Victoria: 2430 posts

Top Classical Patchouli Perfumes : Part 1 Patchouli

A green plant that evokes the scent of earth. A leaf that smells like wood. A wood that smells like chocolate. Patchouli is a complex, intriguing, and polarizing ingredient in a perfumer’s palette. Some like it, others hate it. It leaves nobody indifferent. Yet, it’s also a material that gives perfumery today its distinctive character. A modern chypre can be made without oakmoss, but not without patchouli.

My latest video is part of a patchouli series, and in the first episode I discuss the material itself and cover classical patchouli fragrances. The way patchouli is processed affects its smell dramatically. A steam-distilled patchouli oil smells earthy, musty, loamy, while solvent-distilled patchouli absolute is reminiscent of cacao and dry woods. Other methods allow distillers to recompose fractions of patchouli essence to highlight certain effects, such as its licorice or sweet notes.

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Anton Chekhov’s Gooseberries: On Happiness

Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries” tells a story–two friends, Ivan and Bourkin, shelter from the rain at another friend’s house. They take a swim in a pond and then Ivan tells about his brother, a civil servant, who had a dream of owning a house and a gooseberry patch. This idea so possessed him that he married a wealthy widow, starved his wife to death trying to save money, and finally bought an estate. When Ivan visited his brother in his new home, he found him not the meek civil servant that he once was but a pompous man who oppressed his peasants and took offense over not being saluted properly. A plate of gooseberries harvested from his patch was brought in during dinner. Though they were hard and sour, Ivan’s brother ate them with relish, delighting in every bite.

As Ivan tells the story, he turns to his friends and makes the speech that forms the climax of “Gooseberries.” He says that happiness doesn’t exist, that it shouldn’t exist. He urges his friends, younger men, to do good. “Obviously the happy man is at ease only because the unhappy ones bear their burdens in silence, and if there were not this silence, happiness would be impossible,” Ivan says in agitation. “Behind the door of every contented, happy man there ought to be someone standing with a little hammer and continually reminding him with a knock that there are unhappy people, that however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show him its claws, and trouble will come to him — illness, poverty, losses, and then no one will see or hear him, just as now he neither sees nor hears others.”

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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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