Fantabulous Karma

  • A review of LUSH/Gorilla Perfumes’ Karma

Do you believe in karma? Not as supernatural divine retribution, but as something along the lines of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, and one which I more or less live by: 

“Everything in the Universe is energy. To attract what you want is as simple as tuning in to the right frequency.”

It therefore follows, if we pursue Einstein’s thought a little further, that bad karma = bad energy/bad deeds or decisions, one way or another. However you personally may choose to define them.

In my nearly 59 years on this Earth, if I believe in anything, I can certainly believe in that, because my experience has proved it true. Every. Single. Time. 

A few years ago, a huge vintage bottle of a 1980s mainstay, the superlative chypre Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum, was put up for sale on one of my European FB perfume sale/swap groups. As part of the deal, it included a vintage Lush edition of Karma. 

Take a Chance

I paid my change for Mon Parfum and glory days nostalgia. I stayed for brand-new-to-me Karma

By that time, I had been reading about Lush perfumes, bath bombs and various toiletries  for years. We have no Lush stores in Denmark. Strangely enough, they do in Sweden and Norway, but Denmark has so far passed them by. This pains me more than you know.

 One – their Orange Blossom. Two, their Kerbside Violet. Some sunshiny day they shall be mine, all mine.

Last but never least, if Karma is anything to go by, never mind the countless reviews I plowed my way through for the purposes of this review, the perfuming minds of Mark and Simon Constantine work in strange and wondrous ways. In an era of same-trends-different-packaging-hyperluxe pricing, that level of talent is remarkable – and should be lauded and appreciated. Hence, this review.

I may be an over-the-hill/dales/suburbs included  D-list perfume blogger with a reach of influence measured in nanometers, but by golly, universal energy or Mary Magdalene, patron saint of perfumers, great perfumes are great perfumes are great perfumes, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, and those are the ones I choose to write about. 

Not long after it arrived, I sprayed myself lavishly with Karma before bed to see what dreams it would cause. It was scrumptious. Orange and lavender and lemongrass and lemon and pine, no associations of any cleaning products whatsoever. The patchouli – and Karma has loads – smelled A-grade great. For quite some time, I owned a bag of patchouli leaves originating in a West Hollywood garden, courtesy of a dear friend. Patchouli, yes, earthy and earth-bound, certainly, but all ‘proper’ patchouli in my unhumble opinion should contain a minty green foundation garment – meaning a green/herbal/licorice/mint/galbanum undertone, as the leaves certainly did and the patchouli in Karma also does. 

That night, I competed for space in my bed with my two cats, neither of whom could snuggle quite close enough. I can remember falling asleep that night holding – as I often did – one ginger, Karma-scented paw. 

The dream I can recall was disquieting, like all the best dreams. 

The next day, in a rush out the door, I tossed the bottle of Karma into a light-protecting perfume drawer for regular rotation purposes. 

And to my eternal shame and disgrace  promptly forgot all about it. 

Retribution Station

Every so often, whenever I opened that drawer, Karma would wink at me from below. Always, I’d find an excuse – wanting to wear something else, weather, the company of perfume-averse millennials at school I had no wish to offend, especially not in exam season.

But sometimes, in moonlight, in moods, in deepest night, I’d dig out Karma, spray – and swoon. My fate was sealed, my kismet complete, and even my good karma kitty approved. 

Rinse, lather, repeat. For years. My bad.

Blonde Karma

Two months ago, I landed a job as a teacher at a primary school in Copenhagen, teaching art, English and science. Since I was moving in with my sister for a while, that meant trying to decide which perfumes to bring, perfumes that a) I loved and b) wouldn’t stink up the apartment, since she has never quite forgiven me an episode in 2012 that involved twelve sprays of Epic Woman and an aftermath that lasted over a month, not to mention c) would add a little sass to my step in the mornings, in class, with a gaggle of fifth-graders I dearly hoped would like me. 

One of the perfumes I chose to bring was Karma. Perhaps it would be more correct to say it chose me, since I have no recollection of packing it, and that, too, must be kismet. 

A few days ago, my sister – a curvy, petite brunette and the most uniquely stylish woman I know – and I had a discussion about patchouli.

