Coming Attractions


– The thrills, spills and chills ahead!

Ladies, gentlemen and sentient lifeforms, it has been…an amazing spring and early summer for Scent Less Sensibilities. I have tried things I never would have thought, loved what I never would have thought I could, expanded my own olfactory universe in ever-larger quantum leaps, and more than anything, I’ve been completely flabbergasted by the responses, comments and support I’ve received. Thanks to some Great Facilitators – you know who you are and that I adore you, right? – and some equally fantabulous ‘fumes, SLS, which started as a sort of joke almost a year ago, has taken off in ways both great and small and all of them appreciated, but the fun just never stops, does it? I’ve come to realize that a little (well, make that a lot!) of discipline is in order, so now I’ve begun to map out my reviews in the weeks to come. If I don’t, I’ll surely go down in flames…

Here’s a sneak peak at some of those coming attractions:

Once upon a time, I was an Amouage ignoramus, and willfully so. One look at those price tags, and …no. Just no. Nothing could ever be that good. I have never been so thrilled at having to eat my own words. Well, as some of you know, not a few of them…are. That. Good. The one that made me cry, the one I was helpless to resist, the one I loved but couldn’t wear, and the collection that surprised me so much, I’m still wondering how to find the hooks to describe them. Next week is Amouage Week. Tomorrow morning I have a heavy date with ‘Memoir Woman’, to be followed throughout next week by Memoir Man, the Library Collection of Opus I – V, and the much anticipated Honour Man and Woman. You might be surprised. I know I was.

The brave new world of natural perfumes has been a revelation in all the best and most luminous, numinous ways. I can thank Lucy of Indieperfumes for introducing me to these new marvels, and for introducing me to Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes, for which I can never, ever thank her enough. I’ve reviewed Mandy’s astonishing ‘Cepes and Tuberose’ and ‘Candide’, and you can expect to read more of her breathtaking, faint-making perfumes in the weeks to come. If you haven’t read it yet, beg, buy or borrow a copy of her book ‘Essence and Alchemy’. Suddenly, everything perfumery makes sense – and scents, too!

Another prodigious talent will also receive her own spotlight – the prolific Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. I had read so many things about her, I didn’t know what to think, but it had to be good. It was better. When your favorite perfume genre is resurrected from the cold, dead IFRA ashes and is as gorgeous as Vert Pour Madame, you know it’s all good. Dawn has recently collaborated with the Denver Art Museum on their ‘Cities of Splendor’ exhibition of the Italian Renaissance, and I get to try her recreations of Renaissance perfumery. And…

Liz Zorn of Soivohle is another natural perfumer and undiscovered talent here in Europe, but that won’t last if I can do anything about it. Likewise, JoAnne Bassett, whose ‘Sensual Embrace’ convinced even this anti-musk rat that maybe I was…wrong? What have I been missing all these years?

One toothache that won’t go away is my leaden guilt over not yet reviewing several from a line I’ve loved with a fury all spring: Ormonde Jayne. Something must be done! So it will. Read all about it!

In the eleven months of SLS, I have to the best of my knowledge only reviewed one perfume that left me completely cold. Just to stir up a little trouble (a favorite occupation!), I have plans to review one I absolutely hate. You might be surprised!

I have a busy summer ahead of me. So perhaps I had better clam up and start writing…:)

Vertesimilitude


– a review of Parfum des Beaux Arts ‘Vert Pour Madame’

‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’ was once engraved above the gates of Hades. Forget you lived, forget who you were, drown yourself in the waters of Lethe, for you are…no more. You most beloved of all my adored fragrance families, you who gave me confidence at an age when I sorely needed it, you whose memory alone I can conjure from a moment and a fleeting glimpse of past joys and frayed hopes hanging by one mortal, gossamer thread…you are, alas, no more, and shall be mourned…forever more.

Excuse me while I mop my bitter tears with the last remains of my Kleenex box, but you don’t understand…I loved it so, I still do, and I always, always will.

Famous last words. Watch me eat them one at a time.

Once, when women were womanly and weren’t afraid to show it, when individuality was prized and perfumes had taglines like ‘Not for self-effacing women’, Green…was Queen. These were the days of take-no-prisoners green chypres and the spine-enhancing attitudes they conveyed on their wearers, these were the days when galbanum and hyacinth boogied down and dirty with oakmoss, civet and labdanum, and you might not have wafted insipid, non-descript ‘flower’ in your wake so much as a healthy dose of…

‘I’m me. Deal with it!’

