Spring: An Embarrassment of Riches

 Redbud in the Morning Sun

My scent wardrobe is, like the climate in which I live, very seasonal.  We have weather distinct from one season to the next, and it can range from below 0F in winter, with snow and wind and hail, to 98F in summer, hot and practically humid enough to grow mushrooms on your skin.  The most comfortable seasons in this area tend to be spring and fall, with moderate temperatures and cool breezes and sunshine, though we certainly get plenty of rain (the average annual rainfall in my county is approximately 38 inches).

There are certain fragrances I wear at just about any time of the year, perennial go-tos.  There are other fragrances I associate with certain seasons or weathers, and I never think of wearing them at other times.  I love changing my fragrance with the season – I bring them out of the perfume cabinet and place them in the decorative hatbox on my dresser for easy access, and tenderly stow away the out-of-season back in the cabinet.  I try to wear my seasonal fragrances when they are in season, appreciating each  one like a beautiful day, though choosing among them is often a challenge.

Winter is easy: Alahine.  Ubar, Lyric, Memoir. Tiny dribble of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, if the weather is cold and damp.  Carnal Flower or La Myrrhe, if the air is so cold it turns to crystal.  Dolce Vita parfum.  Parfum Sacre. Vanille Tonka.    

Autumn is easier: Tabac Aurea, always. Champagne de Bois, Organza Indecence. Shalimar Light.  Vintage Magie Noire, if the weather is just right: cold, rainy, windy.  Smell Bent One.

Summer is easiest, with the fewest season-devoted scents: Fleur de Matin, Hanae Mori Haute Couture.  Ines de la Fressange first edition. Moschino Funny!, Rose d’Ete.

But spring?  Spring is hard.  I hate choosing in spring.  Green scents?  Violets? Lily of the valley?  Green florals, floral chypres, straight-up florals?  There are so many, and I love them all, and they all say “spring” to me in some way.

What to choose? And how to make sure nothing gets left out?  I still don’t know.  I have no real plan, I just get up and pick something to delight in.  Some favorites for spring:

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet – “the greenest of all flower gardens.”  A big green juicy smack of galbanum and marigold gives way to very, very tender white flowers, from a wisp of tuberose to a hint of lily of the valley.

Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – a shifting green-and-gold symphony like sunlight dripping through green leaves.  Galbanum, green notes, narcissus, hyacinth, patchouli, moss and woods combine to create the essence of happiness for me.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve – this long-discontinued, much-coveted floral chypre gem gleams like good pearls.  Very elegant yet gentle, with a powdery softness due to aldehydes and oakmoss, it is a reserved and quiet pleasure.

Jacomo Silences – cool, silver-green perfection.  Contemplative, streamlined, nothing extraneous at all.  Satin ribbons of galbanum, iris, rose, oakmoss.

Penhaligon’s Violetta – simplicity itself: green leaves, purple flowers, a whisper of sandalwood.  Shy but lovely.

DSH Perfumes White Lilac – the true delight of lilac sweetness, garnished only with a handful of leaves and a sprinkling of spice.  A joyful scent.

Guerlain Chamade – the essence of romance, it slowly blooms from chilly green opening to the budding jasmine-ylang-rose heart and on to the full-blown warmth of mimosa and vanilla in the drydown.  A perfume for surrender. 

Balmain Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum – a gorgeous juxtaposition of green notes, violet and gardenia against smooth leather.  Bittersweet in the best sense.

Chanel No. 19 – the Seven-League Boots of pure beauty and empowerment.  Galbanum, iris, oakmoss, and a whiff of leather, elegance with a riding crop.

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse – Languorous and vibrant all at once, with green notes, richly sensuous white florals, spicy notes, and honey set against a slightly-mossy sandalwood background. 

Christian Dior Diorissimo – the essence of spring, in the form of lilies of the valley.  That is all.  And it is spectacular.

What’s on your spring list?

