Thursday, April 28, 2011
How green was my valley
This Easter I did a little shopping for vintage perfume at Fritsch Pharmacy. I focused on green perfumes and chypres, which is all I want to wear these days. They are perfect for the weather, and, although they are beloved by perfumistas, green chypres are a neglected category in contemporary perfumes. It may be that one of the essential ingredients, oak moss, is restricted by EU rules. Maybe the bracing, bitter and dry, green category doesn't sell well, I would put two current perfumes, Estée Lauder Private Collection and Chanel No.19 as two of the best still available; heck, I think they are two of the best ever made. And Weil de Weil ranks right up with those two as one of the best green chypres I have ever smelled. It is an under-appreciated beauty.
Weil de Weil was released in 1971 and is now discontinued, which is a shame because it's lovely and the very soul of spring. It starts with a bracing green note, then a lightly floral and spicy breeze bows in, carrying the fresh scent of spring flowers like hyacinth and daffodil. The heart is grassy and green with some honey sweet flowers and is slightly powdery. Throughout the whole progression of the perfume I can smell the base notes: bitter, dry oakmoss, earth and wood. I don't smell the civet, but I'm not very sensitive to it. Maybe it's in the background, making the perfume more personal, melding it to my skin, instead of being too distant and abstract as something dry and green can be.
Green chypres can be like a beautiful but cold woman with an acerbic wit. She seems like a real bitch but once you get to know her, she's fascinating and one of your favourite people, all the more so because she wasn't easy, if you know what I mean.
I took a couple of days to warm up to it, but now Weil de Weil is on my desert island list: the limited list of bottles I would take with me if I had to be stranded. Yes, it's that good. If you love the green chypre category of perfume, you must try Weil de Weil someday.
Notes: Top: tangerine, neroli, greens, galbanum and hyacinth. Middle: lily of the valley, honeysuckle, ylang-ylang, mimosa, rose and daffodil. Base: sandalwood, vetiver, civets, musk and oak moss.
Photo by wuu.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
I used to be quite the snob about pretty perfume. Not for me, I said, the simple floral bouquets. Give me spices and woods and leather! If I wore florals, they were complicated with bitter moss or animalic bases to make them darker, bitchier femme fatales. I didn't do girly. Boy, was I missing out.
Olène is girly and sweet, but without being stawberry/carmel/cotton candy dreck. It's a simple, romantic floral based on three notes: wisteria, jasmine and narcissus.
I've never smelled wisteria, but they must smell like lilac, because the first few minutes of Olène smell exactly like burying your nose in a big bunch of fresh lilacs. It's intoxicating. Then, a short while later, it switches to rich jasmine, wafting it's gorgeous, gasoline-edged and narcotic prettiness everywhere. The narcissus in the base is barely there but it adds a slightly waxy, earthy strength.
And that's it. Simple but lovely. And what's wrong with a little prettiness? In the spring, who can say no to a little romance? Olène makes me feel like mushy love songs and cartoon hearts and bunnies and flowers.
Notes: wisteria, jasmine, narcissus
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Falling hard for a sunny beauty
Fleur de Narcisse, 2006 was created by L'Artisan Parfumeur as one of their "Exception Harvests" perfumes. These special-edition perfumes were created in limited quantity from a particular natural harvest and are meant to showcase the material and also the region, the way that certain vintages of wine reflect in their aroma and flavour the soil they came from. Fleur de Narcisse features a heady absolute made from narcissus, hand picked on June 6th and 7th, 2005, from the volcanic soil of Lozère, France. Only 3,000 bottles were made.
Luckily, my local perfume shop has a bottle of this gem. I first took a sniff of Fleur de Narcisse about two years ago but I was unimpressed. I don't know what I was thinking, because I tried a few sprays on my arm again this weekend and I am gone, baby gone. Fleur de Narcisse is marvelous.
It starts with the tart green smell of black currants and leaves, then blooms into big, sunny daffodils. Narcissus is one of my favourite notes in perfume. It has a honey-sweet side but also a waxy, thick smell and an earthiness. The narcissus in Fleur de Narcisse does seem to have an ashy quality, like the volcanic soil they grew in, thanks to the use of a gorgeous smoky leather note.
But as soon as I have recognized leather and smoke a gorgeous sweet, herbaceous hay note takes over. For an few minutes it's as if I am standing in a shaft of sunlight in a warm barn. I can smell hay all around me and a leather saddle nearby. Then, the honeyed daffodils come back and leave me smiling. It's a cheerful perfume.
The next day the scent left on my sweater is almost gourmand. Maybe it's the honey-sweet narcissus and the spicy hyacinth lingering? But, although they aren't listed, it smells to me like the cinnamon sweetness of tolu or the sweet nuttiness of tonka.
In any case, Fleur de Narcisse is big hit with both me and my husband. It might have taken me a couple of years to appreciate it, but now I'm hooked and saving for a full bottle.
Nose: Anne Flipo
Notes: narcissus, hay, hyacinth, violet leaf, blond tobacco, iris, blackcurrant bud, moss and leather
Painting: J.W. Waterhouse, Echo and Narcissus, 1903
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
As I write this, I can look out my window and see bleak, grey Toronto. The whole city seems to be just persevering, grimly soldiering on, fighting forecasts of snow flurries like the last remnants of a bad cold and hoping for the relief of spring.
So I continue to wear perfumes that remind me of spring. Narcissus and hyacinths are my favourite flowers for early spring. Cheerful and vibrant, but not sweet, these flowers are earthy and pungent and demanding. They may be gorgeous in a pot, but they take some work to love in a perfume.
Je Reviens is one of the rare perfumes to focus on narcissus. Although it seems old-fashioned today, when Worth released its perfume Je Reviens in 1932, it was a very modern fragrance. The dark blue bottle was designed by René Lalique to resemble a one of the new skyscrapers of New York. It became very popular in the 40's as a gift from soldiers to their sweethearts. Je Reviens was actually the fourth of five perfumes released by the house of Worth. Their names put together create a love poem: Dans La Nuit (1924) Vers le Jours (1925) Sans Adieu (1929) Je Reviens (1932) Vers Toi (1934).
Worth re-released Je Reviens in 2010 and I assume it was re-formulated, but I have vintage samples (from Fritsch's, of course.)
I want to thank my favourite Aunt for introducing me to Je Reviens. As a girl in the 50's, it was her first "grown-up" perfume. I'm wearing it a lot lately, thinking of her, and waiting for spring to return.
Nose: Maurice Blanchet
Notes: Top: aldehydes, narcissus Middle: hyacinth, jasmine, violet, lilac Base: vetiver, tolu, oakmoss, sandalwood, musk