A WALK THROUGH ROME ~ MIRTO DI PANAREA by Acqua di Parma

For the first time since she had arrived in Rome Helen Rivers felt good enough to get out of bed. Her husband and son had gone off for a day trip to Florence with their Cornell Alumni tour group. She was left on her own to recuperate from the bad cold that had hit her almost as soon as their plane from Seattle touched down on the tarmac at Fiumicino International.

It was an almost warm sunny morning that February 14th 1999, and it was her 70th birthday. She would be spending alone until that evening when Earl and Mark returned. Her first birthday alone. She dressed quickly and while applying her rose petal pink lipstick she tried to think of what to do on her own in Rome. She was at a loss. Maybe just wander?

At the elevator on the 5th floor of the Excelsior Hotel she saw the two burly young men who stood guard to the entrance to the south wing of the hotel. They had been there for two days now standing guard, handsome young men, one blond the other black. They nodded to her for the first time.

“Who is staying on this floor with us? It must be someone very important to have you boys here day and night.”

“Sorry Ma’am, we are not at liberty to say.” The blond said in a buttery British baritone.

“Oh, I see,” she said with a wink in her voice. “If you did tell me you would have to kill me. Just like in a James Bond movie.”

The black guard looked at the carpet before him and tried to suppress a smile.

The elevator door opened, Helen stepped in and turned to face the two men in the little marble and gilt lobby. She smiled. “I bet I can guess by the time I see you again just who it is. Have a nice day.”  The blond man winked at her.

“I bet you can’t.” he said as the elevator doors slid shut.

After a light breakfast of coffee, croissants and a juicy Blood Orange, Helen stepped from the porte-cochère of the hotel onto the once very glamorous Via Veneto.  She turned left to stroll down the curving avenue past the American Embassy into the heart of Rome. She took a deep breath and for the first time in a week realize that she could smell things again. Rome smelled like the most fabulous open air restaurant in the world. A delicious mix of fresh bread, roasting Osso Buco, spices, herbs and roasting coffee beans. It was intoxicating, and for the first time that week she forgot all about her cold.

Helen wandered and simply surrendered to let the city surprise her.  The Quirinale Gardens she found quite by accident and they in turn lead her to the Trevi Fountain. From there she went north along the Via dei due Macelli to the Spanish Steps where she refreshed herself with tea at Babingtons Tea Rooms. She found the windows of Bulgari on the Via dei Condotti and admired the baubles safe behind bullet proof glass. At the Via del Corso she turned south until she reached the Piazza Colonna, she sauntered west through this, the political heart of Rome then south again to the Piazza di Pietra where she was astounded to see encased in a 17th century Papal Palace the facade of the eighteen hundred year old temple of Hadrian. Now instead of a Roman God, it housed an ordinary bank.

She had been walking for quite some time and the cobblestones beneath her marshmallow white tennis shoes were beginning to make their impression on her tender soles. Somehow it didn’t matter. She had to see what was around the next corner.

She stumbled upon the baroque and very theatrical Piazza di Sant’Ignazio. It was magical in the noon light. And along the southern side of the piazza was the glorious Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola with an open door that lead into whispering darkness. Inside she found the amazing trompe l’oeil ceiling that created the illusion of a dome over the center of the church. She sat in a pew looking up in wonder at the near photo realistic illusion in paint and plaster.

After lighting a candle in memory of her mother Helen left the church, she was getting hungry and decided to head west to find a cafe. There was a slight curve to the street and as she walked along it an astonishing sight slid into view. It loomed in epic magnificence brilliant in the sun between the dark walls of the five-story tall canyon that was the Via del Seminario.  When she reached the end of the road the walls of the canyon fell away to reveal the Piazza della Rotunda and there sanding as strong and eternal as it had when the Visigoth Kings Alaric and Genseric both spared its destruction for its beauty stood The Pantheon. The temple to all the Gods built by Marcus Agrippa after the battle of Actium and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian.

Helen was awestruck by the only completely intact temple standing in Rome. Its sixty-foot-tall columns of red Egyptian granted soared to the pediment they so gracefully and effortlessly supported. The dome, the largest until Saint Peter’s was erected a thousand years later floated above the thick walls of the round building creating the top of the perfect invisible sphere it encased within.  Church bells around the city began to peal. As a bus load of tourists filed past her all looking up just as she was, the sounds of the half full piazza fell way. Time melted around her and she could hear the heart of Rome beating in her ears. Feel it within her body pulsating in time with her own heart.  The spirits of two thousand or more years past though her in the blink of an eye. She knew in that moment the eternal connection to history that was the city of Rome, a connection to life, death, and love.  This was the best birthday present she had ever received. Rome!

After what seemed to her a very long time but was in fact less than a few seconds Helen took a step toward the temple. She walked up to the third column that stood directly under the R in AGRIPPA carved deep into the pediment above. She reached out to touch it lightly with tips of her fingers. It was not cool stone but warm to the touch having all that morning absorbed the heat of the Italian Sun. Helen raised both arms and embraced the column in a loving hug. Being that the circumference of the granite columns are 15 feet Helen was more or less plastered arms wide against the side of the column.  She stood there eyes closed listening to the building tell her its story.

“Thank you for being here.” She mouthed the words. “Thank you for….”

“Ma’am are you alright? Do you need to sit down?”

She ignored the voice and pressed her cheek hard against the stone.

“Do you feel faint?”

Helen opened her eyes to see an young Italian tour guide with her group crowded up behind her. All eyes wide upon her.  The young woman looked very concerned.

Helen’s smile was warm and confident and her eyes began to fill with tears.

“No I am fine, thank you. I just need to make it real.”

 ***

The aromatic citrus spring beauty I find in Acqua di Parma’s Mirto di Panarea is simply stunning. Created in 2008 this fragrance is one of my favorite in the Blu Mediterraneo line of the house. A line created to evoke the islands and parts of Italy that are drenched in that very special light that kisses the Mediterranean between Gibraltar and Tel Aviv. Such places at Sicily, Tuscany, and Taormina are represented in the Blu Mediterraneo line. In Mirto di Panarea we are taken to the second smallest of the eight Aeolian Island in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, and one of the most beautiful in the chain, Panarea. This woody aromatic fragrance is perfect for spring and summer, or in the winter months when you need a bit of sunny warmth it is a perfect spritz-cation that will carry you to the hills and shores of Italy.

It opens in its top notes with the signature of its name, Myrtle, and this marvelous woody note is complemented by, bergamot, bight and sunny. Lemon tangy as a sip of Limoncello from the Amalfi coast. All is topped off with the favorite cooking ingredient in Italian food. Green herbaceous basil. A feast for the nose indeed and all in the bright brilliant opening.

