Seductive: 34 posts

Everyone has their own idea of what they find sexy, but there are a few fragrances that feel sultry and seductive to me.

Why Is The Scent of Lipstick So Nostalgic?

Do you remember the scent of your mother’s lipstick? Do you enjoy the aroma of Nivea cream? Have you ever wished to have the fragrance of your favorite sunscreen as a perfume? The November 2019 issue of Financial Times’s HTSI Magazine includes my article about the scent of lipstick and other cosmetics. I explore the nostalgia behind these aromas and explain why these scents, though subtle and discrete, can have a powerful effect.

I don’t remember the colour of my first lipstick, but I recall its scent. I was passing through the local department store in Chicago, aged 15, when an array of shiny, black tubes at the Chanel counter drew my attention. They promised the glamour and sophistication that I desperately craved. I was making swatches of the different tones of pinks and reds on the back of my hand when, suddenly, I became aware of the fragrance of roses.

The wave that swept over me was so intense that my eyes welled with tears. The scent reminded me of my great-grandmother, Asya, who adored rose essence; its sweetness enveloped her and always left a rich sillage in her wake. Even her lipstick smelled of roses. When Asya wasn’t around, I furtively sniffed her rouge compact, its fragrance evoking her soft cheeks and melodious laughter.

Update: The article is now available online, The Nostalgic Allure of Lipstick, November 2019.

As always, I’d love to know what scents transport you? Do you have favorite scented lipsticks or other cosmetics?

Night, Moon and Jasmine

I enjoyed your comments on the recent post when I’ve asked you to match scents to a baroque Spanish still life. In my collection, I have a beautiful Mughal period miniature depicting a woman draped in jasmine. I couldn’t resist tossing it among–which fragrance would you pick to represent the mood of this painting.

As you can see, the lady has a bottle of perfume and a flask of rosewater in front of her.

Image by Bois de Jasmin

Tom Ford Lost Cherry : Perfume Review

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Expensive fragrances get more scrutiny, and that’s only fair. If a brand wants you to pay over $200 for a bottle of scent, then you should be certain that you’re getting your money’s worth. In the case of Tom Ford, you’re paying for the name, luxurious packaging and the whole style factor that gives Ford an edge. That being said, the collection has a number of perfumes where even the special markup can be justified. Lost Cherry is one of those fragrances, because when Ford wants a bombshell perfume, he doesn’t hold back.

The name, only a touch less vulgar than Tom Ford’s F*cking Fabulous, suggests fruits and sweetness, but Lost Cherry is a sophisticated blend of woods in the style of Serge Lutens’s original Feminité du Bois. Lutens commissioned it as a woody fragrance for women, a request that at the time made a few eyebrows rise. 27 years later, nobody is surprised by “feminine woods,” but many brands still shy away from embracing the idea fully. In other words, woods play a secondary role to fruit, caramel, flowers or vanilla. Women who want woods, without too many embellishments, might well turn to the masculine side of the fragrance counter. 

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In Search of Dark, Opulent Musk

“Bring, bring that musk-scented wine! That wine is the key to joy, and it must be mine…” The medieval Persian reader scanning these lines by the 12th-century poet Nezami* would have understood instantly the subtle nuances of the word “musk.” Since natural musk was black, the reader would have envisioned a dark potion. Also, musk was considered the most sumptuous and alluring of scents, and musk-scented wine would surely be a libation to intoxicate one to the point of ecstasy. Most importantly, however, musk evoked seduction and passion, and in Nezami’s masterpiece about star-crossed lovers, Layla and Majnun, musk is the scented leitmotif.

The topic of my new FT column, In Search of Dark Musk, is the dark, intoxicating musk, and I search for a perfume with such a character. No white musks, clean musks or baby-skin musks will do. I want a musk that smolders and that would have been as close as possible to the kind of fragrance the Persian poet described.

You can read about the results of my search here, and of course, I look forward to reading your ideas on a perfume that smells dark and musky.

*Nezami or Nizami, Hafez or Hafiz? The Persian reading of these poets names’ is Nezami and Hafez, with a short “e”.  Nizami and Hafiz is an old-fashioned spelling, which still tends to be preferred by Western academics.

Image via FT; Persian miniature

 

By Kilian Noir Aphrodisiaque : Perfume Review

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Tonka bean, ginger, vanilla, Sichuan pepper, coriander, rose, mint… The flavors Jacques Génin uses in his confections might as well be taken straight from a perfumer’s palette. The Parisian chocolatier is known for his daring combinations of flavors and his impeccable craftsmanship. His caramels are legendary. His millefeuille is a towering delight of cream and shards of pastry. His pâtes de fruits look like jewels. He pairs chocolate with spices, roots and herbs, but the result is rarely predictable. Even an ingredient as ubiquitous as cinnamon becomes a surprising note in his hands, as it reveals its floral and woody nuances.  Not for nothing, the epithets used to describe Génin include “wizard,” “madman,” and “genius.”

Génin’s most recent collaboration is with by Kilian, an artisanal fragrance house led by Kilian Hennessy, and perfumer Calice Becker.  As an inspiration for a perfume, chocolate is a complicated note. It tastes sweet, but it smells animalic and pungent. Part of the flavor in most commercial chocolates is given by vanilla, which softens the animalic tang but also rounds out and simplifies the scent. So instead, Becker looked to Génin’s favorite ingredients such as Ceylon cinnamon and Calabrian bergamot to craft her perfume.

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