Victoria: 2423 posts

Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2021

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. You can use this space to find perfume recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions. Or you can just tell us what perfume you’re wearing and what book you’re reading. I’m reading Lev Tolstoy’s “Master and Man,” the most horrifying and exalted story Tolstoy wrote.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

What Makes A Perfume Great

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. According to the legendary perfumer, a good fragrance has balance and an original form, a simple idea that is far from easy to realize. Roudnitska spent his career creating fragrances that exemplify perfumery at its most artistic—Christian Dior Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage, Diorella, and Rochas Femme. His compositions have elegance and character, but one of the distinctive trademarks of Roudnitska’s style is balance.

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and the 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 the velvety woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll.  Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, where the musky and spicy notes balance out the floral and green accords.

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Corsican Eucalyptus and the Scent of the Maquis

A few years ago I met a woman who talked about her fiendishly complex emigration from Russia to Israel in the ’80s and how instead of Jerusalem she ended up living for a year in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. I asked what Corsica was like, my own mental image comprised mostly of Napoleon, the French Foreign Legion, and Laetitia Casta. She reflected for a moment and then said that it smelled heavenly. She meant the smell of the maquis. Since then I’ve been obsessed with the maquis, or as it’s known in Corsican, machja.

In Corsica, the maquis is ever-present–this wild scrubland vegetation covers nearly 20% of the island. Even when you don’t see it, it fleets before you in bits of folklore and stories. For instance, the guerilla fighters of the French Resistance in World War II were called maquisards, from the maquis (pronounced in French as ​[maˈki]) that reach up to 10 feet and make for an ideal hiding place. The maquis provides food, medicine, and lore. The scrubland starts at the sea coast–le maquis bas, climbs higher–le maquis moyen, and clings to the mountains–le maquis haut. These low, middle, and high maquis are woven of more than 2,500 varieties of wild plants, and their aromas build up slowly like a pyramid of a perfectly constructed perfume.

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Favorite Perfume Books to learn about history, science, and techniques

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite books, two parallel thoughts flash through my mind–how much time do you have to listen to me and which are my favorite books. As someone who reads in all genres and on all topics, I have difficulty pairing down my favorites to to a small-talk appropriate list. However, when it comes to perfume books, I have no difficulty answering the question; my most read books are always within reach. Today, I will start with a list of books that I use for reference. I read them cover to cover and dip into chapters at random to learn about perfumery techniques, styles, or the fragrance industry.

Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells by Harold McGee

I first talked to Harold McGee about this book project more than ten years ago, but I believe that it took him even longer to research it. The wait has been worth it. McGee’s erudition sparkles on every page, and you can open the book on any chapter and find something new about aromas, molecules, emotions — and your own nose. It’s a study of olfaction as well as the world as we experience it through our senses. McGee weaves his personal experiences throughout his discussions, which gives Nose Dive its rich, layered quality. If you’re familiar with McGee’s writings on food and the science of cooking, you don’t need me to advertise this book further. Highly recommended.

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Favorite Scented Candles for Daydreaming

I have a weakness for scented candles and the autumn-winter season brings many temptations. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s collection, for instance, offers plenty of reverie-inspiring options from  jasmine (Souffle de Jasmin) to saffron (Voyage à Constantinople) and more. The candles burn cleanly, without smoke or soot, and the scent lingers for a few hours in the air. These days I’m lighting Brise de Mimosa whenever I crave sunshine and verve. This candle is redolent of mimosa branches, green leaves, and violet flowers. The aroma of mimosa is delicate and complex, but Brise de Mimosa captures it well; it only takes a few minutes to fill my room with the scent of Provence.

If not mimosa, then I choose to festoon my room with the garlands of violets by lighting Molton Brown’s Exquisite Vanilla & Violet Flower candle.  True to its name, it smells of violet bonbon and fresh flowers and green notes make it airy. The lavender-tinted glass makes it a charming decorative item.

Another elegant option is Midi Eternel from the niche perfume house of Sulékó. Based in Paris, Sulékó draws on the French perfume traditions and the Slavic heritage of its founder, Anastasia Sokolow. The perfume collection, for instance, was inspired by the Russian fairy tales, but the candle is a tribute to the south of France and its heady aromas. The main accent is green, with a touch of myrtle, rosemary, and pine needles for brightness. The salty nuance that becomes obvious the longer the candle burns evokes the scents of sea breeze and driftwood. Midi Eternel has a rejuvenating, crisp fragrance, perfect for those who prefer their room scents unsweetened.

Byredo’s Tree House candle is similarly polished. The main chord includes cedarwood, sandalwood, and hay, with allspice and myrrh adding darker, warmer layers. It was inspired by the creations of the Japanese wood master Takashi Kobayashi and his tree houses. Byredo’s idea captures the aromas of polished woods in a candle form. Even after the candle is snuffed out, the peppery, balsamic scent floats in the air, evoking glistening wood shavings in different shades of amber.

Pro tip: To make any candle release its scents evenly, burn it for no longer than two hours at the time and trim the wick on regular basis. It will delight you longer and keep its scent until the last drop of wax.

What are your favorite candles and home scents?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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