How could it be any better. Hold on for your olfactory vacation is just beginning. The mid notes are of Roses warmed in the late afternoon sun. You know that scent of roses in summer, natures spike of glamour to the season. The rose is gorgeous and this is in turn wrapped in light subtle wafts of jasmine all lifted by a sea breeze accord that whispers come with me to where The Nereids sing their siren song as they have for the ages.

The dry down is a sunset over the waves of what remains of the myrtle, flowers, and citrus. A piney and resin rich Mastic adds depth to a green juniper. These notes combine with a dry cedarwood and add a warm glow to the final touch of golden honey like amber.

It is a Roman tale of the sea gods and mortals meeting on this beautiful island where time is forgotten and something magical could happen on a warm sleepy afternoon. A scent that you can nap in under a bright yellow umbrella. A perfect vacation scent that works extremely well for everyone. I can’t imagine it not being a summertime favorite. Day or night it is the kind of scent that will carry you though the day, it has a depth that defies the usual warm weather fragrances and last about eight hours on my skin. This is one of the fragrances that I find I like to reactivate about half way through wearing just to get that brilliant opening a second act.

Mirto di Panarea is of my favorites from the house of Aqcua di Parma, when you wear it, everything looks brighter, more intense, more real.

A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

*******

The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

THE MAN IN THE SILVER BENTLEY ~ Bentley For Men Intense

Ivory white in the moonlight the poplar trees in their winter nakedness seemed to be leaning in over the road that lead away from town.  Reaching their arms overhead to hide the moon from view of anyone under their cover. The effect was that of theatrical branch shadows cast down upon a platinum ribbon of concrete. Edward Henry Porter the forth pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator pushing the British engine into a well-tuned purr. The headlights of the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1 reach ahead though the night all the way to the curve looming ahead next to the entrance of the long-abandoned Newport estate known as Wicker Hill.

As the car took the tight curve at 47 and a half miles per hour the tires screamed, the high beams flashed across the old lion gate that blocked the drive up to Wicker Hill.  Edward laughed contemptuously as he pushed the peddle to the floor heading for 80. The leather seat next to him still smelled of Sage Benton of the Newport Benton’s. that smell precisely being of her crushed geranium corsage and spilt rum from the flask in her Mark Cross purse. To Edward, in fact, it reeked of her silly, spoiled, entitled Bryn Mar bitchiness which when pressed she insisted was merely “being cute”.

She was drunk more times than not and only then would she show just how rotten money had made her. Tonight, was the capper. She had mocked a busy boy and called him a dirty Mick to his face from the center of the dance floor where she was doing a sloppy rhumba with Carl Everett. Another example of monied inanity. Incensed by her outburst Edward left the dinner dance with her stumbling and calling after him. In the car, she opened her flask to take another drink.

“What’s the matter Eddie Honey? Aren’t you having a good time?”  Edward snatched the flask away spilling most of the liquor on the leather car seat and the rest on her Ceil Chapman evening gown.

“Eddie my dress! You’ve ruined it. Daddy is going to kill you!”

“Get out of the car.”  He said just loud enough for her to hear.

“What?”

“Get the hell out of my car!”

He was through with her, with the country club, with Harvard Law, and most of all with his parents mansion on Belleview Avenue. He couldn’t stand any of it. Of the privileged life that had always seemed somehow wrong but everyone told him was so right. So them, so him.

When he reached the New England Turnpike he turned the Bentley south toward New York. By dawn he was driving over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Once he reached New York he realized it was much too close to Newport. Where he was going had to be somewhere far away. Where he could be free, write like he always wanted to. Someplace where people did something with their lives, where there was a different beat. The clip of the tires on the concrete seams of the road seemed to match the beat of his heart. The Beat. The West, The Beat.  The West.

A week later Edward sat in a sunny window of Vesuvio Cafe on Columbus Street. He had found a job as a door man at the Hungry i. As good a place as any in San Francisco to begin an alive life. He was finally going places, the kind of places with the kind of people he belonged to. The Beat was in his soul. The only thing he had left of his past was the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1. He would have to sell it soon not that he wanted to. But for the first time in his life, he needed the money.

***      ***     ***

Bentley For Men Intense was created as a flanker to Bentley For Men in 2013 by perfumer Nathalie Lorson for the prestigious British car company Bentley. Lorson is a prolific nose who has a massive number of perfumes in her credits. She has designed for everyone from Lalique, Encre Noire to Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium.  In fact, she is the nose behind every fragrance in the line for Bentley.

(NATHALIE LORSON)

So, I was intrigued to try a fragrance from this house to see how it stacks up against some of her other fragrances and against other automobile perfumes such as Jaguar, and Ferrari. (Porsche is out of the running as I have not yet tested it.)

I must say I am pleasantly surprised in some ways and not so much in others. First off, the bottle is simply amazing, elegantly heavy glass on a luxurious level. Beautiful silver topping of the top fourth of the glass with the Bentley winged B logo deeply etched and very hefty silver cap. The design echoes the lines and beauty of a Bentley, just as it should. Here the house has trounced its competition in Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari who’s bottles overall are a disappointment.  The bottle is smart, sleek, and chic. Simply put, the chassis is classy.

What is under the hood? Well this is where it gets interesting. At first sniff I was sold. As well, on initial wearing is was humming along quite nicely. Then on my second outing in my new Bentley For Men Intense there were some potholes in the tarmac. Then on the third through fifth test drives it was much the same thing. I loved it some of the time and I was sometimes put off by it. What can be the problem?  The only thing I can say is that it dances between something brilliant and gorgeous and then slips at other times into a kind of ho hum slump. Dust in the carburetor?  Or maybe it is simply the driver?

1959 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL S1

Let’s concentrate on the good things, on the best test drive, today in fact. Bentley Intense opens with a great peppery African Geranium that is speckled with, black pepper. This makes it sharp and attention grabbing. Which is what fragrance houses want their top notes to be. (the notes that sell a fragrance to the average customer) But that isn’t all, added in is a rich, boldly thick dose of incense.  Intense incense if fact gives it elevated wings. I loved that combo of the incense match with the overdose of pepper and geranium. A stunning opening.

This opening that becomes almost boozy lasts 30 to 40 minutes before it evolves into the cruising speed of mid notes.  The lux interior of the Bentley automobile in perfumed notes. Super fine, highly polished Leather of the highest quality. The kind of leather you can sink into for a nice long ride is enhanced by a leathery aromatic clary sage which adds a sexy depth. Labdanum is brushed over these two notes bringing in a fine combo accord of even more leather steeped in an amber like wash.

