Perfume and Colour, Perfume Lovers London – November 26th, 2015

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Tara, previously of Olfactoria’s Travels, while being on the move to her own new virtual home, decided to visit a couple of friends’ blogs. I have the honor of hosting her first. Here’s one of her great reports on the PLL’s event.

Undina

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I was particularly looking forward to this evening at Perfume Lovers London because firstly, it was being led by my mate Sabine of Iridescents and secondly, we were going to have fun drawing our scent impressions.

Instead of the usual rows of chairs, we were seated at tables laid out with paper and various art materials. Sabine had also provided some inspiration with print outs of various images and colour palettes.

As you can imagine, there was less talking and more colouring going on than at a normal PLL event, but here’s an idea of what was said and some of the wonderful images from Sabine’s blog.

Sabine at PLL's event    

Sabine: I went ten years without wearing perfume, then when I went back to it – wow – there had been an explosion in niche perfumery. I needed a way to organise and make sense of it.

I am a graphic designer so I tried to translate perfume into colour. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two. Both are very subjective; my rose is not your rose and my red is not your red. We can describe both as being opaque, bright, transparent and so on.

Sometimes there are not enough words. Colour is a way of creating a multi-sensory dimension which enhances your experience. You can train your perception of colour in the same as you can train your perception of smell.

This is why I started my blog, Iridescents, where I reproduce the images digitally. We can’t do that tonight but we do have paints, pencils and pastels so we can play around with how scents relate to colour.

Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Aedes de Venustas

Notes: Rhubarb, vetiver, red berries, tomato leaf, incense, green apple, hazelnut, honeysuckle

Lila: This is the first of the Aedes de Venustas fragrances and the perfumer is Bertrand Duchaufour.

Sabine: Try to think of a palette of 2 or 3 colours. What colours does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Pink”, “Green”, “The colours of a stick of rhubarb”.

Sabine: The pinks and greens come and go in my composition and the notes in the perfume do the same. I think of it as very jazzy. There is not a structured top, middle and base.

Lila: It’s very crisp and tart.

Sabine: If a perfume makes you think of yellow say, try and think which yellow.

The next one is not a perfume but a perfume ingredient. It’s vetiver oil. What colour does it make you think of?

Audience members: “Dirty brown”, “Khaki”, “The colour of mould.”

Molecule 01, Escentric Molecules

Sabine: This is a completely synthetic perfume, mostly made up of Iso E Super. So what colours do you use when you have a material not found in nature? Try and think of how much of one colour and how much of another. Think about the proportions.

Liquid Night, A Lab on Fire

Notes: Bergamot, lime, saffron, sage, lavender, Hinoki wood, incense, vanilla, musk

Sabine: Liquid Night is neither hot nor cold. It has hard shapes but it also has a softness to it. It’s very urban. It makes me think of driving in the rain and the reflection of the raindrops on the windscreen.

Liquid Night

Liquid Night ((c) Sabine)

Felanilla, Parfumerie Generale

Notes: Vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber

Sabine: Felanilla is cosy and a little powdery from the iris. It’s also animalic but not too much.

Audience member: Do people in different countries relate to colours differently?

Sabine: Yes, for example people in warmer countries tend to wear warmer colours because their surroundings are brighter. People have different associations with colours, as they do with scents. People in cities tend to wear more muted and subdued colours.

Felanilla

Felanilla ((c) Sabine)

Sel Marin, Heeley

Notes: Lemon, Italian bergamot, beech leaf, sea salt, moss, algae, cedar, musk, leather

Sabine: If you think of Sel Marin as a scent representing the sea, which would it be in terms of colour – the Atlantic or the Med?

[Most people said the Atlantic.]

Audience member: Would you wear it?

Sabine: My husband is wearing it, and therefore it is a perfume I associate with him.

The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet, Atkinsons

Notes: Heliotrope, tobacco, ginger, pepper, benzoin, labdanum.

Lila: The Oddfellows is a club that anyone can join. It’s pretty great. They have premises all over the country. It’s not a gentlemen’s club but it might have been at some point in the past.

