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.

 Hilary

 

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.

ALONE AT LAST ~ Gs03 from Biehl Parfumkunstwerke

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Movie stars are strange creatures who flourish and grow bright in the cold glare of fame. It is a brittle brightness that often shatters in natural surroundings. When there is no one looking, no stalking paparazzi on the pavement outside Le Cirque. It happens when one sunny day they turn a head to find no fans trailing behind on Rodeo Drive to flame the ego. No stardust left to add glitter to the id. That is when they begin to die, up, way up above mere mortals in the sky they loosen and begin to fall.

There are only a rare few who truly don’t care. The ones who don’t put on a disguise and try to hide just for a sliver of me time. They can turn off that inner starlight and walk among the hoi polloi without eliciting a sudden gasp of “Oh …oh! It’s you!”  They don’t want to be alone like other stars who really mean “look at me!” when they protest the eye of the telephoto lens. They just want from time to time to be left alone.

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Strolling on this overcast spring day in Cimetière du Père-Lachaise the biggest movie star in the world, David Black went quite un-noticed by the few people he passed in this city of the dead in the center of Paris. He was just a man with an annoying cold walking under the new leaves unfolding over the departed. The irony of his stroll did not escape him, the fact that he sought a hour of anonymity in a place packed with fallen stars.  Balzac, and Bernhardt, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. Piaf is there and Callas no more. Just an empty urn for her is all that remains. Only one grave draws a crowd, the ravaged remains of Jim Morison’s tomb can be found with mourners in grievous attendance that were born long after he was interred.

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David paused before the thousand lipstick kisses the cover the monument that keeps Oscar Wilde’s wit in check. Each lip that touched that stone belonged to a man pursed and placed on rough granite in memory of the love that dare not speak its name. That old concept of love is buried  there too. Even though David was not one of the “boys” something made him want feel his lips touch the stone.

“Do you know what his last words were?”  A woman nearby said to her husband.

“No.”

“Well, he looked around the shabby hotel room he was dying in and said; ‘‘My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has to go.’.”

No chance of sun on this day and the cold he was fighting was growing worse. David took out his handkerchief and blew his nose quietly as he walked past the woman who had no idea the object of her fantasies was so near. It felt good and clean and wonderful to be alone with his thoughts. To be just a human looking at what was in store for everyone, the final escape into the anonymous.  He was tired of his life, of fame, of the unwanted beauty that brought so much pain. How he longed to be free of this body that held him prisoner, a body owned by every kind of camera on earth.

A few drops of dew fell of the Sycamore trees above him…or maybe it was the beginning of a spring shower. In any case it was getting late. He had better get back to the Plaza Athénée and the interviewers who waited there. On his way out, near the west gate David came across the grave of Colette. He stopped to pay homage to the writer he admired. He heard someone softly weeping. David turned to see a man crying a few plots away at a small tomb marked with a little soulless angel in white marble. He gently bent to replace rotted bouquet with fresh white flowers. David read the name on the tomb, it simply said VIBERT. A sneezing fit gripped David and he turned away to face Colette’s gave and jammed his handkerchief to his nose to stop the attack. Completely alone he thought about her and where she was now.

A police siren screamed at the west gate drowning out the click of a shutter from behind a mulberry bush.   That night the photo of him blowing his nose was splashed all over the papers, the internet and television.

 

“DAVID BLACK BREAKS DOWN IN TEARS AT FAMED WRITERS GRAVESIDE!”

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***

 From Berlin comes the perfume house of Biehl Parfumkunstwerke. This house created by Thorsten Biehl in 2006 presents to perfumers from around the world a chance to create unusual and beautiful perfumes free of marketing constraints or commercial expectations. Like Fredric Malle this is a house that celebrates the artist who create perfume.

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GEZA SCHOEN

GS03 is the creation of prolific perfumer Geza Schoen who has created perfumes for Clive Christian, Eccentric Molecule and Ormonde Jayne. GS03 is a swirling, exciting, lush and intoxicating magic spell that is disguised as a woody floral musk. Don’t let the modernity of the bottle or the house fool you. This is old style perfume glamour retrofitted for both men and women of the early 21st century. There is a citrus freshness that whispers of being more than that when it gets busy being dirty, sexy and a little kinky. It is like a great character in a film noir thriller, it starts off looking innocent but it ends up being dangerous.

Let’s look at the call sheet for the notes in GS03.

The Big Break: It burst on the scene camera ready with a crisp Neroli, photo realistic orange blossoms that radiate ingénue glamour as they share the spotlight with a tartly sweet mandarin orange that possess a bit more experience than the blossoms do at an opening. There is juniper and pink pepper that give this premiere a brisk cocktail shaker of oomph.

A Star is Born: Earthy and comfortable in its skin, the iris enters wrapped in a very mature rose. This star shines in the middle of the red carpet of this perfume and what is it wearing that makes it stand out from the merely beautiful? A sophisticated, chic white jasmine skin tight and just right finishes the picture perfect entrance. The heat is on baby as this perfume begins to mesmerize.

Legend: The third act, the dry down is where the mature, self confident sexy beast comes to play. This guy is no flash in the pan but a star with staying power. Tart and dry as a martini  the vetiver lies here warmed by a boozy benzoin. Castoreum and musk do a dark and dirty seduction of the senses leaving me hungry for more. A hint of tonka bean at the base of the woody rough cedar ignites in the night with a classy masculine oakmoss.  Fade to black.

