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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Roses Musk by Montale

By Tom

I blame Kelley for this one; he was the person who turned me on to Montale back in the day.

Most people know Montale as the house that Aoud built, They are deservedly well known for playing the note like a fine instrument, having done so long before everyone decided that the note was this years fruity-floral. I have and love several of them.

This might have to join them.

Aoud isn't listed as one of the notes, nor is ambergris, so perhaps it's Montale's special blend of musks that give the roses that salty skin bite. The roses are lovely; ripe smelling as if they were just opening to the warm summer sun, the dew still on the petals. These aren't blowsy, big roses; it smells to me like sunbathing in the garden.

It's something I would in real life would never do, but it's very nice to have a scent substitute.

$140 for 50ML at LuckyScent, from whom I got the sample.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do You Know a Slow Nose?

by Marla

I’ve become very drawn to the Slow. It began in Italy. It began with food. Delicious Italian food. Carlo Petrini was ticked off in 1986 about the opening of a McDonald’s, and he didn’t like fast food, period. So now we have Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Design. What does Slow Perfumery look like?

Slow is the love of where you are. Slow is local. Slow is taking your time (duh). Slow is caring about each and every product you make. Slow is highlighting special things grown or made only in your neck of the woods. Slow is about taking some breaks, a few naps, some time to roam around and ponder. Slow is sustainable. Slow is honoring your own community, and honoring other unique communities, too. Slow is quality. Slow is buying less often, but buying well and loving it.

Do you know a slow nose? Do you know a slow company that specializes in aromatics or aromatherapy or perfumery? I’ve interviewed a few here on PST: Jane Cate (Wing and a Prayer Perfumes), Dabney Rose, the attar families of India. I’ve worn the wonderful creations of a few others: Elise (Bellyflowers Botanical Perfumes), Roxana Villa (Illuminated Perfumes), Anya McCoy (Anya’s Garden Perfumes), dupetit (Germany).

Please leave a comment and tell me about what you know of Slow Perfume! Let’s get this slow ball rolling!

-My family recently became certified as sea turtle rescuers, so I thought I’d use images of sea turtles. They’re (slowly) nesting on our local beaches right now!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Summer of Patchouli Love, Part One: The Cool Kids

 By Donna

Perfume-Smellin’ Things has been invited to participate in one of the biggest group blogging projects to date, and certainly the most complex one that I have ever been involved with. Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals and the Perfume Pharmer blog has coordinated a truly impressive array of natural perfumers, testers (“The Patch Test Bunnies”), judges including our own Marina who owns Perfume Smellin’ Things, and even celebrity participants, all centered on one concept: Thirteen natural perfumers were challenged to create a an alcohol-based fragrance in Eau de Parfum (at least 15% oils concentration) with at least 25% pure patchouli essential oil in the mix. As assertive as this material is, it required a lot of ingenuity to make a perfume that smells like something other than patchouli with this rule in place! The intriguing part of this exercise is that only Monica knew who made which perfume; the samples were sent to the Patch Test Bunnies in anonymously numbered vials, and we had to test them on merit alone; we were not informed of any of the other ingredients either, all we knew about was the patchouli. (We knew the roster of perfumers though, and it’s a stellar cast indeed!) This is my take on the fragrances, which ranged from delicate to extremely bold, and showcased both the talent of the perfumers and the versatility of the material itself.

The taming of the Green Monster may not be easy, but the results were rewarding. My own skepticism about patchouli was really put to the test – in fact, I think Monica wanted me on the panel precisely because I am not the kind of patchouli fan who would ever wear the stuff by itself, and it’s just too much for me in any number of commercial fragrances. What I like about it is the mysterious dark green character it lends to a more complex composition, shoring up and providing a sturdy framework for chypres, Oriental blends and even gourmand scents. My patchouli adventure has been very enlightening, as I began to see just how much it contributes to the perfumer’s palette, and how indispensable it has become in its long history of being used to scent our world. At the end of this series there will be a prize draw, so stay tuned. Let’s get started, and may the best perfume win!

I tested all the perfumes on paper strips before I wore them on my skin so I could become better acquainted with their individual qualities. (I decided to use a “high school clique” theme because the Summer of Love and its ensuing cultural shift was a phenomenon born of teenagers and young adults, and I was old enough to remember it, so you can imagine how much patchouli I have smelled in my life!) First up are the ones I named “The Cool Kids” because they focus on the refreshing yet calming quality that patchouli can contribute to a perfume when it’s matched with certain ingredients that bring out that part of its complex character. Not surprisingly, a good number of the submissions fell into this category while others bordered on it. Number 6 is a sparkling cologne style scent with a brisk woody feel in which lime and bergamot are lively players. I liked it very much and I wish I could have a big bottle of it for splashing on in summertime. I am not usually one to wear a lot of traditional eau de cologne style scents but I would certainly wear this. The patchouli makes itself known but is matched well with the other elements and is not overly dominant. It is the kind of fragrance that announces its “masculine” intentions right off the bat, but women can easily get away with wearing it since it lacks the dreaded “sport” accord so often found in mainstream perfumes made in this style. Long live the naturals!

Number 5 was another favorite in this category for me, because it pairs up the patchouli with a charmingly sweet lemon note and a hint of tea (I think) that is really attractive. The lemon is somewhat candied, which masks the patchouli’s pungency. It got even sweeter on my skin, while on paper it was much more citric. I really enjoyed this one and it came close to making my top three, but in the end I wanted the lemon to last longer and my skin tends to amp up sweetness, so the part I liked best did not last long enough. On the other hand, this would be a great comfort scent and it’s user-friendly to the max.

Number 7 was a bit similar to number five, but with a definite character of green tea to it, which was a great partner for the patchouli. Lots of citrus and a somewhat delicate and flowery feeling made this one stand out. I love the aroma of green tea so this was in the running as well. The patchouli in Number 7 seemed to be a particularly refined sort, miles away from the “hippie oils” that have caused so many people (including me) to react against it in recent decades. This is exactly the kind of fragrance that might change quite a few minds about patchouli. The green tea was very pronounced on paper but on my skin it gradually became sweeter. I like sweet tea as much as anyone but I want my green tea straight up, and my skin just morphs this one into something a little more sugary than I would have liked. I can’t blame the perfumer for this, however, since I tend to do that anyway and I can’t change my skin chemistry. Had it not been the case this would have been an outstanding choice for a green tea scent.

Number 12 was tilted to the masculine side of the equation, a “men’s cologne” type to my nose that was grassy and also had a green tea feeling to it, although not as pronounced as it was in Number 7. It did not develop the sweetness as that one did, but it felt just a little simple and unfinished to me, like a very good idea that could have used more time. I ended up liking it more after extended testing on skin, but it smelled too similar to some other natural perfumes I have tested recently so perhaps that skewed my perception. I would go so far as to call it rustic, but in a quiet way, and the patchouli itself was of excellent quality. It’s another one that is probably best appreciated in really hot weather, which has been notably absent here in the Pacific Northwest so far this year.

My favorite among the “cool kids” was Number 14, a really outstanding fougère style fragrance that reminded me somewhat of the wonderful Wild Fern by Geo F. Trumper. It begins with a bang as fresh, exhilarating and soapy neroli hits the nose, followed by the classical fougère construction rendered in an especially green and appealing manner. I came very close to putting this in my top three and I went back and forth a number of times. I am a big fan of green fragrances, and I am also a fan of Number 14. It is polished and expertly done, well balanced and employing a very smooth and agreeable patchouli, and the only thing that kept it off the podium was lasting power; it got a little unfocused after a couple of hours and went away not long after that. Of course, if I had a nice big bottle of it, I could reapply it as often as I want!

