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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011

It's that time of year again, where we look back at the scents that grabbed us by the lapels in 2011!

This year was a year of classical perfumery. My persistant favourite, my alter ego, my holy Grail of perfumery is Chanel No. 22. It was already the fourth time that I celebrated my birthday with it. Every year I'm being amazed by this permanence, almost abnormal for parfumista. This year I wore a lot of Caron, Guerlain and Vero Profumo. Along with the long-beloved Tabac Blond, I discovered An Avion. And added Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko to the pantheon of beloved Guerlains. It was a good year!


My favorite perfume of 2011 was undoubtedly Tom Ford's absolutely delectable Violet Blond. Yes, it's a throwback to the big blowzy scents of the 80's, but I loved those times,partied hard during them and lived to tell the tale! Violet Blond manages to be incredibly sexy and ladylike at the same time and just so much fun! Think Jerry Hall draped all over Bryan Ferry or Lisa Taylor modeling a Halston sheath and you've got the vibe. Notes of Violet leaf, Orris butter and suede (among other things!) make this perfume stunning and original with plenty of hedonistic arrogance to spare. You owe it to yourself to try it, but be careful. Whereas a little bit of Violet Blond is fabulously intoxicating, one spray too much is the olfactory equivalent of an opium infused hangover!


My favorite new perfume launched in 2011 is Mona di Orio's Oud. At 375€ this is steeply expensive, but after smelling it just once, I was immediately moved to buy a bottle (and split it later, a girl's gotta stay real!). But Oud captivated me in an instant.

Oud, the fabled rotten wood, so ubiquitous and therefore fake in so many fragrances these days, is real in this perfume and treated so ingeniously, I couldn't resist its allure and power, although I normally count oud among my least favorite notes. Oud is paired with osmanthus, the sweet apricot- smelling white flower from China, and together they sing a duet of sublime clarity and beauty that stays with me for the entire day.

Mona di Orio tragically passed away on December 9, the entire perfume community was shocked and saddened and is still grieving for her. We are glad for the legacy she left in the form of her perfumes, and Oud especially stands out for me as the one perfume that bewitched me most, with its masterful structure and sublime beauty.

Oud is a masterpiece that, for me, is worth every cent.


My choice for best fragrance launch of 2011 is actually two – the delectable duo of Nectar des Îles and Vents Ardents from En Voyage Perfumes. This might seem like cheating, but they were actually formulated to complement each other; Vents Ardents, composed by Shelley Waddington, is a rich blend of tropical fruits, bay rum, tobacco and woods while its companion is a tropical style white floral that was created using a range of musks that were selected for their known ability to enhance fruity notes, according to perfumer Juan M. Perez, so that blending them together would result in a something greater than the sum of its parts, and that is exactly how it turned out. Each one is wonderful on its own, but when they are layered on the skin, true magic is made as the exotic notes in Vents Ardents amplify the radiance of the florals in Nectar des Îles and that one in turn brings out the luscious fruitiness of its counterpart. I don’t usually do much perfume layering but these two were literally made for each other and I just can’t get enough.


My favorite from 2011 (not sure when it came out but it was new to me) would have to be C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries Lemon and Orange Flower No.1807, eau de parfum.  This is a simple concoction of Italian lemon and neroli.  No, it doesn't last that long but I get a couple of hours from the eau de parfum.  It is so sunny and fresh and natural smelling that it was one of the few things I had to buy after smelling it for the first time.


Thai Encens by Oriscent

2011 saw the birth of dozens of oud “perfumes” but the scent that won “Best in Show” is Oriscent’s Thai Encens, a limited artisan distillation from incense grade plantation grown wood- proof that oils extracted from cultivated trees can be every bit of good as their “wild” counterparts. Many women dismiss pure oud as being too masculine or over-the-top funky. Thai Encens could easily be mistaken for a blended natural perfume in which fruit, flowers and woods vie for wearer’s attention. The scents of juicy apricots and heady champaca, the warm spiciness of Sumatran cinnamon, and the soothing, sublime and elegant aura of illustrious green  kyara, combine to create a perfume that is as sensuous as it is other-worldly. The seductive bouquet wafting from the ‘Joy perfume tree” effortlessly fuses with the soothing calmness of sacred woods.  An ethereal, breezy, almost minty lightness drifts between and fuses these distinct yet complimentary accords. Hats off to Oriscent, not only for producing such a mesmerizing perfume, but also for supporting businesses that seek to provide a sustainable source of agarwood while enhancing the quality of our environment.

And best wishes to you, too, for a very Merry Christmas and a happy productive and dream-fulfilling coming year.


This year, I felt I have come full circle in many aspects of life, and most certainly in regards to fragrances. When I starting on the path of perfume obsession, Farnesiana was the first scent I Loved. Not liked, not loved, but Loved. And, paradoxically, it might have been its harmonious beauty and the way it resonated with me, which sent me on the search for smells just as beautiful. And you know what? There were plenty. But none touched something in my soul the way Farnesiana did. I should have remembered the words of Meister Eckhart, "when you come to the One that gathers all things up into itself, there your soul must stay." On the other hand, had I realized back then I already had my Holy Grail or my Signature Scent or whatever one could call it, stayed with Farnesiana and looked no further, I wouldn't have discovered Chanel No 22 or Diorama to name just a few. And probably wouldn't have ended up being where I am, doing what I do, knowing what I know. So here is to Farnesiana


There were several tough contenders for the top spot this year, and I find myself torn between two--Mona di Orio's glorious Oud Eau de Parfum Intense, and Andy Tauer's freaky yet comforting Pentachords White. This was a year of too many new perfumes (officially, 2,000, but probably more like 3,500), yet there were some truly original standouts, and these are my two favorites. They are both gorgeous and unique.


While there were quite a few "best of" contenders this year that ranged from the pricey but irresistible Puredistance M to smell bent Debonair Eau Dandy which is the way I remember Eau Sauvage smelling in the seventies long before I was born.  You're buying that, right?  In any case I think I have to give the tip of the chapeau to Fleurage in general and in particular to their scent Salamander.  It might not have been created in 2011, but that's when I discovered it.  I reeeeaaalllyyy hope that LuckyScent starts carrying this brand in the States.  It's that good. 