The dry-down is an exceptionally fine with noticeable dose of patchouli, and silky sandalwood finishes off the base with cedar shavings giving it a kind of somber aromatic heat.  This ride is indeed smooth and well-appointed, leaving Jaguar and Ferrari in the dust. (Of those I have sampled at least.)

So that is Bentley For Men Intense when it is purring along on my skin on a rainy day like this. So, what is the problem. Why am I of two minds about this EDT? Perhaps is it simply the season in which I am testing this fragrance. Early Spring. On the sunny warm days, Bentley For Men Intense battled with my skin until well in to the late middle notes where it finally ran smooth. But on a rain cool day like today it works beautifully. So, the lesion I have learned thanks to Bentley For Men Intense is this.  Some fragrances really do fall into seasonal boxes. When I love Bentley, I am very much in love, and when I hate it, I am reminded of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” when she says to Johnny Farrow, “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

Well, lets not get that dramatic, I’m not going to die from this fragrance. But, with Bentley For Men Intense, it’s, what else can I say? A classic love/hate relationship. And at this moment, I love it.

LE ROI DES DIAMANTS ~ Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations

 

A thick blue mist clung to the tall trees like uncarded wool and muffled the predawn calls of the forest birds as they fluttered and fussed themselves to wakefulness. It moved slowly, lazily, like a taffeta silk encased courtesan through the lower wilder gardens making its way up to the chateau of Versailles. With cool fingers it caressed the cream-colored stone and pressed against the wavy glass of the windows. There it condensed into impersonal tears and sensuously slid down the glass to puddle on the windowsill. At one glowing window the little puddles reflected the candlelit room within the palace. A tiny image of the scene within shimmered in the puddle  of the only room in the palace where the occupant was awake. The Sun King was up before the Sun.

Louis XIV King of all France was sitting up in bed. Beside him gently mumbling in her sleep was his mistress Madame de Montespan. He paid not a note of attention to her and had completely forgotten to wake her to send her off before the courtiers were to arrive to  Rituality  wake and dress him.  The thing that held him in rapt attention, that had kept him awake since three in the morning was pinched between his thumb and index finger. A 115.16-carat blue diamond. It fascinated him by its uncut beauty.  The story of its travels and how Jean-Baptiste Tavernier had brought it and along with it  many fabulous tales from the court of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of Mogul India.

He turned the diamond this way and that to see how the light from the candles danced a merry minuet within the stone. The King threw back the bedclothes and slipped into his brocade robe then walked to the window. He held the diamond toward the blue misty imperceptibly brightening eastern sky to study it. He squinted his eyes and tired to pierce the heart of the diamond with his mind.

“Your majesty, this stone is but a pale shard in comparison to the beauty of India.” Louis recalled the voice of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier when the afternoon before he had presented the king for a certain price the priceless stone. “There are colors in India unknown in the west, the music of the court is like nothing you have ever heard. It is like the universe is singing with golden bells and  flutes of sandalwood and ivory. The women are unsurpassed in beauty and grace. The cities are vast and teaming with vibrant excitement. In the midst of all of this cacophony of smells and sights and sounds there is the great Taj Mahal. An edifice of such sparkling splendor that I am left with nothing but a melancholy  whisper in my heart when I think of it.”

The King smiled to himself and pressed the stone against the windowpane and moved his head toward it as if he were about to look into a spyglass. The world took on a violet blue hue. Cool and calm and of such beauty he wanted to live within the diamond forever.

There he stood his face pressed against the window lost within the magic of the stone.

“You shall my symbol of France, of the enduring monarchy that shall last forever.” He said softly to the stone. “You shall bring glory to my rein and prosperity to my people.”

“And how will I do all of that? I am just a woman.”

The king startled turned to see Madame de Montespan sitting up, her knees drawn up to her chin, arms encircling them. She was sleepy eyed and smiling.

“Indeed, how shall you do all of that my dear.” He put the diamond in his robe pocket and patted the pocket for luck.

“Come now my dear, the courtiers will be here any moment and you must be gone. After all there is my wife to consider.”

“What do you have in your pocket?” she demanded coyly.

“Nothing of consequence.”

“It’s that diamond. Oh, Louie please let me hold it.”

He laughed and walked to the edge of the bed and handed her the diamond. Her eyes danced across the stone in glittering madness captivated by the stone.

“Louis may I have it. Will you give it to me in a necklace or on a pin? Oh please!”

“No… I am the State, and this diamond is, in essence the heart of France. It belongs not to me but to France.”

“Oh! You are hopeless!”

“On the contrary, my dear. I am filled with hope.”

At that moment, the door to the King’s chamber silently opened just as the King leaned down to kiss Madame de Montespan. Three aristocratic heads of the King’s bedchamber peeked in. Eyes widened, the three heads then retreated and very gently closed the door. The royal dressing would have to wait.

***

Neela Vermeire Creations with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour have over the years since the House was launched created perfumes that are inspired by India but with a French Flair and chic. The new fragrance Rahele (2016) is no exception. Travel is what Rahele means and this fragrance was sparked by three 17th Century French travelers to India. Jean Thévenot, Francois Bernier, and the man responsible for bringing the premier crown jewel of France to King Louis XIV and what became finally the Hope Diamond, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Rahele is a foral woody and earthy fragrance that rises to an interesting level of stylish sophistication. It is bright, pure and ozonic to my nose. It does remind me of travel, that wonderful smell you experience when you first exit an international airport and breath in the air of a strange foreign city. It has a blend of both Western Europe and the Asian sub-continent. It is fluid each time I wear it. Some times I am in Paris and other times I am in  Jaipur.

We begin our trip with a bright almost ripe yet on the edge of green mandarin. Cardamom which falls on the spicy side complements the citrus.  Then from Ancient markets comes the once rare and precious spice note of cinnamon. I love how this plays against the slightly metallic violet leaf note in the opening.

The midway point of the trip with Rahele is a pure lush Indian garden after the monsoon. A peachy exotic Osmanthis is surrounded by the reddest of rose, a velvet rose in fact and completely devoid of thorns. A fleshy sensual magnolia note hovers above this garden, It is moist and nearly dripping in the heat and there in the heart of this rises up a sweet almost hypnotic jasmine.  The kind of jasmine that lifts the senses in the night. The earth below is introduced with purple notes of violet and rooty dry Iris. At this point the flower notes shimmer and move forward and recede in the most interesting way.

When we reach our final destination in the base there is a somber smooth finish of patchouli leaves that are packed in layers of oakmoss, silky aromatic sandalwood and resinous crisp cedar. This nearly finishes the perfume but all is not over. The dominating note here and what constantly rises though out the fragrance is a refined supple leather note. It never over powers the perfume but rather carries the perfume in subtle grace. It seems in the first hour to suddenly die, yet by hour two and beyond it returns to tease and tantalize for many hours to come. It in fact it  undulates on the skin. This is pure magic and quite interesting.

