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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Natural Nuances: Aftelier Perfumes Secret Garden and Oud Luban

By Donna

As I lamented in my recent post on the demise of classic floral bouquet scents in mainstream perfumery, they just don’t make them like they used to -unless “they” are a natural perfumer with the talent to bring forth all the best of the essences they have to work with. One need look no further than Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes to find such a gem, because the recently launched Secret Garden exemplifies what can be accomplished with the right balance of ingredients. This gorgeous fragrance was inspired by the famous book (and ensuing films) by Frances Hodgson Burnett of the same name centered on a neglected walled garden on a somber English estate that is found by two children who secretly bring it back to glorious life after a long-ago tragedy; the garden heals all who enter it both by virtue of the hard labor involved in its restoration and the rich beauty it reveals in return. This perfume is a fitting tribute to resurgent life, as I cannot imagine anything more lush and inviting.
When I first smelled Secret Garden, it immediately reminded me of several of my favorite vintage fragrances, and in the best possible way; the luscious, languid florals of Lanvin My Sin, Corday Fame and Blanchard Jealousy and a touch of the fruity mystery of Rochas Femme greeted my nose, and just dabbing it on made me feel as though I had suddenly developed an hourglass figure accentuated by back-seamed silk stockings. A shadow of the balsamic Oriental warmth of a Shalimar, or even Dana’s Tabu the way it once was in its glory days, adds depth and interest. (This is no mystery - it has civet and castoreum in it to give it that irresistible sex-in-a-bottle vibe, just like those great old classics did.) At the same time, it is an exceptionally beautiful modern floral perfume, with top notes of bergamot, geranium and blood orange and a heart of raspberry, jasmine sambac, blue lotus and Turkish rose absolute. The florals blend in a superbly balanced way so that no one note is predominant, and the result is heady and almost narcotic. Vanilla, benzoin and aged patchouli complete the delicious and expansive base, which also includes a truly novel ingredient called deer tongue, a botanical essence that imparts a warm powdery feeling similar to Tonka bean to the composition. The drydown lingers for many beautiful hours thanks to the complex base materials. For fans of the floral Oriental style of scent, this is a superb must-try example of the genre.

Another recent introduction from Aftelier is Oud Luban. I will not go into great detail on this one because I simply can’t compete with Beth’s description of it for her contribution to The Clarimonde Project. It is warm, smoky, leathery and subtly spicy, and the splendid high quality oud is of course entirely natural and blended with an exceptionally fine grade of frankincense known as Luban. I have a sample of the solid version, and as Aftelier fans know, Mandy’s solid scents are among the best in the business. I would recommend that oud fans keep some of this around of it for reference purposes as well as to wear, because this is what high grade natural oud perfume is supposed to smell like. With oud’s still-burgeoning popularity, several synthetic substitutes have been developed since the real thing is so expensive, at least for the good stuff; cheaper natural materials that might not exactly be real oud are finding their way into perfumes as everyone jumps on the bandwagon. If you want to go right to the source, as they say, you can’t go wrong with Oud Luban.

Image credit: “Secret Garden” gate from ARendle’s flickr photostream via Creative Commons Share Alike license, some rights reserved.

Disclosure: The samples were sent to me by Aftelier Perfumes at my request for testing.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Tea Time

I love tea.  Even more than coffee.  There are several that I drink on a weekly basis: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, various green teas. In Los Angeles, we have the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which is always within a block of Starbucks.  The Bean (as we call it) has more tea, and in my opinion better coffee.  But the best place for tea in town is Chado in West Hollywood.  They have literally hundreds of teas that can be shipped to your door.  They also have a "high tea" in their restaurant where they'll serve you whatever tea you like with a good English cream tea, which is the best thing you can have on a cold afternoon, or what passes for one in LA.  If you come here, I urge you to stop in.

What's your favorite place for a cuppa?

Image: Chado

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Russian Saturday: Nahéma Guerlain

Потребность в розах – как потребность в хлебе. Это вечная ольфакторная ценность.
Когда на блошином рынке я увидела миниатюру духов Nahéma Guerlain (копирайт 1979 года) на ложе из пластика непристойно-розового цвета, я не сомневалась ни минуты: мне с осени не дают покоя розовые розы, но в наши цветочные лавки никак не завезут цветы нужного мне цвета и размера.

Nahéma cтартует сладко, тягуче, будто потягиваясь. Немного остроты бергамота, бархатных листьев герани – мелкая дрожь пробегает по расслабленному телу. Еще различимы очертания розовых лепестков. Они мелькают перед глазами, как в ускоренной съемке. Имя им – легион. Nahéma быстро согревается и окутывает собой, как коконом. Кокон этот размером с Вселенную. Запас внутреннего тепла в ней кажется неисчерпаемым. Каждый раз, когда я переживаю этот старт, у меня такое чувство, будто я сижу в лодке, которую оттолкнули от берега в вечность.

А в вечности – розовое солнце в зените. Шар, слепленный из однородной, пластичной розово-абрикосовой массы, плотной и воздушной одновременно. Как такое возможно – спросите у Жан-Поля. У солнца холодные гиацинтовые протуберанцы и сандалово-бензоиновое ядро. Иногда меня возвращают в реальность призраки розового масла. Но и на солнце бывают пятна. В Nahéma розы обрели вторую жизнь. Сырой материал переработан в нечто новое, удивительно цельное. Очертания слились, силуэты неразличимы. В Nahéma нет ничего, что заставляло бы думать о том, как это сделано.

