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!
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 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, 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 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.
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!