Indeed, subtlety is the hallmark of this elegant fragrance. By no means is Rahele ever overpowering or demanding. It is suggestive, intuitive, and lightly sensual. A perfect fragrance for both discerning men of taste and chic women of elegant refinement.

 (photo above and below from Fragrantica)

(Neela Vermeire)

THE MAN IN THE BLACK MUSTANG ~ Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

b-fazzolari-editions

The dead never return.

On the morning of March 27, 1964 Marie-Anne Lefèvre was started to see her husband in the small café in Megève. After all he had been dead for five years.

Claude was in the resistance during the War and it was his job to report on possible Nazi collaborators. He had mistaken Marie-Anne for a woman he was assigned to follow. He tailed after her expecting that she was going to meet her German lover at the Ritz, when in fact she was simply going to 31 Rue Cambon behind the Ritz to buy a bottle of perfume for her mother. As he followed he tried to ignore the sway in her walk and how her chestnut hair bounced as it caught the late Autumn sunlight. When his mistake became clear to him that he was after the wrong woman he followed her to the Place de la Concorde where with clever machinations around one of the fountains he managed to bump into her causing her to drop her shopping bag breaking the bottle of Sycamore. He took her back to Chanel and bought her a new bottle. Within the month, they were married.

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Since the end of the War they had lived a life of small luxuries and great charm for 15 years in Paris on the Rue d’Édimbourg. It was an exciting time they shared, He a leading actor in La Comédie-Française and she with her little art gallery L’oeil d’or on the Avenue George V near the Café Francis. It was a whirlwind of openings both theatrical and artistic that keep their relationship alive and vibrant. For each of their passions gave them an exciting day away which afforded a meeting in the evening filled with shared stories of glories and sometimes disappointments. Equal but separate lives that encompassed love without suffocating it. Then quite suddenly in the winter of 1958 Claude became ill. Within mere weeks he was gone.

Marie-Anne stayed on for the next five years in the apartment on the Rue d’Edimbourg until at fifty-eight she decided she had enough of the lights of Paris. She sold the gallery to a young assistant and transferred her life to the small ski resort of Megève. She moved in to a modest Chalet near the Résidence Maeva Le Mont d’Arbois. It was a quite solitary life of reading, a little writing to friends in Paris, afternoon walks and always the café in the morning for café au lait and croissants. And every day, each day without fail she thought of Claude.

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But this morning her somnambulistic existence was shattered. The trip bell over the door chimed, there was a shiver of cold air on her cheek as the door swung open. A crunch of snow encrusted boots as a man walked past her where she sat, his coat brushed her shoulder.  There was the conversant smell of Eucalyptus, pink pepper and vanilla. His smell. She ignored the olfactory recognition and continued to read her book as her coffee cooled.

The man ordered his coffee and even though he whispered his voice, a warm baritone nearly filled the room, It tugged at her right ear and she looked up from her book. At first, she only noted that he was a handsome man of about fifty-two. Well-proportioned and of medium height with wavy black hair that was slightly silver at the temples. She looked back down to her novel. The scent of the man grew slightly insistent and blended with the smell of roasted coffee beans and fresh warm pastry.  She looked up again, he was sitting facing the window as the sun broke through the clouds momentarily while the snow fell beyond his profile.  It was Claude’s profile almost to the exact slope of his forehead down to his strong neck and prominent Adam’s apple.  She starred only long enough to drink in the sight of this man who so resembled her love, her Claude. She pulled her eyes away and let them rest on the page of her book without reading a single word.

She sat there until he left without looking up again.  The trip bell rang and the door swung open, a blast of winter air and then it swung shut with a dull crunch of snow and old wood. She looked up again and watched as he walked across the square and got into a black Mustang. Sleek and wild surrounded by Peugeots, Ferraris and Citroens it rumbled a steamy exhaust and the red glow of its taillights winked. It was strange and beautiful and seemed to be made of sacred fire. When he drove away, Marie-Anne looked back down to her book. She re-read the top line on page 156 then closed the book.

Maybe she would see him again. But she hoped she would not.

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*   *   *

Someone asked me recently how I would compare classic fragrance to what is being made today and I immediately thought of Bruno Fazzolari. He is one of the new perfumers of the last five years who is on to something wonderful. A creative process in perfumery that is both modern and classical at the same time.

I first met Bruno at the SF ARTISAN PERFUME SALON 2013 where he was launching his line. I was immediately taken by the beauty and sophistication of his work, especially in Au Dela.  His work for a new perfumer was eons ahead of everyone else at that event. What I smelled in that particular fragrance was a time machine to 1947. I was smelling a timeless new perfume by Christian Dior. I was smelling a master’s work. Lighting in a bottle, and I knew I was there and very lucky to witness the birth of a star.17125439_1766590433656861_2798002693187043328_n

(BRUNO FAZZOLARI)

What Dior did in fashion by bringing glamour and yards of fabric back to the forefront of fashion after the horrors and austerity of World War II was to create the “New Look” a term coined by Carmel Snow of American Vogue to describe the romantic new movement of the mid-20th Century.  Bruno Fazzolari in a very real way in the early 21st Century, is doing what Dior did. He is creating the “Nouveau Sens” in perfumery. He is bringing romanticism and glamour to the niche market in a way that is both classic and modern. And I for one could not be more thrilled.

In his new fragrance, Feu Secret I find the magic has reached a new level of beauty and artistry. It is a dry and warm beauty. Opening with dangerous and bitter touch of hemlock which is punctuated with a sharp jab of green Spruce. This is a fleeting tease to the arrival of a warm burning leaves note of the most amazing eucalyptus. A smell I grew up with in Southern California where in the summer the Eucalyptus trees seem to give off a smoky smoldering scent.

The middle gets even better. A light spice not leaning toward ginger is provided by a turmeric note, spiced up with pink pepper. But here is the kicker, Iris. This note that usually takes on a lip stick, Max Factor quality is this time not in the back-stage dressing room on the dressing table waiting to go on at all. No, this Iris is wrapped up in that burning eucalyptus and the combination becomes the sacred heart of this fire. The supporting base notes of Himalayan cedar, burch tar and a rich thick as butter vanilla round out this fragrance and bring it all home in style.

It is completely wearable for any occasion from day to evening, Full enough for the colder months but certainly something I would wear in the height of summer, that fire, that smoke is so perfect for the season.

So to answer my friend who wanted to know what I love that is both modern and classic, J’dore Feu Secret. And I adore the work of Bruno Fazzolari, the master perfumer of San Francisco.

