LE TRAIN BLEU ~ L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain

4:45 PM, Paris, Summer, 1985

Slightly frayed but none the less beautiful the upholstery of the luxurious compartment number 6 sighed its familiar welcome to the Comtesse Lamoureux as she eased into it. The porter, nearly as ancient as she and by now an old friend set a Lalique crystal glass half full of Frapin Cuvee 1888 on the table before her.

“Merci Ramon.” She began to pluck off her gloves then delicately placed them on the table next to the cognac one upon the other as always. She looked out the window onto the platform of the Gare de Lyon. “This is a most important trip,” she said softly.  “for both of us.”

“Qui Madame la Comtesse, the last run of this great train.”

She smiled. “I think for a change, tonight I shall take a late supper in the grand salon.”

Ramon bowed and left the Countess looking out the window toward the patch of fading afternoon blue where the iron station opened onto beige Paris and the south.

The coach barley lurched and began to inch into the last journey of Le Train Bleu.

The great iron and glass roof of the station opened as the train picked up speed and Paris slid away, like so many playing cards falling from a gaming table. The countess was transfixed on her reflection in the glass. What she saw there was no longer familiar, it was a young woman, herself sixty years in the past on her way to Nice for the first time.

***

She was not the most beautiful girl on the Côte d’Azur but perhaps the prettiest to arrive in the middle of the années folles. As she stepped down onto the platform of the station in her Chanel summer whites. The fragrance of the south hit her like a new lover’s scent. In fact, she had come south in the mad flush of new love. His name was Pete, he was an American saxophone player who had captivated her one night when she and her boyfriend of the moment René, had stumbled upon the Casanova Club. There he was. The most beautiful black man she had ever seen, playing the most beautiful music, she had ever heard.

Pete never called her by her first name that summer of 1925 as they romped the Côte d’Azur from Marselle to Menton. He simply called her “Countess”.  Sleeping till four in the afternoon after nights of Jazz and cocktails. Romping on the beach at dawn. Caviar and eggs for breakfast. By the last days of September, She was ready to give up everything for him.

He went back to America that winter. Sporting a bruised heart she went home to Pairs on The Blue Train.

***

 

The trip south the winter of 1939 was to escape the cold of the city. But not long after her arrival in Monte Carlo, things began to look grim. People were heading south not to escape winter but to try and outrun the fear of what was coming to Paris, what was devouring Europe. She stayed on to help friends and then soon strangers as well find refuge. After the fall of Pairs that summer of 1940 her villa in the hills above Monaco became a meeting place for young men and women of the Resistance against the German occupation and the Vichy government.

His name was Axel Barre. He was first and foremost a freedom fighter and secondly, perhaps the love of her life. He died in a ditch, executed by a German firing squad.

***

 

At 56 she was the picture of polished, poised, elegance the summer of 1961. The train trip south was marred by nothing except the incessant snoring of the man in compartment number 7. The Countess sat up all night with cotton stuffed in her ears trying to read “Heaven Has No Favorites”. It was useless. Each time he ceased his rumble she closed the book, put out the light and removed the cotton from her ears, he would start up again.

The following morning she went to an early breakfast in the Grand Salon and found herself sitting across the table from a Monsieure Jean Lucien Dubeau. He said good morning and from the timber of his voice she knew at once that he was the cause of her sleepless night. She gave him a scowl, he gave her a dazzling smile, a wink, and ordered a bottle of champagne for both of them. They were married in a miniscule country church near Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat the following Spring.  She never really got a good nights sleep from then on.

***

On this final journey of Le Train Bleu the Countess sat up all night thinking about the journey behind her and what little of it remained before her. It had been a good ride for the most part. There were many things along the way she had enjoyed and much she had endured, wild young love gone wrong, A world torn by war and loss, and finally the love of a good man whose ashes she now carried to the villa in the blue-green hills above Monte Carlo.

As she stepped from the train onto the platform in her black and white Chanel suit the fragrance of the south enveloped her like the warm hug of an old friend.

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L’Heure Bleue created by Jacques Guerlian in 1912 has come to symbolize the end of the Belle Epoch in France just before the beginning of World War I. It has been called a farewell to a romantic era, a melancholy remembrance of things lost to time, not to be found ever again. The cap on the bottle is an inverted heart that symbolically captures that past in perfume form from the bottle it encapsulates thus preserving within its transparent heart the memories of lost love and departed friends.

All of this is true. But for me there is more, something deeper in L’Heure Bleue. It is the perfume of a complete lifetime held in memories of youth and the passing of time into maturity. It is not melancholy as one would expect such memories to be, but rather reflective of life, a contented quiet and very personal joy.

Who can wear L’Heure Bleue? Anyone who has the daring to be in a space beyond the ordinary. Someone not only with an appreciation of history by someone who also has a past both intriguing and perhaps slightly tainted with scandal. A past worth writing about in a diary one hopes to be found fascinating by others if found at all.  In short it is suited to both men and women of taste and sophistication.

It opens quite classically as one would expect such a perfume of this vintage and from this particular house to do. Notes of anise, coriander, neroli, bergamot, and lemon spark and fizz but momentarily like the flicker of old movies, a editing of cinematic notes mixed with music, that quickly collapse into the unfolding beauty of the middle composition.

Here we get the classic powder and Guerlainade that was established with Jicky in 1889. The bergamot, rose, tonka, vanilla. Jasmin, and animalic and resinous accords make up this signature, a DNA of the house so to speak. It is a kind of Jicky through the looking glass. Notes in the middle comprised of Rose, cloves, Jasmine, tuberose and Geranium hit my nose with the most power. Undertones of ylang ylang and violet play supporting roles to this old world glamour. This phase lasts about three to four hours.

In the dry down we get the full force of the powder and seduction there in of this fragrance that lingers well into the sixth hour. The animalic accords are here along with the swirling hypnotic benzoin note. This combined with the iris, vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver create an incense accord that is incensual (if I may create a word that sums up my love of perfumes that are smoky, exotic, and mysterious) This is where the fragrance carries its key to our memories. It is as magical, romantic, and epic as a journey to the Cote Azure on the long lost Le Train Bleu.

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THE POET ~ An Interview With Perfumer Mario Tomas

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It is always very exciting when a new perfumer hits the scene and doubly exciting for me when that perfumer is a local Bay Area artist. I have known Mario Tomas Gomez for about two years. I was privileged to be at dinner with him, Mik of Mik Moi and Hilary Randall when he decided to take the big leap and start his perfume house.

His official brick and mortar launch is this Saturday at Tigerlily Perfumery here in San Francisco. So to honor his blossoming as an olfactory artist I asked him a few questions.

Lanier: Where were you born?