 “Aren’t you too fair and blonde for patchouli?” she asked. The question surprised me. Memories of that beloved bag of Maggie’s patchouli leaves, now sadly departed, of Oncle Serge’s wondrous Borneo 1834, of, well, any number of hard-hitting Eighties diehards I adored – oh, I did love patchouli with a will. If perhaps not so much as the original Prada she loved and I can’t wear if you paid me. 

Because, as every friend I have and certainly my sister will attest: 

I’m too damn blonde. 

My Marrakech moment

Sometimes, though, kismet throws me a bonbon or two. One of those is surely LUSH Karma. The Sanskrit name notwithstanding, never mind all the headshop/Haight-Ashbury/hippie associations, Karma is a unique perfume, surely the grooviest perfume I own. 

It begins with an orange. Not just any orange. This is the OG orange-you-glad, all zest, smiles and warm sunshine. While it’s not listed as a note, my nose detects a significant amount of orange blossom absolute – this is orange with a great deal of heft, longevity and substance behind it. Then, a fugue of lavender and lemongrass comes out to play with the orange, and if you were miserable before, that sorry state of mind should surely be impossible now. Orange you glad? How could you not be? 

You are, now and always, fantabulous. Darling. Feisty, spicy, green and luxuriously happy with just a touch of luxe hippie, as the base makes itself known a little at a time. Is Karma a b*tch? 

Not now, and not this one. 

In fact, Karma makes me feel like Talitha Getty, ca. 1967, pictured above, when all was still love, light and happiness, and everyone who was anyone boogied down to Marrakech, to sample life at a slower pace, to enjoy all the wonder, the shock to the senses,  the beauty Morocco had to offer, to hang out with Saint Yves and Pierre, Karl and Mick Jagger, and all fashion, all of the arts were transformed forever by mutual inspiration. 

I’m not rich, not famous, not anything as beautiful as the tragic Talitha surely was. Yet Karma makes me feel as if I am. 

And that patchouli? Here, it sings in a perfectly tuned chorus with cinnamon and pine and lemony elemi, a fresher, sweeter, and altogether flirtier perspective on patchouli, but unlike any patchoulis you may have tried before. That sweetly structured drydown lasts and lasts and lasts. I get about 18+ hours out of two small sprays.

My perfume fantasies and time travels aside, I own nothing at all in the slightest like Karma

It will get you, sooner or later. But your karma will be fantabulous. Always. No matter who or where you are.

With special thanks to Maggie Mahboubian of Lalun Perfumes for those patchouli leaves, and in memory of Janice Divacat (2006-2021) and Hairy Krishna (2007-2022), for their love of Karma

Karma is available in several incarnations at LUSH perfumes. 
Notes (via Fragrantica): Orange, lemongrass, lavender, pine tree, lemon, cassis, patchouli, fir resin, elemi, cinnamon.


  • Scent Semantics no. 5

My built-in dictionary gives me *a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past* for this month’s word: 


In 2022, nostalgia is a luxury I can no longer afford. I’m ditching nearly everything left that has defined my life for the past almost two decades, and I feel not so much as one whiff of regret. Goodbye to all of it – and to none of it, for everything I gained in seventeen years, I’m already taking with me: my new profession, my values (such as they are), my burgeoning career in writing Things Not Related to Perfume Writing. 

And yet – why not indulge a little? Or a lot? What period of my peripatetic life makes me feel nostalgic, what perfume more than any other in my life is tied into it, where will those words take me? 

Time travel with me back, back to when I was young enough to think I had possibilities, that I could change the world and make it a better place, that one pint-sized sarcastic slice of humanity could make a difference, until she realized, a few short years later, that she couldn’t.

Time travel back … to the autumn of 1981. 

Then and now

These days, Copenhagen is one of the truly hip and happening capitals of the world. Our influencers and fashion create trends the rest of the world follows, our three-star Michelin restaurants have become tourist destinations in their own right, and Copenhagen has become its own byword for ultimate, drop-dead cool. Cool art, cool culture, cool music, cool fashion (so you can look cool while doing Cool Things) – this city I call my hometown is nothing if not cool in 2022.

