Perfect New Year’s Day Fragrance

Grandmother

I am standing in front of my perfume shelves unable to choose a fragrance to commemorate the birth of 2007. “I have no perfume to wear,” flashed in my head, although a moment later I am wincing from the ridiculousness of this notion. I remember some socialist thinker asserting that the problem of modern society is the surfeit of choice. Indeed, there might be some truth in this. I discard Bvlgari Black, because my Russian superstitious alter ego whispers against wearing black on the first day of the year. I am not in the mood for Guerlain Shalimar, and I wore Caron Nuit de Noël a few days ago. This seems like a tough decision. …

Although I approach my inability to choose with a sense of humor, the power of scent to mark important events in our lives cannot be denied. I still remember my grandmother’s Lancôme Climat mingling with the scents of roasted walnuts, candied cherries and cocoa as she prepared the New Year feasts. The delicate breath of Diorissimo worn by my mother is an indelible part of memory as well. Or that of the rose cleansing cream my aunt would use when preparing to go out on a date with her then fiancé.

I approach New Year with special tenderness because during my childhood it was the most important holiday of the year, replacing the religious ceremonies of Christmas in the Soviet Union. The adults spent considerable effort to obtain enough champagne to last through the celebrations, while the children awaited New Year’s Day to unwrap their presents. In our family, the festive spirit lasted until mid January, coinciding with my mother’s birthday.

Although it has been many years since I have spent New Year’s Day with my entire family, I always try to recreate the spirit of the holiday as I remember it from my childhood. I prepare special dishes and save the best champagne to be opened as the clock strikes midnight. I prefer to spend the day in the small company of people I care about, rather than at huge parties. I try to wear a fragrance that would make the day feel especially wonderful. Hence, the complexity of choice that I am facing today. Eventually, I reach for Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower and open the bottle. The champagne effervescence of orange blossom is foiled in the velvety lusciousness of tuberose. It possesses a transparent quality, which alternates with a disconcerting, yet appealing density. The composition resembles the sensation of silk faille against the skin. Above all else, its luminosity makes this rainy January 1st seem brighter, and that alone makes Carnal Flower perfect for today.

The photo depicts my maternal grandmother Valentina who was responsible for instilling in me the love of art, perfume and food.

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46 Comments

  • carmencanada: Dear V., I was in the same quandary trying to select a scent to usher in the New Year in a suitable, symbolic way — nothing like a bit of magical thinking. Which led me to Joy, more for the name, I’ll admit, than for the fragrance — I don’t reach for it often, maybe because it’s vintage extrait. I’m so besotted with Bulgari Black now that I’d wear it every day (and shunned it today for the same reason you did)… It has made me want to re-explore Annick Ménardo’s other compositions, especially Bois d’Arménie. And to, perhaps, re-consider my position on vanilla. But is there another vanilla fragrance as oddly seductive as Black? A “butch” vanilla, so to speak? If you have any suggestions, I would be very willing to experiment. Also, when are you going to review L’Etat Libre d’Orange? I haven’t made it there yet and am very curious about it. “Vierges et toreros” sounds like it was made for me. January 1, 2007 at 4:44pm Reply

  • carmencanada: P.S. Your grandmother was so delicately beautiful! January 1, 2007 at 4:45pm Reply

  • Preya: I applaud your choice. I am not experienced in all the nuances of all the various scents out there, but Carnal Flower has become indispensable to me—my favorite scent. Happy New Year! January 1, 2007 at 4:53pm Reply

  • violetnoir: V, Carnal Flower was my choice for New Years, too. Great fragrant minds think alike!

    The Happiest of New Years to you, darling. Your grandmother is beautiful (I still have the photo you sent me of the two of you in her kitchen during the Summer of 2005). I see that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

    Hugs! January 1, 2007 at 5:59pm Reply

  • Christina H.: Your grandmother was very beautiful with an equally beautiful name. Thank you for sharing the lovely photo and I admit to having the same difficulties in choosing fragrances too, especially for special occasions! To be plagued with so many choices is a curse and a blessing. Happy New Year to you Victoria. I hope the new year will be prosperous and happy for you! January 1, 2007 at 6:45pm Reply

  • Ina: Vika, I can so relate. New Year’s was always my most favorite holiday. I see quite a resemblance in the picture, by the way! 🙂 Oh, and, all superstitions aside, I am wearing Bvlgari Black today. Happy New Year! January 1, 2007 at 7:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear D, oh, the difficulty of making the perfect choice! The worst is when you finally pick something and then feel like you should have worn something else. While with a pair of shoes or a skirt, it is a breeze to change into something else, with perfume that might be more complicated. 🙂 Joy is a perfect choice for today.