AVAG ARDNER BURT LANCASTER

GS03 ~ Packs all the heat of Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster in “The Killers”

GS03 is one of those perfumes that falls squarely in the middle of the uni-sex camp. Anyone can wear it. On a woman it is darkly glamorous; on a man it is Noir, and dangerously sexy. In both cases it is mysterious and splendidly right. Long lasting at about 8 hours, for me and not bombastic in its sillage it never screams look at me. It’s too smart for that kind of immaturity.

I was so taken by this perfume that I had to wear it for a week trying to understand its complex beauty. It is as magnetic and charismatic as it gets yet deeply personal and mysterious. It is enigmatically beautiful and compelling. I truly have become a fan of this star from Biehl Parfumkunstwerke.

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GS03 by Biehl Parfumkunstwerke ~ Five Gold Stars *****

AMOUR À L’OPÉRA ~ Fougère Royale by Houbigant Paris

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Palais Gernier Opera

Painting of the Paris Opera by Frank Myers Boggs

He spoke French so impeccably that anyone outside of Paris would have taken him for a Parisian. The Parisians on the other hand knew he was not French. In fact they knew exactly who he was. Well at least the aristocrats of the city knew, after all it is there job, their stock in trade one could say to recognize European royalty on the spot.

 

At the instant the oddly handsome Prince Aleksander Kostka alighted from his carriage at the curb half of the assembly ascending the steps to the Palais Garnier Opera house turned in unison to look upon his dashing form.

 Prince Aleksander Kostka

    “Oh there he is, the Polish Prince of mystery.” Comtesse de Roussillion tuned whispered to her husband. “I have heard he can never go back to Warsaw. Some scandal so unspeakable that…”

 

”Bonsoir Comtesse, je suis enchante”

 

She stifled a startled squeak as her hand was enfolded by the Prince and swept up to his perfectly chiseled lips which  barely brushed the satin of her opera gloves. This sent a thousand twittering magpies to flight in her now overheated veins.

 

He dropped her hand and with a clipped bow of the head and accompanied by a bemused smile he took is leave of the middle-aged woman who was now on the verge of fainting fit.

 

“Détendez-vous mon cher, il est juste un prince pas un dieu.” Her husband hissed in her ear like an over stoked locomotive.

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The entire foyer of the Opera was abuzz with excitement as the Prince entered. He assumed it was about the revival of the opera La Juive. It was not. For just as a ship is unaware of the wake it leaves behind so too was he blithely in the dark of the effect he created where ever he went. Generally happy with a tinge of melancholy from time to time he moved though life content.

 

As his right foot touched the first landing of the grand staircase he was completely oblivious that his life was about to be shattered by a look. He paused to decide which branch of the stairs to take; she brushed past him in a cloud of mesmerizing perfume. In heavy cream and gold satin from the house of Worth she floated to the landing above. His eyes followed her as she appeared and disappeared behind the columns until she came to pause in the opposite balcony of the grand foyer and turned toward him. Her smile faded as the air between them was sucked into a whirlwind of déjà vu. The hundreds of people on the stairs moved in a frivolous dance around the Prince who saw none of them, he would really never see anyone else in the same way since she, this night had opened his eyes to a new world.

 

“Aleksi…Aleksi! How are you?”

 

The Prince looked down to see his old friend Patrice Aubchon standing in stiff evening dress before him.

 

“What are you looking at?” Patrice turned. “Ah yes, her.”

 

Who is she and what is that perfume.

 

Only the most notorious and expensive courtesan in Paris my friend. Mademoiselle Marianne Deasún, and leave it to her to wear the most shocking fragrance. It is something new, Fougere Royal I think it is called. Too many notes and too masculine for a woman if you ask me, but there is talk of course that a woman now and then is not beyond her range. Ah well there you have it. That perfume is the current mode de Paris, half the men in here are wearing it, and only one woman dares to.

 Marianne Deasún

Marianne’s amber and green eyes held his eyes in lock. His in turn intrigued her with their hint of turquoise in a sea of blue.

 

“She smells like nothing I have ever experienced.”

 

Too many notes! A woman should smell like just one flower, a rose or lily of the valley.  But I must admit, on her it somehow works.

 

“I must meet her. I must smell her skin, up close.”

 

The gong sounded signifying that the opera was about to begin, she reluctantly released him from her ocular embrace and turned to walk to her box.

 

“Goodbye Patrice… I will see you later.” The Prince broke off from his amused friend and took the stairs two at a time. In the grand foyer he saw her disappear into the hall which lead to the boxes. When he entered the hall it was just in time to see her trailing skirts sashay behind an open door which closed softly behind her.

 

At the door to her box he hesitated then peeked though the tiny window. The house lights had gone down and as the curtain on the stage ascended accompanied by the first notes of the opera  Marianne’s profile was etched in pink and amber light.

 

He knocked on the door and waited for an answer.

 

*****

 

Fougere Royal 2010 by Houbigant is the modern interpretation by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux of the game changing Fougere Royal of 1882 by the nose Paul Parquet.

The original Fougere Royal was the first modern perfume (and the very first fougere, meaning fern) created in an age of solifleurs it was a shocking and exhilarating blend of notes. Paul Parquet was the first nose in the history of perfume to isolate a scent molecule, the coumarin from the Tonka bean, thus ushering in a modern form of perfumery with the first use of a synthetic in a perfume.  To create a classic fougere one must add to the coumarin note, lavender and oakmoss. This trifecta of notes is the basis for the first truly masculine perfume group, the fougere.

