Rewind Repost: Easter Smells, Easter Memories

Below is a repost of the piece I wrote last year on Easter smells, in case you missed it. Easter, for me, always brings up a plethora of very specific smell memories. Year after year, I find myself transported back to my childhood through these memories. I love Easter: the weather is getting cooler, the four-day long weekend is so lazy and relaxing, and I especially adore the rituals of eating spiced fruit buns and chocolate eggs. Have a happy Easter everyone!


Easter has always been a favourite time of year for me. Although I’m not Christian, I like the four-day holiday in Australia and some of the related traditions, whether or not they stem from Christianity or pagan times. Part of my fondness for this holiday is because I have very fond memories of Easter weekends spent at Robe as a child, a tiny coastal town in South Australia. My family owned the historic Karatta House then, and this run down and dilapidated, sprawling property was a great place for a child to spend so much time.

Karatta House

Karatta House

I have many scent memories spending Easter at Karatta. I remember the rich, wake-up smell of bacon cooking in the stone-walled, lino-floored, musty kitchen in the mornings. When I cook bacon now, I always think of Robe, and the old kitchen Mum cooked in. The brass kitchen taps and bore water gave off a strange combined aroma: metallic notes mixed with dirt and that slight funk of undrinkable bore water. I also associate this kitchen with the pungently salty smell of freshly caught fish, and my Dad and brother gutting and scaling them on the sink. I’ve never like seafood much, and I think my experiences at Robe (my parents also cooked live Crayfish) have a lot to do with that. The smell of fish, no matter how fresh, still makes my stomach turn.

fire-551665_640Every Easter Dad would light the fire at night in one of the grand old fireplaces. Robe is host to a cool climate, but as autumn and Easter sets in, it gets quite nippy. The smell of the wood smoke was always comforting, and a treat for us as we didn’t have a fireplace at home. Dad found small pieces of copper wire to burn in the fire for us, creating magical, coloured flames of blue and green.

On Good Friday, the scent of toasting hot cross buns infused the kitchen, with warm cinnamon and the sticky-sweet smell of caramelised sultanas and dried citrus peel wafting around. The smell of lactonic, fatty butter slathered on top completes this smell memory. I loved the cross on top of the buns the most, and would pull it off and reserve it, eating it separately after I’d finished the rest of the bun.

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International Women’s Day 2016. Memories and Music In Celebration of my Grandmother

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My grandmother, c. late 1930s, Adelaide.

Above is a photo of my grandmother as a young woman, sometime in the late 1930s (or perhaps early 40s), captured by a roving street photographer in Adelaide. I love the slightly surprised, somewhat reproachful look on her face. I love her clothes, her shoes, her hat and gloves, that handbag and the way she carries it. I love that I do not know what she was like when this photo was taken and that she had a long history before I came along. I love that she was young, and beautiful, and stylish and sassy. I wish I knew what perfume she wore – Vol de Nuit, Shocking, Tabu, Joy? – but sadly I don’t.

Fast-forward forty years, more or less, and I enter the equation. My Granny, as I call her, lives in a little house with my Papa, in a tiny beachside town in South Australia. It’s a long drive to Granny’s house from where we live, and we’re always welcomed at the back door with hearty greetings and warm hugs. Granny is a wonderful cook and always makes lunch or afternoon tea when we visit. The house smells of pasties and biscuits, the occasional lamb roast, vegetable soup, cups of tea.

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Merry Christmas & Thanks from Perfume Polytechnic

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Pub Santa

It’s been a very busy year here at Perfume Polytechnic, with the writing and publishing of 70 blog posts, and a very busy month in particular. In the past four weeks I’ve written, edited, submitted and/or published over 16,000 words about perfume. That’s about as many words as I wrote for my Masters thesis! No wonder I’m tired. It’s time for a break.

