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


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.


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.

 Michal Gazinski jpg

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.



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.



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.




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.




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


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?


Michal: Kouros Sport

Hilary: Muguet by Guerlian (2014)

 Guerlain Muguet 2014

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?


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.


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?


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.



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.

FOOTSTEPS ON THE CEILING ~ Ambre Nuit La Collection Privée by Christian Dior


“Whoever said Paris is for lovers is a liar!”  Barbara thought as she stomped into the Place des Vosges. She dodged a smartly dressed woman who was walking her impeccably groomed poodle.  Blindly, blurrily she stepped into the crosswalk only to stumble into the little park in the center of the Marais. This particular tourist was completely unaware that the beautiful woman with the tiny dog was really an elegant man in drag or for that matter she was unimpressed by the particularly Parisian beauty of the setting that surrounded her. She had been crying for the last three blocks. Nino was gone. Back to Rome and his wife, the wife he had just admitted to having only thirty minutes ago when he got into the cab for the airport. It was a sudden and brutal goodbye that left her reeling between anger and astonished shock. Now, this very afternoon, here she was in the Palace des Vosges with her vacation ruined by romance in the city of love. She had three days left in Paris before she would have to board United flight 991 back to San Francisco.


    Suddenly surrounded by greenery and flowers her pace drained to a crawl. Meandering in her morose maroon mood she paid no attention to the handsome old men playing checkers under the Horse-Chestnut trees. She would have taken a photograph of the scene an hour ago. But now her camera filled with photos of Nino was burred under tearstained Kleenex at the bottom her Dior tote bag. The bag  he helped her pick out the day she met him in the Place Vendome, seven and a half days ago when the whole affair began. Well that camera would stay buried there forever for all she cared. She felt the warning sting of fresh hot tears welling up. She looked up and in front of her was a huge statue of Louis XIII on his horse looking impressive in his wig. (Not as impressive as the drag queen with the poodle but a close second.) There was a place to sit, or in her case collapse on a green double sided bench. She crumbled on the spot and gave over to fresh sobs.

 Place des Vosges

   People passed her by, as did the shadows of the overhanging branches tracing the sun’s passage west over Paris. She saw none of it. Only the widescreen memories of her last week with Nino ran over and over on the loop in her brain. That wonderful first night at Maxim’s where she tasted her first Amber Moon with a grapefruit twist.  The boat ride on the Seine in the rain that made them laugh, the Eiffel tower and the May roses in the gardens beyond it. Perfumes sniffed at Guerlain, Chanel, and Dior, endless wandering hand in hand heart in throat though the Rive Gauche. Only yesterday the little spice shop where she had smelled fresh peeper for the first time, the tour of Versailles where he kissed her in the hall of mirrors and snatched her heart away from her under the chandeliers like an Italian highwayman. Had it been real or a romance made from slight of hand and pretty lies?  Now that she understood it. What it was, that she had been Nino’s Parisian fling it seemed tawdry and dirty. At forty eight that was not who she wanted to be, that middle-aged woman who goes to Paris for one last chance at romance. Nothing in her future but footsteps on the ceiling.  She studied her scuffed Chanel shoes and tried to pull something of herself together. The sun was  now at three o’clock and she didn’t want to move.

“Bonjour Madame!”  She looked up into the cerulean eyes of an eight year old boy. He was dressed in his school uniform and held out his manicured hand to be shaken. Despite it all she shook his hand in bewilderment. A second boy stepped up and a third, “Bonjour Madame” from each boy as he passed. The thirteenth boy, the last handed her a rosebud. He didn’t shake her hand but kissed her wet cheek. He smelled of citrus, pepper and the rose. His teacher behind him nodded as she passed. It was a smile of recognition and kindness.


Barbara smiled back at the woman and wiped away the last tears of her broken heart. Her smile deepened and she looked around her and saw where she was. She knew now that Paris was filled with love, love of every kind.


Ambre Nuit from La Collection Privée by Christian Dior is blended with memories of love and its loss. It is a sweet remembrance of things that may never have been real but were none the less as tangible as a kiss in the rain, a look from a passing stranger who has the answer to unanswered prayers. It is a dream wrapped in smoky images and misty forms that make one never want to awaken to the dawn.

This is Dior’s Amber star. It is from beginning to end a lush romantic embrace of the most lustrous amber of the very best quality. Rich and full bodied like a great golden cognac.  Even more so it is musical and holds this note as a beautiful deep tone from a great old cello played by a master. It is not the whole orchestra booming majestically but a beautiful solo in Amber.