To see all the participants in this project, including previous blog posts leading up to the main event, which will run throughout the summer of 2011, please visit this page on Perfume Pharmer. Some of the writers will have their reviews published there as well while others will post on their own blogs, and all the links are on this page. You can also get a sneak peek of everyone’s top three favorites! We even have celebrities on board, including Kim Novak (!!!), Mary J. Blige and Jodie Foster, and an international roster of perfumers who graciously agreed to lend their considerable talents to the challenge. Peace, Love and Patchouli – PLAP - to everyone!

Image credits: Summer of Patchouli Love logo courtesy of Monica Miller and created by graphic artist Elizabeth Whelan.

Photo of “Summer of Love” celebrants in 1967 via, original source unknown.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drinkie Sunday: Whining About Wine

By Tom

Cocktails are something I rarely indulge in these days. I'm not quite sure whether that is due to a more delicate constitution or just a desire to be less drunk. It doesn't help that we in Los Angeles are so spread out. I've been out to dinner in Highland Park and thought about a second one of Villa Sombrero's excellent Margarita to wash down their equally excellent tableside-made guac, but then the thought of three freeways and the curves of Coldwater Canyon going home makes the idea of being even one sheet to the wind less than attractive. So for me these days, it's wine. It's even worse then you think: it's wine spritzers. Yes, I have started quaffing at parties that classic of the bell-bottomed, key-partied 70's. Why? If you mix them correctly you can sip for hours (even days) without consuming enough alcohol to be impaired, yet you look like your "drinking".

The recipe is dead simple:

In a tall glass filled with ice, pour:
a splash of white wine
club soda
add a slice of lime

That's about it. The trick here is that the wine should be a cheap one, like a Barefoot or a even a Gallo. Watering them down doesn't hurt them and you aren't wasting money. Don't use something really good or expensive; that's like adding Diet Coke to your Courvoisier. Don't use something like Vendage, which will still taste awful even when diluted.

Actually, stay away from Vendage, period. When we had book signings at the store I worked at we would serve it because we were cheap and knew that even the most hardened boozer would not ask for a second glass of this tooth enamel removing swill. So only serve it people you don't like.

What are your tips for a light, summery cocktail when you want something but don't wast to commit to full-on booze?

Image source,

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Underneath The Ashes – Review: Idole de Lubin

May I just say, to get the pesky things out of the way, how much I do not like that bottle. I refrained from saying “hate with a passion” since that would be putting entirely too much emotion into that essentially irrelevant issue, but just to be clear, I do not enjoy the visual input of that bottle, Serge Mansau creation or not. So, that is that.
Idole was released in 2005, the name is borrowed from another Lubin fragrance from the 1960ies, but the juice is not the same. Idole was created by Olivia Giacobetti.

The notes include rum absolute, saffron, bitter orange peel, black cumin, Doum palm, smoked ebony, sugar cane, leather and red sandalwood.

How does it smell? It sure sounds like a heavyweight from that list of notes. But remember – we are dealing with the Queen of Translucency here. I have yet to encounter a dense and heavy Giacobetti scent. ( I am willing to be corrected of course!)

The first thing that comes to mind is some kind of cocktail. Spices swirling in a heady cloud of alcohol, but as soon as the rum note wears off, the orange and spices shine nicely on a backdrop of leathery wood. It is not at all strong, it does not project very far, but stays rather close and is gone after three hours. There is fruity-ness to the top that I do not entirely enjoy.

I start to appreciate Idole about an hour into wear-time. It is then that the spices take on a dark, subdued glow, like the remains of a fire, the coals still glowing under a heap of ashes. The drydown is sweeter, making it cozier, something to sink into after the stormier, more exiting ride that it was before.

Idole is probably ideal on a man, I would love to smell it on a man, unfortunately my own is of the opinion that he has found his scent of the year, and I am welcome to approach him with perfume wearing requests again in 2012.

I’ll update then.

Image Credit: flickr

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Which Tom Got Nothing

By Tom

I got nothing.

First- the winner of the smellbent draw (via is Queen Cupcake. Please hit the "contact us" button to get a shipping address to me.

Second, I have no perfume review this week. As I mentioned on the Posse, I hurt my back and have been marinating in various creams and unguents that are so highly scented that no perfume could survive. Or if they could, no elevator-mate could survive the mix. I always wonder if those aggressive scents are part of the medicine or masking something that's far worse? I'm thinking that by the time this is posted that I will be free of twinges, capsaicin and menthol. But I do have to give an unpaid shout-out to Aspercreme Gel. It's the bomb.

If you have any tips for pleasant smelling pain rubs, let us know in the comments.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Can’t Smell A Thing!! (or why I hate Narciso…)

By Nosy Nerd Girl (aka Marla)

I am one of the 40% of the human population who are anosmic to macrocyclic and polycyclic musks. I fully admit it, here on PST….

Are you out there, my musk-challenged brothers and sisters? If so, will you come out of the closet and join me?

What are these musks? Why can’t we smell them? Why are we ashamed we cannot smell them?

Well, originally, musks were animal in origin. Many mammals have musk glands. I’ve smelled tiger musk (a bit much for me), and deer musk on living deer (very fragrant). I don’t think animals should be killed for their unique smells, but on the other hand, weren’t headspace technologies supposed to make these available without the suffering and death of cute mammals?

Nope. Didn’t work out.

So we are stuck with synthetic musks. Nitro musks can only be smelled on the weird retro items you buy on ebay. They’re great, but volatile. Apparently, if I store too many of them in my laundry room, my laundry room may go BOOM! I haven’t bought enough yet to find out….They’re also toxic, especially musk xylene, so they’re not used much now.

Bring on the polycyclics (many carbon rings). They are found mostly in household products of cleanliness (I’m looking at YOU, Galaxolide). I’m allergic to those. They don’t degrade. They mimic our hormones. They are bad. Next!

The macrocyclics, huge carbon rings of smelly delight, are still around in great abundance. Small problem: as with the large-molecule polycyclics, about 40% of us can’t smell them! They’re just too big for our noses and brains to wrap around. When Givaudan brought out Cosmone, the Lucky 60% raved about it. I bought a tiny vial. Couldn’t smell a thing. Disappointed!! It was another big, fat carbon molecule. Bye, bye, Habanolide and all your humongous family. Bring on the Alicyclics.

Alicyclics are very cool. Just a small carbon ring with a long, thin chain. Everyone can smell these! Auranone is a musk base by Firmenich. It's my favorite white musk basenote. Here are the notes about it from the Perfumer's Apprentice website:

“Strong yet delicate musk blend with fine floral notes.”

For all you anosmics out there, it’s true! Auranone smells great. Other firms have their own alicyclics and blends, equally sniffable and smooth. I’m told that there are some entirely new families of white musks being formulated out there, or held captive by the big flavor/aroma companies. I say, bring ‘em on! And put a big “Anosmic Friendly” label on the bottle, OK??


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bardalicious: Natural Perfumes Inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

By Donna

As a fan of both William Shakespeare and natural fragrances, I was delighted to be invited to participate in a special project, led by natural perfumer Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy. Each reviewer was “assigned” a different group of perfumers from a group of sixteen international artists whose fragrant interpretations we would be testing with all reviews being published from June 14-24, 2011. We are celebrating the season of high summer and the mysteries of a summer evening, fraught with whispered romance, dangerous plots and irresistible intrigue. So come along and discover the secrets of the night!

