Sunday, September 1, 2013

We Have Moved to Our New Website. Come Check Out the New Look! 
It's September!
The summer has been busy behind the scenes at Solifore Notes. Together with Noriko we have slowly and successfully migrated my blogspot to my new website! Thank you for visiting me here on blogspot since April 1, 2011.  Continued reflection on perfume, perfumers, individual notes, and people living in an olfactive world will all live on the new website. I hope you enjoy the design and ease. 

The Soliflore Notes Facebook page is also alive and well, and I will be posting latest photos from Elements Showcase in NYC and inspired images and words..

See you soon, Valerie

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Snapshot #9, Julia Zangrilli, NOVA

I met Julia Zangrilli in her intimate studio just a few weeks ago, and one thing that resonates is her knack for making sophisticated custom fragrances that are perfectly tailored for her clientele. Together we smelled not only her first retail release, Chakra, (read my review on CaFleureBon-tomorrow) but we also smelled a few of her customs, and as we did this she effortlessly described  what held her interest about each person and formula. She has carved out a solid brand that speaks fluently to the personal and now with Chakra, she will speak to a broader public. Enjoy, and thanks Julia. VV

Where did you grow-up? Is there an olfactive memory from that time and place that you can share with us?

I grew up in State College, PA. If I had to pick a childhood smell it would be the smell of the soda gun in my dad's restaurant The Deli. I used to hang out there every day after school. Syrupy, a little metallic, with those wafts of alcohol that emanate from wooden bars.

Can you share any daily rituals?

Everyday I drink a kombucha - it's cleansing and energizing. I have a miniature Australian Shepherd named Osa, who jumps on my bed to cuddle every morning. I have a chill dinner with my fiance most nights - it's my favorite way to unwind and shake off the day.


How did you come to perfumery?

I guess I was looking for a creative outlet. I'd recently taken my friend to this voo-doo store in the east village to peruse oils for fun - and she noticed that I had a strong ability to talk about what we were smelling. We weren't smelling "fine" materials, but she saw a penchant that I'd never noticed or thought about. At any rate, a few weeks later she forwarded me a 101 raw materials class she'd seen in NYMag, taught by Anne McClaine. I took the course and instantly became obsessed with the world of perfumery.

It was great to spend time in your studio, it's intimate and perfect for the custom fragrance experience. What is the concept behind NOVA, and is there a person or an idea that has been an influence?

NOVA was influenced by many things. Mainly I found the astronomical definition to be a perfectly subtle and poetic way of describing fragrance. From a type perspective, the word itself is beautiful - the way the N, V and A sit together creates a symmetrical effect. Through the manufacturing process, the Do family at Delbia Do Manufacturers has been hugely helpful. Specifically Darryl Do - number one mentor.

I am so fond of the chair you were sitting on in your studio, you mentioned it was your mother's. I love how family objects can be grounding, and add wabi sabi to our home/work space. Can you speak to us about your Chinese/Italian heritage, I believe you are first generation Chinese/Italian American, has this significantly shaped your world, if so how?

My mother was born 1945 in Shanghai, a toddler around the start of the Communist Revolution. It's a long story but her parents and sister went to the U.S. and left my mom behind with the intention of having her naturalized immediately. The naturalization process ended up taking eight years, so she was raised by her grandparents.  When she finally arrived she was "Americanized" and in a few years and became fluent in English and a star student across the board. To this day she's a renaissance woman who never stops learning/doing. My father was born 1941 in Altoona, Pennsylvania - one of the youngest in a 12-person family who had recently immigrated from Pontecorvo, Italy. His family was too impoverished to provide for everyone, so he was taken in by a neighboring Italian family who was less poor and with only 1 daughter. Shortly after, both of his parents died and he/his siblings were officially orphaned and separated. He started working when he was a kid, first doing paper routes, then flipping pizzas at 13- which began his currently 50-year career as a restauranteur. He and my mom built a restaurant empire, which at its peak consisted of 18 establishments - restaurants, bars and music venues. And raised 4 kids. Total rugged individualist American dream. That heritage makes me exceedingly proud and lucky. Their entrepreneurial spirit, curiosity and lightness of heart have hugely influenced me. (a picture from their early marriage is below).

