The Floating World of Flower and Willow



- Part One of a two part series on Aroma M Geisha Perfume Oils

Geiko

For a perfumoholic such as myself, there is no greater thrill than the thrill of discovery. Where will I go, what wonders will I find, will I find something, smell something, embark upon a journey to a destination or a mindset I have never known before?

In the case of Aroma M, the answer is a resounding, definite…yes.

Maria McElroy, the perfumer and creator behind Aroma M, began as a painter who then took up the study of aromatherapy, and next went to Japan for seven years to immerse herself in many different aspects of Japanese culture, among them kodo – the Japanese art of perfume, ikebana, shiatsu, the Japanese tea ceremony and Zen Buddhism. It gives her Geisha perfume oils a unique aesthetic sensibility that is apparent from the moment I pop open those tiny wondrous vials – the compelling sensual refinement so apparent in all Japanese art forms, and the more opulent, compartmentalized Western approach. Leave your preconceptions behind, open your mind – and breathe as we go.

Dive down with me into ‘The Floating World of Flower and Willow’ of the geiko of the Gion district of Kyoto, where there is no other reason to exist but pleasure. Live for these transcendent moments of sensual beauty, as a geiko plays the shamisen and warmed sake steams in the fragrant air around you, lose yourself in the sinuous lines and effervescent colors of kimono and flower and the evocative perfumed air of the geisha who entertain you with their art. Your cares and the outside world do not exist here, time itself stands still, and only the fleeting mood of this moment of all sensual delights dictates your whims.

Here, the geiko reign supreme, the fully fledged geisha who have completed their training as maiko in all the artistry of geisha, in this teahouse you find not the painted faces of maiko we normally associate with geisha, but the natural, mature beauty of geiko whose art lies in their very artlessness, their ability to make even the striking of a chord on the shamisen, the pouring of tea, the soft musical rustle of hand-embroidered silk an exquisite art form of its own. Like these stellar perfumes, which are not so innocent and far more knowing than they would have you believe.

Geisha Noir

Notes: Spices, amber, tonka bean.

Once upon a time, even here in the decadent West, perfumes existed that put the ‘Oh!’ in …Oriental. O as in opulent, Oh as in audacious, Oh as in…Oh, wow!

Not a few have said that Geisha Noir reminds them quite a bit of what Shalimar used to be before reformulation, and I can see why. My mother loved Shalimar, and she would surely be all over this. Geisha Noir is a definite after dark perfume oil to wear when you have definite after dark events on your mind. Spicy, rich, and very heady, I wore this to bed the other night and had the kind of dreams I really can’t repeat on a perfume blog, but let’s just say that waking up alone was …heartbreaking? Animalic and unabashedly, devastatingly sensual, if you miss the former glories of Shalimar, run, don’t walk, and try this. It lasts and lasts, weaving its siren song around your skin for hours, but what you do with it is up to you!

Geisha Marron

Notes: Muguet, white Japanese magnolia, chestnut blossom, mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit.

Every spring, I’ve always wondered why no one has ever tried to put the soft, lilting fragrance of the dark pink chestnut blossoms into a perfume. I need wonder no longer. Marron is the most ‘Western’ of all the Aroma M line, with its evanescent blend of muguet, magnolia and those glorious chestnut blossoms, sparkling with a citrus kick at the outset of bergamot, mandarin and grapefruit. It settles down to a warm, inviting aura of the muguet – not quite so innocent here as we’re used to – magnolia and the chestnut blossom, and is suggestive more than demanding. It would wear perfectly for a Sunday afternoon promenade, but wouldn’t be amiss at an intimate dinner for two. It begs to be appreciated up close and personal, but never shouts its presence. Unusual, alluring, and uplifting!

Geisha Rouge

Notes: Tonka bean, tobacco, vanilla, cinnamon, star anise, clove, sandalwood, Japanese incense.