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Discontinued Saints

I blame Left Coast Nose for this one.  She mentioned a scent she liked in a comment, and then helpfully pointed out that it’s discontinued.  Which got me to thinking… how much of the stuff I actually own and wear is no longer being produced and sold at retail?  A bunch of it, that’s how much.   Edit:  I should explain, I bought nearly all of the following at online discounters, where most of them are indeed still available at the time of writing.  Exception Shalimar Light, which is getting scarce as alligator feathers.

I had titled this post “Love’s Retail Lost,” and then when I went looking for a photo to accompany it, I found this:

which, although not precisely on topic, was too good not to share.

I checked my Excel file, where I keep notes on what I’ve tested, what I’d like to test, and what I’ve bought, to find out.  To be fair, I excluded my (extensive) collection of vintage miniatures, which I bought primarily because they were vintage/discontinued/hard-to-find.

Mariella Burani edt.  I think Mariella Burani is still making some kind of fragrance, but the eponymous one is no longer produced.  When you find it at the discounters, it’s likely to be very cheap because stocks have been dumped.  This does not reflect its quality.

YSL Paris Pont des Amours Printemps Edition 2008   Again, another LE.  I can’t really complain about limited editions not sticking around, however much I’d like to (I’m still mourning over the L’Artisan Jacinthe de Bois I never got to smell).

Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur   I have seen Black Orchid recently in a retail store, but not VdF, and I can’t find an online listing for it at a retail establishment. 

Balenciaga Rumba.  Another “let’s just dump it at cost” scent because it’s been discontinued and there’s tons of old stock sitting around.  It’s a very 80’s style fragrance, big and rich and vampy, and that is quite unfashionable these days.

Donna Karan Gold.  Recently discontinued, along with a slew of other Karans.  I am saddened to report that they are still making the (hideous, IMO) Be Delicious and all its sugary little flankers.

This one’s in question: I can’t find Givenchy Organza Indecence, whether the original or the Les Mythiques version, anywhere.  But March says in her comments to me on this post she was told it’s not discontinued, just really hard to find.  Givenchy should get its act together – this one was a both a big seller and hugely popular among perfumistas.

L’Arte di Gucci.  It doesn’t surprise me that this one’s kaput, to be honest.  It’s too… too big, too lush, too animalic, too shrieking, too everything  for current tastes.  (Except marshmallowy and fruity.  It’s not fruit-flavored-candy enough for current tastes.  And now I’ll stop snarling about the fruity gourmand fad, at least for now.   I admit to liking Hanae Mori.)

Stetson Rich Suede, which was probably an LE to begin with.  Oh, well.

Ines de la Fressange 1999, the Calice Becker fruity floral  – there’s a newer version in a tall bottle with gold leaves, a gourmandish thing by Alberto Morillas, but I think it too has been discontinued.  I know I snark about fruity florals from time to time, but this one is done just right: light-hearted, tangy, a bellini in a bottle.

Okay, okay, fine, I’ll cop to this one: Victoria’s Secret Pink.   This would be the original Pink, not Pink Beach or Pink Angel or Pink Panties or whatever the heck those ever-sluttier Victoria’s Secret execs are coming up with these days, an airy green peony-freesia floral that is still pleasant to me, and which I bought another mini of this past year, to replace the old one that was getting really low.  My excuse? The CEO likes it.

Victoria’s Secret Victoria.   The very first fragrance VS released, waaaay back in the… late 80’s, I think, a beautiful floral chypre that nonetheless has a difficult opening due to age.  I’ve now smelled three different bottles of this, and all three are off in the topnotes – decayed bergamot, or something.  I never owned this when it was new – I couldn’t afford it.  But it’s lovely, when the weird top burns off.  VS used to carry really beautiful, elegant nightwear – I had a gorgeous teal satin spaghetti-strap nightie that I wore for years – heavy satin, with four-inch-deep soft ivory lace.  Victoria smells like that thing felt – elegant, luxurious, pretty.  