Are there raw materials that you are drawn to more than others, can you name them here?

It really depends on my mood, though I have a special place in my heart for strange and abstract synthetic oils.

Chakra, NOVA's first signature scent recently launched, how does creating a signature scent differ from creating a custom fragrance for a single client? Do you have a preference?

I take price-point into account much more when working on a formula for retail. With custom fragrances, I can create with higher amounts of precious ingredients. With custom work I'm creating for a specific person's skin, and tweak to their specifications. In developing a retail scent, I still test on a number of people but it's less pointed. The pressures to please are different, there are always more customers with retail, but with a custom formula there's nowhere to run! Both processes are rewarding in different ways, I don't have a preference.

Do you pack fragrances when you travel, if so, which ones?

I save testers, and pick a few at random. I always have a roll-on of a light/therapeutic fragrance oil that I've made - recently I've been loving just french neroli diluted with jojoba and coconut oil.  

What is your  favorite flower? 

I don't have one. I've been making a marked effort to buy flowers for my apartment every week...I like to mix it up! I never make the same arrangements.

Do you have a favorite cocktail, can you share the recipe?

Summers, it's Campari and orange juice with an orange slice. 1 part campari, 2 or 3 parts orange juice depending on how you like it, ice.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Christopher Brosius, CB I Hate Perfume

I was surprised to bump into Christopher Brosius last summer at Elements Showcase, given his rebel reputation inside the fragrance industry; turned out he was attending as a panelist entitled, Art & Commerce: Can They Live Together? 

Flash forward almost a year later, and Christopher agreed to meet with me, and Clayton Ilolahia, from What Men Should Smell Like, in Williamsburg. Enter his gallery and one can easily imagine a perfumer who is in constant dialogue with his collection. Christopher spoke candidly to us about the times he had consciously chose to be part of the fragrance world, and the times he has gracefully stepped away. However outspoken, Christopher is quite easy to be around, and you get the sense that he has and will always take the path less traveled. He is an award-winning perfumer who has been creating fragrances on his own terms for more than 20 years. I could easily imagine Christopher riding a chariot filled with fragrances that challenge the status quo, taking us closer to what we didn't know we wanted. He wants fragrance to reveal, not mask or coverup.

Christopher mused about some becoming anosmic not only to their perfumes, but even to their own bodies. Lucky for us, this type of anosmia, the inability for people to smell their own crappy perfumes led Christopher to create his own fragrances. Christopher told us about a fragrance that he wore for the longest time because he fell in love with the initial top notes of tomato leaf. “The first fifteen minutes were soooo good.” The first hit blinded him to the rest. A good friend came to his rescue, and told him to please stop wearing the fragrance. This friendly scent intervention along with a decision to leave the city was the beginning of an intense exploration into capturing his olfactive impressions, and perhaps that glorious fifteen minutes into a bottle.

It was during his days at Demeter where he perfected making scented close-ups, if you will, Holy Water, Snow, and Dirt just to name a few. His approach came from a pure emotional investment about scent never a gimmicky one, when it started to go in the gimmicky direction he wanted out. Emancipated, he began his line, CB I Hate Perfume in July of 2004. He has created fragrances that in one moment speak to the transformation of love, and then has turned around and asked the question, what would the antithesis of scent be, a scent that only a few could smell? He created M5 Where We Are There Is No Here (#405), a fragrance that that is barely detectable, here he found his “ghost of a flower,”  he worked sandalwood into the formula, as many are anosmic to it.

Some have compared his fragrances to realism in art, but it was clear that he loathed this idea. His formulas are impressionistic, inspired by the real world, literature, memories, ideas, and people. He spoke with great clarity about the idea of Romanticism in fragrance and how he captured this notion in a fragrance, A Room with a View (#404). There is the iconic scene in the film, A Room with A View when Julian Sans and Helena Bonham Carter's characters find themselves together in a barley field. In that moment, their love is unspoken and yet they know that their connection is undeniable. Christopher saw the film first, and then read the novel, (in French) and found that the barley field in the film was indeed a field of violets in the novel, and thus a fragrance was inspired. He worked with beta-ionone, to create a Florentine Violet. Beta-Ionone is a note that turns on and off, comes and goes, adding texture, reflection, and emotion. Christopher described that texture is where the artistry lives when building a fragrance, it elevates the core idea, helps support and create the illusion. 

