Sandalwood: 37 posts

Sandalwood Scented Dreams

India and sandalwood. Long before I became interested in perfume as vocation, I knew of this connection. More than a stereotype, it reflects the significance of this wood in India’s traditions, from birth to death, from a wedding to a funeral. Sandalwood makes one’s skin more beautiful and gods more pleased. It smells divine. In my new FT column The Scent of Sandalwood, I explore how Indian and modern European perfumery were inspired by this precious material. Also, I touch upon an issue that rarely clouds the romantic accounts of Mysore sandalwood groves–their overharvesting and near complete devastation.

puja

“My mother-in-law rubbed a piece of pink-coloured wood on a rough stone until it turned to paste. My husband and I were about to travel back to Europe and in the Hindu custom my mother-in-law performed a puja, an act of worship, to ensure our safe journey. She lit joss sticks around the deities and dabbed some of the paste on the figurines of gods arranged on her small altar and then on our foreheads – the fragrance of sandalwood rose in the warm air. Many hours later as I sat in the plane, the creamy, floral perfume lingered around me, carrying with it the memory of a caring touch.” To continue, please click here.

One of my favorite sandalwood perfumes today–it uses a mixture of Australian and synthetic sandalwood–is 10 Corso Como. A niche classic. Do you enjoy sandalwood?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

Snake Charmer and Sandalwood

She is wearing a peacock feather mini skirt and gazing passionately at a cobra. Serpents embrace her slender legs adorned with heavy anklets and stained with henna. Who is this mysterious snake charmer in the 18th century Indian miniature?

ragini

According to Indian legend, snakes are entranced so much by the perfume of sandalwood that they wrap themselves around the trees, but there is something even more powerful that can entice them–raga. Meaning “color” as well as “beauty” and “melody,” raga is a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The painting held at the Victoria & Albert Museum is called Asavari Ragini, hinting that what we are looking at is a representation of a melody.  Asavari is usually performed in the morning, and it’s classical image is a woman charming snakes out of their sandal scented groves.

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Byredo Seven Veils Perfume Review

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Elisa takes a look at Byredo.

Is there anything new or interesting left to do with orientals? You’d be forgiven for thinking “I doubt it.” They’ve been around since at least the late 19th century, and their popularity hasn’t waned; we’ve probably seen thousands of variations on the basic structure of perfumes like Coty L’Origan and Guerlain Shalimar. But perfume will always surprise you – Thierry Mugler Angel came pretty late in the game (1992) and introduced a totally new idea to the oriental genre.

byredo

Byredo’s Seven Veils is one recent perfume that completely subverted my expectations. The name refers to the biblical story of Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” – an orientalist version of the striptease – and it’s fitting, because the perfume unfolds in layers. It opens with a classically rooty iris note, a big whoosh of raw, starchy carrots – which is, frankly, exactly the kind of thing I usually dislike. But I stuck with it, and within ten minutes I knew it wasn’t just another chalky iris soliflore. Rather, Seven Veils is a boozy oriental with a spicy root-vegetable twist.

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Chanel Les Exclusifs Misia : Perfume Review

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Misia Sert and Coco Chanel shared deep affection for each other. Sert comforted Chanel when her lover Arthur Boy Capel died in a car accident. She inspired the designer and introduced her to a glittering circle of artists, writers and musicians. Misia’s salon in Paris attracted such luminaries as Marcel Proust, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Odilon Redon, Paul Signac, Claude Debussy, Stéphane Mallarmé, and André Gide. She was a talented pianist, captured by Toulouse-Lautrec at the piano, but she was also a cultural icon and a muse. In this last role, the spirit of Sert returns to the house of Chanel in the form of a new perfume, Misia.

misia sert
Imagine a vintage silk purse that still holds the aroma of violet bonbons, rose scented lipstick and rice powder. This, in a phrase, is Misia. Tender and romantic, the fragrance settles on skin in a soft powdery layer, and if it suddenly makes you feel like painting your lips a retro crimson and watching The Red Shoes, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a perfect vintage vignette fantasy.

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Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady : Perfume Review

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The news of Frédéric Malle selling his Editions de Parfums house to Estée Lauder reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to writing about one of the most intriguing fragrances from his collection, Portrait of a Lady. Why intriguing? Well, consider the name. If it brings to your mind the cool elegance of Henry James’s heroines, then you’re not alone. I also expected something along these lines–ultra refined, sophisticated and feminine. Except that it is all wrong. Portrait of a Lady is interesting precisely because the scent is not at all what you expect. It’s a twist on a Middle Eastern theme, and it’s not all that lady-like.

Picasso-Boy-with-Pipe

If you’ve already smelled traditional Middle Eastern perfumes or western blends inspired by them (Amouage, Kilian’s oudsArmani Privé Rose d’Arabie), then you might recognize similar elements in Portrait of a Lady. It has a generous dose of classical “oriental” notes–sandalwood, amber, patchouli, dark woods smoked over incense, and of course, rose. It has a similar dramatic and mysterious character that makes this perfume genre so distinctive.

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