Fougère Royale Paul Parquet

In the 1882 Fougere Royal the notes are; top, lavender, clary sage and bergamot. Mid notes of carnation, orchid, heliotrope, geranium and rose and bottom notes consisting of Tonka bean, musk, vanilla, oakmoss and coumarin.

 

In the new version by Rodrigo Flores-Roux (Donna Karan Gold, Atelier d’Orient Fleur de Chine for Tom Ford, and Fleur de Louis for Arquiste to name but three of his brilliant creations) he has created not a reformulation as such, but a modern interpretation of the classic.

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As it hits the skin there is a silky edged citrus created by bergamot that suddenly sparks brightly then gives way to green notes, chamomile, clary sage and lavender. (lavender the must have note number one for a classic fougere)  This combination is dramatic, compelling, mesmerizing. The first time I smelled this on my skin I was speechless at the beauty of this opening. It is fuller, richer and more sophisticated than most fougeres that I have smelled. Like a great piece of jewelry, it is a statement piece, a signature promising greater beauty to come.

 

Central notes of green carnation, greener geranium combine with a subtle rose and a whisper of lilac that is dusted with a magical spice note of cinnamon. The brilliance of this combo is shimmering in its effect. Here the fragrance roils and billows beautifully projecting just enough to be elegant never stepping over the line into bombastic. There is only one word for this as it transitions into the dry down. Opulent.

 

In the base the central notes that draws you in with their gravitational pull just as they radiate like a great massive star is the oakmoss and coumarin. The bold butch muscle of the fougere is found in these two notes (must have notes number two and three)  Flores-Roux has replaced the musk and vanilla of the original with a banked smoldering amber, stoked with patchouli, Tonka bean it smolders for hours.

 

The entire effect of Fougere Royal (2010) is amazing. It is built upon the first modern masterpiece and brought into the 21st century with grace, beauty and a new modernity by the house of Houbigant Paris under the direction of the Perris perfume family. (see my post Le Grand Prix ~ Perris Monte Carlo Perfume Event, San Francisco) . I must give special thanks to my friend Michal Gizinski of Neiman Marcus who first introduced me to this fragrance. He is a brilliant man who is one of my mentors and teachers in the art of perfume. If you are in San Francisco and you love perfume go to Neiman’s and talk to Michal and find out why we call him The Nose of Union Square. More about Michal soon as we are organizing an interview for Scents Memory.

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Paul Parquet father of the Fougere

Fougere Royal is a testament to the past, homage to Paul Parquet and his ground breaking creation. It is an example of true creative beauty by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has made so many beautiful perfumes.  And above all of this, it is a modern masterpiece of complexity, bold masculinity that stands as a formidable lighthouse in a sea of boring, watery clean laundry fresh fragrances.

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Fougère Royale by Houbigant Paris ~ Five Platinum Stars *****

THE GLAMOUR AND THE GLORY ~ Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman Book Event

   SS B Herman book cover

 

Back from vacation and into the perfume social whirl of San Francisco Fumantics!  Last night at Books Inc. on Van Ness Avenue just north of our Belle Epoque inspired  Beaux-Arts Civic Center author and blogger (Yesterday’s Perfumes:http://www.yesterdaysperfume.com/ )   Barbara Herman came to read from her book Scent & Subversion: Decoding A Century of Provocative Perfumes. The event was a smashing success and Ms. Herman was a delight. Gallons of vintage perfume was sniffed and a ton of books were sold. Here is my video blog of the event.

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(Barbara Herman ~ photo from Basenotes)

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MONSIEUR PETRIZ WINTER HOLIDAY ~ Green by Byredo

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Even a gigolo needs a vacation. For Rene Michel Petriz it was time for an escape from Paris and the ladies who kept him in Charvet ties, Ferragamo shoes and luxuriously ensconced in his apartments at 56 Avenue Victor Hugo.

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Madame Pageau had seen him off in the snowy December cold with out a hint of a tear at Gere de Lyon. He knew his housekeeper was putting up a brave front she hated to have him out of her sight. On the night train to Nice he skipped dinner in the dining car where there was sure to be a woman or two and possibly a man who would to catch his eye with an invitation behind a smile. Instead he locked himself in his compartment and was asleep before Melun.  The next morning in Nice he picked up a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider and hit the back roads rather than the A8 that would lead to his hideaway in the hills above Monte Carlo.

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He was surrounded by sudden Spring. The little red machine purred as he took the hairpin turns a hair to fast. Gravel was kicked into the sage by the back right tire and the wind in his face was liberating. It tore away all the cares of Paris and demands of his body. For two weeks he would luxuriated in being alone, completely and deliciously alone. He took a deep breath and smelled the green of the hills that climbed from the Mediterranean Sea up to the crystalline peaks of the Alps to the north. It smelled of green petitgrain, and almond trees growing on sage covered hills warmed by the unseasonably hot December sun.

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Everyone he knew, his clients, the boys from the Bar du Marche and anyone of consequence would be sprinkled across ski chalets and the slopes of Megève or Montgenèvre being frivolous in furs and trying desperately to have a good time.

“Bonjour Monsieur Petriz. Welcome back to Peillon.” The concierge of Hotel Auberge de la Madone greeted him as he had for the past ten years. He wore a violet boutonnière in his lapel and smelled of a perfume laced with Tonka.

