or sinus condition has interrupted the usual {orgy} {delicate, refined, informed exploration} {highly personal, subjective stories} of sniffery.

I found this image along with the instructions for a nose warmer project on http://www.greenlightwrite/nosewarmer.htm/. I'm wondering how to amend it for capturing abilities....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why had I not tried Chergui?

Good heavens, me who loves warm close-to-skin stuff, who can rhapsodize about Parfumerie Generale L'Ombre Fauve...this has been languishing in the samples drawer--for quite a while, based on its relative location.

Anyway, I've been happily huffing my wrist for over an hour now.  I don't quite get myself; not a fan of the gourmands, yet enjoying this clearly sweet thick warm vanilla spice.

Oh, I realize why the little rascal vial hid in plain sight...only now is fall coming.  I've found something I can enjoy during the day job, in the cooler weather--and I can enjoy it without challenging any other sensibilities with too large scent clouds, or the intensities of nether notes.  Hmm; I think this fall I'll cut through rainy days with incense (Black Cashmere, Nu), and deepen the warmth of that fall sun with Chergui. Or L'ombre Fauve or Organza Indecence, or my cheap thrills Eisenberg Jose.

And then there's Narcisse Noir...or...and...    

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eau What a Beautiful Day: Perfume and Fresh Water, Chicocoa Style

I wouldn't have, couldn't have, predicted my interests in perfume and fresh water would come together like this.

Yesterday morning, a cloud of fragrance enthusiasts gathered at the north end of North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  By the time they were done wending their way down the Magnificent Mile, the clouds above had emptied over 6.6" of rain at O'Hare airport, an historical record for the area.  

But the enthusiasm of the group was stronger than the spitting of the sky. The gathering was not daunted.  In good spirits throughout the day, they sniffed and chatted and explored through the day and into the early evening, from L'A (L'Artisan) to Le Z (Liz Zorn).  

It's hard, if not impossible, to ask more from a day than to have a plethora of scent smelling opportunities in the company of a diverse but uniformly delightful group of people, peppered and capped by chocolate.  Nice.  Very nice.

Read dispatches from others...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trial Runs:

I 've heard tell that human beings require seven (7) exposures to a new taste before they can know if they like it or not.  I heard tell of this when learning about "introducing new foods" to the ultimate "newbies": babies adding foods other than breastmilk to their diets.  

Could it be that scent introduction is like that?  How many times have I sampled a scent, and been nonplussed, or worse, felt that it was "ugly," or worse yet, was repulsed by it?  And yet later...I find that a fresh note, or even overall impression arises; or that what was "nope" has become "Hmmm!"

And yet some scents ride a steady line, either positive or not.  Time and time again, they register the same reaction; the steady hitters coaches like at the heart of the lineup, if for no other reason than their predictability.

A quick look at Steady Eddies (Edies?) and Morphing Mojos from the rose family.  

Steady Eddie:
In the postive sense:  Bulgari Rose Essentiale has been, from first spray, a nicely constructed, "true," linear rose.  Nothing more--and, because it is so nicely done for what it is, certainly nothing less.

In the negative sense:  Sheseido White Rose remains a room clearer for me.  Unfortunately, when I try to leave the room, it is still clinging to my wrist.  (Sheesh...I just found Chandler Burr on this d@%! perfume...once again, I am shamed into doubting my reaction.  Skulking off to try it again.)

By the way, I do believe that "scrubber" is to perfume for an adult as "hurler" is to get-it-away-from-me-now food for the young child.

Morphing Monster:
Alexander McQueen Kingdom.  I'm sorry, but it was four tries in, and I still was on the panties side of the fence with this one.  "Cumin" my hiney; I was totally getting the indiscreet note that some spoke of.  No ifs, ands, or (almost) butts about it.  I kind of felt like the kid in "The Emperor's New Clothes"--no, wait, that's too noble.  I was too apprehensive to dare say "this stinks!!," but doubting myself for not getting "ah, the smell of it."  And then, the fifth time -- wondering if perhaps I had a bit of a masochistic streak in me after all -- I found the beautiful rose.  Under...cumin!  and then skank.  But hey, I found it, hidden in the layers, and my spine straightened triumphantly.