В Nahéma – аккумулированная энергия полуденного солнца. Чувство безопасности и безмятежности, в котором так легко потерять бдительность. Nahéma – это декаданс. Абсолютный инь. Невыносимая легкость бытия.

The need for roses is like the need for bread. It is an eternal olfactory value. When at a flea market I saw a miniature perfume Nahéma Guerlain (copyright 1979) on a plastic bed of obscene pink color, I didn’t doubt even for a moment: pink roses haunt my mind since autumn, but our flower shops still don’t have the roses of a size and color that I need.

Nahéma starts sweet, viscous, as if it’s stretching itself. A bit of bergamot sharpness, a bit of velvety geranium leaves – and a shiver runs through your relaxed body. Above that you could recognize outlines of rose petals. They flash in front of your eyes, as if in a rapid motion. Their name is a legion. Nahéma warms up quickly and shrouds you like a cocoon. That cocoon is the size of the Universe. Its internal heat reserve seems to be inexhaustible. Every time I experience this start I have a feeling that I’m sitting in a boat that’s been pushed off from a shore to eternity.

And in eternity the rose sun in its zenith. A sphere shaped out of uniform, plastic rose-apricot substance, dense and sparse at the same time. How could that be? – Ask Jean-Paul. The sun has cold hyacinth prominences and a sandal-benzoin core. Sometimes I’m being brought back to reality by ghosts of rose oil. But even Sun has its spots. Roses in Nahéma got their second life. Raw material transformed into something new, amazingly rigid. Outlines are blended together, silhouettes are indistinct. Nahéma has nothing that could make you wonder what it’s made of.

In Nahéma, you’ll find accumulated energy of the midday sun. Feeling of safety and serenity, when it’s so easy to let your guard down. Nahéma is decadence. Absolute yin. The unbearable lightness of life.

Nahéma Guerlain (Jean-Paul Guerlain, 1979): bergamot, mandarin, rose; rose, peach, cyclamen, lily; vanilla, sandalwood, vetiver, and benzoin.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chocolate, Greedy.

By Tom

I'd be willing to bet that most of us had our first experience with chocolate notes in perfume with Angel.  I'd also be willing to bet that quite a few of us shrank from it.  I know I did.  I convinced myself that I hated it until I smelled it on someone on whom it worked and it was delicious; I also think that the person in question wasn't someone who over-applies, because Angel is one of the big time offenders in the Smell-It-From-Space hall of shame.  I've smelled it on the lowest escalator in the Beverly Center while the offender is up top by Bloomingdales.  Over-apply and it's like chocolate patchouli jet fuel contail.

But there are ones that I really love.

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 is a cousin to Angel, but instead of milk chocolate and head shop it's dark, almost burnt cacao and bone-dry pathouli leaves.  This was the first Lutens I ever smelled and I still have a bell jar of it.  Luckily it's in the export range ($140 for 50ML) so it's available where all the others are, for now.

Bud Parfums Ugly Bastard seems to bridge the two: not as parched as Borneo but not as, well shall we be polite and call it "lush" as Angel.  It's one of those that's only available as far as I can tell down under, which makes it a reason to visit.

Musc Maori is another that comes to mind: like rich, hot, creamy coffee poured over rich chocolate with just enough musc to take it from foodie to feral,  My scent twin says it gets compliments like almost no other. $105 for 50ML at Luckyscent.

So, tell me, what are your favorite chocolate scents, and which ones drive you from the room?  Leave a comment..

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There’s a Zombie On Your Lawn

By Marla

Do you know what to call a perfume that’s been long-discontinued, bitterly mourned, then revived, but it’s not the same perfume?? I call it a Zombie Perfume. I generally can’t stand them. But there seem to be more around these days, and I felt the phenomenon warranted a few words.

Chaos. Barbara Bui. Venezia. Feminite du Bois. The beloved perfumes had disappeared 6 feet under, most of the original juice had been sold on the bay or elsewhere, and we all mourned or battled for the last few drops. Then the company suddenly says, “Wait! We screwed up! We are bringing it back! Perfumistas love it and we will make lots of money!”

Now in the case of Chaos (Donna Karan, 1996), Long Lost Perfumes (J. Dame) had bought the original formula, and he made a fantastic version of Chaos called Anarchy. I loved it, went through 2 bottles. When DK decided to zombify Chaos, he had to stop making Anarchy. Very unfair. The Zombie Chaos showed up for a brief time and it wasn’t bad, it was a bit lighter, a little cheaper-smelling than the original. Now it’s still around, technically, but very hard to find, and Anarchy is definitely gone.

Feminite du Bois was reissued by Serge Lutens, and the zombie version is again, lighter, less distinctive, but very wearable.