Lisa Fong of Artemisia Perfume in Oakland, California has contributed an all-botanical scent called Orchard, creating the impression of walking among the trees after dark; perhaps for a secret assignation after drinking a mysterious love potion? Delicious chamomile gives a hint of apple scent, while vetiver brings the earthy greenness of the forest “breathing” in the night air. This evocative perfume reminds me of my childhood summers when the sweet scent of chamomile growing in our front yard spread all over the place whenever it rained. My sisters and I never wanted to come indoors even if a thunderstorm threatened; it was just too magical out there, with fireflies and lightning shows and the chirping of crickets, and the cool aromas of the night as darkness descended. Orchard smells very much like those long ago evenings in the country. It is composed of wild chamomile, vetiver, oakmoss, clary sage, jasmine sambac and mimosa, a mélange of summery memories in a bottle. I have always loved twilight time the best of all, and this fragrance captures that atmosphere using ingredients that tug at the strands of memory. It lasts fairly well for a natural, getting darker as time passes, just as the evening deepens into night. If perfume is memory, this one is a time capsule indeed, and I truly enjoyed wearing this lovely fragrance. It could easily be worn by either a man or a woman, and I think it would make an ideal hot weather perfume for anyone.

My next adventure was a frolic with Pan, the very naughty brainchild of Ambrosia Jones, proprietor of Perfume By Nature near Sydney, Australia. Pan is a wild fellow indeed, but as with many purportedly “masculine” fragrances, many women love to wear them too and this one really won me over. Pan reminded me of the more rustic perfumes from La Via del Profumo in Italy, which is saying a lot, because those are truly excellent compositions. It’s not as heavily animalic as my beloved Tcharas or as green and exhilarating as Hindu Kush, but it has its own distinctive character. Pan (The character of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a thinly veiled version of the mythical Greek satyr) has a dry, sun-soaked halo of herbal and piney warmth wrapped around its chypre base of dark oakmoss and resins. Rosemary and thyme combined with a spicy (yet not sweet) heart make this redolent of warmer climes, and it’s not hard to picture this mischievous being frolicking in the rugged hillsides above the Aegean Sea, chasing buxom women and laughing the days away. I don’t get too much of a “night” impression from this, but surely most of the trouble Pan/Puck gets himself into occurs in the midnight hour! He is up to no good and so is his namesake perfume, a lusty and rich concoction guaranteed to turn heads. In fact, I received an unsolicited compliment from a co-worker, who urged me to come closer so she could smell my perfume. Staying power is excellent, lasting all day with no problem at all and any confident man should really enjoy wearing it. However, he will have to pry it out of my hands first!

For something entirely different, the perfume called Robin (another name for the character of Puck in the play is Robin Goodfellow) from artisan perfumer Ane Walsh of Cambuquira, Minas Gerais, Brazil is like nothing else I have smelled before. It is made with many traditional perfumery materials with an added tropical flourish, the delicate scent of the lovely Pitanga tree flower, whose bright red fruit is commonly called the Surinam cherry. It imparts a soft, delicate aroma to the composition, somewhat like the mild, sweet moist effect of Ylang ylang. Robin is the character in the play that mixes up the love potion that causes the romantic confusion, and this lovely fragrance could certainly be used for that purpose. High notes of bergamot and Kaffir lime start it off with plenty of zest, and it soon becomes a gentle and mesmerizing sigh of Pitanga, jasmine and Night Queen. A base of ambrette seed, myrrh, frankincense, vetiver, agarwood and sandalwood adds a nice bone structure to the florals, but despite the list of notes, it’s anything but heavy or sternly woody. It really does have an air of mystery, a hint of danger within, which I suspect comes from the Night Queen flower, which is one of those heady tropical blooms that only releases her mysterious perfume after dark. The overall impression I formed of this fragrance is that it truly belongs to the summer nights when white petals unfurl in the moonlight and little creatures go rustling and scurrying about. Its main drawback is that it does not last very long on my skin, but while it does it’s marvelous. I have a special fondness for flowers that only release their perfume at night so I always welcome a perfume that creates a facsimile of their secret and sensual nocturnal lives. This delicate fragrance would be the perfect feminine counterpart to Pan for a romantic evening encounter.

From Vancouver B.C. in Canada comes an unusual fragrance by the talented and prolific (she also concocts perfumed teas and chocolates!) Ayala Moriel. Her Smiling Country is rustic and very dry, and it feels just like the humming of life in a late summer field overgrown with dry grasses and late-blooming flowers. When I was a child in New England we had a field that was never mowed or cultivated, and every summer the goldfinches would come and descend on it looking for seeds as they fattened up for winter’s long haul. What a sight it was, the beautiful little golden and black birds in a field full of waving goldenrod, wild asters and tall grass. Times were tough for my family and the day came when we had to sell that field, and two houses were soon built on the site. I was heartbroken, for they had destroyed the beauty of the meadow and the birds had no place to forage. Smiling Country is the very essence of that summery place, and when I smell it I can remember walking through the browning vegetation as the grasshoppers leapt out of the way and the seeds and weedy burrs clung to my legs. The perfume smells of burnished grasses and pungent Queen-Anne’s-Lace and fluffy goldenrod; I can smell familiar things like patchouli and perhaps labdanum, but it has a bone-dry herbal quality that makes me think of all these wild plants too. In these sleepy days of deep summer, the rich yet dusty smells rise in the heat of the day to a nearly overwhelming level, subsiding only in the gradual cooling of the evening. In the night time, the fields are alive with the sound of crickets, the unfailing harbinger of the coming autumn. Smiling Country is a remarkable evocation of that seasonal idyll, and I take my hat off to the perfumer who has captured it so vividly.

For more impressions of all the perfumes in this project, please visit these participating blogs:

Amanda Feeley’s online store and blog:
Esscentual Alchemy's Blog (Amanda will be sharing her own thoughts as each blog post is published.)

Image credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustration courtesy of Amanda Feeley The illustration of Oberon, Titania And Puck With Fairies Dancing by William Blake, circa 1786, via Wikimedia Commons.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Foodie Sunday- Fathers Day, The Summer Solstice and a fabulous food & fragrance giveaway from yours truly and Roxana Villa!

 By Beth

My father was the parent who instilled in me my life long passion for plants. Before he suffered his first stroke, dad was a painter who crafted huge canvases splashed with vast rich swaths of color. Deeply in love with the impressionists, his gardens reflected the richness of his favorite Monet's and Van Gogh's and like Monet he set out to create his own Giverny My childhood yard was incredibly beautiful, filled with fragrant Rugosa Roses and Lilies of all types. In the spring there were fragrant clouds of narcissus and daffodil everywhere followed by vast bouquets of peonies and iris. My father could make anything grow. He had a beautiful terrace that was covered with a wisteria vine that although it had not bloomed in 10 years as a gift to me he worked on it all Spring the year that I was to be married. The morning of my wedding I walked out and noticed the blooms and later that day I was married to my beloved husband under that magical bower of sweetly scented blossoms, the best wedding gift ever!