Christopher doesn't believe in signature scents, a single scent that one wears day to day, year after year. Rather the nose that we smell with has evolved, and is discerning and sophisticated. Through CB I Hate Perfume one can make decisions on a day-to-day basis, experimenting with scents and our many different sides, choosing a fragrance based on how we are feeling that particular day, similar to getting dressed. Perfume can be the driver of our days and nights.

As we were leaving, there seemed to be so much in motion for CB I Hate Perfume, an updated and streamlined website, a new design for his flacons, and an opportunity that comes from not the best news, seems CB I Hate Perfume is being kicked out of their current space, but a brilliant solution is here. Art and commerce are well and alive. Thank you Christopher. 

Become a benefactor. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Juniper Ridge: It's Like Being There

Photo Credit: Michael Nichols, National Geographic

The last couple of weeks I've been pondering my past visits to the more obscure national parks like, Lassen Volcanic, and Canyonlands, and I remembered how both the harshness and stunning beauty of these landscapes can be equally challenging to the mind and body. As I was remembering all this stuff, I couldn't help but notice that my dallying about nature seemed to be gently aligned, and certainly stirred by my recent acquisition of Juniper Ridge Cascade Glacier Cabin Spray, and their Winter Redwood (seasonal) Solid Perfume. Both start out bold. The Cabin Spray ignites the house with a heightened scent of reality, suddenly there is a green crispness, bark, pine, moss and all permeating the air.  I started calling these two unprocessed scents, in that here lies no illusion of some stupid idea of nature, or some weird reference to nature, these scents are pure, vigorous and concentrated. They are what they are. These fragrances for home and body feel as if Juniper Ridge folks go around in a van throughout the backcountry of California finding indigenous plants, and quickly distilling them. Wait-- that's right, that is exactly what they do. Their website explains it well.

Juniper Ridge is capturing potent gems that give us both a wide-angle and a close-up of the natural world. At first they shock and tingle my (city) system; however as they settle, and particularly when the solid perfume warms up on the skin there is a subtlety that comes alive, the kind that keeps me bringing my wrist to my nose most of the day for a lingering sniff. I am tickled that the solid perfume is easily portable, and all dressed up in its vintage re-purposed tin.

There is nothing like connecting to nature, if we take the time to do it and to notice. Thanks for doing and noticing Juniper Ridge.

 Please feel free to share any memorable nature encounters here.. 

Visit my Facebook page for more photos.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Power of Family and Scent: Past and Present

My lens of a place and time. Read my post on CaFleureBon.

.....Memories of the perfect order of the day stirred as she described how vetiver shades, hot and dusty from the day were hosed down. She still can smell the water hitting the shades and how perfect the smell was........

Monday, June 17, 2013

FRAGments: Underground, Artisan and Indie Perfume Event/Collective: June 22 in LA

If you find yourself in LA this Saturday don't miss FRAGments.  

Maggie Mahboubian, Parfum Lalun just told me she will be presenting her fragrance Jalousie on Saturday, but she will be presenting it an unconventional way. Sounds curious. Here are my thoughts on Jalousie, Parfums Lalun ....

Here's a bit of the press release...

FRAGments will bring together olfactory and perfume artists from across North America in a gallery setting to present a curated selection of their work. The event will be the first in a series to be held in a unique space. Each event will feature a moderated salon discussion followed by a reception and exhibition where perfumer/creators will be able to present their work in a collective pop- up shop designed and styled by FRAGments.