The really ugly zombie is Venezia. This knockout oriental, in its original form, has achieved Grail Hunting status. Again, Long Lost Perfumes had bought the original formula and made a very close version of it. Laura Biagiotti decided to revive it, and LLP had to stop producing its own version, which had quite a few fans of its own. The new version has come out, it’s nearly impossible to find except in Germany, and most people who’ve tried it says it is one Ugly Zombie, nothing like the rich oriental studded with dark fruits and spices that we’d been hoping for.

Have you seen any zombies on your lawn? And if so, did you invite them in?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Watch What You Wish For

By Tom

Last week I was complaining that it was just too darned warm to wear my favorite ambers.  Clearly someone up there was listening.  They must have also been in a very bad mood.  The highs this week haven't gotten much into the 50's and the lows are skimming the 30's.  So I've been in amber heaven.

One that I've been reaching for a lot is Uncle Serge's Mandarine Mandarin which I had previously said reminded me of smelling "exactly like tearing into the first Satsuma of the season in late fall".  That's still there, but perhaps since my bottle has mellowed (or I have) I get to the spices and labdanum portion of the program quicker.  I'm also smelling the celery along with the smoky tea.  It's a strange brew: very Lutens, but really nice on a chilly summer afternoon.

I know it's freezing practically everywhere else in the US (Oregon got something like 6" of snow).  What you wearing to ward off the chill?

MM is a Paris Exclusive, darn it.  I think the price is $200 EU, but don't quote me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out of the Past: Cabochard by Parfums Grès

By Donna

I check in on the discount stores like Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s regularly just in case something interesting shows up in the fragrance department. So far nothing has been as good a find as a bottle of Balmain Jolie Madame for about fifteen dollars a few years ago (and I am still kicking myself for not buying all they had in stock) but I do run into some nice things sometimes. Recently I got lucky again, for there on the shelf among the apparently unlimited supply of Curve, White Diamonds and Red Door was one 30 ml bottle of Cabochard Eau de Toilette by Parfums Grès, in the special limited edition 50th anniversary packaging, for only $7.99. Needless to say, it now has a new home.

When I opened it up, I was surprised to find that it was actually quite good; despite the obvious reformulation it was still recognizable as one of the iconic leather chypres of all time. The signature notes of sharp citrus, iris, tobacco, patchouli, pungent herbals and of course leather are still apparent. There are a number of floral notes listed for it but the iris seems particularly prominent in this modern formula, which open it up quite a bit from its original rather dense character. Mercifully, it is still almost entirely devoid of sweetness except for some airy floral notes in the beginning, and the paring-down of reformulation has still left the herbs, leather and tobacco in their starring roles. Once I actually wore it I found that I liked it quite a lot, more than I expected to, considering my longtime allegiance to the original.

Of course, I had to compare it to my prized bottle of the vintage parfum, which is not really fair to the new juice. The 1959 Cabochard has a chewy, intensely herbal and very complex aroma with a distinctly smoky character. I find it to be much less animalic than its near-contemporary Jolie Madame, but no less compelling. It is as tightly constructed as the plot of a classic film noir, all shoulder pads and smoldering looks and fedora-wearing silhouettes against the window blinds as shadowy figures move under murky streetlamps on foggy nights in the big city. You really have to like herbal notes to appreciate it, and if it were released today as a niche line masculine, no one would blink an eye. It’s hard to believe that this classic fragrance was once very mainstream and highly popular in its original version. Just think, at one time women were not expected to wear the liquid equivalent of cotton candy on their skin! I can see it as the precursor to perfumer Bernard Chant’s later composition for Clinique in 1971, Aromatics Elixir, with which it shares the unusual array of herbal tonalities, and perhaps the latter fragrance pushes the limits of that style even more. Cabochard’s main point is the leather, and once the drydown has commenced it is very long-lasting, as perfumes of this genre usually are.

What really struck me about Cabochard and the character of the current formulation versus the original is how much of a parallel there is between these two and the old and new versions of Jolie Madame. In each instance, a huge and almost intimidating leather chypre was modified and tamed to suit the current taste for fragrance, although I don’t know why that particular decision needed to be made; in a post-Angel world, you would think a perfume with a big personality would not be all that problematic. That said, I really enjoy the newer incarnation of Jolie Madame too, as it is very well done and I can wear it to work – just try that with the vintage these days. I wore the new Cabochard to the office and no one seemed to have a problem with it at all. Had I smelled either of them without reference to the originals, I would have thought they were just really nice, streamlined modern leather scents. I would like their respective makers to issue them in Eau de Parfum, but even in the existing concentration they both have good longevity, a tribute to their basic chypre structure and materials. Now if only the old and the new could coexist, one for day and the other for evening, or should I say, one for real life and the other for a fantasy existence filled with sexy, dangerous intrigue and mystery. Maybe we can’t have that kind of a life, but we can wear Cabochard and feel as though we do.

Image credits: Actress Jane Greer in a pivotal scene from the classic 1947 film “Out Of The Past” via the Iconic night scene from “The Big Combo” (1955) via

Disclosure: The fragrances tested were from my own collection.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Wake-up Call

By Tom
Yes, it's all about caffeine.  I like caffeine myself, but it's not something that I can indulge in too much lest I end up vibrating like a tuning fork.  I enjoy coffee once in a blue moon, but am more apt to have tea or (gasp) Diet Coke.  I know some Southern readers will be horrified by the statement, but one of the things I like about Subway and McDonalds is that they serve unsweetened Iced Tea so I can indulge and not be getting a lot of sugar.  The tea lattes at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf are delicious, but have rather the opposite effect: 15 minutes after drinking one and I'm ready for a nap.

