Opulent: 170 posts

Fragrance with rich, complex characters that feel like cashmere wraps

Why Frankincense Is On The Verge of Disappearing

Incense is one of my favorite notes, whether it’s the classical frankincense (olibanum) or the blends meant to evoke the aroma of Japanese or Indian powders and joss sticks. I will eventually cover the different notes that convey an incense-like effect, but today I will start with frankincense. It’s an iconic ingredient, and in perfumery if you see incense mentioned in a fragrance pyramid, it’s often frankincense. Another reason I would like to start my incense series with frankincense is that it’s an ingredient under threat.

Frankincense is obtained from about five species of Boswellia trees found in North Africa, Western Africa, India, Oman, and Yemen. Centuries before oil became the source of Oman’s wealth, frankincense was its true gold. In order to collect frankincense, harvesters make incisions in the trunks of the trees. The oozing sap eventually hardens and is gathered in pellets. Men typically gather the resin, while women clean it and sort the so-called frankincense tears by size. In my film, I described the danger of frankincense harvesting, since the trees grow on hard-t0-access cliffs.

In Somalia, trees have always been highly valued and the groves were local property, passed down within clans. Trees were tapped only after they were at least 12 years old and the harvest would be rotated to give the plants time to heal. However, armed conflicts and rising demand for the resin collided to create conditions for overharvesting.

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Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Gold, frankincense and myrrh have been venerated since antiquity and their importance often exceeded their monetary value. Many know the Biblical story of the adoration of the Magi, but you can find mentions of these materials interspersed in Hindu, Islamic and Judaic texts. Since perfumery reflects trends in art, fashion, and society at large, I have always wanted to explore the three gifts of the Magi in the context of fragrance. I thought that it would be a fascinating exercise.

While the value of gold may be self-evident, its ability to hypnotize and dazzle is even more prized. The pursuit of such an irresistible sensation has deeply influenced perfumery, despite the fact that gold does not have an obvious olfactory profile. After all, just as gold is an exquisite adornment, so too is perfume.  Although every perfumer might interpret the gilded idea differently, many gold fantasy accords fall in the realm of rich oriental notes—spice, amber, balsam, tobacco, vanilla.

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The Elusive Perfume of Matthiola and Night-Scented Stocks

The fragrance of night-scented stocks is so heady, sweet and spicy that if you’ve experienced it once on a balmy summer evening, you’ll understand my obsession. For years, I’ve been searching for a fragrance that captured it. I’ve also tried creating a night-scented stock accord. I’ve asked other perfumers for their ideas. Although all of these trials have been fun, none captured the scent of this humble, but richly scented flower.

This night-scented stock saga reminded me of the oft asked questions to find a perfume that smells like this or that flower. A rose on a summer morning. A garland of jasmine. A bouquet of lily of the valley. Whenever I think of these quests–and of my own search for a perfume of night-scented stocks, I realize that what we want is more than the scent of the flower. We want a mood, a scene, a story. For this reason, finding the right perfume becomes more complicated.

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Perfumes That Make You Feel Dressed Up

In the beginning of the lockdown, my friends and colleagues reveled in casual dress, especially those of us who have worked together for years and no longer felt embarrassed to take a Skype call in pajamas. Eventually, the Groundhog Day feeling of working from home settled in and whenever we would meet for a virtual happy hour, I’d see plenty of cocktail dresses and button-down shirts. Feeling dressed up is a terrific mood booster, and even if you lack an occasion to sport a beautiful outfit, why not put on a favorite dress to lounge around the house? My solution is different–and easier. I pick a perfume that makes me feel dressed up.

Certain fragrances make you feel like you need a ball gown to pull them off, but others feel like you’re dressed for a party, even if you’re wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt (my favorite outfit for working at home.) The choice of such fragrances is personal, linked more to your personal associations than with a specific scent, but the perfumes that make me feel dressed up have a few characteristics in common.

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Women’s Fragrance for Men : Let’s Be Daring with Tuberose

As a counterpart to my article and video Three Men’s Fragrances for Women : Modern Classics, I would like to talk about women’s fragrances for men. In a way, this is a more complicated topic, because men’s fragrance styles are more conservative and limited than those intended for women. On the other hand, I’m constantly inspired by my readers here who experiment and wear different types of perfumes, and I wanted to offer a few words of encouragement to those who’d like to follow their lead.

First of all, if you like certain types of scents, disregard their gender classification. The one unexpected benefit of social distancing these days is that it gives you space to try something that you wouldn’t otherwise. Also, reconsider fragrance notes and their associations. The reason I selected tuberose for my example is because it can be adopted by anyone, men and women.

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