Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Scent of Moving Coming Soon...

Until then, please enjoy a fragrant glass of tea:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tom Ford Philosophizes in and on Film: Carpe Diem—with Style!

Review of 

A Single Man

a  2009 film directed by Tom Ford

Tom Ford: fashion designer, perfume house creative director, provocateur ... film director? Yes, indeed, his début film effort, A Single Man, starring Colin Firth and also featuring Julianne Moore, has established that the creative director of Tom Ford Beauty is also an accomplished film director—and a screen writer to boot!

I must confess that I came to this film with rather low expectations. I was very pleasantly surprised at how good the work ended up being. Critics have grumbled that A Single Man is "boring". They lament specifically the lack of plot and the hyper-aestheticism, but those are precisely the central themes of this film. The naysayers somehow missed in their visceral disdain that A Single Man, based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, is on its face and by intention much more about style than substance.

The message of A Single Man is a simple one, and for that reason some may find it banal: Carpe Diem. Live each day to the fullest, as though it might be the last. Tom Ford's embellishment of this cliché—if indeed it is one—is to focus on all of the aesthetic minutiae of which every life is filled, provided only that one has eyes to see. And, of course, a nose to sniff.

Perfume appears in only two short segments of the film. Near the opening, what looks to be a bottle of none other than Tom Ford perfume sits on the protagonist's vanity. The bottle is turned to the side, so we are left to guess which member of the Private Collection George Falconer, the troubled English professor played by Colin Firth, might be wearing. One thing is clear: he does not have the entire collection but a single signature scent, along with two bottles of what look to be classic cologne or after shave. One of the “goofs” of this film listed at the IMDB database is that the bottle of spirits consumed by the protagonist was created in 1999, but the action takes place in 1962. No one seems to have noticed that Tom Ford Perfume did not exist at that time, either. In fact, Tom Ford himself was born in 1961!

The second scene in which perfume is briefly referenced is when the professor is speaking with a departmental secretary, whose beauty he is praising in a rather inappropriate way—and not only because he is gay. George is enraptured by the woman, whose physical beauty is enhanced by her scent, which he recognizes and identifies outloud: Arpège.

This scene effectively conveys an idea sometimes lost sight of: that sex and aesthetics are two completely different things. George, being a gay man, has no physical attraction to the woman whose beauty he admires. He finds her to be an exquisite sight to behold, something to gaze upon in awe, an object of reverence, not desire.

Some would say that women should be regarded as neither sex objects nor art objects or repositories of aesthetic value. But that sort of view supposes that human beings have essences. I favor a more existential approach: that people are what they choose to become. If a woman decides to focus on aesthetics or to render herself physically attractive—whether as a work of art or as an object of desire—that can be a perfectly valid choice, it seems to me, provided only that it is a genuine choice. Different people have different strengths and weaknesses. Work with what you've got.

The problem with beautiful women is not that they are beautiful, but that for most of the history of humanity, women have been excluded at the outset from roles beyond those of sexual partner, mother, and aesthetic object. More recently, as women have been afforded the opportunity to do other things as well, those three roles have become (and remain) choices for some.

My impression is that "beautiful" men have to deal with many of the same prejudices as do beautiful women. Stated starkly: many people have a hard time believing that a person can be both comely and intelligent. It's fine to be one or the other, but handsome, intelligent, and talented all at once? That would be way too many good genes concentrated in a single set of chromosomes!

Charlotte or "Charlie", the woman played by Julianne Moore in the film, has spent her life in the role of the beautiful young woman. She was married for nine years and raised a child. Her husband eventually left her—the implication being that he moved on to someone younger and more beautiful than she. Charlotte aged over the course of the decade of their relationship to become someone other than the woman she appeared earlier to be.

Charlie is the classic example of the woman who dedicated everything to her husband and focused primarily upon her beauty and his needs. She has no career, and now that her husband has abandoned her, she finds herself without moorings, a wealthy middle-aged woman who drinks heavily and wonders what she should do now that she is no longer a nubile young thing, and her child has also left the nest. (It is a bit unclear in the film, but the child may have been from a previous marriage.) Charlie never developed her talents nor pursued a career because she was too busy being the beautiful wife of her husband and the mother of a child.