I always thought that my father had a fairies touch and perhaps he truly does, but his gardens were crafted through his deep and intimately personal understanding of the natural world. He knew that the very essence of life itself although seemingly effortless was truly fragile and could be destroyed too easily…he warned us endlessly of the folly of depleting natural resources without any understanding of how they were used in the extraordinary dance of connection to the world around us. He hated companies like Monsanto and Dow, companies he believed were capable of unleashing great devastation as a result of their unrelenting pursuit to poison our lovely world for their own profit. Way back then he was worried about his honeybees and taught me early just what it would mean to humanity as a whole if there were ever a dramatic die off in the hive populations, because we desperately need these hardworking little creatures to ensure our food supplies all year round. It’s that simple. No pollinators, no food or for my fellow perfumistas; no Flowers, no perfume!

Because my father holds a Masters in Biology as well as Fine Arts his education allowed him blend his artistic visions with a real understanding of what was needed to create a beautiful home for all of his plants. No pesticides ever and his soil was dark and rich, he'd pick up rich handfuls and smell it....he could tell what it needed simply by the feel and scent and blessedly he taught me to do the same. I'll never forget when they first started selling cocoa hulls to use for mulching. My father’s gardens were always a riot of color and fragrance but with the addition of the rich chocolate perfuming the dark moist earth they became a symphony of exquisite scentual dimension.

My father weaned us on Thoreau and Rachel Carson and he took a very holistic approach to his gardens, well before it was "chic" to do so. To him, doing things organically was what made sense, he didn't use pesticides and herbicides because every bug was invited and he delighted in the wee flowers that would pop up all over his lawn. His perennial beds were great blowzy things teeming with life....dragonflies and Praying Mantis, ladybugs and butterflies flittered everywhere but his favorites were the bees and judging from the amount of them they seemed to know it. He loved them all from the large soft bodied ones to the little honeybees that danced from flower to flower with their legs and bodies covered with pollen. I spent many years with him while he tended his lovely gardens, quietly working alongside while he pruned, coaxed and cajoled his flowers and fruits into huge and heavily sensual blossom. I am forever left with the memories of how those gardens would smell in the early part of the morning, petals and leaves dripping with dew and laced with “his” honeybees so hard at work. If you’re quiet around them, you can actually get close enough to a honeybee to smell their own perfume. It is sweet and very musky, deeply provocative and strangely sensual. As a child I really wasn’t aware of what I was smelling, I just knew that it was strange yet totally wonderful and somehow very private. I’m fairly sure that those earliest fragrance impressions were completely responsible for my almost obsessive fascination with fragrance and food and sex. “To Bee or not to bee that is the question….” and you all know that I’ll always choose “to bee” no matter the context!

My father would have found a kindred spirit in my dear friend and Natural perfumer Roxana Villa, who has learned to tend her honeybees organically with as little interference as possible. Roxana’s “Warrior Girls” as she affectionately calls them live up in her lovely home in the Topanga Canyon area and they are as happy as can be and hard at work producing a bit of honey for her family and beeswax for her sumptuously beautiful solid perfumes. She describes the smell of her hives as feral and sexual with a delightful musk. She has created a wonderful perfume to be released on the Summer Solstice on the 21st of June called “To Bee” which I haven’t had the pleasure of sniffing yet but I know that I will love it. She describes it as being full of musk and leather, yet sweet and warm like the smell of her hives with a lovely base created from her tinctured honeycomb that sounds lovely, all yummy oozy honeyed warmth and dripping with caramel and a accord of sweet clover absolute which she says is filled with the warm sweet hay notes of the hive….and well to me sounds like the recipe for a truly lovely roll in the hay!

I’ll have a wonderful sample of Roxana’s “To Bee” to giveaway to one lucky reader along with a wonderful yet to be determined jar of fabulous honey in honor of this years Summer Solstice, my 92 year old father and our wonderful native American honeybees whose populations are slowly healing due to the careful tending of their hives by “Bee Warriors” like Roxana and her friends from The Backwards Beekeepers group.

Check out their site if you’d like to learn more about helping our devastated honeybee populations. Until recently we’ve ignored that most simple fact that would help insure our survival …because of the massive overuse of pesticides and other poisons our honeybee populations have dwindled to a dangerous tipping point ; in our lifetimes the plight of our native bees is the proverbial canary in a coal mine; an alarm bell pealing incessantly to try to tell us to stop the insanity before the danger to our beloved Gaia reaches the point of no return.

If you want to smell this delightful new perfume just leave me a comment and let me know what you’re going to be doing with the honey I’m sending!

I’ll start…ripe peaches soaked in truffled honey and muscat , served with fresh shortbread and whipped cream…In bed. How about you?

Roxana Villa’s newest fragrance will be released (after June 21st) at her store.

Photograph of To Bee by Roxana Villa
Photograph of Bee Balm in my fathers garden by Beth Schreibman Gehring

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Russian Saturday: Pois de Senteur by Caron

"My name is Alena, I live with my three sons and husband in Haarlem, Amsterdam area in the Netherlands. Far in the past I was a chemical engineer, in the near future I will be a graduated homeopath, and at the moment I am delighted to be invited by Marina to share my impressions about perfumes here in PST. Every other Saturday I will write about fragrances I like. And I hope you'll enjoy!"

Но порой, борясь с дремотой,
Вдруг лукавый быстрый взгляд
Отвлекался от латыни
За окно в тенистый сад.
Там в саду так много яблок
На дорожках и в траве,
Так и двинула б студента
по латинской голове.
Саша Черный (1880-1932!)

Мода на душистый горошек возникла на излете Викторианской эпохи, когда услиями шотландского селекционера Хенри Экфордa было выведено множество разновидостей этого растения. Благодаря чудесам селекции душистый горошек, Lathyrus Odoratа, стал удивлять не только своим запахом, но и цветом и формой. Вплоть до Второй мировой войны духи на тему душистого горошка выпускали многие дома, но мне достоверно известно только о Горошках Guerlain.

Мне довелось попробовать Pois de Senteur, cозданный Жаком Герленом в 1917 году. Флакону-фонарику на тот момент было около 75 лет, но его содержимое сохранилось лучше, чем фотографии времен молодости моей бабушки. Аромат был поразительно юн. Удивляла не только его сохранность, но и сам факт его существования. Pois de Senteur не вписывался в мои представления об ароматах того времени. В нем не было ничего из того, что у меня ассоциируется с классикой: ни пудры, ни альдегидов ни какой-бы там ни было классической базы. Если бы его сделали сейчас, это была бы идеальная Aqua Allegoria. Pois de Senteur Guerlain прозрачен, звонок и чист. Это легкий, хохочущий аромат летних цветов, не обремененных ни медом, ни пыльцой, лишь немного свежей зелени в придачу. Редкие ароматы, попробованные лишь однажды, оставляют у меня в памяти такие яркие впечатления. Но Pois de Senteur Guerlain это удалось.

Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi Caron похож на своего герленовского предшественника, как луна на солнце. При всей кажущейся рустикальности аромата его действие происходит не на природе среди трав и цветов, а в тени дома. Пудра, присутствующая в каждом аромате Caron, не дает моему воображению покинуть его стены. Все знают, как неудобны эти совершенные пудры в использовании за пределами туалетного столика. Солнце едва проникает сквозь тяжелые гардины. В комнате царит прохлада и полумрак. Это Горошек Герлена не удержишь в доме ни запретами, ни запертыми дверями – выпрыгнет в окно. А горошек Карона будет прилежно корптеть над книгами и мечтать, время от времени бросая взгляд на скромный букетик душистого горошка в фарфоровой вазе. Поэтому я совсем не удивилась, увидев рекламу духов 1929 года: на туалетном столике рядом с флаконом духов стоит причудливая ваза с тоненькими веточками душистого горошка. Приятно, что с креативщиками эпохи арт-деко мы мыслим одинаково.