Over the next few weeks I plan to re-publish a selection of my favourite, already published articles, reviews and/or interviews from my blog while I take some time off writing. Blogs aren’t the most navigable websites, and this is my way of sharing some of my older posts with you that I think you’ll enjoy!

Thanks to all of you for reading Perfume Polytechnic over the course of 2015. It’s been a huge year, and the blog has grown in readership enormously, from an average of 25 views per day in December 2014 to around 100 per day currently. I’m really chuffed and I intend to grow and develop Perfume Polytechnic even more in 2016. I have some fabulous ideas for posts coming up, including more Smell and Sound Series articles, investigations into the use of olfaction in art, book reviews, cross-sensory explorations, reviews of wonderful indie and niche perfumes from around the globe, and of course, more Thirteen Thoughts interviews.

I want to also thank all the wonderful perfumers that I’ve connected with in 2015 – I’ve met some of the most wonderful, interesting, multi-talented and intelligent people I’ve ever come across. I really feel like I’ve found my tribe and have forged some genuine friendships out of these connections, which I’m very grateful for. You’ve all inspired me so much to explore, create and learn. Thank you.

And so, I wish a very Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it. I hope it’s a happy and safe time for you all. The urge to connect is strong at this time of year, and it can be a loaded and difficult time for those who don’t have close friends or family to be with, or for those with difficult familial relationships. I urge you all to check on your friends and family and make sure they have been included in Christmas celebrations. A phone call, a drink, or even Christmas lunch, can make all the difference to someone who feels lonely at this time of year.

Lots of love to you all. See you in 2016.

Polly Technic

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Green Fragrances For Saint Patrick’s Day

St Patrick's Day March, Downpatrick, 2011. Photo credit: Ardfern (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Patricks_Day,_Downpatrick,_March_2011_%28045%29.JPG)

Saint Patrick’s Day March, Downpatrick, 2011. Photo credit: Ardfern (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Patricks_Day,_Downpatrick,_March_2011_%28045%29.JPG)

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Not being religious nor particularly Irish (though there’s a little bit of that in my ancestry), I’m no expert on the day. However, some basic research tells me that the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day falls on the death date of Patrick, Ireland’s most notable patron saint, who lived between AD 385-461. It is a significant religious feast day, observed by many types of Christians, from Lutherans to Anglicans and Catholics.

In Australia, the religious aspects of the feast day are no-doubt observed by some Christians, but for many, Saint Patrick’s Day is a time to drink copious amounts of green beer, wear enormous, green, shamrock-adorned felt leprechaun hats and dance to Irish music, often U2.

The shamrock is a symbol of Saint Patrick's Day

The shamrock is a symbol of Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day

The colour green and the shamrock (a three-leaved clover symbol) have been associated with Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day for the last few centuries. As for the symbolism of the shamrock:

According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. (Source: Wikipedia)

It seems the shamrock was used as a religious educational tool, possibly as part of converting pagans to the Christian faith. You can read more about the symbolism of the shamrock here.

Green Fragrances

All of this focus on the colour green today got me thinking about green fragrances, and which green fragrances are my favourites. I’ve written micro-reviews of my four favourites for you below. I hope they inspire you to wear a green fragrance today!

So… what exactly is a green fragrance?

Online fragrance database Fragrantica states that in perfumery, “green” is:

[A] generic term for notes that evoke snapped leaves, foliage, green vegetal scents.

Green notes are fresh and lively and they are used to make a fragrance feel crisp and sharp. Green notes very often include green leaves, tea leaves, the essence of freshly cut grass and even some marine plants. Green notes are most commonly used in sporty fragrances and summertime editions of popular perfumes. (Source: Fragrantica)

Michael Edwards, in his classic perfume reference Fragrances of the World (2010 edition) says:

Green fragrances capture the sharp scent of fresh-cut grass and violet leaves. Despite the outdoors imagery, the impact of the classic resinous galbanum accord is so potent that many green fragrances have a formal rather than sporty personality.

