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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just Go Ask Shelley: Announcing a New Natural Perfumery Book by Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes

By Donna

The mysteries of perfumery are a little less opaque to the rest of us thanks to an excellent book on working with natural fragrance isolates written by perfumer Shelley Waddington, the owner of En Voyage Perfumes. I was especially eager to read it when I first learned of its impending publication, because Shelley just happens to be the author of one of my favorite fragrance releases of 2011, or any year, the wonderful Vents Ardents. I am not alone in my admiration for it, but it was my first exposure to her work and I really wanted to know how she did it. Well now I have an idea, thanks to her new book entitled Perfuming With Natural Isolates: The Complete Reference Manual.

This might seem like a dry topic to anyone who is not a perfumer, but I found the book to be very engaging, and it is written in a clear, concise style that makes it easy for the lay person to follow. I have an enthusiastic amateur’s interest in aroma chemicals, perfumery and applied chemistry, but I am far from conversant in the technical language of these specialty fields. This book walked me through the steps so effortlessly that I feel as though my knowledge of this field has been exponentially increased. Anyone who still thinks that natural perfumery consists of hit-or-miss mixing of oils and hoping for the best will be enlightened to the contrary – it’s just as much science as it is art, and the author of this book has mastered both.

The first two chapters are devoted to explaining what natural isolates are and how they are extracted from the source materials. Some are obvious, such as limonene from citrus, while others are less familiar to the average person, such as d-carvone from caraway seed. What I found fascinating was which sources are actually used in commerce – it’s obvious that vanillin would be prohibitively expensive if real vanilla pods were the only available source for extracting it, but fortunately this molecule is widely found in nature and is commercially extracted from cloves, which are also the source for eugenol, the “clove and carnation” aromatic isolate; it is also found in such diverse sources as beet sugar, potato skin, coffee and yerba maté. Who knew? Fun fact: the author included an article about how vanillin has been extracted from cow dung by Japanese researchers who hope to use it commercially in non-food sources. It makes sense if you think about it, since it is rich in lignin, the same woody material that makes old books smell sweet as the paper degrades.

In the next section, a variety of natural isolates are discussed in depth. Shelley made it easy for people like me by listing the detailed descriptions for each of the specific materials being examined and explaining what each one is suited for - is it a top note that’s gone in an hour, or is it a base note that lasts 400 hours on a scent strip? Each molecule (and the isolates in question are specific molecules, not blends or compounds – she even shows a picture of the actual molecular structure of each one) is analyzed as to where it is found in nature, what its commercial source is, what chemical family it belongs to, whether or not it is associated with any sensitivities or toxicity, and most importantly for the end result, what qualities each one can impart to a finished fragrance when used correctly. She also gives us examples of how a natural perfume isolate might be used to create the effect of a classic fragrance; for example, the great Diorama, a fruity chypre from 1949, would be a fun subject for experimentation with an isolate called raspberry ketone, a long-lasting base note with a sweet, fruity, jammy aroma, with which a perfumer could build a similar perfume with all natural materials. I think my favorite one in the book is strawberry furanone natural – it’s a base note that smells of strawberry, cotton candy, caramel, pineapple and brown sugar – what perfumer could resist playing around with that? I would be like a mad scientist let loose in the lab!

Shelley suggests numerous experiments for perfumers to try with each material and lists compatible notes. If I were a perfumer I would be most eager to try them; she gives clear instructions for preparing and mixing materials, as well as safe and proper storage for each type. Did you know that aldehydes are unstable and should be stored under a layer of inert nitrogen? I didn’t, but that would also explain why perfumes with substantial amounts of aldehydes in them tend to “go off” faster than many other fragrances. Shelley shows step by step instructions for recreating historic “handkerchief” perfumes and suggests starting points for building perfumes of specific styles. It made me want to start my own home perfumery laboratory, so it should be even more enticing for those who already have perfume making skills. I can’t recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in perfumery; from the collector to the beginning student to the serious professional perfumer, as there is something for everyone. (I know I will be referring to it over and over again, and every time I smell a fragrance I will catch a note and think, is that strawberry furanone or maltol I detect? How much eugenol is in that carnation soliflore?)

Chapter four is an extensive Q & A section that addresses subjects such as the difference between top and base notes, Schiff’s bases, and the subtle differences between the same isolate extracted from different plant sources. The questions were selected from actual inquiries Shelley has received from both students and perfume professionals. Again, this was highly enlightening and answered questions I did not even realize I needed to ask. Finally there is a glossary, a list of resources for more information on natural isolates, a reading list and a listing of sources for the perfumery materials. Did I mention that the book is also beautifully illustrated?

If you want to know how Shelley backs up the expertise demonstrated in the book in her perfumery work, look no further than the latest fragrance launch from En Voyage, the gorgeous Carmel Bohême. It is a reworking of a previous release called Bohemia, which I have never tried. The new scent is a delightfully exuberant composition that captivated me immediately. It begins with a decidedly green burst of citrus, plum and muguet that gradually gives way to a rich floral heart of gardenia and tuberose, both from natural enfleurage sources, plus French jasmine, and a base rich with honey, amber, patchouli and resins makes it last very well. The muguet note lingers on and gives airiness to this fragrance throughout its time on the skin, and I love the way it meshes with the languid tropical floral notes. Fans of classic white floral fragrances are sure to be enchanted by it. It is heady and rich without being overpowering and smells like summer vacation in a bottle; I picture myself relaxing in the midst of a blooming seaside garden while a fresh breeze blows in from the ocean.

