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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Perfumed Past

By Ashleigh

My perfume friends and I have been talking a lot lately about the scents that have shaped our past; evoking memories good or bad, the fragrances of our early years not only established a syntax of sorts for our preferences today, but influence the way we smell, purchase and talk about perfume currently. Our memories of these fragrances conjure up not only the actual odor but, our experiences and emotions associated with it. Time and time again, studies show that our olfactory preferences are based largely on our visceral attachments to a particular smell.

So what is it about your first bottle of Beautiful, or your mother’s heavy-handed use of Emeraude that resonates with you so many years later? From a scientific approach it’s important to know that our smell receptors are in direct line to the limbic system, which is not only the most primitive part of the brain, it is widely accepted to be the emotional epicenter of it. What this means is, by the time you have recognized the scent of ‘rose’ or for our purposes one of our favorite perfumes from childhood, our limbic system has already been alerted; triggering an intimate and deep-seated response. Further, our emotional associations with scent are so powerful, that the mere mention of a fragrance we haven’t smelled in years can elevate our mood. This explains the excitement and school girl giggles we all experienced this week conversing about such perfumes as Cristalle, Love’s Baby Soft, old school Chloe, Samsara and Paris.

Our inclinations toward particular scents are a highly personal matter spanning the course of our entire lives. This olfactory journey that we take is based on our experiences surrounding a certain smell and the memories it can draw out; sometimes from the recesses of our minds. In an instant, a specific smell can transport us back to a different time and no other sense that we have can accomplish this intimate, beautiful time travel. Can I say I loved the smell of Emeraude? To be honest, when my mother wore it, I found it gag-worthy. But now, I look back and remember it, and that particular time in my life with fondness. And that is entirely the point.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Foodie Sunday : Simple Gifts and Sunday Lunch

By Beth

Last week, I got the most unexpected and amazing gift. It wasn’t diamonds, perfume , pearls or even a new Le Creuset casserole, but actually it was even better because I learned that there is nothing as wonderful as the gift of some quality time alone with yourself ! Most of you know that my son Alex has been living in California for the last couple of years and has finally returned home to Cleveland. He made the first part of his move in November, packing up his truck with all of his worldly possessions and making the long drive back across the country, but he still left a condo full of furniture to be put into storage out there, awaiting the day that we would return to arrange it in a lovely new California home . Needless to say, with the addition of his two extra cats, and periodically his lovely girlfriend and Leo my grandpuppy, the house has been fabulously full of life but anything but quiet.

Last week, Alex and his father returned to California to finish the job and drive the last car home , leaving me to myself for about 5 days. Now I’ve been married for almost 30 years and truthfully I’ve never been without Jim for that long , at the most we’ve been apart a couple of days here and there but never 5 totally uninterrupted days. I actually planned it out because I was fairly sure that I’d be really lonely. Well, it turns out that I needn’t have worried. I spent that five days relaxing, cocooned in my home , drinking endless cups of tea, writing and lounging, cooking and reading and generally just enjoying my life in a way that you can only do when you have yourself for company and the environment is as peaceful as this was. I had tons of new perfume samples to enjoy and plenty of time to allow them to unfold. I went out to barn and rode my horse and every evening I had wonderful dinner plans with friends that I don’t get to see as quite as often as I’d like to. I came home happy and well fed and fell between the sheets every night with three snoring cats and my dog at the foot of the bed , clad in my most comfortable nightgowns….horrid, raggedy old flannel things with holes in them, plenty of magazines, cookbooks and more than enough Fracas to keep me warm!

Although I enjoyed my “vacation” immensely , I couldn’t make a habit of it because by the time my darling husband was on his way home, I missed him so much that I could barely stand it. When he called me to say that they’d be in Cleveland by 10:00 am Sunday morning I was ecstatic. He and Alex had a incredible journey of their own, leaving San Diego late Thursday night and stopping in Scottsdale, Boulder and then driving straight through the long snowy night , stopping only for gas, food and bare necessity. The only drawback was that they overestimated their ability to find good food on the endless stretches of snow covered highway and by Sunday when they rolled in they were famished. You can only imagine the joy I felt when on Saturday evening after having Slim Jims, M and M’s and Subway and endless liters of Pepsi for dinner they called me form Nebraska to announce that the only thing that they wanted when they got home was a hot home cooked lunch!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m cold, tired and starving all I can think about is comfort food , which for me translates to anything really rich and cheesy with a garnish of carbs. I thought about it for a moment and set off to make a huge casserole of macaroni and cheese with smoked chicken , laced with endless pockets of creamy smoked gouda , scallions and cream.

Macaroni and Cheese seems to have made a huge comeback over the last few years, not that for me it ever went out of style, but it seems that everywhere I eat there there’s another variation to be enjoyed. This stuff is not like your mothers Mac and Cheese or even Stouffers which I must admit in my weakest moments I still crave! This Mac and Cheese is the stuff of foodie dreams , topped with lobster or pulled pork, Jalapenos or chicken, and even a variation that I’ve seen with grilled steak which I must be honest and say I found a little bit odd. For my family I settled on my favorite variations, which is basically pasta that I fold into a Bechamel sauce that I’ve enriched with tons of cheese and seasonings and topped with a buttered crumb crust laced with toasted pecans.

I adore a smoky flavor and scent in almost anything , so I figured that I would stir in shreds of smoked chicken breast to add a bit of extra flavor. Well, by the time they arrived the house smelled incredible, filled with the rich warm scent of onions, subtle smokiness and melting cheese. I’d set the table and made a salad for each of us, a simple bit of fresh mixed greens laced with a honeyed dressing and a bit of red onion and spoonfuls of the huge blackberries that my husband and son both love and that I usually try to resist buying at this time of the year for all kinds of political and socio - economic reasons. I brought out the casserole and we sat down at the table to eat, enjoying for one brief moment in time the family that we once were, happy to be together again yet knowing that the next bit of time would be one of more transition as Alex navigates his way through the strange spirals of impending adulthood.

The three of us sat together for a long contented while just happy to be in others company and then Jim and I went upstairs and climbed into bed for a bit of a winters nap and a wee bit of alone time. It was bliss. I fell asleep nestled in my husbands arms watching the snow pile up outside. There were no cats allowed and definitely not the raggedy nightgown. There was however more than a little bit of Fracas…...

Many have asked me for this recipe and I’ll try to share it here although I must admit I’m not much for measuring. I’m a “pinch of this; a cup of that” type of cook and I’m always adjusting as I go. But I promise you that if you can learn to make a good cream sauce, that you can make any type of Mac and Cheese that you like. Here’s my tried and true recipe which was my mothers tried and true recipe. I promise that it’s the only one that you’ll ever need.

For one cup of Bechamel sauce you will need:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups organic half and half, heated
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot half and half, continuing to whisk as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a slow boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more as it thickens. Remove from the heat.

Now that you have at least 6 cups of this yummy cream sauce (you should always have more than you think that you need!), all you need to do is season it however you like. For this particular mac and cheese I used garlic, fresh dill, sautéed onions, scallions and lots of chopped chive. Then I stirred in a box of cooked penne pasta, lots of shredded smoked chicken breast and a bag of shredded cheddar and muenster cheese. Then I added about 3 cups of cubed smoked gouda cheese and stirred it all together and folded the whole thing into a buttered casserole. For the topping I used my favorite standby, nothing fancy, just several cups of seasoned Italian bread crumbs sautéed in lots of melted butter with toasted pecan pieces mixed in. Just sprinkle the buttered crumb mixture on the top of the casserole and bake the whole thing for about 30 minutes until it’s bubbly and golden. I love to serve this with a simple salad and a glass of really good ale and anything’s better eaten in the company of those you adore , candlelight, a roaring fireplace and a couple of fat lazy cats!