It all began just after World War Two when Germaine Cellier created the greatest green of all time, Balmain’s ‘Vent Vert’. Created to confer hope and new beginnings after the war, it was clearly ahead of its time, and yet, it was one of the bestsellers of its day, so much that it was quickly followed in the next few decades by many more immortal greens. Miss Dior, Coriandre, Ma Griffe, Dioressence, Silences…it makes for a long list of late, great spectacular perfumes.

I was born to a perfume-mad mother who had certain priorities right. “Never,” she told me at the door to the Guerlain flagship store on the Champs Elysèes on a sunny afternoon in May 1977, “underestimate the importance of two things…a really good bra and…a really good perfume!”

Those were heady words for a fourteen-year-old, but not so heady I didn’t have certain priorities of my own. Above all else, now I had entered that parallel universe of perfume, to choose something that wasn’t…anything my mother ever wore. So I walked out of Guerlain with a bottle of Jicky parfum – which does indeed have a definite green vibe, or should I say, it did – and a few days later, I walked out of Dior on Avenue Montaigne with Miss Dior. I chose what I loved, what she didn’t wear, what I felt was a reflection of my own, individual self, and that emerging chrysalis was…green as the leaves on the blooming chestnuts along the Seine, green as the très chic woman I saw on the Pont Neuf in chartreuse panne velvet harem pants, an YSL peasant top and a killer pair of shoes, wafting a cloud of Rive Gauche.

In the (too many) years that followed, I wore and loved them all by the bucketful…Dioressence, Rive Gauche, Ma Griffe, Coriandre, Chanel no. 19, even Vent Vert, and took it entirely for granted that they would always be there to center my hara and convey their particular brand of courage…to face life and whatever it threw at me as well as I dared.

Until one day not so long ago, when I realized with a shock that…they were gone. What happened? Miss Dior and Dioressence survived Clash concerts and political demonstrations, parties where I danced till dawn and kept on dancing through the sunrise over the Copenhagen harbor, secret trysts in elderflower bushes in public parks and narrow escapes and negotiating pay rises with a boss who would much rather flirt, trailing silk scarves and more often than not…that indomitable, indubitable scent trace of … green.

It made me sad those green beauties got harder and harder to find, and somewhere along the line, I moved on though life, on to other perfumes and other grown-up joys of womanhood. Yet there was always that haunting, telltale whiff of galbanum and hyacinth that would appear and disappear whenever I remembered what self-confidence and self-esteem smelled like…

Green.

Not so long ago, right when I had defiantly parked my despair by the gates of Hades, I discovered one such green bottled hope – Puredistance Antonia. But once a long, long time ago, there was a green for every mood…and where did they all go?

I wasn’t alone, I came to find out. We ladies of a certain age and definite associations mourned our loss, counted our blessings and hoarded our vintages for those days when we needed a little extra titanium in our spines and our attitudes.

Meanwhile, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of Parfums des Beaux Arts decided to do something about it. So she created ‘Vert Pour Madame’.

When I opened that little vial, I had a moment only someone who remembers the movie “Wayne’s World’ would understand. In the movie, the two hapless heroes are confronted with a musical Primeval Force – Alice Cooper – and exclaim (before kowtowing before the bemused Alice):

‘We’re not worthy!’

This is precisely how I feel about Vert Pour Madame. But instead of genuflecting before Ms. Spencer Hurwitz, I want to get to my knees and …thank her. Vert Pour Madame is a much more forgiving and not so intimidating green floral as some I used to love and wear. All the same, it takes my breath away.

It pushes all the buttons I loved my greens to push…galbanum and bergamot, for centering my hara and making me sit up straighter. Hyacinth, for that effortless, deathless cool. A seamless, stunning bouquet of orris and jasmine, neroli and ylang ylang, muguet and rose and all that spells perfection, and it doesn’t stop there. Is there oakmoss in there? Really? Oakmoss? Something soft and mossy and right before I’m swooning with pleasure…it’s…no…it can’t be…it’s…oh, yes! Yes! It’s civet!