I also had the opportunity to revisit Shelley’s popular Go Ask Alice from the 2011 Summer of Patchouli Love project. It was not one of my top choices at the time, but perfumes, like wine, need time to age and smooth out the rough edges, and the vial of Go Ask Alice I have now is marvelous- yes, it is still very much a patchouli fragrance, but it’s as smooth as silk and has a beautiful fruity and floral aspect that I did not get in the fresh, “raw” version I tested before. It has a delicious drydown featuring vanilla, Peru balsam, cocoa, vanilla, Tonka bean, real ambergris, and of course patchouli, of a particularly fine vintage from Sumatra. Now this I would definitely wear! I normally do not favor perfumes with patchouli as a major ingredient unless it is embedded in a chypre structure, and especially in a rose chypre style, which works a peculiar magic with a patchouli note, but this is really wearable even for a patch skeptic like me. If I can wear Go Ask Alice, just about anyone can.

Image credits: The beautiful Carmel Bohême Extrait de Parfum bottle from; Detail of mimosa flowers via per Creative Commons Share Alike license.

Disclaimer: The book and the perfume samples were sent to me gratis by Shelley Waddington for review and testing.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Juhi, Motia, Sambac, Sampaquita: What Do You Call Jasmine? (And a Prize Draw)

Image and video hosting by TinyPicBy Marla the Nerd Girl

Jasmine, my favorite flower, comes in lots of different packages. My poor Maid of Orleans sambac jasmine died when Hurricane Irene brushed us last summer. They are not terribly easy plants to grow on windswept dunes….

So I’ve given up gardening with jasmine, but I keep wearing it. There were rumors in the scientific community a couple of years ago that certain components of jasmine were proving to be strong antidepressants. Some drug companies apparently are researching those compounds now. I’m not surprised, but if I’m gloomy, I’m going to put on some real jasmine absolute, not take a jasmine pill!

The two most famous varieties of jasmine in perfumery are Jasminum grandiflorum (the sweet one) and Jasminum sambac (the skanky one). Sambac is also known as Sampaquita, or Motia. (Though motia can also mean any kind of jasmine in India and Pakistan.) Jasminum auriculatum is also well known in India, and is making its way into perfumery here. It’s also called Juhi, and has a more balsamic and herbaceous profile. Sambac has a deeper profile, with more indoles, hence, the skank. Star jasmine, also used in perfumery, is not jasmine at all, it’s a dogbane, so I’m leaving it out, though it’s awfully pretty.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIFRA’s 43rd amendment put severe restrictions on the use of actual jasmine. The technocrats are worried that someone, someday, might come out in a rash from it and sue everybody. Labs have some interesting synthetic jasmines, my favorite being Sampaquita by Givaudan. It’s very pretty, though it has little in common with actual jasmine sambac. Utterly de-skanked, every bit of earth has been removed. On its own merits, though, it’s lovely, airy and sweet. The synths are “clean” florals. The vast majority of IFRA-compliant perfumes use the synthetics, so when “jasmine” is a note, think synth. I’ve met some people that love synthetic jasmine but loathe the natural. So be careful and clarify when someone says their favorite floral is jasmine before you buy them perfume!

I like my jasmine straight up and natural. I have several bottles of absolute, and a few attars. My favorite is an Indian grandiflorum from Eden Botanicals. And of course, a number of famous perfumes in vintage format are loaded with real jasmine (some from Asia, some from Grasse), and if kept properly, they’ll last decades.

Natural perfumers and many indies are committed to using real jasmine, so I seek out their creations to sniff. Bellyflowers Perfumes just came out with a new potion called Blue Jasmine that I like very much. It pairs every jasmine I’ve mentioned with lotus and ylang ylang; nagarmotha and blue chamomile give it an unusual zip. Blue Jasmine has that ancient Indian attar vibe in spades, though I find it easier to wear than some of the shamamas. To my nose, it’s warm, grounding, and earthy. This is not a well-kept jasmine from a Lucknow garden, but wild jasmine growing in damp earth in a primordial forest.