Mario:  Born in Oklahoma City, OK raised both in OKC and Mexico City, Mexico

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Lanier: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Mario: I always wanted to do something which allowed me to help others.

Lanier: who introduced you to perfume?

Mario:  I remember smelling different fragrances on different family members. These various olfactory experiences helped build my love for fragrances/perfumes.

Lanier:  What opened the door to your life in the perfume industry?

Mario: It was the experience of blending my own creation at Perfumer’s Apprentice when they had a shop open in Santa Cruz, CA. It was a small shop that provided tea service while you created your own scent. Afterwards, I searched for a local perfume making workshop. I saw one offered by Yosh Han, the rest is history.

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Lanier:  what is the inspiration behind each of your scents?

Mario: El Poeta (The Poet): This fragrance conjures up another era; a time and place when debates on beauty, style and technique were hotly discussed over drinks at a crowded and smoky cafe. It too is unconventional. Artistic expression and flair is flaunted and appreciated. For those who walk a different path, it represents the cultural, artistic mavericks of a time gone by. It is Absinthe inspired, Bohemia in a bottle.

Corazon Blanco (White Heart): Corazon Blanco is my love note to my family and heritage of beautiful Mexico. I have deep and unforgettable roots in Mexico: the exotic flowers, spices and culinary delights of this region have lent themselves to my fond memories and recreation of such moments with this scent. They include my Grandmother making cinnamon tea, my Mother’s enjoyment of Cajeta (caramels) and adoration of gardenias, or the recollection of tequila from my cousin’s distillery.

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Lo Mejor di Mi #1: This citrus fragrance is homage to the citrus, aromatic family. Its great diversity of revitalizing notes will offer a fresh embrace that is meant to lift one’s spirit. It will envelop you in notes of bitter orange, pink and white grapefruit and blood orange that will delight and recharge your essence. Its hint of floral, woods and musk adds to its complexity and will have you fall in love at first smell.

Lanier:  Who was your mentor in the world of perfume?

Mario: It was Yosh Han and Shelley Waddington who helped me explore the art of blending.  Michael Coyle of MikMoi who gave me the helpful nudge to launch at the 3rd SF Artisan Fragrance Salon.

Lanier: What is your process in making a perfume?

Mario: Normally, first I will explore the single individual notes alone without any other notes.  Sometimes this can take less than a minute or sometimes days. Once I have all the fragrance notes I will be using, I explore fragrances already out on the market.  If I can bring something new, then I move to blending and testing out Jerry my husband or friends.

Lanier:  Do you have an idea of whom you are making your perfumes for. Who is that person, what is he or she like?

Mario:  I am creating scents for anyone who enjoys them. I may be inspired by a specific person, but I try to create scents that are enjoyed by both genders.

Lanier:  Where do you want to be in five years?

Mario: Getting my bottling and packaging finalized, transitioning from my State job into making perfume into a full-time event.

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20 smelly questions. (inspired by the ten questions asked by Bernard Pivot on the French television show “Bouillion de Culture”.

1.Who inspires you?

Anyone in my inner circle of friends and family.

2.What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

My Nespresso machine.  Just kidding, gratitude for life.

3.What is your favorite sensation?

Smell and taste, they are connected.

4. What is your favorite word to describe a perfume?

Lovely.

5.What is the most over used world to describe a perfume?

Lovely

6.What is your least favorite perfume note?

I do not have one.  All notes can be blended to create a wonderful experience.

7.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

I think of myself as a very spiritual person and so that enters by thought process while creating.

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     8.What perfume turned you on this month?

Les Parisiennes Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. If I was just to judge this perfume by only it’s notes or by the name alone,  it would be something I would have ignored.  Having experienced this scent without knowing what was being spritzed on me, I was able to enjoy the development without any prejudgment. I love wearing by itself or blending it with many of my other fragrances.

9.What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

My biggest turn offs are acts in which one is inconsiderate of another.

10.Who excites you in the world of perfume?

The growth in interest of the art of fragrance making.

11.What turns you off about the industry side of perfume?

Some of the restrictions being placed on ingredients that have been used to create some of the most amazing perfumes.

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12.What natural smell in nature do you love?

I love the smell of cement and rain after a heavy rain in any season.

13.What smell in nature do you hate.

The smell of public urination one gets when walking out of some of the BART/Muni stations.

14.What historical person do you imagine would have smelled Wonderful and why?

Either Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette.  Cleopatra was known to have the sails of her ships soaked in fragrance oils, so I can just image what “lovely” oil collection she owns. It was said that Marie Antoinette was know for her signature scent(s), when she tried to escape, it was her scent that was recognized which lead to her capture.

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(Conceptual painting by John De Cuir for Cleopatra’s Barge “Cleopatra” 1963)

15.What is your favorite language other than your native tongue?

Spanish.

16.What is your favorite curse word in that language?

Mierda

17.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Ballet dancer.

18.What profession would you not like to do?

Anything that would not allow me to work with people.

19.If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Welcome, you will enjoy this fragrant garden and all of its wonders.”

20.What perfume would you like God to be wearing when he says that to you?

She will be wearing Guerlain’s Sous le Vent.

I would like to thank Mario for a wonderful and thought provolking interview The Launch for his perfumes witll be Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 5 – 9pm. If youi are in the San Francisco area do drop in and explore with me the wonderful olfactory world of Mario Tomas.

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TIGERLILY PERFUMERY

973 VALENCIA STREET

SAN FRANCISCO CA. 94110

510 230 7975

EMAIL INFO@TIGERLILYSF.COM

PASSPORT TO PERFUME ~ Interview with Fragrance Specialists Hilary Rayvis Randall and Michal Gizinski

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Last Sunday morning I found myself in a sweet smelling spot. Vibrant morning light filled the beautiful little patio behind Antelope on Valencia Street where Tigerlily Parfumerie is located. The mornings in the Mission District of San Francisco always seem the brightest and warmest of all the neighborhoods in The City and never more so than in late Spring when the sleepy fog hangs over Twin Peaks not daring to descend any lower than Upper Market Street.

 

I was there to meet my friends and fragrance specialists extraordinaire Michal Gazinski and Hilary Rayvis Randall for a nosey perfume chat. Under a poppy orange umbrella we sipped on steamy cappuccinos and sampled lovely pastries and fresh nectarines.

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Looking at this truly beautiful woman I have known for a little over two years I mulled over how we met.  I bumped into Hilary at a Diptyque launch for Volutes. Amidst the swirling notes of that perfume we clicked, over the following weeks we became good friends. Hilary speaks both French and Japaneses, was a teacher of English as a second language, she has even been a chef.  Food, Florals and French!  At all seems to have lead her to fragrance.  Most recently has represented many perfume  lines including L’artisan Parfumeur, Byredo, Arquiste at Barney’s and Dior Fragrances at Neiman Marcus. She also holds top honors as a nationally recognized fragrance specialist. She presently works at Barney’s New York on Stockton Street as well as being a fragrance consultant for Tigerlily. Hilary became my fragrance history teacher, my perfume guide and beautiful ambassadress to the ever blooming garden of fragrance I was discovering.

