Monday, June 1, 2015

The Scent of Freshly Cut Timber

and other reflections on the olfactory facets of travel...

text to follow...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yet More Soap! The Noblest of Toiletries...

Now that I have managed to cram all of my worldly possessions in a storage space measuring 8 ft x 8 ft x 10 ft--save the contents of three very heavy suitcases and a humongous and probably "against the rules" carry-on tote, I've decided to organize everything else as well, beginning with my photographic images. This has become necessary because now that I have commenced sherapop's big adventure, I am snapping photos like a ... gasp ... tourist!

In the past, I never took photos on my trips to far-away lands. Not in Japan, not in Ghana, not in Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Argentina, anywhere in Europe, nowhere. Partly because I always felt that tourists spent way too much time figuring out how to get the best photos and not enough time looking at things. Partly probably because it used to be rather cumbersome to take photos. You had to buy film, for one. You had to buy the right kind of film. Then you had to develop the film, upon which you'd find that many of the photos were not really worth developing. You kept them, of course, but the whole tedious and expensive process had a strongly deterrent effect.

Not so anymore. Now you can snap one hundred photos and be happy with ten of them and not have wasted anything at all. Yes, digital photography has made everyone into a photographer. Well, perhaps only to the extent that the internet has turned everyone into a writer (ahem). You don't even need a camera, though I have one, because I have yet to join the i-phone craze. Perhaps another day, but for now I still have a "dumb phone" and take pictures on a smart camera,  Nikon Coolpix, which honestly was one of the best investments I ever made. I had to bring it with me to New Zealand, because everything in this place is stunningly beautiful, and it's so far-flung that nearly no one is going to come here to visit me. Hard to believe, but it's not overhyped!

I was a bit daunted by the prospect of doing this, until some kind soul introduced me to Pixelresizer software. What a relief to be able to diminish file sizes by folders instead of one image at a time! So here I am organizing my ever-expanding collection of photographs on Flickr, and I found these entries in the Soap series:

So, yes, it can be truthfully said that I like soap!

Look carefully at the next image, and you'll see the bars I brought with me! Yeah, I know...

My only real defense is that I'll be here for eight months!

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, February 15, 2015

More Pictures of Lily...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pictures of Lily

After smelling the scent of these gorgeously intoxicating flowers fill the house 
where I am staying near Orange Beach, Alabama, 
I feel compelled to give

Cartier Baiser Volé

 another try!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Around the World in 2400 Perfumes...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

His or Hers? 8: Amouage Gold

Amouage Gold pour Femme (1983)
I first tried this perfume a couple of years ago, and my immediate impression was that it was very similar to Estée Lauder White Linen. Both creations offer a strong aldehyde experience. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the aldehydes really dominate these compositions. There are lots of other participants, but the aldehydes steal the show to the point where I have to be in a certain type of mood to wear this sort of perfume.

In some ways I hate to admit this, because so many people gush over Gold, but to my nose, White Linen extrait is a more appealing perfume. I somehow get that weird buzz which appears to scintillate the central nervous system of devotees of Chanel no 5. Everyone needs to have that essential life-transforming aldehyde experience with one perfume, but which one it will be varies from person to person. Chanel no 5 never really did it for me, but White Linen extrait did--once. Alas, I was never able to repeat the experience, and was a tad disappointed when I acquired a bottle of the eau de parfum and found it to have a fuzzier oak moss quality rather than the white Dial soap clarity-inducing zing.

In my initial testing of the made for women perfumes from this house I found Amouage Dia to be even more intensely aldehydic, or perhaps with fewer base notes than Gold, so I did end up preferring Gold to Dia, but if the truth be told, I was not enamored of either. Trying Gold again a couple of days ago, I realized that I still find the aldehyde a bit overdosed to the point of shrouding the flowers.

I wonder whether the same mistake was made in this case as was made with Chanel no 5? Legend has it that the mixer added five times more aldehydes than prescribed by the formula. But that was what Gabrielle selected, and the rest is history.