Spice, this dedicated hedonist will tell you, is nice, and with Geisha Rouge, spice gets no nicer than this. Not one floral note detracts from these woody, fiery glories that bloom in an exotic language all their own…with that sharp, hot spark to your senses of star anise, clove and cinnamon, and an imperceptibly subtle shift toward the dry down of Japanese incense, sandalwood, tonka bean, vanilla and tobacco with its leathery undertone. If clove deters you – as it does for some – rest assured this will not remind you of the dentist in the slightest, for here clove and star anise dance in their flawless kabuko tandem with cinnamon and Japanese incense for hours, never cloying, never boring or biting. This is a perfume of embers that glow in the space above your skin to remind you of possibilities, hopes and ardent dreams to make your own. Geisha Rouge was one of my favorites – for its exuberant spicy, fiery kick, and for the way it galvanized my creativity. I really need to own this. Whoever knew that spice could cure my writer’s block? My Devil will be so grateful.

Geisha Violet

Notes: Violet, lilac, Japanese lotus, bitter chocolate

In my former life, I trained as a pastry chef, so it’s no stretch for me at all to imagine the pairing of violet and chocolate, used to decorate and accentuate so many classic chocoholic delights. I detect only a whiff of lilac and lotus, but lots and lots of very floral violet, its inherent sweetness undercut by the bitter chocolate just enough to make it a different violet than the blushing ingénue of classical perfumery. I can imagine this would be innocent on someone young, but on someone who isn’t, that chocolate note edges it ever so slightly toward gourmand territory, a wonderful place to be, and either because of the chocolate or because I’m no ingénue, makes it just naughty enough to suit my fancy. Naughty violet suits me perfectly. I can resist anything except chocolate, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I never would have thought that violet could be …subversive, but on me, this is, and precisely for that reason, this is a must for violet lovers.

What is immediately apparent is that all of these perfumes share a common aesthetic vocabulary that is neither distinctly Japanese nor emphatically Western, but a fertile and highly creative hybrid of the best of both worlds. They have a unique ability to evoke a mood and an atmosphere I haven’t often come across in niche perfumery, yet they are also distinct enough to take you on that magic carpet ride to…elsewhere and otherwise, to another place and time, to a different headspace and an alternate mindset – where all that pleases the senses lives, breathes and thrives in a district of its own. Where a geiko can recite a poem by the famous female poet Ono no Komachi, while all these perfumes sing along:

If, in an autumn world

A hundred flowers

can untie their streamers

may I also openly frolic

as fearless of blame?

With a little help from Aroma M, the answer can only be…yes!

Stay tuned for the next review of Aroma M – titled Maiko…

Aroma M is available in several leading department stores across the US and directly from the Aroma M website.

Disclosure: Samples provided by Maria McElroy for review.

Image: Courtesan, Katsushiko Hokusai, 1812-1821

Poem by Ono no Komachi, translated by Hirschfield and Aramati.

The Good, the Bad and the Nasty



– on taking a stand…



Yesterday morning, I woke up to a fracas of perfume origins. One of my Primeval Forces of Perfume, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of Parfums des Beaux Arts, was requested to leave the Natural Perfumers’ Guild in a highly unprofessional, undeserved and inconsiderate manner for not being quite natural…enough to suit the Guild. A very sorry state of affairs. It’s not my place to expound on the particulars other than to say you can read all about it here.

This does, however, get me thinking about the whole natural vs. synthetic debate. Both can be equally bad – or equally fantastic. I own a few all-natural perfumes, a large selection of hybrid perfumes to varying degrees, and even three samples from Escentric Molecules that never knew a plant to begin with. I’m no fanatic – I believe that both naturals and hybrid perfumes have their place in my perfume cabinet. Just as natural perfumes contain characteristics – a soul, if you will – synthetics never can, synthetic components of a perfume can add other, equally compelling elements, including longevity. Many natural perfumes have left me less than impressed…and a few others have blown me to dandelion fluff. Some synthetic perfumes have been very complex – and others left me running to scrub them off.

You could argue with some justification that if you really DID prefer a 100% natural perfume, all you would have to do is tuck a highly scented flower behind your ear and call it a day. The labor intensive process of steam and CO2 distillation, cold pressing or enfleurage might capture the essence of the plant in question, but is it really any more ‘natural’ than cooking up a chemical brew in a lab? After all, the very process of creating a perfume, regardless of the source material, is in itself artificial.