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Through Hilary I met Michal; she referrers to him as the “Nose of Union Square”. He is the man everyone goes to who is serious about perfume, those who want to know more than what is the hottest thing on the market today. Michal is a fascinating man, an actor, a gentleman, and impeccably stylish and sophisticated. Open, warm and a mesmerizing raconteur he is simply a wonderful guy. He can tell you just about anything about any perfume past of present.

Over the following months I met up with Michal at different events or just popped in to see what was new at Neiman Marcus. Though these meetings with both Michal and Hilary the idea was born to interview both of them.

 

Now at last we were together for the long anticipated interview. This sun was shining on us, our own personal key light. The stage was set and the curtain was rising on a new act for three fragrant friends.

 

 THE ABC’s OF MICHAL AND HILARY

Lanier: “Where were you born?”

Michal: Warsaw Poland

Hilary: Philadelphia Pennsylvania

 

Lanier: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Michal. As a very little boy I wanted to be a classical pianist.

Hilary: up to 10 a Ballerina, from 10- 12- Mortician 14-20 Geisha 20> Chef

Michal: from 10 up and Actor.

 

Lanier:  What opened the door to your life in the perfume industry?

Michal: My grandmother, the smell of her perfumes. Then in the 80’s a friend took me to Dior and introduced me to their perfumes. First in Grenoble then in Paris .

Hilary: My Mother,. She would descend the stairs in a cloud of Diorissimo. She was dramatic. She talked to me about her perfumes and taught me about them. Since she was a gardener and expert flower arranger, she would take me out in the garden and teach me everything about flowers and how they were transformed into fragrance.

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Lanier:  How do you gauge a client?

Michal: I don’t judge. I never judge a book by its cover. I ask questions and over time I discover the personality, where they live, work, their lifestyle. I use my imagination to put all this together. I engage them in dialogue.

Hilary: You can’t judge a client. I ask questions and look for non verbal clues as well.  It is all about finding solutions. What do they own, what notes to they like. And what part of the world are they from. That plays a very large role in the process. Northern Europeans, Scandinavians generally prefer lighter florals; in the south they like heavier florals or Orientals. I try and see how adventurous they are.

 

 

Lanier: Are there skin palettes as there are color palettes for skin tones?

Hilary: No not by color if that is what you mean. The skin itself, the age of the skin. Older skin that has lost its oils needs a bolder scent. The skin’s natural oils are no longer there to support the fragrance’s diffusion. And self identity is important in choosing a perfume and the skin’s chemistry as it reacts to a perfume is important. Perfume is a form of communication that speaks to the right brain, the limbic system which houses emotion and memory. It is a non verbal way to present a part of yourself that may be the secret you, the part of you that can’t be expressed verbally.  Perfume is the invisible language. Its aura casts a spell !

Michal: Psychology is an important aspect. Why do we wear scent? Attraction plays a role for many clients, Perception of others, or how we want to present ourselves is a part of it.  There was a big change in perfume in the 90’s. People stopped smoking. A woman who smoked could wear Santos and it was beautiful. It might be too much on a non-smoker.

Fragrance involves people and can take them to a place they have never been. You wear a certain perfume that says “ Paris ” to you, and you are IN Paris.

 

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Lanier:  What is your favorite type of client and least as well?

Michal: I like people so there are no favorites. My least, never mix perfume with politics. I once had a client from Texas who was looking for a perfume for his wife. When I presented him with a Cartier fragrance and explained it was French he said, “I don’t want anything French!”

One must be a diplomat with clients; we are the ambassadors of fragrance.

Hilary: My favorite clients are thoughtful, open to new ideas, non-judgmental. A person with imagination and who is confident in their choices and in their opinions. I like a good dialogue with a client based on trust. My least favorite would be someone with a closed mind. Also boasters, who come in and talk about how many hundreds of perfumes they have and lists of notes.

 

 

Lanier:  Who was your mentor in the world of perfume?

Hilary: My mother and Michal. Reading every book published on fragrance, all the blogs and being a chef for 15 years have contributed to my scent knowledge.

Michal: Not a person, but books and travel were my mentors. I grew up isolated in Poland . Imagine my wonder when I was first exposed to Yves St. Laurent’s Opium or No.5.

 

 

Lanier:  Where do you want to be in five years?

Hilary: I want to be sharing my passion for aromas, fragrance and food in a global venue.

Michal: I want to have more time, personal time to pursue my interest. I will be in San Francisco and still traveling.

 

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20 smelly questions for Monsieur M and Madame H. (inspired by the ten question asked by Bernard Pivot on the French television show “Bouillion de Culture”.   

 

1. Who inspires you?

Michal: Marguerite Yourcenar

Hilary: My daughter , Sasha

 

2. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

Hilary: The idea of learning something new that day, perhaps meeting someone intriguing!

Michal: Early morning is my favorite time of the day. The fresh air of a new day

 

3. What is your favorite sensation?

Michal: Looking at nature and feeling a part of it. Mendocino!

Hilary: Letting go when I drift off to sleep.

 

4. What is your favorite word to describe a perfume?

Hilary: Intoxicating

Michal: Magic

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5. What is the most over used world to describe a perfume?

Hilary: Fresh

Michal: Sexy

 

6. What is your least favorite perfume note?

Michal: None

Hilary: None

 

7. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hilary: Imagination

Michal: Fate

 

8. What perfume turned you on this month?

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Michal: Kouros Sport

Hilary: Muguet by Guerlian (2014)

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9. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hilary: Negativity ~ no sense of humor

Michal: Vulgarity ~ no sense of humor

 

10. Who excites you  in the world of perfume?

Michal: Olivia Giacobetti

Hilary: Edmund Roudnitska then, Bertrand Duchaufour now.

 

11. What turns you off about the industry side of perfume?

Michael: Money

Hilary: Focus group generated perfumes

 

12. What natural smell in nature do you love?

Hilary: Violet

Michael: Lilac

 

13. What smell in nature do you hate.

Michael: None

Hilary: Lavender!

 

14. What historical person do you imagine would have smelled Wonderful and why?

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Hilary: Lady Murasaki ~ because of the beautiful bathing “ofuro/onsen” ritual of the Japanese with wonderful botanicals and incense.

Michael: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ~ because they appreciated perfume, had their own perfumers. On a side note: Catherine de’ Medici who was a great influence in perfume.

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15. What is your favorite language other than your native tongue?