Sabine: The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet is one of those fragrances that doesn’t change much.

Lila: It’s a bit masculine for me.

Audience member: It’s very tobacco-y.

Odd Fellow's Bouquet

Odd Fellow’s Bouquet ((c) Sabine)

Jicky Parfum, Guerlain

Notes: Lavender, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, rose, vetiver, patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk.

We know perfumes can change as they develop and I try to put that into my images. Jicky definitely develops over time so you might want to leave room in your picture for how it smells in 10-20 minutes time.

Noir Exquis, L’Artisan Parfumeur

Notes: Chestnut, orange, orange blossom, coffee, maple syrup, ebony, heliotrope, vanilla, tonka, sandalwood.

Lila: This is the latest release from L’Artisan.

Sabine: I looked on the Basenotes database and the number of perfumes with black in the name hugely outweighs white. I haven’t done an image for Noir Exquis but I would use just a little black. I’d mostly use toffee, caramel and beige.

Salome, Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Notes: Jasmine, carnation, bitter red orange, Turkish rose, orange blossom, tobacco, hyraceum, styrax, vanilla, hay, patchouli, bergamot, oakmoss, cumin, birch tar, castoreum.

Sabine: We’ve saved the best till last.

Lila: You won’t be able to smell anything else after this!

Sabine: I used a lot of red in my image. Not a rose red but a fleshy red. It was blurred on Facebook for a while because it was thought to look like female genitalia.

Lila: We’ll put all the Salome pictures together and share with Liz Moores of Papillon as she’s a friend and supporter of PLL.

Salome collage

It was a great evening and we were all engrossed in creating our own visual interpretations of the fragrances. It was interesting to see how different our impressions were. Most people saw vetiver as green or brown while I saw it as grey. Sabine’s husband and I saw Sel Marin as the Atlantic sea under a slate sky, while two other people on our table saw it as a blue sea and bright yellow sun.

When you’re trying to visualise the scent as colour it really makes you think and analyse the aroma in a different way. I found this fascinating and it has definitely added to the way I interact with fragrances.

Tara's Perfumes Visualization

Tara’s Perfumes Visualization

Many thanks to Lila and Sabine for such a novel, interactive evening and to Roulier White for supplying a couple of the bottles.

***

Please answer the question for Undina’s Entertaining Statistics post: What perfume do you most associate with a colour/colours, which one(s) and why?

 

Images by Tara and Sabina

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Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu or Musical Perfume

In the comments to Tara’s recent beautifully evocative review of L’Artisan‘s Tea for Two (you have to read it if you haven’t read it yet – I promise: you’ll be charmed) several people mentioned they didn’t like the name. They didn’t explain why but it surprised me so I kept thinking about it.

L'Artisan Tea for Two

For a long time I couldn’t figure out where and when I heard Tea for Two song for the first time. Actually, I could have sworn that the first time I heard lyrics of this song in 2007 on the CD Hey Eugene! by one of my favorite group Pink Martini. They recorded this song with a guest – 81-year-old legendary jazz singer Jimmy Scott. I found an interesting small article about that version of the song on NPR website:

… singer China Forbes starts off with the seldom-heard introductory verse, which makes it clear that the whole thing is a fantasy. There is no tea, and no twosome. She’s making it all up, because her love life is a disaster. […] Their [Forbes and Scott’s] “Tea for Two” becomes the confession of a woman and her imaginary lover, their innocence shielding them from all the things that might go wrong.

Since there’s no real video for the clip below can I suggest listening to it while quickly scanning through the rest of the article?

But I had a feeling that I knew this song… well, at least a line from the song (“tea for two and two for tea”) long before then. But from where? I haven’t heard this song before – either when I still lived back in my native country or after I moved to the U.S. But somehow I knew those words and recognized the tune… When I found the explanation I was amazed.