Perfumer: Guy Robert
Notes (from lily of the valley, rose, frankincense, orris root, jasmine, myrrh, amber, musk, sandalwood, cedar, civet + ALDEHYDES!!!! (why are they missing from the pyramid at Parfumo, I wonder?)

Amouage Gold pour Homme (1983)
I was happy finally to give Gold for guys a sniff, in honor of Vladimir Putin's recent valiant attempt to avert World War III. It is rumored throughout the world wide web that Vlad's signature scent is Amouage Gold pour Homme, so that was reason enough for me to pull out my carded sample. What I found, to my surprise, was a perfume rather close to Van Cleef & Arpels First! The first clue was the heavy civet. But the blended florals are really beautiful in Gold pour Homme as well.

In fact, upon reading a review by jtd it dawned on me that Amouage Gold pour Homme is like First without aldehydes, and Amouage Gold pour Femme is an aldehyde bomb, so First is basically the equivalent of a cross between Gold pour Homme and Gold pour Femme!

My favorite of the three is Van Cleef & Arpels First. But First is not in the running today. Amouage Gold pour Homme is a better perfume than Gold pour Femme, in my opinion. It's more complex and not marred by the aldehyde overkill of Gold pour Femme. In fact, when I wore it the other day I was forced to postpone my bath because I couldn't bear washing it away!

Some of my perfume pals do not like Gold pour Homme. Perhaps they find the civet too heavy. I, in contrast, find it to be an excellent perfume--for guys and gals alike! Yes, it's old school, in some sense, but it's also a welcome blast from the past in this age of abstraction and Twitter perfumery. I've been finding that nearly all of the Amouage pour Homme perfumes are highly wearable by me, and in several cases I prefer the Homme to the FemmeGold is no exception to the rule!

Perfumer: Guy Robert
Notes (from dog rose, lily of the valley, frankincense, orris root, jasmine, myrrh, amber, patchouli, oak moss, musk, sandalwood, cedar, civet

Running Tally: His or Hers?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

His or Hers? 7: Bvlgari pour Femme/Homme

Bvlgari pour Femme (1994)
Created by Sophia Grojsman nearly twenty years ago, Bvlgari pour femme smells today surprisingly fresh and new. This feminine composition features sweet florals—rose, mimosa, and violet loom large—in a clean resinous base and does not seem dated in the least. Having recently received one of the small .8 ounce purse sprays of this creation, I am able to report that there is no obvious distinction between my “vintage” bottle and the latest iteration of this now classic perfume. Many of Grojsman's perfumes have been reformulated—to their detriment and to the disappointment of most of the people who fell in love with them at the time of their launch. Bvlgari pour femme is a rare exception to the rule. Is this because this jeweler's perfumery branch has not been sold off to one of the corporate conglomerates? Perhaps.

Bvlgari pour Femme edp is one of only a few perfumes which I wore in the twentieth century and still wear today. Not only has it not changed, my attitude toward it also has not. Sometimes we experience a change in tastes and decide that what we used to like or even love, we do not anymore. That certainly happened to me with a number of perfumes, including Oscar de la Renta Oscar. My attitude toward the perfume already in my possession changed—it was the same, but I became disenchanted with the scent.

So in the case of Bvlgari pour Femme edp, the fact that no reformulation appears to have taken place is only one part of the equation. The reformulation of nearly everything else does however suffice to explain why most of the perfumes which I wore in the 1990s are history. I mean literally a part of my perfume history, like old friends from the past whom I have no intention of meeting up with again, even if I could, in theory, say, by joining the hunt for vintage bottles at e-bay. Not going to happen.

Every bit as appropriate as it was back at the time of its launch, Bvlgari pour Femme edp is a sweet violet-rose composition similar in some ways to both L'Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose and Miller Harris Coeur de Fleur. They are all united by their violet-tinged, water-washed rose. The big distinction made by the Bvlgari violet rose is that there is a substantial clean musky base which imparts a decidedly perfumey quality to the composition as a whole. It smells somewhat resinous to me, and in addition to making Bvlgari pour Femme seem more like an elixir than a watery sweet floral, it also adds a kind of golden shimmer. Mimosa contributes to this effect, as well.