Bellyflowers is giving away a 3ml sample of Blue Jasmine to interested readers. If you want to be in the drawing, please leave a comment about your favorite type of jasmine, either from the garden or the perfume bottle.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Foodie Sunday: I feel pretty!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicBy Beth

This week was one of the best weeks of my life as I continued on my cleanse, revitalized many friendships old and new, learned to use ALL of the scary machines in the gym and excitedly enrolled back into college where I'll come out a few years from now with the title of Medical Herbalist!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicSo what does a perfumista like me do to celebrate? Well no one knows how to do that better than my dear friend Barbara Fairbanks. Upon my arrival at her lovely home yesterday she announced that we were going to Sak's this morning for a "Day of beauty"! Ok I thought, how much fun is that! We walked in and were immediately offered mimosa's, coffee and sent to a lavish breakfast buffet of fruit and beautiful muffins. Then the real fun began as we went from station to station! First we went to Bobbi Brown to learn how to moisturizer our eyes and reduce puffiness and then we went to the MAC counter where I learned to line the inner lid of my eye which is really a fabulous look if you've never tried it! Next we were off to the Kiehls and La Prairie counters for demonstrations of more skin care and lots of samples and then over to Bond 9 and Estée Lauder where I made a delightful new friend named Robert Crouch who is the seriously knowledgeable Bond 9 manager at the Columbus SAKs Fifth Avenue.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicAfter all of the fun at Bond 9 We ended our journey at Laura Mercier and Creed. That's where the real fun began. My friend Barbara is no slouch in the fashion department and her signature perfume , Hermes 24 Faubourg is one of my favorites. That being said I was determined to get her to try something new and I marched her reluctantly to the Creed counter where the lovely SA spread a plethora of fragrance blotters out for us to enjoy. At first I could sense my pals reluctance to topple the magic of her beloved Hermes' but very quickly she was intrigued. We smelled everything but in the end she was captivated by Creeds Royal Water, a really delightful and refreshing blend of citrus ,basil and peppermint ! Then it was off to Penhaligon's , a line that she'd never known of and there she fell in love with their Sartorialist and ended up buying two adorable little sample packs so that she can get to know this wonderful English line of fragrance in the privacy of her own home!

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWe had a marvelous time laughing , sniffing and trying the latest skin care products and just generally sharing each others good company. She wasn't alone though, and you my dear readers know that I couldn't possibly walk out without several purchases of my own. Sadly, I left the 650.00 indigo blue Jimmy Choo's on the shelf where they were winking at me, but I left with a bottle of Diorissimo Parfum and Eton Johns utterly enchanting candle from Nest, a lovely gossamer thing completely drenched with Tuberose and spicy Stargazer lilies. I was on my way out when I reached my hand to my face and a beautiful spicy scent filled my nostrils. The scent of Penhaligon's surreally beautiful Spice and Lilies fragrance is simply lovely and I'd neglected to take it seriously when I first spritzed it on my skin. However in an matter of moments it had changed into a sweet honeyed scent full of spice, citrus and fleshy white florals. If you haven't tried this one yet please give it a sniff. It's going to be a perfect summer " lounging in the hammock" fragrance!

We ended the morning with lots more laughter and more than enough samples to keep us busy for weeks! Tonight it's out for lobster, chocolate martinis and to celebrate yet another of our oldest friendships, accomplishments old and new and a happy weeks end. So tell me, what's your favorite way to celebrate your life's little milestones?

Happy Foodie Sunday my dear friends and I'll see you very soon! Is it me or is it starting to feel a little bit like the wheel of the year is moving towards spring?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This 'N That

Well, this is perfume tangential..

Really this weather..  I'm not complaining mind you, since I actually like cold weather, which it is at night.  The days have been quite warm however, meaning that the scent that was so snuggy and wonderful overnight must be showered carefully off the next day lest it be cloying.

But here's the real issue.  Skin.  My now over 50 (yes, I admit it) pelt has gone a little nuts, and whatever I'm doing to it isn't helping.  My forehead is dry and actually flakey and I need to get a big-time moisturiser, which I've never used.  Or exfoliator.  Or a RotoTiller.  Or something.  Maybe all of the above..  I had been for years using Laszlo black soap and some Kiehl's moisture gook but I need advice on what to try.  So I am asking you dear readers.  I'd love if there's something that's relatively cheap, if that's possible.  So please, dear readers, suggestions?

Image: Wikipedia Commons


Friday, February 17, 2012

A Bevy of Rosy Beauties: Les Parfums de Rosine (Part One)

By Donna

Some years ago I received a sample of Une Folie de Rose by Les Parfums de Rosine when I purchased another fragrance. I fell under its spell immediately but it was not sold at my local shop, and at the time I had no idea that it was part of an entire line of fragrances devoted to the Queen of Flowers. I used up my sample and hoped that I would find it again someday. I did, and now I also have the amazing body cream, which is so rich and redolent that its scent lasts all day and is a great substitute for wearing the perfume.

Une Folie de Rose is a rose chypre, and its longevity on the skin is practically legendary. You have to really love chypres, not just roses, to appreciate it; the patchouli is pronounced, the resinous aspect of the fragrance is intense, and the rose is thick and jammy. It has become one of my favorite rose fragrances of all time and I feel elegant and just putting it on.

The next Rosine I tried was Rose Kashmirie, which is very nearly the polar opposite of Une Folie de Rose, a sweet Oriental rose and peony scent made interesting with saffron and other warm notes including myrrh, vanilla and benzoin. I like to wear it on the coldest of days when it is truly like being wrapped a cashmere garment, and it easily made my winter favorites list. It has a whisper of powderiness but not too much, and it’s about as cuddy as perfume gets, and very feminine; if it were a person it would be a teenage girl with a pink satin ruffled coverlet and lots of cute, fuzzy stuffed animals in her bedroom, where she would spend hours writing in her diary using hearts as punctuation. I am just crazy about it.