But in the autumn of 1981, it was a very different story. The late 1970s recession had hit Copenhagen hard, the shipyards closed, the countless factories and shop artisans that had made Denmark and Danish design famous in the 1950s and 1960s had all packed up and moved elsewhere, where living was cheaper, the labor was cheaper and the government gave you at least 50% less hassle and bureaucracy. 

The Saddest State of Affairs

In the autumn of 1981, yours truly was emphatically not at the top of her game by any stretch of the imagination. My gymnasium grade point average had been 0.1 point shy of guaranteed admission to the University of Copenhagen since discovering sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, and every plan I had ever made for my life since age 11 had collapsed into smoking ruins to rival the industrial wasteland along the harbor front of Copenhagen. Unemployment was high. Prospects were dim. I was eighteen years old, living on my own at a concrete student housing project, a dangerous age to be without direction. 

So I did what rudderless eighteen-year-olds did at the time. I developed a massive crush on a 6’4” radical anarchist/teaching student I had met at a Rock Against Racism fundraiser (It was the early 1980s), and faster than you can say Emma Goldman, I became a raging militant anarchist myself, spouting off meaningless Proudhon platitudes with all of Emma’s blithe self-assurance.

The next thing I knew, I was a punk. It went with the anarchism, the chaos both inner and outer, the sense of everything going to ashes and ruin, so you might as well light up the joint, drink all the cheap vodka, go to the show, find a safe corner to pogo in at concerts at the Salt Warehouse, where the floor was sand and sawdust, and where I never came home without massive bruises from pogoiing in unsafe corners at punk concerts, sawdust notwithstanding. 

At some point during that time, I became involved with the outer fringes of a very radical group called BZ. Their aim was to land a youth center run by youth as opposed to parents who were still faithful to their own Sixties ideals, on our terms, with our music – which of course could be nothing but punk. 

Almost Over. Almost

At that time, punk itself was on the verge of being over. In London, where it all began in 1976 with Vivienne Westwood’s Sex, with Malcolm McLaren, with the Sex Pistols and everything and everyone that followed, it already was. 

But Copenhagen wasn’t hip back then, and neither were we. We were too busy arguing we really could change the world, starting with our own.

So there I was, with my ratty hair and my ratty, fourth-and fifth-hand clothes, arguing the finer points of the revolutionary act of squatting in empty buildings and on some fundamental level, in a permanent state of aesthetic outrage. 

Surely, this wasn’t why I had been to Paris with my hyper-stylish, drop-dead mother, why I loved unfashionable art and culture, why I would sometimes sneak out to matinee performances of demodé operas on the sly because I loved Mozart, or why, if I were really in a snit, I’d grab my flute and blow my way through all four movements of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It certainly wasn’t why I showered more than once a week, or why even my own rags were usually laundered dark gray, as opposed to black. 

All the wrong things

I had come to discover that punk itself or radicalism was just as exclusionary, just as reactionary, as any other movement. Everything was sharply delineated into Right – as in acceptable – or Wrong. You could not listen to wrong music, see uncool movies (Pasolini and Fellini be damned) do wrong things like eat Israeli oranges because they oppressed the Palestinians, and you could certainly not ever, ever, ever wear proper perfume. Especially not if it were French. 

One rainy day, I walked into my favorite department store to get out of the rain. Here, punk and politics and internecine verbal fights didn’t exist, had never existed, here, all was beautiful and polished and not at all cheap, here was all the aesthetic a disaffected, disillusioned punk could possibly wish for on a rainy, windswept October day. 

My mother, far, far away in Northern Greenland at the time, would laugh herself silly if she knew. 

Glittering on a glass counter, there it was, a perfectly polished and flawlessly proportioned perfume bottle of rigid, rectiinear Art Deco symmetry, down to the very letters on the small label: no. 19.

The Best Me

I tried it on for size, after the sales assistant eyed me with suspicion, in case I stole it. Instead, in those first few, heady, head-spinning minutes, I found what I can only describe with the benefit of hindsight my best self, the self I truly wanted to be: flawlessly cool, perfectly beautiful, secure in her intellect, her opinions and values. From that first galbanum rush – and even then, I loved that sugar snap pea green sap, to the silky iris heart and the satin leather finish, if I were a perfume – a heretical thought … 

This Would Be It.

