Fragrant Pleasures: 337 posts

Essays on scented pleasures: collecting and enjoying fragrance, building perfume wardrobe, growing aromatic plants and more.

The Simple Art of Dreaming

One of many reasons why I’m captivated by scents is their ability to take me out of the ordinary and into the world of fantasies. They inspire me to dream, but because a perfume is a story with a set of characters, plot twists and backdrop changes, there is always a sense of discovery. In this spirit of discovery, if you have 10 minutes, I would like to invite you on a short animated journey with “Hedgehog in the Fog”.

Why this film and what does it have to do with perfume? At first glance, little, but its themes of curiosity, adventure, and discovery, its lyrical atmosphere, and its fascinating characters plunge me into the same dreamy state as the best perfumes. Hedgehog in the Fog, created by Yuriy Norshteyn in 1975, is also a must see because it’s an animation masterpiece, cited by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki and director Michel Gondry as one of their favorites.

I won’t tell you the story, which is very simple, but every second of this 10 minute film is exquisite, supported by incredible drawing, muted colors, and a haunting soundtrack. It was made for children, but it’s really a little philosophical tale for adults.

“‘I wonder,’ thought hedgehog, ‘if the horse falls asleep, will it drown in the fog?’ And he started descending into the fog to see what it was like inside.”

My Perfume Story : Andy

Andy, whose perfume reviews and tea articles we have been enjoying on these pages, shares a story of how he fell in love with scents.

Like so many others, I didn’t enter the world of fragrance in a contemplative tiptoe. Without plan, and against my better sensibilities, I plummeted into this universe in a headlong nosedive.

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Fully explaining my fragrance journey up to now is to tell a true love story though, which is to say that along with incredible serendipity and bliss, has not been without occasional doubt and darkness. Unforgettable is the exhilaration I felt when I first tentatively tested some perfumes, finding myself feeling at once both helplessly surrendered to and strangely in control of my own sense of pleasure. On the other hand, it’s hard to forget the misgivings that initially led me to look deeper into perfume in the first place.

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Looking for Lost Perfumes  

Elisa describes her beloved long lost perfumes and considers alternatives.

Perhaps the hardest part of the perfume hobby is seeing beautiful perfumes be discontinued. But that’s only the first stage to get through – often, discontinued perfumes are still available online and through discounters for years after they fall out of production. The really hard part comes when those stocks dry up, and the last remaining bottles can only occasionally be found for sale through unreliable sources and at astronomical prices. Iris Gris – a legendary Vincent Roubert creation from 1946 – is perhaps the quintessential “lost perfume.”

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But you don’t have to dig back too far into last century to find lost perfumes. Here are five perfumes from the last 25 years that I’ve fallen in love with, only to find them largely unavailable.

L’Arte di Gucci (1991)

Thankfully, there are still good rose chypres in production. But L’Arte di Gucci was special – a big, fruity, nuanced red rose that brings to mind Eau de Joy, with its facets of aldehydes, cassis, and jasmine. To my nose, the base is mostly about the dark, earthy patchouli, with the oakmoss less prominent than in, say, Paloma Picasso. When Angela reviewed this perfume in 2011, she compared it to “wearing red lipstick with a red dress” – a combination so obvious that Donatella Versace called it bourgeois. But I love the costumey effect of L’Arte di Gucci, the way it references both elegance and power. Victoria recommends trying Dior Diorling, Chanel Cuir de Russie, and Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, if the dark, dry leather of L’Arte di Gucci is what you loved the most.

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Japanese Incense : My Financial Times Magazine Column

In my new article for the Financial Times Magazine’s fragrance column, Perfumes with a Twist of Japanese Incense, I discover the pleasures of incense in Japan.

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I’m sitting in front of smouldering joss sticks trying to determine whether they smell of the milky sweetness of sandalwood or the raspy sharpness of cedar. A young woman with a glossy black bob lights one stick after another, blowing out each flame with a gentle wave of her hand. I’m unused to kneeling for so long, and I feel the crunch of tatami mats through my thin wool trousers. Please read the rest by clicking here.

As Kiyoko Morita explains in The Book of Incense, “unlike perfume, the fragrance of incense can be quite faint and subtle; so much so, in fact, that we can understand why the Chinese used the expression ‘listening to incense’ (wenxiang) rather ‘smelling incense’.” Even so, the delicate suggestion of Japanese incense can be found in some fragrances, whether it was deliberate or not. I mention a few such perfumes in my article.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Wallace Collection

One day Richard Wallace found out two things that changed his life–that he was the illegitimate son of the Fourth Marquess of Hertford and that he was the heir to an invaluable collection of antiques, including paintings by Titian, Frans Hals, and Rubens. He worked as a secretary for the Marquess, but discovering the true nature of their relation was a shock.  When he inherited his father’s collection, the apartment in the rue Laffitte, the chateau of Bagatelle, and the estates in Ireland, he was living in Paris. He married Julie Castelnau, a former perfume seller, and set about taking care of the collection. It was to become his life’s work.

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The Franco-German war of 1870-71 and the uprising of the Commune precipitated his move to London, and that’s where his collection currently resides. What is more, its treasures are available to visitors free of charge; Lady Wallace bequeathed most of the collection to the nation.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Victoria in The Simple Art of Dreaming: I will definitely watch it, thank you! In the Soviet times, animation was pretty much the only area where you could avoid the politics and propaganda, or even add some… October 31, 2014 at 12:04pm

  • Victoria in The Simple Art of Dreaming: Me too! :) October 31, 2014 at 12:01pm

  • Victoria in The Simple Art of Dreaming: I’m glad to hear it! As much as I love writing perfume reviews, there is so much more enjoying scents than just perfume in the bottle. Plus, it’s fun to… October 31, 2014 at 12:00pm

  • Victoria in The Simple Art of Dreaming: My pleasure, Meg! I remember watching it as a child, but I think I understood it better as an adult. October 31, 2014 at 11:58am

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