Maggie Mahboubian, founder and curator of FRAGments, added, “it will provide a small scale, intimate forum for artisan perfumers to interact directly with their audience”. Another unique aspect of this event is that it will define a community and spotlight the art of fragrance design through interpretive and experimental work. The first FRAGments event will be held at MorYork Gallery 

The following artists will present their work:

JK DeLapp, The Rising Phoenix Perfumery ( David Falsberg, Phoenicia Perfumes ( Amanda Feeley, Esscentual Alchemy ( Lisa Fong, Artemisia Natural Perfume (
Heather Kauffman, Jolie Laide Perfume ( Maggie Mahboubian, Parfums Lalun ( Christi Meshell, House of Matriarch ( Mik, MIKMOI San Francisco (
Ayala Moriel, Ayala Moriel Parfums ( Persephenie ( Sherri Sebastian, Sebastian Signs ( Nikki Sherritt, Rebel and Mercury Parfums ( Meredith Smith, Sweet Anthem Perfumes ( Dawn Spencer-Hurwitz, DSH Perfumes (
Laurie Stern, Velvet and Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery ( Roxana Villa, Roxana Illunimated Perfume ( Shelley Waddington, En Voyage Perfume (

FRAGments - Underground, Artisan and Indie Perfume Event/Collective The 1st Event to be held on June 22, 2013 at MorYork Gallery, 4959 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Aedes de Venustas Iris Nazarena on CaFleureBon

It took me days before I connected Iris Nazarena to Bertolucci's film, The Conformist. Read it on CaFlerueBon.

"Sometimes a fragrance is so exquisite and uniquely itself that my desire to rush in and write about it comes to a delightful pause; instead I get to live with the fragrance in a kind of suspended time, savoring it and waiting to see where it will take me, and that’s exactly how Iris Nazarena revealed itself. ..."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Aroma M: Geisha Nobara-cha, Geisha Violet, Geisha Rouge

Yoshitomo Nara, Lone Star
Maria McElroy told me that there is a Japanese saying that translates to the water agrees with you, and during her seven years in Japan she experienced good health, long walks sometimes surrounded by plum blossoms, and a feeling that she was home. Maria is certainly enamored by all things Geisha, the glamour, mystery, and ritual, but in no way is she trying to be a Geisha. She told me squarely, "I am an American girl," and it's true Maria certainly is an all-American emancipated woman. Geisha culture just happens to be the source of her preoccupation and inspiration for aroma M fragrances, not to mention exquisitely fragrant face and hair Camellia oils, with a body and bath oil to follow. She enjoys burning and brewing Japanese incense and tea, and soon she will be opening the doors of her Dumbo studio and you will get to experience all her line has to offer for yourself. For now, here's my take on three of her fragrances.

Geisha Nobara-cha
Nobara-cha is one of three fragrances centered on tea. It is a studied fragrance that is earthy and wild. Think dark damp earth after the rain. I smell mushroom, wild rose, incense. A fascinating fragrance with a still almost meditative dry-down. Maria came to perfumery through aromatherapy and I detect a subtle nod to her past here. This fragrance is not for the light-hearted fragrance lover; I like that.

Geisha Violet
Initially Violet is incredibly green on my skin, like violet leaves-green and earthy. Soon it begins to change and a floral translucency emerges from its heart note, namely Lotus. A base of bitter chocolate steps in to give weight and presence to this interesting slightly gourmand mix. As the fragrance settles a sweet whisper of violet blossom finally and magically appears.

Geisha Rouge
Rouge took the longest for Maria to create. She was looking through a telescope and asking herself what can sexy be, along with the specific idea of making a perfume that contains no floral component. She ended up with a warm spicy fragrance. Cinnamon, anise, clove, and sandalwood are guiding this fragrance to a flame that descends leaving us with a burning, yet subtle incense ember. If Rouge was a starlet she would have bedroom eyes and a breathy voice.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fueguia 1833 Patagonia, Thays

When I heard the word Thays, I thought that it was short for the Spanish word for tea, considering this fragrance is inspired by Mate Yerba. I quickly learned that Thays is named after the French-Argentine landscape architect, Carlos Thays, and soon the story behind this unique and complex fragrance emerged. South America is in the house, read my post on CaFleureBon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Snapshot #8, Maria McElroy, aroma M

Print: Masao Ebina

Maria McElroy is one of the few deeply glamorous people that I know. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit her studio, and experience her keen eye for detail, reverence for ceremony, and infectious laughter. I first met Maria earlier this year at Les Christophs show at the Dillon Gallery in NYC; I can still see Maria with blotter in hand and eyes closed savoring every scented moment. Note: Maria envisioned the fragrance for her Camellia face and hair (and soon to be) body oils as if they were a veil, and the combination of application and veiled scent helps to both ground and elevate the day, not to mention the skin and hair. Brava. Enjoy, VV

What are you up to these days?