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Peillon France

“Merci Henri, Peillon looks unchanged.”  Rene noticed that there was honeysuckle miraculously blooming in brightly lacquered terracotta pots just outside the windows.

“But of course Monsieur, we are close to the glitter of Monte Carlo but untouched by its extravagance. One might say that we are the simple country rose growing next to the glamorous jasmine.”

“Perfect Henri” He smiled more broadly and openly than he ever did in Paris and signed the ledger.

That afternoon he sat atop the highest hill above Peillon looking out to the south toward the sea beyond the last row of hills that separated him from Monte Carlo. To be left alone was a luxury he could barely afford. But for the next fourteen days isolation would be his.  Solace in solitude. The air was clean and green filled with memories of blessed beds of musk white sheets he shared with no one but those he met in sleepy dreams.  He fell back onto the grass and looked into the all encompassing sky and smiled once more as he never had in Paris. Rene Michel Petriz never looked, more handsome or more alive than now.

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*******

Green by Byredo is my favorite of the line. This green floral is said to be inspired by memories of the father of the creator of Byredo, Ben Gorham. Everyone should have such beautiful memories of their father.

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Ben Gorham

Green is a blend of what you would expect in green notes which meet in the most unexpected and charming way with a classic French perfume vibe. A kind of sensuous green oriental mash up that makes this a very exciting and vibrant olfactory experience. Pure magic if you ask me. Just a few sprays and you are transported to the south of France in early spring.

The top opens with fresh sunny petitgrain and sharp slightly bitter sage. It could be a hillside along the Mediterranean Sea  or a orange grove in Southern California. Where ever it is you want to be there. Super green and inviting these top notes fade off but never leave the perfume.

In the mid notes we get a spring garden with rose blooming in the afternoon and jasmine filling the night with its distinctive lush beauty. The honeysuckle and violet are intertwined into the rose and jasmine creating a cerebral vision of a classic floral perfume. It is glittering but not overly glamorous.

The dry down is clean and slightly woody with the arrival of a warm tonka, white scrubbed musk and hard edged but not too bitter almond. This brings in a bit of the barbershop for me and boosts the perfumes masculine edge making it a floral for men that is easy to wear. And on a woman it is stunningly beautiful a perfect example of what the real essence of perfume should be. Without gender and made to be loved.

The down side for me is the longevity that I find in all the Byredo perfumes. They seem to last only a few hours on my skin. But the good news for Green is that it is at the top of the spectrum in this respect. It last on my skin from four to six hours. And with me reapplication is not a problem but a fun ritual. I only mention this because for some longevity is an important issue when paying for expensive perfumes. The sillage is respectable at about three feet. With the short lifespan it does move toward a skin scent relatively quickly.  Having addressed those issues, for me Green is a winner. It is a green fragrance that an oriental lover can embrace, a perfect meeting of city and nature.

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Green by Byredo Four Gold Stars ****

for the next installment go to: HOW INSENSITIVE

MADEMOISELLE VALENTINE ~ Grand Cuir by Parfums Rétro

PARFUMS RETRO

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There simply was no need for gloves in December in Palm Springs. She found the long forgotten gloves in the back of her closet; in the long orange box with the black coach logo . They were buried behind the rows of Chanel shoes that were too high to wear anymore. She hadn’t worn the gloves since, how long ago was it? Fifty years, the last winter of haute couture when it was still about the chic elegant lines of Hubert de Givenchy, and everyone wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn in ‘Charade”. She had just turned 21 that December.

She opened the box and sifted past the ancient tissue paper that held the faint and faded memory of a forgotten perfume. The mink lined black leather gloves were as supple as if they had just come from 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. She slipped them on over her once beautiful hands. They were so lovely and warm. Only then did she notice that there was something else in the box, a man’s lavender silk tie. She closed her eyes.

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Valentine Bayard scampered recklessly against the traffic light in front of the new 1963 Citroën which nearly hit her. She and had no idea just how beautiful she looked in her leopard coat with the black mink trim and matching hat. But it was the new black kid gloves that gave the look just the right touch of elegant chic that seemed to blossom overnight in young French women of her age.

She waited in front of the Cinéma Gaumont for her friend Danielle to arrive. Unaware of the admiring looks she got from the men who passed she looked up at the marquee at the huge poster for “The Leopard” and thought how impossibly beautiful Alan Delon was. At five minutes to show time Valentine realized that Danielle had stood her up. She hated to go to the movies by herself so she turned on her Chanel heels and strolled up the Champs-Élysées with no particular destination in mind. She quite simply loved to walk under the Christmas lights that festooned the bare trees along the Avenue. It was her favorite pastime each December.

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Heads turned as she passed and not just men’s heads. Little boys too. “Mama, look! It is Anita Ekberg!” A little boy shouted as he tugged on his mother’s hand. It was lovely to be compared to the actress who had made such a hit in “La Dolce Vita”. Valentine blushed and touched her lips with her be-gloved hand and blew the boy a kiss.

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She crossed the avenue to look in the window at number 68 and had not the faintest clue that she was now being trailed by two smitten young men. The glass was steamy and made it hard to see the perfume bottles on display. She could smell the mingled aromas of rose, lavender and clary sage wafting past her each time someone opened the doors to the shop. By the time she crossed the avenue back to the other side and reached Fouquet’s there were four young men in her wake and one on a bicycle. She left them bereft on the sidewalk as she went in for a café au lait and cinnamon pastry.