The film is set in Los Angeles in 1962. At that time, women had many fewer options and opportunities than they do today. It is becoming more and more rare to find women like Charlotte in that sort of predicament, although it certainly does happen and is far more common in other parts of the world. But none of this is really what A Single Man is about. This becomes abundantly clear in a scene where George and Charlotte lie juxtaposed on the floor, wallowing in their respective state of despair. George is a college English professor. Having this credential, a successful career outside of the home, has done nothing to save him from his fate.

Charlotte may never have experienced true love, but George did, and he lost the love of his life after a relationship of sixteen years. The film focuses upon the existential despair of George, not Charlotte, though they are friends in part because they share the very same plight. Both have been left bereft: Charlotte because her husband abandoned her, and George because his long-term partner, Jim, has died in an automobile accident. The very identities of these grieving survivors have become bound up with people who are no longer a physical part of their lives but continue to dominate them psychologically from afar.

One appealing aspect of A Single Man is that it is intentionally and repeatedly ambiguous about a wide range of provocative questions regarding homo- and heterosexuality. Tom Ford leaves enough unanswered questions to allow the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions about the meaning of the bare facts of the story. To some, the fact that George and Jim were truly in love, and Charlotte never was, may be interpreted to mean that the love between two males is somehow higher or more exalted or more authentic than the business-like relationships which so many heterosexual marriages become as couples balance the demands of child-rearing and household maintenance.

In some ways Charlotte exemplifies the stereotypical “fag hag,” who ardently wishes, against all physical reality, that her gay male friend might finally see the heterosexual light. (They did have a physical relationship in the past but it did not work out—because George was really gay.) Yet the message in the film is not unequivocally that women are somehow inferior or incapable of true love. Heterophobes may read the text in that way, but a more catholic interpretation would be that love is very rare, between any two people, whether two men, a man and a woman, or two women.

Tom Ford manages to depict the relationship between George and Jim as one of true love, but also as natural as can be. While that sort of depiction may no longer seem revolutionary, given the recent social advances on this front, there was a time when homosexual love was regarded by a swath of the populace as pathological, something to be hidden and corrected or cured.

Homosexual love is presented as normal in this film, while the so-called normal “all American” family is depicted as somewhat unbalanced. George's next door neighbors, a typical suburban family of the early sixties, are cast in a rather negative light. In one brief segment, the young daughter, a blond child with a Rhoda Penmark-like demeanor (see The Bad Seed), catches a butterfly and destroys it between her hands by rubbing them together, crushing the delicate creature's wings to dust. (Animal rights lovers rest assured: the Humane Society monitored the production of this film and has certified that no cruelty was done!)

The juxtaposition of this somewhat boorish and coldly brutal family with the gentle homosexual couple next door seems to be a way of objecting to the erroneous attribution to homosexuals throughout history of psychological and sexual perversion. Again, a heterophobe might read too much into such examples, but a more liberal reading would perhaps acknowledge that cruelty and pathology transcend all demographic and gender-orientation lines.

The film offers a “sexual-preference-less” conception of love (analogous to “color blind”), though the only two characters who achieve true love happen to be two males. The message is not that every liaison between any two men is automatically better than any relationship between a man and woman. This becomes clear as George is confronted with two prospective “replacements” for his long lost love, but neither can fill the void in his soul. Jim was not just a sex object for George, as becomes obvious when he rejects the repeated advances of two different and very attractive potential suitors.

A Single Man plays out over the course of a single day. George has decided to end his own life, and he moves through the morning, the afternoon, and the evening with this idée fixe in mind. He goes to the bank and removes his insurance policy and other papers from a safe deposit box, returning to his home and laying everything out with the suit in which he wishes to be dressed while lying inert in his coffin. He attaches a note to the necktie to make sure that his last sartorial wishes will be respected: tie in a Windsor knot

He leaves a stack of money in a loaf of bread for his housekeeper, and cleans out his office at the university in preparation for his final departure from this world. Once all of the arrangements have been settled in his mind, George attempts repeatedly to shoot himself with a pistol in various parts of his home. 

He is unable to settle on the appropriate arrangement, where he should be when a bullet from the gun fires through his mouth into his head. 
After multiple failed efforts: sitting on the bed, lying on the bed, standing in the bathtub, and even buried within a sleeping bag, George gives up in exasperation, distracted by the phone ringing, which he knows to be his friend Charlotte, who has been awaiting his visit, bottle of Tanqueray gin in tow.