So now I’m curious....When you’re craving food to comfort you body and soul, what do you eat?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Time Running Out- Puredistance Giveaway

Still waiting for several people to forward mailing addresses. If you signed up and haven't received an email from me on January 26th, please check your spam folder. Have a great weekend, everybody!

Vacuuming Turned Glamorous With Esteban Paris

By Olfactoria

There is really no reason for the prolonged snickering or outright belly laughs that accompanied my announcement to write about cleaning implements. “How would you know about that?” my husband even had the audacity to ask.

Well, I may not be the most dedicated housewife, I may not exactly love to do the cleaning chores around the house, but I know about scents, I know what smells good and I know how to instruct our lovely and very dedicated cleaning lady.

What I want to tell you about today is a very nifty invention – vacuum fragrance!

I didn’t know about the existence of such a thing until a few years ago, when my sister in law gave me some for my birthday. And what a genius invention it is!

You sprinkle one or two teaspoons full of the scented grains, they have a texture like fine sand rather than being too powdery, so no sneezing attacks to fear, on the carpet, or even a wooden floor and hoover them up again. Thereby, while you run the vacuum cleaner, the whole house is scented.

Those machines often emanate a slightly stale at best, at worst an extremely musty odor that is no longer an issue when using a vacuum fragrance.

The best brand to find these little gems is Esteban Paris.

This is a line of home fragrances offering room sprays, diffusers, incense, and candles. In addition they also have a range of sixteen Eaux de Toilettes, which look nice, but which I have have yet to try though.

There are vacuum powders in six lovely fragrances. I like Esprit de Thé, an uplifting and spicy green tea, vetiver and woods blend, Sous les Feuilles, a delightfully green citrus scent with tomato leaf and mossy wood notes, and Teck&Tonka, a soft and warm, ambery cinnamon fragrance with patchouli and tonka adding an earthy and sweet touch. The scents are astoundingly well blended and don’t smell cheap, despite being quite affordable. One little container holds 5 oz. (150g) and costs 14$.

There are three more fragrance varieties I have not yet tested, but names like Terre d´Ocre, Pivoine Imperiale and Ambre sound enticing as well.

Esteban is the only higher end brand I have found that offers Vacuum fragrances, there are several utilitarian brands offering similar granules, but I think the scents go more in the direction of Glade territory. Let us be snobs here, okay?

The existence of such a little luxury like scented grains to hoover up, makes chores much more bearable, fun even. The power of fragrance makes me happy even in such a mundane, yet inevitable setting. And why not use something to lift your spirits when doing things that are unavoidable anyway, you might as well enjoy yourself while doing them.

Okay, enough talk, I am off to clean my carpets…no laughing please!

Image credit: Vintage Ad Browser

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Instant Vintage: Caron Nuit de Noel

By Marina

"You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices."
Pablo Neruda, Your Breast Is Enough

Nuit de Noel is one of those perfumes about which I could never form an opinion. (Clearly there are a few of those, might be a topic for a post.) It's not that I didn't like it, I liked it just fine. I certainly had an utmost respect for it. It's just...something didn't click. And yet it was bothering me that, whenever I was wearing it, I felt as if I was right on the edge of getting the gist of it. You know how a name you can't remember seems to be tickling the very tip of your tongue?

I tried Nuit de Noel vintage, I tried it not-recent, I tried it new. This month, emboldened by the newly sparkled interest in all thing perfume and by re-discovery of certain ingredients, genres and brands, I tried to find a sample of it in the chaos of my sample drawer, had no luck and finally ordered one from Les Senteurs. Which is to say, it was not a vintage sample, and it was an Eau de Toilette. I wore it and enjoyed the fragrance like never before. It still bothered me though that I couldn't formulate what the gist, the tag-line of Nuit de Noel was for me. I knew that I knew it, I just didn't know what it was that I knew, you know? Then the other day (are you still with me?) I put on Chanel No 46, a sample of which has been buried in that limbo drawer for many years. And that is when I finally "got" Nuit de Noel.

You know how vintage fragrances inevitably acquire a certain beautifully hazy quality, a certain delightful indistinctness akin to that of an old sepia photograph?..No matter how different any vintage scents that you might try are, they would have this slight patina of olfactory dust, the texture of old Persian lamb fur, still glamorous but worn so thin that now it looks and feels more like velvet. The kind of texture that makes it hard to distinguish notes in a composition, leaving one with a general impression of a Perfume and a feeling of vague nostalgia. This is what even the new Nuit de Noel smells like to me. It is Instant Vintage.

Sure, I could make an effort and distinguish the brighter flowers (jasmine, rose) in the top notes of Nuit de Noel, the creamy tuberose enhanced by sandalwood in the heart, the Persian fur of the ambery, musky base and the Mousse de Saxe hovering over every step of the development like a ghost of the belle epoque long gone...But I don't want to. It would ruin the sepia magic.

Available in Caron boutiques, at the aforementioned Les Senteurs and at a lot of online discounteres, for example at Scented Monkey, for $30.78 for 50ml of EDT.

Image by Sebastian Faena, to whom I apologize for my photo-shopping.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spring into Spring: Penhaligons Bluebell

By Tom

A few weeks ago when I had the rare and distinct pleasure of chatting with Tilda Swinton she mentioned to us that before wearing the scent created for her, she wore Penhaligons Bluebell. I remembered that If I'd smelled it, I hadn't done so in years so I might want to revisit.

Penhaligons is the veddy veddy British house, 150 years young that is noted for their quiet, ladylike florals. Bluebell is one of those. It opens with a cool citrusy burst of lily and hyacinth, as fresh and green as the first day of spring. Touches of jasmine and cabbage rose come in reminding me of lazy summer days in the garden. Where other houses would add in a white musk drydown, Penhaligons goes to a dusting of clove and cinnamon to give a hint of summer heat.

You would imagine that the Queen Mum or Miss Marple would wear Penhaligons. That doesn't mean that I'm dropping the dreaded "old lady" bomb: quite the opposite. This one is innocence, youth and freshness personified and I would be happy to bathe in it come the hot summer. Were I still living back East I'd be spraying my scarf with it so I could have a breath of springtime while shivering in the cold..

Bluebell is available at Amazon for $120 for 3.4 OZ or at LuckyScent at $110 for 100ML. I received my sample at ScentBar.

Image source,

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Infusion Organique Promotion

Infusion Organique are running a promotion on Twitter in celebration of their new website. The code is Twitter2011, and it's good for 20% off until this Friday.

Puredistance Giveaway Closed. Check Your Email

All samples are spoken for, emails has been sent to those who signed up, and all but 20 people have replied. If you haven't yet, please check your emails and send me your mailing address. Thank you, everyone, for playing.

Perfume and Memory: Holding Back the Darkness

By Donna

One of the most oft-repeated truisms about the sense of smell is how it triggers memories, even those that have long been buried in the past. It applies to every kind of smell of course, but certain things seem to have a more profound effect on people; favorite foods from childhood, the sweet scent of a wedding bouquet, the chalk and ink of a classroom, and of course perfume. Often it's not even our own but that of another that evokes strong emotions; a simple floral cologne favored by a loving grandmother, a husband's bay rum aftershave on his cheek in the morning, the fascinating waft of powder, lipstick and Evening in Paris from a mother's evening purse when she is getting ready for a rare night out on the town. All these things form part of the home movies of our lives, but our fifth sense does not get much respect in our culture so these scent memories are frequently dismissed as sentimental trifles by those who don't understand the effect that scent can have on our lives.