There is a lot of activity at aroma M these days! I just launched aroma M Beauty, my organic Camellia Face and Hair Oils, and I am now formulating the next product in the line, Camellia Body/Bath Oil to launch in a few months. I am so excited about this oil, it looks like liquid gold and the fragrance is based on the face oil blend, with the addition of Moroccan Rose Oil. I’m really loving it! I have also started Art of Perfume classes with my House of Cherry Bomb partner, Alexis Karl. We have some really fun classes lined up this summer at the Dumbo studio. The one I am waiting for is ‘God Save the Queen: A Riot of Punk Perfume’ in June.

Please let us know where you were born and raised? Can you share a visual and scent memory that stays with you from that time?

I was born and raised in SLC, Utah. The visual I have is of the soaring mountains, and now as an adult I realize the scent in those mountains was crystal clear air. So pure… how I would imagine sky blue would smell.

You have such a deep connection to Japanese culture in many ways; Can you give us a little window into your time there, a day in the life of.....?

Well, I should start off by saying that I really feel Japan is my second home. I loved the time that I lived there. It was filled with adventure and inspiration. There was always something new to be learned and experienced everyday. My memory is that I felt very alive with a sense of excitement.

Where exactly did you live in Japan, and how long did you live there? Can you describe what indelible impressions that were made upon your return to the states?

I lived in Tokyo for seven years, and that time made a big impression on me, mostly in the way that the traditional arts and culture have helped me approach not just my creative endeavors, but life itself.

Does it continue to influence your everyday world? If so, how?

Yes it does. My husband is Japanese and a chef, so we are able to share many of the parts of the culture and philosophy that we both embrace. I always tease him that he is the last Samurai, because he has such integrity and humbleness- things that we both value.

Do you have a daily ritual that you can share with us?

I love rituals, so I have many! A few are: I start my day by lighting Japanese incense and meditate. I drink green tea every morning, and in this last year, have added a fresh green juice to my regime. I really think that green juices are the fountain of youth and energy!

Maria McElroy

When do you wear a fragrance; is there ever a time when you don't?

I wear fragrance before I go to bed at night, and always start the day with perfume. The only time I don't wear perfume is when I go to the Zen center for meditation. I feel that the incense in the meditation room is enough and I don’t want to distract others from their practice.

Does blending and working with raw materials influence you physically/emotionally? If so, can you explain a feeling that has stayed with you?

It is such a joy to be able to work with these wonderful elixirs. Every time I blend, I experience an almost time stopping feeling. The fragrances are often enveloping and I am able to be in the moment you might say. Certain fragrances can really take you away on a physical and emotional level. I have always felt it is a kind of magic to work with perfumes.

If you could sit down and have a conversation with anyone living or dead who would that be?


Lyndsey Marshal as Cleopatra

How did your passion for the visual morph into your passion for olfaction?

It was really organic. It felt very natural to create scents inspired by colors.

When you travel, what items do you not leave home without?

I always take an amulet that I got at a temple in Kyoto that is for travel protection; I don't like airplanes very much. I also always carry a Lavender scented handkerchief.

Do you have a favorite book?

The Tale of Gengi

A favorite cocktail?

One of my other projects I’m working on is the House of Spirits, which is part of House of Cherry Bomb. We are creating flavored Vodka’s and Liquor’s. My favorite cocktail of the moment is our Fig Vodka over ice, it’s delicious!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

PARFUMS LALUN: If Fragrances were Portraits

Qajar Dynasty, Iran, Late 18th Century

Painting; three horses (white, black, and tan) galloping across a bare landscape, 16th century, from Persia.