Somewhere in between:
Hermes Rose Ikebana.  Three tries, three different reactions:  Meh.  Weird.  Nice.  Notice, none of the reactions were strong...but clearly different.

I'm sure I will discover more morphers, if I'm just patient enough.  

On a side note, as long as I'm chatting about roses:  I retain a strong fondness for the discontinued Bath & Body Works body essence Sandalwood Rose.  A Steady Eddie for me.  Love the body scent, the shower gel, the lotion.  An excellent half faced scent for me:  half "me scent," half "I'm wearing this."  If anybody is harboring a case, contact me for swapping.  ;) 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

To be Natural or Not to be Natural ...

...that is many a perfume lover's question.

While I have returned to this question quite a few times since I started down the perfumery path (having been an aromatherapy afficionado in my not entirely distant past), I recently found two posters who I think make lucid cases on each side of the aisle.  Nathan Branch essentially concludes that he misses the longevity synthetic fixatives can provide a scent, especially when you consider the cost:smell time equation.  Michelle Krell Kidd connects natural perfumery with terroir and the Slow Food movement, and says we should consider sticking with the real roses, however fleeting.

I've got one foot on each side at the moment.  Gardening and aromatherapy--and yes, a sympathy for the Slow Food & eat local movements--mean I am highly sympathetic to the impact of using molecules directly from their associated source.  But I am not free to burn my money, and there is a direct affect upon the budget when scents need to be reapplied frequently.  Not to mention the games you can play with evolving drydown when chemical manipulations come into play.

Hence, I am conducting my sampling in the spirit of moderation:  a little bit of everything....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Retention Game: Great Lakes as Measure of Lasting Power

Ever heard of a lake's retention period?  Basically, it's how long it takes Mother Nature to perform a complete water change.  Being a fan of our tremendous fresh water resource AND fresh to perfumista-dom, I thought I'd explore categorizing the lasting power of a given scent according to our Great Lakes' retention periods.

Here's a spare model, which clearly could use some developing:
  • Lake Erie*, retention period 2.6 years  =  Flower waters (rose, jasmine)
  • Lake Ontario*, 6 years = Guerlain Eau de Cologne
  • Lake Huron**, 22 years  =  Liz Zorn Sunset Rider, Chanel Bois des Iles
  • Lake Michigan**, 99 years  =  Givency Amarige, Lanvin Arpege
  • Lake Superior*, 191 years  =  Guerlain Shalimar

Feel free to help me out here!  Which perfumes are you still wearing the next morning (=Lake Superior); which are gone before the cocktail hour--which we know is 3 hours--is over?

retention periods gathered from *The Great Lakes Atlas,, or the Wikipedia entry on "lake retention,"

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Kind of Violet (Les Nez, that is...), no--rats!--drydown happens

Hoo-ha!  My sample of Les Nez "The Unicorn Spell" arrived today.  I'm still in the midst of drydown antics, but oh my, I did enjoy that dirty (and I mean dirt here, as in earth, not skank) dark shadow opening.  It's turning into a relatively common candied violet, but so much more interesting this way.  I am entertained.

We'll have to see if I decide to move beyond the sample, but I am entertained.  And I really don't mind the idea of having a Choward violet on my wrist.

As for the Geir Ness "Leila" on my other wrist, well...let's say I have done my duty to marital fealty and sampled the Norwegian scent.  It's clean-flowery enough, but I think it is supposed to be a shower gel.  Or scent for hair gel.  


Yup, it's Choward on the left, '80's hair product on the right.  Drydown happens.


And a couple of hours later, it's barely there, that violet, but back to having a hint of dark, and has largely dropped the candy.  The Leila is like a middle of the road Yves Rocher perfumed shower gel.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Told you so.

Event Scent vs. How I Want to Smell

I'm exploring the idea of categorizing perfumes in one of two columns:  In column A, Event Scent.  In Column B, Me Scent.

Event scents are the ones whose mere presence is an event.  They are performers.  They make you pay attention.  Not because they slap you across the face (or smother it...can you hear me, beautiful but room only for you Fracas?), but because either through their development, or the way they transport you through memory and time, you find yourself paying attention to them instead of your environment.