When I first reviewed Dawn’s ‘Vert pour Madame’ with only the knowledge of her name and reputation, I immediately recognized a spectacular, visionary and unique talent that definitely registered on the SLS Major Moo scale. Since then, she herself has been incredibly welcoming, friendly and hugely supportive of an unknown perfume blogger and writer whose perspectives have irrevocably shifted and whose life has been enriched by her creations to such a degree that I can’t imagine how I’ve managed to live so long without them.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz may no longer be a member of the Natural Perfumers’ Guild, but she will always belong in that ‘nosebleed stratosphere of badass’ (to quote from Quantum Demonology) that gives her my ultimate distinction – a Primeval Force of Perfume. As such, she will always have my support, profound admiration and a prominent space in my perfume cabinet for all the marvels she has created – and the fragrant wonders that lie ahead for her prodigious talents.

Image: Jefferyboyle.com

The Compleat Guide to Make this Cow Moo



- or how to make a cow have one!

I live in a two-herbivore household, consisting of one billy goat in training – my Capricorn six year old, who goes by the code name ‘Wolverine’ these days – and one definite cow…yours truly, not your Usual Brand of Bull.

The other day, Wolverine was watching the Simpsons. Bart Simpson is a perpetual inspiration for him, although I am nothing in the slightest like Marge. Since Wolverine is bilingual, he never has to worry about not yet being able to read subtitles, but every so often, he’ll encounter a phrase or a word he doesn’t have a reference for.

‘Mom…’ he asked me at the dinner table that night, ‘how do you have a cow?’

I explained. The exact equivalent in Danish translates as ‘getting a foal’, and I don’t know the etymological origins of that one, either.

But after he was finally tucked in that night, I sat staring at my cakebox collection of perfume decants and samples and thought about it in perfume terms:

What does it take to make me have a cow? If a ‘cow’ in this particular context is another term for…perfumed satori, ‘WOW!!!’ or ‘be still my beating heart’? My usual choice of phrase is quite a bit spicier, but this is a perfume blog…

To begin with that thorny question, my perpetual caveat in terms of reviewing is always:

My opinions are my own. Yours may be different. Perfume is a subjective art like any other, beauty is in the eye of the sniffer/huffer* in this case and while we may agree on some things, we likely differ on others. Also, real life tends to get in the way. Between the job, Wolverine and mapping out my writing schedule, I’ve accumulated a massive case of guilt over all the things I have yet to review – but trust me, if I’m moved enough, I will eventually review them. If not…not.

Second – I’ve been a nutcase psychotic passionate about perfume for a very, very long time, and thanks to my mother and a Paris rite of passage, I started at the top with the really good stuff, back when it was well and truly good. My perfume palate has become a little jaded, in particular in this past year of blogging. To induce a state of utter bovine bliss in the cow writing these words, it has to be very, very good, and not just smell that way, although it does help.

Third – I don’t care what it costs. When you can’t afford whole bottles of anything, you can at least afford decants of the best. Price isn’t necessarily a guarantee of quality, as I found out last summer when I came across an outrageously priced bottle of a dead-exclusive perfume and hated it in all dimensions: the juice, the bottle, the principle. I will say most of the luxurious lines I’ve discovered and reviewed have provided a definite gratification of my hyper-luxury itch.

Fourth – this is a big one, and a major reason why I gravitate towards the niche end rather than the mainstream. Concept. Is the perfumer/house trying to say something new, explore new territory, challenge my aesthetic in some way? Does a magic carpet ride await – for good or bad? Is the juice any different than what I might find at a department store/perfume shop? On that note…

Execution. Anyone – even this cow – can bang together a few essences, pray and hope it turns out great. That doesn’t mean it will. The perfumes I’ve returned to time and time again this past year, the ones I love with a passion maroon, the ones that make my Great Immortals list (perpetually under construction!) are the ones that evolve…from one idea to another, from one space to another, from one day to the next. In other words – out pops a genie and takes me for a ride in more ways than one!