I recently read something that moved me greatly and reminded me yet again of what our olfactory powers can do for us. It is the true story of a career soldier getting ready to go overseas yet again for a long deployment to a war zone, and how he must decide what to take with him. There are those things that are essential for survival itself, the ones he takes because he knows they will be in short supply where he is going, and finally those little luxuries about which hard choices must be made since there is only so much space in a duffel bag, even though these trifles are what keep you connected to your sanity. One precious item is never left behind, however:

“And then finally there is just a plastic baggy with two cotton balls inside. This is your life raft.

The cotton is soaked in your wife’s perfume. It is reserved for the worst days. The days when you need to hold other people up, and yet you do not know where you will draw the strength yourself. The days when grown men cry, and feel that there is no point, and they need somebody to provide a pillar that they can use to pull themselves to their feet again, and it has got to be you, regardless of if you are ready or not, to hold them up, but you are so f**king tired, and worn, and drowning yourself...then, well, then is when these two little balls of cotton come into play. They are your emergency supply of willpower, to be used sparingly, stingily, hoarded, just in case, for those bad days. The perfume is too strong right now, but you know that over a year, it will fade until there is barely more than a memory wafting from that bag. But sometimes, that slightest scent, it is enough. To hold you, and others, up.

And then you are done. There is no more room, nothing more to pack and the only thing remaining is a very long flight to a very foreign land.”

You can find the entire piece here.

I read this with tears in my eyes, both for the unspeakable burden of what we who stay behind ask of our soldiers and for the connections so tenuously kept alive over a long separation, when the idea of “home” is a vision in danger of fading away altogether as it is overtaken by the reality of war and the exhaustion, terror and boredom of life in a battle zone, not to mention the awful, unbearable smells of violence and fear that come with the territory. That just a little bit of perfume could mean so much to a man that it's the most important thing he packs in his bag is yet another reminder that we should not take our sense of smell lightly; I for one cannot imagine what it would be like to lose it. I wonder if this man felt overpowered by his own feelings as he wrote those words, thinking of what it would be like to have only the scent of his beloved for remembrance, and for such a long time.

So, dear readers, what one perfume would you take to war, or into space, or on a long voyage where you had to make those hard decisions about what to keep? What would you bring with you to be your magical amulet of last resort when life becomes dangerous, or exhausting, or unbearably lonely? It doesn't even have to be a physical destination, since we carry life's tribulations around with us; it can be the perfume we reach for in our darkest hour, no matter where we are. Which one has the most memories and associations encoded in your subconscious? My own would be Jean Patou's Vacances, not only because of its great beauty but because it reminds me of a time in my life when I was happy and had just begun the journey of discovering how much I truly loved perfume. It is the essence of longing, of yearning for spring and for a love just out of reach, but also the joy of celebrating new life, with its dewy green grass and tender clouds of lilac, hyacinth and mimosa. It breaks my heart and lifts me up at the same time. The perfumes that are the greatest works of art are so often those which are also the most evocative, both of one's own store of memories and also creating emotions we didn't even know we had inside us until the moment we first smelled them. Which fragrance can do that for you?

Image credit: Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, “Soldier's Farewell at Penn Station” via Tumblr-affiliated image aggregator site Ingénue.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Exclusive Puredistance & Luckyscent Givewaway and Contest. Get Creative! (US Only)

Courtesy of Puredistance and Luckyscent, one lucky reader of Perfume-Smellin' Things can win a bottle of Puredistance scent of their choice (Puredistance I, Antonia or M), in a crystal column (over $1800 value).

How to participate.

Step 1.Today we are giving away 100 samples of the new Puredistance scent, Antonia, on a first come, first served basis. Leave a comment to sign up. We will stop accepting comments after the limit is reached. The comment must include an email address, for us to contact you for your shipping details. Comments without email addresses will not be counted. For your peace of mind, after this part of the contest is over, I will take comments with emails off the site. At this time, the giveaway is for US residents only.

Step 2. Upon receiving your sample, which will be shipped from Luckyscent this week asap, create a description of Antonia. Whoever creates the most beautiful and telling description, will win the crystal column bottle. Not only that, but the winning description will be published on If you have always admired the copy the store uses to sell fragrances, this is your chance to contribute. The description should be no more than 150-200 words. The winning entry will be chosen by Puredistance, Luckyscent and yours truly. To qualify, your entries must be received at no later than February 15th.

Good luck, everybody!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Tune in tomorrow

At 10am EST a huge giveaway will commence on Perfume-Smellin' Things, on a first come first served basis, so please watch this space.

In Search of … More Ingredients: Mémoire Liquide Bisou au Chocolat

By Tamara

Since I was a tiny little girl, I can remember loving different scents. My mother used to call me “her little rabbit” because I was always sniffing. I often put it upon myself to buy her perfume. To this day, I still buy scents for her and my loved ones! I started collecting perfume from a very early age and my love of scent has since taken on a life of its own. My collection of fragrances is too large to count. I began writing about fragrance and studying the art of perfumery nearly four years ago. I am extremely pleased to have found my clan, my people – fellow lovers of scent and perfume who have formed a virtual online community. Marina is one of those people. She inspired me to write. I have always enjoyed, respected and learned from her writing. Therefore, I am tremendously honored and excited to contribute to Perfume Smellin’ Things. When I am not here, I am helping to extend the lives of people with rare disorders for an outstanding biopharmaceutical organization or nurturing the bodies and minds of my little ones. I am the new mother of an inquisitive, sweet, beautiful and strong-willed 2-year-old daughter and an affectionate, talkative, roly-poly 5-month-old son. My wonderful husband has learned the formula to my happiness: indulging my sense of smell often. He has also embraced a similar approach to fragrance as my own. You can also find me at my own blog: For the Love of Perfume. I look forward to growing my clan here on PST and learning from all of you!

It was October of 2007, and as a card-carrying member of Sniffapalooza, I approached various counters at Henri Bendel during the Annual Fall Ball. None intrigued me more than the Mémoire Liquide display, with its apothecary style clear glass bottles grouped by scent category. Numerous, seemingly lit from within, identical bottles sat neatly arranged before me in rows of what seemed liked hundreds (not far from the truth – in reality, over 150 in the collection). Uniform to the eye, they promised a virtual candy store to the nose. I could literally graze here for hours, breathing in the various scents and conjuring combinations of each.

Founders Robin Coe-Hutshing and her sister Jennifer Coe are my personal heroes for first creating Studio at Fred Segal. They then launched Mémoire Liquide in late 2006. Their idea is based upon an ever growing consumer population: one who longs to unveil the art of perfumery and desires their own personally created fragrance. They advocate Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and an idea perfumistas have oft explored: the visceral link of scent to memory.

While modern data suggest all senses are indeed tied to memory, I gladly supported Mémoire Liquide’s marketing concept in the interest of indulging my olfactory sense. With the help of a knowledgeable sales associate, I devised a “cocktail” of scent oils that spoke to me, ultimately creating one scent to wear. It was difficult to decide between a perfume, scented body lotion, bath oil or reed diffuser purchase. Should I go back to that counter one day, my personal fragrance formula may still be on file and I can purchase to my heart’s content. I recall the time spent at the Mémoire Liquide display as captivating, fun and gratifying.

All I have left to commemorate the aforementioned day at Henri Bendel are two scanty samples: Bisou au Chocolat and Mousse de Chene. I have chosen to review the first since, judging by its name; it falls into the Mélange Gourmandise collection. (The scents are broken down into ten aromatic categories.) Gourmands are typically “my style,” especially those that masterfully combine foody notes with spices.