С первых нот в Pois de Senteur прослеживаются две темы: шершавая, темная и яркая, гладкая как шелк, цветочная. Я благодарна создателю и хранителям аромата, которые не стали применять банального приема многих цветочных солифлоров – гесперидного старта. Оговорюсь, что речь идет о современных духах. Вместо этого я чувствую в них странную горечь, напоминающую вкус перезрелых семян гороха (огордного, Lathyrus sativus, семена душистого горошка ядовиты!) и может быть чуточку бергамота. В Pois de Senteur Caron так много "Mousse de Saxe", что посторонний нос может его принять за Tabac Blond, а мне в нем иногда чудится Nuit de Noel. Именно этот аккорд придает аромату знаменитую кароновскую сумеречноть, глубину и прохладу. Сквозь его темную вуаль пробивается чистый, как голос пятилетнего ребенка, запах душистого горошка, слепленный из гиацинтов, роз, ландышей и жасмина. Слепленный так ладно, что можно подумать, что из горошка научились получать полноценное парфюмерное сырье. Я скривлю душой, если скажу, что слышу партию каждого из этиих цветов. Но дует розы и жасмина не может не восхищать. Роза – жасмин, жасмин – роза, сообщающиеся сосуды парфюмерии, создают необыкновенную кривизну и пластичность пространства. Сколько ольфакторных иллюзий было ими создано! Как? Это до сих пор выше моего понимания. В Pois de Senteur Caron, как и Guerlain, я не слышу ни меда, ни пыльцы. Наверное она опала, пока цветы несли домой. Есть шершавость и пудровость, но она темная и мшистая. Утром от аромата остается нежное, сандалово-ванильное, кремовое послевкусие, как взгляд во вчерашний день. В этой точке, пожалуй, Pois de Senteur наиболее близок к Nuit de Noel.

Pois de Senteur лучше всего носить в душную влажную погоду, когда небо среди бела дня вот-вот потемнеет от тяжелых грозовых туч. Эта темень, как и темень дамского будуара, совсем не угнетает. Дождь прольется и опять будет солнце. Летом дни так длинны! Я ношу Кароны, когда мне хочется сделать паузу в пути. Кароны ностальгичны и кому-то могут казаться старомодными. Но они не возвращают в прошлое, нет. Они лишь приостанавливают гонку дней и дают прочувствовать текущий момент времени. Они – настоящие.

Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi (Ernest Daltroff, 1927): hyacinth, rose, cyclamen; jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, musk, sandalwood, virginia cedar, vanilla and lime.

The fashion for sweet peas began at the end of the Victorian epoch, after Scottish nurseryman Henry Eckford managed to grow various species of this plant. Thanks to the miracles of cross-breeding, sweet pea, Lathyrus Odoratа started to delight not only with its scent, but also with its color and shape. Before WWII, perfumes based on sweet pea were being released by many houses, although I know for sure only about Guerlain's.

I got to try Pois de Senteur, created by Jacques Guerlain in 1917. The lantern bottle was 75 years old, however its contents were in better condition than photos from my grandmother's youth. The fragrance smelled amazingly young. Not only it's great condition but the very fact of its existence were surprising. Pois de Senteur did not fit my idea of the perfumes from that time. It didn't have any characteristics I associated with the classics, powder, aldehydes, a classical base. If it was launched today, it would have been an ideal Aqua Allegoria. Pois de Senteur Guerlain is transparent, vibrant and clean. It's a light, laughing scent of summery flowers not burdened by honey or pollen...just a little bit of fresh greenery as a bonus. Very few aromas, when tried only once, leave in my memory such vivid impressions. Pois de Senteur Guerlain managed that.

Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi Caron is as similar to its predecessor as the moon is to the sun. Despite the seemingly rustic quality of the perfume, the action takes place not in the great outdoors, among grasses and flowers, but in the shade inside of a house. Powder, present in every Caron scent, does not let my imagination leave its walls. The sun barely penetrates heavy curtains. The room is cool and semi-dark. You can't contain Pois de Senteur Guerlain inside by closing the doors, it will jump out of the window. Caron's Pois de Senteur will pour over books and day-dream, once in a while glancing at a humble bouquet of sweet peas in a porcelain vase. I wasn't therefore surprised to see an ad from 1929: on a vanity table next to a perfume bottle there is an ornate vase with slender branches of sweet peas. Tt's nice to know that I think alike the marketing people from the era of Art Deco.

From its top notes, Pois de Senteur follows two themes, one is rough and dark, the other vivid, smooth like silk and floral. I am grateful to the creators and keepers of the fragrance for not  employing the cliche trick of many soliflores, a hesperidic start. I must specify that I am talking about the modern parfum. Instead of citruses, I smell strange bitterness reminiscent of the odor of over-ripe seeds of peas (regular peas, Lathyrus sativus, seeds of sweet peas are poisonous!) and maybe just a hint of bergamot. Pois de Senteur Caron contains so much  "Mousse de Saxe" that, smelled in passing, it can be mistaken for Tabac Blond, and I sometimes smell in it Nuit de Noel. It is this accord that gives the perfume the trademark twilight quality of the Carons, its depth and chilliness. Through this accord, as if through a dark veil, seeps the smell of sweet pea, clear as a voice of a 5 year old, the smell molded out of hyacinths, roses, lilies of the valley and jasmin. It is molded so well that one would think sweet peas can be distilled. I would lie if I said that I hear a solo song of each of this flowers. But the duet of jasmine and rose is beautiful. Rose-jasmine, jasmine-rose, the communicating vessels of perfumery, create an unusual distortion and flexibility of the space. How many olfactory illusions have they created! How? This is beyond my understanding. In Pois de Senteur Caron, like in the Guerlain, I smell neither honey nor pollen. it must have been shaken off while the flowers were carried home. There is a roughness and a powderiness, but it is dark and mossy. In the morning, there is left on my skin a delicate, sandalwoody-vanillic, creamy undertone, like a glance into yesterday. At that stage, Pois de Senteur is probably the closest to Nuit de Noel.

Pois de Senteur wears the best in humid warm weather, when the sky is about to get dark from heavy, stormy clouds. That darkness, just like the darkness of a boudoir, is not depressing. Rain will fall and the sun will shine again. Summer days are so long! I wear Carons when I want to  pause on my way. Carons are nostalgic and might seem old fashioned to some. But they don't return you to the past. They just stop the marathon of the days for a bit and allow you to feel the present moment. They are real and they the right now.

Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi (Ernest Daltroff, 1927): hyacinth, rose, cyclamen; jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, musk, sandalwood, virginia cedar, vanilla and lime.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Delicious Earth: Xerjoff Richwood

By Marina

According to the copy, the star of Richwood is sandalwood. The note is certainly there, balancing somewhat the robustness of the composition with its delicate, transparent woodiness. That kind of gentleness, however, is no match to the wonderful opulence of the patchouli. The latter to me is the dominant ingredient in Richwood, it pulls others into its moist, velvety darkness.