Association, which is related to concept, is another good test of potential greats. The genie in the bottle has to talk. I might not agree with him or her, and we may not even be speaking the same olfactory language, but if that genie has nothing to say, how am I to review the contents that created it? Some of them yell, some would rather whisper, a few of them sing basso profondo, baritone, tenor or coloratura and some drag out their lead guitars, hook up their Marshall amp and blow my head off. It helps. Really.

All these elements combined add up to…a perfume. I may only be able to appreciate one of these elements and if I do, I say so. If even three of them come together, I will say that, too. Should all of them bellow out one rousing, final chorus, well, hey – it’s bingo for this bovine…

Moo!

There’s just one more thing…a small thing, a seemingly unimportant thing…but it speaks volumes to me, not just as a blogger, but as an individual.

I receive samples in several different ways. I have been known to pay for them. Support your indie perfumers and/or perfume purveyors. They do this for a living, or they would like to. If they also have excellent customer support, you can bet your vintage Bandit extrait that they will also have a loyal customer in this particular cow, because you never know…that cow might write a bestseller with all intentions of blowing some royalties on perfume! Quite a lot…of perfume.

I have also received samples from friends and fellow bloggers, bless their devious hearts, and more often than not, this has led to decant purchases and other hazards to my minuscule perfume budget. That being the case, the following doesn’t apply to them.

It has also happened on more than one occasion that I’ve been sent samples I haven’t specifically requested, and in my year of blogging, I’ve only done that once – it took me a week to stop blushing before I hit ‘send’ on the email. In two instances, the perfumer was referred to my blog by another blogger. In a few others, I was contacted by the house/perfumer. That’s perfectly all right. In fact, it’s hugely flattering. I’ve disclosed this if it happened, as I’m obligated to do.

It helps my attitude enormously if the perfumer/company writes to ask if they can, though. This means that whoever is sending me samples acknowledges there is a real, live human on the other side of the screen who would appreciate a hello, who might encourage an exchange or …perish the thought! – a dialogue! Those who did secured a spot in my Perfume Pantheon for that reason alone. One indie perfumer emailed me and asked if she could, and regrettably, I had to tell her no until September, or I couldn’t do her the justice she deserved. That got us talking, and I’m happy to say we still are. I’ll review her this coming fall. Why? She asked!

So then…my last criterion for a Major Moo: Presentation. I’m not saying 1 or 2 ml samples need to be wrapped in 19-momme silk charmeuse with descriptions in handwritten dip-pen Copperplate calligraphy on Italian parchment paper, but remember – in most instances, I don’t know the perfumer/house from Adam, or if I do, it’s only by reading about him or her on other blogs. Have a little care. Make it nice, because it brightens up my dreary day like few things can. Write a personal message. The human touch goes a long way in my world. All the cards I have received from bloggers, houses and perfumers alike are kept and placed in the ‘Helpful friends and allies’ section of my Feng Shui-ed bulletin board. They make me happy every time I see them.

When all these elements come together – the concept, the execution, the genie and the presentation – magic has been known to happen, a magic I try to reflect in my reviews.

Next, in an off-blog, offline moment dealing with all the mundane aspects of daily life, Wolverine will catch me sniffing/huffing at a wrist in the middle of folding laundry/doing dishes/cooking dinner. I’ll say something that cannot be repeated in public, but it’s very high praise. My offspring will appraise me with a level, brown-eyed stare and say:

‘Mom…you’re having a cow!’

Moo!

* I thank the fabulous Perfumaniac of Yesterday’s Perfume for the concept of huffing perfume, which she explains brilliantly here.

Image: Butter sculpture from stuartspivack.com

The Hedge of Perdition



- a review of Parfums Delrae ‘Amoureuse’

Being a perfume blogger can be a perilous undertaking, Every time you try an unknown, you’re putting your nose on the line and sometimes your sanity with it. Any reader of the Arabian Nights will know that bottled jinn – or genies – are not to be trifled with.

So I will happily try anything new that takes my fancy and tickles my curiosity, I’ll happily challenge my own preconceptions, I’ll travel down those paths unknown and see where I end up, and I’ll haul my wizard’s hat of words with me to see if they can play nice with the genies.