Described as vanilla bean blended with musk “with a touch of unsweetened chocolate,” I agree that Bisou au Chocolat should be a member of the Mélange Gourmandise collection. However, I did not expect a rich, sweet floral accord to headline the scent. Sweet vanilla serves to intensify this mystical flower and its dough-y quality prompts me to declare it heliotrope. Musk resonates on the high, squeaky clean end of the scale. I am not a huge fan of dirty musk, but I do like it dirtier than this. I detect some chocolate but the scent mostly lingers on a sweet, dough-like topic, accented by soapy musk. To my dismay, the high pitch of this scent never deepens or develops. It remains on my skin a sticky sweet, slightly overwhelming combination until it simply fades away. Therefore, on its own I cannot call it my own.

Remembering the idea behind the line, I realize that choosing one Mémoire Liquide oil to review is like tasting one savory ingredient from a gargantuan gourmet meal. It presents only a sample but on its own fails to shine – to be expected. Is not shredded coconut too sweet to the palette by itself, but sprinkled into a cooked shrimp glaze tastes absolutely delectable? Shame on me. I imagine paired with a scent from the Encens, Bois et Epices collection – something like Bois de Figuieur – Bisou au Chocolate could be glorious. Perhaps another Sniffapalooza will lure me back to New York City and the Mémoire Liquide display. Better yet, I think I hear my name being called by the lovely associates at Studio Fred Segal in Los Angeles. I am certain they will assist me in my quest.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tom's Foodie Sunday #1

By Tom

I'm kind of a foodie. I don't really cook for myself since I live alone and learned long ago that I don't do leftovers. I was taught that wasting food is a sin, that there are starving people in the world that would be very happy to get those cooked carrots (then, pray send them to them, Mother..) and the result was that for years I would dutifully wrap the half of the dinner I hadn't finished up and put it into the icebox, where it would sit balefully staring at me until I moved it it the freezer. It would still be there when I went for the ice cream (or more likely the Vodka), a small frozen reproach to everything I was brought up to believe. Eventually I learned to just let it go, and pick up something from the salad or soup bar, or a cooked chicken leg and call it a night. No hassles, no leftovers, no fuss.

I do still like to cook and did so with one of my oldest friends. We would cater events together. Our whole friendship was founded on food; we met in the eighties when I got my first job out of college, at Dean & Deluca in SoHo. I ended up working for her in the pastry department and we became fast friends. Over the years we catered friends weddings and theater openings and did numerous parties at her (various) homes. We assembled canapés in a room under theater 2 at the old Tiffany Theater on Sunset, hunched over in a windowless room with a five foot ceiling and a light fixture that strobed so much I thought I was going to develop epilepsy. We baked a wedding cake in a borrowed Brooklyn kitchen, drove it and then decorated it in a hotel room in the Catskills, cutting gum-paste decorations out with my library card since we goofed and only packed one knife. We cut out cookie-sized tortillas and bought cheap camp stoves in Little Tokyo to make individual quesadillas for a friend who was trying to get people to invest in his circus, clowns unicycling around us.

We were nuts.

But there is something wonderful about cooking, and cooking with someone with whom you have a rapport. We're the sort of friends who don't need to talk all the time. We can watch an old movie and chop our endive or bake our pies. My friend is the baker. Is there a better smell than baking? Smart realtors often put a sheet of sugar cookies in the oven before an open house; the smell of baking cookies could make the most Addams Family of houses seem that much more homey. I maintain that my friend is the better baker than I since I like the more free-form things to make that give you more leeway. Baking requires precision; even doubling a batch of brownies can change the outcome for the worse.

The one thing I do bake is Biscotti. They are marvelous: delicious and very easy to make: mix up, form into a loaf, bake, let cool, slice and bake again. While Foodie Sunday isn't going to be recipe central (at least from me, since my recipes tend to be "buy food from Gelsons and eat it". But I will mention that Googling will get you about 300 decent recipes and that any of them that have say, cranberry pistachio can easily be changed to almond or plain with grated lemon zest. Your house will smell delicious and you'll be very popular in your 'hood.

If you're a baker, why not share some of your favorites?

Image source,

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Fit with Home Scents! A Novel Approach

By Olfactoria

This week, in the spirit of getting off the couch and losing all those extra Holiday pounds we piled on, we are going to learn about a more physically challenging way to scent our homes than just lighting a match or putting up fragrant bottles and sit back lazily.

We are going to use room sprays!

I developed a sure fire method to evenly scent all the rooms of your home while staying fit and healthy at the same time.

Take a scented room spray of your choice and start in the room farthest from the front door of your house.

Now here is the trick: Go into the room right until you almost touch the far wall, then start going backwards, your arm stretched out in front of you and depress the nozzle firmly. Then, all the while going backwards, spray again, but this time swivel your upper body to the other side. Swivelling from right to left (or the other way around if you happen to be left-handed) move backwards out of the room, spraying merrily all the way.

This exercise improves your hand-eye coordination as well as upper arms, back and legs.

In the next room proceed as before, until you reach your front door. If you are accustomed to the movements, try speeding up the procedure.

I can do five rooms in under 60 seconds now, but don’t fret if you don’t come even close, I have been training for years and I am very good.

Please excuse this little detour into wackiness, I promise to stay serious now:

Christmas is so last year, but indulge me if I stay on theme for just a little bit longer and use Annick Goutal´s Noel. I already told you about the candle, I find the spray is even better though, because it transports the freshness of the winter forest it evokes, better than a candle ever could. I also love the bottle, I wouldn’t mind a perfume bottled like that at all.

The German brand Linari offers an extensive range of finest quality home scents. Diffusers, candles and room sprays in twenty fragrances are available as well as a sample set of 14 2ml vials. That is unusual and unique, I never saw a sample set for home fragrances before, I think that is a great way to explore the line.

I have Natale, which smells wonderfully of almonds and oranges, adds a little spice with lots of cinnamon and ends with a creamy vanilla note. It is great in winter, not necessarily only around Christmas, as it is very cheerful and cozy at the same time. I promise this is the last time I go on about Christmas, I do realize – it is over

Henri Bendel Home Fragrances used to make wonderful room sprays that were great value and came in a range of good scents. Sadly they are not available any longer (as confirmed by Henri Bendel, NYC), I tell you about them anyway, since they still offer candles and diffusers though, in most of the same scents. The room sprays can still be found on eBay from time to time.

A very good bet for a great room spray is Diptyque.

The line is extensive and high quality. I love the fragrances for home and humans Diptyque makes, and I am especially fond of the design. I am easily swayed by how something is presented. The beautiful back and white design of Diptyque says classy and elegant to me.

In an ideal world I would have a little cupboard holding the entire range of Room Sprays by Diptyque, and I would select a Scent of the Day for my home, just as I do for me. Being a normal (no comments, please!) person with a normal budget I have to pick favorites, and as hard as Diptyque makes that, because they are all very good, my favorite scents of the moment are Figuier, Feu de Bois, Feuilles de Lavande and Freesia. For a great winter scent Pomander also needs to be mentioned. But now I will stop. Cyprés – great. Okay, I am done now.

There is one more item I would like to mention: Aqua Di Parma Ambra Room Spray. I like this fragrance’s warm woody violet scent. Notes include Ambergris, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Cedar and Violet. It is not a traditional amber, but provides a very nice twist through the inclusion of violets. I wouldn’t mind seeing this one as a perfume as well.

