1920s perfumes: 6 posts

Mrs Dalloway and Perfumes of 1925

I’m a latecomer to Virginia Woolf’s writing. Mrs Dalloway was the first Woolf’s novel I read, and its prose, such as the excerpt below demonstrates, is so hypnotizing, I look forward to discovering more of her work.

“There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes–so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness.

mrsdalloway

 

And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale–as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower–roses, carnations, irises, lilac–glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!

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Houbigant Essence Rare : Vintage Perfume Review

Houbigant is a fragrance house with a remarkable legacy. Its Fougère Royal created in 1882 by talented Paul Parquet was the first fragrance that successfully fused the manmade ingredient coumarin with natural aromatics. The majority of fragrances trailed by men today are descended from this abstract and effervescent composition. By the time Robert Bienaimé took over the reins from Parquet as the chief Houbigant perfumer, the house had several beautiful fragrances to its name: Le Parfum Idéal, Violette Pourpre and Coeur de Jeannette. Bienaimé created several other distinctive blends, including Quelques Fleurs before opening his own house Bienaimé Parfums in 1935. Essence Rare was one of the last few fragrances he designed for Houbigant before his departure.

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Caron Acaciosa : Fragrance Review

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One cannot deny perfumer Ernest Daltroff’s genius in reinterpreting classical compositions and making floral bouquets seem like Impressionist paintings. When making a jasmine focused fragrance in 1929, he added a large quantity of synthetic component mimicking the scent of a pineapple. Jasmine in nature possesses a fruity note, and Caron Acaciosa presents it in the most delicate way.

Acaciosa

Upon application the green notes are vivid, and as they gradually dissipate the opulence of jasmine resurfaces. Ylang ylang, lily of the valley and mimosa add to the floral bouquet. The pineapple becomes more pronounced in the heart. The delicate harmony of floral notes is my favorite aspect of Acaciosa. The drydown of heavy amber and resinous woods is much less interesting, and while the composition is pleasant, it is not distinctive.

Notes: rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, orange blossom, ylang ylang, pineapple, jasmine, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, musk.

On Reformulation (12/7/2010):
The original Acaciosa is a jasmine-orange blossom composition with an intense animalic note of leather and musk. The latest version misses the dark amber and animalic facets almost entirely, which makes Acaciosa a pretty, but unremarkable jasmine.

Caron Narcisse Noir and Caron Narcisse Blanc : Perfume Review

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Narcisse Noir

5 stars

Caron Narcisse Noir created in 1911 by Ernest Daltroff is a true child of Art Deco, an era in art and fashion marked by the fascination with the East. The movie Sunset Boulevard enshrined this perfume, when Gloria Swanson pronounced the name in a deep sultry voice, “Black Narcissus, Narcisse Noir.” Even without knowing the context in which Narcisse Noir was created, one whiff of this sensual orange blossom can conjure up the Art Deco’s black and white motifs, Greek art inspired lithe figures, geometrical designs and stylized floral freezes.

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 It is a dark fragrance, with a sunny orange blossom note rendered uncharacteristically animalic and brooding. As Narcisse Noir develops, the incense unfolds and wrap the jasmine and orange blossom into a smoky mist.  The eau de toilette is beautiful for its luminous, sparkling quality. The extrait de parfum, on the other hand, is magical, given its rich, smoldering and mysterious character. Notes: orange blossom, lemon, bergamot, and petit grain; rose, jasmine, and jonquil; Persian black narcissus, musk, civet, and sandalwood.

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Caron Nuit de Noel : Perfume Review

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Nuit de Noël was my introduction to the house of Caron, and what a wonderful exploration it has charted out for me. Caron creations seem unusual to me; they are carefully balanced, possessing a dark languid undercurrent that immediately conjures visions of classical French couture. I do not want to use the term old-fashioned since it is liable to negative connotations, but Caron’s creations have a classical aspect that I do find appealing, if slightly nostalgic.

Nuit de noel

Nuit de Noël was created in 1922 by Ernest Daltroff for his lover, Félicie Vanpouille, who loved Christmas Eve and the scents associated with it. Indeed, it is a quiet, whispering fragrance, conjuring perfectly the silence and the serenity of the night before Christmas. “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” (by Clement Clarke Moore). Nuit de Noël is one of my favorite Caron scents because of its interesting composition and exquisite dry down. Overall, Nuit de Noël is a soft wood-based scent with a floral heart. The top notes are very classical rose, jasmine and ylang ylang–dry floral notes rather than a creamy modern composition. The most interesting changes take place after the fragrance dries down slightly. Suddenly the floral blend is dissipated by the wetness of oakmoss. Then the spicy notes become apparent, albeit remaining very soft and intertwining with sandalwood and vetiver. The fragrance does not lose its dry quality which is wonderful and comforting. I imagine walking around in the city as the snow is falling softly.

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