Summer: 110 posts

Perfumes that put me in a summer mood, all year round

White Acacia Tisane

Acacia blossoms mark the beginning of summer in Poltava. White clusters appear on craggy trees that ordinarily get noticed only because their powerful roots crack the pavement around the city. But come May, the streets are filled with their perfume of sweet orange and jasmine and the sidewalks are covered with a carpet of white pointy blossoms. “Now it’s really the end of spring,” remarks an elderly woman to no one in particular. She rearranges bunches of green onions and dill on a makeshift stall she set up near a bus stop and brushes off the fallen acacia flowers onto the pavement.

white acacia

I count spring not in months but in flowers. First come apricot blossoms and star magnolias. Then cherry blossoms make their brief entrance turning dreary Soviet-era street blocks into Impressionist etudes. Apples, lilacs, and viburnum move in successive waves, and finally it’s the time of acacias. In their heady perfume I smell the blistering heat of summer and dusty chestnut leaves.

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Hermes Muguet Porcelaine : Perfume Review

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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 reins 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

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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Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate : Perfume Review

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As in fashion, fragrance outfits that engage in-house perfumers find themselves in a bind. On the one hand, one expects new designers to exercise their vision, but on the other, the fragrance industry is far more conservative than couture and they have to maintain the house’s creed. Christine Nagel’s first fragrance for Hermès, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, is a promising sign of things to come, because not only does she retain the radiance lit by Jean-Claude Ellena, she adds curves and sultry touches of her own, even in a fairly straightforward cologne.

rhubarb

Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is my rhubarb-rose sherbet in perfume form, albeit with a moderate dose of sugar. Since the French word écarlate, comes from the Persian word saqerlat–do you hear the echoes of “scarlet”, vivid red?–this association is fitting. Nagel softens the green, acidic edge of rhubarb with berries, but she retains enough of its savory, green nuances to make sophisticated perfume and not confiture.

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Jo Loves Pomelo : Perfume Review

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Andy reviews Jo Loves Pomelo and also discusses why grapefruit paired with vetiver is such a successful combination (with plenty of other perfume examples).

Jo Loves is the perfume company that Jo Malone founded independently in 2011, five years after leaving the Jo Malone brand as creative director. Estée Lauder’s infamous acquisition of Jo Malone was very old news by the time I developed an interest in perfume. And yet even today, as I indulge in the original lineup’s signature creams and bath oils, I can’t help but be reminded of the difficult decisions Jo Malone must have faced, to trade authority over her brand and her name for a piece of the Lauder fortunes.

joloves

Now, as I orient myself to the pefumes from Jo Loves, Jo Malone’s newest personal business venture, I feel as though I am getting an authentic look at Jo Malone’s own creativity, as this focused collection feels personal, even autobiographical. Pomelo, the first perfume launched by Jo Loves, pleases and excites me, and is a particularly striking example of its creator’s talent and originality.

Fitting to Jo Malone’s signature fragrance style of simplicity and freshness, Jo Loves Pomelo is one of the most delightful citrus fragrances I have smelled recently. Like any good cologne, Jo Loves Pomelo provides ample refreshment, but where it really exceeds is in its intertwining of the shining citrus with a foil of earthy vetiver.

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Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie : Fragrance Review

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San Francisco is one of the most fragrant cities. The scents of salty sea breeze and jasmine are the strongest recollections from my visits. So I’m with Elisa on enjoying Van Cleef & Arpels California Reverie, an effervescent perfume inspired by California and jasmine. 

I love the idea of perfumes inspired by a place – take Christopher Street, a leather scent named for a street in New York City known for its nightlife. Or any number of Bond No. 9 scents – the connections to the individual neighborhoods have been stretching believability for some time, I admit, but a few – like Broadway Nite, Chinatown, and Fire Island – nail the atmospheres of their respective inspirations. Then there’s a host of perfumes named after spots in Paris, including at least two simply named Paris.

california-reverie

It’s funny, on reflection, that there are so many perfumes named after New York – it’s one of my favorite places to be, but honestly, it kind of stinks. California, on the other hand, seems a bit under-leveraged in perfumery briefs. San Diego, for example, is one of the best-smelling cities I’ve been to; the air smells like sea salt, flowers, and eucalyptus trees.

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