Reflections: 71 posts

Cherry Blossom Haiku

The sky shifts with the cherry branches above my head. I’m lying on the grass staring at the blossoms. This idyllic scene would be straight out of a Japanese silk painting were it not for the fact that I’m dressed for garden work and the reason I’m in a reclined position is because I’m exhausted after weeding the garden. But as the petals fall on my face, I forget about the back pain and think of my favorite haiku by Matsuo Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet.

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry-blossoms!

Haiku weaves vivid images, and cherry blossom themed poems have an element of contemplation and bittersweetness that is compelling. The sight of blossoms, so exquisite and so evanescent, is a reminder of the transience of things, and while it can be melancholy, it’s also reassuring. Everything passes–and then returns.

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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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Fairy Tale Perfumes: Scents of Fantasy

Perfumes that transport Andy into the world of fantasy and fairy tales. 

Reading the stories of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm is a fond childhood memory, and even today, though I may have outgrown storybooks, I can experience the world of fairy tales through my choice of perfume. The best perfumes are more than the sum of their parts, creating miniature worlds within which the wearer can explore, pretend, and escape.

bilibin

I may enjoy Chanel No. 19 for its beautiful iris note, but it’s experiencing a fantasy, of spring flowers blooming amid thawing snow, which makes me want to wear it again and again. Culling though the perfume stories that exist in my mind, I thought of these four perfumes below, which I wear to evoke the opulent castles, evil witches, and mysterious forests of my favorite written fairy tales.

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Perfumes That Glow : Radiance

Happy 2017! I thought that it would be fitting to start the year by talking about radiance. Radiance in perfume is an elusive quality. The best way of understanding it is to envision a candle burning in a dark room, its glow lifting the dark shadows. A luminous fragrance is not necessarily a strong smell – it follows the wearer at a few paces, but it’s neither heavy nor overpowering. Capturing this duality seems impossible, but perfumers are adept at creating illusions. So in my FT column, Mesmerisingly radiant fragrances, I describe how the radiant effect is produced and give some of my favorite examples.

radiance

Calice Becker is one such creator [known for her radiant perfumes], and her fragrances illustrate the idea of radiance. Her Tommy Girl contains a green tea accord so luminous that it seems fluorescent. Another trendsetter is Becker’s Christian Dior J’Adore, a layer of flower notes as tightly woven as the millefiori ornaments of Murano glass. Perfumery students learn the craft much like artists, by copying the work of the masters, and when I was trying to achieve the variegated radiance of J’Adore, its complexity and nuances mesmerised – and confounded – me. Despite the conventional saying that too much knowledge kills the mystery, the experience made me appreciate both Becker’s craft and J’Adore’s lingering glow. To continue, please click here.

What are some of your favorite radiant perfumes?

The Secret of Scent or Adventures in Provence

If you were to pick the ultimate scent destination, it would have to be Provence. This region in the south of France has been the cradle of the modern perfume industry since the end of the 18th century, but even before that it was known for its aromatics–lavender, mimosa, rosemary, genet, and other perfumed plants. Although today Provence’s days as the center of rose and jasmine cultivation are long gone, it’s still a place for a fragrance lover when the air is perfumed with the salty-green scent of lavender and garrigue, a distinctly Provencal medley of herbs.

provence-herbs

In October, when I arrived in Luberon, the first thing I smelled was the fallen leaves and briny breeze. The mistral, a cold northwesterly wind, denuded the tall plantain trees, but it cleared the sky of clouds and it looked so blue that even the air felt turquoise. I arrived at the hotel Moulin de Vernègues, the venue for The Secret of Scent.

The Secret of Scent is a three-day course by Science & Vacation, a company that specializes in events combining sensory explorations–vacation, in other words–with an educational angle. I was to lecture for three days about the history and art of perfumery, while Luca Turin had a similar task, but with a focus on the science. To be honest, I was a little bit nervous.  While I give perfumery courses on a regular basis, my audience is usually industry folk–marketing, sales people and perfumers. While they’re not necessarily experts on all of the subjects I cover, I at least know the rough outlines of their knowledge. The Secret of Scent was open to everyone, and I wasn’t sure what our participants would be interested to learn.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Joseph in Postcard from Paris: “Well. Now I really do have the vapors.” August 21, 2017 at 9:50pm

  • Surbhi in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: I just saw a new packaging of la fille de Berlin. Does anyone know if it’s a repackaging or re formulation. August 21, 2017 at 9:50pm

  • ClareObscure in Postcard from Paris: Caption: the gentleman says, “I certainly did not expect ‘the swoon effect’ to happen that quickly. Messieur Guerlain did say his new perfume could be hypnotique.” August 21, 2017 at 9:14pm

  • ClareObscure in Postcard from Paris: I loved the Sophie Dahl redhead nude for YSL’s Opium. Thanks for mentioning this book. I will try to order it. August 21, 2017 at 9:01pm

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