She could smell fresh tarragon from the kitchen and the tangy pine smell from the Christmas tree as the waiter lead her to a single table in the center of Fouquet’s. On the rosewood table was a vase with red geraniums chosen that morning to match the awnings outside. After she placed her order she removed her gloves and took out her compact to check her make-up. She smiled when she caught a little girl in the mirror watching her with admiring eyes.

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After Fouquet’s she went into a little shop just off the Champs-Élysées that smelled of old oakmoss, birch and the patchouli and sandalwood eau de cologne that the old proprietor wore. He helped her pick out a beautiful lavender silk tie.

“Is this to be a gift?” the old man asked.

“Yes it is!” She smiled sweetly into his warm brown eyes. “For the man I love more than anyone in the world.”

She waited while he gift wrapped it in violet leaf scented Christmas paper.

Back on the street she looked at her watch. The film would be letting out soon and he would be waiting there for her and Danielle to come out. She rushed back up  rue Arsène-Houssaye and then along the Champs-Élysées gathering another small entourage of beautiful men who followed like enamored guardian angels.

He was waiting, tall, handsome as ever in his brown wool overcoat and Fedora.

“Papa!” She called.

The wind caught the corner of his cashmere scarf as he turned and it fluttered up over his shoulder like a beautiful multi-color flag. His luminous smile was crooked beneath his clipped mustache. She ran to him and gave him a hug.

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“I bought you a present Papa.”

“What is it?”

“You have to wait until tomorrow to find out.”

Monsieur Bayard winked at his daughter. “As if that would be possible? “

The sky was turning an inkblot indigo and the lights around them were winking on. “I am going to take my beautiful daughter to dinner. Where would you like to go?”

“Let’s be tourists and go to Maxim’s. I love Maxim’s at Christmas.” She took hold of his sturdy strong arm and looked up into his smiling face. “Let’s make a memory Papa. A beautiful memory to keep for every Christmas to come.”

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(Maxim’s at Christmas)

****

Grand Cuir by Parfums Rétro is a dramatically stunning perfume that recalls the lost last age of elegance. Created to be worn by both men and women, it is very classically French in its olfactory signature. Grand Cuir is purely rich and evocative of Pairs. It recalls an age of beautiful women who dress in chic elegant style at every hour of the day, who, for every occasion, had a perfume to match each mood, atmosphere and destination. Be that a shopping excursion, a romantic interlude or an evening alone at home reading “Bonjour Tristesse”. Yes it recalls all these things about women but when a man wears Grand Cuir it takes on the memories of women whom he has loved.  The perfume’s tag line reads “A leather with soul.”  This is true, it has soul, but it is not the soul of cool like in the late 60’s. It has the soul of chic from the earlier and too brief period between 1960 and 1964. It is complex, interesting, a bit demanding of your attention and utterly devastating. It is a brand new perfume created in 2013 that shows you can be modern and yet reflect elegance from the past.

The perfume opens with a little naughty slightly skanky labdanum which gives it its initial Gallic flavor. There is birch tar, clary sage and a resinous pine needles that keep it from wandering into Place Pigale nasty mademoiselle territory.  It is perfectly controlled, bright and pops with an aldehydic shimmer without being to loud.

None of this lush French opening is lost as the heart notes come into play. There seems to be a note from every arrondissement of Pairs here and it works the perfume to perfection. Green from the geranium, violet leaf and a pinch of tarragon start to waft up from the Marais then from the Left Bank we get orange blossoms and cinnamon. Montmartre chimes in with lavender and finally a beautiful rose from the gardens of les Bois de Boulogne.

In the base it is all about warmth, sensuality and a masculine edged of expensive leather. The dry down is packet to baroque levels with leather, patchouli, sandalwood and rosewood. The musk and moss notes support and finish off the perfume at about eight hours.

There was only one thing that did not impress me about Grand Cuir and that would be the bottle. Such an elegant rich and expensive creation should be if at all possible presented in an equally stunning flacon. What we are given is a generic “perfume” bottle that is used by every new perfumer around. But I am being picky here. For really what is most important is what the juice does on the skin. And what Grand Cuir does to the skin is something wonderful. It creates a world of sophistication and beauty from which memories can be made.

Joyeux Noël à tous mes lecteurs!

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Grand Cuir by Parfums Rétro Five Gold Stars *****

You can purchase Grand Cuir at LuckyScent

http://www.luckyscent.com/shop/detail.asp?itemid=62300

or if you are in Los Angeles visit their brick and mortar store Scent Bar

7405 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90036

323 782 8300

(Screen captures of Anita Ekberg and Michael Caine from “Woman Times 7” directed by Vittorio De Sica) 

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.

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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.

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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 *****

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS ~ Book Review “The Hotel on the Place Vendome”

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THIS BOOK WILL BE RELEASED IN MARCH 2014. 

(The only connection this has with perfume are in the Coco Chanel stories. You see, the book was so good I had to share it with you. This is a MUST read book for sure.)

An epic human drama that sweeps across the pages of history with might, misfortune and triumph, this is the story of “The Hotel on Place Vendome”.  The author Tilar J. Mazzio who wrote the endlessly fascinating, “The Secret of Chanel No.5” has created in this book about The Ritz Hotel in Paris a real page turner of a read. Sharply detailed, witty, brave, funny and tragic, it is a brilliant accomplishment.