Of course. like the rest of us I hope that all of you have a wonderful 2012 and will chime in on your Greatest Hits of this past year.

For more looks back at 2011 please visit  Perfume Posse, Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, The Non-Blonde and Grain de Musc.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pipe Dream: Kinski by Kinski

By Tom

Honestly, where to begin..

The only thing I can think is that it's a bid for publicity.  I don't know about wanting to smell like Klaus Kinski who, I'm sorry, is a great actor but doesn't pop to mind as number-one celebrity I want to smell like.

Nor do I want to smell like this. 

Frankly, it smells to me like pot.  Specifically, bong water.  (Don't ask how I know, I just do.  My BFF was there for a second testing and confirmed it)  So much that I would be afraid to wear this to work lest I be sent immediately either home or to rehab.  So much so I half expected to get the munchies.  I didn't wait very long before decamping to ScentBar's bathroom to scrub, so I don't know what it does after the first 15 minutes.  If you've tested it please feel free to complete this.  I think I'll order a pizza...

$140 for 100ML at LuckyScent, where I tested.

Image: LuckyScent


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mirabella the Cat Announces New Niche Brand


“Feline fashion icon Mirabella, Moggy Extraordinaire, announced the launch of her niche perfumery brand today. It features 9 utterly unique scents, each featuring a blissful odor, such as Everglades catnip or Miami fishtail, that Mirabella encountered in her extensive travels through the exotic alleyways of Boca Loca, Florida. Mirabella worked with famous nose Guy Beaucoupdesnarines to bring these precious odors to life. The divine scents will retail for $495 for 30ml and will be available exclusively at Mousey’s department stores.”

I had you there for a minute, didn’t I?? Well, maybe for a second or two. But doesn’t it seem like everyone and their cats are coming out with a niche brand lately? What’s up with that? Do they actually make money? Do they fold after a month or two? Nerd girls want to know….

If you’re like me, you haven’t even started to make a dent in the PLETHORA (good word there) of niche perfumes that came out in 2011. Heck, I’m not even a third of the way through 2009. And now I’m barely a week away from 2012 launches. I’m overwhelmed and suffering perfumista migraine.

So what I want to know is, what impels you to go out of your way to sample one of these new niche brands? What is it that hooks you? Is it the purple PR prose? A personal recommendation? The list of notes? The life story of the personality behind the brand? The nose who created them? I tried to fish out of my tired brain what rules I follow when I’m choosing which tiny slice of the Perfume Pie to sample, and here’s what I’ve got.

1. A certain level of humility attracts me. I’m an ordinary gal, and I don’t really like hearing about these Amazing Women and Their Amazing Travels and Amazing Romances that inspired their Amazing Perfumes. Gimme a break! I call this sort of PR nonsense the Gilderoy Lockhart Effect, and I avoid these brands whenever possible. One of my favorite niche brands has no purple prose, and the nose herself is inspired by locales she really lives near and visits regularly. Like her city’s rose garden. I like that. It seems real.

2. Personal recommendations from other perfumistas. There are many blogs out there, and some are for PR, and some are truly independent. I correspond with other perfumistas, so if I hear good things about a line or a perfume from a perfumista friend, and see the same types of comments on independent blogs, I’m more likely to go out of my way to try something new.

3. Cost. I don’t know about you, but I’m blown away by the inflation happening in the perfume world right now. Most of it is just status inflation, meaning, some ambitious MBA said if you price your perfume astronomically, people will buy it to show off how One Percenter they are. I don’t need that. I’m an Ordinary, 99-percenter Nerd Girl. If the cost seems out of line with the ingredients, I’m not interested.

4. City exclusives and other hard-to-get gimmicks really put me off. I just can’t be bothered. I want a good website, good availability, and friendly service. Paypal is nice, too.

5. A small number of perfumes for the launch signal higher quality to me. When a brand launches with 12 perfumes, I’m skeptical. And I rarely hear good things about them. To my mind, a massive launch collection means a lot of “meh” and “same old” and “a sketch, not a perfume”. A careful, thoughtful launch of 1-5 perfumes signals more attention to detail, and time to create something worthy.

So that’s what I’ve got so far. What rules do you have for sampling the PLETHORA?


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Russian Saturday: Rouge Hermes

Ароматы Hermes занимают в парфюмерию особую нишу. Мало какой дом может похвастаться таким неизменным качеством выпускаемой продукции. Это постоянство дорогого стоит, но иногда оно играет с домом злую шутку, как в случае с Rouge. Fragrantica сообщает, что Rouge Hermes был создан в 1984 году как Parfum d’Hermes и реинкарнирован в 2000 году как Rouge. Мне сложно понять, откуда возникла такая путаница. Rouge и Parfum d’Hermes – разные ароматы, и назвать один переформулировкой другого я не могу даже с большой натяжкой. В этом можно легко убедиться в любом бутике Hermes. Оба аромата продолжают успешно выпускаться.

В наше время, когда настоящее качество уже давно не в моде, Rouge Hermes можно по праву назвать старомодным. Аромат подкупает выверенностью композиции и ощущением покоя, который от него исходит. Он правильный, но ни в коем случае не скучный. В Rouge нет ничего нарочитого, ничего “чересчур”. Впрочем, этой характеристикой я могу наградить почти все ароматы Hermes.

Rouge Hermes открывается горькими, царапающими горло альдегидами. Привкус едва уловимой альдегидной горечи чувствуется на протяжении всего звучания аромата. Следом за альдегидами медленно опускается мягкий, тяжелый занавес из цветов, среди которых доминирует роза. Эта густая, припорошенная ирисовой пудрой, красная роза напрочь лишена каких-либо следов фруктовых нот. Цветочные ноты как правило придают ароматам сочности и влажности, но благодаря ирису аромат остается сухим и даже немного шершавым. База в Rouge горячая, древесно-смолистая, все с той же знакомой горечью и шероховатостью.