Eventually, after spending some time with a student who has been pursuing him relentlessly, George finally renounces his plan to take his own life. 

It is not quite clear in the film whether the two men slept together or not—the sequence of floating in water could be a reflection of either a physical experience or a dreambut something about the time spent with this sensitive young man changes George's view. 

He replaces the gun back in the desk drawer and turns the key to lock it in, ending what seemed to have been his inexorable quest to commit suicide. George then makes his way back to his bed, where immediately after experiencing a neo-Leibnizian "best of all possible worlds" epiphany, he proceeds to suffer a fatal heart attack.

This dénouement, like the rest of the film, can be read in a variety of ways. One is that what George and Jim had was sacred and should not be desecrated through George's involvement with another, younger man. Another way of understanding the film is as a profound expression of romanticism: that George and Jim's life together was complete, and once Jim had departed, it was George's turn to follow, not by his own hand, but by a force beyond his control. He died not because he was too weak to face the world without Jim, but because it was time for him to go.

Every single shot of this film is perfectly composed, not because Tom Ford was attempting to be artsy-fartsy, but because he really is. The extreme attention to detail, to making sure that every single thing is in its place and properly arranged with balance and symmetry, is an expression of an aesthetic vision of life. The highly stylized quality of this film reflects a desire not only to control the environment in which one spends one's time, but also to be able to gaze upon all within one's view in awe of the beauty to be found in even the smallest of things.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Report from the Tea Trenches: There are Thousands of Others Like You!

Of late, I've been spending a lot of my online time at Steepster, which is basically the tea lover's analogue to some intersection of Fragrantica, Parfumo, and/or Dnotes. I suppose that since there is no content beyond tea profiles and tea tasting notes (reviews--or comments relating to the same author's previous reviews), the closest comparison would be to Parfumo. 

People who love tea convene at Steepster to share their tea experiences. It's quite clear that some members spend the whole day drinking tea, and writing about drinking tea. So that's a bit different from the online perfume community experience, because few people write more than one review a day, and many people write nothing at all--aside from interacting in the forum boards.

Tea lovers, like perfume lovers, enjoy talking about their recent purchases, their struggle to "contain" their collection, and their desire to expand it at the same time. All of these dynamics are quite familiar to those who have fallen into the bottomless vortex of perfume acquisition, with many of us resolving each January to refrain from buying any more bottles until _____________ (fill in the blank). My favorite resolution is to not buy any new bottles until I have reviewed everything in my house--bottle, decant, and sample. I usually make it a month or more before breaking the resolution. I believe that my record may have been 2013, when I recall having lasted at least through the month of March! 

One relevant difference in this regard between these two obsessions is that tea costs a lot less than perfume and can be consumed several times a day--or all day long! Perfume, on the other hand, is generally worn for several hours, which means that even very prolific reviewers don't write about several different perfumes in a single day. With all of the aromachemicals swirling about in the air these days, that might not even be safe!

What are the other differences between "fumeheads" and "students of tea"? One may be that people who write about their tea experience do not appear to be advocating for the tea. I suppose that one could consider raves to be a form of exhortation and negative remarks a form of dissuasion. But more than anything, people who write about tea seem to be simply sharing their personal experience with a particular brand, style, and harvest of tea. Some people prefer blends; others prefer single-origin leaves. 

There are five major families of tea: black, oolong, green, white, and pu-erh, and different people tend to greatly prefer some of these over others. (In China, yellow tea is considered a sixth major category, but I have never tried it!) Some people prefer herbal infusions, which are not really "tea" at all, for they contain nothing derived from the tea plant, camellia sinensis. In navigating one's way through the vast and kaleidoscopic world of tea and tea-like brews, subjectivity is key: something not to be overcome but to be celebrated. 

No one seems to have any problem with a person who finds jasmine or oolong teas headache-inducing, for example. We are different people, and different people like different things, including different types of tea, in large part as a result of not only physiological factors, but also cultural habits acquired over time. Sencha is the number one tea in Japan. In Argentina, the "national infusion" (defined by law!) is maté. Is one of these beverages better than the other? In a referendum, the Japanese might insist that sencha is superior, but Argentinians would certainly demur!

There are groups of tea lovers who all seem to be patronizing certain very popular tea emporia, many of which would be absolutely unknown to the average person. There are also "controversial" tea providers--above all, Teavana--whose business practices elicit anger and denunciations reminiscent of some of the vitriol slung by perfumistas at houses such as Bond no 9, Creed, and Montale, among others which are beloved by many but scorned by others. In these and many other ways, the social world of tea and the social world of perfume seem to have many parallels.