I was right: I haven’t heard the song before. What I heard many times through my childhood was Tahiti Trot, Op. 16 (listen to 10-15 seconds starting from 44s) – Dmitri Shostakovich‘s (a prominent Russian composer and pianist) 1927 orchestration of Tea for Two:

Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko: after the two listened to the song on record at Malko’s house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.
Tahiti Trot was first performed in Moscow on 25 November 1928, and has been a popular encore ever since.

Of course I liked and recognized the melody! Of course I thought it was a great name for perfume! And when I tried Tea for Two perfume I immediately liked it as well.

Tea for Two is the only bottle from L’Artisan Parfumeur in my collection. And it’s one of a very few that are truly shared perfumes in my collection: I enjoy both wearing it myself and smelling it on my vSO. Perfume for two.

Rusty and L'Artisan Tea for Two

I have one more “musical” association for this perfume’s name (in case you still haven’t changed your mind about it). It’s an abstract linguistic joke I heard many years ago (told in Russian). Recently I discovered that it exists in some other non-English-speaking cultures (probably in those without long and short vowels).

A tourist who doesn’t speak English well calls hotel’s front desk from his room No 22 and tries to order two cups of tea:

Concierge: (cheerfully) How can I help you?
Tourist: Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu
Concierge: Pardon me?
Tourist: Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu!
Concierge: (with a shrug and eye-rolling, thinking: “Those crazy foreigners!”) Purum-pum-pum-pum! (rings off)

I keep murmuring that Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu for the last couple of weeks.

 

Images: my own

In the Search for the Perfect Fig, Take 2

Three years ago I published the first Single Note Exploration post about fig note in perfumes and learned from comments that it wasn’t actually fig fruit that had a scent reproduced in perfumery but fig twigs and leaves. Since then I assaulted a couple of fig trees and can confirm: those twigs are very fragrant. Did you know the source of the scent?

Fig

Recently I learned another fascinating fact about figs. It started as a chat with a co-worker about fruits. I mentioned that I liked to eat figs. She looked at me with disbelief and asked with a faint trace of repulsion:

– You do know that those crunchy things inside are wasp eggs?
– ???
– You know, those seeds inside figs are not just seeds – they are eggs that wasps lay inside figs.

I’d never heard anything about that before so I didn’t believe her and went to consult a trusted source – Internet. What I found enthralled me. If you are familiar with the subject skip a couple of paragraphs – there will be a perfume-related bit in the end. For those who – same as I – somehow missed that and doesn’t want to do a full investigation, here’s a short* version.

A mature female wasp crawls through the opening into a fig where she deposits both her eggs and pollen she picked up from her original host fig. Since on her way in, having to force her way through a very tight opening, she loses her wings and antennae, after completing the mission the wasp dies. Eggs hatch, develop into larvae and then mature. Mature male wasp, which doesn’t have wings, mates with a female wasp and then digs a tunnel out of the fig through which the females escape. Once outside a fig a male wasp dies and a female flies to another tree, where she’ll pollinate another fig on her way in. The cycle repeats.

Fig

Now, when I know all that, will I stop eating figs? Nope. The only thing that bothers me in all that is that I’ve never heard about it before. Of course, figs weren’t widely available where I grew up but neither was salmon – and still we learned at school about them moving upstream to spawn and die. And we all heard about sexual cannibalism of mantises. But nothing about fig wasps.

Even though from the set of perfumes I tested for the first post I already had two favorite fig perfumes – Fig Tree by Sonoma Scent Studio and Wild Fig & Cassis by Jo Malone, since I like the note, I kept testing fig-centric perfumes and found several worth mentioning.

There are two nice budget choices for those who would like to wear a fig scent a couple of times in summer but doesn’t want to invest much into it: Mediterranean Fig by Pacifica (read Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) review here) and Fig Leaf & Sage by Kiehl’s (Ayala (Smelly Blog) reviews it in the post on sage note).

