iconic perfumes: 24 posts

The Fragrance of Old Things

Walking around the old châteaux in the Loire Valley, I kept cataloging the scents–damp stone, varnished wood, fading lilies, old tapestries. In the Château de Saché where Balzac used to stay for prolonged periods of time, the damask upholstery of the chairs heated by the morning sun gave off a waffle like sweetness, while the green cabinet in the Château de Chenonceau, out of which Catherine de Medici ruled France for 30 years, had a salty whiff of driftwood. Though the former residents of these places are now ghosts–just names in history books, monuments, symbols, it seems through these scents that they linger still, in the shadows.

Old things, things touched by many hands, things bearing marks of time, always drew me. It seemed that they might have their own spirits. Years later when I had the chance to spend time in Japan, I realized that this idea was less fanciful than it seemed, and the whole system of Shinto beliefs is based on the idea that everything possesses a spirit. A place. A tree. A stone. A writing pen.

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“10 Fragrances Every Woman Should Own” : Red Magazine

Red Magazine’s November issue includes my love letter to Guerlain Chamade in its feature, “10 Fragrances Every Woman Should Own.” I was thinking more along the lines of a great perfume everyone should try, and Chamade made the cut for a number of reasons: it has a distinctive personality, an original form, and it is beyond the trends and whims of fashion. There are many excellent and unexpected selections in the article. For instance, Tania Sanchez makes an impassioned call for Lush’s Gorilla Perfume Breath of God. Michael Donovan writes about Caldey Island Lavender Water, and Sali Hughes makes a great case for considering Chanel No 5.

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I also describe why I love Serge Lutens’s Féminité du Bois in Red’s online feature, Best Perfumes for Women.

If you were to suggest fragrances for others to try, what would you include?

Guerlain Habit Rouge and Its Family : Perfume Review

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Jean-Paul Guerlain, the last perfumer for the house carrying the family name, once memorably said that one could be a Shalimar woman or a L’Heure Bleue woman, but not both. Of course, he made the statement in his usual provocative manner, but the idea was that the two perfumes had such different characters that you loved either one or the other. I had all the makings of a L’Heure Bleue woman, having fallen for its older sister Après l’Ondée, but then I met Habit Rouge. One encounter was all it took for me not only to be captivated by its velvety orange blossom doused in incense and bergamot, but also to understand the allure of Shalimar.

Habit-Rouge-Guerlain

That Habit Rouge is marketed to men should make no difference to women. In 1965, when Habit Rouge was created by Guerlain, the collection had many splendid feminine perfumes like Jicky, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, and Mitsouko, but the offerings for men were considerably less outstanding. The exception was Vétiver, which Jean-Paul Guerlain created a few years earlier. His solution to draw gentlemen to the perfume counter was to take the basic outline of Shalimar and its famous accord of citrus and sweet oriental notes and give it a dandy appeal with leather and green orange blossom. The result was a less sweet, less curvy and less ripe version of Shalimar, but with all the elegance and panache of its great ancestor.

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Perfume Classics For Beginners

Classical perfumes smell of another era and are the best way to time travel, but if you’re new to this style of fragrance, it can be challenging. In my fragrance  column, Picking an iconic scent for a perfume wardrobe, I explore classics that would be best suited for beginners. In addition, I mention some interesting modern fragrances that have a classical character.

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“I have no luck with classic perfumes,” confessed a friend. “My grandmother wore Jean Patou’s Joy, my mother loved Chanel No 5, but when I wear these fragrances, I feel as if I’m playing dress up.” She wondered why she completely missed the allure of fragrances that are widely considered to be iconic. It is easy to attribute it to personal tastes and associations, but I decided to embark on a classics challenge. Please read the rest by clicking here.

What beginner friendly classical perfumes would you recommend?

Image via FT/HTSPI

Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History : 100 Great Perfumes Series 5 / 10

I’m happy to bring back the much requested series on fragrances that influenced perfume history. If you’re new to this feature, please start with Series 1, in which I describe how this project came about and how I made the selections.  Perfumery evolves slowly, and classical ideas continue to influence new creations. As I mentioned before, you need not enjoy classics (and you certainly shouldn’t feel bad about disliking Chanel No 5 or not “getting” Guerlain Mitsouko). Every perfume, as is the case for art, music or literature, has its own era and its special flavor, and some of us gravitate to contemporary examples. But smelling classics at least once is important if you want to understand where modern perfumery gathers its inspiration. treemoss

Series 1 :: Series 2 :: Series 3 :: Series 4 :: Series 5 :: Series 6 :: Series 7 :: Series 8 :: Series 9 :: Series 10

41. Coriandre          (Jean Couturier, perfumers Gérard Pelpel and Jacqueline Couturier, 1973) The 1970s were the era of the chypre, a mossy woody fragrance family. It developed much earlier in the 20th century with Coty Chypre giving it a modern form, and then Guerlain Mitsouko making it more accessible, but the love affair with moss really exploded in the 1970s. If you enjoy this genre, the 1970s perfumes are going to be a great discovery.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • limegreen in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Hi Aurora, They are relatively new, except for the body sprays for Neroli Portofino and Oud Wood which have been out for a while. Apparently they are going to come… July 18, 2018 at 10:13am

  • limegreen in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Hello again, Floras: If you do like the Diptyques, both Eau Duelle and Volutes come in EdP and they not only last longer but have much more depth. Good luck! July 18, 2018 at 10:00am

  • Hayley in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Ahh didn’t realise it was discontinued. That makes sense as it’s silly money in my local outlet am in uk and your USA I think? Had a quick google and… July 18, 2018 at 9:20am

  • Andy S in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Hi Martha, I loved the ‘old’ Ivoire too, and miss it. While not the same, another perfume I love that makes me feel good in the same way Ivoire did,… July 18, 2018 at 9:16am

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