There are many different levels, qualities, and kinds of tea within each family--indeed, more than there are of all perfumes taken together! People tend to like or dislike certain "genres", just as with perfume. In Japan, there are undoubtedly imbibers of maté (an herbal infusion packing a major punch of caffeine), and in Argentina, there are undoubtedly people who prefer sencha (a green tea with a clean, vegetal taste). 

Some tea drinkers add sugar or honey and cream or lemon to their brew; others regard such "adulteration" as akin to an act of desecration! In all of these matters of taste, the cultural milieu in which we are raised affects us without fully determining our preferences. How else could I, sherapop, who grew up in a perfume-free home, have become so obsessed with perfume? Why am I, sherapop, the only person in my family who even knows what bancha and pu-erh are?

In the school of hot cups, I have found less snobbery and less tendency to indulge in hype as a way of justifying one's tea preferences than I have sometimes witnessed in the spaces frequented by perfumistas. I believe that this may have something to do with the difference in price between fine tea and most niche perfume. If an ordinary (working) person drops $300 on a 50ml bottle of perfume, it had better be good. Very good

For the last couple of months, I have purchased little perfume and a ton of tea. Yet each order of tea, often containing up to a dozen--or more!--different varieties ends up costing less than a single bottle of perfume. It occurred to me that since tea is an intrinsically rich olfactory experience, in addition to being a healthy habit, given that the body and mind function best when well-hydrated, more perfumistas should perhaps look to the opportunity for olfactory enrichment readily available to them in what looks from afar to be a modest and mundane cup of tea. 

In truth, once one cuts through the packaging and perfume marketing hype, looking for the olfactory experience within the genie bottle--not the seduction of associating with the sorts of people who use, advocate, and advertise perfume--it becomes obvious that the sniffing in one case (the fumes emanating off the surface of a cup of tea or from a packet of dried leaves) is not really any different than it is in the other (the fumes wafting off one's neck or wrist--or ankles!). 

In fact, my fragrant friends, I have discovered that many of the most annoying aspects of the perfume industry in the twenty-first century--including the removal of natural substances from perfumes and the increasingly abstract and synthetic compositions being fobbed off in kitschy bottles as fine fragrances in their stead--are altogether absent from the world of tea. 

I exhort you, therefore, to consider expanding your olfactory horizons by opening the door to the multifaceted universe of tea, not only for the potable pleasure which it affords, not only for the health benefits which it brings, but also because of the olfactory adventures which await you in the exquisite range of teas carefully cultivated, harvested, roasted, steamed, dried, and blended in endless ways to produce a near infinity of flavors and scents all beckoning you to enjoy!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Perfume Make-up? The Strange Case of Scented Nail Polish

It appears that the "perfume is art" crowd are being given a run for their money by an opposing force no doubt championed much more vigorously by the corporatized fragrance industry. Perfume in some circles has now become make-up! 

I recently happened upon an advertisement for a new and unexpected product while flipping through one of the many worthless magazines littering my apartment. I receive a lot of magazines in part because Fragrancenet offers a free subscription with every purchase. So that's how I ended up with lengthy, multiyear subscriptions to such publications as Cosmopolitan, Martha Stewart Living, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Better Homes & Gardens, and the magazine in which this advertisement appeared: Allure, which is devoted above all to make-up. The only magazine perhaps even more ridiculous and yet frighteningly a sign of the post-post-modern, SSRI, Twitter-twenty-first-century times may be Lucky, which is dedicated to ... drum roll ... shopping!

This is a perfect example of why I do find myself leafing rapidly through an issue of this sort of magazine before dropping it into the vertical. Who knows what one may learn about contemporary culture, society, and mores? In this case, I learned that, unbelievably enough, there is now a perfumed nail polish being made by Revlon, in its special Parfumerie line.

I was initially thinking about simply approaching this topic from a purely philosophical perspective: Is perfume make-up, after all? Is it perhaps not entirely coincidental that Chandler Burr's disappearance from the Museum of Arts and Design was approximately concomitant with the appearance of perfumed nail polish on the market? To be honest, I'm not sure when Revlon's Parfumerie collection was launched, but I do believe that Chandler Burr's fifteen minutes of fame as a "perfume is art" theorist have now elapsed.

