Luscious

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:

BUY IT. OR ELSE. A LIFETIME OF REGRET. 

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!

Elena  https://theplumgirl.com

Daisy  https://eaulalanyc.com and https://www.instagram.com/coolcookstyle/?hl=en)

Undina  https://undina.com

Old Herbaceous  https://scentsandsensibilities.co

Portia  https://abottledrose.com

Three Odes to Osmanthus

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three osmanthus-based perfumes for Spring

This morning, as I trudged to one of the few open grocery stores for milk for my coffee, something very obvious hit me on the way.

It is (still) a glorious, calm, bright blue, perfect Spring day. The sun is blazing away, there’s a hint of actual warmth in the air, and after being blasted by a wicked Easter nor’easter for over a week that kept the garret nearly arctic, the contrast is intoxicating. Somewhere in that shriveled black, cynical heart I call my own, all that daylight through my opened windows is wreaking havoc with wintery pessimism and however-shall-I-survive-exam-season-with-my-integrity-intact speculations. I might actually survive exam season, after all. (Especially if I read up!)

There might even … dare I write it … be possibilities for a perfume writer of dubious repute?

Because it’s Spring! And what better way to celebrate Spring than by wearing a flower that blooms in August and September? Anyone?

The flower is osmanthus fragrans, or as it’s known in English, sweet tea olive. Osmanthus the flower (last sniffed at the CPH Botanical Gardens in September) is a whole, opulent perfume in itself. It somehow manages to exude floralcy, fruity-apricots-with-a-tinge-of-marzipan and animalic leather/suede all at once.

So once I returned this morning, I hauled out three odes to osmanthus. They all contain differing interpretations of this humble little flower with the big odor profile I so adore, and few florals exemplify Spring quite so nicely.

The fruity flower

Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite (2007)

Perfumer: Marc-Antoine Corticchiato

A very long time ago, I blind-bought 10 ml of an Osmanthus Interdite split on the theory that a) I loved osmanthus and b) Marc-Antoine Corticciato has never, to my knowledge, made a bad perfume.

I’m not familiar with all of Parfum d’Empire’s perfumes, but of the ones I have tried, they are rather spectacular and highly unusual. I could write volumes on Azemours Les Orangers‘ orange grove perfection (and wail that my decant is practically empty), but Osmanthus Interdite  – another fast-diminishing decant – did not prove me wrong with either a) or b).

Inspired by the Forbidden City of Beijing, Osmanthus Interdite puts the flower front and center with an epic green tea note – a sibling of that other green tea note I once loved allthe way to discontinuation in Bvlgari’s ground-breaking Eau du Thé Verte. It begins with airy, lemony osmanthus, who introduces herself and slyly retreats as the green tea steps forward. Half an hour later, she makes another, grander entrance, bolstered by a hint of rose and jasmine, and now, we can sense her for what she truly is: a stunning, fruity floral for sophisticated grownups, blowing juicy apricot kisses to the adoring crowds, bridging the gap between smell and taste, which is smaller than you think.

The rose and jasmine hold her in place for the duration (6+ hours on me), and accentuates a hint of the soap she also conceals in her orange-yellow depths, before she finally drifts off on an exquisitely tanned suede accord to gild her edges.

I say ‘her’, since osmanthus in general strikes me as very much a feminine note, and Osmanthus Interdite  – ‘forbidden Osmanthus’ is very feminine to my nose. But don’t let that stop you – this would be fantastic on a man with the fortitude to thumb his nose at perfume conventions. Feminine, yes, but not frilly and with no perfume-y flou in sight, just a beautifully rendered osmanthus perfume that is always – again, a hallmark of Parfum d’Empire – always sophisticated, flawlessly delineated, and perfectly rendered.

Notes for Osmanthus Interdite:

Osmanthus, green tea, apricot, jasmine, rose, musk, suede

The Sultry Blooms

Perris Monte CarloAbsolue d’Osmanthe(2016)

Perris Monte Carlo came to my attention about two years ago when a perfume writer friend of mine reviewed their Ylang Ylang Nosy Be so beautifully, I wanted to forfeit a rent check and just buy it already. So I ordered a few samples from First in Fragrance, but for whatever reason, my order for a sample of Ylang Ylang Nosy Be didn’t go through, nor did my comment requesting it on my order. Absolue d’Osmanthe, however, arrived instead. If it’s any indication of the quality of the rest of the line as I suspect, then I’m done for.