There is in the opening spray a sparkle of bergamot and a twist of grapefruit that shimmers like champagne for a few minutes. Pink pepper is the pop of the champagne cork. The Amber is the goblet these citrus and pepper are pored into. As they settle down but never quite abandon the mix a gorgeous Turkish rose is added to the perfume. Like petals tossed in lazy abandoned onto a midnight pool this rose swirls in the center of the perfume to give it an oriental resonance of such splendor the senses are left reeling.

It opens boldly but never goes wild; it has restraint and an elegant dignity that never flags. It is beautiful on a man of great personal charisma and just as beautiful on a woman of magisterial mystery. As with all the perfumes in La Collection Privée, Ambre Nuit is outstanding in its unique signature. Nothing else smells like it in the line.  It lasts for a good eight to ten hours on my skin. The projection is very good and never fails to get a complement or two.


Ambre Nuit is a sensuous silken experience that most certainly is for those with an understanding of and a desire for something rich but not overpowering. Of old world elegance and sophistication, it is a supper at ten and a ball that begins at midnight and ends in a barefoot walk along the Seine at sunrise.





LET THEM BATHE IN PERFUME! ~ Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior


“It looks just like our Petit Trianon back home.” I said as I took photos of my friend William in the tiny and cramped gate house framing him against the little round window through which could be seen the private diminutive palace of Marie Antoinette.


“But it is the real thing.” He said. “Ours in San Francisco is a pale copy.”

It was our last day in France and we had saved Versailles for our final immersion in all things French. The palace was magnificent, the gardens sublime. No more so than off the main paths that lead away from the Grand Canal to the Grand and the Petit Trianon as well as the Hameau de la Reine. The further away from the grand Château we walked the less we saw of others touring the grounds. By the time we reached the little palace we were quite alone.  The planned wildness of the gardens had captured my imagination and I could almost believe that around the next box hedge I would find a small group of courtiers from the court of The Sun King. What magic it all seemed to possess, a sad haunted magic in the end.


A soft mist was falling from the grege colored April sky as we walked into the entrance of the intimate little hideaway of the Queen. As we passed from room to room we could feel the presence of something extraordinary. The furnishings were all put back in place as they had been before the Revolution. The only light in the rooms came from the French windows giving each room the softness of a watercolor in blues and silvers.

I stood at the window of the dining room looking out over a small formal garden feeling so peaceful and a little at home.


“OH Harry just look at this room! It’s just like Sylvia and Oscar’s dinning room in Oyster Bay!” Her voice could crack open the lost tomb of Alexander the Great.  I turned to see her sweep into the room overdressed, painted, pulled and plumped. She ran her hand along the edge of the dinning table and then picked up a plate. “I have to find this exact pattern when we get back home.”  She flipped the plate over to inspect the bottom.

Her private guide was paled by her snatching up of the priceless porcelain. “Please Madame you must not touch. These are priceless museum pieces.”  She ignored him as she tossed her teased dyed Titian tresses and grabbed her ancient husband by the arm and squeezed it till he winced. “We just have to recreate this room in the new house. I want it to be better than Sylvia’s. I want it to be better than even this!’ She whipped out a camera from her YSL bag and backed up into an 18th century cabinet taller than she was and set it rocking.


“Madame Please! We must move on now.” The poor guide whimpered. Harry gave him a nasty look. When she was quite finished she swept past William and I as if we were just dusty window treatments that she was most definitely not impressed with.

I looked at my friend horrified and embarrassed by this woman from my country who felt so entitled that she had no respect or appreciation of where she was or what she was really seeing.

“That woman was a pig!” I said.

“I bet she yells at Parisians in English thinking they will understand her.”  William said.

Then I saw it. The cabinet she had bumped into had pressed up against the wall and and had left a crack in it.

“She broke the wall!”

We went over to investigate. “No she didn’t” William said. “It’s a hidden compartment in the wall. When she bumped into the cabinet it must have hit the trigger on the wall. See it’s right here and…Look!”


We both leaned in at the same time and hit our heads together. Neither of us felt the bump.

“What do you see?” The rain was coming down really hard outside and made it so dark in the room that I couldn’t see anything in the cubby hole.

“Wonderful things…” He whispered as if it was King Tutankhamen’s tomb and he was Howard Carter.