Coffee for me is usually plain with milk.  It's funny the regional differences: in New York if you order "regular" coffee it will be with cream and sugar, in Chicago it'll come to you black.  Of course. I live in Los Angeles, where someone's coffee order will be slightly less complicated than the instructions on how to build an ICBM.  Perhaps it was standing behind someone who was ordering their triple half-caf decaf mocha macchiato made with half-soy half-goats milk extra foam with non-fat nutmeg and a twist (see LA Story) that made me give up and started drinking Diet Coke..

What's your favorite caffeine?  Or are you caffeine-free?

Image: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love, Loss and What We Wore

By Tom

I was going to write about the fabulous new perfume place on Melrose that opened and all the goodies that they carry.  But I got there and it was.. not so fabulous (which is why I'm not naming it).  Not that they lady that was in there wasn't friendly, it's just that there isn't a lot of product.  I'll give them a couple of months to settle in and see if it's worth the Melrose hassle (parking there is a b$%^h) and what stock they've added if any.  Last week I regaled you all with my petty travails trying to get inexpensive evening wear together for an event I was invited to.  You all made pretty great suggestions- so many that it was hard to choose!

The event was for St Jude Children's Research Hospital and was very fancy.  I would never have been able to go (unless I was serving dinner) except that I'd become friends with one of the co-chairs.  We go to the movies together since her husband doesn't like the RomCom thing and I do.  We just went to the Muppets a couple of weeks ago and had a ball.  I always bristle when people try to paint Beverly Hills as full of rich snobs who care more about clothing than people.  My friends know I'm a churchmouse in the finances, but have never, ever made me feel any less than welcome and equal to them, so matter how North of Sunset they are.  Certainly Terre and her family work tirelessly for this charity and she's the most wonderful, down-to-earth person you could ever meet.  Everyone I know in this town really does give back in a big way.  I wish I could do more.  All I can do is ask you to click through and read the article.  I had now idea of the mechanics of the hospital: it spends 1.7 million A DAY on patient care and research, all of it donated.  All of it to save kids.

So what did I wear?  The last of my sample of Salamander by Fleurage, which needs to come to LuckyScent like yesterday.  All the ladies I air-kissed said I smelled fabulous..

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nerd Girl Guesses What’s Hot for 2012

By Marla

I don’t read fashion mags, I don’t visit the catwalks of South Beach, I don’t go to Paris much anymore. So who am I to guess perfume trends for 2012? Ha! I’m going to do it anyway! Here are my educated guesses about what we’ll see more of in perfumery this year. Please leave a comment telling me your top guess for a trend, OK?

1. Roses everywhere. I love a good rose perfume, and I’m guessing Her Old Fashionedness is going to make a big comeback this year. 2011 put a lot of us through a Cuisinart, and I’m guessing we’re thinking more about our grandparents, who also went through such times, and what our grandmas grew, which was roses. Roses are comforting, and roses are strong. Bring on the rose!

2. Leather and Cowboy-type notes. Smoke, sweat, hyrax poop. You get it. No more Mr. Clean. Hurray!

3. Travel sizes and variety sets. Perfumistas have been pleading for these for years, and just last year, a few started to appear. I’m guessing we’ll see more, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.

4. More food/perfume pairings for both perfume and gourmet goodies. There has been a lot of exciting crossover lately, and I think it’s just the beginning.

5. Weird scented objects. Like your phone, your toothbrush, your shoes, and your sunglasses. Well, why not, right?

OK, your turn? What’s coming down the pike?? And which way should we run???

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Jane Cate Drawing - MoonRae

Lost Symphonies - Lavanya

Please send us your details!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Gastronomy and Gluttony! Happy New Year my fellow foodies! I think it's time for a cleanse!


Oh my god, what a tremendous holiday. Like many of you I have not stopped cooking since November, beginning with Thanksgiving, moving towards our annual Winter Solstice party, followed by the first ever Christmas Eve dinner at my home,followed by our traditional Christmas breakfast , Christmas dinner, never ending plates of Christmas cookies and that was only the beginning. Three days later it was off to New York for a fabulous Black Tie wedding at The New York Palace (Duck breast, steak tartare and lobster ceviche, the most amazing wedding cake and constantly flowing champagne!), Scotch and cigars at Club Macanudo , High Tea at Bergdorfs, Charcroute Garnie at Les Halles and then New Years Eve with my niece in Bridgewater where after yet another even more fabulous High Tea we cooked up a feast of king crab, steak, au gratin potatoes , creamed spinach washed down by copious amounts of yummy Veuve Cliquot .

Thankfully by the time we got to Lexington Mass to see my darling friend John and his equally wonderful wife, they’d decided to cook a traditional Japanese meal for New Years, where I was thrilled to eat sukiyaki , sushi , seared tuna and even learned how to make homemade mochi, something that I’ve longed to do for years which we ate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and crystallized ginger. Delicious and simple…thank goodness because by then my liver was beginning to ache every time I thought about eating.