Does this mean that the powerful "perfume is a toiletry" lobby which exerts enormous influence on the industry--and indeed perhaps is identical with the mainstream fragrance industry--has won out? This development may be hailed or scorned, but in all likelihood that will depend upon one's prior beliefs about "perfume as art" and "perfume as toiletry". 

If you already believe that all perfume is directly connected to all cologne, which began as a way for stinky people without access to frequent baths to cover up their own bodily stench, and therefore is obviously a toiletry (being a bath surrogate), then the sight of the above Revlon Parfumerie advertisement is probably not going to bother you in the least.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to think of perfume as something loftier, something higher, something transcendent, perhaps something that someone like Jackson Pollock might create, then the sight of this little splotch of Revlon Parfumerie Beachy, which may in fact resemble some artist's work of art somewhere, may be a bit disconcerting:

As usual, sherapop manages to navigate her epistemological way through this untenable duality. Yes, of course, perfume is used as a way of masking body odor or else to add some where there is none. Musk and ambergris perfumes, anyone? Yes, of course, people like Daniela Andrier and Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Elléna and Dominique Ropion and (add your favorite perfumer) __________________ are creative spirits and bursting with talent. But none of either of these two ways of looking at perfume--as a "mere" toiletry or as an exalted "art""--tells the whole story. The truth, my fragrant friends, is that 

Perfume is perfume!

As a toiletry, the Revlon Parfumerie project is an epic fail. Why? Because the dried perfume-enamel amalgamate, which I painted onto the back of an envelope--I figured that there was no need to risk the test on my own nails, especially with bedtime on the horizon--smells just like nail polish! 

Anyone who has ever used nail polish is aware--or was at one time--of its dangerously potent fumes, so volatile and intense that it's difficult to suppress the suspicion that it may very well be causing brain cell damage each and every time that it is used. Hopefully not, but let's face it, the scent differs from that of glue (as in glue sniffing) in degree, not in kind.

I find, in fact, that this Revlon Parfumerie Beachy, which I selected thinking that it might possibly smell like Lilly Pulitzer Beachy, or perhaps even Bond no 9 Fire Island, occupies an olfactory coordinate not terribly far from the opening of Lanvin Rumeur. But that's only because that perfume opens just like the scent of a chemical industry waste factory.

Yes, I am afraid that the Revlon experiment in product multitasking has failed in this case. No worries, though, because it will only be a matter of time before the experiment is undertaken again, by day laborers working under the yoke of some driven triple-A personality CEO, and eventually some synthetic organic chemist somewhere will devise a way to insert a scent more powerful than the scent of nail polish into the nail polish so that one can buy a single product under the guise of either perfume or nail polish (what's your pleasure?) rather than buying both.

Wait a minute! How, then, could it be that the cosmetic industry is producing such a thing, working to decrease the amount of wallet share which they can siphon off the readers of Allure magazine? This case reminds me in some ways of the Starbucks Via project. Why is Starbucks trying to sell to its very own customers products which obviate the need for them to stop off in the stores to buy $6 cups of coffee? 

The answer, my fragrant friends, in both cases, is that these companies are after total global hegemonic control. Whatever beverage you may choose to drink, and in whatever format, Starbucks will be there for you.  (Lest you forget, they acquired both Tazo and Teavana!) And whichever make-up or fragrance product you choose to spend the discretionary share of your paltry Friday take-home pay on, Revlon wants to be in on it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pre-Y2K Perfumery: The Way We Were

Review of 

Perfume: The Ultimate Guide to the World's FInest Fragrances 

by Nigel Groom 

This guide to perfume was published in 1999. To some, this may be a real turnoff. A text about perfume from fourteen years ago? Could anything in it still be true? Valid questions, yes. But also precisely why I cherish this little volume, the first perfume book I ever read, and still one of my favorites. Consider this charming little remark:
The economics of the industry are changing. More fragrances are coming out on the international market than ever before—some two or three hundred a year. Some will be successful, but many will fail and disappear.

Could Nigel Groomcould anyoneever have predicted that in 2013, there would be 2,451 perfume launches (according to the database)? In my previous post, I poked fun at the perfumistas who pronounced the best ten or so perfumes from 2013, pointing out that they could not possibly have tested even a small fraction of the perfumes produced in that year. I'm afraid that we lost some of the few links to the illustrious salon de parfum in the process, but it was a small price to pay for speaking the truth about an industry and subculture grounded intrinsically in hype.