No. 19 was sexy. It was smart. One did NOT preclude the other here, as I myself was told on countless ego-bruising occasions, it was the perfume of a person even a rudderless eighteen-year-old could aspire to be – confident, audacious, calm, collected, in control, nothing, in short, I was at that time. 

Best of all – because I WAS a punk – it was iconoclastic, it was classy, and it was as far away from all the cheap nag champa and patchouli oils the other punks wore as you could get. 

I bought the bottle of eau de toilette and carried it home to my student dorm convinced I had landed a priceless treasure, which of course, I had. 

Only to land in scorching hot water for it. 

Politically Incorrect

Punk dudes anno 1981 had no defense against no. 19. It upended all their presuppositions about how punk girls should smell – of cheap nag champa and patchouli. I wiped them up with it, with my acres of black eye makeup, my ratty if scrupulously clean clothes, with the cloud of no. 19 that trailed me wherever I went. 

Punk girls, on the other hand, laid into me with a will. I was supporting animal cruelty by buying a Chanel perfume, I was supporting the establishment, I was buying into the whole consumerism game lock, stock and barrel and from now on, I would be DOOMED to a life of mediocrity and non-distinction and never making any difference of any kind. They said.

I grabbed my bag of Israeli navel oranges in my cloud of no. 19 and never looked back. 

Ever Green

Since that day in late 1981 and on to the present day over forty – how did that HAPPEN? – years later, Chanel no. 19 has been my most consistently owned perfume. I’ve had the eau de toilette, the parfum, the eau de parfum. I’ve bought it and rebought it, over and over and over. It created memories for my daughter, it landed me at least two jobs, it exuded class and composure and deathless cool to a blonde who usually blows hot and cold. It never ever grows old, or stale, or boring. 

At this point in time, all I have is the deodorant in a dresser 200 km away, but I know, even after almost twelve years of perfume writing and other writing and life, I will, in the not too distant future, slink into that department store with nary a shred of guilt and ask for the eau de parfum, the version closest to my heart, at least until I can afford the extrait, which is to die for. I will wrap myself up in that familiar, beloved satin cloud, sniff a little at the memories of that long ago time, put on Joy Division at full blast and remember with a pang a time I really thought I could change the world. 

I can afford that now. 

I just can’t afford nostalgia.


Daisy and


Old Herbaceous


Note: As I came of age in an analog time, no photos exist of me or my punk phase ca. 1981. The photo of Siouxsie Sioux was taken at the Salt Warehouse in Copenhagen in the autumn of 1981 as THE exemplar of a Punk Goddess. (Which she still IS, bless her)

The ones that got away

Flotsam and jetsam – on perfume

Dear readers,

 My apologies for being a bit AWOL lately. These past weeks have been insane. It all began on a very early Sunday morning, when the combination of an attention-hungry cat, a large cup of tea and a laptop immersed in the finer points of an online retailer who shall remain nameless resulted in a tea-drowned and dead-as-a-doorknob laptop. The plot thickened on the following Thursday, when I was hugely surprised to land a great job, for real money, two hundred km away in Copenhagen. So in the space of four weeks, I’ve moved myself and the dastardly feline across the country, started this new (and exhausting) job, and broken in a new(ish) laptop that means I can’t use Word any longer. (But there’s Google Docs, no worries, so I can still write.) All in all, it meant I haven’t had a lot of time, certainly not to write – about perfume. 

Flotsam and Jetsam

But here I am, typing away, with a few flotsam and jetsam thoughts – on perfume. I spent an afternoon recently in and out of bookshops, vintage clothing stores, and two department stores. From one end of that afternoon to the other, I sniffed quite a few of them. All of these things put together led me to writing this post. 

I sniffed my way around YSL Libre and Tuxedo, Diptyque Kyoto and Do Son for good measure, several of the “new” Amouages including one that made me swoon (I’ll be getting back to those), a new L’Occitane and Chanel 1932, a longtime favorite I reviewed a long time ago. I still curse the day I met Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry for being so good, damn it. I swore an oath to buy one of those astonishing Cire Trudon candles I sniffed.

I wondered about how so many brands are displayed in places like department stores. Copenhagen might not have the floor space of, say, Harrods, or Neiman-Marcus, and yet, they still manage to lead you into a ground floor maze of a staggering amount of brands, all competing for the same customers. 