Я не разделяю ароматы на дневные и вечерние, но мне комфортнее в Rouge именно днем. Я с удовольствием ношу этот аромат в холодные и темные будни. Для вечера мне в нем не хватает эмоциональной экспрессивности. И это не удивительно: аристократической выдержкой, которая формировалась на протяжении не одного поколения, не так уж и просто пренебречь. Я подобрала к Rouge комплиментарную пару, пусть не такого благородного происхождения, зато прекрасно компенсирующую этот милый недостаток: Rose de Nuit Serge Lutens. Оба аромата расположены в одной части цветового спектра, в обоих доминирует роза, но Rose de Nuit гораздо менее рассудительна.

Rouge Hermes: ylang ylang, rose, cedar, sandalwood, Bourbon vanilla, spices, resins, myrrh, labdanum ciste.

Hermes perfumes occupy a special niche. Only a few houses could boast such constant product quality. This consistency costs a lot, but sometimes it plays a cruel joke on the house, as in the case of Rouge. Fragrantica reports that Rouge Hermes was created in 1984 as Parfum d’Hermes, and reincarnated in 2000 as Rouge. I don't understand where this confusion came from. Rouge and Parfum d'Hermes are different scents, and I can't say that one is a reformulation of another, even approximately. This could be easily proven in any Hermes boutique. Both perfumes are still produced successfully.

Nowadays, when the real quality is not in fashion, Rouge Hermes can be rightfully called old-fashioned. The scent seduces with the correctness of its composition and a feeling of serenity that comes from it. It is correct, but not at all boring. There is nothing in Rouge that is deliberate, nothing "too much". Although I could honour any Hermes perfume with this characteristic.

Rouge Hermes opens with bitter, throat-scratching aldehydes. A barely perceptible hint of aldehyde bitterness is felt throughout the development of the aroma. At the heels of the aldehydes, there slowly drops a soft heavy curtain made of flowers, where rose is dominant. This dense, iris-powdered red rose is completely lacking any traces of fruit notes. Usually flower notes give perfume succulence and moisture, but thanks to iris, it stays dry and even a little bit rough. The base of Rouge is hot, wood-resin, with the same familiar bitterness and roughness.

I do not divide perfumes into day and evening ones, but I feel more comfortable in Rouge during the day. I wear this perfume with pleasure on cold and dark weekdays. In the evening, I miss emotional expressiveness it can't give. And this is not surprising. It is difficult to neglect aristocratic restraint formed over many generations. I found a complement to the Rouge, though not that noble, but it perfectly compensates for that cute imperfection - Rose de Nuit Serge Lutens. Both scents are in the same sector of a colour spectrum, rose dominates in both of them, but Rose de Nuit is far less sensible.

Rouge Hermes: ylang ylang, rose, cedar, sandalwood, Bourbon vanilla, spices, resins, myrrh, labdanum ciste

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

By Tom

No perfume review today.  Beth put too well what we should be focusing on this time of year.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful and fulfilling holiday, whichever one you do (or don't) celebrate and with whomever you celebrate it.  I'm doing kosher Latkes with friends on the actual day and drinks at the Chateau Marmont with the BFF and godchild and giving serious thanks for all of the many blessings in my life.

One of which is all you guys..

Photo of last years LADWP Holiday Light Festival in Griffith Park from my iPhone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ring out ye Solstice Bells


The winter Solstice is once again upon us, that longest night of the year. If I travel far backinto time I can see why our ancestors celebrated for the simplest reasons… the harvest has been brought in and put to attic and cellar, the meat has been preserved and is waiting to be turned into warming stews and braises and the animals are tucked away safely in the barn. The wood for the fire has been gathered andstacked. Let the bells ring out for this is the feast that heralds the transformation…soon the darkest nights will slowly begin to fade into light and the warmth will return once again.

I think that sometimes we forget how fortunate we are and how much in the realm of humanexistence has changed for the better since those times where we lived with the constant threat of plague and famine. In those days, one bad harvest could threaten the existence of an entire village and men in the households could be dragged off to battle at anytime to fight, leaving their families to face unspeakable hardship and poverty.

I have been lucky, as an American I have lived my entire life in a country where abundance was easily provided for me, where, my next meal was as easy to find as the nearest marketplace. And yet as I write this, I am painfully aware that this year, many among us don’t have the simplest resources, many are hungry, many don’t have shelter. Many of those affected are children. When I think back on Solstice’s past, I think of the parties, one of which I am throwing once again with my sister tonight. We have planned the most glorious meal, there will be a beautiful fire in the kitchen, where we’ll make wishes on a bit of last years Yule log and plenty of music to dance to and Christmas Ale and spicy mulled wine to drink.

There will be lots of laughter and plenty of sweet things to eat yet
as I make my preparations for the evening, I cannot help but be reminded of the latest statistics on hunger in this country and they are grim. 1 in 3 families go to sleep hungry in a nation where there is so much. 1 in three children go to school to get their breakfast and some don’t have anything to eat from the time that they leave school on Friday until early Monday morning. How have we let this happen? We waste so much food and so much knowledge. Look around…we have an abundance of everything but for so many there is so little.

I realized about a week ago that the amount of food that I throw out on a weekly basis would feed several children. My animals eat better than some people. I’d just seen a Dr. Oz show on hunger in America where he was talking to a women who was crying while scrounging through her garbage because someone had thrown out 3 stalks of celery and she needed every bit of food she had to feed her 4 children. I immediately sent a note out to my neighbors who are among the most generous people that I know and today I amtaking our donation of close to 400.00 to an emergency food bank around thecorner. Starvation is closer to you than you think. I found out within the last week that a dear friend of mine and her husband spent the last year in a perpetual state of hunger , but she was too proud to ask me for help. I was so incredibly upset. Most people are too proud because that’s the society that we’ve created, one where to ask for help from a friend seems to be seen as something shameful.

So this Solstice as I enjoy the laughter and comfort of my friends and the warmth of my sisters hearth I have made several promises to myself and several wishes…….

I promise that I will not make myself feel guilty for what I have, but I will share even more of it and waste less of it. I will find a way teach people to garden well, to grow their own food, to preserve it as I’ve begun to do and how to use the healing herbs growing all around us instead of relying on medicines that poison oursouls and our bodies. I will figure out a way to teach people how to cook and find a soup kitchen to serve in like my mother so long ago. To provide food is provide love and we get so busy that we’ve forgotten all about that. I love sharing a fabulous feast for my friends, but as I look around this year and see what others do not have I cannot help but think so much about the traditional origins of Solstice. We have forgotten what it means to live within our world, to live with each other and to be self- reliant.