Back in the twentieth century, it would have been possible to have sniffed all of the perfumes released in a single year. A "Guide" to perfume made sense back in 1992, when Turin first penned one in French. Today? Not so much. Today any "guide" can only serve as a marketing tool, encouraging consumers to pursue what they have not already been lured into buying as a result of mass market advertising campaigns.

In reflecting on this 1999 book and why I like it so much, I have come to the conclusion that the Michael Edwards Fragrances of the World volume best suited for me could not possibly be anything published later than 2006, when, in my considered opinion, all hell broke loose in the world of perfumery.

Why are older perfume books generally better, and why is Nigel Groom's 1999 volume one of the best? Because it captures the reality of pre-Y2K perfumery as it was when it was what it was, which it no longer is. The perfume world has undergone massive, radical, and seemingly irrevocable transformations over the course of the past decade. Let us review a few of them:

  • corporate conglomeratization: nearly every single once-independent design house is now owned by one of the huge parent companies: LVMH, Procter & Gamble, Coty Prestige, L'oréal, Puig, Eurocosmesi, Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder, Parlux, et al.
  • homogenization: the convergence of style of perfumes being produced by ostensibly distinct houses but under the same helm—say, Coty Prestige—is perhaps a natural consequence of the fact that those who call the shots do so for not just one house, but for a cluster of them simultaneously. 
  • massive explosion of perfume launches: flankers and limited editions have become the rule, not the exception these days, with perfumes composed and released quickly and then followed up by namesakes cynically intended primarily to exploit all of the previous marketing campaigns leading up to the latest launch—touted invariably as the best new thing since Shalimar!
  • massive proliferation of perfume houses: everyone and his mother, brother, father, uncle, aunt, cousin, second cousin, niece and nephew has suddenly awoken in the middle of the night to discover that, lo, they are "perfumers"!!!! From a few rugged individualists who set out to teach themselves perfumery, and in some cases were quite assiduous and serious about doing so, in addition to being olfactorily gifted, we have arrived at a time where people appear to be flipping coins: "heads, real estate; tails, niche perfumery!"
  • massive expansion of celebrity launches: every two-bit reality show slut now has a perfume on the market--or ten! Having a perfume now appears to be a part of the aspiring singer's and actor's marketing platform—right up there with other forms of social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, you name it! What next? Oh, right: a perfume!
  • Orwellian IFRA restrictions against the use of natural materials have been imposed  in the name of consumer health, with the surrogate materials being newfangled synthetics which have not stood the test of time (as the materials used in perfumery for millennia certainly have!). As a result of the willingness of perfumers to accede to tyrannical, corporate-generated demands, perfume is becoming more and more abstract, streamlined, and "clean" as a result. 

My fragrant friends, the above developments, all in the twenty-first century, have transmogrified the perfumery scene so fundamentally that some (many?) of us who fell in love with perfume in the twentieth century are having a difficult time navigating the terrain and even wondering in our less sanguine moments: Why bother?

Nigel Groom's book offers a glimpse into the world of perfumery as it once was, as it was when I, for one, developed an interest in the topic. Yes, there were parent companies; no, they were not behemoth omnivores. Yes, there were trends, but, no, there was no oud machine! Yes, there were unique bottles, but they were made of Lalique and Baccharat crystal, not covered with plastic diddily-doos! Yes, there were a few celebrity perfumes, thanks to Elizabeth Taylor. No, there certainly was not an entire celebrity perfume industry. Yes, there were innovations in the history of twentieth-century perfumery, such as the creative use of aldehydes in Chanel no 5. No, no one, not even the crassest, most jaded perfume executive in the twentieth century ever dared strip perfume of every single natural essence in the name of "health" guidelines drafted by people concerned to improve the bottom lines of the companies for which they work!

I love this little book because it offers a window into a world which no longer exists. But the perfume profiles featured describe and offer historical tidbits about the perfumes which I knew and loved: back when Samsara was still Samsara and Dolce Vita was Dolce Vita!