My own definition of what a green perfume is combines elements of both these definitions.  I think of green fragrances as employing fresh green ingredients, such as leaves, grass or herbs, and also the classic galbanum accord that Edwards mentions. I don’t personally think of green fragrances as sporty, but agree with Edwards, that they are generally quite formal in style instead.

And herein lies the conundrum: it seems that the perfumes I think of as green are not necessarily considered green by others. And not all databases agree with each other either. Some of the fragrances below are classified as green or floral-green on Fragrantica, but not by Edwards. Nevertheless, all of the fragrances I’ve chosen feature either green notes, herbal notes and/or heavy amounts of galbanum. To me they are all very “green” indeed! Classification is a tricky subject!

Chanel no. 19

Chanel no. 19

Chanel no. 19 (borrowed from http://www.fragrantica.com)

The version I have of this classic green fragrance is a 1980s eau de parfum in a silvery plastic canister. It’s astonishingly green, and to my mind and nose Chanel no. 19 is a “reference green” fragrance. This means that when I think of what a green fragrance is and should be, I think of this one, and compare all others to it when judging their relative green-ness! Even the juice itself is even a startling green colour!

Made for Chanel by perfumer Henri Robert in 1970, this is an iconic fragrance. It’s crisp, almost savoury and a little bit scary. It reminds me of a cool and sophisticated woman; one who guards her emotions and is in total control. But she’s a stylish woman, and incredibly beautiful too, thin, grey-suited, neatly coiffed and with chiselled cheekbones.

As for how it actually smells, the green notes dominate entirely and on first spray no. 19 really does smell like freshly-crushed green leaves. I smell a hint of rose, which rounds and vaguely sweetens the crispness, and the peppery oakmoss and cool vetiver are a wonderful compliment to the green notes.

Ma Griffe

Ma Griffe (borrowed from www.fragrantica.com)

Carven’s Ma Griffe (borrowed from http://www.fragrantica.com)

Ma Griffe is another very green, vintage fragrance, but with a twist. It was created for Carven by Jean Carles in 1946. I own a vintage (c.1990s) parfum de toilette version of this. At first this fragrance is almost overwhelmingly ugly, with a blast of the screechiest, dryest aldehydes I’ve ever experienced. But be patient and wait a little while, and this one reveals its complexity and beauty. When the aldehydes calm down and fade away, green notes and oakmoss are revealed, later followed by the sweetest, warmest floral notes of ylang-ylang and gardenia. This vintage version of Ma Griffe is lovely, multi-layered and surprising. I strongly recommend you find a vintage version to really experience the nuanced story this fragrance can tell. However, the most recent release of this fragrance (2013) is also delightful and evokes the spirit of the vintage fragrance very well.

Grand Amour

Grand Amour by Annick Goutal (photo borrowed from www.fragrantica.com)

Grand Amour by Annick Goutal (photo borrowed from http://www.fragrantica.com)

Grand Amour is a vintage-style green fragrance, heavy on hyacinth, which to me reads as a very green, bitter note. It also shares the general character and sophistication of Chanel no. 19, and also several of its notes, including rose, leather and iris. However, this fragrance is a very opulent and rich green, and dries down with a sweet and voluptuous iris note dominant, which somehow warms up the overall tone of Grand Amour in comparison to no. 19. Grand Amour was created in 1996 by Annick Goutal, for herself. This is one of my favourite fragrances of all time.

Un Parfum de Charmes & Feuilles

Un Parfum de Charmes et Feuilles by The Different Company (photo borrowed from www.fragrantica.com)

Un Parfum de Charmes et Feuilles by The Different Company (photo borrowed from http://www.fragrantica.com)

Un Parfum de Charmes et Feuilles is the one that nearly got away. At first I didn’t understand it, and listed it for sale online. But then I gave it one more spray on a hot day, and I was blown away by the originality of this lovely and light green fragrance. Mint and marjoram present themselves to you on first spray, but the marjoram is hiding. It’s an unusual fragrance ingredient, so the nose has to know what to sniff for, but it’s there, vying for top billing with the cool, fresh mint, which wafts in and out of focus. It’s a sweet and light herbal fragrance and also features sage and thyme (though these are more subtly blended in). Lemon couples the zest of the peppermint and a lovely cool jasmine adds sweetness and depth. Un Parfum de Charmes & Feuilles was created by Celine Ellena for The Different Company in 2006.