We've forgotten how to be grateful for the light.

The poorest among us only have access to what we easily give them and if you don’t believe me just drive into the most poverty stricken sections of your city to see what I mean. Convenient stores owned by large, faceless corporations that are filled with foods that are of the scarcest nutritional value, that cost more and provide less. No real lettuce, just bags of chips, frozen pizzas and white bread; dead food with no soul.

Here in America we have all of the resources that we need to create a peaceful, abundant and prosperous world for all, but we’ve got to climb out of our cocoon and look around, spread our wings a bit and take in the view from above. Look about honestly and then roll up our sleeves and see what must be done to make our existence work for every one, not just a chosen few who somehow believe that the rest are not deserving.

I’m not a terribly religious sort of girl, but there is a message for us all in the Book of Matthew, where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
If you are hungry, let someone close to you know. If you are cold, let someone close to you know…. if I can do something please let me know.

Whatever your heart desires is what I wish for you, whether it be love or a new job or gallons of your favorite perfume. I wish for all of you to know just how much richness you bring to my life. I truly appreciate and am thankful for you all and if you see my secret Santa please let him know that I’d love a full bottle of Caron’s Tabac Blond perfume and a new bottle of Nuit de Noel! ( Yes, we’re still on Perfume Smellin Things!)

In this season of light, on this Wintry Solstice night please remember to be generous and brave.

Brightest Blessings until we meet again in the New Year….
Beth Schreibman Gehring

Picture courtesy of


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bottled-Up Anger and Peaceful Death: Serge Lutens Vitriol d’œillet and De Profundis


In the summer of 2011, as is customary with the house of Serge Lutens, two new fragrances premiered at the same time, one in the Export line and the other a Paris exclusive, only to be obtained at the Palais Royale du Shiseido by those fortunate enough to have that kind of access. Usually the Exclusive one sounds more interesting than the Export range fragrance, but this time I was not so sure; the one in wide release was Vitriol d’œillet which means “angry carnation,” and knowing the kind of twist that Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake usually put on their perfumes, I was hoping it would be a glorious reincarnation of Caron’s now-reformulated Bellodgia, or perhaps even on the same astral plane as JAR’s fabulous Golconda, which I first tried in its original formula and which I declared to be the best carnation perfume I had ever smelled up until that time. Alas, the “vitriol” part was not a Mommie Dearest style hissy fit but rather a mild annoyance, and while it’s very pretty and even somewhat cozy, it was not the carnation masterpiece I craved. To my nose it is a fairly conventional carnation scent, better than most but not great; in all fairness the bar set by Golconda was very high. Notes include nutmeg, clove, carnation, wallflower, lily, pink pepper, pepper and paprika. I would be happy to own a bottle of this for wearing on cold winter days since I don’t currently own a carnation soliflore, but my preference would still be for DSH Perfumes wonderful Oeillets Rouges, which in the absence of the “real” Bellodgia (and the unattainability of the high-priced and exclusive JAR line) is still my pick for the best modern carnation soliflore around.

I thought that the Exclusive line scent sounded more like a weird artsy experiment than a wearable fragrance, but after receiving a sample of it from a generous friend I can say that not only is it a real perfume but a thing of great if unusual beauty. De Profundis is a meditation on death and loss, taking its name from the Latin title often used for Psalm 130 and the line “De profundis clamavi” - “from the depths I cried.” It is based on the idea of funeral flowers, but instead of the lily getting the blame as usual for being associated with death; this time around it is the chrysanthemum taking center stage. (I happen to be an avid grower of both lilies and “mums” and so my own reaction to their smell is generally positive.) It begins with a vivid impression of opening the cooler in a florist shop, sharp and chilly and green, a blast of the exact moment that the odor of an over-chilled bouquet of flowers and filler materials hits your nose as you ponder the rather sad choices available, all of them shivering miserably as they wait for a buyer. If you have smelled the beginning of Carnal Flower (by Fredèric Malle) then you know what I mean by the florist shop vibe, but this is even more intense and more than a little depressing at first. However, it is compelling, and soon the chilliness subsides as the smell of actual flowers begins to develop, and they are indeed chrysanthemums in all their unique herbal pungency, so startling in their realism that it’s hard to believe the room is not full of them. This vegetal aroma is softened by a gentle breath of violets and an anchoring of loamy earth.

Once I got used to the idea that this was a perfume without any discernible sweetness except for the hint of violets, I began to enjoy it for its own qualities and soon I even found it addictive. It reminded me a lot of the cemetery next to my childhood home, where the mingled aromas of cut grass, wilting bouquets, freshly turned dirt, wild phlox growing on the older graves and wildflowers, including violets, next to a tree-shaded stone wall greeted me each time I passed through it on my way to exploring the woods beyond. I had no superstitions about graveyards as a child; I always knew it was the living you had to watch out for and that the dead could not harm anyone, so it was a place of refuge for me and I spent many hours there in summertime. I am delighted that there is actually a fragrance that captures this memory so eloquently for me, and I hope it will be released to the export line sooner rather than later.
I actually tested De Profundis on a very demanding “focus group” – the members of my local Chrysanthemum club, and they really liked it, one woman so much that I think she may even try to get one of those precious bell jars from Paris. These people are used to being surrounded for hours at a time by the piquant smell of both the leaves and flowers of these plants, so getting a thumbs-up from them is a tribute to its appeal.

Vitriol d’œillet is available online at Luckyscent and at better retail shops that carry the Serge Lutens line. De Profundis is in the Exclusive line at the Serge Lutens boutique in the Palais Royale du Shiseido in Paris, France.

Image credits: Collage from various sources around the Web – I do not own any of them.

Disclosure: My sample of Vitriol d’œillet was a promotional giveaway from Luckyscent. The sample of de Profundis was a gift from a friend.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fleurage Perfumes Part 1

By Tom

Fleurage is an Australia-based house created in 2007 by Emma Leah and Robert Luxford that specializing in botanicals and the art of perfume-making.  Emma was nice enough to send me a selection of samples of her work (she is I believe the nose) and I'm going to cover half here today and half tomorrow on The Posse.