Behind the designer fragrances, the knock-offs, and the teenaged budget friendly raspberry bombs, in a small, exclusive, carpeted corner, there were the high end niche brands: Histoires  de Parfum, Initio, Diptyque, the Collection Extraordinaire of Van Cleef and Arpel, the vast output of Maison Margiela. Just don’t have the nerve to ask for Untitled, as I did. No one had ever even heard of it. 

Plebeian problems

And Amouage, a brand once exceedingly dear to my heart for the perfume stories they sang on my skin. I took several deep breaths. 

And then. 

I’m not a tall woman. On a good day, I stand 5’2” in sneakers. Yet every single Amouage was displayed at around 175 cm – or a good 5’9” – and up. I came to that particular location to wallow a little in two Amouages that got away from me, and if only one were available, that one. My press sample of Fate Woman was stolen/purloined by Ms. Hare and despite pleading, begging, bribing and cajoling for over eight years, I’m n-o-t getting it back. Ever. 

Fate Woman was about 6’4” up. No way in Hades I could ever reach it, and sales assistants had made themselves scarce in the Saturday afternoon crush. 

So I sniffed my way through the 5’9 shelf. All the new Amouages, with two exceptions. They were good, they really were. But something was missing, something I could barely articulate, yet there it was, conspiciúous by its absence in every one of those fancy bottles. 

The Groove in the Heart

On the left end of the shelf, two older bottles. Love Mimosa – a beautiful, sunny, spring in mimosa blossom, and I say this as someone who likes the blooms if not the perfumes. Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie notwithstanding, mimosa is a note I can live happily without, and yet, Love Mimosa is outstanding. 

Next to Love Mimosa was another Love, Love Tuberose. (I do!) I grabbed the tester, applied a little to my unperfumed left arm and – swooned

It wasn’t the magnificent tuberose note, salicylates and all, nor the chantilly cream-with-extra- Madagascar Bourbon vanilla+tuberose heart, and then – I had to sit down on a gray velvet pouf when it hit me. 

It was the heart. Love Tuberose, like its sibling Love Mimosa, like Fate, like Journey, like Memoir, Epic, Ubar, Gold, Interlude, Jubilation and Lyric twinkling away in the soft spotlights out of reach for plebeian, pedestrian, midget moi, like every Amouage I have ever tried in over eleven years of perfume writing, had heart. Boundless, Crimson Rocks and all those other new releases, had none I could determine. This is why – you’ve read it here first – I’ve decided this ‘review’ will be my last ever Amouage review. I’m no longer anywhere important or influential enough to receive press samples any longer, and I’m OK with that.

The one that got away 

Up in the gods of the perfume case, somewhere around the seven foot mark (I wish I were kidding), another fervent love twinkled in the spotlights. The one that got away. The one sitting at the very top of my personal wishlist, the press sample I drained to droplets and fog and swore (for over six years and counting) that someday, some way, it would be m-i-n-e. Our relationship was so personal, I couldn’t even write about it, since that would make public what was a uniquely private love.

The duo of Amouage Sunshine is uniquely private for me. Sunshine Woman arrived on the day I became a grandmother, and since it was the only thing I had to give at the time, I gave it to my daughter, who since declared it her personal The One, along with several heartfelt lamentations of the How-Can-A-Perfume-Cost-So-Much variety. She still has that press sample and uses it to this day for special occasions. 

Which leads my words to Sunshine Man. 

In quite a few ways, I’m profoundly lucky NOT to be able to buy everything I come across that I come to love. I can’t afford to make mistakes, and blind buys, as any perfumista will tell you, should be approached with extreme caution. For me, this means I only buy what I truly can’t live without. The End. 

Most lemmings pass with time. The ones that stick in the mind, the ones that stick around, the ones, in short, that set their metaphorical hooks in my bathetic gray matter and declare in neon letters OMG YES – those are the ones I prefer to buy, and as this perfumista has evolved these past almost twelve years of perfume writing, those moments are ever fewer and further between. As my mother used to say, if you can’t afford anything at all, you can at least aspire to the best. 

