Salty Notes: 15 posts

L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille : Perfume Review

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The combination of salt and vanilla is not common in perfumery, despite the ubiquity of these ingredients in modern patisserie. For one thing, salt is a fantasy impression created by certain marine and dry woody notes in fragrances, and its effect is cancelled out by the sweetness of vanilla. Also, when a perfume promises vanilla, we expect warm, creamy and cuddly–a bowl of custard, if you will. L’Artisan Parfumeur Couleur Vanille, however, dares to be different.

While retaining the creaminess and dark sweetness of vanilla, perfumer Aliénor Massenet, who worked with L’Artisan Parfumeur on this launch, blended fresh floral and salty notes to balance out the richness. The sweet and salt facets give Couleur Vanille its personality, right from the top notes.

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Salt and Flowers

A Japanese friend once served me a cup of sakurayu, a salted cherry blossom tea that she brought from Kyoto. The flowers unfurled slowly in the hot water, turning the liquid a shade of pale pink and infusing it with the aroma of almond and apricot. This springtime drink made me wonder what it is about the combination of salt and flowers that makes it so intriguing. The topic of salt and flowers is the subject of my FT column, Magic of Salt. I explore salty effects in perfumery and the way they can uplift floral notes.

Salt has its own mild scent and, depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodinated to flinty and flowery. However, the magic of salt is its ability to volatilize the aromas of other ingredients. You can experiment by cutting a tomato in half and smelling it raw. Then sprinkle it liberally with salt, wait for a few minutes and have another inhale. Even if your tomato is an uninspiring greenhouse variety, once salted, it will have a more pronounced perfume. To continue reading further, please click here.

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The Vetiver of Spring : Season’s Favorites

Patricia enjoins spring to arrive faster with a selection of vetiver favorites–and a few salty woods and violets.

Spring in New England takes its time in coming. As I’m writing this, a blizzard is raging, and the blooming heather at the end of the driveway is covered in snow. But I know that the snow and ice will reluctantly give way, the earth will gradually thaw, and what is somewhat affectionately called “mud season” will begin. During the melting phase, my favorite fragrance is L’Eau d’Hiver by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums. Creator Jean-Claude Ellena perfectly captures with transparent powdery iris, the sensation of the run off of melting snow into a cold mountain spring. Though it doesn’t last long, the musks evolve into a soft skin scent that is a pleasure to wear.

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The vetivers, too, bring to mind the first weeks of spring and the anticipation of change. The dryness of Lalique Encre Noire with its cypress and dark woody notes suggest the raw, hard earth not yet ready to give way to new growth. Unlike L’Eau d’Hiver, it lasts a good six to eight hours, softening gently in the drydown process.

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Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt : Fragrance Review

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Patricia on the Boston Harborwalk, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and tide.

The Boston Harborwalk is a 47-mile continuous public walkway from Chelsea to the Neponset River along the Boston waterfront. Currently 80% completed, it is a treasure for locals and visitors alike, and I never tire of strolling along a small portion of it, watching the boat traffic and inhaling the briny, mineral scents that are part of a busy working harbor. The tides, too, influence the degree of intensity of salt and vegetation in the air. During high tide, saltiness predominates, and the breeze is fresher and cleaner smelling. Low tide, however, uncovers the rocky bottom, exposes wood pilings and seaweed, and adds an interesting vegetal and animalic muskiness to the air.

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Wood Sage & Sea Salt, a cologne created by Christine Nagel for Jo Malone, falls within the cleaner range and is what I would call a high-tide fragrance. It opens with a refreshing blast of grapefruit and ambrette, which as it is an unusual combination of top notes, sadly doesn’t last long enough to suit me. The overall effect is one of freshness from the citrus and depth from the plant-based musk tones in the ambrette seed. Soon, the sea salt and sage come into play, and they, too, are clean and polished and not likely to offend. This stage lasts for a few hours, not changing in essential character but gradually fading to a pleasant skin scent.

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Sea Salt and Brine : Perfume Notes

Does salt have a scent? “It depends on what salt you’re talking about,” says Benoît, who hails from Guérande, a French town in southern Brittany famous for its salt marshes. We meet by chance  at an airport lounge, and as he observes a book I’m reading, Jean-Claude Ellena’s Le Parfum, we strike up a conversation about scents. “Guérande’s fleur de sel smells of violets.” As he explains, refined table salt is about 97 percent sodium chloride and it’s virtually scentless, but sea salts from different regions have  impurities that give them a distinctive flavor and scent. Fleur de sel is hand harvested salt from the tops of salt marshes, and while Benoît is passionate about it, he urges me to try different salts and compare. “If you create a perfume based on Guérande’s fleur de sel, please let me know,” he says as we bid each other goodbye.

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While I’m yet to visit Guérande to experience the violet perfume of its famous salt ponds, I’ve been noticing the salty nuances in my perfume bottles. My salt collection has likewise grown. Even the sharp iodine scent of table salt now seems obvious to me, not to mention the roasted aroma of Korean bamboo salt or the earthy bite of Javanese lava salt. I’m suddenly discovering a whole new universe of saline flavors.

Along with sweet, sour, bitter, and umami, salt is one of the five basic tastes and it’s much easier to understand it as such–the sensation that you experience when a salt crystal melts on your tongue. But in perfume, the effect can also be distinctive. Spray The Different Company’s Sel de Vétiver or Lalique’s Encre Noire and notice the briny note that you can almost taste.

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