Can you say Gluttony? I can’t even begin to think about picking up a whisk….

So I’ve decided that it is time once again for a cleanse, a complete food overhaul. So my primary challenge for the next month is to return to culinary saneness. Jim’s on board and I’m thrilled to say that my 24 year son Alex, is on board. He’s agreed to give up smoking (YES!) and alcohol for a few weeks and Jim is giving up alcohol and cigars. I am giving up alcohol , too much sugar , cream and my overall lack of willpower!

I know how to do this having been vegetarian/vegan on and off for years but when you love food as much as I do the holidays make it tough. Of course the goal here is to burn off a few pounds, but mostly to reset the clock. Like I said, I know what to do, I just lack the will. It’s time though , I’m 52 and suddenly noticing aches and pains where there were none. I want to keep sailing through menopause like I have. My son said something very pointed to me the other day. He looked at me when we were out riding and said quite directly, “You know , if you don’t lose that 20 pounds you’re going to shorten your horseback riding life by at least 15 years, almost one year per pound mom.” Now my son is no paragon of virtue but in this case he was right. That would be a disaster for me, riding , cooking and writing being my chosen meditations. Upon arrival at my home I broke out my Vitamix and new Mauviel steamer and banished the kitchen aid mixer to the basement!

If you’ve never heard of a Vitamix trust me when I say that this is the one appliance that would be with me if I were ever stranded on an island. When I am cleansing I use it everyday. It is WAY more than a blender although it does make the best frozen cocktails ever! There’s nothing like it for juicing and because it is so powerful it helps me create incredibly fast soups that are simple, completely fresh and delicious! I've discovered that when I stick to it that consuming a diet rich in whole foods simply makes me feel better and for me is the key to keeping me healthy and happily moving into my middle age. It's easy to prepare wonderful foods when you've got a weapon like this in your arsenal! I make fresh juice that's full of fiber and flavor in under a minute. I can cook fresh soups from scratch andhave them hot enough to serve in just a few moments. Salsa is a snap and so is guacamole, although I do prefer making mine the old fashioned way in a stone bowl. I can make fresh puddings and ice creams that are full of fruit and low in fat in really only 30 seconds. When I make "Cream of anything" soup, before I strain it I give a turn in the Vitamix and then press it through a chinoise. The machine purees so well that it eliminates the need for extra cream (for now I’ll be using mostly unsweetened coconut milk) and gives any soup a silken texture. If I want fresh butter I can make my own using the Vitamix in about 2 minutes. I even make fabulous plant food with it using fish and veggie scraps, coffee beans, eggshells and water!

You hear it all the time now, with even Doctors are finally acknowledging that the key to real and lasting health is to consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day while encouraging us to eat way less meat, fish and dairy. Finally, the return to food sanity is becoming mainstream.

This time instead of going totally vegan which is very hard for us to do in the winter, we’re going to stick to a wonderful Mediterranean diet full of rich sunny flavors. I’ve brought home infused olive oils from New York and I’m ready to use the beautiful new copper steamer that my husband bought me to lighten up the calories without sacrificing flavor. Tons of fresh herbs, way less sugar and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Almost nothing processed. One splurge night a week! Lots of fresh fish, shellfish and very little red meat and lots of slow food. Only real cheese, not processed and absolutely no fast food of any sort. I will allow myself a glass of red wine or champagne if I want it. Practically no sugar, except for maple, agave honey and lots of yoga to keep everything moving smoothly! I’m excited…lots of new recipes to create, lots of wonderful food to eat after several days of creative juicing!

So wish me luck and how about you? What are your tips and tricks for staying healthy, vibrant and fully alive? I need all of the help I can get! Anyone want to do this with me?

Be well, eat well and love well,

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Russian Saturday: Bottega Veneta

Делать хорошие парфюмы в наши дни – почти непозволительная роскошь.
Судя по результату, в Bottega Veneta не экономили ни на сырье для аромата, ни на флаконе, из чего я делаю вывод, что дела у дома идут хорошо и зарабатывать деньги на парфюмерии не входит в его планы. Bottega Veneta, выпустив почти аномально хороший для нашего времени аромат, получил взамен гораздо больше, чем деньги: подтверждение своей принадлежности к люксовому сегменту. Короткосрочная выгода, на которую, похоже, настроились большинство мейнстимных марок, не стоит испорченной репутации. Хочется верить, что в Bottega Veneta это понимают, и то, что их первый аромат получился таким, каким он получился, не случайность, а закономерность.

После первой пробы на блоттере Bottega Veneta показался мне похожим сразу на три других аромата: Daim Blond Serge Lutens, Rose Barbare Guerlain и Cuir Amethyste Armani Prive. Но после первой же носки я оставила идею сравнительного анализа. Bottega Veneta, при всей его кажущейся лаконичности, гораздо богаче на нюансы, чем любой из ароматов этой тройки. Композиция Bottega Veneta почти линейна. Здесь нет шипровой вертикали от мха до бергамота, как например в Mitsouko Guerlain (Bottega Veneta классифицируют как цветочно-кожаный шипр). Аромат вибриует в узком, почти монохромном, диапазоне, но зато как он вибрирует!