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Liaisons Secrètes ~ EAU D`HERMES & ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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After World War II movies became more frank in subject matter. This was in part due to the changing mores of the returning vets and the women they came home to. After the horrors of war things would never be the same for them or for Hollywood. The other factor was the slow demise over the 50’s of the studio system and the rise of television as a threat to the box office. The censors began to relax and allowed more adult themes to be presented on the big screen. By the early 1960’s movies were well on there way to growing up. Taboo subjects such as prostitution, homosexuality and adultery were now subjects Hollywood was now eagerly taking on.

One of the more interesting and surprisingly un-judgmental of these films was the 1960 Colombia release, `Strangers When We Meet’. Produced by Kirk Douglas’ company Bryna Productions and Richard Quinn Productions and taken from the novel by Evan Hunter the film is a fascinating look into the suburban lives of a Los Angeles architect, his wife and the other woman in his life.

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Kirk Douglas gives a fine, understated performance as the architect Larry Coe. It is a stark contrast to his epic Spartacus of the same year. At a cross roads in his life Larry is given the chance to build the kind of house he always wanted to for upcoming novelist Ernie Kovaks while his company wants him to go on doing the same dull work they expect.  He fights for his chance to take the chance of a life time with the skill of a fine screen actor. Add to this his character’s  meeting one fall morning with Miss Novak at at school bus stop, and you have not only a fine actor living within a character but the beginning of a truly electric cinema chemistry. An impact of flesh and desire that jumps off the screen.

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As his wife, Barbara Rush is outstanding in one of her finest moments on screen. She is cold and withholding yet needy of her husbands love. Her finest moments come in her scenes with Douglas where they argue over their future and in her chilling confrontation with the lecherous Walter Matthau on a dark rainy afternoon. A scene that is so shocking in its brutal and frighting portrait of a man who thinks women are disposable sexual objects. Barbra Rush is amazing to watch as she struggles to thwart off Matthau’s creepy advances.

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As Maggie Gault actress Kim Novak turns in a nuanced and deeply felt performance. She is a woman that men have been hunting down all her life. Her beauty is something that brings her only sorrow and despair through a string of meaningless affairs. Her husband seems to be the only man who has no interest in sleeping with her and though she does love him he drives her away embarrassed by her open and honest desire for him. When Douglas says to her on their first meeting in a supermarket, “You’re not so pretty.” it throws her and intrigues her. Throughout the affair she embarks on with Douglas she is smart enough to know that this like all the others will ultimately lead nowhere. In the final frames of the film she is shown this very fact when faced with another leering man.

Kim Novak is so cool and remote at times that it seems the perfect fit for her, the role of Maggie. She is the kind of natural actress that when left alone with her instincts and the eye of the camera she surprises the viewer with the dark emotions that live just beneath her lovely features. One scene among many where she shines is when she is confronted with her past and has to tell the truth to Douglas about it. This too shines a harsh light on how men expect women to behave when it comes to previous encounters with other men.

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The cinematography is wonderful to see in the widescreen aspect and shows the great talent of cinematographer, Charles Lang who also shot such classics as `Charade’ and “Some Like It Hot’ and the stunning “One-Eyed Jacks”.The score by George Dunning is the perfect meeting of the romantic and dramatic. It stands along side his classic scores for “Bell, Book, and Candle”, “The World of Suzy Wong” and “Picnic.”Jean Louis one of the top designers of costumes for actresses of the period turns in just enough suburban glamour to keep the ladies in the cast looking wonderful.

Director Richard Quinn pulls it all together with his usual style. He presents us with not only a good drama but also an interesting look at the suburban life of Los Angeles in 1960. The locations are memorable, the glamorous old Romanoff’s restaurant, the stunning house that is built through the course of the film, and the beautiful beach at Malibu where the lovers rendezvous. This film stands along with “Suzy Wong,” “Bell Book and Candle”, and “How to Murder Your Wife” as some of his best work. The film holds up after Fifty plus years as a fresh and timely look at the relationships between husbands and wives and lovers who are always “Strangers When We Meet.”

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***

Illicit love has a scent, the scent of the forbidden, of excitement, and danger.  In Strangers When We Meet we are presented with two of the most photogenic and arresting faces of the early 1960’s. Both Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak were at the height of their careers, fame, and beauty.

As Larry Coe, a well-dressed, smart, and stylish Southern California architect Douglas brings a gentle yet powerful machismo to the role. What would he splash on in the morning, every morning before he went to the drafting table to design his dream house. My cinematic nose tells me that it would be a classic, something that in fact in this period in history was becoming a byword of elegance and sophistication in the Movie Colony at the time. Cary Grant wore it, as did Ava Gardner in the 50’s. Larry Coe would have certainly been drawn to its simple straight forward beauty. Acqua di Parma Colonia. Created in 1916 it would be a perfect Citrus for the sunny casual lifestyle in Bel Air.

Woody, fresh and spicy with dominant notes of blended Italian citrus, sharp eye opening lavender and rosemary it would be perfect for him.  There is a dash of rose and jasmine that waft over the senses in the middle and are fine-tuned by a sharp bright Lemon Verbena. A shimmering smooth sandalwood with an earthy snap of vetiver and the laundry fresh white musk just make it perfect for both men and women. The dry down is subtle and lush with amber and patchouli joining in on the woody beauty of that sandalwood.  It is a classic that works it’s magic every time.  And If Larry did wear it well, Maggie Galt would I’m sure find it a scents memory that would stay with her the rest of her life. His scent … bitter sweet and haunting.

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As Maggie Kim Novak is conflicted in her sensuality, both yearning and repressed. Banked fires smolder in her soul making her irresistible to most men. She is smoky, both in her voice and in her movement. She trails and lingers and wafts. What better scent for her than Eau D`Hermes.  Created by Edmond Roudnitska in 1951 this leather based fragrance also has a warm spicy edge to it. A mix of masculine and feminine that like Acqua di Parma’s Colonia make it very wearable for both women and men.

It opens with a bold blend of cinnamon, lime, lavender, and cardamom. And a surprising sprinkle of clover. Oh, boy but it’s beautiful even arresting in this opening. Like Novak herself it is almost too much of a good thing at first, but you sink into it and get lost in its heart. A heart made up of a glorious jasmine, geranium, and a brilliant slightly sweet tonka bean.

As it wears over a long period of time (up to 8 – 10 hours on my skin)  the vanilla comes up to warm it and keep the leather in its base supple as a fine cedar along with a dry white birch add vibrant vibrations to the smooth sandalwood dry down.   It is a classic that adds class to whoever wears it or to any occasion. Even when you are meeting an intimate stranger.

