Salty Notes: 13 posts

The Vetiver of Spring : Season’s Favorites

Patricia enjoins spring to arrive faster with a selection of vetiver favorites–and a few salty woods and violets.

Spring in New England takes its time in coming. As I’m writing this, a blizzard is raging, and the blooming heather at the end of the driveway is covered in snow. But I know that the snow and ice will reluctantly give way, the earth will gradually thaw, and what is somewhat affectionately called “mud season” will begin. During the melting phase, my favorite fragrance is L’Eau d’Hiver by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums. Creator Jean-Claude Ellena perfectly captures with transparent powdery iris, the sensation of the run off of melting snow into a cold mountain spring. Though it doesn’t last long, the musks evolve into a soft skin scent that is a pleasure to wear.

Vetivers

The vetivers, too, bring to mind the first weeks of spring and the anticipation of change. The dryness of Lalique Encre Noire with its cypress and dark woody notes suggest the raw, hard earth not yet ready to give way to new growth. Unlike L’Eau d’Hiver, it lasts a good six to eight hours, softening gently in the drydown process.

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Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt : Fragrance Review

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Patricia on the Boston Harborwalk, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and tide.

The Boston Harborwalk is a 47-mile continuous public walkway from Chelsea to the Neponset River along the Boston waterfront. Currently 80% completed, it is a treasure for locals and visitors alike, and I never tire of strolling along a small portion of it, watching the boat traffic and inhaling the briny, mineral scents that are part of a busy working harbor. The tides, too, influence the degree of intensity of salt and vegetation in the air. During high tide, saltiness predominates, and the breeze is fresher and cleaner smelling. Low tide, however, uncovers the rocky bottom, exposes wood pilings and seaweed, and adds an interesting vegetal and animalic muskiness to the air.

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Wood Sage & Sea Salt, a cologne created by Christine Nagel for Jo Malone, falls within the cleaner range and is what I would call a high-tide fragrance. It opens with a refreshing blast of grapefruit and ambrette, which as it is an unusual combination of top notes, sadly doesn’t last long enough to suit me. The overall effect is one of freshness from the citrus and depth from the plant-based musk tones in the ambrette seed. Soon, the sea salt and sage come into play, and they, too, are clean and polished and not likely to offend. This stage lasts for a few hours, not changing in essential character but gradually fading to a pleasant skin scent.

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Sea Salt and Brine : Perfume Notes

Does salt have a scent? “It depends on what salt you’re talking about,” says Benoît, who hails from Guérande, a French town in southern Brittany famous for its salt marshes. We meet by chance  at an airport lounge, and as he observes a book I’m reading, Jean-Claude Ellena’s Le Parfum, we strike up a conversation about scents. “Guérande’s fleur de sel smells of violets.” As he explains, refined table salt is about 97 percent sodium chloride and it’s virtually scentless, but sea salts from different regions have  impurities that give them a distinctive flavor and scent. Fleur de sel is hand harvested salt from the tops of salt marshes, and while Benoît is passionate about it, he urges me to try different salts and compare. “If you create a perfume based on Guérande’s fleur de sel, please let me know,” he says as we bid each other goodbye.

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While I’m yet to visit Guérande to experience the violet perfume of its famous salt ponds, I’ve been noticing the salty nuances in my perfume bottles. My salt collection has likewise grown. Even the sharp iodine scent of table salt now seems obvious to me, not to mention the roasted aroma of Korean bamboo salt or the earthy bite of Javanese lava salt. I’m suddenly discovering a whole new universe of saline flavors.

Along with sweet, sour, bitter, and umami, salt is one of the five basic tastes and it’s much easier to understand it as such–the sensation that you experience when a salt crystal melts on your tongue. But in perfume, the effect can also be distinctive. Spray The Different Company’s Sel de Vétiver or Lalique’s Encre Noire and notice the briny note that you can almost taste.

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Hermes Epice Marine : Perfume Review

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When it comes to telling compelling stories, Hermès takes the prize. The house’s perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, is the author of Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent and The Diary of a Nose, and he is a natural storyteller. Perfumes in the Hermessence collection are like pages from his personal journal, some inspired  by his travels, others by his native Provence. Epice Marine, introduced earlier this fall, was likewise inspired by Ellena’s adventures, but this time it’s also marked by a collaboration with another artisan.

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The fragrance came together as Ellena met and corresponded with chef Olivier Roellinger. Ellena travels the world in search of interesting scents, while Roellinger’s quest is for spices. Back in Brittany, a fog shrouded region along France’s northern shore, he composes spices into complex bouquets. If your idea of a spice blend is a Madras curry mix, then Roellinger’s delicate, harmonious blends will come as a surprise. When I sprinkle his Poudre Sérinissima over a tomato salad, I also want to dust my skin with this ginger and saffron accented powder. Who else could be a better collaborator and muse for a perfumer?

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Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal : Perfume Review

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When I first smelled the Atelier Cologne fragrances Rose Anonyme and Vetiver Fatal, I immediately fell for the sheer, smoky roses and left the vetiver to languish on my desk. Perhaps that day I craved more flamboyance and more glamour which Rose Anonyme amply delivered. But a week or so later, I absentmindedly dabbed Vetiver Fatal on my wrist–there was no other perfume around–and curled up with War and Peace. Well before Natasha Rostova appeared on the scene, I abandoned the book and sat with my wrist glued to my nose. The scent on my skin was bright but moody, rustic but sophisticated. It smelled of sliced oranges, damp earth and fallen leaves–a little vignette of late summer.

At first, Vetiver Fatal makes me think of green tangerines, complete with their leathery leaves–verdant, zesty and tart enough to make my mouth water. The vetiver takes form stealthily, until you distinctly smell its characteristic scent of earth covered roots and milky hazelnuts. Perfumer Jerome Epinette makes a seemingly simple choice by pairing vetiver with citrus (vetiver oil naturally has a  grapefruit-like accent in its top notes), but the harmony and the addition of other elements makes Vetiver Fatal stand out.

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