Next up, the wonderful Secrets de Rose, an almost “boozy” type of rose fragrance, not as spicy or warm as Rose Kashmirie but just as delicious, a dark plum-tinged velvety seductress with a resinous sandalwood and moss base and a heart that contains jasmine and ylang ylang along with the deeply jammy rose note. Even with all the Oriental notes it comes across as more of what I think of as a baseline rose soliflore in the rich style that I love, a classic composition that never goes out of style. To my nose it is serious competition for Serge Lutens’ Sa Majeste de la Rose, and coming from me that’s saying a lot. I want a full bottle of this for those occasions (and they are frequent) when I just crave deep red roses and nothing else will do.

On the lighter side is Rose d’Ete, a delightfully fresh rose composition with galbanum, green apple, lime tree flower, mimosa, and other spring-like notes. The rose note is characterized as yellow rose, a color that carries a distinctly different kind of fragrance in the living rose flower because of the genetic heritage of yellow roses; it is rather tea-like and mild. It works perfectly with the other components to make for a breezy and easygoing rose that would be better suited to warm weather. It got a little bit lost when I tested it over winter, so I am saving what’s left of it for summer, when it will really have a chance to bloom.

My continuing love affair with the Rosine scents came to screeching halt with Roseberry, which I was sure I would love it from the list of notes; its downfall is far too much blackcurrant bud, which imparts a metallic edge that overwhelms the rest of the notes; a hefty does of aldehydes only amps it up even more. Ordinarily I enjoy blackcurrant bud in fragrances, but I was hoping for more fruitiness here from the blackberry and chamomile and more expression of the Turkish rose character. It also has a “lees of wine” note which I expected to be rich and complex, but it’s sharp and thin to my nose instead, like a bottle of cheap red. For people who can wear this style, Roseberry is probably very elegant and sophisticated, as it has very little sweetness and a lot of green notes, but it simply does not work for me.

More to come soon as I explore more of this fascinating line of fragrances!

Les Parfums de Rosine has a very pretty and informative Web site and the product line includes scented soaps and candles as well as the liquid Eau de Parfum and perfumed body cream. The body creams from this line are outstanding and a great value for the money. It might take some searching to find a retail store that carries the line, but sample sets are available from the company, so you can try before you buy and have to pay the hefty overseas shipping charges from Paris.

Image credit: Pink roses from

Disclosure: All the perfumes tested were from my own collection, either purchased by me or from trades with fellow perfume lovers.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sniff First, Read Later: A Lab on Fire What We Do In Paris is Secret

By Tom

If I'd actually read the copy on LuckyScent before smelling this I might have been more inclined to roll my eyes.  Calling themselves "The Unlikely Company: an enigma wrapped in mystery" and, well let me just let them say it: (from LuckyScent)

"We emphasize the hands-on and artisanal aspects of creating original fragrances along with our priorities for their safety, stability, freshness and quality. Each fragrance, created by a famous nose, is batched at a state-of-the-art factory in New Jersey but packaged by Brooklyn neighborhood artists whose hand-labeling sometimes results in serendipitous touches that lend individual character to each bottle."

Well, bully.

But I did smell it first, and you know what?  It is kind of all that.  It's got some of the raw comb honeyed lusciousness of Botrytis along with creamy woods and a fair bit of salty ambergris and drrty musks.  Even the dreaded lychee is so perfectly done here that I that wanted more.  I admit that I only gave this a cursory test since I was at ScentBar for a different mission but I liked this one.  It's a winner, especially for winter.  Although I think I might need the zip-tie packaging explained to me at some point..

Notes from LuckyScent, where I sampled: Bergamot, honey, lychee, Turkish rose essence, tonka bean, vanilla, heliotrope, tolu, sandalwood, ambergris, musks.  $110 for 60ML

Image: LuckyScent


Monday, February 13, 2012

Best of Winter 2012

Yes, it's time again where we list our bests of winter!  Feel free to list yours in the comments.

The best scent of this winter is, no doubt, Bottega Veneta. At some point I even stopped wearing it, to not turn into a routine the contact with this wonderful scent. Canonical beauty also has reverse side – large circulation. Remember those crowds in front of Mona Lisa? But I felt for Bottega Veneta not because of it's beauty. I got tired of feeling myself a hundred years old, nagging about everything new not less than about conceptuality and too much self-expression in perfumery. Bottega Veneta doesn't make me feel myself a stranger in my own time.

I seem to be having an affair du coeur with Tom Ford. First it was his luscious woodsy Violet Blonde, but about three weeks ago I fooled around and fell hopelessly in love with Tobacco Vanille. Tobacco Vanille is described as a modern take on a man's club and I must agree but go a bit further. When I'm wearing it I immediately think of that incredible striptease scene from 9 and 1/2 weeks  when she's completely naked and wrapped in his fully clad arms.   All of that cocoa, tonka bean, dried fruit , wood sap and vanilla blends together in a way that's practically edible and layers on my skin like one of the DH's oversize cotton shirts that I love to sleep in. However, there's no sleeping when I'm wearing it and it's definitely the perfume that kept me warm at night all winter long. 