I make no distinction between masculine and feminine perfumes. I wear whatever I damn well please and really, who’s going to know never mind care anyway? As one famous perfumer put it: 

The only difference is the ‘Pour homme’ on the label. 

If I were to sum up the mood of Sunshine Man in three words, they would be …

Stupid Happy Perfume

Lavender anything has been a love of mine ever since those endless Christmas present cakes of Yardley English Lavender soap adorned and perfumed my teenage dresser drawers. I adore the scent of lavender, adore that lavender has done wonders for two sleep-deprived fractious toddlers back in the day when I had them, and I adore lavender perfumes on me. 

Of all the lavenders to love on Planet Perfume, two have made it to my personal stratosphere. One is vero profumo’s Kiki, which I don’t own and fervently wish I did, and the other is Sunshine Man, which I also, alas and alack, don’t own for no other reason than I truly did love my press sample to death.

Imagine a cookie. The apotheosis of cookie. Sweet, vanilla-scented, almond-base lavender-with-an-orange-brandy-twist … cookie. The kind of cookie that makes you want to dance just a little, a cookie that makes you glad to be alive to experience it, a cookie other cookies should aspire to be when they grow up, and Sunshine Man is nothing if not a decidedly adult cookie. 

This isn’t a cookie you’d hand out in one of my classrooms, for sure. For one thing, that kick of Curaçao liqueur that underpins the lavender is an acquired taste. For another, the lavender is not your usual lavender – this lavender has an herbal, dark green and slightly sharp edge lightyears away from any fusty old lady and Yardley English Lavender associations. This is Lavender Luxe. Those puffs of sugary vanilla may nudge it towards gourmand territory, yet Sunshine Man teeters on that brink without ever once falling in. 

As time goes on, the vanilla comes forward accompanied by toasted almond. I wrote ‘as time goes on’, and being an Amouage from the Bad Old Days this means 16+ hours of evolution. 

All told, few perfumes put a smile on my face as wide as Texas faster than this one. 

For an entire day. 

For over six years, Sunshine Man has accompanied me and defined me through my days. Through four years of teaching college and praxis teaching and paper writing and even a few of the many exams I endured writing, performing and survived, through woes and wonders, through everything I’ve been through these past six+ years. 

The Case for Optimism

While it may not be apparent on this blog, it would be entirely fair to state that throughout my life, I have had spectacular bad luck in so many ways. 

So when fate finally decides to let up and just let me have it, ALL of it, it’s highly unnerving, to say the least. 

Yet lo and behold, after a thoroughly depressed autumn and early winter, I landed THE job of my dreams that wasn’t ‘best-selling author’. At a place that’s happy to see me, every day. With students who greet me with smiles and hugs, and colleagues who always ask how things are going and bosses who ask if there’s anything they can do to help me thrive. Every day.


Fate isn’t finished with me yet. 

I landed a (sublet) apartment in Copenhagen in my EXACT kind of neighborhood – funky, artistic, bohemian, culturally diverse and just a little edgy – of a kind 150 other people gladly would have killed me for, 20 minutes commute away from my school. (Apartments in Copenhagen are very hard to come by, unless you can afford to buy, and I can’t.)

I also have a publisher who really believes I should be The Next Big Thing, and has invited me to participate in things that might help me get there. 

I am closer to my family than I have been for over twenty years, and I’m back among all the things I love and adore – book stores, perfume shops, vintage clothing stores, museums, art galleries, movie theaters and other theaters, a whole smorgasbord of culture to immerse myself in. 

In short, I have everything to look forward to, even on an unremarkable Saturday morning full of spring-feeling sunshine. 

All that’s missing is that stupid happy perfume known as … Sunshine Man. 

If only I could reach the tester in the store. 

With thanks and gratitude to someone I am thrilled and grateful to call my friend.


  • Scent Semantics no. 4

This month’s word for the Scent Semantics project is TASTE. Merriam-Webster defines taste in several ways, as either a verb or a noun. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use the word TASTE as a noun, and in this particular context/post as: 

  1. The distinctive quality of an experience
  2. Individual preference, inclination
  3. Critical judgment, discernment or appreciation
  4. Manner or aesthetic quality of such discernment

In other words, perfect for a blog post concerning perfume, inclination, appreciation and discernment. It is a marvel, universally acknowledged, that the evolution of a perfumista can create seismic shifts in the quality of an experience, individual preference, critical judgment and the aesthetic quality of that discernment. 