I’m on the fence about Premier Figuier Extrême by L’Artisan Parfumeur. It is a very nice, and said to be the very first, fig-centric perfume. But, like many other perfumes from the brand, it’s not tenacious enough to justify a full price purchase. Luckily, it’s not that hard to find a better deal for it (~$115/100 ml) online. And it’s one of those perfumes 100 ml of which might not be too much: even though it’s marked as eau de parfum concentration it wears as eau de toilette. Since I have a soft spot for interesting bottles, I couldn’t resist a fig-shaped Special Edition bottle. For reviews read: Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) post and Portia’s (Australian Perfume Junkies) guest post on Perfume Posse.

L'Artisan Premier Figuier

Finally, I did get to test a perfume, lemmings for which were created by a very persuasive review from Gaia (The Non-Blonde) – Figuier Eden by Armani Privé. I like-like-like it! But I’m not paying the price: not because Figuer Eden isn’t good enough but I don’t think there can be any fig perfume that can justify that price.

– Did you know that wasps lay eggs in figs I asked my vSO when I got home the day of the conversation with my co-worker.
– ???

He didn’t believe me…

Images: my own

* The detailed picture is even more complex and covers fig trees/flowers’ gender, not pollinating wasps and much more. You can start from this Wiki page and then follow links.

How Do You Take Your Amber?

We had a really strange winter this year*: it has never actually got cold. When I say “cold” I mean, of course, our Californian cold – something like 10C/50F. Instead of it the average high temperature in February, for example, was 16C/60F. I’m not really complaining especially after hearing about record levels of snow and cold weather all over the world. After all, no matter how much I realize that warm weather in absence of rain makes our drought situation even worse, objectively if feels nice.

But there was one serious negative consequence for me: this past winter I couldn’t wear almost any of my favorite amber perfumes. Even though I do not do a conscious season rotation of perfumes, my wearing habits gravitate towards the commonly accepted practice of lighter scents in summer and heavier members of my collection in winter. So the only amber I wear in hot weather is my amber necklace.

Amber Necklace

As winter approached I was eager to start wearing my favorite ambers again. The first disappointment came when I put on Ambre Russe by Parfum d’Empire. This perfume was on my “to buy” list for a couple of years so I decided to finish the sample I had and finally buy a bottle. Actually, I would have bought it not waiting for the last drop to leave the sample vial if it weren’t for an unavailability of more reasonable 50 ml bottles. Now I think that maybe it was a sign: the last time I wore it from the sample I felt almost like washing it off. Now I’m not sure any more if I even want it.

After that I was very careful approaching the rest of the usual suspects: Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens, Ambre Fetishe by Annick Gotal, Amber Absolute by Tom Ford and Mitzah by Dior – each got just one wear, if that. I didn’t dislike them but I didn’t get the same warm feeling I used to get from them before. Even L’eau d’Ambre Extreme by L’Artisan Parfumeur felt too heavy for the weather.

There were just a couple of ambers that worked better and didn’t scare me. Unexpectedly, two of those were Ambre Orient by Armani Prive and Amber Oud from By Kilian. I am surprised because both have agarwood – the note that is difficult for me. But this time amber + agarwood combination seemed exactly what I needed. One more perfume that suddenly came into favor was Calamity J by Juliette Has A Gun. After I deplete the decant I will consider adding a bottle to my collection.

Despite all that I had more amber in my life this winter than ever before: last New Year I’ve got a gift from my vSO – Black Orchid Diffuser Set from my favorite designer Michael Aram. I’ve never had a diffuser before but was glad to get this one since I have some other items from this collection. Official notes are citrus, floral notes, tropical fruits, cedar, sandalwood and musk but for my nose it smells like a light amber perfume. And for a while, until I realized from where that wonderful scent was coming, I tried to figure out which of my perfumes left those traces and, which was even more important, where?!

Michael Aram Black Orchid Diffuser

So this year I take my amber light or very light. And, it seems, with agarwood. But I really hope that next year I’ll be able to enjoy the “heavy hitters” (© Olfactoria, Queen of Amber) again.

 

How do you take your amber nowadays?

* Ines recently started her post with the exact phrase but I swear I had this part already written by the time I read her post.