Except that once in a blue moon, all I hope for is that one beautiful moment that takes my breath away, a magic carpet ride revealing marvels I never knew before. And likewise every other blue moon, I have some expectations that I might find it.

My Scent Twin, the marvelous Suzanne of Perfume Journal, sent me a generous sample of something I’ve wanted to try – Parfums Delrae ‘Amoureuse’. And for once this blue moon instant, I had a hunch that it would be…beautiful. From the reviews I read on Basenotes and Fragrantica and even the review Suzanne gave it, I had a few ideas of what to expect. I also had a few misgivings when she wrote in an email: ‘You’re going to LOVE it!’ Love in this case all too often comes with dollar signs attached. Like me, Suzanne is a Green Fiend and chypre fan, so when she says ‘pay attention’, or ‘you’ll love it!’ I always do since she’s usually right.

Damn her! ;)

The fact is, ‘Amoureuse’ is stunning. If you like or even love some of the great greens of yore such as the eponymous Deneuve, Jacomo’s Silences or Antonia by Puredistance, you might well fall in love with ‘Amoureuse’.

Created in 2002 as an ode to the Victorian boxwood hedges of San Francisco by Michel Roudnitska and Delrae Roth, ‘Amoureuse’ – not my usual association with the green chypre genre – opens with one of the loveliest accords I’ve ever met, a gravity-defying pas-de-deux of tangerine and cardamom so green and uplifting, you’re helpless to do anything other than smile and be happy. In any other perfume, that combination of spice and citrus would fade quickly as the star attractions of the heart notes take over. ‘Amoureuse’ is not any other perfume, and neither is the way it develops.

Instead, as the tangerine lingers for at least an hour before it very slowly fades, the cardamom bring out the heart notes from the wings, and it grows. And grows. And grows! It takes off into the stratosphere above my skin like some perfumed green and magic beanstalk, and the fatal – at least to me – blend of tuberose, jasmine and Tahitian ginger lily begin to bloom in a time-capture slow-motion fast-forward of b-l-o-o-m. That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. Tuberose can be a dominating diva, and for some, the tuberose predominates and on others the jasmine steals the show. On me, the cardamom continues to dance, somehow reining in these divas to give equal starring moments to that Tahitian ginger lily, and suddenly, I’m transformed from my usual, drab workaday self into something über-glamorous and incredibly chic, and not until then do I completely understand the name…Amoureuse.

Amorous. Sexy. It is indeed – very! – sexy, in a grown-up, self-assured, confident manner. No blushing violets or ingénues need apply.

‘Sexy’ in my perfumoholic world has all sorts of associations with so many of the great classics. One cousin of ‘Amoureuse’ comes to mind here, and that is Piguet’s Fracas, but ‘Amoureuse’ is greener and far less in-your-face tuberose. The bouquet of tuberose, jasmine and ginger lily somehow meld seamlessly in a wondrous mélange of gorgeousness, and by the time oakmoss, sandalwood and honey arrive very many hours later, I’ve reached the conclusion that this perfume is about as good as it gets in terms of sex appeal.

Of course if I said that, my reviews would be a lot shorter!

I was nervous when I read honey listed in the notes. Honey and I don’t get along except for internal purposes. ‘Amoureuse’ is softly sweet yet never cloying, the honey cut by oakmoss and sandalwood so it never turns into Honey Monster Havoc. Throughout, it remains green, effortlessly elegant, and just a little…heady.

If one of your main concerns with niche perfumes is receiving a bit of bang for your buck, in other words something that lasts a bit longer than you can blink, I had better warn you – ‘Amoureuse’ has astonishing powers of preservation. This is a perfume I wouldn’t apply lavishly unless I wanted my surroundings to swoon, and this also takes commitment – these sixteen hours after applying, the stunning drydown is still present, and I sprayed very lightly. It would be perfect for a romantic dinner date or a night at the opera, for dressing up and showing off your most effortlessly chic self, but I’m enough of a former punk and present iconoclast to say I like nothing better than pairing something super-luxe amazing with my everyday jeans, if only to discombobulate my surroundings!