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Everyone goes to the Ritz..

Like in the great World War II film, “Casablanca” everybody who is anybody in this true story goes to The Ritz. What happened in real life between the covers of this book surpasses anything of reel life that every came out of Hollywood in the golden age. Over the course of the story from the opening of the grand hotel to the end of the war a parade of unforgettable characters from Marcel Proust to Marlene Dietrich and everyone in between shows up to play out the most extraordinary drama.  The hotel staff, the permanent guests, the horizontal collaborators, the resistors, the conquerors, the liberators, the beautiful and the dammed, they are all here in these dazzling unforgettable pages.

The book opens with a cast of characters much like an old classic film from the thirties. Each is presented in a small capsule of words. Just enough is revealed to make the reader hungry for the story to begin. And begin it does with a cinematic sweep.

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“That was the day the Germans marched into Paris… I remember every detail, the Germans wore grey, you wore blue.”

With the arrival of the German Army and under Hitler’s order that “Paris remain happy and gay or else” the hotel stays open. The fear was that if they did not keep it going during the occupation it might be lost forever to its owners, the Ritz family. And in keeping it running over the course of the next five horrific years the hotel becomes a hub of French resistance, glittering parties, espionage, and horrific moments.

When Claire Booth Luce unbelieving that Paris was about to fall to the Nazis asked the hotel manager Claude Auzzelo: “How do you know the Germans are coming,” She said,

“Because Madame, they have reservations.”

The last night of freedom for the city is a stunning moment among many great moments in the book. Hemmingway, Arletty, Chanel, Picasso, operation Valkyrie, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hermann Göring and The Desert Rat, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel leap to vivid life on the page in one incredible story layered one upon the other.

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Chanel at the Ritz. Nazi spy or a heroine of the Resistance? 

I was amazed at the rich detail I found in this book. Tilar Mazzio in her research and interviews has unearthed a treasure of information about the hotel and its famed guests and fascinating employees. Research is not enough to make a great book. There has to be a great writer to tie the hundreds of story threads together and present them in a captivating way. Mazzio does this with great style, drama and timing. I just could not put the book down. Mazzio writes with such visual splendor and sweep that throughout my reading of it I kept thinking get this book to HBO. This is a mini-series crying out to be made.

“The Hotel on the Place Vendome” captures a time in history when the fate of Europe and the world itself hung in the balance between freedom and fascism. The seeds of modern Europe were planted in the Hotel Ritz and even though we know the outcome of World War II in fact, I was lost in the story and on the edge of my seat the entire time.

There comes the moment in the book when Major General Dietrich von Choltitz is sent the message from Hitler, “Is Paris Burning?”  I was chilled me to the bone at those words. What saved Paris? The answer is to be found in the Rue Cambon Bar at the Hotel Ritz and in this amazing and exciting book.

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“We’ll always have Paris.” 

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The hotel has its own scent. You can buy their perfume only in Pairs.

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Author of “The Hotel on the Place Vendome” and “The Secret of Chanel No.5” Tilar Mazzio

LES DAMES DE GUERLAIN ~ A Special Event at the Guerlain Boutique

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The last time I saw Paris was in May of 2006. I have wanted to return to the beautiful Parisians and their ville de lumière ever since. Yesterday I discovered that my wish was to be granted for a few hours at least. Paris had come to San Francisco.

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Several weeks ago my friend Hilary Randall, Fragrance Specialist; Trainer at Parfums Christian Dior took me over to the Guerlain counter at Neiman Marcus to smell a hidden treasure. There she introduced me to the very charming and vivacious Guerlain sales associate Irene. I was struck at once by this transplanted Parisian’s impeccable charm. Hilary explained to Irene that she wanted me to smell the two remaining bottles of Le Deserts de Orient Series. Irene bubbled with excitement to share the treasure behind her counter and with a smile she took me by the hand and led the way. Her smile is like a blond halo and so infectious that I was smitten on the spot by this very engaging woman.

Irene explained that a very special client had ordered a bottle of Song d’un Bois d’Ete and by lucky chance Paris had sent all three of the line. With great and tender care Irene dipped a long glass stem into the bottles of each and opened the gates of paradise before me.

During our sampling of the perfumes Hilary told Irene about Scents Memory. Upon hearing this Irene invited me to a very special Guerlain event that would consist of a one on one meeting with the perfume specialist and director of Guerlain for the United States, Marie Line Patry.

Before I left Guerlain in my glimmering middle eastern cloud of blended Encens Mythique D’Orient and Rose Nacree du Desert (my favorite of the two) Irene informed my that my fragrant friend Mary Edington would be having her appointment with Marie Line on the half hour before mine. We agreed that it would be a fun secret if we didn’t tell her and I just popped up at 10:30 to surprise her and maybe even make a day of it.

The MUNI Metro was not feeling well yesterday when I boarded the train that would take me downtown for my appointment at Guerlain. In fits and starts I was finally deposited at the Powell Street Station with only a few minutes to make my appointment and catch Mary before she left.

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Under the spectacular gold and ivory rotunda of Neiman’s I found Irene and Mary in a perfume huddle. Mary was truly surprised to see me and delighted when I asked her to have lunch with me and my new buddy Mario Gomez, The Perfume Ambassador of the Bay Area and who reps several perfume lines. It turned out that Mario had the appointment after mine and we had agreed to meet up as well.

