Reflections: 64 posts

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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The Art of Fortunate Proportions

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. The idea is simple–all elements in the right dosages and in the right balance, but as is often the case, the simplicity is the most elusive attribute of all. Whenever I revisit his fragrances, I’m moved time and again by their grace and harmony. In Perfumes: The art of balance and proportion, my new FT column, I describe Roudnitska’s art, the elegance of Guerlain and the feisty brilliance of Germaine Cellier.

art of balance

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and technique. Consider Guerlain’s Chamade, one of the most perfectly balanced fragrances. From the bright-green top notes to the rose and hyacinth heart and velvety, woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll. Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, one of Roudnitska’s masterpieces and the subject of many articles in this column. To continue reading, please click here.

Image via FT HTSI

Perfume and Orientalism

In my weekly FT column Scents of the East, I’m taking an oriental family to task. What makes perfumes “oriental”? What does this term mean? Is it any useful?

ft

The world of perfume press releases is one in which Edward Said never wrote Orientalism. Odalisques lounge in the incense-scented harems of marketers’ imaginations. The Mughals are still ruling India, and the Arabian Desert is a vast expanse of golden sands populated with handsome explorers – no oil wells in sight. There is even a fragrance family called “oriental”. Please continue here.

I also offer some of my favorite examples of fragrances classified as “oriental,” and I look forward to hearing about yours.

Image via FT

10 Pastel Perfumes for Spring

Elisa feels the lure of spring.

Part of the pleasure of browsing a makeup counter – and why I’ll always buy more makeup than I need – is the impression that I’m handling color in its pure form. Not just lipsticks but pigment: art and possibility. It’s the same flavor of childlike glee I feel when looking at a wall of paint swatches or the bulk bins in a candy store. As a kid I even organized my books in “rainbow order” on the shelves.

kateryna bilokur

Around March the mannequins in window displays all seem to be wearing pastels. I never buy these clothes; like bows and Peter Pan collars, pastels just don’t suit me. But I can participate in the traditional color scheme of the season with perfumes that smell like springtime shades instead.

Here are ten soft, pastel-hued perfumes (in spectral order, no less) I recommend.

Diptyque Eau Rose

I love weird roses, dark roses, spicy roses, mossy roses…I’ll take them all. But sometimes, especially in spring, a perfectly pretty, pastel-pink rose with little adornment fits the bill. Enter Eau Rose, which is dewy and fresh with a citrus lift.

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Rosewater Essence

One of my recent FT columns is all about rosewater, a by-product of rose oil production. After the steam distillation runs its course, there remains a fragrant liquid, or rosewater. It’s used in cosmetics, food, medical preparations and home scents. Rosewater is not stable enough to be used in perfumery, but many rose oil producers have started re-distilling the rosewater and making so-called rosewater essence, or extract. It’s less expensive than rose oil and is packaged with words like sustainable and environmentally friendly, which it may or may not be. Nevertheless, it’s a curious product, and perfumers have been using more of it to create a fresh petal effect, or to soften the outlines of synthetic floral accords.

rosewater

The 11th-century Persian philosopher and scientist Avicenna is credited with many contributions to astronomy, geography, psychology, logic, mathematics and physics. He also found time to delve into perfumery and devised methods to extract essential oils, experimenting on roses. If Avicenna were to step into a fragrance lab today, he would orient himself quickly enough – modern perfumery is a curious amalgam of traditional techniques with state-of-the-art technology. Indeed, rose oil is prepared in much the same way as in Avicenna’s time – through the process of steam distillation. Continue here.

Previously, I also wrote about my favorite ways with this rose-scented liquid. Do you use rosewater? 

Image via HTSI

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