This is not the first time Suzanne has led me down the garden path and past the boxwood topiary of perfume perdition, and my bank account has a sinking feeling…it will surely not be the last!

But after all, what are friends – and Scent Twins – for? I can tell you.

We love and we live to share beauty too great for just one of us to appreciate!

Notes:

Top: Tangerine, cardamom

Heart: Tuberose, French jasmine, Tahitian ginger lily

Base: Oakmoss, sandalwood, honey

Parfums Delrae ‘Amoureuse’ is available at Luckyscent, First in Fragrance, and from the Parfums Delrae website.

Image: The breathtaking Les Jardins de Marqueyssac at Perigord, France

PS: Dear lovely Suzanne, you know where this is going, right? ;) The next time you call something ‘smack water’, I’ll know I’ve been warned! :)

Butterflies On Blooms



- on the complex relationship between brands, bloggers and bother



If any one phenomenon has utterly changed my life around for better and for worse in the past five years or so, it would be that phenomenon known as social media networking. On Facebook I’ve made some amazing connections with people I might otherwise never have known, through my three blogs I have had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with my readers on whatever subjects piqued me enough to write about, and on Twitter I could toot my horn loudly and slather the word around like so much virtual virgin olive oil:

There’s a new blogger out there, people. Watch out, world!

But social media these days are a lot more complex than simple shameless self-promotion platforms – for one thing, they are quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen in marketing since the invention of TV commercials. Brands everywhere have sat up and taken notice…this thing called social media marketing. They’ve joined Twitter, created Facebook pages, held promotional events and competitions for new product launches etc, building a brand identity and online presence through the one thing that distinguishes social media marketing from the old school of advertising:

Engaging in a dialogue with their customers.



Nowhere is that more apparent than in the noisy blogosphere, for no other reason than here is where a brand can be made, made over or pilloried by the new media superstars:

Bloggers.

Ordinary – or not – people like you and I, people with and without backgrounds in professional writing, people who are armed and dangerous with the courage of their convictions and more to the point – are not afraid to put those convictions out there in the virtual world for all to read and interact with. In some areas, those bloggers have become entities in their own right – for better or worse, as in the fashion industry.

If a blog is to succeed, said one of my ‘How to promote your blog’ newsletters, it needs to have a defined focus – one topic or passion that will appeal to others who share that passion. Once upon a time, I thought that was the worst sort of bs. This was until I started writing about perfume and gained far more followers and feedback than any of my other blogs ever had. If you write about a product – as we perfume bloggers do – then you need product to write about.

You need the brand that makes it happen – in this instance, perfume houses who make the juice you get to sample and then to write about. Don’t believe for a moment that those perfume houses could care less about your opinions, because trust me – they do!

So we have that delicate symbiosis between brands and bloggers, like flowers and butterflies, each benefitting from the presence of the other. Bloggers are the best ever free PR any brand could ask for – and in return, a blogger can get noticed/promoted/read or even get to the point of actually becoming a brand in his or her own right.

On the other hand, we all know it – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And in the world I live and write in, there is also such a thing as personal integrity.

Say…an independent perfume house would like to read what stories their perfumes could evoke in my dubious prose. My email is right on my profile page. I receive an email – would I like to review X, Y or Z?

I am several hundred miles away from anything remotely resembling a brick-and-mortar department store/niche perfume boutique. I’m also relentlessly curious, as well as too poor for a credit card. In due time, I receive samples of X, Y or Z – sometimes entire alphabets – and in turn, I have my own part of the bargain to fulfill: to write what I think, publish the results and sit back to watch the fireworks. Since I’m also on Facebook as well as Twitter, I also share the link, tweet my newest blog entry, and in some cases, email/PM/DM the perfume house to let them know it’s there. They get the PR – and I get the benefit of building my own reputation/brand as a blogger who may or may not have something unique to contribute to the ever-expanding world of perfumed prose.

Actually, I have another nefarious agenda here: I want to write for a living, and I have the hubris to believe I can. If I can write about the ephemeral art of perfumes – a very difficult subject matter, since our sense of smell is so subjective – then it serves two purposes at once: I become a better writer, and also gain a reputation as one.