    I cannot think of another vanilla which is equally as butch. L’Artisan’s Vanilia used to be remarkably smoky and dark, but now it is far too sweet and limpid. I am partial to Parfums de Nicolai SacreBleu, but it is a bit on a sweet side for me. I love the use of vanilla in Lutens’s fragrances. For instance, try Santal de Mysore and notice the beautiful rich vanilla in the background.

    As for ELDO reviews, I think that within the next week or so, I should start with them. January 1, 2007 at 7:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, she still is! I love the pictures of her when she was younger though–she appears like such a fashion plate in them. January 1, 2007 at 7:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Preya, Carnal Flower is such a beautiful composition. It would have been in my best of 2006 list, but it was launched last year (and I believe that I included it in my best of 2005 list). It seems like a perfect fragrance, with which to start the year. January 1, 2007 at 7:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, oh, great minds think alike indeed! Perfect choice. 🙂 Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope that you had a perfect celebration. Thank you for your sweet compliment. It really made me smile. January 1, 2007 at 7:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, thank you! She is a very special woman. I wish that we can see each other in 2007.

    Choosing fragrance (or outfit, although I am getting better on that front) can be such a difficult task. Especially when you have a lot of great fragrances to choose from! January 1, 2007 at 7:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Inochka, here is one of the reasons why I admire you–being down-to-earth and realistic. 🙂 Black is a great fragrance, and it is a reason to forget about all superstitions.

    New Year’s celebrations are the best memories from my childhood. January 1, 2007 at 7:58pm Reply

  • Gaia, the non-blonde: Your childhood memories remind me of stories I’ve heard from my mother, who grew up in Lithuania. Her New Years eve/day were quite similar.

    Today I’m wearing Lei by Mazzolari. A comforting, somewhat powdery scent. It suits this rainy grey day. January 1, 2007 at 8:10pm Reply

  • Claire: It was rainy, damp, and slightly cold today. I wore Anisia Bella today for the spicy comfort it emparts. Later, I switched to just a spray or two of Habanita. Perfect!

    Claire Boisseneau January 1, 2007 at 8:57pm Reply

  • k-amber: Happy New Year! Your grandmother’s eyes are very impressive, look thoughtful and elegant. I don’t like melon note but Carnal Flower is well-balanced. Outstanding fragrance!

    Kaori January 1, 2007 at 10:43pm Reply

  • Madelyn E: Happy New Year Victoria !
    I so related to you and your fellow BDJ readers about the perfume conundrum. I, too, carefully and thoughtfully tried to select a scent to not only annoint my body ..but also to hold some meaning for entering the new year. I wavered between, Bois Des Iles, Oeillet Sauvage (L’Artisan Parfumeur) and finally decided on Musc Ravageur.
    That was for scentimental reasons. It had been recommended to me by you and other perfume bloggers as a “sexy, sensual scemt”. I associate over 6 months of very pleasant memories in its powerful and unique envelopement ! It is true aromatherapy as I feel an instant uplift upon initial spritz!
    Thank you for sharing the nostalgic photo of your grandmother Valentina ! I was charmed by her grace and beauty . I wonder if there is a likeness of you dear V ! I love Climat AND Diorissimo, by the way.
    What a lovely tribute to your grandmother .. I hope she can read and enjoy Bois de Jasmin from whatever corner of the world she lives .
    Madelyn E January 2, 2007 at 12:50am Reply

  • flacon007: Many greetings from Russia and best fragrant wishes for you and your blog! Thank you very much for many interesting issues you commented last year. This year too your blog will remain the most reliable information source for perfumery news and preferences for me.
    My New Year’s eve like the whole December was marked by Chanel Pour Monsieur, which renders some rest after very intensive fragrance tests during the year.
    The first three aromas, I will come back to, to explore them properly after a very short sniff many months ago, will be Carnal Flower, Iris Poudre and Angelique sous la Pluie. January 2, 2007 at 6:50am Reply

  • chayaruchama: What a lovely woman- with a beautiful soul.
    I appreciate your Slavic sense of superstition !

    May the new year bring you your heart’s desire, and the health with which to enjoy it, dear one. January 2, 2007 at 7:10am Reply

  • Dusan: Vika, your grandmother is a beautiful woman indeed, and those eyes… I wonder how much you resemble her…
    It’s a dreary, rainy day here today so I think I’ll go with my new favorite, acquired at the last minute on December 30th. It is warm, rich, incredibly spicy and I find it very sexy. Plus I know you like it – Arpège pour homme!
    Enjoy the holidays, dear! January 2, 2007 at 8:19am Reply

  • aimtx: Happy New Year, Vika! I went very literal with my New Year’s choices. I saw the old year out in Ambre Sultan, my favorite fragrance of 2006, and greeted January 1 with Baghari, a new frag I just discovered last week and predict will make my Top 20 list for 2007.

