Fragrant Pleasures: 384 posts

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

Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume

When most fashion magazines have spreads of Easter egg colored couture, my most glamorous look features faded black jeans and a Zara puffy jacket, a dreadful thing that sheds copious amount of feathers. Then there are my layered outfits, and I don’t mean tastefully put together layers of chiffon and cashmere suggested by Vogue. In the Ukrainian countryside, where spring is still tentative and the heating costs astronomical, we layer by putting on as many pieces of clothing as possible while still retaining the ability to lower our arms. I even sleep in a layered ensemble that includes tights, pajamas and a red sweater made by Miu Miu many years ago, but I betcha Miuccia Prada wouldn’t recognize it as one of her own now. Occasionally, I even do vintage by combining my grandfather’s track suit bottoms with my great-grandmother’s boucle jacket, a hideous look but perfect for whitewashing the cherry trees.


While I love dressing up (and indeed overdressing; I wouldn’t think twice about wearing a turquoise Betsey Johnson dress to the most staid of occasions), I relish the chance to dress purely for comfort. I enjoy dispensing with concerns of well-selected outfits or worrying about my state of elegance according to some current fashion standard. In my grandmother’s village, my standard is the garden, or rather my ability to work in it without getting cold, wet or overheated. If the roses can be pruned and the apple trees whitewashed in comfort, the rest doesn’t much matter.

What I don’t dispense with is a glamorous perfume. Fashion designer Jean Patou called his fragrances “invisible couture”, and as the most intimate of adornments, scent is the most powerful. A few drops can create the ambiance you seek, make you travel in time, or even in my case, give an instant dose of glamour.  Why on earth should I care about not looking exactly like a cover girl when I’m trailing Mitsouko behind me? Plus, nothing is more perfect for collecting last year’s leaves than this autumnal golden peach chypre.

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Annick Goutal Grand Amour Perfume Giveaway

Our reader Angeldiva would like to find a home for a 100ml bottle of Annick Goutal Grand Amour. It turned bitter on her skin, and she would rather give it to someone who enjoys this fragrance. It’s barely sprayed, but it doesn’t have a box.

grand amour

The contest is open to our readers in the US, but it goes without saying that neither Karen nor I are responsible for leaks or damage during transit, customs fees or lost packages. 

To participate, please let me know if I can share your email address with Angeldiva. Also, please reply to Angeldiva’s query. She is fascinated by mermaids, and invites you to share what scents remind you of mermaid folklore and the sea.

The contest is open till Friday. I will announce the winner over the weekend in this spot. The winner is Celeste Church. 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has generously contributed to these giveaways. If anyone else wants to participate, if you have unwanted perfumes that need a new home, please contact me.

10 Years of Bois de Jasmin

This spring will be the 10th for Bois de Jasmin. When I created it in 2005, the blog was meant to be an online repository for my perfume musings, and that others wanted to read them remains a pleasant surprise. These days Bois de Jasmin garners around half a million monthly views, and it has evolved to include topics such as art, food, science, literature, dance, economics, and politics. This eclectic approach reflects my conviction that fragrance doesn’t exist in a cultural vacuum. Far from being an unnecessary frivolity, a “trivial feminine” pursuit, it’s an integral part of our environment, and the whole subject of scents and the way we connect to it mirrors other trends in our society. Perfume lovers today are lucky because we’re in a moment of unprecedented interest in fragrance, and we will see more manifestations of this fascination in new books, blogs, products, research, and discussions.

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Another reason for Bois de Jasmin’s varied content is the diverse nature of our community. The conversations here are made possible by all of you. I love receiving your comments and letters, hearing your suggestions, giving you my own, and sharing my discoveries, whether they may be a perfume gem, a great book, a skincare tip or an interesting recipe. So a big thank you to all of my readers, visitors, and commenters. Of course, a special thank you to my co-authors. Andy, Elisa, and Patricia, you’re my muses and friends.

This past year has been a period of intense reflection for me, as I was trying to make sense of some traumatic events, and I realized that Bois de Jasmin had an older distant sibling. I was going through my family archive, and among the sepia photographs with their sharp serrated edges, stacks of my great-grandmother’s letters, and copies of various documents, I found a bulging notebook, so thick that the leaves risked splitting from the faux leather blue cover. It has been years since I’ve flipped through it, but I recognized it right away.

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Ralph Lauren Safari : Fragrance Review


Elisa on Safari, a ’90s classic with an ’80s spirit.

The ‘80s were a time that fetishized “adventure” – I grew up watching movies that took a page from Heart of Darkness, portraying Americans or Brits confronting the terrifying Other-ness of primitive African, Asian, and aboriginal cultures. Today’s audiences would find most of these films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Crocodile Dundee, etc.) unwatchably offensive, and rightly so; their cultural moment has passed.


Ralph Lauren Safari, composed by Dominique Ropion, was released in 1990, but feels to me like an ‘80s scent (cusp years cling more tightly to the previous decade than the following, I’ve found). As a concept perfume, it perfectly fits the adventurist trend, and I associate those striking Bridget Hall ads that I saw in every magazine as a kid with the old Banana Republic stores. (If you’re younger than me, you might not remember that their stock in trade at the time was khaki shorts and branded t-shirts, not pinstriped office-wear.)

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Chocolate, Violets, Bread : A Call for New Gourmands

My grandmother’s Easter bread is a lacy confection of butter and sugar. Glazed with chocolate and decorated with flowers, it looks like a Byzantine mosaic. Redolent of bitter cacao and violets, it doesn’t just smell good. I realize with a thrill that it smells like a complete perfume–the top note of violet, the heart of hazelnuts and wheat, and the lingering backdrop of musky chocolate. Take this idea, refine it into an accord–a combination of several perfume notes that becomes more than the sum of its parts–and voila, you can use it to create a new gourmand genre. Sounds fanciful, but this is how perfume is made.

easter breads1easter breads1a

On the face of it, it seems as if the gourmand genre has captured every dessert, from crème brûlée (Aquolina Pink Sugar) to cupcakes (Vera Wang Princess), from rice pudding (Tommy Hilfiger True Star) to raspberry macarons (Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire). You can have your chocolate with cinnamon (Pacifica Mexican Cocoa), with caramel (Thierry Mugler Angel), or with honey (Tom Ford Noir de Noir).

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Karen in Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume: What a wonderful retreat you created for yourself! There is nothing like waking up to the roosters and birds. April 28, 2015 at 5:56am

  • Karen in Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume: Fun thread – what are life’s essentials? Hmmm, I will add homemade bread to the list (and fresh strawberries)! So, taking a break from reading a wonderful book – one… April 28, 2015 at 5:54am

  • Aurora in Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume: The first signs of spring are the most precious, I think, as shown in your pictures. I am so glad you can experience it in a place you love so… April 28, 2015 at 5:53am

  • Victoria in Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume: Before the leaves unfurled, our garden was covered with vivid patches of violet. It’s such a charming flower, and despite the saying, its scent is anything but shrinking. Aren’t scarves… April 28, 2015 at 5:52am

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