Refreshing: 95 posts

Effervescent, uplifting fragrances

Rhubarb Sherbet Fragrances

Every spring I make a Persian rhubarb sherbet by cooking sliced stems and sugar in water. Once the flavor and pink color infuse into the syrup, I filter the liquid and add rose essence. Enjoyed from tall crystal glasses, the sherbet has a voluptuous taste that calls to mind the warm light streaming through the stained glass windows of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, a pink-tinted jewel of Shiraz. If you would like to replicate this experience, I invite you to take a look at my recipe.

 

Since perfumery has much in common with cuisine, rendering my sherbet into a fragrance accord with a similar ornate impression is not difficult. Rhubarb has a natural affinity with rose, violet and berries, because they are complementary notes (and raspberry, in a nesting doll twist, contains elements of both rose and violet, which makes it an especially felicitous partner.)  Jo Malone White Lilac and Rhubarb explores this combination by augmenting the floral layer of rhubarb with a cocktail of rose and lilac. It’s a bright and happy perfume, with a nod to retro glamour.

Rhubarb may seem like a modern note in the perfumer’s palette, but in fact, it has a classical pedigree. A subtle effect, of green crunch and mouthwatering tartness, is found in Miss Dior L’Originale and Carven Ma Griffe. Today perfumers have more ingredients with rhubarb inflections at their disposal, using tartness to temper the sugary notes currently in vogue. For a rhubarb dessert, I might select Yves Saint Laurent Baby Doll, a compote of rhubarb, grapefruit and musk, or Burberry Brit Red, a crème brûlée topped with candied jasmine petals and gingerbread.

Just as it gives an interesting twist to a gourmand, rhubarb also makes green and resinous notes shimmer. To achieve such an illusion, Olfactive Studio’s Flashback dilutes the fruit with vetiver and just enough apple for a hint of delicate sweetness. Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum is an even more striking composition–it tosses rhubarb slices with basil leaves and incense. The effect is neither liturgical nor gourmand, but as fresh and exhilarating as being caught in a spring rainstorm.

Another fragrance I like is Hermès’s Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, a creation by perfumer Christine Nagel. Nagel is well-known for her sultry compositions that wear like cashmere wraps, and with Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate she demonstrates that it’s possible to make a cologne seductive. She pairs rhubarb with citrus and red berries, but then she adds a dollop of musk to make the drydown suave and tender. The result is similar to my sherbet—opulent, rich, and just as delicious.

What are your favorite rhubarb fragrances? Also, if you cook with rhubarb, I’d love to hear what you make. 

Napoleon’s Cologne and The Art of Citrus Fragrances

Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have used liters of cologne. While exiled on St. Helena, his servant Mameluke Ali created a blend that approximated the former emperor’s favorite combination of citrus and herbs. While my ambitions don’t reach as far as world domination, citrus fragrances nevertheless feature prominently in my perfume wardrobe. Few aromas are more uplifting and rejuvenating and their versatility makes cologne an easy fragrance type to adapt to various moods and occasions.

Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte is as classical as a beige trench coat and crisp white shirt, a blend of lemon, orange and oakmoss.  A bracing, slightly austere fragrance, it instantly makes me feel energized. The bitterness of the orange zest is softened by musk and cedarwood shavings, while a subtle touch of spice brightens the composition further.

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A Branch of Mimosa for Carmen

“I will bring you cassie, if you still enjoy its perfume,” wrote French novelist Prosper Mérimée in Lettres à une inconnue (Letters to an Unknown). The Unknown, was Mademoiselle Jenny Dacquin, the daughter of a notary of Boulogne, with whom Mérimée corresponded for over forty years. And what flower should his Carmen throw to Don José? Une fleur de cassie.

Cassie and mimosa are two closely related plants from the acacia family. The branches covered with masses of lemon yellow pompoms not only look beautiful, they also have a rich scent valued in perfumery. Native to Australia, mimosas were brought to France in the 18th century by the British explorer, Captain James Cook, and they have flourished in the mild winters of the Mediterranean coast. Every February the Massif de Tanneron in Provence turns golden yellow as the mimosas come into bloom, a Fauvist painting come alive.

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Why Do We Like Floral Perfumes?

One of my favorite childhood pursuits was to make perfume. At least, that’s what I called it—my great grandmother’s description was “pestilence.” I scoured the flower beds, collected rose, carnation and dahlia petals, soaked them in water and waited until they turned into a fragrant brew. Eventually, the whole lot would rot and smell more beastly than beautiful, but undaunted I persevered. Faced with a garden that her great granddaughter pillaged on a daily basis, Asya gave me a bottle of perfume called White Lilac and hoped that my interest would eventually fade.

Years later, and I’m still fascinated by floral scents. Their variety is immense, from jasmine to marigold, from rose to ylang ylang. More than any other family, florals are susceptible to change as technology evolves. The aroma-material called hedione has changed the way we perceive floral perfumes. Its lemony freshness decorates almost all floral accords–and fragrances in all other perfume families. For instance, you can notice hedione in classics like Christian Dior Diorella or in modern blends like Penhaligon’s The Favourite.

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Three Favorite Perfumes of the Moment

Three perfumes for warm days. Three ideas to evoke freshness. Three different scents for different moods. I originally wanted to make a list of summer fragrances like I always do this time of year, but as I was contemplating my list, my eye fell onto my dressing table and I saw three bottles. To avoid leaving perfume exposed to light more than necessary, I rotate what I wear, and these three perfumes have stayed on my dresser long enough for me to wonder what exactly I enjoyed about them and to share them with you.

You can watch my video for the description of scents and for my opinion on fresh fragrances in general. As a complement to the film, I would like to compare my current summer favorites to other similar fragrances and to give you more ideas on perfumes to sample.

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