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet.  I hereby curse Clive Christian to live, without diamonds and Lexuses and cash, sleeping in a tent and eating local food, in a miserably poor place for three months.   Perhaps he’d give up this ludicrous “most expensive perfume in the world” nonsense, and all the teddibly posh trappings of his current perfume business, which just annoys the %#** out of me. 

Cuir de Lancome.  A perfume with brains and beauty and a backbone?  Of course it’s discontinued, because no one under the age of 21 bought it.  Look, I’m not being ageist.  I think young women should wear what they like, even if I happen to find the popular fruity-sweet style ditzy and unpleasant.  It just burns my shorts that Lancome should decide not to continue producing a beautiful scent and selling it to “mature women” because they’d rather concentrate their efforts on selling things like Miracle So Magic and Tresor In Love.  Which I doubt very much will sell better than Cuir – they’ll just sell to the right demographic.

Shalimar Light.   News Flash: Eau de Shalimar is not an acceptable substitute.  Whose bright idea was it to bottle the smell of lemon baby wipes?

Guerlain Terracotta Voile d’Ete.  This may have been intended as limited edition as well, but I can’t find anything that says so definitively.  (Note to self: Aha!  This is what Agent Provocateur Strip was reminding me of!  Not an exact match, of course – this is spicier – but similar in the floral-amber category.)

I’m not even including reformulated things like Ralph Lauren Lauren – the reformulation of that one was like taking Sigourney Weaver and turning her into, oh, Blake Lively* – and Kenzo Parfum d’Ete – which has been changed into a different, but still pleasant, scent.  (*Please don’t hate on me for the Blake Lively comment.  Blake’s fine as she is, but in my opinion, Sigourney is Too Much Woman to be turned into someone young, blonde, and… hmm, how to say it?  Naive.  Blake should aspire to be Sigourney, not the other way round.  RL Lauren used to be kind, interesting, beautiful, classic and strong.  Now it’s merely pretty. )

So if I count up the discontinued scents, ignoring the reformulateds and the vintages, that’s, like… (frantic scrambling to get the calculator) a whopping 28.6% of my full bottle wardrobe.  This is a little scary.  You think so?  On the other hand, it might tie in to the fact that I am a Total Sucker for stories of lost love.  This is probably even more scary when you consider that I bought all of these bottles knowing that these fragrances had been discontinued.

Anybody else as crazy as me?

Image is I’d rather be a perfect sinner by theilr at flickr.com.

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Perfume Review: Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet

 I knew very little about Crown Perfumery when I first ran across a mention of Crown Bouquet as being “the greenest of green florals.” It was more than a year between the mention and the sniffage, but Crown Bouquet stayed on my To Test list all that time, and when I failed to find a sample source, I just went ahead and bought it unsniffed.

I know, I know, we should absolutely never, never, absolutely never, buy anything without knowing whether it’s going to work or not. Well, I lucked out with this one: it’s beautiful. And if not the very greenest of green florals, certainly a lovely representative of the genre.

A little background on Crown Perfumery, cribbed mostly from basenotes.net and parfumsraffy.com: It grew out of the corset-and-crinoline business begun by William Sparks Thomson, whose son William concocted lavender smelling-salts for ladies whose tight corsets made them swoon (from lack of air, I assume, not surfeit of pleasure). By 1872 Crown Perfumery was producing fine fragrance, having gained permission from Queen Victoria to use the image of her own crown as part of the bottle. The company did well until World War I, when Wm. Thomson Sr. died. By 1939 the company was sold to Lever Bros., and ceased making fragrance. In 1993 the company was revived, and several of its signature fragrances produced using the original recipes. However, the company was sold again in 1999 to Clive Christian, who ceased production of the Crown fragrances and began producing his own scents.

I haven’t smelled any Clive Christian scents, nor am I likely to given their cost structure. But I’ll say now that if Crown Bouquet is anything to judge by, Mr. Christian has probably done the perfume community a disservice by discontinuing all the Crown scents. His own fragrances are probably very pleasant – Perfumes: The Guide found them all acceptable (three stars). But the website is unconscionably pretentious, in the eyes of this thoroughly-democratic-minded American.