Armed with recommendations and my incredibly valuable and helpful tips for staying fit and healthy, we can start the New Year in a great smelling home.

See you next week!

Image courtesy of Thank you!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Fête Accompli: Hilde Soliani Conaffetto

By Marina

Falling in love with one orange blossom scent was surprising, falling for another one is really pushing it for me. Add to that a renewed interest in jasmine and a sudden craving for roses...Body rebelling against winter, refusing to seek comfort in the usual warm-resinous cold -weather comfort scents and instead trying to find it in an escape to ever-blossoming, ever-summery nevernever lands?

Conaffetto is certainly escapist. It might not carry you to a faraway exotic paradise. It would take you as far as down your memory lane or down the path of your imagination, to "that place between sleep and awake where you still remember dreaming", where images of real, imagined, read-about-in-books, seen-in-movies childhood excitement and happiness dwell. Conaffetto is a smell of a Fête, which you maybe experienced or maybe only hoped to experience, a perfect celebration or an ideal carnival, where everyone is happy, clowns are not creepy, each throw of a dart wins you a stuffed animal, cotton candy never melts and the air is fragrant with trees in bloom. (As an aside, fragrance has been inspired by a wedding, and it certainly fits that inspiration just as well, just replace clowns with uncles.)

After smelling first of sugar, plain and simple, then of bitter-sweet almonds, then of sugared almonds...a startlingly true-to-life replication of those candies ubiquitous to certain events, which, at real life celebrations, look better than they taste, much like most wedding and birthday cakes (but not at this Fête!), Conaffetto transforms into an orange blossom dominated composition. I probably wouldn't recommend this to someone seeking an almond scent, the realistic almondy feel is too short-lived for that, but certainly would to someone looking for an interesting take on fleur d'oranger.

Funny as it might sound, even sugar doesn't make the blend smell overly sweet, and orange blossom puts a stop to any potential veering towards sweetness by being tangy, fresh and verdant. What intrigues me in this perfume the most is an unexpectedly raw, dare I say almost earthy feel...Does anyone remember Sloth by S-Perfume? The sadly discontinued Wasser's creation had a unique undertone, which I called "boiled courgettes"...I could also call it "boiled potato skins"...As it was the case with Sloth, this raw aspect brings a tinge of melancholy to the otherwise joyful Conaffetto. Nothing too existentially heavy here though, this is the melancholy of realization that it's late, and the Carnival is closing for tonight...but you know that tomorrow is another day and the Fête will go on.

I believe that Conaffetto will be available later this year, probably from the usual Soliani stockists like Luckyscent and New London Pharmacy.

Image, Ocean Club Sea Carnival by Sally Caldwell Fisher.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

INeKE Contest

Winter Roses. Fatale West: Xerjoff Damarose, DSH dirty ROSE

By Marina

"O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm.
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy."
The Sick Rose by William Blake

Sometimes one wants to be comforted, sometimes one wants to feel danger(ous). For such a mood, nothing is more suitable than Dark Roses. Xerjoff's new rose chypre, Damarose, is one of them. The composition lures you in with the playful flirtatiousness of a fruity accord, a tangy, non-sweet blend than made me think of red currants and cranberries...don't let it fool you with its coy smiles though...the innocent flirt of fruits, pink roses and freesia will turn into heavy-lidded seduction, and smiles will become come hither pouts as soon as patchouli enters the scene. Damarose is très recherché and even patchouli, ever the wild child, is elegant here, its earthiness stylized, shown just a little, better to intrigue you...its slight chocolate-like undertone ever so discreet, just noticeable enough to tempt. The ambery, musky base is the texture of silk...dark, dark maroon silk. By the time the drydown comes, you realize that roses, which in the beginning seemed to be pink, fresh, innocent and always in a good mood, are in fact anything but. However, at that point it's too late, you have fallen hard for the fatal charms of this chic creation.

While Damarose is a vamp in a figurative sense, dirty ROSE might possibly be the actual creature of the night. In contrast to the dressed-up, Parisian elegance of Xerjoff's offering, DSH's has something wild about it. Damarose's earthy feel was something of an affectation, here the rose is truly dirty. I'd switch the capitalization, and call it DIRTY rose. "The rose is blasted, withered, blighted, its root has felt a worm..." It won't bother luring you with faux sweetness, it will bite you right away with spices. Geranium and pimento give the blend a wonderfully sharp feel in the top notes; the heart is a sacrilegious mix of sacred and base, incense and patchouli; the drydown is the wicked woods from which you'll never want to find a way back home. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz recommends this rose for men, and I can see how it can easily be worn by them, with rose hiding all the while behind spices, resins, vetiver and you see it and now you don't...a hint of something red, moving behind the trees...Where was I?...Oh, right, it can easily be worn by men. Having said that, like any dry, leathery, "goth" fragrance of this kind, dirty ROSE is obviously unisex and dare I say would smell even deadlier on a woman.

Damarose is available at Xerjoff's e-boutique, € 500.00 for 100ml, and I assume will be sold soon at Luckyscent...dirty ROSE can be found at, $40.00-$100.00.

PS. I recently revisited Black Rosette by Strange Invisible Perfumes, in its new Eau de Parfum concentration, and fell hard for it all over again. This is a Dark Rose extraordinaire, the very epitome of Dark Rose-iness. If my memory serves me well, the new blend has less of a "leathery like lapsang-souchoung" and more of an "actually leathery" quality. I don't know if I particularly care for the loss of the tea note. But I am thrilled that I can now finally spray this nocturnal masterpiece. (Available at and Barneys, $220.00 for 50ml.)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Roses. Comforting East: By Kilian Rose Oud, Keiko Mecheri Attar des Roses

By Marina

"You love the roses - so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!"
Roses by George Eliot

I woke up on January 1, 2011 with a craving for rose perfumes. I don't know where it came from, when for a couple of years I have been suffering from an affliction similar to that of Bulgakov's Pilate ("More than anything in the world the procurator loathed the smell of rose oil, and everything now pointed to a bad day, since that smell had been pursuing him since dawn.") and shied away not only from rose "soliflores" but from blends as well. Wherever the cure of my anti-rose "disease" came from, it clearly was a part of some kind of larger phenomenon, since other incidents of rose-perfume-cravings were reported simultaneously in the beginning of this month, for example, by our own Donna and by Victoria of Bois de Jasmin. Also, birds were falling from the sky and fish were washed ashore...

In any case...Victoria is also to thank for my discovery of Rose Oud. My reluctance to try the new By Kilian was threefold: a) it had a prominent rose note (see above), b) ouds have become trite c) rose ouds have become even more trite. What new can something unimaginatively called Rose Oud add to the genre, I wondered. As it turns out, not much, really, in terms of breaking any kind of new ground in the oud land. But what it does add is delight to the life of its wearer. It is just so...pretty and wearable and delicious, it's impossible not to like it. Nothing complex here: roses + oud + a gourmand undertone, but each of the three components is impeccable, done just right. The roses are dark-pink and oozing nectar. The oud is not going to knock you over with the sharp animalic feel I usually look for in ouds, but it does possess just enough of the beast to serve as a perfect contrast to the beauty of the rose. And then there is this soft, fluffy-creamy...something, a certain edible characteristic not unlike that of White Aoud, perhaps in the mix of cardamom and vanilla...something that makes you unsure whether you want to sniff the spot on your wrist where you sprayed Rose Oud or gnaw on it just a little bit. Like White Aoud, it is a comfort scent to me.