    Carnal Flower… what a lovely, bright, optimistic way to greet the new year. Excellent choice! January 2, 2007 at 10:58am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V,
    though I don´t post very often, I´m still an avid reader of your blog! I´m wshing you a very happy 2007 :)!
    Your grandmother looks beautiful. I love old pictures, they speak to us from the past & they always have something mysterious about them! Some years ago I found a lot of rather old photos (mainly from the 1920s – late 1930s) from my grandparents. They didn´t get lost though they fugitives from the east (near to Kaliningrad). I can´t get enough of these pictures :).
    I´m really looking forward to discovering a lot of new fragrances in this new year. But I´ve to admit that my favourites are mainly the “older” fragrances from Caron or Guerlain. (Though I have some new favourites from Profumum, e.g. Confetto. And of course Serge Lutens!)
    What do you think: I´m thinking about ordering Narcisse Noir in extrait. I only know the EdT which I love, but I read on your blog that the extrait is even better. Moreover I love the original flacon -simply beautiful :)!
    Best, C. January 2, 2007 at 11:28am Reply

  • Elle: I was faced w/ that same indecision. I’m not normally indecisive about choosing a scent, but somehow yesterday it seemed SOOO important that I pick *just* the right scent – as if somehow that would be a critical omen for the entire year. It actually took me till 5 in the afternoon to decide on Rose de Nuit. And that was chosen basically to comfort myself over my frustration w/ myself for my total inability to choose.
    Your grandmother was absolutely stunning. And because I was watching a Monk episode yesterday where this came up multiple times, I feel compelled to mention that it’s also a beautifully “symmetrical” face. 🙂 January 2, 2007 at 11:46am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Gaia, I think that all of the former USSR republics had pretty much the same customs. The ability of the Soviet regime to standardize culture was quite incredible.

    Your fragrance choice is perfect. I love its warm and powdery quality. January 2, 2007 at 2:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Claire, Anisia Bella is like a ray of sunshine! I love its sparkly quality and that hint of verdant sweetness. January 2, 2007 at 2:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, I love the old photographs, especially the sepia ones, where the lines of the face seem very soft and delicate. My grandmother was quite stunning as a young woman, and both my mother and my aunt take after her. January 2, 2007 at 2:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, thank you very much! I would say that I look more like my father than my mother (my mother is almost a mirror image of my grandmother), although I have the same facial structure.

    Musc Ravageur is a perfect fragrance for what you wish. “It is true aromatherapy as I feel an instant uplift upon initial spritz!” I very much can relate to this. It makes me feel just this way. January 2, 2007 at 2:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dmitri, thank you very much for your kind words! I am so glad to hear this. I also wish you a wonderful and productive 2007, and I hope that all of your wishes will come true in the new year. Please continue to write your beautiful articles.

    Although I am not the biggest fan of Angelique sous la Pluie, Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre are among my staple fragrances. I’ve used up a large bottle of each, which is quite a feat for someone who owns a large perfume collection. This attests to my love for these two fragrances. January 2, 2007 at 2:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, Happy New Year to you! May it bring the most wonderful things to you. Thank you for your kind and sweet words. January 2, 2007 at 2:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dusan, Happy New Year to you! Wearing Arpège pour homme is a perfect choice for the first day of the year, especially if it is dark and rainy. We had just the same weather here too.

    I look a bit like my grandmother, although her looks are perhaps more classical than mine. Still, there is no mistaking that we are related. 🙂 January 2, 2007 at 2:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Amy, your fragrance choices are perfect (of course, they also happen to be among my favourites as well 🙂 I wore Songes on December 31st, then put on Cuir de Russie around 11pm. Carnal Flower was my fragrance of choice for Jan. 1st. I love when the fragrance I pick is just the perfect one. It makes everything seem more better. 🙂

    Happy 2007 to you! January 2, 2007 at 2:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, old photographs are such precious possessions. I would never part with the ones I have. It is the best way to preserve memories. I look at photos of relatives I never met, and I feel as if I have known them all my life. It is just that special.

    If you love Narcisse Noir in the EDT, I am sure that the parfum will be even better for you. It is perfect–dark, rich and deep.

    Happy 2007! January 2, 2007 at 2:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, she does, doesn’t she? That symmetry makes her face fascinating. Thank you very much for a lovely compliment. I am sure that she would find it touching.

    Rose de Nuit is a perfect fragrance for the first day of the year, if only because it is absolutely beautiful. Ah, the inability to make a decision… It is all so familiar to me. 🙂 January 2, 2007 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Solander: I chose Ambre russe – it has a champagne note, hasn’t it? January 2, 2007 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Bela: I can’t cope with too much choice either (I’ve said it many a time). I always try to find ways of cutting it down (lack of money or an unwillingness to spend on ‘luxury’ items is always a great help in that respect, LOL!).