I absolutely enjoy this patchouli. It is earthy and edible at the same time. As if in throws of a pica, I imagine myself greedily consuming it. It would taste like the dirtiest and darkest chocolate. I like the fact that this patchouli is very raw and yet somehow rather refined. Its wildness seems cleverly stylized. No headshop crudeness here, Richwood is a proper perfume. in my mind, the sofistication of the patchouli note makes Richwood somewhat related to Chanel's laquered patchouli wonder, Coromandel. Of the two, Richwood would be the more sensual and dirtier and therefore more alluring.

Available wherever Xerjoff is sold, for the whopping $635 for 100ml.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

In the Pink: smell bent the pink party...and a Draw

By Tom

It is well known to you, Tonstant Weader, that I am a fan of LA based perfumer smell bent. They put out scents that manage to be cheeky, fun and cheap as chips, but are also really well done. I have several creations by Brent Leonesio on hand that I reach for whenever I'm going to be facing a trying day. He has teamed with über-chic Pacific-Palisades based Elyse Walker to create a scent for her annual Pink Party, which has raised over 5.5 million dollars for the Cedars-Sinai Women's Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

The scent itself is all about pink grapefruit, peel, pith and pulp. I adore pink grapefruit on my plate as well as in a scent when it's done well, and here it is. There's also sugar cane adding a bit of brûlée to the party, what I swear is a hint of jasmine and a soupçon of musk adding a final flirty, drrty skirt flick to the scent. I think when another Pivot Table or PowerPoint gets plopped into my lap with a deadline attached I'll have another scent in the arsenal that will take me to my happy-place..

The scent is available at the smell bent website, $55 for a 15ML roll-on with free shipping. Best of all, all proceeds go to benefit those affected by gynecologic, breast and other women's cancers.

smell bent has provided a generously sized 5ML sample for one lucky reader. Please leave a comment if you would like to be in the draw. Please note that I can only ship inside the 48 United States; sorry kids, this is on my dime. The draw will be open until 5pm Pacific Time on Sunday, June 19th.

my tester was provided by the perfumer

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Lark Ascending: Carillon pour un Ange by Tauer Perfumes

By Donna

One of my favorite modern dance creations is the wonderfully ethereal The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams as interpreted by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It is a dance of joy and longing with a wistful heart, one of the most perfect fusions of music and choreography I have ever witnessed. The evanescent grace of the music is only enhanced by the sensuality of the dancers’ emotionally charged movements. I have been fortunate enough to see it performed live several times and it always has the same effect on me; I think how wondrous it is that humans, as flawed as we are, have the ability to create such piercing beauty. I can’t help but think the same thing when smelling a truly superior perfume – how is it that one person’s creative mind can make art with just a handful of essential oils and some molecules, and not only that but come up with something new in a perfume sub-genre as tightly delineated as a lily-of-the-valley fragrance? Andy Tauer has done it with his superb Carillon pour un Ange, released in 2010, a perfume that virtually rewrites the book on this popular style and gives it new life.

Muguet perfumes are even more similar to each other than rose or iris soliflores, because the essence of the flower itself cannot be captured; it is a reconstruction made from other materials, and the specific aroma chemicals that translate as “muguet” to our noses are used in virtually all of these. Yes, there is much variation in quality among them, from the high of vintage Diorissimo to the most common bar of hotel soap, but it is always instantly recognizable. What makes Carillon pour un Ange special is the personal stamp that Andy Tauer always puts on his compositions, a feeling that he has made this beautiful thing just for you. My own love for his masterwork L’ Air du Desert Marocain remains as strong as ever, and I also admire the intensely sultry Le Maroc pour Elle and the smoldering campfire leather of Lonestar Memories. Now I have discovered that he can evoke my admiration with a fragrance that is the polar opposite in just about every way of the famously strong style for which he first became known. No resins, spices, or incense in this one, no signature “Tauerade” base to mark it with the perfumer’s characteristic signature. It is lilting and green and earthy and soft all at the same time, and it’s not like any other muguet perfume I have ever experienced.

In order to get a baseline standard for this style my comparison for this review was to another muguet fragrance I own and love, Le Galion’s Le Muguet parfum de toilette, a vintage scent of particularly fine clarity and quality, the very definition of a soliflore. Others I love are (of course) Diorissimo, Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc and the vintage formula of Caron’s peerless Muguet de Bonheur, my own personal favorite over the years. They all have their subtle differences but all share the high, clear tone of the tiny white bells that produce that astonishing aroma. Where Carillon pour un Ange departs from all of these is a certain earthiness that smells like the forest floor in spring and a fleshy quality like that of the moist, crushed petals of Madonna lilies, another flower known for its purity of scent. While it sings the soaring soprano notes like the other ones, it also maintains a grounded feeling like the deep vibration of a cello, and it really does smell like the growing flowers, their unmatched purity always accompanied by the undercurrent of fallen leaves, moss and living woodland soil, which happens to be one of my very favorite things. These blossoms have not been picked and put in a dainty vase indoors, oh no; they are still exhaling their crystalline breath close to the ground, surrounded by their earthen cradle.

Something else sets it apart from most other lily-of-the-valley fragrances; longevity. I can still smell it on my skin when I wake up the next day, a true rarity for such a tender floral. It does share one aspect in common with some other Tauer perfumes; the genius of a touch of leather in the base, giving it a feeling of intimacy to play against the florals. This makes Carillon pour un Ange the closest thing to a “skin scent” that any muguet perfume has ever been as far as I know – it’s usually the kind of fragrance that floats above the wearer, with the sillage as the main point; sometimes smelling this kind of perfume close to the skin can be harsh or metallic because of the synthetic ingredients used to create the holographic impression of the flower. Not so with Carillon; it is very much of this world and of nature and it’s never sharp or distant. It may not change the minds of those for whom muguet never works at all, but it is surely worth a try if the steely chemical edge they can have is what’s been keeping you away. For those who do love this note in fragrance, it’s an absolute necessity to try it. It expands the universe of lily-of-the-valley in perfume in a way I never expected, and now I can’t imagine it not existing.

Image credit: ‘Spring Green Branch’ by multimedia artist Karen Anne Glick, used by permission via

Disclosure: My testing of this perfume was from a private sample.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Enamelled Rose

By Marla

“Une Rose Vermeille” by Tauer Perfumes (2010) got stuck in my “Weird Basket” for a month or two. That’s the basket where samples go that I just can’t figure out. Do I love this? Do I hate this? What’s in this stuff, anyway?

“Une Rose Vermeille”’ has top notes of citrus and lavender, heart notes of rose, aldehydes, violets, and raspberries, and an amber base. There are lots of natural, high quality ingredients in this, and lots of aldehydes, too. This one is over-the-top feminine, and so retro without actually following retro formulae. It references many things: Malle’s Lipstick Rose, Guerlain’s Nahema, women’s cosmetics of the 50s, a whole family tree of French aldehydic perfumes. It’s an “homage” to the rose, and so the many references to classic rose perfumes, the color red, and fashionable women, are all found here. With so many references, it strikes me as nearly a concept piece rather than a perfume. There’s an initial burst of citrus and lavender, then a very intense heart of jammy, fruity rose and aldehydes, then a strong amber base that surprisingly does not go gourmand. Sillage is as intense as always with Tauer Perfumes; lasting power is excellent.

So do I like it? I still don’t know. At first I thought I really hated it. Then I wanted to sniff it again. Nope, too strong. So I dabbed a micro-drop on a scarf, and every time during the day that I walked by that scarf, I thought, “Yum! What is that?”