So, there you have it, a green fragrance round-up in honour of Saint Patrick’s Day and its association with the colour green! If you’re heading out to celebrate this centuries-old feast day, I hope you’re inspired to wear a green fragrance. Do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? What’s your favourite green fragrance? Let me know in the comments box below!

Celebrating International Women’s Day with fragrances by Sophia Grojsman

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A woman’s place is in the Revolution

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I’m a card-carrying feminist. The purpose of my Masters folio in music composition was to research and create feminist music, a topic that I studied and engaged in for years prior to my degree, and in the years since. I’m passionately interested in women’s issues and in working towards and advocating for the equality of women, in all areas of life and all occupations. So today I got to wondering about women in perfume: how many women have made perfume in the past, or make it today? Who are our female perfumers? I can’t answer that question in its entirety, but I can make a contribution, and point you in the direction of some resources about female perfumers.

Earlier today I (briefly) had the mad idea of creating a list of all the female perfumers that I could find, until I realised how difficult and time-consuming that would be, and until I discovered the fabulous lists already compiled by DeeOlive at Basenotes. DeeOlive has compiled a thirteen-part series of lists of women perfumers and their creations. Her list starts with this post here; at the bottom of the post, click on the “Female Noses and Perfumers – Part 2” link at the bottom, and so on at the bottom of each subsequent post, to sequentially find your way through all thirteen parts. Thanks DeeOlive – what an amazing resource you’ve created for us all!

As well as sharing this resource with you, you can read the recent interviews I’ve published with contemporary female perfumers Emma J. Leah of Fleurage and Sarah McCartney of 4160Tuesdays. These interviews are fascinating reads into the work of two innovative and brilliant female perfumers. I hope to bring you more interviews with other female perfumers in the near future!

Sophia Grojsman

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Perfumer Sophia Grojsman. Photo taken by Alison Yarrow. Photo source: http://forward.com/articles/144873/perfume-nose-conjures-up-perfect-scents/

Today, in honour of female perfumers, I’m testing and briefly reviewing for you a quartet of fragrances by renowned female perfumer Sophia Grojsman. Grojsman created such popular and well-known fragrances as Paris, Yvresse (Champagne), Trésor and White Linen. She has worked for major fashion labels and smaller, niche perfume houses to produce these (and many other) well-known fragrances, including A Lab on Fire, Frédéric Malle, Lancôme, Lalique, Estée Lauder, Yves Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein.

Grojsman’s style is described by many as “baroque” and I can testify that wearing four of her fragrances at once (one small spray of each, mind) is olfactorily overwhelming. But, in her defence, I am wearing four eighties-nineties “powerhouse” fragrances all at once!

The four I have on today are Paris (EDT), Yvresse (EDT), SpellBound (EDP) and Trésor (EDP). I can certainly detect a “Grojsman style” by wearing them all at once, which was one of my intentions in spraying them all on together. To me, Grojsman’s style is rich, quite sweet, complex, and the ingredients are well-blended. Certain ingredients play a starring role in each fragrance, but in the background, the impression is of well-blended “backing notes”. The feeling I get when wearing Grojsman’s fragrances is kind of like how I feel after eating a too-rich dessert: I enjoyed it, I wanted it, but afterwards I feel a little overwhelmed, and declare that from now on I’m only going to eat clean, minimalist foods like white rice, miso soup and green salad. Thankfully, this feeling doesn’t usually last very long! Similarly, I am rather fond of Grojsman’s fragrances, despite their richness.