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***

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO KIRK DOUGLAS BORN DECEMBER 9, 1916

THE FIRST MEETING OF DOUGLAS AND NOVAK IN THE OPENING SCENE OF

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET.

IDENTIKIT ~ A FRAGRANCE TO DIE FOR! CHANEL No. 19 Parfum

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“It takes one day to die, another to be born…” Elizabeth Taylor reportedly said those words to her director Griffi when she came on the set the day after she left Richard Burton for their first divorce. So with that mindset she went to work on one of her most unusual, daring and controversial films. From the moment “The Diver’s Seat” begins you know you are in a strange place. In Europe the movie was called “Idendikit” so, with two names tagged to it thus making it schizophrenic from the first it easily falls into the realm of the ambiguous art film genre of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s star, Elizabeth Taylor, appears here in one of her most remote and dangerous roles. She plays Lise a woman who is consumed by insanity and the desire to find the ultimate lover, the be all and end all of boyfriends you might say.

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As the film opens you are presented with a shattered view of a woman on the edge of something terrible. The camera moves in a disjointed way, past naked mannequins heads covered in tin foil. Is this Lise’s view of others or is it a reflection of her inner life? Or possibly her future.  Upon being told to take a holiday from work after causing a scene in the office the film opens with her preparations to take flight to Rome. The film jump cuts from past to present as the police in Rome try to reconstruct the mystery of her holiday in terrorist gripped Rome. Even Rome comes off as off kilter. This is not the Rome of Audrey Hepburn or Marcello Mastroianni but a city one hardly recognizes from the lack of typical filming locations one associates with “Made In Rome!” movies.

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(Lise meets Andy Warhol at Fiumicino International Airport)

Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi succeeds in presenting a inimitably Italian cinema verite film of the Muriel Spark novel. This is a unique film and very much of it’s day. Its non-linear, experimental, almost documentary style will be hard to get into for any one not used to movies of this sort. But it is well worth the effort. So strange and challenging a film it is that it left the opening night audience at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in stunned silence.

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(with Ian Bannan)

The cast is well chosen and gives some oddly memorable performances. Ian Bannan as the macrobiotic sex-nut who tires to pick up Lise on the plane to Rome seems almost as mad as she is. It is a wickedly off kilter wild-eyed performance. The charming and always wonderful Mona Washbourne is sweetly touching as the woman who befriends the mad Lise and in doing so leads her to meet the man of her dreams.

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(with Mona Washborne)

But the glue that holds it all together is provided by Miss Taylor who tops off her short list of insane characters from Susanna Drake (Raintree County) to Catherine Holly (Suddenly Last Summer) with this daring and shocking portrait of Lise. She opens up as an actress that at the time would have been unthinkable to most of her contemporaries from the old M.G.M. days. That’s one of the wonderful things about her film career. She came from an era in old Hollywood where she was trained and groomed to be glossy and perfect. But as times changed so did she and in doing so became much more than an MGM glamour girl, she became an actress with guts. In “The Driver’s Seat” she shows her chops as an actress and her willingness to accept challenges in her roles and in Lise she found a great one. One stunning image of her is when in her loud madwoman dress and raccoon painted eyes she challenges the airport security to frisk her. In that scene she seems totally there, totally gone, and totally in control as an actress.

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***

Even the sweetest perfume has a hint of madness in it. That darkness must exist in a perfume or it has no chance of being complex or perhaps even a classic in time.

Perfume played a huge part in the theater which was Elizabeth Taylor’s life. A life lived before us all which unfolded in a flurry of purple and glittering diamonds in the center of the strobbing glare of paparazzi press for the last half of the twentieth Century. She was famous for wearing Bal a Versailles when she conquered not only Rome in 1962 but but also the denunciation of her by Pope John XXIII. Later in the 1980’s she created Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and thus launched “Celebrity” Perfumes in to a realm yet untested.  Her perfume “White Diamonds” is still to this day one of the top sellers on the market.

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(Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol
at the 1974 screening of Identikit ~ The Driver’s Seat at Cannes)

It is interesting to ponder what perfume Elizabeth Taylor’s character Lise might have worn in the film “The Driver’s Seat”? Symbolism and nonverbal signals are an important aspect of her character, from her wardrobe, the way she applies her makeup and even the book she carries with her on her travels. Every visual aspect is covered in her quest. So, there must be a fragrance she employed to attract that which she seeks and in the end finds in the darkest part of the Borghese Gardens in the heart of Rome in the dead of night.

This fragrance must be green and full of life and promise and yet carry a dark heart and of the period, the early 1970’s.  For Lise it would be Chanel No. 19 Eau de Parfum (1970).  The last perfume made during Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, named for the date of her birth and a personal favorite of hers.

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It is known and loved as a superlative Green fragrance. It is in fact onion like in its layers upon layers of facets. Like enfiladed rooms opening one upon another leading to an unknown end. In fact, it is the marriage between the fresh crisp smell of grass and the opposing heavy indolic white flowers all wrapped up in a fine supple leather which only hints at its complex schizoid nature.  It is like slipping on a fine pair of white kid gloves be they for horseback riding in a French wood in spring or driving gloves for that mad getaway drive along the Amalfi coast in winter.  Both rides are just on the edge of losing control.

Then the darkness comes. It comes from the interior of that leather where deep under its folds you find nestled a dark dirty vetiver and a deadly serious oak moss. And deeper still below that there is the deeply sensual and frankly fleshy sex of Iris or perhaps full blown oris butter. Slipper smooth and intoxicatingly drenched over a softly sweet and green narcissus. The rose that lies in there near the heart is bleeding and barely alive encased in a coffin of sandalwood. And upon this coffin, is placed a wreath of lily of the valley and ylang-ylang. There under all that green rebirth in its beginning is the solemn promise that it will die.

No. 19  is in fact like Lise very beautiful and hides a complicated inner world of Belle vie et mort inéluctable. As Lise moved ever closer to her rendezvous in the dark gardens of her soul in the center of the eternal city she must have smelled the clean green of the grass and the bereavement in the decaying flowers where she lay down.

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One of the most wonderful aspects of No.19 is that anyone, man or woman can wear it. and at any age. It is timeless, ageless, classic and yet very modern.

AT THE WINTER PALACE ~ Melancholy No. 60/3 by Nimere Parfums

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WINTER PALACE 2

“Paris polishes pretty young things.” Countess Zoya Semyonova poked the old Count with the end of her fan.

“What my dear?” Slumped in his chair he sputtered. In a near dozing state he did not uncross his arms and barely looked up from under his bushy grey bristle brows.