Keiko Mecheri's Attar des Roses is also comforting. Less creamy/vanillic, it still has a fairly edible feel about it, due to the wonderfully "candied" quality of the rose accord. It is as if the petals received the same delicious treatment, which slices of citrus fruits often do, by being generously coated with little crystals of sugar. The accord is set against a drier, leathery one, and that prevents the blend from becoming too sweet. The ambery drydown retains some of the leather and a lot of the rose, giving the composition a nicely rounded effect, both in conceptual and olfactory terms. It is more floral, compared to Rose Oud, and might be a great option for someone not comfortable with ouds (or the price), but seeking the same mood and feel.

Rose Oud is available at Luckyscent, $395.00 for 50ml, Attar des Roses at, $115.00 for 75ml.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Origins of Oud

By Ashleigh

As we look forward to 2011 and observe what’s trending in the fragrance world, one would be have to be hard pressed not to notice all the talk about the scent of the moment- Oud. From Tom Ford to Bond, Kilian to Byredo; everyone is doing it. The exotic, heady, incense like aroma has captured our olfactory attention and it appears as though our fascination isn’t waning. As we dab, spray and sniff our way through this much talked about note, I had to ask myself: What is this mysterious essence, what is its significance and where does it come from?

Formed in the heart of the agarwood tree- a large evergreen indigenous to Southeast Asia; oud is produced in response to infection. Initially pale and light in color; the heartwood turns dense, dark and odiferous as a result of the growth of an insidious mold. The resin, pungent and rich has been revered for centuries for its unique and complex aroma.

As ancient Sanskrit writings will attest- oud has had cultural and religious significance for centuries. Known of course for its distinctive fragrance and thus highly regarded in perfume and incense making; the exotic essential oil has been used in Ayurvedic disciplines throughout history to treat such ailments such as leprosy, ulcers, arthritis, cough and even halitosis.

Cultivated, harvested and traded for thousands of years, the oleoresin we have come to know and love comes with a price- and a high one at that. Increasing demand and depleting resources has made oud not only costly, but extremely rare as well. So when your fashionable and curious nose begs you to venture out and try the all the various versions the perfume world has to offer- remember this: What you hold in your hand and what lingers on your skin is a piece of extraordinary magic that not only smells divine- it was once actually thought to be.

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Le Labo Synesthetic Series - a creative workshop (for our UK readers)

"As part of Le Labo’s mission to increase customer’s knowledge on perfume, synesthetic provocateur Nicola Pozzani will introduce you to a one-of-a-kind series of creative workshops. This is a unique workshop experience currently offered only in Le Labo London.

Le Labo Synesthetic Series is a series of 5 syneshetic workshops about perfume, which will take place once a month, on Sunday afternoons at Le Labo Devonshire Road’s boutique in London. Students will experience perfume by using the 5 senses with a synesthetic approach, which means they will explore the connections between the sense of smell (the one directly related to scent) and the other senses (vision, touch, sound and taste). Students will then develop their perfume knowledge through their sensory perception and their creativity.

Le Labo Synesthetic workshops will be 100% interactive. Working in small groups, Students will learn about Le Labo fragrances and the finest perfume ingredients they are made of. Students will then engage in practical sensory exercises and by doing so will become actively involved in experiencing the connections between perfume and other sensations. This synesthetic experience will help them expand their knowledge of scent. Furthermore, by exploring the sensations perfume can transmit, students will have the chance to experience perfume as an art form, as a creative language and become aware of the creative scenarios that lay behind fragrance creation. They will eventually become more sensitive to scent and gain a newly discovered perception of perfume.

Nicola Pozzani is a perfume professional and Cambridge CELTA qualified English teacher who has combined his passion for perfume and teaching experience to create these workshops. He studied sensory languages and synesthetics at Università dell’Immagine in Milan, where he studied Perfume Science with Jean Claude Ellena. He has worked on sensory and research projects for a variety of beauty and perfume companies. He lives and works in London.

Le Labo Synesthetic Series
When : Every last Sunday of the month from January to May 2011
Time : 4 pm to 6 pm
Where : Le Labo London – 28A Devonshire Street, London W1G 6PS
Price : 45 Pounds
Number of places : maximum 6 per session
RSVP : lelabolondon@lelabofragrances or +44 20 3441 1535"

(From a Press Release)


Monday, January 17, 2011

Tilda Swinton st ScentBar

By Tom

I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Tilda Swinton at ScentBar to celebrate her fragrance, Like This, Both Marina and I were really taken by this little marvel, which manages to have notes of pumpkin, ginger and immortelle but is in no way foodie.

Everyone knows that Ms. Swinton is of course a great actress (she's in town to present at the Golden Globes), what is apparent upon meeting her is that she's a lovely woman, physically and personally. She's tall and willowy, with lovely skin and calm blue eyes and a rather disarming habit of leaning in close when speaking.

She clearly is rightfully proud of her fragrance. She related that she first wore Joy, which was what her grandmother wore. She then wore Penhaligon Bluebell, which I could totally see. She said that she wanted to create a fragrance that was all about her home in Scotland: ginger from baking, pumpkin and carrot from her garden, a bowl of mandarins on the table, and the smell of her puppies paws (lots of people say that puppy paws smell like corn chips, popcorn or raising dough). She said that she wanted something that she could use when she's out of town traveling that would remind her of home. She also let on the next product planned for Like This: a candle. She wants one that will not only waft the scent but highlight some of the smoky, peaty whiskey aspects that are whispered in the scent itself. I asked her if she'd consider reed diffusers as well for those of us who live in wildfire-waiting-to-happen areas. Before we parted company I did have to tell her that I think she's a marvelous actress. Hope I didn't seem like a total goof.

It's so nice to meet someone that you respect as an artist and find an intelligent, warm and delightful person. I'll reiterate what I wrote in my original review: Like This is the best thing to come out of Etat Libre.

Scotland. Got to visit. They produced Ms. Swinton, Alan Cumming and Scotch..

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Foodie Sunday. Why Sunday Dinner?

By Beth

This first “Foodie Sunday” post is dedicated to my mother Barbara Lowenstern Schreibman, who still whispers in my ear and tells me what to do. After all of these years mom, I’m truly grateful .....And to you Marina, Mistress of this lovely blog, thank you for the opportunity to write in a way that continues to expand my soul and challenges me to grow.

Why Sunday Dinner?
One of the most wonderful things to re-emerge in the last few years is what I consider to be a long overdue return to the family dinner table. When I was growing up we had dinner at home every night, my mother insisted upon it. She worked full time with my father, building the wonderful business that sustained us all for so many years and dinner with candlelight every night and wine and a full accompaniment of gorgeous tableware was her sanity. She was the master of preparation, quite often having the evenings meal ready before she left for work and when I got home from school she’d call me and I’d put the final touches on it, pop everything into the oven and set the table to her very precise instructions. This was how I learned to cook and she was an excellent teacher.

Sometimes there’d be a red wine, sometimes a white and always candles! The amount of plates would vary and so would the settings. She always used linen napkins which she kept freshly washed and pressed, her secret was a brick that she kept on the laundry table and when she took her napkins out of the dryer she would immediately fold them and put them under the brick to press them smooth. What I remember the most was the civility and the conversations and the time just being with my parents who were mostly so busy that dinnertime was the only time that we all could reconnect.

My mother was a fabulous cook though and Sundays were when she pulled out all of the stops. Her kitchen was a symphony of scents; curry, garlic and onions, simmering sauces, roses for the table, melting chocolate. We always had dessert because my father required it in the same way that most of us require air , but on Sundays she made it herself . It was always something wonderfully old fashioned, like a chocolate cake filled with whipped cream and ganache or an espresso coffee mousse with ladyfingers or a layered trifle or Floating Island pudding served in the gorgeous cut crystal bowl that I now own. Out came the Baccarat crystal , the antique Haviland porcelain and her grandmothers monogrammed sterling silver.