I am a fan of Maggie Mahboubian, an architect and perfumer. I have long admired her blog, Architecture of Perfume

It took me a while to realize that besides being an exquisite writer, Maggie's expression also spanned the world of natural skincare, and in September 2012 Parfums Lalun was launched. Her depth and intellect resonate through these five fragrances. They are studied like portraits, and classical in structure; at first they morph and transform, but ultimately they delicately settle on the skin. They make me wonder about her approach and all that went into making them. Here are some quick impressions as a way to begin to enter their complexity.  Hopefully I will bring some insight along with salutations.

Aqua di Callitris Comes racing out the bottle. It is spirited and spunky and uplifting. With one deep breath you can feel an expanding horizon in front of you, even if you are locked up in a tall city building. A bold fragrance. Rosemary, lime,  there is a bitterness, pine; it has a slight anisic quality countered by a juiciness. I can’t help but think of Guerlain Vetiver, “Captures the freshness and vitality of nature.” Aqua di Callitris is restorative, it's like making it to the summit.

Blanche du Bois brings me back to A Streetcar Named Desire under Liv Ulmann's direction. If it were a color it would be GOLDEN. A powdery silky scent. I detect a menthol aspect, woody. Lowers the blood pressure, slows down time, white woods. I love it.

La Lune de Miel is both warm and glittery. Coriander and cinnamon on top. Spicy, sticky beeswax. Smells thick almost syrupy-like hot unsweetened cocoa. Rose/beeswax heart. The patchouli elevates this deep fragrance, and reminds me that patchouli is from the mint family. The vanilla rounds it. Cumin gives depth. Somehow this fragrance finds a way to sparkle. It feels like Maggie pulled the formula from out of her soul.

Galbanum and pomegranate are alive. Qajar Rose-instantly transports one back in time. This dark rose is greeted by a resinous oud. Saffron comes in mid-way, enhancing the rose leaving an aromatic impression. Geranium adds spice, and ambrette and patchouli give lift.  When I smell Qajar Rose I see a bow touching strings, all the time the notes are being pulled and pushed. All that was lost is now found. Qajar Rose was a 2013 Indie FiFi® nominee.

A herbaceous hypnotic glowing amber that is a dream on the skin, Phenomene Verte. That's all she wrote..

See Resource Page

Maria Candida Gentile Maître Parfumeur: Sideris

Island Beach State Park, NJ

Instantly Maria Candida Gentile Sideris took me back in time to take an imaginary stroll with my entire family.

Monday, April 22, 2013

D.S. & Durga: Poppy Rouge

Mississippi John Hurt
Robert Mapplethorpe Poppy 1988
It's great when a fragrance can get you listening to blues and thinking about art while simultaneously enjoying the comforts of home. That's exactly how it happened with D. S. & Durga Poppy Rouge.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa

Catalina Trail, January 2, 1975, the day she and Ken Brugger “discovered” the Monarch butterfly overwintering sites Photo copyright Catalina Trail
It looks like I will keep my promise to the boys and plant a butterfly garden with plenty of milkweed. I got caught up in the patterns of migrating Monarchs during my recent encounter with Ramon Monegal's Pure Mariposa, EdPBTW- The migrating population of Monarch butterflies in Mexico is down -way down. Two links follow. 

A brief excerpt of the post is here..

.....The ephemeral butterfly is a symbol of the psyche. Butterflies exemplify grace, flight, and are a reminder to live life to the fullest. Their lifecycle is a journey of constant change and adaptation that involves incredible hard work, profound stillness, and ultimately a miraculous transformation. I found many moving stories written about encounters with butterflies that appear soon after the death of a loved one; survivors know that the butterfly represents the life force of the departed. While writing this, I began to notice images of butterflies everywhere I went, on my son’s lunch box; the framed print above my dining table that illustrates the four stages of metamorphosis. A film that tracked the migration patterns of the Monarch butterflies, they fly south to Mexico by the millions, and Odilon Redon’s symbolic paintings inspired me. At the office I spotted a butterfly print on a lonely shelf with a Matsuo Basho haiku that reads, “Wake butterfly, it’s late, we’ve miles to go together.”