“Oh you are impossible! I was talking about Tatiana Korneva. After her parents died her Aunt Sonja took her to Paris for a year. And now at 16 just look at her. She has returned to Petersburg a woman of charm and grace.”

The Count cast his lazy eyes in the direction of the young lady under the Countess’ scrutiny.  “Oh yes the Korneva girl. Lots of money there and not so bad to look at either.”

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Tatiana Korneva

 

“Oh yes my dear!” The Countess smirked. “Let’s not forget the family fortune. It is a shame she has no title otherwise the Tsar’s son might take an interest. Well the best her Aunt Sonja can hope for is a match with a no account forgotten prince or country count further down the line.

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Tatiana and her Aunt were seated at a medium sized tea table near the French doors of the blue salon in the Winter Palace. They were taking tea with a small gathering of one hundred or so of Princess’ Anna’s closest friends. Tatiana barely knew the Princess but somehow with her Aunt’s influence found herself at the Tsar’s youngest daughters table, a rather plain girl of nearly eighteen.

“How did you find Paris? Was it lovely?” Princess Anna said in French. Punctuating her question with a sweet smile she waited for Tatiana’s response.

“Oh yes quite lovely Your Imperial Highness.” Natalie placed her tea cup onto the saucer before her. Schooled by her Aunt in Court etiquette she waited for the next question. Then without guile she blurted.  “But not as lovely at Saint Petersburg is in the winter.”  Aunt Sonja kicked Tatiana’s foot under the table.

The Princess laughed truly delighted in the girl’s boldness. “Ah yes I quite agree. Our harsh winters turn Petersburg into a wonderland. And Papa must have all those winter balls just to keep us warm. What is the theme for tonight’s ball? Oh I can’t remember. Tell me my dear, did you fall in love in Paris? The city has a reputation not unlike that of Cupid for putting pretty girls like you in romantic danger. Were there any young men who captured your heart.”

Tatiana was about to speak when she noticed a flash of gold and amber behind the Princess. She glanced to the French doors beyond her. There dressed in imperial uniforms where two men, one dark and the other blond. They were laughing and jostling each other in a contest to see who would open the door and enter first. At a flash of white teeth, the Earth’s spinning slowed to the beat of her heart. The sound of its beating filled her ears. A glint of sky blue eyes through the glass of the doors were quickly overtaken by hazel eyes, and the baritone song of the two men laughing rang out.

Tatiana quickly looked bat to the Princess. “No your Imperial Highness, I have….”   The door suddenly burst open with an explosion of laughter.  The two men nearly stumbled into the salon.   “I have never been in love.”

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Prince Pyotr

The Princess turned to the commotion behind her. “Petya! Georgiy! Whatever are you boys up to?”  The two men snapped to attention. But could not contain their smiles. Tatiana look from one handsome face to the other and could not decide which of the two men was more beautiful. There was a jolt within her chest as each of the men’s eyes carelessly passed over her. Their smiles like summer sun warmed the room turning it from blue to shimmering yellow. She blinked.

The Princess motioned the two men to her side.

“Honestly such ruffians. Ladies you all know my brother Prince Pyotr and my cousin Prince Georgiy.”  in unison the two men snapped their boots and gave a quick warm nod of the head to the ladies in general.

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Prince Georgiy

As an afterthought the Princess continued. “Oh, but I don’t believe you have met Miss Korneva. Tatiana, this is Petya and Georgiy. Two more useless boys I have never known. And look at you both. Snow on your boots and in your hair. And your uninforms are wet! Where you wrestling in the snow? And you are making a puddle on Papa precious parquet floor! Oh! I give up!”

Pyotr and Georgiy advanced around the table to Tatiana. They bowed and one and then the other took her hand to kiss. They smelled wonderful like tobacco and spices. Then in a flash of clairvoyant clarity she knew that one of them was going to make her very, unhappy. It would be the most beautiful unhappiness she would ever know. But which of the two would she love? she did not yet know.

“May I ask you Miss Korneva, are you coming to the ball tonight?” Prince Pyotr asked.

‘Yes you must Miss and promise all your dances to me.” Said Prince Georgiy.

 

 ***

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From the old Russian imperial city of St. Petersburg comes the perfume house of Nimere Parfums. The Venice of the north as it has been called was founded and built in Baroque splendor by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.  The city is famed for great art, architecture and history. Drama and beauty are the mortar between every stone in every building of this magnificent city. It is fitting that this house founded by Parfumeur Nikolay Eremin should come from such a place.  Mr. Eremin was kind enough to send me sample of the entire line and a few vials of new works. I have to say I as supremely impressed with the wide range of options from the classical to the very modern. There is something for everyone to love from the house of Nimere.

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Perfumer Nikolay Eremin

I have spent several months as Fall melted into Winter exploring the line. And at one point broke a vial of Eva while opening it and thus cutting a finger in the process. So that fragrance which I loved was lost to memory as it spilled over my desk.  The challenge for me was to narrow down the remaining fragrances to those I truly fell in love with. Among those were Sweet Kiss, a coconutty sweet rich perfume, Melancholy No. 60/3, Time Stood Still No.81 an animalic classically sexy fragrance, Killing Beauty, No Name H.M #2 (a new perfume) and Court Intrigues a masculine beauty smelling of leather boots freshly polished, spices and dry austere woods.  What I landed on finally for this review was Melancholy No. 60/3

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Founder of St. Petersburg, Tsar Peter The Great

   The perfume was inspired by a great love story of  between King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson. In particular, the love letters from Wallace to the king. (some of which were scented with spilt perfume) For me this perfume registers in the olfactory sense of the beauty of classic perfumes from the late 1800’s to the late 1930’s. Complex, hypnotic in the way the perfume unfolds and blooms on the skin. The life it has on the skin is sensual, romantic and slightly dangerous and naughty. It is in fact everything that a love affair possesses.

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Melancholy No,. 60/3 opens with a fresh spicy Indian Calamus, this note embraces with a carmine red, languorous Saffron from an Eastern Bazaar. It smells expensive right off the top. A rich exotic, near erotic opening that would have shocked the more prudish noses of the early 20th century. Without the traditional citrus in the opening this perfume has flesh impact. It is an erotic invitation to plunge head long into the sensual.

The heart of the fragrance is indigo in color shot through with gold treads like a veil from the far East. And like a veil it floats in floral rhapsodic blending of purple iris earthy and low. A powdery lighter purple of the more elevated violet. jasmine like nuances of a golden Ylang Ylang are tied deep into a green lush Palmarose note. Over this and rising from some deep desire buried and smoldering deep within Melancholy rises tendrils of heady incense. As it develops the florals are enhanced to near intoxicated perfection by this mysterious smoke.  The flowers are in fact by the arrival of the dry down, drunk on the incense.