Closeup of the vanilla orchid

When I was given the next word for Scent Semantics, I knew precisely which perfume to write about. The Seismic Shift that was, and indeed is, Spiritueuse Double Vanille from Guerlian’s L’Art et La Matière line of perfumes, created by Jean Paul Guerlain in 2007. 

Spiritueuse Double Vanille, henceforward referred to as SDV, as indeed it is known on many Facebook perfume groups, was a definite seismic shift in my personal perception of Perfume with a capital P. I was never, ever, a gourmand kind of gal, until SDV – and indeed another much-lamented and now discontinued L’Art et La Matière perfume, Iris Ganache – upended all my personal expectations of what, precisely, would be a perfume I wanted to wear without wanting to eat it, and as we all know, no matter how swoonworthy the perfume, all perfume tastes horrible. 

SDV, the gourmet’s gourmand, is to my nose, the Vanilla to End All Vanillas. 

Vanilla as a flavor, inclination or taste has sadly devolved to become a synonym for boring, bland and decidedly conformist. Once upon a storied time, I trained as a pastry chef, and came to know a thing or two about that unassuming orchid that was neither bland nor boring and emphatically non-conformist. Any kind of vanilla heightens all other sensual perceptions, but especially taste, touch and aroma. 

Vanilla planifolia, the OG version, was once upon a time the byword for all things exceedingly costly, exotic and otherworldly. Native to Mexico, it since evolved into three distinct species, all with differing olfactory profiles; Mexican vanilla, closest to the orchid the Maya and Aztecs so adored, is woody and almost chocolate-y in character. No accident it was used as a flavoring in the Aztec drink xocolatl. Tahitian vanilla, on the other hand, is ten thousand shades of vanilla flower, floral and almost psychedelic in its profile, whether as a flavoring or as a perfume, and as any perfumista will tell you, the two are to all extents and purposes the same – indeed, what we perceive as flavor or taste is comprised more than anything of aroma – which is to say, smell. 

Finally, the most common vanilla, Bourbon vanilla, running the gamut between rich butterscotch and caramel, rum and whiskey and the barrels they’ve aged in, too. 

Which brings me back to SDV. Because it is all these things and all these vanillas and none of them. The über-plush silk velvet of vanilla perfumes – trust Guerlain to go all out with vanilla-to-the-max. 

Not two weeks ago, I moved cross-country to a new job and a vastly different life. I brought my last dregs of a modest decant of vintage SDV with me for the purposes of this post, and it is everything I could ever want in a vanilla-centered perfume, in terms of evolution from bright to boozy, richly floral to softly spicy, with a l-o-n-g vanilla drydown that makes it perfect to wear on a cold day spent indoors baking cookies, something I’ve been known to do, before snuggling up with my vanilla-loving cat – and eating all the cookies.

Disturbing rumors breathe that SDV has been reformulated beyond recognition and repair, that it is a mere anorexic shadowy ghost of its blowsy, voluptuous self, that we might as well all look elsewhere for that seismic shift of vanilla greatness. I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors, except to say that it pains me more than I care to admit if they’re true. If anyone has anything to add, let me know below, so I can cry my vanilla-flavored tears, and not waste my money.

SDV changed everything – my inclination, my critical judgment, and my discernment in perfumery. It turned a non-gourmand lover into a vanilla fanatic, and added many orchid-colored dimensions to that aspect of perfumery known … as TASTE.

With thanks and love to Ruth the Perfume Dragon. 

Don’t miss the other contributors to the Scent Semantics perfume project!


Daisy and


Old Herbaceous



Scent Semantics no. 3 

Luscious adj.: 1. a) having a delicious taste or smell: SWEET, b) archaic: excessively sweet: CLOYING, 2. Sexually attractive: SEDUCTIVE, SEXY, 3. a) richly luxurious or appealing to the senses, b) excessively ornate

This third monthly Scent Semantics entry was given by yours truly. I had thought long and hard about adjectives used in perfumery, and how they could apply to some of my own personal favorite perfumes while being open to interpretation and imagination by my fellow bloggers. 