Irene introduced me to Marie Line. When she spoke I was transported to Paris in l’instant. She has a gorgeous voice that is only surpassed by her charm and indelible blond beauty. What a treat for the ears and the eyes she is. What a font of knowledge about perfume and the house of Guerlain.

 

Marie Line, Lanier, and Irene

Mary asked if she could join us on my olfactory appointment just to see my reaction to the perfumes I was about to smell. Mais bien sûr! Marie Line and I discussed the history of Guerlain and the exceptional quality of the house. We explored the idea that in France it is a right of passage for a young girl to be taken at around age twelve to buy her first perfume. It is a charming ritual that I had witnessed myself just recently when I saw the BBC documentary “Perfume”. At Guerlain the idea is to “get them young and keep them for life.”

Then we moved on to a presentation of some very special limited editions of perfumes by the house, the 100th anniversary bottle of L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, 68, and Reve de Lune among them. There were others but just three were my main focus for the presentation.

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L’Heure Bleue Limited Edition

Each of the perfumes comes in a special bottle that in itself is a work of art. For example Baccarat was commissioned to design the limited edition bottle for L’Heure Bleue. The color had to be a perfect representation of the sky at magic hour. That splendiferous twilight blue that had inspired Jacques Guerlain to create the melancholy beauty. Marie Line told me that John Paul Guerlain was very particular in getting the color just right. Then there was added a “necklace” created by the Parisian jewelers Gripiox. The effect of the presentation was stunning. (The special order bottles were shown to me in photographs as they are lager than life and very limited.)

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Reve de Lune Limited Edition

Marie Line then introduced me to several perfumes from the Limited Editions presented in modest sample bottles, Reve de Lune and 68 “The Turtle”. As she sprayed 68 on my arm she told me how the perfume came to get the nickname “The Turtle”. It seems that Monsieur John Paul Guerlain made a surprise visit to the boutique at 68 Avenue des Champs Élysées he found the employees to be not up to speed. So when it came time to name the perfume and the address number of 68 was chosen he called it “The Turtle because they are so slow!”

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“The Turtle” 68 (Originally there were 72 ingredients in the perfume, but to be poetic it was reduced to just 68.)

Then Marie Line applied Reve de Lune to my right arm. The perfume was a bright burst of aldehydic citrus, jasmine and resins that I found gorgeous. On the other arm “The Turtle” was low and earthy and took on the dark rich smell of expensive clay one finds in an elegant spa in Nice or Monte Carlo.

These incredible perfumes were way beyond my pocket book but absolutely a delight to sample. I told Marie Line that I did indeed come to Guerlain with a purchase in mind. I wanted a classic and it was between L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar. At Marie Line’s bidding, Irene brought the two perfumes to our table and Marie Line found a patch of un-perfumed skin on my arms to test. L’Heure Bleue was as beautiful and wistful as I had remembered, but the Shalimar pure parfume met my skin and a love affaire between the two was ignited.  Mary and Marie Line were both amazed at the effect that was unfolding. Mary said that on her skin Shalimar just laid there and never really sparked. I smelled her arm where indeed Shalimar was taking a nap.  But on my skin it was all sparkling spice and smoking incense, it seemed to shimmer like tiny fireworks just above my skin. It was incredible.

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With my appointment drawing to a regrettable end I concluded my sale and thanked Marie Line for a fascinating visit. Mary and I had some time to kill before Mario’s appointment so we went around the perfume counters discussing what we found there of interest. We stumbled upon Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino and took a whiff. We both agreed that it was a very rich interpretation of Maurer & Wirtz 4711.

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Mary Edington

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Mario Gomez chatting with Marie Line. Irene and Mary share a story about Roja Dove.

We then met up with Mario as his appointment with Marie Line was ending. We bid les dames de Guerlain goodbye and headed out for a late brunch at the very grand Grand Café. As we passed though the rococo rotunda I suddenly recalled that the beautiful old piece of architecture housed within the modern box that is our Neiman Marcus had been preserved from the previous building now gone.  The grand old department store that had stood on that very spot since the 19th Century was in fact called, The City of Paris.

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The old City of Paris department store San Francisco.

THE FINAL LESSON ~ Gigi by Jardin d’Ecrivains Paris

Jardin d’Ecrivains (1)

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A visit to Aunt Alicia was always a fascinating bore. One leaned so much about what it is to be a woman, well a particular kind of woman anyway. Other girls had afternoon lessons in languages or music but to for this young lady on the verge of womanhood, her lessons were all about how to please a man for in fact she was in training for the family business, to be a courtesan.

Aunt Alicia’s elegant old butler Charles took her coat and hat at the door.

“What are we going to learn about today, Charles?”

“Something very special Mademoiselle. That is all I can say. ” He winked and led her to the parlor. Whenever Charles winked she could see how handsome he once was. That thought always lead her to wonder how he came to be Aunt Alicia’s butler. She imagined he was tragically in love with her and the only way he could be near her was to become her butler.

“Come in my dear.” Aunt Alicia’s imperial voice brought her crashing out of her daydream.

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The drapes were pulled shut against the harsh late afternoon light. The new electric lights were very low and pink giving the room dusty deep shadows in the corners and a theatrical glow where it was needed. In the center Aunt Alicia was arranged on the settee like a dramatic tableau at the opera. She slowly turned her head and smiled without creating one single offending line in her face.

“Good Afternoon Aunt Alicia.”