After a couple months of this random experimentation, I really enjoy “Une Rose Vermeille” --at a respectable distance. It’s too intense for my skin, and it’s just too different from my usual persona to really wear it out and about, but I’m keeping a small decant, because I really do want to smell it again….

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Xerjoff sample draw winner

is rusticdove. Please email me your info!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Come On, Cumin – Review: L’Artisan Parfumeur Al Oudh

I am not the world’s greatest admirer of oud. That is no secret.

So you are probably asking yourself: What is she doing reviewing another Oud scent? And I am telling you this is not any old oud scent, but THE oud of the last years, an oud my hero Bertrand Duchaufour created. (And yes, I am a fan, and I won’t stop saying so any time soon, please let me be, I never adored teenie bands, so I am living my hero worship phase now.) So, who am I to go on ignoring this???

Especially since a sample found its way to me thanks to the lovely T. of Fragrant Reviews. His and his congenial co-author N.’s review is quickly cited, since the two boys review perfumes in 140 characters or less – twitter appropriate – I envy such conciseness: Sweet & funky oud with an animalistic vibe, coupled with dry leather & woods. Fairly linear. Barnyard Chic.

Al Oudh was created in 2009 by the aforementioned BD and includes notes of cumin, cardamom, pink pepper, neroli, rose, castoreum, civet, leather, musk, oud, sandalwood, Atlas cedar, patchouli, myrrh, incense, vanilla and tonka bean.

There is no getting around it – Al Oudh has a certain B.O. vibe for me. Cumin is not my friend as well and when there is too much, I get almost sick. Sadly, therefore glorious perfumes likeJubilation 25 (Amouage) or Absolue pour le Soir (Maison Francois Kurkdjian) are not for me, as much as I get and appreciate the beautiful perfume beneath the cumin, I cannot get past the stink.

Al Oudh is treading borderline territory. There is just enough cumin to make me a little nervous, but not enough to all out dismiss it. The beautiful perfume underneath is very present for me here. And, cumin aside, it is a beautiful perfume. The oud is smooth and serene, the spices, the musk, the leather, the woods – all make up a powerful and highly interesting and likeable perfume.

I think Al Oudh is one of the most interesting ones in the L’Artisan line up. I would love to smell it on a man (but I have not a chance to try it on my own, cumin is not his favorite either). I can appreciate it, but I will leave it to somebody else.

See Tom’s take on this blog here.

Image source:,

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Moon Flower by Providence Perfume - Giveaway

By Marina

Providence Perfume has recently introduced solid scents, which "are blended in a base of pure shea butter, beeswax and oils. The soft buttery consistancy is similar to the vintage solid perfumes of the 1950's and 60's without the added petroleum and chemicals of this era."

The composition of the fragrance I liked the most among them, Moon Flower also has a retro feel to it, perhaps due to its lusciousness, to the unapologetically animalic and earthy feel of the white flowers. The creator describes the scent as nocturnal, and it really is. Smelling it, I imagine white petals suggestively opening in the night, greedily drinking the moisture of the dark air...the carnal yet ethereal blossoms slightly sinister in their dazzling whiteness, on the black velvet background of the night sky...

We have one 1/2oz jar of Moon Flower to give away. For a chance to win it, please, leave a comment telling us whether you use solid perfumes and which one is your favorite.

Image source,


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Oh, Boy: Tom Ford for Men

By Tom

I admit I am of two minds with the handsome Mr. Ford. Sometimes I think he's just the bees knees, which happens then I'm smelling some of his scents. Other ones (like his Lavender Palm) elicit a rather less charitable response.

Tom Ford for men was his first mens fragrance and it's just like his clothes: well fitted, beautifully detailed and a little cold.

It has crisp citrus in the opening, slightly sweet whiffs of uncured tobacco in the middle and a nice woody finish. Layering over all of it is a chilly vetiver that nicely accents the warmth of the amber in the drydown. At $62 for 1.7 oz it's not even terribly expensive.

Sometimes it's hard to reconcile some of the Tom Ford image and his advertising to his products. I guess this is the Tom Ford of "A Single Man" rather then the louche, sweaty bottle-in-the-crotch Tom Ford. Glad we have room for both.

At Sephora, where I tested.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Orange Sanguine by Atelier Cologne

By Marina

This seemingly simple composition of Orange Sanguine makes me want to take an orange and to brutally bite into it, cutting the zesty armor with teeth, tearing the soft flesh, forcing the juice to burst out...Because that is how realistic the orange here smells to me.

The composition took into the account all of the fruit, from the sharp-tasting peel to the tangy, luscious sweetness of the edible the leaves still sticking to it. It must be geranium that contributes that green, acidic characteristic to the blend and keeps the dulcitude of orange at the slightly sour level of the live fruit, not at the ubiquitous in today's perfumery level of cheap creamsicle.

Orange Sanguine is not a loud perfume, but it stays (longevity is the schtick of Cologne Absolute). L'Artisan's Mandaraine Tout Simplement is the one scent, the initial wow-inducing realism of which somewhat reminds me of Orange Sanguine. I say intitial, because the mandarine there disappears as soon as you get ready to think your teeth into it. The other scent that somewhat reminds me of OS is Malle's Bigarade Concentree. The latter one is, however, outwardly more complex and evokes a reaction less primitive than the wonderful I Need To Eat This Now impulse of Atelier Cologne's creation.

Available at Atelier Cologne, Bergdrof etc, $50.00-$145.00.

Image source, unknown.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Back To The Future With Mr. Morillas: Salvador Dali & Panthère de Cartier

By Donna

For some reason I have really been appreciating the retro perfumes of the Eighties a lot more recently. Perhaps it’s time and distance, making me forget the horrors of Giorgio Beverly Hills and Christian Lacroix C’est La Vie, or maybe I just dismissed many of the better fragrances of the era, tarring them all with the same brush as the bad ones, so to speak. Many of them are now discontinued, but fortunately not all, so there are plenty of true gems to be discovered under all the fake rhinestones and glitter of the “Me Decade.”

As it happens, two of my favorite fragrances from that time period are both currently available and by a perfumer who is perhaps better known now for more modern and minimalist compositions such as Calvin Klein’s CK One and the Bulgari Omnia series, the well regarded master perfumer Alberto Morillas. Yes, there was a time when he was responsible for far more opulent creations than his recent oeuvre would suggest. (It’s fascinating to me to see how a perfumer’s range develops over time; after all, the reigning king of minimalism, Jean-Claude Ellena, made First for Van Cleef & Arpels back in 1976, and it’s not exactly the perfume equivalent of a haiku.)

I was delighted to acquire the original Salvador Dali women’s perfume from 1983 recently; it was last seen here adding interest to DSH Perfumes’ magical mushroom scent. I had smelled it when it was first released but I never wore it then, since I did not consider it to be my style. Little did I know that I would soon branch out from my signature romantic florals and learn to appreciate a wide range of fragrance styles when the “perfumista” bug bit me very hard. This is a big, roomy floral-oriental perfume with a sense of humor; the fizzy, fruity, mandarin-rich opening has a syrupy quality not unlike pineapple, though that is not a listed note. Basil and other greens add a unique signature. The rich floral heart briefly threatens to turn into an Amarige-like foghorn, but this one is far more good-natured and it mellows into something very wearable. All my favorites are in there: tuberose, jasmine, narcissus, lily-of- the-valley, and lily. This is a very warm fragrance, and the delicious base of musk, cedar, vanilla, sandalwood and benzoin is a pure pleasure. My vintage version seems to have an exceptionally nice grade of sandalwood in it, the kind that’s hard to find today. It is bit loud, but not the sloppy drunk kind of obvious that ruined so many other eighties scents for me. It’s user-friendly and just plain fun, suitable for either a night on the town or just kicking back at home when you want to be enveloped in something delicious. This was the first of many Dali fragrances and I can’t keep up with them all anymore, but it’s certainly one of the best from this house. It’s fairly easy to find online; just be sure you are getting the right one, since several later Dali releases also came in a similar “Lips and Nose” bottle.