So … luscious it was. Luscious is the antithesis of frugal, penitentiary January, luscious, in fact, to my twisted mind the closest thing to Albert Camus’ famous quote, very much appropriate to my own current mood: 

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

To my mind, to my soul and above all to my nose, ‘luscious’ and ‘invincible summer’ are epitomized in the perfume I chose.

The Invincible Summer

One day in 2017, I was in a doldrum mood, when a review of a perfume written by a very dear friend ticked into my inbox. In the perfume world, we have lemmings – those metaphorical moments when a perfume writer’s evocative words make you want to hurl yourself off a cliff of insolvency and blow the rent check – on a perfume. I told him as much, and we laughed about it later. 

The perfume in question was Perris Monte Carlo’s Ylang Ylang Nosy Be

An alien bloom

Ylang ylang is a wondrous tropical bloom, resembling nothing so much as a flower from another planet entirely. Loudly, proudly yellow-gold-green, it has an intensity of scent few other flowers can match. Long before it became the main floral featured in Chanel no. 5, it was utilized in a hair oil called macassar (from Madagascar, one of the main sources of ylang ylang essential oil) oil, because it was believed that it promoted hair growth in men, which led to the invention of the ‘antimacassar’ – those crocheted lace doilies draped over the back rests of armchairs, to protect the upholstery. 

Since my childhood, you could always have me at ‘Madagascar’. Off the northeastern tip of Madagascar is the island of Nosy Be, or ‘big island’ in Malagasy, long a source of the finest ylang ylang and vanilla beans and by all accounts I’ve ever read, i.e. most of them, Nosy Be is a highly fragrant place, like all tropics everywhere. 

The Nosy Kumba Eco Lodge, just off the coast of Nosy Be. Are we there, yet?

There I was a year and a half ago, when an unloved bottle of Ylang Ylang Nosy Be popped up on a FB perfume group for sale at a very advantageous price for an impecunious teaching student. I thought of that review, of that friend, now lost, with his galaxy-sized appetite for life and for beauty, and surely, it was HIS ghost who prodded me (not softly) and whispered:


I got his posthumous message, and didn’t even need a Ouija board to hear it. 

So I did.

I wore it for my history didactics final exam that June, despite the loud complaints of my Gen Z exam partner, who claimed it was ‘distracting’. At least, it distracted him. 

I have loved a few ylang ylang perfumes in my life. But YYNB is the lushest, plushest, most luscious of them all. 

Impossibly luscious stuff. (My bottle)

Ylang ylang is front, center, top, bottom and drydown here, given a few nudges by jasmine, rose and orange blossom, but you’ll find no banana custard in these yellow-green-gold blooms, and the other florals serve mainly as a chorus line. It is ALL about the ylang ylang. Unless you love it, you might find it a tad overpowering. It has a green and nearly mentholated, sharp opening helped by grapefruit, lemon and cardamom, but the sharpness fades in seconds, and you’re left with a superlative, golden yellow silk velvet bloom, gilded around the edges with a thick Bourbon vanilla that never steals the show, but sings ylang praises to the sky and straight into your shamazing sillage. It is, like the flower itself, sweet but neither sugary nor gourmand. On clothes, it has incredible staying power, on skin, a good 12+ hours – and that’s the eau de parfum, mind you. Sillage for d-a-y-s. Seductive – certainly. One man of my acquaintance loves it. It turns my cat into a snuggle monster, and he already is.

To get back to my Merriam-Webster definition of luscious: it has a delicious smell, it is sexy and seductive af, and emphatically ‘richly appealing’. 

It’s my personal tropical escape hatch, and the antithesis of frugal, penitential January. 

It is, in a word, luscious. 

What perfumes would YOU describe with ‘luscious’?

In memory of Robert Hermann

Perfumer: Jacques Fleuri, with Gian Luca Perris. 

Notes: Ylang ylang, cardamom, grapefruit, lemon, ylang ylang, jasmine, orange blossom, damask rose, ylang ylang, vanilla, labdanum, vetiver, cedar, field scabious

Don’t miss the other contributors to the Scent Semantics perfume project!


Daisy and


Old Herbaceous