When it is cold, outside, really, really cold, I look for an olfactory blanket to go with my down coat, and the brand I come up with time and again is none other than the stylish Tom Ford's. While Tom himself might disapprove of my Trip to the Himalaya-style garb, he sure would love to get a whiff of me. Amber Absolute and Tobacco Vanille are my two most worn, go-to warming fragrances in winter.
A classic amber, big-boned, smoky and very much present, Amber Absolute is like a rock, always reliable, always pleasant, staying the distance and fulfilling its duty of being a layer of protection and warmth. Similar sentiments go for Tobacco Vanille, although this is the one I wear when I need an extra dose of sweetness. A pronounced honey note makes this duet of mellow tobacco and dark vanilla cozy and warm, and therefore ideal to keep the cold at bay.

Winter here in the Pacific Northwest has been mild, even for us, so my big Orientals like Bal à Versailles and Rochas Absolu have not been getting the attention they usually receive at this time of year. I have been wearing some summery and even tropical fragrances, especially light floral bouquets such as vintage Crown Alpine Lily on those days when it’s so soft and humid that anything balsamic or ambery would be too much, especially at work. Overall, my winter default fragrance has been the comforting yet very sexy Natori, both in the Eau de Parfum and the rich body cream, especially at bedtime It has been in heavy rotation along with Badgley Mischka pure parfum, a deliciously fruity chypre which really brightens me up and gives me a mood lift on those grey, unrelentingly rainy days. I have also been on a rose and rose chypre kick for several months now, so my L’Arte di Gucci, Parfums de Rosine Une Folie de Rose and Rose Kashmirie get regular use, and of course, always and forever, my beloved Caron Parfum Sacré in the original formula is so well suited to winter and evening that I have been finding reasons to wear it even when the occasion only calls for jeans and a sweater. There is never a wrong time or season for it!

Al Mendoos by Agar Aura
It’s not often than one can call an oud-based perfume “understated” and delicate but Al Mendoos is this exception. With notes of osmanthus, cedar and Cambodian oud, this perfume is redolent of apricots and smooth sweet woods, dusted with a sprinkling of powder that adds a soft downy-ness to this ultra-feminine perfume. Oud mellows and supports the ripe juiciness of the beloved Asian flower, cushioning its sweetness and adding resonance and luster to this tender and gentle blend.

This has been a gentle but cruel winter. The kind that makes you want to be wrapped up in a perfume not for warmth, but for comfort, protection and escape. Nuit de Noel's nostalgic, not-from-this-era feel and the velvety texture akin that of old Persian lamb fur provided just that. It made me feel as if I am not here, but on an old sepia photograph, a stranger looking inscrutably from under her pill box hat with short black veil...a stranger to my own sorrows and worries...gentle, aloof and maybe a little bit cruel. 

"Once more I sent to you a letter
Tenderly kissing its pages
And opening the bottle of your evil perfume
I'm inhaling its intoxication
And then oh so clearly I see
These thin black birds that are flying
From the bottle they fly to the South
From the bottle of Nuit de Noel"

We've had several scary cold snaps here in the Southeast this winter, and each time, I've reached, without even thinking, for Serge Lutens Chergui. The warm hay, tobacco, resin and spice scent is the ultimate warmer for my winter chills. Luca Turin claimed that hay absolute, all on its own, would make a perfect perfume. This is true, and so it seems to me that Lutens and Sheldrake have outdone perfection with Chergui. No big surprise there.

Our winter has been just plain weird.  One day in the 50's, the next in the 90's  My usual winter stalwarts are a little much in those circumstances.  Musky by smell bent is one that I'm reaching for a lot; it has just the perfect amount of sweet immortelle without going all syrupy.  It's as comforting as sipping hot, sweet tea by a fire in a cashmere sweater.  Since it's $45 bucks I think it's also the easiest indulgence I can think of.

Please check out the other participating blogs: Bois de Jasmine, Perfume Posse, Grain de Musc and Now Smell This.


Perfumistas and Their Loved Ones

By Marla, the Nerd Girl

OK. I rave about new batches of vetiver from wherever. It’s organic! It’s an SCO2! I love Norlimbanol. I hate Safraleine. I wear combinations of molecules that are so intense, so bizarre, that I occasionally offend hyenas (my least favorite sentient being).

It’s Valentine’s Day this week. Maybe I should give my partner the best gift I can think of…a day off the olfactory wheel??

My DH loves strange odors and actually likes beta testing my peculiar creations, and dutifully sniffs the additions to my ever-expanding Scent Library. He’s a Nerd Guy. He loves Music. So I listen to his new Arabo-andalusian rebab recording, rave about the new oud solos he’s found (yes, it’s a lute-like instrument as well as a perfume), and listen to him playing the shakuhachi on weekends. I love it! I can barely play 3 bars on my recorder, so he’s my hero. He says he’s learned a lot about the least-used sense from me (olfaction). OK, so he hates Angel. Life goes on. I hate Puerto Rican Rap. We continue. We learn.

How does your perfumistahood meld with your key relationships?? Will you give the people you love most a scented, or unscented, gift this Valentine’s Day?