Here is a list of the houses covered in this slim volumewhich explicitly restricts itself to women's perfume, and spans fewer than 200 pages. The fragrances of each house discussed are indicated as well:

  1. Amouage: Amouage
  2. Antonia's Flowers: Anotonia's Flowers
  3. Elizabeth Arden: Blue Grass, Red Door, 5th Avenue
  4. Armani: G
  5. L'Artisan Parfumeur: Premier Figuier
  6. Baccarat: Une Nuit Etoilée au Bengale
  7. Parfums Balenciaga: Le Dix, Rumba
  8. Parfums Balmain: Vent Vert, Ivoire
  9. Bijan: DNA
  10. Boucheron: Boucheron
  11. Bourjois: Soir de Paris
  12. Bvlgari Parfums: Bvlgari pour Femme
  13. Parfums Cacharel: Anaïs Anaïs, Loulou
  14. Parfums Caron: Fleur[s] de Rocaille (1933)--nb: this is an error! Fleur de Rocaille (1993) is pictured, not Fleurs de Rocaille (1933)!
  15. Cartier: Must de Cartier, Panthère, So Pretty
  16. Carven Parfums: Ma Griffe, Eau Vive
  17. Parfums Cerruti: Cerruti 1881
  18. Chanel: No 5, No 19, Allure
  19. Mary Chess: Mary Chess
  20. Parfums Chloé: Chloé, Narcisse
  21. Chopard: Wish
  22. Clarins: Eau Dynamisante
  23. The House of Coty: L'Aimant, Vanilla Fields, Monsoon
  24. The House of Creed: Royal Water
  25. Crown Perfumery: Marechal, Crown Bouquet
  26. Parfums Salvador Dali: Le Parfum, Le Roy Soleil
  27. Davidoff: Cool Water Woman
  28. Desprez: Bal à Versailles
  29. Parfums Chrisian Dior: Miss Dior, Dune, Dolce Vita
  30. Dolce & Gabbana Parfums: Dolce & Gabbana
  31. Parfums d'Orsay: Etiquette Bleue
  32. Escada: Escada, Sunny Frutti
  33. Parfums Fendi: Theorema
  34. Ferregamo: Salvatore Ferregamo pour Femme
  35. Floris: Stephanotis, Gardenia
  36. Jean-Paul Gaultier: Jean-Paul Gaultier
  37. Romeo Gigli: Romeo 
  38. Giorgio Beverly Hills: Giorgio, Wings, Ocean Dream
  39. Parfums Givenchy: Amarige, Organza, Extravigance
  40. Annick Goutal: Grand Amour, Heure Exquise
  41. Parfums Grès: Cabochard, Folie Douce
  42. Parfums Gucci: Envy
  43. Guerlain: L'Heure Bleue, Samsara, Champs Elysées
  44. Gale Hayman, Inc.: Delicious
  45. Hermès Parfums: Calèche; 24, Faubourg
  46. Carolina Herrera Perfumes: Flore, 212
  47. Houbigant: Quelques Fleurs, Raffinée
  48. Iceberg: Iceberg Twice Ice
  49. Perfumes Isabell: Mandarin
  50. Parfums Joop!: All About Eve
  51. Joseph: Parfum de Jour
  52. Donna Karan Beauty: Donna Karan New York
  53. Parfums Kenzo: Parfum d'Eté
  54. Calvin Klein: Obsession, Contradiction
  55. Parfums Karl Lagerfeld: Sun, Moon, Stars
  56. Lalique: Parfum Lalique, Nilang
  57. Lancôme: Trésor, Poême
  58. Parfums Lanvin: Arpège
  59. Estée Lauder: Knowing, Pleasures, Dazzling Gold, Dazzling Silver
  60. Ralph Lauren: Safari, Polo Sport Woman
  61. Parfums Lelong: Indiscret
  62. Parfums Lolita Lempicka: Lolita Lempicka
  63. Parfums Loewe: Air Loewe
  64. Jo Malone: Lime, Basil & Mandarin
  65. Nicole MIller: Nicole Miller
  66. Issey Miyake: L'Eau d'Issey
  67. Molinard: Habanita, Molinard de Molinard
  68. Parfums Montana: Parfum de Peau
  69. Popy Moreni: Popy Moreni
  70. Thierry Mugler: Angel
  71. Parfums de Nicolaï: Sacrebleu
  72. Rifat Ozbek: Ozbek
  73. Jean Patou: Joy
  74. Penhaligon's: Victorian Posy
  75. La Perla: La Perla
  76. Parfums Paloma Picasso: Mon Parfum, Tentations
  77. Parfums Robert Piguet: Fracas
  78. Parfums Paco Rabanne: XS pour Elle
  79. Oscar de la Renta: Oscar, So de la Renta
  80. Nina Ricci: L'Air du Temps, Nina, Deci Dela
  81. Parfums Rochas: Femme, Madame Rochas, Alchimie
  82. Royal Doulton: Doulton
  83. Parfums Yves Saint Laurent: Paris, Opium, Yvresse
  84. Jil Sander: Jil
  85. Schiaparelli: Shocking, Zut
  86. Shiseido: Feminité du Bois, Vocalise
  87. Alfred Sung: Sung Forever
  88. Elizabeth Taylor: White Diamonds
  89. Tiffany & Co.: Tiffany
  90. Parfums Trussardi: Trussardi Light Her
  91. Parfums Ungaro: Diva
  92. Parfums Valentino: Very Valentino
  93. Van Cleef & Arpels: Van Cleef
  94. Versace Profumi: V'E, Blonde
  95. Madeleine Vionnet: Madeleine Vionnet
  96. Vivian Westwood: Boudoir
  97. Les Parfums Worth: Je Reviens