It’s glorious. It’s perfection. I have now died and gone to an immortal green heaven, where nothing can ever faze me again and I shall never eat humble pie ever again and my spine shall never rust. I’ll be cool, calm, collected and as effortlessly beautiful as Evelyn Tripp on the cover of Charm magazine in 1959, who captures the vibe of Vert Pour Madame flawlessly.

Vert Pour Madame is a perfumed poem to all those green-floral-chypres so many of us loved, and just as they were, it’s timeless.

It’s the Madame I want to be, the Madame I aspired to as a teenager, the woman I hoped I would become, and the woman I sometimes can even hope my life has made me.

And just like a green scent sibling I once caught a whiff of on the Pont Neuf…not for self-effacing women.

I’m me. Deal with it!

Notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, cassis, galbanum, hyacinth, white peach, jonquil, Moroccan rose, muguet, neroli, orris, sambac jasmine, violet leaf absolute, ylang ylang, Atlas cedarwood, Australian sandalwood, cistus absolute, civet, patchouli, moss, musk, tonka bean, Virginia cedar

Vert Pour Madame is available from the Parfums des Beaux Arts website.

I heart Lucy of Indieperfumes, who made it possible! And Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, who made it! Because we’re worthy! ☺

Original image of Evelyn Tripp, cover of Charm magazine, June 1959 – MyVintageVogue

The B Day wishlist


If wishes were fishes, we’d all throw nets in the sea…

In an ideal world, birthdays would always be special occasions to celebrate each other. Birthday parties would always turn out perfect, presents would always be perfectly chosen, and everyone would leave happy and stuffed with cake and goodwill towards man – and woman. Rather than look into the mirror every morning with something akin to terror, our most beautiful selves would beam right back at us, every day and every birthday.

And I am the Queen of Roumania.

Two days from now, That Day will arrive, the day I dread more than any other day in the year, dread it with a leaden heart and a leaden sense of dread. The day. The B day. The day I’d prefer to stay in bed with the covers over my head and just forget about the whole darn thing. I’ll happily remind anyone within earshot that it’s also Shakespeare’s birthday and even recite several words of deathless prose, or that Max Planck – who invented quantum physics – and Shirley Temple have a birthday, too. Me…fugeddaboudit! It’s just a day, and the sooner it’s over with, the better!

But I can dream…I can park those childish expectations in a corner and dream of all the grown-up things I wish I could have for a birthday in that best of all possible worlds in my imagination. Just don’t forget the cake!

To make my birthday perfume wishlist, a perfume has to be…very special, simply because ever after, I’ll associate it with that day, and not everything I try makes the list, even if I like it. Here are the ones that do – this year at least!

In My Dreams, Maybe

Amouage Ubar.
It hasn’t happened often – in fact, I can’t remember if it ever did – that a perfume made me cry, but Ubar did. For no other reason than I find it so breathtakingly beautiful, it breaks my heart.
Once, I laughed off Amouage for being overpriced and overhyped. That won’t happen again, since the three I’ve tried so far – Ubar, Epic Woman and Lyric Woman – have been flawless liquid artistry in a bottle, and although one was not for me, the other two are staggering. Epic can wait a while longer. Ubar can’t. I used to think they don’t make ‘perfume’ any more. Was I ever wrong! And they inspired three stories, which are among the better things I’ve written in my life.

One of everything:
Ormonde Jayne Tolu and Orris Noir.
I can’t decide. I want them both. I want them NOW. In every possible permutation, in any way I can. Tolu is smooth as satinwood, Orris Noir is quite possibly the Greatest Iris Ever Created. They last and last and last, and never make me feel less than perfectly happy and drop-dead sexy (Orris Noir is swoon-worthy) in my skin.
With the birthday I can look forward to, the importance of ‘happy’ can’t be underestimated. Don’t get me started on drop-dead sexy…

Serge Lutens Boxeuses and Ambre Sultan
If ever one perfume house were responsible for my slippery slide into ‘fanatic ‘fumehead’ status, it would be Serge Lutens. Uncle Serge has a lot to answer for. Challenging, shape-shifter scents that unfold like Proust novels, with layers and layers of meaning and evolution. Boxeuses should be everything I dislike in perfume – the complete antithesis of the green-chypre-anti-floral me. Instead, it’s one of the best leathers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.
Ambre Sultan – well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a zillion times? I hate amber. I mean…I HATE amber. Too sweet, too heady, too obvious, too…much. Blergh! And then I met this amber, and it was over. I’ve graduated to another amber (Olympic Amber, by the severely under-rated Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids) that really floats my boat, but Ambre Sultan is my personal Khadine, my Empress of ambers. That bell jar can’t happen fast enough. And my decant is on its last sprays. I may cry.

