10 Virtues of Incense

Incense is the most democratic of all scent enjoyments, writes Kiyoko Morita in her short but comprehensive work titled The Book of Incense: Enjoying the Traditional Art of Japanese Scents. While distilling roses or gathering ambergris was as expensive in antiquity as it is now, blending spices and aromatic woods was much more accessible even to those with small budgets. Certainly, incense made with the finest grades of agarwood can cost its weight in gold, but even the inexpensive varieties are excellent and comparable to the best perfumes in terms of complexity, elegance and balance.

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Although incense for most European and American scent lovers is associated with the heavy sweetness of Indian nag champa, the world of combustible aromatics and their artisans is vast and diverse. My personal favorites come from Japan, and instead of sweetness, they place their accents on licorice and moss like notes. Sandalwood or various types of cedar provide the woody backdrop, and the rest is up to the blender’s imagination and your tastes. You can find Japanese incense with floral motifs, intertwining violets with woods, or edging towards mellow spices and ambers. Shoyeido is one of the most readily accessible Japanese brands in the US, and their website offers lots of choice (Autumn Leaves is especially recommended).

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Doctors Without Borders Fundraiser : Let’s Plan Together

Every year around this time I plan a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, an independent organization that provides medical help in the places affected by military conflicts and natural disasters. It’s one of the most respected and admired charities. Everyone who contributes will be entered to win a prize. This year I have been asked to do so again, and a couple of readers contacted me to contribute their bottles of perfume to the prize pool. Thank you, your generosity is appreciated.

perfume set winter

So here is my question to you: Would anyone else be interested to contribute a bottle of perfume to the draw? You will only have to mail it to a winner selected randomly. If so, please let me know. The more prizes we have, the more chances participants have in winning.

If you agree to contribute a prize, please take it as a serious obligation, in a sense that you will be counted on to send the prize to the winner selected within timely manner–clean, neat and well-packaged. (However,  the sender won’t be liable for loss in transit or custom duties.)

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, just some perfume eye candy.

Explaining Oud and Middle Eastern Perfume Trends

I get lots of requests to talk about perfume trends–what themes are promising to remain popular, why white florals are perennial favorites, what we might see in the upcoming season, and other questions along these lines. Answering them is a bit like reading a crystal ball, and some marketing agencies earn a nice profit doing just that. On the other hand, what people wear in different countries and why they enjoy what they do is something I find fascinating. This is the topic of my recent FT column, Perfumes with Middle Eastern panache. Based on my travels and interviews, the article explains why fragrance is such an integral part of Middle Eastern culture and how European perfume houses are taking note of it.

middle-eastern-perfumes

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A Visit to Musée Lalique

Andrea, a Bois de Jasmin reader, recently visited the Lalique museum in Alsace, France and sent me a few photos from her trip. When François Coty made his famous statement, “Give a woman the best product you can make, present it in a perfect flacon with beautiful simplicity and impeccable taste, ask her to pay a reasonable price, and that will be the birth of a business such as the world has never seen,” Lalique flacon is what he meant. The idea was revolutionary, and together Coty and Lalique made history. And take a look at these stunning bottles! Don’t they themselves look like works of art?

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Andrea mentioned that at the museum you can see Lalique wares for all purposes, from sacred to profane–from liturgical objects to different types of decorations. There are perfume bottles and powder boxes, car trinkets and jewelry. You can also discover the interior design Lalique created for luxury liners and trains! If that were not enough, at the museum shop you can purchase Lalique perfumes, save for the Noir Premier Collection.

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Perfumes For Autumnal Moods and the Art of Japanese Garden

I came back from the south of France to a golden and grey Brussels and whatever summer memories that weren’t blown away by a mistral in Marseille faded into the damp fog of my Belgian city. I have a battery of perfumes evoking summer, but I wondered, what if I approached the theme of an autumnal perfume from a different angle? Instead of selecting a fragrance to fantasize about summer, why not let autumn be my guide? To do that, I relied on the principle of borrowed scenery, shakkei, from Japanese garden design. In my latest FT column, Autumn: The Scents of the Season, I explain how I do it and describe my choices: Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge, Bulgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Rouge, Chanel Bel Respiro, Etro Messe de Minuit and others.

kyoto-garden-temple

One of the most interesting principles in Japanese garden design is the idea of borrowed scenery (shakkei). Using existing landscape elements – distant mountains, ponds and neighbouring structures – a creator plans the garden in such a way as to incorporate the surroundings into her composition and create her personal vision of nature. Perfumery is generally more about artifice and fantasy, but as summer fades, I too become inspired to borrow autumnal scenery for my fragrant accompaniment. My perfume choices become led by the scents of fall. To continue reading, please click here.

If you were to match autumn, its scents or its moods, to a perfume, what would you select?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Kyoto

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