It all came into focus. There was a black silk fan covered in dust and cobwebs, some coins, an old parchment letter with the wax seal broken and a small bottle of perfume.


I reached for the bottle.

“Don’t touch it!” My friend cautioned but it was already in hand.

I read the faded writing on the perfume label, “Cologne Royale” I whispered. “It is a bottle of Cologne Royale. What does the letter say?”

He gingerly opened the ancient manuscript and part of the edges fell away. “It’s in French I can’t read it. But it is addressed to ‘Votre Majesté Royale and signed Hans Axel Von Fersen.’ Open the bottle … what does it smell like?”

I pulled at the sealed stopper but to no avail. There were voices coming now from the next room. “I can’t get it open!”

“Someone is coming! Put it back!” He shoved the letter back into its tomb.

“No I want to smell it.” He tried to take the perfume away from me and in the struggle it fell to the floor and shattered.

That is how we ended our vacation in France, Two loud ugly Americans explaining to the French police how we found the lost treasures of Le Petit Trianon and destroyed forever the only surviving bottle of perfume owned by Marie Antoinette.



Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior is a modern elegant take on the classic 18th century Eau de Cologne. In fact inspired by just such colognes, it is delicate and beautiful in the way the best colognes are. One is reminded of No. 4711 eau de Cologne which as been in production since 1790 or of Santa Maria Novella Acqua de Colonia which was created for Catherine Di Medici, Queen of France. There is a long and colorful history of smelling good in Paris and what better way to celebrate the history of that tradition than with a classic royal cologne from the house of Dior.

Perfumer Francois Demachy has chosen the most wonderful blend of citrus, neroli and musk to bring a vision of the glory days of powdered wigs and scented fans to life. But it is not stuffy or old fashioned in the least. For in choosing a strictly narrow style of the eau de cologne Demachy has somehow managed to breathe new life into an old form. It is the perfect after bath refreshment and a wonderful base on which to layer a more substantial fragrance for later in the day or evening. It is more refreshing than merely “Fresh”.

Like all eau de colognes the projection and longevity are short lived thus making Cologne Royale the ultimate in a luxury fragrance. One must be extravagant and rather caviler to wear Royale at about, at the very most three hours and such a price. But if you are of the let them eat cake mindset then why not indulge in a bottle of Cologne Royale. What a lovely couture fragrance for the Comte or Comtesse in every perfume lover.

chapel ceiling

Madame le peuple puent. Laissez-les se baigner dans parfum!




A WALK IN THE PARK ~ Bois D’Argent La Collection Privée by Christian Dior



On the last days of March Matthieu Maggi would still, at 95 emerge from his home at number 22 Avenue Foch just behind the Alphand monument and walk the long tree lined avenue to the Bois de Boulogne.  For his age he was very athletic and looking a mere 75 he made the trip in no time. The people who passed Monsieur Maggi always noticed that he seemed a bit out of time sporting “The New Edwardian Look” of the 1950’s. He always wore a hat. It was his signature.


(Monument to Jean-Charles Alphand and 22 Ave. Foch)

     As he passed beneath early blooming plum trees near the park entrance he would think inevitably of her and the place in the Bois she called the silver woods. He walked there every day and always it seemed like moving through enfiladed rooms of the past when he crossed the circle at Porte Dauphine. Each room had a silver polished silver name plate beside the door, the 90’s, the 80’s, 1958, 1947 1939, 1929. When he stepped into the park he was a boy again.  1925.

Germaine Krull, Ave du Bois de Boulogne Paris 1928

   His parents of an old Moneyed Parisian family had moved to what was then called Avenue du Bois de Boulogne that year when he was ten years old. To be so near the wilds of the park excited him. Matthieu always found a way to slip away form his nanny, or the tutors and sneak off to the park to explore. He imagined it to be many things but is favorite was a wild jungle in the Belgian Congo.

Spring was about to explode over Paris the day he discovered he was lost in a part of the park he had never been to before. It was so unusual and almost magical with the trees pushing out a silvery green new leaves and the bark a most shimmery nearly hoary grey. He sat down on the moist grass and breathed in deep the wonderful smell of the silver woods. He closed his eyes and dug his fingers into the earth and thought of the book he was reading, Tarzan of the Apes.