Michal: French

Hilary: French & Japanese

 

16. What is your favorite curse word in that language?

Hilary: Chienne

Michal: I would rather not say

 

17. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Michal: Classical musicianship. Any aspect of classical music; be it conducting or playing an instrument.

Hilary: Shakespearean Actor

 

 

18. What profession would you not like to do?

Hilary: Politician

Michal: Working in a slaughter house, or being a butcher.

 

19. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Michal: Relax honey.

Hilary: My dear, you look and smell fabulous!

 

20. What perfume would you like God to be wearing when he says that to you?

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Hilary: Joy; vintage Joy from fifty years ago because I would know my mother was near and I would be with her once more after so many years.

Michal: En Passant. A heavenly scent.

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 *** 

I hope you enjoyed this time with Hilary and Michal. They are indeed extraordinary people. As Sales Associates in their stores they go beyond what is expected giving great service to every person who comes to see them. More than that, they are wonderful friends that I am privileged to know.

 

If you come to San Francisco drop by Barney’s for Hilary and Neiman Marcus for Michal and say hello. Bring your open mind and your nose ready for a fabulous journey. Let them be your guides, just as they have been and will continue to be mine. Tell them Lanier sent you.

Gatsby’s Garden ~ Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

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“When I was a girl of 17 I went to all of Gatsby’s parties. That’s were I met Bill .”

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It was just before dawn. Mark Post closed his great grandmother Marie’s ancient diary and put it in his backpack. He looked at the rusted gates of 111 Kings Point Road and took a deep breath. The no trespassing sign hung sideways from one screw and was almost completely covered with ivy. He looked up and down the road. There was no sign of anyone watching. In a scrabble of arms and legs he was over the gate in fifteen seconds. When his feet hit the driveway he could have sworn he heard music coming from the beach beyond the trees.

It was a quarter of a mile though the trees overgrown with ivy along the cracked and buckled drive to where the house once stood.

“I never met Jay Gatsby. No one ever saw him. We just came there every weekend from the city because the word was out that he gave spectacular parties. The place overflowed with free liquor and the best jazz bands from Harlem.”gatsby pool party

A robin’s egg blue predawn sky dimly lit the pit overgrown with weeds where the chateau of dreams Gatsby had built for his Daisy once stood. Three Corinthian columns were all that remained of the portico that opened to the terrace and the formal gardens that stretched from the house to the beach of Manhasset Bay.

Mark hopped up on the low foundation wall and made his way gingerly to the columns. He stood in silence and looked out over the expanse before him. In the distance across the bay twinkled the lights of Sands Point where Daisy’s house stood until just a few years ago. The cloudless sky behind those winking fading lights was turning pale pink. When he walked down the broken steps to the dirty marble terrace once again he heard distant strains of an old tune.

“Bill was an odd duck. He was not a rich boy and had no prospects. But he was handsome and could dance like nobody’s business. He wore Shalimar. All the girls called him sissy to his face because he wore that perfume.  They thought he was “funny that way”.  But I knew he wasn’t and I didn’t care because it smelled wonderful on him. Bill just laughed at those silly women and then swept me onto the dance floor and held me tight as we pivoted into a fox trot.

Mark moved slowly across the terrace and down the last sweeping set of stairs to the haunted remains of the formal garden. There were wildly overgrown roses on ether side of the wide path that lead to the beach. They seemed all to be leaning toward the east in anticipation of the sunrise. Ancient flowers filled with perfumed memories of  past loves long dead. Only the sunlight could make them bloom and bring love to life again.

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“On the day I married Bill he gave me his bottle of Shalimar and said he would never wear it again. He told me that he only wore it because he knew that it was the perfume that would lead him to the woman he would marry. ‘It is your perfume now’ he told me. And ever since my wedding day, it has been and always will be my perfume.”

Mark reached the place where the garden ended and the beach began. Rotting wooden posts reached out from the shore into the bay where the old dock once stood. They seemed to be forever reaching toward the lights of Sands Point and a long forgotten green light.

Mark opened his backpack and took out a small silver box and a tiny bottle of Shalimar.

“Bill has been gone now for many years.  And now in my 104th year I know I will be joining him soon. I hope that heaven is like those glorious parties at Gatsby’s and that I will meet Bill there and dance forever in his arms enfolded in an eternal cloud of Jazz music and Shalimar.”

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(Photo stolen from Mr. and Mrs. David Aylor)

At the edge of the garden where Mark imagined Marie had first met Bill he buried the silver box containing a few mingled ashes of his great grandparents. Then he opened the bottle of Shalimar and dabbed a bit on his wrists and behind each ear. He swore at that moment that he would wear Shalimar until he found the woman it belonged to.

He could hear the music from the past clearly now. The fist ray of sun hit his eyes and blinded him. He turned around and for a shimming moment Gatsby’s house was ablaze with lights, the music roared to life and the party was just beginning.

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Shalimar the classic (and very first) oriental perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain is one of the best selling perfumes in the world. It remains today a perfume of magical and romantic qualities. But in the 1920’s it was a bit of a scandalous fragrance. It was said that there were three things a good girl didn’t do, “Bob her hair, smoke cigarettes and wear Shalimar.” That certainly didn’t stop the new modern women of the age who agreed with Mae West when she said. “Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere!”

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Shalimar is a grownup perfume. Heavy on incense and leather, blooming with rose and jasmine and insolently overflowing with opopanax, civet and sandalwood it is a glamorous sumptuous and sensual perfume. Very French but at the same time very universal.

Shalmar Woman

It opens with blue rhapsody of a jazzy clarinet solo in citrus. This consists of the notes of mandarin orange, bergamot, lemon and a note that usually can be found in the base, Cedar. That Cedar note tells you right off that this is going to be interesting.

The heart of this jazz age symphony is replete with more mixing of high and low notes. There is a rooty iris mixed in with a grassy vetiver. This comes in to lush harmonics with a rose dressed to thrill and all a sparkle is a sexy seductive jasmine.  The low dark and slightly naughty patchouli rushes in to stir the entire center of the fragrance into a pure lush modern jazz ballet.

Finally there comes the boozy slow blues after midnight dry down. From opening to the end of this perfume there is a huge billowing fabulous incense note that pushes out into the room. The body and soul of the perfume is here in its smoky presence as the incense pares up with opopanax and the two get kinky with the dominatrix leather note. This trio is not shy about slapping things into submission as they pull in a scampy civet that plays around adding a dash of danger and bite to the party.  Lush sandalwood is made more creamy and sexy by the arrival of Tonka and vanilla. The jazz age urgent sexy pulse of this perfume is made to last for hours by the ever present support of a beautiful musk.

 ads

This perfume may be a challenge to some for its complexity and adult signature. A signature I might add that is no where to be found in the realm of immature perfumes of this day and age. It is something many have to grow into. Another aspect of the perfume is its sexual ambiguity. The meeting of florals with Cedar, citrus and a snappy leather make it most wearable for men. Not an office scent by any means for a man but something that works well after dark and on formal occasions. But weather for a man or a woman Shalimar is the height of elegant chic confident sexy jazz drenched glamour.