The first group are fougeres (note, these are all listed as Men's.  Ignore that ladies, I know several of you who would lie like rugs to keep your male family members away from them.  I know I would)

Mabon is spicy, smoky and sexy.  It starts with a sprightly burst of warm spices that are quickly joined by woods and a delightful glove leather.  It gets earthier as it develops and does a Lutens-like dance between cool and warm that I loved until I was swept off my feet by...

Salamander, which starts off with an oddly sweet pepper.  Odd because it's not like a sweet green or red pepper, but an actual combination of black pepper and slightly burnt sugar.  I don't remember ever smelling that combo before and frankly can't think why I haven't.  It's brilliant.  It also adds in a fair bit of (unlisted) musk, cumin and a wonderful woody incense, while the base amps it up with myrrh,  I'm hopelessly in thrall.  I have the first black-tie Event I'm going to (as a guest)  next month and I hope I can ration this out to be my scent..

Of course if I can't manage that I can always wear Dryad, which takes that wood and adds smoke.  It starts off intensely green with (I think) a touch of sage.  The final dry-down adds in a delicious hint of patchouli and vetiver.  It stays closer to the skin on me than the others do, but perhaps for this event that might not be too bad of a thing.  It reminds me in the best way possible of when men's scents were as adventurous as women's.  I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

The second group are the florals:

Gardenia Magnifica is a lovely gardenia that's cut with a lovely lemon blossom (I think) note.  So many gardenia scents have been exploring the darker side of the flower; some of them are almost a Grand Guignol Gardenia with claws dripping blue cheese and the scent of rot.  This is a perfect summer day sort of gardenia.  It's a gardenia you could wear to the office, and that's a good thing.

Grandiflora is less office friendly, which is the way I like it.  It's a jasmine that written of as being like "putting your face up to the flowers growing on the vine".  Actually it's better.  It starts for me with a thick, winey note that as it thins, become cooler, almost camphorous and green before bursting head-on into the jasmine.  The jasmine in Los Angeles is weird; it's heady from five feet away buy up close doesn't smell like much, perhaps you need the cumulative effect of masses of them.  This jasmine seems finally almost peppery, and so beautifully alive I'd like to smell it far more than my shrubs with the real thing..

Fleurage Consort is flowers dipped in amber and presented in a cedar box, like jewelry.  In the beginning the wood seems sharp with ginger and the amber super-warm.  This stage reminds of of some older perfumes whose names I'd long forgotten but wish I could get.  As it warms and develops the hard edges are sanded down as the wood mellows and the jasmine, rose and tuberose peep their little heads out from the still-warm amber.  This is a winner, and of these three marked "for women" one that I'd have a hard time not filching.

Now the bad news.  All of these are available on their website, but I'm not sure if they ship to the US.  Which means that we have to bug LuckyScent into carrying them.  Tune into Perfume Posse for some more reasons to do so, namely her Orientals and Chypres..

My samples and the artwork were provided by the perfumer.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Two Favorite Sample Sets

By Marla

Every once in a while, I love a sample set. When they are well made and presented, they introduce me to a line I knew nothing about. Sometimes I say, “Meh”, and sometimes I’m blown away. Here are my criteria for good sample sets:

1. They have spray samples, not dabbers. I don’t know why, but dabbing just doesn’t work for me. I can smell a perfume much better after a good spray. Is this the same for you? Or am I not giving dabbing its due?

2. A fair number of samples. Three doesn’t cut it. If possible, I’d like the whole line, or at least, an entire series within the line. I really want to know the scope of perfumes available, and the range of the house.

3. An aesthetic presentation. Preferably beautiful, but it has to show the aesthetic values of the house. No plain wrapping and generic labels, please, unless, for some odd reason, that is the aesthetic value of the house.

4. A reasonable price. Once each sample gets about $7 or more, I don’t know why, I just get bored and leave. Exceptions to this are perfumes made from very rare or expensive materials, like natural oud, or rose otto, or fossilized hyrax poop. I’ll pay extra for that!

5. Most of the perfumes have to please me. And a few should knock me over!

So based on my highly scientific and economically sound criteria, my two favorite sample sets are from Ormonde Jayne, and Ineke. Each house does a splendid job of combining good value, good research material, and gorgeous design. Ineke’s Deluxe Sample Collection sells for $25, and that sum can be put toward a full bottle purchase, which is a great plus. The packaging is gorgeous, boxed in smokey grey with black and white lettering. Each spray sample is wrapped in washi paper and has its own little box. And Ineke’s line is very impressive, I haven’t found a dud among them (reviews to follow in 2012).

My other favorite is Ormonde Jayne’s Discovery Set, which is 12 spray samples for 44 pounds sterling. They come in a delightful black puzzle box. For both sample sets, shipping is included. And again, not a dud in the set.

What are the best sample sets you’ve tried? And what are your criteria for a good set?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Winner of Tauer draw

(via Is Sujaan.  Please hit the "Contact Me" radio button on the right (scroll down) and give us your info.  Thanks to everyone for commenting


Winners of Draws Past

Sandalwood Draw by Marla - KYM

Gift Guide Draw by Beth - SYBIL

Thanksgiving Draw by Beth - JANET

Please send us your details.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Andy Tauer, Christmas Memories, and Letting Go

…and a draw

By Tom

I’m just going to say it.  I’m not big on  Christmas.

I was when I was a kid of course.  Every year my family made it an event.  We decorated with a capital “D”.  Lights were strung.  Electric candles were placed in all of the street-side windows on our corner lot and the tree went up in the big bay window.  That tree was a devilishly complex fake one that consisted of individual branches that had to be placed into the wooden stand, and carefully packed lest it become a wire and plastic rubik’s cube.

Then there were the ornaments.  These ranged from generic lights in strings to things that us kids made each year to items that had been around for decades.  The trimming of the tree and the house took at least a full day and outside help, and there were people who would drive out of their way to see it.  Was it tasteful?  Well it wasn’t like some that could be seen from space, but I think it might not have qualified as “quiet good taste”

Like all kids at Christmas we’d wake up at about 5 ready to open the gifts.  We were expected to have breakfast as normal and then open our gifts in an orderly fashion, rather than attacking them like a group of sharks in chum-laden water.  It killed us to do so.  After we’d opened out gifts and played with them was the afternoon Christmas open house, with the food we’d all helped (in whatever way we could until we grew older) prepare, and the adult libations we kids were desperate to try to sneak a sip of.

