The inaugural Perfumed Plume Awards were held last week in New York City. The awards were modelled after the Prix Jasmine and the UK Jasmine Awards and were set up to showcase and reward US fragrance journalists and their writing. There were six categories, including Scent Stories in mainstream media (newspapers and magazines), Scent Stories in digital media, Visualisation of Scent Stories, a Fragrance Book Award and Science of Scent Stories. Winners included Mark Behnke from Colognoisseur (Scent Stories, Digital), Mandy Aftel (Fragrance Book Award), Dana El Masri (Science of Scent Stories, for Michelyn Camen of CaFleureBon) and Jasia Julia Nielson (Visualisation of Scent Stories, for Michelyn Camen of CaFleureBon). Congratulations to all of the inaugural Perfumed Plume winners: what a fabulous bunch of writers!
I’ve been unwell, dear readers, really not myself at all lately. I lost my mojo due to a flare up of chronic illness, and haven’t had much energy to write. But I’m getting back on the horse and I’m not going to fall off again. I’ve been a truant from Perfume Polytechnic but now I’m back and making up for missed lessons. Here is a little update on my recent smelly adventures and discoveries…
Rochas Femme Where Have You Been All My Life?
While I’m an eager beaver when it comes to perfume, and though I try to smell most of what I can lay my nose on — with the exception of many recent commercial releases, which I often find uninteresting — I still haven’t smelt every perfume out there, including some of the classics. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what I’ve smelt and how it smelt, unless I make notes about it. I might have smelt a fragrance once in a discount chemist somewhere, or at a friend’s house, and then swiftly forgotten what it was like. Unless one has a vast scent library, it can be hard to keep track of things.
I have only been on this olfactory adventure for a little over three years, and I live in Australia, a rather isolated island, where it seems impossible to find and sample certain perfumes. Here, you take what you can get, what you can find, and what friends can share with you. It can be a patchy self-education, but I try my best. My nose is maturing and developing with all of the wonderful indie perfumes I’ve been sent to review and I find I’m more open-minded (open-nosed?) than ever before. But it’s still only a fraction of what’s out there…
Despite these limitations, I estimate that I have nevertheless smelt at least a thousand perfumes by now. I haven’t kept track. Even though this is only a small percentage of what’s ever been produced, it’s getting to the point now where not much surprises my nose, and when it does, or when I instantly adore something, it’s a good and surprising thing. It reminds me of the early days, when I first decided to study perfume, and every single fragrance smelt new and exciting to me, because I had experienced so little at that stage.
Tastes change also, so what didn’t appeal a year or two ago might now be the instant love of my life. As is the case with my recent rediscovery of Rochas Femme, in one of those family-run chemists that stocks odd and interesting bottles of perfume, heavily discounted, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Rochas Femme was ubiquitous at various discount chemists a couple of years back, and I did try it then, but it didn’t grab me. Was it too vintage-smelling, too mature, too animalic? These are the reasons why I love it now, but a couple of years ago, I don’t think my nose was ready for those qualities.
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.
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.
Every 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.
Welcome to Just The Juice. Why “Just The Juice”? I want to talk about fragrances that I’ve come across, both new releases and older ones, and I want to keep it focused on the perfume (what we perfume lovers call the “juice”) itself. So often I write about the background, the history, the sociological and psychological significance, etc. etc. of a smell or a perfume. But in the interests of pure perfume prose, in this series I’m going to write about the juice, in 300 words or less per perfume, and include relevant artistic/conceptual notes from the perfumer too, if I can. I hope to introduce you to some wonderful perfumes in this series.
Today I will be reviewing the recently released Voyage by Hiram Green, who I interviewed late last year for my Thirteen Thoughts: Perfumer Interview Series. Hiram is based in the Netherlands and creates perfumes entirely from natural materials.
Voyage by Hiram Green
The photograph above shows the publicity material that I received for Voyage, which is identical to the information on Hiram Green’s website for the fragrance:
“An ode to the exotic mysteries of India, our new fragrance is as atmospheric and thrilling as a Mysore street market and as opulent as Octopussy’s floating palace on Lake Pichola.
Voyage is an intoxicating blend of fresh citrus top notes, a heart of warm amber and luscious suede over a smooth vanilla base.
Limited to only 250 bottles entirely natural eau de parfum.”
Source: Hiram Green website
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.
It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I am a sensitive soul. This means that sometimes my body over-reacts to the world around me: stimuli, chemicals, medications and food become sources of irritation and inflammation. At times like this, I need to dial it back: eat simple foods, make sure I sleep enough, tone down the synthetic perfumes, get lots of fresh air and exercise. This week has been one of those sensitive weeks. My cat and I have both been unwell, and with infectious bacteria lurking in the house, I turned to burning bug-banishing essential oils to scent the house and soothe us a little. We also evacuated from a bushfire last week, so my stress levels went through the roof. I’ve gone off my perfume it seems: at times like this synthetic fragrance can aggravate my eyes and skin, so IME’s natural perfumes seemed like an appealing and even healing choice to wear while I try to bring my stress levels down.