Creative Director Gian Luca Perris took a very different tack with this osmanthus. This osmanthus is sourced from Guinan in China, famous for the quality of its osmanthus absolute.

Quality is the operative word here. Absolue d’Osmanthe exists in two incarnations – as do the other members of the Perris Monte Carlo Black Line – as an eau de parfum, and as a hyper-luxe extrait. Although I only have a sample of the eau de parfum, you’ll hear no complaints. As it is, Absolue d’Osmanthe has heft and sultriness to spare.

Sultry, I hear you ask? Sultry! Is my emphatic reply, for M. Perris avoided all the obvious traps of airy-fairy, girly osmanthus and decided to accentuate the, ahem, sexier side of osmanthus, by pairing it with the animale hidden within sandalwood, tolu balsam, vanilla (a dry and very woody vanilla without sweetness) and tied it all up with a pretty jasmine sambac bow. Voilà! Sultry osmanthus. I would never have guessed that sandalwood and osmanthus could sing such a duet, but sing, they do. The osmanthus is apparent right from the start, apricot and marzipan tones all accounted for, but the sandalwood makes the heart beat faster – in both the wearer and the perfume, before the tolu, labdanum and vanilla sashay in on orange-tinted sunbeams to show you just what osmanthus can also do. It is easily unisex and would be spectacular on the right guy. It lasted a full day through all its many twists and turns, and that, too was a surprise. Now, I have to hunt down samples of the rest of the Perris Monte Carlo Black Line (to start). Damn it.

Notes for Perris Monte Carlo Absolue d’Osmanthe: Osmanthus, jasmine sambac, sandalwood, vanilla, tolu balsam, labdanum.

The Silken Suede

Parfums Serge Lutens Daim Blond(2004)

Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake

My gateway osmanthus is remarkable for not listing any osmanthus at all, but a not-at-all abstract representation of its listed notes that somehow, some way, all add up to an elegantly restrained, decidedly chic flower I shall henceforth refer to as ‘osmanthus-with-extras’.

Daim Blond came under my nose by way of a sample courtesy of the superlative perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfume, and it was – and eight years on, still is – love at first and four-hundred-and-fortieth sniff. I’ve worn it a lot this past winter when I needed to be reminded of alternatives to blustery, frigid days, or simply something besides my January disillusioned self.

It gets stranger still. One of my most loathed perfume notes in nature – the smell of flowering hawthorn, which induces instant, all-encompassing nausea – is listed as a top note, and although I can detect faint traces of hawthorn, I don’t care nearly enough to make a fuss about it, since the rest of it is simply glorious.

Apparently, Daim Blond is quite divisive, if the reviews on Basenotes and Fragrantica are anything to go by. Some smell a derivative Feminité du Bois, some a reworking of the great Iris Silver Mist, some a truckload of ‘tamed’ Arabie (a criminal thought!), and some just complain that M. Lutens was simply repeating himself and his famous Orientalist aesthetic. YMMV.

Yet I named Daim Blond my gateway osmanthus, because it was the first osmanthus-tinged perfume I encountered that I actually loved, enough to remember it when a friend asked about a birthday present and I suggested Daim Blond off the top of my head. Since it arrived, it has remained in constant rotation for the past three years, appropriate whether April or August or January, whether a school day of linguistics for ADHD students, or a night out in Copenhagen.

Like most masterpieces of perfumery and a few humans too, it exists between the spaces of its contradictions. Just as the odor profile of osmanthus itself, it is simultaneously fruity, floral and suede-leathery all at once, and this suede has the texture of melted Isigny butter. Wherever that suede came from, I’ll wager that was one exceedingly pampered goat/pig/cow.

But I would be hard pressed to name notes as such, for no other reason than on my skin, I get osmanthus in all its orange-gold glory, a smidge of a very discreet musk, and that flawlessly prepared suede. That’s all, and that’s already more than I deserve.

Notes for Daim Blond: Hawthorn, cardamom, iris, apricot stone, (iris?) pallida, musk, heliotrope, leather.

The osmanthus may bloom in August in Guinan, but few flowers put quite so much Spring in my steps as osmanthus. If you like yours bold with a side of opulence, I recommend Amouage Journey Woman. There is another fragrant traveler in my test drawer, but that one gets its own review. Stay tuned!