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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Perfume Review: Parfums DelRae Coup de Foudre

Upon hearing about this new scent at Now Smell This recently, I had this to say:  DelRae Does Rose?  I am SO THERE.  The description of the scent as “capturing the ultimate beauty of the rose as you find in nature – deep, luscious, fresh and completely intoxicating.  So stunning that when you first smell it, it is ‘love at first sight.'”  (Description from the Parfums DelRae website.)   It was composed by Yann Vasnier in conjunction with DelRae Roth and released in June 2010.

I still haven’t tried all of the DelRae offerings.  Of those I’ve tried, I liked one, Amoureuse, very very much, and the other two, Bois de Paradis and Emotionelle, were just hideous on me.  I’d still like to try Mythique and Debut, but Eau Illuminee does not appeal to me based on its notes.

Coup de Foudre, by contrast, did appeal to me, very much, based on its notes.  From the DelRae website: Baie Rose, Bergamot, Italian Lemon ‘sfumatrice’, Pink Grapefruit, Rose de Mai France Orpur, Purple Peony, Egyptian Jasmine absolute, Magnolia Orpur, Geranium Bourbon, Tonka Venezuela, Vetyver, White Moss, Velvet Musks.  (For those of you with a bee in your bonnet about pink pepper, cringe again: “baie rose” is pink pepper.  Ha ha. And I think “sfumatrice” means something like “vanishing,” in Italian, but I don’t really get what that means in terms of lemon.  Lemon doesn’t last anyway.)  So when a bottle split became available, I got my hot little hands on it right away.

The name Coup de Foudre – which means, literally, “stroke of lightning” in French and has the colloquial meaning of “love at first sight” – recalled to me a passage from The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, where Michael Corleone, sitting in a Sicilian citrus grove with two shepherds who are also part of the Sicilian mafia, sees a young woman running and playing with other girls of her age, and falls headlong, instantaneously, in love with her. All his senses are stirred and he feels like “his body had sprung away from him out of himself.” The shepherds are amused, but they quickly explain that he’s been “hit by the thunderbolt.” He’s fallen in love, and it cannot be hidden. Nor is it something shameful; in fact, one of the shepherds claims that some men pray for it to happen to them.

And just like that, Michael Corleone has fallen in love with Apollonia, daughter of the local cafe’ owner, at first sight, hit by the thunderbolt – the coup de foudre.  He pursues Apollonia through the traditional channels, chaperoned by the elderly women of her family, and marries her within weeks.

So Coup de Foudre had a lot to live up to, with that name and with Parfums’ DelRae’s description of it as “the superlative, modern rose perfume.”  Sadly, it falls short.  Mind you, it’s beautiful.  It’s very beautiful, and it does indeed carry the exquisite freshness of a live rose as no other rose scent I’ve ever smelled has ever done.  This is genius.  My complaint is that it is far too quiet, and far too fleeting.

DelRae scents have borne the reputation of being good, but often too loud.  However, Coup de Foudre is not loud at all.  It is pleasantly diffusive in the early stages –  the citrus is rather warm and spicy, and the opening has a sort of tart, jammy-fruity feeling that I like very much.  Almost immediately the rose comes up, and it’s a little powdery at first but settles into an aspect that evokes the “nose in a rose” experience.  It’s gorgeous, and I mean really gorgeous.  I do smell quite a lot of peony, and it’s not the NEON SCREAMING PINK SYNTHETIC MESS that you often get in mainstream peony fragrances – it’s a fresh sweetness that blends very well with the rose.  I can’t tease out the jasmine or magnolia, but that may be because I’m concentrating on this rose-peony blend that charms me so much.

