Winter: 97 posts

Fragrances I enjoy wearing in winter

Perfume as a Fantasy : Let’s Dream

Despite a persistent belief that perfumers aim to imitate nature, fragrance is about a fantasy. So looking for the exact smell of a rose in a bottle is like reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to relive a vacation in Saint-Petersburg, even if said sojourn involved all things dark and sordid. Like literature, music, and sculpture, perfumery is a meditation on reality, rather than its photographic reflection. The best of compositions give us a glimpse into someone else’s world and their olfactory idea of a rose—or a cup of black tea, their lover’s skin, or a melancholy evening in Paris.

We read scent message differently

Each one of us might interpret the aromatic message in different ways. For instance, when I smell Balmain’s Vent Vert, I feel the same exhilaration as I do on the first days of March when the air smells intensely green and fresh. My friend, on the other hand, finds it disconcerting and aggressive, a storm of sharp, raspy notes that leaves her lightheaded. Considering that Vent Vert’s creator, Germaine Cellier, minced neither words nor accords, perhaps my friend’s impression is closer to the original intention of the perfumer.

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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 Nutcracker and Its Perfumes

“The Sugar Plum Fairy bade Marie and Nutcracker sit down while a feast was brought before them: teas, cakes and the rarest of fruits … Marie hardly had time to nibble at her sweetmeats before the next diversion was presented: the music abruptly changed to an adagio tempo. Arabian dancers dressed in gauzy veils garnished with gold medallions and jewels swayed hypnotically past… The rich aroma of coffee drifted past.”  –from E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

As a former ballet dancer, I can’t think of winter without associating it with Hoffman’s tale and Tchaikovsky music–even the countless Nutcracker performances and rehearsals haven’t robbed the story of its magic. December for me has a strong whiff of rosin on ballet slippers, but it is also a month of fairy kingdoms, groves made of candied fruit and coffee scented dancers.

My pointe shoes are rarely in service these days, but my Nutcracker fantasies find their expression in perfume. It allows me to become the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Arabian Dancer, Prince Coqueluche or any other character I wish. No wonder that the great American choreographer George Balanchine picked fragrances for his favorite dancers and encouraged them to wear perfume to class.

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Recommend Me a Perfume : Holiday Gift Ideas and Guides

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. Since many of us are looking for holiday gift ideas, why don’t we use this thread to share our thoughts on interesting scented gifts? If you need recommendations for presents for your friends and family or new fragrances for yourself, you can likewise post your requests here. And of course, please do share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors.

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

Postcard from Ukraine : Kalyna Berries

Guelder rose berries, called kalyna in Ukrainian, taste like cranberries and have a bitter-sour scent reminiscent of almonds and lingonberries. After the frost hits them, they lose their tannic pungency and become sweeter. They’re known to be a panacea for colds and sore throats, but we leave ours for the birds. The truth is that we prefer their red glimmer among the bare branches. No other sight is more quintessentially Ukrainian. No other plant has richer symbolic meaning.

In Ukrainian folklore, kalyna represents female beauty–the effervescence of youth with its delicate white flowers and mature sensuality with its red berries. Red stands for passion, and so the crimson hue of the berries represents love. If you look closer at Ukrainian embroideries, you can see kalyna berries and flowers telling their story of life coming a full circle.

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