Robert Piguet Bandit
Before I became “sophisticated” – or else just a raging, demanding, perfumoholic snob – my favorite perfume family of all time was undoubtedly anything containing galbanum, orris and an oakmoss base. Green chypres, in other words, ruled my world, and they still get a lot of love.
I remembered Bandit from my wilder single days, so when opportunity came knocking, I was very much looking forward to trying it again. Reformulated, yes, but not so you’d notice, drop the bottle and scream in outrage. Audacious, outrageous and bold, and she’s gotta have it, yes she does. I like to think of Bandit as my metaphorical riding crop for keeping the rest of the world in line…Now, if only I could rustle up the courage to try Fracas…

Andy Tauer Incense Extrème and Orange Star
Saying this with the supreme arrogance that comes with only having tried two of his line, I’ll say it again. Andy Tauer is a genius.
One of the greatest incenses ever, and one of the greatest orange/orange blossoms in the history of perfume, and when it comes to orange blossom and my love of orange, that says a lot. Two samples of Zeta are on their way, and I can’t wait to try them, either. Put me out of my misery and get me one of each, please. Or if you could, just one of everything! Who loves you, Andy? I do!

In the Real World
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Antiu/Sousinon – 1000 Lilies
I can think of not a few lines I have yet to experience. Anything L’Artisan, Neil Morris, most Byredos. Odin NY, Xerjoff. Natural perfumers such as Joanne Bassett, Lord’s Jester, Sonoma Scent Studio, Aftelier…That’s what a sense of adventure is for, right? But of all those untried discoveries to make, one independent perfumer intrigues me no end – Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. For an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, Dawn recreated several perfumes based on recipes from ancient Egypt. Of all of these, two in particular stand out and loom large in my imagination: Antiu and Sosinon – 1000 Lilies. Antiu is galbanum based, and I worship and adore galbanum. I’ve entered a draw on Dawn’s blog for a bottle of Antiu, and I have big hopes for this one.
Then, there is…Sousinon – 1000 Lilies. Lilies – not Casablanca nor stargazer lilies but Easter or Madonna lilies are my favorite flowers. A very long time ago, Laura Biagiotti created a scent called ‘Fiori Bianchi’, which was one of the truest representations of Madonna lilies ever made. I went through five 50 ml bottles, and if that’s not l-o-v-e…According to the lovely Olfactoria, whose judgment I trust, Sousinon is a very true Madonna lily scent, which is right about where Dawn Spencer Hurwitz had me. Madonna lily? Did someone say…Madonna lily? Sousinon was used to perfume Cleopatra’s sails as she sailed down the Nile. If it was good enough for Cleopatra’s sails, it’s good enough to propel me down the Nile of my own life…Crocodiles, be warned!

Olympic Orchids’ Golden Cattleya
As my blog posts attest, I can’t say enough hyperbole about Doc Elly’s creations. Every single one I’ve tried has been meticulously constructed and executed with all due care, and all of them – even the ones I can’t wear or aren’t me – are beautiful. Light as air or crystal solid, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. I have four on my personal wishlist, and of those four, Golden Cattleya takes the cake. It’s an orchid! It’s orange! And vanilla, sandalwood and a whole lot else besides. I’m in love.

Die before trying…
I hope this won’t happen, but nevertheless, there are a few I’d kill to try. Amouage Dia, Gold, Reflection Woman, Jubilation XXV – bring ‘em on! Who knows what stories they may tell? Odin NY 04-Petrana. It’s an iris. It’s a black iris. It’s something I must try…Tabac Blond. Lord’s Jester Daphne. And…

What else? A new MacBook Pro to replace my geriatric PowerBook, all the great books I have yet to read, an agent and a publisher, my Devil wrapped up in puff pastry and chocolate ganache…:)

Because if my nearly forty-eight years have taught me anything, it’s the wisdom of that ancient admonition…

Be careful what you wish for! You will get it!

About the image: I have a nickname at work. They call me the Dragon! Since I do know how to fly and have been known to spit fire at not much provocation! And that dragon…is a cake, if you can believe it. It seemed to fit…