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Shalimar by Guerlain Five Platinum Stars *****

UNTITLED AND M.A.D. QUESTIONS FOR CHANDLER BURR ~ A Series of Interviews

The_Perfume_Magazine__Chandler_Burr

“My intention with The Untitled Series is to give 100 people a month the same opportunity I had at the Times, the experience of perfume unprotected / constrained by marketing and unassisted by the sense of sight. ” Chandler Burr

(Photo Matthew Furman)

Imagine my surprise to discover only two weeks ago that Chandler Burr, author of “A Separate Creation”, “The Emperor of Scent”, “The Perfect Scent” and “You Or Someone Like You” was on Facebook. Not a group page or a fan page but just there, accessible  and smiling.  I then noticed that some of my fragrance friends were friends with him as well. There it was, the “+1 Add Friend” button right in front of me. Why not click that button I thought?

The next day I received a notice that Chandler Burr had accepted my “friendship’ request, so it was only proper to send a thank you note. And that connection leads us to this series of interviews with the former perfume critic for the New York Times, Former Curator of, the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.  Author, lecturer and organizer of the incredible Scent Dinners and the man who couldn’t get Matt Lauer to loosen up and smell the roses admit he liked a perfume on the Today show.

Over the next few weeks Mr. Burr will be interviewed by a select group of perfume bloggers each with very different and exciting points of view. (You will be able to follow them from here with links as they happen.) The two main topics we will be discussing are as follows.

The recent Museum of Art And Design exhibition created by Chandler Burr, “The Art of Scent 1889 – 2012”  and the wonderful Catalog and the essays from the exhibition.  And the incredible “Untitled Series” at Open Sky.  On this series a perfume is presented blind each month to be tested with out the participants knowing anything about it. Then at the end of the month the perfume is revealed with the opportunity to be purchased if the participants so desire.  At the end of this interview there are links to the M.A.D. catalog and the Untitled Series. (The catalog with samples of each perfume are for sale. The link is at the end of the interview)

It gives me great pleasure to present to you my interview with Chandler Burr, a man of great charm, wit, talent, and generosity. A man with a magnificent nose.

Lanier Smith:   Let’s talk about a few of the perfumes and artist featured in the Catalog you’re your recent “The Art of Scent 1889 – 2012” exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design.  Actually less about the perfumes but about the questions that arise in my mind from the wonderful essays you wrote in the catalog. “Jicky” and genitals. As I understand it, at the time that “Jicky” was created in 1889 there were no gender assignments to perfume. Just as there is no gender assignment to the Eiffel Tower created the very same year. When did that change and why?

 Aimé Guerlain

Aimé Guerlain (1834–1910)

“ The genius of Jicky is that it could never have existed
in nature. Guerlain had created both a new work of art
and a new art form.” Candler Burr

Chandler Burr: It changed mid-20th century for a very specific reason: the industry needed to sell perfume to heterosexual American men, and given that for some reason straight American men instantly equate scent with femininity—which Italian and French men don’t, at all—perfume marketers had to use gendering to give them psychoemotional permission to wear scent. So they put “homme” or “for him” or whatever on the bottles, and the guys calmed the hell down.

Francis Fabron

Francis Fabron (1913–2005)

“L’Interdit
is extraordinary for its strange beauty,
which ignores time. It is a work that
smells as if it were made tomorrow.” Chandler Burr

Lanier Smith: The legend says and the ads would lead us to believe that “L’Interdit” was created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn. Now thanks to you turning the spotlight on the true artists of the medium of scent we know it was created by Francis Fabron. How important is the actual smell of a perfume to the fashion house—Givenchy for instance—compared to the advertising? Where does most of the money go in the creation of a perfume?

Chandler Burr: I get this question all the time, and the answer is a little frustrating because it’s easy to respond that—somewhat infuriatingly—most of the money goes into the packaging and marketing. And on a bottle by bottle basis, that’s true; in general the majority of the money per bottle goes into the bottle + cap + cardboard liner + cardboard box + the marketing images on the box, in billboards, on the designer’s website and vimeo and the Condé Nast Entertainment network + the film in which a model or actor walks moodily through a Greek ruin/ Versailles hallway/ high-production value film set.

But it’s not that simple. It’s been a surprise to me to be told the actual prices of several of the juices we take for granted, frequently perfumes I didn’t think of as particularly expensive (they are). And the willingness of a patron to give the artist a serious amount of money to work with per kilo makes it somewhat irrelevant that, per bottle, the packaging costs more. (Add the complexity of the different concentrations, which hugely changes the price.) Multiply 100ml of expensive oil-in-alcohol-solution, and you can get to a vertiginous investment very fast.

When Jerry Vittoria brought the Firmenich perfumers and evaluators on a tour of the Dept of Olfactory Art at MAD we had a fascinating debate about whether or not they, the perfumers themselves, cared about the bottle. Again, surprisingly to me—I just assume everyone in the industry shares my “who the hell cares about the wrapping, let’s just smell the juice” opinion—Harry Fremont said he absolutely wanted his perfumes in their bottles with their images. At which Ilias (I think it was) said he absolutely would prefer everything in a lab bottle, which I agreed with of course, at which other perfumers argued that the visuals were inherent to the experience, and I said my usual thing about “You don’t wear the bottle or the girl, you wear the juice” (startled at having to make this argument to perfumers) and so on.

By the way my understanding is that de Givenchy told Hepburn he was naming the perfume “Audrey Hepburn,” to which she replied, “Je vous l’interdit!” (I forbid you from doing it), so he called it l’Interdit. Who knows if it’s true; it certainly makes a nice story. And it’s an insanely killer perfume. Imminently wearable today. One of the all-time greats. I wear it.

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Magazine add for l’interdit by Givenchy

Lanier Smith:   With the emergence of the American School with “Aromatic Elixir” by Bernard Chant it seems that opens the way to many other American design houses to take off as they did in the 1970’s and 80’s. Yet isn’t it true that the first American perfume to rock the French establishment was Estee Lauder’s “Youth Dew”? Was that a fluke or a forerunner to the emergence of the United States as a power in the world of perfume?