Bottega Veneta открывается нежными “белыми” гесперидами (лимон?, бергамот?), довольно абстрактными, чтобы можно было узнать их в лицо. Сразу же появляется очень необычная йодистая нота. Она не имеет ничего общего с набившей в свое время оскомину акватической свежестью, которую я в парфюмерии совершенно не приемлю. Пахнет близостью моря, разогретым песком, куском обветренного соленого дерева. Подобную йодистость, просачивающуюся сквозь расщелины в древесине, я наблюдала только в Angélique Encens Creed Private Collection.

Разогреваясь на коже, аромат начинает отдавать фрукты, цветы и смолы. Все это смешивается в необыкновенно легкое суфле. Мне положили абрикос, османтус, чайную розу и бензоин. Видимо, такова планида, но я опять не удержусь от сравнения. Благодаря этой легкой, воздушной консистенции, я уже полюбила носить Bottega Veneta (днем) в связке с Guet Apens Guerlain (вечером). Бокал журансона – по вашему усмотрению, но я стараюсь не упускать случая.

Не забываем, что это все это великолепие подается на замшевой подложке: теплой, мягкой, немного рыхлой, пахнущей слегка анималистично и отдающей остатками клея. Так пахнет в мастерских, где шьют сумки. У нас есть одна в городе. Я очень люблю там бывать. Пожалуй, в Bottega Veneta самая достоверная замша из тех, что я знаю. В моей палате мер и весов я принимаю ее за замшевый эталон.

В этом ревью получилось слишком много сравнений, но я не хочу, чтобы это создало ложное впечатление о вторичности аромата. В моей довольно обширной коллекции кожаных ароматов такого аромата еще не было. Я с нетерпением жду, когда к нему сделают пару. И мечтаю попробовать Bottega Veneta в духах.

Bottega Veneta (Michel Almairac, 2011): patchouli, oak moss, bergamot, jasmine, and pink pepper.

These days, making good perfumes is almost an unacceptable luxury. Judging by the result, Bottega Veneta didn’t save either on raw materials or on a bottle. From which I make a conclusion that things going well in the house, and making money on perfumes is not a goal. Bottega Veneta released almost an abnormally good scent for our times. And in return it got much more than just money – a confirmation of its affiliation to a luxury segment. Short-term profit, which seems to be driving most mainstream brands, is not worth ruined reputation. Hopefully, they understand it at Bottega Veneta. And the fact that their first perfume turned out to be what it turned out to be, is not fortuitous, but predictable.

After the first try on a blotter, Bottega Veneta seemed quite similar to three other scents: Daim Blond Serge Lutens, Rose Barbare Guerlain, and Cuir Amethyste Armani Prive. But right after the first wearing I abandoned the idea of comparative analysis. With all its seeming brevity, Bottega Veneta has much reacher nuances than any of other three scents. There is no chypre trajectory from moss to bergamot, as in Mitsouko Guerlain (Bottega Veneta is classified as a leathery floral chypre). This scent vibrates in a narrow, almost monochromatic range, but how it vibrates!

Bottega Veneta opens with gentle “white” hesperides (lemon?, bergamot?), too abstract to recognize them in person. Immediately a very uncommon iodine note appears. It has nothing in common with the ubiquitous aquatic freshness, something that I can’t stand in perfumery. It smells like being close to the sea, like warm sand, like a peace of weathered salty wood. Similar iodine, seeping through crevices in the wood, I observed only in Angélique Encens Creed Private Collection.

Warming up on the skin, the fragrance begins to give out fruit, flowers and resins. All this is mixed into an extraordinarily light souffle. I get apricot, osmanthus, tea rose and benzoin. Apparently, it’s fate, I can’t not make another comparison. Thanks to this light, airy consistence, I already love to wear Bottega Veneta (during a day) paired with Guet Apens Guerlain (in the evening). A glass of Jurançon – if you wish,– but I try to not miss the opportunity.

And don’t forget that all this magnificence is delivered on a suede foundation: warm, soft, a bit crumbly, with a slightly animalistic smell, and a savor of glue remnants. It smells like this in the bag sewing workshops. We have one in the town. I adore visiting it from time to time. Perhaps, Bottega Veneta has the most realistic suede from what I know. In my chamber of weights and measures, I keep it as a suede etalon.

This review turned out to have too many comparisons. But I don’t want it to make you think this perfume is secondary. In my rather extensive collection of leather scents, there’s nothing that could compete with it. I look forward to when they create a pair for it. And I dream of trying Bottega Veneta in perfume.

Bottega Veneta (Michel Almairac, 2011): patchouli, oak moss, bergamot, jasmine, and pink pepper.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

A Rose for Midwinter, and a Prize Draw: Shalott Rose (Wing and a Prayer Perfumes)

Review by Marla

Ever since I discovered her work through the Mystery of Musk Project, Jane Cate (Wing and a Prayer Perfumes) has been my go-to perfumer for warm, natural florals, particularly roses. Her newest of this family, Shalott Rose, is a perfect midwinter floral, warm, comforting, and sweet, with a few twists that make it intriguing. Jane’s inspirations were the Pre-Raphaelites and one of their favorite heroines, Tennyson’s tragically beautiful Lady of Shalott, and early 20th century perfumes that enveloped their wearers in rich, warm amber. The result is romantic in the extreme, while remaining wearable and chic.