Later in life my BFF moved with her family and my godchild to Los Angeles.  Over the years we spent our Christmases together, which meant that I usually got a call at 7 or so asking that I come over right away since said child didn’t want to open anything until I was there, and could I pick up some cream or something for the dinner we’d prepare.  We’d have breakfast together as my Godchild was forced to sit there, vibrating like a tuning fork just like I did, awaiting the gifts.  There was also earlier the setting up of their tree,; theirs natural but still with ornaments that came out every year, some made by hand, some from decades ago.  The dinner we all prepared was composed of friends dropping in and trying to keep the teens from snagging any of the adult libations we were enjoying.

So why don’t I like Christmas?

It ends. 

My teen Christmas ended when my father died in December and that tree stayed up in the box.  My adult Christmas died when my godchild’s father decided just after Christmas to end his marriage, and my BFF moved back to New York where the godchild was in college.

I’m not asking for pity.  We make the holidays what we make them.  As a matter of fact I’m going this year to a latke party that some friends of mine are having, but didn’t think I’d attend since they thought I’d be celebrating Christmas. 

I’ll be very happy celebrating potato pancakes, and tasting a different family's holiday tradition.  Mazel Tov, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays: they are what you make of them, and I sincerely hope yours are fulfilling. 

Notes on the draw:  The prize is a full bottle at the choice of the winner. The winner can select from any fragrance that Andy sells on or a bottle of Miriam, the Tableau de Parfums scent, or the Cologne du Maghreb.  (lucky you) the draw will be open the 24 hours of December 11th and is open to all countries (Andy will be shipping directly from Zurich) 

Tune in tomorrow to see who won, and check out the other participants by visiting his website.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Mona Di Orio has died today

From the perfumer's facebook page:

"Today, completely unexpected and leaving us in great sorrow, our great inspirer, friend, colleague and name giver to her great loves, her beautifull parfum creations, Mona di Orio has passed away. We are shocked and deeply saddened and speechless but will still help realize her dreams. "
Team Mona di Orio Parfums
Our deepest condolences go to the family, friends, colleagues and many fans of Mona's creations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Warm & Fuzzies

Well, it's that time of the year.  The overnight lows last night (Tuesday the 6th) were a toasty 41 degrees and the lows will be around that all week.  I know that a lot of you live in places where it's a lot colder, but one of the facts about living in LA is that insulation is practically non-existant on most older places like mine.  So it's get-out-the-bankies time at my house.

The plus side of this is that it's also get out the heavy-hitters time.  This sort of weather is perfect for something like Ambre Sultan, which is practically a campfire in and of itself.

I've been finding myself reaching for Guerlain Spiriteuse Double Vanille a lot.  I wrote about this time last year:

"It's also one of the truest vanillas I have ever experienced in perfume: it is remarkably like a home-made vanilla extract, which is merely a pod and really good vodka that is left to sit. Frankincense, pepper, and rose flavor it and when I wear it I can't help but when I am alone stick my nose under my sweater and breathe deeply. If Nigella Lawson had come up with a perfume, this could well have been it"

It's pricey at $225 for 2.5 oz, but that bottle will last all eternity.  It's a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, where I purchased mine several years ago.

Please tell me in the comments what you're reaching for these days.

Image credit: Dean & Deluca

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Foodie Sunday: My Christmas wIsh list and and a wonderfully scented prize draw!

bucketBY BETH

It’s funny. I looked around just the other day and I was harvesting fresh tomatoes from my garden and lounging around with a healthyvodka and tonic in the hammock. Yesterday the snow was flying and I realized that it was December! Time really does fly when you’re having fun or as my husband the happy punster likes to say, “Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana”. Sorry, but it is Foodie Sunday!

This is the time of year when I begin to make lists of all sorts. Cooking lists, gift lists, donation lists, card lists, it’s pretty endless. But I’ve also learned over the years to make my own wish list. So here they are in no particular order, some of the Foodie and fun fantasies that I’m longing to find under the tree this year!

ultrbrutSo, what would the holidays be without a fabulous glass of champagne? Through the early 80’s and until the late 90’s my bubbles of choice were Laurent Perrier’s ultra orgasmic Ultra Brut and then this offering just disappeared. I was inconsolable, I used to refer to this particular bottling as drinking an elixir distilled from icy cold angels breath. Not too sweet, not too dry, not too yeasty, just perfect because it has absolutely no sugar dosage. The Ultra Brut is perfect to drink for almost any occasion, it marries well with classic French dishes like Dover Sole or Russian delights like roasted sturgeon and root vegetables. It wants to be paired with chilled fresh oysters and it loves my cut crystal flutes,which allow the bubbles to dance up and down the graceful stems like the sugarplum fairies in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite! Just the other day on a whim I sent to the Laurent Perrier site and lo and behold, someone sound the trumpets because my beloved Ultra Brut has returned! You don’t want to miss this…it’s wonderful. Trust me, buy a bottle and tell me what you think. As for me, well I’m asking Santa for a case of it. Luxurious? Yes! Indulgent? Absolutely! But I like to think I’m worth it and so is my white truffle scented popcorn!

Saint-Louis-Bubbles-Champagne-flutes,c01069Anytime that I’m thinking about champagne, I’m thinking about fine crystal to serve it in. I have beautiful Baccarat stems, but I’d love a couple of St. Louis Crystals beautiful “Bubbles” flutes to serve my Ultra Brut in. For any not familiar with St. Louis , they are the oldest Cristallerie in Europe, founded in France in 1586. These stems are contemporary yet timeless, each rendered injewel tones of cobalt, green , purple, red and a seductive smoky gray and the stems are beautifully crafted and layered bubbles that form a perfect anchor for the graceful bowl. Totally elegant and gorgeous!

essences2011 was the year that I learned to cook with essential oils and I fell in love with the breathtaking way in which just a drop or too or a wonderful essence could enhance the flavor of my foods and elevate them to a level of brightness that I’d never experienced before. Essential oil of dill took my potato soup to a whole new richness and essential oil of ginger and roasted carrots? Sublime! How to use them in dessert? The possibilities are endless and I now see that my favorite Jeni’s ice cream recipes have been immortalized in a cookbook. The best part? The essences that they use are made by Mandy Aftel and there’s a delightful set available that I’m hoping to find in my stocking this year, 6 beautiful little bottles (Clove, Coriander, Lavender, Peppermint, ylang ylang and wild sweetorange) just ready to make my ice creams and crème brulee’ giggle with flavor. All of Mandy’s delightful chefs’ essences and absolutes can be found on her website so you can handpick them for YOUR favorite chefs!