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Hearts and Flowers

By Tom

Valentine's Day is coming.  A day of expectations that often aren't met.  Chocolate is considered a usual gift, perfume and champagne isn't unheard of.  Some people even get jewelry.

Those of us who are alone of course can indulge ourselves in any way we feel.  Beauty treatments involving masques that we wouldn't want to be seen in while soaking in a suds-filled tub while eating twinkies and swilling champagne out of the bottle?  Hey, who's gonna know?

I'm not going to go that far, but I will certainly do something involving chocolate.  What are you planning for the day?

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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Russian Saturday: Une Fleur de Cassie

Review and translation by Alena

“Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочущая слякоть
Весною черною горит.”
Б. Пастернак

Февраль. Ослабляет свои тиски тоска по розам. Впереди неизменно-февральское ожидание весны. Хочется носить желтое на черном, непременно мохер на шерсти. Желтое мне катастрофически не идет, поэтому жажду по нему я утоляю Une Fleur de Cassie. Я уже давно выпала из эгрегора Международного Женского Дня, давно не видела мимозы живьем, но Une Fleur de Cassie не дает мне забыть ее запах.

В Une Fleur de Cassie невинное начало. Горьковатая зелень, прохладные белые лилии, влажные, слегка конфетные, фиалки. Нежность на кончиках пальцев. Пахнет подтекшими тюбиками масляных красок и расслоившейся гуашью. Белые цветы часто порождают подобные аллюзии. Жаль, что они так недолговечны.

Еще немного, и Une Fleur de Cassie затянет в свою в альдегидную воронку. В ней пропадает хрустальный и чистый, как слеза жасмин. Только его и видели! Une Fleur de Cassie – это торжество роз и мимоз. Роза, при всей своей самодостаточности, в этом аромате отдает себя, не доминируя. Но мягкость переходов и округлость форм – именно ее заслуга. Ярко-желтые пушистые шарики мимозы покрыты густым облаком пыльцы. Пыльца щекочет нос и оседает на плечи в черном. Я едва дышу в ее пудровой горечи. Прохладно-терпкая гвоздика удерживает цветочно-альдегидную вакханалию в рамках приличия. Это так по-французски: рамки нужны только когда им есть, что ограничивать. Иначе они просто бессмысленны.

В Une Fleur de Cassie есть необыкновенно чувственная холодность, соленый морской ветер, запутавшийся в цветущих ветвях. Я не знаю, что дает эту прохладную анималистичность звучания, но она очень необычна. К счастью, я не чувствую в аромате мускуса. Это было бы слишком скучно. Une Fleur de Cassie оставляет кремовое сандаловое послевкусие на коже и предчувствие весны на душе.


“February. Get ink, shed tears.
Write of it, sob your heart out, sing,
While torrential slush that roars
Burns in the blackness of the spring.”
B. Pasternak

February. Longing for roses loosens it's vice. Ahead of me is the usual February awaiting for a spring. I wish to wear yellow on black, certainly mohair on wool. Yellow go with me catastrophically. That's why I quench my thirst with Une Fleur de Cassie. I dropped out of the egregore of the International Women's Day long time ago, and haven't seen mimosa alive for a long time, but Une Fleur de Cassie won't let me forget how it's smells.

The beginning in Une Fleur de Cassie is innocent. Bitterish greenery, cool white lilies, moist, slightly candy violets. Tenderness at the fingertips. Smell of leaking tubes of oil paint and flaked gouache. White flowers often generate such allusions. It's a pity they are so short-lived.

Wait a little more, and Une Fleur de Cassie will suck you into its aldehyde vortex. Crystal clear jasmine disappears in there like a flash. Une Fleur de Cassie is a triumph of roses and mimosas. With all her self-sufficiency, in this fragrance rose releases herself, but not dominates. The smoothness of transitions and the roundness of forms is her merit. The bright yellow fluffy mimosa balls are covered with a thick cloud of pollen. Pollen tickles your nose and settles on shoulders covered in black. I could hardly breathe in this powdery bitterness. Cool and tart clove holds floral-aldehyde bacchanal in the bounds of decency. This is so French: the bounds are only necessary if they have something to bound. Otherwise they are just meaningless.

Une Fleur de Cassie has extremely carnal coldness, a salty sea breeze, caught in blooming branches. I do not know what gives this animalistic freshness to the fragrance, but it is very unusual. Fortunately, I do not smell the musk in it. It would be too boring. Une Fleur de Cassie leaves creamy sandalwood aftertaste on the skin and a premonition of spring in my soul.

Une Fleur de Cassie Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (Dominique Ropion, 2000): bergamot, rose, violet, aldehydes, cassie, mimosa, jasmine, clove, cedarwood, sandalwood, musk.
Image: Marc Chagall "Roses and Mimosa from Nice & the Côte d’Azur", 1967

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Tickle Me: Eau Pear Tingle by Opus Oils

By Tom

It's not a secret that I really like Opus Oils, the Hollywood-based house known for it's cheeky, wink-wink packaging containing seriously nice scents.  Recently, house nose Kedra Hart took up the challenge to create a scent that could be experienced by people who were anosmic to scent. 