The sterling well and trees were polished for the evening’s leg of lamb or roast beef and the gold service plates that she loved were set out on the table with the salt cellars and the monogrammed silver napkin rings that she’d used as a child. Later on she got some lucite ones that she loved that had little holes in them for water and flowers. I can remember my youngest niece playing with them and building towers out of the little blocks. That was the best thing about my mother. As formal as she was, I never saw her get upset whenever anything got broken. “What do you think this stuff is for anyhow? ” she’d say. “They rebuild entire civilizations out of fragments of old china so it can’t be too terribly fragile! ”

My mother had blatant disdain for anyone who saved their good things for company only, a sentiment that I completely share. She also felt as I do that even if you didn’t own gorgeous things that this wasn’t the point. Truthfully, who deserves your attention more, certainly not the strangers in your lives. Children that grow up sitting down to eat at a beautifully set table (even if it’s set with paper and plastic!) learn to interact with adults in a much different fashion then kids who eat their evening meal at the drive through. When I asked my son of his memories from his grandmothers table he sighed and said “ The beautiful tureen that was always on the table , the candles and the smells from her kitchen, the fact that my place at her table was always my place, it never changed. “ For him, it was the continuity of his experience that made it so valuable, the fact that he had a place in the world that never changed.

When she died several years ago, it left a hole in the heart of my family that has taken me all of this time to relearn how to fill. My son was hit hard by her absence, running away first to Honduras and then to California in an effort to recover his life which dramatically changed the day that she died. The two of them being Leos understood each other in a way that I was never privileged to and she was his rock. My sister and I throw parties together and they’re wonderful and when we’re all together in California we eat and laugh and really enjoy each other’s company, but in my gut I’ve known that there was still something missing.

The other night, I finally began to understand. Alex has moved home and I decided to cook a wonderful dinner especially for him and his friends. I spent the day trying to decided what to cook and suddenly my mothers voice rang through my head with absolute clarity, telling me to make a veal stew. Now you have to understand, I haven’t made a veal stew in years as I’m generally opposed to it. However I found myself at the Whole Foods in search of free range veal and I brought it home and began the process of flouring it and braising the whole thing slowly in marsala, onions and cream just like she used to. When Alex came home that night, the kitchen was filled with the smells of his childhood; simmering stew, risotto with peas , roasting potatoes and fruity red wines. The effect was instantaneous and astonishing. He stopped in the doorway , closed his eyes and took a deep and satisfied breath. “Mom, the house smells amazing, I love it that I’m home and you’re cooking such a meal”. Now, most of you know that I’m always cooking something, but this was entirely different and I knew it. I asked him if he recognized the smell and he smiled. At that moment, I understood what had been missing for the last three years. You see, in a effort to reclaim what was left of the pieces of my heart, I too ran away and in an attempt to reinvent myself , I forgot entirely how important it is to hold tightly to the beautiful memories , tastes and scents that can warm us in those scary cold moments when we are sure that we’re orphaned and all alone.

Tonight , I’m having Sunday dinner for the first time in many years. Jim and Alex will be there, his lovely girlfriend and several of his best friends. I’ll light the candles, pour the wine and I’m even planning to make one of her desserts which I’ll serve in her gorgeous bowl . The table will be set with her dishes and sterling and there will be roses in the soup tureen. There will be a curried soup , cocktails and an appetizer or two. I’m planning to make one of her favorite dishes, a chicken breast baked with bacon, fried beef and a marsala wine and mushroom sauce. We’ll have mashed potatoes and I will take the skins off, just as she did and I will save the beaters for my son.

I will be wearing Shalimar and her pearls.

All of those sights, scents and beloved flavors connect the dots of our souls in a way that nothing else can ever do. Thinking beings that we are, we sometimes just get in our own way because we forget about the simplest things. We run for cover when life gets too raw, forgetting that there are others to care for, who need the reassurance of the stories and memories that we hold. So please for me and in honor of my mother or yours, wherever you are tonight sit down, light a candle, pour some wine and take a moment to gather around the table with someone who’s important to you. Don’t let another day go by without letting the ones you love know just what they mean to you and if you’re ever in Cleveland on a Sunday night please give me a shout. There’s always a place for you at my table.

All my love,

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Diffusing It! – The Most User Friendly Way To Scent The Home

By Olfactoria

After last week's Candle Post, we are going to take a look at Diffusers today.

Using Diffusers is a very practical and low-maintenance way to scent a room. Just put it up and the rest is great smell.

A Diffuser is a (hopefully pretty) vessel holding a liquid room fragrance, essentially the same as contained in a room spray. You stick in reeds, made from bamboo in most cases, and the scent diffuses along the reeds into the air, evaporating slowly. The practice allegedly comes from Italy, where spices and herbs where put in olive oil and spaghetti were put in as diffusing sticks.

A 100ml sized diffuser lets you enjoy the scent for at least two or three months, depending on the temperature in a room as well as its size. Funnily enough (I am certain there is a perfectly logical explanation for this, but I always abhorred physics, so don’t ask me!) the diffuser in the smallest room in my house, the bathroom, has to be replaced the most often. In large rooms evaporation seems to take longer.

I love that I only need to select a scent I like, assemble it (takes under 10 seconds, even for clumsy people) and need not think about it any more. I am only reminded of their existence when I get a whiff of great fragrance in passing, or when a guest comments or inquires after the good scent.

This is a good thing when you have children, who love to explore, are fascinated by fire or distract you at any given moment, all of which makes open fire (as in candles) a bit of a hazard. I just make sure to put the diffusers high up, then all is safe (except when you have a cat, tune in next week for scent solutions for cat owners).

I have a signature scent for each room of my house. I vary a little according to season or curiosity, but only in the living room. The other rooms tend to keep their assigned smell. My bathroom smells of fig leaves. The kitchen of Vanilla. The hallway always smells woody. The bedroom has Lavender. The boy’s room White Musk. My office smells of Bergamot or a similarly uplifting citrus blend, to keep me awake. The dining room gets Cinnamon or other spicy blends. In the living room I use the fancy stuff, meaning more complicated perfume-like scents, it is the only room where I like variety (and where that is tolerated - if not actively encouraged - by my husband.)

Anthousa (meaning “the perfect bloom”) is a very interesting brand specializing in Home Scents. I love many of their different fragrances, especially Sweet Basil and Heirloom Tomatoes, Fig Leaves and Bitter Almonds and Pomelo and Kumquat are scrumptious. No need to describe them their names say it all.

Italian perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi makes great perfumes, but he excels at making diffusers too. I love that I can scent my living room with perfumes I love to wear myself. Teint de Neige, Yerbamaté and Piper Nigrum are my favorites, each one catering to a very different mood.

A more affordable range of diffusers can be found at L´Occitane. They offer glass and reeds separately, to be filled with the scent of your choice, available in practical refill bottles. Their Fig Tree Leaf Home Perfume is what makes our toilet the best smelling one in the city Your browser may not support display of this image.

Diffusers are my best friends for providing an easy way to keep the home well scented, even if one doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to the topic.

Fragrant Greetings from Vienna, see you next week!

Availability of Anthousa and Lorenzo Villoresi through their websites or on First in Fragrance. In the US, Candles Off Main also carry Anthousa diffusers.