The opening has an almost fizzy, aldehydic effect, yet without aldehyde’s waxy/oily qualities. The floral heart is dominated by a rich rose, with iris to ground it, and carnation to add a slightly spicy effect. The base is warm, slightly powdered amber. Sillage is average and longevity is good, particularly for an all-natural perfume. Here are the notes:

Top: Bergamot
Heart: Carnation, Iris, Rose, Neroli
Base: Amber, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean tincture, Labdanum,

Jane says, “With Shalott Rose I wanted to create a fragrance that captured the unique quality of classic scents, but with my own signature florals. I just loved working with my own tincture, the tonka bean and the labdanum gave the blend a powdery scent. I also love the sparkling effect of Shalott Rose.”

Shalott Rose debuts this week at Wing and a Prayer Perfume’s etsy shop.

The prices are $125 for 15ml in a cut- glass falcon dabber bottle, and $100 for 30ml of the spray perfume in a standard bottle.

Jane wants to give away a crystal bottle necklace containing 15ml of Shalott Rose to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment mentioning your favorite rose garden or Pre-Raphaelite painting. This necklace is exclusive to this drawing only and is not sold in Jane’s shop.

Disclosure: I requested and received a sample from the perfumer.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Other Things

Sorry, I've been running around like a chicken with it's head chopped off trying to put together formalwear for myself on the cheap.  Yes, I have the conundrum of having been invited to a Formal Event.  It's extremely nice of the person who invited me, but when I started pricing tuxedo rentals I was shocked.  Over $180 for something that looks like a business suit with satin lapels and a pink sateen tie?  Not even a bowtie but a regular one?  Harrumph..

So here's the deal.  I have black wool trousers, a cummerbun and bow tie.  I found a Bill Blass tuxedo jacket for $10 at the Council Thrift store that looks like it was made for me and have a pair of shiny leather loafers that can pass for evening shoes.  All I need to do is get a proper shirt and I'm done.  At least I hope so.  I know no matter what I do I will certainly not be the best dressed person at the ball, so I'm shooting for reasonable looking.  I'm sure the photos will end up on Facebook, unless I look like a gargoyle and unlink myself from them..

Here's a fragrance question: what scent?  Help me out and chime in in the comments.  Please?

Image: Internets


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Lost Symphonies: What Happened to all the Classic Florals? (And a Prize Draw)

By Donna

I have always loved floral fragrances and putting forth the idea that the genre is in a decline might seem strange – after all, it is the most numerous group in perfumery, having reigned supreme over all others for at least two hundred years since the emergence of the modern perfume industry. The most popular one is Chanel No. 5, which is also the most popular fragrance of all, period. Many other greats are not far behind; Jean Patou’s Joy, Estée Lauder’s Beautiful, and Robert Piguet’s Fracas. However, if you think about it, many of the really great floral scents from major houses have been around for a long time, and modern masterpieces in this genre are not very common. Of course, niche and natural perfume houses release excellent florals on a regular basis, but when did you last see a big name mainstream launch of what I would call a classic floral – big, romantic, and unapologetically meant to smell like a massive bouquet? We get fruity florals that smell distinctly of plastic in the drydown, so-called “white” florals that seem to be made entirely of low-cost synthetics, hyper-sweet gourmand florals that reek of the morning after a Halloween sugar binge and the ones infused with so much “clean musk” that they smell like a bottle of fabric softener, only with a bigger price tag. We also get the timid, watery florals that seem to want to avoid being noticed at all costs.

Of course trends come and go, and we are still in the midst of the Orientalist influence that has been led by Serge Lutens, Montale and other high-profile prestige companies, and so many of our most sought-after fragrances are loaded with resins, amber, balsam, spices, woods, oud and incense. The other trend that I can’t believe is still going so strong is that of the gargantuan gourmand, beginning with Thierry Mugler’s Angel twenty years ago, and it resonates throughout the industry today from the most exclusive boutiques to the mall, where Angel and its Borg-like army of clones make life a misery for those who do not find the combination of chocolate, syrupy caramel, patchouli and huge synthetic woody-amber notes all played very loudly to be all that great of an idea.

I am talking about something else, a style that I love but which seems to have fallen out of fashion in recent years, the straight-up floral blend writ large. The concept of smelling ladylike, civilized, refined, elegant and so on seems to have fallen out of vogue – we want to smell sexy, edgy, shocking, avant-garde; we want to make a splash, an entrance, an impact. Of course this can be accomplished with the proper floral scent too – my bottles of vintage Lanvin My Sin and Corday Fame are deployed when such an effect on others is desired. After all, flowers are nature’s original temptresses, luring their willing victims with the siren call of scent and nectar for untold millennia. Yet floral essences can also be called upon to be something more by a skilled perfumer, a study in aesthetic balance, a striving for beauty for its own sake, and using all the materials and techniques available to build a balanced and pleasing composition that smells natural while not necessarily being photo-realistic; some of the most beautiful fragrances are abstract florals, blended so subtly that it’s impossible to pick out individual notes as they all work together in the best senses of the word “orchestrated.” I like to think of these fragrances as soaring for want of a better term – they are like clouds building, ever-changing and while developing seamlessly within the bounds of their respective structures.