    The sound of a guttural low purr vibrated next to his left ear sending an electric shiver to his toes and back up to the top of his head. Hot moist nostrils nudged his ear and the purr turned to something of a growl.  He opened his eyes and turned his head just enough to be face to face with a cheetah wearing a huge diamond dog collar. His eyes went wide and wild and he was about to jump and run.

“Don’t be afraid” The woman spoke French with an American accent. She was dressed in silver with a huge corsage of Iris on her shoulder. “Chiquita likes little boys. Not to eat of course, she just fancy’s boys.”

Chiquita’s long rough tongue slathered up the side of his cheek and made him giggle and squirm and suddenly feel safe. The extraordinary café au lait woman laughed like a song bird, crouched down next to him took a purple and yellow silk handkerchief from her bag and tidied up his wet face.

“You are Josephine Baker!” He said in amazement. “I have seen you in the papers! What are you doing here?”


(La Baker and her pet Cheetah, Chiquita)

She stood up and winked “Let’s walk a bit.” Chiquita pulled Mademoiselle Baker forward by the leather leash and Matthieu fell in step beside her. She explained how since her arrival in Paris it was her greatest joy to walk Chiquita in the Bois in the early afternoon. This was her time to contemplate and be alone away from all the madness of Théâtre de Champs Élysées and the stage door Johnnies who hounded her after they had seen her “Banana Dance”. Enraptured and perhaps a little in love with the exotic lady and her cat Matthieu listened to every word in utter adoration. Before he knew it they had come to Allée de Longchamp where her extremely long green and gold limousine and driver were waiting.

Chiquita jumped into the car when the chauffer opened the back door. Mademoiselle Baker turned and kissed Matthieu on the cheek.

“Shall I see you tomorrow?” she smiled down at him.

A cold March wind came up from the Seine and pushed into the park shaking the silver leaves threatening to tear them from the branches. Monsieur Maggi snapped back to the present and looked around as if he had never been to this spot before. He shook his head, smiled and turned toward home. Maybe tomorrow he would see her, The Creole Goddess, his first love.

Annex - Baker, Josephine_08


The extraordinarily lovely and subtle Bois D’Argent part of La Collection Privée by Christian Dior is from the moment it drifts onto your skin until I fades into memory like a spring walk in the park. Typically a Woody Chypre is bold and dramatic but not this time.  The nose for this perfume Annick Menardo had something else in mind when creating Bois D’Argent than your typical Woody Chypre, something unique and very sophisticated.

It really is a fragrance made of memories and each time I wear it seems slightly different and hard to pin down. It changes exactly the way memories change a little with each visitation. On me Bois D’Argent is soft and cool and rather reminiscent of Cristalle by Chanel minus the purple hyacinth. It has a remoteness that seems to intone a mystery that one hopes to unravel as it unfolds on the skin. But don’t try to solve its mysteries just enjoy them

Bois D’Argent opens with a swaying cypress note blended in with dark slightly dirty iris that is moist as if just pulled fresh from the earth after a rainstorm. A jingle jangle of sharp gin like juniper berries tickles the nose for a bit. You are at once deep in the woods from the opening on. Those woods are the main thrust of this perfume. As the mid notes come up it sweetens a bit with a halo of incense and myrrh that is very soft and fades in and out on the breeze and underneath on the floor of this cold brusque park is a bed of dried patchouli leaves. But always the woody notes dominate.

The dry down is really exceptionally lovely. Here it seems to warm a bit like an early spring afternoon with the woods carrying on as a trail of honey and resins drip down over silver tree bark. A very slight flavor of vanilla soaked amber and musk caress the woody notes and the elegant smooth brush of suede leather like the inside of well worn ridding gloves keeps it interesting.

This perfume last on my skin around ten hours and seems to move from good silage at 4 hours to very close to the skin. Bois D’Argent suggests an air of great affluence; style and elegant confidence. It denotes a certain casual beauty that goes deeper than skin and lasts long past the frivolities of youth. It remembers everything and whispers the memories over and over softly in your ear. It is made for grown ups and wouldn’t want to be anything other than just what it is.



LOVE STORY ~ Patchouli Imperial by Christian Dior


On the docks of Marseilles in the time of the last king Louis Philippe there was told the story of the scandalous woman known as Olympe.   Her father was the proprietor of a spice shop near the center of town and as a young woman of 15 she often went to the docks with her father to meet the ships arriving from the East. Spice ships laden with every imaginable wonder from the Orient by way of Silk Road and the Red Sea routes to India.  The ships were also full of sailors.