 

Images: my own

Entertaining Statistics: January 2014

 

I know how it sounds to the most of my readers but I have to say it: we had an unpleasantly warm January. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the light jacket weather as much as the next freezing east coaster would but we really need at least some rain. And +22˚C (71˚F) isn’t a normal temperature for this month even in our region. So now I can’t even pretend that it’s winter and time to wear my winter perfumes.

For this month’s statistics post I asked you to name five niche brands that, in their opinion, are in the “need to know” category for anybody who’s interested in perfumes. I asked the same question in one of the perfume groups on Facebook.

29 people participated on FB and 19 in the blog. 49 brands were named, 26 of them more than once.

Since I know that some people participated both here and there I thought of splitting results by the source but it didn’t change the outcome: both groups, as well as the total, returned the same set of 5 brands, just in slightly different order (numbers in parenthesis – places FB/Blog):

Serge Lutens (1/1)

L’Artisan Parfumeur (4/2)

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (2/3)

Amouage (3/4)

Parfumerie Générale (5/5)

Stats January 2014

The chart above shows actual number of votes for the top 10 recommended brands. From my original list only Ormonde Jayne didn’t make the cut and moved to the sixth place. I need to get more samples from Parfumerie Générale line and see why it made it to the fifth place.

Out of 52 perfumes I wore or tested in January 17 perfumes were from 5 out of these 10 brands. What was unusual: this month I tried only five perfumes for the first time. Did you come across anything interesting this year?

Rusty had nothing to do with any of the numbers but he has to requite all the compliments he got in the previous post – even without appearing in it! These are pictures of him with perfumes from the “need to know” list.

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Images: my own

N Niche Perfume Brands You Need to Know Right Now

 

Don’t ask me how but a couple of months ago I came across the article 20 Niche Perfume Brands You Need to Know Right Now. As it usually happens, while reading somebody else’s list of anything on a subject you’re interested in, I agreed with some of the choices, disagreed with others and thought of additional nominees. And then I started working on my list and realized that 20 were too many. Not because I can’t easily come up with at least three times as many brands but because even at 20 one starts including brands that are just personal favorites, do not exactly fit the definition or those that are so tiny that position on the list is too big for them.

So I decided to come up with my personal list of five brands. In my selection process I used the following considerations:

  1. The brand should be a true stand-alone brand, not a private/limited/boutique line of a big brand (so not Guerlain, Chanel, Dior or Hermes) or a spin-off under a bigger parent’s umbrella (Tom Ford and Jo Malone are out too).
  2. The brand should have enough perfumes in their range to potentially work for different people (so as much as I love Neela Vermeire Creations or respect vero profumo and Puredistance, these lines are too young to get a spot in the short “must” list).
  3. Brands should be available for testing (directly or through online services) both in the U.S. and Europe (so no tiny artisan brands for this list).

Five Brands

My list of Five Niche Brands You Need to Know (with a brief description of why – not for my regular readers but for future visitors who find my blog through some unexpected searches, e.g. “lily of the valley+cat”):

Serge Lutens (http://www.sergelutens.com/) is probably the ultimate niche perfume brand. It’s bold, unconventional but at the same time still perfumes that you want to wear and not just test, analyze and review. Kafka (Kafkaesque) covered the topic of Serge Lutens – both a persona and a brand – extensively and I urge you to read Part I and Part II of her story.

*

Amouage (http://www.amouage.com/) is an epitome of opulence, luxury and quality. These rich and mostly classic perfumes won’t suit everybody in the modern sheer-smelling world but the brand is worth knowing even just for educational purposes to see how perfumes can be anti-minimalistic and not transparent. Watch four short videos on now smell this in which Christopher Chong, creative director of Amouage, talks about perfume and the brand.

*

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (http://www.fredericmalle.com/) is the first brand ever to put a perfumer’s name on a bottle. In the world in which a scent IP doesn’t exist it was a huge step towards promoting a creator, an artist and not a money purse. Read Natalie’s (Another Perfume Blog) interview with Frédéric Malle. (UPD: APB is closed now)

*

L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s (http://www.artisanparfumeur.com) perfumes might be not the most innovative (though over years they’ve created some very unusual perfumes) but very wearable, so it is a perfect starter house for anybody who wants to venture from the mainstream perfume market into the niche one. Read Luca Turin’s L’Artisan Parfumeur 30 years later for the tidbits of the house’s history.