Bernard Chant

Bernard Chant (1927–1987)

“Aromatics Elixir transcended the somber
formality of classical French style and
gave way to a work capable of conveying
multiple narratives simultaneously.
Here was a French story, but the story
was told, for the first time, in English.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: My understanding is that, yes, Youth Dew was the first American perfume. Commissioned by perhaps the greatest of American scent patrons, Estée Lauder, created by an American artist, Josephine Catapano. It was a forerunner, but as I pointed out the Art of Scent exhibition, when artists import styles from other cultures, they often work in the school then-dominant—or, even more conservatively, a previous, hallowed school. In this case it was the classical late 19th-century French school. Youth Dew reassured clients that, even though it was Made In America, it was thoroughly French, in the way that Lexus first put out cars that if anything out-Mercedesed Mercedes. Made In Japan but as good as Made In Germany. Once established, Lexus came into its own, as did American patrons and scent artists.

Lanier Smith:   I never got “Angel” by Olivier Cresp and thought it too sweet for my nose. But in the context of Surrealism it makes perfect sense and I can appreciate its maladjusted juxtaposition of notes with a fresh nose. Now it is fun. Placing perfume in the world of art is extraordinary and to some it seems a stretch.  Why is it important for the world to understand that a bottle of “Angel” is just as valid and important as the “Christ of Saint John on the Cross” by Salvador Dali?

 Olivier Cresp

Olivier Cresp (b. 1955)

“Cresp’s use of ethyl maltol, which he
transformed from subtle ornament to
fundamental structural material,
pushed olfactory art to new extremes
and placed shocking artificiality in
full view. This was the progenitor of an
olfactory Pop Art movement that arrived
in the mid-1990s and continues today.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: I’m glad it made sense for you when seen as Surrealist art. That one seemed overwhelmingly obvious to me—as does Industrialism for Drakkar Noir, which is in fact a better example of Industrialist art than virtually any other you could name in any medium—but I was concerned about some of them. Calder’s work that broke sculptures up into pieces and made them move in space around each other, dividing and re-coalescing into the same-but-different works, seemed quite like Cresp’s approach in Light Blue. So I called Calice Becker, somewhat apprehensively, started to explain my aesthetic reasoning, and at the words “Alexander Calder” she said, “Perfect.” I was relieved.

Lanier Smith: The tastes of the masses seem to be at a watered down level of safe sugar and laundry fresh. Geared more toward the teen-aged audience than more sophisticated noses.  For a very long time perfume has been moving away it seems from the classic feel of perfumes like “Chanel No.5”, “Shalimar” and the like. But with “Prada Amber” by Carlos Benaim, Max Gavarry and Clement Gavarry in the “Art of Scent” exhibition you herald the arrival of Neo-Romanticism. Do you believe that the truly great perfumes of the future will only come from “niche” designers or can a Dior or Chanel still be viable to as important creative perfume houses?

Carlos Max Clement Prada Amber

Carlos Benaïm (b. 1944),
Max Gavarry (b. 1937), and
Clément Gavarry (b. 1977)

“Prada Amber, however, is a unique
contemporary work in that it draws
directly and principally from the 19th century
school. In lesser hands, it could
easily have fallen into a mere pastiche.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: I admit it’s extremely rough for the big houses to take risks, perhaps the largest risk being—again—putting a serious amount of money into the work. I can make lofty statements like, “In the long run if they don’t make beautiful, which means somewhat costly, works, they’ll find [mass] clients dropping away [mostly just by buying less mediocre perfume, not due to trading up to expensive niche]” but there are, of course, so many exceptions to that that who knows if it’s true. For a good suit, you drop coin. See under: Tom Ford—I don’t even go in the store at the moment, maybe in a few years. For shirts, shorts, flip flops, I love Old Navy. There are some awesome perfume flip flop equivalents, and there’s nothing wrong with wearing them. But they’re not going to last. I’m thinking about the top 30, and some are Old Navy’s, but others are (metaphorically) Tom Fords.

Beyond Paradise and Sensual were both very expensive juices and innovative perfumes. Neither made it; my personal opinion: Beyond Paradise is excellent. Flower Bomb, Coco Mademoiselle—a work of pure loveliness—Angel, Pleasures, all of these are innovative and costly, all are commercial brands, and all are killing it. So who the hell knows.

Lanier Smith:   Now I have a few questions about the exciting Untitled Series on Open Sky. Did this idea come from your Scent Dinners? If not how did you come up with the concept that is so exciting. A whole month of smelling a perfume without Brad Pitt or Natalie Portman whispering in your ear how much you should love it.

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Chandler Burr: The idea for the Untitled Series didn’t come from the Scent Dinners. It came directly from the way my assistant and I smelled things at the NY Times. I had great assistants. The point of my Scent Notes column was that it was exclusively juice, juice, juice, so we had a very specific approach. Every week my assistant would arrive before I did, unpack the new scents that had arrived that week, and I’d come in half an hour later, drop my backpack, and sit down. He or she would, wordlessly, hand me an unmarked white blotter, and we’d smell. You weren’t allowed to change expression at all. When we felt like it, one of us would start reacting, and the conversation would go from there.

The scents we agreed were good we’d then put on skin—the canvas on which perfume is designed to be experienced—again without looking at the packaging. I tried not to look at the packaging until after I wrote the column.

My intention with The Untitled Series is to give 100 people a month the same opportunity I had at the Times, the experience of perfume unprotected / constrained by marketing and unassisted by the sense of sight. To be honest it’s insanely difficult to arrange each episode, and the Series never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Miuccia Prada. I asked her, and she personally agreed to let me take Infusion d’Iris out and put it in a little lab bottle. She anchored the whole thing.

Smelling perfumes this way is a physically different experience. Your reaction is deeply different. It just is. And that shouldn’t be surprising at all, and I have a very specific example. Think of someone lending you a painting. It could be an original, authentic Tatsuro Kiuchi, whose work I love.

 Tatsuro Kiuchi

It could be a Cy Twombly, whose work I loathe and look down on and which sells for zillions.

 Cy Twombly

It could be a Velázquez, who I think is stupendous.

 Las Meninas

It could be a real Alex Katz, whose work I disliked until Ecco, who published my novel, put two of his paintings together to create my jacket cover, and after 24 hours I loved it.

 You Or Someone Like You

Or it could be a canvas by some kid at NYU art school that you bought for $200. Not a fake. Just not a work recognized as having any aesthetic significance or brilliance. I would never be an asshole and put a crappy juice in an Untitled in order to run some sort of Emperor’s New Clothes experiment, the less important reason being that the people buying the Untitleds are a self-selected group who in about three seconds would be saying, “Yo, Burr, this is garbage.” This really isn’t a game, and so the more important reason is that the Series exists to present masterpieces. Of all kinds. The Untitled you order may indeed be a Goya or a Katz—a Ropion, a Buzantian, the new Vasnier, where the artist’s name is a brand like Goya’s, a name that would immediately make you give the work respect (and market value) even before you’ve smelled it, but as an Untitled you get to smell works without any “startist” (terrible word, but you get the idea) baggage crowding you.

