Fragrant Pleasures: 335 posts

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

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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Our Complex and Fascinating Olfactory System

The New York Times’s Smell Turns Up in Unexpected Places is one of the most fascinating articles I’ve read lately. Scientific research conducted over the last decade has revealed that odor receptors can be found not only in the nose, but in our skin, heart, kidneys and other organs. What is more, they aid various physiological functions, such as helping tissues heal or acting as a safety switch against poisonous compounds. Whether we will see the development of scent based medicine is still under debate, but it’s beyond doubt that our olfactory system has an incredible and still poorly understood potential.

“Over the last decade or so, scientists have discovered that odor receptors are not solely confined to the nose, but found throughout body — in the liver, the heart, the kidneys and even sperm — where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions.

Now, a team of biologists at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany has found that our skin is bristling with olfactory receptors. “More than 15 of the olfactory receptors that exist in the nose are also found in human skin cells,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Hanns Hatt. Not only that, but exposing one of these receptors (colorfully named OR2AT4) to a synthetic sandalwood odor known as Sandalore sets off a cascade of molecular signals that appears to induce healing in injured tissue. Read the rest.

Thank you to Susan, Amanda and L for a link.

“10 Fragrances Every Woman Should Own” : Red Magazine

Red Magazine’s November issue includes my love letter to Guerlain Chamade in its feature, “10 Fragrances Every Woman Should Own.” I was thinking more along the lines of a great perfume everyone should try, and Chamade made the cut for a number of reasons: it has a distinctive personality, an original form, and it is beyond the trends and whims of fashion. There are many excellent and unexpected selections in the article. For instance, Tania Sanchez makes an impassioned call for Lush’s Gorilla Perfume Breath of God. Michael Donovan writes about Caldey Island Lavender Water, and Sali Hughes makes a great case for considering Chanel No 5.

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I also describe why I love Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois in Red’s online feature, Best Perfumes for Women.

If you were to suggest fragrances for others to try, what would you include?

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