Just which perfumes are these, you may ask? You don’t have to look back all that far to find some of the best of them, such as the original Lalique by Lalique, launched in 1992, the same year as Angel; would that it had been the harbinger of a pile-on trend instead! It would be hard to find a more elegant and delicately boned floral composition than this wonderful scent, authored by the great Sophia Grojsman (YSL Paris, Prescriptives Calyx, Lancôme Trèsor and many more). A multitude of floral notes including rose, peony, gardenia, orange blossom and more lightly accented with blackcurrant and mandarin on a mossy yet self-effacing base results in one of those fragrances that’s perfect for any occasion yet far from being a wallflower. I know that most modern perfumes have plenty of synthetics in them, but the good ones manage to smell as though they don’t, and Lalique smells like one of those huge yet impossibly stylish floral arrangements you see dominating the room in magazine layouts for upscale homes owned by art collectors or theatre people, constructed with obvious care and attention to detail.

Equally lush are some of the forgotten fragrances that were never all that popular in the first place. Does any one remember Madame de Carven (1979) or Intrigue (1986)? The house of Carven, known mainly for its great Ma Griffe and one of the best vetivers of all time for men, did some other very good perfumes back in the day, although many people might be surprised to know it. Madame de Carven is a rich floral with an unusual coconut note that is not in the least beachy, rather it just adds a little heft to a mélange of greens, peach and a bed of flowers highlighted by hyacinth. Intrigue is a highly pitched fresh green/citrus floral scent that is both exhilarating and a little soapy, in a good way. It smells like a day in spring when the sun has finally warmed everything up and the breeze is carrying the aromas of the garden to greet you as you step out the door in to dazzling brightness, the sweetness of blossoms tinged with zesty green.

Green florals are a particular weakness of mine and they just don’t make them like they used to. I recently rediscovered the fabulous Turbulences by Revillon from 1981, which is green and aldehydic but also just a little spicy with carnation and a touch powdery. It is one of those perfumes that makes you feel rich just dabbing it on, and it is aptly named; it swirls about the wearer in an ever-shifting pattern as the complex layers of notes tease and then retreat. Turbulences is one of those big Eighties “retro” florals of a style that is no longer popular, but I love it and I wish it were still around. Capucci’s wonderful Yendi (1974 was also very much in this vein, a green yet sweet and spicy floral; of course it too is no more. Don’t even get me started on Revillon’s long-gone Detchema (1953), an ethereally gorgeous fragrance with a hint of leather to ground it in reality. It is very hard to find now and it’s one I dearly wish I had bought by the case before it was discontinued. Speaking of discontinued, the entire Crown Perfumery line is no more but the house was known for its gorgeous florals such as Alpine Lily, Crown Bouquet and Maréchale; its hallmark was vivid, realistic feminine floral perfumes with an especially fresh and natural character that are well worth seeking out if you want to feel like you are standing in the middle of a meadow of blooming wildflowers; I know I do. Of course there are many more in this category, but listing them would turn this post into a book-length essay.

Among comparable perfumes available now, one of my favorites is one I have written about before, Joséphine by Rancé 1795. I fell for it instantly when it appeared on the scene in 2005, and my love for it continues unabated. Hyacinth is one of my favorite smells in the world, and this one plays it against pungent blackcurrant, May rose and warm Bourbon vanilla. There is nothing quite like it and it’s definitely a throwback – there is absolutely nothing trendy about it and that is exactly why I think it is a modern classic. Call me old-fashioned, but I wish there were more companies still making this kind of perfume. You just can’t go wrong with a great floral. Another is the shockingly little-known Lelong pour Femme by Lucien Lelong; the only new (1999) release from that company for decades feels like a vintage classic and is richly redolent of magnolia, lilac, orchid, jasmine and other florals underscored with an unusual ripe, sweet fig aroma that sets it apart from all the perfumes with astringent green fig notes. Even if I can’t have all the lost perfumes, there are some modern ones that work just fine.

I am offering a selection of samples of some of the perfumes mentioned in this post and a few surprises too (my choice, gambler’s luck for you) for one lucky winner, U.S.A. mailing addresses only please – if you would like to be entered, just say so in the comments, and if you wish, please mention your own favorite floral bouquet perfumes, old or new. I am always happy to take notes and add more to my list!

Image credit: “A Floral Symphony” painting by Eugene Henri Cauchois (1850-1911) via

Disclosure: All of the perfumes described in this post are from my own collection, past and present.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Foodie Sunday: It's the Morning After the Day Of..

By Tom

So it's 2012 and you've made your promises to diet.  But you've perhaps woken with a head bigger than the Kansas plain after one or two trips to refill that delicious glass of whatever.  What to do?  I've not indulged in years (I'm unpopular) but I'd always liked a big fat burger the next morning.  Nigella Lawson had a show called "Temple Food" on her "Nigella Bites" where she extols the virtue of the prairie oyster.

Personally I'm fond of the idea, but would more like the idea of Spaghetti Carbonara.  Feel free to share your day-after recipes in the comments and welcome to 2012!

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