This of course makes the scent hard to review, since I am anything but unable to smell perfume.  So I can't comment on its central purpose; I can comment on what I'm smelling.  Eau Pear Tingle starts off with a literal tingle of mint.  It's not mint in a chewing gum kind of way: it's like going into your garden to the plant, ripping off a handful and burying your nose it the torn leaves.  It's bright and peppery and quite wonderful (do I smell parsley in there?).  It's joined by lime blossom, pear and musk that balance each other perfectly: the pear is juicy while the musk and lime cuts the sweetness.  It kind of reminds me a little bit of Annick Goutal Un Matin d'Orage, not necessarily in the notes but in the sort of green and vaguely watery aspect to it, like wandering in an orchard after a hard rain.  Jasmine is discernible but not overwhelming while the listed pine seems to be there only to add some more "tingle" rather than being up in the front: Filles en Auguilles this isn't.

Would I wear it?  No.  Pear and I aren't friends, no matter how well done.  I also think this is one that I'd rather smell on a woman than on a man: there's something about its musky sweetness that makes me think of the nape of the neck of a woman who has just pulled up her hair into a chignon to escape the warmth of the afternoon and is enjoying feeling the breeze, lightly pressing her icy glass of mint tea to her throat.  It's another feather in the cap for Kedra Hart and Opus Oils and can see why it was nominated for a FiFi award.

Available at their website in various sizes and products.  My sample was sent by the perfumer.  Image from their website.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Foodie Alchemy!

By Beth

Happy Foodie Sunday! The first and best news is that since we were last together is that I’ve lost 7 pounds! Yes you heard me! 7 glorious pounds! I’m learning so much about the way that I eat and I will admit that it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. I woke up in the middle of the night just now realizing that I’d been hiding from the world for the last 9 years under all of this belly fat. I haven’t accomplished yet many of the things that I want to in this lifetime and I’m 52. Peeling away this layer of armor is exposing all of the tender places and I’m scared, but I’m definitely ready. I’m definitely trying to figure out who and what I’m going to be when I grow up! Any thoughts? I'm willing to listen to all suggestions!

Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I’m not using any particular cleanse. For years I’ve tried everything, but not with any lasting results. I’ve decided to create my own lifestyle, using a combination of the French techniques that I love, Asian foodie wisdom and a bit of alchemy. Alcohol is definitely on my mostly avoid list because I’ve discovered that it actually holds my weight in place. We’re using one night to splurge, which is a tremendous amount of fun! One night doesn’t destroy the diet but I must admit that I’m always happy the next morning to go back to the plan because now that my body is used to eating smaller portions of really good food I always feel a bit bloated. Thank goodness for my amazing husband. I just don’t know that I’d keep this up without his support. He’s convinced me though that I’ll like the end result even more than he will which keeps me going even when I’m this terrified. Did I mention that I even worked out by myself last week? That’s huge for me! Jim had the flu and I went anyhow. I can’t believe how hard that was to do, but my reward was a soak in the whirlpool and some time in the steam room and that was heaven.

Herbs and spices play a huge role in this diet and this particular way of cooking serves them well. I use herbs and spices not just for flavor, but for their healing properties and actually one little known part of my life is that I trained for over 10 years with one of the most amazing herbalists I’ve ever known, the classic “good witch with the cottage in the woods” , a wise woman named LaWanna Rine.

La Wanna taught me that food IS medicine, long before it became chic to think that way! Everything brewing in her kitchen had a purpose and she wildcrafted most of it, just as do I to this day except when the snow is flying. In the heart of winter, that’s what Penzeys herbs and spices are for and if you’ve never tried them, they’re absolutely wonderful. Their spice and herb blends can make a decent cook out of anyone, even those who thinks that they can’t cook. A trip to the Penzeys store is a fantastic experience and I take people there to teach them about herbs and flavor. Everything is incredibly fresh and just like the glass cloches that are currently so popular in fine fragrance or candle stores, when you lift the lid on a Penzeys jar you’ll get the pure , fresh perfume ofperfectly stored herbs.

I do use supplements but my tastes prefer my herbs as close to the origins as possible so when I can get them that way that’s all I’ll use. Real food is live food and that’s what I believe that you need to create real wellness. Right now I get up every morning and pretend that I’m at a lovely spa. I make my cup of Earl Grey tea and flavor it with a delicious and creamy raw honey. Sometimes I have juice and sometimes I have fresh oatmeal that I prepare with almond milk, cinnamon and fresh berries. My husband was the every day bowl of cereal type and now I’m experimenting with all kinds of foods for breakfast, like smoked salmon with fresh dill instead of bacon or vegan breakfast burritos with fresh citrus salsas and guacamole. It not only has to taste good, but it needs to look and smell wonderful or we all know that I’m not going to eat it and instead start binging once again on bacon and brie!

