Edmond Roudnitska’s Perfumed Garden

I’m in Provence this week teaching the Art of Perfume course. One of the sessions will take place in the garden created by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska. Situated in Cabris, it’s maintained by his son Michel Roudnitska, the creator of Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis and Frédéric Malle Noir Épices who also keeps the tradition alive by running Roudnitska’s Art et Parfum lab and studio.

It’s a marvelous place to visit for anyone interested in modern perfumery, fragrant gardens and history. Above you can see the view from Edmond Roudnitska’s office. How could anyone not have created masterpieces in front of such a splendid view.

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Reading Nikolai Gogol in 2017

I celebrated Nikolai Gogol’s birthday on March 31st by picking up a volume of Dead Souls. The last time I read it in its entirety was during my school days, and many scenes were so vivid in my memory that picking up the novel again felt less like re-discovering than wandering through a familiar landscape. Gogol, the Russian and Ukrainian dramatist, playwright and novelist, is unrivaled for his sharp satire and colorful language, but what struck me this time is how relevant his observations were to our present day affairs. Today everyone is re-reading Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d like to make a case for adding Dead Souls to the list.

Let’s start with one of my favorite quotes in the book. “Absolute nonsense happens in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all.” Yes, a similar thought in different formulations has been coursing through my head a lot lately. Or, “You can’t imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays. The things these scribblers write!” What would be Gogol’s take on our world of “post truth,” “alternative facts,” and “fake news”?

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Petrykivka and Gogol : Colors and Scents

The colors and images of Petrykivka, one of the traditional Ukrainian arts, are vivid and joyous. Fire birds take flight among branches laden with fruit and fantasy blossoms. The artists believed that such colorful images protect people from evil spirits, and looking at the complex and happy ornaments of Petrykivka I can’t help thinking that there is something to the idea of art as talisman.

Petrykivka is considered as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and the village of Petrykivka in the Dnipropetrovsk region still boasts many artists. I wrote about my visit two years ago, and anyone can tour the art studios, take a class or simply admire the paintings. Those of you in New York, however, have a unique chance to experience this art in person as The Ukrainian Institute of America hosts the exhibit Petrykivka: A Ukrainian Folk Phenomenon and Living Tradition from April 8 to April 30. The collection presented is based on discoveries by Natalie Pawlenko and Yuri Mischenko and features 47 paintings by some of the most renowned Petrykivka artists.

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Woods : Scents and Words

For our edition of scent diary today, I’ve selected woods as our theme. You can describe your favorite perfume that contains woods such as cedarwood, sandalwood, rosewood, etc. Although it’s a leaf, patchouli is classified as a woody note. Or you can pay attention to your environment throughout the day and see if you can notice a woody aroma–coffee, cloves, pepper also have nuances reminiscent of woods.

One of my favorite woods is cedarwood, a wood redolent either of fresh sap and violet petals or of pepper and soft smoke. In perfumery, the note called cedarwood usually comes from a type of juniper, although the precious Atlas cedarwood is also used for its plush honeyed effect. Another popular cedarwood is a synthetic called Iso E Super. To experience it unvarnished, you can try Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, which is a solution of Iso E Super, or Hermessence Poivre Samarcande, which overdoses Iso E Super.

Extra Reading: Perfumes with Cedarwood Notes

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Shifting Contexts of Perfume

Could other factors, apart from the aroma itself, influence our perception of perfume? Yes, of course, and this is not limited to fragrance. Elisa explores the topic.

A few years ago, I went to a nearby wine shop to stock up for a weekend in the mountains with some old college friends. A representative from a local winery intercepted me in the red blends aisle and implored me to try a bottle of his family’s wine. Colorado is not known for its vineyards, but I went along in the spirit of adventure, bonhomie, and perhaps a touch of pity.

When we got to the mountains, I warned my friends (occasional wine snobs) that I couldn’t vouch for the quality of the local wine. Since we were all sure it would be bad, we saved it until the end of dinner, a couple of bottles in. When we finally opened and tasted it, we were blown away—it was utterly unusual, with the complexity and creaminess of a good Bordeaux but some additional, unplaceable quirk that made it compulsively drinkable. I was sad when it was gone.

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