 The Port of Marseille

(Port of Marseilles)

   Olympe was not beautiful but she was tall and of a certain elegant carriage. She had little interest in boys let alone men at an age when her girlfriends were giddy with mere dreams of affairs of the heart. That all changed in an instant one August morning when a ship known as The Marie Thérèse docked at Marseilles. As her father was inspecting a shipment of coriander Olympe idly twirled her parasol made of Mysore sandal wood and Belgian lace and became fascinated by the play of light that threw dancing shadows across her face.  Something on deck flashed silver though the tiny holes in the lace parasol and she stopped twirling it. Slowly she tilted the parasol up to peek from under its brim. The silver braid on the epaulet of the right shoulder of the most beautiful captain’s uniform she had ever seen was twinkling in the morning sun. She looked up to the face above it. He was eating a mandarin orange from Sicily and as he bit into it the gold juice exploded in to his right eye. Olympe laughed too loud and the squinting captain turned with an angry grimace to see her. She covered her mouth with a gloved hand but could not stop laughing. That was when he smiled at her as he whipped his chin and tossed the now forgotten and ravaged orange overboard. The cedar gangway swayed as his impressive form sauntered down to the dock. He bowed and took her hand to kiss it. Olympe had just caught up with her girlfriends.  The Captain would teach her to surpass them on the road to scandal in ways she could never imagine.  She would remember always that that the first time he kissed her he smelled of a refined masculine Indonesian patchouli.


After he deserted her, and his bastard baby died there was no reason to stay in Marseilles. Her father wouldn’t have her in the house and tore here heart when he called her a whore. In Paris her luck changed. She went to work for a dress maker Prudence Duvernoy who as it turned out was in the business of turning out courtesans. Olympe had the kind of look that was popular with the aristocratic young men who haunted the Opera and in no time at all she was in demand. She was famous for her charm and dry wit. She was always laughing, never sad and very busy. For a brief time her only rival for business was a young courtesan by the name of Marguerite Gautier.


Only late at night when she was thankfully alone at last and no one could see her would she let down her guard. In the ritual of preparing for bed she would peel a mandarin orange form Sicily and eat it. Then sitting at her vanity with her hair tied up in a hundred cotton bows to tighten the curls she would dab on her wrist, behind her ears and on her décolletage the rarest Indonesian Patchouli bought at a very great and dear price. On occasion as she inhaled the alluring seductive fragrance one tear would slide though the powder on her cheek to her chin and twinkle in the candlelight for a moment before it fell.



From La Collection Privée by Dior comes the stunningly melancholy and hauntingly beautiful Patchouli Imperial. This elegant perfume was created by François Demachy who is the nose behind so many incredible perfumes, Colonia Intensa, Dior Homme, Fan di Fendi, The lion’s share of the Privée line to just scrape the tip top of his the perfume career.

This enticing elixir is captivatingly designed to work well on men and women and envelope the wearer in a vale of oriental splendor that shimmers and vibrates with only a few well chosen notes. It opens with the majesty of the great bell at Notre Dame deep and resonating Indonesian Patchouli leaf that dominates the perfume. Smaller simultaneous notes ring in of Sicilian mandarin orange, Calabrian bergamot, Sandalwood, coriander and cedar.  Blending together these wonderful notes play off of each other in the most complementary tones. It isn’t in any way symphonic and complicated like some great perfumes are but rather like chamber music for cathedral bells.

Patchouli Imperial wears so well and for a considerable time. I have had it on now for ten hours and it is yet to diminish in its blooming tendrils that like a tide move in and out and have been delighting me all day. It has a good projection too at about arms length for the first three to five hours and then moves in to be more personal at about ten inches.

Seductively inviting and not your grandparent’s patchouli of the 1960’s at all. There is so much more here in this refined and truly oriental patchouli than you would ever suspect if you only know the old hippie oils of the last century. There is a feeling I get when I wear it that it is as I mentioned, melancholy, not sad but more nostalgically romantic and filled with memories of first love before the world and fate stepped in to wake up the dreamer. 





THE BURNING HILLS ~ Leather Oud La Collection Privée by Dior


It was the end of the world. Streaked of radiant raging red that swirled and boiled the sky had turned from indigo night to the roof of hell, the hills were on fire.  From the last street in town and across the vineyards where the Jurupa Hills climbed up from the inland basin they burned. For as far as I could see from the west off into the darkest blanket of night that was the east there was fire.