More formal than both Drôle de Rose and Coeur de FleurBvlgari pour Femme is also very distinct from Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose, yet another fine violet-rose creation. The Bvlgari perfume, apparently the first in its olfactory neighborhoodand another iconic idea generated by the great Grojsmanstrikes a balance between formality and informality. Wearing this perfume is like getting all dressed up in satin pajamas to spend the night at home.

Perfumer: Sophia Grojsman
Notes (from bergamot, neroli, violet leaf, jasmine, jasmine sambac, mimosa, rose, iris, musk, sandalwood

Bvlgari pour Homme (1995)
During the 2012 holiday season, I was plied by retailers with carded samples of Bvlgari pour Homme. I assumed for that reason that it must be a new fragrance. Imagine my surprise on learning that this perfume was launched way back in 1995 and is nearly as old as Bvlgari pour Femme! Is the composition the same today as it was back then? I honestly have no idea, but the fragrance does seem to have a fairly big following, judging by the reviews I've seen. Here's my take:

What a baffling composition. I am told that some twenty-odd notes are present. Of course, we all know that notes are mere metaphors, but in the extremely bizarre case of Bvlgari pour Homme, the metaphors clash head-on with my experience.

Aldehydes? Certainly not. Bergamot, well, okay, yes, I suppose, since it is present in 33% of all perfumes. Maybe I can conceive of this as a tea scent. But the rest? They may as well say that this perfume contains unicorns and elves, since I smell them just about as well!

None of this is to say that there is anything essentially wrong with Bvlgari pour Homme. It's nice. It's light. It's polite. It's clean and keen. It's the perfect scent for the twenty-first-century open-cubicle office. Indeed: it smells to me rather like just pressed and starched long-sleeved cotton shirts complete with linked cuffs and button-down collars!

During most of my wearings of this perfume, my experience remained consistently the same. I simply do not detect the vast majority of notes listed in the hierarchy. One reviewer maintains that this is a big iso-E-super composition, so perhaps it is wiping out all of the other notes. To me, this does not have the same effect as Encre NoireTerre d'Hermès and the other iso-E-super bombs I've encountered, which I identify immediately by their sinus-clearing capacity. But maybe that is the best explanation for my inability to detect much of anything beyond a freshly pressed and starched cotton shirt in this composition. Certainly the longevity is excellent, which suggests significant aromachemical presence.

I should add a small caveat: during one of my four wearings of this fragrance, the muskiness came through much more strongly than on the other occasions. It occurred to me that this composition would not smell good on someone with an acrid skin—or while exercising.

Perfumer: Jacques Cavallier
Notes (from aldehydes, bergamot, lavender, mandarin, mace, neroli, black currant blossom, tea, cyclamen, carnation, geranium, coriander, pepper, rosewood, amber, oakmoss, musk, tonka bean, vetiver, cedar

Concluding Assessment: His or Hers?
Bvlgari pour Femme ou pour Homme?

No surprise, given my long-term relationship with Bvlgari pour FemmeHERS gets my vote today. I would love to hear from the guys out there about what I take to be the MIA notes in  Bvlgari pour Homme. Also: has it been reformulated? Does anyone know? Eighteen years seems like a long time, and if this fragrance for men were produced by nearly any other house, I'd have guessed yes. But apparently Bvlgari pour Femme has not been reformulated, so perhaps pour Homme, too, has remained the same?

I'll close by clarifying that I consider Bvlgari pour Femme to be a feminine, not a unisex perfume. In contrast, Bvlgari pour Homme strikes me as completely unisex, but I happen to like it less. In a lifeboat scenario where only one bottle was allowed for everyone on board, I'd be willing to forego the feminine version in order to avoid mutiny, but barring that sort of unlikely situation, I'd choose Bvlgari pour Femme for myself.

Running Tally: His or Hers?