In the final stage of the perfume we find a fascinating and quite crowed house of notes. Woods from the Cedar, Guayak, Sandalwood, and the Araucaria tree. More commonly know as a Monkey Puzzle Tree. These woods give the romantic feminine side of the perfume a strong twist toward the masculine. And that is nice because if makes the fragrance all the more interesting. There is a great patchouli here as well as a dry Nagarmotha (related to papyrus) the classic Oak Moss and vetiver vie for supremacy but are mellowed out my creamy not too sweet vanilla, and its cousin Tonka bean. All of this in the dry down is made all the more stunning by the soothing amber beauty of  Tolu Balsam. The perfume lasts on my skin around a good solid seven hours. the projection is at about eighteen to twenty five inches for around three hours. then if falls in upon itself to become an invitation at skin level.

Whatever story you find in Melancholy No. 60/3, be it the forbidden love of a king for a commoner or the fresh first stirrings of erotic young love this perfume is something truly lovely. More beautiful that I can describe it brings me back to my tiny vial seeking yet another story, another romance to explore, to burn out, lose and find again in my ongoing love affair with Perfume.

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THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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Annapurna Massif Panorama

An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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THE FAIRY GODMOTHER OF 5TH AVENUE ~ Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant

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When she swept past the doorman at Bergdorf Goodman she smelled of Prell shampoo and crisp starched linen.  He smiled and nodded as he held the door open for her, she was one of his favorites of the working girls who breezed over from Madison Avenue on their lunch hour and out again in less than fifteen minutes. She was as fresh and just as pretty as any young ingénue on or off Broadway.

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There were so many of them hurrying along 5th Avenue, secretaries and stenographers from the advertising houses and the book publishers. Between 11:30 and 2:00 p.m. they hit all the department stores from Bonwit Teller to Bergdorf’s with one thing on there minds; a free spritz of some exotic and impossibly expensive perfume. June Ramsey was no exception. She smiled at the doorman. He winked at her, like he always did.

She worked at Harper and Row in the secretarial pool for $75 a week. For her perfumes were a luxury she could not afford unless it was some horrid eau de toilette from Woolworth’s. She was not a Woolworth’s kind of girl.

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“If you want to smell like Chanel No.5 but can’t afford it honey, just dab some Palmolive dishwashing liquid behind your ears. Smells just like it!” Louise from accounting had given her that tip one day during a coffee break.

“No June that is so cheep! Do what I do. Make Bergdorf’s perfume counter part of your daily toilette routine.” Maggie from the reading department whispered so that Louise would not hear her dig. “And especially if you have a big date!”

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She stood at the counter looking at the assortment of romances bottled and packaged for dreams. There was Shalimar, No.5, L’Interdit, all exquisite, but somehow not right for tonight. June fingered the buttons on her home sewn Simplicity “Chanel” suit and closed her eyes.

“Having trouble deciding?”  June opened her eyes. There next to her was an exquisitely dressed woman of 50 or so. She smelled amazing and looked every inch very, very Upper East Side.

“Oh! Yes, I mean no… I am just looking.”

The woman nodded and then picked up a bottle of perfume and showed it to June. “This is my favorite for a very special night out. Like the one you are heading for tonight I am guessing.”

“How did you guess? It is a first date; he is taking me to see that new show, “Camelot” at the Majestic.”

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“I am good at reading people.  Here why don’t you try it? It is called, Quelques Fleurs.”

“Well, I… I can’t afford it. $30 a bottle.” She sighed

“A sample spray can’t hurt your pocketbook,” She smiled mischievously. “Besides, all the girls who work around neighborhood sneak a spray. I bet you do too. And you never know what a perfume like this one might add to your first date.”

“Alright, maybe just one little spritz.”

“Close your eyes my dear….”

 

When June walked out of Bergdorf’s the doorman caught a whiff of her perfume. He grinned and looked back into the store. Mrs. Goodman was afoot and playing fairy godmother to the working girls again.  He chuckled at the thought of just how surprised that young lady would be when she opened her purse.  There she would find a bottle of Mrs. Goodman’s favorite perfume beautifully wrapped in Bergdorf Goodman tissue paper with a kind note tucked neatly in among her lipstick and Kleenex.  Mrs. Goodman always had the girls close there eyes when she sprayed them. That was when she made the drop!

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***

 

Quelques Fleurs L’Original was created by the nose of Robert Bienaime for the house of Houbigant in 1913. It is still in production today and presented by the house with great attention to the finest absolutes in its notes and to the preservation of the original beauty of the perfume.

I have to thank my dear friend at Niemen Marcus, Michal Gizinski for giving me a sample of this amazing perfume to try out. He, as I have said before is one of my great teachers in the realm of perfume. I am ever thankful for his guidance and generosity.

Just imagine it, this perfume is one hundred and one years old and yet as fresh and romantic and relevant today as it was in the twilight of the Edwardian era.

The top notes are orange blossom, green notes, tarragon, and bergamot, lemon and citrus. This burst on the skin fresh and bright as spring’s first flowers is gorgeous. It is a rush to the senses of white blossoms from rows and rows of orange trees and lemon on warm hillside groves. If you have ever been in such a grove you know just how beautiful this arrangement can be.

Then the heat of your skin awakens the garden that lies in the mid notes. A really stunning and photo realistic rose that truly to me smells of fresh cut roses, not that sharp synthesized rose I usually smell in perfume. But a real rose. The tuberose ads a generous helping of high glamour along with a indulgently lush jasmine. Oh does it ever sing! Behind these notes there are traces of lilac, heliotrope, creamy ylang-ylang. And intertwined are rapturous hints of lily-of-the-valley, violet and iris and even an earthy dash of one of my favorite notes, the austere silvery orris root. You have the entire garden here from deep within the earth up to the sky. “Hey buds below, up is where to grow!”

Then finally in the dry down we find the woods and the animals of the garden,  Covered in Honey a civet romps among the roses, This little sexy cat is musky and sweetened by a dash of vanilla, tonka bean and amber. All of this is warmed by a creamed smooth sandal wood and the sharp masculine notes of Oakmoss.  It is a classic French romp in the sheets if you ask me. Sweet but not cloying, and a little dirty and not afraid to be just what it is, a real perfume for a person who knows how to be a flesh and blood sensual voluptuary who is madly in love with life.

As with most of the old school classic perfumes it is very long lasting on the skin. I got twelve good hours out of it and the sillage is impressive. They are going to know you are wearing a masterpiece when you wear Quelques Fleurs L’Original.

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Quelques Fleurs L’Original Five Platinum Stars *****

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