*

Ormonde Jayne (http://www.ormondejayne.com/) has a whole line-up of very likable and distinct perfumes at reasonable (for modern niche market) prices. Ormonde Jayne’s perfumes smell modern and classic at the same time. Read a very warm and personable interview with Linda Pilkington by Sigrun (Riktig Parfym) and a recent Andrew Buck’s (Scentrist) chat with her for more information about the brand.

 

So these are my choices of the “need to know” niche perfume brands. Give me your five choices. Do not try to purposefully complement my list: if you agree with all or some of my choices – say so; but feel free to change any or even all brands if you have a different answer to my the question. I’ll try to do something with all the answers for my January statistics post.

 

Image: my own

Entertaining Statistics: September 2013

 

After a cool summer September arrived warm and very pleasant. And to make it even better I spent the last week of it in Hawaii.

I was so looking forward to that vacation that soon after I booked our flight and rented a house I started playing that choosing game in my mind: what perfume should I take with me? I ended up taking with me 12 (twelve) perfumes. And even though some of them were samples I didn’t take any unknown perfumes just for testing: all of them were to wear.

Black Vetyver Café by Jo Malone I chose as our shared travel perfume for this trip. Partially it was because I suddenly got tired of the scent that we used on many previous trips (Voyage d’Hermes) but mostly because after reading about it being discontinued I wanted to figure out if I should buy a bottle of it before it completely disappears. I do not love it but I like it enough not to let go just yet.

My travel companions from the previous Hawaii vacationEstee Lauder Bronze Goddess, Ormonde Jayne Tiare and Frangipani had joined me again. So after recently relegated Voyage d’Hermes these three are the best-traveled perfumes in my collection. I still enjoyed Bronze Goddess whereas my reaction to Frangipani and Tiare switched places: I enjoyed the former very much and was surprised that the latter felt somehow off.

Perfumes for a Tropical Vacation

Other perfumes that kept me company on that humid tropical island were: L’Artisan Parfumeur Traversee du Bosphore, Byredo Pulp (I need to get a decant of this one), Yosh Ginger Ciao (Birgit, thank you for the idea), Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia, Neela Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling!, By Kilian Forbidden Games, Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine and M.Micallef Royal Vintage. The last two were for my vSO but the others nine were all for me. Good thing about hot humid weather and swimming was that I could easily wear 3-4 perfumes in one day.

All the perfumes I brought were just perfect for the vacation though, completely unexpectedly, Bombay Bling! wasn’t a fan of that climate: it would disappear from my skin within an hour after the application. It has never happened before in cooler Californian weather. It made me curious how it would behave in, let’s say, Bombay. Any upcoming trips? Anybody?

Since my vacation was filled with fruits – both in perfumes and in my diet, I got curious which fruits my readers like the most. Here’re the results:

Nineteen (19) people answered my questions naming seventeen (17) of their favorite fruits to eat (13) and to smell (8) in a perfume form. I decided to be strict and if more than one fruit was mentioned I took just the first answer.

September 2013 Statistics

Mango was an absolute favorite with eleven (11) votes (six (6) for eating it and five (5) for smelling). Black currant took the second place with five (5) votes and fig got four (4) votes but both were named only as perfume notes. Mangosteen, peach and cherry got two (2) votes each (one in each category). And raspberry got two (2) votes but both in food designation. All other fruits – durian, loquat, olallieberries, papaya, mandarin, grapefruit, banana, pomeo, plum and grapes – were mentioned just once.

Even though I had so many perfumes with me after I came back I kept thinking: “I wish I thought of taking <…> as well” about different perfumes. If you were to recommend one more perfume for me to take on a tropical vacation which one would it be?

 

Images: my own