Secret of Scent and Vintage Perfumes

I promised to give more details on the Secret of Scent course that will run October 20-24 in Provence. Luca Turin and I will cover the science and art of fragrance during a 3-day event. We’ve decided to keep the number of attendees small to allow us to interact with every participant and give each one as much personal attention as possible. It will be an excellent educational event, and it will also be a lot of fun (food and wine tasting will be included). You need not have a background in either science or perfumery, but at the end of the course, you will have a good understanding of both fields.

vintage-coty-perfume

Among the highlights of the program are the vintage perfumes. Participants will smell the precursors to Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, the original version of Hermès Calèche, Coty Chypre, and many other treasures. Finally, I will share some of my favorite raw materials, the essential ingredients in the perfumer’s palette.

Reservations can be made via Science & Vacation. For all of the logistical details, accommodation and prices, please contact Science & Vacation directly.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Postcard from Ukraine : Gogol’s Nights

Few writers have described the Ukrainian nights better than Nikolai Gogol. He was born near Poltava, and its sights and smells never lost their hold on him.

“Do you know a Ukrainian night? No, you do not know a night in Ukraine. Fill your eyes with it. The moon shines in the midst of the sky; the immeasurable vault of heaven seems to have expanded to infinity; the earth is bathed in silver light; the air is warm, voluptuous, and redolent of innumerable sweet scents. Divine night! Magical night! Motionless, but inspired with divine breath, the forests stand, casting enormous shadows and wrapped in complete darkness. Calmly and placidly sleep the lakes surrounded by dark green thickets. The virginal groves of the hawthorns and cherry-trees stretch their roots timidly into the cool water; only now and then their leaves rustle unwillingly when that freebooter, the night-wind, steals up to kiss them.

ukrainian nights

The whole landscape is hushed in slumber; but there is a mysterious breath upon the heights. One falls into a weird and unearthly mood, and silvery apparitions rise from the depths. Divine night! Magical night! Suddenly the woods, lakes, and steppes become alive. The nightingales of Ukraine are singing, and it seems as though the moon itself were listening to their song. The village sleeps as though under a magic spell; the cottages shine in the moonlight against the darkness of the woods behind them. The songs grow silent, and all is still. Only here and there is a glimmer of light in some small window. Some families, sitting up late, are finishing their supper at the thresholds of their houses.” Nikolai Gogol, A May Night.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Big Decision : Wedding Day Perfume

Last year you helped Patricia pick a perfume for her daughter’s wedding. Today she reveals the bride’s choice.

The venue and caterer had been booked months before, the flowers selected, and the dress chosen and on order. The musicians had been given their sheet music to learn, the photographer and videographer lined up, and the bridesmaids (her closest high school friends, his sister) and maid of honor (her sister) had saved the date. But one decision still loomed large: which perfume would my daughter wear on her wedding day? I had promised that the bottle of her choice would be delivered well before the date of the ceremony.

wedding1

In search of good perfume ideas, I proposed the question to my friends here at Bois de Jasmin in one of our Recommend Me a Perfume threads and received many thoughtful suggestions ranging from dusky roses to light white florals. Since at that time my daughter lived halfway across the country, I lovingly prepared a box of samples to send to her, based both on what I could decant from my collection and gather from the list of recommended perfumes.

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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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