Aunt Alicia studied her pupil with the narrow eyed intensity. A kind of opera glass inspection one unusually reserves for the dissection of the competition in the boxes before the curtain goes up.  Her smile took on a startling rare warmth as the eyes relaxed.

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“Yes I think it is time.”

“Time for what Aunt Alicia?”  she dropped her head to study the carpet at her feet.

My dear Gigi, in your lesions we have learned how to walk in a pleasing manner, how to talk in a pleasing manner, how to dress, how to choose a cigar for a man and how to eat challenging foods.”

Gigi looked up from under her lashes, “Ortolan.” She said sheepishly of her battle with the little bird on the plate.

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“Ah well yes, that will come with time Gigi.” She said and rose from her tableau and sailed majestically in a rustle of pink satin, boning and tulle to the French doors that lead to her little garden. With the push of one had she opened the doors to the sunlight of the outer world. “Come along my dear.”

Gigi met her at the threshold of nature and was stunned by the glorious aroma of the tuberose, and jasmine and orange blossoms.  She wanted to run barefoot through the fresh sweet spring grass in the garden and gather up as many flowers as she could. Aunt Alicia did not move or make any indication that she wanted to do anything of the kind.  Her only intent was to admire her garden from the safety of the dark parlor.

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“Last time you learned about jewels, the importance of a fine collection and what not to accept as a gift from a gentleman.”

“Yes and Madame Dunard and her dipped pearls. I remember.”

“Yes and more importantly Gigi that you must wait for the best.”  Gigi nodded and looked out into the garden.

Aunt Alicia pulled Gigi back into the parlor and lead to the foyer and the stairs that climbed up to her boudoir in rose and black marble grandeur.

“What do you imagine is the finishing touch to any woman in her preparation for the day, or a man for that matter?” She said as she opened the elaborately carved Art Nouveau doors to her inter sanctum.

“I would imagine a coat or a hat if you are going out?”

“No! That is what the petite bourgeoisie would think the answer to my question is. Now you must concentrate Gigi.”

Gigi looked around the room and her eyes fell upon the crystal array of bottles on Aunt Alicia’s vanity. The room itself smelled like a more magical version of the garden she had just seen.”

“Scent! Aunt Alicia, I would say scent.”

Aunt Alicia nodded and smiled. “Today my dear Gigi, you will learn about the art of perfume. Where to apply it and when, and how to choose a fine collection that is almost as important as a fine collection of jewels, you see Gigi this is your final lesson.

“My final lesson?”

Uncharacteristically Aunt Alicia put her arm around Gigi’s waist and gave her a squeeze.  “Yes my dear you are ready to graduate to womanhood. Now let us begin. Sit down.”

Gigi sank onto the silky soft Louis XVI chair and looked into the mirror and saw for the first time that she was indeed a lovely young woman.

“Now then Gigi, The first thing you must know about perfume is this. A woman must never smell like an artificial flower, she must smell like a woman who is at the center of humanity’s garden.”

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“Gigi” by Jardin d’Ecrivains is a lovely young lady of a perfume ready for life’s adventures to begin.  It has the most interesting characteristic of being youthful and yet set in a classical mode of sophistication one usually associates with classic perfumes from the early 20th Century. This is a wonderful perfume that would be well suited to any young woman daring enough to step up to a perfume that is more than just pretty, and sweet. “Gigi” is for a woman of any age who appreciates the fine art of perfume. It is a fine introduction to the possibilities there are in the world of fragrance.

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The Parisian perfume house of Jardin d’Ecrivains inspiration behind its perfumes is to create great fragrances inspired by great literature.  The motto of the house is is from Victor Hugo, “Vous voyez, parfum éveille la pensée.”, “You see, perfume awakens thought.” Yes perfume does indeed awaken thoughts and dreams, worlds beyond our own. Brilliant literature interpreted by brilliant notes and it all works so wonderfully well in “Gigi”.

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“Gigi” opens in a sparkling fleeting green of a freshly cut grass note. It shimmers with dewy brightness as it blends with the bright early morning aroma of sun warmed Neroli and Orange blossoms. A perfectly lovely and young opening that entices the mind to want, like Gigi, to run barefoot though the notes and bask in the innocent sensuousness it engenders.

Then it all changes, the metamorphous into sophisticated perfume happens here in the middle notes. The tuberose arrives in soft splendor, it is restrained and lovely. Not a screeching indolic but rather soft and romantic white glow that enhances the perfume in the most delightful way. It flows from the warmth of the skin interwoven with jasmine and a dark leaf and berry blackcurrant that gives it an earthy wine note. It is as if the white flowers were sprinkled with a fine red wine like Bacchanalian dew.

The finale of the perfume is all sandalwood, and white musk that keep the memory of those wonderful white flowers glowing in the background. All of the notes are few in “Gigi” and just the right ones. Rather than jamming the perfume full of too many notes it is composed beautifully and with thought to what it is meant to be and of its inspiration.

In my testing of the perfume it has a moderate longevity of about six hours.  The sillage is moderate as well not pushing out rudely but staying at about three feet and inviting to the nose of those within range.  My sample came with my August Olfactif delivery. I am so impressed with this sample service from every aspect, themes (August is all about the last days of summer) packaging and their wonderful website and blog complete with interviews with the perfumers. I encourage you to try Olfactif, a must for any perfume aficionado.

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GIGI BY JARDIN D’ECRIVAINS 5 GOLD STARS *****

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