Crown Bouquet was first released in 1936 under the name Crab Apple Bouquet. Notes: galbanum, green notes, gardenia, tuberose, hyacinth, and orange blossom. It was reportedly inspired by Wallis Simpson, the American woman whose love prompted Edward VIII to renounce the throne. I admit it seems little odd to me that Mrs. Simpson, who had been divorced twice before setting her cap for the Prince of Wales, and who appears to have been a strong-willed, opinionated, sensual woman, should inspire such a tender, delicate, fresh-faced fragrance.  (One of my favorite books, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, describes Wallis as “that gold-digger with a butt like a boy’s.”)  Here’s the accompanying ad copy from Crown:

A fragrance to uplift, inspire, and refresh one’s senses, capturing spring white flowers and greens… The greenest of green flower gardens. One should not only smell the pretty flowers of the bouquet, but sense all the characteristics that come with a freshly cut bunch of flowers: green leaves, earthy roots, the freshness of the few remaining water pearls clinging to its cut stems.

For once, the ad copy is appropriate and succinct. Crown Bouquet smells of green, juicy leaves, with a cool damp galbanum breeze, and spring flowers. That is all. Luckily, that is all it really needs.

It does start out with a breath of galbanum, and some very crisp, nearly mouth-watering green notes. I can almost hear the leaves and stems crunching juicily in my hands as I gather them. Hyacinth joins the green notes, and then gardenia. I do smell each of the listed floral notes, one after the other, and it’s not much of a blend, but that doesn’t bother me at all because the progression is so pretty. The orange blossom is a little soapy and the tuberose is a little sweet, but fear not, white-floral-phobes. They are extremely quiet and well-behaved, no indoles at all. There is very little in the way of a base, although I think I smell the ghost of vetiver there at the very end, and possibly a tiny bit of musk. My guess is that these notes are there to provide a vase for the bouquet – not really meant to be smelled on their own, but merely to offer support for the top and heart notes.

Edit: The more I wear this fragrance, the more I’m convinced that there is a big slug of marigold (tagete) in there along with the listed florals.  There is a deliciously bitter edge to the greenery, and I’d swear it’s due to marigold.

This is a simple, pleasant scent, utterly unsophisticated, and if you subscribe to Gabrielle Chanel’s point of view that “a woman should not smell of flowers,” this one will not suit you.  It smells very natural, and, perhaps consequentially, does not last forever.  I get about five hours’ wear out of two spritzes, with the last two hours being rather faint and the perfume only noticeable upon bringing my wrist to my nose.  It is an edp but probably wears more like an edt, due to the all-but-unnoticeable basenotes.

One interesting observation: Crown Bouquet reminded me, upon first wearing, of another tender green floral I had worn recently – Jean Patou’s Vacances, frequently referred to, wistfully, as the greatest green floral of them all. It was only upon visiting basenotes.net for background on Crown Perfumery that I found out that Crown Bouquet and Vacances were released in the same year. There is a fresh simplicity about them both that I find affecting. They would both be nostalgic period pieces, unwearable except as costume, if not for the green notes breathing the air of spring over the florals.

Perhaps it’s me. Spring always makes me wistful and labile, dizzy with beauty and the knowledge that time is passing. I’ll leave you with A.E. Housman’s most cheerful poem:

Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my three score years and ten,
twenty will not come again.
And take from seventy years a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty Springs is little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman

 Photo of Crown Bouquet from fragrantica.com.  Photo of Wallis Simpson from kissnews.ro.  Photo of White Hyacinth from NanciD at flickr.com.  Photo of Wild Cherry from Lallee at flickr.com.  Housman poem from poetry.eserver.org.  My bottle of Crown Bouquet came from perfumecountry.com (not affiliated), but there are still a few other online sources.  (Don’t wait too long, though.)

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