The lab bottle the UPS guy delivers to you may also be a work by a total unknown, some artist you’ve never heard of who has no cachet at all but who I think has produced something extraordinary. Or you could be getting what I consider an underrated masterpiece. That’s one of the explicit purposes of the Series, rediscovering these things. That’s why I did S01E02. Mugler Cologne will, I believe, be recognized by art history as one of the greatest works of olfactory art ever created. And we have another wildly underrated great by a famous artist coming this fall. You’ll get it somewhere in S02E01 to E04.

As for S01E10, it’s by an autodidact artist and is brand new on the market. And I’m going to include one in spring 2014 that is a twist on that—not that exactly but sort of that. And it’s not, at all, just about the juice. As several people who are playing have noted, the cost is the ticket price to an experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else: the experience of blindness in an ongoing exhibition of works in an art form that really is only perfectly experienced by the blind

Lanier Smith:   Will you be popping in an old classic to see how that plays with the audience? Perhaps “L’Aimant” by Coty just to see how many people think it is “No.5”? Well that might not be fair but will there be some classics in the Untitled Series?

Yes.

Lanier Smtih:   I think we neglect our noses and since I became involved in my passion for perfume I have noticed that my sense of smell is much more acute. The format for Untitled Series is very much like a college course in fragrance with a lecture, class participation and experimentation and interaction. Don’t you think there should be a class or two in universities on how to use your nose? How would you go about teaching a class in fragrance? Art History, Science, Economics?

Chandler Burr:  My whole goddamn life for the past seven years has been building the case for every art historian, art history and fine arts department, museum curator, and gallerist to treat scent the way they would paint. Teaching a class in olfactory art should be no more, or less, difficult than teaching a class in music—or music theory or color theory; that’s the equivalent of teaching a class in scent materials and their interactions and qualities versus teaching a class in the works made with them. It’s going to come in the future. Just as photography came and settled in. And when it’s established people will wonder why it ever didn’t exist.

Lanier Smith:   Is there a chance “The Art of Scent” exhibition may hit the road and visit other cities around the world?

Chandler Burr: We’re actively working on traveling “The Art of Scent.” I’m writing a new introduction to the show, I’ve designed another section, which is an Entry, to go along with the Gallery section and the Salon section and to set up the conceptual basis for the show more clearly than the Museum of Arts and Design version. It will in fact be very different and much better experience.

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Lanier Smith:   My favorite perfume moment in the movies is from “Butterfield-8”. That delicious Metro Color infused opening scene when Elizabeth Taylor in her skin tight Helen Rose slip sits down at Dina Merrill’s dressing table and passes judgment over a few bottles of perfume. Then finding one she likes, “Tabac Blond”  I am told, slathers herself with sensuous abandon then coolly steals Miss Merrill’s mink coat.  Do you have a favorite perfume moment in film?

Chandler Burr: I actually don’t. In fact I’m thinking about it and—I haven’t seen “Scent of a Woman,” which would have given me one—I don’t think I can name a single moment in any movie that uses scent. I take that back. In “Duplicity” Julia Roberts lands at the airport and drives around for 20 minutes to make sure she isn’t being tailed before she parks at the house where Clive Owen is waiting for her. He grabs her at the front door, leans in to kiss her, murmurs, “You smell terrific,” and she rolls her eyes, pushes him off and says, “I *smell like a rental car.” Which is a very precise and very powerful line. The estimable Tony Gilroy wrote it.

10juli600

Julia Roberts passes a perfume counter in “Duplicity” (2009)

Tony-Gilroy-267539-1-402Writer Dirctory, Tony Gilroy

M.A.D. Catalog (which you can purchase) : http://thestore.madmuseum.org/products/the-art-of-scent-1889-2012

Untitled Series on Open Sky: http://www.opensky.com/member/chandlerburr?content=loves

Chandler Burr’s Website: http://www.chandlerburr.com/

Interview Participants in order of appearance:

The Perfumed Dandy:  http://theperfumeddandy.com/

Australian Perfume Junkies: http://australianperfumejunkies.com/

Smelly Thoughts:  http://smellythoughts.wordpress.com/

Another Perfume Blog: http://anotherperfumeblog.com/

EauMG:  http://www.eaumg.net/

What Men Should Smell Like:  http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com/

The Scented Hound: http://thescentedhound.wordpress.com/

The Fragrant Man: http://thefragrantman.com/

Photos of the olfactory artists and selected excerpts are from the Museum of Art and Design catalog “The Art Of Scent ~ 1989 – 2012”

1919 THE RAGE OF PARIS ~ Mitsouko by Guerlain

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Paris 1915

The wafting breeze of chiffon along with the heavy slid of pearls against each other announces, only to the most attuned ear her arrival at her box at the opera. Young men and not so very young men turn as one animal toward her. How they can hear her approach above the din of the clamoring throng that is the Paris opera crowd is beyond understanding or science. Or is it? Perhaps Mademoiselle Du Chandonnet has a secret weapon which makes her, of all the courtesans of Paris the most desirable of all. She was the fist to bob her hair, but that is not the reason. She wears the latest shockingly short skirts with silk stocking rolled to just above the knee.  These revolutionaries in the new book of fashion have stormed the couturiers and come into vogue so suddenly since the end of the Great War. Blame it on that Chanel woman some say. But this too is not her claim to temptation to half the men of the city. Is it her cynical air of disdain for the men who adore her? Could it be the allure of danger one catches in her casual sidelong glance from a panting victim to a tray of glittering Cartier iced diamonds?  That look which with a half smile promises nothing but financial ruin and a broken heart? Perhaps so, perhaps no.

 M. DU CHANDONNET

    What each of the men so eager to pay the most exorbitant fees for her favors does know is the smell of this courtesan. Cet amour fou d’une prostituée est dans l’odeur de son. This crazy love for a whore is in the smell of her. And what perfume she decides to wear behind a diamond and sapphire encrusted ear will be instantly transfigured into the rage of Paris by dawn simply because Mademoiselle Du Chandonnet decided that night to wear it. All her suitors will be wearing it tomorrow and in the weeks to come their wives and fiancées will soon be shopping for it at 68 Champs Élysées.  She is wearing Mitsouko.

The men in the orchestra are facing her as the lights go down and the orchestra begins the first strains of The Planets. Only the low glow of the refracted light of the rising chandelier illuminates her face in a diamond prism glitter. She is bored beyond endurance and as the men turn toward the savage new music she rises and leaves for the more jazzy sounds of the left bank. Rive gauche is the only part of Paris where she can forget what she has lost since the 28th of July, 1914, the only place in Paris where she really ever smiles.

