“Noble” Materials

It seems that the niche houses, and everyone else in the know, have received a memo advising that the new trendy thing is noble materials. It can be the only explanation for the surfeit of noble verbiage in the press releases that pass my hands. “We are reviving the venerable traditions of the art of perfumery using only noble materials.” “The combination of noble materials and extreme sophistication takes your breath away.” “Our extraordinary fragrances are pure, authentic and use high concentrations of noble materials.” “We use only 100% all-natural noble materials, no water, other toxins or chemicals.” I will stop here before all of us start losing IQ points.

marie-antoinette st denis

So what is this social hierarchy in scent all about? In French, the phrase “matières nobles” generally refers to substances that are not synthetic, but it can also mean anything fine and luxurious, especially in the world of fashion. Even in science, where the “noble metal,” a term dating to the late 14th century, means a metal that doesn’t corrode or oxidize in humid air, different disciplines have their own lists of materials.

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Paper Passion

The most marvelous things are the ones we take for granted. Consider a sheet of paper. A plain white leaf. You may cover it with a print-out of this article, handwritten grocery lists, a sketch of the view outside your window or profound observations on life. One page contains much history–from the Han Dynasty China (the earliest piece of paper discovered dates to 179-41 BC) via the Muslim polymaths traveling the Silk Road to the glittering cities of Uzbekistan, and from there to the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. In France, the first papermill was established in the 12th century AD. Nuremberg set up the production of paper in 1390. Sweden held out till 1612. So paper is of relatively recent vintage in the western world.

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In high school we once had a papermaking class, an experience our art teacher insisted was essential for our understanding of the world. It turned my rather practical interest in paper into passion, because once you see the intricate process of creation, nothing is ever the same. The technique we used was remarkably similar to how the first sheets of paper were made in the Chinese Imperial court.

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Traveling Perfume Box : US, UK, Europe

Our traveling perfume boxes for the UK and Continental Europe (and now the USA too) are ready for their next destination. If you would like to participate, here is how you can do it. And whether you’re participating or not, please read the perfume descriptions below. Both Abbie, Ariel and Paulina did a great job capturing their impressions on different fragrances. Now I won’t think of Goutal’s Nuit Etoilée as anything but “a mojito in a warm forest.”

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How does it work: To enter, please post a comment answer these questions: 1) where are you based (UK, USA or Continental Europe), and if you’re a winner, can I share your email address with the original sender? ; 2) do you agree to pass the box onto someone else within two weeks or so(add a couple of your own samples and share your sampling notes with the rest of us)? and 3) what perfume are you wearing today? I will pick the next person to receive the box via a random number generator. I will announce that person in this spot and contact them via email. The winner are: the UK– Marie-Sophie, the rest of Europe–aurora-r, the USA–Connie. 

Winners, please read this part closely: When you’re ready to pass the box onto someone else, please get in touch with me. Please include 2 things in your email: the full list of samples and your sampling notes (what you’ve discovered, what you’ve liked/disliked, any observations you care to include).

To check the progress of our boxes, please click on the Traveling Sample Box tag.

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Lapsang Souchong Tea : Smoky Harmony

A heart of darkness. Andy’s homage to lapsang souchong tea.

Intensely smokey, tarry, beguilingly dark…It sounds like the description of a fragrance I’d like to spray on my wrists, but instead these words are about Lapsang Souchong, perhaps my most beloved tea. It’s rare I select a singular favorite, but there is something so intrinsically satisfying about brewing a cup of broodingly dark Lapsang that I can’t help but come back for more.

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Upon opening a tin of Lapsang Souchong, the aroma of spent ashes permeates the air, like smelling last night’s bonfire lingering on your clothes. Once hot water saturates the tea leaves though, the impression is that of a fire reincarnated—the fragrance rising from the cup is unmistakably that of fresh woodsmoke and crackling flames slicing through the flinty chill of a winter’s night. Lapsang Souchong is the tea equivalent to film noir, with the mysterious femme fatale, disconcerting plot twists, and menacing darkness and shadows condensed into a mere cup.

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Givenchy Live Irresistible : Perfume Review

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Following a nefarious example set by Lancôme La Vie est Belle, perfume copywriters have assumed the role of social philosophers. “We live only once,” proclaims the press release for Givenchy’s Live Irrésistible, but I’m not sure why I’d fritter away my time on earth in the company of their fragrance.

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Like many of the recent LVMH perfumes (Givenchy is controlled by the conglomerate), Live Irrésistible seems like a focus group driven creation, where the each component is augmented to be likable. Desperate to please, Live Irrésistible heaps together everything that women are thought to like–a sweet, juicy top note, clean florals, and sweet amber drydown accented with cotton candy, all tinted pink. The result should at least be cute, but somehow it ends up as dowdy and bland.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Karen (A) in “Noble” Materials: Just went down the rabbit hole of watching some very fun perfume ad videos, including the take on “And God Made Woman” for Dior. Thanks for the mention, I wasn’t… February 9, 2016 at 7:48am

  • Karen (A) in “Noble” Materials: Goes hand in hand with the stiletto heels of his shoes, though. Designed to evoke the potential or capacity of causing pain (reality of causing pain -or damage to feet… February 9, 2016 at 7:21am

  • Karen (A) in “Noble” Materials: Made me think that the term was timed to connect with the last season of Downton Abbey. An option of “Lord” was given for prefix on a form I completed… February 9, 2016 at 7:16am

  • Solanace in “Noble” Materials: Voilà! And the Marie Antoinette pic you selected… You crack me up! February 9, 2016 at 6:12am

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