I mentioned SIP Black Rosette the other day as one of those perfumes.  That's one in the development category; you find yourself ignoring everything else so you can follow its development.  Then there's En Passant, on my wrist as I write, transporting me to beautiful spring, gone now, on a day when I know fall will soon be gone, too.  There's Arpege, which not only has a development event, it goads my musician self into seeing if I can identify intervals.  And there's any number of I Hate Perfume iterations, but I'll refer to Black March, because it gobsmacks me into the middle of one of my pots when I'm out with the terracota, dirt, and flats of plants on a spring day.  (I know other people get earth dirt, but I get potting soil, all the way.  Love it.)  

Opposite the Event Scent is how I want to smell.  Not simply an amplification of my own "au naturel," as it were, but a scent that extends me.  What was that line about "making me more than I am?"  There's Parfumerie Generale L'Ombre Fauve.  I could disappear into that one myself, a delicious creamy musk that is ever so slightly sweet on me.  Leather you lick.  Also from PG, Bois Blond.  That makes me feel like I'm wearing a little bit of my favorite patch of forest.  I know, not a direct association.  It's not a Christopher Brosius creepily on target re-creation.  It is an impression, and I like the way it smells, and the way it smells on me.  And then there's L'Artisan Fleur de Narcisse, which never lets you settle into thinking it's "pretty," but is a beautiful trip through a true narcissus, and hay, and what not.  Compositions, these are, in every sense of the word.

Unfortunately, this event scent/my smell duality leaves me with a few knots.  What, for example, to do with my Chanel loves?  Bois des Iles.  (Sighs.)  This is gorgeous, but I both get caught up in smelling it as wanting to smell of it.  Those aldehydes draw attention.  They're a bit showy.  They live on their own.  This means it is not a "what I want to smell like" perfume, but a "what I want you to smell on me" perfume.  There are others:  Bel Respiro.  Amarige.  (Actually, I think you could put white florals in general in this category, as far as I am concerned.)  And bridging the gap between:  Lancome Magie Noire.

Shalimar?  I love to smell it, and love to smell it on me, but I harbor no illusions that it is a part of me.  Event Scent.  Musc Samarkind?  Gently sweet, but a hint of animal that rides close to my skin and makes me double check every time I sniff.  Me Scent.  


Monday, September 1, 2008

Perfumes that Have Rocked My Boat: SIP Black Rosette

First sets of samples were in hand.  Collections of violets, roses; an introduction to perfume types.  It was Day #2 for me.  I thought I’d venture into roses first; not so sweet as violets, I imagined; not as serious as a Perfume 101-type review.

But I wanted something...not fussy.  Not old-fashioned.  And not single note.  (Oooh, see how I already was incorporating lingo?  “Single note.”  Cool.)  I pondered the names.  One appealed:  Black Rosette.

Would it be dark?  Smokey?  Tea rose, because that’s were you find the dark flowers?  Open vial, apply wand...

Uff-dah!  What in the world was THAT?  Chemicals?  That sure wasn’t a rose.  Double check the vial.  Yup, “Black Rosette.”  Sniff wrist.  Whoa, that is’s riding high up in my nose, it definitely has a ...what in the world? acetone? something burning? something in between... smell.  Maybe the decanter made a mistake.  Maybe it turned.  But you know what’s weird?  I’m sniffing my wrist again.  Not only am I trying to figure out what this is, I’m kinda liking it.

And I kept sniffing, trying to figure out what was going on, amused that I was sort of enjoying it.  Then the most amazing thing happened.  A rose started peeking through.  And to this gardener’s nose, a beautiful rose; like a gallica.  Sniff again.  Something’s happening, and I can trace the progress IN MY NOSE.  I read, I watch films, I listen to the radio...but I have never had character development happen entirely in the realm of scent.  Here it comes...the chemical-ly smell was nearly gone, and a relatively simple--but not one note--rose was in front of me. 

An extraordinary moment of comprehension.  It was as if somebody were whispering in my ear ("development/dry down/top notes/bottom notes"), even as the molecules poured past my receptors.  I was like Helen Keller with her hand under the pump and Annie furiously signing w-a-t-e-r.  Perfume can do this?  

Bring me back.  I want some more.