Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Loving Civet and Rose Poivrée

I started wearing Rose Poivrée this time last year. It was a very strange time because all roads were leading me toward Jean-Claude Ellena's fragrances without my knowing it. I spent a very long time choosing a gift--would it be Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta or Colonia Intensa, finally I went with Intensa. Then there was a gift my dear friend gave me, Jardin Sur Le Nil and then before I knew what was happening I was in love with Declaration and Terre d'Hermès. When the samples arrived from The Different Company, Rose Poivrée was included and from the moment I put it on I felt its weight and all its subtle nuances coming from its notes de tete and de coeur. Its color is deep golden amber and somehow when applied it grounds me. I was ever so happy to wear this thick (almost but not quite dank) rose in the Spring. By Summer, I had figured out that it was the Civet note inside of Poivrée that continued to unleash its powers. Its breathy heartbeat continues to stay close to my skin. 

Vaslav Nijinsky in Le spectre de la rose 1911.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wearing L'Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier

Wearing Premier Figuier is incredibly comforting, warming, and special. Figuier gives you the opportunity to smell the greeness of the fig leaf and its unripe fruit AND the dried fruit all at the same time. Its impact is green and creamy in a white sappy way, as if I just pulled a dandelion stem in two. Then a powdery sweetness floats around its earthy green quality.  Later, as the dry down approaches a subtle woodiness comes through. While visiting a friend's family in Spain there was an enormous fig tree that we would pass on our way to the beach everyday. One day I rubbed its giant rough leaf between my thumb and forefinger;  its fragrance is unforgettable. Another time, while visiting Italy, I walked out onto my Cousin Ida's terrace and was struck by her beautiful arrangment of fresh figs being dried by the sun.  Once released, Figuier is a scented snapshot taken at a certain time in my life. Surrounded by Figuier I am home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011



I was working in my garden today, it's my second or third time this spring. I've been cleaning up after a harsh winter. I am always amazed that the perennials come back, but I guess that's what they do. The daffodils have already come and gone. Three hyacinth that I didn't plant somehow made their fragrant way into the garden and are taking their turn popping up. Mostly I've been cutting back-and turning the earth, and sifting through twigs when I found myself thinking about this family of three woody basenotes. Cedarwood. Sandalwood. Vetiver.

While smelling Cedarwood I thought about the water running through the Pine Barrens of New Jersey;  it is amber in color, we always called it "cedar water" growing up. It smells earthy and balsamic. As a child, I remember digging deep in the sand, digging past the water to the clay that lies beneath it. I would dig and dig and dig until I would finally would reach this grey brown clay with streaks of terra-cotta orange running through it. Cedarwood also smells like this clay, there is a dampness to it, that's slightly balsamic. It's a very pointed and tenacious note. It's specific like someone who keeps tapping you on the shoulder, it kind of gets under your nostrils and shows you the way.

The photo is Tatsumi Hijikata, Butoh founder in his studio.

The following comes from
The water in the Pines is commonly called "cedar water." The Cohansey-Kirkwood aquifer is shallow in most areas, often less than 20 feet below the surface. (Patrick) The acidic waters (4.4 mean pH) are tea colored as a result of humates and a lack of organisms to decompose them, as well as by tannic acid present in plants, especially Atlantic White Cedar, and also by naturally forming iron present in the streams. These unique conditions have allowed the Pine barrens to host a number of unique plant and animal species.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Smelling Galbanum is an amazing thing. This green note has a peppery side to it. Soon after inhaling, I immediately feel closer to nature. I'm surrounded by a lush landscape thick and overgrown with pine and weeds that are thick and milky. Soil that is dark and moist, and thistles and their thorns that will scratch you if you don't lift your leg high enough. Then just when I think, wow you can't get any greener than this, it tricks me and I get hit with a good dose of burnt leaves...? I'm not sure. Then Jillian said, it's like a dirty ashtray. Yes, like a bunch of pressed cigarette butts sitting close together in their burnt out little home. The way it's made was described to me like this: Galbanum is a resin. A natural pathological product, when you cut the plant the gunk that comes out of it is dried and processed. Galbanum is the tough guy of green notes.   

Earth and Green by Mark Rothko     

Sunday, April 3, 2011


This curious citrus note has a floral and a herbaceous quality flowing thorough it. As I continue to smell it, I keep thinking that there is a fresh brewed cup of tea under my nose, or more particularly wet Earl Grey tea leaves that have been brewed. It's a sophisticated note compared to say juicy mandarin or fresh lemon notes which tend to pop. The Bergamot fruit is a mutation; a combination of bitter lemon and orange that is mainly cultivated in Calabria, Italy. 

It wasn't until I put Dior's Escale à Portofino on my skin that I smelled the abundance of citrus running through it. On the blotter, I could only get a delicate spicy note of ginger. Finally, on the skin, I found the effervescent citrus, the bergamot and lemon, however the gingery note remained and continued to haunt me on the ride home. There is something about Portofino that is so familiar; I kept thinking if I continue to smell this that I will be reminded of a childhood memory long forgotten. My sense of smell is still trying to place the memory even though the scent that lingered on my skin is now long gone. Hopefully, I will find the memory inside the bottle.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Upon smelling heliotrope, I immediately see a color, the palest violet and a pastry, a meringue sitting politely on a plate, so light. Yet, as I continue, the meringue turns into marzipan, an almond paste mixed with vanilla, lending a phenolic note-heavy and sweet. Bursting through the sweetness is also a floral note, a powdery floral. As I approach the dry down, I see my children sitting around the table doing all sorts of things with play-dough. Heliotrope smells like play-dough in the dry down. Homemade play-dough has flour and cream of tartar in it, so there is also a powdery dryness that pushes forward in a gentle way. This makes me laugh, it's such a funny playful magical note. I sit and daydream about Guerlain's incredible Après L’Ondéea fragrance centered around heliotrope. Amazing. Photo is Leslie Caron.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maria Sibylla Merian

My fascination with perfume has been with me all my life, ever since I can remember. The art of perfumery informs my  my world. There are many who share this passion both inside and outside the industry. All these people, bottles, places, and interactions are captured here in this blog.  Hopefully shaping and getting me closer to understanding it even more.

While reading Chandler Burr's book, The Perfect Scent, I began to make the connection that many of the perfumes that I admire and wear were created by Jean Claude Ellena. Ellena’s idea that he is creating “haikus” with his perfume; not replicating nature, rather creating a  new form that is reverent to minimalism. His fragrances evoke a place, real or abstract; creating something that is lasting out of something that is completely ephemeral. His manipulation of synthetics, as well as the idea that naturals are not necessarily better than synthetics has certainly allowed for more experimentation and experiences in perfumery. In Burr's book, Jean Claude Ellena quotes Picasso, “Art is a lie that tells the truth”.  Ellena says, “I lie. I create an illusion that is actually stronger than reality.”  

Above drawing is by Botanist Maria Sibylla Merian.