In 1986, Cartier released the wonderful Panthère, a fragrance that seems to be aimed squarely at the kind of woman who likes big, luxurious special occasion perfumes, and it definitely hit the target. Panthère has a similarity to the Salvador Dali scent, sort of the sober sister to the Dali’s Froot-Loopy optimism. It is equally rich but the sillage lies much closer to the skin. Mine is the vintage Parfum and it has aged very well, with a distinctively dry, spicy-herbal aspect of pepper and ginger setting off the deep sweetness of the other notes to perfection. The generous florals are rather similar to those in the Dali perfume and so are some of the base notes, but oakmoss, patchouli and civet are included to make a seriously sexy impression. The first thing I think of when I smell this one is “evening” and I picture an elegant little black dress accented with a few nice jewels, smoky eyes and a chic French twist. I am not that kind of woman, but I still appreciate this perfume. It is perhaps more restrained and civilized than the Dali, despite the name; this cat purrs but she does not snarl or bite. The really good news is that Cartier still makes it. I have been very disappointed in their recent mass-market releases such as the dreadful (in my opinion) Roadster and its equally unfortunate flankers, but at least you can still get Panthère.

Image credits: Salvador Dali bottle from online discounter Panthère de Cartier bottle from collector site Disclosure: The perfumes in this review are from my own personal collection of vintage fragrances.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Diptyque 34 Boulevard St. Germain – Perfume Review

By Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson is a writer, actor, DJ and stage producer based in northern New England. His love for perfume began the first time he sampled Guerlain's L'Instant Pour Homme. 

Diptyque’s latest, 34 Boulevard St. Germain, isn’t so much of a new fragrance as it is a fragrant blast of romantic, sleepy travel. It is the scent of waking up in a luxe hotel, in fresh sheets, with the promise of the soft drape of a robe from the spa waiting for you. It is light, very citrusy, with a airy spine of powdery brightness which rests on a subtle, grounding hint of spice in the base notes. The kind of spice that would accompany the crepes that room service just wheeled in while you were in bed, rubbing your eyes.

The notes are blended in such a way that they weave in an out of each other, with no particular aspect taking too much of a leading role before another takes it’s place. Or, put another way, you can’t identity the citrus without appreciating the powdery aspect which can’t be understood unless you get the spiciness as contrast. Yet the entire scent comes off as very light, approachable, and somehow adult and proper at the same time. This is a fragrance that exudes an upbringing and manners, but not so much so that you’d have to sit up straighter to wear it. 

Image source,

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Foodie Sunday: Fruited Salsa, Cinnamon Chips and Fresh herbs for a lazy sort of Sunday!

 By Beth

I love Sundays. I usually get up and go for a trail ride first thing in the morning and then lazily wind my way home happily contemplating an afternoon of gardening , cooking and writing.. Usually in the warm months dinner’s a simple feast of fresh vegetables and maybe a lovely piece of fish and a sausage or two cooked out on the grill. There’s always wine or a lovely icy cocktail and because my herbs are so abundant they’re always sneaking their way into several of the day’s delightful dishes.

I was contemplating this morning what dinner might be and as I checked my email I saw an interesting sounding dish from one of the recipe sites that I subscribe to. Fruited salsa with cinnamon chips…hmmm, now that sounds good! Sadly when I opened up the recipe I was disappointed. White sugar, brown sugar, no seasonal fruit and far too much oil for my liking. That didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the idea of it though so I set about to make my own version. The result was amazing! My husband who turned his nose up at the sound of it has now eaten half of the bowl!

As I began to cook I was immediately taken back to one of my first vacations to Mexico when I was about 8 years old. We’d traveled all over Mexico City and found ourselves out one day in a very old little city named Cuernavaca. I remember being hungry so we stopped for dinner at a lovely little hotel called Las Mananita’s that had the most elegant walled garden that I had ever seen, complete with regal strolling peacocks and Spanish wrought iron wonderful enough to take your breath away. We ate our meal that evening within the walls of that gorgeous garden and it was there that I tasted my first avocado and I also enjoyed enchiladas made with a mole of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) tomato and cinnamon. The smell of that mole still stays with me to this day as it was green , spicy and sweet all at once with a touch of something musky. It was still one of the loveliest days of my young life, the sky was a cloudless sea blue and the lilting and sensual tones of a beautiful flamenco guitar permeated the air on occasion, just relaxing everyone close enough to enjoy them. There was hardly any English spoken, but we didn’t care and I truly would have been happy to never leave. It was that special…absolutely paradise.

This fruited salsa is based on my memories of that amazing meal and it is truly a dessert, so don’t let the addition of avocado throw you off. Avocado is after all a fruit and will lend all of the oil and creaminess that this dish could ever need. This dish is easy to make and I’ve lightened it up a bit using ambery agave nectar instead of sugar. You could make a sweet creamy dip for it if you wanted by whisking a bit of sour cream with some crème fraiche and adding just a touch more of the agave. If I’d had some I would have topped the whole thing with freshly shredded toasted coconut. That would make it perfect!

The original recipe called for homemade pita chips with cinnamon ,but there was still too much oil in the recipe for my liking. There’s a perfectly delicious store bought cinnamon sugar chip made by Stacy’s and you can get them at your local Whole Foods, so why waste the time making them when these are even better!

I’ll probably reinvent this dish again in the Autumn when fresh apples, grapes , squashes and pears are abundant and one more thing! Salsa’s were originally created to use as a condiment for cooked meats. To transform this lovely dish from sweet to savory, simply add some freshly chopped red onion, minced garlic , lemon or lime juice and a bit of sea salt to this recipe. You will be delighted when you see just how quickly this fabulous salsa turns into an absolutely appropriate condiment to serve alongside your favorite grilled meats or seafood!

For a generous bowlful of fruited salsa you will need:
1 cup of diced ripe papaya
1 cup of diced ripe mango

4 sliced fresh peaches or nectarines…so ripe that the juice runs down your chin when you are eating them.

1 cup of diced watermelon
1 cup of diced pineapple
1 cup of diced strawberries
1 cup of diced avocado
Juice of one lime
1 cup of sliced kiwi fruit
1 tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice powder
½ cup of agave nectar
1 and a half cups full of fresh herbs (chiffonaded), such as mint, Thai basil and pineapple sage, pineapple mint
½ cup of pepitas (salted and roasted green pumpkin seeds)

For this salsa if you’ve got a ceramic knife, it will be your best friend. The ceramic blade keeps the fruit from turning color and because it’s SO sharp, lends itself to a perfect hand cut dice! The rest of the recipe is very simple. Stir all of the ingredients together gently , place into a fabulous bowl and serve with the cinnamon chips. That’s all you’ll need…Well all you’ll need besides a lovely glass of sangria or two!

So, I’d love to know. What are your favorite cooling summer recipes? It’s warming up quickly here in the northeast…how about where you are?

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