Lists: 78 posts

5 Winter Pleasures

Winter has a certain beauty in its austere color palette and the way it slows down life to a bare simmer. Yet, weeks of overcast skies and cold weather can leave one listless and longing for warmth and sunshine. The Belgian winter is almost uniformly grey and damp, with hardly any snow days to remind me of the season’s more exquisite aspects. And yet I wouldn’t trade these three months for any other. Winter’s pleasures more than make up for the late sunrises and heavy layers of clothes.

Big Books

I’m not intimidated by big books. They hold many hours of reading enjoyment. They tempt me with their promise of new facts to learn and new experiences to discover. Such books aren’t satisfying to read on Kindle. I love the heft of a thick volume as I ensconce myself in my favorite bean bag chair. I seem to have more time for reading during the winter, which is why one of my seasonal pleasures is to go through all of the thick volumes that I’ve set my sights on. For instance, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iryna Vilde’s Sisters Richynski, Charles Dickens’s The Bleak House, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia, and the letters exchanged by Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. Finishing Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, In Search of Lost Time, is my plan for this winter.

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Golden Mandarins of Winter

If I had to pick only one perfume to wear throughout winter, it would be neither a smoky incense nor a warm amber. I could even survive the cold days without sumptuous white florals or dark spices. I couldn’t, however, go through winter without a citrus cologne. More precisely, my ideal winter fragrance is based around the zesty, bright note of mandarin. In my recent FT column, Mandarin Scents, I describe why I enjoy this ingredient, what makes it different from other citruses and which perfumes one should try.

Take, for example, Prada Infusion Mandarine. Its philosophy is to keep mandarin simple, and that refined minimalism is rewarding. The top notes combine all of the best elements of a citrus cologne – the green vibrancy of mandarin leaves, the sweetness of mandarin zest and the warmth of orange flowers. You notice the delicious bitterness of the peel and then the sweetness of pulp, and the contrast remains vivid into the drydown. To continue reading, please click here.

If you have favorite citrus perfumes for winter, please let me know.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Best of 2018 : 12 Perfumes To Bring into The New Year

Every year when I sit down to summarize the best of the launches, I look at perfumes I’ve reviewed and check my notes for whether I’ve changed my mind about the ratings. Although one could complain about too many launches, too much sameness in the market, too little creativity, the truth is that some fragrances always stand out and demonstrate that it’s possible to be original and interesting even when it seems that all of the possibilities have been exhausted.

I never intend my best of 2018 lists to be definitive, as they’re highly personal. This year I reflected back on what I wore and selected 12 perfumes I’m planning to keep in 2019. They’re not simply well-crafted and memorable; they also spoke to me and helped me create my own fantasies. This year has been a difficult one, but certain pleasures like books, art, music and perfume could make a big difference on even the worst day.

As always, please share your lists. I look forward to them every time. I wish you lots of happiness and good fortune in the new year. 2018 hasn’t been easy for many of us, but it’s my fervent hope that 2019 will be better in all respects. I thank all of you for visiting these pages, sharing your thoughts with me and being the best readers a writer could possibly wish for.

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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

 

My Selection of 10 Fragrances for Fall

I always look to that moment when leaves start to fall; the air is filled with a mellow sweetness reminiscent of walnut shelves and faded leather. It makes me want to write poetry, find patterns in the intertwined bare branches, watch bittersweet Japanese films and contemplate the beauty of morning light. Such impulses tend to break against the shoals of my routine, but even so, I enjoy the autumnal moods and the element of fantasy.

I did, however, do some translations of Persian poetry, as I shared in my October Newsletter.

And indeed, fantasy and pleasure are the only criteria guiding my selection of perfumes for this fall. My list has room on it for different themes for different moods and for new favorites as well as beloved staples.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse

Some years ago, L’Artisan Parfumeur had a collection of so-called grand cru fragrances inspired by the best grades of orange blossom, iris and narcissus. Narcissus was the most intriguing, because smelling this note interpreted as a complete perfume, rather than an accent, made me realize how close narcissus is to leather and woods. The same theme returns this year with Mont de Narcisse. It’s signed by Anne Flipo, the same perfumer responsible for the long-vanished grand cru, but the idea is more complex. And more interesting, I should say. Narcissus is accented with cardamom and osmanthus, another floral note that inches close to leather, to make a multifaceted, elegant scent.

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Latest Comments

  • rosarita in 5 Winter Pleasures: You made my day 😍 January 20, 2019 at 3:00pm

  • Mel in 5 Winter Pleasures: Winters in Southern California don’t conform to the dominant idiom of snow and cold temps and fireplaces. But we do get a rainy season, chillier nights, shorter days, and when… January 20, 2019 at 12:57pm

  • Mel in 5 Winter Pleasures: Sheer bliss! January 20, 2019 at 12:38pm

  • Aurora in Niko Pirosmani : A Movable Feast: I didn’t know about this painter, his palette is mostly dark and that makes his use of bright color, here and there, all the more striking. Georgia remains very mysterious… January 20, 2019 at 6:37am

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