Image courtesy of

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Sukhofrukty: Huitieme Art Parfums Fareb & Providence Perfume Co. Osmanthus Oolong

By Marina

Russian cuisine is all about preserving, pickling, marinating, fermenting, smoking and drying. I grew up eating dried fruits (sukhofrukty, сухофрукты) and somehow have considered them to be a Russian phenomenon. I now know that it is, of course, not so (hello! Moroccan food, to name just one...or Uzbek, to name one in the former Soviet realm!). My subconscious knee-jerk reaction upon seeing, tasting and smelling prunes (chernosliv, чернослив) and dried apricots (kuraga, курага), my two favorite types of dried fruits, is still, however- it's home! I mentioned numerous times before that I love a prune note in perfume. One doesn't come by it too often. The prune-iest of them all is Histoires des Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade. I also smell prunes in L'Artisan Al Oudh, Eau d'Italie Bois d'Ombrie, Serge Lutens Arabie and Chene and the old Sonya Rykiel scent, 7e Sense...that might be pretty much it. I was delighted to realize that Pierre Guillaume's new collection, Huitieme Art Parfums, will add another scent to that list.

Fareb is an acronym for Frais, Aromatique, Résineux, Epicé, Boisé (Fresh, Aromatic, Resinous, Spicy, Woody), which tells you right there to which olfactory territories its composition is going to lead. Apparently, in Hindi and Urdu, the word also means, delusion. Which might be appropriate in my case, since I have no idea whether there is in fact a prune-like accord in Fareb, whether the mix of the star notes, bois d'immortelle and ginseng extract, creates that effect or whether I am imagining it. Smell it and let me know. In any case, the fragrance starts with a somewhat sweet smell of prunes, with immortelle and a hint of leather in the background. As it develops, the prunes become spicier, even saltier, in other words savory rather than sweet, and the blend as a whole acquires what I will rather primitively call a "curry" smell. Which might not be a far-fetched comparison, since curry powder blends often include fenugreek, and everlasting has a fenugreek-like aroma...(I also detect cumin in the drydown.) The image I see when smelling Fareb is that of curried prunes, served on a leather plate...I don't know about you, but I find that idea irresistible. By the way, while googling bits and pieces for this review, I came upon a recipe of spiced pickled prunes and could not think of anything else ever since...

While it is possible to once in a while come upon a chernosliv note in perfume, I haven't smelled a kuraga one until I tried Charna Ethier's Osmanthus Oolong. Now, though kuraga is dried apricots, the smell of the two is not nearly identical. Kuraga smells much more ripe and simultaneously drier (obviously), with an almost leathery undertone. And that is exactly what Osmanthus Oolong smells like, to my nose. Osmathus famously has an apricot-like quality, and the tea note brings a certain smoky leatheriness to the blend. There must be additional fruity and leathery accords that add intensity to the blend, and overall the effect is oddly delicious. The two do not smell alike per se, but the only comparison I can come up with is Daim Blond. Imagine the latter with a more pronounced apricot note, with a smokier, darker leather instead of suede; imagine the composition stripped off any trace of heliotrope, iris and pretense...and you could sort of imagine Osmanthus Oolong....but not really. It is rather unique and a must try for fans of unconventional, non-sparkly fruity fragrances, leather and tea notes, osmanthus and especially for fellow lovers of sukhofrukty in perfume. Surely there are some. Raise your hand!

On this culinary note, I would like to invite you to the first post in PST's Foodie Sunday series, which will be curated by Beth and Tom. Please, stop by this Sunday to find out from Beth, Why Sunday Dinner? Tomorrow, Birgit will be discussing reed diffusers. Have a fragrant and delicious weekend, everybody!

(Fareb is currently sold at Huitieme Art Parfums website, First in Fragrance, The Perfume Shoppe, €95.00 or CAD$110.00 for 50ml, and will probably be available at Luckyscent along with the rest of Pierre Guillaume's creations. There is also a discovery sample kit for €19.00 or CAD$40.00. Osmanthus Oolong can be found at Providence Perfume Co.'s online shop, $25.00-$112.00, with samples also available.)

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blame it on the Scent Twin, Part Eleventy-Three: Guerlain Sous le Vent

By Tom

Well, blame it on her and a good friend with a great job who gave me a thumping gift certificate...

She is the person who introduced me to it on a trip back East when we traipsed all over the East Side sniffing things. I loved it at the time (amongst others) but was going through a period of voluntary austerity (as opposed to involuntary, my seemingly default setting, but I digress. Or I whine.).

As she wrote in Her 2009 post this stuff is fierce.. On me it starts with a super-bright green opening that goes to a marching band of lavender and carnation before settling into a spicy iris and oakmoss. It was meant to evoke the divine Josephine Baker, the first American-born woman to be awarded the Croix de Guerre (for her work against the Axis), entertainer, international sex-symbol, tireless worker for the cause of racial equality and loving mother of 12 adopted children, her multi-ethnic "Rainbow Tribe". I don't know it any scent could possibly capture the woman, but this certainly would be the closest. Nothing too literal (thank goodness no banana leaf), just a scent that sparkles like champagne, winks at the notion of the "jungle" with the green and finally tweaks the 20's notion of the "Créole Goddess" by showing you the sexy, suave yet supremely ladylike woody oakmoss drydown. Reading this you would think that it could be smelled from space: it is actually quite close in (as far as I can tell; I've worn it to work) and short of spraying it directly on clothing I don't think you'll be throwing off a lot of scent. But that fits: Josephine Baker in addition to being an artist, an icon, a hero and a cultural touchstone was above all a lady.

Of course if you do spritz with abandon, prepare to be followed..

Sous le Vent is $305 for 125ML at Bergdorf Goodman and selected Saks Fifth Avenue. My review is based upon my bottle. Thank you Bitsy.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Xerjoff Oesel

Because of you, the heady perfumes of
Summer pain me; because of you, I again
Seek out the signs that precipitate desires:
Shooting stars, falling objects.
Pablo Neruda, Love

By Marina

I was not prepared to like an orange blossom perfume; after being over-exposed to one of those (even if one of the most beautiful ones) for several years, and this time of the year, this is just not a note I appreciate. So loving an orange blossom perfume came as a shock. Another shock was discovering that the exuberantly floral Oesel was in fact meant by creators as a masculine scent. Not that I mind in the least, anything is unisex anyway.

I suppose I can see how the masculinity can be justified: by a certain dryness of the blend, the lack of sweetness one might expect from a mix of orange blossom, jasmine, rose and acacia. And yet...there is something so ...breathily, effervescently feminine about Oesel. The dazzlingly bright orange blossom is the dominant note, to my nose. Aided in the top by a more verdant, sharp citrusy-ness of petit grain, it stays on my skin right though the whole development of the composition, singing louder than the other flowers in the heart and even getting through the sumptuous dark muffle of patchouli and woods in the base. The aroma of this fleur d'oranger is like a sheer, bright yellow of a diaphanous organza fabric blowing in the hot summer wind...The vividness of the note makes one catch one's breath and then go, delightfully, aaahh! ...There is just something so infinitely, vibrantly beautiful about it.

I should emphasize again how non-sweet this floral explosion is on my skin. And despite the brilliant dominance of orange blossom, the composition retains a certain degree of darkness. If Mona di Orio's truly nocturnal, indolic, earthy, complex Nuit Noire and L'Artisan's buoyantly sunny, fresh and simpler Fleur d'Oranger had an offspring, it would have been just like Oesel...a luminous, joyful creature, which throws an unexpectedly dark shadow...

Available at Xerjoff's website and Luckyscent, $345.00-$470.00.

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