**********

The mysterious and utterly enchantingly seduction one finds in such a woman or a man for that matter one finds in Mitsouko. This wonderful perfume from Guerlain is a masterpiece born out of the end of a horrible war and at the dawn of the jazz age. It is a perfume of possibilities and lively excitement couched in a loss and sadness that is glossed over with verve and champagne sparklers.

 

The brilliant Mitsouko inspired by the Japan craze of the era and born to celebrate the end of war opens with a bright shimmering rush of citrus, jasmine, bergamot, and rose.  This fizzes in a natural way and bubbles over into the heart notes of a kind of honeyed Lilac, mouth watering summer peach, and aphrodisial honeyed ylang ylang all in silky summery yellows. This is punctuated by a hearty brilliant May rose. At this point it is all about fun and a bright and shiny future of joy and bliss. But in the dry down comes the drama and real majesty of this perfume. A mix of warm exotic spices and a snap of cinnamon sticks stir the lush almost animalic amber into a blending of exotic eastern flavors the peach lingers and ripens here. This is the melancholy romantic part of the fragrance and my favorite part of the experience. This is all layered over a base of inky dry oak moss that extends the magical elixir on for hours of enjoyment.

Mitsouko is well suited to men and women because of its spicy tones. A Chypre with fruit overtones that never over whelm the dry champagne like sensation one gets from first spay onward  The Eau de Parfume has a long lush life on the skin lasting for eight to ten hours. Be frugal when applying so as not to overwhelm all your suitors with your fabulous silage. Rather tease with a light ease and a whisper of delights and dangers ahead. And remember just as it is with a great courtesan, there is a lot to learn about life and love and men and women from a wise and worldly old classic like Mitsouko.

mitsouko_ad

FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

UN HOMME DE MYSTÈRE ~ L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme

Late evening in the Café Camille, Marais Pairs:

(Café Camille by Lanier Smith. Mixed Media)

The erudite waiters were all in blanched linen shirts, black wool pants and crisp spotless cotton aprons as they elegantly attended the thinning clientele. The noisy American tourists had left and only a few neighborhood regulars lingered over coffee or a dying bottle of wine. As I sat there drinking in the night from the sidewalk table I caught a whiff of something so utterly delicious, a euphoria of blending and slowly unfolding scents. It was chocolate, but not of this earth for it was richer and deeper than the darkest cocoa bean could ever produce. Then I realized that it was something more like a bouquet of jasmine dipped in warm dark chocolate and sprinkled over with anise and lavender….and a little slice of orange on the side. It was so impossibly rich and enticing and sensual. Then sadly it began to fade like a gypsy’s dream until it was finally gone. Only then did I realize that the man who just walked past my table toward the Place Des Vosges was the source of that incredible scent. If only I could know what it was that he was wearing?

Days later as I sauntered past 68 Avenue des Champs Élysées I picked up the silage of this siren like fragrance. I turned to see the man from a few nights before in the Marais. He slipped into the doors of the Guerlain Perfumery. Without hesitation I spun on my heel and followed him into the palace de scent. Nowhere to be seen, he had again eluded me. As I turned I caught in the smallest corner of my eye a glimpse of him. He stood at the counter talking to an impossibly chic sales girl. In his well manicured hand he was holding a golden bottle up to the light. It glimmered, it winked in deepest gold, and he turned and smiled at me as if he knew what I was after…. “L’Instant” he said in less than a whisper.

(ALAIN DELON ET ROMY SCHNEIDER)

L’Instant by Guerlain is so incredibly wonderful. I was immediately enveloped in a vale of coco and jasmine on the opening notes. Not feminine at all as one might expect but so confidently masculine in the blending in of anise, cedar and Indian sandalwood that take over the bulk of the middle. It is never overpowering but still commanding and insinuates a certain confidence that is very Parisian. The dry down is incredible. Lapsang Tea and Hibiscus seed and musk it is almost oriental in feeling. But all the way through and what got the most comments from those who noticed is that scrumptious rich dark chocolate that never quite leaves. Very long lasting, great silage, an all around winner that drew praise from both women and men. Guerlain is the master of luxe and elegant fragrances of such depth and complexity that really makes them stand out as a top fragrance house of impeccable distinction.

Five Platinum Stars ****

NOT TONIGHT ~ I HAVE A ROYAL HEADACHE! ~ Eau de Cologne Imperiale Guerlain

When  I think of Eau de Cologne Imperiale Guerlain, which was created for the Empress  Eugenie of France to cure her headaches, I am reminded of the remarkably  beautiful Loretta Young who played her in the 1938 film “Suez”. I saw that film  one rainy afternoon on T.V. when I was a kid and her ethereal beauty in  ravishing hoop skirts (Which the empress poularized in the 1860’s) arrested my  imagination. I never forgot her.

(LORETTA YOUNG ~ SUEZ 1938)

To  think that this perfume has endured for 152 years is amazing. Once I tried it  for myself, I found it entrancing as a waltz with the Empress Eugenie herself.  It is definitely a uni-sex fragrance that is light and refreshing. This is a  REAL Citrus Eau de Cologne in the most classic sense, and not at all complex but  rather straight forward linear in its olfactory performance. Even with its  romantic history I would not classify it as romantic heavy hitter perfume but  rather a practical everyday down to earth citrus. Bright and pleasing all around  with a good projection and I would say short to medium longevity.

It  is not for everyone but rather for those interested in collecting something  historic with a romantic story behind it. And, the bottle is beautiful!

Four  gold stars ****

APRIL IN PARIS ~ GUERLAIN AQUA ALLEGORIA HERBA FRESCA

What a magnificent summer scent. Light bright and fun. Paris in the spring, there is nothing quite as fresh and lovely. A splash of Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca before you head out to a day in the city of light and you are set. Smells of fresh cut grass in the Tuileries and mint iced tea. And off in the distance you pick up a waft of flowers from a flower stall by the Seine. Dappled sunlight is your scerect companion in a quite moment in the old roman arena on the left bank.

The popping of corks in a chic bistro seems to echo in the opening notes of lemon and clover. This fleeting opening is effervescent and shimmers into the heart notes of mint and green tea. If that combo doesn’t spell summer magic I don’t know what does. As the dry down rounds out the experience you are enveloped in light summer clouds of cyclamen, lily of the valley and juicy sun ripened pear.

                 (first floor of Guerlain Champs Elysees Paris)

This was my first Guerlain fragrance and was given to me as a Christmas present by my best friend. He introduced me to Guerlain and in so doing displayed has magnificent taste. I would trust him to buy a fragrance gift for me anytime. Pure magic, Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca by Guerlain is musical, dashing and witty in its unusual blend of notes it is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan winner.
Five Platinum stars *****

(Aqua Allegoria bar at Guerlian)

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