That's it! The author apologizes for the abridged list and explains that selection was necessary, but what I find interesting is that I have tested and reviewed most of these perfumesand even own a fair number of them in vintage form! For me, this book is a keepsake text about how the world of perfumery once was, back when a perfume launch was an event, not a tweet. 

It would be possible to select a "Best of" from this entirely manageable group of perfumes, or even among all of the launches available at that time. In 2013? Good luck sniffing your way through the other 2000+ perfumes! And why bother, when it is obvious that the multi-mega-launchers are mostly doing Lego composition these days, lacking inspiration, insight, and often skill as well?

I read a dismissive review of Nigel Groom's 1999 book at Amazon. The angry reviewer denounced the work as "worthless". It is true that this is no longer a guide to perfume today. That point should be obvious from two words alone: Miss Dior

Back in 1999, Nigel Groom no doubt believed that he had produced a perfume guide. Instead, what we have here is an archaeological find!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

sherapop's Best of 2013: Betting on the Long Shots!!!!!

While perusing the spate of perfume blog posts entitled "The Best of 2013," I was struck by the convergence of the results. Some combination of a small cluster of perfumes seemed to be showing up over and over again. And yet, I had never had the good fortune of sniffing any one of them! And yet, I review a perfume nearly every single day. I began to worry that there might be a conspiracy in play. So many perfume bloggers converging on so few perfumes? How, pray tell, could this be? 

In my quest to get to the bottom of this mystery, I visited the Parfumo database, where I learned that, lo, there were 2,397 perfumes launched (to date) in 2013! Something very fishy does indeed seem to be going on here... Is it perhaps true, as I have long suspected, that perfume bloggers really do form a cloister of sorts, a small group of self-selected people all of whom test the very same perfumes--and agree upon their worth?! 

We live in the twenty-first century, the epoch of the internet, the age of the democratization of everything, and yet this pernicious holdout to oligarchic days remains unchanged. To counter this nefarious vestige of benighted times, I hereby offer sherapop's Best of 2013, featuring an array of perfumes unlikely to be celebrated by any other perfume blogger on planet earth--or beyond.

Bucking the trend, I'm betting on what you may regard as the long shots, but I'm sure that, on reflection, you'll wholeheartedly agree that these fragrances are much, much more likely to have an impact on the future of the industry and the perfume world beyond the blogosphere than are the "Best of 2013" bloggers' chosen few!

The envelope please ... and the winners are, in no particular order:

Escada Cherry in the Air

Katy Perry Killer Queen

Diesel Loverdose Tattoo

Kenzo Flower in the Air

Lanvin ME

Guess Girl Guess

One Direction Our Moment

Nicki Minaj Minajesti

Justin Bieber The Key

Pink Sugar Aquolina
Simply Pink

Repetto Repetto

Playboy Play It Pin Up

Moschino Forever

Victoria's Secret Bombshell Forever 

Heidi Klum Surprise

Christina Aguilera Unforgettable

Mark my words: these creations, my fragrant friends, not the haute niche decants of your best blogging buddies (BBBs), will set the tone for the future of perfumery. Stay tuned... Or not! 

Happy New Year!
Best Wishes for 2014!