So what would the brand of Tarleisio be? What can I do to be unique in the perfumosphere? I realized a long time ago that I had to be true to my own voice above all else. In other words, if you want a ‘professional’ review, this is not where you’ll find it. So many other bloggers are much better at proper ‘reviewing’ than I will ever be. You’ll find most of my personal favorites listed on the right of this blog.

My angle is different – I choose to go with the genies in the bottles and follow them where they lead. If that means that I can evoke a sense of what a perfume smells like or what the perfumer/perfume house was trying to say, if you as a reader become curious through my words and my idiosyncratic perspective and passion, then it’s all good. If not, well…there are much better perfume bloggers on my bloglist!

Back to that personal integrity. I have on more than one occasion received a few things that left me cold/unimpressed/disgusted. Since I consider perfume a high art form on a par with any form of creativity, I know from personal experience how much destructive criticism can hurt. Therefore, I try to be fair in how I react. Just because I can’t wear something doesn’t mean someone else might not love it.

So I will praise what I can appreciate – dedication, concept, care of execution – and note what did or didn’t work…for me. If I rave, I rave because I think it’s exceptional enough to rave about. If I rant, it’s because it was a bad idea badly executed.

I have never received any kind of payola for my reviews and never will. I also reserve the right to decide what I review and when I do, which is a lot less often than I’d like. Hence, my whopping backlog of guilt over all the marvels I want to review and all the time I don’t have.

Do I have favorites? Yes. I tend to rave about the perfumers/houses who continually push the limits of what a perfume can achieve, who keep trying and keep challenging not just themselves but their customers. In other words, those who evolve in terms of artistry, just as I try to do the same in my writing.

There is an awful lot of awful out there. What is also out there: an awful lot of incredible discoveries to share. Without perfume blogs, I would never have known about niche perfumes or independent perfume houses, and my life would have been infinitely less rich for it on all levels of my existence. I truly was at the point where I thought perfumery as an art form was dying, since so much of the mainstream left me unimpressed or disillusioned.

I’m not immune to the lure of loot, luster or lucre. I’d be thrilled if I had 2000 followers and an online presence to match. But I blog con amore – for love. For the love of perfume, my passion for sharing that love, and a personal dedication and perspective to writing about it that I try to keep my own.

Just as flowers need butterflies and bees to keep blooming through time, we perfume bloggers need perfumes to write about. Just as no flower is identical to any other, neither is a perfume or a blogger. Which is not at all the same as saying every nectared flower is equally sweet – but then, all butterflies are different, too.

Even this one.

A big thank you to Nathan Branch for bringing this horror story to my attention.

Image: Dottie Dee, fineartamerica.com

The WInner of the Aftelier Haute Claire Giveaway!

Random.org has spoken, and I am thoroughly delighted to announce that the winner of the Aftelier Haute Claire giveaway is…(drumroll, please!)

Hazel!!

! I do believe I have your address, but send it to me anyway, and I shall pass it on to Mandy.

Thank you, ALL of you, for entering – and commenting! There will be more giveaways in the future!

The Second Chance Aftelier Haute Claire Giveaway!


Ladies, gentlemen and fellow perfumoholics!

Recently, in connection with my review of the truly stupendous Aftelier ‘Haute Claire’, I held a draw on SLS for a 5 ml sample sent directly from Aftelier, so one lucky reader could experience for him or herself the amount of detail and love Mandy Aftel puts into her perfumes as well as her packaging.

The winner, however, never responded and as that winner also commented anonymously, I had no way to contact this person through email.

Therefore, I’ll happily hold a SECOND DRAW…which is to say:

One of you can still win and try the wonder that is Haute Claire for yourself!

So people, leave a comment on your favorite green…perfume, tree, plant, flower…by midnight, Saturday August 6th CET for your chance to win! The winner will be determined by random.org by Saturday morning CET and announced later that day. And please, if you can, don’t be anonymous! We don’t bite…much! ;)

Image of Sword-billed hummingbird: thefeaturedcreature.