The entire neighborhood had turned out to line Jurupa Avenue to watch, and even more people were coming in cars from the center of town. It was oddly quite. Kids sat on their fathers shoulders, teenage girls leaned on the flaring finned fenders of cars, boys stood with bikes between there legs, and all looking south at the savage spectacle that was the great wild fire of that summer.

 Fire Night California

   No one was up there in the flames, not even the firemen from three of the nearest towns. There was nothing to do as the great Santa Anna winds drove the fire up towards the summit but let it burn out. I had never seen a California wild fire before, the only way I could comprehend the mass and savagery of it was to see it as a movie. As the fire reached the top I could see in the flames flagellated by the winds lick the walls of Troy, A city burned for the love of a woman. The wind shifted and pushed hard up and over the exposed rocks near the top causing the flames to shoot into the sky and the image before my ten year old eyes changed to the burning of the railroad yards as Atlanta by Sherman. The dancing sheets of fire raged and the billowing smoke rose so high and then spread out across the arc of heaven like the plume of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Yes it was the end of the world.

Then there was the smell, the sage and the short tough gold grass that came from Spain with the Spanish to California and what ever else grew on those hills were consumed that night. When they died in the flames they created an incense that infused everything including my brain for days after the great conflagration of the summer of 1959. I haven’t thought of that fire or that smell for years,  that is until I smelled la collection couturier Parfumeur Leather Oud Dior. The burning hills came up from the ashes of my mind the moment it touched my skin.


House of Dior 30 Avenue Montaigne Paris

Leather Oud opens with Cardamom, sharp vetiver, rich birch, sandal wood and sumptuous patchouli. Somehow for me this combination of notes by perfumer Francois Demachy sparks the fires of my memory. The heart of the fragrance is built on cloves and honey and the woody Amyris flower, Virginia Cedar finds a home here in the warm heart of the fragrance along with amber and lush labdanum from France. The heart of the fragrance is banked in the glowing embers which are created by Oud from Indonesia, civet, and a very refined fine and supple leather.

The fragrance has depth and longevity. It enters a room with you not ahead of you and lingers lightly in passing. The lasting impression stays on my skin a good six hours. Brilliantly blended from the finest source ingredients the house of Dior under its perfumer Demachy has a smoky mysteriously dangerous winner in Leather Oud. This is a great fragrance for a man of commanding presence and style. Pervasively masculine without being overtly aggressive it would also work very well on the skin of a woman. Who knows what conflagrations that combination of Woman and this Dior masterpiece might ignite?

Dior Leather Oud


THE NEW LOOK ~ La Collection Privée Christian Dior

New shoes clicking along the sidewalk up Stockton Street gave rhythm to my excitement as I approached Neiman Marcus for the opening night of La Collection Privée Christian Dior and the new Dior Boutique. I was on my own for the event and as always in such cases a bit shy on entering into the social swirl of such abundant and easy glamour and glitz. I took a few moments to warm up to the idea as I snapped a few shots of the glass encased rotunda of one the most beautiful department stores in Union Square.


   With eminent rain bearing down on the city from the Gulf of Alaska I decided it was just about the right time to go in. The first floor of the rotunda of Neiman’s is ringed with glittering boutique after glittering boutique. The usual suspects are lined up around this arena of glam, Chanel, Guerlain, Tom Ford. As you move along on what feels a little like a circular fashion show catwalk around the rotunda, all eyes from behind crystal and chrome counters turn to greet you…and always the eyes are smiling.

There just past Chanel in about the best spot possible (not too close to the door and not buried beyond the rotunda) is the brand new Dior Boutique. The New Look has arrived at Neiman’s and it is as fresh and beguiling as it was in 1947. Dior never looked better than here in gleaming black and white. A gorgeous elegant design has been executed in small yet comfortable space. Within it accommodates the stunning showcase of the perfume line as well as a very efficiently laid out makeup demonstration area in the center. Even with the event in full swing it was easy to move around. The lighting is superb and with mirrored ceilings it is defused and flattering.


 Music filled the rotunda provided by a lovely violinist which added a touch of Baroque elegance to the entire feeling of the affair. Accompanied by a cascade of classical notes Hillary Rayvis Randall, turned to greet me, stunning in black with her hair up like Scarlett going to Ashley Wilkes Birthday party she was the picture of sophistication.  The last time we had met about three weeks ago she had informed me that “Something wonderful” was in the works and this was it! Always gracious and the perfect hostess Hilary, introduced me to the delightful perfume collector Mary Eddington.