Yvresse

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Yvresse / Champagne for Yves Saint Laurent

Yvresse is a fruity, sweet, floral concoction, and is hard to pin down in any traditional fragrance category. It belongs firmly in the camp of “early 90s powerhouse fragrances”. On Fragrantica.com, the most frequently detected notes among users of the site include peach, nectarine, apricot, cinnamon, lychee, rose, carnation, oak moss, caraway and violet. But to me, I smell intensely sweet plum rather than the more peachy stone fruits listed, a bucketload of carnation (to rival any traditional Caron fragrance), a sweet-sharp apple-ish rose, a slight waft of warm spice and yummy, smooth vanilla or benzoin in the deep background. It’s a gorgeous fragrance, suited to a warm day and happy occasions.

Trésor

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Trésor for Lancôme

Trésor, a great commercial hit for Lancôme, is one of those fragrances that I associate with growing up as a teenager in the early 90s. I own a bottle now mostly for nostalgia’s sake, and I like it, but rarely wear it. This doesn’t mean it’s not good, but my preference these days is for ambers, woods, Orientals and Chypres, and Trésor doesn’t quite fit the bill. Trésor is basically a peach-rose-oak moss fragrance, although oak moss isn’t listed anywhere in the specs for the fragrance on Fragrantica. I love the way the oak moss offsets the sweet richness of the peach and rose; it’s almost mouldy and earthy and a little bitter. I probably should wear this more. In comparison to Yvresse, Trésor is much further along the spectrum towards “savoury”, but worn alone it seems quite a sweet and overbearing fragrance.

SpellBound

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SpellBound for Estée Lauder

SpellBound takes the liberal dose of carnation found in Yvresse and turns the dial up to the max. Fragrantica lists carnation, cardamom, amber, tuberose, vanilla and rosewood as the top six ingredients, but to me this fragrance is just a rich melange of sweet, fruity and floral notes. Apart from the carnation, I can’t really single out many other notes. The warmth and sweetness combine in SpellBound to create the impression of a rich and heady nectar. It’s a beautiful fragrance, and so far is outdoing Trésor and Yvresse in both sweetness and projection. Yvresse is a beautiful beast of a fragrance. It’s the epitome of glitz and glamour, and is the olfactory equivalent of gold lamé, bling and wine-coloured velvet. But it’s good, as all of Grojsman’s fragrances are: they are well crafted, well blended, balanced and distinctive, even if they are a bit too much for today’s pared-down tastes.

Paris

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Paris for Yves Saint Laurent

Finally we come to Paris, another fragrance that reminds me of my teen years, filled with stolen sprays of fragrances like Paris from counters in department stores. Back in the day when perfume was too expensive for me to buy much of it, I wished I could own a bottle of Paris, but that wish has only recently come to pass. Now I have various versions of this beauty, but today I’m wearing a newish Eau de Toilette. I’d love to own a bottle of the Eau de Parfum one day, which is more majestic, complex and even more beautiful still. Paris is a celebration of the rose. Rose underpinned by violet and a bouquet of seemingly a hundred other flowers including hyacinth (which gives off none of its usual bitterness), iris, mimosa and geranium. It also includes such ingredients as musk, woods, amber and oak moss, but the overall impression is of a lush, sweet, beautiful rose. A hyper-real rose. It’s gorgeous, and the vintage Paris is even more so.


It’s been a fun exercise covering myself in Sophia Grojsman’s creations for International Women’s Day 2015. By wearing several perfumes of Grojsman’s at once, I’ve been able to compare and contrast them in a way I haven’t done before. I feel like I’ve got to know her signature style as a perfumer much better, and appreciate her work more.

Do you own any fragrances made by women perfumers? Will you wear something made my a female perfumer for International Women’s Day? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Happy International Women’s Day to all my female followers and readers, and to all the female perfumers out there!

Polly

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