JuraS70I have espresso flavored dreams…I really do. I love the aroma and comfort of a steaming mug of cinnamon coffee first thing in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the house is asleep and it’s just me and my laptop spending some quality time together. Recently I spent a week in Boulder with my family and we stayed at my brother and sister in laws gorgeous new home that they’ve built along the Boulder foothills. This house was beautiful with windows all around and and every morning I’d wake up during sunrise when Carlos the rooster would begin to crow. It was the most relaxing week. I’d walk into the kitchen to find Jim already sitting at the table with his computer and he get up and make me a fabulous cup of hazelnut coffee using their Jura espresso machine. I was hooked! The thought of making a wonderful cup of espresso at home sounds wonderful to me! When I figured out what both of us spent everyday on our assorted latte’s and cappuccinos I was flabbergasted. Even the most expensive machine would be paid for in less than a year’s time. I’ve settled on the Jura Impressa C5 machine with Dual frothers available form Sur La Table. The only downside is that I may never leave the house again!

One of the things that I adore are excellent Olive oils and vinegar’s. When I was last in New York I discovered that one of my favorite restaurants, the Fig and Olive sold one of the finest white truffle infused oils that I’ve ever tasted. But they also sell oils infused with blood orange, meyer lemon and basil that are equallywonderful and a truffled mustard that is to die for and a delicious tomato and basil spread that will leave the warm taste of summer lingering for hours on your lips. In fact, everything that they use on their delicious crostini’s are available for purchase so I think that a gift certificate could be in order. Oh Joy!

Because I spent my entire career in the tabletop and entertaining business old habits die hard. To me presentation is everything and I don’t have a champagne bucket! Well, I did but in a moment of artistic frenzy I turned it into a container for a spider plant and ruined it. So now that I’m going to have my beloved Ultra Brut again I’m going to need a new one and I’ve found the perfect candidate, a Mauviel hammered copper beauty from Williams Sonoma that can chill two bottles side by side and look absolutely rustic and glorious while doing so. If you’ve never used a champagne bucket I encourage you to do so. You can find them everywhere at very reasonable prices and they make your presentation so very glamorous. A bottle of bubbly chilling gracefully in a silver or crystal bucket with two pretty glasses and a few lovely hors d oeuvre’s is always in my home a prelude to a kiss…….

candlesI love Macarons, those delightfully French fantasies of perfect almond meringue with fillings that range from decadent to otherworldly. My favorites come from Laduree in Paris and now I’ve discovered that they are making beautiful candles that are scented just like their pastries. They are beautiful, poured into containers of spun sugar colors emblazoned with white cameos and flavors like violet, chocolate orange and candied fruit. There are at least 20 to choose from and they’re all wonderful and there are sets of two and three just in case you’re like me and can’t make up your mind! I’m truly addicted to these so hopefully Santa will take pity on me this year….

While I’m thinking about sweets I’d love a box of the deliciously soft, unbelievably sexy, seriously sugary Marron’s Glaces from La Maison du Chocolat. If you’ve never tasted a Marron, well you’re in for a treat. They are incredible, chestnuts from Turin that have been gently simmered in sugar water in a candying process over a period of about 5 days, so that the liquids in the chestnuts are gradually replaced by the sugar. These traditional French Favorites are the most perfect treat that I know and I like to buy a box and eat them one or two at a timefrom Christmas eve until New Years Day. I do not share these (even with Jim!) so you’ll have to buy your own box but I promise you that they are worth it.

CHAN138312.18There are many more things on my wish list, like a vintage copy of The Cleveland Orchestra performing The Nutcracker Suite , The “Essentielle de Chanel “ makeup palette, a huge bag of Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweet Peas seriously potent catnip for my fabulous felines and a huge bottle of Roxana Villas utterly phenomenal perfume “To Bee” which turns into a sumptuous and sensually honeyed feast on my skin.

Mostly though what I’m wishing for is that you my dear readers have the holiday season of your dreams. Why don’t you let me know what’s on your wish list this year and I promise that if I see your secret Santa I’ll let him know! Send me your favorite Christmas recipe for a chance to have a HUGE holiday grab bag of perfume samples chosen by yours truly. (The winnerfrom my Thanksgiving draw was Janet who mentioned chestnuts, my absolutelyfavorite ingredient to use during this time of year. Janet please send yoursnail mail address to Marina and I’ll send out your gift right away!)

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Russian Saturday: Guerlain Mitsouko

"Девица хоть и с хрипотцой, но сладко запела, картавя, что-то малопонятное, но, судя по женским лицам в партере, очень соблазнительное:
– Герлэн, Шанель номер пять, Мицуко, Нарсис Нуар..."
М.Булгаков "Мастер и Маргарита"

Персики во мхах. Такой лаконичный, как японское хайку, образ сложился у меня о Mitsouko. Он оставался неизменным, пока у меня не появился свой флакон старой туалетки. И завертелось!

За последний месяц несколько раз начинала писать о Mitsouko, но каждый раз стирала. Многообразие аромата, скрывающееся за его кажущейся простотой, оказалось очень сложно уловить и передать словами. Не уверена, что это получилось сейчас. Можно было подождать, когда впечатления оформятся в что-то более зрелое, но Mitsouko ведет себя так, будто у нее осталось очень мало времени: я ношу ее почти каждый день, как будто каждый день – последний. Мне остается лишь только подчиниться и отдать причитающуюся ей дань.