Suddenly, though, this wonderful fresh-rose scent fades.  One minute, you’re thinking happy thoughts of your grandmother’s roses and your Sarah Bernhardt peonies, and the next, you’re wondering where it went.  Somewhere around hour 1.5, CdF shrinks down to the skin and won’t radiate off.  I can still smell it if I hoover my skin, but there’s almost no sillage at all.  The drydown – which is lovely and classical, with tonka, moss and musk – stays right next to the skin.  The development as a whole is pretty and coherent, but after an hour and a half, even if I follow the “spray until wet, multiple-spray in the same place,” technique, it is a skin scent, only perceptible to those who are embracing me.   The fragrance lasts about three hours on my skin, or perhaps three and a half if I spray until wet, with the last two hours being so close to the skin that I might not be wearing fragrance at all.

I would probably not be so disappointed in Coup de Foudre if I hadn’t read such glowing descriptions.  If you’re going to describe a fragrance as the ultimate fresh-rose scent – well,  for heaven’s sake, DelRae, follow through.  CdF is very much a fresh-rose scent, but to me “ultimate” means that the scent would last a little longer than an episode of ER.  I don’t know why I feel unwilling to forgive CdF its poor longevity, when I’ll do that for something ethereal like Apres l’Ondee.  But I am unwilling to do so.  The other thing that bothers me about it is that the name is far too extravagant for such a sweetly pretty fragrance.  There’s no thunderbolt here, no immediate and overpowering infatuation – Coup de Foudre isn’t present enough for that.

I begin to wonder if this first release of bottles was not macerated long enough.  Surely Parfums DelRae wouldn’t intentionally release something so shy and retiring?  I continue to be puzzled.

Top image of Coup de Foudre from the DelRae website.  Lower image is “Rosa fresca aulentissima” from Qi Bo at flickr.

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Linden Trees, Finally, and DelRae Amoureuse Revisited

While visiting my brother- and sister-in-law in Northern Virginia this past weekend, I finally came face-to-blossom with a linden tree.  There are lindens planted near the sidewalks all along the little streets of their suburban neighborhood, and of course I’d seen the trees before on previous visits, but this was the first time I’d seen them in blossom.

They smell heavenly. 

Of course I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.  Everyone who’s already smelled the linden blossoms knows, and everyone who’s read any comments on linden trees knows that the fragrance is the most salient point about them.  I had been skeptical that the real smell would approach people’s rhapsodies about it, partly because every perfume I’ve smelled that purported to evoke the smell of linden (lime blossom) smelled like laundry detergent to me: MAC Naked Honey, L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, Annick Goutal Eau du Ciel, Jo Malone French Lime Blossom.  I was wrong.  Lime blossoms really are gorgeous.

And the first thing I thought when I walked under this tree on the way to E’s front door was, “That smells like Amoureuse!”  I didn’t have my sample with me to check, but when I went back out to the car to retrieve our suitcase, there it was again: my brain said Amoureuse

When I was wearing my Amoureuse sample a few weeks ago, all I could relate it to was the lovely nostalgic smell of black locust blossoms.  I knew that some reviews had likened Amoureuse to linden blossom, but since I had never smelled it, I didn’t understand the reference.  Amoureuse is supposed to evoke the distinctive smell of Victoria box trees that blossom all along the streets of San Francisco, but of course I’ve never smelled Victoria box either.  And I notice that linden doesn’t smell exactly like black locust, and neither one smells exactly like Amoureuse, but all three smells share a few characteristics: they are heady, heavy wafting odors, and they are all sweetly floral, almost honeyed smells.

Lime blossom, or linden, holds a place in one of my favorite poems, “Patterns” by Amy Lowell, and in the beautiful love poem “Unter den Linden by Walther van der Vogelweide.  And now I think that I must attempt to find both a small decant of Amoureuse and a linden tree for my yard…

Image is of Lime tree blossoms from wikipedia.

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Perfume Review: Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

Amoureuse, one of the first scents released by the niche house founded by DelRae Roth, is intended to evoke the scent of the blooms of the Victorian box tree, hallmark of the city of San Francisco. It was composed by Michel Roudnitska and DelRae Roth.