    Carnal Flower made me quite ill. I’m a novice as regards tuberose and can only take it when undercut by something really sharp (like in Tubéreuse Criminelle): it was too creamy and thick for me.

    Your grandmother had a lovely face. 🙂 January 2, 2007 at 10:17pm Reply

  • Laia: HAPPY NEW YEAR !
    Your grand-mother has a very sweet face, she looks very nice and beautiful. I prefer like you to share New´s Year Eve with a small gathering of dear friends instead of going to a big party. In Spain we have a special tradition: we eat raisins when the clock strikes the last 12 hours of the year: one raisin for every strike. If you eat them all it´s good luck but normally you end with yor mouth full of raisins and laughing and choking. I´m sorry to say I dont´t know any of the perfumes you are naming, it´s difficult to find them here. But I think I would have choosed Caron´s Bain de Champagne or something very sweet and fruity like Délices de Cartier. Instead I just put on my A mi Aire from Loewe.

    My best and perfumed wishes for you all.

    Laia January 3, 2007 at 2:54am Reply

  • Judith: A beautiful choice–and a beautiful grandmother. I somehow did not pause to think about the significance of my choice–but I was happy about it. I wore Encens et Lavande. January 3, 2007 at 7:56am Reply

  • Dusan: Well, I never doubted you were a beauty 🙂
    Are you going to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas this year? January 3, 2007 at 8:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Solander, yes, it does. A fitting choice indeed! January 3, 2007 at 11:47am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, yes, that is a good way to look at things. 🙂 I can see why Carnal Flower might be too rich, although I find that the green notes cut the creaminess for me. It is definitely my favourite tuberose, along with Tubereuse Criminelle and Fracas.

    Thank you for your nice compliment! January 3, 2007 at 11:49am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laia, I love the raisin eating tradition! In Ukraine, there was a tradition of writing a wish on a piece of paper, burning it as the clock strikes midnight and then drinking the ashes with champagne.

    Happy New Year! January 3, 2007 at 11:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, that is a good way to choose–to do it quickly and act on an instinct. I tend to ponder things too much and then I am standing in front of my shelf for half an hour still unsure what to wear. 🙂 January 3, 2007 at 11:51am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dusan, thank you, it is very sweet of you! 🙂 Yes, we are celebrating the Orthodox Christmas. I am looking forward to it. January 3, 2007 at 11:52am Reply

  • Chi-Chi: Hi Victoria,

    I Never post; never know what to say… but alas, here I go.

    My dearest girlfriend and I found ourselves at Barney’s door on my friend’s Birthday(three days before x-mas). 2006 was not kind to my friend and we walked into Barneys (a first for the both of us) in the hopes of finding her a hat.

    We had expectations for this hat. It needed Not to detract “the chic” from her new boycut, but it needed to shield her now very exposed head and ears from the Boston cold.

    The hat would say “This is me – this is who I am, I’m vulnerable and within that lies my strength!”

    A thing to put on her head was not found… but a fragrance was!!!

    As you walk into Barney’s you are greeted by Serge Lutens; the bottles looked almost like Knights saying “choose wisely”.

    As we went from Bois de Vanille to Fumerie Turque we realized that if we stuck with it long enough we would find the hat: but it would be in liquid form 🙂

    Tucked, alone for now but with prominence in my friend’s all white bathroom, is a bottle of Gris Clair and I think it will be a good steward for her this 2007.

    Thanks for your wonderful posts which helped us immensely!

    Feliz Ano Nuevo!
    Chi-Chi January 5, 2007 at 11:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chi-Chi, I enjoyed your comment very much! What a great way to discover a perfect fragrance. In fact, I wore Gris Clair earlier today before I changed into something else. It is a marvelous fragrance, and if my comments were the ones that helped you out a bit, then I am even happier! January 5, 2007 at 12:55pm Reply

  • charles: The things that stick with us as children… do you remember the name of this socialist thinker? I like to have a look in their fragrance cabinet. We might be surprised to find they have more than all of us.
    The eyes are the windows to the sole… it has also been said by another thinker.Your grandmothers eyes are hauntingly beautiful. So very much their – I would have love to have met her.
    I wish you continued success in this brand New Year in all that you do and many thanks for your thoughtful driven reviews.
    I was sorry to read about using Aomassai as room spray… 🙂 Reading between your written lines I get the sense that you do not care for this house in no shape or form.
    C January 9, 2007 at 10:49am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Charles, I wish I could remember! 🙂

    Thank you for your beautiful compliment on my grandmother’s eyes. The eyes are indeed windows to the soul. I love this photo very much.

    You are right, I am not a big fan of Parfumerie Generale fragrances. I find them overwrought, for the lack of better word. January 9, 2007 at 2:08pm Reply

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