Victoria: 1928 posts

Hermes Muguet Porcelaine : Perfume Review


Last week I talked about perfumery as “the art of fortunate proportions,” and one of the best examples for this idea is the newest fragrance from Hermès, Muguet Porcelaine. Created by Jean-Claude Ellena just as he prepared to give over the reigns of the house to Christine Nagel, it feels like a recap of his work over the past few decades. Ellena is not leaving Hermès, and he will be delighting his fans with other perfumes, and yet, there is something nostalgic in Muguet Porcelaine, a tender lily of the valley.


Muguet Porcelaine is also a tribute to a legendary perfumer who influenced Ellena, Edmond Roudnitska. Ellena, however, denies it, commenting that it was time to create lily of the valley for Hermès’s portfolio, but it’s hard not to spot the parallels between the two. In my review for the Financial Times’s HTSI column, I follow the clues. Muguet Porcelaine is delicate without being precious and ethereal without being evanescent. It lingers for several hours and creates an illusion of a springtime breeze.

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Postcard from Ukraine: My Reading Corner

When a friend asked me about my reading corner, I was momentarily at a loss for an answer. I can easily zone out my surroundings, and I read anywhere–waiting for a bus or on the bus, at the metro station or squeezed among other passengers on a subway car. Various means of transportation are where I get most of my reading done. But of course, the best reading spot is quiet and comfortable, and these days it’s a little nook under a cherry tree in our Poltava garden. During our grey Belgian winters I dream of this overgrown orchard, of reading in the grass or simply stretching on a blanket and absorbing all the details around me–the pattern of veins on cherry leaves, the sweet almond scent of crushed grass, the shade of yellow of buttercup petals. These are the best souvenirs I bring back. So, when the weather cooperates, this is where I can be found with a book and a cup of tea (and less romantically, mosquito repellent).

reading spot

What’s your favorite reading spot? What are you reading these days?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Art of Fortunate Proportions

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. The idea is simple–all elements in the right dosages and in the right balance, but as is often the case, the simplicity is the most elusive attribute of all. Whenever I revisit his fragrances, I’m moved time and again by their grace and harmony. In Perfumes: The art of balance and proportion, my new FT column, I describe Roudnitska’s art, the elegance of Guerlain and the feisty brilliance of Germaine Cellier.

art of balance

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and technique. Consider Guerlain’s Chamade, one of the most perfectly balanced fragrances. From the bright-green top notes to the rose and hyacinth heart and velvety, woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll. Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, one of Roudnitska’s masterpieces and the subject of many articles in this column. To continue reading, please click here.

Image via FT HTSI

In Other Words : Jhumpa Lahiri’s Italian Peregrinations

“The unknown words remind me that there’s a lot I don’t know in this world,” writes Jhumpa Lahiri in her memoir about learning Italian, In Other Words/In Altre Parole. It was the first sentence I read as I flipped through the slim volume at the bookstore, and I flashed back on years of studying languages and the part I always loved–finding new words and new shades of meaning in the familiar ones.  Words, with their roots borrowed from distant times and places, hid other worlds of experiences, ideas and thoughts, and even as I stumbled upon the strange grammar constructions and irregular verbs, learning a new language felt like an exhilarating journey.


Lahiri’s particular gift as a writer, whether in her collections of short stories, such Interpreter of Maladies for which she won a Pulitzer prize, or in novels like The Namesake is to draw the curtain on the inner world of her characters. In her new book, Lahiri once again focuses on the subtle and the evanescent, but the exploration is of her own self. Without revealing personal details, it’s a strangely intimate and candid book. I read it, feeling alternatively as a voyeur or a trusted confidant. Days after finishing it, I kept missing Lahiri’s soliloquies and I re-read some passages several times. She’s an earnest, thoughtful companion, and her crisp, clear style–in both Italian and English–has the alluring simplicity of a Japanese calligraphy painting. A few lines say volumes.

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Postcard from Ukraine : L’Heure Bleue

In Sufi poetry the nightingale represents the yearning of the soul for the divine, while the scent of the rose to which it sings is the essence of perfection. We don’t have roses yet in our Poltava garden, but we have lilacs. On many evenings here as dusk begins to fall and every nightingale starts to pour its heart out to the moon, I stand in the darkness that smells of marzipan and wet petals and listen. Overhead the stars are so bright and dazzling that they appear alive. I make out the Big Dipper about to catch itself in the craggy branches of old lindens. Perhaps, like the nightingale I too am yearning for something.

blue evening

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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