Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Perfume House: Part 2

As I shared with you back in January, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to "smell better" and I meant that both ways - to gain a more discriminating nose and to improve the quality of my perfumes.  This past weekend's visit to Portland provided a 2nd installment in my lessons at The Perfume House.  Only this time I was going to have a "consultation" with Chris himself.  

As we started, his only question was, "Do you want a day or an evening fragrance?"  From there he looked at my skin texture and brought out about 10 different perfumes:

Josephine by Rance (never heard of it)
Montaigne by Caron (never heard of it)
Lalique (exquisite bottle)
Amouage Gold (on my list to smell)
Serge Lutens' Douce Ambre (have his A La Nuit)
Amouage Dia (same as the Gold but with Rose)
Clive Christian's 1872, X and #1

There were stories to go with each one conveying the importance of the fragrance in perfume history or the association with royalty.  For example, Josephine and Le Vainqueur fragrances were commissioned by Napoleon to be made of a list of ingredients that he chose. The goal given to the perfumer was to create the fragrances in such a way that when the 2 were in a room, Josephine's was the dominant fragrance (at that time, only royalty wore perfume) and when the 2 were together, a 3rd fragrance was created that everyone would want.  Talk about Managing by Objectives!

When I smelled the perfume I thought simply, "Oh, the flowers in here are fresh and there are lots of kinds!" I was more right than I knew.  The top notes include May rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, peony!, lilac, hawthorne, bergamot.  The mid: iris, violet, geranium, black currant, white peach, cloves, galbanum.  The base notes: sandalwood, Bourbon vanilla, ebony vanilla, ambergris and white musk. As a lover of fragrant flowers, I was smitten.

For another take and some additional background, check out Marina Geigert of NY's review at her PerfumeSmelling Things blog.

Though it is an evening fragrance, I was delighted to smell the Amouage Gold because it was on Luca Turin's short list.  The top notes were rock rose, lily of the valley, silver frankinsense. The mid: myrrh, orris, jasmine. The base: ambergris, civet, musk, cedarwood and sandalwood. Warm, complex, scintillating, this intrigued me each time I smelled through the lineup.  Reminded me a bit of French actress Fanny Ardant.

The Montaigne was also exceptional.  It is a fragrance for one who has come to terms with feminine power and who is also of a certain age.  It comes across as soft but definitely not to be trifled with as well as somewhat beyond understanding.

If you're intrigued and want to do some more research, try Basenotes, a website with fragrance news, a searchable perfume database and reviews. 

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