Amoureuse” means “she who loves” in French, and is frequently recommended as a wedding or romantic scent. It’s a white floral that seems to engender powerful feelings – people either dislike it strongly, or they just loooove it. I don’t know why, exactly, it took me so long to get hold of a sample of Amoureuse, and once I obtained one, why it took me so long to actually test it. Most perfume blog reviews tended to the positive. Frequently, European reviewers mentioned blooming linden trees; San Franciscans said the fragrance was just what it was meant to copy, the blossoming Victorian box tree (Pittosporum undulatum). I’ve never smelled either.

I suppose I might have been put off a bit by Tania Sanchez’ review in Perfumes: The Guide, in which she comments that it struck her originally as “deliciously heady, dizzying, dense green – a sensation like falling asleep under a tree in summer, overcome by damp heat,”  (a description I just love, by the way), but that eventually she gave her bottle away because, as she says, “this combination of powerful greens plus syrupy white florals and cardamom is just too much to wear at any time, anywhere.” If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you already know that I have no great love for big sillage; if anything, that’s a drawback for me.

Nevertheless, spring came and the time seemed right to test Amoureuse. I wore it one day a few weeks ago. Once the opening had subsided a bit, and the white florals swimming in honey and spice began to come up, I realized: I’ve smelled this before. I’ve smelled this practically every spring of my life.

What Amoureuse smells like to me is the flowers of the black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia). It’s a humble tree – around these parts it tends to grow wild, on roadsides and in vacant lots, and many people regard it as a “trash tree.” My husband and father-in-law have a fondness for it, because black locust posts make excellent fences – the wood is very hard on its own and stands up well to being placed in the ground. However, all parts of the tree (flowers, leaves, seed pods, and bark) are poisonous to humans.  I do wonder if Victorian box and black locust are somehow related, but I don’t have the horticultural knowledge to even postulate.

The first time I really noticed the smell of black locust blossoms, I was visiting my grandmother’s farmhouse. My grandmother was showing me her garden phlox and peonies. I pointed: “What’s that tree? It smells so wonderful.” She shook her head, laughing. “Oh, honey, that’s nothin’ but an ol’ black locust tree. They grow ever’where.”

Just last week I went to pick up my daughter from track practice at the high school. I had the windows down and was concentrating on the song on the radio, when the car was suddenly full of the scent of spicy lilies. I hit the brakes and pulled over. Where were they? A sweet floral smell that strong, surely I’d be able to see the blooms… ah. A large stand of black locust trees was growing wild on each side of the road. No wonder the fragrance was almost overwhelming.

Notes for Amoureuse: Tangerine, cardamom, melon, pepper, honey, tuberose, jasmine, ginger lily, sandalwood, moss, musk.

Amoureuse does open with an intense, mouthwatering note of tangerine, supplemented with the juiciness of crushed leaves. Then the cardamom and floral notes appear – lots of jasmine and lily, with honey and tuberose pouring on the sweetness, and the fragrance is reminiscent of the headiness of black locust. It stays this way for about three hours on me, before gradually subsiding into a warm, elegant sandalwood-moss drydown that reminds me of a friendlier Ivoire de Balmain. The experience is beautiful start to finish, and lasts a good long time on me. One drop will get me a four-hour ride. Three drops gets me seven hours and radiates somewhat beyond the edge of my three-foot-diameter sillage limit.   

I don’t find Amoureuse particularly loud or overwhelming. That may be because I’m dabbing it from a sample vial – but honestly, decanting and dabbing is not an unreasonable solution if it’s too big when sprayed. It’s a beautiful scent, well worth owning. I’m seeking a decant, myself. I’d consider a bottle, but I doubt I’d use it up, given that it’s so concentrated, and a very little bit lasts well.  

Other reviews worth considering: The Left Coast Nose, Robin at Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Aromascope, Legerdenez, Olfactarama (brief), Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am (brief).

Image of Amoureuse bottle from Fragrantica. Images of Pittosporum undulata and Robinia pseudoacacia from Wikipedia.   Image of multiple trees is Black locust trees at Bret and Phifer’s from Vicky TGAW at Flickr.

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