   Champagne and canapés appeared as Hilary invited me to smell Mary’s wrist where she had just sprayed Ambre Nuit and on her thumb a bit of Mitzah. This was my first introduction to the Privée line. I wrapped my nose around the scent from Mary’s presented for inspection wrist and I fell into the garden of earthly delights. The Ambre Nuit was all amber, pink pepper and roses. The Best Rose I have ever smelled in perfume and the Mitzah is all about incense cinnamon, spices and honey.

“It is like passing from a cloistered rose garden into a cathedral at Easter Mass.” I noted.


As Hilary excused herself to greet new arrivals Mary and I got down to the business of “How did you first get into perfume?” On this question we met on common ground. It was all about our mothers and exploring the wonders of their perfume vanities as little children  Dusty late afternoon sunlight streaming through gauzy curtains that fell upon mirrored dressing tables loaded down with glittering scrumptious treasures. Mary told me how almost excruciatingly exciting it was to go shopping in San Francisco when she was a little girl. Entering in open mouthed wonder the old and long gone venues such as The White House, and The City of Paris, and how the glamour of it all was near to overwhelming. She was hooked at a very early age. If I recall correctly her first love was Jicky by Guerlain. We also shared stories of meeting Andre from Jacqueline Perfume shop and how he was really a San Francisco treasure. It turns out I was not the only person afraid to go into Jacqueline. But our fears were unfounded; if you have a passion for perfume Monsieur Andre will sense that and take you on a tour of his enchanted garden.

We agreed that we both loved the adventure of perfume and the excitement of discovery of a new scent. The fun involved in opening notes and exploring and deciphering notes as a perfume unfolded in three acts. I mentioned that I had heard that Diorella was a great fragrance that was not only suited for a woman but worked well on a man. That led us to a bottle. It was very nice but as we explored together Mary and I both agreed that Dioressence was perhaps better on my skin. That explosion of aldehydes gets me every time. Hilary was across the display where the Privée stars were lined up in their dazzling colors in their simple chic gloriously huge bottles. She invited us to join her.


When I mentioned that I liked the Mitzah on Mary Hilary said with an impish twinkle: “I have just the thing for you, Oud Ispahan.”  Oh yes Hilary knows my love for Orientals and she was right. Oud Ispahan was singing to me its song of sensuous seduction. Like the most wonderful rendition of Bali Hai in French!

From there Mary and I sampled on cards each and every bottle of the Privée line. Some stand outs for me were Vetiver, a woody wonder. Cologne Royal, classic citrus eau de cologne. New Look 1947, Parisian perfection rich and seductive and of course Mitzah and Oud Ispahan.


As the evening began to wind down Hilary presented us with some samples of those we liked and Mary went home with full bottles of Ambre Nuit, Mitzah and Dioressence. When Mary took her leave we both agreed it had been a great pleasure meeting over the perfume counter.  We hugged goodbye and a new friend was found.

Not quite ready to leave myself I sniffed around some of the other Dior fragrances that had yet to be explored, Jules, La Dolce Vita, and Dior Homme. Yet after so many wonders I was on overload and a veritable walking perfume sampler.

Thanking Hilary for the wonderful evening that I didn’t want to end she held me back for a moment.

“Did you notice that gentleman who was speaking in French behind you a moment ago; I want you to meet him. He is the best Nose in all of Union Square.”

She caught his attention I turned to see a very tall handsome fellow with a beaming smile heading over to us. Hilary introduced me to Michal Gizinski, and mentioned to him that I was the writer of the Scents Memory blog. She added that the two of us should meet and perhaps do an interview.

“Oh yes I would love that, anytime!” He said.

“So would I,” I agreed. “In fact I would love to interview both of you. Pick your brains about how you came to perfume, what it means to you learn a little about what you know.”

We shook hands and it was agreed that an interview would be a delightful prospect. So stay tuned on that front for upcoming posts with Hilary Rayvis Randall and Michal Gizinski



With a wave and a wink I was off and out the door. New shoes clicking along the sidewalk off Stockton Street and in a layered cloud of Dior magic I embraced the beauty of the night and the joy one finds in meeting new friends.

The line up of La Collection Privee Christian Dior












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