Как и другие аромата Герлена в этой концентрации, Mitsouko очень пластична и подвижна. Но если динамика Vol de Nuit выстраивается по горизонтали, то Mitsouko – это вертикаль. Из флакона пахнет бергамотом и мхом одновременно. Верх и самое дно сложились в одной плоскости, предъявляя свою шипровую идентификацию как паспорт. Но на коже сложеные в стопку, как игральные карты, компоненты выстраиваются в вертикаль, растягиваясь до самой стратосферы. Дубовый мох кого угодно затащит в подземелье, здесь же бергамот удерживает всю композицию на поверхности, не давая ей провалиться в царство мертвых даже к базе.

Даже не знаю, что в Мitsouko мне нравится больше: стремительный бергамотовый разгон, последующее замирание в точке невесомости теплой кремовой розы или бесконечно любимые абстрактно-натуралистичные герленовские персики? И что больше щекочет нервы: когда на стыке персика и розы появляется иллюзия кожи aka skin цвета белого меда или мягкое падение в темные объятья мха?

Mitsouko – это совершенство с первой до последнией ноты. Это абсолютно наркотический аромат. Его хочется еще и еще, и невозможно оторваться. Но в то же время есть в нем что-то неподдающееся пониманию. Мitsouko как любимая женщина, с которой ты, увы, всегда останешься на “Вы”.

"In a sweet though slightly hoarse voice the girl made an announcement which sounded rather cryptic but which, judging from the faces of the women in the stalls, was very enticing: “Guerlain, Chanel, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, Chanel Number Five, evening dresses, cocktail dresses…”"
Mikhail Bulgakov “The Master and Margarita”

Peaches in moss. This image, as concise as a Japanese haiku, was my first impression of Mitsouko. It remained the same until I got my own bottle of an old EDT. And then it all began!

Over the last month I was starting to write about Mitsouko several times. But every time I deleted everything. It was difficult to capture and translate into words the diversity of the scent that hides behind its apparent simplicity. And I’m not sure that I got it right now. I could have waited until impressions evolve into something more mature. But Mitsuko behaves as though it has almost no time left. And I wear it every day, as though that day is the last one. I could only obey and pay awed tribute to it.

As the other scents of this concentration from Guerlain, Mitsouko is very versatile and flexible. But while the dynamics of Vol de Nuit is built horizontally, Mitsouko's is vertical. From the bottle, it smells of bergamot and moss at the same time. The top and the very bottom have folded into the same plane, showing its chypre id, like a passport. But on a skin the components, previously arranged like a pile of cards, stretch into a vertical structure all the way up to the stratosphere. Oak moss could drag anyone into a dungeon, but here bergamot holds the entire composition on the surface, even in the base keeping it from falling into the netherworld.

I don’t even know what I like in Mitsouko most: the rapid bergamot acceleration, the freeze at zero-gravity point of warm creme rose that follows, or infinitely beloved abstract-naturalistic Guerlain’s peaches? And what thrills me the most: when, at a junction of peach and rose, there appears an illusion of white honey colored skin, or that soft fall into the dark embrace of moss?

Mitsouko is a perfection from the first note till the last. It’s an absolutely narcotic scent. You want it more and more, and can’t stop that. And at the same time it has something incomprehensible. Mitsouko is like a woman you love, but with whom you speak different languages

Mitsouko Guerlain (Jacques Guerlain, 1919): Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli; Peach, Rose, Clove, Ylang-Ylang, Cinnamon; Oakmoss, Labdanum, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vetiver.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

The Many Faces of Sandalwood. And a Draw

By Marla

Most perfumistas are aware that the cost of white sandalwood, Santalum album, is skyrocketing. It’s around $400 an ounce, and increasing in price about 25% each year. The key base note in perfumery on Planet Earth is now a very restricted, and diminishing, commodity. It takes about 4 decades for a white sandalwood tree to become harvestable, and the old stands in India, the famous Mysore sandalwood, are either protected or gone. The notes we perfumistas crave are the santalols, which are warm, milky, woody, somewhat spicy molecules. Rather than abandoning the creamy richness of sandalwood as a base for perfumes, farmers and aromachemical companies have been coming up with a plethora of synthetics and naturals to take the place of the sacred tree. Here’s a brief list of the some of the most important things you might find in your perfume when the list of notes includes sandalwood.

Javanol was created by aromachemical powerhouse Givaudan. It’s intense, with powerful sillage and longevity. Givaudan also makes Sandalore (extraordinarily tenacious, and a little “spiky” to some), and Ebanol, probably the strongest of the set. Break a bottle of Ebanol in your living room and your descendants will be smelling it for 3 generations hence! Firmenich created Polysantol (santol pentenol) which has some herbal/animalic touches. Takasago makes Levosandol, which leans toward cedar, and Symrise has Fleursandol, which, as the name suggests, is softer and more floral. These can be blended in various ways to give each perfumer the “sandalwood accord” that they prefer.

Linda from the Perfumer’s Apprentice makes her own sandalwood accord that combines milky laitones with patchouli and several of the aromachemicals above. It’s my personal favorite, and easy for DIYers like myself to buy in small quantities for experimentation.

But the farmers and natural perfumers have been busy, too! The closest to actual Indian white sandalwood to my nose is Vanuatu and New Caledonian sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum). Their oil goes for around $80 an ounce, and they’re grown sustainably, so they’re ethically a much better choice than poached Indian sandalwood. The best batches really can rival the real deal. Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) is sharper and woodier, but it’s getting a lot of fans for its own unique qualities, it’s cheaper, and it’s an excellent fixative.

Leaving Santalum entirely, the Haitians offer Amyris balsamifera, also called West Indian sandalwood. It’s the cheapest, at around $10 an ounce, but also the roughest of the group. However, like the Australian, it makes a great fixative, and some of the latest batches I’ve tried have been much softer in odor, in fact, very pleasant and peaceful. Siam Wood (Fodenia hodginsii), from Vietnam, has a lovely profile which is a cross between Himalayan cedar and white sandalwood.

It’s frightening to learn how many of our most treasured plant species are fighting for their existence on a planet that’s become so difficult for them. But I’m glad to know the squints and botanists, the farmers and perfumers, are working hard on the next generation of basenotes for all of us. I’d love to hear your comments on your favorite sandalwood-sporting perfume, about sandalwood in general, and I’ll pick one of you for a little packet of some of the aromachemicals and botanicals I’ve described above.