I’ve discovered that the key to success here is to cook our food myself. Going out is always lovely, but there are several things that I’ve discovered. For starters it’s true, unless you have someone to share it with the portions in this countryARE way too big. Secondly and even more important to the success of this program is the fact that even good restaurants accentuate flavor with all sorts of added naughtiness like too much butter, cream and a bit of sugar here and there. That’s fine for splurge night but not for everyday fare. I’m enjoying the challenge of preparing good food, with great ingredients and fabulous natural flavors. For me cooking is alchemical, much in the same way that many of the natural perfumers that we love create their fragrances. A bit of sage, a pinch of fresh rosemary and a few lavender buds stewed with a bit of white potato and leek turn a simple chicken breast into a fragrant and soothing dish that settles my stomach easily.

That same chicken breast, piece of tofu or fish when it’s quickly stir fried in my Le Creuset Wok with a bit of bok choy, sweet potato, onion, minced garlic, chopped peanuts , cayenne, cinnamon, ginger and allspice turns into a very warming dish that doesn’t need anything extra in the way of carbs and is completely satisfying on a really cold evening without any of the bloating side effects. For anyone allergic to peanuts I’ve discovered spicy tamari pumpkin seeds; these are so satisfying for anyone with a groundnut allergy.

Fresh butternut squash baked with fresh sage, ginger, a bit of Earth Balance “butter” and a bit of maple syrup relaxes me completely and makes me feel like I’m eating dessert! You can take that same squash recipe and puree it with some coconut milk and pour the whole thing into an ice cream maker. Serve it with crystallized ginger sprinkled on top and if you can find it, some fresh mochi. If you can’t find fresh mocha, whole foods has a terrific prepared mochi (a pounded rice paste) that comes in a pack and is ready to use. Just slice into bite size pieces and bake according to the directions. Dust it with a bit of Chinese 5 spice powder and a bit of “Butter “ and some honey. This is one of my sweet secrets, absolutely delicious, fragrant and so good for you!

For me, the final piece of the puzzle is presentation. Make it beautiful , make sitting down at the table a feast for the senses! Make sure you sit down to eat, put everything on a pretty plate, use a cloth napkin (so much better for the environment) and treat yourself well because you’re worth it! Buy a crystal goblet or two and use them for everything, even water! Turn on somemusic. Chew and breathe ; as my mother used to say "relax and make every day into a day for candles and wine"! Dress up a bit and dab on some fabulous perfume, today I'm wearing Tom Fords utterly luscious Tobacco Vanille which is the equivalent of dessert in a flacon. This is about having a real relationship with your food and allowing it to nurture and love you back. If you’re joining me on this journey, please leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing! It’s great to have such good friends to share this with and I’m thankful for you all!

Eat Well, Be Well, Live and Love well!


Penzey's can be found at

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Aldehydes and Vintage: My Love-Hate Relationship

by Marla, the Nerd Girl

What exactly is an aldehyde? And what makes a perfume, vintage or new, aldehydic? Aldehydes are organic compounds that contain a carbonyl group that’s bonded to a hydrogen atom; the general formula is RCHO. They can be naturally derived (from citrus peels or clary sage, for example), or completely synthetic. Formaldehyde is a lower-weight aldehyde, and, as we all remember from high school biology class, has a truly disgusting odor. Paraldehyde is a hypnotic drug. Big, fat aldehydes, however, can smell really good. At least to some people. Turns out different people perceive perfumery aldehydes differently (shock!) and what smells delightfully effervescent and fruity to some can smell like burnt wax and diesel fuel to others. So if Chanel No. 5 smells repulsive to you, don’t blame yourself, it’s just your DNA….

There’s been a resurgence in aldehydic perfumes. An aldehydic perfume is one where certain aldehydes (those with a particular “waxy/fatty/rosy/fruity” character) take center stage, as in No. 5, White Linen, or Femme. Many of the perfumes of the 50s and 60s were Aldehydic Extremes. Now I’m seeing some indie perfumers, like Andy Tauer and Laurie Erickson, highlight these aldehydes in perfumes like Miriam and Nostalgie with a lighter touch and a deft hand, and I’m very pleased.

Aldehydics tend to make us feel a little more “dressed up”. They are (generally!) perceived as mature, upscale, sophisticated notes. You don’t wear aldehydics with unwashed hair, in an old jogging suit, schlepping the kids around in the SUV, or digging trenches in the backyard. They are “little black dress” perfumes, and are usually regarded as special. I know that my 50s/60s vintage perfumes will find their moment on those rare occasions I go to a concert, opera, or special dinner with my DH. When I wear them, someone near me will certainly comment, “My, don’t you smell posh!”

When I’m not in the mood, they smell too sharp to me, too firmly tethered to a bygone era, and I pass them by with a wrinkled nose. Then a month or so goes by and I just want to smell like the aptly named Ma Griffe (My Claw), Bakir, or Replique again! It’s a love-hate relationship I particularly relish, and so I’m glad to see these lovely gems, the aldehydes, in modern settings, crafted by artists I respect. My modern aldehydic faves are Champagne du Bois (Sonoma Scent Studio), Serge Lutens’ La Myrrhe, and Shiseido’s original Zen (the black bottle, just reissued and as good as ever). And I’m dying to try Miriam and Nostalgie. How do you feel about aldehydics, old and new? And which are your favorites?

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Elements Showcase in PIctures



















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